For someone who loves all of those synonyms, I certainly buy into how magical moments can be. I still work everyday to stay present, for that is the only way you’d really connect into the splendor of it. Ultimately, travel or any new experience is a fantastic way to live in the present and lean into life’s most wonderful gifts. Here is my unapologetic and vulnerably truthful recount of a glorious and splendid adventure I hope never to forget.
I just finished a 17-day holiday in Europe that was full of intrigue, adventure and intensely magical experiences from beginning to end, deliberately spending chunks of days in one place so as to leisurely enjoy a day without over planning or obligation.
First stop London.
Staying North of the more touristy spots near Warren St station and calling a late night pub called Newumberland my home. This represented the beginning of a long journey with one of my best friends, not our first time traveling together, but certainly our longest trip. First day was a walk through the Mayfair & Soho boroughs and stumbling upon record stores. This day created the phenomenon I like to call a “Pint and a Pee”. In a world where there is a pub on most every corner, someone who needs a loo quite frequently can also feed their interest in a pint. This also created the instagram hashtag #steptomyloo – as a desert girl, going up or down to pee is a joy in itself. Overall – since last years trip to Europe with my husband, London upped their craft beer, specifically IPA game and draught choices were far more exciting. On the third day, my travel buddy and I took a long walk up to Hampstead Heath to visit Parliament Hill via Camden Town and a “Pint and a Pee” stop off at Sir Richard Steele pub, here I discovered Camden Town Brewery’s “Sarcasm” a delicious Hazy IPA. This day was the hottest day of the summer so far. The sun was out and so were the people, which made our trip up Parliament Hill a special treat full of the good vibes of summer love. The view over London was spectacular from this suburb on a hill and the alternate view to the East was unexpected, offering a new understanding of what England had to offer. We walked back down toward central London, stopping back at Sir Richard Steele for more “Sarcasm” and a bite to eat to help fuel the remaining walk. This time bypassing Camden Town for the view atop Primrose Hill and lingering through Regency Park. Again, the Londoners were all out, reveling the summer day. This night we finished off at our home pub mentioned earlier and met some locals celebrating long into the night who welcomed us and treated us like new/old friends. It’s amazing what alcohol does to our power of interpersonal connection. We may never see these people again, but the magic of that moment will always remain. The next day we went to Harrod’s to be enamored by the enormity of fine department store life, then onto the Thames to enjoy a drink on a pub boat, where we met a lovely Italian gal who lived in London. As she waited for her friends we connected on the joy of traveling and the spectacular idea of living somewhere new. Then onto Millennium Bridge, the Globe and St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was a day where I had all the energy in my walking feet I needed, and my travel companion did not… this day, we started to polarize. We used the public transportation to get back, for the first time giving our legs a great journey’s rest and when we came to a fork in the tube, I sent him on his way, while I ventured back into Soho for a new perspective on the little village’s after work environment. It proved to be a different environment indeed as the streets were full of energy, people and pints. When I finally headed back north toward the hotel, my travel buddy and his sister had ventured onto Camden Town for vegan pizza and I headed on by foot to join them. With a few pints in and my iPod shuffle – walking at this point was like riding a cloud. After they finished eating we went on to The World’s End pub and closed it down. Passing on the Underground, late night dance club beneath the pub, we followed the rest of the crowd pouring into the street. My two companions chose the tube, while I hopped back on my cloud, dancing my way back to the hotel. The next day, we ventured on via train to Hackney to attend the Hackney Vegan Village festival. I had my first experience with truly inspired vegan food and we had a few “pints and a pee” at the brewery there. It was a hot day, but good atmosphere and good company kept us in good spirits. We then took an Uber from there to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian. Our Uber driver eventually warmed up and swooped us down lovely little east side streets, talking about London politics and school systems until we finally drove under the Thames at which time he asked “why do you think this tunnel isn’t straight?” my answer “gravity”. Close enough I thought, as it had much to do with load bearing the weight of the river on top of it. We poured out of the tunnel into Greenwich and arrived upon the Queen’s House, then up the hill to the Prime Meridian. We were too late to stand on the actual line, but another viewpoint looking North on London made it worth while. At this time, my Mom chimes in on my facebook post stating “it seems that London is just a bunch of parks with people in it” to which I responded, “that’s summer in London”. Cause, ya know, I’m a real pro at this Londoner thing. At the same time, we have created a pattern of visiting the parks of London, which seemed fine by me. We wandered back North toward the Thames and my buddy and I tempted the idea of taking the walking tunnel back underneath the river, while his sister had no interest, so we just walked down the steps out of curiosity and back up the lift to catch the train back to Warren St Station. The train ride was splendid, casual and relaxing, weaving in and out of parts of London we had not explored. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant we enjoyed only two nights prior and then they joined me for a “pint and a pee” at our home pub while I built up the courage to go to a Northern Soul All-Nighter near Soho. I had stated that I would regret not going, but my nerves had me twisted inside. I stayed strong and ventured on alone into the 100 club. I felt like a sore thumb around the older Northern Soul crowd, hoping I’d be brave enough to join the dance floor. A lovely gent misidentified me as someone he’d met before and gave me a long chat about Northern Soul. The room was loud and he was tall, so the conversation involved him bending over and us talking cheek to cheek so we could properly hear one another. I was welcomed by him and my courage bloomed. I stood on the fringe, tapping my feet and swaying until another bloke who was my height this time made a joke about tall people standing in front of him. He said his weathered knees didn’t allow him to dance like he used to and I admitted to be intimidated by the dance floor, as the dance style of Northern Soul is very specific. He responded that it was never about the dance moves, it was about doing what you feel, letting the music move you. His words and encouragement to be myself was exactly what I needed and finally a little after 2am I made my way onto the dance floor. My American spirit released and I enjoyed a solid hour of dancing my heart out, frequently being visited by others who wanted to connect with my energy. At one point, my new friend Tom who encouraged me to dance found his one song that drew him onto the dance floor. I danced into his space and welcomed him out and he embraced me with so much joy, it will be a hug I hope never to forget. My travel buddy and I were leaving the next day, so… eventually, with the hope of making it home safe and getting enough sleep to not be dead to the world motivated me to leave the underworld of Norther Soul and venture onto slumber. I said goodbye to Tom on my way out and he gave me a nod towards my free spirited dancing.
Second Stop Amsterdam
My buddy and I leisurely ventured onto the train station to catch the Eurostar to Amsterdam. We found our seats around a table and wondered who would fill the two seats across from us. Suddenly the energy shifted as four Argentinians walked onto the train chatting loudly as they settled into their seats. The younger couple sat across from us with only the wife speaking fluent English and the older couple sat across from us. Turned out these two couples just met getting on the train and carried the excitement of meeting randomly in a foreign place. Eventually we were welcomed into their fold as Andrea translated for us. Her husband Norbert was a charming man full of life and the older couple were cattle ranchers, a very wealthy profession in Argentina. We drank wine together, and more wine together until we were laughing and gossiping like it was a teenage sleepover, representing the laughter and energetic quality of the American’s, South & North. The energy among us was so captivating my buddy invited our new travel companions to meet up for dinner the next day in Amsterdam. Amsterdam City Center is a bustling environment of so much diversity. It took some time to navigate the streets and canals to a comfortable level. We settled into our hotel and a quality of living that proved far more relaxed than London. Having had far too many pints in London, my “pint and a pee” way of living waned and my buddy and I rested more. We enjoyed the qualities of Amsterdam that make the city stand out, while leisurely exploring via viewpoints of the city. We took a ferry across the river and wandered Amsterdam Noord. We enjoyed this is Holland a flying adventure that took us around the Netherlands via giant screen, spritzes of water in our face and an amazing scent of tulips as we soured over landscape. We took a train to Amersfoort, slowing down the pace for a couple hours and visiting with an old friend who grounded our trip with history of relationship. We slept a lot and even kept to our dinner date with the Argentinians. A dinner date that was meant to be at a Herring Shack turned into a very expensive fresh seafood and wine experience. My travel companion and I experienced more friction among us as it was evident our interests contrasted and compromises were made. Certainly not to a level of resentment but truly representing that the company you keep can define your experience.
Next Stop Ireland
Feeling refreshed from the relaxing Amsterdam adventure we traveled via flight to Dublin airport. Then we took a cab up to Newgrange Lodge to settle in for Improv Utopia Ireland. Returning to Newgrange was like coming home and seeing the staff was like visiting old friends. We walked up to Daly’s the local Donore pub and with the small group of us, new friends along with old friends from camps past enjoyed pints and food from the local chip shop. We drank while the locals took great interest in our new energy. One bloke asked if we walked to Daly’s from Newgrange and kindly encouraged us to take a taxi back to avoid the danger of the small winding roads. The next day was spent getting the weekend ready for camp and we took a bit of the day to have a delicious meal at Daly’s before the excitement of 78 campers checking into the lodge. Camp is a magical experience in itself. With 33 Europeans representing several countries and 45 Americans coming to share the weekend the first night’s anxieties were high. As the weekend went on the energies relaxed and people were diving into the spirit of improv utopia. Sharing the joy of improvisation across a measure of diversity makes you realize that deep connections can be made within this art form. By the end of the weekend it becomes hard to say goodbye and the heavy heart is overwhelming. Most people, at least the ones that leaned into the weekend are full of life and ride away on clouds feeling enriched, rejuvenated and excited to see what lies ahead. We cling to each other via social media and say our hugs with passion. Many of us stayed in Dublin after the camp weekend and my buddy and I found our way safely to our hotel via two return campers from Ireland who lovingly harbored us while giving us Irish history and details along the way. We relaxed in our hotel, me combining a few hours catching up on work and napping. Our hotel room was up against construction and the loud drilling and banging drove us to pursue a room switch, however since we made the decision late, we arranged the switch for the morning as we made our way out to Tightrope for a special Camp Jam at their upstairs venue at Anseo. The walk there was lovely and we met up with two Camp friends for a bite to eat beforehand. The room at Anseo was small and there were so many campers representing, excited for more, the room was cozy and steamy, but we persevered through the event with excitement and laughter. My travel buddy and I were polarizing again as his energy was more interested in rest and I was full of life, embracing more pints in another city where pub life is a way of life. I performed in the final act of the jam – being brought up to recap the entire jam, an attempt that I did with pride. After, I enjoyed conversing with fellow campers making even stronger bonds through conversation that surpasses the surface. High on life, my spirit was open, alive and ready for anything. Suddenly I found myself next to a local, who happened to be in the same pub and we connected outside while sheltering ourselves slightly from the misty rain. The small talk turned into concentrated conversation over another pint and eventually among the spirit of revelry he directed all of our group to the late night pub Whelan’s. My travel companion had a hard time leaving me and was concerned for my well-being, but I encouraged him home as I knew our energies were on different spectrums. I stayed at Whelan’s with a couple friends from camp until the wee hours and eventually was the last of our crew among the large crowd of folks unwilling to call it quits. My new local friend disappeared on me and I suddenly realized it was time to leave so I too disappeared. My phone had died, so I was left to my own devices to find my way back. My incredible sense of direction had me confident, but my wandering spirit left me concerned as I found myself unable to avoid venturing down unique streets taking in the Irish architectural design of seemingly normal apartment buildings. I eventually found myself upon St. Patrick’s Cathedral and knew I was close, however unsure, so I kept an eye out at this 3:30am hour for kind passers by to check their maps for my location. Finally finding two nice fellows, we discovered I was within the block, I mentally captured the directions to make and safely returned home. The next morning my travel buddy was frustrated with me, but let me sleep till the last possible moment as we quickly got packed and ready for our next days adventure. We left our bags with the hotel who would switch our room for us upon our return and took a taxi to the Connelly station where we met with my other best buddy to take the train up to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I was over the moon from the previous night. Something about that night of extended camp energy, a fun improv jam, the random connection with the local, the atmosphere of Whelan’s and the lingering of booze had me smiling with joy of adventure. This concerned my buddy who felt as though something inappropriate had happened and unfortunately created more tension among us over the last few days of our travel together. His concern was not completely unwarranted… I had not done anything wrong, however, swept away with the thought of something new in my life. This brings me to a concept of life that I speak often with my husband about. The idea that we weren’t meant to love just one person, how we define love and how difficult it is in our current society to create strong platonic bonds without it challenging our partnerships. The fact that we have a very complex soul and finding one soulmate couldn’t possibly satisfy its entirety. I could go on about this, but the truth is, jealousy and insecurity in our relationships are a harsh thing that is impossible to avoid and it comes down to trust. The fact that my friend did not trust me to be loyal, faithful and aware while having had a few was frustrating and took away from the joy of finding a kindred spirit. Then again, the fascination of a new energy that makes you feel something special can sometimes feel wrong… but I have to think, why? It does not seem right that we can’t enjoy humanity through strong connections that surpass the surface into an intimately emotional depth. This is an interesting topic for me and one I will continue to ponder and talk about with my husband and others so that my thirst for these connections among men, woman and those in between are never rejected, just because it’s traditionally unacceptable. Belfast continued to be a grand day’s adventure as three other campers were on the same train. We stopped at a delightful little pub that had a BagNB, a place to leave your bags. We had a “pint and a pee” and I continued to enjoy my “over the moon” attitude by taking in the lovely music and watching the seagulls weave in and out of the skyline. We walked along the river taking in the beautiful day and ventured onto the Titanic museum. We took our time and my buddy and I spent a long time in the additional tour of the Nomadic, a big ship ferry where we met an Iraqi who helped me find a penny to get a pressed penny memento. He talked to us about life and people and how he helps people to find their way to a career later in life and specifically noted that it’s not too late for me. My buddy mentioned that meeting people like that and taking that time to connect is a reminder that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. This is something he mentioned before during our travels, when we connected with the Argentinians. It was too late for the group of us to take a Black Cab tour of Belfast, a tour that was recommended by the local I met the night before. The tour takes you around Belfast giving you the history and current status of the tensions in Northern Ireland among the different factions of people, so much so that there are walls between neighborhoods that are locked at night to keep the dangers away. This division created a culture of art in murals in political protest, an aspect that sets it aside as a sight to see. To make up for lost time in that regard we headed into Belfast to walk upon some murals ourselves and in doing so stopped at a pub for some delicious eats before catching the train back to Dublin. Upon our return, despite my interest to return to Whelans, and my buddies adamant disagreement to the idea, we had an early night, ultimately the best decision to make. The next day we awoke and settled in to work and catch up on missed days, my other bestie joined us at our hotel room and the three of us shared space all enjoying our ability to be remote while living an adventurous lifestyle. We eventually went out for lunch and took a walk around a nearby park Stephan’s Green, back to the hotel for a spell and then out to the Irish Whiskey Museum for a lesson in Whiskey. After this we went on a pub crawl. An adventure that we may have been too old for, but we leaned in for the first three pubs before splitting with the large group to join other campers at Brazen. Here we had another pint before retiring back to the hotel so that my buddy could grab his stuff and head to his airport hotel. I had lost my key and was tethered to my travel companion, I again had interest in going back to Whelan’s, with it being our last night, I didn’t want it to end, and in his mind, I was still looking for trouble. I threw a little tantrum about not being able to go anywhere, as with European hotels, the key must remain in the lights to have light, and he angrily agreed to walk me down to get a new key while saying some very harsh things in which, even in my mind of knowing I had not done anything wrong, knew was warranted by his reaction to my overall behavior around the matter. I did not wander onto the pub, but took his advice to stay nearby and just enjoy a final walk around the surrounding area taking in the atmosphere knowing that my last few moments of adventure were almost up. The next morning we had plenty of time to pack, freshen up and get breakfast, at which time we talked about the night before with complete honesty, each apologetic for our behaviors and settling back into our true love and care for one another. This allowed us to not leave the adventure at odds, but to embrace the full scope of what we had just experienced together, strengthening our friendship to a new level with high hopes for the next opportunity to experience life together at such a wondrous degree. We taxi’d to the airport and parted with tears in our eyes and I traveled home with a heavy heart, grateful for the whole of it and enriched from the magic that such a holiday can endure day after day after day.
Everyday our life has magic in it, it’s certainly much easier to see when you are living every moment for all it is worth. Coming home from a 17-day holiday abroad, it is hard not to be saddened by the stillness, the familiarity, the realization that home life is dull in comparison, but is it really? or is it perspective? Living moment to moment is a way of life and can be the difference between a magical life or a complacent one no matter where or when you are.
To life and all of it’s
|fascinating, captivating, charming, glamorous, magical, enchanting, entrancing, spellbinding, magnetic, irresistible, hypnotic|