Notes from the Bus - Driving down the Croatian Coast.

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I'm currently 6,275 miles from Los Angeles, on a bus that is traveling down the coast of Croatia. I am en route from Zegreb to Split and then when I arrive I will catch the next bus to Dubrovnik. I hadn't planned on taking this bus.. I had a ticket for a 7:35am train but the universe had a different plan for me. On my way out of my AirBnb, the front door to the building closed and locked behind me before I realized I had left my phone charging inside. By the time someone walked out of the building I had missed my train by 8 minutes.

I often find myself telling people that I'm never late to work or the airport, but I'm pretty much late for everything else. Somehow I need to learn to add “train station” to that list. I have missed 3 trains already. The other two were inconsequential because there were frequent trains all day between those locations but there were only two available trains from Zagreb to Split, and the second one wouldn't get me into Dubrovnik until after 1am and that was too late to check into my AirBnb.

I quickly looked up the next bus and it was leaving in 30 minutes. It was a 20 minute walk to the train station, maybe more with my backpack which somehow seemed a lot heavier even though all I had purchased on the trip so far was a keychain from an Easter market in Vienna that said "Today is my Favorite Day." I had to figure out how to get a ticket and get on the right bus in the next 30 minutes. It ended up costing me $25 for a bus to Split from Zagreb on top of the train reservation that I missed. Thankfully I didn't write the information for the train on my Eurail Pass yet. Apparently they can be pretty strict about it and I would have completely surrendered a full day of travel.

I made it onto the next bus! Even with the exhaustion and panic, when I actually accomplished something, I always feel this strong sense of pride as if my angels are saying "Go Lisa! We told you that you could do it!"

While the seats are less comfortable on a bus than a first class train, it's an experience I'm glad I'm having, and I'm telling myself the view from the bus window is probably prettier than the train would have been anyway. (I guess I'll find out on the way back up.) I definitely didn't expect to see snow capped mountains. Sometimes not knowing anything about a place before you go is stupid, but it often surprises you in beautiful ways.

*pause*

Okay so I arrived in Split and ran right onto the bus to Dubrovnik as it was about to drive away. About halfway there we stopped at a rest stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina in a town called Neum. I saw two women, who I would later learn are sisters named Lois and Cindy, taking pictures of each other in front of the sunset. I asked if they wanted me to take a picture of them together. Cindy said no at the same time Lois said yes, so after I took their picture we started talking. I found out they had been on that same 7:35am train that I had missed from Zagreb, and this was the earliest bus to Dubrovnik! So, after panicking all morning about arriving later than planned, I realized I would have arrived on this exact bus. Reminder: Worrying is useless... Although the woman at my AirBnb was actually still upset with me because I didn't realize that Booking.com had check in times listed in 24 hour time since I was in Europe and so the woman thought I was arriving at 7am instead of 7pm... and thus she had been waiting for me all day. I'm kind of an asshole. Lesson learned.

All for now.

Check in soon.

Love love love love,

Lis

One day in London

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When I told people before my trip to Greece that I chose a flight with a 9 hour layover in London so I could run around and explore, most of them thought I was crazy. The rarely surfacing pessimist in me agreed. What if I wasn’t allowed out of the airport since I had checked a bag? Maybe I would get out of the airport, but get lost and miss my flight to Athens. I was sure something was going to go wrong. Things that scare me hadn’t always been the type that I dove straight into, but with my new commitment to traveling solo, I knew I was going to be uncomfortable once in a while. What I didn’t realize was just how magnified the over-analytical part of my brain would become. "You’re going to get mugged. You’re going to lose your passport. You’re going to accidentally turn on data roaming and get a $5,000 phone bill.. Blah blah."

I landed in London around 12:30pm on Tuesday. I wanted to be back at the airport by 8:15pm for my 10:00 flight. I had already checked in, so I didn’t have to be there 2 hours early, but I wanted to leave time for unexpected trip-ups... If you don't know me yet, you'll soon find out that I'm incredibly clumsy and have a tendency to do less planning than is probably appropriate. I like to tell myself that it's an endearing quality, or at the very least makes for a good story later. I'm definitely not the poster child for things going smoothly.  I had been told the line at customs was going to be a total bitch, and it was true. I didn’t get out of the airport until just after 2pm. As a total newb when it comes to London I was so grateful that right before the plane landed, while I was frantically googling "Things to do on a long layover in London," using the notoriously choppy airplane wifi, my friend Brad messaged me with a mock itinerary for me to attempt to follow. 

One day in London

One day in London

The trains into the city leave right from the airport, so it wasn’t hard to find my way to the station. I bought a ticket for the tube (after asking three different people which ticket machine I was supposed to use…  thank God I was in a country where people spoke English!) I took the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circle. Map in hand, I found my way over to St. James’ Park. My sister told me before I left that the one thing she wanted me to do in London was to get a hot tea and take a picture of it, and since it was cool and windy that day I was happy to oblige. Buckingham Palace was on the opposite end, and if I wanted to get there and everywhere else I had on my list in the limited time I had, I needed to make haste. I hurried down the path, dodging kamikaze pigeons the entire way. I swear, these birds were on a mission to hit me in the face. While I did spill tea on myself a couple times trying to get away, nothing was going to slow me down.

At the end of the park I arrived at Buckingham Palace. I would have loved to stay and take hundreds of pictures  or try to do something silly to make the guards smile, but my goal was to do as many things as I could before I had to get back to the airport. I had to remind myself that someday I could come back to London and really explore. 

London Travel

London Travel

I took a few snapshots of the palace and made sure to pause  to take in the moment. It’s weird trying to imagine what a feeling is going to be like before you are actually feeling it. The way I felt in front of that palace is not what I had expected at all. I thought I would be so in awe and feel so out of place. But the air in London felt similar to the air in New York City to me and I felt an odd sense of home. It was beautiful.

I headed back towards where I started, on a different path for scenery’s sake, and started the search for Big Ben. This part of town also wasn’t what I had pictured at all, but it was gorgeous. It was a windy, cloudy day which I found out later is fairly typical in London. (No, I didn’t look at the weather before I left home… Because if I didn’t go out and make all of these rookie mistakes, how would I be able to warn YOU not to make them? So yeah, check the weather.)

Big Ben London

Big Ben London

I chilled with Big Ben for a few minutes and then I walked over to Westminster Pier. I walked across the bridge toward the London eye. There was a man playing a bagpipe and people darting back and forth across the sidewalk; tourists trying to take in the view, and locals trying to avoid being trampled by them. I turned around when I got to the other side of the bridge and had an amazing view of the river and Big Ben and the part of London I had explored so far. 

I crossed back over the bridge, found my way to the tube again and debated getting on it. I stopped and looked at my map decided that I had time to walk up to Covent Garden which was one of the places my friend told me to visit. I got a little lost on my way there, but I have no issues with asking for directions.  Everyone was super helpful and pointed me towards my destination (after letting me know I was holding the map upside down.) The only problem was, when I got to where I thought I was going, I couldn’t find the garden anywhere. I was sure this is where it was on the map. I walked in a few circles and then looked at another map that was posted on the street. Oops. Covent Garden isn’t a garden at all. It’s a shopping plaza. I’m a moron. 

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

I took a few minutes to explore there, and then walked all the way back down to the Piccadilly Circle tube stop  (Only because the other station I had planned on using was temporarily closed.) I took the Bakerloo line up to Paddington where I was supposed to meet Brad at 6pm. Not having phone service makes life feel a lot more difficult (but not surprisingly, a lot more real.) I stood outside Upper Crust in the Paddington station and waited for a few minutes hoping I was in the right place. My friend walked up soon after. He took me to a pub called The Abbey and we had a beer there and caught up. It’s another odd feeling seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar city. We left the pub and took a walk where he showed me the canals that run through that area. Gorgeous little houseboats lined the canal on both sides. I wanted to move into one. 

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I hopped back on the train around 7:30 and headed towards Heathrow. Since it was a layover and I didn’t have to check in and print my boarding pass, I was actually at the airport insanely early for my flight. Better safe than sorry in this case I presume. I called my sister, charged my phone, got a snack and waited. I was ready to head to Athens and then on to Santorini. I had seen so much of London in less than one day. I still can't believe everything went so perfectly!! I need to go back so I can actually breathe the city in and get to know the vibe, rather than running around like a squirrel who had too many pixy stix, but I think for just over 5 hours of actual time in the city, I did pretty damn well.

I highly recommend a long layover in London.  :) 

Cheers, 

Lisa 

Dear Ireland, I love you.

Lisa Sansouci

Lisa Sansouci

I’m on a plane back from Ireland. It honestly feels as though in the time it took me to take one breath, the last 8 days flew by.

It was during a meditation one morning a few weeks ago with one of my new friends that I met on Periscope Anita Wing Lee , that this trip was born. During the meditation we closed our eyes and she told us to imagine stepping into our ultimate travel destination. I actually wasn’t sure what mine even was. Santorini had always been it, and now I had checked that off my list.I had my journal with a list of my top places, but I didn’t know where to go next. When I closed my eyes I pictured myself on a cobblestone path that led to a forest. I couldn’t see myself in the image, just the ground passing beneath me. The land around me was beautiful and green. I realized after a few minutes that I needed to go to Ireland.

After we meditated on this image for a while and I convinced myself that I was actually there (the power of manifestation is so great) She asked us to think of one small step we could take towards our next travel goal. I knew which pockets of time I had free, and I had the frequent flier miles to make it happen, but I had become so overwhelmed with the things that had piled up, since I had the heart of a traveler, but the life of someone incredibly situated. When she asked what small step I could take I realized that ALL I had left to do was book the flight.When you calm your mind even for a few minutes, you’ll see so many things you may have overlooked. You’ll also realize most of the time that the “huge” issues you’ve been stressing over aren’t so huge at all.. they may not even be issues. Silver lining, where are you? I know you’re there!

My mom has traveled to Ireland before, so I told her that when I decided to go I would call her in the off-chance that she might want to come with me. At this point I had decided to leave my apartment in LA in 12 days for the adventure and fly straight to Boston for the camping trip I go on with my mom in Maine every summer. I had a feeling it might be a bit too spontaneous for her to agree to so quickly, but then most of my ideas for adventures have people laughing, shocked, or totally confused. I was so excited when she said she would come with me! She knew the country far better than I could from reading websites and travel blogs, and she offered to rent a car and drive me in a loop around the southern part of Ireland. Amazing news. Thanks mom!

My mom would fly in from Boston and I would leave from LA and we would meet at the Dublin airport. The plan was as follows:

8/4 Dublin —> 8/5 Northern Ireland (For the Game of Thrones Filming Location Tour) —>8/6 Kilkenny—> 8/7 Cork —> 8/7 Killarney —> 8/9 Limerick —> 8/10 Galway —> 8/11Dublin —> Home

When I got to the airport I heard bagpipes playing and there was a lot of commotion. I realized that I was arriving at the airport at the exact same time as the athletes from the special olympics, (which was crazy since I had been at the opening ceremonies in Los Angeles a week earlier and seen the same team not far away from me.) There were hundreds of people waiting outside the door to greet them upon their return. There were two doors that lead into the airport from our terminal. The athletes would go out one, and the rest of us were directed to another door so we wouldn’t accidentally end up in a parade. I was the first one out the door, at the same time they opened the other door for the athletes. Even though I knew the cheers weren’t for me it was so fun to walk out the door to a huge wave of cheers and applause and people waving. I felt like a queen! (A Khaleesi!) What an amazing welcome into this country. Haha It felt like God was telling me that my decision to travel the world was a good one.

The first day in any city is usually shrouded in brain-fog because my body is super sensitive to jet lag, but I stumbled around Dublin with my mom and braced myself for what was going to be a crazy week. I had been so excited about the Game of Thrones tour that I had a hard time getting any sleep on the plane.

(I wrote another blog all about the Game of Thrones tour, so I won't go into detail about that here.)

We spent 2 nights in Dublin at the Kildare Street Hotel. Dublin wasn't what I expected at all. It had much more of a city vibe than I thought. I am glad my mom came with me to show me the rest of Ireland because while Dublin was really rad, I was partial to the towns that weren't as metropolitan.

Next stop, Kilkenny! Driving through Ireland is magical. The low fog over the rolling green fields and hills was something I never could have imagined even after seeing plenty of pictures. I have always lived fairly close to cities (Boston, NYC, LA) so I hadn’t seen this type of landscape before.

When we got to Kilkenny we were notified that our hotel had been temporarily closed due to the weather...? (The weather had been fine. This was a weird excuse.) They moved us to another hotel a few streets away. It was a little bizarre. There was a bin at the bottom of the stairs labeled swords/towels. They told us we couldn't stay in the room next to ours but that we had to use the shower in there because the door to ours had fallen off. Haha. My mom and I are both pretty go-with-the-flow type people so it wasn't a big deal. 

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Kilkenny was so cute!! We spent some time exploring Kilkenny Castle and we walked down the field that sits behind it. Unfortunately this was back when Periscopes deleted after 24 hours so I don’t have my broadcast to post here, but it was really cool to bring my community there with me for some of the adventure.

We arrived in Cork the following day. We stayed at Creedons Traditional Irish Welcome Inn which was right at the end of Oliver Plunkett Street. If you visit Cork, definitely check out this area. The street is lined with shops and restaurants and buskers playing music on the sidewalk. While you're there, pop into the English Market. It's beautiful.

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Onward to Killarney. It was a beautiful town, but it was raining pretty hard that day.. and honestly from traveling around to so many places so quickly, we were both really tired. We went and explored Ross Castle, then into the city center for lunch, which was actually one of the best lunches we had. Giant beers and some kind of brie and cranberry toast thing..and then just hid out in our B&B for the rest of the day. On our way out of the city we got the car stuck in an alley and there were tons of other cars behind us and I had to climb out my window and slide across the hood of the car to help my mom get out. Haha. That’s probably the only tense moment from the whole trip, but we figured it out. Sans Souci. No Worries.

The next day we stopped in Limerick, saw some castles and had a glass of wine overlooking the River Shannon. I had fallen in love with Ireland at this point. I didn’t think I could love it any more than I did in this moment. I was wrong.

We went to the Blarney Castle and I kissed the stone. Apparently the legend says that once you kiss it you're endowed with the "gift of gab." I like to think it worked, although I've always been a talker. ;)

Next we drove out to Dingle (hehe) and then to Slea Head. It was a long drive and it was a foggy day but it was still one of the most incredible views I had ever seen. I feel like I keep saying that. Ugh. Ireland, I love you.

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On our way out to Galway we stopped at the Cliffs of Moher. I honestly can’t even describe them. If you do only one thing in Ireland, if there is only ONE place you see, consider letting this be it. I don’t recommend going on the path directly on the edge of the cliffs, since apparently not uncommon for people to slip and fall over the edge. I think they said around 15 people per year fall over the edge. I’m the kind of person who trips over my own feet on completely solid ground, so I wasn’t going to risk it. We stayed on the path that was a few yards away. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it was real. They looked like fake cliffs from a movie. It was like Pandora.. or Narnia. Despite my best efforts, a picture just can’t capture the essence of this place. You have to go there. 

We arrived in Galway, and I of course fell in love with it. Ha. I lay in the grass in Claddagh looking for 4 leaf clovers, ate fish and chips and watched Irish dancers. Our trip was coming to a close. I couldn't believe how much we had done in such a short time. We spent the last night back in Dublin where we had started and now, here I am.. on my way home. Wait! Pilot! Is it too late to turn around? Oh, it is? Damn.

Time to plan the next adventure!

Xx

Lis