A Self-Guided Tour of the Pocket Parks of Shrewsbury

I don’t know if it’s because my time here has come to an end, but getting up this morning was just about impossible. I am absolutely exhausted and looking forward to a very long lie-in my first morning in Brighton. It’s a good thing my last day in Shrewsbury was sunny, otherwise I would have been tempted to not do my final walking tour and instead just spend the afternoon on the couch cuddling Puppy while watching movies!

But it was a beautiful day, so I set off late morning to do the Pocket Parks of Shrewsbury walking tour. We’ve been to most of these stops before and this is the first tour where I wish I’d followed my instincts and done it in my own order since I ended up walking all over town, sometimes for almost nothing, and having to backtrack to get home. The exercise was good, of course, but things were getting rather repetitive. Still, there were a few stops on this tour that were unique and I caught new things even at places where I’ve been.

Here’s a map of the tour (click to embiggen).

“There are several small green havens of peace in Shrewsbury town centre, quiet places to sit, rest, or have a sandwich. … Most are tended by the Town Council gardeners who call them pocket parks.”

So the tour starts at St Alkmund’s Churchyard, where we’ve been countless times. I made it a point to walk around and catch different perspectives.

“St Alkmund’s Church stands on the flattened top of one of the two hills within the river loop, looking as if perched on a pedestal. A Saxon church was once on the site, but the current building dates from the 1790s, except for the tower, which is late 15th century. From Saxon times until 1261, the King’s Market was held here in the space around and between this church and its neighbour, St. Julian’s.”

Note “the unusual 18th century cast iron windows…”

I loved the pretty turquoise front door.

The pub is called The Three Fishes.

Notice a discrepancy between the church and street signs?

Both spellings appear to be used interchangeably.

From St Alkmund’s, I moved to St Julian’s Detached Churchyard, which I was curious about and would be a favourite spot for me to sneak to on a lunch break if I worked in the area.

“This was founded in the early 1800s when John Oakley, a local grocer, sold part of his garden to St Julian’s Church as an extra burial ground. There was a great shortage of burial space in town centre graveyards at this time. He and his wife were buried here; the last burial, in 1881, was of his daughter at age 81. A century later, the Town Council took over the care of this graveyard and it has become a quiet secluded pocket park minutes from the bustle of Wyle Cop. The tombstones seem to form a paved area…”

I occasionally see signs like these in England, making it easier to navigate towns with no street pattern.

Next stop was Old St Chad’s Churchyard, where I spent so much time on the tour of the Shuts that I did not go back in as I did not learn anything new.

The leaflet did make me notice this building across from the chapel. This house “illustrates a fashion that was common in the town in the 18th century. At this time, houses were sometimes modernised by brick skins and plaster to cover the ‘old-fashioned’ Tudor timberwork.”

It was then quite a long stroll to my next destination, about a block from the abbey. On the way there, I discovered that the route to my next destination was blocked.

The reason why became apparent very quickly. I didn’t realise it had rained so much in the last few days!

The tow path is fully immersed.

I crossed English Bridge and immediately turned left into the Abbey Gardens.

“These once belonged to the builder John Carline. He and his business partner John Tilley were responsible for building the Welsh Bridge. Carline and his family had a house at the side of the plot away from the river. In his riverside yard, he kept materials, pieces of fallen masonry, and his models of the lions for the base of Lord Hill’s Column; they are still here. At one time, this park was also known as Mr Palin’s Pleasure Gardens; residents came here to walk and admire abandoned pieces of sculpture, which were on display. Many of them are still here. The park is now known for its rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring. From this park, there are excellent views of the 18th century English Bridge, the river itself with its old towing path, and above it a silhouette of the town centre, including the old Royal Salop Infirmary, founded in the 18th century and now converted into flats and shops.”

I love that detailing on the stone columns. Can you see how twisted they are?

I couldn’t get over how lush and bright green everything was!


A crocus, in early March!

A large part of the garden was under water!

I had to make my own way to my next stop, easily done as I now know my way around the downtown core. I followed the route along the water on the medieval tour, so I didn’t miss anything.

I thought this building had a rather lovely curve.

I was feeling peckish and decided to get a snack to tide me over to lunch. Café on the Cop looked inviting and had a cream tea for just £4 (for which you could have tea or a pot of coffee!). That was exactly what I wanted. I came in and took a seat and was immediately taken in by the unusual slate place mats.

The very sweet proprietor came over right away for my order. I decided on tea rather than coffee as the latter just didn’t feel right with this snack.  I was not offered a choice for the type of tea and whatever it was that came was very lovely. But now, check out my scone!

It was huge! It was equivalent to two scones anywhere else I’ve had a cream team. Needless to say, this became an early lunch! The preserves weren’t the best I’ve had (a jelly rather than a jam), but the scone was the best ever and the clotted cream hit the spot. I did not have the butter. This was definitely my favourite cream tea of the four I’ve enjoyed since discovering this treat at the British Museum.

My next stop was the castle! En route, I got very close to the yellow house we saw on the Tudor tour.

I got a good view of the library across the way.

What an impressive flower arrangement! Can you see the Union Jack?

The castle is now the Regimental Museum, for which you have to pay. But it’s free to walk around the grounds.

“This pocket park is part of the Norman castle built in the narrow neck of the meander by Roger of Montgomery, a relative of William the Conqueror.”  The castle was once connected to the town walls by a sandstone wall.

“Edward I added to the castle, building the great hall in the 1280s, when it was a link in the chain of castles guarding the Welsh border. … In the 18th century, the castle was remodelled by Thomas Telford for Sir William Pulteney, the wealthy owner. He also built, on the old motte, a summerhouse-folly named after Laura, Sir William’s daughter.”

That was my next stop, Laura’s Tower. Up I went!

I love how that stone has been worn from so many centuries of folks treading on it.

Laura’s Tower.

Unfortunately, you can’t go in, but you do get an incredible view of Shrewsbury.

The abbey.

I headed back down to walk the grounds a little.

More daffodils!

The next stop was the library garden and I wasn’t going to bother since there was no new information, but then I saw an interesting tidbit. So off I went to look at the turnable, “which was installed in 1983 to rotate library vans.”

I did pop into the garden to admire the flowers that were blooming. The garden was “planted to give all-year-round foliage colour with minimum maintenance.”

It was another long way to my next park, which we’d been to on my first day out and about in town. Spoiler: both were closed. 🙁 I would have been better off coming straight to the last one from the Abbey Gardens and finishing at the castle. But anyway… I love this shot of Castle Street. It just looks so… old!

Shrewsbury bus station.

St Chad Church in the background.

Welsh Bridge.

I came to find a locked gate the Quantum/Mardol Quay Garden. But I could at least see things from the street.

“This pocket park is located on the site of the Mardol Quay, built in 1607. Some of the original cobbles can be seen and here river boats loaded and unloaded — old accounts show that ‘for every barge load of wood or coal 12d; for a ton of other goods — from a burgess 2d and from a foreigner 4d.” Later, the warehouses were converted into a car repair shop, which eventually was cleared for road widening in 1958/60. A public garden was established on the riverside, which was redesigned in 2009 for the bicentenary of the birth, in Shrewsbury, of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the The Origin of Species.”

Remember this odd thing?

“A sculpture, designed by Pearce and Lal and called Quantum Leap, has been likened to a shell, human vertebrae, DNA, and many other things and is locally known as The Slinky because of its similarity to the coiled-wire toy. The garden celebrates Shropshire’s geological history….”

I passed the Rowley House yet again on my way to my last stop, capturing it from a new angle.

Narrow driveway entrance.

Getting closer!

St Chad’s Church “with its adjoining graveyard was built in 1792 to replace the one that fell down. From the churchyard, you can see the unusual circular shape of the church, the largest of its kind in England. In the middle of the 19th century, as a result of the crowded and very unsanitary conditions in town centre graveyards, a Burial Act was passed closing urban burial grounds. As a result, in 1856, the General Cemetery was opened on the outskirts of the town with cooperation from all six parishes. The churchyard is now maintained, as a semi-natural woodland. In the centre, look for Scrooge’s gravestone, placed here for the filming of Dickens’ Christmas Carol in 1984.”

Well, the churchyard was closed. 🙁 A very kind worker came over and said to me, “Sorry, lovie, they’re doing works inside.” Lovie? I love British endearments!

So this is all I saw of the churchyard.

The church itself is large and impressive.

Its vicar is well-named.

Main entrance.

Across the street, balustrade paid for by the Horticultural Society.

Across the street is the unassuming final stop, The Dingle.

I really love this church!

Another vantage point of the hospital.

I headed home after, going all the way back up Pride Hill and down Castle Gates, which I’d done twice before already today. In desperate need of a haircut, I popped into a salon with a sign that said walk-ins welcome. I found that £15 was very expensive for the little work they had to do (I just shear the hair very short), but needs must and I felt much lighter when I got out.

I took the route by the train station to go home from there and it was after I did the turn at Morrison’s Lubricants that I noticed this door for the first time. Very curious.

Well, thus ends my lovely stay in Shrewsbury! I adored this town! Hebden Bridge was cute, not somewhere I would have wanted to be for long. I could certainly see myself in Shrewsbury.

The puppy sitting was restrictive, but it was a blessing in a way in that it forced me to stick close and really get to know the centre of town. There is so much of Shrewsbury that I did not see as I did not venture much on the other side of the river, but I definitely covered the touristy part of town and then some!

I’d consider the puppy minding part of the exercise a success. I know I did a very good job of it and I’m very proud that. It was very challenging, exhausting, and sometimes tedious, but it was also immeasurably rewarding and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much with such joy on a daily basis.

So I’m heading out tomorrow at about 1PM and as long as I make my super tight connections (not counting on it), I’ll be in Brighton by 6PM. If I do make my connections, I’ll be pulling out of London Bridge in exactly 24 hours and 10 minutes for the final leg of my journey across this country.

My route ahead isn’t nearly this directly, but is well represented here.

A Jaunt to Halifax

Just when I thought work was going into a lull, it picked up again. 2016 was all about travel, but 2017 needs to be a bit more work focused. So I’m glad there isn’t too much around here to distract me, just enough to give me a change of scenery if I need it. I haven’t been able to take a full day off, but a half day to run into Halifax was doable. I got up super early compared to what my schedule has been and was able to do three hours of work by 10:30 so that even with a stop at Barclay’s, I was on the 10:47 bus. I was pleased that a day rider is just £4 considering that a single into Halifax is £3.

Halifax was a centre of woollen manufacture from the 15th century onward. There’s really not much there from a touristy point of view, which was confirmed when I stopped in at the visitor centre behind the bus station (it’s in the library). I was irked to learn that the one thing I had planned to do was closed today, which I had not noticed on their website. Augh.

Like everywhere else I’ve seen in the area, Halifax is a modern town fitted into Victorian buildings. Even new construction has to fit into this aesthetic. I’m a fan of the programme “Grand Designs,” so I know how much work it takes to get planning permission to build in a more modern style pretty much anywhere into the UK.

Halifax’s shopping core is compact and has the expected assortment of shops.

I found the Borough Market, dating back to the Victorian era. It had a surprisingly Mexican feel to it.

Here’s a bit of the exterior of the market.

I love pub names…

Just a regular old bank. I am pleased that this architectural style isn’t something I’m used to yet.

Here’s another side of the market.

Halifax town hall.

I decided to go to my closed destination as I suspected there would be enough to do outdoors to make the one-mile trek there worthwhile. First, I stopped for lunch at a decent and very reasonably priced Chinese buffet restaurant. I tried some new things, like Mongolian style beef and duck. I was really impressed by the variety and quality of the food, especially the abundance of veggies and fruits. Then, off I went across the North Bridge.

On the other side, I saw my friend Vicki’s dream car. Can you spot it?

How about now?

Double decker buses aren’t exclusive to London.

I started to climb high above Halifax along a busy motorway. The walk was pedestrian friendly, but not obvious. I would sometimes take what I thought was a footpath and then have to double back to try a different approach as the roadway split many times and I’d find myself on the wrong side with no place to cross.

It had been sunny when I arrived, but the promised rain was rolling in and it was getting colder.

I spotted a church on a hill.

I love this billboard’s message.

The city quickly gave way to a rural landscape filled with sheep.

See the sheep looking straight at me? It was a little unnerving.

And voilà, Shibden Hall!

The earliest parts of this home date all the way back to the 1420s and it was heavily renovated by Anne Lister in the early 1800s to be more like what a proper Tudor home should be. Anne Lister is considered the “first modern lesbian.” I didn’t think I’d heard of her, but now I’m pretty sure I saw a Sue Perkins thing where she talks about her. Yup, I sure did.

I arrived at the West Terraces. From a plaque: “The West Terraces were constructed, along with the South Terrace, by John Harper as part of the improvements he designed for Anne Lister in 1836. Surrounded by mature trees, the Terraces are cut into the natural slope of the landscape and have stone retaining walls.” They held an orchard with all sorts of fruits with different growing seasons so there could be fruit throughout much of the year.

Anne had this Gothic tower added to the house and it became her library.

The gate at the back of the house was open, so I thought surely it would be okay to have a poke around…

I love the giant stone toadstools.

Well, just as I was heading back to wards the gate, a guy came out of the house to tell me they are closed. I apologised and said I was just trying to see as much of the exterior as I could since I hadn’t realised they were closed on Fridays. He sighed and said that he was waiting for a school group to come back, so why didn’t I come in and have a peek at the interior? Just a peek, though! What a nice guy!!!!

He led me into a hallway with dark wood panelled walls and a low ceiling. I was able to see a fairly standard Victorian kitchen. He then told me I could go look at the most interesting room in the house, to him anyway, a formal sitting room off the main hall. It had much higher ceilings. He explained that the original 1420 stuff is all there, but basically buried by Anne’s renovations. He showed me how the old beams were covered with planks to make them seem bigger and how one of the reasons for the lower ceilings was to make the rooms easier to heat. This is where he told me all that stuff about Anne Lister that I recounted above and that the house is only a museum now and there are no residents.

Obviously, he was doing me a huge favour and I didn’t want to take advantage, so I thanked him and headed out. It sucks that I didn’t get to see the whole property, but at least I didn’t go all the way out there for nothing. Some people are so kind!

It was almost two when I got back into Halifax and I was surprisingly rather footsore and tired. I blame all the hills and stairs in this area. It’s really not hard to get a good amount of exercise even when walking a short distance. I thought of maybe getting a coffee, but went down to the bus station to see when my next bus home would be. Well, there was one right there about to pull out, so I decided to get on.

The ride home was a bit faster than the ride in had been since there wasn’t as much traffic, but it was still almost 40 minutes. I didn’t see anything on either ride that I felt I need to go back out and explore.

I can’t believe I have less than a week left here! This time next week, I’ll be back in Manchester and on my way to my next assignment!

Goodbye Almería and Hello Málaga

My host was due  arrive in the early afternoon yesterday. I had planned to take the day off, but, of course, a job I couldn’t turn down came in. I had kept on top of all my chores in the house, so there wasn’t much to do for her arrival and I was able to just barely get my job done before she got in, woohoo! We spent part of the afternoon catching up and gabbing, then she went to unpack while I went to pack. This was aided in part by the fact that she’s brought me back a very useful little gift! I couldn’t believe that a) she thought to pick up something for me or that b) it was so me and exactly what I needed:

Pic taken in Málaga with a cameo by my new feline friend. 🙂

I’ve been resisting the urge to buy a few little pouches to organise my Sarajevo bag, but really wanted one to separate currencies and to hold little odd bits like my ear buds and charge cords. So it got put to good use right away. I like the quirky triangular shape and and, of course, that it’s pink! 😀

It was tough, but we made to 8PM, just barely, and went out for my last tapas. We might have been hungry and had three each… 😀

I went to bed early but had a hard time getting to sleep (beer’s fault) and was awake too early. I dozed till eight, then finished packing and said my goodbyes to the cat (who gave me a proper final hug and cuddle!) and my host. The bus station is quite convenient from the bus route I take, so I decided to make my own way so my host could ease into her first day back home. I headed out into the rain around 8:30 and was pleased that I’d timed my last bus perfectly as it was pulling up as I was arriving.

Traffic into town got increasingly worse and I ended up getting off a stop earlier than I would have otherwise, which was a smart move — by the time I got to that stop, the bus was still a block behind me!

I got to the bus station at about nine, an hour and a half before my bus. I elbowed my way to the counter at the café there and ordered a whole tomato toast (both sides of the bun) since I wasn’t sure when I’d next get to eat and I hadn’t been smart and bought snacks ahead of time for the ride. There was nothing at the café that I particularly wanted to go.

After breakfast, I decided that I should buy myself a magazine or two as a treat to read on the bus. Hmm… no magazine kiosk around. First time I’ve ever been to a bus station without one. I went to the information desk and asked. The lady gave me very clear directions to the one she felt was closest, about a five-minute walk away. I got there (stepping in a very cold puddle on the way) and… it was closed. But my soggy quest was not in vain as I found a Mercadona and was able to get a slice of “pizza” for my lunch later. I had fruit and water on me, so I was set. Before anyone asks, no, grocery stores here do not carry magazines. So so much for that idea.

It was about 10:15 by the time I made my way back to the bus station. I headed for my platform and discovered that I know a word in Serbian that I didn’t know in Spanish!

I was delighted to discover that the bus had decent wifi, which made up for not finding reading materials. So off we went. It’s not a long distance, about 250KM, but I had a five-hour trip ahead of me since the direct bus was 24 euros and the local bus was only 9 euros!

The ride along the coast was lovely, especially as the sky began to clear as we headed west! It reminded me a lot of the Montenegrin coast.

We stopped in Motril for 30 minutes. The entrance into that bus station is really small and awkward and I’d find it tough in my truck! I can’t believe the buses can get around without hitting anything. I went into the café and had one of those really special coffees that will stick out in my mind. I don’t know what the guy did to it, but the crema tasted like toasted caramel. Sooooo good. I went out to look for a news kiosk and found one. It was closed. You know, because it was almost siesta time and all that. Like I posted on Facebook, Spain continues to be the most ridiculous and exasperating country I have had the pleasure of visiting. 🙂

We picked up a very chirpy new passenger:

At one point, we passed this store that made me laugh. Related to OK Tires in western Canada? 🙂

I forgot to make a note of where this was, but what an impressive city!

Just as I judged this trip to be the second-most interminable and twisty since Belgrade to Sarajevo, we made it to Málaga!

Kind of a London feel to the skyline…


I’d pre-Googled the directions to my accommodation and it was super quick and easy walk there in terms of navigation (not so much in terms of dodging construction). My friendly host was waiting for me. She has a really nice and newly renovated apartment in an older building. She made me feel comfortable straight away, telling me I have full use of the kitchen (including designated space to store groceries in both the pantry and the fridge). We gabbed a bit and she told me that outside of the core of Málaga, I will find the same scheduling issues I encountered in Almería. But, thankfully, I’m right on the edge of the core.

I went straight back out to get some groceries and to make a withdrawal since I’d seen a Deutsche Bank on the way. I hadn’t known if my PayPal transfer had gone through at the time, but I’d been able to confirm it when I got online at the apartment. I was famished by this point (just past five) and was going to turn around and get groceries at the small supermarket right by the apartment, but figured that since I was just a few blocks from a restaurant I’d passed and was curious about, I’d go check it out first. It’s a chain called “Mr. Noodle.”

I passed a pretty church en route:

I got to Mr. Noodle and was happy to see a menu on a table outside, so I grabbed it and saw that the offerings were interesting (Chinese and Thai) and the prices reasonable. So I decided to attempt to try it out at some point in my stay. Just as I was turning to go, a server came outside to ask me if I wanted to eat.

Wait. What? The kitchen was open? At 5PM?! What rabbit hole had I fallen into?!

Let me repeat that I was famished, so that was a definite yes on wanting to eat. 😀 It was chilly out, but they had a covered seating area with a fireplace that was quite cosy. I ordered a beer and went through the menu. Pending disappointment be damned, I ordered their chicken pad thai, no egg please, but spicy.

What  was served looked suspiciously like pad thai. Notice the two bottles of sauce at the top left, Sriracha and sweet chile so I could control my own spiciness level.

This was in no way the best pad thai I’ve ever had, but DANG. It hit the texture and flavour profile I’ve been craving. I left very satisfied. The price was right, too, at 10 euros (including the beer), or about 15CAD. So not cheap, but definitely in line with what I’m used to paying for pad thai of this quality. What an amazing end to my day!

I learned another new word while look a their menu. Not just in Spanish:

Top middle, altramuces. They translate as “lupines” and are a type of legume.

It was getting properly cold out as the sun was setting and I was beat, so I headed home, stopping at the supermarket (Día) for a few things. It was a bit pricy compared to other supermarkets, so I just got enough for breakfast and will look for a Mercadona tomorrow.

I really haven’t seen enough of Málaga yet to have an impression of it other than it’s a large bustling city. It’ll be a fun few days if things are open for long hours and I can get different cuisines, but I don’t think it’ll be as nice a city to walk around in as Almería. I’m not on vacation while here and do plan to work, but I will go exploring tomorrow!

Here’s a map of my day:

Alicante to Almería

This morning, I finally began to understand why Spaniards are such night owls — it was still dark at 8AM. I thought it was very odd that Spain is on the same time zone as Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, etc. As it turns out, it used to be on the same time zone as Britain, but then the dictator Franco changed the time zone to put Spain on the same time zone as Germany and the country has been out of whack since.

I woke up without an alarm, but it had not been a good night of sleep and I knew I was going to have to nap on the bus. I was already packed, so I was out the door by 8:30, with the bus being at 9:30. I had about a half hour walk ahead of me, so I wanted to stop for sustenance along the way and then hopefully get a coffee at or near the bus station.

Alicante was busier than I expected at that “early” hour, but there was very little open. I finally came to a proper bakery and was a little taken aback that two pastries and a large bottle of water were only 2.15 euros. There was a café at the bus station and when I asked for a coffee with a bit of milk, I was offered a “cortado,” which ended up being the best not-made-by-me coffee I’ve had since I got to Spain! The barista had a super thick accent, though, and his “1.20” sounded a lot like “90.” He was annoyed with me when I handed him just one euro and even more so when, still not sure what he’d said, I passed over two euro (instead of exact change). His grumpiness is forgiven for the perfection that was his coffee!

I then went to my… okay. I have to say this. I just blanked out completely on the English word for the Serbian peron. This is how I get when I’m tired — I lose my English! My platform, I went to my platform! There was a huge crowd waiting for a 9:15 bus to Madrid. That bus came and went and then nothing. 9:30 came and went. I thought I heard Almería on a loud speaker, but it was super tinny and I didn’t get anything else. I asked a couple of people and they hadn’t understood the announcement either. I was concerned our bus had moved to another platform. It finally pulled up around 9:45!

The driver did not get out to help load luggage and he didn’t check anyone’s ticket! Seating was assigned and very strict. I’d picked a window seat near the front and was satisfied with my selection even though, like on the train, the windows weren’t line up well with the seats and I got a lot of wall with my window.

We drove… If it wasn’t for the gas stations having different names, I would have thought I was in the Sonoran desert in Mexico. I eventually drifted off to sleep.

At almost bang on noon, we pulled into a station and the driver announced that we would be taking a 15-minute break and would be arriving about 30 minutes late in Almería. I emailed my host to let her know as she had offered to pick me up at the bus station. Thankfully, she got the message.

We finally pulled into Almería at 1:51, 31 minutes late. For all I heard people complain about buses in the Balkans, they ran like clockwork. So far, I prefer the smelly Spanish train. 😀

My host was waiting for me. Her house is in a suburb about 15 minutes from downtown Almería so she showed me where to get off and back on the bus when I come into the city. She then took me to her house, introduced me to my feline charge, showed me my room, and then we sat down to discuss practical matters regarding my gig. Out of respect to her, I am not giving any details about exactly where I am, the house, my responsibilities, etc. I can show pictures of the neighbourhood, local restaurants, the beach, etc. so give me time to get properly landed and all of that will come.

We went for a nice walk along the beach and through her neighbourhood, then came back for a rest. Around 7:30, we headed out to her favourite bar so I could have my first tapas! We had two glasses of white wine each and two tapas for just 8.50 euros total! The first tapa was a large chunk of seared tuna on tomato toast and the second one was a small order of fried calamari. Yum! I was really famished by this point, so the fish was welcome protein and the calamari gave me that bit of moreish I needed to not feel I was going to bed hungry.

Tomorrow is going to be a full day. We’re going out for breakfast, then my host will show me around a bit more, then I have work to do. I’ll be on my own as of Wednesday morning and will be here through to about December 16th.

I can’t believe I’m currently about the same distance from Africa as Haven is from Regina…


Prizren, Kosovo, to Skopje, Macedonia

I went to bed early last night so I’d be up and at ’em this morning, but the bed at the hostel was so hard that I only slept fitfully. 🙁 That meant that, at least, I was able to get up without an alarm clock and was ready to head out at 7:45, with the bus being at 9:00. I hoped for breakfast again so I hung out for a bit to finish some online stuff, but there was no one in the lobby. I left around 8:10 and it was about a 15-minute walk to the bus station.

There was a dearth of signage there, but I finally found the main building where you can buy tickets and a guy who had enough English to understand my questions, but not enough to answer in it. He surprised me by using Serbo-Croatian rather than Albanian. I was able to understand that I had to go to platform six and buy the ticket from the driver, so thank goodness for that!

I bought a snack for the ride and then went to platform six. It was only about 8:30, but the bus was already there and the driver motioned for me to climb aboard. I was happy to have first pick of a seat and a bit of time to have my breakfast and just chill.

The ride out of Prizren was nothing to write about or show off, just a lot of construction and untended properties. We went through a few towns, but don’t ask me their names! This one had an interesting arch over its main bridge.



I love the contrast of the classic architecture of the mosque and all the power lines.


The landscape gradually became rural and more scenic.



The Balkans aren’t really that different from North America when it comes to roadside services…




Garbage is a problem in the Balkans, the way it is in Mexico.





Houses seemed to be neater the closer we got to the border with Macedonia.







The US showed strong support for Kosovo’s independence and is therefore well regarded. There is a Bill Clinton Boulevard in the capital, Prishtina.


This is Ferizaj where we, mercifully, got a pee break before the border!



Interesting boat-shaped building.



We still weren’t at the border and had almost 1.5 hours left to go!










What a beautiful scene, right?


Here’s a hint of the horror around the corner…


Here’s the horror. 🙁








While waiting for the Kosovan exit “interview,” I found a Kosovan entry stamp on the very last page of my passport! I was stupidly pleased, and even more so when I got the exit stamp as well.

The Macedonian portion of the exercise did not go smoothly as they opened up some luggage under the bus and apparently caught a smuggler! We were there for about 30 minutes more than planned. I have been surprisingly relaxed at these crossings and just played Scrabble on my iPad until we were cleared to go. I was happy to find a Macedonian stamp in my passport when I got it back. So I just missed the one for Albania.

Fun fact, it’s MaKedonia, not MaSSedonia. And hurray for being back in a country that uses Cyrillic! I never did learn the pronunciation for all (just some) of the Latin Serbo-Croatian characters, so it’s sometimes been hard to say things as I wasn’t sure how they were pronounced. It’s so funny that the Cyrillic feels less “alien” to me now than do Latin letters with accents I’m not familiar with!


We stopped for fuel after the border. The driver paid with Euro and this guy had to pull out a calculator.


Denari (currency), litres, 1L/denari.



This was my first sight in Skopje!



There is a massive fortress I hope I can explore.



Otherwise, downtown Skopje looks like Las Vegas without all the lights. So kitschy! I will explain why when I do my city tour post.





This is a government building.



We drove around in circles for a bit dropping off people before finally landing at the bus station 45 minutes late. I  found the bathroom before an ATM and asked the attendant if I could pay in Euro. She stared at me for a second, then fished into her pocket and pulled up a 20 cent coin to show me she’d accept that as payment. Thankfully, I had a matching coin handy!

I pulled 2000MKD (just shy of 50CAD) out of an ATM and will try to make that last. I should have tried to pull out about 80CAD worth to make sure I have enough for the taxi ride to the airport on Monday. We shall see. Skopje seems quite cheap and I’ll be working, so I might be able to stretch out the denars that I have.

I took a cab to my apartment (with the driver kindly calling my host to let him know I was running late), where my very gracious host was waiting. My place is lovely and has not only a proper desk and chair for work, but a washing machine! I’ve been at a critical point for laundry since I got to Kotor, but I haven’t had anywhere to dry anything and I did not look forward to washing my fleece or jeans by hand. So what a bonus!

My host took the time to explain the apartment for me, including showing me a few basic groceries he’d bought for me! There’s coffee, milk, cereal, fruit, and a few other things. Fresh milk for my coffee will be a treat! He also helped me orientate myself and told me that a nearby bakery was my best bet for a fast lunch. So once he left, I headed there.

The bakery was hopping. If it had been four months ago, it would have been too much for me. But the lineup was long enough for me to have time to read all the labels and pick out a roasted chicken and cheese sandwich on a croissant that seemed like the most hearty thing there. I pointed to what I wanted and said “chicken croissant,” as that’s what I could read quickly off the label. I added, “Not here,” in Bulgarian (Ne tuk) and the woman held up a bag to make sure she’d understood me that I wanted takeaway. So it does seem that Macedonian is similar to Bulgarian.

I then popped into a little grocery store to get a few things I was missing for breakfast and also a small quantity of laundry detergent. I found sachets good for two loads that looked promising and was happy to find Romanian on the back that confirmed I was holding detergent and not fabric softener. Spain is going to be so linguistically easy after this that my brain is going to turn to mush! 😀

I need to wrap my brain around the currency. I basically have to divide by forty, which shouldn’t be too difficult…

By the time I got in, I conceded that I needed a nap! I put on the laundry, crawled into the rather comfy bed, and was out like the proverbial light. I woke up after about an hour feeling a bit better and actually went to work. It was payday for one of my clients and I got a job in under the wire that was worth a whopping 40CAD for a mere hour of work (I don’t get these often!). So that meant a nice little paycheque came in a few minutes ago, making it a little less scary to look for accommodation in Barcelona. But not by much… I’ll be glad to stop the financial bleed for seven weeks but, really, the last three weeks or so of gallivanting have been incredibly affordable and I have managed to earn decent income to offset the expenditures. I crunched some numbers the other day and was happy with what I saw. I’ll share some of those numbers when I get to Spain.

The plan for the weekend is to work tomorrow and try to get all my projects done so that I can take a three-hour walking tour on Sunday. Worst case scenario, I don’t need to leave till noonish on Monday (flight is at four), so I can keep an early job for the morning. This is the reality of being a digital nomad — balancing work and tourism!

It’s now 8PM and, of course, I’m not sleepy (which is why I hate napping). I just made a rather good dinner on my single burner hot plate and am thinking of venturing out to the bar around the corner for a nightcap. Oh, wait. My clothes are still wet. Scratch that. 🙂 So I guess it’ll be a movie and a night in. I might even have a soak in the tub! It feels so nice to be in my own place for a few nights. I had fantastic stays at the hostels, but I’ll probably have to hostel it in Spain, so it’s good to get some solo time in between.

I don’t think I’m mentally ready for Skopje to be my last stop in the Balkans. What an amazing nearly four months it’s been out here…