Edinburgh

Edinburgh

When I first suggested going to Edinburgh in December, most people said ‘don’t’. They said it was miserable and dreary and yeah, at times, it was.

But I didn’t mind so much. The weather went hand in hand with the festive atmosphere that was coming to the surface at what was the first weekend of December.

The place was unbelievably busy between the Christmas markets and the many, many events the city were running. It rained a lot – the first clear day we had was on Monday, the day we left – but the atmosphere was cosy, our hotel was wonderfully warm and generous and I found that Edinburgh is the perfect size for a three-day exploration that also lent itself to daytime naps and hours-long afternoon coffee.

I spent most of my time exploring so there’s not a huge lot to say about it – the photos really say it all (and it’s photo heavy – sorry!)  – so I won’t be writing up a full itinerary but if I had to recommend a few things it would be:

  1. The Scottish National Gallery – about half the size of Dublin’s (which is already pretty small), you could do it in 20mins but is home to some beautiful Monets, Degas and some of Scotland’s own art.
  2. Victoria Street (the first photo below) – which was said to be the original inspiration for Diagon Alley. The shops are just as whimsical and chaotic as you’d imagine. It’s also home to countless Harry Potter gift shops and narrow specialist stores that are dubbed the real Olivanders and Flourish & Blotts.
  3. Edinburgh Castle – not the castle itself but the walk up to it. If you get there early in the morning, you’ll miss the crowds and get to enjoy the most famous part of the Royal Mile all to yourself complete with bagpipes, warm coffee, and cobbled roads.

But despite the crowds and the rain, Edinburgh was the best way to round off the busiest year in travel I’ve ever had (I’m talking seven cities, ten flights and infinite bus rides in ten months). I think I’ll stay at home for at least the next six years.

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72 Hours in Toronto

72 Hours in Toronto

72 Hours in Toronto is both enough and not enough.

It’s enough if you want a break from reality.

It’s not enough if you want to explore Toronto’s incredible culture

It’s enough for a layover to reduce the effects of jet lag

It’s not enough to experience Canada.

But it was perfect for me.

Toronto was a last minute decision (as much of a last minute decision as you can make 8 months in advance) but it was already the clear winner even before I decided on my third city.

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Boulder, CO

Boulder, CO

I don’t really know what I expected with Boulder, I just know that I wanted to go. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s become famous through television shows, songs and if you know your true crime history, JonBenet Ramsey.

But Boulder is famous in its own right. It’s home to the gorgeous Boulder Flatirons (that you really get a good glimpse of if you’re travelling from Denver) and the University of Colorado, Boulder. It sits just northwest between Denver and the Rocky Mountains. And it is very, very wealthy.

I got to Boulder at 9am on a Tuesday morning, the day before I flew to Toronto. Getting there was easy, RTD run two kinds of buses – an express bus and a regular and as it is run by RTD, you can get your return ticket for only $9. The trip was about 90 minutes from Union Station to Pearl Street Mall.

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Littleton, Colorado

Littleton, Colorado

This is going to be a long one because, to be honest, and to my total surprise, I really loved Littleton.

There’s not a whole lot to the place at first glance. The RTD light rail that goes there hardly announces the area when it passes through. Littleton is simply defined by its ‘Downtown’ and ‘Mineral’ stops. It’s pretty much as suburb-y as you can get but once you really get into it, you’ll see that Littleton is a treasure trove of American life. It’s full of colour, whimsical stores tacked onto homes and old architecture. If I had to compare it to anywhere it would be to Stars Hollow (hello, Gilmore Girl fans) and then some.

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Denver Foothills

Denver Foothills

This tour is the perfect example of Nike’s famous saying of ‘Just Do It’. I just didn’t want to do it. I just wanted to stay in the city and do nothing but I had a tour booked to see the Boulder Foothills about six weeks previous and knew it was too late to cancel. I don’t know why I wasn’t eager on going seeing as how I had booked the tour for myself without any shotgun to my head but when I got an email the evening before it was due to run that it was cancelled,  I was more relieved than disappointed

You see, I was loving Denver and felt that I hadn’t explored enough of my own area yet let alone take a tour (with other people I didn’t know) outside of it. I still get quite nervous before unknown social situations that I have no real control over (I mean, who doesn’t?) but I knew that this tour would be my only real chance to get out into the real Colorado “wilderness”. The RTD trams weren’t going to get me anywhere near the Red Rocks or Lookout Mountain and I knew when I was offered a replacement tour around the Denver Foothills, I would regret saying no.

And I can wholeheartedly say to all the lazy ones like me out there who weigh up the pros and cons of doing something they’ve always dreamed of because “ugh effort”, just DO IT.

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Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Denver was a complete and total surprise to me.

I had tried to do the most research I could before I left for the U.S. but for some reason, I couldn’t quite figure Denver out. There didn’t appear to be a central hub (like San Francisco had with Union Sq or most cities have with their main shopping streets and squares). To be perfectly honest, I thought I was going to be bored. I remember reassuring myself as I got off the plane that if I didn’t like it, I could just watch Netflix for five days.

I was so wrong.

I was so incredibly wrong.

I take it all back.

Denver was just a treasure trove of surprises. I walked around on the first evening with my jaw on the ground, I couldn’t believe this city; the cleanliness, the friendliness, the pure atmosphere of excitement, of something always going on. It was busy but not in a large bustling city kind of way. I walked around the heart of Denver on that first night and felt more relaxed than I had on my entire trip.

I had been there three hours and was already planning a return trip.

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Helicopter Trip, San Francisco

Helicopter Trip, San Francisco

Another thing on my 101 in 1001 list was to take a helicopter trip.

I was a little nervous before going. Aeroplanes I was used to (even more so on this trip!) but helicopters seemed a little more lightweight and prone to… problems. There had been extremely dense fog and visibility wasn’t looking too good. That didn’t help with the nerves.

But once we were belting down the freeway to the airport, I started to feel a bit better. The sun came out and burned any remaining mist that was looming.

I took the tour with San Francisco Helicopters who were nothing but very friendly and informative. Because I was a solo traveller, I got to sit in the front of the helicopter (the dream) and get all the front row action. There’s nothing like taking off in a helicopter. There’s no big run up to lift off, you simply “levitate”, I guess. It feels scary and wonderful at the same time!

I popped some fab shots I got on Instagram but here are few more:

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