Reasons I’ve had the most incredible year off 

As most of you know I graduated from university last year and even though I didn’t technically convocate until November, my year off officially began for me when classes finished June 30. I have had the most amazing 14 months of my life, and want to share my story and my experiences with you here!

IMG_3013

(where do I begin??)IMG_4561

(my belongings for the year)

From living in extreme poverty in Peru, to living it up in the metropolis cities of Europe I have not only done and seen things I never thought I would, but I have met some amazing people from all walks of life across the world. Taking a year off from my life (to an extent) has taught me so much about myself and I honestly cannot think of a better way to go soul searching than through travel.

As someone who has travelled lots with both family and with friends I felt fairly confident to take off on a few solo journeys this year, but I have never felt more afraid than that first few hours that I was facing totally alone. But the more I left, the easier it was to say goodbye to my friends and family- and I think even my mom would agree. But traveling solo has proven to be one of the most valuable and incredible life experiences I have ever had. I have never felt so independent, so confident, and so brave, as I have when I am walking around by myself in cities I’ve never been to, talking to people I’ve never met.

My year off started with an amazing week in Disneyland with the dancers! Not only is Disney my favorite place on earth, but getting to share this magic with my students was such a special occasion for me, what a great start to my year!

IMG_2935

(So excited to watch our kids in the parade)

My next big trip to Peru was a pretty valuable lesson for me as far as what my limits are, and even though I came home earlier than anticipated and will never recommend projects-abroad as a company to anyone, I would still love to go back there perhaps slightly more emotionally prepared and probably not as a young solo blonde girl wandering around by myself. But again- life lesson that I needed to learn the hard way!

IMG_3068

(Flying over Cusco)

IMG_3042

(Attempting some hang gliding)

IMG_3034

(Lima city center)

I think one of the funniest parts of my Peru trip (in hindsight) were how many horrible things happened to me trying to come home, it’s like the universe was trying to punish me for not sticking it out. My day started with food poisoning from my pizza dinner the night before, so I puked my guts out the whole way to El Salvador from Lima. Once in El Salvador they wouldn’t let me in the country through customs to collect my bag, so I spent a few minutes crying in the corner trying to figure out how to get my boarding pass and change terminals to get to my next gate- but luckily this random guy took me through a back door to get to the other side and get on my plane. Then once I arrived in Houston I almost missed my plane because I had my watch set to the wrong time zone, so after eating the first food in 18 hours and sprinting to the other side of the airport I threw up in a garbage can before boarding the plane. Then I finally arrived back in Calgary- and the power went out seconds before I collected my bag. 45 minutes later I finally was allowed out and officially made it home!

Coming home and working for a few weeks with no prospect of traveling again in the near future was incredibly hard for me. I struggled with some real emotional turmoil and was really regretting coming home so early, but after booking a family vacation to Hawaii and my Australia trip for February I was starting to feel a lot better about life again.

IMG_3453

(So many Blue Lagoons)

IMG_3395

(Luau)

IMG_3384

(Waikiki Beach)

Two weeks on the beaches of Hawaii definitely calmed some of my inner demons, and the 5 weeks I was home before Australia seemed to fly by!

This second solo journey was so much easier than the first one. I felt confident and prepared, and even my parents were feeling a bit more trusting so not a tear to be shed and I was off again! Even from the opposite side of the globe I felt like this country was perfect for me. I spent an amazing three weeks doing things I hadn’t even dreamed of before. Cuddling koalas, living on the beach, sky diving on multiple occasions, partying in Cairns, snorkelling the great barrier reef, living on a sailboat through the Whitsundays, 4×4 through Fraser Island. Not to mention the amazing friends I made while I was down there- some who I have even had the chance to see again this year while traveling Europe!

IMG_3709

(Stingray photo bombs)

IMG_3796

DSCN0559

(Sydney Opera House)

DSCN0562

(Sydney Harbour Bridge)

IMG_3892

DSCN0721

IMG_3916

(Sexy jellyfish suit)

DCIM342GOPRO

Round one skydiving

DCIM342GOPRO

So much adrenaline!

DSCN0725

DSCN0762

IMG_3969

(Fraser Island)

IMG_3993

IMG_4055Australia was one of the best trips of my life and I have honestly never felt so sad to leave a country to come home before until this trip.

When I returned home dance was crazy- so I went to Vancouver 4 days after returning home from Aus, and then immediately regretted that life choice since I got super sick for the next 4 weeks from being so overtired (I also somehow worked the same night that I flew home… Because why not?)

I once again settled into a life of sadness and regret and needed another trip to satisfy me from what seemed at the time to be a very small amount of traveling for my “year off”. So I figured I would take the summer to go hard and do it all.

This summer has been absolutely crazy! I have literally been through Calgary on three different occasions for a total of 12 nights over 10 weeks. But what a summer!

I started with three weeks in Europe, again solo, and what a blast it was again. Freezing my arse off in Ireland and Scotland, reconnecting with friends from Australia, exploring some of my favorite buildings in London, seeing evidence of the nazi regime through Germany, the Charles bridge in Prague, the pristine white buildings of Vienna, and finally the beautiful city of Budapest. I somehow managed to cram in so much sightseeing, partying, traveling, and making amazing friends into another amazing 3 weeks. We stayed out all night, shared stories, experienced life to the fullest.

IMG_4600

IMG_4690

(Dublin reunited!)

IMG_4657

(Cliffs of Moher)

IMG_4703

IMG_4895

(Freezing in Loch Ness)

IMG_4909

IMG_4932

(Taking in all the Harry Potter sites)

IMG_5059

IMG_5099

(London Tower Bridge)

IMG_5121

Meeting up with more of my friends I met in Australia!
IMG_5140

(Linderhoff castle Bavaria)

IMG_5185

IMG_5280

(The New Squad, rooftop in Prague)

IMG_5314

IMG_5393

IMG_5390

IMG_5733

IMG_5427

(endless parties)IMG_5494IMG_5732

IMG_5758

(Classical music night in Vienna)

IMG_5805

IMG_5481(clock tower Prague)

IMG_5480

I was once again so lucky to have an amazing trip- with not a problem in sight even with all of my flights luckily!

I once again returned home (mostly for laundry facilities and my besties birthday) and I couldn’t understand how everything at home continues to remain the same while I have been off having life changing experiences. This has been the hardest part about coming home, is realizing that I have had some of the most incredible experiences and everyone’s life are still the same. I would almost feel guilty about sharing my amazing stories (I quickly got over this and realize this is the best part about traveling is the storytelling!)

Off again this time to Toronto for a week long work course with the Foley’s (Canada’s number one dance family) and more inspiration in my life, a very great addition to my life changing year.

IMG_5921 IMG_5926 IMG_5928 IMG_5931

I was back home for another 4 days then off back to Europe with my best friend Shaina on my arm. 27 days of non stop laughs and fun! We’ve climbed mountains, seen famous djs (Steve Angello, Ruby Rose, Zedd, and Avicii to start with), danced on bars, partied on boats, lived it up in Ibiza, explored the ancient cities of Rome and Athens, went back to Barcelona together again after 6 years, explored the Greek islands, rode donkeys in santorini, we have been to some of the most incredibly beautiful beaches, done dance/gymnastic photo shoots everywhere, visited nude beaches and skinny dipped with old naked people, and have met some hilarious people from all parts of the world.

IMG_5936

IMG_6017

(Lagos)

IMG_6040

(Bar stars)

IMG_6120

IMG_6124

IMG_6278

(Castle Sao Jorge in Lisbon)

IMG_6292

(Sagrada Familia)

IMG_6316

(Flash tat’s everyday)

IMG_6486

(Ruby Rose, Zedd, and Avicii and Ushuaia club Ibiza)

IMG_6574

IMG_6518

IMG_6630

IMG_6708

IMG_6999

(Roamin Romans)

IMG_7174

(Parthenon Athens)

IMG_7165

IMG_7261

IMG_7340

(Delphi)

IMG_7385

(Red Beach Santorini)

IMG_7443

(Donkey ride Santorini)

IMG_7480

IMG_7899

IMG_7491

(Nisida New Kameni Volcano Santorini)

IMG_7552

(Partying in Hersonissos Crete)

IMG_7885

(Chrissi Island Crete)

IMG_7888

IMG_7912

(cute and homeless)

IMG_7960

(Nudiest beach Rhodes, Greece)

DCIM100GOPRO

Enjoying the ocean everyday

IMG_7961

IMG_7947

(Forever young)

Once again no problems for us luckily! The worst part of our travels included not reserving a seat on the train so sleeping on the train floor for two hours, and being put on standby (since we stood in line for check in for 2 hours) to ibiza so we had to sprint to our gate and luckily made it on the flight with seconds to spare! The day home was a bit rough too, 24 hours, 5 flights, no bags, and missed connection on the final leg to Calgary- but all small things in the big picture!

This week I will be home for two whole days and then I am wrapping up my year off with a week in Mexico with two of my fabulous dance teacher friends- for an international FHB extravaganza! What a way to end this year!

This year has taught me so much not only about myself, but about the world in general and here are my top lessons.

-it’s okay to be afraid. But find a way to overcome your fears and don’t let them hold you back from anything.

– trust your gut, it’s almost always right.

– don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. I have met some amazing people around the world and all it takes is one word “hello” for us to open up

– life is short, where would you rather be? When you are 90 years old looking back on your life, do you want to say you spent the prime years of your life working in a job you hated- or experiencing life the the fullest?

– never say no to an opportunity that you might never have again, live your life without regrets

-don’t take anything for granted appreciate every second you are alive and breathing

-find stillness. Some of my most exhilarating moments have been while I’m floating in the ocean, or meditating on top of a mountain. Take those still silent moments to be appreciative for what life has given you

– if you are young, physically fit, and able to travel the world. GO DO IT. There is NO excuse that is a good enough reason for you to say no to an experience that will make you a better person. You will become more confident, more tolerant, more understanding, and way happier for doing it. You can find work anywhere in the world, your friends and family will support you, you don’t need to be rich because you can work abroad to be able to afford it. Your fears are holding you back from something incredible. Just go, and stop saying you’re so jealous of my life. I do this because I make this a priority and I work my ass off to be here. Sometimes have to eat bread for dinner when I run out of money, but I make it work because this is the most important thing I can do for myself.

– believe in yourself. Life is too short to have doubts, and you are the one on control of how you live your life.

12 months, 16 countries, 41 flights, countless trains, buses, and boats, endless parties, amazing memories, lifelong friends, and enough laughter to light up the world. An amazing year, but definitely not the end of my journey.

Contiki Berlin

On Saturday I got to meet up with my second contiki group of the year! I’m rooming with two gals this time, Mel from Melbourne and Jemma from London (how is it that both people I now know from London are called Jemma/ Gemma?) Saturday night was still a little awkward with everyone getting to know each other and such so after group dinner we just had a pretty casual time out at the Hoffbrauhaus with some drinks. 

  
Sunday was a big day though! We started with an extra walking tour that took us all over Berlin so we definitely got to see a lot and hear a lot of historical stories. The city itself has been through so much in the last few centuries so it has constantly been in a state of reconstruction and repair, which makes for a really modern city with a super cool energy to it! 

   
         
After our walking tour we grabbed a bite of lunch quickly before getting on the coach to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Since we were running late after the walking tour we didn’t actually spend much time here. But in the 45 minutes we did spend there it was incredibly heavy and depressing. I could go into so much detail about the tragedies that occurred at places like this all over the continent but it’s almost too hard to even repeat. All I will say is that I think the way the Germans have dealt with their history is very honorable. This is now a generation of people who have personally played no role in what has happened in their countries history, and yet still carry around this immense burden of shame and guilt. The fact that they are so open to sharing their past and are very open and accepting of their history rather than trying to conceal and hide it is very noble in my opinion, and I truly respect the Germans for that. 

After a very depressing hour the coach back to the city was a pretty quiet one. But after a quick shower at the hotel we were all feeling a little more refreshed and ready to go out! 

We joined up with our same tour guide from the morning and did another walking tour through more of East Berlin where a lot of the local street art can be seen. It was pretty cool to see this alternative side of Berlin! We stopped for dinner and had an awesome pork schnitzel, then walked across the street to the “pirates bay” bar aka a beach – literally with sand- restaurant bar in the middle of the city. We accidentally ended up with two drinks each (clearly the table of blondes were making friends fast) so we were feeling ready to go! 

We went down to the local club “matrix” which was super empty even for 11 pm which was surprising. But we got the whole dance floor to ourselves! After doing a bathroom break and a lap around the room though it literally went from empty to jam packed which is crazy! We needed up having so much fun as a group dancing it up, and I’m not even sure if last call happened but then all of a sudden it was 5 am when we got back to the hotel. 

Needless to say we slept through breakfast the next day and Monday was a free day luckily so it was pretty chill. We just walked around, hung out in a park and enjoyed some sun for a while, and then tried to make our way back to the hotel (huge fail). We were in the wrong pick up location for the coach bus to take us back, so we tried taking the team slash underground and couldn’t figure out lives out. So then we thought we would catch the express bus which goes right past our hotel- and then couldn’t find the pick up stop. So we went across the street where there were 5 taxis all lined up, and then they all were gone by the time we crossed the street. Finally another cab came along and we were able to get in with him. It was just one of those days! 

By 4:30 back at the hotel finally we were exhausted, but the other girls had already signed up to do an extra bike tour with dinner around the city so they had another really quick turn around. I took advantage of having some down time and had a nap, did some yoga, grabbed a salad at the grocery store, did a hair treatment in the shower, and watched a movie! All in all a very lovely evening for me! 

Today we are back on the bus and heading down towards Prague. We drove for 2.5 hours down into the little town of Dresden for lunch and some free time, and even got to see a couple of little local sights before getting back on the bus. It’s about another 2 hours from Dresden across the border and into Prague which isn’t a bad commute day at all! Especially after my 13 hour day in Scotland- I apparently am spending most of my time on buses this trip (#travellingproblems). 

   
     Can’t wait for Prague! 

Warner Bros “Making of Harry Potter” Tour… AKA- the best day of my entire life 

So I actually did this your on Tuesday, but haven’t had time to write it all down because I definitely wanted to go into great detail about my lovely experience! 

I took the underground up to the Euston train station, at which point I had to board the overground/national rail line to watford junction. Because this route leaves the city limits it ended up costing £5 each way as opposed to the £2.40 per journey so it was a pretty pricey day for me overall. From watford junction though they have a shuttle bus that takes you directly to the site for only £2 round trip so at least I saved on a taxi! 

Arriving at the site it doesn’t look too spectacular, keeping in mind that this is a standard film production site (in studios J and K ironically enough!) so it’s basically designed as a giant warehouse type building from the outside with high ceilings and big open spaces inside so films can bring in their own sets etc. 

   
   As soon as you walk in the door though, it is clear that you have arrived somewhere spectacular! The main area has gigantic canvas photos of most of the major actors and the greatest gift shop imaginable- complete with a wall full of olivanders style wands. 

   
    
They have everything imaginable in this gift shop. Replica costumes, props, food, knick knacks,  collectibles, books, you name it and they have thought of a way to sell it. 

           
  
After taking a long wander through the gift shop it was time for my tour to start so I joined the queue for the entrance in the to cinema, and got to see the real cupboard under the stairs while in line 
The cinema room showed a super inspiring little taster of what was to come, complete with interviews from Harry, Ron and Hermione! Once the film was over the screen magically lifted up and there was the entrance- the doors of the great hall! 

  
   
 You walk through the doors right into the actual set of the great hall. Fireplace, hall tables, and all. It was a magical entrance to say the least! The guide gave us a bit of information and let us wander around a bit and then sent us through the door and on our way. The rest of the tour was self guided and I had paid for the audio guide which was definitely worth the extra cost since it gave a lot of cool stories, videos, an information on what was available in the tour. I even begged and harassed a few guides and got a (children’s) Harry Potter passport with lots of fun activities inside. The tour starts with sets from the gryffindor boys room, to the common room, shows a wall of portraits, hagrids hut, and a huge cage of real props from the movies. Then you have the choice to join an interactive experience and ride a broom! Green screen and all it was pretty cool. But of course an extra charge to buy the video and the horrible photos they take of you (camera from above really?). After the interactive experience you are back out into the main stage room and get to see sets from malfoy’s manor, the ministry of magic, borgin & burkes, and even umbridge’s office.

   
           
 At this point you have to walk over to the other stage so they send you through the cafe where you can buy butterbeer! And then outside where some of the vehicles are on display, like the knight bus, flying car, even hagrids motorcycle. 

   
     
In the second stage they take you through a room dedicated to the creatures of the film, with aragog, buckbeak, and a motorized he’d wig all on display. Then you are right into “kings cross” station where the hogwarts express train is also on display. They have another interactive experience so you can sit in a fake train car and look out the window until the dementors arrive!! 

   
       Then once you exit kings cross you are brought right into diagon alley as seen in the 6th films once the weasley’s shops been set up. This was another top moment of the tour walking through diagon alley- you really do feel the magic. Finally the tour brings you through the architecture design and model rooms where you can view the to scale hogwarts model that was constantly updated through the making of the film. The last room is a wand room like olivanders, but with all replicas since apparently most of the original wands from the movies were blown up during the seventh film in the scene where the death eaters come that olivander. 

   
 
Clearly I had an amazing time at the tour. There were parts I wish I would have spent more time at of course but I still ended up being there for nearly 4 hours not even including travel time to and from watford junction. 

But definitely worth the full day experience in my opinion. Even if you weren’t a gigantic Harry Potter fan like I am you still would have had more than enough to keep you entertained and excited! 

I will definitely be back in the future! 

Last of London and more of Munich 

Time is flying! I am currently sitting on the plane flying over the Berlin where my contiki tour is starting up this evening! Here’s what I’ve been up to the last few days:

My last day in London

– Camden market, bought a dress (that replicates the one Chelsea and I bought in Italy that was sadly destroyed) 

– meet up with Gemma! Yay team samesies reunion and lunch date with the gorgeous girl! 

  
– airport heading to Munich 
My one day in Munich:

I arrived super late into Munich and so it was around 10:45 pm arriving at the Hauptbahnhoff train station. My first impression of Munich has not been great so far, and I have honestly not felt nervous traveling by myself until now. The train station was slightly dodgy with lots of questionable looking people loitering around outside and a very high police presence in this area. Even my two minute walk to the hostel was too long in my opinion. Once arriving at the hostel I didn’t feel much better since 95% of the people in the bar seemed to be men, and the loud punk screamo music certainly didn’t add to that atmosphere. 

Once checking in I was relieved to see 5/6 of my roommates were girls at least. But this room was so gross. I have totally lucked out at my hostels and so I guess it was only a matter of time before coming across a gnarly one and this was it. The floor of the bathroom was soaking wet and coveted in hair and dirt, the mattresses were made of paper and so uncomfortable I have bruises on my ribs from trying to sleep, there was dirt and hair in my bed when I arrived so that was a fun experience to clean, and the bunk beds were the shakiest squeakiest things I have ever slept in. It would literally squeak everytime I would breath, yet alone roll over. Luckily I have been so overtired and between my eye mask and eat plugs I can easily knock out my surroundings, but I definitely did not enjoy my hostel stay. 

Fortunately I wasn’t in Munich for the city, and I basically was planning on coming for a single day just to go see the Neuschwanstein castle! 

So 8 am Friday I walked over to the meeting spot and boarded the double decker bus for my day tour! 

There was probably 200 people minimum waiting to board the buses, but as a single rider totally lucked out and got to fast pass the line and board the first bus of the day! 

Our tour took us straight out of the city to the Linderhof castle in the countryside, the primary castle of Ludwig II former king of Bavaria. This cute little palace was absolutely adorable, with only 10 primary rooms but it was stunning. Decorated to every corner with gold plating and tapestries, porcelain, artwork, everything was fabulous. 

   
     After Linderhof we drove into the town of Oberammergau (try saying that 10 times fast) which is the little village where they put on the “passion” play every ten years for the last 400 years. In 2010 there were nearly half a million visitors to come to the town just to see this reenactment! We had some time here to wander around and grab a snack, and check out some local shops (of which the adorable Bavarian Christmas store was top of my list!) we boarded the bus again and made the 45 minute drive over to castle Neuschwanstein! 

   
 This castle is not like anything I have ever seen before, even in its incomplete form it was huge! And built right up on the side of the mountain… You definitely feel like royalty up there. 

   
     The walk up the hill is 1.5 km and took about 25 minutes (and is incredibly steep), and then I did the extra 20 minute walk up to Mary’s bridge- where you get the best shots of the castle for sure! 

   
 Our tour didn’t start until 3 so we had plenty of time to wander around and enjoy the grounds and view of the town and surrounding area! 

The tour wasn’t very good since you were really crammed into very small rooms with large groups of people, and the tours were really close together so you didn’t have much time to enjoy anything within the rooms unfortunately. But it was still cool to see! 

We spent basically 4 hours at Neuschwanstein and so didn’t have anytime to view the other smaller castle on the opposite mountain but I am sure it would have been equally stunning. It was really cool to watch the multi vision video and see the plans for what the castle was intended to look like once it was finished since it ceased construction after the Kings “suspicious” death. 

We got back on the bus and made the 2 hour journey back to Munich. Once back in the city (and after eating many pretzels that day) I wasn’t very hungry for dinner so I had a little snack and movie night at the hostel. Complete with a fresh coast of nail polish and the hilarious comedy film “the wedding ringer” with Kevin Hart and Josh Gad… Highly recommended I was peeing my pants laughing! 

I actually had a really great sleep and chatted with a few fellow Canadian girls that were staying in my room before heading back to the airport. I am off now to Berlin! My contiki tour is starting tonight so I can only imagine how jam packed our itinerary is going to be the next few days. But I am otherwise really looking forward to meeting up with the group! 

“The city of London”

Today I finally made my way over to the actual suburb of “the city of London”. This is the original area of London with some of the oldest buildings, and original architecture that dates back hundreds of years. 

I started out my taking the tube over to The incredible St. Paul’s cathedral – where princess Diana and prince Charles were married. Let me just tell you- this place gives the Roman Catholic Church St. Peter’s (Vatican city) a serious run for its money. The size alone of this place was unbelievable it’s actually such a crazy feeling standing under the dome and looking up towards the sky… It seems to go on forever. The cathedral has been badly damaged many times in its history, particularly after it was targeted during the bombings of WWII, but yet it is still left standing as a masterpiece and treasure of the Anglican church. I am sad to say that we weren’t allowed to take photos inside but I HIGHLY recommend checking this place out for yourself regardless. Even more so than the much more famous Westminster abbey to be honest. 

   

After spending quite a long time in the church I walked down the millennium bridge aka the wobbly bridge aka the bridge from Harry Potter and the half blood prince, towards the south bank and down the Thames riverside. Since I have been riding the tube religiously, it was nice to get to see some more of the city from above ground (new book idea: my life as a mole rat – adventures of a girl on the underground). I got some photo ops with the fabulous globe theatre of course. 

   

“Lord, We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” William Shakespeare – Hamlet

And I even got to see one of britains oldest pubs! 

 
Though sadly I opted for boxed fish instead of a proper lunch today so I didn’t go inside. No joke I had fish in a box and have pictures to prove it. 

 
I got some great photos of the tower bridge and then made my way back across the river to the Tower of London! 

   

  

  

 

I spent a long time exploring the Tower of London, which houses the absolutely stunning Crown Jewels (which are unbelievably  uninsured since they are literally a priceless collection and have no monetary value… I have never seen a 500 carat diamond and I will never look at my 1/4 carat diamond earrings the same way unfortunately). How do I become queen of England?? 
After the Tower of London I was seriously exhausted so tried to refuel at Starbucks, and that possibly made me even more tired if possible! So I decided to come back to the hostel and (lame) do laundry since I don’t know if I’ll have another chance to in the next few days. But it’s dinner time here now and I am packed and laundered so I’m going to hit the streets again and find some grub! Maybe I’ll even come back and watch the James Bond movie playing in the “theatre room” tonight at the hotel! 

We are having fun! (Me and meercat that is). Tomorrow is my last day so I am hoping to see my beautiful friend Gemma who is back from her “gap year” travels! But I am feeling pretty satisfied with the amount of things I was able to check out in London so far! – and also incredibly broke… I stupidly didn’t buy a London pass and I should have just done that ahead of time, because I have now spent nearly twice as much between tickets and my oyster transit card as I would have on the pass. Oh well now I know for next time and can pass on my knowledge! 

London calling

It may have taken me 23 years to get here, but boy I’m glad I didn’t wait another one. I don’t think I have felt this magic and love for a city since my first trip to Paris (because Paris is always a good idea). But London has proven to even more fascinating, just far less French! 

I went straight for kings cross station after arriving (obviously) and spent about half an hour in line to get my picture taken at “platform 9 and 3/4” complete with a little headwig in the cage and everything! 

  

The “Harry potter” version of kings cross station  

 

The real kings cross station  

  
I then went down the tube (congrats to me for figuring that monster out so fast) and walked around to “Piccadilly circus” the Times Square of London. I nearly bought tickets to a show but then I remembered I am so poor so that’s not in the budget this time unfortunately, but a good reason to come back at least! 

After Piccadilly I decided to do some walking towards the Thames river and came across the lovely Trafalgar Square, and stopped for lunch in this area. 

   
  

 

Sherlock Holmes restaurant- ironically not in the same area as Baker Street and the Sherlock Holmes museum. 
I finally made it to the river and got some awesome pics! But then realized my battery on my phone was dead so I had to go back to the hostel and charge up before I went back to the London eye, I also did the river cruise which was WELL worth the money! I loved hearing some of the background the the buildings along the Thames- and awesome photo ops! 

   
               

By the time I finished my river cruise it was 8 pm so I headed back towards the hostel, and the weather took a very sudden turn towards storm warning so I hid in the room after dinner and still ended up staying awake until 11 (damn Netflix for being so accessible).

The Scottish life 

Sorry I haven’t posted for a few days! I have been too busy and having way too much fun across the pond! 

I flew into Edinburgh on Friday evening and arrived at my hotel at 10 pm. The live music was blasting in the downstairs bar and the environment was just way too cool! Such a great vibe to walk into when you’re still trying to get your bearings. After a long day in Dublin and flight over I was thoroughly exhausted though so basically just showered and went to bed knowing I was going to have a long day Saturday. 
I woke up first thing and got organized to head over to the amazing Edinburgh castle. Unfortunately I don’t read signs well though so I basically scaled the back side of the mountain just to find out the gates to the gardens were closed. So down I went and I had to trek all the way back up via cobblestone roads. The castle was absolutely incredible though. The centuries of history that lie behind those walls is too much to even fathom. I did the audio tour which was well worth the extra cost, because it provided some amazing stories and history of the castle! 

   
        
After my adventure through the Edinburgh castle I continued down the Royal Mile. I took a small detour on a whim and was so excited to find the elephant house cafe (the cafe where JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter). I had of course heard of it but never went to any trouble to find out where it was, so obviously I decided to stop and have lunch- which was surprisingly delicious! 

   

 

I also popped in next door to the greyfriars kirk  cemetery, and got to see “Tom Ridell’s” memorial haha 

  
I carried on my way down to royal mile and stopped in at St Giles cathedral (stunning), saw an indoor marketplace that was inside a converted cathedral, saw some amazing architecture of course, and finally made it down towards the Hollyrood palace (where the queen stays in Scotland). The tour was expensive but so cool to see- I love feeling like royalty even for a fraction of a second. 

   

  

  

  

  

    
      
After walking basically to the other side of town I was physically and mentally exhausted and not emotionally prepared to walk up the mountain back where I came from. So I caught the bus back over towards the west end and made my way towards the hotel. I was distracted along the way by St Mary’s cathedral, and the incredible choir singers rehearsing for the service that night. I ended up just hanging out and listening for a while because the experience was way yoo incredible to miss out on. Even though I am not a religious person, it is hard not to feel amazed at the overall effect of the high ceilings, stained glass windows, and ethereal music of the organ and choir. 

   
  
Once I finally made it back to the hostel I accidentally took like a 2 hour long nap and Netflix break. I convinced myself to get out of bed and go get dinner, and ended up at an adorable little pub called the Grosvenor where I had a fantastic burger and chips (which are somehow different and more delicious than fries are for so reason)! 

When I went back to the hostel I was determined to be social so I parked myself in the bar where the live music was going to be starting again, and had a great conversation with two of the people staying in my room- a guy from Colorado and a girl from Edmonton of all places! We enjoyed a couple pints together and finally called it a night when I realized what time it was. 

6 am came really early for me the next day, and I was too disoriented to attempt to navigate the bus systems so I took my first taxi of the trip up to St Giles again where my tour group was meeting. We went on a 13 hour adventure all through Scotland, up the east side and down the west. We saw so much I don’t even know what most of it was unfortunately. But Loch Ness was an obvious one, meercat saw Nessie (well her replica at least!) 

 
We made a lot more stops on the way home through some incredible areas. I fed a Scottish cow, stopped at the incredible Glenn Coe, drove through Doune castle (film site of Monty Python and the Holy Grail), and finally made it back to beautiful Edinburgh. 

   

  

  

 

I was so tired after the day on the bus and covering over 300 miles of ground. But I had to get packed up and showered and ready to leave the next morning- and at 5:20 am of course. No rest for the wicked!  

A fab last day in Dublin

I think that Dublin decided to save be best weather for last! What a beautiful morning it was here. I actually slept for nearly 10 hours solid! And the sun was shining away by the time I checked out of the hostel. 

I was very smart and booked my tickets for the Guinness storehouse your online AND booked the 9:30-11:30 early bird special so I saved myself four whole euros! (Which I would later waste in the leprachaun museum… More to come). What an incredible experience though! I was even smart enough to pace myself so I wasn’t drunk by the time I left there (tb to the Heineken experience… Ahem I mean what?) 

   
         Anyways after the Guinness tour I walked over towards the Dublin castle in hopes of finally getting to do the tour there, and once again to no avail since apparently it was closed for a private event all day (clearly I will have to make a trip back!) on my way over though I was distracted by -the biggest waste of time and money ever- the dublinia castle aka a feeble attempt at a Nordic Viking museum. Save yourself the €8.50 and watch Thor. 

After my failed attempts at culture I decided the leprachaun museum was clearly my next best bet. And as a Disney girl I was very much expecting an “it’s a small world” kind of puppet adventure. But once again was disappointed. The leprachaun museum consists of a 6 ft tall hairy Irish man who clearly hated his job, telling stories of leprachaun culture in different themed rooms (ie. The Giants room where all the furniture was large so we felt like a leprachaun, the pot of gold room which left much to the imagination, and the moonlit wishing well room- I’ve had dreams more realistic). We also got to walk through a rainbow… Made of string… Literally even my wizard of oz props from last year were more stimulating than this place. And yet there was not a leprachaun to be seen until the very end, and even Seamus the leprachaun was 6 foot tall and stuffed. Another waste of time and money but what else can you expect from a tourist trap. 

   
    

I decided my best bet at getting some sort of enjoyable culture in Dublin would be at the legendary St. Patrick’s cathedral, and again I was disappointed. I’m all for modern church experiences but at what point in the bible did it say “and on the 7th day the lord said – ‘let their be free wifi’.” I mean come on, really? Though it did get me live snap chatting my experience there so I guess it’s a smart marketing tactic. Now let’s get them to team up and get a snapchat location sticker! 

   
    
I managed to see a lot of the city by walking around though today! I do have to say I have a soft spot for medieval architecture and Dublin certainly has a lot to offer in that regard! I got to meet sian for dinner again before heading out which was great! Shout out to my fave Irish gal for making my first trip over so memorable 😉 can’t wait to be back! 

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 
I am currently sitting at the airport and heading off to Edinburgh this evening! Looking forward to the next part of this adventure!  

Cliffs of Moher tour

This morning I met up with beautiful Sian bright and early at 6:30 am (that’s 11:30 pm at home for those of you keeping track…) for our day trip out to the cliffs of moher. It was like a throw back to our contiki tour, being crammed on a bus, forced to hold your bladder until the next rest stop. Ah how I love tours! 

We drove south to Limerick first off, and spent 10 whole minutes there so I definitely got to see a lot! Sian even practiced her stretches- definite improvement girl! 

  
    
We carried on the bus down to the Cliffs of Moher, and dear lord we nearly froze to death. I of course rocked a pretty fashionable head scarf over the crop top but under my windbreaker/ cardigan combination. We were definitely attracting some cuties. Meercat finally got to see the light of day though so he was super excited about that! 

 
  
       
After our little arctic adventure we got back on the bus and drove over to Doolin for a “traditional Irish meal”. I had a potato beef pot pie type dish that was amazing, I was also starving and had been surviving on the bag of diabetes inducing treats provided by dear ol’ Sian here so some real food was pretty fab. 

  
We started to make our way back towards Dublin after this point. But on the way back made stops in at Corcomroe Abbey, a local chocolate factory, some mini cliffs at the Burren, and a castle in Galway (daddy can I have one?! this ones for sale for only €1.6 million!) I tried so hard not to nap on the drive back after our last stop but apparently being snuggled under a blanket with a pillow isn’t the way to stay awake. Jet lag wins again… 
   
        
After sufficiently ruining my appetite with the remainder of the treat bag I was not feeling like a big dinner. So currently I am back at the hostel packing up and getting organized to check out already tomorrow! Luckily I still have the whole day here and don’t leave until the evening, but I still can’t believe how fast the last two days have gone! Thanks to Sian for making my first trip to Ireland so special! I will defs be back to visit this adorable little country! 

The real Windy City 

I think that Dublin could give Chicago a run for their money as far as the title of “the Windy City” goes! After trekking to my hostel with a hat on (which I’m surprised made the journey) I basically spent the whole day sleeping. Take that jet lag! After my long slumber though I decided to shower, and do my hair (mistake) and wander around this cute little city. I now look like a wind swept mess but luckily I have nobody to impress! 
Definitely loving this city so far though, the cutest mix between medieval and modern! And more than enough shopping to be done here, sigh, maybe in my next life I’ll come back to spend all my money shopping!  

I also somehow conned my way into a free tour of the Christchurch Cathedral! Not sure how I managed that but woohoo for free tours! 
Heading out to meet Sian for dinner now and an early start for our tour to the Cliffs of Moher tomorrow morning!