Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rose Street

So after my little hiccup in the Mallorca airport, I arrived safely in Edinburgh with Shahida! As you may have noticed (and noticed and noticed), I visit Edinburgh quite a bit. It has a lot to do with the people I get to see, but over all the visits, I've grown to really fall in love with the city too (oh who am I kidding, it was love at first sight). So I have a pretty set routine when I'm there, regarding what I do when Shahida has to work. Go to the city, walk around the Royal Mile and find a good cafe on the old side of town. 

This trip, however, I decided to broaden my horizons a little bit and actually ended up spending most of my time on the other side of princes street in the new city on a cozy little street called Rose Street

What's special about Rose Street? Well it's basically a long street of pubs and restaurants. Most famous for the oldest pub in the city as well as many pubs that were frequented by the famous literary big names to come out of Edinburgh. For me, it was the perfect resting place to enjoy a seat, a pint, and some free wifi after a few hours of roaming the city. 

If you ever find yourself in Edinburgh - which everyone at some point should definitely find themselves in Edinburgh - you can't miss an afternoon, or better yet, a night out on Rose Street

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

how not to get deported

If they make one thing abundantly clear at Fulbright orientation, it is that you can not overstay your visa. The thing is, when you enter the EU as a US citizen, you get an automatic 90 days to stay, travel, visit, etc. If you stay beyond that (say, for 2 years), you have to have a visa. But more likely than not, your visa will have an expiration date on it - the day your job, education, internship, etc. ends, and on that day you have to leave. Not just the country, but also not the entire EU, you just have to make it out of the countries that make up the Schengen Zone (basically continental, western Europe). 

They always stress the fact that you have to leave by the day your visa expires. Even one day after and you could be in serious trouble. Of course, I've also had plenty of friends who've over stayed their visas by quite a bit and had no problems. So basically, it's all hit or miss, but when push comes to shove, you're not really allowed to. 

Even though my visa expired on July 6, but I was determined to hold on to Europe till the bitter end (I didn't move home until 3 days before the semester began), my plan was to escape to Shahida in Scotland then return to Germany as a "tourist." The plan was to fly straight from Italy to Edinburgh on what I dubbed "deportation day" (no really, it was labeled in my calendar). Not returning completely home after a visa expires, though an accepted method, is still frowned upon. However, when I saw that flights the day after deportation day were about 30€ cheaper, I decided one day couldn't hurt - especially not leaving from Italy, they're really lax people, right?

What I didn't take into consideration was that I'd have to make it through 2 airports on the hopes that no one noticed/cared, as I had a layover in Mallorca. I figured they'd be just as relaxed as the Italians, being a nice vacation Island and all... also, my visa was all in German, and even though dates are in numbers, I was hoping coming across words like "Aufenthaltstitel" and "Aufenthaltserlaubnis" would scare them away from really checking. 

Things I didn't take into consideration: when you fly Ryan Air, regardless of the fact that you're traveling within the EU (where they don't normally check passports), if you're not an EU citizen, you have to have your passport checked. Also, German words don't scare the people of Mallorca as that is the main travel destination for vacationing Germans. So much so that it's often referred to as the 17th German state. 

So when I arrived in Mallorca with 2 hours less than intended because of a last minute rescheduling (thanks, Ryan Air), I was already flustered about missing my next flight to Edinburgh. So I ran to passport check, and that's where the shit hit the fan. 

It was one of those situations when they asked me if I was in the EU as a resident, where I didn't know if a simple "no" would be a quick get away or a sure fire ticket to trouble. I'm still not entirely convinced this was the right decision, but having never been asked that question before at the Ryan Air passport check, I panicked and opted for honesty - "Yes, the visa's in the back" - Hoping they wouldn't really look at the date, or figure that it was just one day so who cares. But when I saw her start counting the days on her fingers and I immediately knew I had picked the wrong answer.

"This expired yesterday." Not even a question. 3 words. And then the worst case scenarios started flashing before my eyes:

Calling Shahida from the US telling her I had been redirected from Edinburgh because of an over-stayed visa
Calling my mom from the Atlanta airport. Surprise! 
Having to pay exorbitant fees.
Being black listed by the EU from ever returning. 
Something involving a plot very likely to appear on Locked Up Abroad

At this point, I decided honesty had failed me and started going for anything that sounded good "I'm flying straight back to the US from Edinburgh! I got a connecting flight from there because it was cheaper! I'm going to miss my flight (which was kind of true)." Whatever conversation occurred between us next is all a blur by this point, the next thing I really remember: she discusses the situation in Spanish with her coworker, stamps my ticket as being checked, and without another word sends me on my way. 

For all I know, she stamped my ticket with "detain this person upon arrival," but nonetheless I ran to my gate with an overwhelming sense of relief. Now I just had to make it through the real passport control in Mallorca, arrival passport check in Scotland, leaving Scotland and arriving in Germany.

And I did make it, never to be almost detained for breaking international law again. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

my 2nd favorite holiday ever

Since we are very quickly approaching my favorite Holiday ever, I thought I should back track (or fast forward from the Italy posting?) a couple weeks to my second favorite: Halloween! After two years of appreciating the slowly growing German Halloween but always longing for a little something more, I was glad to finally get the chance to celebrate a good ol' Murikan Halloween! 

I, of course, repurposed an old German costume (from Karneval, as you may recall). 

And while I was worried the heavy German theme would not carry over into American culture very well, I ended up being the hit of town. Well, at least in my eyes! But despite the many comments on got on my look, it's still the home-made/witty/hilarious costumes that I like best
yes, his back feet did roll. It was impressive.
This guy was probably over 10 feet tall
lolz, assholes. get it?
But probably my favorite part of Halloween spending it with my biffle Jess! I don't know how it happened, but many years ago Halloween became our holiday, and whenever we're in the same country together, you better believe we will be taking Halloween for all it's worth!

Friday, November 16, 2012


If you're in Italy, don't worry about paying ridiculously high prices for bottled water. Instead, bring your own bottle and fill up at the one of many ANY fountain in Italy. Because yes, they are all (mostly...) safe drinking water. 

If it's in the Vatican, does that automatically make it holy water?
Please be prepared for bottle leakage. I suggest having bandaid's on hand. Not terribly effective, but you can still pretend. 

Of course, not ALL fountains in Italy are drinking water.... 

the day we saw a lot of old stuff in Rome.

I don't know if I mentioned this or not, but anywhere you go in Italy there are lines everywhere. Sometimes you can just stick it out, but after a while it just gets old.
waiting in line is F-U-N! 
There is always an alternative... for the right price, that is. Anywhere there is a line in Italy, there is a tour group willing to offer you a guided tour plus a free pass to jump the line. Usually for about double what you would pay normally. Of course, being the cheap people that we are, Matthew and I opted for the slower, more economic virtue of patience.

Until our last day, that is. What I dubbed as "old stuff day" was scheduled as our day to visit the Colosseum and Forum (aka old stuff). And since neither of us knew much about the two, we decided if we were going to blow our money anywhere, we should do it here. So we cashed out the 28€ (as opposed to the normal entry price of 12€, I believe) for a combined tour of both the Colosseum and the Forum and waited for our tour guide. 
don't I make a great gladiator?

this was right before we lost each other for the next hour or so. Oops. 
Let's just say the tour of the Colosseum left us wildly unimpressed and feeling a little embarrassed of the scam we apparently just bought into. But it was still an amazing place. 

When it was time for the second part of the tour, though, things started looking up. We got a new tour guide and had a tour that, by itself, was worth the 28€. 

So in the end, the paid tours can definitely be worth it if you're up for it! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

alimento (yes, I do speak Italian) (not really)

I don't know what you think of first when you think of Italy... but I'm not gonna lie, my first thoughts are "WINE AND PASTA!" (and yes, I do think it in all caps). But unfortunately, Rome being a pretty very touristy city, food/wine prices can get unreasonably high. Luckily, after a good tip from our Hostel lady on the first day, Matthew and I found the secret gem of Rome. 

In this little are of the city (just across the river) food and wine is a plenty, and all for completely reasonable prices! I don't think we ever spent more than 10€ on our dinner and drinks for any one meal! 

Oh, and a tip... if you order a tomato salad, that is exactly what you'll get. 

Of course, on the nights we didn't feel like making the trek out there, we paid a visit to the grocery story across the street. 

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