Week Seven Wrap-Up – Exhaustion and Elation and Experiences of a Lifetime

The past little bit has been an absolute whirlwind. I took off early the Friday before last to embark on my escapades to Scotland and I just got back this Monday. It is a little disorientating to say the least, going from something of a self-proclaimed world traveller back to full-time student. I’m not sure if I have all my wits about me so hopefully what I write from here on out will be coherent. I do have a large coffee sitting beside me so that should help.

It feels so good to have a keyboard under my fingers again. Throughout my trip, I’d been making notes on my phone so I wouldn’t forget things, but typing on my little phone keyboard frustrates me no end so I’m thankful to have the luxury of my computer keyboard. It’s also a little foreign because I’ve been estranged from it for so long (…I sound like I’m addicted to my computer…which I may be a little). However, I’m sure I’ll become familiar with it again quite quickly as I need to start making essays appear on my currently very blank word documents. The play hard bit just finished up so it’s probably the work hard bit’s turn.

I’m pretty sure I could write entire novels for each of the 10 days I was away, but that wouldn’t be very practical. I’ll put a little synopsis of the things we saw and/or did each day so you get a taste of what it encompassed and you can end up with an overall, brief (or as brief as I am capable) summary of my trip. Full, novella-esque entries along with pictures for each day are available, so if a certain day happens to catch your fancy, you can read about it if it so pleases you. I would like to say I was a very good tourist and ticked off many of the tourist must-do’s when I was away, but you can be the ultimate judge of that.

I was incredibly fortunate that the sun decided the join me on the entirety of my trip – the weather was absolutely beautiful pretty much every day. I only remember a 10 minute interval of showers once throughout the whole of my trip, so it was fantastic. I was away for a grand total of ten days but thinking back, it feels like I was gone for weeks. I saw so much, experienced so many different things, and met and caught up with such amazing people. Travelling really does broaden your horizons, changes your perspectives, and opens your eyes to so many things. Work-wise, I might be doing a little more catch-up than I had bargained for originally but I’m going to be so bold as to say that it’s absolutely worth it. My trip was bookended by a severe lack of sleep but I definitely have to say it’s well worth it. Thinking back, I can hardly believe I did so much and what’s more, I can hardly believe it actually happened.

10 days. 2 countries. 4 cities. 910 photographs. 3250km of travel. One incredible experience.

Friday October 23rd, 2015 – Exeter/Bristol to Edinburgh
I had met a fellow Canadian several weeks back on that weekend trip to Bath and we got along quite well so we made the decision to do some travelling together. She was an incredible travel companion and we shared a number of common interests so that made it easy when it came to planning to go around together to different places.

For me, this day seemed like it went on forever because the sleep thing was totally getting to me. You could say that the day technically started on Thursday because we caught the overnight bus to Bristol airport and from there, took one of those inhumanely early flights to Edinburgh and so when we got there, Friday had just started. It was great in that we really got to make the most out of our time, but I remember thinking that the day would never end. I was quite impressed with the number of things we managed to see; personally, I was a little sceptical about staying upright for the whole day. The summary of our sightseeing is as follows:
• National Monument of Scotland
• Nelson Monument
• Scott Monument
• St. Giles Church
• Bookstores
• Edinburgh Castle
• Riddle Grave
• The Elephant House (a.k.a. where J.K. Rowling started writing Harry Potter)

Saturday October 24th – Edinburgh
Feeling far more refreshed the next day with a good night’s rest, we continued making headway on our Scotland itinerary. I will have to say I was much chipper and I felt like I was able to appreciate Scotland a little more. Highlights for this day are as listed:
• The Writers’ Museum
• Museum of Scotland
• Haggis!
• National Library of Scotland
• Weekend Market
• Macbeth at the Cameo Theatre

Sunday October 25th – Edinburgh
We went around with a girl from France we had met at the hostel and with whom we got along fairly well. It was super great to be able to meet someone else with whom we could share our travel experience. Our endeavours that day include the following:
• Princes Street Gardens
• Charlotte Square
• Scottish National Gallery
• Mary’s Milk Bar
• Museum of Childhood
• Edinburgh Ghost Tour

Monday October 26th – Glasgow
We got up early to catch a train to Glasgow; it’s the largest city in Scotland but not the capital. It’s a thriving, bustling place that reminds me a little of Ottawa actually. The arts and music scene there was quite vibrant and it was a thoroughly enjoyable day trip. We tried to fit in as much as we could in the twelve hours we were there:
• Buchanan Street
• National Piping Centre
• Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
• The Lighthouse
o Scotland Graphic Design Festival
• Willow Tea Rooms
• Gallery of Modern Art
• Merchant City
• Glasgow City Chambers
• George Square
• National War Memorial
• Glasgow Quay

Tuesday October 27th – Edinburgh/Bristol
Our trip to Scotland came to a close on Tuesday; we had been roaming around for about five days but by this point, I felt like it had been five weeks! We’d seen and done so much, and I’d created so many memories just from this part of my trip alone. On this day, we checked off the rest of the things on our Scotland itinerary that we hadn’t managed to get around to the other days, and we also made a couple of spontaneous stops at places that caught our eye as we wandered around. We got the appreciate the beauty of having control over our plans for the day, marching to the beat of our own drums, and finding ourselves in these places:
• Museum of Edinburgh
• Arthur’s Seat
• Scottish Parliament
• Holyrood Park and Circle

Wednesday October 28th – Dublin
Here, I said goodbye to my Canadian travel buddy for this portion of the trip and got myself on a plane to Dublin, Ireland. I have a friend studying at the University of Galway whom I met while he was on exchange in Ottawa last year; with Ireland being fairly close to the UK, I thought it’d be nice if we could catch up and we managed to coordinate some time to get together. I had some time in Dublin to myself before meeting up with him and so I ambled around and made up my plans as I went along. I started off with absolutely no clue as to what there was to see in Dublin, but I quickly discovered that Dublin was something of a gem:
• Talbot and O’Connell St
• Custom House
• St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral
• Trinity College Dublin
• Doug Harding Art Gallery
• St. Stephen’s Green
• The Spire
• Dublin Castle and Gardens
• Christchurch Cathedral
• Temple Bar
• Abbey Theatre

Thursday October 29th – Dublin
My first day in Dublin had given me a better sense of what things were like in the city, and I had more of a plan as to what I wanted to do with my second day in Dublin. I was a little more prepared and armed myself with a checklist of to-do’s for my day. I met up with my friend that evening as well, so I didn’t have to worry too much in regards to how I would fill my day.
• Parnell Monument
• Book of Kells and the Long Hall Library at Trinity College Dublin
• Art Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin
o Exhibition of Secrets
• Oscar Wilde Monument
• Merrion Square Park
• National Defence Memorial
• Fusiliers Arch
• Grafton St.
• Irish Guinness

Friday October 30th – Dublin/Galway
I had the morning and early part of the afternoon to make sure I had done most of what I had hoped to do, although if you remember or if you read that bit, I said I came to Dublin with nothing that really resembled a plan so making sure I had met my goals wasn’t very hard. However, I knew I had wanted to go to the James Joyce Centre after having seen a brochure for it at the hostel I stayed at. Just the week before, we had finished reading Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in my Irish Lit class, and the book had, to put it bluntly, gone completely over my head, and I wanted to see if going to an exhibit wholly dedicated to Joyce could open my mind at all to better appreciate his brilliance. That was my mission for the day, and it almost turned into something of an impossible mission. Luckily, I get to say that I managed to turn it into mission possible, and I got to spend the 3 hour bus ride to meet my friend in Galway feeling quite pleased with myself.
• Dublin Writers Museum
• The James Joyce Centre
• Bus to Galway
• Shop St. in Galway

Saturday October 31st – Galway
My friend very graciously gave up his Saturday for working on his paper to show me around Galway and give me the grand tour. It was not disappointing in the least and I also got to experience Halloween in Ireland, which was very cool. Being in Galway with a local let me experience the city in a different way, and that was something I found to be appealing. It’s definitely nice when you can walk around knowing you won’t get lost.
• Weekend Market
• St. Nicholas Cathedral
• Charley Byrnes Bookshop
• Eyre Square
• Docks
• Museum of Galway

Sunday November 1st – Galway to Bristol/Exeter
This day concluded one of the most incredible experiences I had ever had and one of which I will have amazing memories to look back on for a long time to come. I kind of feel like the weather mirrored my trip all the way through because a thick fog began to set over Galway as I was leaving (or maybe I’m just making connections out of thin air because a fog had descended across most of the UK that day).
• University of Galway
• Travelling back to Exeter

When I finally made it back to Exeter after several flight delays, I was considerably sleep deprived; I think I actually walked into a couple of walls. I still had to go to class as it was Monday by the time I returned so I went to get coffee from Costa. I gave my order to the barista and had a nice little chitchat with him about the little nothings of everyday. As he handed me my coffee, he asked me, “Where’s your accent from? Is it Irish?” I responded to that with a laugh and a very Canadian “Sorry, no, I’m from Canada.” This little episode was extremely amusing to say the least; I knew my trip had been deeply impressionable but I didn’t think it ran that deep, but hey, what do I know?