Adventures in Edinburgh, Scotland

Once Johanna and I parted ways with our friend Taylor in Dublin, we ventured off to Edinburgh!

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The above photo is our view from the hostel we stayed at!  Who else could say that they slept across the street from something as beautiful as this?!

Johanna and I are both of Scottish heritage, so being in an area of such rich history and culture meant the world to us.

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Being able to casually and conveniently stroll within the castle walls was one of my favorite parts of the trip; this is something that is extra special as an American!  Our country is so new that castles are alien to us, thus why it is on many of our bucket lists to visit them in Europe.  The Edinburgh Castle is one of my personal favorites not only because of its size, but because of its deep-rooted history with England and so on.

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Mary Queen of Scots is one of my ancestors; being in the location where she and her family lived years ago is something I will never take for granted. I am truly proud of my Scottish and French heritage on my mom’s side!

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The following day, the two of us went on a free walking tour recommended by our hostel staff.  I wasn’t surprised to see two stereotypical things about Scotland on our tour: whisky and scotch signs, as well as cashmere scarves!  I had to try some and buy some…

Although I saw what I imagined in Edinburgh, it was refreshing to see things that I didn’t anticipate, such as colorful, bright buildings.

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Our tour guide was so knowledgeable (Sheldon Cooper status) and was extremely passionate about J.K. Rowling’s influence on Edinburgh, and vice versa.  He showed our group the places in which Rowling received her inspiration(s) while creating her infamous Harry Potter characters; she took character names from this here cemetery!

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Of course we had to visit where Rowling sent her sons to school (aka: Hogwarts’ inspiration)!

This little puppy statue is lucky, only if you rub his nose though!

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The above photo was taken as Johanna and I had tea in the cafe in which Rowling penned her ideas for Harry Potter: Elephant and Castle.  The bathroom was filled with what I’ll call “Potter Postings” from fans; her brother-in-law who owns the cafe tried covering them up at first, but fans are “too” passionate for Potter!

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The two of us also climbed (part of, a VERY small part of) Arthur’s Seat.  We were ratchet and didn’t feel like climbing the entire thing; all the rich and sweet food we ate must have had us out of shape!  From what we did see, it was as incredible as expected!

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Simply wandering around Edinburgh was enough to make Johanna and me happy; the contrast between the day and night in the city is parallel to Edinburgh’s light and dark sides (of history, culture, etc.).

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And obviously, the food was solid in Scotland.  If only this macaron place was in my hometown…

Växjö, Sweden in a Day

As an American student studying in Kalmar, Sweden, I need a residence permit for my five-month adventure.  Unfortunately, Kalmar doesn’t have a migration board office; fortunately, the six Americans had to travel elsewhere.

Vaxjo, Sweden is a small town, but much larger than Kalmar.  We definitely packed a lot into one day!

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The vibrant colors of the cathedral and the unique architecture cannot be beat; however, the Swedish slides are very confusing, even for twenty-something year-olds!

Umami Monkey was perhaps one of the best burger joints I’ve ever been to…and I’ve been to some good ones in Germany and Ann Arbor, Michigan! To think we were mad that the Mexican place was closed…

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The glass museum in Vaxjo really brought out how modern the town is, as well as how innovative they are with their creations!  As an American who really knows little about Sweden (excluding Ikea and the famous ice hotel of course), these unique creations were exactly what I imagined Sweden to have!

The Vaxjo town model and Ice Man replicas were neat to see in order to put all I’ve learned from National Geographic in perspective!

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The Loranga part of the museum was interesting at first, but then it really brought out our inner child-like behavior!

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All in all, we had a great day at the museums, bookstores, cafes, and restaurants in Vaxjo!  A day of chores seemed to turn into a day of fun instantly!