Tag Archives: Travel

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:

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:

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:

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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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.



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.

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.

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:

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.

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!

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.
IMG_3888 - Copy

Soon after we finally arrived at Loch Ness and I ate a sandwich and some Scottish shortbread for lunch before boarding the boat.


And then I saw something amazing.

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.

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!

What I’ve Been Avoiding

I started this blog over a year ago in order to express my feelings on an event that would have caused me to cry if I had told it out loud. So it would be wrong of me to ignore blogging about the things that do make me cry – the things that one typically doesn’t read in a study abroad blog where everything is all travel and butterflies.

France is amazing. I’m speaking French every day – heck I’m even thinking in French! When I’m speaking English, French words accidentally pop out of my mouth and it’s absolutely wonderful. I eat baguettes for breakfast, strange French dishes like cow tongue for lunch, and croissants and pain suisse for French snacktime almost every day. I commuted to my internship past the Eiffel Tower for the last two months!

The Louvre will always be my favorite museum.
The Louvre will always be my favorite museum.

I’ve become more independent here and that’s wonderful. So I spend a lot of time by myself here. I tour museums by myself, eat lunch by myself, plan trips by myself, and shop by myself.

The truth of why I haven’t been blogging as much this semester as the last one? Besides the fact that I truly have been extremely busy with my internship these last few months, I’ve been lonely. There. I said it. It’s out.


I don’t want to get into the details. My friends back home would just tell me to be more social, but somehow I feel that it’s not that simple. Long story short, I just don’t have a friend niche here. Who knows? Maybe that’ll change in the two months I have left, maybe it won’t. It’s not something that started this semester with the new group of students – just something I’ve been gradually feeling for the last six or seven months.

I have a friend back home who a year ago called me stupid for wanting to study abroad for the whole year. They constantly brought up the subject, arguing against the idea vehemently – until one day I became angry with them and told them straight up to stop insulting my lifetime dream of studying abroad in France. They agreed to stop bringing it up, but being the stubborn person that they are, told me that I would regret going abroad for the whole year before shutting up.

Study Abroad isn’t perfect. It’s a learning experience through and through. But do I regret it? No. I’ll never regret it.

I love this city.
I love this city.

I still love France. If anything this year has just made me love it more. But aside from France, culture, and the French language, this year has had its fair share of struggles. All of which I’m learning and growing from, with independence and learning to be okay with being lonely among the most important.

Thanks for listening.

I’ll go finish my Scotland blog now I promise!

And if you’re someone on my study abroad program reading this…

giphy (1)
Uh… Hi?

Busy girls who appear to have their life together since they’ve been here all year need love too okay?

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!

The Hunt for Scones: London Round 2



If you don’t like British guys turn back now.

So the last week in February was “winter break” in France. “Winter break?” you may ask. “Isn’t that the same thing as Christmas Break?” Well while the two may be synonymous in the US, in France winter break is an extra break for either one or two weeks at the end of February!


Don't question it
Don’t question it

So I decided to take full advantage of this fortuitous break and head over to the UK and visit London and Edinburgh… and a couple places in between.

I actually headed out to London by myself and spent the whole day wandering the city alone since the girl I was travelling with had class that day and wouldn’t arrive until late that evening. But since this wasn’t my first time in London I wasn’t worried. So after I hopped off the train and dropped my bags at the hostel I immediately went to Covent Garden, a cute little shopping area to buy some of Whittard’s Vanilla Shortbread tea which has to be the best tea I have ever had in my life – and I’ve had a lot of tea!!

I'm serious about my tea.
I’m quite serious about my tea.

Then I walked to this tea room I had looked up earlier, fully intending on grabbing lunch and then tea and scones there, but then I chickened out when I walked up to it. This would be my first time ever eating lunch by myself okay?

If only I could've had lunch and tea with these guys.
If only I could’ve had lunch and tea with these guys.

So I decided to go eat at Wagamama, an Asian noodle chain restaurant that is absolutely delicious. They don’t exist in Paris so that’s how I justified it. And so I ate lunch by myself for the first time (in a foreign country at that) and I survived!


I was feeling quite proud of myself and independant at this moment so I mustered up the rest of my courage and walked back to the tea room and finally got to try scones in England, complete with clotted cream and jam.

I was in food and tea heaven.
I felt as fancy as Tom Hiddleston
I felt as fancy as Tom Hiddleston

Then after my leisurely (two) meal(s) I decided to walk all the way to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater since it included a long stroll down the River Thames:


Then I took a guided tour of the place complete with various theatrics and a summer camp full of kids cheering to “destroy” the “dragon” that was “burning” down the theater.


In the gift shop I stumbled across the Shakespeare manga collection in the gift shop and I just had to take a picture:

I’ll admit it. I bought “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was too unique to pass up!

After making my purchases, I walked all the way back to the British Museum. Man that was a long walk! The British Museum was thankfully free and I arrived just in time for a guided tour/explanation of the Rosetta Stone which is a stele inscribed with an official decree in three languages: Ancient Egypt hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek. Since we already had knowledge of Ancient Greek, this stone tablet allowed us to begin to understand hieroglyphs!

This rock is over 2000 years old.

I wandered past lots and lots of mummies… including Cleopatra’s!! and then stumbled across an exhibition on English propaganda during Napoleon’s time! As a French major and a history fan I laughed quite a bit:

Napoleon would be the short guy.

Afterwards, it was pretty late I went back to my hostel to wait for my friend to arrive! My first day “travelling” by myself wasn’t too bad, but I was definitely feeling starved for human interaction by that evening!

The next day I re-did some of the typically touristy things such as the London Eye and the Tower of London with my travel buddy… and I stumbled across this in the Tube:

The secret’s out!!
Nevermind. They've clearly known about this power they've held over us for quite some time...
Nevermind. They’ve clearly known about this power they’ve held over us for quite some time…

After the London Eye we went scone hunting which led us to a saturday market full of food… But no scones.


I ended up grabbing some cheap, delicious Indian food for lunch, because the Brits understand Indian food a lot better than the French do!


Following our first failure to find scones, we continued the hunt for the next hour, until we finally stumbled across a place that had tea and scones. Then I was presented with this conundrum:

To add milk, or not to add milk to my Earl Grey tea?

Well, I added milk and didn’t really taste a difference…

Sherlock would have approved though
Sherlock would have approved though

But the scones were out of this world! One was with dark chocolate covered cherries and the other contained an assortment of fruits like apricots and blueberries!


After our little tea break, we headed to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels (Moriarty wasn’t there unfortunately) and then we we went to Baker Street for dinner and passed by 221B Baker Street to find, much to my surprise, that the museum was still open!


Then we had dinner at Nando’s, a Portuguese chicken restaurant chain that once again, does not exist in Paris! They have this wonderfully spicy lemon and herb sauce and I couldn’t go to London without stopping by again!


The next day was essentially my whole reason for going back to London:

The SHEEP. Just kidding, that’s Stonehenge in the background.

I’d always wanted to visit Stonehenge, but to tell you the truth I’d never had any idea where Stonehenge actually was! Turns out it’s only an hour or so outside of London, so I bought a ticket for a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath and basically got on a bus and was taken everywhere!


After our little jaunt at Stonehenge we travelled to Bath, the location of Roman baths (hence the name) which were considered sacred at the time because they believed a goddess lived in the natural hot spring.


My reason for going? It was also mentioned several times in Jane Austen’s novels as a chic vacation getaway!


Of course I couldn’t leave England without eating Fish and Chips at least once:


And then the next morning I woke up to an owl tapping at my window holding a letter in its beak… so off I went to Kings Cross Station!

I will be continuing my study abroad at Hogwarts University!!!!


But before heading off to my “new school,” I took a trip to Scotland which I will describe in my next blog post!

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!

Back in America For an Hour

This past weekend Sweet Briar, the program I’m studying abroad with, took us on a day trip to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The land of the American cemetery was given to the Americans following WWII so I was technically back in the United States for a brief hour!


Our professors even “allowed” us to speak English while we were there, except I forgot and kept speaking French.

While there I realized that without the sacrifices of so many men and women, I would not be here in France today.

It is notoriously cold and windy in Normandy so the night before I had a conversation with my host family that went something like this:

Host Mom: “Emily, do you have a scarf?”

Me: “What? Of course I do!”

Host Mom: “No, like a real scarf and not just one that looks pretty? One made out of wool or something to keep you warm?”

Me: “Ha. No I don’t have one.”

Host Mom: “What about a bonnet?”

Me: “A what?”

Host Mom: “You know like a hat!”

Me: “Uh no.”

Host Mom: “Well what about gloves? Do you have any gloves?”

Me: “I’m from Texas…”

I'm sorry that I'm Texan and I don't understand the cold!!
I’m sorry that I’m Texan and I don’t understand the cold!!

Basically, my host family ended up lending me their ski wardrobe, which I was very thankful for because despite the clear skies and the sun, the beaches were still freezing cold and windy!

Showing off my mittens

We were also accompanied by a couple of tour guides who didn’t really do much besides walk us down the beach and point out a couple memorials with all of the information about the landings written down on them.

Our first view from the beach

We walked through the part known as Omaha Beach, where some of the American forces landed during the Allied invasion of German-Occupied France.

I really like this seafoam

Then of course, no visit anywhere is complete without seeing and photographing the local inhabitants of today:

Thank you hand, for distracting the cat long enough for me to snap a picture

Cultural Remark: French dogs are remarkably well behaved. Seriously, dogs get on the metro all the time and most don’t try to run after other dogs or show any interest in passing by pedestrians!


Our trip to Normandy was in brief, very short. We spent about two hours total on the beach itself before we had to head back to the train station in Caen to catch our train back to Paris.

This past week I’ve also still been super busy with my internship here and a bunch of applications for internships and advising have come out recently so I’ve been working away on them instead of updating my blog like I should!

But I promise…


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!

Prague: Defenestrations and Lots of Meat

This past weekend I jumped on a plane and travelled to Prague with a couple other students from my program. During the month of December, Prague has their celebrated Christmas markets and I was lucky enough to find a hostel just off of Old Town Square. We arrived at night time, checked into our hostel, and then headed out to find dinner.

But not before stopping for a few pictures in Old Town Square. On the left is the Astronomical Clock and on the right is the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.


We stumbled upon a cute little restaurant off of the square and once we had sat down and ordered drinks, the question of the evening became “Are these things edible?”

They were pretzels… I think, but no one else at the other tables touched them. Also we weren’t entirely sure how long they’d been there.


They had a list of Czech specialties on the menu so I decided to try goulash with bread dumplings.

It was really good, but I have to admit the “dumplings” were a little odd. Czech dumplings are like extremely dense and chewy pieces of bread. Ideal for soaking up goulash soup, but very heavy.


Unfortunately Czechs don’t label their menus very well and I was too stupid to ask if the apple strudel we had for dessert contained nuts so I spent the night throwing up.

The next morning was beautiful though and we planned to meet up with our other friends in front of the Astronomical Clock and then take the free tour that our hostel offered.

Me in front of the Christmas Markets and Our Lady Before Tyn.


However, it turned out that the friends I had come with had no interest in history, or actually seeing anything in Prague besides the castle so I was like:

Yeah I'm going on the tour. Bye!
Yeah I’m going on the tour. Bye!

So I went on the free tour all by myself which started off at the Astronomical Clock:


And then we walked through the Jewish Quarter and everything on that side of the river. I was unfortunately too distracted by my guide’s excellent storytelling (and his attractive face) to take many pictures. Defenestration is now my favorite word in the English dictionary. It means to throw someone out of a window and apparently the act is quite addictive for the Czechs and Bohemians.

Part of the reason I’m so interested in the history of Prague is due to A Discovery of Witches and the series by Deborah Harkness. It’s quite possibly my favorite series ever. In the second book the main character travels back in time to Elizabethan England and she ends up spending quite a bit of time in the court of Rudolf II in Prague. Basically, he was the slightly crazy Holy Roman Emperor with a penchant for collecting oddities, especially one related to the occult. His lifelong quest was apparently to find the Philosopher’s Stone and thus caused the science of alchemy to flourish in the city.

Old Town Square and the Christmas Markets again

So I was understandably quite upset to learn that the Swedes sacked Prague in 1648, stealing all of Rudolf II’s collections where they remain to this day in Stockholm. I guess I’ll just have to plan a trip to Stockholm now because the Codex Gigas (Devil Bible) is just too creepy to miss!

The Jewish Quarter itself was spectacular even though the reasons behind its excellent preservation are rather sinister. Hitler had planned for Prague’s Jewish Quarter to be a tourist attraction and museum for the “extinct civilization”…

After the tour was over I went to lunch with two friends I had met on the tour and by this point I was definitely thinking that solo travel might not be so bad. Free tours and hostels really give you the opportunity to meet like minded people and since you’re travelling on your own, you can do whatever you want to!

For lunch I ended up having another Czech specialty: roast duck, with more bread dumplings and a side of cabbage… possibly. I wasn’t quite sure.

The duck and cabbage were fantastic, but I think I was only able to eat one of the dumplings because they were so heavy!


Then I headed over to the other side of the river with my new friends…

It was kind of nasty weather all day, but that just meant that the city looked even more mysterious!


And we stopped to see the John Lennon wall, which was quite recently painted over all in white by some students in order to allow “new messages” from this generation to be painted.

It was still stunning.


Then we headed back across the river in the direction of our hostel and we stumbled across a building in Old Town Square with the name DALI written in big letters. Turns out it was a museum dedicated to Salvador Dali, Alphonse Mucha, and Andy Warhol!

Melting clocks! (Dali)
Just me and some Warhol’s


The next day I decided to go off with my new friends (instead of the friends I came with) and I went on another guided tour by the same group, but this one was dedicated to the castle and the other side of the river.

View over Prague.


Lots of interesting stories followed as we meandered through the castle, a monastery, and the remnants of communist authority in Prague.

Then I went to lunch and had another Czech specialty: Chicken Schnitzel!

It was fantastic. The Czechs really love meat.


Then I saw potato dumplings on the menu and decided that I had to try them in place of the bread dumplings. I shouldn’t have done it.

I think I was only able to eat one. They tasted just like the bread dumplings: heavy, chewy, and dense, but they were made out of potatoes this time.


Then I spent the rest of my time in Prague just wandering around the Christmas Markets and the area around Old Town Square.

Here’s a close up of the Christmas tree!


And then grabbed a latte, because I’m a coffee addict, before heading back to the airport.

This is the definition of beauty.


All in all Prague was amazing and I wish that I’d had more time to go inside each and every synagogue and church. I’m so thankful that I had the courage to break off from the group and go on that tour by myself, because I was able to make two new friends and generally have a much better experience than if I had stayed with the group whose interests differed so much from my own!

Now I just have a week left in Paris before I visit a friend in Spain and then head home for Christmas break!

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!