I’m back in London, and looking back, I can’t believe that we fit so many things into a week! It was a lot of fun, and the three places were very different, and I feel like I “understand” the UK a lot more. Michelle, Rachel, and Tyler were great travel buddies, and luckily we made all of our flights/trains/reservations!
So, after Dublin, we took the train to Belfast, in Northern Ireland. We got to see a lot of Ireland from the window of the train, so the trip went by really quickly. We stayed at this really cool hostel in Belfast called “Vagabonds.” It was a pretty small place, and I was convinced that most of the residents lived there full time. It had a really cool vibe and it was really well decorated. I described it to Julie as a “hipster Real World” house.
As soon as we got to Belfast, we went on the “Terrorism Tour” of the city. We learned about the violence between the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, and saw a lot of the graffiti and street art that’s been created around it. The Peace Wall was pretty incredible. It was built to divide the two neighborhoods, and they had to keep making it taller so people couldn’t climb it or throw bombs over it. But now they have made it into a huge wall of art and graffiti.
We went out that night and people were very excited that we were Americans, and we all got complemented on our accents. (something I do not hear fairly often) The next day, we went to Queen’s University in Belfast, the Belfast Botanic Gardens (which were beautiful!) and the Ulster Museum. Then we got on a (very very small) airplane to Edinburgh.
Edinburgh was completely different than Dublin and Belfast. There were a ton of old castle-like buildings, there was a ton of cobble stone, and there was like a permanent fog/mist all around us. Our hostel room had a great view of the city with a window/skylight that you could stick your head out of, which was pretty cool. We got there pretty late, but were able to walk down the Royal Mile and look in some shops and get some food.
Then, the next day (the 4th of July!) we went on a bus tour of Scotland. My travel buddies really wanted to see Loch Ness, so we went on a tour bus that took us all the way up there and then back down through the highlands. Our tour guide was this large Scottish man in a kilt who loved his country. He told us SO many facts about Scotland and how it is the greatest country in the world. My two personal favorite facts are that Scotland has the largest number of redheads per capita than any other country in the world, and that Scotland has the greatest number of penguins in a zoo in the whole world. We learned a lot about Scotland, and got to see some really cool things. And Tyler and I had fun playing car ride games basically the whole way down. We tried to go out to celebrate the 4th of July that night, but it was kind of a bust because no one in Edinburgh really cared.
The next day we woke up and while we were eating breakfast, Tyler called and told us to get outside immediately! The Royal Family was there, like 2 minutes away from our hotel, at a church because William was getting inducted into the Order of the Thistle. We ran outside and after a couple of minutes, I saw Kate Middleton get out of a car and walk into the church, and then a few minutes later the Queen walked in with all the members of the Order. It was so cool! I wasn’t that close, but it was the first time I got to see them with my own eyes!
After that excitement, we headed towards Arthur’s Seat, which is an old volcano that is supposed to have an amazing view of the city. It was really cloudy and foggy, but I really wanted to climb it anyway. It felt good to get some form of exercise, and everything was still really pretty even though it was really foggy. By the time we got to the top, you could barely see 20 feet in front of your face. And we were basically the only one up there, which was a pretty cool feeling.
We climbed back down and got lunch before getting the train back to London. Because we booked our train tickets so long ago, we were able to get a deal on First Class train tickets. It was AMAZING! I got a comfortable window seat with enough room to stretch my legs, and attendants came by every half hour to see if we needed any more coffee or tea. The ride lasted about 5 1/2 hours, and I spent the majority of the time just staring out the window. We passed the ocean, mountains, a bunch of greenery, animals, and a lot of towns. It was a great way to end the trip!
We arrived back in King Cross Station last night, and had to take a picture by Platform 9 3/4 where Harry Potter leaves for Hogwarts, and then we finally made it home. It was a great week and I am so glad I got the chance to go to all of those places!