The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Across the Pond

Unplanned solo travel and mystery illnesses only give me more writing inspiration
Photo by Maggie O’Brien
Across the Pond visual made by Maggie O’Brien.

Editor’s note: “Across the Pond” is an ongoing column in which freelance writers Ella Freeman, Kyra Price and Maggie O’Brien will write about their study abroad experiences in Winchester, England and across Europe.

I’ve found myself on a number of adventures lately. I’ve traveled to some absolutely stunning places, but I’ve found that some of the biggest adventures are trying to figure out normal things in a new place.

A few weeks ago, some friends from Eau Claire and I decided to take a trip to Scotland. I’d been visiting a friend from high school in Guildford, so my friends and I decided to meet at London Waterloo Station and travel the rest of the way together.

My friends’ train got delayed, so when I got to Waterloo I had to navigate the Tube to Kings Cross by myself. I made it to my train sweating and panting with two minutes to spare.

The moment the train started moving, I looked down at my phone and saw the text saying they hadn’t made it onto the train.

This led to a series of confusing phone calls due to poor connection and the realization that I’d have to navigate a new country by myself.

It was a hike to get to Edinburgh Castle but the views made all the walking worth it.
(Photo by Kyra Price)

My five-hour train ride to Edinburgh was surprisingly pleasant, and I used the time to nap and finish up my previous Across the Pond column.

By the time I made it to Edinburgh Waverley Station, it was fully dark outside. I have a notoriously bad sense of direction and felt like a pack mule with the massive backpack I was carrying, so I decided to splurge and order an Uber to the Airbnb rather than braving the walk.

It took me an embarrassing amount of time to locate the dropbox with the key to get into the apartment, but I made it inside and my friends arrived a few hours later.

All of the trouble ended up being worth it.

The next day, I met up with a friend and fellow “Harry Potter” nerd from Eau Claire who is studying abroad in Scotland. We visited The Elephant House where J.K. Rowling wrote the “Harry Potter” series and we did some shopping. Later that afternoon I met up with my travel friends to explore the beautiful Edinburgh Castle.

I took the last day of the trip for myself. I found an adorable coffee shop and then walked an hour to the Royal Botanic Garden.

The gardens were unlike anything I had ever seen before. The whole experience was ethereal, like something out of a fairytale.

I wandered the gardens until I was being followed around by a man with a bell telling me it was time to go.

I’ve never seen anywhere as beautiful as the Royal Botanic Garden and it’s an Edinburgh must-see. (Photo by Kyra Price)

When I was on the train to Guilford a few days before, I almost completely lost the hearing in my right ear. I’d had a cold for a couple of weeks, but with each day my symptoms got harsher. 

I theorized I had a sinus infection, but after a few incorrectly measured doses of a random cough syrup I bought, I felt well enough to ignore it.

I woke up on a Wednesday almost two weeks later feeling so sick I could barely move. I was supposed to sign up for a local surgery — the British way of saying “doctor’s office” — before I came overseas, but my paperwork hadn’t been fully processed.

A friend and I Ubered there anyway because I desperately needed a doctor and was willing to give it a try. That surgery was closed, as well as the other two recommended by the school.

We ended up at a private practice since they could get me in an hour later. My sinus infection suspicion was confirmed, and it turned out my ears were so compacted I needed to get them vacuumed.

The antibiotics I was prescribed cleared up the infection, but a week later I found myself back at the practice. I had two days left of one of my medications. My mom tried to mail me more, but the day it was supposed to arrive, we found out you can’t mail medication.

The package she’d sent had been returned to my hometown.

I checked at the pharmacy to see if they could fill my prescription if I had it faxed over, but they couldn’t fill American prescriptions.

Thankfully, the private practice squeezed me in the next day and filled my prescription for the remainder of my trip. My appointments there were £185 and £140, which is still cheaper than an American appointment with my parents’ insurance.

The next day, I took my third trip to London. I’m in the process of planning a trip with a girl I met through my yoga society to visit her friend studying in Rome, and that friend just happened to be in London for the weekend.

I think about the gyro I tried at Camden Market every day. (Photo by Kyra Price)

My friend from yoga suggested the two of us meet up and get to know each other, so we texted some and I bought a train ticket.

We met up near London Waterloo Station and then spent the day exploring. It was like a platonic blind date set up by our mutual friend. I was nervous, but we got along immediately.

We took a Black Cab to Borough Market and immediately found a Greek food stand. I visited Camden Market last week and tried Halloumi for the first time, so a Halloumi wrap at Borough Market was a necessity.

We found a waffle and goat milk ice cream stand for a snack, then made our way to the London Eye.

The view from the top of the London Eye was beyond magical. (Photo by Kyra Price)

The tickets were £45, or about $60, but I’d pay it again in a heartbeat. The London Eye was absolutely enchanting. We decided to go at night, and seeing all of London lit up is something I’ll never forget.

We grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant near Waterloo Station where I paid a stupid amount for a (ridiculously good) Halloumi salad and a piece of key lime cheesecake. We talked until almost 9 p.m. when I realized I needed to go home eventually.

I said goodbye to my wonderful new friend and settled onto the train home next to the world’s worst manspreader.

The past few weeks have been somehow both a dream and a nightmare, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

I’ve been planning my three-week-long spring break and some weekend trips, and I can’t wait to share my next adventure!

Price can be reached at [email protected].

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