#BFFSDOEUROPE Pt 2 - Scotland

Here's a continuation of our #BFFSDOEUROPE adventure! If you haven't seen Part 1 click here .

Now, where were we?

Oh yes. The train ride from London to Edinburgh took about four hours. Karima and I were both exhausted, so we both tried to nap (me, unsuccessfully). The train ride was a great break from walking all day, and by the time we arrived in Edinburgh we were rested and ready to go again!

Honestly, fell in love with Edinburgh within 5 minutes of arrival
We arrived at our hostel, dropped our bags, and headed out on a walking tour. Our hotel was right in the middle of the Royal Mile, one of the main roads in Edinburgh with Edinburgh Castle at the top and the Palace at the bottom. Our local guide brought us quickly up toward Edinburgh Castle, and after giving us a brief tour and explanation, sent us off to explore. We meandered through the castle, exploring the nooks and crannies.

Guys, I want a castle




100% starving and exhausted at this point

 It was fun, the view was beautiful, but in reality I wasn't feeling the greatest and we sat down most of our time at the castle. (We were also starving and the cafe was closed so that sucked.) We met back up with our group and made our way BACK down the royal mile, stopping to see and hear some really cool stories of historical Edinburgh.

Did you ever hear the story of the dog who slept on his owners grave until he died? Yeah, that's Greyfriar's Bobby - who cried while the tour guide was telling the story? Yeah, it was me.


We also saw the elephant house, where JK Rowling famously worked on some of the Harry Potter series!


By the time our tour was finished, it was almost dark. We were starving, so we grabbed some dinner before heading back to our hostel for the night. 

We headed to bed as we had an early rise for another day of adventure - a day trip into the Highlands! 

This trip was something I apparently overlooked in our itinerary but it was probably my favorite day of our entire trip. We started off on a bus to Stirling Castle! 


It was SO beautiful and interactive. If you have to make a choice between Edinburgh or Stirling Castles, I would recommend making the trip out here! There were people in costume around to interact with and different displays and exhibits to see.


The photo ops were also a huge bonus.


Living our best life.


We were having so much fun we almost missed our meet up time and were one of the last people on the bus! Whoops! 



We boarded the bus and drove through the Scottish Highlands - which looked suspiciously like Newfoundland. We stopped in a small town that was ADORABLE and there were sheep, so, bonus.






We grabbed some lunch and did a bit of window shopping in Aberfoyle, and headed even further up into the highlands. We stopped again for a hike, which I was definitely not prepared for.


Does this not look like Newfoundland??


trying to not look like i'm dying. 
I was super thankful to get back on the bus and sleep for the ride back to Edinburgh. In the evening I went on a tour of Mary King's Close, which took us below the Royal Mile and learned more about Edinburgh's past. 

Our last day was a free day exploring Edinburgh! After our Primark adventures in London, we wanted to check out Primark in Edinburgh so we walked down to it. 



We did some shopping and found an Tapas style Indian restaurant. 



Karima wanted to get her nails done, but we couldn't find anywhere that would take walk-ins, but we did find bubble tea!



We wandered through the streets for the rest of the afternoon, finished up the last of our shopping, then headed back to the hostel to pack up our belongings before heading to our farewell dinner.


Our trip was basically over, and I think our only regret was not being able to stay longer. 



Such an amazing group of people to travel with 
The next day we said our goodbyes, and began the long journey home. I ended up getting a bus to the airport, spending the night in the Dublin airport, and then a night layover in Toronto before finally arriving home. 

It was the adventure of a lifetime. The only question now is - where to next? 








#BFFsDoEurope Recap - Pt 1, LONDON {Travel with EF Ultimate Break}



It's been a hot minute since I've updated this page. Between going back to school and working my life has been a hectic cycle of work sleep eat repeat for the past year or so.

BUT we had planned for a while to take a trip and expand on our #BFFsDo adventures - so I finished my summer job early, and boarded a plane to adventure!

We booked our trip with EF Ultimate Break because we were both just too busy to deal with the nitty gritty of booking hotels and finding things to do. We had both travelled with EF tours in high school and after looking at reviews from previous travellers decided that EF Ultimate Break would be the best for our post-grad adventure! Ultimate Break (previously EF College Break) caters to travellers 18-29 and hosts trips all over the world! We chose to do the London and Scotland Escape which covered London and Edinburgh with a day trip to the Scottish Highlands.

Because I was coming from Canada and the only departure point within Canada is Toronto, it was cheaper for me to book my own flights. I ended up booking a flight that arrived a day earlier than the rest of our group because it was way cheaper than the day after. Thankfully, EF makes it super easy to make your trip longer by going early or staying late - all you need to do is make the change through your online profile.

SO, we boarded planes in two different cities and met up in LONDON!

Back in 2011, I had a brief layover in London and fell in LOVE with the city - and vowed I would be back. We arrived in London with no real plan of what we wanted to see or do - except that we wanted to see everything and do as much as we could in a short period of time.

An overnight flight later, I made it though passport control, onto the Gatwick Express train to Victoria station, and then navigated my way through the London Underground. We ended up booking this hostel, which we didn't know at the time, but was only a twenty minute walk from the hotel we would be staying at with the group.

After dropping our bags off at the hostel (we arrived at around 10am and check in wasn't until 2pm), we ventured back to the underground station and headed to the city centre in search of coffee. After stopping for a latte, we walked around for hours just taking in the fact that we were 1) TOGETHER after two years of being apart and 2) In LONDON, a place we had talked about visiting for so many years. We walked along the River Thames, saw Shakespeare's Globe, the "Harry Potter" (aka Millennium) Bridge, and thought our legs were going to fall off.







Eventually, we found something to eat (Five Guys Burgers and Fries - a super european meal of course) and headed back to the hostel to check in. Karima napped, I edited and posted some photos while catching up on social media and talking to my fiance and family, and then we were ready for some more food (Jetlag will do that to you). We had the brilliant idea to walk to the hotel where we would be staying for the rest of our time in London to see if we could do it with our luggage or if we would need to get a cab (because adding another couple thousand steps to our day couldn't hurt). We ended up walking to the hotel and grabbing some food from a grocery store next to the hotel before heading back. By the time we got back, ate dinner, and rested our legs it was time for bed! We had an early-ish rise the next morning and desperately needed to catch up on our sleep.


The next morning we got up for free breakfast at the hostel (toast, croissants, juice, and - most importantly - coffee), and headed out on our next journey. We met our tour guide and went to grab coffee while we waited for our check-in time. In hindsight, I would totally recommend going a day early to ease yourself into the new time zones and give yourself time to adjust. We were ready to go for our first day while the rest of our group was exhausted and just ready for bed.

We finally checked into the hotel, dropped our things, and met with our group. Our guide gave us preloaded Oyster cards, went over some housekeeping and details for our trip, and we headed out to our welcome mixer!


 We went to a pub and had drinks and appetizers, and got to know some of our fellow travellers. We then headed to Kings Cross station and saw Platform 9 and 3/4 - and the huge lineup that went along with it. We opted not to stand in the line with the hope that we might be able to do it at a later time...which we DID end up getting to do with a minimal wait (more on that in a bit!)! We found burritos for dinner (because we're always down to eat!) and headed back to the hotel.


Monday was an early rise as we were doing a group bus and walking tour of the highlights of London! We had a local guide who was so much fun and gave us great tips for our free time. We saw all of the "photo ops" that you want to see in London and ended our tour at Buckingham palace just in time for the changing of the guard.







After the tour, while the rest of the group ventured off in search of history and art we did what we do best - shopping! We headed to Camden Market to go souvenir shopping, then headed to Oxford Street! At this point we had walked tens of thousands of steps in just a few days, and the shoes that I had though would be really comfortable and last me the entire trip caught on fire and were made of shards of glass. That was fun. So we went on the search for a pair of shoes that a) were comfortable and b) matched my outfit. It was rough. I am honestly surprised that Karima didn't just abandon me in the middle of Oxford Street to limp home. But she didn't #friendgoals. We finally made it to the one store I had wanted to go to while in London - Primark! We were seriously like kids in a candy store and spent way too much money.



Another highlight of this day was visiting the first Twining tea store in London! It was super cute and little and we almost missed it. But for two tea lovers, it was a super cool experience. They offer tea blending classes and other cool demonstrations - which is on our list for next time!

That night we walked down the Shard to do one of the things on my bucket list - a West End theatre production! We ended up seeing Kinky Boots - which was not either of our first choice, but ended up being a great musical with a great soundtrack that we listened to for the rest of the trip!



 Tuesday was our last full day in London :( We had the morning free and we headed BACK to Primark on Oxford Street because there were a few things we wanted to look at again. After dropping our bags back at the hotel, we headed to meet part of our group for a walking tour of "Alternative London". We were back with the same guide as the previous day, and we went outside of the royal mile of "old" London and explored how what once was on the outskirts and undesirable have become mainstream in the cycle of the city. We saw some wild street art and ended the tour with fish and chips (mushy peas and chips for me!).









In an effort to hold on to every moment we could of our London adventure, we stayed out late near Piccadilly Circus (not an actual circus, disappointingly) and visited the Lego store before doing some last minute shopping. 





 On Wednesday we had another early rise - this time it was because we were heading to Kings Cross Station to catch our train to Edinburgh! We got to the train station around 8am and there was NO LINE at Platform 9 and 3/4!! We were so stoked half of our group basically ran (with all of our luggage in tow) to queue up. We got some great pictures and were just generally super nerdy and excited to be actually getting a train from Kings Cross so close to September 1st.

We finally boarded our train to Edinburgh and settled into our seats for a four hour ride to the next leg of our journey. But, this post is getting ridiculously long, so that's another tale for another post!