After an uneventful (the best kind) bus ride from Tallinn, I arrived in Riga before lunchtime. The bus station was located in an industrial-looking area, but just across the way I could see the beginnings of the Old Town. After crossing a huge boulevard using underground tunnels, I managed to blindly pick the right road and find my hostel.
Unlike the Estonian hostel, this one was modern with simple decor and an almost minimalist design. I liked it. It was also really clean, and the room was spacious. After settling in, I picked up a map from reception and got online to check out the town. As usual, I did just enough research to get from the bus station to my hostel. After that, I planned to wing it from there.
After about an hour, I decided to head out to see the city. With the sun shining and a brisk wind blowing, it was a perfect day to explore a new city on foot. As I wandered through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, I was amazed at how the old buildings towered above me, even after being bombed during World War II. The work to reconstruct the damaged buildings and keep the old style is incredible.
I also enjoyed the mix of green spaces throughout the city, which provided a nice retreat from the bustling tourist crowds. Although Riga is no London in terms of tourist foot traffic, it still seems to get its fair share of people around the shops. I have also heard that Riga is a mean place to party, if you’re into that kinda thing.
Taking a dining suggestion off my map, I had lunch at a small cafeteria-like restaurant serving authentic Latvian food. Don’t ask me what I ended up eating. It was one of those point and smile situations. I was charged by the amount of food selected so it was a pretty cheap meal in the end. The place seemed to be very local with lots of working people on their lunch breaks. I think I was just about the only foreigner in the place. Interestingly enough, practically everyone had a glass of milk with their lunch. Is this a thing in Latvia?
One step closer to home . . . that’s what I thought as I boarded the plane from London to Toronto. Toronto is the last new city I’ll be visiting before finally returning to Hawaii. I can’t believe I managed to travel more than halfway around the world! I’ve come a long way . . . literally and metaphorically.
The flight was full but I managed to get a row to myself. They were showing some great in-flight films that I would’ve loved to catch up on, but I can’t say that I watched more than 30 minutes of anything. It was just too early and I found myself sleeping for most of the flight.
If there’s one thing I appreciate about myself after all this time on the road, it’s my ability to fall asleep anywhere. When I started out, I was terrible about sleeping in new environments. Even back at home, I’d have difficulties sleeping anywhere that wasn’t my bed. But, travel makes you pretty adaptable, and I’ve adapted well.
The flight over the Atlantic was uneventful and painless. Before long I was landing in Canada’s largest city. After collecting my backpack, I made my way to a shuttle bus that would take me into the CBD. It was then that I noticed the accents around me (or rather that there were no accents). Everyone sounded generically North American, which was a big change after the Aussie, Kiwi, English and Scottish accents I’ve lived with for so long.
The North American lilt sounded oddly strange to my ears, and I found myself listening in on everyone’s conversations just to hear it. Every once in a while, the stereotypical Canadian “oo” sound would pop up, such as in “aboot,” but otherwise it was pretty indistinguishable from an American accent. Is it weird that I found the sound harsh and grating to my ears?
As we drove into the city, I immediately felt at home with the left-hand drive vehicles, multi-laned highways and humongous SUVs. It had been so long since I’d seen the likes of a Hummer or other gigantic SUV in such numbers. It dawned on me that these vehicles truly represented American (and Canadian I suppose since I was in Canada after all) excess. Then, I found the pinnacle of excess looming on the side of the highway – Costco! Yes, you could say that I was well and truly back home.
Filed under Canada, Travel
My last days in London are a bit of a blur. I returned to the hostel near Regent’s Park where I’d been staying before, but I decided to splurge on a single room. What I didn’t realize was that the room was in a completely different building, but I still had to return to the main one to use my free meal voucher. Epic fail when you’re unwell and must walk 10 minutes in the cold just to get food.
However, it was a good idea to splash out on a single room as it came with a small fridge, sink and all the privacy I’d become accustomed to at Ross and Gill’s place. I still had to use shared shower and toilets, but I barely ran into anyone in the halls let alone in the bathroom.
I spent my last few days in London reading books in blissful isolation. When I ventured outside, it was to take a stroll through one of London’s many parks or go to a museum. I finally got around to visiting the Natural History Museum, which was very impressive and had incredible exhibits for adults and children. On another day, I walked around Notting Hill and browsed Portobello Road. Most of all, I just took in the atmosphere of the city by walking through different neighborhoods and stopping at local cafes and shops for food.
I must admit that after being on the road alone for so long, I was suffering from a bit of travel fatigue and feeling burned out. I was not motivated to look into tours or figure out how to get outside of the city to visit places like Oxford. While I know it’s not necessary to be up and doing things all the time, it felt like a waste of time paying for food and accommodation but not really seeing much of England. However, I figured I’d just have to come back to see the rest of the country another time.
The day before my flight out of England, I transferred to a hostel that was closer to the bus stop for the shuttle taking me to Gatwick Airport. Because my flight was extremely early in the morning, it was still dark when I checked out of the hostel. Surprisingly, there were actually heaps of other people waiting when I got to the bus stop. Within a few short hours, I was on the plane and saying goodbye to England.