The air in Rome is dirty. I can feel it weighing on my chest. Each breath heavy with the fumes of busy city life. I realise how spoiled I am to have grown up in the country with air clean and crisp like cut glass. A man in workman’s trousers, a thin puffer jacket, and a blue baseball cap, sharpens knives collected from the surrounding restaurants and cafes in the boot of his car. The grinding noise blends into the hubbub of sirens, car engines, and motorbikes busying the street below. We are on the first floor of the apartment block we are staying in, in Via Silvestri. Opposite us, varieties of pine and palm trees, grow up taller than the blocks of flats they lean close to. Down on the street, a man wheels three crates, overflowing with rocket, around the corner. Matthew is working on his paper for Friday. We drink espresso, with a bowl of olives and cold cured meats that we bought yesterday from a local delicatessen, between us. In an hour or so, we will take a tram to the centre of Rome, and begin exploring…
We started our day in a cafe with coffee and cake. Mum ordered a chocolate filled pastry-thing and a cappuccino. I had a double espresso. An unfortunate habit I’ve developed since travelling Europe, not because it’s a double espresso, but because I tend to have a total of three throughout the whole day.
We’d overslept and were heading to the Louvre much later than we’d hoped.
When we got there the queue was already snaking its way back and forth from the door to an undesirable length. Men brandishing selfie sticks tried to sell us unofficial tickets repeatedly as we hovered at the information board, deciding what to do. Continue reading
I arrived in Paris late. My rucksack was heavy and I wanted to go to bed. I’d been on the move for fifteen hours since waking up at 4:30am and boarding my first train in Konstanz at 6:30am.
Mumma was meeting me off the Metro at Pigalle. She’d travelled out the same day but had arrived earlier and already checked into our hotel. We were staying at Hotel Sacré-Cœur, not far from Montmartre.
Montmartre and the surrounding area is famous for being home to The Moulin Rouge, and frequented by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Mattise, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Suzanne Valadon. Drinking, smoking, collaborating, and living here, Montmartre became known as a haven for artists during the period of 1872 to 1914.
It was here that we were staying.
Here that would be home for the next three nights.
Mum was excitable and chatty. I showered. The hot water washing away the day’s travelling. I could hear Mum shouting something to me from the bed room, “I can’t hear you!” I called back. Continue reading
I read over my emails, checking that I had downloaded the correct PDFs for my seat reservations. I was moving on to Konstanz and leaving Verona. I opened up the email from Interrail, and scanned the information. That was when I noticed it. The email confirmation I’d received did a) not include my ticket reservation, and b) stated very clearly that the tickets were prone to being found in people’s Spam folders.
I am someone who habitually clears out the Spam and Bin folders in my email account without so much as a quick glance.
I am spontaneous and fast moving. But sometimes, it seems, it pays to pause, read your emails, and take a moment. Continue reading
I planned nothing for Verona.
I forced myself to commit to a blank schedule.
I would get there, sleep, and see what happened. Continue reading
When I woke up I had more energy than I’d had for days. I was full of beans and excitement. My transport for my next two destinations was sorted, and I had a vague plan for how I was going to get from Konstanz to Paris. I had slept for almost twelve hours.
I showered and sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee with Nina.
“Thank you so much for yesterday. It really meant an awful lot to me how understanding and kind you were. I had hit burn out. But I feel so much better today. So thank you.”
“That’s OK. I just wish I’d known what to do…”
“You were perfect! You gave me a hug, you let me have some space in the evening, but most of all, you gave me an unending supply of muffins. You couldn’t have done more. Really. Thank you.” Continue reading
“Let’s have cake for breakfast.”
We wandered the streets searching for somewhere serving something traditional.
Eventually we found a cafe with a window display of freshly baked Slovenian cakes. The establishment was called Gujžina Prekmurska Gostilna.
Naomi had tried Prekmurska Gibanica on her first morning here whilst I was still on the train, but I was yet to try the layers of filo pastry, poppy seed, apple, and cottage cheese.
We entered the dimly lit cafe and took a seat by the window.
The Prekmurska Gibanica was delicious. Not too sweet and not too creamy. It balanced the flavours beautifully. What I’d thought would be a gelatinous or soggy texture, was instead smooth. Continue reading
Afraid of missing my train again I woke up at 6:30am to catch the 8:30am train to Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was a straight through journey. No changes. I just had to get there on time.
I slept badly. My bunk buddy snoring so loudly I thought there was an earthquake, as well as shouting in his sleep. It’s not really permissible to put a pillow over a stranger’s face, so I put it over my own instead, hoping to drown out the sound but with little to no avail.
I gathered my things and left. There was a metro stop right outside of Hostel Maverick so I didn’t have far to walk. I went to a bakery and bought some pastries for my journey, caught the metro, and in the bleary white morning light, found myself at my station with an hour to spare. Continue reading
I was looking forward to Budapest. To travelling alone again. Moving on from hostels and back to couchsurfing. This was the trajectory I had set myself on for this trip, and although it had been nice to meander into the realm of travel buddies and hostels, I was happy to return to my original path.
I climbed onto the sofa pallet bed, stepping over Stuart to lie down and give him a hug. It was 8am.
“Goodbye Stuart. Maybe see you in Budapest.” Continue reading
Two weeks ago today (10/10/2017) I set off for a solo trip around Europe.
I haven’t had a cuddle since I left Britain.
For those of you who don’t know me, I love to hug, hold hands, and squeeze my friends and family. I’m a tactile person. I’m naturally physically at ease with those around me. I love a good cwtch (which is a term, it turns out, people in Europe are not familiar with!) Consequently, I’m someone who feels lonely, disconnected from her surroundings and the people she is with, without that physical contact.
At first this absence didn’t bother me. In fact I enjoyed the space to be by my absolute self. Explore myself in a way I never had before. I connected with my surroundings on a whole new level. With the world. My environment. I was connected. But to the bigger picture. To strangers through eye contact, and to the cities and towns I visited through my feet.
But in the presence of another person, Stuart, who I was sharing that time and space with, I realised how much I missed being able to be at ease with another human being. To hold hands, entangle limbs whilst sprawled on a sofa watching TV, to lean, to be leant on, to feel the warmth of a second body simply being near you. Not even holding you, just being near you. Continue reading