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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

London: Between Two Bridges

I knew as soon as I arrived that London was much bigger and busier than anywhere else I had been in the U.K.  I could hardly find my way out of the train station at first, but once I figured it out, the subway, also known as the London Underground or “the Tube”, was very easy to navigate.  Not to mention having enjoyable line names such as Bakerloo, Jubilee and Piccadilly.

One of the best things in life is an encounter with an old friend.  Well, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of friends that I hadn’t seen in over 7 years and that I had also met in another part of the world entirely!  Imagine an Ecuadorian, a German, and an American all meeting in London after originally meeting in Brazil.  It was destined to be a good time!

Catching up with Pato and Katha in London, England
When I first arrived I checked into my hostel, St. Christopher’s Village, and was met soon after by my dear friends Pato and Katha.  The hostel was near the London and Tower Bridges so we took a walk along the waterfront between the two.  It was a beautiful night and in addition to the excitement of catching up with old friends we were also fortunate to see the Tower Bridge rise below a nearly full moon.  I’m not certain of how often the bridge rises, but it was impressive.  I am continually amazed with both architecture and engineering, and bridges can be such a quintessential example of both.

Tower Bridge in London, England
We caught up and had a couple drinks before Katha and her boyfriend, who spent the day travelling as well, had to call it a night.  We were near the London Bridge, and I believe that there was a university close by as it was a pretty lively area with many young people out and about.  From there, Pato and I met up with some of his friends, who were also in London for University, and they took me out for an amazing night with a twist of Latin American culture.   Who would have thought I would be salsa dancing until the wee hours of the morning in London!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hostelling

The best travel experience is always going to relate to the people you are with, or meet along the way.  I don’t believe you can have any stories without the lives and adventures of others intertwined.  For this reason, I love hostels.  Staying in them really completed the whole Euro-trip experience for me because I was able to meet people of all ages, from all around the world, who were in the same locals, for different reasons.  And in hostels, people are generally out for adventure, which makes them even more interesting to meet.

Wonderful ladies I met in a hostel in Paris - we were actually all traveling solo too!
There are many ways to find a hostel, but I had an amazing experience with Hostelworld.com So much so that I don’t mind promoting the site without reserve.  They have pictures, recent reviews, pricing, city maps, directions from wherever you are arriving from and you can book your reservation right there.  I was able to find some excellent hostels and I highly credit this site for me not getting bed bugs and/or not being miles away from where I wanted to be.  In addition, I met some incredible people and learned about local spots I would never have known to visit!

Yes! Lisbon Hostel in Portugal
If you are a little nervous about hostels just from what you've heard, read the reviews and look at the pictures.  What I found was that many of the bunk beds had curtains so you could have a little privacy, almost every hostel had lockers available for you to lock your stuff in, and many even had kitchens which is very helpful when you are on a budget.  Not to mention, pretty much every hostel has a social area and internet access.  Of course, I was in Europe, so this may not apply everywhere.  My one hostel experience in Brazil was just as good though.

Oasis Backpacker's Hostel in Sevilla, Spain
If you want to meet other travelers, learn about free tours, get local insights, and don’t mind a bunk bed, a hostel may be exactly what you are looking for!