Travel without a plan

I had a little plan…that covered me for a month in the USA, after that I was going to wing it. 
I’ve now come to decision time and it’s kind of a case of throwing a dart at a map/where can I go that’s super cheap and I can recoup my loses from the ever expensive States…
In my mind I know where I would like to go (my bucket list is endless, it really could be anywhere) but I’d like to give something back at this juncture of my travel life.
I’ve volunteered abroad before, 10 years ago in fact, my first solo travel experience!
Happy travel anniversary to me! 
That was Ecuador, I spent 3 months in the Amazon rainforest thinking I was doing my bit to help save the trees and animals. 
Oh man was I wrong! 
Not only did I have to pay a rather large amount of money for the privilege of working for free, but it turned out that money went to some wealthy American guy who had bought a portion of the rainforest, ‘hired’ the local tribes and paid them pennies to act as tour guides for other wealthy Americans to have the ‘jungle experience’. He rented the land to the charity organisation I had volunteered for, and not cheaply apparently. 
Needless to say, this disillusioned my belief in volunteering, charity work and any hope in saving the rainforest! 
I have, since then, learned that there is a way to genuinely give your time in return for accommodation and sometimes food for a couple of hours work with up-and-coming hostels, small holdings or sometimes just families who want to learn English and teach you their culture. 
So right now I am in the process of sending out applications to dozens of potential hosts in a few different countries, and I will go where the wind takes me! 

Premature Plans

So I finally took the plunge and became self employed…step one of fulfilling my long term goal of indefinite travel.
To become ‘financially independent’ I used up ALL of my savings, leaving me with nothing at all and potential debt (as when you have no money for some reason all the bills start rolling in!) 
The initial plan was to lay low at home, get a Christmas job and build my finances back up so I can start my travel adventure in January 2019.
But no, I had to go and discover that Christina Aguilera was touring only in USA and only until mid November. She’s the last of my childhood pop stars that I’ve been dying to see live for ages and you never know with pop stars these days, they sometimes go on performing for years and sometimes they just disappear. I wasn’t willing to take that chance!
One concert ticket and a One-way flight booking later, I was a happy bunny for about 5mins when reality dawned on me…how the hell am I going to afford ANYTHING while I’m out there? 
This may seem like I was crazy, stupid and thoughtless, but I’ve found that things usually work out, and the worst case scenario is I have to come home and start again-not the end of the world! Plus with my passive income coming in throughout the month…it should all work out if I keep my costs low, really low. So I’m talking Couchsurfing, eating as cheaply as possible, cheap transport (I kinda want to try hitchhiking, but not sure on that one!) 
I’m actually excited to see how cheap I can actually make this. 

I was waiting for an overcast or rainy day to do the museums, but it’s seems like the sun is staying (I’m not complaining!) so I’m embracing as many museums as I can!

First up is Erarta, an art gallery, recommended by Oksana, is not in my guide book. Amazing place!

The painting with the blue candy floss made me giggle. As at Christmas in London I was served the biggest blue candy floss I’ve ever seen! This picture was so similar to the photo I had taken!

Except I look chuffed to have candy floss!

Next up was…the Hermatige. In all honesty, I was putting this off, because it didn’t really seem to appeal to me when I read about it.

I’m definitely glad I went against my initial thoughts!

Just the building alone is worth it, huge, palatial staircases, a room which inspired my future house.

The peacock room.

The room where the peacock lives, the Pavilion Hall, is designed perfectly. Huge windows over looking the river one side.

Huge windows looking out to a impeccably manicured garden the other.

Loads of light, loads of views, a giant gold peacock clock. Who could ask for more?

Reluctantly leaving this beautiful room to explore the rest of the building.

Found a stairway that could easily be from The Shining.

Obviously, I’m not pro-ivory, but the carving on these pieces is so intricate.

Once I had exhausted the Hermatige, I was onto the….

Museum of Emotions!!

I found this accidentally looking at my maps, and my curiosity got the bette of me.

It was a guided museum, and the poor guy who had to show me around and attempt to give me the tour, was a bit nervous if having to give the tour in English, but he got there!

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else who wants to go, but at the same time I want to describe the experience.

So the guide lets you go first through a curtain into pitch black, telling you to keep walking. Like, where? It’s completely black!

He did put a torch on for me when he realised I wasn’t gonna shift until I could see!

The first room we came to was the Anger room, a darkened room with tv screens showing images of people being punched, animals slaughtering other animals, war images and protests. Heavy metal music is playing and the centrepiece to this room is a punch bag with all the stuffing spilled out of it which was used by a famous Russian fighter.

The next room took a turn in the other direction, the room of Joy.

An upside down room where you stand on the sky and the grass and flowers are above you.

The next room was Disgust, well, it was supposed to be. But I like cockroaches and bats and even the rotting bull’s heads covered in maggots was more fascinating than disgusting!

Next up, the Love room, obviously all red and pink, with love hearts everywhere.

But just as I was about to write this off as cheesy, the guide explained how a Saint Petersburg couple who loved each other so much, had come to an agreement that one should eat the other. Taking ‘I want to be a part of you’ to the next level.

So, under consent, he killed his partner and started slicing him up.

Naturally, he was caught before he could finish him, and was committed where he spent his days drawing images of his partner over and over. Scary.

Next room was death, there wasn’t an awful lot in there except a coffin and an electric chair.

Onto the fun room! A unicorn rocking horse, bright colours, a throne (which I’d been obsessing about all day while at the Hermatige) circus mirrors, screens showing animals doing silly things, dress up! The lot! Obviously loved this room!

The final room was a bit of an anti-climax, the room of Creativity. It was essentially post it notes stuck all over the walls and some UV stars hanging from the ceiling.

For me, creativity is messy, but this was chaos!

And I got a ballon at the end. Happy days!

Walking Tour

Armed with very little Russian, my guide book and the directions Oksana had given me, I ventured out to explore more of Saint Petersburg.

Starting with getting a decent view of the city from the top of St.Isaac’s Cathedral.

Next stop, one of my favourites, the Church of the Spilled Blood!

This was enough walking for me (they are spaced pretty far apart and takes me an hour to walk there!)

Met Oksana once she had finished work and we went all girly and had our nails done!

Sparkles and Russian flag.

Time for alcohol. You would think vodka would be the choice seeing as I’m in Russia, but I’m not the biggest fan since drinking too much of it in my younger days, and now I can’t even look at it.

Belgian bar for some cherry beer instead!

Beer was good, food wasn’t brilliant.

I may have got addicted to the cherry beer.

It wasn’t over

Part three of the incredible journey around St Petersburg took us to a little ‘plaza’ where we stumbled upon lots of little bars (hipster bars), one bar which contained the strangest painting I’ve seen in a while.

On the way, we crossed over a bridge where the river is lined with statues of horses. One horse in particular has a distinguishing feature. The story is that the statue maker discovered at the time of his creating his statue, that his wife was having an affair with another man. So, as any artist would, he made the horse’s genitalia resemble the other man’s face.

Definition of ‘dick head’ I guess…

Anyway, we were enjoying a drink in this bar and I couldn’t help but stare at this painting.

Clearly the one pint of dark beer had gone to my head!

Oksana had one last thing she wanted to show me before the day was over. As we were making our way out of the plaza we noticed a little kiosk selling hot drinks, donuts and ice cream. I wanted ice cream, the beard in the box informed us it was too cold for ice cream! Rubbish! He sold me a hot chocolate instead. I compromised because he had a beard.

We finally made it to our last destination, the mosaic garden.

Art students get allocated a piece of wall to allow them to create their designs. This probably isn’t in any guide books and is definitely worth visiting, thanks to my insider knowledge from Oksana!

And that, was just day one!

Needless to say, we slept well that night!

First impressions cont…

The rest of my first day was a whirlwind tour of the city to help me get my bearings, locate the sights I wanted to visit and food places (very important!)

Starting on Vasilyevskiy island, where we’re staying.

Old Saint Petersburg stock exchange building.

Two columns have been built opposite this, we tried to find their meaning, all I found was in my book, they’re called Rostral Columns and the four seated figures represent Russia’s rivers, Neva, Volga, Dnieper and Volkhov. There are many other rivers in Russia, these are just the ‘greats’.

The Hermitage from across the river. Apparently when the country was doing badly, the monarchy at the time thought it was a good idea to buy loads of art to prove they were doing fine.

Sounds like girl logic!

Don’t know what it is with me and the ice, but once again, I was transfixed. Oksana explained how the broken ice that moves along the river is known as ‘walking ice’.

Continued our stroll along the river to find a poem by Pushkin about Saint Petersburg.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the background across the walking ice.

A little bit of Egypt…

A pretending manticore. Basically a seemingly random collection of stuff all along the river side!

Crossed over the bridge (and the walking ice) to New Holland.

New Holland is a little area that has been refurbed and taken over by hipsters. Lots of little ‘street food’ cafes, art, photography and book shops.

Oksana was on a mission to show me as much as possible, so after our quick hipster falafel lunch we moved on to see Palace Square, but not before stopping outside a cat cafe.

Finished off with the sun setting over Palace Square.

We managed to clock 15 miles walking!

And I’m back!

After 9 months of being grounded and going on my London adventure, I’ve finally boarded a plane again, although I haven’t gone far. Only the next island over, Ireland. For St. Patrick’s day!

Winging it a bit as I’ve not done any research, so far, it’s just a case of follow everyone with a giant green hat on!

Which led to me standing in the biting cold for 5 hours waiting and then watching the parade.

It was worth it, although I was surprised at how many American schools were participating.

I was then able to check into my Hostel, Paddy’s Palace. It did not live up to its name. I was lucky enough to have a room to myself, although there was no heating, so a very cold room, but with three extra duvets to snuggle up with!

Quickly freshened up and head back out into the snow to find a pub showing the Irish game, not hard!

So here I am, in Dublin, on St. Patrick’s day, drinking Guinness. All the clichés, and as an added bonus, watching Ireland beat England in the rugby!

Riding high on the euphoric atmosphere I wanted to find a pub closer to my Hostel so I could make my way back to my bed after a few more pints!

The Celt Inn was just around the corner, and what a pub! Everything you would expect from a little Irish pub, live, traditional music blasting, people dancing and singing Irish songs and Guinness flowing!

Here I met some fellow travellers and some locals who helped immerse me into the atmosphere further. Unfortunately, I am a little lightweight, and having drinks bought for me did not help the situation, I ambled back to my ice block of a room and passed out in a giddy Guinness haze.