This fall break brought on many a new experience. I fell in love with the UK, discovering new places and feeling the comfort of speaking in my first language after being in France for the semester.
I met up with my friend from college, Avery, in Edinburgh, and discovered what is now one of my favorite places. We began the weekend with a nice hike up the smaller portion of Arthur’s Seat, a famous mountain there. Overlooked the entire city and got a good workout in. The architecture is beautiful in Scotland, and as evident by the buildings and history, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most haunted places in the world, if I were a ghost I’d live there too.
Scottish people are quite friendly and the food there is delicious. I had a lamb burger the first day and after eating mostly bread and not as much meat in France, it was quite heavy on my stomach, but delicious. The traditional homemade pudding and donuts afterwards were amazing too.
I was glad to be in Edinburgh for the weekend of Halloween as well, because they certainly know how to celebrate. We headed to Frankenstein’s pub, passed by many a ghost tour, and navigated the city at night with all of the creepy buildings and lights glowing. In the morning I was able to grab a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks– which is nowhere to be found in France, so that was exciting.
Off to Holyrood Palace to get a tour of the Queen’s Official Residence when she’s in Scotland. Then walked down the Royal Mile for some shopping– bring on the scottish plaid! Talked to a store owner about the elections in America, and the question of Scotland’s independence from the UK– she was not for independence.
Then we stopped by Elephant House to eat in the birthplace of Harry Potter. I signed my name in the bathroom with all the other Harry Potter lovers. JK Rowling has many a fan, that’s quite evident. We got to see the graveyard where she got many ideas for the book– Tom Riddle’s grave, Moody and McGonnagal’s grave, and the prep school that was her inspiration for Hogwarts.
After my 3 and a half days in Scotland I headed to London, where I met up with my friend Jill from high school, and my three friends Katinka, Melissa, and Christine from school in France.
London was amazing. I think of it as a less-nerve-wracking and cleaner New York City. I loved how many parks it has and the people there are also quite friendly. We saw Soho, China Town, went shopping in Oxford Circus, grabbed a bite to eat in King’s Cross, saw a poppy concert and ate some Ben’s Cookies in Covent Station, and of course got our touristy pictures in front of the Big Ben, The Eye, Buckingham Palace and the guards nearby, and Parliament.
I met up with our family’s lovely friend Eva, who is the daughter of the family my parents stayed with while in Germany when they were close to my age, which was cool to think about. She lives in a beautiful part of London and she showed me around her neighborhood. Primrose Gardens has a hill that overlooks all of London, and on Halloween it was quite beautiful to see. Eva was an awesome host and I loved being able to talk to her about my past, how she’s liking London. She gave me some tea and german chocolate– so perfect for the setting! Her adorable little children speak German and English– which made my heart melt it was so cute to hear them speak.
The subway system was easy to navigate, and my hostel was bustling with travelers from all over, a fun place to be. On my last morning there my boat to Dublin was cancelled due to the weather, so I spent the rest of the day chilling in cafes, hanging out with Jill at night.
Then, it was off to the train at 7pm for a trip to Holyhead in England, to then board the Dublin Ferry at 2:30am. Staying up so late and discovering the painful cold of Dublin was not very fun, I’ll say, but the ferry was beautiful and a very cool experience. I watched the troubling news from Hurricane Sandy on the News while on the boat aside my two new Portugese friends who fell asleep without trouble. A group of friendly Irish people across from us were drinking through the night having a jolly time, telling me about how they stole a plug-in heater from the port station, and put it through the metal detecter without a problem. Finally, they felt guilty, and decided to turn it into the staff on the boat. “Hi, we stole this…”
Not quite sure of the logic there, but it was entertaining.
I realized while on the boat how badly I wished I’d bought one of those wool sweaters in Edinburgh, and for that matter a blanket and a new warm winter coat. I was definitely unprepared for the temperature, and being cold is not fun.
When I arrived in Dublin at 6am, I was so excited. Navigating my way from the bus stop to the center of town was relatively easy thanks to a wonderfully nice Irish student at Trinity who Google-mapped the location for me on her iPhone. Being in my family’s second homeland was exciting. I began to see the same physical features that I know well of my family members here in Dublin– the same texture hair, same big eyes. So many Irish boys made me think of my brothers who look similar. It was like finding the puzzle pieces to connect me to my past. From there I made my way to meet my friend from high school, Bronte, who is studying to be a surgeon.
We went around town to Bewley’s Cafe, where I got the most delicious goat cheese/roasted red pepper sandwich ever; tourist shopping down the street to get some classic Irish gifts to take home to my family members; and took pictures in front of the statue of Molly Mallone, Temple Bar, and of course, had an authentic Guinness at Doheny and Nesbitt’s pub– which bears my last name, thus why I didn’t have to pay : )
That night we went to Quay’s for some good classic Irish music and, well, Guinness. The band was amazing and I stayed in front with my eyes glued to them the entire time, dancing away, so happy to be in Ireland with good friends and good music. There’s nothing like the sound of a banjo, guitar, and fiddle to get me tapping my feet.
The next morning we visited Trinity College, saw the Book of Kells, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I said goodbye to Dublin and the rest of my vacation for that matter; and made my way to the airport in the morning. Arriving in London after a connection, I ran into my friend who studies abroad with me in Aix-en-Provence, Julia.
We exchanged stories and the same thoughts about how lucky we are to be studying abroad in the warm beauty that is Aix-en-Provence, France. Excited to be back in France, we arrived in Marseilles and took the Navette back “home”.
My vacation was amazing, I’m so fortunate to have been able to experience everything I did, and I’m so glad that I had the courage to navigate the entire thing on my own. Traveling solo, I had a lot of time to think to myself, journal, reflect, and appreciate the beauty around me. It made the times when I met up with my friends that much more special as well. Traveling has become my newest favorite hobby, and it has truly made me appreciate the world we live in, what I have been blessed with, and what I want to do in the future.
Now, with only 6 weeks left here in Aix-en-Provence, yes, 6!, I am going to make the most of my last few experiences here and try to grasp as much as I can from this lovely place.
I know when I go back to America it will be difficult to adjust back, but at the same time I’ll be excited to see my family. So for now, I’ll soak up the sun in France and eat as many more pain chocolats as humanly possible. Well, maybe not that many, but it’s going to be a good ride!