I hope you enjoy this short video of my visit to Edinburgh! The song is “Hummingbird” by Aqualung and the video showcases the Royal Mile and Arthurs Seat. For five things to in Edinburgh in 24 hours, click here.
Do you ever think about other lifetimes? I’ve been fortunate enough to have serendipitously met a few people in my life that I have instantly bonded with. Bosom friends. Sister from another mister. Love at first laugh. There’s that moment when you connect so quickly it feels like you’ve known one another your whole lives. You can go years without seeing each other and get along better than most of the people you’ve met in the same amount of time. Almost like you’ve done this so called life together before.
Ok, enough of the philosophy. If I go too far down the rabbit hole there’s no going back! After not seeing each other for seven years, my friend Elyse spontaneously decided to visit me in Dublin for a week. She’s never been to Europe before so we managed to squeeze in a quick two night trip in Edinburgh. Elyse is the first person I met at university. Some random “soph” (Definition: overly excited second year student trying desperately to relive their first year) pulled me out of the car at my new residence and proceeded to force introductions with a handful of other students who were pulled out of their cars at the same time. Thankfully, Elyse was the first person I met and we connected as soon as we discovered we were both in the same media program. We ended up spending way too much time together as we found each other equally hilarious (surprisingly, not many others shared this disposition). From thereonin we ended up living in a share house with three other hilarious girls. After spending time with each other nearly every day of the school year for four years, I decided to take off to Australia, then British Columbia, then Ireland, until suddenly we hadn’t seen each other for seven years. We picked up exactly where we left off and made for great travel companions. Fast forward to an adventure in Edinburgh.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Edinburgh four times. Every time I go as soon as I get a glimpse of the city all I can think about is how amazing it would be to live there. Panoramic views of breath-taking Victorian architecture is a treat for the eyes and a boost to the creative soul.
Edinburgh is a city that just makes sense. I’d imagine that the architects were inspired by the natural landscape and weather since the buildings are even more beautiful when it’s windy, cloudy and drizzling. Whenever I’ve gone I’ve only had one or two days to explore, so I’ve put together a little list of what to do in the city in 24 hours.
- Walk the entire Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is the name given to a succession of streets in the Old Town. The stretch between two significant historic locations, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, is the ultimate place to imagine medieval life. You can walk right up to the gates of Edinburgh Castle, and if you can spare the time, tour the inside for £17. On the opposite end you’ll find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who spends a week residing there every summer. You can visit the palace for £14.
- Arthur’s Seat
A hill located at the end of the Royal Mile, climbing Arthur’s seat is a great way to spend a couple of hours when visiting Edinburgh. A relatively easy climb (my legs only hurt for one day after), you’ll get a chance to catch your breath while getting amazing panoramic views at the top. I’ve climbed Arthur’s Seat three times and would do it again next time I visit Edinburgh. Arthur’s Seat is the largest of three sites of the Arthur’s Seat Volcano site. Like the location of the castle, its formation is the site of an extinct volcano system.
- Whiskey and Wine
Head out to either the Old Town or the New Town and try a unique Scotch you’d never get to try elsewhere. There are so many to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming. There are lot of good whiskeys to try at affordable prices so just go for something you’ve never had before. Besides that, Elyse and I came across a couple of great wine bars. We especially liked Smith and Gertrude in the New Town. You can choose different artisan cheeses ranging from £3.50 to £4.50 and cured meats from £4.50-£5.50. Or you can do what we did and order a mixed board of cheese and charcuterie (three of each) for £16. So.Good. We also treated ourselves to a great bottle of Langhe Nebbiolo, La Ca Nova for £30.
- Camera Obscura
If you’re short on time, visiting the camera obscura is a brilliant way of getting your bearings in the city. A Victorian style virtual tour, you are guided through the Unesco World Heritage site that is Edinburgh from a tiny dark room. Tickets are £15.50 for adults and they’re valid all day so you can come and go as you please. There are some great photo opportunities from the top of the building as well.
- Walk Princess Street (and Primark!)
On the south side of Princess Street you get amazing views of the Castle perched atop the volcanic site, giving the illusion of the castle blending in to the rock as if it’s part of the earth itself. There’s also a massive gothic monument to Sir Walter Scott, the stunning Balmoral Hotel, and the Princess Street Gardens. On the other side, you’ve got your high street shops. Ladies and gents, there is some serious Primark action happening on this street. Sprawling over about 5 floors, if you fancy a bit of shopping you’ll find some stellar deals. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, there is always a ton of paraphernalia to choose from (pyjamas, socks, notebooks, etc).
We did all five of the things on the list (but didn’t go inside the castle or palace) in 24 hours and had a great time. Next time I’m there I plan to check out the galleries, museums, and evening ghost tour.
The travel details:
- Ryanair return flight from Dublin for €50
- Two nights in a twin room at the Edinburgh City Hotel for £111 (£55.50/person)
- Return air coach transport from Airport to Edinburgh City £7 (this bus leaves every 10/15 minutes. Great service).
- The city is very walkable and we didn’t need public transit or taxis at all.
Edinburgh is wildly beautiful. In my opinion it’s an underrated gem in the United Kingdom. It seems almost unfair for so many gorgeous buildings to be located in such close vicinity, and it’s a pleasure to visit every single time.
Apologies for the hiatus. Sometimes life gets so busy you unconsciously set your creativity aside. It’s not like I haven’t been anywhere since I’ve last written. It’s been a great couple of years! I’ve travelled all across Spain, exploring the difference in culture across Madrid, Bilbao, Santander, Seville, Huelva, Cordoba, Granada, Tarifa, Jerez, Cadiz, Malaga, and Barcelona. After all that I had to take a siesta or two along the way.
I’ve been to Portugal on four different occasions, visiting Porto, Lisbon, and different parts of the Algarve.
I’ve indulged in the best pizza and pasta in Italy, exploring Rome, Trieste, Fruili, and Venice.
I ran through the hills in Austria and belted out tunes from the Sound of Music (Number 21 on my Before 30 list) with my pals from The Western Gazette.
Afterwards we went on to explore Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague.
I finally visited Plitvice National Park in Croatia, a scenic waterfall haven that had graced my screen saver since I was 16. We also toured around Pula, Zagreb, and Rijeka.
I’ve enjoyed the liberal, forward thinking Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, and Delft.
That’s just a taste of the what I’ve been up to, so needless to say I’ve been busy! The greatest joy of living in Europe is that it is so easy to take off for a night or two and visit a whole new country. Flights are so affordable (thank you RyanAir) and with accommodation sites like Booking.com it’s easier than ever to book a cheeky night away. I still live in Dublin and it is the perfect location to dart to and fro around Europe.
This year I’m prioritising creativity. It’s time to get back to writing and design. Time to excercise the mind. I’m planning to travel a lot in 2018, and I’ll fill you in on all the shenanigans and also give you my top travel tips and recommendations. Here you’ll find the tales of my European Odyssey. Stay tuned.
An hour and a half later we were wandering around Bunratty Castle and Heritage Park. We climbed narrow staircases, posed on thrones, and toured the replica old village.
From Bunratty we made our through the narrow, winding roads of County Clare. We stayed in a little village called Ennistymon. The Falls Hotel, perched on a hill with glorious steps leading up to it, had waterfalls and a stream out back and donkeys roaming around the front. We checked in and immediately made our way to the leisure centre. The outdoor jacuzzi was my favourite – surrounded by crisp air, tree branches, and a waterfall. As it lashed rain that night we crossed our fingers and prayed for sunshine for the following day.
The next morning we prepared for the day by overeating at the breakfast buffet – we needed our energy for hiking! As we drove to the Cliffs of Moher the sun broke through the clouds and decided to stay awhile.
Standing 214m (702 feet) at their highest point the Cliffs of Moher stretch for 8 kilometres (5 miles) along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, Loop Head to the south and the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry. O’Brien’s Tower stands near the highest point and has served as a viewing point for visitors for hundreds of years. (www.cliffsofmoher.ie)
It was a view that I can’t imagine you would ever tire of. The grande vastness and sickening height made me feel minuscule, while simultaneously filling me with awe at how great our world is and an overwhelming sensation of gratefulness and respect. It is a profound privilege to experience the worlds wonders.
You may knows the Cliffs from Harry Potter or The Princess Bride. The Cliffs of Insanity is an accurate description! I made sure to stay far from the fence free edge and had to clasp on to my neighbour and look away while Steve kept inching closer and closer to “insanity”.
With all that fear and bewilderment we worked up an appetite so we headed back to the car park, looked up directions, and put the car in drive. Suddenly some German people started waving at us frantically and yelled at us to stop. “Your tire, it’s flat!” We all climbed out of the car and sure enough the tire is as flat as can be, can’t get any flatter. One tour bus driver hung around and gave us a few helpful hints while the lads changed the tire. The boys got the coat offs, busted out the jack, and proceeded to change the tire in the middle of the car park. At least it wasn’t raining!
Afterwards we carried on to Doolin, the village famously know for the birthplace of Irish music. We had some tasty fish and chips and the most perfect pint of Guinness I’ve ever had. We also found a man who specializes in tire repairs. It seemed that punctured tires is an incredibly common occurrence in Clare. We came back to Doolin that night to take in some trad music. There were six musicians, all ages, sitting in a booth jamming away. No singing, just the traditional Irish instruments.
The next day we dropped Steve off at the train station and carried on to Sligo. We planned a pit stop in Galway city where we got stuck in major traffic then finally had a quick stroll around. It was interesteing seeing the scenery change from Clare to Sligo, even noticing the differences in the old stone fences. Sligo town is surrounded by lovely mountains (or hills, as we’d call them in Canada). That night we met up with an old friend, Jimmy, who brought us for dinner and then later hosted us at his perfect little bar, Lillies. The following day we met Jimmy and he showed us around the town and gave us a bit of a history lesson. We managed to find the Anglican church that my great, great grandparents were married in.
Back in Dublin we prepared for a night out in search of live music. We started at The Odeon then wandered further in to town and turned up empty. We decided to swing by Sweeney’s to say hi to Steve. Appearance wise Sweeney’s is a bit of a dive music venue, but it’s incredibly popular and always full of every demographic you can imagine. Dad was instantly a legend for these people. Drunk lads would stumble up to him and make a fuss about his hat. One guy kept complimenting how well dad pulled it off. Another guy kept walking past him, then say something to his friend, then stare at him. This went on until he worked up the courage to ask my dad if he could wear his hat to pose for a picture. My dad said to him very seriously that he couldn’t run off with it, to which he adamantly reassured over and over that he would never, EVER, do such a thing. The moment he had the hat on his head his face lit up and he looked like the happiest person in the world. The guy and his friends then insisted on taking a picture with my dad, going on about how he was the sickest geezer ever. That’s pretty much the gist of my night out “clubbing” with my legend of a father.
Traveling provides perspective and a refreshing change in routine life. We had some hilarious moments along the way and the journey seemed to be over in the blink of an eye.
There’s a reason why people cite road trips as a priority while traveling. Driving through small winding roads amongst green hills, stone walls and bodies of water. Sparkling sunshine one minute, downpour of rain the next, and double rainbows to follow. There’s something charming about spending hours in a car with friends. Snacks, stories, music and scenery. What more could you want, besides the odd wrong turn, annoying GPS Sally, or accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road.
I have always dreamed about traveling with my family, and living in Ireland has provided me a way to live that dream. My dad and older brother Isaac came to visit me for two weeks. I would use the word ‘miracle’ to describe the fact that they were able to make the trip out here. Isaac had just graduated from a Masters program in Ottawa and it was my dad’s first trip outside of North America. Combine that with the fact they were bringing me home-made maple syrup and my excitement was obnoxiously palpable.
My plan was to show them my life in Dublin, rent a car, pray for sunshine and escape to the Irish countryside, scope out a little family heritage, and drink the perfect pint of Guinness. When I first greeted them at the front door I could’ve sworn I was dreaming (in fact I very well could’ve been. They got here at the early hour of 9:00am). I led them into my studio apartment, but after dragging in the suitcases there was no room left inside for dad! Not really, but almost. Picture this – studio apartment with myself, a couple of suitcases, and three manly men. The next week was a display of obstacle courses, tight squeezes, shuffle dance stepping while swinging your partner round and round, and eating from precarious surfaces. The good news is there was no need to turn the heater on.
The first couple of days were spent in Dublin where I utilized my tour guide skills and escorted them to my nearest work place. They had a tapas smorgasbord as well as an Old Fashioned Canuck (a cocktail I named, which obviously contains maple syrup). They even had the chance to pull a pint of Guinness for a photo op. They stopped pulling the pint as soon as the picture was taken though, much to the dismay of my friend Vitor, the barman. We also went inside St Patrick’s Cathedral, toured the Guinness Factory with a couple of token Irish pals, and excitedly watched The Amazing Spiderman 2 at The Savoy Cinema.
Next on the itinerary was two days in Clare and one day in Sligo. After extensive reasearch we discovered we’d have to get to the airport to rent a car. Steve decided to call a taxi company to get a flat rate to the airport. I hurried everyone out the door at the estimated taxi time of arrival and we proceeded to wait another half hour on the sidewalk. At last I spotted a white station wagon lumbering down the road towards us. We filled the trunk with our luggage and peeled out onto the road, and by peeled, I really mean the most silent taxi man I’ve ever had awkwardly attempted to merge with traffic onto the roadway. With the luggage, a few big men, and a big breakfast not long before, the car was riding low. We inched along while the driver struggled with the concept of wise lane changing.
We make it to Dame Street, the centre of town, when suddenly we’re pulled over and the car has been turned off. Just as I work up the nerve to ask why we’ve been delayed, I hear a knock on the window. The Garda police officer instantly accuses the driver of not being properly registered, asks him why the meter isn’t on, and if we’re friends of his. The driver responded by saying he works for a company and is using his friends car. After a few more accusations, the cop tells us we should get out because the driver isn’t going anywhere. As we retrieved our luggage the Garda stops circulating the car just long enough to tell us that the tires are shot. We climb into a new taxi and the policeman melodramatically yells “you’re lucky to be alive”. Good start.
After a few minor delays at the airport (such as discussing the hidden 1,000 euro hold on Isaac’s credit car with the sales rep) we’re finally driving on the wrong side of the road. We were instantly off to a promising start, unable to find an exit from the airport and accidentally taking a one way to a car garage. Isaac held his own through all of the driving challenges – narrow roads, sitting on the opposite side he’s used to, terrible windshield wipers, and strong lead vocals in the singalong.
Next up on the adventure is Bunratty Castle, Clare, Sligo, and Dublin nightlife.
My sister recently came to visit me. I hadn’t seen family for 17 months so I was ready to burst with excitement. We only had a couple of days so I had to be wise in planning our adventure. We had one full day together in Dublin and one day to get out of the city and explore some emerald hills. I chose Wicklow because of its close proximity to Dublin and its many claims to fame. Boasting film locations for movies such as Braveheart and P.S I love you, it’s a must-see on anyones Irish tour. This was my third trip to Wicklow, and believe me, there’s a reason why it’s referred to as the Garden of Ireland. After taking a taxi from my house to O’Connell Street out of fear of being late, we arrived right on time, 8:50am. We grabbed a quick and necessary coffee and proceeded to wait for Irish time, departing a half hour late. Because we were so timely, we managed to snag some seats fairly close to the front. With an upbeat Dublin tour guide and an excessive amount of excited American women we were on our merry way. Joe, our tour guide, went above and beyond the call of tour guidance. He sang classic Irish tunes (sans any musical accompaniment), attempted teaching the Americans how to say a few Gailec words, and provided us with information about every place we went. I had done a very similar day trip to the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough when I first moved to Ireland but I took a lot more away from this tour.
We got lucky with the weather. As we crawled up the winding roads deeper into the Wicklow mountains the clouds cleared and the sun paid us a visit. When we stopped at
the Wicklow Gap (P.S. I love you filmpoint) we left our jackets in the bus and Ruth frolicked ahead to capture the perfect photograph. A few clouds hung between the mountains, so close it felt like if you reached out you could touch them. The lakes nestled between the green hills were perfect. Even with the robust character from Virginia squacking in the background the Wicklow Mountains felt calm. Peaceful.
We also went to the Monastic City in Glendalough where we saw the remains of the famous early Christian monastic settlement first established by St. Kevin in the 6th century. The monks abandoned the settlement centuries ago but many of their hand-built stone buildings are still standing. The monuments built by the monks gave us a glimpse of their way of life. I found that the ruins represent the passion and absolute dedication these people had for their beliefs system. The Round Tower, built by hand centuries ago, is about 30 metres high. I can only imagine how long and how many injuries it must’ve taken to accomplish such a project.
We finished the tour at the first ever Avoca store, an Irish staple, where we got to watch hand weavers in action. I was very impressed with the quickness and finnese required for handweaving, and was doubly impressed when shown the final product – beautiful multi coloured cashmere throws that make you want to veto clothes forever and just lie snuggled in those blankets all day.
The highlight of the trip was the fact that I got to experience Ireland, my current home, with someone I love from my permanent home. Spending time with family and traveling adventures are individual gifts. Getting the opportunity to do both at once is so incredible it turned me greedy. I want more.
Ireland is a small country. Driving from tip to tip, Creeslough, Co. Donegal to Bantry, Co. Cork, will take six hours and 52 minutes (Google Maps). To put this in perspective, it took me longer to drive from my hometown Kinburn, ON to my university in London, ON, and that isn’t even the full length of the province of Ontario.
Although Ireland is small, each county is known for something different. People who live two hours apart will support different sports teams, embody different cliches, and have completely different accents. In Canada, those who live two hours apart are practically neighbours. People here don’t even need to be from different counties in Ireland to sound different — two people from different parts of Dublin have stronger accent variations than people who live at opposite ends of Canada. For example, there is a stark contrast between the “posh” D4 accent and a classic North side accent. A good way to imagine a D4 accent is to picture someone elongating each syllable while speaking with marbles in their mouth, whereas a typical North Dub speaks so quickly they’ll leave you with verbal whiplash. Although these areas all fall under the Dublin umbrella, the culture is different, and I find these differences fascinating.
Because the island is so small, there is no excuse for me to not experience every county. Last year I went to Galway, Tipperary, Tullamore, Wicklow, Kerry, and Belfast. This year I kicked off the counties with the exciting Roscommon. The population of the entire county is 64,065, and the county town population is 5,017. Roscommon has an area of 984 square miles and is the fifth least-populous county in Ireland. Needless to say, what was I thinking picking Roscommon? I got a Groupon voucher for a nice hotel, I thought Roscommon rolled off the tongue nicely, the town website said it was scenic, and I want to see all of the counties.
I saw this town in its entirety, and I saw it quickly. It took about half an hour to do a full lap of the town. In terms of food, there was one cafe that was bustling during the lunch hour. It had very kind staff and offered soup, sandwiches, cakes, and even gluten free options. There was also three or four fast food places open in the evening, and one amazing Indian restaurant where we had the best naan bread I have ever tasted. Although there were few options for food, the sleepy town of Roscommon won’t leave you thirsty. In true Irish form, we saw about seven or eight pubs. For landmarks Sacred Heart is a beautiful church with stunning glass windows and there was an intriguing Abbey ruin behind our hotel. One highlight was a perk included in the Groupon voucher — we had “sparkling wine” on arrival, which turned out to be a fancy bottle of cider and two champagne glasses. Once I finished giggling over the fact that there was a cork in a bottle of cider, we realized it was the perfect refreshing beverage after spending the day in the leisure center.
Ultimately, when visiting Roscommon the key is to bring good company. Wandering through a quiet town in drizzling rain and January wind is nice when you have a good travel partner. It’s a pleasant family friendly town, and visiting made me appreciate living in Dublin that much more.