Galicia seriously celebrates Carnival, giving students three days off each year to dress up like its halloween and throw flour and ants in the different pueblos of the region. Although many of my students told me that Carnival in Galicia is the best week of the year, many adult, coworkers at As Lagoas like me used the long weekend to escape the mischief of the region. I used this break from school to travel to the United Kingdom for a long weekend with Shannon, another Fulbright in Ourense.
In a few short days, we made our way from Santiago to Dublin (with a quick stop in Galway), Dublin to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to London, and all too quickly back to Santiago again.
Shannon and I arrived in Ireland with two main goals: the Cliffs of Moher & Guinness. We managed to accomplish both!
From Dublin, we joined a tour group that took us to the Cliffs of Moher, on the Wild Atlantic Way, and for a short stop in Galway. The weather was HORRIBLE. Seriously windy, raining nonstop all day, and very cold! We had to be extra careful because the cliffs were slippery. After learning that people die falling off the cliffs every year, I stayed far from the edge as you can see in the pictures below! The Cliffs were absolutely amazing, even in the horrible weather.
Post Cliffs, we headed to Galway for a quick lunch of fish and chips and then were on our way back to Dublin.
My Dublin adventure began with a Steak and Guinness Pie, which was rich and heavy and very Irish, I think. I took the waitress’ suggestion and ordered a disgustingly sweet strawberry cider, when I should have just ordered a Guinness. Oh well.
Irish Breakfast and some views over the River Liffey, that splits Dublin in half, began our day.
Trinity College Library was at the top of my Day in Dublin to-do-list. The campus is right in the heart of the city, housing the one of a kind library and the Book of Kells. Seeing the book was not the most exciting event; however, the library makes it worth the 10 euro entrance fee.
Turns out Ed Sheehan’s description of Grafton Street is deceiving, and it is really full of fancy shops and pretty flowers winding down to St. Stephen’s Green. No redheaded men, playing the guitar, and drinking Guinness were found anywhere close.
A quick, required stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral was next on our way to the Guinness Storehouse.
Stopped by the Guinness Storehouse for lunch and a drink. A really amazing place to grab a bite, learn about the process of brewing Guinness, and to see a 360 view of the city!
My time in Ireland came to an end after snapping a picture in front of the famous Temple Bar, finding the BEST Korean food in the back of a Korean supermarket, and seeing some live Irish dancing at the Belvedere Hotel!
I spent less than 24 hours in Scotland, but took advantage of the night to experience the culture of the city, only forfeiting a little sleep. Edinburgh is a fairytale, and it was my favorite stop of the whole UK trip. From the Castle up on the hill in the city center, the colorful Victoria Street that inspired J.K. Rowling, and the amazing views up on Calton Hill, I was smitten with this perfect Scottish city.
A quick coffee break with Scottie Dog shortbread cookies and some bagpipe before dinner really set the mood in Edinburgh.
My first hostel pub crawl experience ever happened in Scotland. Shannon and I met five Irish girls on a weekend holiday from Trinity College in Dublin. We had a blast singing, dancing, and becoming fast friends!!
Before heading to the airport, we made two more quick stops to Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland where Dolly the first cloned sheep can be seen!
Our third and final stop on this rapid weekend getaway was England. After spending a summer studying at the University of Bristol, I was happy to be back in England for a bit to enjoy the architecture, posh department stores, food, and museums.
Our first stop was Hyde Park, where we saw the Princess Diana Memorial, which is a small circular river.
We ended our walk in front of Kensington Palace and went to find Harrod’s and Ladurée for a very posh, sweet snack.
Next up, we headed to the gates of Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace, but the true treat was watching THE QUEEN get into a van outside of a science museum. If you look closely you can see her royal highness’ HAT in the back window!!
When Shannon suggested a trip to the U.K., I told her my ONE request was to have high tea in London. We went to The Wolseley, and I enjoyed every single bite of my scones, pastries, and sandwiches! I ordered a cafe con leche (latte) instead of tea because Spain has thoroughly changed me!! The clotted cream and jam was absolutely spectacular on the scones.
Following tea, I needed to walk around a bit because I was stuffed! Tea was definitely not a snack, but a whole meal. Our walk brought us to some necessary sightseeing spots, including Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, which isn’t looking too great at the current moment!
Aside from sightseeing, my favorite part of being in London was the access to AMAZING Asian food. I found Vietnamese food around every corner and it was fantastic!!
Next, Shannon and I made our way to the Tower of London. This was my mandatory history stop for our trip. I learned so much about the crown, saw at the crown jewels, saw the torture chamber and devices, and learned about beasts at the court. A real treat! Plus the London Tower Bridge is right next to the Tower of London!
Shannon and I were able to score a reservation to eat at the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie, and it was an ABSOLUTE DREAM!! The views and environment were an amazing way to take in the city when time was limited.
Following the Walkie Talkie, we stopped by many other sights on the same side of London. The rush to reach so many places in so little time made our sightseeing strategy like a rapid fire checklist. We scurried from the Walkie Talkie to St. Paul’s Cathedral and then toShakespeare’s Globe on our way to…
Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross Station from Harry Potter. Following this, we found some Sticky Toffee Pudding at a Pub.
In the evening, Shannon and I met my friend Kristina and her friend Shayla (a Chi Omega from Nebraska!!) for dinner and a drink. We went to Sketch, one of London’s hottest stops for brunch, tea, dinner, and drinks. It is quite an amazing space with many different rooms and themes. The white spaceship like room with egg pods is the BATHROOM!
On our last morning, I brought Shannon to the British Museum. I had visited the AMAZING museum during my Fulbright UK summer, but I was happy to return to see the Rosetta Stone, mummy of Cleopatra, and lots of brilliant roman sculptures. This museum is a collection of many of the world’s most cherished artifacts that the British stole and still call their own!
The final stop in London was to Camden Town for AMAZING Indonesian street food for lunch and some meandering around the famous marketplace.
My UK Carnival adventure came to an end far too quickly. I loved seeing so many cities in just a few short days. Edinburgh wins in my opinion for the architecture, and London wins for food and culture. Dublin and Galway were awesome stops along the way offering amazing views of the countryside and the cliffs. I most definitely hope to return to the U.K. for more exploring in the future!