First of all, my apologies for such a huge hiatus… My awe of the UK has not subsided at all since I first got here. I have spent some more time exploring Edinburgh, doing a bit of hiking, continuing to get lost and discovering new things about the city, and feeling more and more like a local. It still feels different and I do miss the comfort of familiar stores, home cooked meals, and sunshine, but nothing is as foreign as it used to be. I’ve also explored a bit outside of Edinburgh as well. I’ve hit Alnwick Castle (a ton of stuff has been filmed here including parts of the first two Harry Potters and Downton Abbey!), some parts of the Highlands, and London! The Highlands trip and London are probably my favorite places I have been to so far.
I was absolutely blown away by our trip to the Highlands. I am a pretty outdoorsy person and was amazed by how beautiful northern Scotland is. It was a weekend long trip with a professional tour company and was a very nice introduction to how much there is to explore in Scotland. We hit a lot of beautiful little towns and touristy places on the way up to Inverness (where we stayed the night) and on the way back down to Edinburgh as well. At practically every place we stopped, my thoughts were, “Aaaah. Why is this so pretty??!! I NEED to come back here.” The tour guides also kept saying, “Okay, we are coming up on some really pretty scenery now,” and I’m like, “Oh, I guess all those rolling hills of orange and yellow trees with rays of light peaking through the clouds was the ugly part. Yeah, of course.” A couple highlights were Loch Ness and Glencoe, though I think Glencoe was the highlight of the weekend for me. It was just so gorgeous and somewhere I definitely want to go back to to explore and do bit of hiking.
I spent last weekend down in London with a friend who happens to be studying in northern England for the semester. It seems like a cliche thing to say, but I LOVED London. This was my first time there and I came back from it thinking, I need to live here one day. It felt a bit like a mix of Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C., but with prettier buildings, nice weather (I hate the heat and love rain, so nice in my opinion), and cool accents. 😉 I used to think I wasn’t a big city person, but it turns out that I am. I love the outdoors, but I also need to be close to a big city (I am from LA so…). I really like Edinburgh but London also made me realize that Edinburgh is quite a bit smaller than I’m used to. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Edinburgh, but London is… different. I could go on and on about all the things I loved about London, but that would take too long. Just go to London. It’s awesome.
Being in this amazing place and it being so easy to travel (I’m also going to Madrid next weekend!), it can be easy to forget that I am actually here to study… (Don’t worry, I’m still going to class and doing my homework, Mom!) But finding that balance can be tricky. I was actually supposed to go on another trip this weekend, but I decided I needed a little time back in Edinburgh to get some work done and to also remind myself that there is still so much in Edinburgh that I haven’t seen yet either. The thing is, traveling isn’t just fun, it is also super educational. You gain so many experiences that you could not possibly learn from reading a book. So if you ever study abroad, travel as much as you can, but within reason. The book stuff is really important too! And don’t forget that the city you chose is also a place to be explored! Just because you are living there, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hit the touristy places there as well! And don’t be afraid to look like a tourist. I walk around Edinburgh with my big camera, I’ve been to the castle more than once, I’ve walked up and down the Royal Mile quite a few times, and I pretty much always get ambushed by those people who want unsuspecting tourists to buy their magazines or take their coupons, or whatever it is they keep shoving in my face. And you just smile, walk away, and think, “Tourist my butt! I’m a local now!” Be a local tourist – yeah, I just made that a thing. I’m a local tourist! And you gotta be it loud and proud!