October was a busy month for me. I travelled through three countries, one of them new to me, and hit up almost a dozen cities, all while eating my body weight in fresh, beautiful pasta.
When I left you last, I was a week into my housesit in Bologna and was falling head over stomach in love with the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Not much changed as we transitioned into October.
Right at the start of the month, I convinced Dave to join me on a day trip to Modena, home of balsamic vinegar.
Trust me on this: if you haven’t had traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena before, you should do everything you can to get your hands on some. It was the most incredible flavour, whether it had been aged in cherry or juniper barrels, or for 12 or 25 years. Dave and I jumped on a free tasting at Acetaia di Giorgio, a small family-run business on the outskirts of the city, and were so impressed that we somehow managed to justify spending €65 on a 100 ml bottle of the stuff.
Outside of making poor financial decisions, I really warmed to Modena, and could have easily spent a few months there, living out my dream Italian life. Dave and I wandered through cobblestone alleyways and squares, grabbed samples of everything we could at Mercato Albinelli food market, had the best gelato of our lives at Gelateria K2, and swooned over the delicious meal at Trattoria Aldina, which was probably the best meal we’ve ever had in Italy.
I decided then to hit the pause button on my travels for a week to ensure I saw more of Bologna while receiving plenty of dog snuggles from Leo. Bologna’s a super-cool city with a laidback vibe and the most incredible food scene, and I loved spending time walking through the many, many porticoes.
With my feet itching once more, I made my way to the tiny country of San Marino.
San Marino was my 82nd-ish country and my final microstate in Europe, and before I arrived, I had a feeling I was going to like it. I always seem to fall for small, lesser-visited countries — Luxembourg, Andorra, and Liechtenstein are some of my favourite parts of Europe — and San Marino easily became another one of my loves.
For starters, the views were stunning.
And as an added bonus, there was hardly anybody there!
Yes, if you want to see San Marino without the crowds, I highly recommend visiting on a weekday in early-October. I encountered bright blue skies, warm temperatures, and few people. In a country that’s so beautiful, it was wonderful having every viewpoint all to myself.
I finished off my day by spending several hours walking around Rimini and, um, didn’t warm to it at all, so quickly hurried back to Bologna.
Apparently, my time in Italy was all about the day trips, but in a region that’s all about incredible food, how could I not? For my final day trip, I headed to Parma in search of yet another life-changing meal.
When I didn’t warm to the city as much as I did Modena, I still enjoyed spending a day exploring, and I couldn’t get enough of Parma’s architecture. While I was far too lazy to set my alarm for 5 a.m. in order to tour a dairy farm, I still made sure to eat all of the parmigiano reggiano and prosciutto that this city is so famous for.
It also meant dealing with dairy-induced stomach cramps and panic attacks for a full day afterwards while insisting that it was so worth it.
And with that, my month of travel in Europe was over, and it was time to head back to Bristol for the rest of the year.
It’s no secret that travel has wreaked havoc on my immune system over the past few years. Through travel, I transformed from somebody who barely even caught so much as a cold each year to someone who now takes an average of six courses of antibiotics a year, struggles with stomach issues after years of food poisoning and antibiotics, and deals with chronic pain and fatigue on a daily basis.
I’ve reached the point where it now feels sensible for me to halt my explorations of the world for the next 3-6 months and instead concentrate on eating well, exercising often, avoiding infections, and boosting my immune system back to its previous impenetrable shell.
Having said that, I did just buy a flight to Thailand for February and I almost bought a flight to Kazakhstan this morning, so, y’know, old habits die hard, especially when it comes to travel and me.
While much of my time in Bristol was spent getting back into a wellness-focused routine, I still found time to hang out with friends and explore more of the southwest of England.
Travel blogging friends Craig and Linda are in town at the moment, and Bristol local Heather offered to take the group of us into the Mendips for a day full of countryside and cheese. We hiked Cheddar Gorge in-between snacks of cheddar cheese and cider, had a delicious Sunday roast in the excellently-named village of Wookey Hole, then spent time exploring Wells, the smallest city in England.
Day-tripping appears to now be in my blood after my time Italy, so I decided to make it a habit and spent a day in Bath.
This famous city is known for its Roman baths and given that Bristol is just 15 minutes away, it’s pretty unforgivable that I hadn’t made it there yet.
Fortunately, the good weather from the summer is lingering and we had perfect bright-blue skies for our day in town. We tried the famous bath buns from Sally Lunns, admired Bath Abbey, then spent a significant amount of time walking around the Roman Baths in awe. This definitely won’t be my last visit to Bath — I’m already planning to return to see its famous Christmas market in all its glory.
And that was October!
Countries Visited: 3
Italy, San Marino, the UK
Cities Visited: 10
Bath, Bologna, Bristol, Cheddar, Modena, Parma, Rimini, San Marino, Wells, Wookey Hole.
Distance travelled: 1250 miles
Number of flights: 1
Number of trains: 9
Number of buses: 2
Highlights of the Month
Another reason to love the EU: Remember back in May, when I flew to the U.K. and ended up delayed for hours on my flight from Singapore? Well, EU regulations mean that passengers are entitled to compensation if their journey ends up taking more than four hours longer than expected. Ours was delayed by six hours and that meant that I was able to claim €600 in compensation! Not bad when you consider the flight was only €120.
10/10; would sit in the middle seat for nineteen hours again.
Living my best boring life in Bristol: After a full month of travel, it felt so wonderful to return to Bristol! One of my favourite aspects of having a base is getting to do all of the things that probably sound boring as hell in comparison to my previous adventure-filled life — not for me! I’ve grown to love and appreciate a semi-fixed life because a life of nothing but travel ended up feeling slightly unfulfilling in the end, too. There’s something to be said for having the best of both worlds.
Things like binge-watching shows on Netflix, learning how to cook ramen, filling my bookshelf with new reads, becoming a regular at my local cafe, and building a consistent strength training routine at the gym — they all fill me with so much joy, just as much as island-hopping in Thailand does.
Lowlights of the Month
One of the scariest flights of my life: Given how many flights I’ve taken over the past seven years (almost 200 at last count), I’m always surprised by how I’ve yet to have experienced anything truly nerve-wracking while up in the air. No cabin depressurisation, no aborted landings, no injury-causing turbulence, no diverted flights. With the exception of the death plane I took in Tonga, my flights have always been calm and incident-free.
When I awoke on my final morning in Bologna, though, and saw #StormCallum trending on U.K. Twitter, I winced. A hundred mile an hour winds were howling across Ireland and Wales, and they were forecast to be smashing the south of England by the time we were due to arrive in Heathrow.
And that they did.
After an uneventful flight, we began to land in some of the roughest winds I’ve experienced. It felt as though we were rolling over violent seas as the cabin rocked from side to side, fell into deep drops, and all I could hear was the engine whining and whining. As I sat in my aisle seat, I shuddered as I watched the ground appear through one window only to show up in the other two seconds later.
A woman on my row let out a high-pitched scream, and someone began to sob further up the cabin. All around me, everyone’s foreheads were knitted together with concern. I could hear someone praying, and the couple behind me were discussing whether to adopt the brace position.
I felt sick.
We were still banking from side to side as we came over the runway, and I held my breath as I pictured what would happen if we landed wing-first on the tarmac.
Which, of course, we didn’t, because flying is safe, right? Still, it was definitely the scariest landing I’ve ever encountered, and judging by the conversations my fellow passengers were having, everyone was feeling fairly traumatised by the experience.
Yet another infection: Remember what I was saying about my broken immune system?
This sinus infection is my fifth of the year, and the last time I encountered sinusitis, it stuck around for a full eight months, so I wouldn’t say I’m particularly stoked about the situation. Having said that, this is yet another wakeup call to cool it when it comes to travel for a while and instead work on lowering my stress levels while rebuilding my immune system.
More motivation issues: After eight years of running this site and relentlessly producing content day after day after day, I’m feeling burnt out, uninspired, and demotivated. Every blog post I write at the moment feels awkward and stilted, and I don’t want to start publishing sub-standard blog posts just to get something out into the world.
For now, I’m going to keep pushing, sitting down every morning to write in the hope that I’ll break through this wall sooner rather than later.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that November will be my month.
Incidents of the Month
I lost my temper in Parma: I’m always a target for touts.
I’m small and innocent-looking, and I’m aware I look like somebody who’s easy to take advantage of. Not only that, but I refuse to be rude to anyone because you never know the circumstances that have led to somebody choosing to become a pestering nuisance. When touts approach me, they always hang around for a while because my tactics are to smile politely and say something like, “Oh, I appreciate the offer, but I’m afraid I’m not interested.” “No, sorry, I don’t want to buy anything. I hope you find a buyer soon, though!” “No, no thank you. But thank you for thinking of me.”
I’m so ridiculous, I know, but I figure these people must get abused all day, so I always try to be kind.
And there I was in Parma, with this guy standing in front of me, trying to sell me some hideous sunglasses. And he would. not. go. away. I must have turned him down eight times — I even resorted to just firmly saying no over and over — and still, he persisted.
So maybe it’s because of the MeToo era and it’s probably because I’m sick of reading about how badly society treats women these days but I lost my shit.
“For fuck’s sake,” I spat at him. “Leave me the fuck alone! Idiot.”
And then I promptly stormed over to Dave’s side in fear. Y’know, just in case the guy decided to kill me.
My Next Steps
November looks set to be a chilled out month and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I’ll be basing myself in Bristol once more, but aiming to take a day trip every week in order to keep my travel bug well fed. High on my list at the moment is Cardiff, Salisbury, Glastonbury, and somewhere in the Cotswolds — recommendations always welcomed! I’ve seen embarrassingly little of my homeland.
In Bristol, I’m going to be heading to a comedy show with friends, trying out a flotation tank for the first time, working on tackling some complicated recipes, and signing up for a ton of fitness classes. I’m super-inspired to start yoga and meditation classes, try my hand at pole dancing, and basically attempt to kick my hyper-sedentary lifestyle in the trash.
What do you have planned for November?