Riding the Hogwarts Express (aka the Jacobite Steam Train)

One of the highlights of this week (and probably my life) was a Highland day trip I took with my friend (Piper!) to ride the Jacobite Steam Train. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the train serves as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry potter movies.
The Jacobite train passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct on a two hour rail journey from Mallaig to Fort William. The Glenfinnan Viaduct is the train passes across.  You’ll catch a good view of it during Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron follow the Hogwarts Express in the flying car.
According to our bus driver, before Harry Potter fans began to flock to Glenfinnan, the site was already famous because the shore is where Bonnie Prince Charlie disembarked.
My expectations were high, but even so, the day trip surpassed them. Piper and I were absolutely gleeful as we traveled in the bus along Loch Lommond, through Glencoe, then Glenfinnan, Fort William, White Sands, and on to Mallaig. The bus driver shared a wealth of interesting information along the journey – both historical and Harry Potter. We also got another Harry Potter themed stop I wasn’t expecting as we drove up to Mallaig – Dumbledore’s final resting place.
Overly excited to see Dumbledore’s resting place from HP 6
Once we got to Mallaig, our tour guide showed us to the train and then he took the bus back down to Fort William while we rode the steam train there. It was a lot of fun. As you ride, you’ll enjoy chug chug of the old train with steam puffs passing by the windows. The view is fantastic. Piper and I were grinning ear to ear as we passed over the bridge.
View from the ‘Hogwarts Express’ as we passed over the Glenfinnan Viaduct


This DiscoverScotland tour is now tied with my three day Isle of Skye tour with MacBackpackers as my favorite guided tours I’ve taken here in Scotland. (I’ve taken a lot). The trip is well worth it. Visiting Glenfinnan is a bit of a higher price than other bus trips, but that’s because it includes your ticket for the steam train. The driver arranges the train ticket for you, so all you have to do is enjoy the ride.
Obviously, this tour is particularly suited to Harry Potter fans, but as you can see in the pictures, you’ll enjoy it whether or not you read/seen Harry Potter.
White Sands
1. Take cash. The Scottish Highlands don’t have a lot of credit card readers. If you want to buy a souvenir on your train ride, it’s Cash only.
2. Pack motion sickness meds. The roads leading up to Mallaig are really windy. Piper was fine, but I was feeling pretty nauseous by the end of the drive.
3. Waterproof shoes. This is really a tip to follow wherever you travel in Scotland. It rains here. A lot.  Summer or winter, it really makes no difference, you’re visiting the Highlands, there will be mud.
Visiting the bridge and riding train was the final thing on my original bucket list for Scotland. Of course, as I keep traveling, I keep learning about new things to see and do, but this was the last ‘must do’ item from when I first moved here. I’m really happy I got to go on such a good adventure with such a good friend (and fellow nerd).


Nerding out
Happy traveling Harry Potter fans!

7 Classic Scottish Books to Add to Your Reading List

Edinburgh, a UNESCO world heritage site for literature, is an amazing place for book lovers. Scotland has a rich literary history, boasting some of the most famous authors in the entire world.

I wanted to share a list of seven classic Scottish books to add to your reading list. As a habitual bookshop browser with a mild addiction to buying more books than I can ever read, I’ve learned a decent amount about Scottish literature this year. I’ve only ever read one of book on this list (Kidnapped), so I can’t attest to their entertainment value personally, but the list features many of Scotland’s most enduring works, and I’ve added them all to my tbr (to be read) pile.

1. Kidnapped

This gets spot #1 because it will forever be a deeply personal book for me after the months of blood, sweat and tears I put into creating a new edition for my trimester 2 production module. I don’t think I’ll be reading it again for many, many years after spending so much time on it these last few months, but I’m more than happy to recommend it to others. The book is a great adventure story, set in what I think is one of Scotland’s most interesting time periods.

Hanging samples from my book project on the wall for Napier’s degree show exhibition


The story follows David Balfour, a young Scottish lowlander. After his father’s death, David’s uncle arranges for his nephew to be kidnapped in order to keep his nephew’s inheritance for himself. While prisoner on a ship headed to America, David meets the brash Jacobite Highlander Alan Breck. The two strike up an unlikely friendship and after the ship is wrecked, set off together on a wild adventure across the Scottish Highlands. Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the most famous Scottish authors of all time. In fact, Edinburgh’s writer’s museum has an entire section devoted to him. Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are perhaps more critically acclaimed than Kidnapped, but I think all three are worth adding to your reading list.

2. Kirsteen:

This is another book I did a small project on during my MSc Publishing course. I’ve yet to read it, but it’s definitely on my list. The book was written by Margaret Oliphant, an incredibly accomplished author who wrote nearly 100 books during her lifetime. From what I’ve read, many critics are quite harsh on her, claiming the quality suffered because of the quantity produced. She depended on her writing to feed her family, so she pumped out a lot of stories over her lifetime.

Kirsteen is a novel about a young woman who strikes out on her own after her father threatens to kill her if she does not marry a much older man whom she does not love. Kirsteen escapes from her family and moves to London, using her talent to become a successful dressmaker. Kirsteen features a strong female heroine and examines the dynamics of the Victorian era.

3. Detective McCLeevy’s Casebook

Detective McCleevey was the real life Sherlock Holmes. He is said to have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle, perhaps the most internationally recognized author on this list.  McCleevy ‘s Casebook was Edinburgh Napier’s 2017-2018 Big Read selection. As such, all students at Napier were able to receive a new edition specially created by Merchiston Publishing (Napier’s publishing arm). James McCleevy was a detective in Edinburgh during the 1800’s. His casebook is made up of a collection of short stories based on cases he worked on during his career.

4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous characters in history. His creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, lived and studied right here in Edinburgh. In fact, there’s a pub named after him just a few minutes from my flat. There’s another pub on Lothian called Moriarty. There’s also statue of Sherlock Holmes just across from the pub. Edinburgh is definitely a must-see spot for Sherlock Holmes fans. There are a number of novels and short stories about Sherlock Holmes, not to mention the ridiculous number of spin-offs and re-tellings now exist, (Did anyone else grow up watching Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd century?) I’d say A Study in Scarlet or The Hound of the Baskervilles are probably a good place to start if you’re new to the Sherlock universe.

5. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

This book follows Jean Brodie, an unorthodox teacher working at a girl’s school in Scotland during the 1930’s. Muriel Spark is another author I’d never heard of until moving here. The National Library had an exhibition earlier this year to celebrate her work. Apparently she was somewhat of a hoarder, so the library was able to display a huge archive of things she’d collected through her life. I really regret not making it out to visit the exhibit. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but I’m surprised I’d never learned more about her. Spark was an extremely accomplished author with more than 20 books and even more other stories and plays to her name. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is Spark’s most recognized work. It received a movie adaptation back in 1969 starring Dame Maggie Smith.

6. Waverly

Walter Scott’s Waverly may be the most famous novel to ever come out of Scotland. The Scott Monument, located in Edinburgh’s city centre, is the second biggest monument to a writer in the entire world. Waverly features adventure and romance. The book follows Edward Waverly, an English soldier sent to Scotland during the Jacobite Rising who finds himself caught between the Scottish clans and his English ties. You can find Scott’s influence everywhere. Even the train station in Edinburgh is named after the book. Waverly is probably the book that’s highest on my list to be read. Although I’ve read mixed reactions to the book online, it’s such an influential book, I think it’s worth checking out.

7. The Poetry of Robert Burns

Although I was just focusing mostly on prose in this post, I feel like I have to mention the poetry of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most beloved writer and the lyrical penman of the New Year’s anthem Auld Lang Syne. Burns is a extremely important person in Scottish  history. He’s a national symbol. The country even has a holiday dedicated to him where people get together to enjoy haggis, neeps, tatties, whiskey and maybe a bit of his poetry. His poems tend to feature Scots heavily, so they may take a couple extra seconds for English readers to work through.

Here’s a sample from A Red, Red Rose:

   Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,
   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
   I will luve thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o’ life shall run.

Thanks for reading this list. Obviously it is in no way comprehensive. There is a much longer list of great books and notable Scottish authors out there to be read, books by JM Barrie, John Buchan, James Hogg, Willa Muir and many more. I just wanted to share a few that have caught my particular interest since moving here.

There are also a lot of really great and still living Scottish authors out there. Maybe I’m biased, but Edinburgh has a pretty amazing publishing scene. I’ll probably do another list sometime featuring modern Scottish books. It’s not just the dead authors, living authors are worth reading too.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have another Scottish book recommendation?


Inchcolm Island Boat Tour

Looking for an awesome day trip in Edinburgh?  Book a ticket for a boat cruise to Inchcolm Island. The island features impressive ruins of Inchcolm Abbey, 360 degree views and more birds than you can ever possibly count.

While looking into a trip to visit the Isle of May (home to a puffin sanctuary!) I stumbled across a variety of boat rides and cruises on the Firth of Forth. At midnight I booked myself a ticket and 12 hours later I was sitting on the bus headed to South Queensferry.

South Queensferry is about a 40 minute bus ride from Edinburgh’s city centre. The view is fantastic. It’s right on the Firth of Forth, so it’s a perfect spot to capture pictures of some of the UK’s most impressive bridges.

Forth Bridge
Forth Road Bridge and Forth Bridge
Queensferry Crossing


After grabbing some lunch at a nice little Italian cafe near the pier, I hopped on board a tour boat and took to the sea (or rather went in a nice circle around the Firth).

The boat ride was really scenic and we saw some interesting sites as we sailed toward Inchcolm. Unfortunately my phone camera didn’t catch any of the seals or puffins in the distance, but i got a few good pictures.





First glimpse of Inchcolm Abbey as the boat rounded the Island

We pulled around to Inchcolm Island and were greeted with dramatic views of the Abbey ruins.





Inchcolm is really beautiful. It’s a small little island. You could probably walk around the whole thing in ten minutes. There’s plenty to see though. The well-preserved medieval Abbey fe has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore. It also has the smallest, steepest staircase I’ve ever seen. You climb this tiny staircase one person at a time and are rewarded with fantastic 360 degree views from the top of the Abbey.

Spiral staircase of doom



View from the top of Inchcolm Abbey

After walking all around the Abbey ruins, I took a stroll around the rest of the small island. Much to my regret, I overlooked the sign warning visitors to be wary of the birds during mating season. I walked down a path and through a tunnel, expecting to find a nice trail that went around the island. Instead I was greeted by tall grass and as soon as I exited the tunnel, a seagull dive-bombed out my head and pecked at me. Terrifying! It circled back around at which point I turned and ran.

Demon creatures of death

Lesson of the day: pay attention to warning signs about angry mating birds.

I did feel better when I struck up a conversation with another visitor who told me the same thing happened to her. While we waited for the boat to pick us up from the island, a group of us were huddled to one side because there were seagulls to the other side circling their nests making sure nobody got to close.

All those white dots are birds

Despite my scary bird attack (I washed my hair as soon as I got home), I had a great time at Inchcolm Island. It’s a really picturesque little spot. I don’t think the island is particularly well-known, so despite how beautiful it is, because you can only get there by boat, there aren’t a lot of people around.



If you’re in Edinburgh and have a free morning or afternoon, I highly recommend doing a boat trip like the one I did on the Firth of Forth. I booked my trip with Forth Boat Tours. It only put me back 15 pounds which I thought was well worth it. I have a Historic Scotland membership, so I was able to tour Inchcolm for free, making the trip seem like an even better value.  For those without a membership, I believe the ticket to tour the island was an additional 6 pounds, but if you’re pressed for time, you have the option to just do the boat tour and not get off at the island.

If one time or tour isn’t what you’re looking for, there are other companies I offering tours around the Forth. I’m sure you can find one that fits in with your schedule. There are a variety of cruises offered by boat tour companies based out of South Queensferry. There’s the sightseeing trip I did to Inchcolm Island and around the three bridges on the Firth. There are also trips to Blackness Castle (one of my top three favorite Scottish castles), tea cruises (very British right?), bird-watching tours, music cruises and all sorts of interesting sightseeing adventures by water.


My friends know that I have a bit of an obsession with the water. I tend to drag people on river cruises or boat rides every time I visit a new city. I’m part of Napier’s kayaking club and have took sailing and paddle-boarding classes when I lived in San Diego. It’s just a really great way to get outside and see some beautiful scenery.

I had a lot of fun on my afternoon boating adventure. I can’t recommend this trip enough, especially if you’re looking for a little bit of a break from city life.

Excuse the flyaways


Thanks for reading. Ever done a cool boat cruise somewhere? Comment below with your recommendations. I’ll add them to my list. 🙂






An Afternoon in Aberdour

Aberdour is a small village set along the Firth of Forth. It features a really cool castle ruin, beautiful gardens and some fantastic views along the coastal path. Aberdour Castle was a notable filming location in the first season of Outlander. It was used as the Abbey where Jaimie recovers after Black Jack Randall’s brutal attack. As a beautiful castle and one of the Outlander filming locations, of course, I had to go.


I recruited a friend to join me, and we hopped on the train from Edinburgh to Aberdour. It was a cheap train ticket and less than an hour ride, so if you ever need to fill an afternoon, I highly recommend making a visit. Be sure to go on a sunny day (if you can manage), the scenery is unbeatable, and you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more if you’re warm.



Bread Oven



The castle gardens are filled with blossoming apple trees. Really pretty.



That dome shaped thing was where they used to hold pigeons. The interior has hundreds of little carved out spaces for the birds to rest. Apparently they were quite the delicacy back in the day.

Once you’ve explored the ruins, be sure to check out the gardens as well. I think they’re actually the best part of Aberdour Castle. There are two garden areas, one behind the castle with an orchard of apple trees and another off to the side with pretty flowers and plants. Be sure to also walk down the little lane beside the gardens when you exit. There’s a very picturesque little church in a cemetery down the lane. I know some people dislike graveyards, but I’m always taken aback by how beautiful the old historic ones are over here, especially with the blooming cherry blossoms.



After we finished exploring the castle and gardens, we headed toward the coast. I’d been to Aberdour once before, so I remembered the great walking trail along the water. Aberdour is across the water from Edinburgh. It was cool to pick out all the sites from so far away. The coastal path provides great views across the water. We had fun trying to distinguish the little isles and even started planning another day trip to visit Cramond (this little islet in the North-West of Edinburgh). I think if we’d continued down the path, we could have seen views of the Forth Rail Bridge. We had some great views of the bridges on our train ride.





As you can see, Aberdour is pretty beautiful. I decided it’s my ideal place to retire. I’ll just get filthy rich, buy one of the gorgeous houses along the beach front and live out my days wandering the beach with a dog or two. (I can dream right?) If it’d been a less windy day, I could have spent hours exploring the area. It was pretty cold though, so after a nice walk along the beach, we headed back toward the train station and then to Edinburgh.

This trip reminded me how many cool spots there are just a short train ride from Edinburgh. Now that it’s summer, I’ll be buckling down on my dissertation (it’s due in August), but I don’t have formal classes this trimester, so my traveling won’t be constrained to the weekends. Obviously big trips are expensive, and as much as I’d like to, I can’t be traveling every day of the week, but visiting somewhere new every week is definitely doable. There’s so much to see here. It’s endless.  I feel like I’m constantly discovering new places and adding new spots to my bucket list. Luckily, with public transport in Scotland, it’s easy to hop on a train or bus and be somewhere completely different within an hour.

Thanks for reading. Wish me luck as I start the intimidating process of researching for my dissertation.

More to come.



Publishing Themed Tour of Germany

This last week I went on a publishing themed trip to Germany. Our professor asked each of the students who went along to write a post for the publishing blog, so rather than regurgitate what I already wrote, here’s a link to my post on Napier’s blog.

I had a really great time exploring Mainz and learning a bit about publishing in Germany. The trip did a great job of balancing educational organized activities with fun free time. We had a few days of lectures, presentations and tours of publishing related things, and then had a few days to explore the city and enjoy the typical tourist stuff.

I mostly talked about publishing stuff on Napier’s blog, so I wanted to share photos from the rest of the trip here on my travel blog.

Highlights of the trip were:

  • touring Springer Nature
  • touring Schott Music
  • seeing an original Gutenberg bible at the Gutenberg Museum
  • taking in views of Heidelberg from the castle
  • eating lots and lots of German food including currywurst, doner and schnitzel
  • exploring the insanely beautiful cathedrals in Mainz
  • evening picnic with the German book studies students from the university in Mainz
  • sitting out along the Rhine soaking up the sun

Here are some photos from exploring Mainz:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


And here are my favorites from Heidelberg:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Germany is a fantastic place, both for travel and for book publishing. I’m so used to trips where I’m trying to do and see as many sites as possible. It was interesting traveling in a  different way, focused  learning and meeting with local people and companies rather than the typical tourist stuff.

Heidelberg is one of my new favorite places in the world. I was struck by how many trees there were. Scotland is lush and green, but they destroyed most of their trees a long time ago. The difference in landscapes was really fascinating to me, both are beautiful, but in very different ways. Scotland has this rugged, free feeling to it, Germany feels a bit like the setting of a Disney fairy tale.

I’m really glad I had the chance to do this sort of mini study abroad trip within my studying abroad. Very cool experience. I think Germany is my favorite country I’ve been to (after Scotland).

Thanks for reading.


PS My camera stopped working a few weeks ago, so these photos and the next few posts will probably feature photos taken on my low-quality camera phone. Hopefully they’re not too bad, but I’m pretty sad about it. I need to hunt for a camera repair shop.




Easter Break Part 3: Prague

We made it. Part three, the final installment of my Easter break.

Before moving to Scotland, I very seriously considered moving to Prague and enrolling in a TEFL certification program to teach English here. Scotland won out, but I’ve wanted to visit Prague ever since. It did not disappoint!

The city is fantastic. Awesome architecture, beautiful bridges and dramatic cathedrals. It was my favorite city on our trip. Because Prague was the city I most wanted to see, we spent the longest part of our break here. While in the city we did a few guided tours, ate delicious food, saw a ballet, saw the Lennon Wall, rented a peddle-boat and spent an afternoon on the river, ordered absurd menu items from the Anonymous Bar (Colleen’s drink was served in Wilson, the volleyball from Castaway), did a day trip to Kutna Hora , did another day trip to Terazin and did lots and lots of walking.

I took hundreds of photos, so I’m trying to show self-restraint by only posting the highlights.

This first set of photos feature views from around the city and our afternoon in Prague Castle. The castle itself wasn’t that impressive to me, but St Vitus Cathedral, which is on the castle grounds, is one of the most striking pieces of architecture I’ve seen. The views are incomparable from the top too. If you visit Prague, I recommend just buying the Castle package ticket and spending a good half day exploring the different sites within the castle grounds.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the most disappointing parts of our trip to Prague was missing out on the Astronomical Clock. The clock is under construction and completed covered by a screen and scaffolding. As one of the most famous sites in the country (and used as a filming location in Harry Potter 3), Colleen and I were a bit bitter that we missed out on seeing it in action. That’s my only real complain from the trip though. Everything else was pretty fantastic.


The Ballet

Our first night in Prague we dressed up and went to a ballet at the National Theatre. Colleen and I planned this months in advance. I think she booked our  ballet tickets before we’d even worked out all our flights and bus tickets. We were online comparing the grandness of theatres before choosing where to go. We managed to score box seats and paid less than I’ve paid for much worse seats to broadway shows. It was a really cool experience. The theatre is pretty breathtaking. The whole night made me feel incredibly fancy. It was a perfect way to kick off the final leg of our Easter tour.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Lennon Wall

This wall was a source of irritation for Communist leadership in Prague. It was a graffiti covered wall inspired by John Lennon.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Bone Church

The Bone Church is one of the coolest and creepiest things I’ve ever seen. I felt a bit like I was in Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland. The only difference is that these bones are real.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Bone Church is decorated in human skeletons. According to the tour guide, loads of people paid to be buried there because they believed it was Holy ground, so when the church wanted to make room for more dead people so they could sell space to dying people, achurch leader decided to get creative and began stringing together the skeletons in this artistic project. He built pyramids of human bones around the church and even created a chandelier out of every bone of the human body.

We did a bus tour from Prague to Kutna Hora. The Bone Church was the main attraction, but we stopped at a few other things around the town too. If you’re interested in seeing it, I don’t recommend the bus tour. It was the worst tour guide I’ve ever had on a trip. Completely clueless. Save yourself some money and just do it on your own.



We did two bus tours while we were in Prague. The first was to Kutna Hora. The second was to the Nazi prison camp Terazin. I didn’t take many pictures here just because it feels like quite a reverent space. Terazin was a the prison camp the Nazis used in their propaganda. It was the transit camp that Jews were taken to before being shipped to Aushwitz to die. Visiting a place where so much murder and cruelty happened is a solemn experience, but it’s very enriching in a way. The preservation of these places helps you understand the attrocities in history in a way that a textbook really can’t.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I definitely recommend visiting if you’re ever in the area.


The Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter in Prague features the former Jewish Ghetto. There are synogogues, a cemetery and memorials to those who were murdered in WW2. I’d never been inside a synagogue before. It was interesting to see the differences between these vs the grand, sparkly old Catholic cathedrals. Again, definitely don’t miss out on touring all this if you ever visit Prague. I’d also recommend a walking tour of the area. We had a really interesting tour guide of Jewish descent. It was fascinating to hear her stories and passion for sharing her families history hiding from the Nazis.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.




We were blessed with some really nice weather in Prague. One of the last things we did on the trip was rent a peddle-boat and spend a couple hours peddling around the river. It was a great way to get off our feet and see the city from a new perspective. I can’t recommend this enough.  I am partial to all boat related activities though.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This trip was unforgettable. I had a ton of fun exploring new bits of the world and traveling around with one of my best friends. After Prague, we caught the bus back to Budapest for a few days and then I flew back to the UK.

I’ve been doing stuff pretty much non-stop since April. As soon as I got back from this trip, I went down to London for the London Book Fair. Then, it was about two weeks of living in the library to finish up my final book project. Now that that’s all over, I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Mainz, Germany on a professor-led trip with some of my publishing classmates (more on that to come.)

Prague is an absolutely awesome city. Add it to your list. 🙂

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment below about your own visits to Prague if you’ve ever been. What was your favorite part? What other cities in the Czech Republic would you recommend?



Easter Break Part 2: Vienna

Part two of my Easter break was spent in the beautiful city of Vienna. Other than knowing it features in the Sound of Music and was an important player in the world wars, but I really didn’t know much about Austria before this trip. It’s one of those glaring blind-spots in my geography knowledge. Because of this, I didn’t know what to expect going into this portion of our trip. I was excited to see the city and learn more about it, but there weren’t any particular sites I was dying to see.


It’s kind of fun going into a new place blind. With Budapest and Prague, I had a list of things I wanted to see. With Vienna, I had no real agenda and was happy to wander and explore what the city had to offer.

Colleen, my travel mate, pretty much planned the agenda for Vienna. She’s the one who first suggested we stop there on our way to Prague. I’m really grateful she suggested it.

I’ve always said that if I hadn’t studied in Scotland, my second choice would have been Germany. I visited Berlin a few years ago and didn’t want to leave. Austria has a similar feel to Germany, so I ended up loving it.

Here are my highlights from short stop in Vienna.

Schonbrunn Palace

We showed up to the palace bright and early. We were quite proud of ourselves for waking up to beat the crowds. We basically had the palace to ourselves for the first half-hour or so. Photos inside aren’t allowed, so unfortunately I only have pictures of the outside and gardens, but here’s a link to the palace’s website where you can see a few photos of the interior’s grandeur. Below are pictures of the palace, the surrounding gardens and the view as we climbed up the hilltop to the Gloriette.











Tiergarten Schönbrun 

I mentioned above that the Vienna Zoo is the oldest in the world. Colleen and I are both former members of the San Diego Zoo, so were both keen to get our animal fix at the historic site.

Initially, I was a bit disappointed in Tiergarten Schonbrun. San Diego (arguably) has the best zoo in the world, or at least the US, so it’s hard to beat. Tiergarten Schonbrun didn’t quite match San Diego (I could just be biased), but it’s worth a trip. I was initially disappointed because I was expecting it to look a bit more historic, but it’s a great zoo nonetheless, and I had a lot of fun.

Couldn’t decide if we were watching him or the other way around.




The zoo’s claim to fame is the  Giant Panda twins born less than two years ago.
I was very confused by this enormous brown, fluffy penguin standing around with all the Emperor penguins. Ugly duckling story perhaps?







Vienna has no shortage of grand palaces. Colleen and I decided paying for ticket entry into one palace was enough, but we stopped by Belvedere to explore the grounds and take some pictures.







Kunsthistorisches Museum

Vienna is full of impressive museums. Colleen and I decided to buy a ticket for Kunsthistoriches, what seemed like the most famous one in the city. The building in itself was an impressive work of art, but the museum also held some incredibly famous painting and interesting artifacts from history. I’m not particularly knowledgable about art, but I included a few below that I found interesting.




Tower of Babel – Pieter Bruegel. This artist was creating her own version of the painting. It was very cool to sit and watch her working.






Everything Else…

This post is running pretty long (sorry, I have no self-control when it comes to taking photos). I’m just going to throw together a slideshow below of some other highlights from the rest of  our time in Vienna. They include Hofburg, St Stephens Cathedral, the Vienna State Opera, Museumquartier, the National Library, the Judenplatz Halocaust Memorial, Mozart statue and various other interesting buildings and monuments we came across as we walked around the city.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m really glad I got a chance to see Vienna. I probably say this about most places I visit, but I recommend going if you ever get a chance. I’ll be happy if you take me with you as well. 🙂 Vienna was the shortest stop on our trip, and there’s plenty I didn’t get the chance to see.

If I ever go back, I’d love to check out more of the museums like the  Mozart museum and the Freud museum. I’d also love to visit other parts of Austria and see a bit more of the countryside.

As always, thanks for reading.  I’ll probably put up part three of my Easter break some time next week. Until then, back to editing my book project. The trimester is almost over!


Easter Break Part 1: Budapest

I’m back on British soil after two weeks of wandering around a few new countries in mainland Europe. For my Easter holiday, I reunited with my old San Diego roommate and we traveled to Budapest, Vienna and Prague. We also did a couple interesting day trips outside of Prague while in the Czech Republic, but more on that later.

I took loads of pictures and don’t want to overwhelm you with too much stuff in one blog post, so my Easter European adventure will be coming to you in four parts.

Part one is Budapest, the first and last stop on our two-week trek. Below are photos highlighting my first few days exploring the city.

We started our first day with a walking tour, then did a tour of the Hospital on the Rock, explored the Central Hall Market, enjoyed some traditional food from the Easter Markets and meandered around the city a bit. My favorite bits from our first few days in Budapest were seeing the Parliament, enjoying views of the Fisherman’s Bastion (it looks like a fairy-tale castle) and eating an extremely delicious chimney cake.

Pictures below.:)

Roommates Reunited
St Stephen’s Basilica
Erzsebet Square
Buda Castle
Széchenyi Chain Bridge


View from Fisherman’s Bastion
Matthias Church




View of the Pest side of the city taken from up near Buda Castle
Fantastic views of Buda from the Pest side of the city
Langos – this is a traditional Hungarian food. They sell it with all sorts of crazy toppings, but according to our tour guide, the simpler the better. He said its mostly tourists that eat the crazy toppings. Hungarians typically just enjoy the bread with sour cream.
Central Market Hall – This is an awesome spot to visit to find local food and great souvenirs.
Chimney Cake (one of many Colleen and I ate over the course of the trip)

After a few days in Budapest, we hopped on a bus and took off for Vienna, part 2 of our Easter holiday European adventure.

More to come soon, but right now, I need to get back to editing.

Happy Monday.





Headed to Eastern Europe

Happy Friday.

Today marks the beginning of my spring break. Unfortunately, it’s happening just a few weeks before the biggest project I’ve ever worked on is due, which means I’ll be taking my laptop with me on my vacation, but nonetheless, I’m going to have a great time.

Sunday, I head off to Budapest! I’m meeting up with my old San Diego roommate to travel around Eastern Europe for two weeks. I can’t wait. We’ve been planning the trip since before I even moved abroad.

Our plan is:

-Meet in the Budapest airport – our flights land an hour apart

-Take a bus to Vienna –  it only takes 2 1/2 hours to be in an entirely new country

-Hop on another bus to Prague – this one is 3 1/2 hours

-Take a bus back to Budapest – the only part of the trip I’m not looking forward to

-Colleen flies home, I fly to London for the London Book Fair

I’ve never been to Eastern Europe before. I’m so excited to see all the gorgeous architecture and experience an entirely unfamiliar culture.

I’m also really excited to try the food. I’ve been drooling over pictures of chimney cakes for months. (Here’s a photo if you don’t know what they are).

Prague has been on my bucket list since the first time I lived abroad. I seriously looked into and considered doing a TEFL certification and moving there to teach English before deciding to pursue my master’s degree instead.  I love the idea of seeing ‘what could have been.’ It will be fun to imagine what life might have looked like if I’d chosen Prague instead of Scotland.

I’m perfectly happy with my life choices, but it will still be cool to visit what looks to be one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.

I’m also incredibly excited to visit Budapest and Vienna, I’m just a bit less familiar with them. Colleen was the one to suggest visiting Vienna. Other than looking amazing and being located in Austria, I really don’t know much about it. Of course, I’ll be studying up and trying to memorize some key words and phrases before I fly out on Sunday, but I’m pretty excited to just jump into a new place with no expectations and approach it completely unbiased.

I’ll be sure to post some photos along the way!

Tomorrow, I’ll be spending my day in the library trying to get done as much as possible for my book project before flying out to meet Colleen on Sunday.

My goal is to balance fun and work, traveling and enjoying myself during the day and then staying up a bit later at night to hover over my laptop and scan through page proofs for my live project.

Adventure awaits!

Be sure to comment below if you have any travel tips or stories for Budapest, Vienna or Prague. I’m always looking for cool sights and delicious food.

As always, thanks for reading. More to come.



Feature Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑