Planning the Reunion Tour: Paella, dinners, drinks and un café

AND FOR MY NEXT TRICK TRIP...I shall go to three different countries to reunite with friends from previous adventures!

I've never been to London. Or any of England, rather. I've cut through the airport. I've collected pesky pounds in change when using euros or dollars to buy a sandwich during a stopover. But never have I ever stepped on UK ground.

However, the whole point of this trip was so I could see my Valencian host family (from that time I lived and worked in Spain) during the coolest celebration of all, Las Fallas. I write all about it here, but if you want a brief summary, the government (and locals) spend hundreds of thousands of euros on sculptures made of wood/foam/paper that take months and months to complete...just so they can set them on fire. So, pretty things and fire...SOUNDS LIKE FUN!

But to get to Spain, I couldn't fly direct. It was sooo much cheaper to fly through London. And what do you know...I have met lots and LOTS of people who live in London! I quickly booked my flights to London, then Spain, then back to the USA with some stops in between, and my itinerary was set.

The next step was to coordinate seeing all of these people in the short time that I'd be traveling. I am pretty good at keeping in touch with friends on messenger or by sending them postcards or holiday/birthday cards. I'm glad our friendships have lasted so long, even with some of our brief encounters! Many are offering me couches to sleep on, so I'm saving on costs. Yay! I'm meeting up with soooo many people on this trip, so the most complicated task was figuring out who to see and when to see them.

As I was saying, I know a lot of people from London. Some of those people are bopping around the world (looking at you, Anne), so I can't meet up with them. But I'm excited about the prospect of meeting up with some new friends from my more recent travels! Remember the Kiwis I met in Bucharest? They all (with the exception of Karol) live in London! And remember Deniz, with whom I played hours of regular- and jumbo-size Jenga while in Tallinn (there's video)? Lives in London. Or how about Taylan, with whom I spent every waking moment from St. Petersburg to Lhasa, and all the hours of trains/buses/airplanes/cars in between during my Transsiberian adventure? Technically lives in Brighton, but is making a trip to see me in London.

All of those lovely people in London. After that, it's round (...erm, how many times have I gone back? whatever) number...something, to see Rocío, my host mom from my time studying abroad in Alicante, Spain back in 2010. There, I will also reunite with some old professors, have a coffee with Loly from Radio San Vicente (where I interned), and finally, my language exchange partner, Ana.

In Alicante, Nicolette will join me and as she's never been to Spain before, I'm excited to show her the lovely beaches of Alicante and the chaos that is Las Fallas in nearby Valencia.

In Valencia I'll reunite with Cristina and Pichón, as well as the rest of their family (kids, cousins, sisters, in-laws, parents and more), which I'm really excited about. They promised me homemade arroz Valenciana (you may know it by it's improper name, paella, which is just the name of the pan it cooks in, not the food itself). It'll be brief, but hopefully we can fit as many cheek-kisses in as possible.

Then it's back to the states to fly to NYC (travel tip: flying international to/from NYC instead of Chicago is soooo much cheaper, even with a ticket from NYC to Chicago or whatever factored in). There, I'll reunite once again with one of my favorite people ever, Remi, whom I met in Uzbekistan and traveled with throughout Central Asia (how many friendship stories begin that way?). I saw her there last time I was in NYC, which also happened to be my first. When I went to NYC, I went to a party of a friend of Calvin's, and he introduced me to a person named Yoni, so I'll be meeting up with him as well! Then there's Mihaela, whom I met more recently in Mongolia and traveled with me all the way to Tibet.

THEN (yes, there's more) I am heading on a train down to Philly, where I didn't think I knew anyone, but I wanted to go to explore the city since I've never been before! But lo and behold, my college friend Carolyn just moved there ("I'm watching them unload the truck as I type!" she told me upon my realization), and Yvonne, whom I also met on the Central Asia tour, lives there when she's at school (instead of NYC, her usual home base). I'll get to explore a brand new city, but I'll have people with whom I can share dinner and drinks at the end of a long day.

Finally, I train it further south to Washington, DC. Like NYC was the hub of many a Silk Road travel parter, Washington DC is the hub of Amanda, David, Shanika, June, and Ihita, all travelers from the recent Transsiberian trip I just took. I haven't been to DC since the 5th grade, so it should be new and exciting!

Whew. So there's a lot of people to see, and a lot of catching up to do. I'm having tunnel vision at the moment, excited about the first stop (London) because I've never been. But even after that, there's so much more to look forward to.