Most people head straight for Amsterdam when they take a trip to The Netherlands, which is understandable- it’s an awesome old city with a tonne of stuff to see and do and which is famous round the whole world. (For various reasons, know what I’m saying? Wink wink, nudge nudge and all that) But Rotterdam has a completely different vibe; Europe’s busiest port, it’s filled with abstract architecture and sleekly designed cafes, shops, bars and restaurants, as well as museums and galleries galore, all strung together with a series of bridges across the water. Truth be told, this place is just plain, downright cool, and the people are even cooler; I’m not gonna lie here guys, coolness is something that I often find rather intimidating, but fear not! In my experience, as a general rule Dutch people may be super cool but they are also super friendly and open to conversation. It’s a nice quality to have. Good on you, people of The Netherlands! I was able to explore the city when life just took me there by chance due to many overnight stays whilst our ship was docked there, and all I’m saying is, it is one full on interesting place with a completely different atmosphere to it’s more famous neighbour- far less touristy, way more like a living breathing bunch of people all being awesome together.
Perched on the South East corner of Spain (although some would argue that it’s not a Spanish city but a Catalan one) Barcelona is one of the most interesting and simultaneously downright AWESOME cities I have ever been to. Now that is quite a claim. The only reason that I even knew very much about the city at all prior to our visit was because of a book I once read, and loved: The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. You should definitely go and read it right this minute because it’s BRILLIANT.
Anyway. That is beside the point. We booked the flights and accommodation extremely last minute, which gave us some hefty and welcome savings; three of us altogether, exploring Barcelona for four days at the height of Summer, and here’s what I recommend doing if you happen to find yourself in the same glorious area for a short while anytime soon.
The spooky mist that had shrouded the palm trees upon our arrival into LA had disappeared by the time we woke up the following morning, luckily. After checking out of our hotel bright and early, we made our way to a bus stop to await the #3 Big Blue Bus towards our hostel in Santa Monica. Transport in LA’s pretty shoddy as the city’s so full on massive, but Big Blue Buses connect Downtown LA to Santa Monica so if you’re heading that way from the airport it’s handy to know. And they actually are big and blue, so you can’t miss them. Personally I felt like a bit of an idiot sitting in my human-size purple backpack on a crowded bus, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
Whilst on said bus, I overheard (so did the rest of the bus, presumably) half of an extremely interesting conversation between a shaven-headed man who seemed to be a suspect in a murder case, and an unknown person on the phone (who may or may not have been his mother). He was just on his way home from being questioned by the police and seemed very angry about the whole situation. No-one else on the bus seemed that bothered, so I just went with it. There was a mild moment of panic though, when neither me nor my bf could work out how people were managing to stop the bus when they wanted to get off- there were no bells to be seen. As we neared our stop my heart was beating ever faster, until finally I noticed a cord running along the length of the bus and realised that was what we had to pull to exit the vehicle. Panic over. This is the type of thing that causes panic at the best of times, know what I’m saying!?
Santa Monica: home to celebrities galore and definitely one of the more aesthetically pleasing areas of Los Angeles. The city itself is sprawled out across a ginormous surface area, and if you ever find yourself paying a visit, it’s definitely a good idea to stay in this area of town. It’s beaut, there’s plenty to see and do, and it’s smack bang right by the beach. On top of all that, the air feels a little fresher than further into the city where the general vibe is a little more urban. Mainly, the Chanel-clad shoppers of the area made me reminisce about the days of Clueless, but what bloody great days they were, let’s be honest.
So here it is, you guys: the beginning of the America trip, in all its glory. Neither me nor my boyf had ever even been on a long haul flight before, yet there we were, planning three months in America without much of an idea of a route other than that we were starting in Los Angeles and finishing in New York. The whole thing was a series of rollercoaster rides, but let’s kick things off with rollercoaster ride number one: entry to the New World. Aka, America. You know what I’m saying. Our feelings about leaving England were possibly not too dissimilar to those lovely folks who set sail on the Mayflower back in the day- possibly but not probably. The one key difference is that we travelled by plane as opposed to massive giant ship. We were excited, we were nervous, it was INTENSE.
Helped with the medium of smileys, here is a blow-by-blow account of our journey across the pond.