For most, studying abroad is an excuse to cram as much traveling as you can into a semester. However, one of the reasons I wanted to go abroad for a full year was because I knew that half of me just wanted to constantly travel anywhere I could, and the other half wanted to develop a closeness to the city I would choose to study in. I didn’t want my school and new home to be just a base for all of my other travels, I wanted to become fully immersed in the culture and be, as much as I could, a “local.” Because of this, I ended up spending the majority of my first semester exploring Scotland, with the exception of two other trips as well. Since the semester is winding down (this is my last week before winter break and I feel like a total failure for not blogging as much as I wanted to) I thought I would take a wee bit of time to reflect on some of the trips I took over the semester. Because I was one of several unlucky students that have class every single day this past semester, outside travel typically meant I would have to miss Friday and Monday courses, if I wanted to get the most for my money. Ah darn, missing class for traveling. Bummer.
The first trip I took outside of Scotland this semester was to London. That seems like a very typical place to go, and I’ll admit– it is! And I enjoyed every minute of it. I went with one of my great friends here, Lizz, who left to go back to America on Saturday and I am still bitter about it. Anyway, Lizz and I went from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, a whirlwind, exhausting, awesome trip. On Friday, when we got to London and to the part of town we were staying in (we stayed with my family friends in Camden) we made our first stop for dinner…yes you guessed right, Chipotle. We had been missing and craving Chipotle for as long as we could remember and as touristy as it may have been, it needed to happen. After savoring our sweet, precious guacamole and burrito bowls, we made our way to the house. Their house is off of Regent’s Park, across from the London Zoo. Very central and beautiful, perfect for our short trip. Lizz and I both consider ourself to have old souls. And I don’t mean that in a cute, endearing way. I mean we actually feel like the elderly and like to be in bed early. But Friday night we were encouraged to at least go out to get the feel of the city before heading to sleep. So we hopped on the tube by the house and went to Leicester Square. There we walked all around the shops and street performers, ending up strolling through Chinatown and getting to Piccadilly Circus. From there we walked down different side streets to see various christmas lights and fun storefronts, and gave our feet a break in a Starbucks. After this we went back to the house and fell right to sleep, knowing we didn’t want to waste the next day. Saturday we woke up and took the tube to the other side of the River Thames. There, we walked through the Borough Market on our way back to the other side of the river to see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The Tower of London was having the last weekend of their beautiful poppies display in full effect. The poppies were an art installation by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper running from August-November. Titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, it consisted of 888,246 red ceramic poppies marking 100 years from the start of World War I, filling the moat surrounding the landmark. It was truly a beautiful work that I was so excited I actually got to see. Not far from there was the famous Tower Bridge that is…uh…really cool and seen in post cards and stuff.
Tower of London poppies display in honor of WWI.
Tower Bridge, lookin’ mighty.
After that we took a water taxi to the London Eye– super overpriced, but something I’ve admittedly always wanted to do. Our “eyeball” (that’s not what they are called that’s just me) was packed which sometimes made it hard for photo-ops, and it was quite gloomy during the afternoon, but it was still such a cool sight. After the eye we walked across the river once again, stopping to take pictures of/with Big Ben. After walking along the Parliament building we paused at Westminster Abbey and admired the stunning architecture. After which we walked to Buckingham Palace, pretended to be royal, then got caught in a complete downpour on our way to Harrods and dinner. For dinner we ate at this random, yet super amazing, restaurant called Rocca in Chelsea. All I can say is my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. After Rocca we were so exhausted from walking all day we took the tube back to Camden and just hung out at the house, falling asleep shortly after our arrival home.
View from the top of the London Eye.
Buckingham Palace through the gate. Honey, we’re home!
Because we were leaving Monday morning, this meant we had all day Sunday to explore, which was a really great feeling. We spent most of the morning getting lost throughout Camden Market. It was really bustling and I felt I could get lost for days and still find new things to look at. After the market we took a beautiful walk through Regent’s Park to the other side of the city, where we had been the day before. We decided to do some shopping off of Piccadilly Circus at stores we missed from home that they didn’t have in Glasgow. I cried floating through Anthropologie and Lizz felt at-home in J.Crew. It was really just a super relaxing day that resulted in stopping at Laduree for amazing macarons, some asian-fusion restaurant for dinner, and the Haagen-Dazs cafe for ridiculously amazing dessert. After pushing ourselves into this food coma we returned home and slept like the big babies, well elderly people, we are inside.
An overhead view of one of the many food sections of the Camden Market.
Stroll through Regent’s Park.
Monday morning came and we had a super early flight home so we could make it to our afternoon classes…I didn’t go.
Friday once again rolls around and it’s time for me to go on my next adventure. This time, I’m off to Dublin. The University of California (UC) schools set up a program for their abroad students in Ireland and the UK to meet in Dublin for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration all together. Now, I’m not a UC student, so I wasn’t able to get the dinner, but my friend Tailour (who goes to Dartmouth) and I decided to tag along to Dublin with our friends who do go to UC schools. Why not?
Friday evening I arrived and met Tailour at our hostel. We stayed in a ten person all-girls room. The hostel was clean enough and comfortable enough, not that we spent much time there anyway. Tailour and I grabbed dinner and then head to the hostel the UC school was putting students in, then after meeting some of our friends we all went exploring. Dublin has amazing nightlife full of super fun pubs and live music and friendly people. To me, it felt like a more condensed Glasgow. It really was beautiful, even at night, and especially in the rain. Saturday morning we woke up and met my great friend from home Erin at the farmers market and went out for brunch. Seeing Erin was so amazing since I don’t think we’d seen each other since high school graduation. She was abroad this semester in Galway, Ireland studying through her UC school and was in Dublin for the Thanksgiving dinner. After we left Erin, we met back up with our other friends and did a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. It was really cool looking and had fun activities, plus the Gravity Bar at the top had amazing views, but I discovered I really am not a fan of Guinness, it’s too…smokey? I guess? Regardless, it was cool to do and something I would suggest to anyone going to Dublin. After the tour, Tailour and I took a self-guided walking tour of the Cathedrals around Dublin, ending, of course, with St. Patrick’s. We unfortunately couldn’t go inside because one of the colleges in the city was holding a graduation ceremony at the time. After a nice break for our feet, we made our way back for an early dinner of pad-thai. We then decided to go back to the hostel and recharge our phones (and ourselves) before meeting our friends to go out once they returned from their Thanksgiving dinner. We didn’t leave the room the rest of the night.
Reunited with the lovely Erin Chan, South Pasadena hero.
Entering Guinness Storehouse.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
We decided to sleep early on Saturday night so we could wake up early and take a day trip to see the famous Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs were absolutely breathtaking. Every angle you looked from, something beautiful could be seen. The cliffs are on the other side of Ireland, closer to Galway, so it was a long journey, but well worth it. When we returned home from the cliffs, we found this very random “American” restaurant that was open late and had a large menu. We sat there for a long time giving our tired bodies a rest. Dublin was way more than I expected and I am so happy I chose, last minute, to make the trip.
Cliffs of Moher!
So surprised and excited that the sun came out for us.
Me and Tailour at the Cliffs :).
Other than these two amazing trips, I’ve gotten to adventure around Scotland as well, although it feels like there is always more to see here! One of my first trips was to Edinburgh, which I already talked a little bit about before. That was my second time going to Edinburgh in my life and it looked and felt exactly the same. After being here for several months I feel I can confidently compare the two and say I like Glasgow more. I really enjoy Edinburgh for a day, possibly a weekend at most, but after that I feel a bit bored. Glasgow always excites me, and it has a much younger vibe to it. There are also so many universities here that it is such a student-friendly and livable (*cough* cheaper *cough*) city, while Edinburgh is a bit more posh.
Cheesy picture at the birthplace of Harry Potter.
Unlike me, Lizz prefers Edinburgh to Glasgow.
My next trip was to Loch Lomond, Oban, and Isle of Seil. There are over 30,000 loch’s in Scotland…did you know that? I didn’t. But I think that’s incredible. A very famous, and conveniently located loch, is Loch Lomond. Lomond is large, but we stopped in the village of Luss for some early morning views of the water and mountains behind with fog. After Luss we continued on to Oban. Here we got lunch and explored the city, which is known as the seafood capital of Scotland and, apparently, gateway to the Isles. It was a really beautiful, sunny day. After walking around Oban, getting great views of the waterfront, and of course stopping at their chocolate factory, we moved on to Isle of Seil. The cool thing about Isle of Seil, other than the fact that it’s in Scotland so it’s automatically great, is that it touches the Atlantic Ocean. It was basically like waving hello to my family and friends on the East coast of the US while there (except, you know, not really).
Loch Lomond early in the morning.
View from McCaig’s Tower at the top of Oban.
Me and Lizz on the Atlantic Bridge entering Isle of Seil.
Isle of Seil looking at the Atlantic Ocean.
The next Scotland trip was to Glen Coe and the Glenfinnan Viaduct (Harry Potter Bridge). I loved this trip because I got to see some of the most beautiful scenery ever. Glen Coe was cold and breathtaking, and the piper standing in front of the rolling hills sure did a great job setting the scene for us all. After Glen Coe, we spent a while at the viaduct just hiking around and going to the water. By the viaduct was Loch Shiel, which is used as the Black Lake near Hogwarts in Harry Potter. It also is the loch with the tall monument in front of it seen in Maid of Honor when McDreamy is riding a horse around the island to stop the wedding ceremony of his best friend. This was definitely one of my favorite trips around Scotland, seeing things I never thought I would get to.
First stop, Glen Coe, to make my new best friend (this piper).
And hangout with friends I already had (Emily and Lizz).
Harry Potter bridge!
Turn around and there’s Loch Shiel.
The next trip I went on was outside of Scotland in Northern England. It was to Alnwick Castle and Bamburgh. Alnwick castle is actually where a lot of Harry Potter is filmed and where inspiration was drawn from. Walking around, even taking the tour, it was evident that Hogwarts drew so much of its character from this castle and the grounds where they filmed. Bamburgh was a cool little detour, an old castle along the sea. It was really beautiful with nice pathways to the beach and views all around.
Alnwick Castle aka Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
They filmed here!
Because it’s one of the last weeks, I don’t have much else to do other than study, so hopefully I will get to post once or twice more before I leave for Rome on Friday to finally be reunited with my family! I am so excited about seeing them, and being in Rome, I’m not sure I’ll remember to study.
Random burst of photos, commence:
England being beautiful.
Me and Tailour being freezing cold together– it was crazy windy.
Up in the eyeball.
Our amazing Laduree macarons.
Cliche, I know.
This smile is fake because I really hated that Guinness.
Shh…I sneakily took this photo while Lizz distracted them with questions.
Awkward with Ben.
Me, Lizz, and Emily at Loch Shiel.
Same loch, semi different crew…Jacob, me, Emily.
Atlantic Ocean beauty.
Mattie, me, Harper, Sydney, and Emily on the Atlantic Bridge.
Me and Lizz representing Scotland :).
And most importantly…
A HEDGEHOG WE FOUND ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. In love.
I’m truly sorry for how long this post is, I hope the amount of photos makes up for it.