Impulsive Shopper

Right. I am not the kind of person that storms into a shop when she saw a sign that says 70% off the latest items. Please. I’m not a girl.

But little bubbles formed at the corner of my mouth when I saw 70% off round way ticket to Frankfurt.

*fangirl scream*

That’s how I resigned from my job and backpacked for 4 months around Europe in 2008.

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The thing was, I didn’t know anyone in Frankfurt but I had a friend studying in Cologne. That’s 3 hours away. She skipped her master’s class to pick me up. World class friend, she is.

I stayed with her for about 6 weeks before deciding to go to Barcelona. I have another friend there and was supposed to give him a souvenir from Malaysia.

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Who would have thought that I ended up flying to Bordeaux? It should be serious offence, my friend’s indifference towards the names of the places in Europe while going through the list of the destinations displayed on Germanwings site.

So I flew to a place I did not plan to go. Big deal. I’ll just take a train to Irún (France-Spain border) and later a bus to Barcelona. Problem solved.

In the meantime, I got to enjoy Bordeaux.

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I loved the cathedrals. So Gothic and beautiful and scary 🙂

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Can you believe that this was the court house? That’s mindbogglingly awesome!

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And the fountain looked a tad scary too. Maybe this angle is better.

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Amazing! It looked so majestic. How do I build these things in my garden?

I finally got to Barcelona a week later and spent quality time getting to know the city before visiting Madrid again. It’s so different than the Madrid I knew in 2005.

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There were less tourist. More beggars. More misery. The crisis had started.

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I went to my favourite place; Plaza Mayor, but it had lost its charm.

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The city was  different. The were a lot of anger, hostility and rudeness. I wonder if the attitude was always there or situation forced them out. I always thought Madrid was home but I changed my mind after an old lady told me to ‘go back to my country‘ and how she hates Colombians.

That was uncalled for but if she truly met one, the Colombian would not let that get away unpunished, so I behaved.

Next stop: Seville.

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I loved the people; kind, generous and a bit mischievous. Of all Spain, I love the southern accent the most. The drawl, the little breath they make when they pronounce S and T side by side on the same syllable, the lack of personal space, the food, the songs, etc. I love Andalucía!

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The only complain I have is the lack of grass. That would be all.

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I had several stops more before falling in love with Santander. I wish I could park my yacht carelessly too.

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Or maybe cheaper ones over there.

Santander is by far one of my favourite Spanish cities after Bilbao and all the cities in the south. Sorry Madrid. You are no longer on the list.

With a bit of miracle, I secured a ticket to Edinburgh.

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In less than 2 hours, the train left me at the Newcastle train station, where a friend waited for me. I wished I could stay longer in Edinburgh. The hills made me fertile. OK. The men jumpstarted my hormones. Man, I sounded like I’m a full swing female were-wolf.

*Auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuw*

Maybe it’s something in the accent or something malicious spreading in the air. Very fishy, I know.

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It’s nice to finally see tufts of green grass again.

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The park was nice. It’s clean, people having civilized conversation and playing with their dogs. Sanity. It’s all I need for a while.

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What do you think a great host would do?

They’d bring you do Alnwick Castle, of course. If you’re a true Potterhead, then this information would not need explanation.

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This gentleman’s name was Harry Hotspur. Kinda get you thinking of another famous Harry, doesn’t it?

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You can do a lot of stuff. Like archery or like me, target practicing. You know…in case the muggles found this place. It’s unfair to fight them with magic.

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I heard the heir of the castle is a single man. Quite young for my taste but I think I can live with that.

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This little cottage was situated just outside the gates of Alnwick Castle. The owners weren’t there when we sneaked up their rose bushes.

Oh, this is it. Life.

I think it would be my greatest achievement, if I could own a little cottage like this in any part of Europe.

How long is this bloody crisis anyway?

Wanderlusting Europe

In summer 2005, I got a scholarship to study Spanish Language and Culture but I end up touring Europe.

Best time of my life.

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Photo: Madrid – Granada bus ticket

I had always dreamed of traveling around the world and had stole pictures of Europe from the library but nothing could prepared me for the reality.

There was no word for it. I was overwhelmed by the smell, sights and sound. I can’t even find a better word than happy. I don’t know if ‘blessed’ fit the profile but I knew ‘fulfilled’ was some part of it.

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Photo: Bus ticket from Barcelona – Paris (You can get a Euroline pass to 51 countries from 185 Euros for 15 days. See Eurolines website for more.)

It was a scary experience too. I did not know anyone and that was my first trip overseas but I came too far to say ‘maybe next time.’

It was not a known fact that a single Malaysian Malay/English/Spanish/un-petit-peu-de-French speaking girl would travel alone in unknown territory. I was immediately dubbed ‘crazy’ by many peers.

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Photo: Apartment rent receipt from a luxurious unit across the Prague Florenc Bus Station.

I enjoyed Prague the most, of all the countries that I have been. There was a different vibe; mysterious and beckoning on the pebbled streets.

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I was robbed by a group of gypsies in Rome but I never felt that was a bad day. I met a good Samaritan, slipped in a deaf tour with him because he knew a friend who knew someone who could let us in for free and ate the most glorious food with ample Italian kisses.

I don’t know any day more perfect than that one.

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Photo: Ticket from London – Brussels

Funny thing about London was that it was a city of contradiction. Coming from a third world country and a country being colonized by the British Empire, everyone was fed different facts about England and my first impression did not meet any of it.

One thing that didn’t change is that the Englishmen are always the gentlemen.

I told a fellow English passenger in the bus that a Portuguese sat close-by harassed me. In seconds, it was chaos. The fight lasted for about 15 minutes and both broke their nose but later apologized.

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Photo: Frankfurt – Rome

I was not particularly into Frankfurt. The people scared me. I need some time to adjust to the normal volume pitch of the locals. I don’t find them very friendly when they’re yelling on top of their lungs but it’s the norm. Surprisingly, I later found out that they made the best of friends when you earn their trust.

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To be honest I only understood the second last line 🙂

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Photo: Marseilles – Barcelona

My surprise destination was Marseilles. I never planned to go there but it was kind of an accident that left me no choice.

I could never thank the accident enough. Marseilles is the epitome of vintage, free, wandering soul. The strong wind, the old port, the clear turquoise water, the lines of parked yachts, the fresh seafood, the freckles of the waving children, flapping skirts of old ladies, gleaming teeth of the old men. I will never forget the first time I got the glimpse of the famous port. I never recovered that piece of my heart left in Marseilles.

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Photo: Metro map of Barcelona

I have been to Barcelona more than 3 times but I have this feeling that Barcelona did not like me very much. There was always something that made my stay unbearable. Be it a rude remark from a local that I took seriously, unsympathetic friend that preferred to let me sleep at the airport for 2 days than offer any sort of refuge or being ignored when asked for help.

I don’t know why all these happen just when I arrived in Barcelona and sincerely hoped to God that every single time it would be different. It never did.

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Photo: Spanish grammar notes

I am lucky enough to be able to reach out for my dreams just because I was determined to learn a foreign tongue. Although I did learn French for 4 years in secondary school, the foundation made me decide to try Spanish and there lies my road to the world.

I am hoping for a new adventure, a new luck and a new place to tread this year. Maybe this time it would truly happen.

And you, yes, YOU. what are you waiting for? If not now, then when?

Happy wandering, wanderfolks!