Staying in Athens with a local family was definitely an experience to remember. Stella and one of her cousins were the only English speakers out of her family. It was very interesting but I enjoyed spending time with her and improving my Greek more. We explored the city centre, ate lots of her Aunties home made sweets and even managed to have a rooftop party for Stella’s 19th Birthday party.
Leaving Kythira was tough enough but leaving Greece altogether was the hardest. I was now faced with a new culture, new climate, and the reality of being on my own again. In just the night before I was due to depart Athens I decided that it was about time that I booked some sort of suitable accommodation for when I would arrive into London the next day. I had no plans, I had no idea what I was doing. I decided the best way would be to book a hostel for 2 nights in the city and then trust that I would be granted with more accommodation until I was ready to leave. My decisions turned into a monopoly board.
I am positive that almost every word originates from the Greek language. Which is another reason why I want to learn the language so badly; in order to find the roots of the English words I know so well. The word monopoly is adapted from the Greek ‘mono’ which means single or alone. Both of these words very much describe me in the next part of my OS journey.
Alone. But content.
I arrived to Heathrow airport and spent so long contemplating whether I would have to leave the airport. About 2 hours later, and many messages passed back and forwards to my Mum (She has been my rock throughout this whole overseas experience) I knew it was now or never. Collecting a city map I made my way to the tube which I would catch all the way to London Bridge station.
The train station was extremely overwhelming. Never in my life have I seen so many waves of people entering through every which way of the station; like a tsunami as it breaks the banks of a beach town.
I started to notice a familiar pattern between the people abiding in London. They moved swiftly and don’t wait for anyone. To survive the cruelness you should never stop in the middle of the footpath to check your phone, or even to think. You don’t have time to think in London; you just move. Being amongst a crowd of such intensely focussed and ambitious people made me constantly compare that to the relaxed atmosphere of Greece. Yeah, the tension was high in Greece as they looked like they were always fighting- but it was probably about something as small as the cost of a fish. Who knows with them though. That’s what I grew to love!
I also grew to love their stares of judgement which they would later gossip about with their small circle of friends. Whom have all probably never left the island once in their lives (Oh maybe they made a few trips here and there to the big smoke of Athens).
I was on KythiraÂ for a while and therefore begun to understand island culture. Coming into London was foreign again for me. Nobody stares at you. I was used to this level of staring in Australia, little to none. But because I had become accustomed to it in Greece, I began to think that there was something wrong with them not staring. Anyways this whole heap of useless jumble which occupied myÂ brainÂ passed the time on the tube quite effectively.
I was such a classic tourist with my overly stuffed luggage wearing the warmest items I could find from my summer gear. This consisting of black jeans, sneakers, a crop top and a white button up t-shirt as a lousy excuse for a jumper. I wandered around hopeless as I could not wrap my head around the fact that the street names are on the side of the buildings, not on metal posts like in Australia. Because the maps app only works via internet, you’ll mostly find me standing outside a hotel, cafe or mainly McDonald’s, trying to savage any WIFI connection available. The amount of spam emails I actually receive now from signing up to that many hotel companies as a guest is overwhelming! Oh well, I suppose it’s just an instant connection for when thoseÂ hotels accommodate me in the future… look at me go, always thinking of the positives in such a negative situation!
I am a member on the online travel networking site called couch surfing. It’s actually quite brilliant (see here for my profile and say something nice if you so wish to do so:Â https://www.couchsurfing.com/dashboard). Before I had arrived in London I expressed via this website of my arrival/departure date to the city and if anyone would like to meet up/host me for a night or two). I got a response from a lovely Canadian girl and we ended up hanging out for the entire day. We bonded over coffee, expensive pizza, our inability to understand how the tube works because we were talking too much about irrelevant topics. We even managed to have an inspirational lesson with a man from Kenya on the steps outside the bus station. Random times are my favourite, remember. Turns out the man from Kenya was just trying to lure us into his next personal growth project. Referring as us the ‘seeds’ to something incredible. I remember distinctly hearing what sounded like his echoing voice rise from below my hostel room the next night as I lay in bed with a smile confirming he has just captured his next victim of self positivity!
My accommodation for the first two nights was right near the London bridge which made it so convienentÂ for bulk exploring! Which is what I intended to achieve on my second day in London. Oh and also to buy a cheap scarf (which I managed to find at the local charity shop, yay me!) I found a small amount of warmth I’d been craving in that scarf and walked proudly around London with views of the London eye, Big Ben (dreaming of it as a kid) and Westminster Abbey.
Of course I ended up getting lost as I usually do but I found myself at Starbucks for some free WIFI (cue mild panics with Mum about where I would stay for the next couple of nights) I had nothing booked.. would I be in a house, hotel or end up on Old Kent Road??
Another exploration date with myself after I left my state of panic. More episodes of me getting unnecessarily lost before I came across the Tate Britain Museum on my way to Trafalgar square. Free admission to see the 500 years of British artwork exhibition which was incredible to witness. Since most of the museums were free; I would later go on during the week to visit the Tate Modern Museum, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (Where I got to see the Audrey Hepburn exhibition). I definitely covered some ground during my time in London. I was all over that huge city like white on rice.
After the Tate Britain museum I thought it was an appropriate time to finally meet my pen pal which I had been writing letters and talking online to for about 2 years. We shared so many interests yet had never met before due to the distance between us. We decided to meet at the South Kensington Trains station at 3:30pm. Of course I was faced with another challenge as it is hard enough trying to find a friend whom you know what they look like in the crowd. So obviously trying to find her was difficult! But I managed.Â We got along like long lost old friends and chatted about life over a coffee.
Looking like a social butterfly I then said farewell to her to meet another friend at another train station to do something I hadn’t done since Greece…. have a beer. So refreshing haha.
I got back to my hostel and chatted to a guy from Barcelona whilst planning my next journey up North and further onto Ireland. He also managed to teach me a few Spanish words.
My accommodation for the next few days was with my friend Dani from Australia. I couldn’t wait to see a familiar face and remembered having a coffee date with her before she left for London. All I could do was praise God that I wouldn’t be on Old Kent Road. For I had trusted and he had provided. He was the dice in my monopoly game taking me all the way to Mayfair street.
On Thursday I took the train with a friend whose from Zimbabwe to the small town of Brighton. Located only about 40 minutes out of London on the coastline, it became a place where I could breathe again as the busy lifestyle of the big city had cramped my air space. Famous for it’s long pier and beach in the summer (which does not compare greatly in the slightest way to that of Noosa) this town gave off the relaxed and carefree vibe I was searching for all week. We had a wonderful day eating fish & chips by the water front, screaming when dipped our feet into Brighton’s chilly waters and ‘awing’ at how cute the squirrels in the park where. I just wanted to put one in my coat pocket. The most beautiful sunset was in full view as we adventured back to the big city.
We had an Australian party on Friday night where I got to meet a lot of Dani’s friends which was really great! I had also missed the sweet taste of Tim Tams, Minties, Milo & Lamingtons so cudo’s to her for providing the goods as she had just returned from a short trip to Australia for her sister’s wedding.
On Saturday I spent a wonderful day at the apple store fixing this damn computer. It wasn’t entirely a bad day as I learnt more about how the human nature reacts when they are told to stand at the back of the line and wait to be seen by the Apple doctor. I was there for so long even the workers started to ask what my name was because I was the girl who “Has been here for ages!” . I made some friends, they personally delivered me water and helped me out. A day well spent I’d say!
A friend would later go on to say that I had apparently faked this whole laptop problem to deliberately post pone my blog post. This is not true in the slightest way. I actually haven’t had a laptop since the third last week on Kythira.
I’m finding it awfully hard to type slowly (something I am not used to) as everyone is asleep in the hostel.
I boarded the national express coach to Stratford-upon-avon on Monday morning; bound for a taste of the country lifestyle. I made a mini stuff up by booking my bus ticket before my hostel accommodation and there was no available bookings at the hostel until the next night. The morning of my departure from London (when I say morning I mean 3am) I booked a return train to Birmingham from Stratford-upon-avon and another hostel for one night. The day was full of travelling, I was surviving on 3 hours sleep and no food.
I quickly ran to my safe haven of the Birmingham Central Backpackers hostel as I did not feel safe walking around Birmingham despite the many people whom crowded the streets.
I was very thankful when I was leaving Birmingham in the morning. Instant relief washed over me as I jumped onto the train. I’m a fairly brave girl but something about that city gave me an uneasy feeling. Upon arriving there I had to walk 30 minutes through town with all my luggage (half asleep, stomach rumbling) and clueless to where I was going my navigational instincts had to kick in. After I had checked in I went for a walk to find some cheap food. As I made my way through the city centre I approached a gap in the human traffic and was able to breathe once again; delusional from my state of hunger I thought I was surely in a dream when I realised I had gained a travel partner. A guy, whom was shorter than me but still made me feel uncomfortable, had tagged along on my walk through the city. He began talking to me even though I very OBVIOUSLY gave off the impression that I did not want to be disturbed. Forcing myself to be nice in an uncomfortable situation I commented on how beautiful some of the buildings were. He wanted to lead me to this other building further up the road. Thinking tacticallyÂ to get myself out of the awkwardness I told him that another friend was meeting me at McDonalds. Of course I didn’t know where McDonalds was (where I was apparently meeting this fake friend of mine) so he kept walking with me until we were directly outside the entrance, I turned to him.
“Well my name is Elly, lovely to meet you”
& thankfully he introduced himself also and walked off on his journey to torment some other foreign girl.
I rushed into McDonalds to find my friend, before realising I actually had no friend meeting me there at all. My artificial story had started to feel like a reality. So on full guard alert with some supplies from TESCO in my hands I rushed back to the hostel and stayed indoors. Scared of what lingers in the outside world.
I did not have a very nice feeling attached to Birmingham. An industrial city with many job opportunities because of it. It felt like the sort of place which people come to escape somewhere else. They come and they stay because they are bonded over a secret. It’s a city with a secret; for which foreigners like me do not know about and will not choose to spend time there to find out.
On my way to Stratford-upon-avon. I’ve been meaning to visit this place for a while now… I will stay at a hostel 10 minutes out of town for the first night, and then with one of my Mum’s friends for the next few days. More about these quaint towns will be shared in my next post.
Take care – x