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In a few days short of a month’s time, I will have been living in Berlin full-time for 3 years already. 2016 and what’s passed of 2017 have been really intense for me, lots of ups and downs — although unfortunately far more downs than ups. As every incident compounded on top of another, I found myself feeling more and more jaded and things that used to hold a lot of weight in my life just didn’t anymore. Somewhere in between the bouts of apathy and depression, I realized that I could either basically do nothing, or do something. And I grew tired of doing nothing. It soon became very clear to me that I needed to get away from everything and break out from the familiar and mundane for a while.

So, I resigned from my job and decided to do some solo travels for the next few months. I’ve once been told that when you’re feeling lost, the best remedy is to actually get lost. So far I’ve found this to be true — every time I’ve immersed myself in new experiences and surroundings, I’ve walked away with more clarity, and felt that I’ve done something conducive in rounding out the lens in which I see the world around me with.

I hadn’t really planned out a solid itinerary of destinations just yet, but I figured it’d be best if I just play it by ear and plan as I go. The first stop ended up being quite easy — just a quick hop over the English channel. Manchester — a city I’ve never been to but have heard some great things about, and I figured I could work my way up northern England ’til Scotland, which I’ve always wanted to visit. Warum nicht?

And thus begins the next few months of my post-desk-job adventures!

Day One: 24 July
I was originally going to be alone in Manchester, but had met someone from London at a music festival in Germany a couple of weekends prior who ended up meeting me there and making for wonderful company! (The serendipitous beauty of planning as you go.)

While waiting for my friend to arrive, I spent a quiet morning at Takk, an artisan coffee house that serves light brunches and small sandwiches. It’s quite cozy and humble — I was impressed with how unpretentious the staff and guests were here, which would otherwise probably be the case if this cafe was transposed into Berlin, for example.

takk1

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Brunch is served daily here ’til 4 PM. I had the “Takk-Shuka” which was essentially their version of a shakshuka — harissa-spiced sauce, baked eggs, mint yogurt, and pistachio dukkah, served with a slice of grilled sourdough on the side. The portion was quite small but not too small – the perfect amount for a late breakfast.

I took a seat in the corner, facing the window and enjoyed some time writing, people watching, and soaking in the small pocket of sunshine that came through the window and warmed up my tiny but cozy corner of the cafe.

takk3

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Yes, this is a very late – as well as the very last – post of my marvelous adventure around Europe last summer. I always had some sort of reluctance to post this, because I didn’t want it to really be over. But I figured it’s about time, because I realized there doesn’t have to be an end to my travels if I don’t allow it. So, I plan to do some more traveling in the near future (but probably after a series of battles with my work schedule). Adventure always awaits! Ah Europe, such a magical, wondrous place. Decadent in history and overflowing with culture.

Here’s the final blog entry from my trip, these memories are so precious to me–

September 16, 2013

What I love about London is that things are open on Sundays! Sunday feels like a ghost town in every other city that I’ve visited in Europe so far. Thank you, London.

My friend Daniel gave me a heads up about the Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday mornings. It’s tucked away in a quieter, less-trafficked area off of the Old Street station. It’s a little bit tricky to find, but the people walking away with heaps of flowers in their arms is a bit of a giveaway.

We followed the crowd until we finally ended up at the flower market. It’s a narrow road, packed with flower vendors. What I loved most about this place wasn’t the flowers, but seeing so many people there who actually appreciated the flowers and understood their value. It’s hard to find that nowadays. My favorite flowers were the multi-colored heathers and the vibrant, powder-blue hydrangeas. Apparently hydrangeas are a tricky flower to grow–the color of the petals depends on the acidity of the soil, and if the acidity is off even a little bit, the color will be a murky shade between blue and pink. The ones sold here at the flower market were either a really pure blue, or a really pure pink. I would have bought myself a bunch if I had somewhere to keep them!

colorflowers

chilis

roses

lilys

succulents

lavenderbags

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been almost 2 months since my time in Europe. I never did quite finish posting about my trip (the last 2 days, to be exact). Maybe it’s because I’ve been so busy adjusting back to normal life and getting into the routine of working full-time. Or sheer laziness?

But no, those are probably just lame excuses for what would otherwise be denial.

Truth is, I felt that the finality of it all would substantiate the fact that it had really come to an end.

As time goes on, my time in Europe seems to feel less and less real, and further and further away. Cultural sensitivities are becoming more muted and memories are feeling hazy. It’s kind of frightening how quickly things change. But hey, more reason to travel again, right?

Good thing that I finished blogging while I was still there, because the following words captured my experience in its realest form:

September 14, 2013
This post will undoubtedly be the dweebiest thing I’ve ever written, so just bear with me here.

Growing up, I’ve always hated reading. Something about sitting in one spot for a long time without doing anything physically active drives me insane. There is one exception though. Harry Potter. Put me in a room with nothing else but a Harry Potter book, and I’ll be fine.

All my geeky dreams came true today. About an hour outside of London is Leavesden Studios, where you can see the behind-the-scenes sets, props, and everything else of the Harry Potter movies. All the tickets for the time we were in London were sold out, but I managed to find tickets through an outside travel agency. Yeah, it was a little bit more expensive, but hey–if the Harry Potter series can get me to sit in a chair for 8 hours without going absolutely mental, I think it’s worth a few extra pounds.

We took a bus (which was dressed to the nines in Harry Potter decals) from central London directly to the Warner Brother’s Studio. I felt like I was a kid again, heading on a school bus on my way to some sort of crazy field trip. I imagine this is how some people feel about Disneyland.

For those of you Harry Potter fans who can’t make it out to England, don’t worry–I jam-packed this post with a ton of photos (perhaps too many).

Warner-Bros-Bus

Warner-Bros-Studio-Tickets

Right upon entering the studios, they take you into a large theater room and show a video, emcee’d by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson about their experience filming all 8 films, how much of a family all the cast and crew became, and what to expect of the visit. While the video was thoroughly awesome, I was itching in my seat to be let into the studio. You do get a peep of the cupboard under the stairs while you wait, though:

Cupboard-Under-The-Stairs

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Arriving into London brought me back to a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time–being able to read and understand everything around me. I was getting pretty used to having to rely on basic sense and context clues to figure everything out, and I almost forgot how much easier life is when you’re actually able to fully comprehend everything. On the other hand though, it was sort of a reality check about how soon my summer in Europe was coming to an end and how much I was going to miss this place (language barriers and all).

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underground

We arrived relatively late and took the underground to the house we were staying at. We’re staying with a couple in a charming, low-key residential neighborhood on a street called Brightwell Crescent, right off of the Tooting Broadway station. The couple that has so graciously offered their house to us have also lived in California before (and they’re both UC Santa Cruz slugs!) Small world. They are one of the funniest and most hospitable hosts we’ve had so far. They have eaten their way around London, so I was more than excited to hear all of their recommendations on where to get our teas, Sunday roasts, and South Indian food.

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