European Adventure IV: Day Seven

Last day in Europe! This is the only day where the schedule is tight. Here we go! 

SEE YA LATER PRAGUE

It was another early one this morning, but I jumped out of bed with an enthusiasm that I didn’t have when we were leaving Scotland. After packing up the flat and double checking that we had everything, we headed down to the street for meet the car.

Our driver sweated a little as he lifted my luggage and said “is very heavy.” You bet it is buddy, I have loot from two different countries in that bag. He then drove like we were filming a scene from Fast & Furious Prague, which I have to admit that I kind of loved.

When we got to the airport I weighed my bag to find that it was 13 pounds too heavy. Clearly too much looting happened on this trip. I threw somethings away, made Nick put some stuff in his bag and just managed to slip by just under the limit, whew!

We then walked up to security and I was a little startled to see that it was only border control. First, I haven’t been to many countries that have border control when you’re leaving the country, and second there was no actual security checkpoint.

We stopped to grab some water and a snack, and were swindled one last time as I ended up paying 25 USD for two small bottles and two pastries. I was officially ready to leave the country.

Nick and I walked down the corridor arguing about how it’s possible for a country to not have a security checkpoint, he is TSA after all, when we arrived at our gate and found….a security checkpoint. So weird! The gates all have checkpoints instead of one big one. At first I was relieved. I’d had visions of terrorists just routing through the Czech Republic, then I was mad because that meant my overpriced water couldn’t go!!

We sat outside the gate and tried to drink as much water as possible before going through. Then, to add insult to injury I keep going off while going through the x-Ray machine which meant that I had to get patted down…

HELLO LONDON!

We landed to sunshine in London! We went through border control and for once had no issues with the border control agents. We did, however, have trouble with the Tube. When got about halfway to Central London before we had to get off of the train, and get on a bus which took a half an hour to go what would have been three stops. This was annoying, to say the least.

However, we got off the Tube in South Kensington and it was beautiful day in London! We went to the Victoria & Albert museum and walked around for a bit, and then took the bus to Earls Court to go to our favorite Chinese restaurant in the city. While waiting for the food I ran by the Post Office to get more stamps, and went to the Marks and Spencer one last time to grab more tea, biscuits, and delicious M&S mints.

PLANE RIDE!

I was so happy to see that airplane. My feet were seriously bothering me at this point, and I was just so tired. Adventuring is hard work!

I learned so much on this trip. I learned about letting go of my planes in schedules to allow for God’s plan. Multiple times on this trip my well-laid plans were completely destroyed and i just had to go with the flow, which is not natural for me. I had such a wonderful time!

Want to see some pictures? You can go here: Scotland & Prague.

European Adventure IV: Day Six

Today was nice and slow…that’s just the way I wanted it to be!

Last day in Prague…go!

A LOVELY MORNING

This morning Nick and I were lazy. I read in bed and then finally got up around 10:00am to make some breakfast. After breakfast we sat on the couch with the windows open and listened to music on the stereo while updating blogs and editing pictures.

View from the view in the flat

View from the view in the flat

When then got ourselves together and walked to an English bookshop called the Globe. I got this book about Napoleon’s wives that I’m looking forward to reading. The shop also had a lovely cafe where I was able to finish my postcards, and soak in our last day in Prague.

LESSER TOWN

We then hopped the trolley and made our way over back to Lesser Town. The plan was to take the funicular up to Petrin Hill which is supposed to have lovely views over Prague. Unfortunately, the funicular was broken and we’d have enough of tackling hills on this trip. We decided to take the trolley up a smaller hill close by to Letna Gardens. The views from here were amazing.

Views from Letna Hill

Views from Letna Hill

 

“I DIDN’T COME ALL THE WAY TO PRAGUE TO HEAR COUNTRY MUSIC.”

We made our way down the hill and crossed back over Charles Bridge. My feet were seriously starting to call it quits! The music crossing the hill was great, though. There was this group of young Americans rocking out on strings. When we walked up they were playing I Love Rock and Roll, and then by the time we left that were playing Cotton-eyed Joe. Nick was not happy about hearing country music so far from home. The tourists seemed to be pleased by it, though.

We stopped by the Tesco to grab dinner as has become our habit. I think after eating in the restaurant yesterday, we were little wary of restaurants in this country. Then we started the packing process. I don’t have nearly as much loot as I’ve had in the past which I’m glad of. Now we’re once again chilling in the flat enjoying our last night in the city.

UP NEXT: LONDON!!! We’ve only got seven hours during our layover to be in the city, but you know I’ll make them count! 

European Adventure IV: Day Six

Sorry I wasn’t able to get this up last night. The internet here is wicked slow, and after the day today I wasn’t ready to fight it. 

Today was interesting. We ventured outside of Prague to see what some of the rest of country looked like. While the drive was lovely, we quickly found ourselves longing to be back in the city… 

FOOD

One of the major benefits of having a kitchen on vacation is that you can cook your own food. Not only does this save lots of money, but it’s also really nice sometimes to have a home cooked meal when you’re on the road for a long time. This is something that I learned watching my Mom plan vacations.

I got up and made some French toast, prosciutto bacon (yum!), and eggs for breakfast. I opened the windows to the courtyard and it was a beautiful day! I heard some doves singing outside the window.

AIRPLANE BUS

After eating breakfast we headed to the bus station. Now in the US, bus stations are a bit seedy. And taking a bus outside of Bolt or Megabus can kind of be a bit scary. This apparently is not the case here. The bus station was basically the same as you’d see in the US, but the bus – now that was a change. It was essentially an airplane bus. This meant that you had assigned seats, a tray table in front of you, internet, and even a bus attendant who would bring free drinks and a newspaper. It was an interesting experience.

The view from the bus into Karlovy Vary was lovely. I got to see those rolling hills and valleys that I’d spotted from the airport close up. There was so many farms along the way, I wonder what they grow.

KARLOVY VARY

Karlovy Vary, or in English, Carlsbad (meaning Charles’ Bath), is a small town near the Germany border on the western side of the Czech Republic.  It was established by King Charles IV in 1350. Apparently it’s big for Russians to go for treatments whose descriptions scare me. Most of the signs were in Russian instead of Czech/English as they are in Prague. The city is famous for it’s natural springs, and has springs all over town where you can take in the water. It’s a lovely setting as it’s nestled in the mountains. As I mentioned, it’s featured in Casino Royale, and we also found out that Last Holiday was filmed there as well.

I don’t know what I was expecting of this town…Wait, I think I do. I was expecting a Czech version Bath, England. Well, that’s not what I got. The bus ride, though lovely, was a bit longer than I had anticipated, and by the time we got into town we only have three hours to explore before we had to hit the bus ride back.

WORST MEAL OF THE TRIP

I love eating. You may have noticed that by now. When Nick and I arrived in Carlsbad, our first order of business (after getting a map), was to track down some food. Many of the menus outside of the restaurants didn’t have anything in English so we kept walking, and walking, and walking. We finally found this place that had a cute outdoor patio. When we went inside we found out that it wasn’t so cute inside…

The people there barely spoke English, unfortunately. And let me say for the record that they don’t have to speak English. We’re the foreigners visiting their country and it totally makes sense that they don’t speak English, but we’d gotten pretty spoiled in Prague. I also have the feeling that they used the language barrier to swindle us. The food was seriously sub-par, and when we got the bill it was the equivalent of 50 USD! There were eight items on the bill, and we had only ordered five. I might no know the language, but I know math. This was not a fancy restaurant by any standards where you’d expect to pay more, and to put it in perspective, Nick and I paid about 6 USD for our dinner the night before. Even with the service charge (tip), there’s no way that it should have cost that much!

Jess with her overpriced "cheap" Czech beer.

Jess with her overpriced “cheap” Czech beer.

Well, that but us both in a bit of a bad mood, and it’s the part of the trip that happens every time I travel where I start to appreciate the United States even more…

ANYWAY…

Next we decided to walk through the town. It has lovely Art Nouveau style buildings. I was hoping to do some shopping here, but all I ended up getting was a tea pot.

Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary/Carlsbad

Nick and I took the funicular up the hill to see the view. The only problem with that was that the trees hid the view so we couldn’t see anything. We went up the hill and then almost instantly were back down the hill again. A quick look at the watch told us we had only 40 minutes to get back to the bus station, and were all the way across town, needed to us the restroom, and I wanted to pick up that teapot.

At first everything was fine, and we were just walking very quickly through the town. Then we ran into this hill. It was STEEP, and we were hauling it up the hill to make it back in time. Just when I thought we weren’t going to make it, and said as much to Nick, we were almost back where we started. In about four minutes, both of us managed to get to the bath and to by my teapot. The lady in the store took FOREVER to wrap it, and when we were running back to the bus station, arriving at the bus stop three minutes before departure as Nick predicted.

Apparently a European Adventure isn’t complete without me running to a bus, train, or airplane.

PRAGUE, SWEET PRAGUE

It was so nice to be back in Prague. On the way back to the flat we stopped by the grocery store, and I made penne pasta with pesto and peas. After fighting with the internet, I decided to head off to bed, ready to sleep off my day in a “spa town like no other.”

UP NEXT: Last day in Prague! We’re just going to chill, seriously. There’s an English bookstore that’s calling my name, but that’s about it.

 

 

European Adventure IV: Day Five

Today was awesome! Armed with rest and some food, we got out and explored the city. It was also a serious test of letting God lead me where He wanted to lead me, because once again all of my plans were completely thrown out the window!

UP! UP! UP!

Considering that the evening before Nick and I had gotten over two hours of sleep in the middle of the afternoon, sleep last night didn’t come as easy as you might think that it should have with the 4:00AM start time. We still got up at a reasonable time this morning and enjoyed breakfast in the hotel. The plan for the day was to go on a walking tour, and then head across the River Vltava to Lesser Town to explore.

We got out of the hotel a few minutes late, which meant that we got to old Town Square a few minutes late, which meant that we completely missed the tour (apparently, they operate with British Airways style efficiency). In Scotland, and in Hungary, the free walking tours companies all do a really good job of separating themselves as to not confuse the tourists. In Prague, they do the exact opposite. There are SO MANY free walking tours and they all compete for the tourists in order to get the tips. We were offered a tour by one lady, but we declined. I’m finding in tough to trust some of the people here as several guidebooks warn you that they can be scammers.

This meant that we had to regroup! We had a hard stop at 4:00pm because we had to check out of the hotel and move to the flat that we were going to be staying in. This put me in a tough spot. I didn’t want to do the later tour because it might run over and then we’d be running back to the hotel to check out in time.  We decided to walk across the river and explore Lesser Town, and check out of the hotel before doing the later tour.

BEAUTIFUL PRAGUE!

On our way to cross the Charles Bridge we saw a sign hanging on an old church that said: “Hands off Ukraine, Putin!” You can definitely tell that there’s slight tension in the air with this international issue.

Church near Charles Bridge

Church near Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is a pedestrian bridge in Prague and it’s beautiful. Not only does it give an amazing view of the Vltava, but it also has different statues of Jesus and other Biblical stories. I felt a transformation as soon as we got off the bridge into Lesser Town. I don’t know if everything clicked and I finally felt welcomed to the city, but people were smiling, children were running around happy, and there was no graffiti on the walls.  It was the moment that I started to like Prague.

View of the Charles Bridge looking into Lesser Town

View of the Charles Bridge looking into Lesser Town

After spending a very short time exploring a little of this part of town, Nick and I quickly decided that we wanted to completely ditch the walking tour and spend most of the day in Lesser Town. We took the tram up to Prague Castle, a large castle dating back to the year 880. While we didn’t end up exploring the castle, the views from the top were amazing!

The view from Prague Castle

The view from Prague Castle

After spending a few minutes enjoying the view, Nick and I decided to grab lunch at this terrace café by the castle. I had some delicious pasta, and Nick had some schnitzel.

After going back for one last look at the view, we saw across the way there on this hill there was an American flag flying. I love seeing the American flag when traveling abroad. It’s like a little piece of home. Nick and I decided to investigate what it was. By the time we walked over and started up the incredibly steep hill, we realized that were was a very large fence with barbed wire between us and the American flag. Upon doing a little research once we were back in the hotel, I found out that it was actually the American embassy (…duh…).

Up to see the American flag.

Up to see the American flag.

It was now time for Nick and I to head back to the hotel and check out. We took the tram all the way back – now experts on the public transportation system in the city. When we arrived back on the other side of the bridge, I expected to feel down again having returned to this part of the city. Instead, I felt great!

We checked out of the hotel and lugged our stuff down the street a few blocks to a flat hotel that I’d found. We were greeted by two very nice gentlemen who showed us our flat. I almost cracked up when I saw Nick’s face when we walked into the flat. We were so blessed! I had made the reservation for a one bedroom, however, we were upgraded to a two bedroom apartment! The apartment is complete with a full kitchen, Jacuzzi in the bathroom, and Nick’s room even has a balcony. Even though it was only a few blocks away from the hotel, the energy in the neighborhood was completely different. Our flat looks out on the inner garden, and it’s so quiet and peaceful. If we come back to Prague, this is where we’re staying!!!

SHOPPING TIME!

The original plan for the evening was to go to a classical music concert. However, as I was sitting on the couch, all I wanted to do was take a nap! Nick and I decided to make it a night in. Instead of going out to dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow we went to the grocery store. This was an adventure in itself. There was a lot of guesswork that went into what we bought. I’ll tell you tomorrow if what I think was butter is actually butter, and if some of the lunchmeats were bought are what I think they were…Life’s an adventure, right?

Groceries, Czech style!

Groceries, Czech style!

After going to the grocery store, we stopped by a Chinese food restaurant to get some takeaway, now post-dinner, we’re both sitting on our Macs soaking in the day, and enjoying the fact that we actually have a table to sit at in a lovely, peaceful space.

UP NEXT: Countryside! We’re headed to Karlovy Vary. This is where Casino Royale with Daniel Craig was filmed during the casino part of the film. Here’s hoping people this far from Prague speak English!

European Adventure IV: Day Four

Today left something to be desired. I feel that I don’t have as fabulous a telling for you as on other days, but we still had fun so it’s worth writing about. 

EARLY MORNING

This morning started at 4:00am. That sets the tone for the entire day. Why would you start a vacation day at 4:00am, you ask? Well, first it seemed like a good idea when I booked the flight a few weeks ago, and second it was a reward (read: cheap) flight and who’s going to argue with really cheap? It’s one of those times when I wish I could go back in time and speak to myself when I was booking this flight and tell myself to just pay additional money to have a later flight.

Nick and I got out of the hotel at a reasonable time and had speedy walk to the bus station to get to the airport. It was a nice little goodbye to Edinburgh. The city was quiet and peaceful, and Edinburgh Castle was standing there as true has it has been for the last few centuries.

A BUS, A PLANE, ANOTHER BUS, SITTING, YET ANOTHER BUS, YET ANOTHER PLANE.

I hate layovers. They suck the energy right out of me. I think it has something to do with the fact that I spend so much time sitting in artificial air. I passed out on the flight to Heathrow, and then we had to transfer to Terminal 3. I’ve never been outside of Terminal 5 in all my travels to the British Isles, and I must tell you that I have no desire to ever go to another terminal at Heathrow ever again. Terminal 5 is full of sunlight, with big expansive windows, and has awesome restaurants. Terminal 3 was dank, and had several shops that I could never afford (and as a side note, I wouldn’t want to spend major money on items at the airport! Sorry Tiffany, Burberry, and Harrod’s). You also have to take an incredibly long ride on the Tarmac to get to Terminal 3. I think the fact that it was raining and ugly, along with the fact that we’d already been up for 6 hours at the time of our transfer at Heathrow at 10:00am, didn’t help my mood.

We had to get on yet another bus to get to the plane and then waited in the rain to climb the stairs to the Airbus 320 which has the most uncomfortable seats on the planet. Deciding to make the best of it, I passed out again.

I awoke with the sun shining in my face. A pleasant feeling, that. There were those big puffy clouds that I love in the sky. We were on our approach to Prague. The countryside of the Czech Republic is beautiful. It does remind me of landing in Virginia, expect you can see for miles and miles and miles. There are rolling hills, beautifully green grass, and small little towns with copper roofs. Those lovely puffy clouds, I often forget, lead to bumpy landings. By the time the wheels were on the ground, me, the professional traveler, was feeling sick to my stomach.

WELCOME TO PRAHA

We were finally in Prague (Praha in Czech), the second half of our trip. Landing to sunshine is wonderful (I always say that the best way to land is to palm trees). Because  public transportation system from the airport left something to be desired – a bus, the metro, and a 10 minute walk – I had decided to splurge and get a car for our ride to and from the airport. It was the best decision I’ve made yet on this trip. We walked out of security and saw a sign with my name on it.

The ride from the airport was a bit quiet. Nick and I were both feeling a little travel weary. I don’t know how to describe our surroundings on the ride from the airport. In Hungary, the ride from the airport was really industrial. This time the ride was part industrial, part sub-urbs, I guess. The buildings were light colors, and were all over hills and valleys.

As we approached the city centre, the city started to remind me a bit of Nice. A whole bunch of short buildings all crammed together. Pedestrians fighting with cars, who were trying to race the trams.

The hotel was all right, not nearly as lovely as the hotel in Edinburgh. Nick and I passed out for 2.5 hours. When we woke it was time to explore!

SOME “ENCHANTED” EVENING

The plan was to make a loop, head over to check out the other side of the city from the river, and then get dinner. Basically the same introduction we had to Edinburgh. However, in Edinburgh, I didn’t get lost…

Now you’d think that because the map was in a different language,  it makes sense to get lost. I’d have to disagree with you, though. I’ve never had trouble with maps in France, Austria, or Hungary. For some reason I couldn’t wrap my head around the way this city is oriented. This led to us walking so incredibly far out of the way as the sun was going down. We eventually got back on track, saw a really random street fight, and had dinner a this quaint Czech restaurant. I had lamb, and Nick had ribs. It was delicious. When then slowly made our way back to the hotel.

At dinner!

At dinner!

If you were to ask me now which city and country I like best, it’s very easy – Edinburgh, Scotland. I felt welcomed to that city. I don’t know if it was because everyone was in a good mood because the sun had been shining for the first time in weeks or what, but I found in comforting. Also, that city was very familiar, though I’d never been before. It wasn’t so different from London, and I could understand the areas where it was different. So far in Prague, we haven’t met any nice people, save the ones at the hotel who are paid to be nice. Our driver didn’t say a word to us, and the people on the streets just hurry from one building to the next. So far I do think that Prague is a beautiful looking city, but I’ll have to spend the next several days discovering whether or not I actually like it.

UP NEXT: Another free walking tour! I’ll have to ask our tour guide how to say thank you, when I asked the guy at the front desk, I couldn’t understand what he said.

European Adventure IV: Day Three

Today was amazing!!! It was almost completely spent outside of Edinburgh, but that meant that we got to spend time in the countryside – exactly what I pictured when I think of Scotland! 

STIRLING

We decide to head to Stirling, a small town located about an hour’s train ride away from Edinburgh. It is called the Gateway to the Highlands. This was also the original capital of Scotland, and has its own smaller castle built on top of a huge rock. The ride to Stirling was lovely. Once again God blessed us with lovely sunshine.

Upon arriving at Stirling, we got off and decided to head to the visitors center (I needed a map, naturally). Taking a random detour, we walked through Stirling Arcade, a sort of indoor shopping center with all different kinds of shops. On a whim, Nick decided to stop and look at some art in this little store called #hashtag. After taking forever to decide on some painted glass art, we went to the front to cash out.

There we met Pebbles. Pebbles was the lovely woman at the front who started by telling us a little about Stirling, especially about the castle. She was so open and friendly, that I decided to ask her what her thoughts were on the referendum.

As  I wrote briefly yesterday, on September 18, Scots will vote to decide whether or not to end their union with the United Kingdom (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland). As you can imagine there are many implications that go along with this either way the vote swings. Our tour guide from yesterday, Colin, was very undecided. We found that Pebbles was the same, but she was able to give us a very concise and solid prospective, and I have a feeling that her prospective would ring true amongst many of the undecideds in the country.

During our conversation, another Scottish couple came and heard our discussion. They decidedly would be voting “no” come September, saying that they did not want to end unification. It was fun to be standing in the middle of this shop having such a conversation with three strangers.

Being an American, this is such an interesting concept to me, and I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to wrap my head around it. The closest way that I can compare is with Virginia wanting to leave the Union. Obviously, we all know what happened last time they did, but imagine the Federal Government saying that we could leave so long as the majority of Virginians said yes. To finally have something that so many people and fought for in the past. There seems to be so much propaganda out there in the market, and the majority of it, as we discovered from Pebbles, is around the mounds of money that will come Scots way if they vote “yes.”

Pebbles was lovely, and gave us such a warm welcome to Stirling in particular, and Scotland in general. We spent about an hour in her shop talking about a wide range of things from Obama to hillbilly Australians who drink horrible beer. I made her and Nick take a picture so that you all would be able to meet her as well.

Nick with Pebbles, our new Scottish friend

Nick with Pebbles, our new Scottish friend

ONWARD!

Next we walked up a very steep hill to Stirling Castle. The view was amazing!! Standing there on the top of the Lady’s Walk, surrounded by such unspoilt beauty, I spent a prayer of thanksgiving to God. First that He got us here safe and sound, second that He allowed us to travel at all, and third that He took His time to make such an amazingly beautiful world for us to live in. He did not have to do that, but He did for our benefit. I was in awe.

Nick and Jess on the Lady's Walk

Nick and Jess on the Lady’s Walk

We walked around Stirling Castle, but I mainly came back to the views. This was where Mary Queen of Scots used to live, and Stirling itself is near two key battles of the wars of Scottish Independence. One featuring William Wallace (Mel Gibson in Braveheart), and the second Robert the Bruce.

FEET. IN. PAIN.

After walking back down the hill, two things were happening. I was getting really hungry – it was somehow 3:00pm already and we’d seriously missed lunch – and my feet were starting to really hurt. It’s not a good sign when my feet hurt two days into a European Adventure…

Nick and I grabbed some lunch at the Pizza Express, I went and got a mani in the mall next door while he looked at nerd stuff, and then we found ourselves speeding back to Edinburgh so content with the day.

On our way to dinner we stopped by the Waterstone’s. I think Waterstone’s is my favorite bookstore in the WORLD. The atmosphere is lovely, and they’re really good at curating different books throughout store as recommendations to read.

After spending way too much money there, we headed to dinner at this delicious Thai restaurant that had an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle on the fourth floor. It was nice way to soak up our last night in Scotland.

Another lovely day in Europe. Definitely my favorite day on the trip so far!

UP NEXT: Prague! A new city, a new language, a new currency. 

European Adventure IV: Day Two

I’m officially in love with Scotland! Though we had a bit of a rough start to the trip, we felt fully redeemed wandering around the city today. The sun was shining! This, apparently, is not normal. Our tour guide asked us what the odd glowing orb in the sky was.

WAKEY, WAKEY.

Usually the first morning on a trip I sleep until about 2:00pm local time. Then I’m irritated that I’ve lost so much time in the city. I decided to try things differently this time. I made the decision to commit to getting 12 hours of sleep the first night, and trying to start the day by mid-morning on the first full day in Scotland. This majorly paid off because we were up and running around the city by 10:00am, having already breakfasted.

Our adventure today was going to take us to Leith. Leith is a very small town about a 30 minute bus ride from the Edinburgh city centre seated on the North Sea. I didn’t know what I expected, but I found a lovely seaside town. It didn’t at all have the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh, and the views of the water were so nice.

Nick and I were both a bit startled by the pedestrians in Edinburgh. There would be a huge double-decker barreling towards them and they wouldn’t even flinch! We spent half of the bus trip cringing and thinking that if any of those people tried to cross the street like that in the US, they’d be hit!

View of the water in Leith

View of the water in Leith

WALKING TOUR TIME

Last year in Budapest, I seriously enjoyed the free walking tour and was able to find one in Edinburgh as well. After making our way back to the city centre and walking up a seriously big hill, we found ourselves on a walking tour with our awesome guide Colin. His accent was amazing. I loved every time he said “Edinburrragh.”

The tour took us on a loop through Old Town. Edinburgh is split into two sections, Old Town and New Town. New Town isn’t that incredibly new, but it’s so much newer than Old Town. I like Old Town much better, it’s got some good character, and is built on an extinct volcano. I don’t think it gets much cooler than that!

One of the cool things we learned was that JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter books in Edinburgh. We went to the cafe where the penniless writer wrote the blockbuster novels, and even walked around what was her inspiration. Behind the cafe, there’s this old Kirk (Scots for church), that has the most peaceful cemetery that I’ve ever been to. Several of the residents have names that Rowling took and included her in books including McGonagall and Thomas Riddle. There’s also this amazing view of Edinburgh Castle sitting in this mountain of a hill in the background that could easily have been the influence for Hogwarts. I could have sat there and journaled all day.

Jess in Greyfrariers Cemetery

Jess in Greyfrariers Cemetery

NEW TOWN

After the tour was over, we made our way to New Town to make sure that we explored that part of the city a bit. It was a waste of time! Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely, but kind of a downer after spending a day and half in Old Town. All of the buildings are in a lovely Georgian style, but was so was Bath, England, and I liked it much better there.

After walking around in New Town, we made our way across the street from our hotel to the Red Squirrel. I had a lamb burger that was amazing! It was the perfect size meal and hit the spot in such a lovely way.

Now we’re sitting in the lounge, soaking up the mood music and looking over our pictures for the day. I find that I like Edinburgh a little better than London. The city is at such a different pace, and the Scottish just seem to be less arrogant then the English. The mood in the city is at an interesting place because on September 18, the entire country will vote on whether or not to separate from the United Kingdom. There doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming decision either way, and the uncertainty gives the city a certain feel. I love that I got to be here before this decision, which will surely change this country either way.

Overall quite a lovely day.

UP NEXT: Well, I don’t know! We have a few options. We can go on a day tour of the Borderlands, or we can hike up Arthur’s Seat and do a small day trip somewhere outside the city. Decisions, decisions! 

European Adventure IV: Day One

I’m back in Europe! This time I’m spending sometime in Scotland and the Czech Republic. Once again I’ve got my sidekick brother, Nick with me. 

BANG!

European Adventure Part IV started off with a bang – and not a good one. First, on driving to the airport we ran into a huge load of traffic due to an accident that delayed our arrival by an hour and a half. This meant that we were arrived at the airport only an hour before our flight was to depart. As I’m telling the woman behind the British Airways desk that we ran into traffic, she’s telling me that the flight’s closed, and Nick’s face is nearly comically terrified as he realized that he’s forgotten his passport at home… Home is 40 minutes away in traffic. I looked up flights we could rebook on for later, while he went to go get his passport.

I was not happy about this. In reading my adventures over the years, you may have realized that I’m a bit of a planner…and a planner does not like to have their plans changed. A good planner, which I like to think I am, is good at adapting when the change comes, however. While Nick went back to the house to get his passport,  I sat with my feet propped up on my luggage outside of the British Airways ticketing stand watching the line grow, and plotting on how to adjust to this major change in plans.

I felt myself getting more and more worked up thinking about how much time we were missing in Europe, and how this was not a good way to start my vacation. Originally, we were supposed to get to Edinburgh by 10:30am, explore for a bit and go on a walking tour. Now we were going to arrive at 1:30pm, and miss basically everything that I planned. I started to get worked up. Then I realized that I was going on this vacation at the will and pleasure of God, and that it wasn’t really my vacation (as it wasn’t my money paying for it), but His. Furthermore, after doing some math I quickly realized that we were only losing three hours, and three hours is not worth crying tears over.

Nick eventually came back to the airport with his passport, and we changed our flights (that change flight fee was not easy to shallow!), we made our way through security and grabbed a Potbelly sandwich for dinner.

LONDON LAYOVER

I took two Advil PM, I had stress headache brewing, and was knocked out for nearly all of the flight. When I opened my eyes the sun was shining, and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day in London. There’s something so familiar about landing in Heathrow Terminal 5. I know exactly what to expect, know the places I like to eat, and understand the building very well. 

Nick and I grabbed a leisurely breakfast at Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food and just soaked in being back in the United Kingdom.

SCOTLAND!

After our layover we got on a domestic flight to Edinburgh. When we landed the sun was still shining. We took a quick bus ride into the city centre to get to our hotel.

Our view from the top of the double-decker bus

Our view from the top of the double-decker bus

After arriving at the hotel, Nick and I promptly checked in and took a nap! When we finally got up it was time to explore.

One of the main features in Edinburgh is Edinburgh Castle. It’s this huge fortress built on this hill that used to be a volcano. It’s so formidable and bit ominous just sitting in the middle of the city. Our exploration for the afternoon was just a huge loop around the castle.

Jess in front of Edinburgh Castle

Jess in front of Edinburgh Castle

It wasn’t long walking the streets before we began to hear the wail of bagpipes. We were officially in Scotland! I know it seems so touristy, but it was pretty cool. We walked over North Bridge and before we knew it we were able to see Arthur’s Seat. This is an extinct volcano that’s really close to the city centre. We’re considering hiking up it.

Jess in front of Arthur's Seat.

Jess and a view of Arthur’s Seat.

 

DIN-DIN

We continued walking around the Castle while we headed to Zizzi’s for dinner. This is the same restaurant that we enjoyed in London. It was nice to spend our first night in a place that was familiar, and had delicious food. I got prosciutto wrapped chicken. YUMMY!

With the sun set, it was freezing outside and Nick and I hurried our way to back to the hotel. Now I’m enjoying a mojito in a can. A lovely day overall in spite of how this trip started.

UP NEXT: The current plan is to explore Leith and finally go on that free walking tour…but we’ll see how that goes.