T-minus…

I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to hear that the move went as well and as stress-free as can be expected. What’s more, I’ve managed to unpack my computer and my underpants, which as far as I can tell is all I need to keep me going until I abandon the majority of my belongings in the pursuit of grand adventures.

Speaking of which, I can now finally reveal the date that I will be starting the first, Western European leg of my travels. I still have plenty of planning to do, but I am at least ready to commit to a start date, which is…

 

*unnecessary pause for dramatic effect*

 

April 10th.

Yes, that’s almost a month away, but I have a reunion with past colleagues, a day dedicated to my mother, and an inevitably very noisy family birthday party in the Yorkshire Dales to attend to before I’m ready to leave – not to mention several relaxing baths and a healthy smattering of mum’s cooking to enjoy before my diet changes dramatically to cheap restaurants and a general sense of wonder and panic.

 

6. London, England

Goodbye, old friend.

This is not your typical blog post.

Everything else that I impart my mildly humorous, reasonably uneducated opinion about will be as such due to the short period of time I’ve spent in that particular location. Some for a week or two, some for less than a day, but none of my other posts will have quite as much weight behind it as this one.

I’ve been living in London – barring a couple of brief stints away – for eight years now. She’s been the longest, most intense, most turbulent relationship I’ve ever had (and that’s saying something), but like any relationship that involves swearing under my breath at men in suits, and having guacamole flung at my face at a bowling alley, at some point it has to come to an end.

As previously mentioned, I’m moving back to the shire to stay with my parents before I start my travels, and during breaks between legs (now I’m thinking about breaking legs of men in suits, very therapeutic). I will, of course, be making occasional visits back to the bright lights and questionable moralities of this great city, but for the most part, I’m done with her. For now.

It’s hard to assign emotions to this change, harder still when most of my thoughts are rapidly dissolving into a child-like excitement at the prospect of discovering what this planet is really all about. Keeping my nine-year-old-self quiet for a second, though, I can start to appreciate how much of a life-changing experience this city, and the people in it, have been to me.

Like any meaningful relationship, she has her faults – and believe me she has them in abundance. Every time someone barges past me to catch a train 60 seconds before the next one is due, or I see a homeless person on the street, or I breathe in the disgusting air pollution, or I can’t buy a ridiculously expensive drink at a bar because the queue is three-deep, I question why I ever came to this over-crowded, over-priced, over-polluted concrete jungle in the first place.

But then, I stand on a bridge with one of my partners at 2 am, admiring the beauty and atmosphere that I’ve never seen anywhere else, and I realise why I fell in love with her. (London, that is, not my partner, I don’t have actual emotions)

For anyone visiting London in the same all-too-brief manner that I will be everywhere else, she’s a fantastic hostess. There are so many things to do, see, eat, and admire, and despite the occasional broken down train or ill-timed strike from melodramatic tube drivers, the public transport system enables you to go wherever you want, pretty much whenever you want, something that’s easily taken for granted.

Little tip though, if you’re reading this and planning on being one of those tourists, don’t bother with the generic attractions. There’s simply no need to spend hours queuing to pay far too much money to experience things such as the Tower of London, or the London Eye (go to the top of the Oxo Tower instead), there are many many other places you can go that are better value for money, and involve less waiting around trying to make decent conversation while your shoes slowly fill with rainwater.

I do worry though. I worry that with all the other cities I’ll be getting lost in over the next year or so, the impact London has had on me will be diminished. I worry that the novelty of it being the only city I’ve lived in will wear off when I see what Los Angeles, Shanghai, Sydney, Dubai, Nice, Moscow, Angkor, Delhi and many more have to offer.

But then I remember that London hasn’t just given me a home for the last eight years, it’s taught me how to grow up*, how to get involved with other people, how to live a responsible life, how to love, and how to appreciate what I have, and don’t have.

It’s these personal moments that define my time here, and it’s why this city, and the people in it (men in suits notwithstanding), will always have a special place in my heart, and my life. It’s why I walk away from her with a heavy heart, not knowing if our relationship will ever be properly rekindled, but knowing it is one I will never forget.

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*I still haven’t actually grown up, don’t panic.

Impatience is a virtue

A weird thing happened to me today. I’ve spent the weekend in Southampton visiting a friend, and for geographical and logistical reasons, the best place to be dropped off on my way back home was Heathrow Airport, so I could pick up the Piccadilly line into town.

So there I was, walking through Terminal 2 to get to the Underground, surrounded by people coming in and out of the country. People with large bags, maps, guide books, and that part-excited, part-bemused look that everyone gets when visiting a foreign land for the first time.

I can’t wait to be that person. I want to drop everything and start now. Sadly, there are a couple of life admin things I have to get done first, so I can’t set off just yet.

That doesn’t stop me getting even more excited by the day though.

Sorry, ladies

As far as my itinerary is concerned, the first leg of my travels has now been fully planned.

Well, when I say fully planned, what I mean is I have an idea of where I want to be and when, but it will inevitably change as I discover new places, spend longer/shorter in other places, and get kidnapped by the Sicilian Mafia.

Nevertheless, here’s what I have planned.

1 London-Bruges
2 Bruges
3 Bruges-Dunkirk-Diksmuide-Zonnebeke-Bruges
4 Bruges-Ypres
5 Ypres-Amiens
6 Amiens-Nancy
7 Nancy
8 Nancy-Lucerne
9 Lucerne
10 Lucerne-Bern
11 Bern
12 Bern-Kandersteg-Bern
13 Bern-Montreux-Bern
14 Bern-Geneva
15 Geneva-Nice
16 Nice-Monte Carlo-Nice
17 Nice-Bologna
18 Bologna
19 Bologna-San Gimigano-Santa Fiora
20 Santa Fiora
21 Santa Fiora
22 Santa Fiora-Bastia
23 Bastia-Ajaccio
24 Ajaccio-Bastia
25 Bastia-Santa Fiora
26 Santa Fiora
27 Santa Fiora-Tivoli
28 Tivoli-Naples
29 Naples
30 Naples-Pompeii-Naples
31 Naples-Capri-Naples
32 Naples-Taormina
33 Taormina (Sicily)
34 Taormina (Sicily)
35 Taormina-Matera
36 Matera
37 Matera-Ancona
38 Ancona
39 Ancona-Imola-Bologna
40 Bologna-Munich
41 Munich
42 Munich-Neuschwanstein-Munich
43 Munich-Hallstatt
44 Hallstatt-Munich
45 Munich-Regensburg
46 Regensburg-Berlin
47 Berlin
48 Berlin
49 Berlin-London

I won’t have a starting date until I have a similar itinerary planned for all the legs of my adventure, but at the moment we’re looking at either early April or mid May, depending on a few factors.

Do you have suggestions for other places I should go? I probably won’t listen. Seven weeks without tasting Mum’s roast dinner is a long time.

The good news is that even when deliberately over-budgeting, I’m still under what I had originally thought would be my daily expense, and considering that this is supposed to be one of the more expensive legs of the trip, I might just be away for longer than I first thought.

Sorry, ladies.