Bristol in photos – part 1

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Review – Vessi Footwear (waterproof sneakers!)

Recently I decided to take a chance on a pair of waterproof sneakers.  They look exactly like Nikes or Adidas in my personal opinion with a minor flair here and there that is different.  It’s just enough difference that they can get away with it but let’s be honest, most sneakers nowadays are starting to look alike to me and I can hardly tell the difference outside of the logos.

I think that the wonders of the internet brought me down some dark hole that eventually led me to some advertisement or commercial for them. To be honest, probably with my random surfing of Kickstarter and constant lookout for waterproof items, the internet decided to target me with these shoes and I am 100% okay with it.

I took a gamble and bought these shoes direct from Vessi’s website. I had missed their Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaign so it was just like a regular retailer for me at this point. It did say that they were pre-orders and would be delivered mid to late July. I was okay with this because Seattle doesn’t stat raining until fall anyway so I had plenty of time for these shoes to show up.

I have to be honest, I got a little over zealous with the purchasing and bought two pairs because I couldn’t decide which color I liked better and so I splurged on two pairs. It is excessive, I admit it and I own it. I bought the shoes then promptly forgot about them for the next 8 weeks because there was no additional communication or update about when the shoes would be shipped. I did get the occasional reminder via some advertisement about the shoe but the thoughts were fleeting.

At one point I did tell a few people about how excited I was to be getting waterproof sneakers and surprisingly enough, they all doubted the shoe.  And for whatever reason, I had fallen into the trap of the marketing and hadn’t done more than a few video views on the waterproof capability of the shoe.  Usually I will do deep research and make sure that the product is actually something I want to purchase because I believe in it. For some reason, I didn’t do the same due diligence this time around and just splurged. I think deep down, I really liked the shoes regardless of whether they were actually water proof.  I liked the way they looked and I was sold. Looking back I really took a gamble on the shoe, the comfort, the waterproof claims and even the size.

I finally got the shipment notification and I will tell you now that as of July/August 2018 – this was the worst customer service experience I have ever had. Same with DHL. I got a delivery notification from DHL and Vessi saying that the shoes had arrived and were dropped off at my mailbox in my apartment building. In a period of 5 hours the boxes went missing. But here’s the thing, I live in a mixed use building with banks, salons, coffee shops and retail stores that are open during the day. The shoes arrived at noon and I got home at 5pm, which all fall within opening hours of every business in the building that has full visibility of our front door. I spent the next 5 days chasing DHL who claimed that the driver dropped off the shoes at the mailbox in the lobby, working with my building management to view security footage (that found nothing about a DHL delivery or stolen packages), and chasing Vessi via email, Twitter and Instagram to get zero response from them.

While I understand that after the shipment got into the hands of DHL, it was their responsibility to get me my package, I wanted acknowledgement from Vessi. They were active on all of their social media accounts and refused to respond to me to even just let me know there was a person on the other end. It was terrible.

A few days later, my shoes miraculously appeared at my door step.

The first thing I did when I got my shoes was to run them underneath the sink to check if they were actually waterproof and they are. I haven’t tested them in rain yet but to have the faucet turn on them for a solid 30 seconds and not have any water go through the shoe – it was wonderful.  In fact you can actually see the water run off the shoe which is amazing.  The shoes are super comfortable, super lightweight and adorable in person.

The only complaint I have is that they are a little difficult to put on.  The hole for your foot is not excessively large and the laces are more for decoration so you don’t have a lot of leeway in terms of adjusting where you insert your foot. Otherwise, I am so happy with my shoe. I highly recommend these to anyone!

Mrs. Potts Chocolate House, Bristol, UK

As I got back to the city center of Bristol, I started making my way back up to the university area.  I saw some adorable coffee shops there and there was one more Banksy that I could see on the way to getting a snack.  I started walking up the street and actually had to back track a couple of times because I kept missing the actual painting itself.  It was a picture of a naked man hanging from one of the windows but it isn’t the most obvious of paintings there until you see it then you can’t miss it.

After finding it, I made my way up the street and eventually stopped an adorable coffee shop called “Mrs. Potts Chocolate House.”

This was by far one of the best decisions I’ve made.  After staring at the pastries and the offerings that they had, I finally made a decision to get the chocolate pudding and  hot chocolate.  Considering it was called a “chocolate house” I felt like I needed to make sure I got chocolate.  If you ever find yourself here, I highly recommend you go so that you can experience the wonderful chocolate options that they have.  I settled into a table and enjoyed my mid-day snack while reading my Kindle.

I have to admit that sometimes, when you’re sitting by yourself in a coffee shop eating and reading on your own, it can be a bit lonely but I knew that this was officially my last day of vacation so I needed to make full use of the time that I had to just chill and relax.

When I finally devoured all of the food that I had ordered, it was about time to get back and get ready for the wedding reception so I wandered back to my hotel to get ready.

Wandering Bristol, part 1

I started off my full day in Bristol by wandering around the city.  To be honest, this was one of the few cities where I wasn’t entirely sure that there was anything I absolutely needed to see in Bristol and I hadn’t done any major research on the city itself.  So I woke up, stared out the window and thought to myself “oh man it looks so freaking cold outside.” So I bundled up, packed away all of my layers into my purse and set out to see the city.  This was going to be the last full of day of my vacation so I wanted to make full use of my time.

As I started wandering through the streets, I found myself admiring the architecture that surrounds the entire city and the colors of the city.  In the middle of winter with the dreary weather, the city was still bright and full of people bustling around.  I started walking in and out of the various streets and eventually stumbled upon a painting on the side of a building of two small children and realized that I had just found a Banksy piece in Bristol.

To be honest, I’ve always enjoyed the mystery that comes with Banksy but I’ve never really looked into Banksy and truly understanding him.  I immediately went to a coffee shop and got on the wifi to confirm that I had actually stumbled upon one of his pieces and it turns out, Banksy is rumored to be from Bristol and he’s decorated the city with various pieces of artwork.  As someone who was just going to wander around aimlessly, I decided that this was going to be my guide around the city so I marked all of the places that his pieces were supposed to be on google maps and started on my way.

The first leg of my journey took up closer to the university and then around the neighborhoods there where I found a bunch of cute shops and restaurants.  I wandered around the university checking out the adorable shops, there weren’t a lot of chain restaurants from what I could see which was a nice change from many other college towns that you would possibly visit. As I wandered through the neighborhoods, I made my way through the the streets of Bristol checking out the most wonderful homes and views.  I even walked through this beautiful cemetery that had an archway through the center that you could walk under.  It was beautiful with the dead branches, I can only image how beautiful it would be in the spring.

As I continued wandering, I realized that many of the Banksy pieces that I wanted to find were not within walking distance of city center and so the chances of being able to actually find them in real life would be difficult.  So I stopped, rechecked my map and decided to make my way to the other side of the water so that I could get a new perspective of Bristol and try to find the woman with the pearl earring. I had to walk through some parking lots, sketch alley ways and ended up following some photographers to a relatively abandoned area of Bristol to find the girl with the pearl earring.

After that, I made my way back to the city center and decided that I wanted to stop by M Shed which is a giant warehouse turned museum along the water.  This museum has the history of Bristol along with some awesome artwork that depicts the history of how Bristol came to be the city I was visiting today. It was actually interesting because Banksy had some artwork on display at M Shed because he had actually graffitied a boat that had become a permanent fixture in Bristol so they removed his artwork, moved it to M Shed and then repaired the boat.

When I finished walking through M Shed, I then made my way back to the main part of the city which also included yet another alley way to walk through so that I could find another Banksy piece that said “You Don’t Need Planning Permission to Built Castles In The Sky.” This one was actually painted on a loading dock with the use of one of the lights.

Immediately after, I decided it was time to stop for a snack.

Italian food in Bristol, UK

After waking up from my nap, it was about time to get ready for dinner.  I can’t remember if I shared why i was in Bristol but it was because two of my friends were having their wedding reception there.  The couple actually got married about a year earlier but the groom’s family is from the UK so they decided to hold a celebration there which was awesome.  This meant that a group of people from Seattle had flown over the UK for the wedding.  And the first night that we were all in town, we got a chance to actually do a girls night before the actual wedding reception.

So, for the first time in just over two weeks, I was going to have friends to talk to! I was very excited to actually have true conversations with people that weren’t based around asking for help or directions somewhere.  It’s true, I had basically sent the last two weeks wandering Europe without really having a meaningful conversation with anyone.  So I was very excited to get the chance to actually talk to friends about other things.

I met up with some of the girls in the lobby of the hotel and we walked over to San Carlo which is an Italian restaurant close by to St. Nicholas’ Market.  As we walked in and got ready to sit down, we ran into other friends who were there for the same wedding.  The best part is that that group had invited me to join them for dinner too when they thought that I didn’t have any plans.  It was so wonderful and like the perfect mini reunion.

We sat down and enjoyed some delicious wine and food.  We ordered the most amazing appetizer platter that was filled with different types of meats, cheeses and grilled vegetables.  Then I followed it up with the most wonderful bowl of bolognese pasta.  I have this weird love of bolognese that now when I go to Italian restaurants and I see if on the menu, it is almost a guarantee that I will order it. After the food, we decided on some dessert and I settled for a raspberry panna cotta.

To be honest, I didn’t think that I was going to find amazingly delicious Italian food in Bristol but this restaurant was absolutely amazing.  It was the perfect first dinner in Bristol.  Immediately after our three hour dinner, we walked our separate directions to our hotels to settle in for the night.  We all had a big day in front of hotels to settle in for the night.  .

Adulthood – I’m sad

We live in a society today where everything you post on social media is your way of showing the world just how okay you are and just how awesome your life is.  And we judge those that express anything other than pure joy on their status updates.  I will admit that I am guilty of judging people who overshare on social media. I will also admit that I only show the cool things that happen in my life on my social media.  But today, I’m trying something a bit more honest and real.

I am sad.

I am sad because I live in a city without family. I am sad because my life is so dependent on the interactions with others and sometimes, I feel loneliest when I am surrounded by my friends.  Sometimes, I feel lonelier when I am sitting alone in my apartment with absolutely no plans with another human. I know that I shouldn’t feel like this because I am constantly reminded of just how wonderful my friends are and that I’m not alone.  But regardless, I still feel alone.  I feel sad because I am the token single friend of all of my friends.  I am sad because I am constantly wondering why I don’t have a significant other.  I am sad because I constantly make up excuses to other people and myself that this is by choice, but sometimes I do wonder if it is really a choice. I’m sad because I don’t know what I want to do with my life. Because no matter how much I focus on self care, there’s still more to do to help with my mental health.  I’m sad because there are things in my life that I cannot help.  I am heartbroken because I know that there are people in my life who are suffering and I don’t know how to help them.  And there’s no one I can share this with.  I am sad because I’ve seen my mother cry more times than I’d like to admit and I don’t know how to stop her sadness. I’m broken because I’ve mentally decided that the more I pull away from people, the less things will hurt and maybe that’s okay. I’m sad because I’m mentally preparing myself to be alone forever. And sometimes, this is my way of defending myself from the sadness that I am alone and that other people don’t want to hang out with me and I’m not a priority for them.

But.

I am happy.  I am happy because I am independent. I have a job at a company that can pay me a paycheck on a regular basis.  I have stability in my life where I am not worried about being able to pay my bills.  I am happy because I am challenged every day by my job, myself, my friends, my physical ability and my need to learn. I am so thankful because I am sad.  I am thankful that I have emotions that drive me to figure out what will make me happy.  I am thankful that I can hurt because it forces me to focus on self-care. I am happy because I have my health. I have the ability to travel, I have the urge to learn, I have the desire to see what the world has to offer.  I am over-the-moon proud of myself for going to 13 countries on my own. I am so happy because I have proven to myself that I actually don’t need anyone else. I moved from Seattle to LA and back to Seattle on my own. I am happy because I can eat foods that I enjoy, I can find the positive in the little things and I can appreciate everything I’ve done.  I’m so happy because sometimes, the happiest moments in my life are standing by myself in my apartment dancing to music, the perfect dance party.  I am thrilled because one of my favorite things is to stand outside, just stare and listen to music.  I am so happy because it doesn’t take a lot to make me happy. I am so happy because I have met amazing people in my life. I am blessed because there are people who have entered my life, stayed and taught me more than I ever thought possible.  I am lucky because I have met people who have left me permanently but they shared a portion of their life with me and I would never trade that for anything in the world.  I am happy because my parents raised me to be who I am today and they don’t worry about me. I am happy because, no matter how sad I actually am, I exist and I have the chance to make a difference. I have the ability to make someone smile, I have the chance to make someone’s day just a bit better, I am capable of controlling my next move and I get to try whatever I want.

I am sad.  And I am happy.

St. Nicholas Market, Bristol, UK

My friend had told me that I needed to check out St. Nicholas Market for food. There were plenty of good restaurants around the city center but she told me that there were a bunch of food vendors and food stalls around St. Nicholas Market. Plus it’s basically an indoor flea market with lots of different things to see.  So I decided that this would be where I get my lunch and I started my trek. I got so lucky in terms of where I decided to book my hotel because I was within walking distance of all the hustle and bustle of Bristol which was amazing. I walked up some streets and found St. Nicholas Market relatively easily. I mean, there’s a giant banner announcing that you’ve arrived at St. Nicholas Market.

I have to admit, that my only plan for this specific part of my day was to get lunch and take it back to my hotel to eat. I mean, if I found a good restaurant to eat at then I would eat the restaurant but I was pretty tired and I knew that I would have the entire next day to explore Bristol. Since I’m not a very relaxed traveler and I have a tendency to spend a large portion of my day walking, this was really my only day to just chill and I wanted to take advantage of it. I probably could have taken the next day to also chill but then that would mean I didn’t get to see Bristol so I would just use this afternoon.

I wandered St. Nicholas and it’s surrounding streets, checking out the various vendors, the flea market offerings, the artwork and the food vendors.  I wanted to make sure I knew all of my options before deciding on what to eat for lunch.

There weren’t that many options, but I think it was because it was the middle of winter and around 2pm so people were not necessarily out and about looking for food.  Plus it was super cold so eating at a food vendor outside was probably not appealing to anyone.

I decided to settle on some Chinese food from a food stall vendor called Chili Daddy.  It was actually Szechuan food and looking it up now, it was the first  Szechuan food stall in the UK.  I ordered the beef hot pot and made my way back to my hotel.  Of course, I definitely stopped at a local coop to get some snacks (sour cream and onion Pringles because those are my go to snacks when I travel) for the room. I got back to my hotel, settled into bed and ate my beef hot pot.

It was delicious.  It was super flavorful and just the right amount of spiciness. I think that I am a little biased because it was a solid 35 degrees outside when I was walking back from St. Nicholas Market so I was definitely very cold and any sort of really warm food was going to be welcomed and appreciated.

I will admit that when I am in the UK, I love being able to try all foods because I have been there enough times that I feel like I’ve had enough British breakfasts (blood sausages, grilled tomatoes, etc) and fish and chips to last a lifetime. So I am always a bit more willing to branch out and check out the other foods.  Especially because the UK, and more specifically London, are melting pots of cultures and have drawn people from all over so there are some things that are just better.  For example, I always have to eat Indian food when I am in the UK.  It is just so good and better than most any place I can go to in the States.

When I finally finished off my noodles and I felt fat and happy, I napped for a little bit and then got ready for dinner.

London to Bristol – The National Express

The next morning, I woke up decently early and hung out in my room.  I wasn’t going to be picking up the National Express to Bristol until late morning so I had some time to watch TV in English before I made my way to Terminal 3 at Heathrow. Luckily, I had gotten in so late to London that I didn’t really have time to unpack my bag so I had little that I needed to do before I left.  I waited until the very last minute and then checked out of my hotel and took the shuttle to Terminal 3. The shuttles from the airport drop you off at the arrivals so I had to find my way out to the bus stops (which I didn’t actually know existed).  I found the one for the National Express and saw that there were other people waiting so I sat down in the waiting booth and watched for my bus.

I have to admit that I have a fear that I will miss a train or a bus that I am supposed to take because I don’t know what is going on.  So usually I will not wear headphones and I will creep on people and their conversations because the way I see it, at least one person is going to be taking the same train or bus that I am going to take. After a bit of time, I realized that no one seemed to be going to Bristol and there were zero signs anywhere that said where I was supposed to go so I went and found someone who told me that the bus would arrive about 5 minutes before departing the terminal and it would pull up at one of the 5 stalls there. I just had to keep an eye out for it. I think the lady ended up feeling bad for me because she let me know when she saw it pulling up to make sure I didn’t miss my bus.  I boarded my bus and began my ride to Bristol.

I put in my headphones and watched the English country side fly by me as we made our way out to Bristol. The bus was decently populated with people of all ages.  Some of them had luggage, others had nothing almost as if they were using this bus as a commuter bus. After two hours, we arrived in Bristol and I started walking to my hotel.  But first, I had to make a fool of myself trying to figure out how to get out of the bus station. The bus pulled into a giant parking lot and I thought I had to go into the actual building to get out onto the main street but couldn’t figure out how to get the doors open because apparently they were locked so people just stared at me like I was crazy as I tried to open them.  I eventually decided to walk along the perimeter of the building, hugging the wall on the non-existent sidewalk and eventually found myself out on the main road.  I know, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just follow other people. I didn’t because I was the first one off of the bus and the only one who didn’t have luggage sitting under the bus so I was left to fend for myself.

I started my trek and eventually found myself walking through downtown Bristol and walking through a giant square with lots of people bustling around.  I knew that this was where I was going to find food for lunch after I checked into my hotel. I walked up a short hill just past the main downtown along the water and found my hotel. I checked in, settled down in my room and connected to wifi.  For once, it was the first priority for me because I wanted to get in contact with my friends to see who I was going to be meeting up with and when.  Apparently I was very starved for friends and conversation at this point. I made my dinner plans and started out my adventure to find some lunch.

Dubrovnik to London – Flights

I woke up early the next morning, repacked all my stuff, went downstairs and grabbed one final breakfast before my long journey to London.  There were probably direct routes to get me to London a lot faster but unfortunately, I had a strict timeline that required me to travel on one very specific day and budget-wise, I wasn’t looking to spend too much excess money on hotels in London when I didn’t need to.  Plus, getting the opportunity to spend more time in Dubrovnik verses London definitely was a good enough reason for me to deal with the excessively long flight route that I took to get to London.

When it was time to finally leave my hotel, I called my Uber to the airport and made my way to the Dubrovnik airport.  I had a great driver who decided to share with me all sorts of fun tidbits about Dubrovnik like the fact that there is really one major rode that can get you in and out of Dubrovnik.  Apparently, during the busy season, sometimes tourists have to leave four to five hours early just to get to the airport because if there are too many people on the road, you’ll be stuck in traffic and there’s no alternate route to the airport. And, if there’s a crash on the main road, you’re in trouble.  My driver told me that he’s been stuck in that traffic before and had his passengers miss their flights out of Croatia because of this one road.  He also pointed out the homes that are outside of the main city and told me that that’s usually where locals or people who come into Dubrovnik to work during tourist season stay and deal with the commute into the city because otherwise it’s too expensive.  I also learned that there is ship wreckage in water that borders Dubrovnik and it’s a great place to do diving excursions for those interested.

I got to the Dubrovnik airport and quickly learned that this airport is probably one of the smaller airports I have ever been to in my life. When I showed up, they hadn’t booked a gate quite yet for the flight and we had to stand in one line waiting to check in.  I wasn’t able to do online check in for some reason and had to deal with standing in line with everyone else who had checked luggage.  One of the few times, having only carry-on luggage did nothing for me. It turns out the reason why I wasn’t able to check in online is because at some point, I had tried to change my seat on the airplane and didn’t realize that they were trying to charge me.  So I went along the process and never paid so I had to go the main desk to pay for the seat I selected.  Luckily, since I was confused and didn’t realize what I had done, the main desk person gave me the seat for free. I honestly think it was because she didn’t want to keep me there for too long because there was a giant line waiting to check in for the flights.

After that, I went through security and had some time to kill.  I ended up noticing the board with all the flights and saw that they actually post multiple days of flights because there aren’t that many that fly in out and Dubrovnik.  If I had left a day earlier, I would have had a direct flight to London. Oh well.

Finally, I boarded my plane started the first leg of my journey. I was heading off to Barcelona for a few hours. Little did I know that this would be one of the more eventual travel days of the entire trip. We took off from Dubrovnik and I had fallen asleep.  I woke up to a woman screaming for a doctor and people running frantically up and down the aisle.  Apparently, an older man had overheated and thrown up on himself.  They managed to cool him down, increased the air conditioning on the plane and got him some water.  We landed in Barcelona without any additional issues.

I made my way to a lounge in the airport and hung out there until it was time for my flight to London.  Luckily, the lounge allowed me to stay there for my four hour layover so I was able to be pretty comfortable while I waited and get some food while I waited for the last leg of my flight. I got to my gate and realized that I was on a completely full flight and I was about 3 rows from the back of the plane.  As someone who gets motion sick, I was not pleased.  But things got worse for me, I realized that I was in the middle seat and the weather in London was not great.

We took off from Barcelona and this had to be one of the worst flights of my life.  Sitting so far in the back of the plane, in a middle seat, my dramamine wearing off and hitting turbulence from cruising altitude all the way to touch down in Heathrow was the worst combination.  Please keep in mind, I am also a contagious vomiter so everything that could have been going wrong for this flight was going wrong. About 45 minutes out from London, the turbulence finally got to people that the lady in the window of my row pulled out the barf bag and people were constantly asking for water and gasping every time we felt a drop.  About 15 minutes later, they shut off the bathrooms and that lead to turmoil for some of the small children on the plane who really had to pee so that resulted in angry parents, yelling, children crying and people crowding around my row.  As someone who gets motion sick, I’ve found that the more air I can get, the less cramped I feel, the more I can control how I am feeling.  At this moment, with the lady next to me on the verge of throwing up, the crowd of angry parents next to me and the sobbing of the child, I was about ready to throw in the towel and pull out my barf bag to see what would happen.

Luckily, it all worked out, the child was able to use the restroom, everyone was seated and we landed in London without any additional issues.

I decided that night to stay at the Heathrow airport because I was going to be taking the National Express to Bristol the next day and it would be so much easier to get to the terminals if I stayed by the hotel.  So I walked to my hotel, checked into my room, ordered room service and settled in for the night.

After the journey I had, it was a great way to end my last official night of my two week journey of solo travel.  The next day, I would actually get to meet up with friends and have people to hang out.

Things I’ve learned so far…

In my new decade:

  • reading true crime novels before bed is a BAD idea. Get ready for some weird dreams.
  • I may be addicted to reading and I am okay with that
  • The best things I can be doing for myself would be focusing on reading/learning, exercising and eating healthy
  • Exercising really does produce endorphins and serotonin.  Or at least that’s what I think is happening.  I feel more calm and excited about everything after making sure I exercise every single day and hit my step goal
  • Walking every day, even if it isn’t a full dedicated workout, is helping improve my mental health
  • I’ve developed a new love of mussels and clams.  I’ve taken to making sure I order them when I see them on the menu
  • My body is slowly shutting down with old age.  I woke up one morning, stepped wrong and had shooting pains down my hip all day long.  I walked with a limp all day long and it was a permanent reminder that I am getting older
  • Cooking really isn’t as difficult as I always thought it was
  • My skin is revolting due to my old age.  I’ve noticed that my skin isn’t retaining moisture as much as it used to.  I don’t think it’s necessarily something that just magically happened on my birthday but it’s been a slow and gradual process by which now I’m blaming it on old age.  My pamper Sunday routine is turning into a pamper Sunday and Wednesday with some additional night routines to make sure my skin is feeling happy and healthy.
  • I’m more comfortable with sitting on my couch playing phone games. I’m really love Two Dots and it may be becoming an addiction.
  • I don’t understand the changes with social media and with all these various updates, it takes me a very long time to get caught up and understand what is happening.

The new decade has already had a lot of pros and cons.  I’m curious to see what the rest of this decade has in store for me.