It’s October!

So it occurred to me the other day while I was writing a post for one of my other blogs that I haven’t posted in this one since July!! It’s now the beginning of October and I feel awful for leaving this blog for so long. I figured that I would just write a little update about what I’ve been up to since then.

October. It’s one of my favourite months and only because Halloween is this month. Anyone on Tumblr knows that Halloween season basically starts after Easter, but it’s now acceptable for the rest of the world to start getting ready too. I also enjoy (Canadian) Thanksgiving, but I won’t be going home this year so my Thanksgiving will be spent with my school work. I’ll probably be thankful that midterm season is almost over at that point. My midterms go into November, but the bulk of them are around Thanksgiving.

I’ve been missing Scotland lately. Missing abroad really. I obviously still have friends living in Scotland, and I still have friends who are abroad and travelling. I miss everything about it. I miss waking up and seeing mountains everyday and being able to breath in the cool crisp air. I miss going on trips to Scottish villages, and the highlands or getting on a plane to another country. Seeing everyone’s photos and Snapchats is lovely, but it’s also hard to see everything I am missing. My saving grace from this is talking to my overseas friends. I may have mentioned this before, but I have been writing letters to one of my friends from Europe. It’s so painful waiting weeks to get a response, but it makes coming home every day to check the mail exciting. I am going to start exchanging letters with another friend of mine once she gets settled into her permanent flat. I also use Facebook to connect with a ton of people. I love the group chats we have, because it seems like I could still be living in my flat just twenty minutes away from everyone.

Since I am no longer able to travel between countries over the weekend, I’ve decided to get more involved with school. I am excited to say that I am a new member of Alpha Omicron Pi Fraternity! The fraternity bit is slightly misleading – it’s a women’s fraternity (sorority). It’s been a wild ride so far, and I am so overwhelmed by how nice and welcoming everybody has been. It is still a recent development, but I am sure I will have much more to say before long!

I have plans for a couple of tattoos! Since Scotland I have been trying to figure out what I would like to get permanently inked into my skin, and I think I have made some decisions! My first tattoo is going to be something personal to me, I am thinking either a constellation (debating Ursa Minor or Orion currently) or the Celtic knot that is on my necklace. My second one is actually going to be one of a pair. Emma (who I write Young, Crazy and Gorgeous with) and I are planning on getting tattoos together. We haven’t worked out any details yet, but we will. I am excited. I have always kind of wanted a tattoo, but no idea what I wanted or where I wanted it placed. If I have any further developments I will be sure to post!

I think that is all that is going on in my life right now! If you wish, please let me know what’s going on in your life in the comments! I would love to hear what everybody is doing. 🙂

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Rückkehrunruhe

It has been just over 2 months since I came back to Canada (2 months and 6 days to be exact, but who’s counting?). My life has mostly gone back to normal, I wake up most days, eat breakfast, go to work and come home. On my days off I run errands. However ‘normal’ my life has become, there are still many times during my daily routines that I am reminded of my time abroad.

I spoke to a woman at work today who asked me about my necklace. For those who are unaware, I wear the necklace that I bought in Scotland almost every day. I loved talking to her about my experience in Scotland, but it made me realize how quickly my time abroad is becoming a thing of the past.

This isn’t the first time this has crossed my mind either. I finally finished the chapstick that I bought while I was abroad and it was a weird thing to go pick up another one. It was literally something so simple and mindless, but it was one of the last things I had been using from Scotland and I was sad to see it go.

It’s easy to focus on how long it’s been since I went on my exchange and all the things that I miss. What’s not easy is seeing all the ways that my time in Scotland is still affecting my life. Without going into how it changed me as a person, I made a lot of friends while I was in Europe and I still talk to a fair amount of them. I message a few people daily, I’ve started talking to exchange students from Europe that are going to be starting at my school in the fall, and I’ve even started writing letters to one of my friends in Germany.

I often forget that when I’m messaging people on Facebook or Whatsapp how incredible it is that we are talking. I am very much aware of the time difference, not that anyone pays much attention to that – everyone just responds when they’re awake and it works out fine. But because Facebook is such a normal part of my life in Canada, I don’t always realize how special it is to be able to talk to people in different countries any time I want.

That’s one of the things I love about having an actual pen pal. We sit down and physically write each other letters. Yes they take a long time to be delivered, but it reminds me how amazing that connection is. I would never give up electronically messaging my friends – it makes life much easier, and it is such a convenient way to keep in touch. There’s just something about getting a letter in the mail knowing it came from somewhere far away that makes me realize that while I may not be abroad any more, it still impacts my life more than I often realize.

Rückkehrunruhe: the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness (Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows)

How I Spent My Money During My Semester Abroad

Studying abroad is an amazing experience, but it comes at a price. Of course the final cost depends on how your tuition is being paid, what type of traveller you are and how much shopping you want to do. I did a lot of research for this trip, there was no shortage of websites telling me how I could save/make money, but I had a hard time finding exactly how much I should expect to spend during my time overseas. I tracked my spending throughout the entire trip, and I thought it would be useful to post it the breakdown of my spending for anyone who is interested in going abroad and curious about how much it cost me!

Exchange rates did fluctuate while I was there, so it was hard to get a completely accurate cost, especially with so many different currencies, but I will list the costs in GBP and CAD!

Living Costs

£1,704.39 ($3,408.78)

  • This category includes the cost for my residence and all the hostels I stayed in. The cost for my campus residence was by far the most expensive part of the trip, but it was worth it. I paid £1,279.03 to live across the street from the school and I had the room from January to the beginning of June if I needed. Staying is hostels is a fantastic way to save money and meet people. I paid a total of £425.36 hostels I stayed in!

Tours/Sightseeing

£366.37 ($732.74)

  • A lot of this came from tours I did with a Glasgow based company. I’ve talked about Gary and his tours on this blog multiple times, but his tours really are amazing, and really affordable! A lot of sightseeing (museums especially) are free in Europe if you have a European student card. Another big chunk came from castles and tour buses. Castles will often charge because there is a lot of upkeep required, and it’s not something I mind paying for if it means myself and other people can continue to visit these historical sites. If you followed my vlogs, you’ll know that I went on a few of those red open top tour bus tours. Honestly, I hated these at first, honestly you stand out so much as a tourist, but I grew to love them.

Shopping

£481 ($962)

  • That looks like a very large number, but I did buy a lot of souvenirs and clothes. I know clothes are such a typical thing for girls to buy in Europe, but I needed them. I didn’t think I would be there for the ‘real’ summer weather so I didn’t bring any summer clothes and as it turns out, I needed them. Of course I also did a little bit of clothes shopping for fun, but Europe has some amazing shops.

Groceries

£243.80 ($487.60)

  • I was surprised how cheap this was. I spend way more than this for the same time period in Canada. But this was about 4 months’ worth of groceries! I did my groceries once a week, and I always did them at Tesco because they had the best deals and were the closest full grocery store to me.

Entertainment/Personal

£179.87 ($357.74)

  • This category is everything from my phone plan, to theatres, to doing laundry. I was impressed how much fun I had, and how little it cost. I didn’t go to any bars or clubs while I was there (I figured that if it was something I could do in Canada, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it abroad), so that helped keep the costs down.

Eating Out

£434.28 ($868.56)

  • This was a little more expensive that I was expecting. While I was travelling I ate out for every meal (except free breakfast at most hostels). I never stayed in a place longer than 3 nights before heading off to the next city, so buying food to cook at the hostel was really impractical – especially because I couldn’t take any leftover food with me. I didn’t mind eating out, it was nice to experience the traditional food from each place and try new things almost every day.

Transport

£1,649.68 ($3,299.36)

  • This number hurts to look at. Keep in mind this number includes my flight back to Canada. I didn’t include my flight to Europe because I had booked that in advance, but it cost roughly $1,600. A lot of my flights were found through Skyscanner. They were pretty cheap, considering. I took trains to travel through Italy, which were slightly more expensive, but well worth it. I didn’t always have perfect plans for my trips, so I occasionally had to take a more expensive flight because I waited too long to book it, or I couldn’t fly out at a time that was cheaper.

Total: £5,059.65 ($10,119.30)

This number was pretty on par with what I was expecting to pay. I tried to plan how much I would spend in advance, and based on other blogs and websites, this is pretty average for a semester in Europe.

If you have any questions about how I budgeted, tracked my spending or want more details about where my money went, please let me know in the comments, I am more than happy to help!

6 Things I loved in Prague

I visited Prague this weekend with a friend from Canada, and I loved the city. We were there for 2 days and we crammed so much into the short amount of time that we had, and I thought I would share my thoughts and let you know 6 of my favourite things in Prague!

Saint Vitus Cathedral South Tower (In Prague Castle)

This one is pretty specific. But you can go up the South Tower and get an amazing 360 degree view of the city. Honestly, the rest of the castle was not that amazing. We went into the main cathedral area, which is mostly just a giant storage room for old art with cool stain glass windows. The basilica was also a little bit of a let down. We waited for half an hour, and we aren’t even sure what we waited for because there were only a few things to see and they had no descriptions.

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But the tower is worth it. It’s a separate ticket (150 crowns) you can buy right in the lobby. Be prepared, there are 287 stairs to climb. It’s a lot and it’s a spiral so you get dizzy real fast. But when you get to the top and look out over the city, you forget all of that.

Charles Bridge

View of the bridge from the South Tower

View of the bridge from the South Tower

This is a must see when you come to Prague. I think it’s on every list of Prague attractions I’ve ever seen. There are statues all along the bridge, and while some of them are creepy, they are really well done. By itself, the bridge is basically just a large pedestrian bridge, but the atmosphere is great. It was really crowded when we went, but there are vendors selling homemade trinkets, artists who have paintings of the city and even caricature artists who will draw you and your friends. It’s a really lively part of the city and one time while we were there, there was live music!

Vaclauske Namesti (One of the main roads in the city)

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Honestly, I don’t have a clue what this means, how to pronounce it or even all the accents that go on it. But this is a main road that leads from a few museums up at the top (right by the train station) and leads to the old town square. There are a few tourist places, but a lot of shops for the locals. This is definitely an area where locals and tourists are about equal in number. This road also had some Easter Market stalls along it, but the main market is in the old town square.

Astronomical Clock

Our view of the city!

Our view of the city!

This was the highlight of the Old Town Square for me. If you get a chance, read up on the history behind it. We went up the clock before we did the South Tower, and while it’s not as high, this was a really unique view. From this tower, we could see exactly where we started our day and where we were headed to on the other side. It looked like such a huge distance. We could also look down on the square and the Easter market and see everything going on.

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Meet Burger

This is where we ate lunch the first day, and I was really impressed with the quality and the location of this place. The service wasn’t fantastic, but this is located right between the old town square and the main road. The amount of food we got was really good considering it was pretty cheap (I got a hamburger, a bread basket and a brownie for about 550 crowns). There was a ton of food, I’m not sure how we finished it.

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Trdelniks

Do not ask me how to pronounce this. But this was one of the best things I have ever eaten. It’s a classic street food in Czech, there were more stalls selling this than there are Tim Horton’s in a neighbourhood. It’s basically snakes of dough that get wrapped around a heated rod and covered in cinnamon and sugar. Similar to a Beavertail in Canada! We ended up finding a booth that covered the inside with Nutella. Magical.

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There were so many things we did in Prague, and it was just so gorgeous, the pictures don’t do it justice. Prague is such a fabulous city and I would recommend it to anyone.

Everything is soaking wet.

I was not going to write another blog post about a tour I did, but I had to write this. I went on the Student Tours Scotland Argyll Forest Tour today and I loved it. I honestly wasn’t expecting too much out of it, Gary said last week that it was a really good tour so I just went ahead and booked it. Again, I really wasn’t going to write about it – I don’t want this blog to just be recaps of tours I’ve been on, but after the day I had I couldn’t not write about it.

The first thing you should know is that I hate getting wet. I hate the rain, I hate water rides, I don’t even like hand cream because it makes my hands all moist and gross. If I’m going to have to be wet, it’s going to be on my own terms.

And that was not in the cards for me today.

We took a beautiful walk through some of the most gorgeous trails I have ever seen. I’ve been on many nature walks and trails and many forests in my day, but this was amazing.

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“Big Tree Walk” The walk is named after this tree because it was a Big Tree that fell in the forest. There is actually a really cool superstition behind this fallen tree.

We walked through a place called Puck’s Glen, and it was named after the character in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, by Shakespeare. If you don’t know it – I highly recommend you look it up, it’s one of my favourites. I grew up loving the story and even performed it a few times, so walking through this area with all it’s beautiful landscapes and waterfalls was really magical.

It was so hard for me to choose a picture to capture the beauty of the place. I could post all the pictures I took and it would not do it justice.

It was so hard for me to choose a picture to capture the beauty of the place. I could post all the pictures I took and it would not do it justice.

These walks very lovely, and even though it was raining, my new rain jacket was doing a pretty good job of keeping me dry. My shoes, however were soaking wet, but that was not enough to ruin this place for me.

And then came the waterfall.

At one point we had to walk through the waterfall in order to keep going on the path. Remember before, how I mentioned not liking getting wet? This was basically my worst nightmare. In all honesty, it was not that bad. I was having such a good time, and then friend that I went with was super into it and was practically dancing under the waterfall. I did not dance, but I went through and I didn’t hate it.

It may not seem like a big deal, but last year about this time I was shrieking on a roller coaster that had a little bit of mist. I’m not kidding.

We continued walking and ended up resting in a cafe until we went to our next destination. Towards.

This was a really cute little area with two castles – one very ruined, and one modern (ish) one.

The old ruins - we actually found a place where you could go under that big mound in the middle and into an old room of the castl

The old ruins – we actually found a place where you could go under that big mound in the middle and into an old room of the castle.

I totally ran into the security guard at this place and he didn't yell at me. Apparently he's not usually that friendly.

I totally ran into the security guard at this place and he didn’t yell at me. Apparently he’s not usually that friendly.

Both places were absolutely stunning. We went to the town of Dunoon which was really cute and by a loch. Because it was windy and raining all day the loch was really wavy, but it looked amazing.

We got on the ferry back and we left the bus to walk around. We were on the bus for a little bit on the ferry ride at the beginning of the day and let me tell you, being on a bus on a rocking ship is not pleasant. I very rarely get motion sickness, so I was okay but my brain could not wrap itself around the way the boat and the bus were moving. It was really frustrating.

Anyways! My flatmate on the trip with me went inside the passenger lounge, and I was going to join him, I just wanted to take a couple pictures from the boat first. I never made it into the lounge.

Remember how I said the water was getting pretty rough? It intensified 10 fold when we were on the ship. I was taking a photo, when a girl from the tour walked up to the very front of the ship – just as a giant wave came and crashed down on top of her. At this point we all ran up to the little upper floor they have for viewing. There were about 15 of us up there laughing because the waves had come that high. It got so much worse.

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While the waves were still calm I managed to get this picture

We were all crammed in the corner about 3 bus lengths away from the front of the ship and the waves were hitting us full force. We couldn’t get down because the stairs led us right into the waves, and the other way was blocked so we were all huddled together trying not to fall over or be drowned. It was so intense. But amazing. I’m a huge fan of crazy weather so I was absolutely loving this. I didn’t even care that I was being soaked.

And I don’t mean like we got splashed a little, I’m talking it felt like we were in a giant wave pool. There was so little time between waves all we could do was breathe and try not to drink any of the water. We also did a fair bit of looking around and laughing. It was crazy, but we couldn’t go anywhere! We got back to the bus as we docked and everyone was half shocked half amused with out state. Apparently the bus (which was further back than we were) had gotten hit with quite a few waves itself.

Me on the bus, after being soaked to the bone. It's hard to tell, but I literally looked like I just just stepped out of the shower

Me on the bus, after being soaked to the bone. It’s hard to tell, but I literally looked like I just just stepped out of the shower

We did and saw a lot of amazing things today, but that was 100% a highlight. It was so much fun and probably a little bit dangerous, which made it even better. The only bad part of today was breaking two of my nails. There are worst things that could happen. Even though I am exhausted, I had an amazing day and would do it all over again.

Arthur’s Seat

This is another post about Edinburgh guys. I hope you aren’t sick of Edinburgh, because I’m not and I plan to go back there on at least one more occasion.

So I went on an official tour of Edinburgh today. I went with Student Tours Scotland, and if any of you are in Scotland and can get to Glasgow where his tours leave from, go on these tours. They run on weekends, and go all through Scotland. The tour guide Gary, is absolutely amazing and his first priority is to make sure everyone has the best time possible. He also has really cool stories and recommendations for things to do no matter what stuff you’re into. Also he is ginger.

Some guy on a horse and our tour guide Gary

Some guy on a horse and our tour guide Gary

So I was really excited for this tour, because I’d already been to Edinburgh, but Gary gives great tours and brings you to places you wouldn’t necessarily find if you were a tourist. Plus Arthur’s Seat. I will talk waaaaay more about this later.

Gorgeous park in the city

Gorgeous park in the city

But this morning actually started out like shite. We were meeting on the bus for 8:45, so not very early but I set my alarm for 6:45 so I could be up and ready to go with plenty of time. I got up at 8:30. I don’t know what happened, but I was not pleased. I managed to get out the door in 6 minutes and still be on time.

We did a walk around Edinburgh in the morning which was fascinating before we broke for lunch. After lunch it was time for Arthur’s Seat.

Plus I got to go here. Every Harry Potter fan's dream.

Plus I got to go here. Every Harry Potter fan’s dream.

Arthur’s Seat is on top of a volcano (dormant, obviously) and is generally associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian legend is actually really special to me, and is a big part of my life. I grew up loving it, and when I moved to university I met people who loved it (and BBC’s Merlin) just as much as I did. It brought us all really close together and is probably one of the main reasons we are all friends today. In second year, that group of people all moved into a house together and it’s actually been named Camelot. So I was extremely excited when I got to climb up to the point where many people believe this round table was actually held.

This is about halfway down, that little point at the top is Arthur's Seat

This is about halfway down, that little point at the top is Arthur’s Seat

The hike up was intense. It had been raining ten minutes earlier (thank God it didn’t rain while we were there) so it was so muddy. The path we took up was relatively steep and was more long patches of mud and rock stairs than a proper path. It was not easy and I actually don’t think I could have done it without walking the Escarpment stairs with my dad over Christmas. Huge shoutout to my dad who invited (read: guilt tripped) me into walking the stairs with him. The first few times I did the stairs I seriously thought I was going to throw up or pass out. Maybe both. But it definitely prepared me for this climb.

Gorgeous view about 3/4 of the way there

Gorgeous view about 3/4 of the way there

Unfortunately there are no actual ruins there (how amazing would that be), but it’s an incredible view of Edinburgh and the lochs surrounding it. Pictures don’t even begin to show how stunning and moving it actually was. I’m not one to be ‘moved’ by going to places and seeing things – usually I think it’s quite a weird thing for people to say, but I was slightly emotional being there. Totally worth the torture to get up there.

The very top! I had to wedge my feet between rocks so I wouldn't fall over when taking this picture

The very top! I had to wedge my feet between rocks so I wouldn’t fall over when taking this picture

It was crazy windy. Taking pictures was really hard because I could barely stand still or hold my phone. I managed to get some good pictures, but it involved a lot of securing myself to the ground and someone quickly grabbing a shot of me. And to top off me being blown around this giant volcano, my hair was a giant mess. I could barely see, and walking on a very rocky surface was a total challenge.

Even with the wind, we did catch fantastic weather and stayed away from the rain most of the time we were outside. It was a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh again.

Edinburgh Trip

A friend of mine asked me to write about a trip I recently took to St Andrews, but honestly I went to Edinburgh today and it was much more exciting. St. Andrews was incredibly lovely, but you can get almost all you need to know from the photos!

I was really excited for my trip today. I was getting on a bus in the morning and heading to Edinburgh to visit the castle there. I was even more excited because I was getting to meet a girl I have been talking to online for a while who was visiting the UK. She and her friends are doing a study abroad program in France and are spending some time up here and she asked if I would like to see Edinburgh Castle with them. I was beyond thrilled!

The day started off pretty well, I got up and was ready to go long before I had to leave. I wanted to stop at the bank before I got to Edinburgh, so I left about half an hour before I had to be at the bus stop. This was waaay to much time. The bank machine is on campus (across the road) and then the bus stop is across the road from campus. It took me about ten minutes from the time I left my flat to the time I got to the bus stop.

I wandered around for a while before figuring out what stance (basically which bus stop) I needed to be at. I saw a line forming so I figured I would wait with everyone else, my bus was supposed to be there in 15 minutes so it seemed reasonable.

The bus driver was really nice, but it turns out I was on the bus scheduled right before mine. They were going to the same place and the bus was far from full so the driver said I could just stay on this one.

The ride there was really relaxing until one of the air hoses blew. It was not a pleasant noise to hear early in the morning. We sat there for about 15 minutes before another bus came and got us.

Finding my way to the castle from the bus station wasn’t terribly hard, but I had google maps open the entire time. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city to walk in. Every building just looks like it belongs in a fairytale.

Climbing up this hill, was the easy.

Climbing up this hill, was the easy.

The castle itself is amazing. It’s built on a dormant volcano, so the earth science geek in me was freaking out a little. Unfortunately, very little of the original castle remains, but our guide said that civilizations can be placed there up to 3000 years ago. Holy cow.

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The only original part of the castle grounds is the chapel, which you can still get married in today. It was gorgeous but so small. Maybe 5-10 people if you all squeezed in. Talk about a small wedding!

The majority of the interiors have been turned into different exhibits and museums, which was good and bad. While I would have liked to see the exact places where famous historical figures lived and visited, I understand why that would be almost impossible. We did however get to visit the royal apartments where Mary Queen of Scots stayed where she visited the castle and gave birth to her only son. Anyone who has been following me on social media knows that I am obsessed with the Tudor period of history, so I was incredibly excited about this.

Mary Queen of Scots, crowned when she was only 6 days old.

Mary Queen of Scots, crowned when she was only 6 days old.

A bust of a much older Mary Queen of Scots

A bust of a much older Mary Queen of Scots

We walked around the grounds for a while, trying to see everything we could. It was incredibly windy, and being in open courtyards on the top of the mountain was brutal. But we did get to see some amazing buildings, the war memorial and even this dog cemetery.

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After we finished at the castle (we stayed for about 3 and a half hours) we headed down to a Scottish pub for some food! It was such a cute little place, and it had an amazing lunch special. The other girls wanted haggis because they had never had it, and I got bangers and mash. It was so good. Slightly spicy, but I have a low tolerance and the Scots seem to like their spice!

The classiest pub food I have ever seen.

The classiest pub food I have ever seen.

We stayed at the pub for longer than we expected to, so I had to head to the bus station right after, but the girls were incredibly nice and walked back with me. We took our time and looked at the cool shops along the way. Edinburgh at dusk is stunning.

I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Edinburgh, but I do live in Glasgow and the cities have a history of rivalry. I was quite pleased with my visit, but I can understand why not all people are so keen on it. It is a smaller city, and even people in Edinburgh told us that after a few days of being in the city it gets rather dull. I am excited to go back at the beginning of March and perhaps get to climb up and see Arthur’s Seat!