Madrid Departure – Rough Trip Back

Mercury in retrograde assured of some delays and issues with scheduling. I had been pretty lucky with schedules, reservations and the sort. But now it was time for MR in full effect – flight from Madrid was delayed 30 minutes not knowing if I was going to make my flight from London to Phoenix.

Of course my arrival at Heathrow was late, therefore was booked by British Airways on another flight (American Airlines – grrr) in, get this – an aisle exit seat with 3 screaming, kicking children behind me. I was close to the loo, at least there was that.

Once you hit the States, it is necessary to claim your baggage in customs, then re-check it for any other destinations – at Chicago O’Hare, this is not an easy task. The connecting flight BA had booked from Chicago back to Phoenix was in a different terminal as well, plus the arrival departure screens were blacked out when you come through security – overall ensuring that I was to miss that flight as well. Ugggh – back again to another terminal with all my bags to the American Airlines desk to get a room for the night (By the way, $50 food allowance only covers – barely – one meal, and everything, including water and a side of ranch costs $5). My flight home was over 24 hours later than I left from Madrid, and my bags made it before I did. What a trip home.

Selfies through Europe

My mom gave me the idea to post the ‘selfies’ I have taken through my Travels – here are some of the greatest hits: from Spain to France to Belgium to where I began this journey in London.

   
                                                                                   

London Missives I

The first days in a new city, when traveling, are all about ‘Getting Your Bearings’.
I had taken a few ‘Google street view’ walks, virtually, around all the hotels in which I am staying, so I had a general lay of the land in Notting Hill. What I neglected to do, was take into account the 1. weight of my luggage, 2. time to reorient (jetlag, etc.), 3. actual distance to sites, and 4. time of day upon arrival.
When I arrived in London, I had a very aggressive itinerary – to say the least. I would post it here, but so many would say, “you are crazy, you’ll never get that all in”. But that’s what travel is about too – learning the lessons by even ‘failing’.
So I left Heathrow knowing I needed to get to Leicester (Lester) square before 4:30p to pick up my London Pass. On a side note, I would highly recommend anyone doing this and get a travel card (Oyster card) with it. One thing to note: The London Eye is NOT on this, but there are so many other sites and museums and deals that I think it is well worth the purchase.

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The National Portrait Gallery

I arrived at the Hotel Blue Bells around 4:20pm and there was NO WAY I was going to make my timeline, so I casually changed and freshened up to make a trip to the area where I would start my first day in London. I got rather lost, but did venture into Trafalgar Square and even checked off the National Portrait Gallery from my list (by the way, many of the galleries and museums are free and only ask for donation).

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Pembridge Square

By this time (7pm), I was ready to head back to the hotel and find some good Pub fare – See The Prince Edward, London cuisine posts to come.

With so much that had happened a couple things I learned: pack less, no matter if you think you have, pack less than that. Also, try to adjust your sleeping on the plane (I fell asleep as soon as possible, which made my jetlag much less). Being over-prepared by doing your research will save you time and money – I still find this THE most helpful tip. Some more stories to come, stay tuned!

Here’s what I am packing…

        I was able to pack for 2.5 weeks, 5 cities, 4 countries with a small checked suitcase, briefcase/bag and backpack carry-on. This was most difficult, but it can be done. I will be shedding some older clothes along the way – I have a feeling.

Packing and Repacking, then Packing again

One of the most frustrating things I have found in my travels is my ability to have all the ‘just in cases’ and carrying them around the whole time – only not to need them. I decided this trip was going to be different….

I packed (too many options), pared down (still too many) and repacked. For two and a half weeks, I have plenty of clothes, but I am not going to be in any one city for more than 4 days – this means I will probably have to do laundry.
I also want to make sure to have the right apparel for some of the culinary adventures I have planned – so dressing up is going to be a necessity.

First I made a list of all the ‘layer-able’ clothing I would need for 5 days (including my flight over). I narrowed it down to 3 pairs of crop pants, 1 pair of shorts, 3 dresses, and multiple tops/tank tops (3 tanks, 4 shirts, 3 t-shirts). I am also taking 1 pair of jeans in case of inclimate weather. Extra clothing was eliminated – like the additional 2 dresses, 3 t-shirts, and 2 shorts.

Now I am going to be near a beach at the end of my trip, so a bathing suit is necessary, and I suggest packing extra night clothes, socks, and undergarments if you aren’t doing laundry (but I am, so I limited it to a week’s worth).

I have had to pack and re-pack about 5-7 times to get it right – and I probably have at least one more time before leaving – I did put my journals, books and maps in my checked bag (other than the first city’s), and packed extra clothes in my carry-on.
My toiletry bag is also in my checked bag – it’s kind of big, and I may rethink that as well – I will keep you all up to date on if this works and take some photos of the packing final too!

Practicing the Languages

No matter where I travel, I like to learn some of the language of the countries to which I visit – a great friend recommended ‘Duolingo’ to brush up on my Spanish and French. 

I more than wholeheartedly recommend this app to get acquainted with the languages. It has a really easy and interactive interface.

If only to say ‘please, thank you, order a drink, ask directions, and tell time and prices’ – I always try to speak the native tongue (and it helps to understand directions, too).

Why Do I Travel?

Why do I travel?

Travel for me is a conglomeration of several ideas and challenges:

  1. I enjoy the sense of empowerment, the sense of independence – yet dependent upon the people I encounter. The trust one has to have in human nature, oneself, and the ability to solve complex issues and to be flexible – sometimes not in my nature (like time delays, missed transportation, illness, negative encounters, monetary issues, language barriers, etc.). This is why I travel.
  2. I am obsessed with history and its impacts on humanity. I am well-versed in historical events and movements, especially in art. I confirm and contradict many of my views and information about the past when I travel to the origin. Perhaps it is a story about Shakespeare, perhaps stereotypical information such as cultural traditions or habits – Traveling changes my mind and surprises me – CONSTANTLY! This is what traveling does for me.
  3. The ART appreciation by our contemporary society has seemed to lack as of late – I gauge this by my own experiences in my classrooms. Usually, by the end of a course, these students’ opinions about art changes – I like to be surrounded by this appreciation and in the midst of mutual knowledge – I love to learn, I love to teach, I love to experience ART of all forms. From culinary to visual, from performances to architecture – part of being ‘human’ is to appreciate that which makes us so… and why travel is important to me.
  4. The food – I have grown tired of the processed existence that is America. It is prevalent in our restaurants (of all cultures), fast food, even in our grocery stores. I know it exists in modernized and industrialized countries as well, however, there are preservatives and additives, which are not present. These ‘exotic’ foods satiate my hunger and quench my thirst with a forceful tradition – I enjoy ‘tasting’ and traveling.
  5. The people – I have some of the funniest stories about people whom I have met in my travels. Experiences waiting on a train – walking through a museum or site – eating at a café – cooking in another country – ordering from a grocery store – asking for directions – and, of course, visiting local clubs, beaches, and bars – these are stories I get from traveling.
  6. The trust I mentioned earlier – Traveling forces us to learn to trust again. I practice trusting myself – my planning abilities, my organizational skills, my language and culture knowledge, and my ability to be flexible with my plans. I practice and rediscover trusting others – trust in humans’ ability to help, to be honest, and to re-instill that trust over the built-up jaded attitude so often that comes with negative experiences. I am open to this practice and rediscovery of my trusting nature. Travel helps me to continue my personal growth.
  7. Just breathing the air, smelling the surroundings, hearing the sounds, seeing the art, tasting the food, and walking the streets – Clearing My Mind and Body – THAT is what Travel is to me.