Split: Where You Can Be A Roman Goddess

Split was our last stop and it was definitely my favourite. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and for good reason. It is essentially a well maintained, fully functioning Roman palace in the middle of a modern city. For lack of a better word, it is super cool.

We lucked upon an airbnb right in Diocletians Palace and I felt like I was a Roman goddess.

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View from the balcony

We spent our two nights in Split touring around, shopping and taking it easy. Split has the most shoe stores per capita in the entire world– it was a great time.

Highlights included Marjan Hill which is a serious trek but worth the view:

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Diocletians Palace:

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Bobis:

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Bobis is a bakery chain that does. not. disappoint. The pastries are amazing and practically free. The B really is like a beacon of joy. Definitely try their burek. The pastry above was supposed to come home with me for Ross but it didn’t last my wait at the airport, whoops!

My last day was spent on my own as the girls had to make a flight home from Zagreb and I decided to soak up as much sun as possible at the quietist beach I could find.

Kašuni Beach:

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This was a great beach because it was MUCH quieter than Bačvic, which is the popular, easily accessible, city beach. I had to take a bus to Kašuni but it was totally worth it for the views, the shade from the trees when it was hot and the fact that it was’t busy and therefore could always see my stuff while staying in the water for as long as I wanted. Hooray for no stolen items!

For some reason, dried fruit costs a fortune in London so I came home with dried apricots, raisins and cranberries from the market and a new pair of Birkenstocks.

Check out my other Croatian stops in Dubrovnik and Hvar and my super long layover in Copenhagen

Hvar You Kidding Me With This Weather?

I do love a good (or bad) pun, hehe.

This is the harbour in Split but it's the same boat

This is the harbour in Split but it’s the same boat

After our whirlwind day in Dubrovnik, we headed to Hvar on a catamaran that lasted forever. I also learned that I don’t love boats. What I do love is the beach and Hvar had plenty.

Upon disembarking at around 7pm, we noticed that most people were wearing white and that most of those people were really, really drunk. And that the marina had about a billion yachts including one with a helicopter. I soon realized that Hvar is a great island for people watching. There is so much excess and, excuse the crassness but, rich person ‘willy swinging’ (you can find the right word for willy) that it was a little like being in a more picturesque, euro-beach version of Vegas, without the gambling.

yachtlife

I didn’t get a picture but I borrowed this one from http://travelblog.viator.com/living-like-the-rich-famous-in-croatia/

We spent a couple of nights there at a hostel called Luka’s Lodge which I highly recommend. It’s a little off the beaten path (10 min walk) and Luka and his team of employees are kind and the place was spotless.

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View from Luka’s Lodge

We spent our time eating, going to the beach and enjoying as much of the amazing weather as possible. It was blue skies for days except for the day we decided to rent a boat. I have never driven a boat but was nonetheless deemed the most qualified to do so. I HIGHLY recommend NOT renting your own boat and shelling out for a person that knows what they’re doing. I was given a five minute tutorial on how to drive a boat, the guy hopped off and were were left to our own devices. I has to maneuver the boat out of a crowded marina and drive it ON THE OPEN SEAS to a beach. It was crazy windy and I thought were were going to die. Then we actually got to where we needed to go and had to park the stupid thing. For any of you that know what my driving is like, it was similar to that, only worse. We flagged down a kid that worked on a boat and asked him for help and thankfully we looked so pathetic that he hopped aboard and docked it for us. 

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I have no photos of this island. Pictures were the last thing on my mind unfortunately, sigh…

When went to leave, our anchor was caught on something and a kind, attractive deaf man came to our aid. He dove down and came up sputtering grasping for a hand. For a second I though we had been helped by someone who couldn’t swim which would’ve ben the icing on the cake but our anchor was caught on a piece of boat chain that weighed a ton. He swam down, picked it up and then swam back up with it. He is my hero. The return journey was much like the outgoing one and I had never been more excited to be on land in my life. Never. Again.

The highlight, aside from the beaches, were the truffle fries and deep fried polenta from a tucked-away burger joint called 50 Hvar. GO THERE. It was blissful.

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Truffle fries

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Covered in pesto mayo. Don’t mind if I do…

Hvar was my second favourite stop on the trip but if you’re not into sitting on a beach, I wouldn’t spend more than a couple days here. Also, if you are planning on heading there, buy some water shoes– there are sea urchins everywhere.

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Check out my first stop in Dubrovnik and my looooong layover in Copenhagen

Next stop, Split!

24 hours in Dubrovnik

Once I arrived in Split, I took the first bus I could to Dubrovnik to meet up with friends and though the 4 hour drive felt long after my flight, it was absolutely stunning. The was the view from a truck stop:

2015-07-28 15.51.36See what I mean?

Getting into Dubrovnik was easy enough and I wasn’t sure where the air bnb was so I took a five minute cab rise right to the door. I unpacked and we headed out for dinner. We went to a restaurant in the Old Palace and it wasn’t amazing but it was very ambient.

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Word to the wise for visitors to Dubrovnik: we had serious trouble taking cash off of any of our cards where in the rest of Croatia, it was a piece of cake.

The next day, we walked the wall first thing in the morning and it was a million degrees before 9am. I wouldn’t go in the afternoon– between the crowds and the heat, by noon it was hard to appreciate the beauty around me because all I could think about was whether or not the sweat was showing through my once flowy skirt. It was grim lol.

The next day we went on a Game of Thrones tour as Dubrovnik is the setting for Kings Landing. The tour was great and it was interesting to hear how the show takes over the city for a month. 2015-07-29 10.11.46

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This was a great 24 hour city and totally with the bus ride from Split.

Croatia! But First, Copenhagen

A few weeks ago I went to Croatia and when I booked the flight months and months ago I though it would be cool to book one with a 22 hour layover in Copenhagen. I like traveling and new places and it was the perfect excuse to visit somewhere new.

Now, I’m going to come off as a huge whiner in this post and I already know this, this is simply your warning.

I arrived in Copenhagen and it was cold. Like, everyone was wearing windbreakers and pants and I had packed for a beach vacation. Sometimes I’m astounded at how some things don’t even factor into my planning. So, on the train I go wearing the only tiny sweater I had packed. The first thing I noticed about Copenhagen was how clean and how expensive it is. I’m pretty good at traveling on a budget and it was hard. The Kroner is not kind to the thrifty. Hence why I splurged on a hot dog from the street for the low, low price of a fiver.

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I bit the ends of this frankfurter off before taking the picture, doh.

Seeing as how this was the prequel to my actual vacation, the rest of my day was spent walking around doing all the things free.

I spent some time putzing around the Royal Library Gardens trying to stave off exhaustion.

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The average age of the tourists I saw in Copenhagen can be seen below:2015-07-27 13.19.44

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After that, I made my way over to the harbour getting lost a dozen times along the way. I’m pretty good at reading maps but getting up at 3 am and trying to function makes me kind of stupid.

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I spent the night at the Urban House Hostel which I had mixed feelings about. The hostel itself was wonderful. The staff was nice and the facilities were lovely but I think I’ve reached my expiry date on shared accommodation. Luckily I was sharing a room with a mother-daughter duo form Toronto (what are the odds?!) and two other girls that I didn’t meet and who were very quiet. I love meeting people and being social until I don’t. Then it’s all ‘WHY ARE THERE PEOPLE ALL UP IN MY BUSINESS?!’ on the inside. But at $39 for the night with a semi private bathroom, I really couldn’t complain.

The next day I grabbed a granola and skyr, coffee and museli bun for later for just under $15 Canadian. SERIOUSLY. It was painful to pay for, but such an enjoyable breakfast. I was expecting regular yogurt and granola but it had rhubarb ribboned though it, the granola was chewy and I never wanted it to end.

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I think I’ll go back to Copenhagen when I’m old, rich and don’t feel like doing nothing on a beach. I am very aware of the fact that this may be never.

Later that day: Split!

There is No Walmart In London…

…and this is both amazing and problematic. When Ross and I rented our flat, it came with two wardrobes, a chest of drawers, a sofa bed, two bed side tables, a mattress and box spring that probably came off the streets. It has since be bed-skirted and I pretend I never saw it’s true state.

So, London is old. Like, really, really old. This means that the city can’t really afford large sprawling superstores or gyms without sacrificing charming little neighbourhoods or history. For this reason, it really is magical here. Until you have to outfit a flat on the cheap and then it’s all ‘wtf, where do I find clothing hangers and garbage bins that won’t cost me a fortune?!’

The answer is in many stores. Behold my stuff and where it came from:2015-07-24 10.49.27

The wardrobes came with the room but the hangers and hooks I got at Primark. The one behind the door was £.90 and the hooks on the wardrobe came in a set of 4 for £2. The hangers were inexpensive as well at £2.90 for a set of 10 but I needed about a million of them

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The laundry hamper was also purchased at Primark for £3. The plastic drawers were £12 at a random hardware store and the towels I got at Primark as well for between £3 and £7.

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Our bedding and pillows all came from a store called Argos which is the closest thing to a bargain department store but it’s so weird. It’s essentially a store full of iPads and catalogues. You go through the catalogue in whatever form, choose your items, pay for them at one of 4 cashiers and then said cashier will go to a mysterious back room and appear with your stuff. I felt like the laziest person. 2015-07-24 10.48.25The room is pretty sparse but we’re heading to Ikea at some point to pick up a cheapie bookcase, a shoe rack and some other stuff it pains me to spend money on. Can’t these things just appear on the side of the road?

Speaking of side of the road, London doesn’t use craigslist but a site called gumtree instead and their ‘House Clearance’ section, where people post things they need to get rid of fast, is what dreams are made of. I’m picking up a pair of lamps for £5 tomorrow. Don’t mind if I do!

Another place I fell in love with is Tiger. It’s like the Danish version of Ikea but for everything but furniture. It’s built like a maze so you have to go though the whole thing (I had absolutely no problem with this) and stuff is cheap, cheerful and cute. I bought an oven mitt (£3), a rubbish bin (£4) and some spices (£1). Enjoy some of the creeper photos I took:

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This is the exact moment where I fell in love. Colourful food storage!!!

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Necessary stationary section picture

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This is a desk organizer that was not in my budget.. I walked away screaming I’LL COME BACK FOR YOU on the inside.

And there you have it. How to outfit a flat without a Walmart but at Walmart prices. I’m patting myself on the back, fyi.

Moving to London: Where to Live

So, Ross and I spent a week at his mom’s before finally settling into a place of our own. Before we left we researched where we wanted to live and decided that we wanted something:

  • close to work (North West London)
  • central but affordable
  • fun but not club-district-fun
  • with good transport links
  • with grocery stores nearby
  • on a main road so that I wouldn’t have to worry about people not hearing a rape whistle, metaphorically.

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The original idea was somewhere in the Kilburn High Road area but once we mapped it, it seemed pretty dodgy so we looked at Queens Park and Maida Vale but then they seemed sleepy and expensive.

The tricky thing is that until you’re in London you can’t really settle on a place for sure– going to the areas you’ve researched is really key before actually making a decision, as tempting as it may be to have somewhere to move into right away when you get here.

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I had been to Camden before and really like the area. It had that ever so sight grimy feeling to in a way that you know it would be a fun place to live that wasn’t posh but also wasn’t a slum.

Ross did some searching and we settled on a large flat that we share with 5 other people. It’s quite a few flatmates but they’re clean, kind and our room is big enough that if we need some downtime away from people, it doesn’t feel like we’re sitting in a prison cell. It’s a 15 minute walk from the market and I LOVE it. It’s fun, it’s central and it’s relatively safe. There were some riots the other night against the gentrification of the area that led to some roads being closed but I don’t walk home fearing for my life or anything. We also live near a pub that always has people in it so there’s that.

There are a bunch of grocery stores in the area and they’re a range of types: Waitrose is the fancy pants grocery store, Tesco and Sainsbury’s fall somewhere in the middle, Morrisons is a superstore with some clothing and kitchen stuff and Lidl and Iceland are the cheap stores in the area.

I shop mainly at Lidl for as much as I can because it’s so inexpensive but Morrisons is my favourite because it’s a one-stop shop where I can get extra bits I’m missing like clothing hangers or a laundry hamper and not pay a fortune for those types of items.

There are some great places to live south of the river but it is harder to get to. Brixton is inexpensive and still very trendy.  Places like Islington and Angel are popular with young professionals, Hackney is the up-and-coming hipster area. Fulham and Clapham also have newly developed areas that don’t completely break the bank.

Honestly, visiting and work of mouth are the best ways to figure out where to make home in such a big city. Plan a visit, ask you friends, ask me! I do love a good email:)

Here are some of the sites we used:

SpareRoom

Zoopla

Gumtree

http://www.insidelondon.co/where-to-live-in-london has great area info

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Ireland Pt. 2: Bunratty Folk Park

On our second and last day in Ireland we visited Bunnratty Castle and Folk Park. It was the day after Nan’s 80th birthday party and it was probably the least tame party I’ve ever been to, despite it being for an octogenarian. The Irish do not mess around.

I was still fighting a bit of jet lag and ducked to bed early so while everyone was nursing their hangovers, Ross and I went to the folk park where his aunt works.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is very much like Pioneer Village in Toronto. It’s a 26 acre area filled with a number of cottages staged as they wood have looked in the various eras and counties in which they existed. Then, past the cottages there is a little village with a barber, a pub, a confectionary, all staged to look as they would have in the early 19th century.

2015-06-28 13.11.13Inside each cottage there was a person in historical dress that would speak to people about daily life. This one happened to have an adorable old ‘blacksmith’ with the gift of gab. He seriously loved to talk to the point that we really wanted to duck out but he was so cute and old and excited that we were held hostage for a solid 15 mins. This also happened in the pie making cottage with Kitty, a 6′, 79 year-old that loved a good monologue. Beware the adorable old people, they will talk and it will be hard to leave, in the best way.

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The castle was probably my favourite part. It was quite large and felt very…castle-y. It was drafty, had a few tapestries and was in general, quite sparse. It was exactly what I envisioned a cast to look like in it’s heyday. The stairs were spirally and really narrow and it was, in general, a pain to get around (In a good way! I felt like a medieval person). I could only imagine how annoying it must have been to get a message like ‘dinner’s ready’ from one end to the other. The great hall was in the centre of the castle with the bedrooms surrounding it and you can tell that someone else had the same idea. Each bedroom had a little window that looked onto the great hall that was big enough for someone to shout through.

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A very Irish view

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A path through the grounds

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Staged village

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Confectionary, aka my second favourite place.

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Pretty gardens

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OMG THIS PIE

So at the end of the walk though the grounds (2.5-3 hrs gives you enough time to meander at a good pace), we made a point to stop at the cafe. Ross’s Uncle John had mentioned that the pie and cream was delicious and not to be missed. He sold it as ‘the best pie ever’ and I was a bit skeptical.

The best pie? Are you sure? How do you know?

YOU GUYS, THIS IS THE BEST PIE.

The crust was buttery and it was full of tart apples and the cream…I still think about the cream which is made fresh, onsite.

It was the perfect way to end the day at the folk park and I would say it’s a requirement if you visit Bunratty.

Ireland: All The Best Stereotypes Pt. 1

A few weekends ago, Ross and I flew to Ireland for his Nan’s 80th birthday party and it was exactly what I expected it to be in the best way. Upon landing in Shannon we disembarked using the stairs onto the tarmac. I haven’t done that in YEARS and it was awesome. I felt like a celebrity except that I was flying Ryan Air. So the doors open and I got a whiff of real Irish air and it smelled like…manure! Now before you roll you eyes at me for being pessimistic I would like to point out that it smelled lovely. It felt a little like I walked off the plane onto my family’s farm.

We drove from the airport to Ross’ family’s place and it was my first encounter with Irish People From Ireland, In Ireland. YOU GUYS, THEY’RE THE NICEST. Seriously, everyone is kind but, like, shirt off your back, here-have-half-my-dinner kind. Whoever said that Irish people were warm and friendly was not lying even a little bit.

We didn’t do a whole bunch of touring and stayed mainly in and around the village but we did go check out Dromoland Castle and Bunratty Folk Park.

Dromoland Castle

We walked to the castle and this was the view the whole time. Ross moaned about having to walk and how far it was and blah, blah, blah.  Once we got to the main road, this was the view:2015-06-27 11.15.03

ARE YOU SERIOUS?! My camera couldn’t even deal. Then I gave Ross the stink eye for suggesting we drive past this beauty.

Then we happened upon this derelict cottage:

2015-06-27 11.16.19I swear people manufacture this kind of landscape back home but in Ireland, it’s just commonplace.

2015-06-27 11.47.06We finally made it to the castle about a thousand photos later and it really was stunning. I don’t know if we were allowed in or not but we walked in like we owned the place and poked around for a bit. It is a hotel that sits on a golf course so people actually pay to be there. Really though– ain’t nobody got time for that.

Once we got in, I obviously had to pee and was so glad I did. See below.

I wanted to live in this bathroom

This photograph is shaky and unfocused because it was having a mini fit over how awesome it was. I was about to set up camp forever but then someone walked in and saw me taking this picture and I fled.

Casual walk through the castle, nbd

Casual walk through the castle, nbd

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Ireland is green.

Most of the castle was built in 1835 but some parts day back to the 15th century. If we weren’t poor we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) probably would’ve shelled out the 50 Euros for afternoon tea but that will have to wait until we have more money and/or until I can find someone a little more female to go with.

Tomorrow: Bunratty Folk Park where I had an apple tart that I will be dreaming about forever.

Moving to London: You’ve Arrived! Now What?

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I arrived in London on the 24th and since then, my time here has been a whirlwind. There are some things that you can only do once you’ve landed so the first few days end up being less ‘fun’ and more practical. Here are the things you should do ASAP:

1. Find a Job or Meet with Employer

I arrived at 6am and had an appointment with Prospero, the teaching agency that found me a job, at 2pm. I really wanted to get everything sorted as soon as possible so that I could start working as soon as possible. Although my job is for September, I’m hoping to supply teach in the next few weeks. The Canadian dollar/pound exchange rate is killing me as it’s two dollars to every pound. Also, everything here is on sale and it’s been REALLY HARD. But I digress… You’ll want to find a job asap.

2. Find Somewhere to Stay

If you have friends in London, yay! You can skip this step! You need an address in London when you pass through customs so I would encourage ringing up friends or  booking a hostel for a week before hand. Finding a place to settle in is not as easy as it looks and you’ll need a few days before you find the perfect fit. We’re staying with Ross’s mom but she lives in a one-bedroom with a cat and a massive dog. We’re totally inconveniencing her (though she’d absolutely never say it) and are so grateful that she is letting us stay there.

3. Find Somewhere to Live

I was lucky that Ross arrived here before I did and I forced him suggested that he find us a place to live while he was here doing a bunch of job interviews. I’ll be honest, finding a place to live sucks. Between housing ads that are dishonest, agencies that capitalize on finding people places to live and a small window after people’s work day in which to see these places, it’s not exactly a party.

The jobs we were given are in North London and we wanted to find a place to live that wasn’t far out, close to transport and lively. We were willing to pay a bit more and not live in the ‘burbs. This search led us to Camden, home of the famous market and the best doughnuts you’ll ever eat.

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We used spareroom.co.uk to find a room in a house share. We had originally tried to find an apartment on our own but the rent would’ve cost us a fortune and our bed probably would’ve also been the bathtub. We have a huge room in an old church conversion and we’re sharing the flat with 4 other people. Not ideal, but considering the fact that it’s large, centrally located and affordable, I’m pretty excited about it. Another huge draw is that shared housing usually includes most of the bills in the rent. We don’t have to worry about setting up internet, setting money aside for taxes or worrying about how long our showers are because it’s already been looked after. Here’s to hoping our housemates aren’t weirdos and that it isn’t haunted…

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4. Apply For a Bank Account

You’ll want to get the ball rolling pretty quickly on this one and hopefully your job will help you out. Typically, to open an account here you need a letter of employment and proof that you’re living somewhere in the UK. This is annoying because the only two requirements are probably already stressing you out. Once you’ve got those two things you need to make an appointment with the bank (usually about two weeks away) and then they’ll let you put your money there. I got my account through Lloyds as they tend to be the easiest– all they need to see is your passport.

Some Other Things You’ll Need ASAP:

  • Oyster card- this is your travel card to get around. It is £5 of travel freedom that you need if you’re going to be taking the tube or a bus. Also, figure out whether it’s worth it to get a monthly pass here.
  • Sim card- because who can live without internet on their phones!? We have a £20/month no-contract plan that gives us unlimited data, 5000 text and 2000 local minutes. Don’t mind if I do…
  • Apply for a National Insurance Number here (you do it by phone).

Lastly, make friends! I’m lucky that I came over with a built-in buddy but this is where your hostel, Facebook and Twitter will pay off. There are so many people living in this city, especially expats, that making friends will be easy-peasy. Prospero organizes a bunch of teacher socials so look into what your job or job agency offers in that respect as well.

Once you’ve sorted out the above, get out there and enjoy the city!

If you missed the first two parts in the series you can find them here and here :)

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry if I Want To

So, today is my 27th birthday and the last day of school and the day I leave for a year-long trip to London with/for a guy who is pretty awesome. So exciting right?!

I’m so excited!!!!!!

I also can’t stop crying.

I knew saying goodbye to my family would be hard (we’re super close) but I don’t think I realized how much I’d fall apart with each and every member. Yesterday I said goodbye to my brother and sister-in-law and lost it and today it was my parents at the airport.

Here’s how I’m sure I looked from behind:

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So cute right? Look at how pretend me walks with such purpose!

Here’s how I looked to the patient people at security:

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I was a mess. Nobody wanted to make eye contact with me. I’m sure I could’ve gotten past security with all the liquid in the world. Nothing causes more fear or awkwardness than a blubbering woman, apparently.

I skyped with Ross and cried some more. At one point he was like “you’ll be seeing me tomorrow!!” with a grin and I could barely muster a smile, lol. I swear I really do love him.

Anyway, I was at a table all to myself for a bit but then made the mistake of smiling at a woman with 3 boys that walked passed. Apparently this was an invitation for her children to join me. It was like a really long game of musical chairs where the chairs were never taken away. There were tears, rage at losing games and movement, so much movement.

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I wish this picture captured sound.

I’m now waiting to board my flight and still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this isn’t vacation– tomorrow I’ll wake up to the beginning of my short London life.

Kevin Keely, you're not wrong

Kevin Kelly, you’re not wrong