Monday, 29 June 2015

Edinburgh - Castles, karaoke and kilts ...

So you should all know by now that randomly booking travels is a bit of a pastime of mine, and my recent trip to Edinburgh was no exception. Most of the concept behind going was down to Em, I'd picked and insisted on the trainwreck which was to become our trip to Belfast, and rightfully so it was her time to choose where we headed next. And damn, she chose well.

Edinburgh is such a beautiful place to go, with so much to see and do. We crammed every second of being there with as much as we could, including some really good food (seriously, for students we have never eaten so well!), and of course, some very good pubs and bars.
 
(One of the best pics I've taken..)
 
We decided against booking a hotel room, instead opting for a bright apartment on Airbnb which was really central to everything we wanted to do. I would totally recommend checking them out, it made the experience much more personal and relaxed, with more freedom than staying in a hotel room, plus it saved a bit of money.

(The light was incredible in the flat, and there are MANY selfies to prove this)
 
Our first full day in Edinburgh was dedicated as 'museum and shopping' day. I think it's fair to suggest we had too much fun in the National Museum of Scotland. I would recommend that anyone planning a trip to Edinburgh goes there, it's honestly incredible. We got lost, thought we'd somehow ended up inside another museum in a museum (museum-inception?), laughed, composed our own piece of 'world music' (spoiler - it was awful), Emily got far too excited about the space section, and I lost my mind in the Native American section. The NMS exceeded all our expectations for a museum, and considering it was free to get in, was a completely wonderful way to waste our morning.

(Faces of pure joy)
 
After trying and failing to find the Anatomical Museum - plot twist, it was shut for June - we headed back into New Town, for a bit of shopping. It was a sad fact that we were a) broke, and b) only travelled with hand luggage so there was no way we could shop until we dropped. However, I did treat myself to a playsuit, which made an appearance at Wildlife that weekend.

 
That evening we decide to do what we do best, go out drinking. We found a wonderful place called The Black Rose Tavern, and it happened to be Open Mic Night. Fantastic. There was some serious eye-candy, singing and playing the guitar, as well as the guy running the night. At first, we thought he was fairly attractive, but as the night went on, he just got weirder and weirder. He was the most overly enthusiastic man I've ever seen in my life. He was singing and dancing and clapping along to every single song, and completely lost his mind during one guys performance when he changed riff ("WHOA GUYS THAT WAS INSANE, HE NEVER PLAYS BUT WHOAAAAAA") I'm not sure if he was high on life or something else, but overly enthusiastic open mic guy, I salute your positivity.

(One of the acts at open mic night)
 
Edinburgh Castle was firmly on our agenda from the second we booked the trip, and it did not disappoint. We went fairly early to beat the queues, and decided we couldn't be bothered to follow the tourguides (I was there with a Medieval History student, I didn't need a tourguide!). The Castle is packed with so much history, and it was truly beautiful. There was so much I didn't expect to see, and quite frankly, there was just simply so much to see. I ummed and ahhed about buying myself a tiara in the gift shop, (Princess Hazel has a nice ring to it), and fought my way through all the crowds to see the Scottish Crown Jewels.

 
As you come out of Edinburgh Castle, you find yourself at the top of the Royal Mile. We decided to wander down the mile, past the millions of shops selling cashmere and tartan, or shortbread, grabbed a Starbucks, and headed back.

 
Following the delights of Open Mic Night, we headed back to The Black Rose Tavern, only to discover it was Karaoke night. Let me just tell you, all my dreams were made true that night. Firstly, there were some singers with...um.. questionable talent? One guy absolutely killed the classic 'Hungry Eyes' so badly, I still quince when I hear it on the radio. The guy running the show was easily the best singer to grace the microphone, and his sarcasm was on point. However, all this alone wasn't as brilliant as the fight which broke out while we were there. A trio of Chinese tourists came into the bar, absolutely smashed, and over the course of the evening ordered 48 jager-bombs. 48! They were playing a weird drinking game which loosely looked like Rock Paper Scissors, but with a lot more shouting, and about 100x more drinking. One of the girls decided she wanted to sing, and somehow fell out with the guy running it, and slammed his laptop shut. He kicked off and tried to get her removed, and failed, and she picked up a drink and headed over to him and his laptop. I swear to god she was going to pour it over his laptop, and Em and I and this couple behind us all leapt up shouting at her to stop. It was seriously intense. They knocked all their drinks off the table, the girl went running off to the toilets, I had to go and check she hadn't drowned in her own vomit (she didn't), and the karaoke reluctantly resumed. At this point, another of the Chinese girls declared it was her birthday, so the guy running it played happy birthday, but no was singing because everyone was too busy fighting. The guy running it turned the music off, and sarcastically said how it was the most depressing birthday ever, which still cracks me up today!

(Saw this outside a pub, and oh my is it true!)
 
The morning after the brilliant night before, and it was sadly time to leave Edinburgh. However, there was still one more thing to do, which was to squeeze in getting a tattoo. This has become somewhat of a tradition now, that whenever Em and I travel somewhere, we get inked. There was only one option for me, to get the alchemical symbols for air and water, which represent Florence and the Machine's new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. I got it on the outside of my wrist, and I completely love it.

(Freshly inked and loving life)

So in conclusion,  Edinburgh is incredibly lovely. The people are very friendly, and there's certainly a lot to see and do without breaking the bank. There is a lot of history to explore, and the castle is a must for anyone visiting. If anything, it offers incredible views of the surrounding city as well as hundreds of years worth of history. Definitely check out a few of the bars and pubs, because that's where the memories are really made, and maybe, just maybe, you'll witness a brawl.
 
 
That's part one of Em and I's week of travels over, as the following day we headed down to Brighton for Wildlife festival!
 
Much love

 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

American Adventures - Chapter Three...

Here it is, the last instalment of my crazy American adventures. Again, I'm sorry they're coming to you so long after I've actually been, I'm just lazy let's not shy away from that! I could've written enough for a dissertation about my time in the USA, in fact my journal essay about being there is nearly 6,000 words, so I've had to drastically cut and edit bits out just so I don't bore you all. And speaking of boring you all, let me swiftly move on to continue where we left off...
 
 

The Grand Canyon, Route 66, and Vegas.. again..

One of our final stops was a town called Flagstaff. Honestly, I really enjoyed Flagstaff, it reminded me a lot of Winchester, only of course, a lot more American. I could definitely see my self living there if I had to, it was comfortable enough, even if it was snowing in Arizona. (I know, I totally didn't pack for snow in Arizona of all places...)
 
(Snowy Arizona)
 
The following morning we set off for one of the highlights of the trip, The Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is certainly that, grand. Despite the rain and the fog, the Grand Canyon is a truly majestic sight to behold. I arrived preloaded with many questions. Is it anything more than a giant crack in the earth? Why do people come from all over the world to see it? Is it merely a photo opportunity?
 
(The amazing Grand Canyon)
 
Well for a start, it was raining/foggy/snowing during our day out at The Grand Canyon, which definitely made for a surreal experience. The Grand Canyon, despite the weather, has been a firm highlight of my time in America. It’s such an iconic place, and to say I’ve travelled all that way, hiked slightly down into it, and learnt about the history of the site and the people there, makes me very proud. I remembered I commented to one of my lecturers earlier in the trip about how we’d already experienced canyons, and remarked what was so special about the Grand Canyon. Now I’ve been, I can see exactly what is special about the Grand Canyon. There is nowhere else on this planet that can rival it in terms of geological impact. Its size is astonishing, terrifying, and a reminder of just how small you are as a person on this ginormous earth.
 
(Selfie at the Grand Canyon)
 
It was with a heavy heart that we left our life on the open road to return back to Las Vegas. The freedom of the open road was exhilarating, and I wasn't ready to be squeezed back into Las Vegas, with people walking into me with every step I take. Nevertheless, I was excited to get back to Vegas for one more night.

(One of the many roads on which we travelled)
 
We stopped on the way a couple of times, firstly in Seligman. Seligman is a town just off the main road, along what's left of the old iconic Route 66. Route 66 became famous for being the main road between Chicago and California, and being used during the Dust Bowl Migration of the 1930’s. However, this is not how Route 66 is remembered. In Seligman, the idea of a 1950’s America is being sold, using figures such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, who have nothing to do with Route 66. So why are they being used? Is it because the 1950s are the golden age of American motoring? I guess it would be pretty hard to sell the idea of a depression era and migration, which is why this idea is one which is alternatively sold. I got fairly bored in Seligman. Although there were many, many gift shops, it was a case of once you’d been in one, you’d been in them all. Nothing stood out as eye-catching or different, it was simply a much tackier version of what I’d envisioned before visiting.
 
(Route 66 in Seligman)
 
Chloride, the second of our stops, was very different. The town seemed deserted, with little to no claims to fame, minus the local bar, ‘Digger Dave’s’, which was full of memorabilia, including a Tom Jones poster in the toilet. Here there seemed to be the space for freedom for creativity and expression, even though it felt like a ghost town. I felt like I was walking around in a western, just waiting to turn a corner, see the tumbleweed rolling along, and stumble into a shootout.

(Inside 'Digger Daves' with the girls)
 
I’ve only really come across the Hoover Dam in the Superman film, but it was every bit as impressive as I’d expected. Spanning across the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada, it provides power and water to many places in the West, such as Las Vegas. Recently I went to the cinema with my mum and watched San Andreas, and during the beginning of the film, you see Hoover Dam being destroyed due to an earthquake. Now that I've been there, it's astonishing to think how iconic the place is, and it's truly a structure to behold, one which only something so extreme could destroy.

(Claudia and I looking very windswept in front of Hoover Dam)
 
I have to admit, in the final moments of my American adventure, Las Vegas has won me over. It got me. I’m officially converted to city life, although my bank account is screaming at me not to. I feel pretty bad to admit that I was relieved to be back in the city after my time on the road. Maybe because I’m from a small town, it made such an exciting change to be in such an unfamiliar, large place. One thing is for certain, I shopped until I dropped during my last 24 hours in Vegas, to the point where I genuinely ran out of money and had to call home to beg mum to put more in my bank account. No shop was left unshopped, and my suitcase was packed to the seams with goodies from MAC, Sephora and Victoria's Secret.
 
(Ahh MAC, one of my greatest loves)
 
When it was time to leave, I was exhausted. We didn't stop in the whole two weeks we were there, we'd crammed something into every waking hour on the trip, and in many ways I was totally ready to go home. I also was super reluctant to go home, because I love being stateside so damn much. I think that's why I chose my degree, because deep down I wish I was American, and their crazy way of life is so appealing to me. Thankfully I'll be back in the USA for my 21st, getting sophisticatedly wasted in a classy bar in Manhattan, and watching Broadway musicals. But as far as this trip was concerned, all that was left to do was to board the plane with my significantly heavier suitcase, and watch Vegas shrink further into the distance as we climbed up into the sky.
 
(Oh I will be back soon....)
 
So there it is, my American adventures. I miss being there so much, I was insanely happy for the entire two weeks, and wish so much that it could've lasted forever. Next time I'll be blogging about my next adventure in Edinburgh, and the incredible festival Wildlife I went to in Brighton.
 
Until then
 
Much love
 

 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

American Adventures - Chapter Two...

The last time we spoke, I had just left Vegas to begin an entirely new adventure on the open road, and my time travelling around could not be any more of a contrast to the craziness of Vegas if it tried. This leg of the journey saw us leaving Las Vegas and arriving in a small town called Kanab in Utah, before making our way to Marble Canyon and a town called Mexican Hat.

The open road


 
The open road in America is unlike any other driving experience I’ve had. The scenery extends into long, straight open roads, with only the odd occasional small town approaching, then fading into view. It was exhilarating to escape the city and be surrounded by fresh air and open spaces again, just like home. On the way to Kanab we passed through Colorado City, a Mormon town, which was just bizarre and totally different to any way of life I'd seen before. Large houses with large families working on the land, all similarly and plainly dressed. We also paid a visit to Pipe Springs National monument, to have a look at how natives and Mormons both lived off of the harsh landscape.

(Pipe Springs)
 
If I've learnt anything from being in America, it's that for a small town girl, I certainly hate small towns. Maybe it's because it's all so familiar, and with no disrespect to any of the small towns I visited, but good God I was bored. Perhaps in the context of our travels, coming from Vegas, anything else would be deemed as boring, but there were genuinely a few places where I either felt so isolated it was relaxing, or I lost my mind. Kanab was the latter, I was struck by how on a Sunday, a church day, there was really not that much open to do. All we could do on such a quiet day was escape the town, and go for a little adventure on some sand dunes. Now for someone who lives maybe a couple of hundred metres (if that) from a beach, good God I can't stand sand! It gets everywhere, and its just exhausting to walk up sand dunes.
 
(The amazing sand dunes)
 
The following day we visited Zion National Park in Utah. Zion is 229 sq. miles of land, and it's absolutely beautiful. There are many different meanings to the word ‘Zion’, but one of the most common is ‘dry place’, however, Zion National Park is more like an oasis in the desert. Being at Zion made me realise how much I really enjoy being surrounded by nature, but it also made me realise how much other people enjoy it too. One of the areas we visited seemed much more popular and accessible to visitors, and the walks were crammed with people. So much for being at one with nature, more like being with the masses in nature. This aside, Zion was an absolute highlight of my trip, and I would love to go back and push myself to do a more challenging hike (never thought I'd say that!!!), if anything for the breath-taking views.

 (Me at the top of our first hike at Zion, what a view!)
 
Marble Canyon is in every sense the most isolated place I’ve ever stayed. Essentially, all we had was a place to eat, a place to sleep, and each other. There was no phone signal, no wifi. We were completely alone. I actually enjoyed the peace and quiet, it made a refreshing change from the intense week we had, and made me realise I genuinely do rely too much on my phone for communication, and that I'm missing so much of life because of it. Marble Canyon is the most remote place we visited during our travels, and we were told we doubled the population when we stayed; which seemed certainly true whilst dining in the local restaurant, when we accounted for nearly half of the customers. The sky was incredibly clear, with no light pollution. The stars looked so bright at night, brighter than I’ve seen them anywhere else in all my life. This lack of pollution from other humans makes it so much clearer that we were isolated from the world out there.

 (Laying in the road near Marble Canyon because there was pretty much no traffic whatsoever)
 
After our first night in Marble Canyon, we took part in a challenging hike down Cathedral Wash to the Colorado River. It wasn't quite as harsh as the Red Rock hike, but it definitely involved a lot more teamwork and climbing. I daresay, this was one of the highlights of my life, let alone this trip. Once we finally got to the waters edge, it was the best view of my life. It was ethereal, and my mind has never been so much at peace (which is impressive, because my mind never usually shuts up!). Personally, I’ll always remember the hike as a metaphor for life. Although it may be a struggle and hard work getting there, you can be sure that there is always something beautiful at the end.

(Mid-hike with some of the girls)

(Poised on a rock with Rachel at the waters edge, deep in thought)
 
Leaving Marble Canyon, we began to make our way onwards, into the Navajo Nation. We experienced dinosaur footprints, which was fascinating as I have honestly never considered history in American beyond what I've been taught. Our guide told us about how people would just come along and take the fossils from the land, and he seemed fairly relaxed and casual towards this. This shocked me, as it seemed that they were just used to people coming along and taking away what rightfully belonged to them, which seemed wrong on every level to me.

 (Dinosaur footprints!)
 
One of the ‘selling-points’ of this trip was a chance to see Monument Valley, and I have to admit I was hugely disappointed. Although it is an iconic symbol of the American West, I fear I’ve seen so much mountainous landscape on my travels that this failed to make any sort of impression on me at all. Because there was no tour or museum, I feel like I didn’t learn anything, and ultimately when we drove away, I was just as clueless about Monument Valley as when I’d arrived. Why is it such a symbolic place? What does it mean to the Navajo who live there? In contrast to my point, viewing Monument Valley the following day from a different angle was actually more impressive. Perhaps the weather helped, or maybe it was the iconic image I'm used to seeing in films such as Forrest Gump. I'm also totally impressed with this picture I took of Monument Valley, this is some postcard magic right here. 
(Monument Valley looking lovely)

(Group photo at Monument Valley!)
 
San Jaun Inn creates a different kind of isolation to the one I’d experienced at Marble Canyon. There’s a much bigger divide in culture, with the local restaurant offering a Navajo section of the menu. One of the staples on the menu is fried bread, a food which is part of the diet and culture of many Navajo people. I can’t help but wonder why the Navajo would eat this, as it was introduced into their diets during the Long Walk and imprisonment. It’s like Jewish people eating the foods given to them in concentration camps. The cruel irony of this haunts me a little, as it’s just another horrible reminder of the reality of these people, and how they’ve come to be pushed onto reservations after all the hardships they’ve already endured in American history.

(Doing the sassy emoji sign near Mexican Hat)

The next morning we made our way back towards a town called Flagstaff, with only 3 days left of the trip! Believe it or not, we crammed a lot into the last few days, and experienced things which were totally different to how I'd expected them.
 
Much love 

 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Happy 1st Birthday Wanderlust...

So it's officially been an entire year today since I started writing this blog!

 
I'm honestly proud and surprised with myself for managing to keep it going for an entire year, even though it's no secret that I'm atrocious at regularly posting. However, this blog is always on my mind, and hopefully one day I can really focus and commit to making this a long-term adventure!

 
Thank you so much to everyone who has ever taken the time to read anything I've posted on here, it honestly means so much and makes this all worth while. Without you reading this, I'd just another weird woman writing to herself on the internet, so thank you keeping me sane and reassuring me that people out there actually take the time to read my ramblings!

 
Hopefully I'll still be here in a years time, still writing to you about all the madness going on in my little world, and all the dreams and adventures I still hope to have.

(Here's how my blog looked in its humble beginnings, talk about throwback! Not a lot has drastically changed, it's basically the same with a different background, but it's come a long way..)
 
All the love in the world