Dublin and Belfast city breaks.

Hi there, and welcome back!

I’ve never written an article comparing the academic style in Edinburgh and in France. However, if there’s one thing I can say is a hundred per cent better here, it’s having all your exams in December and not in January. Being able to enjoy Christmas without guiltily thinking that you should be revising instead is great. But what’s even greater is the sensation of freedom after Christmas, when you still have two weeks before starting a new semester, and you can do whatever you like. It means that while my friends back home are in the middle of their exam period, I’ve been able to enjoy Edinburgh and go on a weekend trip to Ireland.

For the past two weeks, I’ve spent a great deal of time walking around Edinburgh, taking my time, noticing details, and visiting museums. I’ve learnt a lot about Edinburgh by visiting:

  • the National Museum of Scotland. It’s huge, so I concentrated on the part about Scottish history. Don’t forget to enjoy the astonishing view from the roof terrace. I was lucky to be there at sunset on the first day of the year.
  • the Scottish National Gallery. I was walking past when I noticed signs about a temporary exhibition of J.M.W Turner’s works, which I absolutely love. The exhibition runs until the end of January.
  • the Museum of Edinburgh. Full of interesting facts about the development of the city.
  • the Writers’ Museum.  I would recommend going even if you don’t care about literature, just for the building! It is indeed inside the magnificent 17th century Lady Stair’s house.

Most museums are free in Edinburgh. I think it is admirable that everyone can have access to such culture and knowledge. It also means that you can pop in whenever you’ve got a moment and take a look around. You’re not obliged to rush to try and see everything.

Then, I took advantage of the proximity of Ireland and the cheap price of the flights – the journey takes less than an hour and a return ticket can be as cheap as £20 – to go on my first solo trip of 2017.

I was afraid of being bored on my own, but in fact, when travelling alone you’re more likely to approach, or be approached by people than when you’re with someone. I was surprised by how friendly people were, how easily the old couple at the next table in the restaurant would talk to you, or how people would immediately strike up a conversation when you enter a pub.

On the first day, I took a walking tour of Dublin which was very informative historically. It enabled me to see more of the city than I would have otherwise, and most of all it enabled me to meet lovely people from all around the world. We went for a drink after the tour, met Irish men with interesting stories to tell, and then went for dinner. It’s amazing to think that I landed in the morning alone and with no idea where I was going, and finished the day with new friends, lasting memories, and a mind broadened by multicultural conversations.

On the second day, I took the bus to Belfast, so that I could get an idea of the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland. I think that the position of Northern Ireland, geographically, religiously and politically between Ireland and the UK, is fascinating.

It was an exhausting weekend. I woke up early to catch the plane or the bus, and walked a lot. However, it was an enriching experience that I’m glad I dared to try. I was reluctant at first to go on my own, but now I am convinced that it was the best decision I could make. Travelling with friends is fun, you get to create group memories and inside jokes. But there is nothing, really, that can equal the thrill of learning about the world – and about yourself along the way – on a solo adventure.

See you later,