UK Trip: Days 7 - 10, Glasgow, Luss, Sheffield, & End Of Our Trip

5 May 2016

On Monday morning my mom woke up with pains in her side, radiating towards her back. We asked her a few times if she'd like us to take her to the emergency room, but she kept telling us that she'd be fine (stubborn, as usual). Luke and I ran out for breakfast, and when we came back to pack our stuff and leave, she was in severe pain. We had a tight schedule - our train to Glasgow was leaving in an hour, and once we arrived we would have to meet our Airbnb host as she was also on a tight deadline. We asked her once again about the emergency room, but she said no. We quickly packed and caught the train for the hour ride to Glasgow, and that's when she finally decided that she needed to see a doctor. As soon as we arrived in Glasgow, we took a cab straight to the emergency room and got her checked in and settled before rushing off to meet our Airbnb host on time. I felt a little bad leaving her there, but she had many chances to visit the ER in Edinburgh! After a little while, and after we got settled into our Glasgow flat, my mom took a cab to where we were staying and announced that she had a kidney/bladder infection. She was all set with antibiotics and cranberry juice, and was feeling a little bit better, though still felt out of sorts the rest of the trip. 

Our Glasgow Airbnb flat was super cute! I loved how our host decorated the place, she had welcomed us with fresh flowers, chocolates, juice, and other necessities for our stay. It was definitely a nice touch, and a nice welcome to Glasgow. The shower was a bit strange - you had to turn it on by a switch and then let the water in the sink run, click the button to turn on the shower, and then turn the tap off. A bit tricky - but it worked well until our last night when it decided it didn't want to work anymore. The flat had these lovely window seats that were comfortable to sit in and take in the views (which were mainly of a construction site and seagulls, but hey, I didn't mind). A big highlight of this flat was the rooftop terrace - it was so cozy, with colorful lights lighting up the wall at night time. Our flat owner loved plants, they were displayed all over the terrace. If it was warmer, I know we would have spent a lot of time out there! 

Glasgow reminds me of New York City - a mix of new and old buildings. We didn't spend much time there, but the shopping scene looked good. There were a lot more people in Glasgow than in Edinburgh, but at night it seemed like a ghost town! Monday night we met up to have drinks with Pete and Ayden from Little Blog of Horrors. Pete and I have been friends since 2009 when we met on Tumblr - my list of Tumblr meet ups has grown a lot over the past 7 years! It's strange having online friends that you've known for so long, it seems like you know them already, so when you finally meet them in person it doesn't feel like something new? Just like you're meeting with an old friend you've seen a thousand times before. We walked to Brew Dog first and had a couple of drinks while we chatted. After that we went to a tiki bar with a £111 drink!! It was dark in there, and aside from us there was only one other person in there. I guess many people don't go out on weekdays. Our last stop was another place where we had a couple of drinks and then some food before heading back to our flat for the night. 

By Tuesday, I was so exhausted from the past week of constant traveling that I was struggling to stay awake. Pete and Ayden picked us up in the early afternoon and we headed to Loch Lomond and visited Luss again. This time we had extra time to explore, and we walked along the Loch with the ducks. The pier was SO windy and cold! I imagine it's absolutely beautiful in the summer though. For lunch we stopped at the Drovers Inn, a 310 year old haunted inn used by Highland drovers who used to drive their cattle down the side of Loch Lomond to the markets. It was super dark inside with dark wood all throughout. A stuffed grizzly bear, among many other old taxidermy, greeted us as soon as we walked in! I really loved the whole place - creepy taxidermy and all. The staff wore kilts, it was the first time I had seen one over there. The building gave off an energy - you could actually feel how old it was. After a filling lunch and a drive back to Glasgow, they dropped us off and were so kind to give us gifts of Scotch for Luke, and another drink for me. I've been working on a little thank you package that I'll be sending their way soon! We said our goodbyes, and then relaxed and packed the rest of the night. 

Wednesday was Luke & I's 6 year anniversary. It feels more like SIXTY years, and I couldn't be happier to have him by my side. We woke up early and made our way to Sheffield by train to visit Naomi, Eric, and Ollie. I've been friends with Naomi for over 10 years. We met online back in the "zine world" community days where we would make online magazines through email & send them out to subscribers. From there we joined RTA's ("reply to all" email groups - some themed, some random) and became close friends. Back in 2008, as my graduation/birthday/didn't go to prom present, my family sent me to visit her in England all by myself! I know it really freaked everyone out, but I came back alive two weeks later and I had finally met my best friend in person. Fast forward to 2012, Luke and I went to London to stay with her and Ollie for two weeks, and now 4 years later, we got to visit them again! This time was a bit different since Naomi and Ollie have a baby now - Eric! He's absolutely the cutest, happiest baby I've ever seen. 

We met up with Naomi and Eric (Ollie was working) at the train station, and quickly dropped off our bags at her flat before catching a bus to the Peak District. Poor Eric had the chicken pox, but he was a serious trooper and hardly ever cried the whole time we were there. We decided to visit Chatsworth House, which is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Chatsworth house was built in the 16th century and it sits on a 35,000 acre estate. The grounds are absolutely beautiful - rolling hills, water, free roaming sheep and their babies. The "house" itself has 126 rooms - 100 of which are closed to visitors. Even though most of the house is private, we spent a few hours exploring the inside alone, I can't imagine how long it would take to explore the whole thing! It was definitely the most pricey entrance fee we encountered at £25 per person to get in - but I can imagine why they charge visitors so much, 35,000 acres to take care of!? It's a wonder how they've kept it running for so long. Upon arrival, we grabbed some food at the buffet inside. Luke held a baby for the first time ever! It was so funny, Nai kind of just handed Eric to him and he didn't know how to hold him. Luke is the baby whisperer though, and all babies love him so all was good. Guess who "lived" here? You got it - Mary's back at it again being in every building in the UK. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in Chatsworth House by her hater cousin, Elizabeth I. The guest wing of Chatsworth House is decorated how it would have been hundreds of years ago, and many of them still feature hand painted Chinese wallpapers. The ceiling and stairs in the Painted Room were so ornate and detailed (pictured below), and the doors and doorways were absolutely huge!

We meant to catch a bus to Bakewell and explore the town, but we ended up on a bus back to Sheffield. In the end it worked out because my mom wasn't feeling well again, so when we got back in the city we checked her into our hotel (the Leopold Hotel, which is an old boys school) and went to Starbucks where we were meeting Ollie when he finished with work. The 4 of us + Eric went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant right behind our hotel, where we talked and ate for a while. After finishing up we walked back to their flat, took some pictures, and then grabbed our suitcases before heading back to the Leopold. Ollie was kind enough to walk us back, otherwise we would have gotten lost for sure! We said our goodbyes to him there since he had work early the next morning and we wouldn't see him again. 

Ollie's picture! 

The next morning we got breakfast with Naomi and Eric before setting off to the train station to head back to London. We all hugged goodbye, and then the three of us traveled by train, plane, cab, train again, and car before arriving home late Thursday night. We were greeted by two very cuddly cats who I know missed us SO much - and boy did I miss them! 

This trip was amazing. Aside from my mom not feeling well towards the end, it went just as planned and I couldn't have asked for a better vacation. While it was quite expensive due to the fact that we traveled to different cities, it was 100% worth it. I know my mom had an amazing time, and it was so nice being able to take her somewhere she's always wanted to go. Edinburgh is my new favorite city, Luke and I have decided that we're going to become sheep farmers and move over there right away. While England is amazing and I'll always love it, Scotland definitely stole my heart. It's the most beautiful place, and I can't recommend it enough. If you get a chance - please go, you will not regret it. 

UK Trip Posts

Days 1 - 2   Days 3 - 4   Day 5   Day 6   Days 7 - 10 

Extra Trip Photos

* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated. 

UK Trip: Day 6, West Highlands Lochs & Castles Tour

5 May 2016

On Sunday we went on the last tour of our trip. Rabbie's Trail Burners offers many different tours, and we chose the West Highlands Lochs & Castles Tour (mainly for the castles!), which did not disappoint. We found this tour to be a lot more reasonably priced than the tour we took in England, and we got to visit many different sites along the way. However, we had to pay our own entry fees to two of the castles and pay for our own lunch. Among the places we visited were Doune Castle, Loch Lubnaig, Kilchurn Castle, Inveraray, the Rest & Be Thankful pass, Luss, and a quick stop to view Stirling Castle from a distance. Unlike our last tour of 5 people, this tour had a larger number, about 13 total.

Doune Castle

Our first stop was Doune Castle, where films and TV shows like Outlander, Game of Thrones, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed. The castle was originally built in the 13th century, but was badly damaged and rebuilt in its present form during the late 14th century by the Duke of Albany. Though the castle has been ruined since 1800, it was a lot of fun to explore inside. On our way up to where Mary Queen of Scots stayed several times, Luke dropped and cracked his phone in the huge stone spiral staircase. I think I was more upset than he was, but at least he broke it in such an amazing, ancient place! Mary's rooms were simple, though she did have a toilet that sat above the courtyard - allowing all that went in to fall straight down into the courtyard, likely on top of passersby - gross! In her room was the most beautiful window with bubbled glass, I'm curious to know when it dates from (pictured below on the left). When we were visiting, a wedding was being set up for later in the day which I thought was lovely. What a fun place to get married! The next stop was Loch Lubnaig. Just a quick stop, we were only out there for about 10 minutes admiring the view. It was the first Loch we spotted on our tour, but certainly not the last. Across the road from the loch was the most picturesque dense, moss covered forest. It looked like it came straight out of a movie, though I'm not sure if anyone else noticed it. 

Loch Awe & Kilchurn Castle

Continuing on our tour, after a quick stop for one of our fellow tour members to get sick, we stopped at Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. There was a long, winding path along a loch side surrounded by mountains that we had to take to get to Kilchurn Castle, it took about 10 minutes dodging sheep poo all along the way. Once the castle was in view, it was simply amazing. I mean look at that picture! How gorgeous is that? I still can't believe I was able to see it in person. Kilchurn Castle was built during the 15th and 17th centuries, and it was abandoned in 1760 when it was badly damaged by a severe lightning storm. During certain times of the year, the path floods and the castle becomes an island. We weren't able to explore the inside of the castle because it was closed, but just seeing the beauty all around was enough for me. 

Inveraray Castle

Since we were visiting so many places, we were really limited on time at each place. We were given the choice of either visiting the town of Inveraray or visiting the castle, and of course we chose the castle! You guys - the outside of this castle was the most beautiful damn thing I've ever seen. It looks like it's straight out of a fairytale, and even an episode of Downtown Abbey was filmed here in 2012. Work on the current castle began in 1743, replacing an earlier 15th century castle. The Duke and his family still live here today (can you imagine living in a place like this?!). When we arrived we were hungry so we grabbed a quick lunch in the castle's tea room, which was covered with stills from the Downton Abbey episode. After lunch we headed straight inside the main building to start exploring. While the inside was nice, it was nowhere near as impressive as it is from the outside. The first three rooms were my favorite - the State Dining Room (left photo - top row), Tapestry Drawing Room (bottom row photos), and the China Turret (right photo - top row. paper-mache ceiling designed in 1773). 

Upstairs in the MacArthur Room there is a 17th century bed (pictured below on the left) that is said to be haunted by a young Irish harpist who was murdered in the bed in 1644. The bed belonged to the MacArthur's of Loch Awe, and it was moved to Inveraray Castle where the boy's ghost is said to still be seen today. Among other tales, a harp is said to be heard coming from this room when a member of the current family is about to die. I spotted a photo of the most beautiful woman in this room (pictured below on the right), I wanted to take it home with me. 

After we finished touring the inside of the castle, we went out and explored some of the 16 acre garden. There's an old millstone outside that is said to be cursed that my mom decided to take a picture of. I pleaded with her not to take the photo just to be on the safe side, but what does she go and do? She takes a picture of the cursed stone, which she'll be sorry for later (I'll talk about that whole ordeal in the next - and final - post). The gardens were filled with trees covered in an interesting moss that I've never seen before, and there were many 17th century statues scattered throughout the grounds. We took a few pictures (though the sun was killing our eyes) before heading back to the bus to continue on to our next destination, Rest & Be Thankful pass (pictured in the bottom row - those little dots towards the bottom are cars!). Our final stops of the day were Luss, a small cozy village on the side of a loch, and Stirling Castle which we viewed from the road below the castle. 

After a long (but wonderful) 10 hour tour, we finally made our way back to our flat in Edinburgh before setting off to our next destination in the morning. 

Click here to read about days 7-10!

UK Trip Posts

Days 1 - 2   Days 3 - 4   Day 5   Day 6   Days 7 - 10 

Extra Trip Photos

* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated. 


A Weekend In Maryland & Anxiety

20 January 2016

One of my favorite weekend adventures is to head down to Maryland where Luke's from for a visit. He grew up in the Bel Air area of Harford County and it's the cutest little place. It has that small town, cozy feel to it that you read about in books. I love spending time there. This past weekend we decided to make the hour and a half trip down to visit his best friend, Atwood, and his girlfriend, Ruby, who was visiting from Canada.

Luke and I have made a new habit of listening to podcasts, and we've invested the past 2 to 3 weeks into listening to season 1 of Serial and Undisclosed after being addicted to the Making a Murderer Netflix series. It makes the trip to Maryland go so much faster, and it's particularly interesting because Serial and Undisclosed share the story of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore teen that was murdered in 1999, and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who was charged with her murder. It's been weird listening to these podcasts because I know the areas they've mentioned through Luke, and being in the towns where these events took place just feels strange (and spooky). If you haven't listened to Serial or Undisclosed, I cannot recommend them enough, especially if you liked Making a Murderer. After the end of Serial, I was sure of my opinion of Adnan's guilt/innocence, but now that I'm halfway through Undisclosed, I really don't know what to think anymore. If you've listened to the podcasts, I'd love to know your thoughts on the case! Sorry I went a bit off track there, but this is something that has definitely taken over my mind these past few weeks. 

When we go to Maryland we usually spend the night at Atwood's house, but we decided to book a hotel this time around. After we got settled in, we drove to Atwood's house to meet Ruby for the first time! She's very sweet, and I had such a great time with them this weekend. We got lunch Saturday afternoon before heading over to Baltimore to explore. I've only been there a couple of times and it was my first time visiting Fell's Point, a cute little waterfront neighborhood established in the mid-1700's, complete with cobblestone streets! We got a drink at the Cat's Eye Pub on Thames Street and then headed over to The Sound Garden, which was voted second place for best record store by Rolling Stone. We decided to try our luck at the casino down the street, and I ended up winning $10! HUGE for me since I usually lose everything. After a while in the casino, we left and stopped over at Potbelly, my favorite sandwich shop on the way back to Bel Air.

Sunday we had a nice lie in before checking out of our hotel and heading to get breakfast. At 11am on a Sunday, I knew our odds for finding a place that wasn't too busy were slim. We parked and walked to a couple of different brunch spots which both had long waits, and my anxiety started to kick in. I don't do well in crowds. At all. My mind shuts off and my anxiety quickly takes over, and I automatically search for the quickest exit. Whenever I'm with other people in a situation like this, I feel insanely guilty because I know I'm inconveniencing them. I'm the type of girl who will go miles out of her way to make sure she's not inconveniencing anyone, but I just can't help it when it comes to my anxiety. I'm thankful for Luke because he's very understanding at times like these, and he'll go out of his way to get me out of the situation. This is something that has gotten worse over the past couple of years, but I'm working hard on finding techniques that will calm me down in situations like this. I have a big year ahead of me (getting married, traveling) so it's important that I take control of my anxiety instead of letting it take over my life. Atwood and Ruby were kind and understanding, they could probably see the terror on my face, so we ended up stopping at an empty local pub to get food before heading over to Havre de Grace. 

A trip to Havre de Grace wouldn't be complete without visiting Seneca Cannery Antiques, the building is absolutely beautiful and they have something for everyone! With over 50 vendors, I could spend hours in there just looking at every little thing. Some favorite things that I've come across have been old black and white photos, wooden ladders, and vintage fabric. Another must see in Havre de Grace is Glyph, a cute little stationary store with some of the best cards I've ever seen. The staff is so kind and welcoming, and all of their products are to die for. We always have a great time shopping there. Luke, Atwood, and Ruby all bought some goodies and then Luke and I set off back to New Jersey. It was a great weekend, and I know we'll be back again soon! 

* All photos aside from the first two were taken in Glyph! 

I'm sorry this post was a bit ramble-y, I'm going to try and make a habit of blogging more often! I hope you all are having a wonderful week. :)