This time last week I was in transit, and I'm only just coming back to the land of the living - jet lag is a dog! (And not Jess the toe licking dog, either!)
My mind is filled with the people and experiences of the last month, the wonders, the bizarrities, and especially the history. I'm lucky to have good friends who don't mind hearing me go on about my travels - most of whom have been further and seen more than me anyway!
I've got plans for more travel now, there is so much world out there to experience, but I may have to do shorter haul flights and have adventures on the way. I'm told that flying premium class with the luxury of a bed inflight helps counter jetlag, but the cost is out of my range!
Okay, so what was the highlight I've been asked, and where would I go back to?!
The Colosseum was totally awe-inspiring. To think of the age of this massive arena, and the technology used, to hear it explained and realise it had a retractable roof, it had a floor capable of being flooded so they could have boat battles to the death, to know the huge number of citizens it could contain, this was indeed my number one wonder.
The Tower of London was a huge high-light. So much history involved in this sprawling fortress, and still occupied today by the Yeomen of the Guard - the Beefeaters - everywhere we went there was a story from actual history. Here Anne Boleyn was executed. Here the twin princes were imprisoned by their uncle who seized their right to the throne. It was sobering and awful and it stays with me.
Castle Rushen on the Isle of Man was exciting. Originally built by the Vikings and extended over the centuries, it was a complete and original real castle. Some of the other castles I saw had been restored in much more modern decor, but this was a spiral-staircase up to the turrets real coastal fortress. Very cool!
I loved spending time with the people, especially my wonderful hosts, Sue and Neil in London and Viv and Ian in Douglas, IoM. I don't think it's possible to say how much I appreciated them making space in their lives and homes for me. Thank you!
And where would I go back to?
Italy in a heartbeat.
Italy was too hot, it was chaotic, I fainted there, and yet I loved it. It was so real, it had passion, they live and eat as if cooking for you and feeding you are what matter, no matter how long things take. They laugh. They care. (Except if you happen to be on a pedestrian crossing when they're driving over it..) I would love to go back there and actually spend some time there, not just travel in and out.
I've had my mind broadened by this travel. I've been in places where no one spoke English - that's quite disconcerting after several hours! I've been surprised at how far behind us Europe is with smoking. It's like we were 50 years ago - very common, and butts litter the streets despite the special containers everywhere. Vending machines for cigarettes were everywhere, obviously no age limit for purchase. Europeans must get a shock to come to New Zealand and find we're mostly a No Smoking country!
And dogs! In shops, on buses and the underground! All on leads and all that I saw very well behaved and controlled, but again, so many of them everywhere.
And what would I do the same or differently next time?
It was very hard to pack for a month and know what weather I was going to find, and I took too much merino and not enough aertex! It was much hotter than I'd expected.
I was very pleased with my Loaded For Travel card - loaded up before I left with different currencies, bought at the prime rates, and useable everywhere.
And actually paying for tours of places like The Tower was well worth it. I actually had the history and important aspects pointed out to me, didn't just have to rely on my memory of things I already knew.
I didn't do much shopping, maybe next time I'd do a bit more? But luggage restrictions on flights is a bit of a bind. Especially if travelling by myself, and without a partner who could share some of the essentials so there is some space in one of our cases.
I'm still a bit overwhelmed by where I've been and what I now know because I've seen it! Venice, gondolas, Rome, castles, palaces, beggars, underground tubes, cities with transport systems that work, planes that fly for twelve hours across time zones and countries.... I really am awed by it all!
Now back to work to save up for Next Time!