Last Weekend in the UK

What's a girl to do on her last weekend in the UK for seven weeks?

Explore, that's what!

I've been lots of places in the UK- Wales, Edinburgh (many times, mixed with random small Scottish and English towns), Liverpool, Bath. But one thing I've never done is make a concerted effort to actually go to a random small town, not unless it was on the way to somewhere else. So that's what I decided to do. Cast out and head for a place where I'd be sure to be the only American for many, many miles.

Turns out, I was pretty much the only human.

Just kidding. (Sort of.)

Clun is a teeny tiny English town build waaaaaay before cars were around, as you can see from the narrow roads and ancient town walls. Nestled amongst the hills of Shropshire, I enjoyed a weekend of walking through castles and extremely narrow lanes (missing cars by mere centimeters). 

Oh, and also tea with clotted cream.

The big draw is Clun castle, a decaying ruin on the outskirts of town.

As an American, I didn't want to stick out even MORE by taking tons of pics, but this should give you an idea of just how gorgeous this little hamlet in the hills really is. If you ever want an English countryside jaunt, this is a worthy destination. Don't let the fact there's only two pubs and one tiny shop deter you...you'll be in culture shock so much (in a GOOD way) you'll have plenty to take in.


Repeat Copenhagen

I used to be against going somewhere "exotic" more than once. I suppose this opinion is defensible living in Europe and planning travel to, say, Thailand. But when I live in London and Heathrow is just 45 minutes away by tube, how can I resist the lure of places I love and want to get to know better?

I can't.

So, for a quick weekend break, N. and I decided to explore Copenhagen. I'd been just a few months before and LOVED it. As in, contender to live here category. So why not take as many opportunities to see what the city has to offer as possible? And in the summer, no less!

What did I discover? A lot of things, but the principal takeaway is that Copenhagen is a completely different place in the summer.

N. and I got up at a ridiculous hour to fly Norwegian. I was drowsy for most of the flight but, as I was soon to discover, my exhaustion disappeared as soon as we arrived.

We stayed in an Airbnb in Norrebro, the same area I stayed in last time, but this one was much deeper into the neighborhood, forcing me to explore new and unchartered territory. And some familiar sights, too, like this one (but in the sun!):

Nyhavn in the sun.

One thing N. really wanted to do was go to Christiana, which I had never heard of. Its a commune where about 800 people live, right in the middle of the city. It looks like they live on the money generated from the influx of tourists coming in to the commute, and maybe a little growing (if you get my drift...) too. It is definitely a place apart from the rest of the city. And proudly so.

The sign when you exit Christiana.
How'd we get to Christiana and points further afield? Glad you asked.

I would have to develop a LOVE of bikes to live in Copenhagen- everyone cycles!
Our first day we came across some things that are so typically Copenhagen it hurts. In a good way.

A food truck completely dedicated to asparagus. White, green, short, long, fat, thin...you name it, they'll cook it.

Outdoor champagne stalls for those who want a little drink after long bike rides!
Shops with great signage. Great signage with great meaning.
Shrink wrapped individual fruit- because you need to be healthy even if you're eating from 7 Eleven.
...and very interesting bathroom art.
We also went to Tivoli. I think its a bit overrated, but had to go to see it since everyone and their mother who goes to Copenhagen talks it up so much, and I didn't dare go when I was there in January. It reminded me of a less-cool version of Skansen in Stockholm.

One impression N. and I both had? For an amusement park, its SO quiet. Perhaps that's just the loud American in us coming out.

My two favorite things, though, are pretty "small" things compared to the big things people must do in Copenhagen, such as Tivoli, Rundetarn, etc. 

The first is Jægersborggade. This street is basically the COOLEST. It has tons of bars, a few restaurants and a smattering of shops and vintage stores on it. Its great for window shopping (or, if you're not broke from travel like me, real shopping) as well as breakfast. I'd recommend everyone try Grod, which is a restaurant dedicated to porridge (American translation: oatmeal). It may sound boring, but it changed my whole opinion toward the stuff. I've never had a better breakfast in my life.

My oatmeal had skyr and dulce de leche on it...yum!
The best latte I've ever had.
Also, there's Coffee Collective. Chances are if you're at all trendy you've heard of this place. They make a mean, strong strong strong coffee.

And the second thing? The fact that, being there just a few weeks before midsommar, it was light until midnight and the sun rose at 3am.

You better believe we were up to see that 3am sunrise!


In Edinburgh...again!

Oh the number of times I've been to Edinburgh. It might be my most blogged-about place. But what can I say? I love it so so much.

(If you've been behind, you might want to read about my exploits with my mom, with my biffle when we thought we were headed to Paris (!) or on my road trip.)

This time, I had a constructive reason to head up the coast: an academic conference. Despite feeling ridiculously nervous about presenting a paper on how the media impacts British perceptions of immigration and race relations, I couldn't help but be excited about taking a Virgin Train up. Although I've spent a lot of time at Waverley Station, that's been inter-Scotland travel. The plane or driving has always been much cheaper when it comes to getting to Edinburgh. But since I got paid for my trip, I decided to splash out and take what is reputed to be one of the most amazing train journeys in the UK.

It really is gorgeous.

Fields of rape (yes, that's a product here) out my window.

The Scottish coast.

A huge portion of my trip was dedicated to the conference at the University of Edinburgh, but no self-respecting visitor to Edinburgh can miss a few things, IM(H)O.

1) Arthur's Seat: the precarious mountain lurking above the city is a MUST to hike for the best views of Edinburgh, Leith and beyond. But don't take my word for it. A picture is (for writers like me, sadly) worth 1000 words, at least.

The crest of Arthur's Seat. What a hike up! Short but DIFFICULT!

A view of Holyrood Palace (the Queen's residence in Edinburgh) from Arthur's Seat.

I must say, I was proud I got to the very top. I'm out of shape!!!

2) The Royal Mile: I once went on a ghost tour of the Royal Mile, which isn't really my cup of tea usually. However, it infused me with SUCH a love of a street I've typically thought to be the armpit of the Scottish tourist world.

The view of the city from the Castle is almost as good as on top of Arthur's Seat!
St Giles Cathedral is my favorite church in all of the world. So unusual and beautiful.

And no walk along the Royal Mile would be right without coming down to the end at Holyrood.

3) Greyfriar's Kirkyard: Perhaps odd for a gal that isn't so in to ghost tours, I love love love cemeteries, as anyone who reads about my multiple Paris travels knows. Greyfriar's Kirkyard is a beautiful old cemetery that has a lot of names from Harry Potter in it. I think JK Rowling must have gone out on walks through this cemetery for inspiration- there are Riddle's, Moodie's, McGonnagals and more. Every time I take a walk through the Kirkyard, I find more and more names I recognize. 


 4) Food at La Petite Mort: this is a very new addition for me. While I like vegetarian haggis as much as the next person, I've never really considered Edinburgh a culinary mecca. BUT THIS PLACE, OMG. Sorry for the caps, but seriously. This is probably the best restaurant meal I have ever, ever had. Just looking back at the picture makes my mouth water. It's a bit off the beaten track, but I would definitely, definitely recommend going out of your way to try this place. Have the gnocchi. It won't disappoint.

5) Walking around to see what you stumble upon: OK, maybe this is a bit of a cop out because this is an important thing to do in any city. I love getting lost and trying to find my way back to my hotel or Airbnb. But in Edinburgh, you never know what you're going to see: brand new glass-front construction, ancient crumbling foundations, delicious Greek cafes like the Richmond, or an amazing sunset.

 I would finish this post by promising to go back to Edinburgh, but I think I've proven that I can't stay away as it is.