At last, the final post in my Britain series! Now I can let you in on my plans: I am going to make a book out of the series to test self-publishing through CreateSpace, which is a print-on-demand company that sells through Amazon. I’ll edit it a little bit and ask Yasamin for her input, and we’ll see how it goes. Mostly I want to get copies for my parents and my grandmothers and such. But, of course, anyone will be free to order one. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.
To make sure everyone is caught up, here’s the rest of the series:
Chapter 11: Homeward
When we arrived in Liverpool for one more night, we didn’t know where to go. We knew that our hostel was called The Cocooon, but with Yasamin’s dead computer we couldn’t find the address. It’s times like this that make me wish I knew how people figured things out before technology became so pervasive. I wouldn’t have even known how to book this trip in the first place without the internet. We called a cab and asked the cabbie if he knew where the hostel was, which he did not. He helpfully brought us to the only hostel he knew, where we went inside and awkwardly asked for directions from the receptionist, who said, “But this is a nice hostel, too…”
The Cocoon, when we found it, was great. It’s behind a pub and it’s mostly underground, so we took an elevator down to our room instead of up. It was very clean and modern. Though I was glad that we’d gotten to see Haydock and I liked our hotel there, I wished that we had stayed at The Cocoon instead for our three nights in Liverpool.
Since we had already been to the city and done the usual tourist things, we decided to go see the movie Thor, which opened that night in the UK. It didn’t get to the US until a couple weeks later. We went to an IMAX theater and saw it in 3D. I liked it, especially some of the dialogue, though the plot wandered a bit at times.
In the morning we got on the train back to Newcastle. We had gotten used to trains by now and we easily found our seats, but this time our ride was tainted by a very, very drunk individual who kept trying to offer us beer. Yasamin and I simply turned up our mp3 players and blatantly ignored him; he would not allow us to refuse his offer with any sort of tact.
When we arrived in Newcastle we hurried out of the train station to find the metro, which would take us to Sunderland, and when we were on the sidewalk we realized that we seriously needed to find a bathroom — which was located inside the train station we had just left, inaccessible unless we chose to buy another ticket. Of course. We struck out into the city in search of a Toilet sign. Finding none, we walked into a random hotel and used the toilet in their restaurant, which was very awkward since we were dragging our suitcases and the hotel staff seemed eager to check us in.
For my last night in Britain we went to a pub in Sunderland and had curry for dinner. Indian food is very popular there, so it wouldn’t have been right if we didn’t have Indian at least once. The curry was very good, especially with the naan and the rice. I love Indian food. For a drink I ordered lemonade, and what I received was sparkling water with lemon in it, which I actually liked a lot more than USA lemonade. For dessert we had a Belgian waffle with maple sauce. Not maple syrup — this was still England, not New England — but it was good nonetheless.
It was difficult to get up in the morning and catch my plane. I had no desire to leave, and many times I thought about just staying with Yasamin in her dorm, though it would have been against all the rules and I was out of money anyway. I didn’t have time to shower, eat, or brush my teeth before we had to take the metro to Newcastle Airport, where Yasamin saw me off.
The only thing that redeemed the day for me was, oddly enough, the airlines. When I got onto the smaller British Airways jet for the hour and a half trip from Newcastle to Heathrow in London, they gave us tea and breakfast paninis, and suddenly everything started to feel okay. In Heathrow I got to brush my teeth and attempt to flatten my frizz of hair in the bathroom before I went in search of the right gate. After a bus ride with some French people who kept staring at me (probably the frizzy hair) and a long walk through what appeared to be an entire shopping mall, I reached my destination.
Because it was April 29th, the day of the royal wedding, every newspaper I saw was talking about Kate being relieved that the wait was over. Personally I was relieved that I was already in Heathrow and would not have to fight my way through the crowds in London on this very special occasion.
The second leg of my trip was with one of British Airways’ partners, American Airlines. The flight was nearly empty, so I had an entire row of three seats to myself. I sat by the window, which was silly, because I spent most of the six hour flight pointedly focusing on my book, Lonesome Dove, and trying not to look down at what I was leaving behind. They fed us very well on the plane, though the flight attendants were not as friendly as the British Airways ones.
When I arrived in Logan Airport, I experienced something baffling: for about an hour, I hated Boston more than any place I had ever been. The accents were impossible to understand, the people were mean and pushy, the cars were too big, the toilets had way too much water in them… the list goes on. But after a short time on the bus that took me back to New Hampshire, I calmed down. I looked back at the Prudential and the John Hancock, forward to the bare springtime trees and the sprawling houses, and remembered that I love this place. I may not be enthusiastic about being from the United States, but I am certainly a proud New Englander.
Now, having recounted my first trip abroad a few months after returning home, I have some lessons that I would like to impart to anyone who is planning on travelling.
- Be careful where you book your hotel. Look at maps and read addresses carefully. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money and time on buses, book your hotel as close to the middle of the city as possible, even if it costs a bit more. (Unless you rent a car. Then book the cheaper hotel just outside the city.)
- Figure out the local buses beforehand. Yasamin and I became very good at reading bus and subway maps, which is a good life skill to have, but it would have been much smoother for us if we had figured these things out before we arrived in the city with our suitcases in hand and no idea where to go.
- Share meals. This isn’t just a travelling tip; most restaurants give you way more food than necessary, and you can save money by splitting one dish between two people whether you’re across the world or down the street from your house.
- Walk a lot. Yasamin and I both found that when we got home, our clothes were noticeably looser. Walking is great for so many things — thinking, relaxing, hanging out with a friend without having to spend money, seeing the sights, enjoying the weather, exercise. One reason I love travelling is I love escaping New Hampshire’s car dependency. But probably don’t wear boots with heels when you’re walking. Yasamin’s feet hurt quite often because of those.
- Do something relaxing each day. In fact, I recommend doing something relaxing in each place you visit. I didn’t feel like I’d experienced a place unless I’d taken a few minutes to sit down and breathe it in. We sat down in parks and museums and anywhere our feet were tired, and I don’t think any of that time was wasted. Travelling can make you lose your mind if you don’t relax now and then.
- Decide to get something out of what could be a bad experience. When we got lost in Edinburgh and had to walk with our suitcases for an hour or two, we were happy because we got to see other parts of the city. When we took the wrong train from Liverpool to Haydock, we were happy because we had a funny story to tell. This is a necessary attitude for travelling, because things are bound to go wrong. It’s also a necessary attitude for everyday life. Because… well… things are bound to go wrong. You only get to do this once. Go forth, my friends, and make the most of it.