The Real Harry Potter World {Edinburgh, Scotland}

You guys rock.

Thank you so much for all your support and input on last week’s post ♥︎ Having a loving community is a gift that fights half the battle.

But it’s been a good while since we’ve caught up! The highlights of this past week include:

1) Celebrating two birthdays of people in my study abroad program. Last week was one with an ice cream sundae party. I brought the peanut butter (and original) Oreos, naturally.

img_6081img_6080img_6082

On that note, I’ve been eating a lot more chocolates than usual here in Ireland. I say I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but Cadbury has a way of making me [literally] eat my words.

Last night, a few of us went out to dinner for another birthday at an Italian restaurant. I got the linguine with meatballs in a tomato basil sauce. Mm.

img_6288

Happy birthday to the awesome ladies!

2) Finishing our last final on Friday. Oyyy that was a cram exam, but I think we all did well. Our professor went pretty easy on us, thankfully.

3) Visiting Edinburgh, Scotland!

Megan, Cristen and I packed our knapsacks and set off for Scotland on Friday evening. We started with a 20-piece chicken nugget order from Burger King to share at Dublin Airport for “dinner” first. Twenty pieces for only 5 quid! This is why fast food is a problem.

img_6088

But I had not eaten meat this processed and non-filling in so long, and I LOVED IT.

We had just an hour-long flight before we landed in Glasgow. Flights were oodles cheaper into Glasgow than into Edinburgh, but we still had to pay a little over £16 and 2 hours to get to Edinburgh from Glasgow. You could argue that “time is money,” but even the return flight times from Edinburgh weren’t great on Sunday, so I think we ultimately made the right decision.

(Plus, I had more time to read Harry Potter.)

A trip isn’t a trip for Megan and me until we run into some public transportation issue the night we arrive at our destination city. This time wasn’t so bad, but we took the last local bus in the wrong direction, so it took us probably 45 minutes more than it should have as we had to wait for the bus to turn back around.

img_6089

adventures with the front pack return

At least Cristen was still smiling. Megan on the other hand was crying and drying her tears with [clean] cat socks.

img_6091

she’s actually only crying because something was in her eye

The bus driver was very kind though, and he let us camp out on the bus for the whole round trip.

We finally arrived at our Airbnb pretty late at night, but all things cheered up (for Megan at least) when we discovered that the hosts had a nice cat.

img_6095

She was living her BEST. LIFE. I’ve never seen Megan come alive like this.

Sleep was short that night because we had to be up early for our day tour of the Highlands! The days are so short here too. The sun rises at 8:30 am and sets at 3:30 pm, so we entered and returned to Edinburgh city centre in the dark on Saturday.

This awesome breakfast spread from our Airbnb host put a little pep into our morning though.

img_6102

We took the Highland Experience Tour, which took us to Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, Inverness, and the Cairngorm Mountains. It usually does the route the other way around, but since daylight was limited, they started with Glen Coe and and ended with Cairngorm Mountains, which we thought was wise.

img_6103

allllll the haggis at one of our short pit stops

After a couple hours of snoozing and listening to our Scottish tour guide, we arrived at Glen Coe.

img_6108img_6115img_6119img_6124img_6139

“Three Sisters – Faith, Hope, and Charity”

The history of these places is fascinating (even though I was a sleep/daydreaming for half of it, the parts I caught were cool)!

img_6207

our tour guide, Stuart, with everything Scottish you could ever imagine

Ben Nevis as the sun went down:

img_6154img_6155img_6156

Commando Memorial

img_6165img_6160

I’m gonna miss all the sheep in Ireland 😦

We had our longest stop at Loch Ness, so we grabbed some lunch.

img_6169

chicken, mozzarella, pesto sandwich

img_6168

very sub-par carrot cake, but it was still carrot cake!

Then we went in search for the Loch Ness monster (aka Nessie).

img_6186img_6192

idk why I made myself so vulnerable to Nessie here

img_6175

There were some trails we hiked up that may have led to lookout points of the lake. We started on them but didn’t have time to finish them, but it was still SO nice to move the legs after sitting on the bus all day.

img_6193

Thereafter, the sky darkened quite quickly, so here was my last photo of the trip — Inverness, the capital of the Highlands.

img_6194

the RIVER Ness

It was kind of humorous coming back to Edinburgh, because although it was pitch black outside by 5 pm, Stuart kept saying things like, “If you look out to your right, you’ll see ___. It’s a little hard to find it in the dark.”

Poor guy was probably just obligated to say those things, because there was no chance we could see anything at that point.

We arrived back to Edinburgh at around 7:30 pm, so we searched around for a restaurant (NOT a pub) for a while before choosing Mum’s, a cozy British comfort food restaurant.

img_6195

We needed to go to a British/Scottish restaurant because Cristen and I were dead set on trying haggis. If you don’t know what haggis is, read here (unless you’re extremely queasy with weird foods).

Mum’s fortunately had an appetizer portion of “haggis, neeps, and tatties” (aka haggis, parsnips, and potatoes), so we all shared that.

img_6196

it also came with gravy on the side

It’s not bad at all! I like it, but I don’t love it. I would eat it, but I wouldn’t order it. It tastes like pate + shepherd’s pie. That doesn’t sound like the worst thing, right?

My main course blew the haggis out of Loch Ness the water though. I got the venison and redcurrant pie with veggies and chips, and it was everything I had been wanting in my 3.5 months in Ireland/the UK.

img_6197

I didn’t think I would be able to finish the pie, but I totally did. The puffy crust was absolutely perfect, and the stew underneath was savory and seasoned just right.

img_6198

Mmmm the wannabe-British-speaking part of me was comforted for sure (p.s. I have no idea how to speak in a Scottish or Irish accent still).

Cristen also ordered a glass of rosé for us all to share at the end. I had one sip. Not my jam.

img_6199

We finished our night with a short stroll around city centre and the Christmas market right before it closed.

img_6206img_6203img_6205

We knew we had to come back to see it in full the next day!

Sunday morning, we got up fairly early again to go to Mass in city centre at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Then we met up with my friend Mayu and her roommate, who are both studying abroad in Edinburgh. Mayu and I know each other from high school and haven’t seen each other since graduation!

img_6221

We met up at a cute French cafe called La Barantine Victoria, where I had vegetable quiche and peppermint hot chocolate.

img_6219img_6218

It was so good catching up with her for a bit and meeting her friend!

After we parted, Megan, Cristen and I meandered our way through town via the Royal Mile.  There were a couple guys who were playing the bagpipes on the street, so our Scottish experience was complete.

img_6216

img_6224

img_6211img_6213img_6223

Edinburgh is such a cool city. The buildings are all old, gothic, and kinda dark, but it works. It’s not depressing; it’s mystical. (Fun fact: J.K. Rowling lives in Edinburgh, and you can definitely see the HP inspiration in this city. Maybe that’s why I love it so much?)

img_6234

We made our way back to the Christmas Market eventually, which was teeming with people of all ages, craft stands, and food stands.

img_6226

Megan and Cristen got some treats for themselves (including fudge and sugar roasted almonds), and I got these mini pancakes (of Dutch origin apparently) with Biscoff cookie butter drizzled overtop.

img_6229img_6230

These were so delicious!!! Freshly made, doughy, and satisfying.

img_6227img_6228

They’re ebelskivers, I think!

We ventured into SantaLand at the Christmas market too, but it was really just toddler land with overpriced rides.

img_6232img_6231

It was such a fun experience though! We definitely felt the warmth and excitement of the holidays 🙂

Other stops of the day:

img_6243

Edinburgh Castle

img_6249

we didn’t have time to go inside, unfortunately, but the view from the top was still magnificent!

img_6245img_6265

we didn’t have time to hike up Arthur’s Seat, but you can see it in the background!

img_6246img_6270

I also purchased a Scottish wool stole (large scarf) at one point during the day

img_6274img_6239img_6240

how thrilled do you think this new HP fan was to be petting a tawny owl in Edinburgh!?!?

img_6276

img_6278

the moon hangin’ out at 3:30 pm

Before we departed Edinburgh for Glasgow airport again, we stopped by Oink for some pulled pork sandwiches to take away per our friends’ recommendations. Megan and I bought one each to eat at the bus station.

Warning: Vegans/Vegetarians/Animal Lovers, shield your eyes.

img_6277

I got my pulled pork with BBQ sauce and onion sage stuffing on a wheat bun. This was delicious!! Super cheap too!

img_6282

We said goodbye to the wonderful city that is Edinburgh and then headed “home” for Dublin. Real home is coming in just four days though, and I can’t wait 🙂

So tell me: 

Have you ever been to Scotland?

What is the weirdest animal-based dish you’ve ever eaten?

Have you ever been to a Christmas Market?

Two things you did this weekend!

Living Life on the Edge of a Cliff

Ireland keeps one-upping itself.

Just when I think, “THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE PLACE EVER,” I go to another place, and I have to say the phrase again.

This weekend, I went to two of {seriously} my two new favorite places ever— Howth Cliffs and Cliffs of Moher. You could say that I was living life on the edge.

Thursday— Irish Sports

Before I get into the cliffs, I need to tell you about how we played Gaelic sports on Thursday morning. Instead of 2.5 hours of sitting in class, our contemporary Irish society class headed to the “pitches” for some traditional Irish sports (praaaaaise).

Sport #1: Gaelic football. I would describe this as a cross between soccer, American football, and rugby, played with a volleyball. I was pretty bad, but it was fun to try.

mayogoal1

[source]

Sport #2: Handball. The drills for this were a pain in the ass, but playing the actual game was fun! I liked this one the most. It’s basically squash without a racquet and with a softer, smaller ball.

2007malone1

[source]

Sport #3: Hurling. Sounds horrendous already, doesn’t it? Well I played horrendously too. It’s like lacrosse + field hockey + baseball + do whatever the feck (← apparently an acceptable curse substitution here, even on daytime TV) you want. Just kidding, there are rules, but there are too many rules to remember for a rookie.

img_3629

I learned afterwards that our young instructor for the day was one of the best Irish sport athletes in the country, so… good. He saw me miss the ball about 10 times.

img_3630

that chin sweat.

Despite my skill deficiency, I had such a blast learning about the history of the sports and how to play them! Irish moves and grooves, I dig it 🙂

Friday— Howth

Howth is pronounced with a long ‘o’ sound. So like “oath” with an ‘h’ in front. Just FYI, because I wouldn’t have known.

My mom got back from her two-week tour around Ireland, and her sister was also in town! I met up with them on Friday morning for breakfast at Restaurant 104. I opted for a big, late breakfast including a goat cheese, spinach, and red pepper omelette. Then mom and I split a scone with butter, jam, and CREAM (← game changer).

img_3641 img_3645 img_3646

We had no plans for the day, but my aunt asked us, “Have you ever been to Howth?” I had not been, but Rachel told me I had to go, so Friday was the day! We took a fairly short rail ride out to the beautiful fishing village, and just did our tourist thing. Lots of looking around and photographing!

14322212_10154186837686749_6435349108500387899_n img_3654 img_3671 14445957_10154186837131749_7200844553303559314_n img_3678 14446161_10154186837226749_7708809271077250189_n 14441151_10154186837121749_658303904820141294_n

The highlight of Howth is the cliff walk, so I took off on one of the paths while my mom and aunt stayed back at the beach. I wish they came along to see the beauty of the cliffs, but it was a blessing in disguise to do a solo hike.

img_3680 img_3683

As I walked up the initial road, I saw some gorgeous properties along the coast. I told myself about 100 times during the whole cliff walk, “I want to live here.”

img_3684 img_3690

wild blackberries!

img_3695 img_3704

help, no one here to take photos with me

img_3706 img_3709 img_3710 img_3728 img_3737

I cannot explain how at peace and in awe I felt throughout the 1.5-hour walk around the cliffs. The wind was strong, the ocean was mystifying, and the solitude was rejuvenating. God exists, man.

On the walk down, I passed by some more cute houses and an abbey.

img_3742 img_3743 img_3744 img_3745

I would have done the longer hike path, but I didn’t want to keep Madre and my aunt waiting too long. Plus, I was so parched. I ran out of water early on in my walk, so I needed hydration ASAP.

I met up with the ladies at Starbucks for some water and snacks, and then we popped into a lovely tea house for afternoon tea and cake. My aunt and I shared a pot of wonderful spearmint tea, and then we all shared a scrumptious slice of carrot cake.

14468753_10154186912546749_4772573952552647460_o img_3747 img_3751

some of the best carrot cake we’ve ever tasted!! SO moist, and I’m not sorry for using that word.

Our eating schedule was weird with our late breakfast and dessert-lunch, so we ate dinner about an hour later at a restaurant called Deep. All the seafood restaurants looked fantastic, since we were in a fishing village after all.

img_3755 img_3762

literally right from the boat to the market to the restaurant

We share calamari to start, and then I ate a decadent “open fish pie” for my entree.

img_3764 img_3767

It looks like it’s just mashed potatoes in a dish, but there was so much fish underneath! Cod, salmon, and some others that I could not identify. Comfort food at best. Mom also shared a big piece of her fish + chips with me. The crust was perfect!

img_3768

My meal also came with a dessert (“my preciousss”), so I ordered the apple crumble. It was hot and the perfect sweet ending to a pretty sweet day.

img_3772

Thank you so much, Madre and Auntie Xay for an incredible day in Howth! And happy birthday to Auntie Xay as well 🙂

Saturday— Dublin

I had some work to do, so I laid low with Madre in my dorm room. She basically filmed a documentary of my life to show Pop, which I thought was hilarious. I did some homework, laundry, and a nice dorm workout in the morning/early afternoon. For my workout, I did a slowish 12 minute workout, followed by the first day workout in the free CodyApp KaisaFit challenge! I ♥︎ Kaisa.

After a shower and finishing up laundry (mom spoiled me and folded it all for me while I worked!), we walked to a late lunch at the Lovely Food Co.

14479649_10154189562426749_2300472416690958927_n

I ordered the superfood salad for some veggie power in my life. It was everything I could have wanted and more. I think it had roasted veggies, broccoli, seeds, homemade croutons, and halloumi cheese, among other things.

img_3776

Mom had the smoked salmon and crab sandwich per my recommendation. She shared a quarter of it with me + some of her tomato soup.

img_3777

And since Lovely Food Co. has some of the best desserts, we had to order one to share. She chose the spiced pear cake, which was another score. Moist, perfectly spiced, and just sweet enough.

img_3779 14370022_10154189562776749_4788656080384072792_n

We went grocery shopping for my week ahead, and then an hour or two later, we walked to Mass with my friends Megan and Cristen. Then it was already dinner time at Dall’Italiano! My aunt also met up with us after her day of touring Dublin city centre.

We all craved pasta, and we left satisfied.

img_3781

I got the fettuccine with beef fillet, onions, and mushrooms in a red wine sauce. Molto bene! I have 1/3 of it in my fridge for leftovers 🙂

Then it was time to say farewell to my mother for three months (and my aunt for even longer probably!). So sad, but it was great to spend so much time with her in my first month in Ireland! She had a lot of fun on her tour too.

That night I FaceTimed with two of my favorite people too— Rachel and Joe! I’m not that homesick, but I do miss my friends dearly.

Sunday— Cliffs of Moher

FaceTiming Rachel until late at night made the 5:50 wakeup call a little rough. But a nice 45 minute walk to the bus stop was enough to wake me up! Plus overnight oats.

img_3782

ugliest breakfast ever, but one of the most delicious

Megan, Cristen and I took a Paddywagon Tour, which was informative, entertaining, and eventful. One person needed to pee really badly (not me this time! although I very much empathized with her), one person got bus sick on the side of the road, a couple people almost got left behind, and the tour guide was great but also passive aggressive.

I’d recommend the tour though!

We brought our lunches, which we ate at 10:30am on the bus due to our early breakfast.

img_3785

red pesto, cheddar, hummus, basil, and rocket sandwich (threw whatever I had in the fridge into this thing and it was so tasty!!)

img_3786

Our first stop was a revisit of Dunguaire Castle, where Megan and I experienced a medieval banquet last weekend. It was just a quick photo stop this time, but it was extra pretty with this cool cloud effect going on.

img_3788 img_3796

Our second major pit stop was the Burrens and the Mini Cliffs. The views were stellar even there.

img_3816 img_3825 img_3820 img_3835

The wind was straight-up concerning though. Cristen is a very petite lady, and we all agreed that she should not come close to the edges of the mini cliffs, because there was a legitimate possibility of her blowing off.

img_3809 img_3813 img_3806 img_3828 img_3815

can you see what I mean?

Our bus driver then rushed us over to lunch in Doolin, where we all had dessert, since we had already eaten our lunches. I bought this huge slice of sweet and rich berry bakewell gateaux.

img_3836

holy moly way too much sugar for one person

Then it was time for the CLIFFS. OF. MOHER.

img_3842 img_3873 img_3916 img_3917

They really are as phenomenal as people say they are. It was too magnificent to be true, especially since we lucked out with the weather!

So Rachel came to the Cliffs over the summer and took a jumping photo with them, so I obviously had to take one as well. Take one: too narrow of a pathway and way too windy for comfort.

img_3859

Megan: “Alison I don’t think you should jump.”

img_3864

Me: “Yeah you’re right. Safety first.”

img_3871

Compromise.

But then later, we found a less windy and broader spot for the photo.

img_3873 img_3877 img_3888 img_3891 img_3892


img_3897

Then Rachel posted this photo to her social media:

14468389_1194413883957112_2329454869147398592_o

mirror image, I say 😉

It was a nice steep climb to the highest point of the cliffs, but man was it worth going up there [twice].

img_3905

Megan: “Gets to the peak. Drops on knees in prayer.”

img_3909 img_3910 img_3912

As always, photos can never do these kinds of places justice. If you ever get the opportunity to go to Ireland, go experience the Cliffs of Moher for yourself.

We stopped by Bunratty Castle before our 2.5-hour trip back to Dublin.

img_3918 img_3919

Manmade things are just “meh” now and forevermore.

I wanted all the movement and all the veggies and protein for dinner at around 9pm. Before I ate, I did a quick 10 minute HIIT in my room to get the blood flowing and to spend some extra pent-up energy.

I finished up my big bag of rocket (arugula) with a can of salmon + hummus, tomatoes, and some unpictured carrots.

img_3924

I ended the night with blogging and FaceTiming two more friends from Boston— PJ and Louis. YAY!

Monday— WorkWorkWorkWorkWorkWork

So many things to do now, so little time!!

img_3926

But this weekend was more than worth it.

Hope you all have a marvelous week!! Go outside and feel the wind in your hair if ya can.

So tell me:

Have you ever played a foreign sport before?

Have you ever taken a solo hike?

Have you ever been to the Cliffs of Moher?

What is the most beautiful natural phenomenon you’ve ever witnessed?

Two things you did this weekend!