Hello! Just got back a few days ago from my UK vacation. I got a healthy tax return from living in the arctic last year, and decided to use a portion of it on a vacation. I'd really been craving going to the UK for a while, and decided, screw it, let's do it.
I asked a couple of friends if they'd be interested in coming along, but schedules and budgets didn't work out, so I decided to do it solo.
A lot of people were surprised I'd travel by myself and thought I was being very brave. But I never really thought so. Solo travel is amazing, and super selfish in the best way. You can take naps whenever you want, spend a whole day sleeping, read every description at an art gallery or museum, go to exactly the restaurants you want to go to... It's incredibly freeing. You are on your own schedule, pursuing your own interests and don't have to worry or care about anyone else. I never felt unsafe, was never harassed or catcalled, never felt uncomfortable because I was on my own...
I've lived alone a lot and explored cities like Portland, Columbus, Vancouver and Edmonton by myself with no danger even in really sketchy areas, so I had confidence and google maps, I suppose.
I used my instagram to share my adventures through my feed and stories, so check that out too.
My itinerary was to fly in to Dublin ($1100 round trip out of Dublin, so it was the cheapest) and spend the night and then take a Ryanair to Glasgow, spend 5 days in Glasgow, fly to London, 5 days there, train to Chepstow and 3 days there, then back to Dublin and fly home.
I've been to the UK loads, but never to Scotland. I recently discovered far more Scottish heritage than I ever knew so I thought it would be fun. I've been to Ireland a few times and didn't really feel the need to do it again.
So I packed up my new Osprey Porter bag (trendiest thing I own, saw loads of them) with cute one pieces and basics, a lunch bag I bought at Winners as my carry on and a nice travel wallet from Chapters.
This was all the clothes I brought. Two rompers from Aritzia, one jumpsuit and one dress from Workhall, a hoodie from the Running Room, a kimono and nightie from winners, a shirt and bike shorts from Old Navy, a kimono from Parfois and a dress from Pull and Bear and my ancient denim vest from Old Navy. And 14 pairs of underwear, 2 pairs of sandals and 2 bras.
It was the perfect amount, allowed me to buy more while I was there (yellow cagoule, mom jeans, festival tees, 2 Hawaiian shirts, Gumbie sandals) and all was comfortable.
So off to Toronto at 1 am from Edmonton, I went. When I arrived, I was told my bags would be transferred to my next flight, I was suspicious because I had an 11 hour layover in Toronto... I waited for my bag anyway (I had the time) and it was on the carousel, not transferred. So I was VERY happy I trusted my gut. I spent the first 4 hours wandering around, finding no food I could eat aside from juice and fries (newly discovered severe intolerances to eggs and dairy have made me effectively vegan) and eventually saying screw it and getting a wonderful pedicure.
After that, I took my dad's advice and checked into the Premium Plaza Lounge for 6 hours where they had yummy vegan food.
I was so glad to pack light because transferring 11 hours before your flight means you can't check in your bag. So I just said screw it and brought it as second carry on and had my bag with me for the 11 hours past security with no issues. It was pretty great.
Once I got on the plane, I had no seatmate, which was fantastic, but also my emails about needing a vegan meal hadn't gone through. When I explained, the steward did his best to round up salads and such for me and then found a vegan meal of chickpeas and rice. Unfortunately it was vegetarian and the rice was buttered, which caused me to be sick in the airplane bathroom and then get stuck in there during turbulence. But it all worked out and was the last time I was sick the entire trip. (Which was amazing. these stupid intolerances regularly made me sick at least 3 times a week from secret egg and dairy before)
Flight was obviously long, but fine, watched Edge of Tomorrow and Mars Attacks and had a decent nap.
When I arrived in Dublin, I didn't have data or a SIM card obviously, and the shops that did sell them in the airport, were out of ones with data or wouldn't work in Britain, so I had to take a taxi to my airbnb. The taxi driver said the place was too new for his maps (from 2016....) and he only had a flip phone, so he kept pulling over to ask people for directions and it cost me 30 euro...
Got to the airbnb, slept for ever, went to Tescos the next morning and got a SIM card and set it up. 15 euro and I had like 5GB of data including roaming, unlimited text and like 500 minutes including roaming.... I have a ridiculously cheap plan via 7-11 and I still pay $40/month for 500MB, unlimited text and 200 minutes. My provider doesn't even have plans with 5GB of data. but 3GB is $75. A similar plan with Telus would be $120 and no roaming... Just some typical Canadian whinging over data/internet prices...
Dublin to Glasgow the next morning, bright and early. Got an Uber to the airport who only cost 11 euro cos he had google maps and didn't get LOST!
Arrived in Glasgow, dropped my bag at the airbnb and asked my host where to go on the subway. She said Hillhead and off I went. My airbnb was right by Ibrox stadium and subway station. I just got a card for the week and was off.
Glasgow... Is amazing. I love it so much. It's so walkable, there's directional signs all over so you don't get lost or need your maps, there's gorgeous gardens and amazing buildings and shops and cafes. The Art Galleries and Museums are amazing, by donation and would be incredible to take kids to. (I went to the Kelvingrove, GoMA, Mackintosh House, Hunterian Art Gallery and Glasgow Science Center) The people are chill but not slow walkers and there's not a lot of tourists. I hate hearing people with my flat accent when I travel.
(adventures in Glasgow)
My second day, I'd bought a ticket for a Spice Girls drag show that night via Facebook events (the best thing ever when travelling to find small and offbeat events)
It was glorious, watching Spice World on the big screen in a gorgeous bar (The Grosevnor Cafe) and Drag Queens coming out to preform every musical number.
I found a spot at the end of a communal table and hung out, there was lots of balloons (fatal allergy alert) that a kind waitress moved out of the way for me so I could breathe. I just had a reaction around my eyes but that was not life threatening so yay.
Sitting at that spot, two girls come up and ask if the seats across are saved, I said "Nope, I'm Solo." and they said, "Well, you're part of our gang now!" And I was!! Ashleigh and Kay are absolutely amazing, and I'm quite sure Kay and I are platonic soulmates based on all of our common interests and behaviours. We had an amazing time and when I mentioned I was going to Edinburgh the next day, Kay said she was going as well and why don't we go together? And Ash invited me to a pre-pride party when I got back the next day. Afterwards we went out and wandered and drank lovely beer and it was wonderful.
The next morning it was off to Edinburgh, took the train and met Kay at the station where I had a vegan bagel with the best vegan cream cheese ever. I didn't think it was possible. It was amazing. Apparently it is Sheese and I need a truck load please.
Once we were in Edinburgh, I had the ultimate Scottish tour, we saw the old town, the new town, the castle, the hanging area, where the fringe is held, some Harry Potter stuff, some rain and then we went to a pub for 3 hours. The pub is Frankenstein's and it's AMAZING. It's huge and not packed, the drinks are healthily poured and amazingly themed and they play Frankenstein on loop and when it gets to the climax there's like a huge floorshow with smoke and lasers and music and animatronics and it's the greatest. Edinburgh is a busy place full of tourists and goddamn cobblestones, but Frankenstein's is the best and you should go.
After Edinburgh I walked through a Trump protest and took some pictures (in the Glasgow collage above) and joined Ashleigh and her friends for a pre pride party, Which was exactly like every high school party I went to in that we watched YouTube, drank a little and hung out. At one point me and two gay guys were on the Reddit thread of filthy Disney song lyrics, belting them out like we were on stage. It was pretty great.
Off to London and my legs were crossed and my foot stuck in a pointed position and it got stuck that way... so my ankle was just super happy about that (still is.) Immediately went to sleep upon arrival. The next day was LATITUDE festival, which I'd gotten a day pass and coach tickets for. So 3 hour coach trip there and spent the day wandering about. Listened to good music, ate delicious vegan food, watched some hilarious comedy, listened to passionate young speakers from kids against plastic, got a lovely massage, did some art, took lots of pictures, generally enjoyed myself. But the coach didn't leave until midnight and I was too tired for shenanigans so by 11 I was on the coach, falling asleep. I had a great time, got a shirt from Oatly that says "Post-Milk Generation", that I'm wearing right now. It would have been nice to do this one with someone else, just to keep me going, but I did love being able to wander at my own pace and do whatever I wanted to do, including a 1 hour massage.
I got back from Latitude at 2 am and just hailed an Uber instead of trying to deal with public transit to get back. Got back to the airbnb and slept until about 2 when I went to go off to the V&A. Enjoyed their future is now exhibition and had to leave when I got to the fashion area (my fave) because they closed at 5:30 and I lost track of time). The next day I had a bunch of messages from my mom and my friend Deléna about how I had to go to Peggy Porschen. So off I went to take pictures of a instafamous bakery I can't eat at, and then wandered around Chelsea until I did find a nice vegan restaurant to eat at.
Then I went down to Brixton as I'd gotten free tickets to Roast Battle. After 2 hours of waiting and seeing the line of people with red wristbands who had premium access completely dwarf those of us who didn't, I realized despite being 7th in line, I was tired, had a head cold and wasn't getting in. So I left, and had a nice chat with my airbnb hostess and her daughter and mother.
Found out yesterday my mom has a premium access card for that company from when she saw Graham Norton....
The next day I just stayed in bed and watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix, occasionally passing out, taking sudafed and blowing my nose. Kay texted saying she was in London to see Hamilton the next day and we should meet up for dinner. So I dragged my sick butt out of bed and went into the city to meet her. Her day was just a complete disaster and the restaurant was full and didn't do reservations anyway, so we went to Veggie Pret and then decided to go see the Jurassic Jeff Goldblum statue by London bridge that we'd heard about (I'd gotten a google alert that morning)
It was brilliant, surrounded by other really cool people, lots of guys doing the same pose. but not too crowded. We saw the bridge rise to let a boat through, which Kay said is super lucky, and then we wandered a bit, stopped at a restaurant for a drink and a bathroom break and stayed there until it closed... And then we went back to our respective accommodations around 1 am.
The next morning, I was off to Chepstow, where we lived in 2005-2006 , I started year seven, began puberty, faced violent bullying and made lovely friends. But my sister and mom made much better friends in Lorraine, Jamie and Jazmine, who I stayed with for a couple days and just had a wonderful time. It was great to end the trip with people I knew, in a comfortable place. Lorraine made amazing meals that I could eat and was just the most wonderful host and Jazmine and I went for wanders around Chepstow to see what was new and different. I was surprised by how much I remembered after 12/13 years.
When my mom and sister last saw Lorraine and Jazmine, they went to the Mamma Mia musical in London, so now 8/9 years later, we all went to Mamma Mia 2 at the cinema in Newport. It was great and we all enjoyed ourselves. The next day we went to a VW van festival at Caldicot (Lorraine and family are big VW enthusiasts with a gorgeous old model teal bug named daisy and a teal old style camper van as well) I had myself a Welsh Perry and we lazed about for a bit.
Then after a nice late lunch of a fish curry (fish being the one meat my body still likes) it was off to the Bristol airport to fly back to Dublin. Arrived in Dublin, took an Uber to the hotel (couldn't find my 2 euro coin for the shuttle and would have to wait 30 mins anyway), had a nice sleep, a shower in the morning and then found my 2 euro coin so I could shuttle back to the airport and head off to Toronto and then back to Edmonton. In Toronto, I had to pick up my bag at the carousel and then put it on to a transfer carousel. I made VERY sure it said Edmonton on the tag. It never went to Edmonton. It was delivered to our door the following day in all it's stinky laundry goodness.
It was a great trip. A bit long, I think 9 days with direct flights would have been better. I don't think I'd bother with London again, unless taking someone else. It was just so hot, so full of slow tourists and busy and it's just so spread out that I spent more time on transit than I did enjoying myself and exploring. The total opposite of Glasgow.
I was very glad to have lots of data and my cellphone, google maps is necessary for travel and figuring out public transit and with snapchat and instagram I never really felt lonely despite being alone. It was nice to share my adventures in real time.
I'm so glad I went solo, I liked to describe my self as solo rather than alone, partially for the Hannah Solo/Han Solo joke that no one picked up on, and partially because it sounds more independent and solid and less like, I'm a 24 year old blonde white girl travelling alone, please ruin my life.
The important thing that I think really helped was that I didn't bother to translate the cost of things into CDN. If I did I'd never have enjoyed myself. I just spent like it was a 1-1 conversion and had a great time and didn't go over budget either.
So, my advice, stop saying "oh, one day, I'll go there" or waiting on other people and just book a trip solo. Especially to a place in Western Europe or a country where you will be safe travelling alone. I wouldn't travel solo to a country where they spoke no English and hate women.
I keep trying to find a good sentence to end this on. So I'll just end it with Thanks to Kay, Ash, Lorraine, Jazmine, Jamie and all the wonderful people I met along the way!