3//21 | I’m back…

What better time is there to resurrect a failed blog than when you’re holed up in your room for two weeks under quarantine? Granted, it’s taken a whole week just for me to remember this blog existed. Ah well.

Here’s the thing: I was traveling for work right as the virus became more serious on the East Coast. I’d been on four planes in as many days, with a conference of 300+ people squished in between. The chance of potentially carrying the virus was too great for me to ignore, so as soon as I got back I turned my room into a little apartment. It didn’t take much – just a microwave, minifridge, and the food to go with it – I’m fortunate to have a room with a bathroom.

I’m also lucky enough to be able to work from home. All of this great, yes, and I thought hey, I’m an introvert who loves spending time alone and doing my own thing. This will be great. What I didn’t anticipate is how insanity-inducing it is to be confined to one small space. I can’t go outside because to do that I’d have to go through shared spaces in the house. I could maybe go out onto the porch roof for some fresh air, but it’s not the most stable roof in existence and I’d rather not chance it.

I’ve read loads – maybe 20 books. I’m re-watching Criminal Minds and Disney movies. I’m playing a lot of phone/PC games and I even briefly revisited Omegle chat before remembering how horrible it is.

The one thing I would love to do is frustratingly hovering out of reach – writing. It’s the perfect time to really sink my teeth into a plot and it’s just not happening. Go figure. Today I’ll be bullying myself into doing some writing exercises from Complete the Story to facilitate at least some creative output. I know where at least some partial blame lies – the copious reading and watching. I’ve found over the years that if there’s too much fictional input there will be no creative output, even if I have ideas or current projects. Tomorrow I may have a cleanse and ban all input outside of music and that may help.

I’ve just gotten “room service” from my brother – pancakes, I think.

Until next time,

7//31 | Madrid/Valencia

***This post is very long, because it was an eventful day***

“I had a dream you drank all the orange juice without me, and I was really upset,” Grace told me as we were getting ready to leave in the morning. This made me laugh – I’d had the same dream.

It was the only time I laughed that morning, as everything went downhill from there. Even though we left with what we thought was plenty of time, we found ourselves rushing to the metro. It didn’t help that my phone decided it didn’t want to work the GPS correctly, and we ended up detouring for a bit because of it. We arrived into the train station with five minutes before our train left. I put my phone into my coat pocket, grabbed my suitcase, and hustled up and down stairs.

This station had a bit of an odd thing regarding departures: there’s an upstairs departure section and a downstairs one, and they both have the same platform numbers. So, when you’re looking for your train on the board, make sure to note which floor it’s on. Ours was downstairs, so down the escalator we went. We reached the departure area, and to our bewilderment, there was a security x-ray machine all luggage had to go through. And the line was huge. I was a little annoyed the guy we booked our tickets with yesterday didn’t inform us of this. So, if you’re traveling by highspeed train in Europe, make sure you get there a good half an hour before your train departs.

Anyway. We looked at the line, looked at each other, and said yep, we’ve missed our train. I went for my phone to check the time, and my stomach dropped. It wasn’t in my coat pocket. I quickly checked my other pockets, and my heart sank to meet my stomach. My phone was gone.

We retraced our steps, didn’t see it. Asked the metro attendant, hadn’t seen it. Went to the station lost and found, no dice. Also, our expensive train reservations were non-transferrable, so we’re also out twenty euros. At this point, I accepted that my phone was gone for good. Which was a huge inconvenience, since we’d been primarily using mine due to Grace’s phone provider being steep on the international data roaming. However, I was mostly upset at all the lost memories on it. My cloud backups had stopped a few months ago because it reached the storage limit and I’d kept forgetting to upgrade it. Notes spanning the last four years, contacts, pictures and videos…especially ones of my dear dog, Cooper, who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure a week before I left.

Queue panic attack. This was the first one I’d had since my bus broke down and eventually died in Austin, Texas last year, but luckily I was able to regain control pretty quickly. Okay, my phone was gone. No use dwelling on it, we had an Airbnb host to meet in Valencia. We trooped back to the ticket sales counter and bought new reservations on a train leaving in an hour. “You will want to go half an hour before,” the lady told us, “because of the security lines.” Yeah, thanks, got that bit.

I feel this should be an honest account, so for the sake of my authorial integrity and the imagery of the post: I was crying (silently) for the next five hours. My eyes felt like they were going to liquefy.

I needed to get into my Airbnb account to message our host about what happened, and that if he’d Whatsapped me I hadn’t received the message, so we headed to a cafe. That done, we headed for the platforms to make sure we didn’t miss this train, too. I guess they’re looking for bombs in the luggage? Gun smuggling? Drugs? I’m not sure, since they only look at your bags and leave your person alone, but whatever it is they don’t want it on their high-speed trains. Normal trains, do whatever the hell you want.

The day’s oddness increased tenfold when we arrived in Valencia and met our Airbnb host, Paul. “The police found your phone,” he told me. “They called me about it. It must have been stolen.”

Holy shit. My tendency to leave notifications up on the notification bar for days on end had just saved the day – my phone is secured by both fingerprints and a pin number, but you can still see the notifications while it’s locked. I’d left Paul’s last Whatsapp message up, and the police called him – the only Spanish number I’ve ever had – in hopes of finding the owner.

Paul called the Madrid police back, and they told us I had to file a report with the local Valencia police. Paul, bless his heart, took me down to the station and stayed with me through the whole (lengthy) report filing. Luckily for me, since he was able to help bridge the gap between my poor Spanish and the police’s poor English. (Paul’s actually from Romania, so his Spanish was a bit broken but a damn sight better than mine. I’ve decided it would be prudent to resume my Spanish education.) And, just like that, I was given an address to go to at five where my phone would be waiting for me. 10/10 police, would recommend. I’m not sure if it was because I was an American tourist not staying in one place for long or if I was just incredibly lucky, but everything fell into place pretty seemlessly.

Unfortunately, Paul has had a far different experience than mine – three months ago his car was broken into and its entire contents were stolen, including all the car’s paperwork. That kind of thing is a lot more difficult to track down, from what I could gather, but that meant that Paul’s car is unusable until they’re found. It’s a Romanian car, and to get new paperwork apparently he’d have to get it towed all the way back to Romania which would cost a couple thousand euros. I’m hoping to get a message from him soon that the papers were recovered.

By the time we got back to the apartment and told Grace the good news, it was already nearing three so Grace and headed out in the direction of where my phone would be. This is going to sound very silly, but we hailed a taxi for the first time in both our lives. What can I say – Uber is doing well to take over. We got dropped off in front of the police building to identify where it was, then struck out toward a strip of shops. A shop called Flying Tiger ended up taking all the time we had to kill, as it’s one of those that’s filled with all the alluring trinkets, arts and crafts, kitchenware, snacks, toiletries, and everything in between that your heart could desire. All cute, and all very, very cheap. A dangerous store for someone who can’t resist tiny, cute trinkets.

This post is unflatteringly bulky, so I’ll wrap it up quickly and leave our evening out, as it was quite mundane and doesn’t make for great content. We retrieved my beloved phone and I promised to never call it a stupid piece of shit again (at the time of writing, I can assure you this promise has been broken many times since then.)

We did a bit of sightseeing after.

6//31 | Madrid

Over the course of today I think we praised the weather about a hundred times. The Netherlands and Germany had felt nice coming from our freezing American east coast, yes, but Madrid was actually in the realm of warm. No tights under jeans for these girls.

Setting out from the Airbnb we chose a random direction to wander, and somehow chose the right one to stumble across the palace preparing for their monthly solemn changing of the guard. We watched from across the street, and boy was it impressive. Lengthy though, I think we stayed about forty minutes and we left before it finished. If you’re interested, it’s the first Wednesday of the month at 12pm. We got out a little late to actually see it from a proper vantage so I’d say make sure to get there at least an hour before that.

We moved on, wandering with no direction until we accidentally reached the metro stop we used last night to get to the Airbnb. In that square we purchased our first postcards, both determined to remember for once to post them. We moved on, stopping to purchase disposable cameras and to admire several living statues. The sky was clear and the sound of drums strained through the air, enticing us into another square. A group of women was the source of the drumming, a demonstration by an organization devoted to stopping female genital mutilation. On the edges of the square stood people in pop-culture costume; Mickey and Minnie, Chewbacca, Winnie The Pooh…the juxtaposition was slightly jarring.

On our way out of the square we came across the first “pretty” bakery of the trip. The window displays lure you inside, where the smell of sugar overwhelms your senses. This wasn’t the last pretty bakery we walked by in Madrid, but it’s the only one we stopped in. Gotta make some sacrifices for my bank account and arteries. If you’re interested in the pastries we bought, and the food we ate right after, click here.

Sustenance achieved, we headed to the train station because, annoyingly, high-speed trains aren’t included in our rail pass. You’re given discounts on reserving a seat on high-speed trains, but that’s it. Irritating and yet another cost, but we decided it was worth it for the trains to Valencia and Barcelona (without, the journey to Valencia would have been ten hours instead of four, and Valencia to Barcelona would have been six instead of three.) What was most annoying was the fact we had to reserve these trains through the ticket office at the station, when it could easily be an online process. Instead, we had to take a numbered ticket and wait a little over an hour and a half to see someone. If you’re interested, the price of reservation depends on which train service it’s through. Madrid to Valencia was ten euros each, Valencia to Barcelona was six.

Madrid’s main train station is right next to a large park, so we decided to wander through while waiting for six o’clock, when Museo Prado began its two hours of free admission. Unfortunately for us, even in the off-season, the Prado is insanely popular and when we arrived at six, the line to get in stretched around two of its walls. Oh well, next time.

“Shit, it’s day six and we don’t have a picture together. Quick, smile.”

5//31 | Dusseldorf

Dusseldorf was not good to us sleep-wise. The room was stiflingly hot and very bright, the bed was hard as a rock, but mostly we were still hopelessly jet lagged. We kept chatting intermittently, and at one point I dissolved into uncontrollable laughter while thinking about my green pineapple mishap. It felt like we were ten again, and I fell asleep with a comforting sense of nostalgia.

During checkout the next morning I had the pleasure of hearing my German last name pronounced correctly and without hesitation, and it made me happier than perhaps it ought. We went in search of a bakery and found one not far. Once again, the language barrier made me feel terribly dumb, a feeling that’s following me from country to country. I would love to ask baking-related questions, learn from the bakers of the world, but my lack of other langauges is a severe handicap.

We then spent over an hour following Maps as it got increasingly confused as to the direction of the train station which had been only a fifteen minute walk from the bakery. Finally at the station, we settled in a cafe with a coffee and the intent to mooch wifi only to realize after we’d paid that wifi was not to be found.

Caffeine makes Grace happy

Arriving at the airport five hours before our flight was extreme overkill, yes, however we wanted time to shop and eat, and use their wifi (Grace’s phone provider charges $10 a day to use international data roaming). Most importantly, though, we had time to hunt down some hair ties. In Enschede Grace and I realized we only had one hair tie each, and that night we both had dreams about them snapping. Sad, I know, but being unable to put your hair up is horrible. Especially for Grace, whose hair is to her bellybutton.

Dusseldorf airport had shops, restaurants, and plenty of seating before security, which was pleasant and we were able to find our precious hair ties. Purchase in hand, we settled at one of the numerous seating areas to finish the last of our Lidl food. Across from us were couches, with three men sleeping on them. I paid them no notice until six airport police approached and woke them up, very nicely, and asked them to leave, also very nicely. It became apparent the men were homeless, and it was nice to see the police treat them decently.

Non-American airport security is so peaceful. This concludes my thoughts on non-American airport security.

I’d never flown Air Europa before this, but I would 100% fly with them again. Boarding was easy, they didn’t so much as blink at our luggage, and the seats were comfy. I decided to pay attention to the safety demonstration for the first time since I was very small, then remembered why I usually don’t as I spent the two and a half hour flight being assaulted by thoughts of plane crashes.

Not sure where this is, but it’s one of the only pictures from today

And in the time it takes to drive to Grace’s, hello Madrid! I’ve taken the most amount of Spanish lessons in my life which comforted me, despite not being able to recall the majority of what I learned. It felt familiar and easy, and I was certain things would start coming back to me during our five days in Spain.

4//31 | Enschede

Today started with strange black tea and a fight with a website. I don’t know if anyone’s had the same experience, but RyanAir’s website seemed to hate me, almost like they didn’t want my money. It took me a while and a great deal of self control not to shout at my screen, and in the end I managed to complete my purchase two hours later fortified by a coffee and pastries.

Uh, Maia, you’re on a rail journey through Europe. What could you possibly need and airline for?

Thanks for asking! The night before we left, Grace and I were looking over the map Eurail sent with our passes trying to get a bit more of a feel for our route. We were naming places we really wanted to go and linking them together. The result was a bloated route we could never pull off in a single month. So I said hey, European airfare is cheap, let’s look at augmenting with a few flights. And that’s what we’ve done – we’re flying from Dusseldorf to Madrid, then Budapest to Paris and Paris to Dublin, where we fly back to the States.

By the time that was done we only had a few hours before our train and encumbered as we were with our luggage, decided to take care of some other planning-booking-money things that needed our attention before walking back to the train station.

The train to Dusseldorf was wholly uneventful and we arrived without consequence. It was dark, but a different sort of dark to Enschede. Dusseldorf had an edge, Grace and I agreed on that quite quickly. The hostel we were staying at was a fifteen-minute walk from the station, made slightly longer by Maps fucking up and telling me to go the wrong way. Turning around, Grace and I also agreed, was a dumb thing to do when you’re two girls who are obviously tourists, walking at night, so we let Maps reroute and kept going the way we started. Turning around feels like a very unsafe thing to do, like you’re putting a target on your back.

The hostel turned out to be more of a hotel, and the guy at the desk kindly let us have a room with a private bathroom free of charge. We went up to the third floor in the tiniest elevator I’ve ever been in, dumped our luggage, and headed for the local Lidl. Lidl, like Aldi, is one of those stores where you can’t help but exclaim over every price and perhaps but more than you need because everything is so cheap. Despite that and our intense hunger, we did pretty well and came away with three meals’ worth of food and two tiny bottles of wine for twenty euros.

A sad thing happened, though. We were looking at butter to go with our bread, and there were some little third-size sticks that looked perfect for our needs. So we grabbed a couple and go check out, pleased with our findings. We get back to the hotel and Grace eagerly tucked into the bread and unwrapped the butter.

“Eugh, I don’t know what this is, but it’s not butter. It smells disgusting.”

It did indeed smell disgusting. A quick Google translation later and we find we bought fresh baker’s yeast. It was a sad mistake.

3//31 | Nijverdal

We managed to get up at eleven which was pretty good for the first morning of jet lag, especially with staying up way too late. Tia cooked us a delicious brunch in her mom’s kitchen (her mom is wonderful and I someday I want her to meet my mom). Grace got to try the delightful Dutch custom of sprinkles on bread and wondered why America has Pop Tarts when we could have this instead.

Our brief time in Amsterdam came to a close as we made our way to the train station where we activated our Global Eurail Pass. We have twenty-two-day continuous passes, which allow us unlimited travel on trains, busses and ferries within Europe. Next stop: Nijverdal, hometown of my dear friend Wilco. We learn on the first train that we’re required to fill our the little journey recording section of our rail pass, otherwise the pass is invalid. You have to fill out the date, time, starting station, ending station, and transportation type (train, bus or ferry), every time you get on a new one. At the end of your journey you have to send this in so the company can process your data, and they’ll send you a free gift in return. A little weird, but sure.

Nijverdal is a tiny town built around a textile factory, and it was actually here that the industrial revolution in the Netherlands started. It has a true small-town feel and after the constant business of Amsterdam, it was a soothing stop. Wilco met us at the train station and we went for lunch at a nearby cafe called Lunchroom De Harlekijn.

The Food Bit:
Grace and I ordered the same thing because we hadn’t looked at the menu and suddenly the waitress was standing there waiting. My tired brain looked down the Dutch-only menu and picked out a word I knew: brie. What came out wasn’t what I expected at all. Half a baguette, open, topped with melted brie, mixed nuts (Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts), and pineapple rings with an attractive garnish on the side. It was one of those sandwiches where you’re not quite sure how you’re going to tackle eating it, so to buy myself some time I ate some of the garnish.

Remember how I said I was tired? Yeah…

The first piece was cucumber, so I popped it into my mouth and started chewing. Hmm, I thought, this cucumber skin is unusually tough. I mentally shrug and kept chewing; maybe I’ve just never had Dutch cucumber before. Wilco was across from me and Grace was to my left and I vaguely register Grace saying, “huh, I’ve never had green pineapple before.”

I looked down at my plate. There’s no pineapple, only cantaloupe. It still took my brain several painful, sluggish moments to catch up and realize that yes, the cucumber skin was unusually tough because it was green pineapple. Oh.
“Oh, do you just eat the skin?” Grace asked me, having realized what was in my mouth.
“Yeah…it’s like…cucumber skin,” I mumbled back, thanking the stars my makeup was hiding my flaming cheeks. Thankfully the matter was closed and I could die of embarrassment in peace.

Anyhow, the sandwich itself was…interesting. It worked, at least while it was still hot, but I don’t think I’d have it again. Perhaps without the nuts, I would. It stretched into two meals though, so that was nice.

Taken after the pineapple ordeal.

It was wonderful to see Wilco again, and for the first time not in a hospital. He looked great; his decision to stop treatments (they’d stopped working) very much agreed with him. He gave me a copy of the first Harry Potter book in Dutch, something he and I had talked about before when discussing my Dutch language education. Perhaps reading a book I know practically by heart would help the words sink in. Very sweetly, he also gave Grace a Dutch copy of the first Maze Runner book which she loved. In turn, I had knitted him a hat which he immediately put on and looked great on him. He said in his blog post that his mom reinforced it so it’ll last longer.

Nijverdal no longer has a hotel, so I found a little apartment in Enschede where we’d have to travel to tomorrow anyway since that’s where the train to Dusseldorf goes from. What should normally take half an hour on the train became an hour and a half due to a disruption that forced us to go from Nijverdal to Almelo, get on a bus to Hengelo, then back on the train the remaining distance to Enschede. This meant that by the time we got into the apartment, back home Jake (my wonderful boyfriend) was leaving for work and had no time to Skype. The apartment was tiny and adorable and, naturally, I forgot to take a picture of it. We showered and wrote while Blue Planet played quietly in the background, and remembered to take melatonin at the right time for us to sleep at the right time in another abnormally comfortable bed.

Are the Dutch the mattress masters?

2//31 | Amsterdam

The images are too large, I know, but I’m racing against a dying laptop and battling with bad WiFi and a glitching website

Unfortunately, we started our European adventure with a Starbucks cup in hand. Shameful, I know, especially because it cost about $6, but sometimes you just need the caffeine like a vampire needs blood. We stepped off the train in Amsterdam feeling invigorated and decided to walk to my friend Tia’s house where we were staying the night. The hour-long walk felt amazing after spending the majority of the past twenty-four hours sitting down.

Walking through Amsterdam made me feel how it always makes me feel – like I want to drop everything and move there for an indefinite amount of time. I’m in love with its architecture, its culture, its people. I have friends there, and when I mention I was learning Dutch for a while last year they always ask “why?!” like I’d gone a little crazy. It’s because of you, you wonderful people, and my insatiable need to know what’s being said around me. You start talking in Dutch around me and it’s this big secret code that I need to crack, even though I’m sure you’re talking about highly mundane things.

Tia has a huge personality and is unashamedly herself. Everything she does and wears and says she owns, and I love her dearly. She lives with her family in this amazing double-house-with-many-apartments complex-type thing with a beautiful backyard and located right next to Vondelpark. Tia’s apartment is a great space: you come into the kitchen area from the yard, then up a couple steps into the main room where her bed is (incidentally one of the comfiest beds I’ve slept on). The bathroom is above the kitchen, accessed by a little white ladder in the main room. Or, as Tia does, you can simply launch onto the bed to get down. The only picture I have from this setup is from when I was here in April/May with Bull, and it’s of Dan, completely naked on Tia’s toilet. I definitely didn’t take this picture so I’m not sure how it happened. I’m going to spare your eyes and not post that one.

The Food Bit:
Changing and brushing your teeth after a long travel period feels like you’re being reborn. We didn’t want to take the time to shower since by the time we reached Tia’s it was already late afternoon. We met up with Zöe, one of Tia’s friends I met in York on New Year’s Eve. She’s extremely nice, super smart, and is studying for her Masters in history. She took us to a little ramen place which now boasts the best pork ramen I’ve ever had. Granted, this isn’t a difficult title to gain as I tend to lean more toward pho when choosing a noodle soup.

The broth was scrumptiously fatty and the vegetables just what I needed having not eaten since our pre-flight meal.

Pork ramen

We ended up back at Zöe’s adorable apartment where conversation flowed easily from subject to subject. Tia and Zöe were interested to hear about homeschooling since it’s practically impossible to legally homeschool in the Netherlands. They told us about growing up in post-80s Amsterdam where used needles littered the streets and, by nine, Zöe could tell within seconds whether someone was addicted to heroin or alcohol. We talked about politics and guys, Zöe’s studies and Tia’s dad, who’s one of the top stage lighting technicians in the world. Farming, sexism, homophobia, Bull’s European tour (Tia is now their manager)…and suddenly five hours had passed and it was midnight. We said goodbye to Zöe with a parting shot of Polish honey vodka and went on our way.

It just so happened that on our one short night in Amsterdam, one of Tia’s favorite places was having a closing party. Pacific Parc was just bought by someone and will undergo a change that it seems none of the locals want. It’s a damn shame because that place was awesome. When we got there the line was out the door and grew steadily as we waited to enter. Inside was already packed, and it seemed Tia knew almost everyone in there. She’d also worked a season in the kitchen so the bar staff knew her and getting drinks was mercifully easy the first time. Of course, as soon as we bought them we all had to pee so with unopened Heineken cans in hand we waited in line for a good twenty minutes. Well, the cans were in our hands about five before they got too cold and annoying to hold. Tia’s went in her pants pocket, Grace’s in her flannel pocket, and I with my tiny jeans pockets already filled unbuttoned the top two buttons on my cardigan and shoved it there. Cold boobs seemed preferrable to holding a can.

Boobs make for a good can holder

We stayed out ‘til four, moshing our hearts out with energy purely sustained by adrenaline. I can’t remember who the bands were, and my WiFi is barely letting me save my work, let alone Google something. I ran into three friends: Nick, the previous drummer from Canshaker Pi (an Amsterdam band I met through Bull, and spent my twentieth birthday with them in Brighton last year). He’s home briefly between travels before heading to South America to I think study language, but we were shouting over extremely loud music and my auditory processing is sub-par at the best of times. When I found Nick to say goodbye as we were leaving he was outside with Marieke, who I met in Brighton through the Canshakers (the bass player is her boyfriend). She’s studying art at the University of Amsterdam and is an effortlessly beautiful person. I also bumped into Jan, who ran sound for Canshaker Pi on tour. He recognized me immediately which made me feel wonderful – people often don’t for one reason or another. All three of them were extremely surprised and happy to see me, and if memory serves all three said “holy shit!”

It was a good day.

1//31 | Transit

Things you probably shouldn’t do when you’re in a polar vortex: take an eight-hour bus to New York.

Things we did while in a polar vortex: taking an eight-hour bus to New York. Do you know how many hills and mountains are between Pittsburgh and NYC? The answer is a lot. How well were the roads plowed and salted? I’d rate it about a 2/10, though all the people in ditches we’ve passed, the semi jackknifed on the other side of the road, and the midsized box truck rolled on its side would perhaps disagree with my assessment.

Jackknifed truck on highway

I’d like to thank the Megabus driver for expertly and safely navigating through the shitty roads and getting us to New York in one piece (and also my dad for getting us from Mt. Washington to the Convention Center on some of the worst roads I’ve seen in Pittsburgh). I would also like to take this moment to shame the Megabus website and updating services that failed to inform me our bus was delayed an hour until we’d already been on the bus for five hours. Oh, and their onboard wifi which gave me dial-up internet flashbacks.

Grace and I were seated in the front row of the top level, which affords you a bit of extra leg room and a unique view I would recommend to anyone who doesn’t suffer from motion sickness. For the first ten minutes or so it was vaguely terrifying, like being in a VR driving simulation with no control over the vehicle. We got to see just how bad the roads were and just how great our driver was. The trip did take more like ten hours, but hey, we didn’t die.

Once in New York, we were immediately greeted by the usual interesting New York sights, such as a man trying desperately to open a fire hydrant, a man rifling through a trash can directly in front of us, and a man being questioned by three police officers in the LIRR station. Penn Station to Jamaica cost an astonishing $10 each, but once we got to Jamaica we learned a handy little trick for the $5 air train tickets. If you don’t already have a MetroCard, you can buy a new one for a dollar and put two fares on one card.

The next ten or so hours weren’t all that exciting so I’ll quickly sum up the pertinent bits. If you’re like me and sometimes make assumptions based on experience, then maybe you too would have missed this weird rule of Norwegian Airlines: you get a free carry-on and personal item, yes, however, both items together must weigh no more than 22lbs, which took me by surprise a whole lot as I’ve never been on an airline that does this. Unfortunately for me, my backpack weighs a whopping 19lbs (a fact my shoulders have been happy to complain about).

This meant that Norwegian made me pay $100 of my precious budget to check my carry-on. A bit of luck was with us, though, because Grace was also over on her combined weight but the check-in guy was young and cute and thought we were young and cute so let us check just mine and Grace got to keep hers (I like to believe it was also because of my signature “kicked puppy” expression and lucky traveling necklace).

The Food Bit:
The TSA line moved pretty smoothly and once through we realized we hadn’t eaten a proper meal since dinner the night before. We ended up at The Local and paid an arm and a leg for sub-par food. (I forgot to take pictures because I was just that hungry.) Grace got the chicken flatbread pizza, I got the chicken baguette, and we got an order of dirty chips (smothered homemade potato chips) to share. Grace’s description of her pizza was simply “underwhelming yet kind of satisfying,” in that it was food and she was hungry. My baguette could be described in the same way, and the only green on the plate were two sad little pickle slices. I’m not sure if there’s a debate on this or not, but personally, I think most sandwiches should have some type of vegetable on them. The chips were dirty in a bad way; drenched in the same barbeque sauce as my sandwich, bits of salty beef brisket, and the teeniest tiniest smidgen of garlic aioli you could imagine. Oh, and they didn’t have to-go containers which, in an airport especially, I thought was weird. All-in-all, not great and left me gasping for water.

The plane we were on was shiny and new and had screens on the seat backs and they gave you free water unlike other budget airlines I’ve used (I’m looking at you, WOW Air), but the only thing I cared about was that Grace and I had a row to ourselves which meant we could both ignore the coveted seat back screens and pass out. Who knew sitting on a bus for ten hours could be so exhausting.

plane window view