4

I found a job and now summer vacation is ending

After nearly three months since being laid off from Tumblr, I’ll be starting my new job this week. I’m pretty excited about it, but before I go into that, I thought I’d write a bit about what my time off and job hunt have been like. I’ve been pretty quiet about this whole thing on social media compared to the way I am about most things, so there’s a bit to catch up on here.

The plan

My plan for my unemployed time was to take at least a few weeks, but probably closer to a month, before doing anything at all. I was going to decompress and relax. Maybe even, I don’t know, enjoy the time off????? I haven’t had more than two weeks off from working in about 14 years so I felt like I deserved to enjoy just a little bit of time.

After a few weeks, I was going to start applying for jobs and asking around for who might be working somewhere that’s hiring. But with six months of severance, I was going to take my time with things.

The reality

The reality was much different than planned. I actually wrote a 3,000 word blog post going into a lot of detail about it, but I decided to scrap it for something a bit different.

While I wanted to take the time off before doing anything, I also wanted to at least deal with my inbox first. The layoffs at Yahoo (who owned Tumblr prior to being acquired by Verizon) weren’t exactly a secret, even before they officially happened. So a lot of recruiters blasted out emails to people they found on Linkedin with Tumblr/Yahoo listed as their employer.

At minimum, I wanted to reply to a few of the non-gross sounding recruiters so their messages weren’t just sitting there forever. In addition to this, I had one recruiter I had been working with for a little bit before I was laid off. I wasn’t looking to get out of Tumblr ASAP, but I had started looking. I just didn’t have a strong motivation to get out because I loved Tumblr.

From here, things ramped up immediately. Before I even caught my breath, my schedule was filled with phone calls and tech screens at companies. This was in addition to trying to schedule plans with both friends I hadn’t seen in a while and former coworkers for catching up.

My schedule quickly became busier than when I was employed. I was on the go non-stop from waking up until late evening. It was exhausting, but also good. Any free time between scheduled stuff, I spent doing practice coding exercises online so I could be prepared for interviews.

Trying to schedule things was a whole new level of hell. Each company/recruiter would ask for 3-4 times I was available so they could schedule on their end, but there were points where I had a ton of things scheduled already and then had two or three companies I was waiting to hear back about, but had to hold multiple spots for until one was confirmed. A couple companies did make this easier, though, by using system that allows you to just pick a time from what they have available. This was super helpful! If your job entails scheduling with people, you should do this!

Trying to deal scheduling things when your calendar looks like this is hell.

My first five weeks of unemployment were the exact opposite of what I had planned for them to be. I could have decided to put all of this on hold, but I was interviewing with a few companies I wanted to work for, so I didn’t want to hold up those processes. Additionally, Tumblr/Yahoo wasn’t the only NYC tech company that had layoffs this summer. Etsy and SoundCloud, among others, also had layoffs. Typically, there are way more jobs in development than there are developers to fill them, but I knew there might be a bit more competition for the jobs I was looking for.

What are tech interviews like?

If you work in tech, you can skip this section, but for those who don’t, I figured I’d give a quick little overview of what it’s like to interview as a developer. Note that none of this is an endorsement of the process; I think the tech interview process is incredibly flawed.

Things start off probably the way they do for a lot of other jobs. You’ll have a call with a recruiter (or someone performing the role of a recruiter). This is just a quick screen where they ask a little about your work history and what you’re looking for, as well as tell you a bit about the role and the company. On one level, they’re just trying to get a quick feel for whether you might be a fit for their company and the role, but they’re also trying to sell you on working at their company. At a really small company, this might actually be with an engineer, but it’s separate from any of the technical interviewing.

And this is, of course, after any email or Linkedin correspondence you might have before. If you’re working with a third party recruiter, that conversation would also be before this call.

The second step could be one of two options, both are designed to suss out if you actually know how to code at all and to get a quick sense for whether or not you’re worth the time to bring in. This step could either be a take home coding exercise or a phone-based one. Some companies will give you a choice between the two, but most will just give you one or the other.

The phone-based exercise is typically you and an engineer on their end. The call might start out with a quick chat about their role, the role you’re interviewing for, and/or your past, but this is brief. Some interviews just get right into it. Your call is either via video chat or the phone, but will (almost) always have a shared screen for coding. The interviewer will ask you one or two questions and you’ll work through how to solve them. Sometimes, you’re expected to write code that will run and produce the desired results. Other, you’ll be writing actual code, but won’t have to actually run it. These calls are typically 45-60 minutes so it can be hard to solve the problem and produce bug-free code. Generally, you’re being evaluated on your approach to solving the problem and the efficiency of your solution. At the end, there is typically some time to ask questions about the company and the role.

Take home exercises are similar in idea, but a little different. Here, you’re given a problem or two to solve on your own time. You usually have a few days to a week. Then you submit your solution afterwards. In my experience, these are expected to take three or four hours, but I’ve done some that take longer. You’ll be expected to produce an actual working solution that is (relatively) bug-free. And because you have more time, you’re usually expected to write higher quality code than on a phone-based screen.

Between the two, I prefer the take home exercise and would opt for that when given the choice. They’re a little more involved and take longer, but I always feel like I can better show off my ability when someone isn’t actively watching me write code and I have a little bit of time to think. They’re also just wayyyyy less stressful, I think.

The final stage of a tech interview is the onsite portion. This can be between three and six hours and may or may not include lunch. Basically, it’s a long ass thing.

The onsite interview will consist of a number of different sessions. Anywhere from three to six, in my experience, but usually four. Each will be 45-60 minutes and with one or two interviewers (most of mine were with one). These sessions will include any mix of coding on an actual computer, writing code on a whiteboard, solving system architecture problems, having a sample of code you brought with you reviewed, reviewing a sample of code given to you, figuring out and fixing a breaking issue or code with a bug in it, and a more values-based subjective type of interview (what most non-technical interviews typically are). It’s common for multiple sessions to be of the coding on a whiteboard type. Here you’re typically evaluated on your approach to the problem and the efficiency of your solution.

The onsite portion of tech interviewing is exhausting and stressful.

Interviews

I went on a total of six onsite interviews since being laid off. The shortest was 3.5 hours and the longest was 6 hours. Two were 5.5 hours. 😴😴😴 And the first five of them were within a three week period. For the most part, I thought they all went pretty well on my end. There was one company I was really excited for and thought I would love working at until the interview which made me lose all interest in wanting to work there.

If I’m remembering correctly, I did eight take home and phone screen evaluations with seven different companies (one company wanted me to do two 🙄). Of those seven companies, all of them invited me in for onsite interviews. The seventh one, I canceled after accepting an offer, hence having done six and not seven.

Three of those eight were take home style evaluations. There was also a fourth that I started, but didn’t submit because of accepting an offer. For the most part, I actually sort of enjoyed working on these. They were fun little projects and they also gave me an opportunity to get more practice writing Go (the programming language I was teaching myself at the beginning of summer).

There were a few additional companies I talked to without actually having anything go anywhere. One didn’t seem to have any interest in pursuing things with me, which was fine by me because the person I talked to there sounded like a massive douche…


(I didn’t literally hang up, but mentally, I was done with that)

The rest of the companies I spoke to seemed interested, but got caught up with scheduling and timing issues or ended up filling the role before I would have gone in anyway.

In addition to all of the above, I had one onsite interview with one company and a take home evaluation with another before being laid off. The onsite interview did not go well at all. I was totally out of practice and rusty on interview-type stuff (which is usually nothing like what a developer actually does day-to-day). It was my first technical interview in three years. I also had gotten a bad vibe from the company beforehand and wasn’t super excited for the interview so that may have played into my performance as well.

Offers

In total, I got two offers. Because of the timing of the second one, I had about 3.5 hours to make a decision between the two. Company A had come the week before and was expiring. Company B, I was expecting immediately following the interview (I knew I nailed it), but the timing made things really close.

Choosing between the two was agonizing. Even though I had three and a half hours to make the decision, I did find out the night before (a few hours after the interview) that I would be getting an offer from Company B. I just didn’t know how much it would be for. This started my decision-making process, but it was hard to really make a decision without having the offer in front of me.

Between the two companies, I was really excited about them both and knew I couldn’t go wrong with either. Company A is a very stable, but smaller company that is profitable. Company B is a small startup that hasn’t yet launched (they’re targeting later this year), but has funding and should be good with money for a while. Their product was something that looked great and I knew I would be very excited and passionate about working on.

Both companies offered me working in languages I wanted to work in. Both are Go, the language I most was hoping to work with, and Company A is also Python, which I’d like to finally learn anyway. I felt like I could make a big impact at either company, but Company B would allow me to really own what I was working on and drive a lot of it. It would likely be much more challenging. Both companies came across as having awesome people that I’d love to work with.

So choosing suuuuuuucked. I was really back and forth on it. Luckily, they both were through the same third party recruiter so I was able to talk things through with her without her being biased over which direction I went. Danielle definitely made clear where she wanted me to go.

Company A was offering me more money, better healthcare that’s also trans-inclusive and 100% covered premiums, 401k (with employer match), commuter benefits and a better commute (literally one block from Tumblr HQ 🤣🤣🤣), a dog-friendly office (not that we have a dog, but I want to hang out with other people’s doggos!), and a few other small perks. Because Company B is a small startup, they couldn’t offer most of that and the offer was lower.

In the 3.5 hours I had, I asked Company B for more in the base salary, but they could only offer me a signing bonus making up the difference between the two offers. Of course, that only makes up the difference for my first year there. Between the two, Company A also offers a better work/life balance and no on-call rotation, while Company B isn’t at a stage to be able to offer that.

In the end, I had to make an actual adult decision. At 34, things like a 401k matter. If I was in my early 20s still, I would probably approach things differently and even be disappointed in myself for approaching this how I did, but 🤷‍♀️. Even though I only had a little bit of time, I decided to at least rough estimate the true difference between the two offers. I estimated what it would cost me out of pocket to make up for the 401k, the health and commuter benefits, the commute itself, and the other differences. In the end, I would be coming out about even with what I was pocketing at Tumblr, at best—a salary I felt was no longer where I should be.

After agonizing, I made a decision. Despite the above, I chose Company B and went with the role that would be more challenging and the product I would get to have the most impact on. That was at 2:52pm, with 8 minutes until my call with Company A to tell them my decision.

At 2:55pm, Danielle asked me “are you happy with your decision?” And, honestly, I couldn’t say yes. Something felt off. I wanted to be happy, but I wasn’t. I think in that moment, it really hit me the difference in what the work/life balance would be between the two and how much the benefits really mattered. I could have been fine with the work/life balance if it was only lower salary or worse benefits, but I couldn’t do it with both.

At 2:58pm, I messaged Danielle and said “I’m going with Company A. I think that’s the right decision.” Two minutes later, it was official!

So that was that!

Company A is Bitly!

Yup, Bitly! The link shortening company. I’m pretty excited for it! I got a really good vibe from everyone there and it’ll be nice to work for a company that is profitable. Plus, it’s the same short and easy commute as I had at Tumblr and just a block away so I can meet my favorite old coworkers for lunch.

I’m really excited to work at a company whose mascot is Chauncey McPufferson!

The company is small enough that I think I’ll get to have a pretty solid impact, but also stable. While I am in a place in my career and financially that I could have taken a risky position at a startup without too much worry, I think it’ll be nice to have have some stability in my workplace. As much as I loved Tumblr, it wasn’t really the most stable company to work for in the last two years because of Yahoo being up for sale and, eventually, selling to Verizon. And before Tumblr, I was at a company that made money, but had been acquired by a larger company and had been slowly but consistently changing with processes and such in flux for years.

I’m also excited to work in Go and Python. I’ve really been loving Go and I’m surprised I’ve gone this long without needing to learn Python. I think it’ll be a good skill to have for my career.

Additionally, I’ve been starting to realize just how bad it was the way I let Tumblr invade my whole life. I’ve always been a very big proponent of keeping a good work/life balance and had never let myself stray from that. It’s one thing to have friends from work whom you hang out with after hours and on the weekends, for sure. It’s another thing when you let your life start to revolve around that whole world and you’re constantly checking Slack all the time. Your job shouldn’t be your life. I made that mistake with Tumblr. It became everything and sucked up so much of my life. I don’t want to do that again. I want to work at a place that I really enjoy being at, but that is only part of my life, not the entire thing. While working after hours wasn’t a thing I did at Tumblr, I think Company B had a strong potential to try to suck me into doing stuff well beyond 40 hours/week.

Some other interviewing bits

In the end, both of my offers came from companies I got in the door at because of the recruiter I was working with before being laid off. She’s, honestly, fantastic. She was super nice and really made me feel like she cared about finding me the right fit. If anyone is looking for a job in tech in NYC, let me connect you with her!

Not everyone I worked with was like this, though. I worked with one recruiter who did just about everything he could to annoy me. I talked to a few companies through him and did one phone tech screen. That company wanted me to come in for an onsite interview, but that was the interview I canceled.

This recruiter constantly texted me about opportunities, which just like…no. Don’t do text me unless it’s urgent. And his texts were always like “do you have a few minutes to hop on a call?” Then the call would just be him telling me real quick about the company and asking me to email him some times I was free to schedule. Like, dude, just email me. Don’t text me. Don’t make me talk on the damn phone for something that’s better emailed. Eventually, I had to ask him to stop texting me. In addition to those two strikes, he also didn’t really listen to me with the companies he was trying to set me up with. One of the companies, in particular, I told him wasn’t interesting to me. They seemed cool, but it wasn’t a product I had any interest in working on. He set up a call anyway. And then, it turned out the role wasn’t even a senior level even though I told him I was only looking for senior roles. Still, he kept pushing me to interview there anyway. He was clearly more interested in filling roles than he was with fitting the right people with the right roles.

I know recruiters make money by filling openings, but he made me feel like nothing more than a product he was trying to move. He was otherwise a nice guy and we talked about cats a bunch, but when it came to business, it felt totally cold and impersonal.

I had two companies I expected to offers from give me the same reasoning for not moving forward. They both said they liked me a lot and thought I might be a good fit, but not for the roles they were currently hiring for. They each said they wanted me to connected back with them in a few months. The first company really irked me with this. It should have been super obvious from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be a fit for the role they were hiring for. Nothing in the recruiter call or technical phone screen should have indicated my background was right for that role. They shouldn’t have even brought me in for an onsite interview. Instead, they wasted 5.5 hours of my time. During the process, they made no indication to me that they weren’t hiring for a role I thought I’d be a fit for.

One last thing to sort of mention here, it’s weird to be interviewing for a new job when you’re, for lack of a better term, notable. By notable, I mean, if you Google me, not only am I the only Amelia Gapin, but the results aren’t just like my blog and Twitter or the typical things you get when you search most people. Because of the magazine, there’s all this other stuff that comes up when you search me. If you go beyond the first couple pages of search results, you’ll find a few other articles about me that aren’t related to the magazine. Some are other articles about me as a vocal trans athlete and some are about the startup I co-founded. Still, they’re things that likely stand out.

I always hate bringing up the magazine or doing anything that might come across as humble bragging or whatever it sounds like when you read this, but it was a thing. I expect companies and interviewers to Google people before interviewing them, but it’s weird when there’s actually something for them to find and all of it is just out there.

It came up in one interview when the CEO of the company mentioned he Googled me. He didn’t say it to particularly talk about the magazine, but instead to talk about what all of the results he found for me, in addition to the way I talk about things on my blog, say about me to him (it was a good thing). Still, it was weird. It’s one thing whe people read my blog or Twitter beforehand—at this point, everyone has some public-facing internet presence that can precede them. It’s another thing when there’s stuff about you.

And besides the magazine itself, I’m also walking into a interview with someone who likely already knows I’m trans before I get there. This would be the case anyway thanks to my openness on my blog and my Twitter, but it’s definitely a thing to consider. It means I might basically be “the trans one” to them. Not necessarily in those words, but that’s the thing about me that sticks out. I guess the good thing about this, however, is I likely have to worry less about getting a job offer and finding out my transness is going to be a thing there after starting. This would, in theory, have already played out.

ANYWAY, I’ll stop throwing words at you now and wrap this up here. I start at Bitly on Wednesday and I’m excited for it. I’m not really ready for my summer vacation to end and I absolutely hit a point where I no longer want to ever work again, but I’m excited for my new job!

1

Europe 2017 – Edinburgh

Unlike London, this was my first time in Edinburgh. I didn’t know a lot about the city before this trip, but I’d always heard amazing things about it.

One thing I definitely didn’t know was that during August there is a huge (like really huge) arts festival called Fringe. I had never even heard of it before my trip and only found out what it was the day before leaving London to head up to Edinburgh. What I found out after getting there was that Fringe is absolutely wild and intense. There are constantly dozens and dozens of shows happening at any moment and in all kinds of venues, many of which are makeshift venues like coffee shop basements and restaurants. And the shows are all over the map, they are musicals, improv, standup, poetry, comedy, one-person shows. All kinds of stuff! Fucking wild, I tell you!

Basics

I arrived by train after 10pm and was exhausted. I had made the most of the day in London before getting on the train and was ready to go to bed. Unfortunately, it took me a little while to find my Airbnb. It was very conveniently located in Old Town, but it was just down a weird two level street that I totally didn’t understand at all.

The streets were quite busy when I got in thanks to Fringe!

When I got to my Airbnb, my host was hanging out in the kitchen with one of the other guests, a German woman from Berlin named Claudia. She really wanted to go out and see some live music and have a beer. The two of them convinced me to go with them and off we went. I didn’t want to stay out long, but I figured it’d be a nice way to experience nightlife stuff, especially since my time in Edinburgh was limited.

We hit up a music venue with a Scottish ska band playing (yeah, ska) and grabbed some beers. From there, we went over to a standup show around the corner. This was a man and a woman each doing sets. The woman, Megan Shandley, was very funny. The guy was also funny until he made a transphobic joke and then I over him.

The ska band playing at Stramash the night I got in.

Getting around Edinburgh was very easy on foot. Everything I wanted to do was walking distance from my Airbnb. And it’s a very beautiful and old city to walk around so it was perfect.

I only had two full days in Edinburgh (aside from the unplanned late night my first night there). Had I known about Fringe, I would have probably wanted to stay a full week. At least. There were dozens of shows I wanted to see, but I could only do so many in my limited time there.

My Airbnb was kinda not amazing. I mean, it was located in a very good location for seeing stuff and the host was really nice, but it felt a bit dirty and the apartment reeked of a place where smokers lived for years and years. It served its purpose though.

Arthur's Seat from my Airbnb

My Airbnb did have this *amazing* view of Arthur’s Seat from the window in my room, though.

Running

I had two runs planned for Edinburgh, but thanks to being out late the night before, I missed the first one. Luckily, that was just a four-miler so it wasn’t too big of a deal. And this was pretty much the only planned run I entirely missed without making up throughout my whole trip.

The second planned run for Edinburgh was the one I was most worried about during the trip because it was a long run of 15 miles. I knew I had to get it done, though, so I made sure nothing stopped me. The day before, I went on Strava and joined an Edinburgh running group for women and asked if anyone would be interested in making a new friend and running with me. To my delight, someone actually did! I was really excited for this!

We met up for an afternoon long run. Edite and I ran about 11 of my 15 miles together. We started around Holyrood Park and ran around Arthur’s Seat while climbing the tough hill there. Then we made our way down to the beach, where I would have never thought to go on my own. It was a nice mix of scenery. After heading back from the beach, we made our way around another park before we split ways. I finished up with a couple laps around the park to round out my 15 while trying really hard not to shit my pants because my body decided it HAD to 💩 and this was going to be non-negotiable.

Edite and me at the end of our 11 miles together.

Overall, it was a really nice run besides the poop stuff and I was so happy to have a made a new friend for it!

Edinburgh running route

It was a great route!

Food

I think out of all the places on my trip, I had the most places to eat saved in Foursquare for Edinburgh. There were so many restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops I wanted to try.

My breakfast at Hemma.

My first real meal was breakfast at Hemma. It was superb and just what I needed after my hike of Arthur’s Seat. The food was great and so was the atmosphere. For an afternoon snack, I stopped at Shakeaway and got an amazing milkshake to enjoy while walking around the city. I followed that up with tea and a sandwich and scone from Forsythe’s Tea Room. The tea was good, but the food was pretty meh. To be honest, the experience was a little too kitschy old Scottish grandma for me. For dinner, I had a burger and fries from The Holyrood 9A and washed it down with a delicious beer.

This yummy burger from Holyrood 9A.

How cute is this afternoon tea?!

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The next morning, I started my day off with coffee and avocado toast from Brew Lab Coffee.

That evening I did a pub crawl and mostly just had a random sampling of bits of food throughout. The pub crawl was fun, though. I made some new friends and drank a ton of beer. I think we went to six pubs and nightclubs. Each one gave us a free shot and then had drink specials. By the end of the night, I was quite drunk. So much so that I was still drunk when I woke up the next morning for my flight to Berlin. Awesome. LOL.

The crawl started at The Inn on the Mile and then we went to Pilgram Bar, The Whistle Stop Barber Shop, Frankenstein, Sneaky Pete’s, and The Hive. Frankenstein was a bit more wild and crazy than I’m into these days, but the karaoke was at least entertaining to watch. The Hive and Sneaky Pete’s were more like nightclubs which is definitely not my thing, but I still had a good time dancing with my new friends and having some really interesting political conversations with people from all over there place. The Pilgrim Bar and Whistle Stop were both more my speed, though. I’d definitely go back to those places.

My avocado toast from Brew Lab.

A bit drunk at Frankenstein.

Activities

As I mentioned above, hit up a standup show my first night. The show was at Just the Tonic in one of their smaller rooms in the back. It honestly was just a cave, hence its name, The Cave. It was kinda neat though! The ska band I saw right before was at Stramash which is basically next door.

The morning of my first full day in Edinburgh, I slept in much later than planned. This was thanks to my late night. I had planned to run up Arthur’s Seat. However, that plan was made before I actually knew what Arthur’s Seat really was. It’s a very old dormant volcano! I ended up hiking up it instead and, to be honest, I’m glad I didn’t try to run. I don’t think I would have made it. There were some people I saw who did run up, but it was wet from the rain the night before and extremely slippery. Definitely didn’t feel like running would have been safe. Just hiking it felt super sketchy. On my way done, I chatted it up with an older couple. The woman lived in the UK for the last 30 years, but was originally from the US. She ended up being great company for the hike back down. The view from the top was truly beautiful, though! And I was also lucky enough to get up and down just before the crowds started coming out.

While I missed my run, the hike absolutely felt like it more than made up for the four miles I had planned.

Looking up at Arthur’s Seat from the beginning of the hike.

Check this view from the top of Arthur’s Seat.

Given my luck with banana peels, I'm going to avoid this one being that I'm at the top of a volcano.

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There's a castle back there, I promise

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Next up for the day was the free SANDEMANs walking tour. This was a fantastic tour of mostly Old Town, including Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Flodden Wall, and a bunch of other stops. I learned a ton about the history of Scotland and Edinburgh. The tour guide also pointed out some of the graves in Greyfriars Kirkyard that JK Rowling used as inspiration for Harry Potter. He pointed out the inspirations for Hogwarts as well. One thing the tour guides had been asked to stop doing was taking people to the grave of Tom Riddell, but he had no problem telling us where to find it after the tour.

The view of Edinburgh Castle from Grayfriars Kickyard.

Yeah, I rubbed David Hume’s toe. It was weird, but apparently it’s a thing?

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This owl!!

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This is Greyfriars Bobby. You should read about him. What a good boy!

The grave of Tom Riddell.

From the end of the tour, I made my way down to New Town to explore on my own. On my walk over that way, I walked around Edinburgh Castle and stopped for a few minutes to watch a street performer playing songs for a small crowd. He asked where I was from and I replied that I was from New York (easier than saying Jersey City). From there, he went into two great anti-Trump ballads for me. This was a recurring theme from my every city of my trip, Trump and the USA are a terrifying af joke.

I walked around West End and Multrees Walk. I also went up into the Scott Monument. This was really rad, but also a little scary because of how tight and steep the spiral staircases were. There was only one way up and down and it got a bit crowded at points where it was hard to pass people without being afraid you’d slip and tumble all the way down. Still, the views were great and every time I thought I was all the way up, there was another staircase to discover to go up even higher.

You wouldn't know from the outside, but the climb to the top of Scott's Monument is kinda wild

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Squishing castles

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After this, I was handed a flier for a small improv show happening nearby. I decided to check it out since I had some extra time. And I’ll just say this, it was bad! It was three dudes who were not good at improv at all, but it was at least entertainingly bad until they made three transphobic jokes in rapid succession.

Last up for the day was the SANDEMANs Dark Side Tour. This was a exploration of Edinburgh’s more gruesome past including murder, people being buried alive and coming back from the dead, grave robbing, torture, witches, hangings, body stealing, people being crushed to death by falling coffins, and all kinds of other morbid stuff. Personally, I loved the tour and thought our guide, Sarah, was amazing. She was animated and passionate and an amazing storyteller. This tour also made for a great companion to the free tour earlier in the day as it went into more detail for a few things that were only briefly mentioned.

I started my second day off with a nice long walk to Summerhall. On the way, a guy was out front of a cafe handing out fliers for his poetry reading, and because I wanted to take as best advantage of Fringe as I could, I stopped in to check it out. Unlike the improv show the day before, this was really good. The reading was in the basement of the cafe with just a handful of people, nice and intimate. The poet’s name was Ben Ray and not only was his poetry good, but his reading of it was light and entertaining.

From the poetry reading, I made my way to the start of another guided tour. This was a tour of Edinburgh Castle. The tour included the obvious history and a nice overview of things at the castle. I absolutely got more out of my time in the castle than I would have without a guided tour. Afterwards, I hung around a bit to explore before heading out to go meet my running partner for our run.

The inside of Edinburgh Castle.

After my run, but before the pub crawl, I stopped in for one more show. This was again at The Caves at Just the Tonic. This show was called Tracey Tracey and was a one woman tragi-comedy by Nicola Cross. This show was super weird, but highly entertaining with just a bit of crowd interaction. I enjoyed it a lot.

Final bits

For just two days in the city, I feel like I really packed a lot in. I was non-stop running from thing to thing and on the go without much rest. I really wish I had had more time to go to more Fringe shows. I ended the weekend there with probably three dozen fliers for shows, a good half of which I’d have liked to have seen.

I will absolutely have to go back for longer some tine in the future.

Below are my check-ins on Swarm. Some of them aren’t places I went into, but instead were just places I was at or walked by. Some places I was just stealing wifi or using a bathroom. And some, I checked in multiple times as I passed them more than once.

 

 

4

Europe 2017 – London

When I first went to London in 2009, I really loved it. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since so it was at the top of my list of destinations for this trip.

Basics

I stayed in London for two full days and two half days (one was like 3/4 of a day, tbh). It was three nights in my Airbnb in Pimlico. The Airbnb was a really nice place, definitely the nicest of my whole trip. The owner lived there and rented out three rooms on Airbnb.

Upon entering for the first time, I was immediately greeted by an incredibly friendly cat named Nala (not sure on the spelling). She came right up to me and immediately started rubbing on me and crying for attention. I knew this would be a good place to stay based solely on this cat. There was also a second cat that was a little less outgoing and needy. Nala, though, oh boy did Nala crave attention. She’d run up in front of you and block you from walking through the house until you pet her.

I already made a new friend! This little cutie came right up to me! 😻

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My room was a small one that was actually under the sidewalk. Though, this was the same level with the kitchen and the walk out to the backyard so it wasn’t really a basement room. The room was more than fine for my needs, though.

Also staying at the Airbnb was an Australian woman named Greta. She was there my entire stay and we had a few really nice conversations over tea while relaxing at the end of the day. Incidentally, we also overlapped time while in Reykjavik, but we didn’t end up meeting up—though, we did connect on Facebook.

The location of the Airbnb was pretty decent and relatively central to a lot of things in London, but did require taking the London Underground to get to a lot of places. Though, that really was a non-issue as the Underground is fantastic and makes NYC’s MTA look like ameteur hour. The Underground is clean, efficient, and runs frequently.

Running

While in London, I did two runs, which is what I had on the schedule, but they were for 7 and 5 miles and I, instead, did two 10k runs and shifted the days. It worked out in the end, but not exactly as planned.

The first run was along the River Thames from Pimlico up to Millenium Bridge, across the bridge, and then back. It was great weather for a run and there were a ton of other runners out. Many runners were out with backpacks while I was in London. It seems like run commuting is very popular there!

Running route along River Thames.

Nice easy route.

View from my run this morning

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My second run was a bit more of a sloppier route. I had mapped something out, but it was a bit hard to follow based on memory so I just when with the gist of the idea. This run was through St James Park, around the lake, past Buckingham Palace, over to Hyde Park, around the lake there, and then back. This run was a little earlier in the AM so it was a nice peaceful route without many tourists out.

Running route in St James Park and Hyde Park.

A little sloppy, but it worked.

Food

While the England isn’t exactly known for its food, I do love me some fish and chips. So right after I dropped my bag off at my Airbnb, I set out for fish and chips. I ended up at The Sherlock Holmes which was near the touristy area in Westminster, but it seemed like there were a few locals there and it wasn’t a complete tourist trap of a place. The fish and chips were good and so was the beer!

My second day, I had lunch at Itsu, which is like a sushi and noodle chain “fast food” type place. My soup was very flavorful! For dinner, I had curry at the Brick Lane Brasserie. There was no way I wasn’t going to get curry on Brick Lane! Because I had idea which of the many places there to pick and they all had similar ratings, I just picked one at random. It also helped that a tour guide I had earlier in the day said “it doesn’t matter, they’re all good. You can’t go wrong.” My food was spicy and delicious! I finished it off with hot chocolate from Dark Sugars, right up the block.

Delicious chicken phal!

Delicious chicken phal!

This got chocolate!

This got chocolate!

Breakfast the next day was a pulled pork and mac and cheese amazingness from Borough Market. I followed that up with a doughnut from another stand and then a late morning beer at the Southwark Tavern. The best part of this morning was spending some time with my friend and former Tumblr coworker, Malika!

Borough Market yummies

Fresh watermelon at Borough Market

Turnips!

For dinner, I had a delicious burger and fries from CASK Pub and Kitchen.

On my last morning in London, I had one goal and that was to make sure I didn’t leave the city without having a proper pie. Another former Tumblr coworker (who is English) had been stressing to me how good the pies are so I had to do it. I went back to Borough Market and hit up Pieminister for a steak pie. It was out of this world good. I mean, fuck, that thing was good. Pies are good.

This pie was SO good! I should have taken a photo of the inside too.

Lunch was at The Fence with Malika and one of her friends from when she studied abroad in London. We ate in this cute little shed in the backyard there. It was pretty neat!

For dinner, I just had a burrito from Benito’s Hat in King’s Cross Station. I was worried about not making it to the station in time for my train so I made that my first priority and then just got food from there.

Throughout my time in London, I drank a whole mess of flat whites. Regular coffee isn’t really a big thing there, everyone drinks espresso drinks. I love cappuccinos and lattes, but I decided I’d change things up a bit with some flat whites.

Activities

As you’ll see from these posts, I’m a big fan of taking walking tours to learn more about cities. They’re a great way to see a lot and learn a lot about the history and cutlure of a city. They tend to give you a lot of highlights and then you can go back later to explore more, if you want. Plus, I just like walking a lot.

In front of St Paul’s Cathedral

Out front of Westminster Abbey.

My first day there, I did the SANDEMANs free walking tour with John. He was very British in his sense of humor, which I enjoy a lot. This was a great and fun tour that took us all over Westminster and all of the things to see there.

That evening, I did a Jack the Ripper tour from London Walks. This was utterly fascinating. I learned so much about Jack the Ripper that I had no idea about before. This tour took us around to all of the places of importance to the Jack the Ripper story and provided a lot of context for each. When I was in London in 2009, I did a self-guided Jack the Ripper tour following a guide I had found online, but compared to this, that was a waste of time.

The following day, I did SANDEMANs Alternative Tour with Trevor. This tour was based almost entirely around exploring the street art in Shoreditch. It’s everywhere and there is so much of it! Trevor told us about some of the artists and told us about the culture. He also showed us an original Banksy. This tour ended at Brick Lane which went nicely into my dinner that night.

A Stik original.

Hands up don’t shoot

One other tour I did while in London was a Doctor Who walking tour! This was so good! We toured a bunch of filming locations and things from the show, mostly from new Who, but a little bit from classic Who as well. Our guide was Craig and he was fantastic and super nerdy about Doctor Who. I loved it! After the tour, I rushed on over to the police box in Earls Court before catching my train to round out my Doctor Who experience for the day.

Doctor Who walking tour guide

Craig was such a good tour guide!

Craig alerted us that this was actually used as a Dalek urinal during the filming of a Doctor Who episode! The actors would roll over it and pee into it because they were being kept on set too long without being able to use the bathroom.

I found the TARDIS!

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Aside from the guided tours, I did a lot on my own as well. I didn’t do Westminster Abbey or a few of the other more obvious tourist things since I’ve done them before. I mostly tried to stick with things I hadn’t done before. I walked through Old Spitalfields Market, explored the Churchill War Rooms, did one floor of the Imperial War Museum (I had limited time 😕), walked through a little bit of Tate Modern (I’d been there before so I just did a few rooms), found Hodge the Cat because cat, closed out the London Transport Museum, and walked through Piccadilly Circus.

At the London Transport Museum.

An old women’s only train car.

I found @malika.gif

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I got really excited by Hodge

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Overall, I really packed my time in London. I didn’t do much in the way of nightlife type stuff, but I did hit a few pubs and that’s what matters!

Below are my check-ins on Swarm. Some of them aren’t places I went into, but instead were just places I was at. Some places I was just stealing wifi or using a bathroom.

Transgender symbol walk sign.

I like this walk sign! (I don’t know why this photo is showing sideways. The image file is properly rotated, but it’s not showing right in the post. Oh well.)