For all those who thought I would have travel updates: my bad! Here’s the first of my summaries from this semester.
Ironic that the first travel post I’m going to make is about the end of my semester, but it is what it is.
Thursday, May 18 represented my last full day in Salamanca. After many tearful goodbyes and vise-like hugs, I pulled myself away from the lovely friends of En Vivo to grab a couple hours of rest before collecting my bags and making my way to the Salamanca estación de autobuses. A few friends were there. Some, like me, were boarding. Others came to say goodbye. Tears had run dry by this point, so instead we exchanged bittersweet smiles as the bus pulled away. It was over.
A few hours later I found myself lost in Madrid Bajaras, searching for a Ryan Air check station. Aftr listening to the poor young woman in front of me pour out her soul into a sob story about missing flights and being ripped off by the airlines, I got the stamp I needed and set off for departures. Two layers of security later and I found I had hurried up to wait. In the short time I had, I grabbed a nap. For those who haven’t flown Ryanair before, I suggest doing so, because you can wake up to the wonderful surprise that everyone else is in line, except you, the fool taking a nap next to the queue.
No matter. In no time at all I had traded beautiful, sunny, and brown Madrid countryside for cold, rainy, and green Birmingham. After landing, I understood why the flight had been €20. The airport was in the middle of nowhere, with no suggestion as to how to get to the city itself. Thus I set about annoying a bus driver for advice on how to get to the coach station for my next bus to Nottingham.
The only problem is, I asked my question in Spanish the first time.
While in Birmingham, I thought I would grab some food at a “kebab”. Word of advice: kebabs in England are very different from those in Spain. I found myself crying silently and melting on the inside as the flaming spiciness of the food worked its way through me. The coach ended up being another 40 minutes late, so I dropped into a pub to grab a delicious cider. (I know nothing else about it other than its being cider and tasty).
At the Nottingham station a friend met me to show me around. Small problem: the team from the ministry he was helping with had their team fun night, to which I awkwardly tagged along. We hung out in the arcade (apparently arcades are still a thing) like a group of over-bored teenagers for several hours, messing around and playing entirely too much “Deal or No Deal?” Then they convinced me to break one of my rules, one of my core ideals. It was something I have always adhered to and I never thought I would break. Even now, I’m not sure if I regret it or not.
We went to McDonald’s.
Obviously, I’ve been in the US, but when traveling I have always made a point of avoiding US chain restaurants. Occasionally, I’ve broken this (yay post-Conexión Subway!), but McDonald’s was my final line in the sand, the symbolic cornerstone of my resistance. Welp, now there goes that banner. Anyway, back to the story.
Overnighted with my friends there, then two of them showed me around Nottingham the next day. I’m not sure I would call it a beautiful city, but still a fascinating one for its blend of modern and red brick construction. They showed me the famous castle, and I touristed hard by taking a photo with the man himself, Robin Hood. We wandered down Maid Marian [SPELLING?] Lane and then back up to see a tunnel dug by a rich man simply because he was told his horses couldn’t pass on the streets above. Out of ideas for things to do, we wandered out to Wollaton Park, where I saw Wayne Manor from the Dark Knight franchise… or at least its back door, as there was a wedding out front. It was still a beautiful park with a dramatic storm rolling in on the horizon.
Unlike many cities I’ve been to, what stuck out was the shops. We saw a comic store, and dropped in Rosy Lee’s for a cuppa before supper. While there, I was forced to describe café con leche to the barista because I had no idea what the equivalent in English was. #studyabroadprobs. Other highlights include Bunk, a bar with half price wings most of the afternoon and where we ate our supper, multiple game shops where you can get drinks and play board games, a “kitty café” where you drink tea while being swarmed by cats, and my personal favorite: the cookie bar. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a shop for cookies, tea, and quiet time by day, and a raving club by night. This is what sums up Nottingham to me: quiet, reserved, and honestly a little boring by day, and wild partying by night. Sorry to any of those from Nottingham who wish to tell me differently, you are clearly wrong, as my 23 hours in your city show.
After supper, I caught the evening bus back to Birmingham. I wandered around the city for a while before settling in at the train station to wait for my 0235 Megabus to Lancaster. Yes, 0235. This is what I get for booking a £15 journey. Unfortunately, I chose the night on which they had a lockdown training at the train station, so I got thrown out at midnight. Folks, there is nothing open but clubs and 24 hour shops in Birmingham at midnight. I now know this, because I spent the next hours wandering around trying to find a place out of the wind where I wouldn’t get mugged or arrested for loitering. Nestled in between decorations adorning the front of the train station isn’t a terrible spot, by the way. Few people spot you, good wind coverage, and still close to Hill Street to catch the bus.
Seriously, I think an entire day passed in those two hours, but whatever. The bus arrived exactly on time and I was able to charge my dead and mostly-useless-anyway phone and grab a bit of sleep on the road. Next stop: Lancaster.
Continue with my hobo-ing travel tales in the next part!