Category Archives: Travel

Whirlwind

Well, hello world. It’s been a good… almost three four?? months now since I’ve blogged?

Lots of things have happened. Lots of things.

I went home for Christmas. Started dating a French guy who also happened to be my best friend in this small town. Celebrated my birthday in Tours. Stopped dating the French guy. (Lesson: don’t date French guys) I had a virus/the flu/who knows what and took full advantage of being covered by French healthcare. Went to Romania where there was the worst winter storm ever (in March mind you), went home to the United States for some emergency R&R, and then went back to France just in time to start work again.

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Peles Castle, Romania. At least the 10 degree (F) temperatures meant the pictures were pretty?

It was certainly a whirlwind.

I’m sorry I haven’t blogged. I’ve honestly been in such a creative slump with all of the drama going on.

Because let’s be real: small towns wherever they are have 100x more drama than any city.

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Maybe it’s all just extra dramatic because it’s French?

So I have right about 48 days left in this country. Is there anything you’d like me to blog about during that time? Throw some ideas at me.

 

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Mama I made it!

Welcome to Dreux:

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View over the center of town on a very cloudy day
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The belfry at the center of town–the cafe with the red tents has the cutest little terrace in the back and they have cheap wine!

I’ve tried to condense the last week into a series of bullet points to make it as easy to read as possible. SO much has happened!

  1. I moved in

When I got off the plane I had the most massive customs line ever waiting for me (like seriously it took 45 minutes), but once all of that was over my teacher contact from my high school was waiting for me just on the other side! I’m really lucky that I didn’t have to navigate Paris with two suitcases to get to the train station because then she tucked me into her car and we drove to Dreux.

Then she gave me the low-down on all the gossip of the school the hour drive we had and when we arrived at the school she dragged me inside to meet the Principal (Le Proviseur) and half of the administrative team. Who were all quite nice and tbh I didn’t remember half of their names because I was so jet lagged. And then she brought me to my room.

Basically I’m living in the student dorms. They’ve reserved a couple rooms for teachers. It’s a tiny bit bigger than a dorm room, but not by much, but I have my own bathroom and a communal kitchen I’ll share with another language assistant and the nighttime workers who stay awake to make sure all the kids are in bed and asleep at curfew. All this is fine because it’s free. 

Yes you read that right. I won the jackpot in this town.

2. Welcome dinner

On Thursday my contact from the high school organized a welcome dinner at the Italian restaurant in town & I was able to meet many of the people who work there. (And not just the English teachers) I sat next to the science teacher who also participates in National Novel Writing Month each November so we ended up talking about books quite a lot, the teacher across from me had fun trying to make me say as many French cuss words as possible, and I drank soo much wine.

I was so happy I was able to speak with people, outside of the work context and just have normal conversations *IN FRENCH.* I find there’s always a little “trial” period when new people try to figure out if I actually do speak French before they try to speak to me, but at least I got a lot of that out of the way at dinner!

3. I’ve adopted a café

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Dreux doesn’t have a Starbucks. It’s that tiny, but it does have a cute little coffee shop that I’ve been to… 5 out of the 7 days I’ve been here already. The second day I came in they gave me a rewards card… and I’m over halfway already… oops?

The employees all know me… probably as the American, but well that’s fine.  Plus the food/coffee/wifi is great there.

Oh did I mention that I don’t have wifi where I live?

Yeah, they don’t want the students staying up all night on the internet. I’ve got a little bit of data with my international phone plan, but for now if I need to do any heavy internet use I have to come to this café.

Besides internet surfing I have gotten quite a bit of writing done there too!

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How could I not get writing done in a place like this?

 

4. I still haven’t started work yet.

We had our teacher’s meeting in Orléans yesterday, which was really really boring.

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It might have been useful… If I hadn’t already lived in France before, so I felt a little like Hermione. #beentheredonethat

They didn’t give us any new information or give us any instruction on how to work with students. To me it seemed like a meet and greet more than anything, but at least there was free coffee?

But yeah, I’m not sure when I’ll actually go into the classroom for the first time, so we shall see. Tomorrow maybe?

5.  Phone companies suck.

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I’ll just leave that one as is.

Compared to living in Paris I already love this city more. I don’t feel quite so anonymous here & I’ll be able to get to know people better I think because I see the same people every single day–even walking on the street!

There’s so much more that’s happened that just couldn’t fit into one blog post! If you’re interested in keeping up with me this year, click subscribe!

To Dreux We Go!

To where you say?

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Dreux is a small city of just over 30,000 people about an hour west of Paris.

I’ve got to be honest, when I got an email from my school contact claiming I was assigned to live in Dreux, I hoped it was fake. Dreux doesn’t have any chateaux and I’d never heard of the city before. I’d been crossing my fingers for Tours again, but alas.

HOWEVER, this turned out to be a GREAT thing. My teacher contact notified me that I would be able to live at the lycée (high school) for FREE (to be determined if it is actually free) which means I don’t have to go through the arduous process of finding my own apartment and applying for the CAF (a government fund you can apply for to subsidize your rent) Free is also an extra good thing once you find out that with TAPIF (the program I’m employed under) I only make about 780 euros a month. So every centime (penny) I can save means another centime I can use towards travel/wine.

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Get ready for lots of Game of Thrones gifs this year.

PLUS, I’m super close to Paris without actually being in Paris. I’ve already lived in the capital so I’m looking for a different experience this time around. BUT I have so many friends who live in Paris it will be very cheap and easy for me to visit them on the weekends.

I’ll be teaching at a college and a lycée professionelle in Dreux. Aka a middle school and a vocational high school. So the experiences will be quite different AND I’m super excited for both of them, so I can get a different taste of the different public school systems.

Some questions I’ve been getting:

  1. Are you moving to France permanently?
    1. Nope. My contract is for only 7 months. I have the option of renewing the contract one more time IF I want to, but I have no plans yet so I should be back in the US by May.
  2. Are you going to teach yoga in France?
    1. TBD on if I can learn all the yoga words in French.
  3. Are you going to marry a French guy?
    1. Do I even need to answer this?

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      So Daenerys, when you start your new job in Westeros are you going to marry a Westerosi?

4. I hear you only work 12 hours a week on this program. Is this true/what will you be doing with all of that free time??

1. YES. I have a 12 hour work week. (Probably why I’ll be making very little money) and so I plan to fill my free time with writing and yoga. I have a rough goal going of writing 3 more novels this year. Yes. You heard me correctly. It might turn into 2 novels with shiny edits, it could increase. Either way I’ll be keeping myself very busy!

I have 10 days left before I leave. 10 days left of yoga teaching, novel editing, packing, and saying goodbye to family & friends. It’s starting to become real.

I’m moving back to France!

SUBSCRIBE to follow along. I also have Instagram for all the yoga pictures, but travel pictures will probably go up too.

Snake Charmers, Spa Days, and Camel Rides in Marrakech, Morocco

I know. I’m very, very behind on blogging. One weekend I was in Morocco, then I had a paper due and then it was off for a two week spring break to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland and then more papers and final exams!! Now its down to my last week in Paris and I haven’t even uploaded any pictures yet.

I had been dying to go to Morocco this whole year -cross off another continent, go to another French speaking country, experience a completely different culture- the list goes on and on. My biggest problem was finding someone to go with me, because while I felt safe travelling by myself, I did not feel comfortable going to Morocco by myself. Plenty of people wanted to go to Morocco, but plenty of these people’s parents did NOT want their kids to go to Morocco for some reason? But I finally found someone to go with and we headed out on a Thursday for a quick weekend trip to Marrakech, Morocco!

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Day 1:

We decided to stay at an Airbnb since we found a listing for a young yoga instructor lending out a spare bedroom and we felt more comfortable staying there that at a hostel. We arrived in Marrakech in the evening and we headed out to the Place Djemaa El-Fna, a giant square right next to the souks where they have street food vendors set up everywhere with picnic tables. Might not have been the most sanitary of food, but my host mom recommended it and it certainly was an experience.

So much cheap food. Also we definitely didn't order the French fries...
So much cheap food. Also we definitely didn’t order the French fries…

It took us forever to get our check at the end because the guys didn’t want us to leave until the other tables filled up so that it wouldn’t look empty!

After dinner we took a quick look around the souks and then headed back to our apartment for an early night.

Day 2:

The next morning we headed off to the souks and that was an adventure in itself. Obviously in Morocco everyone knows you are a tourist simply due to the color of your skin and on the way to the souks a man started walking alongside us and talking to us. I tried to politely brush him off, but he continued to talk to us and told us that there was a shortcut to the souks if we took this side street. Since we went to the souks last night it made sense to me that there could be a shortcut in the general indication he indicated, and the man was obviously watching us to see if we would take his advice, so we headed down the street he had pointed us in and he waved us goodbye.

Then a block later he showed back up.

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At this moment we were both getting slightly uncomfortable, but the man was being very polite and started to guide us through some smaller streets. Thankfully, they were all full of pedestrians and other tourists so I didn’t feel threatened, but I wasn’t quite sure what the man wanted.

So we followed him, and we followed him, and we followed forever – it was definitely not a shortcut. Then we finally made it to the souks and he led us to his shop – which was a fancy furniture shop with closed doors and he insisted that we go inside to look around. My friend and I looked at each other then quickly said “No thanks!” and bolted.

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By now we were good and lost in the souks, so I politely asked some Moroccan women how to get to the big mosque with the tower. Unfortunately, I think we were both thinking of different mosques and towers because they pointed us in the wrong direction, but they meant well! After sniffing a soap vendors wares politely for a few minutes, we were pointed back in the right direction.

So then we stopped at a jewelry stand and each bought a pair of earrings after some intense haggling. Then the merchant ceremoniously told us we were all friends and told us we could each have a little bracelet for free.

A little surprised, but not one to turn down a free gift we each picked out some simple bracelets and then the man asked us to come visit his sister’s spice shop. Neither of us being mildly interested in bringing spices back, we politely turned him down and then something like this happened:

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Basically he insisted on taking us, and I figured that her shop was probably just around the corner, so why not?

So then he started walking fairly quickly, far back into the heart of the souks, in the wrong direction from the exit. And since he was walking so quickly and he wasn’t turning around to see if we were following him, when a motorcycle passed in front of us, we turned around and raced back far past his shop.

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That was quite enough excitement in the souks for us for one day so we left the maze of shops and headed back into the square where we ate dinner last night and we were met with this lovely sight at least five separate times:

Incognito picture because they wanted people to pay for pictures.
Incognito picture because they wanted people to pay for pictures.

Just dozens of snakes and cobras out in the open. No big deal.

Oh and then there's a monkey too
Oh and then there’s a monkey too

For lunch we headed over to Henna Cafe that I had heard about on trip advisor. It’s a cute little cafe that has lunch, Moroccan mint tea, and henna!

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After lunch we headed over to the Majorelle Garden:

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Then we went to rest at the apartment for a little bit, before heading back into the souks for dinner at a Moroccan dinner theater complete with belly dancers.

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Once again: way more food than the two of us could eat!
Once again: way more food than the two of us could eat!

Day 3:

The next morning we woke up bright and early for our camel ride. We went as a small group through an oasis and they even equipped us with our own scarves to protect our faces.

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My camel was named Shakira, and she had just had a baby two months ago who traveled alongside us the whole way.

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Halfway there we stopped and had tea and Moroccan crepes in a tent.

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I have to admit, by the time we were back I was quite ready to get off the camel.

After this we had a leisurely lunch:

Vegetarian couscous yummy <3
Vegetarian couscous with cinnamon! Yummy ❤

and went back to the apartment to grab our bathing suits before heading out way past the city center in a taxi to a Moroccan hammam that our host recommended.

Please pamper me
Please pamper me

Once there, we were told to change into our bathing suits and we were given broken instructions in French to go into the bath room and put soap on.

So we fumbled into the Moroccan baths -which looked like something straight out of a roman museum by the way: marble fountains lining the walls and in the center of the room an additional circle of fountains with stone stools next to each of them.

Kind of like this, but with more antique detail
Kind of like this, but with more antique detail

After debating over which container contained the supposed soap, a Moroccan woman walked in and well, started soaping us up and rinsing us with the warm water. A few minutes later she indicated that we should go into the adjacent room. It turned out to be a steam room so we relaxed in there for several minutes until the woman came to fetch us. This time there were two women and after rinsing us off with the warm water they popped off our bikini tops.

My first reaction
My first reaction

The shock lasted all of three seconds until I realized this was all just part of the “cultural experience” and they lead us to massage tables where they washed our bodies with soap, oil, water, and rubbed off an entire layer of skin with specially made gloves. After this massage, they washed our hair and gave us large fluffy bath towels and then led us outside the bath to a dark room where we received another full body massage.

Then a Moroccan man blow dried my hair and they hailed a taxi for us and we were on our way.

For our last night in Morocco we hunted down a recommended restaurant in the souks and ate dinner on the balcony as the sun went down.

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Vegetable Tagine

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Then we wandered back through the souks -spending our last dirhams on pants and scarves and then went back to our apartment to pack before heading back the next morning.

Goodbye Morocco!
Goodbye Morocco!

All in all Marrakech was an exotic experience complete with the stereotypical snake charmers and belly dancers. But I am not completely in love with it simply because of all the negative male attention my friend and I received as foreign females. I have never received as many cat-calls in my life -and we were both dressed conservatively. I am sincerely glad I was smart enough not to go to Morocco by myself, because we were even followed a few times through the souks.

But it was definitely a positive experience and the food and mint tea were positively amazing.

Now I’m off to go take my last two exams and eat as many pastries and crepes as I can before I head back to the US next Monday!

I’ll be talking about my trip to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland in the upcoming posts so stay tuned!

Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!

Haggis, Snow, and the Loch Ness Monster (Scotland)

I cannot believe that it was a whole month ago that I was in Edinburgh! Busy doesn’t even begin to describe this month. I’ve got a whole backlog of blogs to write, travelling to Provence, my parents visiting Paris, my internship completing… the list keeps growing!

But without further ado: I present to you Scotland!

Oops. That's just David Tennant. Who also happens to be my favorite Scottish actor.
Oops. That’s just David Tennant. Who also happens to be my favorite Scottish actor.

Lets try again shall we:

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Welcome to Edinburgh in February!

We ended up taking a train into Edinburgh from London and the view from the train was absolutely breathtaking as the route took us past the craggy coastline. I didn’t get any pictures because I was sitting in the aisle seat and there were a couple British businessmen in the window seats so I might have gotten a couple weird looks if I had tried to take pictures over their heads…

It would have been something like this, but wayy more awkward than a young Daniel Radcliffe
It would have been something like this, but wayy more awkward than a young Daniel Radcliffe

But when we arrived we dropped our bags off at our hostel and promptly went to visit the thing literally looming over our heads:

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Edinburgh Castle! It was super windy and cold if you can’t tell.

The castle literally towers over the entire town and was home to so many historical Scottish events. The whole thing could be described as a giant spoiler alert for all my favorite historical fiction tv shows including the illustrious Mary Queen of Scots and the various Jacobite Rebellions.

A historical romance between Mary Queen of Scots and Francis II of France complete with inaccurate costumes and more drama than a single high school?! You had me at romance <3
Reign: A historical romance between Mary Queen of Scots and Francis II of France complete with inaccurate costumes and more drama than a single high school?! You had me at romance ❤

**SPOILER ALERT** Everyone dies. It was the 1500s.

The castle turned out to be a giant windstorm where we were running in between buildings for shelter so when we were done and it was starting to sprinkle, we decided it was wise to head back to our hostel for a warm cup of tea before dinner. This is why I love Britain. Tea is everywhere and it comes in a giant pot for like 2 pounds or less.

Muffin typically not included for 2 pounds
*Muffin typically not included for 2 pounds

I actually had a friend studying abroad in Edinburgh, so she took us to all the good places including a lovely restaurant where I had this Scottish specialty:

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Haggis, neeps, and tatties. Also translated as spiced sheep organs, turnips, and mashed potatoes. It was very good!

After dinner my friend took us to a small cafe where live folk music plays every night and thats pretty much when I decided that I loved Scotland. Sitting in a cafe with new and old friends, listening to scottish accents swirl around us, and legit folk music playing in the background that you couldn’t help but tap your feet to. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The next day we headed out early to go see the National Museum of Scotland which had a whole section on Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, and the Jacobite Rebellions.

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A kilt making machine!

My Scottish pride also came out on this trip in full force. On my dad’s side I belong to the Ross clan and on my Mom’s side I belong to the Menzie clan.

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That’s Clan Ross up there in the Middle!

But seeing as how clan Ross is from the highlands… I’m much more inclined to claim them.

Evidence no. 1: Highlanders are just more badass

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Clan Pride

After our museum visit and after I bought my clan scarf and other souvenirs, we hunted down an Indian food restaurant that my friend recommended.

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It doesn’t look like much, but man I’ve missed Indian food and that definitely hit the spot!

Then we met up with my friend for some hot chocolate floats at the local gelato store where they hand make everything.

This is white hot chocolate with cardamom topped with handmade rose gelato with dark chocolate pieces. Heaven in a cup.
This is white hot chocolate with cardamom topped with handmade rose gelato with dark chocolate pieces. Heaven in a cup.

If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh Mary’s Milk Bar better be on your list. That thing was divine.

After our snack to warm ourselves back up, we headed over to take a whiskey distillery tour where we learned about the production process that goes into making whisky and how the different regions of Scotland produce different varieties of whisky.

And then we walked past the largest whisky collection in the world. All unopened, untasted bottles.

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This was only one wall.

We also learned all about the Angel’s Share – the amount of whiskey that evaporates during distillation that is said to be taken by the angels. That is also the title of a very funny Scottish movie about whiskey which I highly recommend.

This bottle was never opened. I guess the Angels really liked this whiskey huh?
This bottle was never opened. I guess the Angels really liked this whiskey huh?

And as Jack Sparrow would say:

Why is the rum whiskey always gone??
Why is the rum whiskey always gone??

After our tour we did some random exploring of Edinburgh and climbed up Calton hill to get a birds eye view of the city at sunset.

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And then we almost got knocked over by the wind gusts…

The struggle was real.
The struggle was real.

so we decided to head back down for an earlier dinner of chicken pot pie at a local pub.

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I got chicken. I’m not risking any other sort of meat being added to my meat pies. I know the stories too well.

Then we also learned about HP sauce, which does not stand for Harry Potter sauce because it is in no way magical. It is approved by Her Majesty The Queen however.

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I don’t like it.

The next day was our guided tour of the highlands that went to Loch Ness. We woke up bright and early and headed out to meet our tour guide, a lovely man with a thick Scottish accent, before we headed out in a small van with our group of 16 people – which also included two American marines on vacation! So I ended up talking to them most of the way. Making new friends is one of my favorite parts of travelling – don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with the people you come across!

But if I wasn’t already in love with Scotland before this day, I certainly was after the landscapes we saw:

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Just breathtaking.

And then we got to the snow. And man did I ever freak out.

You could say I jumped right in.
You could say I jumped right in.
SNOW. I WAS SO EXCITED.
SNOW. I WAS SO EXCITED.

I’m just going to flood this post with pictures of snow now, because Scotland is super beautiful and I really can’t pick just one.

IMG_3877We also drove through the area where they apparently filmed Skyfall and our guide played the Skyfall theme. It honestly just looked like a field full of snow, but hey, James Bond was there!

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This is like a super famous mountain or something.

Then we stopped in Glencoe for pictures… where the Glencoe massacre of 1692 occurred in the aftermath of the first Jacobite uprising because the MacDonald clan supposedly didn’t declare their allegiance to William and Mary fast enough. So they were all murdered by people pretending to be their guests.
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Soon after we finally arrived at Loch Ness and I ate a sandwich and some Scottish shortbread for lunch before boarding the boat.

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And then I saw something amazing.

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The loch ness monster in all her neon green glory. Many thanks to Snapchat for allowing me to capture a photo of this magnificent beast.

After the boat tour we headed back towards Edinburgh and on one of our many stops along the way back I made sure to do this:

Do you want to build a snowman? His smile fell over, sorry guys.
Do you want to build a snowman? His smile fell over, sorry guys.

To finish off the evening our tour guide spontaneously played the bagpipes for us, completing my day evening life.

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It was breathtaking.

When we got back we stopped at a burger restaurant for our last meal in Edinburgh so I just had to get the haggis burger:

It only looks weirder with flash. It tasted amazing though!
It only looks weirder with flash. It tasted amazing though! That would be an onion ring on top of a haggis patty on top of a cheese topped beef patty. I couldn’t finish it.

Then we headed to bed early before our last morning in Scotland.

We woke up bright and early to see the last thing on our list right as it opened: Camera Obscura. I highly recommend it if you go. It was essentially a museum full of optical illusions and I had a blast! They have a mirror maze just like in the horror movies – what other reason do you need to go?

Where did my body go??
Where did my body go??

Sadly, my trip had to come to an end. Scotland has definitely been my favorite country I’ve visited this year though and I can’t wait to go back one day! The people were all extremely friendly, Scottish accents are definitely better than English ones, and well kilts:

That sexy, mysterious piece of clothing.
That sexy, mysterious piece of clothing.

Last weekend I went to Provence. But my next trip? Morocco. Then the weekend after that is a two week trip to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland. So you better stay tuned 🙂

Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!