I didn’t think Poland was too bad until I got cream in my juice and anchovies instead of artichoke

As you might guess, I’m in Poland.

Right now I’m not ecstatic to be here.

Upon arrival everything seemed fine. Flight, train and taxi stuff was fine, hotel is nice, I met up with some people. Then I lost my cardigan somewhere and we went to a dinner with host lab members that I was expecting to be tomorrow, but nevermind. I thought it would be fine as I’d breezed through the whole traveling bit without any panic or even strong anxiety, I was a-ok.

At the restarant (feeling a bit chilly from my absentee cardigan) I decided to tell people that I don’t drink alcohol so I wouldn’t get pressured to drink, and picked a ‘fruit cocktail’ which from the name,I understood would be fruit blended together….but what arrived was about 50% cream. I can’t digest lactose, so after a couple of tastes I decided I’d have to get another drink but as I wasn’t paying I felt guilty, so just had water….

Time to order food then, so i picked a pizza and listed off my four chosen toppings: spinach, black olives, pines nuts and artichoke.


Then the food arrives but this wasn’t any kind of artichoke ive ever seen…I mean, it looked fishy…so I enquired and yes it was anchovies…..so I politely said that I has asked for artichoke not anchovy (I’d even pointed to the word on the menu) ane the waitress just looked at me and and said ‘is that a problem?’ so I had to say, yes dear, yes it is…I am vegetarian, I don’t eat fish!

So grumpy faced off she went to fetch me a replacement…it turned up quite quickly and I had a quick scan and no, they hadn’t just taken off the fish and added artichoke because this one didn’t have pine nuts…OK close enough. It tasted fine even though it probably had someone’s spit in it. The problem was then that I’d got hungry waiting and was shivering, and making terrible conversation through my pained expressions of embarrassment and anxiety.

The afternoon started off so peacefully and degenerated into something monsterous thats going to give me a belly ache.

Wish me luck. I have to navigate breakfast without any surprise lactose or meat products and then give a presentation to an unknown sized crowd tomorrow (n>10) without meltdown. Maybe forgoing valium was a bad idea.

Sigh. Challenging anxieties isn’t always triumphant is it? :S

Seattle Story webs

Hello Hello! I expect my absence was interpreted as abandonment of the blog, but no, here I am, back from holiday and full of jibber-jabber about the trip. I actually have so much balderdash to dispense that I’m going to break in up into digestible chucks of blah. In case you are wondering, those morsels are hidden in the hyperlinks.

I went to Seattle for a week – and the take-home message is that it was good. I know what you are thinking..that’s a hell of a long way to go for just 7 days and you know what? you’d be correct! Jet lag sucks.

Let’s start at the beginning, a few days before travel I had some anxiety issues  but we made it onto the flight and to be honest, it could have been a lot worse. I was concerned about the plane being so small (767) and going so far (5,000 miles) but it was relatively spacious and comfortable (for economy), the staff were polite and friendly, food was just about edible and in-flight entertainment was decent – I mean, I managed to watch a couple of films that whittled away the time, but right now I can’t for the life of me remember what they were!

here is a view from the journey of the rockies (? – ok just googled and yes that would be the rockies – phew!)

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pretty huh?

Then we traveled off to our airbnb-rented accommodation, found surrounded by a load of artsy things all over the garden. Day one was largely a blur as we just went to the shop for toastable provisions and settled in for a quiet night of trying to stay awake.

Day 2 was set aside for the EMP museum and pike place market. the museum was cool, especially the projector exhibit and the gallery of Nirvana’s old gear. Sadly we didn’t get to see any flying fish at the seafront market, but, sorry I wasn’t prepared to purchase a haddock in order to see it thrown around! We had the first of many starbucks visits too 🙂

Day 3 was pretty much wasteland as far as I can see – we had only arrived a day and a bit ago and some bright spark decided to get us tickets to the Macefield festival – which would have been great, except the band they really wanted to see was playing at 1AM…soo….that’s like staying up until about 10AM the next day…and I’m sure you can imagine how well I cope with sleep deprivation! yeah exactly, I don’t. So, much napping was done and general slobbery until the evening. I felt that the beginning of the festival was good, I liked the first band we saw, they were called Gibraltar, and played well, so all three albums were purchased and we went off for some pre-Mark Lanegan Pizza. I enjoyed the soporific tones of Mr Lanegan and from then on, it all went a bit pear-shaped and the evening disintegrated into a seemingly endless cycle of  pain, boredom, attempting and failing at keeping eyes open, and generally looking like a total drunk. At the end of the final band it got worse.Yup, the one cab company we were relying on ran out of cars and I was in no fit state to work out how to get a cab. Read here about choosing your travel companion wisely. Anyway, we got back to the apartment around 3AM and slept in late the next day, so some more wasted hours.

Day 4 we took the Argosy cruise around the harbour and saw the city from the water. It was a gloriously sunny day and we even got to see some sea lions sunbathing. Later we went to the Chihuly garden and glass and saw some really beautiful glasswork.

Day 5 we had a busy day, starting out in Freemont taking a look at the Troll under the bridge, and then went for a stroll around the gasworks park. This place was really unique, a great view of the cityscape and some great industrial relics. We then meandered over to the aquarium which was nice, as I got to stroke a starfish and the highlight was seeing the sea otters. I have never seen these little critters in real life and they are just THE most adorable things ever. For proof and shots of the gasworks park see here.

Day 6 we finally got around to doing the obvious tourist thing and went up the Space Needle, not one, but twice, once during the day and once at night :). What I learnt was that I have height-induced vertigo – yay me! I never knew! it was like the whole thing was tiled and I was falling over. Weird and not that scary, just a bit nauseating! This day also saw our first trip to Capitol Hill, so SO finally go to his beloved used CD stores. One of which was HUUUUGE and apparently warranted a good 1.5 hours of trawling through while I went for a very overpriced fresh juice. <YAWN>

Day 7 being the last full day, you might think that we wanted to make the most of it but, actually we needed to be up late again for a gig that SO wanted to attend, so we just took the underground tour – this took us into some of the original streets back from when Seattle was a couple of metres lower down and built largely in a boggy muddy flood plain. The Tour poked some fun at nearby town Tacoma and the founders and their lack of foresight with plumbing issues etc. It was educational and reminded me a lot of history classes about manifest destiny and all that.

The final day took us on a brief trip to a fancy area of Seattle called Denny-Blaine, where there is a park containing a bench memorial for Kurt Cobain, right next to the place where he killed himself.

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not at all morbid. Honest.

It was after this that I made arguably the worst decision of the trip. I figured we could just walk our luggage up the hill to the train station. This was a bad decision because of health anxiety and because of my travelling companion.

This was all probably all  terribly boring to read – just skimming through the touristy things to do in Seattle, but I guess it might be nice for me to be able to come back and read it in the future even if no-one else likes it!

I bought myself some cute souvenirs too

Looks like I’ve gone all steam punk huh? Well so be it!

I have been to the states before, but I can’t tell you how confusing things like crossing a road, and paying a bill can be. It seems like if there is a pedestrian sign you can just walk out onto an interstate and the traffic stops for you…but then when there are no signs, how do you know if you are J walking? Maybe the sign is behind a tree? Well cars kept stopping and waving us weirdos across the road, so I guess we were too hesitant, but in England, you can’t go taking risks, they’ll just mow you down and brag to their friends about it! Bill paying of course involved a lot of worry about tipping, how much, how to leave it, who to tip. Apparently you are supposed to tip a barman for the 3 seconds it takes opening a can of beer but they will be offended if you try to tip them for spending 5 mins calling you a cab (sooo confused). Also according to the interwebs waiting staff expect 15-20% tip…so obviously that is what we left but it’s so difficult to gauge what service warrants how much tip. I understand now that the wages for restaurants and bars really suck in the US, and that tips are expected, but we just don’t really have that culture here. I worked in a relatively upmarket restaurant and often people would leave no tip, even when they had excellent service, and in a bar where you NEVER got tips unless one of the patrons fancied you and bought you drinks.
Another thing that struck me was how friendly people seemed to be. A lot of smiles and just making conversation.
Amazingly pretty much no-one that we met thought that we were English. They couldn’t tell from my accent at all.I did inquire specifically what they looked for and it was a cockney accent they considered English. Well. Ok. That’s a bit weird because regardless of what state you are from, if you come to England, everyone will know you are American (or Canadian, depends if you say the word “about” or not).
The final words I have to say about seattle are about the bums and trust. I was unaware quite how extreme the homelessness situation was in Seattle. There are homeless beggers all over downtown and many elsewhere. Far far more than I have ever noticed in another city. Although they didn’t give us any trouble (a couple had signs saying they wanted money for weed….seriously??! Can’t you be like British homeless and at least pretend you aren’t just going to go and get wasted on our hard earned cash?) it wasn’t very pleasant to see them, it made me feel kind of guilty for being on holiday, and that’s not the name of the game. On a final note, I found people much more trusting than back home. For example, someone just left their iPhone on a ledge next to a shop and no-one stole it, and cash left on tables for bills doesn’t get stolen. The exception to this rule is security at night clubs who think that UK drivers licences are Basically fake id’s…well, sorry matey, but I don’t trust people not to half hinch my passport the day before I fly!