I was told it was a 60-minute walk away but that it probably was faster, so I decided to walk, leaving at 3pm. Sooo, I know I was tired, but I was walking at a reasonable pace and yet somehow after 50 minutes the place was still no where in sight. Every few turns you saw a sign for it, but then it wouldn’t be there, I was starting to think it was a joke. I saw a couple jeeps pass me and I should have just flagged one down, but instead kept walking my way downhill in flip flops (and now added a blister) to eventually get there 15 minutes late for my tour. I was a little bit salty (or should I say bitter 😉 ) but eventually I started having fun when I ran into some people I met on the trail earlier.
I woke up before my alarm courtesy of the dogs and roosters, perks of staying at a hostel with farm in it’s name I guess. I brushed my teeth at the outside sink and was pleased to discover that it was pretty nice out for being only 7am. After breakfast at the hostel (which was fabulous) I made my way into town to catch a jeep towards the main reason I came to Salento, to see the Wax Palm Trees (world’s tallest palm trees).
I realize it hasn’t even been a full year since I began my first trip and blog post, crazy that it seems so long ago! One of the locations on my list that I didn’t make it to my last time was Colombia. However, I think waiting was a good idea because now I’m heading there in December when it’s lovely weather, a short(ish) flight from home, time-off work and traded tips from friends who have already been. This time would be different, since I would only be gone for 12 days, but I was excited nonetheless. I dug out my travel gear and started planning my route…
…The day had come (Christmas Day) and while I wasn’t originally nervous, cautions from worried loved ones had started to affect me a little. That quickly changed the second I landed in Bogotá. I re-found the familiar feeling of being some place foreign to me, yet feeling at home. I had to dust off some of my Spanish to get a cab and make my way to the hotel near the airport. I arrived after 11pm, but had a flight at 9am the next morning to arrive at my first planned destination, Salento.
My last full day. So many emotions! I didn’t have too much time to think about them because I had plans to meet my childhood best friend and her husband for coffee. I picked a cereal cafe because I know how much she loved cereal, it would be reminiscent of the 90s and she was pregnant and probably craving sugar. I love cereal cafes so much too! If there was one nearby where I lived I would go often. There was a man in the shop who was thinking about franchising in SoHo, NY. I think that was a sign… It was so great to catch up and it felt just like old times. After saying goodbye to them. I decided I needed a run, to clear my mind, and because I just ate cereal with cream on top.
I ended up jogging to meet a friend who was in London for work. It was a beautiful day so afterwards she, Amber and I sat in a park with some wine and cheese. We chatted for a long time and took in the warm sun. The park was crowded and it was fun people watching. Eventually we decided it was time for dinner so we walked to a nearby pub and had some food. Eventually it came time for goodbyes, which is never a fun thing especially knowing you won’t see the person for awhile.
It was a little bit easier for me because I knew I was going home. However, as I sat in my bed later and edited by final recap video, it started to hit me that I was ending this adventure. I started to re-watch all of my old recap videos and it warmed me to look back on all of the great memories I made. I’ll never forget those moments, and I know that no one else will truly ever understand how great they were for me.
I then began to think of potential background songs for my final video. I found the perfect one, “I hope you dance”. My mom first introduced me to this song years ago, and the lyrics were perfect for how I was feeling now. Even though this particular journey was ending, I still will hold on to the sense of wonder that I had while exploring new places, I’ll remain hungry for new experiences, not taking anything for granted, never feeling empty, appreciating my small part in a big world, not feeling afraid that this door is closing because other doors will open, not sitting out on opportunities no matter how distant and scary they may seem, not settling for the easy path, and most importantly, continuing to take chances.
I enjoyed every moment so far, good and bad. And while I was going to miss the adventure, I was ready to go home and focus on what’s next. I’m taking with me new friendships from like-minded people (from all walks of earth), an appreciation for the beauty the world has to offer, a new patience for things that may not go as planned, memories of getting lost and frustrated but also getting lost and having it turn out better than any plan, the ability to live with less, a new found bravery and confidence, better surfing and French speaking skills, relief that I avoided injury or bedbugs or kidnapping (mostly a parent’s concern, not mine), appreciation of friends who stayed in touch, understanding that time zones change but train times do not, the necessity of creating a routine, the necessity of carbs when you are walking 20,000 steps a day, appreciation for fashion risks, deeper love of accents and culture, and all around a happier version of me.
I may never get the chance to do this again, and every piece of me is glad I did this now. I’m lucky that I had the ability and I wish more people realize how attainable it is. Maybe not as long or as far, maybe not in the exact same way, but just seeking an adventure that makes you uncomfortable. Travel is one way to do it but not the only way. Along the way I did hear that I inspired others do do something new. Some chose travel, some chose to join a club, some were content living vicariously through me, and some haven’t pulled the trigger but are a little closer to doing something new. Perhaps most importantly, I inspired myself.
I had another tour booked for today, this time to Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio followed by the city of Oxford. Again, I met the bus at 10am, this time having a seat all to myself. After the typical tour guide humor about past incidents and selling stuff left on the bus to eBay, we began a 45 minute drive to the studio. There, we had 3 hours to walk through the exhibit. I was surprised at how all 3 hours were actually needed, it went by quickly! The studio was filled with actual props, costumes, sets and history from the making of the movie. It was fun to see everything up close and to learn a little bit about what they use to design it. For example, all of the books in Dumbledore’s office are actually London phone books covered with old book spines. Many of the exhibits were interactive and you could press a button to watch a cauldron being stirred. They used a lot of mechanics to make things look wizardry. There were also some interactive green screens where you could take your picture or video.
I found the brooms and the potion rooms the most fun to look at. About halfway through, there was a stop where you can buy Butter Beer and Butter Beer ice cream. I couldn’t decide between the two…so I got both. The ice cream was good, the beer…not so much! It tasted like watered down soda. I also bought some chocolate frogs, and almost bought a wand but decided against it last minute. The wand I liked the most was Ginny Weasley’s for the record.
Our next stop was to Oxford. It would surely be interesting to go to school here, the whole area seemed so full of tradition. There were many well known authors that went here and I liked knowing how certain things in the environment inspired their famous books, such as Harry Potter and The Chronicle of Narnia. I didn’t get to go inside any of the buildings which I was disappointed in. So after an hour long walking tour, we had an hour to go eat. At the end of the day I didn’t find Oxford something I’d recommend, but I think it was because my stay was too brief and I didn’t go deep enough in my tour.
A long awaited tour day had arrived to Bath, but most importantly, Stonehenge. I took the tube to the meeting point at 10am. I settled down into my seat and was looking forward to napping during the long drive. We took off and made one stop to pick up a few others along the way. To my disappointment, a woman sat down next to me who said she normally doesn’t drink coffee but she did today and she apologizes in advance for all of her talking and loud behavior. Great. At first I was pretty annoyed, but she actually was very nice and pretty interesting. She was in town with her family for a Star Trek convention. Our tour guide was unintentionally hilarious because he was a crotchety old British man who had no problem speaking his mind. You wanted to hate him for being so blunt, but it was so endearing the way he said things so I just had to laugh.
I decided to walk to Notting Hill this morning. I was told it was a cute area that sold antiques. It was a very cute neighborhood, but I was a little surprised by how many of the stores were just your typical souvenir shops selling magnets and keychains. The stores which I hoped would have English vintage clothing, mostly had imported scarves and bags. I stopped for some soup and tea at Farm Girl and then walked back. I had wanted to go in the igloos at Coppa Club today, but wasn’t able to get a reservation. Which maybe was a good thing because it started raining. I used that as a reason to take a nap. I didn’t feel very guilty because I new that my next two days would be busy.
Today I was headed to London! I had breakfast and then took off for the train station. The ride was only 2 hours to London and I mostly slept. Once there, I took some time just to relax and re-pack my bag before meeting up with some friends who happened to be visiting London as well (thanks to social media for informing me). I walked to dinner down this super cool street (Brick Lane) lined with vintage shops and trendy eats, a very hipster area. Dinner was at a place we at was called Dirty Bones and after eating nothing but a bag of chips that day I was super excited about the menu! I ordered a fried chicken sandwich with spicy aioli and we split skinny fries (turns out you don’t get skinny by eating them). We also split a bottle of Rose despite one of my friends saying he gets canker sores from rosé (we ordered him some salt water just in case). It was one of their birthdays so we also had a surprise dessert with a candle. I have never heard a restaurant participate as much as this one in the birthday song, the place was erupting in song! Turns out they probably sang so loud to get the same in return, because there was another birthday girl there. Michael was a little bummed to have to share the spotlight 😉
It was my last full day in Paris. Amber was also leaving this morning, so she, Kyle and I got together to grab a quick breakfast before her train. There was a restaurant that had a high rating so we tried it first. The queue was at least a 45 minute wait, so we tried another place instead called Café Oiseaux. It was very cute, and resembled a quaint grandparent’s home. The menu was all in French, so I ordered in French and then Amber and Kyle both ordered by pointing and/or just using English. We all asked for a coffee and some food. They brought out the coffee and a plate of food for me. I was waiting to start to eat but it was taking too long, so I began even though my friends didn’t have theirs. I thought it was odd that Amber’s didn’t come out too because we ordered the exact same thing, just granola and fruit. Another 20 minutes went by and still no food. I finally asked about it and they never thought the others ordered food. We still aren’t sure what went wrong, although I’d like to think it wasn’t intentional.. Either way we had to find a quick pastry shop before heading to the train station.
Today was a beautiful morning, which was good since we were going on a boat! Amber and I had rented an electric boat to captain down the canal. We walked to the starting point at 11am, where we also met another friend of mine who was visiting Paris, Kyle. The boats sold little picnic baskets so we bought one and boarded. Amber drove first, and she took us on a dizzying zig-zag path until she found the sweet spot. These boats are very sensitive and you barely need to turn the wheel. I would recommend this activity to anyone visiting Paris. It was so fun, a great way to see sights, fairly easy to drive and overall just relaxing. After an hour going down the canal, we turned around and rode an hour back. Other boats were passing us, so we think we got a slow one, but at least it was safer that way!
After debarking safely back onto land we walked had some lunch followed by macaroon ice cream.
Next we headed to Notre Dame Cathedral. In addition to enjoying the landmark, we also enjoyed a game of count how many Levi shirts we saw. Seriously, one in every 20 people was wearing one.
From there we walked to the Pantheon and took a quick break on the steps before walking on to Luxembourg Gardens. The grass was perfect there to sit down and hang out for awhile. Many people had brought a picnic and this game that looked like yard dominoes. I also liked it because they had free bathrooms there. All of the public toilet pods I’d passed had also been in use or broken. You can only wait so long before deciding that whatever is going on in there is not something you want to follow
Along the way we had been popping into stores, but I didn’t see anything I really liked. Finally, I stopped into this one store where I found a dress that I loved and a shirt that had some french written on it, which doesn’t make me look touristy at all 😉 After quickly checking out, we met one of Amber’s friends from school who is from Paris for a drink at a bar nearby. It was nice having her order for us and she let me know that most people say “I will take” instead of “May I have?”. We had dinner until 9pm and despite wanting to check out the night life afterwards (since it was Saturday) all of us were too tired and ended up staying in.
Today Amber and I had booked a tour to Champagne to do some champagne tasting. We had prepared our outfits the night before, so to not wake everyone else in the room, while we got ready. Unfortunately, the weather forecast changed drastically overnight, but by the time we figured it out, there wasn’t enough time to change. In fact, we probably should have left even more time… we ended up going to the wrong train station and missed our train. The tour was prepaid, and we had been looking forward to it so much, so ended up quickly booking a taxi to Reims. It would take 2 hours versus 1 hour by train. We showed up late but the tour group came and picked us up. It was a mother/daughter duo from Maryland and a couple from New Jersey. Luckily, we didn’t miss much, just a tour of a church in the town.
My friend Amber arrived from London today and I met her at the train station to get none other than Starbucks. I did discover a new drink which is a cold cappuccino and it was delicious but WAY too much cream. She dropped her things off and we began our day.
It was her first time in Paris, so I took her to Sacre Couer to see the view and the “love wall”. The wall was an installment, versus an interactive, piece so we were pretty disappointed. Afterwards we were walking down this one street that seemed to be lined in adult stores. Finally I decided to say something and she had noticed as well! However, the second we said it, we looked forward to see that we were approaching Moulin Rouge…makes sense. The next stop was something to eat, but we kept passing places that were pricy or didn’t have seating. We ended up passing this place called Thierry Boulageries that made maki rolls with bread. Although they looked good, we split a chèvre baguette instead. It was amazing, and it held us over until we did find a place to sit down. Unfortunately, the more you walk, the more desperate you become, so we ended up stopping at this one place that looked okay, but were disappointed by the food.
The next stop was L’Arc de Triomph. We circled around it and when we finally discovered how to actually go into the center of it, we opted against it and got a lemon sugar crepe instead. I’m always impressed by the Arc, it’s one of my favorite monuments. Next, was what I was looking forward to most, the Le Tour Eiffel! My last trip to Paris I didn’t get too close so I was excited to see it better. On the way we stopped for a picnic lunch, which we enjoyed in the grass. Less enjoyable were the people selling Eiffel Tower key chains. At least you could hear them coming with the jingle jangle of the metals on their key chains. One did sell what we were calling ‘sewage wine’, which I would have bought had we not brought our own. He stores the bottles in under one of those sprinkler covers in the ground (hence sewage) in case the cops come by.
We walked back on the river and stopped to enjoy a glass of wine. We couldn’t get into the bar seating so we sat on the edge of the river, almost a better spot! Although we were in bed early because we had to get up early the next day, it didn’t matter because the hostel yet again was playing extremely loud music until 3am.