Friday, 20 April 2012

Back Home

So, I've been home a week.

It was to a bright, fresh Glasgow morning I woke to last Friday, as light streamed through the small window of my Megabus sleeper. I'd arrived at Heathrow the previous evening and had several options available to me - plane, train, or bus. Usually an overnight bus would not even be considered after a 13 hour flight but some research a week earlier had revealed that Megabus had started a sleeper service. This piqued my interest, for it was substantially cheaper than either the plane or train options, at about £35, and timed conveniently between midnight and 7am.

I'm very happy to say that it proved a very comfortable option. The beds are arranged in layers of three, and have curtains, lights, a power point, and little windows to watch the outside world go by. Free tea, coffee, soft drinks and snacks are available. The bus is one of these long bendy buses, and has plenty of space, and so each bed - there are about twenty-four - has a seat too, in case you fancy a sit down. There is a toilet, of course. This was my first ever experience of a sleeper bus, and I would definitely use it again, as it ticked the main box you'd want in an overnight service - sleep - but at a decent price. In fact, my only gripe would be the full volume techno and strobe lighting in every bed cabin and the hundreds of rats Megabus insist on letting run loose throughout the night... no, just joking.

My first full week back in Scotland has been remarkably sedate. Eight months on the move made a fair dent on my bank balance, and with travels planned ahead I have to learn to live in a moderate manner for the near future. Thus, gone are the days of freewheeling hedonism and refusing to use anything less than a £20 note, and in come the days of eating only plain rice and whatever I can find from the bins. The small exception to this was the formal purchasing of an engagement ring. Three months ago, when I proposed to Danielle, I used a humble ring purchased for about 80p from a stall in Kuala Lumpur. If you ask me, this was a perfect symbol of love in itself, but apparently convention and the de Beers corporation disagree, so a more proper engagement ring has been bought. I don't know much about rings beyond KL stall purchases, but will say that this new engagement ring is very pretty indeed, although came in at a shade over 80p.

I've caught up with a few people, over a few drinks, and have enjoyed a few proper full-on fry-ups. Aside from catching up with loved ones and friendly faces, perhaps one of the greatest joys of returning home after months away is food. I am not particularly a food-orientated person: give me a pie and a pint and I'll give you a smile of the greatest contentment. Certainly, I appreciate fine food and am unafraid to dive into any exotic cuisine, but I also have undemanding tastes. And the familiarity of food-from-home is something that can't be equalled. Fry-ups, sausages-in-a-bap with brown sauce, Irn Bru... none of them have much in the way of finesse, but nowhere else in the world can do them quite like home.

What am I going to do for the time being then? What are my plans? As ever, life is not a simple single-celled organism, it is a complex beast with organs, nerves, and changing demands according to the season. And so to predict exactly the whims of time would need Nostradamus-like powers that I've not yet cultivated. However, I have a lightly pencilled-in copy of the map ahead. I'm now staying with Danielle in Glasgow, and for the next couple of months, I intend to lie low, and pursue a course of intensive reading and writing about European Wonders. At the same time, I've taken the first steps to learn some Spanish, which will be invaluable for travels in Latin America. Danielle speaks quite good Spanish which will help. And I'm poised to join a gym - I'm fed up with being mistaken for a pregnant lady. Of course, in June is the Euro 2012 championships. I won't be attending, as very originally intended, but I will be ardently watching, and my daily diet of couch potato football in June will most likely entirely undo all my good work in the gym done in May.

In July, a mini-road trip is planned in France with a bunch of people, which will take in some of the Tour de France, and three Wonders - the Millau Viaduct, Carcassonne, and hmm, Avignon Papal Palace I think. I've not done much planning and have left it in the capable hands of my ever-reliable friend Green, who is a maestro of such things. There are nine of us going at the last count, so it will be festival of wine and gluttony.

Also over the summer, and across the rest of the year, I hope to hunt down all my British Wonders. Edinburgh Castle is nearby, and the three London Wonders (St Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben and Westminster, Tower Bridge) should be easy enough to visit in a leisurely manner. I have the luxury of time so intend to do them properly. Stonehenge and Ely Cathedral will follow likewise. A Wonder should be savoured and sipped gently like a fine malt whisky, something not always possible in Asia, so I look forward to the easy accessibility of my six UK-based Wonders.

From August to December, I'll continue my research and reading on upcoming European Wonders - I have a lot to do - but will also have to earn some money too. Reality! Oh, it's no fun.

So that leads us onto January next year. And all going well, and all going to a plan that shifts in the sand like an shifty salamander, I'll be off again - to Europe and the Middle East. Part 2 of the Wonder travels will begin.

It's nice to be back. Travel is fun, but there's no place like home, as somebody once said, I believe.

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