{Moving to Seattle!}

Well, since I just got a new job, it looks like our next big adventure will be road-tripping from Greenville, SC to Seattle, WA…more details to come!

{Day 15: Giant’s Causeway Day Trip & Belfast}

I just realized that I never posted about the last day of our trip :/ Not that many people probably care but, since I like to use this blog as an online journal, I figured I’d at least post a brief summary while I still remember it all!

On our last day in the UK, we took a day trip up to the Giant’s Causeway with McCombs Tours. It was a lot better than our Scottish Highlands bus tour because we got to stop at more interesting places for longer periods of time, including:

1. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which was a little scary to cross but definitely worth it for the dramatic views

2. Bushmills Distillery, where we got to eat lunch and sample some Irish whiskey 

3. The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attraction (for good reason). We spent 2.5 hours here and definitely could have stayed longer. From the Visitors’ Center, you can take a free shuttle to the Causeway or walk. We walked and it was a great choice—the trail/road to the Causeway wasn’t steep at all and the views were gorgeous. We arrived at the main site after walking for 10-15 minutes and, at first, were surprised by the scale of the rocks because they look tiny in comparison to the surrounding cliff faces…but once we got closet and climbed onto them we were able to better appreciate the unique basalt columns & formations.

The legend is that the formations were made by giants. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than him. Fionn’s wife, Úna, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. In reality the hexagonal formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, though scientists still aren’t 100% sure how/why.

Regardless of creation method, the columns were awesome and the crashing waves formed a mesmerizing backdrop—so mesmerizing that my feet got soaked by a large swell because I didn’t move out of the way fast enough! After spending awhile on the rocks, we heading up one of the nearby pathways, winding our way up the cliff faces and back towards the Visitors’ Center. This UNESCO World Heritage site did not disappoint and I recommend whole-heartlessly recommend visiting it if you ever get the chance.

It took about an hour and half to get back to Belfast and, once we got off the bus, we decided to go out for a nice dinner for our last night of vacation. I used Yelp! to find “Made in Belfast,” a bohemian restaurant featuring local, farm-fresh food and decor made by artisans from the area. The food, cocktails, and ambiance were wonderdul and it was definitely our best meal of the trip!

Our last day was a great mix of town & country, the perfect ending to another epic travel experience. Glad I got to do it with some of my favorite people! 

Until next time,
Katie {Day 15: Giant’s Causeway Day Trip & Belfast}

I just realized that I never posted about the last day of our trip :/ Not that many people probably care but, since I like to use this blog as an online journal, I figured I’d at least post a brief summary while I still remember it all!

On our last day in the UK, we took a day trip up to the Giant’s Causeway with McCombs Tours. It was a lot better than our Scottish Highlands bus tour because we got to stop at more interesting places for longer periods of time, including:

1. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which was a little scary to cross but definitely worth it for the dramatic views

2. Bushmills Distillery, where we got to eat lunch and sample some Irish whiskey 

3. The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attraction (for good reason). We spent 2.5 hours here and definitely could have stayed longer. From the Visitors’ Center, you can take a free shuttle to the Causeway or walk. We walked and it was a great choice—the trail/road to the Causeway wasn’t steep at all and the views were gorgeous. We arrived at the main site after walking for 10-15 minutes and, at first, were surprised by the scale of the rocks because they look tiny in comparison to the surrounding cliff faces…but once we got closet and climbed onto them we were able to better appreciate the unique basalt columns & formations.

The legend is that the formations were made by giants. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than him. Fionn’s wife, Úna, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. In reality the hexagonal formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, though scientists still aren’t 100% sure how/why.

Regardless of creation method, the columns were awesome and the crashing waves formed a mesmerizing backdrop—so mesmerizing that my feet got soaked by a large swell because I didn’t move out of the way fast enough! After spending awhile on the rocks, we heading up one of the nearby pathways, winding our way up the cliff faces and back towards the Visitors’ Center. This UNESCO World Heritage site did not disappoint and I recommend whole-heartlessly recommend visiting it if you ever get the chance.

It took about an hour and half to get back to Belfast and, once we got off the bus, we decided to go out for a nice dinner for our last night of vacation. I used Yelp! to find “Made in Belfast,” a bohemian restaurant featuring local, farm-fresh food and decor made by artisans from the area. The food, cocktails, and ambiance were wonderdul and it was definitely our best meal of the trip!

Our last day was a great mix of town & country, the perfect ending to another epic travel experience. Glad I got to do it with some of my favorite people! 

Until next time,
Katie {Day 15: Giant’s Causeway Day Trip & Belfast}

I just realized that I never posted about the last day of our trip :/ Not that many people probably care but, since I like to use this blog as an online journal, I figured I’d at least post a brief summary while I still remember it all!

On our last day in the UK, we took a day trip up to the Giant’s Causeway with McCombs Tours. It was a lot better than our Scottish Highlands bus tour because we got to stop at more interesting places for longer periods of time, including:

1. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which was a little scary to cross but definitely worth it for the dramatic views

2. Bushmills Distillery, where we got to eat lunch and sample some Irish whiskey 

3. The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attraction (for good reason). We spent 2.5 hours here and definitely could have stayed longer. From the Visitors’ Center, you can take a free shuttle to the Causeway or walk. We walked and it was a great choice—the trail/road to the Causeway wasn’t steep at all and the views were gorgeous. We arrived at the main site after walking for 10-15 minutes and, at first, were surprised by the scale of the rocks because they look tiny in comparison to the surrounding cliff faces…but once we got closet and climbed onto them we were able to better appreciate the unique basalt columns & formations.

The legend is that the formations were made by giants. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than him. Fionn’s wife, Úna, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. In reality the hexagonal formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, though scientists still aren’t 100% sure how/why.

Regardless of creation method, the columns were awesome and the crashing waves formed a mesmerizing backdrop—so mesmerizing that my feet got soaked by a large swell because I didn’t move out of the way fast enough! After spending awhile on the rocks, we heading up one of the nearby pathways, winding our way up the cliff faces and back towards the Visitors’ Center. This UNESCO World Heritage site did not disappoint and I recommend whole-heartlessly recommend visiting it if you ever get the chance.

It took about an hour and half to get back to Belfast and, once we got off the bus, we decided to go out for a nice dinner for our last night of vacation. I used Yelp! to find “Made in Belfast,” a bohemian restaurant featuring local, farm-fresh food and decor made by artisans from the area. The food, cocktails, and ambiance were wonderdul and it was definitely our best meal of the trip!

Our last day was a great mix of town & country, the perfect ending to another epic travel experience. Glad I got to do it with some of my favorite people! 

Until next time,
Katie {Day 15: Giant’s Causeway Day Trip & Belfast}

I just realized that I never posted about the last day of our trip :/ Not that many people probably care but, since I like to use this blog as an online journal, I figured I’d at least post a brief summary while I still remember it all!

On our last day in the UK, we took a day trip up to the Giant’s Causeway with McCombs Tours. It was a lot better than our Scottish Highlands bus tour because we got to stop at more interesting places for longer periods of time, including:

1. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which was a little scary to cross but definitely worth it for the dramatic views

2. Bushmills Distillery, where we got to eat lunch and sample some Irish whiskey 

3. The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attraction (for good reason). We spent 2.5 hours here and definitely could have stayed longer. From the Visitors’ Center, you can take a free shuttle to the Causeway or walk. We walked and it was a great choice—the trail/road to the Causeway wasn’t steep at all and the views were gorgeous. We arrived at the main site after walking for 10-15 minutes and, at first, were surprised by the scale of the rocks because they look tiny in comparison to the surrounding cliff faces…but once we got closet and climbed onto them we were able to better appreciate the unique basalt columns & formations.

The legend is that the formations were made by giants. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than him. Fionn’s wife, Úna, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. In reality the hexagonal formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, though scientists still aren’t 100% sure how/why.

Regardless of creation method, the columns were awesome and the crashing waves formed a mesmerizing backdrop—so mesmerizing that my feet got soaked by a large swell because I didn’t move out of the way fast enough! After spending awhile on the rocks, we heading up one of the nearby pathways, winding our way up the cliff faces and back towards the Visitors’ Center. This UNESCO World Heritage site did not disappoint and I recommend whole-heartlessly recommend visiting it if you ever get the chance.

It took about an hour and half to get back to Belfast and, once we got off the bus, we decided to go out for a nice dinner for our last night of vacation. I used Yelp! to find “Made in Belfast,” a bohemian restaurant featuring local, farm-fresh food and decor made by artisans from the area. The food, cocktails, and ambiance were wonderdul and it was definitely our best meal of the trip!

Our last day was a great mix of town & country, the perfect ending to another epic travel experience. Glad I got to do it with some of my favorite people! 

Until next time,
Katie {Day 15: Giant’s Causeway Day Trip & Belfast}

I just realized that I never posted about the last day of our trip :/ Not that many people probably care but, since I like to use this blog as an online journal, I figured I’d at least post a brief summary while I still remember it all!

On our last day in the UK, we took a day trip up to the Giant’s Causeway with McCombs Tours. It was a lot better than our Scottish Highlands bus tour because we got to stop at more interesting places for longer periods of time, including:

1. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which was a little scary to cross but definitely worth it for the dramatic views

2. Bushmills Distillery, where we got to eat lunch and sample some Irish whiskey 

3. The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attraction (for good reason). We spent 2.5 hours here and definitely could have stayed longer. From the Visitors’ Center, you can take a free shuttle to the Causeway or walk. We walked and it was a great choice—the trail/road to the Causeway wasn’t steep at all and the views were gorgeous. We arrived at the main site after walking for 10-15 minutes and, at first, were surprised by the scale of the rocks because they look tiny in comparison to the surrounding cliff faces…but once we got closet and climbed onto them we were able to better appreciate the unique basalt columns & formations.

The legend is that the formations were made by giants. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than him. Fionn’s wife, Úna, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. In reality the hexagonal formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, though scientists still aren’t 100% sure how/why.

Regardless of creation method, the columns were awesome and the crashing waves formed a mesmerizing backdrop—so mesmerizing that my feet got soaked by a large swell because I didn’t move out of the way fast enough! After spending awhile on the rocks, we heading up one of the nearby pathways, winding our way up the cliff faces and back towards the Visitors’ Center. This UNESCO World Heritage site did not disappoint and I recommend whole-heartlessly recommend visiting it if you ever get the chance.

It took about an hour and half to get back to Belfast and, once we got off the bus, we decided to go out for a nice dinner for our last night of vacation. I used Yelp! to find “Made in Belfast,” a bohemian restaurant featuring local, farm-fresh food and decor made by artisans from the area. The food, cocktails, and ambiance were wonderdul and it was definitely our best meal of the trip!

Our last day was a great mix of town & country, the perfect ending to another epic travel experience. Glad I got to do it with some of my favorite people! 

Until next time,
Katie {Day 15: Giant’s Causeway Day Trip & Belfast}

I just realized that I never posted about the last day of our trip :/ Not that many people probably care but, since I like to use this blog as an online journal, I figured I’d at least post a brief summary while I still remember it all!

On our last day in the UK, we took a day trip up to the Giant’s Causeway with McCombs Tours. It was a lot better than our Scottish Highlands bus tour because we got to stop at more interesting places for longer periods of time, including:

1. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which was a little scary to cross but definitely worth it for the dramatic views

2. Bushmills Distillery, where we got to eat lunch and sample some Irish whiskey 

3. The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attraction (for good reason). We spent 2.5 hours here and definitely could have stayed longer. From the Visitors’ Center, you can take a free shuttle to the Causeway or walk. We walked and it was a great choice—the trail/road to the Causeway wasn’t steep at all and the views were gorgeous. We arrived at the main site after walking for 10-15 minutes and, at first, were surprised by the scale of the rocks because they look tiny in comparison to the surrounding cliff faces…but once we got closet and climbed onto them we were able to better appreciate the unique basalt columns & formations.

The legend is that the formations were made by giants. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than him. Fionn’s wife, Úna, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. In reality the hexagonal formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, though scientists still aren’t 100% sure how/why.

Regardless of creation method, the columns were awesome and the crashing waves formed a mesmerizing backdrop—so mesmerizing that my feet got soaked by a large swell because I didn’t move out of the way fast enough! After spending awhile on the rocks, we heading up one of the nearby pathways, winding our way up the cliff faces and back towards the Visitors’ Center. This UNESCO World Heritage site did not disappoint and I recommend whole-heartlessly recommend visiting it if you ever get the chance.

It took about an hour and half to get back to Belfast and, once we got off the bus, we decided to go out for a nice dinner for our last night of vacation. I used Yelp! to find “Made in Belfast,” a bohemian restaurant featuring local, farm-fresh food and decor made by artisans from the area. The food, cocktails, and ambiance were wonderdul and it was definitely our best meal of the trip!

Our last day was a great mix of town & country, the perfect ending to another epic travel experience. Glad I got to do it with some of my favorite people! 

Until next time,
Katie

{Day 15: Giant’s Causeway Day Trip & Belfast}

I just realized that I never posted about the last day of our trip :/ Not that many people probably care but, since I like to use this blog as an online journal, I figured I’d at least post a brief summary while I still remember it all!

On our last day in the UK, we took a day trip up to the Giant’s Causeway with McCombs Tours. It was a lot better than our Scottish Highlands bus tour because we got to stop at more interesting places for longer periods of time, including:

1. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which was a little scary to cross but definitely worth it for the dramatic views

2. Bushmills Distillery, where we got to eat lunch and sample some Irish whiskey

3. The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s most famous natural attraction (for good reason). We spent 2.5 hours here and definitely could have stayed longer. From the Visitors’ Center, you can take a free shuttle to the Causeway or walk. We walked and it was a great choice—the trail/road to the Causeway wasn’t steep at all and the views were gorgeous. We arrived at the main site after walking for 10-15 minutes and, at first, were surprised by the scale of the rocks because they look tiny in comparison to the surrounding cliff faces…but once we got closet and climbed onto them we were able to better appreciate the unique basalt columns & formations.

The legend is that the formations were made by giants. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than him. Fionn’s wife, Úna, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. In reality the hexagonal formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, though scientists still aren’t 100% sure how/why.

Regardless of creation method, the columns were awesome and the crashing waves formed a mesmerizing backdrop—so mesmerizing that my feet got soaked by a large swell because I didn’t move out of the way fast enough! After spending awhile on the rocks, we heading up one of the nearby pathways, winding our way up the cliff faces and back towards the Visitors’ Center. This UNESCO World Heritage site did not disappoint and I recommend whole-heartlessly recommend visiting it if you ever get the chance.

It took about an hour and half to get back to Belfast and, once we got off the bus, we decided to go out for a nice dinner for our last night of vacation. I used Yelp! to find “Made in Belfast,” a bohemian restaurant featuring local, farm-fresh food and decor made by artisans from the area. The food, cocktails, and ambiance were wonderdul and it was definitely our best meal of the trip!

Our last day was a great mix of town & country, the perfect ending to another epic travel experience. Glad I got to do it with some of my favorite people!

Until next time,
Katie

{Day 14: Glasgow & Belfast}

For a long travel day, today went surprisingly well. We caught an early morning train out of Edinburgh…again, just barely made it! This time a nice business woman let us share her taxi (for free!)—thank goodness because we definitely would’ve missed it otherwise.

From Edinburgh, we headed to Glasgow. We stopped for a few hours, just long enough to tour the famous Glasgow School of Art which was designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the late 1800s. A lot of the building was under construction/restoration and we couldn’t take interior photographs, but it was still cool to walk through and see all the little details Mackintosh designed (light fixtures, furniture, etc). We sadly missed the end of the year student reviews by one day…would’ve been interesting to compare the work with RISD & SCAD. Oh well, maybe next time!

Once our tour was over, we headed back to the train station and continued on to Straerner. From there we had to take a taxi to the Stena Line ferry terminal. We made all of these connections and successfully boarded the ferry bound for Belfast. The ferry itself was a really nice surprise—it was obviously new and had lots of amenities like a movie theater, xbox kinect stations, iPads for use, an on-board spa, a full bar and restaurant, arcade, etc. plus the seats were really plush and comfortable. We’ll definitely remember to try and take Stena Lines in the future! After exploring the ship, we spent most of the 2.5 hour journey comfortably watching the latest Die Hard movie and drinking hard cider. Soon enough, we were docking Belfast.

From the ferry terminal, we took a bus to the Belfast city center and then walked about 15 minutes to our hostel, Vagabonds. Again, we were pleasantly surprised. The hostel is in a refurbished townhouse next to Queens University (the Trinity college of Belfast) and seems to be in a really good part of the city. The place itself is very bohemian and decorated eclectically to match. Our private room has 15’ high ceilings with crown molding, a giant window, and a typographic feature wall. For £40 a night, this is probably the best place we’ve stayed the whole trip.

All the people we’ve met so far have been really friendly—offering directions, advice, and recommendations freely. One of the guys at our hostel told us about a pub called The Crown that is considered one of the most beautiful in the UK so, obviously, we had to go see for ourselves. He was right—it was opulent and gorgeous and a place where both locals and tourists seemed to be. We had dinner and pints here and then set off to wander and find something to do for the night.

As we were walking down one of the streets, a building and sign caught my eye. It said “Empire Theatre Comedy Show Every Tuesday Night” and, after we determined that it was in fact Tuesday, we decided to go in (Kyle loves a good comedy show). This turned out to be an excellent choice—the place was full of locals and we got to listen to 3 comedians from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some of the jokes were universal and others were much more regional. Lots of Protestant and Catholic banter, but it all seemed to be in good fun. You can tell that the religious divide is still very much a part of the culture here though. We also got called out for being from South Carolina and the G8 was a topic of conversation since it was held in in the city right before we arrived. All in all, the show was really entertaining and allowed us to get to know the people of Belfast better than we would have otherwise. We’re lucky to have stumbled upon the theater when we did!

Tomorrow is our last full day abroad (boo) and we’re taking a day trip to The Giant’s Causeway with some other interesting stops along the way (yay). Trying to soak up the last bit of vacation before heading back to The States to face job interviews/applications, packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to RI friends, and moving back down to SC (temporarily). I’m sad that a lot of thing are coming to an end, but I am trying to look optimistically towards the future. One thing I am extremely excited about? Seeing my puppies in a couple weeks :) We both miss them a ton and are looking forward to our reunion with them in SC (though they’re probably having a blast and don’t miss us in the slightest)!

—Katie {Day 14: Glasgow & Belfast}

For a long travel day, today went surprisingly well. We caught an early morning train out of Edinburgh…again, just barely made it! This time a nice business woman let us share her taxi (for free!)—thank goodness because we definitely would’ve missed it otherwise.

From Edinburgh, we headed to Glasgow. We stopped for a few hours, just long enough to tour the famous Glasgow School of Art which was designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the late 1800s. A lot of the building was under construction/restoration and we couldn’t take interior photographs, but it was still cool to walk through and see all the little details Mackintosh designed (light fixtures, furniture, etc). We sadly missed the end of the year student reviews by one day…would’ve been interesting to compare the work with RISD & SCAD. Oh well, maybe next time!

Once our tour was over, we headed back to the train station and continued on to Straerner. From there we had to take a taxi to the Stena Line ferry terminal. We made all of these connections and successfully boarded the ferry bound for Belfast. The ferry itself was a really nice surprise—it was obviously new and had lots of amenities like a movie theater, xbox kinect stations, iPads for use, an on-board spa, a full bar and restaurant, arcade, etc. plus the seats were really plush and comfortable. We’ll definitely remember to try and take Stena Lines in the future! After exploring the ship, we spent most of the 2.5 hour journey comfortably watching the latest Die Hard movie and drinking hard cider. Soon enough, we were docking Belfast.

From the ferry terminal, we took a bus to the Belfast city center and then walked about 15 minutes to our hostel, Vagabonds. Again, we were pleasantly surprised. The hostel is in a refurbished townhouse next to Queens University (the Trinity college of Belfast) and seems to be in a really good part of the city. The place itself is very bohemian and decorated eclectically to match. Our private room has 15’ high ceilings with crown molding, a giant window, and a typographic feature wall. For £40 a night, this is probably the best place we’ve stayed the whole trip.

All the people we’ve met so far have been really friendly—offering directions, advice, and recommendations freely. One of the guys at our hostel told us about a pub called The Crown that is considered one of the most beautiful in the UK so, obviously, we had to go see for ourselves. He was right—it was opulent and gorgeous and a place where both locals and tourists seemed to be. We had dinner and pints here and then set off to wander and find something to do for the night.

As we were walking down one of the streets, a building and sign caught my eye. It said “Empire Theatre Comedy Show Every Tuesday Night” and, after we determined that it was in fact Tuesday, we decided to go in (Kyle loves a good comedy show). This turned out to be an excellent choice—the place was full of locals and we got to listen to 3 comedians from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some of the jokes were universal and others were much more regional. Lots of Protestant and Catholic banter, but it all seemed to be in good fun. You can tell that the religious divide is still very much a part of the culture here though. We also got called out for being from South Carolina and the G8 was a topic of conversation since it was held in in the city right before we arrived. All in all, the show was really entertaining and allowed us to get to know the people of Belfast better than we would have otherwise. We’re lucky to have stumbled upon the theater when we did!

Tomorrow is our last full day abroad (boo) and we’re taking a day trip to The Giant’s Causeway with some other interesting stops along the way (yay). Trying to soak up the last bit of vacation before heading back to The States to face job interviews/applications, packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to RI friends, and moving back down to SC (temporarily). I’m sad that a lot of thing are coming to an end, but I am trying to look optimistically towards the future. One thing I am extremely excited about? Seeing my puppies in a couple weeks :) We both miss them a ton and are looking forward to our reunion with them in SC (though they’re probably having a blast and don’t miss us in the slightest)!

—Katie {Day 14: Glasgow & Belfast}

For a long travel day, today went surprisingly well. We caught an early morning train out of Edinburgh…again, just barely made it! This time a nice business woman let us share her taxi (for free!)—thank goodness because we definitely would’ve missed it otherwise.

From Edinburgh, we headed to Glasgow. We stopped for a few hours, just long enough to tour the famous Glasgow School of Art which was designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the late 1800s. A lot of the building was under construction/restoration and we couldn’t take interior photographs, but it was still cool to walk through and see all the little details Mackintosh designed (light fixtures, furniture, etc). We sadly missed the end of the year student reviews by one day…would’ve been interesting to compare the work with RISD & SCAD. Oh well, maybe next time!

Once our tour was over, we headed back to the train station and continued on to Straerner. From there we had to take a taxi to the Stena Line ferry terminal. We made all of these connections and successfully boarded the ferry bound for Belfast. The ferry itself was a really nice surprise—it was obviously new and had lots of amenities like a movie theater, xbox kinect stations, iPads for use, an on-board spa, a full bar and restaurant, arcade, etc. plus the seats were really plush and comfortable. We’ll definitely remember to try and take Stena Lines in the future! After exploring the ship, we spent most of the 2.5 hour journey comfortably watching the latest Die Hard movie and drinking hard cider. Soon enough, we were docking Belfast.

From the ferry terminal, we took a bus to the Belfast city center and then walked about 15 minutes to our hostel, Vagabonds. Again, we were pleasantly surprised. The hostel is in a refurbished townhouse next to Queens University (the Trinity college of Belfast) and seems to be in a really good part of the city. The place itself is very bohemian and decorated eclectically to match. Our private room has 15’ high ceilings with crown molding, a giant window, and a typographic feature wall. For £40 a night, this is probably the best place we’ve stayed the whole trip.

All the people we’ve met so far have been really friendly—offering directions, advice, and recommendations freely. One of the guys at our hostel told us about a pub called The Crown that is considered one of the most beautiful in the UK so, obviously, we had to go see for ourselves. He was right—it was opulent and gorgeous and a place where both locals and tourists seemed to be. We had dinner and pints here and then set off to wander and find something to do for the night.

As we were walking down one of the streets, a building and sign caught my eye. It said “Empire Theatre Comedy Show Every Tuesday Night” and, after we determined that it was in fact Tuesday, we decided to go in (Kyle loves a good comedy show). This turned out to be an excellent choice—the place was full of locals and we got to listen to 3 comedians from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some of the jokes were universal and others were much more regional. Lots of Protestant and Catholic banter, but it all seemed to be in good fun. You can tell that the religious divide is still very much a part of the culture here though. We also got called out for being from South Carolina and the G8 was a topic of conversation since it was held in in the city right before we arrived. All in all, the show was really entertaining and allowed us to get to know the people of Belfast better than we would have otherwise. We’re lucky to have stumbled upon the theater when we did!

Tomorrow is our last full day abroad (boo) and we’re taking a day trip to The Giant’s Causeway with some other interesting stops along the way (yay). Trying to soak up the last bit of vacation before heading back to The States to face job interviews/applications, packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to RI friends, and moving back down to SC (temporarily). I’m sad that a lot of thing are coming to an end, but I am trying to look optimistically towards the future. One thing I am extremely excited about? Seeing my puppies in a couple weeks :) We both miss them a ton and are looking forward to our reunion with them in SC (though they’re probably having a blast and don’t miss us in the slightest)!

—Katie {Day 14: Glasgow & Belfast}

For a long travel day, today went surprisingly well. We caught an early morning train out of Edinburgh…again, just barely made it! This time a nice business woman let us share her taxi (for free!)—thank goodness because we definitely would’ve missed it otherwise.

From Edinburgh, we headed to Glasgow. We stopped for a few hours, just long enough to tour the famous Glasgow School of Art which was designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the late 1800s. A lot of the building was under construction/restoration and we couldn’t take interior photographs, but it was still cool to walk through and see all the little details Mackintosh designed (light fixtures, furniture, etc). We sadly missed the end of the year student reviews by one day…would’ve been interesting to compare the work with RISD & SCAD. Oh well, maybe next time!

Once our tour was over, we headed back to the train station and continued on to Straerner. From there we had to take a taxi to the Stena Line ferry terminal. We made all of these connections and successfully boarded the ferry bound for Belfast. The ferry itself was a really nice surprise—it was obviously new and had lots of amenities like a movie theater, xbox kinect stations, iPads for use, an on-board spa, a full bar and restaurant, arcade, etc. plus the seats were really plush and comfortable. We’ll definitely remember to try and take Stena Lines in the future! After exploring the ship, we spent most of the 2.5 hour journey comfortably watching the latest Die Hard movie and drinking hard cider. Soon enough, we were docking Belfast.

From the ferry terminal, we took a bus to the Belfast city center and then walked about 15 minutes to our hostel, Vagabonds. Again, we were pleasantly surprised. The hostel is in a refurbished townhouse next to Queens University (the Trinity college of Belfast) and seems to be in a really good part of the city. The place itself is very bohemian and decorated eclectically to match. Our private room has 15’ high ceilings with crown molding, a giant window, and a typographic feature wall. For £40 a night, this is probably the best place we’ve stayed the whole trip.

All the people we’ve met so far have been really friendly—offering directions, advice, and recommendations freely. One of the guys at our hostel told us about a pub called The Crown that is considered one of the most beautiful in the UK so, obviously, we had to go see for ourselves. He was right—it was opulent and gorgeous and a place where both locals and tourists seemed to be. We had dinner and pints here and then set off to wander and find something to do for the night.

As we were walking down one of the streets, a building and sign caught my eye. It said “Empire Theatre Comedy Show Every Tuesday Night” and, after we determined that it was in fact Tuesday, we decided to go in (Kyle loves a good comedy show). This turned out to be an excellent choice—the place was full of locals and we got to listen to 3 comedians from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some of the jokes were universal and others were much more regional. Lots of Protestant and Catholic banter, but it all seemed to be in good fun. You can tell that the religious divide is still very much a part of the culture here though. We also got called out for being from South Carolina and the G8 was a topic of conversation since it was held in in the city right before we arrived. All in all, the show was really entertaining and allowed us to get to know the people of Belfast better than we would have otherwise. We’re lucky to have stumbled upon the theater when we did!

Tomorrow is our last full day abroad (boo) and we’re taking a day trip to The Giant’s Causeway with some other interesting stops along the way (yay). Trying to soak up the last bit of vacation before heading back to The States to face job interviews/applications, packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to RI friends, and moving back down to SC (temporarily). I’m sad that a lot of thing are coming to an end, but I am trying to look optimistically towards the future. One thing I am extremely excited about? Seeing my puppies in a couple weeks :) We both miss them a ton and are looking forward to our reunion with them in SC (though they’re probably having a blast and don’t miss us in the slightest)!

—Katie

{Day 14: Glasgow & Belfast}

For a long travel day, today went surprisingly well. We caught an early morning train out of Edinburgh…again, just barely made it! This time a nice business woman let us share her taxi (for free!)—thank goodness because we definitely would’ve missed it otherwise.

From Edinburgh, we headed to Glasgow. We stopped for a few hours, just long enough to tour the famous Glasgow School of Art which was designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the late 1800s. A lot of the building was under construction/restoration and we couldn’t take interior photographs, but it was still cool to walk through and see all the little details Mackintosh designed (light fixtures, furniture, etc). We sadly missed the end of the year student reviews by one day…would’ve been interesting to compare the work with RISD & SCAD. Oh well, maybe next time!

Once our tour was over, we headed back to the train station and continued on to Straerner. From there we had to take a taxi to the Stena Line ferry terminal. We made all of these connections and successfully boarded the ferry bound for Belfast. The ferry itself was a really nice surprise—it was obviously new and had lots of amenities like a movie theater, xbox kinect stations, iPads for use, an on-board spa, a full bar and restaurant, arcade, etc. plus the seats were really plush and comfortable. We’ll definitely remember to try and take Stena Lines in the future! After exploring the ship, we spent most of the 2.5 hour journey comfortably watching the latest Die Hard movie and drinking hard cider. Soon enough, we were docking Belfast.

From the ferry terminal, we took a bus to the Belfast city center and then walked about 15 minutes to our hostel, Vagabonds. Again, we were pleasantly surprised. The hostel is in a refurbished townhouse next to Queens University (the Trinity college of Belfast) and seems to be in a really good part of the city. The place itself is very bohemian and decorated eclectically to match. Our private room has 15’ high ceilings with crown molding, a giant window, and a typographic feature wall. For £40 a night, this is probably the best place we’ve stayed the whole trip.

All the people we’ve met so far have been really friendly—offering directions, advice, and recommendations freely. One of the guys at our hostel told us about a pub called The Crown that is considered one of the most beautiful in the UK so, obviously, we had to go see for ourselves. He was right—it was opulent and gorgeous and a place where both locals and tourists seemed to be. We had dinner and pints here and then set off to wander and find something to do for the night.

As we were walking down one of the streets, a building and sign caught my eye. It said “Empire Theatre Comedy Show Every Tuesday Night” and, after we determined that it was in fact Tuesday, we decided to go in (Kyle loves a good comedy show). This turned out to be an excellent choice—the place was full of locals and we got to listen to 3 comedians from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some of the jokes were universal and others were much more regional. Lots of Protestant and Catholic banter, but it all seemed to be in good fun. You can tell that the religious divide is still very much a part of the culture here though. We also got called out for being from South Carolina and the G8 was a topic of conversation since it was held in in the city right before we arrived. All in all, the show was really entertaining and allowed us to get to know the people of Belfast better than we would have otherwise. We’re lucky to have stumbled upon the theater when we did!

Tomorrow is our last full day abroad (boo) and we’re taking a day trip to The Giant’s Causeway with some other interesting stops along the way (yay). Trying to soak up the last bit of vacation before heading back to The States to face job interviews/applications, packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to RI friends, and moving back down to SC (temporarily). I’m sad that a lot of thing are coming to an end, but I am trying to look optimistically towards the future. One thing I am extremely excited about? Seeing my puppies in a couple weeks :) We both miss them a ton and are looking forward to our reunion with them in SC (though they’re probably having a blast and don’t miss us in the slightest)!

—Katie

{Day 13: Edinburgh}

Hmm…so, in hindsight, yesterday’s plans may have been a bit ambitious! After sleeping in, we ended up only making it to Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Parliament and it’s adjacent park. We did some shopping as well along The Royal Mile. 

I spent last night trying to research what part of my family had been Scottish but didn’t have much luck. My mom had told me that my great-grandmother, Anne Potts Fisher, had come from the town of Hawich (also spelled Hawick) near the Scottish-English border. I was hoping to find out what clan she was related to, but Potts is an English name and I haven’t been able to track down her mother’s maiden name yet to see if that might offer more clues. I’ll have to keep pursuing this later, I guess. However, I did buy a wool argyle sweater in a style that was created in Hawich so at least I’ve got some connection there!

All in all, Edinburgh’s been nice. I love the overall look of the city, but The Royal Mile is VERY touristy. It doesn’t seem like many locals live near there (and I don’t really blame them). It reminded us of a European Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg. The lower half of the Royal Mile was less mobbed with tourists so my suggestion to anyone going to Edinburgh would be to spend more time there once you’ve visited the castle at the top (which is worth a visit for the views of the city alone). Also, venture down some of the side streets, closes and wynds to check out local boutiques and antique book & map shops. We found some really neat things by doing that!

We’ve got a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow—we’ll wake up in Edinburgh, eat lunch in Glasgow, and go to sleep in Belfast. I’m tired already…

Time to hit the hay!

—Katie {Day 13: Edinburgh}

Hmm…so, in hindsight, yesterday’s plans may have been a bit ambitious! After sleeping in, we ended up only making it to Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Parliament and it’s adjacent park. We did some shopping as well along The Royal Mile. 

I spent last night trying to research what part of my family had been Scottish but didn’t have much luck. My mom had told me that my great-grandmother, Anne Potts Fisher, had come from the town of Hawich (also spelled Hawick) near the Scottish-English border. I was hoping to find out what clan she was related to, but Potts is an English name and I haven’t been able to track down her mother’s maiden name yet to see if that might offer more clues. I’ll have to keep pursuing this later, I guess. However, I did buy a wool argyle sweater in a style that was created in Hawich so at least I’ve got some connection there!

All in all, Edinburgh’s been nice. I love the overall look of the city, but The Royal Mile is VERY touristy. It doesn’t seem like many locals live near there (and I don’t really blame them). It reminded us of a European Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg. The lower half of the Royal Mile was less mobbed with tourists so my suggestion to anyone going to Edinburgh would be to spend more time there once you’ve visited the castle at the top (which is worth a visit for the views of the city alone). Also, venture down some of the side streets, closes and wynds to check out local boutiques and antique book & map shops. We found some really neat things by doing that!

We’ve got a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow—we’ll wake up in Edinburgh, eat lunch in Glasgow, and go to sleep in Belfast. I’m tired already…

Time to hit the hay!

—Katie {Day 13: Edinburgh}

Hmm…so, in hindsight, yesterday’s plans may have been a bit ambitious! After sleeping in, we ended up only making it to Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Parliament and it’s adjacent park. We did some shopping as well along The Royal Mile. 

I spent last night trying to research what part of my family had been Scottish but didn’t have much luck. My mom had told me that my great-grandmother, Anne Potts Fisher, had come from the town of Hawich (also spelled Hawick) near the Scottish-English border. I was hoping to find out what clan she was related to, but Potts is an English name and I haven’t been able to track down her mother’s maiden name yet to see if that might offer more clues. I’ll have to keep pursuing this later, I guess. However, I did buy a wool argyle sweater in a style that was created in Hawich so at least I’ve got some connection there!

All in all, Edinburgh’s been nice. I love the overall look of the city, but The Royal Mile is VERY touristy. It doesn’t seem like many locals live near there (and I don’t really blame them). It reminded us of a European Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg. The lower half of the Royal Mile was less mobbed with tourists so my suggestion to anyone going to Edinburgh would be to spend more time there once you’ve visited the castle at the top (which is worth a visit for the views of the city alone). Also, venture down some of the side streets, closes and wynds to check out local boutiques and antique book & map shops. We found some really neat things by doing that!

We’ve got a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow—we’ll wake up in Edinburgh, eat lunch in Glasgow, and go to sleep in Belfast. I’m tired already…

Time to hit the hay!

—Katie {Day 13: Edinburgh}

Hmm…so, in hindsight, yesterday’s plans may have been a bit ambitious! After sleeping in, we ended up only making it to Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Parliament and it’s adjacent park. We did some shopping as well along The Royal Mile. 

I spent last night trying to research what part of my family had been Scottish but didn’t have much luck. My mom had told me that my great-grandmother, Anne Potts Fisher, had come from the town of Hawich (also spelled Hawick) near the Scottish-English border. I was hoping to find out what clan she was related to, but Potts is an English name and I haven’t been able to track down her mother’s maiden name yet to see if that might offer more clues. I’ll have to keep pursuing this later, I guess. However, I did buy a wool argyle sweater in a style that was created in Hawich so at least I’ve got some connection there!

All in all, Edinburgh’s been nice. I love the overall look of the city, but The Royal Mile is VERY touristy. It doesn’t seem like many locals live near there (and I don’t really blame them). It reminded us of a European Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg. The lower half of the Royal Mile was less mobbed with tourists so my suggestion to anyone going to Edinburgh would be to spend more time there once you’ve visited the castle at the top (which is worth a visit for the views of the city alone). Also, venture down some of the side streets, closes and wynds to check out local boutiques and antique book & map shops. We found some really neat things by doing that!

We’ve got a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow—we’ll wake up in Edinburgh, eat lunch in Glasgow, and go to sleep in Belfast. I’m tired already…

Time to hit the hay!

—Katie {Day 13: Edinburgh}

Hmm…so, in hindsight, yesterday’s plans may have been a bit ambitious! After sleeping in, we ended up only making it to Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Parliament and it’s adjacent park. We did some shopping as well along The Royal Mile. 

I spent last night trying to research what part of my family had been Scottish but didn’t have much luck. My mom had told me that my great-grandmother, Anne Potts Fisher, had come from the town of Hawich (also spelled Hawick) near the Scottish-English border. I was hoping to find out what clan she was related to, but Potts is an English name and I haven’t been able to track down her mother’s maiden name yet to see if that might offer more clues. I’ll have to keep pursuing this later, I guess. However, I did buy a wool argyle sweater in a style that was created in Hawich so at least I’ve got some connection there!

All in all, Edinburgh’s been nice. I love the overall look of the city, but The Royal Mile is VERY touristy. It doesn’t seem like many locals live near there (and I don’t really blame them). It reminded us of a European Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg. The lower half of the Royal Mile was less mobbed with tourists so my suggestion to anyone going to Edinburgh would be to spend more time there once you’ve visited the castle at the top (which is worth a visit for the views of the city alone). Also, venture down some of the side streets, closes and wynds to check out local boutiques and antique book & map shops. We found some really neat things by doing that!

We’ve got a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow—we’ll wake up in Edinburgh, eat lunch in Glasgow, and go to sleep in Belfast. I’m tired already…

Time to hit the hay!

—Katie {Day 13: Edinburgh}

Hmm…so, in hindsight, yesterday’s plans may have been a bit ambitious! After sleeping in, we ended up only making it to Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Parliament and it’s adjacent park. We did some shopping as well along The Royal Mile. 

I spent last night trying to research what part of my family had been Scottish but didn’t have much luck. My mom had told me that my great-grandmother, Anne Potts Fisher, had come from the town of Hawich (also spelled Hawick) near the Scottish-English border. I was hoping to find out what clan she was related to, but Potts is an English name and I haven’t been able to track down her mother’s maiden name yet to see if that might offer more clues. I’ll have to keep pursuing this later, I guess. However, I did buy a wool argyle sweater in a style that was created in Hawich so at least I’ve got some connection there!

All in all, Edinburgh’s been nice. I love the overall look of the city, but The Royal Mile is VERY touristy. It doesn’t seem like many locals live near there (and I don’t really blame them). It reminded us of a European Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg. The lower half of the Royal Mile was less mobbed with tourists so my suggestion to anyone going to Edinburgh would be to spend more time there once you’ve visited the castle at the top (which is worth a visit for the views of the city alone). Also, venture down some of the side streets, closes and wynds to check out local boutiques and antique book & map shops. We found some really neat things by doing that!

We’ve got a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow—we’ll wake up in Edinburgh, eat lunch in Glasgow, and go to sleep in Belfast. I’m tired already…

Time to hit the hay!

—Katie {Day 13: Edinburgh}

Hmm…so, in hindsight, yesterday’s plans may have been a bit ambitious! After sleeping in, we ended up only making it to Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Parliament and it’s adjacent park. We did some shopping as well along The Royal Mile. 

I spent last night trying to research what part of my family had been Scottish but didn’t have much luck. My mom had told me that my great-grandmother, Anne Potts Fisher, had come from the town of Hawich (also spelled Hawick) near the Scottish-English border. I was hoping to find out what clan she was related to, but Potts is an English name and I haven’t been able to track down her mother’s maiden name yet to see if that might offer more clues. I’ll have to keep pursuing this later, I guess. However, I did buy a wool argyle sweater in a style that was created in Hawich so at least I’ve got some connection there!

All in all, Edinburgh’s been nice. I love the overall look of the city, but The Royal Mile is VERY touristy. It doesn’t seem like many locals live near there (and I don’t really blame them). It reminded us of a European Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg. The lower half of the Royal Mile was less mobbed with tourists so my suggestion to anyone going to Edinburgh would be to spend more time there once you’ve visited the castle at the top (which is worth a visit for the views of the city alone). Also, venture down some of the side streets, closes and wynds to check out local boutiques and antique book & map shops. We found some really neat things by doing that!

We’ve got a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow—we’ll wake up in Edinburgh, eat lunch in Glasgow, and go to sleep in Belfast. I’m tired already…

Time to hit the hay!

—Katie

{Day 13: Edinburgh}

Hmm…so, in hindsight, yesterday’s plans may have been a bit ambitious! After sleeping in, we ended up only making it to Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Parliament and it’s adjacent park. We did some shopping as well along The Royal Mile.

I spent last night trying to research what part of my family had been Scottish but didn’t have much luck. My mom had told me that my great-grandmother, Anne Potts Fisher, had come from the town of Hawich (also spelled Hawick) near the Scottish-English border. I was hoping to find out what clan she was related to, but Potts is an English name and I haven’t been able to track down her mother’s maiden name yet to see if that might offer more clues. I’ll have to keep pursuing this later, I guess. However, I did buy a wool argyle sweater in a style that was created in Hawich so at least I’ve got some connection there!

All in all, Edinburgh’s been nice. I love the overall look of the city, but The Royal Mile is VERY touristy. It doesn’t seem like many locals live near there (and I don’t really blame them). It reminded us of a European Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg. The lower half of the Royal Mile was less mobbed with tourists so my suggestion to anyone going to Edinburgh would be to spend more time there once you’ve visited the castle at the top (which is worth a visit for the views of the city alone). Also, venture down some of the side streets, closes and wynds to check out local boutiques and antique book & map shops. We found some really neat things by doing that!

We’ve got a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow—we’ll wake up in Edinburgh, eat lunch in Glasgow, and go to sleep in Belfast. I’m tired already…

Time to hit the hay!

—Katie

{Day 12: Scottish Highlands Day Trip}

Today, we ventured north into the Scottish Highlands via a bus with Timberbush Tours. Normally, we don’t take big group tours because you feel a bit like cattle being herded around from here to there. This was no exception really but, given the time-table of our trip, it was either do the tour or miss the Highlands entirely. Since I’m a fan of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon, which is set (at first) in the Scottish Highlands during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, I wanted to see the landscape and some of the places mentioned firsthand…seeing a theme here?!

Yeah, I guess my love of historical fiction (and Harry Potter) has cropped up a lot during this trip. Our trips usually focus more on design & food (in addition to outdoor adventures), but it’s been nice to incorporate other things during this holiday. Having just finished several long years of grad school and work in the field, I think our brains needed this little break from design…though we haven’t ignored it completely, don’t worry (as I’m *sure* you were)!

Anyway, back to the Highlands tour. We left very early Saturday morning (8am) from The Royal Mile and headed north. Our route took us first to a farm, where we saw some Highland Cattle (aka Hairy Coos); through the beautiful valley of Glencoe, where we learned about the sad massacre of the Macdonald Clan; then to our main stop at Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness. We had 2 hours here to tour the castle ruins and then take a ferry a few miles up the loch (aka lake). The castle had a small visitors’ center with a short movie that told some of the building’s history—the site was originally a Pictish settlement until Christians came to the area in around 600 A.D. and converted the leader before his death. Then the Christians lived there and eventually a castle was built. The castle changed hands a few times and served as one of the King’s residences but was eventually given to the chief of the Grant Clan, who were Royalists entrusted to keep the lands and castle out of Jacobite hands.

If you don’t know the history, Jacobites were Scottish citizens (particularly Highland Clans) who longed to see a Stuart King back on the Scottish throne instead of a Hanoverian (the line that took over the rule of Great Britain in the early-mid 1700s after the death of Queen Anne, sister and sister-in-law of monarchs William & Mary). The Hanoverians, as the name suggests, were partially Germanic and were not raised in Scotland or even England. This did not make them very popular rulers and many plots and uprisings formed as a result. The Jacobites desired to see a Stuart heir—a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots & her son who united the countries—restored to the throne. Living in exile in France, James Stuart and his son Charles (better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) were the last hopes of the Jacobites. Two uprisings, one in 1715 and the last in 1745, tried to place the Stuarts on the throne but were unsuccessful. The defeat of the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the ‘45 uprising at Culloden Moor resulted in the devastation of the Scottish Clan system and way of life. No pardon was given to the wounded after the battle and survivors were hunted mercilessly by the British for months afterwards. All Scottish clan traditions, including dress, were outlawed and all lands and estates were given to British nobility or Scottish Royalists. The kilt and tartan were actually not allowed again until the 1930s.

The sad history sounded all too familiar and reminded me of the destruction of native tribes and cultures in North, Central, and South America by the Western World. It’s unfortunate that so many people fear and condemn what they don’t understand or deem “normal”…but that’s an ongoing saga that could fill many books so I won’t continue on that note today!

I thought Urquhart Castle was very interesting and enjoyed learning about its role in Scotland’s tumultuous history. The location was beautiful too, right on the edge of the famous Loch Ness. We kept an eye out, but no Nessie sightings happened ;)

The landscape of the Highlands was actually quite similar to Northern Wales—they’re close geographically. I was hoping for a bit more dramatic scenery, but I think you have to go further north to see that (Isle of Skye, etc). Still, it was very pretty and I’m glad we did the tour even though we had to spend more time on the bus than exploring outdoors.

Tomorrow’s our only full day in Edinburgh so we plan to go see the castle (last one), explore more of The Royal Mile including the Parliament Building and park designed by Enric Mirelles, maybe do a little shopping, and possibly climb Arthur’s Seat (a large hill next to Parliament) to get an overview of the city. 

Cheers,
Katie {Day 12: Scottish Highlands Day Trip}

Today, we ventured north into the Scottish Highlands via a bus with Timberbush Tours. Normally, we don’t take big group tours because you feel a bit like cattle being herded around from here to there. This was no exception really but, given the time-table of our trip, it was either do the tour or miss the Highlands entirely. Since I’m a fan of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon, which is set (at first) in the Scottish Highlands during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, I wanted to see the landscape and some of the places mentioned firsthand…seeing a theme here?!

Yeah, I guess my love of historical fiction (and Harry Potter) has cropped up a lot during this trip. Our trips usually focus more on design & food (in addition to outdoor adventures), but it’s been nice to incorporate other things during this holiday. Having just finished several long years of grad school and work in the field, I think our brains needed this little break from design…though we haven’t ignored it completely, don’t worry (as I’m *sure* you were)!

Anyway, back to the Highlands tour. We left very early Saturday morning (8am) from The Royal Mile and headed north. Our route took us first to a farm, where we saw some Highland Cattle (aka Hairy Coos); through the beautiful valley of Glencoe, where we learned about the sad massacre of the Macdonald Clan; then to our main stop at Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness. We had 2 hours here to tour the castle ruins and then take a ferry a few miles up the loch (aka lake). The castle had a small visitors’ center with a short movie that told some of the building’s history—the site was originally a Pictish settlement until Christians came to the area in around 600 A.D. and converted the leader before his death. Then the Christians lived there and eventually a castle was built. The castle changed hands a few times and served as one of the King’s residences but was eventually given to the chief of the Grant Clan, who were Royalists entrusted to keep the lands and castle out of Jacobite hands.

If you don’t know the history, Jacobites were Scottish citizens (particularly Highland Clans) who longed to see a Stuart King back on the Scottish throne instead of a Hanoverian (the line that took over the rule of Great Britain in the early-mid 1700s after the death of Queen Anne, sister and sister-in-law of monarchs William & Mary). The Hanoverians, as the name suggests, were partially Germanic and were not raised in Scotland or even England. This did not make them very popular rulers and many plots and uprisings formed as a result. The Jacobites desired to see a Stuart heir—a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots & her son who united the countries—restored to the throne. Living in exile in France, James Stuart and his son Charles (better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) were the last hopes of the Jacobites. Two uprisings, one in 1715 and the last in 1745, tried to place the Stuarts on the throne but were unsuccessful. The defeat of the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the ‘45 uprising at Culloden Moor resulted in the devastation of the Scottish Clan system and way of life. No pardon was given to the wounded after the battle and survivors were hunted mercilessly by the British for months afterwards. All Scottish clan traditions, including dress, were outlawed and all lands and estates were given to British nobility or Scottish Royalists. The kilt and tartan were actually not allowed again until the 1930s.

The sad history sounded all too familiar and reminded me of the destruction of native tribes and cultures in North, Central, and South America by the Western World. It’s unfortunate that so many people fear and condemn what they don’t understand or deem “normal”…but that’s an ongoing saga that could fill many books so I won’t continue on that note today!

I thought Urquhart Castle was very interesting and enjoyed learning about its role in Scotland’s tumultuous history. The location was beautiful too, right on the edge of the famous Loch Ness. We kept an eye out, but no Nessie sightings happened ;)

The landscape of the Highlands was actually quite similar to Northern Wales—they’re close geographically. I was hoping for a bit more dramatic scenery, but I think you have to go further north to see that (Isle of Skye, etc). Still, it was very pretty and I’m glad we did the tour even though we had to spend more time on the bus than exploring outdoors.

Tomorrow’s our only full day in Edinburgh so we plan to go see the castle (last one), explore more of The Royal Mile including the Parliament Building and park designed by Enric Mirelles, maybe do a little shopping, and possibly climb Arthur’s Seat (a large hill next to Parliament) to get an overview of the city. 

Cheers,
Katie {Day 12: Scottish Highlands Day Trip}

Today, we ventured north into the Scottish Highlands via a bus with Timberbush Tours. Normally, we don’t take big group tours because you feel a bit like cattle being herded around from here to there. This was no exception really but, given the time-table of our trip, it was either do the tour or miss the Highlands entirely. Since I’m a fan of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon, which is set (at first) in the Scottish Highlands during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, I wanted to see the landscape and some of the places mentioned firsthand…seeing a theme here?!

Yeah, I guess my love of historical fiction (and Harry Potter) has cropped up a lot during this trip. Our trips usually focus more on design & food (in addition to outdoor adventures), but it’s been nice to incorporate other things during this holiday. Having just finished several long years of grad school and work in the field, I think our brains needed this little break from design…though we haven’t ignored it completely, don’t worry (as I’m *sure* you were)!

Anyway, back to the Highlands tour. We left very early Saturday morning (8am) from The Royal Mile and headed north. Our route took us first to a farm, where we saw some Highland Cattle (aka Hairy Coos); through the beautiful valley of Glencoe, where we learned about the sad massacre of the Macdonald Clan; then to our main stop at Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness. We had 2 hours here to tour the castle ruins and then take a ferry a few miles up the loch (aka lake). The castle had a small visitors’ center with a short movie that told some of the building’s history—the site was originally a Pictish settlement until Christians came to the area in around 600 A.D. and converted the leader before his death. Then the Christians lived there and eventually a castle was built. The castle changed hands a few times and served as one of the King’s residences but was eventually given to the chief of the Grant Clan, who were Royalists entrusted to keep the lands and castle out of Jacobite hands.

If you don’t know the history, Jacobites were Scottish citizens (particularly Highland Clans) who longed to see a Stuart King back on the Scottish throne instead of a Hanoverian (the line that took over the rule of Great Britain in the early-mid 1700s after the death of Queen Anne, sister and sister-in-law of monarchs William & Mary). The Hanoverians, as the name suggests, were partially Germanic and were not raised in Scotland or even England. This did not make them very popular rulers and many plots and uprisings formed as a result. The Jacobites desired to see a Stuart heir—a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots & her son who united the countries—restored to the throne. Living in exile in France, James Stuart and his son Charles (better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) were the last hopes of the Jacobites. Two uprisings, one in 1715 and the last in 1745, tried to place the Stuarts on the throne but were unsuccessful. The defeat of the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the ‘45 uprising at Culloden Moor resulted in the devastation of the Scottish Clan system and way of life. No pardon was given to the wounded after the battle and survivors were hunted mercilessly by the British for months afterwards. All Scottish clan traditions, including dress, were outlawed and all lands and estates were given to British nobility or Scottish Royalists. The kilt and tartan were actually not allowed again until the 1930s.

The sad history sounded all too familiar and reminded me of the destruction of native tribes and cultures in North, Central, and South America by the Western World. It’s unfortunate that so many people fear and condemn what they don’t understand or deem “normal”…but that’s an ongoing saga that could fill many books so I won’t continue on that note today!

I thought Urquhart Castle was very interesting and enjoyed learning about its role in Scotland’s tumultuous history. The location was beautiful too, right on the edge of the famous Loch Ness. We kept an eye out, but no Nessie sightings happened ;)

The landscape of the Highlands was actually quite similar to Northern Wales—they’re close geographically. I was hoping for a bit more dramatic scenery, but I think you have to go further north to see that (Isle of Skye, etc). Still, it was very pretty and I’m glad we did the tour even though we had to spend more time on the bus than exploring outdoors.

Tomorrow’s our only full day in Edinburgh so we plan to go see the castle (last one), explore more of The Royal Mile including the Parliament Building and park designed by Enric Mirelles, maybe do a little shopping, and possibly climb Arthur’s Seat (a large hill next to Parliament) to get an overview of the city. 

Cheers,
Katie {Day 12: Scottish Highlands Day Trip}

Today, we ventured north into the Scottish Highlands via a bus with Timberbush Tours. Normally, we don’t take big group tours because you feel a bit like cattle being herded around from here to there. This was no exception really but, given the time-table of our trip, it was either do the tour or miss the Highlands entirely. Since I’m a fan of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon, which is set (at first) in the Scottish Highlands during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, I wanted to see the landscape and some of the places mentioned firsthand…seeing a theme here?!

Yeah, I guess my love of historical fiction (and Harry Potter) has cropped up a lot during this trip. Our trips usually focus more on design & food (in addition to outdoor adventures), but it’s been nice to incorporate other things during this holiday. Having just finished several long years of grad school and work in the field, I think our brains needed this little break from design…though we haven’t ignored it completely, don’t worry (as I’m *sure* you were)!

Anyway, back to the Highlands tour. We left very early Saturday morning (8am) from The Royal Mile and headed north. Our route took us first to a farm, where we saw some Highland Cattle (aka Hairy Coos); through the beautiful valley of Glencoe, where we learned about the sad massacre of the Macdonald Clan; then to our main stop at Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness. We had 2 hours here to tour the castle ruins and then take a ferry a few miles up the loch (aka lake). The castle had a small visitors’ center with a short movie that told some of the building’s history—the site was originally a Pictish settlement until Christians came to the area in around 600 A.D. and converted the leader before his death. Then the Christians lived there and eventually a castle was built. The castle changed hands a few times and served as one of the King’s residences but was eventually given to the chief of the Grant Clan, who were Royalists entrusted to keep the lands and castle out of Jacobite hands.

If you don’t know the history, Jacobites were Scottish citizens (particularly Highland Clans) who longed to see a Stuart King back on the Scottish throne instead of a Hanoverian (the line that took over the rule of Great Britain in the early-mid 1700s after the death of Queen Anne, sister and sister-in-law of monarchs William & Mary). The Hanoverians, as the name suggests, were partially Germanic and were not raised in Scotland or even England. This did not make them very popular rulers and many plots and uprisings formed as a result. The Jacobites desired to see a Stuart heir—a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots & her son who united the countries—restored to the throne. Living in exile in France, James Stuart and his son Charles (better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) were the last hopes of the Jacobites. Two uprisings, one in 1715 and the last in 1745, tried to place the Stuarts on the throne but were unsuccessful. The defeat of the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the ‘45 uprising at Culloden Moor resulted in the devastation of the Scottish Clan system and way of life. No pardon was given to the wounded after the battle and survivors were hunted mercilessly by the British for months afterwards. All Scottish clan traditions, including dress, were outlawed and all lands and estates were given to British nobility or Scottish Royalists. The kilt and tartan were actually not allowed again until the 1930s.

The sad history sounded all too familiar and reminded me of the destruction of native tribes and cultures in North, Central, and South America by the Western World. It’s unfortunate that so many people fear and condemn what they don’t understand or deem “normal”…but that’s an ongoing saga that could fill many books so I won’t continue on that note today!

I thought Urquhart Castle was very interesting and enjoyed learning about its role in Scotland’s tumultuous history. The location was beautiful too, right on the edge of the famous Loch Ness. We kept an eye out, but no Nessie sightings happened ;)

The landscape of the Highlands was actually quite similar to Northern Wales—they’re close geographically. I was hoping for a bit more dramatic scenery, but I think you have to go further north to see that (Isle of Skye, etc). Still, it was very pretty and I’m glad we did the tour even though we had to spend more time on the bus than exploring outdoors.

Tomorrow’s our only full day in Edinburgh so we plan to go see the castle (last one), explore more of The Royal Mile including the Parliament Building and park designed by Enric Mirelles, maybe do a little shopping, and possibly climb Arthur’s Seat (a large hill next to Parliament) to get an overview of the city. 

Cheers,
Katie {Day 12: Scottish Highlands Day Trip}

Today, we ventured north into the Scottish Highlands via a bus with Timberbush Tours. Normally, we don’t take big group tours because you feel a bit like cattle being herded around from here to there. This was no exception really but, given the time-table of our trip, it was either do the tour or miss the Highlands entirely. Since I’m a fan of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon, which is set (at first) in the Scottish Highlands during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, I wanted to see the landscape and some of the places mentioned firsthand…seeing a theme here?!

Yeah, I guess my love of historical fiction (and Harry Potter) has cropped up a lot during this trip. Our trips usually focus more on design & food (in addition to outdoor adventures), but it’s been nice to incorporate other things during this holiday. Having just finished several long years of grad school and work in the field, I think our brains needed this little break from design…though we haven’t ignored it completely, don’t worry (as I’m *sure* you were)!

Anyway, back to the Highlands tour. We left very early Saturday morning (8am) from The Royal Mile and headed north. Our route took us first to a farm, where we saw some Highland Cattle (aka Hairy Coos); through the beautiful valley of Glencoe, where we learned about the sad massacre of the Macdonald Clan; then to our main stop at Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness. We had 2 hours here to tour the castle ruins and then take a ferry a few miles up the loch (aka lake). The castle had a small visitors’ center with a short movie that told some of the building’s history—the site was originally a Pictish settlement until Christians came to the area in around 600 A.D. and converted the leader before his death. Then the Christians lived there and eventually a castle was built. The castle changed hands a few times and served as one of the King’s residences but was eventually given to the chief of the Grant Clan, who were Royalists entrusted to keep the lands and castle out of Jacobite hands.

If you don’t know the history, Jacobites were Scottish citizens (particularly Highland Clans) who longed to see a Stuart King back on the Scottish throne instead of a Hanoverian (the line that took over the rule of Great Britain in the early-mid 1700s after the death of Queen Anne, sister and sister-in-law of monarchs William & Mary). The Hanoverians, as the name suggests, were partially Germanic and were not raised in Scotland or even England. This did not make them very popular rulers and many plots and uprisings formed as a result. The Jacobites desired to see a Stuart heir—a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots & her son who united the countries—restored to the throne. Living in exile in France, James Stuart and his son Charles (better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) were the last hopes of the Jacobites. Two uprisings, one in 1715 and the last in 1745, tried to place the Stuarts on the throne but were unsuccessful. The defeat of the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the ‘45 uprising at Culloden Moor resulted in the devastation of the Scottish Clan system and way of life. No pardon was given to the wounded after the battle and survivors were hunted mercilessly by the British for months afterwards. All Scottish clan traditions, including dress, were outlawed and all lands and estates were given to British nobility or Scottish Royalists. The kilt and tartan were actually not allowed again until the 1930s.

The sad history sounded all too familiar and reminded me of the destruction of native tribes and cultures in North, Central, and South America by the Western World. It’s unfortunate that so many people fear and condemn what they don’t understand or deem “normal”…but that’s an ongoing saga that could fill many books so I won’t continue on that note today!

I thought Urquhart Castle was very interesting and enjoyed learning about its role in Scotland’s tumultuous history. The location was beautiful too, right on the edge of the famous Loch Ness. We kept an eye out, but no Nessie sightings happened ;)

The landscape of the Highlands was actually quite similar to Northern Wales—they’re close geographically. I was hoping for a bit more dramatic scenery, but I think you have to go further north to see that (Isle of Skye, etc). Still, it was very pretty and I’m glad we did the tour even though we had to spend more time on the bus than exploring outdoors.

Tomorrow’s our only full day in Edinburgh so we plan to go see the castle (last one), explore more of The Royal Mile including the Parliament Building and park designed by Enric Mirelles, maybe do a little shopping, and possibly climb Arthur’s Seat (a large hill next to Parliament) to get an overview of the city. 

Cheers,
Katie

{Day 12: Scottish Highlands Day Trip}

Today, we ventured north into the Scottish Highlands via a bus with Timberbush Tours. Normally, we don’t take big group tours because you feel a bit like cattle being herded around from here to there. This was no exception really but, given the time-table of our trip, it was either do the tour or miss the Highlands entirely. Since I’m a fan of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon, which is set (at first) in the Scottish Highlands during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, I wanted to see the landscape and some of the places mentioned firsthand…seeing a theme here?!

Yeah, I guess my love of historical fiction (and Harry Potter) has cropped up a lot during this trip. Our trips usually focus more on design & food (in addition to outdoor adventures), but it’s been nice to incorporate other things during this holiday. Having just finished several long years of grad school and work in the field, I think our brains needed this little break from design…though we haven’t ignored it completely, don’t worry (as I’m *sure* you were)!

Anyway, back to the Highlands tour. We left very early Saturday morning (8am) from The Royal Mile and headed north. Our route took us first to a farm, where we saw some Highland Cattle (aka Hairy Coos); through the beautiful valley of Glencoe, where we learned about the sad massacre of the Macdonald Clan; then to our main stop at Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness. We had 2 hours here to tour the castle ruins and then take a ferry a few miles up the loch (aka lake). The castle had a small visitors’ center with a short movie that told some of the building’s history—the site was originally a Pictish settlement until Christians came to the area in around 600 A.D. and converted the leader before his death. Then the Christians lived there and eventually a castle was built. The castle changed hands a few times and served as one of the King’s residences but was eventually given to the chief of the Grant Clan, who were Royalists entrusted to keep the lands and castle out of Jacobite hands.

If you don’t know the history, Jacobites were Scottish citizens (particularly Highland Clans) who longed to see a Stuart King back on the Scottish throne instead of a Hanoverian (the line that took over the rule of Great Britain in the early-mid 1700s after the death of Queen Anne, sister and sister-in-law of monarchs William & Mary). The Hanoverians, as the name suggests, were partially Germanic and were not raised in Scotland or even England. This did not make them very popular rulers and many plots and uprisings formed as a result. The Jacobites desired to see a Stuart heir—a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots & her son who united the countries—restored to the throne. Living in exile in France, James Stuart and his son Charles (better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) were the last hopes of the Jacobites. Two uprisings, one in 1715 and the last in 1745, tried to place the Stuarts on the throne but were unsuccessful. The defeat of the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the ‘45 uprising at Culloden Moor resulted in the devastation of the Scottish Clan system and way of life. No pardon was given to the wounded after the battle and survivors were hunted mercilessly by the British for months afterwards. All Scottish clan traditions, including dress, were outlawed and all lands and estates were given to British nobility or Scottish Royalists. The kilt and tartan were actually not allowed again until the 1930s.

The sad history sounded all too familiar and reminded me of the destruction of native tribes and cultures in North, Central, and South America by the Western World. It’s unfortunate that so many people fear and condemn what they don’t understand or deem “normal”…but that’s an ongoing saga that could fill many books so I won’t continue on that note today!

I thought Urquhart Castle was very interesting and enjoyed learning about its role in Scotland’s tumultuous history. The location was beautiful too, right on the edge of the famous Loch Ness. We kept an eye out, but no Nessie sightings happened ;)

The landscape of the Highlands was actually quite similar to Northern Wales—they’re close geographically. I was hoping for a bit more dramatic scenery, but I think you have to go further north to see that (Isle of Skye, etc). Still, it was very pretty and I’m glad we did the tour even though we had to spend more time on the bus than exploring outdoors.

Tomorrow’s our only full day in Edinburgh so we plan to go see the castle (last one), explore more of The Royal Mile including the Parliament Building and park designed by Enric Mirelles, maybe do a little shopping, and possibly climb Arthur’s Seat (a large hill next to Parliament) to get an overview of the city.

Cheers,
Katie

{Day 11: Traveling to Scotland}

Today was mostly a travel day so I’ll keep it brief. We spent the morning packing up our stuff at Jen’s and had lunch at a Turkish place nearby. Then we hailed a cab to take us to London Euston train station and had to literally run to catch our train in time—we barely made it! Once we caught our breath, we settled in for the four hour ride. I read and slept while Kyle watched ‘The Walking Dead’ and then we played a few games on the iPad. We got to Edinburgh around 6 p.m. and walked to our home for the next 3 nights: The Terrace Hotel. Unfortunately for our legs and backs, we went the wrong way and ended up walking an extra mile or two with our packs :/ 

But eventually we made it and were able to put our stuff down before heading off to find dinner. Edinburgh’s main drag is called The Royal Mile and it stretches from Edinburgh Castle (which is on a hill) down to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. That used to be all of Edinburgh, but now it’s much bigger. Still, most of the main attractions, shops, and restaurants are found here and on the cross streets. We ended up going to a Thai restaurant and they had a lot of dishes we hadn’t ever tried before so we pick a couple different things to sample. It was really good and we finished just in time to go to our one planned activity of the day—a tour of the supposedly haunted vaults that run underneath parts of Edinburgh.

Our guide told us a few grisly tales above ground first (and also that King James IV of Scotland was apparently very attractive?) and then led us down to the vaults. They were built in the 1700s and originally were subdivided into many stores and workshops for merchants. In the 1800s, the vaults became seedier and mostly contained brothels, opium dens, gambling halls, etc. so the town officials decided to fill them in. They remained filled until the 1990s, when the founder of our tour company (Mercat Tours) bought part of the land and began excavating to uncover the vaults again. It was pretty eerie down there and lit only by candlelight,  but luckily neither Kyle nor myself saw or felt anything paranormal!

—Katie {Day 11: Traveling to Scotland}

Today was mostly a travel day so I’ll keep it brief. We spent the morning packing up our stuff at Jen’s and had lunch at a Turkish place nearby. Then we hailed a cab to take us to London Euston train station and had to literally run to catch our train in time—we barely made it! Once we caught our breath, we settled in for the four hour ride. I read and slept while Kyle watched ‘The Walking Dead’ and then we played a few games on the iPad. We got to Edinburgh around 6 p.m. and walked to our home for the next 3 nights: The Terrace Hotel. Unfortunately for our legs and backs, we went the wrong way and ended up walking an extra mile or two with our packs :/ 

But eventually we made it and were able to put our stuff down before heading off to find dinner. Edinburgh’s main drag is called The Royal Mile and it stretches from Edinburgh Castle (which is on a hill) down to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. That used to be all of Edinburgh, but now it’s much bigger. Still, most of the main attractions, shops, and restaurants are found here and on the cross streets. We ended up going to a Thai restaurant and they had a lot of dishes we hadn’t ever tried before so we pick a couple different things to sample. It was really good and we finished just in time to go to our one planned activity of the day—a tour of the supposedly haunted vaults that run underneath parts of Edinburgh.

Our guide told us a few grisly tales above ground first (and also that King James IV of Scotland was apparently very attractive?) and then led us down to the vaults. They were built in the 1700s and originally were subdivided into many stores and workshops for merchants. In the 1800s, the vaults became seedier and mostly contained brothels, opium dens, gambling halls, etc. so the town officials decided to fill them in. They remained filled until the 1990s, when the founder of our tour company (Mercat Tours) bought part of the land and began excavating to uncover the vaults again. It was pretty eerie down there and lit only by candlelight,  but luckily neither Kyle nor myself saw or felt anything paranormal!

—Katie {Day 11: Traveling to Scotland}

Today was mostly a travel day so I’ll keep it brief. We spent the morning packing up our stuff at Jen’s and had lunch at a Turkish place nearby. Then we hailed a cab to take us to London Euston train station and had to literally run to catch our train in time—we barely made it! Once we caught our breath, we settled in for the four hour ride. I read and slept while Kyle watched ‘The Walking Dead’ and then we played a few games on the iPad. We got to Edinburgh around 6 p.m. and walked to our home for the next 3 nights: The Terrace Hotel. Unfortunately for our legs and backs, we went the wrong way and ended up walking an extra mile or two with our packs :/ 

But eventually we made it and were able to put our stuff down before heading off to find dinner. Edinburgh’s main drag is called The Royal Mile and it stretches from Edinburgh Castle (which is on a hill) down to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. That used to be all of Edinburgh, but now it’s much bigger. Still, most of the main attractions, shops, and restaurants are found here and on the cross streets. We ended up going to a Thai restaurant and they had a lot of dishes we hadn’t ever tried before so we pick a couple different things to sample. It was really good and we finished just in time to go to our one planned activity of the day—a tour of the supposedly haunted vaults that run underneath parts of Edinburgh.

Our guide told us a few grisly tales above ground first (and also that King James IV of Scotland was apparently very attractive?) and then led us down to the vaults. They were built in the 1700s and originally were subdivided into many stores and workshops for merchants. In the 1800s, the vaults became seedier and mostly contained brothels, opium dens, gambling halls, etc. so the town officials decided to fill them in. They remained filled until the 1990s, when the founder of our tour company (Mercat Tours) bought part of the land and began excavating to uncover the vaults again. It was pretty eerie down there and lit only by candlelight,  but luckily neither Kyle nor myself saw or felt anything paranormal!

—Katie {Day 11: Traveling to Scotland}

Today was mostly a travel day so I’ll keep it brief. We spent the morning packing up our stuff at Jen’s and had lunch at a Turkish place nearby. Then we hailed a cab to take us to London Euston train station and had to literally run to catch our train in time—we barely made it! Once we caught our breath, we settled in for the four hour ride. I read and slept while Kyle watched ‘The Walking Dead’ and then we played a few games on the iPad. We got to Edinburgh around 6 p.m. and walked to our home for the next 3 nights: The Terrace Hotel. Unfortunately for our legs and backs, we went the wrong way and ended up walking an extra mile or two with our packs :/ 

But eventually we made it and were able to put our stuff down before heading off to find dinner. Edinburgh’s main drag is called The Royal Mile and it stretches from Edinburgh Castle (which is on a hill) down to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. That used to be all of Edinburgh, but now it’s much bigger. Still, most of the main attractions, shops, and restaurants are found here and on the cross streets. We ended up going to a Thai restaurant and they had a lot of dishes we hadn’t ever tried before so we pick a couple different things to sample. It was really good and we finished just in time to go to our one planned activity of the day—a tour of the supposedly haunted vaults that run underneath parts of Edinburgh.

Our guide told us a few grisly tales above ground first (and also that King James IV of Scotland was apparently very attractive?) and then led us down to the vaults. They were built in the 1700s and originally were subdivided into many stores and workshops for merchants. In the 1800s, the vaults became seedier and mostly contained brothels, opium dens, gambling halls, etc. so the town officials decided to fill them in. They remained filled until the 1990s, when the founder of our tour company (Mercat Tours) bought part of the land and began excavating to uncover the vaults again. It was pretty eerie down there and lit only by candlelight,  but luckily neither Kyle nor myself saw or felt anything paranormal!

—Katie {Day 11: Traveling to Scotland}

Today was mostly a travel day so I’ll keep it brief. We spent the morning packing up our stuff at Jen’s and had lunch at a Turkish place nearby. Then we hailed a cab to take us to London Euston train station and had to literally run to catch our train in time—we barely made it! Once we caught our breath, we settled in for the four hour ride. I read and slept while Kyle watched ‘The Walking Dead’ and then we played a few games on the iPad. We got to Edinburgh around 6 p.m. and walked to our home for the next 3 nights: The Terrace Hotel. Unfortunately for our legs and backs, we went the wrong way and ended up walking an extra mile or two with our packs :/ 

But eventually we made it and were able to put our stuff down before heading off to find dinner. Edinburgh’s main drag is called The Royal Mile and it stretches from Edinburgh Castle (which is on a hill) down to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. That used to be all of Edinburgh, but now it’s much bigger. Still, most of the main attractions, shops, and restaurants are found here and on the cross streets. We ended up going to a Thai restaurant and they had a lot of dishes we hadn’t ever tried before so we pick a couple different things to sample. It was really good and we finished just in time to go to our one planned activity of the day—a tour of the supposedly haunted vaults that run underneath parts of Edinburgh.

Our guide told us a few grisly tales above ground first (and also that King James IV of Scotland was apparently very attractive?) and then led us down to the vaults. They were built in the 1700s and originally were subdivided into many stores and workshops for merchants. In the 1800s, the vaults became seedier and mostly contained brothels, opium dens, gambling halls, etc. so the town officials decided to fill them in. They remained filled until the 1990s, when the founder of our tour company (Mercat Tours) bought part of the land and began excavating to uncover the vaults again. It was pretty eerie down there and lit only by candlelight,  but luckily neither Kyle nor myself saw or felt anything paranormal!

—Katie

{Day 11: Traveling to Scotland}

Today was mostly a travel day so I’ll keep it brief. We spent the morning packing up our stuff at Jen’s and had lunch at a Turkish place nearby. Then we hailed a cab to take us to London Euston train station and had to literally run to catch our train in time—we barely made it! Once we caught our breath, we settled in for the four hour ride. I read and slept while Kyle watched ‘The Walking Dead’ and then we played a few games on the iPad. We got to Edinburgh around 6 p.m. and walked to our home for the next 3 nights: The Terrace Hotel. Unfortunately for our legs and backs, we went the wrong way and ended up walking an extra mile or two with our packs :/

But eventually we made it and were able to put our stuff down before heading off to find dinner. Edinburgh’s main drag is called The Royal Mile and it stretches from Edinburgh Castle (which is on a hill) down to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. That used to be all of Edinburgh, but now it’s much bigger. Still, most of the main attractions, shops, and restaurants are found here and on the cross streets. We ended up going to a Thai restaurant and they had a lot of dishes we hadn’t ever tried before so we pick a couple different things to sample. It was really good and we finished just in time to go to our one planned activity of the day—a tour of the supposedly haunted vaults that run underneath parts of Edinburgh.

Our guide told us a few grisly tales above ground first (and also that King James IV of Scotland was apparently very attractive?) and then led us down to the vaults. They were built in the 1700s and originally were subdivided into many stores and workshops for merchants. In the 1800s, the vaults became seedier and mostly contained brothels, opium dens, gambling halls, etc. so the town officials decided to fill them in. They remained filled until the 1990s, when the founder of our tour company (Mercat Tours) bought part of the land and began excavating to uncover the vaults again. It was pretty eerie down there and lit only by candlelight, but luckily neither Kyle nor myself saw or felt anything paranormal!

—Katie

{Day 10: London}

Our last day in London was busy but great. We headed to Hampton Court, the only palace still fully standing that was built by Henry VIII (taken from Cardinal Wolsey actually, but that’s another story). If you know me, then you know I’m a history nerd and am especially drawn to War of the Roses/Tudor England. That made this experience all the more awesome because I was finally able to look at things I had only read about in person: The Great Hall where masquerade balls were thrown and feasts were held; the gardens and forests where Henry courted Anne Boleyn while still married to Katherine of Aragon; the chamber where the Privy Council met to decide to break away from the Catholic Church; the hallway Catherine Howard ran down to plead (unsuccessfully) for her life in front of the King and where her ghost now supposedly haunts; the chapel where Henry married his sixth and last wife, Kateryn Parr…on and on the list goes! Now when I’m reading, I’ll actually be able to picture what these places look like.

To stand in such legendary spaces was pretty awe-inspiring for a history nerd like myself. I also enjoyed learning about the other half of the palace which was predominantly built by King William III and Queen Mary II in the mid-late 1600s. I haven’t read about that time period much so most of the information was new to me and the juxtaposition of the Tudor and Baroque spaces was unique. We ran out of time to see a lot of the grounds, which was unfortunate as the weather had taken a turn for the better, but we did get to see the royal tennis court (where people still play) and wander through some of the topiary and rose gardens.

After Hampton Court, we trained back to London and went to have cream tea at Soho’s Secret Tea Room (which I had read about in Rick Steve’s and on Yelp). It’s a tea room that’s on the 2nd floor of an old pub called The Coach & Horses. You have to go up to the bartender and tell him/her that you want to have tea, then they let you go back behind the bar and into the kitchen where there are a set of stairs. Upstairs, the tea room has a vintage 1940s feel to it: lots of lace and floral, mismatched tea sets, swing and jazz music, and waitresses dressed in subtle period styles. We got two small pots of tea (English breakfast and green), four scones (2 regular, 1 raisin, and 1 cherry almond) with blueberry jam and clotted cream, and a chocolate and pear fairy cake (cupcake in the US). The scones were definitely the best part, in my opinion.

Full from tea, we headed to meet up with Jen at The Scoop—an amphitheater next to City Hall on the bank of the Thames—where we watched a funny (and free!) production of Sherlock Holmes. There were 4 actors and 2 played Sherlock & Watson while the other 2 played all the other characters. They acted out a few short stories and the longer ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. It was entertaining and the weather was still pretty nice so that didn’t hurt either.

Once the show was over, we all went to a pub where one of Jen’s classmates was having a Bon Voyage party. He was moving back home to Tokyo, Japan the next day to start a new job (in International Relations). It was a lot of fun getting to meet more of Jen’s friends and classmates—they were all really nice and included us in everything even though we were strangers.

Thanks Jen (and Co.) for a great time in London—I’m sure we’ll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!

—Katie {Day 10: London}

Our last day in London was busy but great. We headed to Hampton Court, the only palace still fully standing that was built by Henry VIII (taken from Cardinal Wolsey actually, but that’s another story). If you know me, then you know I’m a history nerd and am especially drawn to War of the Roses/Tudor England. That made this experience all the more awesome because I was finally able to look at things I had only read about in person: The Great Hall where masquerade balls were thrown and feasts were held; the gardens and forests where Henry courted Anne Boleyn while still married to Katherine of Aragon; the chamber where the Privy Council met to decide to break away from the Catholic Church; the hallway Catherine Howard ran down to plead (unsuccessfully) for her life in front of the King and where her ghost now supposedly haunts; the chapel where Henry married his sixth and last wife, Kateryn Parr…on and on the list goes! Now when I’m reading, I’ll actually be able to picture what these places look like.

To stand in such legendary spaces was pretty awe-inspiring for a history nerd like myself. I also enjoyed learning about the other half of the palace which was predominantly built by King William III and Queen Mary II in the mid-late 1600s. I haven’t read about that time period much so most of the information was new to me and the juxtaposition of the Tudor and Baroque spaces was unique. We ran out of time to see a lot of the grounds, which was unfortunate as the weather had taken a turn for the better, but we did get to see the royal tennis court (where people still play) and wander through some of the topiary and rose gardens.

After Hampton Court, we trained back to London and went to have cream tea at Soho’s Secret Tea Room (which I had read about in Rick Steve’s and on Yelp). It’s a tea room that’s on the 2nd floor of an old pub called The Coach & Horses. You have to go up to the bartender and tell him/her that you want to have tea, then they let you go back behind the bar and into the kitchen where there are a set of stairs. Upstairs, the tea room has a vintage 1940s feel to it: lots of lace and floral, mismatched tea sets, swing and jazz music, and waitresses dressed in subtle period styles. We got two small pots of tea (English breakfast and green), four scones (2 regular, 1 raisin, and 1 cherry almond) with blueberry jam and clotted cream, and a chocolate and pear fairy cake (cupcake in the US). The scones were definitely the best part, in my opinion.

Full from tea, we headed to meet up with Jen at The Scoop—an amphitheater next to City Hall on the bank of the Thames—where we watched a funny (and free!) production of Sherlock Holmes. There were 4 actors and 2 played Sherlock & Watson while the other 2 played all the other characters. They acted out a few short stories and the longer ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. It was entertaining and the weather was still pretty nice so that didn’t hurt either.

Once the show was over, we all went to a pub where one of Jen’s classmates was having a Bon Voyage party. He was moving back home to Tokyo, Japan the next day to start a new job (in International Relations). It was a lot of fun getting to meet more of Jen’s friends and classmates—they were all really nice and included us in everything even though we were strangers.

Thanks Jen (and Co.) for a great time in London—I’m sure we’ll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!

—Katie {Day 10: London}

Our last day in London was busy but great. We headed to Hampton Court, the only palace still fully standing that was built by Henry VIII (taken from Cardinal Wolsey actually, but that’s another story). If you know me, then you know I’m a history nerd and am especially drawn to War of the Roses/Tudor England. That made this experience all the more awesome because I was finally able to look at things I had only read about in person: The Great Hall where masquerade balls were thrown and feasts were held; the gardens and forests where Henry courted Anne Boleyn while still married to Katherine of Aragon; the chamber where the Privy Council met to decide to break away from the Catholic Church; the hallway Catherine Howard ran down to plead (unsuccessfully) for her life in front of the King and where her ghost now supposedly haunts; the chapel where Henry married his sixth and last wife, Kateryn Parr…on and on the list goes! Now when I’m reading, I’ll actually be able to picture what these places look like.

To stand in such legendary spaces was pretty awe-inspiring for a history nerd like myself. I also enjoyed learning about the other half of the palace which was predominantly built by King William III and Queen Mary II in the mid-late 1600s. I haven’t read about that time period much so most of the information was new to me and the juxtaposition of the Tudor and Baroque spaces was unique. We ran out of time to see a lot of the grounds, which was unfortunate as the weather had taken a turn for the better, but we did get to see the royal tennis court (where people still play) and wander through some of the topiary and rose gardens.

After Hampton Court, we trained back to London and went to have cream tea at Soho’s Secret Tea Room (which I had read about in Rick Steve’s and on Yelp). It’s a tea room that’s on the 2nd floor of an old pub called The Coach & Horses. You have to go up to the bartender and tell him/her that you want to have tea, then they let you go back behind the bar and into the kitchen where there are a set of stairs. Upstairs, the tea room has a vintage 1940s feel to it: lots of lace and floral, mismatched tea sets, swing and jazz music, and waitresses dressed in subtle period styles. We got two small pots of tea (English breakfast and green), four scones (2 regular, 1 raisin, and 1 cherry almond) with blueberry jam and clotted cream, and a chocolate and pear fairy cake (cupcake in the US). The scones were definitely the best part, in my opinion.

Full from tea, we headed to meet up with Jen at The Scoop—an amphitheater next to City Hall on the bank of the Thames—where we watched a funny (and free!) production of Sherlock Holmes. There were 4 actors and 2 played Sherlock & Watson while the other 2 played all the other characters. They acted out a few short stories and the longer ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. It was entertaining and the weather was still pretty nice so that didn’t hurt either.

Once the show was over, we all went to a pub where one of Jen’s classmates was having a Bon Voyage party. He was moving back home to Tokyo, Japan the next day to start a new job (in International Relations). It was a lot of fun getting to meet more of Jen’s friends and classmates—they were all really nice and included us in everything even though we were strangers.

Thanks Jen (and Co.) for a great time in London—I’m sure we’ll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!

—Katie {Day 10: London}

Our last day in London was busy but great. We headed to Hampton Court, the only palace still fully standing that was built by Henry VIII (taken from Cardinal Wolsey actually, but that’s another story). If you know me, then you know I’m a history nerd and am especially drawn to War of the Roses/Tudor England. That made this experience all the more awesome because I was finally able to look at things I had only read about in person: The Great Hall where masquerade balls were thrown and feasts were held; the gardens and forests where Henry courted Anne Boleyn while still married to Katherine of Aragon; the chamber where the Privy Council met to decide to break away from the Catholic Church; the hallway Catherine Howard ran down to plead (unsuccessfully) for her life in front of the King and where her ghost now supposedly haunts; the chapel where Henry married his sixth and last wife, Kateryn Parr…on and on the list goes! Now when I’m reading, I’ll actually be able to picture what these places look like.

To stand in such legendary spaces was pretty awe-inspiring for a history nerd like myself. I also enjoyed learning about the other half of the palace which was predominantly built by King William III and Queen Mary II in the mid-late 1600s. I haven’t read about that time period much so most of the information was new to me and the juxtaposition of the Tudor and Baroque spaces was unique. We ran out of time to see a lot of the grounds, which was unfortunate as the weather had taken a turn for the better, but we did get to see the royal tennis court (where people still play) and wander through some of the topiary and rose gardens.

After Hampton Court, we trained back to London and went to have cream tea at Soho’s Secret Tea Room (which I had read about in Rick Steve’s and on Yelp). It’s a tea room that’s on the 2nd floor of an old pub called The Coach & Horses. You have to go up to the bartender and tell him/her that you want to have tea, then they let you go back behind the bar and into the kitchen where there are a set of stairs. Upstairs, the tea room has a vintage 1940s feel to it: lots of lace and floral, mismatched tea sets, swing and jazz music, and waitresses dressed in subtle period styles. We got two small pots of tea (English breakfast and green), four scones (2 regular, 1 raisin, and 1 cherry almond) with blueberry jam and clotted cream, and a chocolate and pear fairy cake (cupcake in the US). The scones were definitely the best part, in my opinion.

Full from tea, we headed to meet up with Jen at The Scoop—an amphitheater next to City Hall on the bank of the Thames—where we watched a funny (and free!) production of Sherlock Holmes. There were 4 actors and 2 played Sherlock & Watson while the other 2 played all the other characters. They acted out a few short stories and the longer ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. It was entertaining and the weather was still pretty nice so that didn’t hurt either.

Once the show was over, we all went to a pub where one of Jen’s classmates was having a Bon Voyage party. He was moving back home to Tokyo, Japan the next day to start a new job (in International Relations). It was a lot of fun getting to meet more of Jen’s friends and classmates—they were all really nice and included us in everything even though we were strangers.

Thanks Jen (and Co.) for a great time in London—I’m sure we’ll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!

—Katie {Day 10: London}

Our last day in London was busy but great. We headed to Hampton Court, the only palace still fully standing that was built by Henry VIII (taken from Cardinal Wolsey actually, but that’s another story). If you know me, then you know I’m a history nerd and am especially drawn to War of the Roses/Tudor England. That made this experience all the more awesome because I was finally able to look at things I had only read about in person: The Great Hall where masquerade balls were thrown and feasts were held; the gardens and forests where Henry courted Anne Boleyn while still married to Katherine of Aragon; the chamber where the Privy Council met to decide to break away from the Catholic Church; the hallway Catherine Howard ran down to plead (unsuccessfully) for her life in front of the King and where her ghost now supposedly haunts; the chapel where Henry married his sixth and last wife, Kateryn Parr…on and on the list goes! Now when I’m reading, I’ll actually be able to picture what these places look like.

To stand in such legendary spaces was pretty awe-inspiring for a history nerd like myself. I also enjoyed learning about the other half of the palace which was predominantly built by King William III and Queen Mary II in the mid-late 1600s. I haven’t read about that time period much so most of the information was new to me and the juxtaposition of the Tudor and Baroque spaces was unique. We ran out of time to see a lot of the grounds, which was unfortunate as the weather had taken a turn for the better, but we did get to see the royal tennis court (where people still play) and wander through some of the topiary and rose gardens.

After Hampton Court, we trained back to London and went to have cream tea at Soho’s Secret Tea Room (which I had read about in Rick Steve’s and on Yelp). It’s a tea room that’s on the 2nd floor of an old pub called The Coach & Horses. You have to go up to the bartender and tell him/her that you want to have tea, then they let you go back behind the bar and into the kitchen where there are a set of stairs. Upstairs, the tea room has a vintage 1940s feel to it: lots of lace and floral, mismatched tea sets, swing and jazz music, and waitresses dressed in subtle period styles. We got two small pots of tea (English breakfast and green), four scones (2 regular, 1 raisin, and 1 cherry almond) with blueberry jam and clotted cream, and a chocolate and pear fairy cake (cupcake in the US). The scones were definitely the best part, in my opinion.

Full from tea, we headed to meet up with Jen at The Scoop—an amphitheater next to City Hall on the bank of the Thames—where we watched a funny (and free!) production of Sherlock Holmes. There were 4 actors and 2 played Sherlock & Watson while the other 2 played all the other characters. They acted out a few short stories and the longer ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. It was entertaining and the weather was still pretty nice so that didn’t hurt either.

Once the show was over, we all went to a pub where one of Jen’s classmates was having a Bon Voyage party. He was moving back home to Tokyo, Japan the next day to start a new job (in International Relations). It was a lot of fun getting to meet more of Jen’s friends and classmates—they were all really nice and included us in everything even though we were strangers.

Thanks Jen (and Co.) for a great time in London—I’m sure we’ll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!

—Katie {Day 10: London}

Our last day in London was busy but great. We headed to Hampton Court, the only palace still fully standing that was built by Henry VIII (taken from Cardinal Wolsey actually, but that’s another story). If you know me, then you know I’m a history nerd and am especially drawn to War of the Roses/Tudor England. That made this experience all the more awesome because I was finally able to look at things I had only read about in person: The Great Hall where masquerade balls were thrown and feasts were held; the gardens and forests where Henry courted Anne Boleyn while still married to Katherine of Aragon; the chamber where the Privy Council met to decide to break away from the Catholic Church; the hallway Catherine Howard ran down to plead (unsuccessfully) for her life in front of the King and where her ghost now supposedly haunts; the chapel where Henry married his sixth and last wife, Kateryn Parr…on and on the list goes! Now when I’m reading, I’ll actually be able to picture what these places look like.

To stand in such legendary spaces was pretty awe-inspiring for a history nerd like myself. I also enjoyed learning about the other half of the palace which was predominantly built by King William III and Queen Mary II in the mid-late 1600s. I haven’t read about that time period much so most of the information was new to me and the juxtaposition of the Tudor and Baroque spaces was unique. We ran out of time to see a lot of the grounds, which was unfortunate as the weather had taken a turn for the better, but we did get to see the royal tennis court (where people still play) and wander through some of the topiary and rose gardens.

After Hampton Court, we trained back to London and went to have cream tea at Soho’s Secret Tea Room (which I had read about in Rick Steve’s and on Yelp). It’s a tea room that’s on the 2nd floor of an old pub called The Coach & Horses. You have to go up to the bartender and tell him/her that you want to have tea, then they let you go back behind the bar and into the kitchen where there are a set of stairs. Upstairs, the tea room has a vintage 1940s feel to it: lots of lace and floral, mismatched tea sets, swing and jazz music, and waitresses dressed in subtle period styles. We got two small pots of tea (English breakfast and green), four scones (2 regular, 1 raisin, and 1 cherry almond) with blueberry jam and clotted cream, and a chocolate and pear fairy cake (cupcake in the US). The scones were definitely the best part, in my opinion.

Full from tea, we headed to meet up with Jen at The Scoop—an amphitheater next to City Hall on the bank of the Thames—where we watched a funny (and free!) production of Sherlock Holmes. There were 4 actors and 2 played Sherlock & Watson while the other 2 played all the other characters. They acted out a few short stories and the longer ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. It was entertaining and the weather was still pretty nice so that didn’t hurt either.

Once the show was over, we all went to a pub where one of Jen’s classmates was having a Bon Voyage party. He was moving back home to Tokyo, Japan the next day to start a new job (in International Relations). It was a lot of fun getting to meet more of Jen’s friends and classmates—they were all really nice and included us in everything even though we were strangers.

Thanks Jen (and Co.) for a great time in London—I’m sure we’ll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!

—Katie

{Day 10: London}

Our last day in London was busy but great. We headed to Hampton Court, the only palace still fully standing that was built by Henry VIII (taken from Cardinal Wolsey actually, but that’s another story). If you know me, then you know I’m a history nerd and am especially drawn to War of the Roses/Tudor England. That made this experience all the more awesome because I was finally able to look at things I had only read about in person: The Great Hall where masquerade balls were thrown and feasts were held; the gardens and forests where Henry courted Anne Boleyn while still married to Katherine of Aragon; the chamber where the Privy Council met to decide to break away from the Catholic Church; the hallway Catherine Howard ran down to plead (unsuccessfully) for her life in front of the King and where her ghost now supposedly haunts; the chapel where Henry married his sixth and last wife, Kateryn Parr…on and on the list goes! Now when I’m reading, I’ll actually be able to picture what these places look like.

To stand in such legendary spaces was pretty awe-inspiring for a history nerd like myself. I also enjoyed learning about the other half of the palace which was predominantly built by King William III and Queen Mary II in the mid-late 1600s. I haven’t read about that time period much so most of the information was new to me and the juxtaposition of the Tudor and Baroque spaces was unique. We ran out of time to see a lot of the grounds, which was unfortunate as the weather had taken a turn for the better, but we did get to see the royal tennis court (where people still play) and wander through some of the topiary and rose gardens.

After Hampton Court, we trained back to London and went to have cream tea at Soho’s Secret Tea Room (which I had read about in Rick Steve’s and on Yelp). It’s a tea room that’s on the 2nd floor of an old pub called The Coach & Horses. You have to go up to the bartender and tell him/her that you want to have tea, then they let you go back behind the bar and into the kitchen where there are a set of stairs. Upstairs, the tea room has a vintage 1940s feel to it: lots of lace and floral, mismatched tea sets, swing and jazz music, and waitresses dressed in subtle period styles. We got two small pots of tea (English breakfast and green), four scones (2 regular, 1 raisin, and 1 cherry almond) with blueberry jam and clotted cream, and a chocolate and pear fairy cake (cupcake in the US). The scones were definitely the best part, in my opinion.

Full from tea, we headed to meet up with Jen at The Scoop—an amphitheater next to City Hall on the bank of the Thames—where we watched a funny (and free!) production of Sherlock Holmes. There were 4 actors and 2 played Sherlock & Watson while the other 2 played all the other characters. They acted out a few short stories and the longer ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. It was entertaining and the weather was still pretty nice so that didn’t hurt either.

Once the show was over, we all went to a pub where one of Jen’s classmates was having a Bon Voyage party. He was moving back home to Tokyo, Japan the next day to start a new job (in International Relations). It was a lot of fun getting to meet more of Jen’s friends and classmates—they were all really nice and included us in everything even though we were strangers.

Thanks Jen (and Co.) for a great time in London—I’m sure we’ll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!

—Katie

{Day 9: London}

After an incredibly lazy morning (much needed), we left Jen’s apartment around noon an headed to the nearby Borough Market. This market has been in operation for hundreds of years and is where local farmers, chefs, and artisans sell their products from carts, stalls, and small stores. It was really cool to wander through the maze of goods and try free samples. Eventually we found a place to nab lunch—a bbq pulled pork sandwich for me and a roast pork loin sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce for Kyle. We found a great stall to get dessert afterwards (best macaroons EVER!) and munched on these as we walked towards The British Museum, where we spent the afternoon. The atrium designed by Norman Foster really is stunning and we spent a lot of time just admiring the architecture.

Once Kyle was thoroughly freaked out by the Egyptian mummies (he said he hopes his body isn’t displayed in a museum 2000 years from now), we left to meet up with Jen and her friends for happy hour and dinner. Along the way, we stopped at King’s Cross Station & St. Pancras Station to check out the architecture (one old, one new) and Platform 9 3/4 (of course). I didn’t stand in line to have my picture taken, but did take a quick photo ;)

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out at BoxPark, a pop-up mall that’s been constructed in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London (where a lot of young professionals work). BoxPark is made up of large shipping containers stacked on top of each other that have various stores and restaurants in them (Mexican, Thai, British, American, Caribbean, etc). In between the containers were tables for people to sit, bars serving drinks, and a dance floor with a DJ. It was a cool spot and we all stayed there sampling local food and beers until the place closed at 10:30. Then we headed home and turned in a bit early (for us).

Hampton Court Palace, Afternoon Tea, and a Sherlock Holmes play in an outdoor amphitheater near Tower Bridge are on the docket for tomorrow (our last full day in London)!

—Katie {Day 9: London}

After an incredibly lazy morning (much needed), we left Jen’s apartment around noon an headed to the nearby Borough Market. This market has been in operation for hundreds of years and is where local farmers, chefs, and artisans sell their products from carts, stalls, and small stores. It was really cool to wander through the maze of goods and try free samples. Eventually we found a place to nab lunch—a bbq pulled pork sandwich for me and a roast pork loin sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce for Kyle. We found a great stall to get dessert afterwards (best macaroons EVER!) and munched on these as we walked towards The British Museum, where we spent the afternoon. The atrium designed by Norman Foster really is stunning and we spent a lot of time just admiring the architecture.

Once Kyle was thoroughly freaked out by the Egyptian mummies (he said he hopes his body isn’t displayed in a museum 2000 years from now), we left to meet up with Jen and her friends for happy hour and dinner. Along the way, we stopped at King’s Cross Station & St. Pancras Station to check out the architecture (one old, one new) and Platform 9 3/4 (of course). I didn’t stand in line to have my picture taken, but did take a quick photo ;)

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out at BoxPark, a pop-up mall that’s been constructed in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London (where a lot of young professionals work). BoxPark is made up of large shipping containers stacked on top of each other that have various stores and restaurants in them (Mexican, Thai, British, American, Caribbean, etc). In between the containers were tables for people to sit, bars serving drinks, and a dance floor with a DJ. It was a cool spot and we all stayed there sampling local food and beers until the place closed at 10:30. Then we headed home and turned in a bit early (for us).

Hampton Court Palace, Afternoon Tea, and a Sherlock Holmes play in an outdoor amphitheater near Tower Bridge are on the docket for tomorrow (our last full day in London)!

—Katie {Day 9: London}

After an incredibly lazy morning (much needed), we left Jen’s apartment around noon an headed to the nearby Borough Market. This market has been in operation for hundreds of years and is where local farmers, chefs, and artisans sell their products from carts, stalls, and small stores. It was really cool to wander through the maze of goods and try free samples. Eventually we found a place to nab lunch—a bbq pulled pork sandwich for me and a roast pork loin sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce for Kyle. We found a great stall to get dessert afterwards (best macaroons EVER!) and munched on these as we walked towards The British Museum, where we spent the afternoon. The atrium designed by Norman Foster really is stunning and we spent a lot of time just admiring the architecture.

Once Kyle was thoroughly freaked out by the Egyptian mummies (he said he hopes his body isn’t displayed in a museum 2000 years from now), we left to meet up with Jen and her friends for happy hour and dinner. Along the way, we stopped at King’s Cross Station & St. Pancras Station to check out the architecture (one old, one new) and Platform 9 3/4 (of course). I didn’t stand in line to have my picture taken, but did take a quick photo ;)

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out at BoxPark, a pop-up mall that’s been constructed in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London (where a lot of young professionals work). BoxPark is made up of large shipping containers stacked on top of each other that have various stores and restaurants in them (Mexican, Thai, British, American, Caribbean, etc). In between the containers were tables for people to sit, bars serving drinks, and a dance floor with a DJ. It was a cool spot and we all stayed there sampling local food and beers until the place closed at 10:30. Then we headed home and turned in a bit early (for us).

Hampton Court Palace, Afternoon Tea, and a Sherlock Holmes play in an outdoor amphitheater near Tower Bridge are on the docket for tomorrow (our last full day in London)!

—Katie {Day 9: London}

After an incredibly lazy morning (much needed), we left Jen’s apartment around noon an headed to the nearby Borough Market. This market has been in operation for hundreds of years and is where local farmers, chefs, and artisans sell their products from carts, stalls, and small stores. It was really cool to wander through the maze of goods and try free samples. Eventually we found a place to nab lunch—a bbq pulled pork sandwich for me and a roast pork loin sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce for Kyle. We found a great stall to get dessert afterwards (best macaroons EVER!) and munched on these as we walked towards The British Museum, where we spent the afternoon. The atrium designed by Norman Foster really is stunning and we spent a lot of time just admiring the architecture.

Once Kyle was thoroughly freaked out by the Egyptian mummies (he said he hopes his body isn’t displayed in a museum 2000 years from now), we left to meet up with Jen and her friends for happy hour and dinner. Along the way, we stopped at King’s Cross Station & St. Pancras Station to check out the architecture (one old, one new) and Platform 9 3/4 (of course). I didn’t stand in line to have my picture taken, but did take a quick photo ;)

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out at BoxPark, a pop-up mall that’s been constructed in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London (where a lot of young professionals work). BoxPark is made up of large shipping containers stacked on top of each other that have various stores and restaurants in them (Mexican, Thai, British, American, Caribbean, etc). In between the containers were tables for people to sit, bars serving drinks, and a dance floor with a DJ. It was a cool spot and we all stayed there sampling local food and beers until the place closed at 10:30. Then we headed home and turned in a bit early (for us).

Hampton Court Palace, Afternoon Tea, and a Sherlock Holmes play in an outdoor amphitheater near Tower Bridge are on the docket for tomorrow (our last full day in London)!

—Katie

{Day 9: London}

After an incredibly lazy morning (much needed), we left Jen’s apartment around noon an headed to the nearby Borough Market. This market has been in operation for hundreds of years and is where local farmers, chefs, and artisans sell their products from carts, stalls, and small stores. It was really cool to wander through the maze of goods and try free samples. Eventually we found a place to nab lunch—a bbq pulled pork sandwich for me and a roast pork loin sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce for Kyle. We found a great stall to get dessert afterwards (best macaroons EVER!) and munched on these as we walked towards The British Museum, where we spent the afternoon. The atrium designed by Norman Foster really is stunning and we spent a lot of time just admiring the architecture.

Once Kyle was thoroughly freaked out by the Egyptian mummies (he said he hopes his body isn’t displayed in a museum 2000 years from now), we left to meet up with Jen and her friends for happy hour and dinner. Along the way, we stopped at King’s Cross Station & St. Pancras Station to check out the architecture (one old, one new) and Platform 9 3/4 (of course). I didn’t stand in line to have my picture taken, but did take a quick photo ;)

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out at BoxPark, a pop-up mall that’s been constructed in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London (where a lot of young professionals work). BoxPark is made up of large shipping containers stacked on top of each other that have various stores and restaurants in them (Mexican, Thai, British, American, Caribbean, etc). In between the containers were tables for people to sit, bars serving drinks, and a dance floor with a DJ. It was a cool spot and we all stayed there sampling local food and beers until the place closed at 10:30. Then we headed home and turned in a bit early (for us).

Hampton Court Palace, Afternoon Tea, and a Sherlock Holmes play in an outdoor amphitheater near Tower Bridge are on the docket for tomorrow (our last full day in London)!

—Katie

{Day 8: London}

Our first full day in London was pretty packed. We got up very early to catch all the necessary public transit to the Warner Bros. Studio in the outskirts of London. Our ‘Making of Harry Potter’ tour started at 10:30 and it was definitely awesome. You walk into the full Great Hall from the movies which is set up to look like a feast day. There are costumes from many of the main characters from each house as well as the professors. Then the rest of the tour is self-guided and takes about 2-3 hours to walk through. There are tons of props from the movies and explanations of how and why they did things certain ways. The way it was all broken up was neat…it was by role/job so it started with ‘Producer’ and ‘Director’ and then went on to cover things like ‘Art Direction’, ‘Sound Engineering’, ‘Lighting Effects’, and, you guessed it, ‘Graphics’ and ‘Architecture’! Kyle and I especially liked those exhibits for obvious reasons. We learned that all the buildings were drafted by hand first before the sets were built and that white paper models were always made first. Also, over 25,000 different issues of The Quibbler and The Daily Prophet were designed by the graphics team (not to mention every book cover, poster, and product packaging seen in all the films)…seemed like a great job to me! In addition to the props and outdoor sets, there’s the Creature Lab where you get to see all the animatronics (Hagrid’s head, baby Voldemort, Inferi, Dementors, Aragog, etc.) as well as the process of some of the more complex stage makeup (the Goblins and Werewolves). All in all, a very cool experience if you like Harry Potter or are interested in behind-the-scenes stuff at all. 

After our HP tour, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery (no pics allowed) where we got to see all the old original paintings of The Tudors which was awesome for a history nerd like me. Then we met up with Jen for dinner and drinks at a couple London finds—the first bar was underground and the second was in a former opium den and served cocktails in interesting ways (i.e. in tea sets and medicine bottles). I really like that in London (and other big cities), there are so many unknown spots that you get to discover. Speaking of discovering, we also spotted Russell Crowe giving an interview for the Superman Movie Premier in Leicester Square. Didn’t get a good shot, but still fun to be part of the excitement!

—Katie {Day 8: London}

Our first full day in London was pretty packed. We got up very early to catch all the necessary public transit to the Warner Bros. Studio in the outskirts of London. Our ‘Making of Harry Potter’ tour started at 10:30 and it was definitely awesome. You walk into the full Great Hall from the movies which is set up to look like a feast day. There are costumes from many of the main characters from each house as well as the professors. Then the rest of the tour is self-guided and takes about 2-3 hours to walk through. There are tons of props from the movies and explanations of how and why they did things certain ways. The way it was all broken up was neat…it was by role/job so it started with ‘Producer’ and ‘Director’ and then went on to cover things like ‘Art Direction’, ‘Sound Engineering’, ‘Lighting Effects’, and, you guessed it, ‘Graphics’ and ‘Architecture’! Kyle and I especially liked those exhibits for obvious reasons. We learned that all the buildings were drafted by hand first before the sets were built and that white paper models were always made first. Also, over 25,000 different issues of The Quibbler and The Daily Prophet were designed by the graphics team (not to mention every book cover, poster, and product packaging seen in all the films)…seemed like a great job to me! In addition to the props and outdoor sets, there’s the Creature Lab where you get to see all the animatronics (Hagrid’s head, baby Voldemort, Inferi, Dementors, Aragog, etc.) as well as the process of some of the more complex stage makeup (the Goblins and Werewolves). All in all, a very cool experience if you like Harry Potter or are interested in behind-the-scenes stuff at all. 

After our HP tour, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery (no pics allowed) where we got to see all the old original paintings of The Tudors which was awesome for a history nerd like me. Then we met up with Jen for dinner and drinks at a couple London finds—the first bar was underground and the second was in a former opium den and served cocktails in interesting ways (i.e. in tea sets and medicine bottles). I really like that in London (and other big cities), there are so many unknown spots that you get to discover. Speaking of discovering, we also spotted Russell Crowe giving an interview for the Superman Movie Premier in Leicester Square. Didn’t get a good shot, but still fun to be part of the excitement!

—Katie {Day 8: London}

Our first full day in London was pretty packed. We got up very early to catch all the necessary public transit to the Warner Bros. Studio in the outskirts of London. Our ‘Making of Harry Potter’ tour started at 10:30 and it was definitely awesome. You walk into the full Great Hall from the movies which is set up to look like a feast day. There are costumes from many of the main characters from each house as well as the professors. Then the rest of the tour is self-guided and takes about 2-3 hours to walk through. There are tons of props from the movies and explanations of how and why they did things certain ways. The way it was all broken up was neat…it was by role/job so it started with ‘Producer’ and ‘Director’ and then went on to cover things like ‘Art Direction’, ‘Sound Engineering’, ‘Lighting Effects’, and, you guessed it, ‘Graphics’ and ‘Architecture’! Kyle and I especially liked those exhibits for obvious reasons. We learned that all the buildings were drafted by hand first before the sets were built and that white paper models were always made first. Also, over 25,000 different issues of The Quibbler and The Daily Prophet were designed by the graphics team (not to mention every book cover, poster, and product packaging seen in all the films)…seemed like a great job to me! In addition to the props and outdoor sets, there’s the Creature Lab where you get to see all the animatronics (Hagrid’s head, baby Voldemort, Inferi, Dementors, Aragog, etc.) as well as the process of some of the more complex stage makeup (the Goblins and Werewolves). All in all, a very cool experience if you like Harry Potter or are interested in behind-the-scenes stuff at all. 

After our HP tour, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery (no pics allowed) where we got to see all the old original paintings of The Tudors which was awesome for a history nerd like me. Then we met up with Jen for dinner and drinks at a couple London finds—the first bar was underground and the second was in a former opium den and served cocktails in interesting ways (i.e. in tea sets and medicine bottles). I really like that in London (and other big cities), there are so many unknown spots that you get to discover. Speaking of discovering, we also spotted Russell Crowe giving an interview for the Superman Movie Premier in Leicester Square. Didn’t get a good shot, but still fun to be part of the excitement!

—Katie {Day 8: London}

Our first full day in London was pretty packed. We got up very early to catch all the necessary public transit to the Warner Bros. Studio in the outskirts of London. Our ‘Making of Harry Potter’ tour started at 10:30 and it was definitely awesome. You walk into the full Great Hall from the movies which is set up to look like a feast day. There are costumes from many of the main characters from each house as well as the professors. Then the rest of the tour is self-guided and takes about 2-3 hours to walk through. There are tons of props from the movies and explanations of how and why they did things certain ways. The way it was all broken up was neat…it was by role/job so it started with ‘Producer’ and ‘Director’ and then went on to cover things like ‘Art Direction’, ‘Sound Engineering’, ‘Lighting Effects’, and, you guessed it, ‘Graphics’ and ‘Architecture’! Kyle and I especially liked those exhibits for obvious reasons. We learned that all the buildings were drafted by hand first before the sets were built and that white paper models were always made first. Also, over 25,000 different issues of The Quibbler and The Daily Prophet were designed by the graphics team (not to mention every book cover, poster, and product packaging seen in all the films)…seemed like a great job to me! In addition to the props and outdoor sets, there’s the Creature Lab where you get to see all the animatronics (Hagrid’s head, baby Voldemort, Inferi, Dementors, Aragog, etc.) as well as the process of some of the more complex stage makeup (the Goblins and Werewolves). All in all, a very cool experience if you like Harry Potter or are interested in behind-the-scenes stuff at all. 

After our HP tour, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery (no pics allowed) where we got to see all the old original paintings of The Tudors which was awesome for a history nerd like me. Then we met up with Jen for dinner and drinks at a couple London finds—the first bar was underground and the second was in a former opium den and served cocktails in interesting ways (i.e. in tea sets and medicine bottles). I really like that in London (and other big cities), there are so many unknown spots that you get to discover. Speaking of discovering, we also spotted Russell Crowe giving an interview for the Superman Movie Premier in Leicester Square. Didn’t get a good shot, but still fun to be part of the excitement!

—Katie {Day 8: London}

Our first full day in London was pretty packed. We got up very early to catch all the necessary public transit to the Warner Bros. Studio in the outskirts of London. Our ‘Making of Harry Potter’ tour started at 10:30 and it was definitely awesome. You walk into the full Great Hall from the movies which is set up to look like a feast day. There are costumes from many of the main characters from each house as well as the professors. Then the rest of the tour is self-guided and takes about 2-3 hours to walk through. There are tons of props from the movies and explanations of how and why they did things certain ways. The way it was all broken up was neat…it was by role/job so it started with ‘Producer’ and ‘Director’ and then went on to cover things like ‘Art Direction’, ‘Sound Engineering’, ‘Lighting Effects’, and, you guessed it, ‘Graphics’ and ‘Architecture’! Kyle and I especially liked those exhibits for obvious reasons. We learned that all the buildings were drafted by hand first before the sets were built and that white paper models were always made first. Also, over 25,000 different issues of The Quibbler and The Daily Prophet were designed by the graphics team (not to mention every book cover, poster, and product packaging seen in all the films)…seemed like a great job to me! In addition to the props and outdoor sets, there’s the Creature Lab where you get to see all the animatronics (Hagrid’s head, baby Voldemort, Inferi, Dementors, Aragog, etc.) as well as the process of some of the more complex stage makeup (the Goblins and Werewolves). All in all, a very cool experience if you like Harry Potter or are interested in behind-the-scenes stuff at all. 

After our HP tour, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery (no pics allowed) where we got to see all the old original paintings of The Tudors which was awesome for a history nerd like me. Then we met up with Jen for dinner and drinks at a couple London finds—the first bar was underground and the second was in a former opium den and served cocktails in interesting ways (i.e. in tea sets and medicine bottles). I really like that in London (and other big cities), there are so many unknown spots that you get to discover. Speaking of discovering, we also spotted Russell Crowe giving an interview for the Superman Movie Premier in Leicester Square. Didn’t get a good shot, but still fun to be part of the excitement!

—Katie

{Day 8: London}

Our first full day in London was pretty packed. We got up very early to catch all the necessary public transit to the Warner Bros. Studio in the outskirts of London. Our ‘Making of Harry Potter’ tour started at 10:30 and it was definitely awesome. You walk into the full Great Hall from the movies which is set up to look like a feast day. There are costumes from many of the main characters from each house as well as the professors. Then the rest of the tour is self-guided and takes about 2-3 hours to walk through. There are tons of props from the movies and explanations of how and why they did things certain ways. The way it was all broken up was neat…it was by role/job so it started with ‘Producer’ and ‘Director’ and then went on to cover things like ‘Art Direction’, ‘Sound Engineering’, ‘Lighting Effects’, and, you guessed it, ‘Graphics’ and ‘Architecture’! Kyle and I especially liked those exhibits for obvious reasons. We learned that all the buildings were drafted by hand first before the sets were built and that white paper models were always made first. Also, over 25,000 different issues of The Quibbler and The Daily Prophet were designed by the graphics team (not to mention every book cover, poster, and product packaging seen in all the films)…seemed like a great job to me! In addition to the props and outdoor sets, there’s the Creature Lab where you get to see all the animatronics (Hagrid’s head, baby Voldemort, Inferi, Dementors, Aragog, etc.) as well as the process of some of the more complex stage makeup (the Goblins and Werewolves). All in all, a very cool experience if you like Harry Potter or are interested in behind-the-scenes stuff at all.

After our HP tour, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery (no pics allowed) where we got to see all the old original paintings of The Tudors which was awesome for a history nerd like me. Then we met up with Jen for dinner and drinks at a couple London finds—the first bar was underground and the second was in a former opium den and served cocktails in interesting ways (i.e. in tea sets and medicine bottles). I really like that in London (and other big cities), there are so many unknown spots that you get to discover. Speaking of discovering, we also spotted Russell Crowe giving an interview for the Superman Movie Premier in Leicester Square. Didn’t get a good shot, but still fun to be part of the excitement!

—Katie

{Day 7: London}

Shortest post yet! Spent most of the day driving from Tenby to London and returning our rental car, but we eventually made it to London and met up with Jen at The Globe Theatre to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ which was very funny. Now we’re camped out at Jen’s apartment for the next few days—Harry Potter Warner Brothers’ Studio tour tomorrow! {Day 7: London}

Shortest post yet! Spent most of the day driving from Tenby to London and returning our rental car, but we eventually made it to London and met up with Jen at The Globe Theatre to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ which was very funny. Now we’re camped out at Jen’s apartment for the next few days—Harry Potter Warner Brothers’ Studio tour tomorrow!

{Day 7: London}

Shortest post yet! Spent most of the day driving from Tenby to London and returning our rental car, but we eventually made it to London and met up with Jen at The Globe Theatre to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ which was very funny. Now we’re camped out at Jen’s apartment for the next few days—Harry Potter Warner Brothers’ Studio tour tomorrow!

{Day 6: Southern Wales}

Today we got up pretty early to drop Jen off at Tenby station to catch the morning train to London (we’ll meet up with her again tomorrow night). Then we went back to our hostel, ate breakfast…and then fell back asleep for a couple more hours. Apparently our bodies decided they were too exhausted to do anything right away! It actually worked out perfectly though because it was cold and overcast this morning but the sun was shining when we woke back up. We took this as a sign to begin our hike to Tenby via the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park trail.

Again, the views were awe-inspiring—the trail took us down to beaches as well as up on top of the cliffs so we were able to get different perspectives of the area. The hike took us about 4 hours and we were starving by the time we got to Tenby (and crossed the mile-long beach to get to the Town Center). We actually found a place that served Tex-Mex(!) and downed pints of cider with our meal. After cleaning our plates and stopping by a local store to grab food and snacks for dinner and lunch tomorrow, we caught a bus back to our hostel.

It’s 6 p.m. now and we’ve planned to spend the rest of the evening just relaxing. Hot showers and a movie on the iPad sound amazing after several days of hiking and sight-seeing :)

Heading to London tomorrow!

—Katie {Day 6: Southern Wales}

Today we got up pretty early to drop Jen off at Tenby station to catch the morning train to London (we’ll meet up with her again tomorrow night). Then we went back to our hostel, ate breakfast…and then fell back asleep for a couple more hours. Apparently our bodies decided they were too exhausted to do anything right away! It actually worked out perfectly though because it was cold and overcast this morning but the sun was shining when we woke back up. We took this as a sign to begin our hike to Tenby via the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park trail.

Again, the views were awe-inspiring—the trail took us down to beaches as well as up on top of the cliffs so we were able to get different perspectives of the area. The hike took us about 4 hours and we were starving by the time we got to Tenby (and crossed the mile-long beach to get to the Town Center). We actually found a place that served Tex-Mex(!) and downed pints of cider with our meal. After cleaning our plates and stopping by a local store to grab food and snacks for dinner and lunch tomorrow, we caught a bus back to our hostel.

It’s 6 p.m. now and we’ve planned to spend the rest of the evening just relaxing. Hot showers and a movie on the iPad sound amazing after several days of hiking and sight-seeing :)

Heading to London tomorrow!

—Katie {Day 6: Southern Wales}

Today we got up pretty early to drop Jen off at Tenby station to catch the morning train to London (we’ll meet up with her again tomorrow night). Then we went back to our hostel, ate breakfast…and then fell back asleep for a couple more hours. Apparently our bodies decided they were too exhausted to do anything right away! It actually worked out perfectly though because it was cold and overcast this morning but the sun was shining when we woke back up. We took this as a sign to begin our hike to Tenby via the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park trail.

Again, the views were awe-inspiring—the trail took us down to beaches as well as up on top of the cliffs so we were able to get different perspectives of the area. The hike took us about 4 hours and we were starving by the time we got to Tenby (and crossed the mile-long beach to get to the Town Center). We actually found a place that served Tex-Mex(!) and downed pints of cider with our meal. After cleaning our plates and stopping by a local store to grab food and snacks for dinner and lunch tomorrow, we caught a bus back to our hostel.

It’s 6 p.m. now and we’ve planned to spend the rest of the evening just relaxing. Hot showers and a movie on the iPad sound amazing after several days of hiking and sight-seeing :)

Heading to London tomorrow!

—Katie {Day 6: Southern Wales}

Today we got up pretty early to drop Jen off at Tenby station to catch the morning train to London (we’ll meet up with her again tomorrow night). Then we went back to our hostel, ate breakfast…and then fell back asleep for a couple more hours. Apparently our bodies decided they were too exhausted to do anything right away! It actually worked out perfectly though because it was cold and overcast this morning but the sun was shining when we woke back up. We took this as a sign to begin our hike to Tenby via the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park trail.

Again, the views were awe-inspiring—the trail took us down to beaches as well as up on top of the cliffs so we were able to get different perspectives of the area. The hike took us about 4 hours and we were starving by the time we got to Tenby (and crossed the mile-long beach to get to the Town Center). We actually found a place that served Tex-Mex(!) and downed pints of cider with our meal. After cleaning our plates and stopping by a local store to grab food and snacks for dinner and lunch tomorrow, we caught a bus back to our hostel.

It’s 6 p.m. now and we’ve planned to spend the rest of the evening just relaxing. Hot showers and a movie on the iPad sound amazing after several days of hiking and sight-seeing :)

Heading to London tomorrow!

—Katie

{Day 6: Southern Wales}

Today we got up pretty early to drop Jen off at Tenby station to catch the morning train to London (we’ll meet up with her again tomorrow night). Then we went back to our hostel, ate breakfast…and then fell back asleep for a couple more hours. Apparently our bodies decided they were too exhausted to do anything right away! It actually worked out perfectly though because it was cold and overcast this morning but the sun was shining when we woke back up. We took this as a sign to begin our hike to Tenby via the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park trail.

Again, the views were awe-inspiring—the trail took us down to beaches as well as up on top of the cliffs so we were able to get different perspectives of the area. The hike took us about 4 hours and we were starving by the time we got to Tenby (and crossed the mile-long beach to get to the Town Center). We actually found a place that served Tex-Mex(!) and downed pints of cider with our meal. After cleaning our plates and stopping by a local store to grab food and snacks for dinner and lunch tomorrow, we caught a bus back to our hostel.

It’s 6 p.m. now and we’ve planned to spend the rest of the evening just relaxing. Hot showers and a movie on the iPad sound amazing after several days of hiking and sight-seeing :)

Heading to London tomorrow!

—Katie

{Day 5: Northern & Southern Wales)

Today was an interesting mix of things. Once we ate breakfast and checked out of our B&B in Llanberis, we drove to the town of Portmeirion about 40 minutes away. Portmeirion is a pseudo-Italian village that was built on the coast by a wealthy Welshman in the 20th Century. Upon entering, we discovered that it’s a Twilight Zone meets Epcot meets Pleasantville kind of place. The “must see” train ride took place on a motorized tram and the ultimate highlight was a bright red rhododendron plant; however, most people seemed to honestly be enjoying themselves(?!) and the weather was beautiful again so we took advantage of that by cat-napping in the grass of “The Forum.” We also had fun coming up with places that would be more strange than an Italian village in Wales, such as a Russian town in the heart of Africa or a traditional Japanese village in Mexico!

After Portmerion, we spent the next 3.5 hours in the car driving down to our next destination: Southern Wales (Pembrokeshire to be exact). The drive was scenic most of the way, but the speed limit kept switching from 30 to 50 and back again which made it feel very slow. We managed to find our YHA hostel pretty easily (without a map!) and spent some time exploring it and the surrounding area. The hostel is right next to a former military compound and the building actually used to be an Air Force Missile Launching Center. The architecture of the building definitely reflects this—a lot of YHA hostels are actually in refurbished structures which is cool.

The hostel is situated along the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, a walking trail that hugs the edge of the whole peninsula. The scenery is awesome—sheer cliffs dropping down to the ocean below. We’re planning to walk from our hostel to the town of Tenby tomorrow (about 7 miles)…if we’re not still too sore from hiking Snowdon!

Since Jen has to leave early in the morning tomorrow to take the train back to London, we decided to do a quick overview of the area. We walked down to the PCNP and took in the views, drove to the nearby Manorbier Castle to see that (though we couldn’t get inside since it was closed), and then drove to Tenby to have dinner and take in the sunset over the harbor.

—Katie

p.s. One year ago today (06.09.12), Kyle and I said “I do” in front of all our family and friends. It’s been a wild year in which we’ve traveled, experienced, and accomplished a lot: started and finished several internships and jobs; raised 1 puppy; and earned 2 Masters degrees between us! Even though we’re looking forward to Year 2 of marriage being a little more slow-paced, I don’t think we’d have changed a thing about this first year. I know I couldn’t ask for a better partner to go through life with…love you, Kyle! Happy Anniversary! {Day 5: Northern & Southern Wales)

Today was an interesting mix of things. Once we ate breakfast and checked out of our B&B in Llanberis, we drove to the town of Portmeirion about 40 minutes away. Portmeirion is a pseudo-Italian village that was built on the coast by a wealthy Welshman in the 20th Century. Upon entering, we discovered that it’s a Twilight Zone meets Epcot meets Pleasantville kind of place. The “must see” train ride took place on a motorized tram and the ultimate highlight was a bright red rhododendron plant; however, most people seemed to honestly be enjoying themselves(?!) and the weather was beautiful again so we took advantage of that by cat-napping in the grass of “The Forum.” We also had fun coming up with places that would be more strange than an Italian village in Wales, such as a Russian town in the heart of Africa or a traditional Japanese village in Mexico!

After Portmerion, we spent the next 3.5 hours in the car driving down to our next destination: Southern Wales (Pembrokeshire to be exact). The drive was scenic most of the way, but the speed limit kept switching from 30 to 50 and back again which made it feel very slow. We managed to find our YHA hostel pretty easily (without a map!) and spent some time exploring it and the surrounding area. The hostel is right next to a former military compound and the building actually used to be an Air Force Missile Launching Center. The architecture of the building definitely reflects this—a lot of YHA hostels are actually in refurbished structures which is cool.

The hostel is situated along the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, a walking trail that hugs the edge of the whole peninsula. The scenery is awesome—sheer cliffs dropping down to the ocean below. We’re planning to walk from our hostel to the town of Tenby tomorrow (about 7 miles)…if we’re not still too sore from hiking Snowdon!

Since Jen has to leave early in the morning tomorrow to take the train back to London, we decided to do a quick overview of the area. We walked down to the PCNP and took in the views, drove to the nearby Manorbier Castle to see that (though we couldn’t get inside since it was closed), and then drove to Tenby to have dinner and take in the sunset over the harbor.

—Katie

p.s. One year ago today (06.09.12), Kyle and I said “I do” in front of all our family and friends. It’s been a wild year in which we’ve traveled, experienced, and accomplished a lot: started and finished several internships and jobs; raised 1 puppy; and earned 2 Masters degrees between us! Even though we’re looking forward to Year 2 of marriage being a little more slow-paced, I don’t think we’d have changed a thing about this first year. I know I couldn’t ask for a better partner to go through life with…love you, Kyle! Happy Anniversary!

{Day 5: Northern & Southern Wales)

Today was an interesting mix of things. Once we ate breakfast and checked out of our B&B in Llanberis, we drove to the town of Portmeirion about 40 minutes away. Portmeirion is a pseudo-Italian village that was built on the coast by a wealthy Welshman in the 20th Century. Upon entering, we discovered that it’s a Twilight Zone meets Epcot meets Pleasantville kind of place. The “must see” train ride took place on a motorized tram and the ultimate highlight was a bright red rhododendron plant; however, most people seemed to honestly be enjoying themselves(?!) and the weather was beautiful again so we took advantage of that by cat-napping in the grass of “The Forum.” We also had fun coming up with places that would be more strange than an Italian village in Wales, such as a Russian town in the heart of Africa or a traditional Japanese village in Mexico!

After Portmerion, we spent the next 3.5 hours in the car driving down to our next destination: Southern Wales (Pembrokeshire to be exact). The drive was scenic most of the way, but the speed limit kept switching from 30 to 50 and back again which made it feel very slow. We managed to find our YHA hostel pretty easily (without a map!) and spent some time exploring it and the surrounding area. The hostel is right next to a former military compound and the building actually used to be an Air Force Missile Launching Center. The architecture of the building definitely reflects this—a lot of YHA hostels are actually in refurbished structures which is cool.

The hostel is situated along the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, a walking trail that hugs the edge of the whole peninsula. The scenery is awesome—sheer cliffs dropping down to the ocean below. We’re planning to walk from our hostel to the town of Tenby tomorrow (about 7 miles)…if we’re not still too sore from hiking Snowdon!

Since Jen has to leave early in the morning tomorrow to take the train back to London, we decided to do a quick overview of the area. We walked down to the PCNP and took in the views, drove to the nearby Manorbier Castle to see that (though we couldn’t get inside since it was closed), and then drove to Tenby to have dinner and take in the sunset over the harbor.

—Katie

p.s. One year ago today (06.09.12), Kyle and I said “I do” in front of all our family and friends. It’s been a wild year in which we’ve traveled, experienced, and accomplished a lot: started and finished several internships and jobs; raised 1 puppy; and earned 2 Masters degrees between us! Even though we’re looking forward to Year 2 of marriage being a little more slow-paced, I don’t think we’d have changed a thing about this first year. I know I couldn’t ask for a better partner to go through life with…love you, Kyle! Happy Anniversary!

{Day 4: Northern Wales}

Today can be summed up fairly easily: Kyle, my sister (Jen), and I hiked up to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, and back down the other side. It was beautiful…and steep…and covered with sheep…and it showed us just how out of shape we are at the moment! We eventually completed the trek, though we did have a few interesting things happen along the way:

1) We hiked a quarter of the way down the mountain on the wrong track and had to hike back up to the summit and go all the way down a different way (our feet and knees were unpleased)!

2) We found a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack (yeah…) at the bottom of the trail without an owner in sight. Luckily, he had a collar with a phone number on it so we got someone to call for us and reunited the pup with his family. Turns out he had been on a walk with  one of his owners, but he had gotten waaaaaaay too far ahead and then couldn’t find his way back. We were very glad everything ended happily :)

After a full day of hiking, we returned to the town of Llanberis starving and ready for dinner, only to find most of the restaurants already closed. After a bit (more!) walking, we managed to find an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant that was open late (“late” in Wales is apparently anytime after 4-6pm). We stuffed ourselves with garlic naan, rice, and various chicken dishes before heading back to our B&B for the night. We’re now watching ‘Pretty Woman’ and about to hit the hay.

Here’s to hoping we can all walk okay tomorrow!

—Katie {Day 4: Northern Wales}

Today can be summed up fairly easily: Kyle, my sister (Jen), and I hiked up to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, and back down the other side. It was beautiful…and steep…and covered with sheep…and it showed us just how out of shape we are at the moment! We eventually completed the trek, though we did have a few interesting things happen along the way:

1) We hiked a quarter of the way down the mountain on the wrong track and had to hike back up to the summit and go all the way down a different way (our feet and knees were unpleased)!

2) We found a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack (yeah…) at the bottom of the trail without an owner in sight. Luckily, he had a collar with a phone number on it so we got someone to call for us and reunited the pup with his family. Turns out he had been on a walk with  one of his owners, but he had gotten waaaaaaay too far ahead and then couldn’t find his way back. We were very glad everything ended happily :)

After a full day of hiking, we returned to the town of Llanberis starving and ready for dinner, only to find most of the restaurants already closed. After a bit (more!) walking, we managed to find an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant that was open late (“late” in Wales is apparently anytime after 4-6pm). We stuffed ourselves with garlic naan, rice, and various chicken dishes before heading back to our B&B for the night. We’re now watching ‘Pretty Woman’ and about to hit the hay.

Here’s to hoping we can all walk okay tomorrow!

—Katie {Day 4: Northern Wales}

Today can be summed up fairly easily: Kyle, my sister (Jen), and I hiked up to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, and back down the other side. It was beautiful…and steep…and covered with sheep…and it showed us just how out of shape we are at the moment! We eventually completed the trek, though we did have a few interesting things happen along the way:

1) We hiked a quarter of the way down the mountain on the wrong track and had to hike back up to the summit and go all the way down a different way (our feet and knees were unpleased)!

2) We found a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack (yeah…) at the bottom of the trail without an owner in sight. Luckily, he had a collar with a phone number on it so we got someone to call for us and reunited the pup with his family. Turns out he had been on a walk with  one of his owners, but he had gotten waaaaaaay too far ahead and then couldn’t find his way back. We were very glad everything ended happily :)

After a full day of hiking, we returned to the town of Llanberis starving and ready for dinner, only to find most of the restaurants already closed. After a bit (more!) walking, we managed to find an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant that was open late (“late” in Wales is apparently anytime after 4-6pm). We stuffed ourselves with garlic naan, rice, and various chicken dishes before heading back to our B&B for the night. We’re now watching ‘Pretty Woman’ and about to hit the hay.

Here’s to hoping we can all walk okay tomorrow!

—Katie {Day 4: Northern Wales}

Today can be summed up fairly easily: Kyle, my sister (Jen), and I hiked up to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, and back down the other side. It was beautiful…and steep…and covered with sheep…and it showed us just how out of shape we are at the moment! We eventually completed the trek, though we did have a few interesting things happen along the way:

1) We hiked a quarter of the way down the mountain on the wrong track and had to hike back up to the summit and go all the way down a different way (our feet and knees were unpleased)!

2) We found a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack (yeah…) at the bottom of the trail without an owner in sight. Luckily, he had a collar with a phone number on it so we got someone to call for us and reunited the pup with his family. Turns out he had been on a walk with  one of his owners, but he had gotten waaaaaaay too far ahead and then couldn’t find his way back. We were very glad everything ended happily :)

After a full day of hiking, we returned to the town of Llanberis starving and ready for dinner, only to find most of the restaurants already closed. After a bit (more!) walking, we managed to find an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant that was open late (“late” in Wales is apparently anytime after 4-6pm). We stuffed ourselves with garlic naan, rice, and various chicken dishes before heading back to our B&B for the night. We’re now watching ‘Pretty Woman’ and about to hit the hay.

Here’s to hoping we can all walk okay tomorrow!

—Katie {Day 4: Northern Wales}

Today can be summed up fairly easily: Kyle, my sister (Jen), and I hiked up to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, and back down the other side. It was beautiful…and steep…and covered with sheep…and it showed us just how out of shape we are at the moment! We eventually completed the trek, though we did have a few interesting things happen along the way:

1) We hiked a quarter of the way down the mountain on the wrong track and had to hike back up to the summit and go all the way down a different way (our feet and knees were unpleased)!

2) We found a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack (yeah…) at the bottom of the trail without an owner in sight. Luckily, he had a collar with a phone number on it so we got someone to call for us and reunited the pup with his family. Turns out he had been on a walk with  one of his owners, but he had gotten waaaaaaay too far ahead and then couldn’t find his way back. We were very glad everything ended happily :)

After a full day of hiking, we returned to the town of Llanberis starving and ready for dinner, only to find most of the restaurants already closed. After a bit (more!) walking, we managed to find an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant that was open late (“late” in Wales is apparently anytime after 4-6pm). We stuffed ourselves with garlic naan, rice, and various chicken dishes before heading back to our B&B for the night. We’re now watching ‘Pretty Woman’ and about to hit the hay.

Here’s to hoping we can all walk okay tomorrow!

—Katie

{Day 4: Northern Wales}

Today can be summed up fairly easily: Kyle, my sister (Jen), and I hiked up to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, and back down the other side. It was beautiful…and steep…and covered with sheep…and it showed us just how out of shape we are at the moment! We eventually completed the trek, though we did have a few interesting things happen along the way:

1) We hiked a quarter of the way down the mountain on the wrong track and had to hike back up to the summit and go all the way down a different way (our feet and knees were unpleased)!

2) We found a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack (yeah…) at the bottom of the trail without an owner in sight. Luckily, he had a collar with a phone number on it so we got someone to call for us and reunited the pup with his family. Turns out he had been on a walk with one of his owners, but he had gotten waaaaaaay too far ahead and then couldn’t find his way back. We were very glad everything ended happily :)

After a full day of hiking, we returned to the town of Llanberis starving and ready for dinner, only to find most of the restaurants already closed. After a bit (more!) walking, we managed to find an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant that was open late (“late” in Wales is apparently anytime after 4-6pm). We stuffed ourselves with garlic naan, rice, and various chicken dishes before heading back to our B&B for the night. We’re now watching ‘Pretty Woman’ and about to hit the hay.

Here’s to hoping we can all walk okay tomorrow!

—Katie

{Day 3: Northern Wales}

Jet lag is finally catching up with me so this post will be fairly short. Our second day in the north of Wales was sunny and warm (again) and we spent the first part of the day walking around Conwy and touring two historical structures: Conwy Castle and Plas Mawr. 

Conwy Castle was built on the orders of Edward I, the first English king of Wales, in the 12th Century. It was built in only 4 years which is amazing given its size. The view from the turrets was pretty amazing—wouldn’t have been the worst castle to weather a siege in ;)

Plas Mawr is the most well preserved Tudor house in Wales. It was built in the 1500s and most of the house and furnishings are original which is pretty amazing. The house is famous for its plaster work on the walls and ceilings.

Once we finished touring and had lunch, we left Conwy to drive through Snowdonia National Park on our way to some small villages (Bewts-y-Coed and Beddgelert) and the city of Caernarfon. The drive was beautiful but harrowing as the two-way roads were *very* narrow. Kyle did great though! We did get lost along the way though which caused us to miss Beddgelert and get to Caernarfon too late to tour the castle there. We were disappointed but decided just to get dinner and a pint in a local restaurant before checking into our next guesthouse in Llanberis, at the foot of Mount Snowdon. 

We ran into some more trouble here, unfortunately, because we had booked a Double Room with an additional cot for my sister…only to find out that “cot” means “crib” in the UK :/ Needless-to-say, the owners weren’t pleased but we did manage to get a extra bed…for more money, of course!

Though today had it’s ups and downs, there was beautiful weather and scenery to make up for it all. Tomorrow, we hike Mount Snowdon!

—Katie {Day 3: Northern Wales}

Jet lag is finally catching up with me so this post will be fairly short. Our second day in the north of Wales was sunny and warm (again) and we spent the first part of the day walking around Conwy and touring two historical structures: Conwy Castle and Plas Mawr. 

Conwy Castle was built on the orders of Edward I, the first English king of Wales, in the 12th Century. It was built in only 4 years which is amazing given its size. The view from the turrets was pretty amazing—wouldn’t have been the worst castle to weather a siege in ;)

Plas Mawr is the most well preserved Tudor house in Wales. It was built in the 1500s and most of the house and furnishings are original which is pretty amazing. The house is famous for its plaster work on the walls and ceilings.

Once we finished touring and had lunch, we left Conwy to drive through Snowdonia National Park on our way to some small villages (Bewts-y-Coed and Beddgelert) and the city of Caernarfon. The drive was beautiful but harrowing as the two-way roads were *very* narrow. Kyle did great though! We did get lost along the way though which caused us to miss Beddgelert and get to Caernarfon too late to tour the castle there. We were disappointed but decided just to get dinner and a pint in a local restaurant before checking into our next guesthouse in Llanberis, at the foot of Mount Snowdon. 

We ran into some more trouble here, unfortunately, because we had booked a Double Room with an additional cot for my sister…only to find out that “cot” means “crib” in the UK :/ Needless-to-say, the owners weren’t pleased but we did manage to get a extra bed…for more money, of course!

Though today had it’s ups and downs, there was beautiful weather and scenery to make up for it all. Tomorrow, we hike Mount Snowdon!

—Katie {Day 3: Northern Wales}

Jet lag is finally catching up with me so this post will be fairly short. Our second day in the north of Wales was sunny and warm (again) and we spent the first part of the day walking around Conwy and touring two historical structures: Conwy Castle and Plas Mawr. 

Conwy Castle was built on the orders of Edward I, the first English king of Wales, in the 12th Century. It was built in only 4 years which is amazing given its size. The view from the turrets was pretty amazing—wouldn’t have been the worst castle to weather a siege in ;)

Plas Mawr is the most well preserved Tudor house in Wales. It was built in the 1500s and most of the house and furnishings are original which is pretty amazing. The house is famous for its plaster work on the walls and ceilings.

Once we finished touring and had lunch, we left Conwy to drive through Snowdonia National Park on our way to some small villages (Bewts-y-Coed and Beddgelert) and the city of Caernarfon. The drive was beautiful but harrowing as the two-way roads were *very* narrow. Kyle did great though! We did get lost along the way though which caused us to miss Beddgelert and get to Caernarfon too late to tour the castle there. We were disappointed but decided just to get dinner and a pint in a local restaurant before checking into our next guesthouse in Llanberis, at the foot of Mount Snowdon. 

We ran into some more trouble here, unfortunately, because we had booked a Double Room with an additional cot for my sister…only to find out that “cot” means “crib” in the UK :/ Needless-to-say, the owners weren’t pleased but we did manage to get a extra bed…for more money, of course!

Though today had it’s ups and downs, there was beautiful weather and scenery to make up for it all. Tomorrow, we hike Mount Snowdon!

—Katie {Day 3: Northern Wales}

Jet lag is finally catching up with me so this post will be fairly short. Our second day in the north of Wales was sunny and warm (again) and we spent the first part of the day walking around Conwy and touring two historical structures: Conwy Castle and Plas Mawr. 

Conwy Castle was built on the orders of Edward I, the first English king of Wales, in the 12th Century. It was built in only 4 years which is amazing given its size. The view from the turrets was pretty amazing—wouldn’t have been the worst castle to weather a siege in ;)

Plas Mawr is the most well preserved Tudor house in Wales. It was built in the 1500s and most of the house and furnishings are original which is pretty amazing. The house is famous for its plaster work on the walls and ceilings.

Once we finished touring and had lunch, we left Conwy to drive through Snowdonia National Park on our way to some small villages (Bewts-y-Coed and Beddgelert) and the city of Caernarfon. The drive was beautiful but harrowing as the two-way roads were *very* narrow. Kyle did great though! We did get lost along the way though which caused us to miss Beddgelert and get to Caernarfon too late to tour the castle there. We were disappointed but decided just to get dinner and a pint in a local restaurant before checking into our next guesthouse in Llanberis, at the foot of Mount Snowdon. 

We ran into some more trouble here, unfortunately, because we had booked a Double Room with an additional cot for my sister…only to find out that “cot” means “crib” in the UK :/ Needless-to-say, the owners weren’t pleased but we did manage to get a extra bed…for more money, of course!

Though today had it’s ups and downs, there was beautiful weather and scenery to make up for it all. Tomorrow, we hike Mount Snowdon!

—Katie

{Day 3: Northern Wales}

Jet lag is finally catching up with me so this post will be fairly short. Our second day in the north of Wales was sunny and warm (again) and we spent the first part of the day walking around Conwy and touring two historical structures: Conwy Castle and Plas Mawr.

Conwy Castle was built on the orders of Edward I, the first English king of Wales, in the 12th Century. It was built in only 4 years which is amazing given its size. The view from the turrets was pretty amazing—wouldn’t have been the worst castle to weather a siege in ;)

Plas Mawr is the most well preserved Tudor house in Wales. It was built in the 1500s and most of the house and furnishings are original which is pretty amazing. The house is famous for its plaster work on the walls and ceilings.

Once we finished touring and had lunch, we left Conwy to drive through Snowdonia National Park on our way to some small villages (Bewts-y-Coed and Beddgelert) and the city of Caernarfon. The drive was beautiful but harrowing as the two-way roads were *very* narrow. Kyle did great though! We did get lost along the way though which caused us to miss Beddgelert and get to Caernarfon too late to tour the castle there. We were disappointed but decided just to get dinner and a pint in a local restaurant before checking into our next guesthouse in Llanberis, at the foot of Mount Snowdon.

We ran into some more trouble here, unfortunately, because we had booked a Double Room with an additional cot for my sister…only to find out that “cot” means “crib” in the UK :/ Needless-to-say, the owners weren’t pleased but we did manage to get a extra bed…for more money, of course!

Though today had it’s ups and downs, there was beautiful weather and scenery to make up for it all. Tomorrow, we hike Mount Snowdon!

—Katie

{Day 2: Northern Wales}

Our second day started bright and early because we had to catch the 8am ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. The ride went smoothly and, once we docked in Holyhead, we picked up our rental car—a manual Ford Focus hatchback—and (slowly) took off.

Our first stop was Bodnant Gardens, which is a beautiful property located about 10 miles past the city of Conwy. The weather was amazing again today so the gardens were full of people enjoying nature and just relaxing in the grass.

After Bodnant Gardens, we drove to Conwy and checked into our B&B (named Llys Llewelyn) which is situation right by the castle walls the surround the town (small city?). The view from our room is outstanding. That’s Conwy Castle in the distance.

Speaking of views—we were even more amazed once we followed the advice of our guide book (Rick Steve’s Great Britain) and hiked up one of Conwy’s surrounding hills. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but was so forth it. We encountered a flock of sheep too which was a great surprise.

We worked up an appetite hiking so we stopped by a recommended Fish & Chips place and ordered some to go. We took our food down to the harbor and hung out with the locals (and cat-sized seagulls) while we ate every last piece of fresh fried fish and potatoes!

Following dinner, we climbed up to the top of Conwy’s city wall and walked along the west side, taking in the sunset.

All in all, Day 2 couldn’t have gotten much better. Day 3, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

-Katie {Day 2: Northern Wales}

Our second day started bright and early because we had to catch the 8am ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. The ride went smoothly and, once we docked in Holyhead, we picked up our rental car—a manual Ford Focus hatchback—and (slowly) took off.

Our first stop was Bodnant Gardens, which is a beautiful property located about 10 miles past the city of Conwy. The weather was amazing again today so the gardens were full of people enjoying nature and just relaxing in the grass.

After Bodnant Gardens, we drove to Conwy and checked into our B&B (named Llys Llewelyn) which is situation right by the castle walls the surround the town (small city?). The view from our room is outstanding. That’s Conwy Castle in the distance.

Speaking of views—we were even more amazed once we followed the advice of our guide book (Rick Steve’s Great Britain) and hiked up one of Conwy’s surrounding hills. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but was so forth it. We encountered a flock of sheep too which was a great surprise.

We worked up an appetite hiking so we stopped by a recommended Fish & Chips place and ordered some to go. We took our food down to the harbor and hung out with the locals (and cat-sized seagulls) while we ate every last piece of fresh fried fish and potatoes!

Following dinner, we climbed up to the top of Conwy’s city wall and walked along the west side, taking in the sunset.

All in all, Day 2 couldn’t have gotten much better. Day 3, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

-Katie {Day 2: Northern Wales}

Our second day started bright and early because we had to catch the 8am ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. The ride went smoothly and, once we docked in Holyhead, we picked up our rental car—a manual Ford Focus hatchback—and (slowly) took off.

Our first stop was Bodnant Gardens, which is a beautiful property located about 10 miles past the city of Conwy. The weather was amazing again today so the gardens were full of people enjoying nature and just relaxing in the grass.

After Bodnant Gardens, we drove to Conwy and checked into our B&B (named Llys Llewelyn) which is situation right by the castle walls the surround the town (small city?). The view from our room is outstanding. That’s Conwy Castle in the distance.

Speaking of views—we were even more amazed once we followed the advice of our guide book (Rick Steve’s Great Britain) and hiked up one of Conwy’s surrounding hills. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but was so forth it. We encountered a flock of sheep too which was a great surprise.

We worked up an appetite hiking so we stopped by a recommended Fish & Chips place and ordered some to go. We took our food down to the harbor and hung out with the locals (and cat-sized seagulls) while we ate every last piece of fresh fried fish and potatoes!

Following dinner, we climbed up to the top of Conwy’s city wall and walked along the west side, taking in the sunset.

All in all, Day 2 couldn’t have gotten much better. Day 3, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

-Katie {Day 2: Northern Wales}

Our second day started bright and early because we had to catch the 8am ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. The ride went smoothly and, once we docked in Holyhead, we picked up our rental car—a manual Ford Focus hatchback—and (slowly) took off.

Our first stop was Bodnant Gardens, which is a beautiful property located about 10 miles past the city of Conwy. The weather was amazing again today so the gardens were full of people enjoying nature and just relaxing in the grass.

After Bodnant Gardens, we drove to Conwy and checked into our B&B (named Llys Llewelyn) which is situation right by the castle walls the surround the town (small city?). The view from our room is outstanding. That’s Conwy Castle in the distance.

Speaking of views—we were even more amazed once we followed the advice of our guide book (Rick Steve’s Great Britain) and hiked up one of Conwy’s surrounding hills. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but was so forth it. We encountered a flock of sheep too which was a great surprise.

We worked up an appetite hiking so we stopped by a recommended Fish & Chips place and ordered some to go. We took our food down to the harbor and hung out with the locals (and cat-sized seagulls) while we ate every last piece of fresh fried fish and potatoes!

Following dinner, we climbed up to the top of Conwy’s city wall and walked along the west side, taking in the sunset.

All in all, Day 2 couldn’t have gotten much better. Day 3, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

-Katie {Day 2: Northern Wales}

Our second day started bright and early because we had to catch the 8am ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. The ride went smoothly and, once we docked in Holyhead, we picked up our rental car—a manual Ford Focus hatchback—and (slowly) took off.

Our first stop was Bodnant Gardens, which is a beautiful property located about 10 miles past the city of Conwy. The weather was amazing again today so the gardens were full of people enjoying nature and just relaxing in the grass.

After Bodnant Gardens, we drove to Conwy and checked into our B&B (named Llys Llewelyn) which is situation right by the castle walls the surround the town (small city?). The view from our room is outstanding. That’s Conwy Castle in the distance.

Speaking of views—we were even more amazed once we followed the advice of our guide book (Rick Steve’s Great Britain) and hiked up one of Conwy’s surrounding hills. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but was so forth it. We encountered a flock of sheep too which was a great surprise.

We worked up an appetite hiking so we stopped by a recommended Fish & Chips place and ordered some to go. We took our food down to the harbor and hung out with the locals (and cat-sized seagulls) while we ate every last piece of fresh fried fish and potatoes!

Following dinner, we climbed up to the top of Conwy’s city wall and walked along the west side, taking in the sunset.

All in all, Day 2 couldn’t have gotten much better. Day 3, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

-Katie {Day 2: Northern Wales}

Our second day started bright and early because we had to catch the 8am ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. The ride went smoothly and, once we docked in Holyhead, we picked up our rental car—a manual Ford Focus hatchback—and (slowly) took off.

Our first stop was Bodnant Gardens, which is a beautiful property located about 10 miles past the city of Conwy. The weather was amazing again today so the gardens were full of people enjoying nature and just relaxing in the grass.

After Bodnant Gardens, we drove to Conwy and checked into our B&B (named Llys Llewelyn) which is situation right by the castle walls the surround the town (small city?). The view from our room is outstanding. That’s Conwy Castle in the distance.

Speaking of views—we were even more amazed once we followed the advice of our guide book (Rick Steve’s Great Britain) and hiked up one of Conwy’s surrounding hills. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but was so forth it. We encountered a flock of sheep too which was a great surprise.

We worked up an appetite hiking so we stopped by a recommended Fish & Chips place and ordered some to go. We took our food down to the harbor and hung out with the locals (and cat-sized seagulls) while we ate every last piece of fresh fried fish and potatoes!

Following dinner, we climbed up to the top of Conwy’s city wall and walked along the west side, taking in the sunset.

All in all, Day 2 couldn’t have gotten much better. Day 3, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

-Katie {Day 2: Northern Wales}

Our second day started bright and early because we had to catch the 8am ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. The ride went smoothly and, once we docked in Holyhead, we picked up our rental car—a manual Ford Focus hatchback—and (slowly) took off.

Our first stop was Bodnant Gardens, which is a beautiful property located about 10 miles past the city of Conwy. The weather was amazing again today so the gardens were full of people enjoying nature and just relaxing in the grass.

After Bodnant Gardens, we drove to Conwy and checked into our B&B (named Llys Llewelyn) which is situation right by the castle walls the surround the town (small city?). The view from our room is outstanding. That’s Conwy Castle in the distance.

Speaking of views—we were even more amazed once we followed the advice of our guide book (Rick Steve’s Great Britain) and hiked up one of Conwy’s surrounding hills. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but was so forth it. We encountered a flock of sheep too which was a great surprise.

We worked up an appetite hiking so we stopped by a recommended Fish & Chips place and ordered some to go. We took our food down to the harbor and hung out with the locals (and cat-sized seagulls) while we ate every last piece of fresh fried fish and potatoes!

Following dinner, we climbed up to the top of Conwy’s city wall and walked along the west side, taking in the sunset.

All in all, Day 2 couldn’t have gotten much better. Day 3, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

-Katie

{Day 2: Northern Wales}

Our second day started bright and early because we had to catch the 8am ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. The ride went smoothly and, once we docked in Holyhead, we picked up our rental car—a manual Ford Focus hatchback—and (slowly) took off.

Our first stop was Bodnant Gardens, which is a beautiful property located about 10 miles past the city of Conwy. The weather was amazing again today so the gardens were full of people enjoying nature and just relaxing in the grass.

After Bodnant Gardens, we drove to Conwy and checked into our B&B (named Llys Llewelyn) which is situation right by the castle walls the surround the town (small city?). The view from our room is outstanding. That’s Conwy Castle in the distance.

Speaking of views—we were even more amazed once we followed the advice of our guide book (Rick Steve’s Great Britain) and hiked up one of Conwy’s surrounding hills. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but was so forth it. We encountered a flock of sheep too which was a great surprise.

We worked up an appetite hiking so we stopped by a recommended Fish & Chips place and ordered some to go. We took our food down to the harbor and hung out with the locals (and cat-sized seagulls) while we ate every last piece of fresh fried fish and potatoes!

Following dinner, we climbed up to the top of Conwy’s city wall and walked along the west side, taking in the sunset.

All in all, Day 2 couldn’t have gotten much better. Day 3, you’ve got a lot to live up to!

-Katie