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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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)!

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

Ben Nevis as the sun went down:

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Commando Memorial

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I’m gonna miss all the sheep in Ireland 😦

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

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chicken, mozzarella, pesto sandwich

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

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

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idk why I made myself so vulnerable to Nessie here

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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

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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.

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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?)

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

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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.

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

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They’re ebelskivers, I think!

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

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

Other stops of the day:

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Edinburgh Castle

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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!

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Goodness Gracious, Galway

Is there a place on this island that won’t steal my heart!?

My goodness, Ireland might be one of the most underrated beautiful nations in the world. Then again, I haven’t been around too much of the world yet, but I can appreciate this little country for what it is!

Friday

I did some chores and work in the morning before a few of us headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin city centre.

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This place is truly a masterpiece. Arches, carvings, stained-glass window, stairways, tombs— like a fantasy novel setting! It’s also Anglican, not Catholic, which I did not know!

Then I did homework on Friday night. Lame award of the year. But it was for good reason because I was also packing for a weekend trip to Galway. Even though it was a two day trip, I was more nervous for this weekend jaunt than leaving the US for Ireland. I think it was because this is the first trip I planned completely without my parents’ intervention at all. Just Megan, me, and the good ol’ Internet (← in other words, we had infinite resources at our fingertips).

Saturday

I woke up at around 5:50 to get in a super quick workout before we hit the road. I did a warmup + 12 minute workout before gathering my things, eating some pb+j banana oats, and walking to bus #1.

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We successfully made it to the airport, where bus #2 departed. But we used the airport restroom and found this dispenser, which was…handy?

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Megan: “Why can you get toffee from the same machine as your tampons?”

So we ran away to Galway. It was about a 2.5 hour bus ride, and we emerged in the new city (SUCCESS) without a plan until dinner time. First stop: lunch at The Dough Bros.

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They had free crunchy chocolate chip cookies at the order counter, so that was our appetizer 😀

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And then we shared the “Hey Pesto” pizza, which had homemade basil pesto, goat cheese, smoked semi-sundried tomatoes, balsamic red onions, and fresh rocket (arugula).

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BOMB.

With happy bellies, we walked around the streets of Galway city, which were just charming. Our secret mission was to find dessert (I had scones on my mind for whatever reason), so we circled around before finding a little strip of street vendors.

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I sampled four different kinds of bread from The Happy Loaf, and then I finally bought a white chocolate blueberry spelt muffin (that he baked right there in some outdoor oven contraption!).

Megan bought a caramel slice from a different vendor, and we brought our desserts to the River Corrib, where we blissfully enjoyed our treats with a view.

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the muffin could have used more blueberries, but it was still delicious!

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“the garbage swan” ➔ Megan’s unofficial name for this thing

We walked up to the ocean area called Salthill, which offered a delightful sea breeze and a peaceful atmosphere.

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We couldn’t stay too long, because we had to catch a bus to Kinvara for dinner. However, in our haste, Megan twisted her (semi-recently sprained) ankle 😦 Darn cobblestone.

Luckily there was an ambulance literally right there where she twisted her ankle, so I asked the EMTs for an ice pack. One guy, Tom, kindly ran around the corner (to who knows where) to get one, while another guy, Eoin (pronounced “own”) came to chat with us and check on Megan.

Not only were these two gentlemen very helpful in Megan’s plight, but Megan and I agreed that Eoin was a darn good-looking and friendly man, who made the situation slightly less stressful. He even recommended a good fish & chips place.

God provides.

Tom came with the ice (and even an ACE wrap), so Megan was able to elevate and ice her ankle on the 40 minute bus ride to Kinvara (couldn’t have been a better situation, given the circumstances!).

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She had to buy a brace once we arrived, but she’s a trooper. We walked a few minutes over to Dunguaire Castle, where we were scheduled for a medieval banquet!

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First, we toured. This thing is over 500 years old!

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location of the banquet we would enjoy in the evening

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super narrow at the top

Then I got antsy and did some weird things on the lawn, which definitely got in the way of some people’s photos from afar.

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Megan: “I took a picture of you doing your weird squats over there.” 

I was stretching my hips!

At 5:30, our banquet commenced. They served us mead at the beginning, which is honeyed wine. It was meh. I didn’t have much of it, but it was fun to sip it while listening to harp music.

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We made a toast and headed upstairs to the banquet! Sorry for the bad quality pics to come; medieval times aren’t generous with the lighting, ya know?

Each dinner course was announced, and our meal/social time was interlaced with lovely singing pieces. The singers were so talented!

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smoked salmon + capers and veggies

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soda bread with butter (Megan’s favorite food of the whole banquet. It was really good bread.)

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potato leek soup from a pitcher (my favorite food of the night, especially with the bread dipped in)

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no spoons!

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chicken in mushroom sauce + veggies and fried potatoes

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apple slice with fresh cream

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I had a single sip of red wine. I just don’t like alcohol apparently.

There was a longer performance after our meal was complete. Overall, Megan and I had a fun experience and were glad we did it. We were definitely the youngest ones there, but the couple sitting next to us was super friendly, and we loved talking with them!

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So stuffed and so happy.

Our first Airbnb experience was GREAT! Our host, Valerie, was phenomenal. She even picked us up from the castle after I told her that Megan was injured. Her room for us was so clean and cozy, and the bathroom was AMAZING (because any step up from a dorm bathroom is amazing). Also, her dog is the happiest dog on earth.

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she left us tea, water, and “buns”!!!

We slept well that night.

Sunday

Valerie prepared a nice breakfast for us, consisting of brown bread (can’t get enough) with butter and jam + tea + cereal.

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‘Twas hearty and filling for the journey back to Galway city. Valerie is the best; if you ever stay in Kinvara, go to her!!

Megan and I meandered around Galway city again once we got back there. We wanted to go to Mass at the Galway Cathedral at 12:30, but we had some time to kill. We visited the Spanish Arch, which was kinda underwhelming, but it’s old and historical!

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What we really got excited for was this playground.

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“living her best life”

Then we paid 50 cents to use the cathedral washroom before doing our church thing. Prayer, confession, photos, and Mass. The Galway Cathedral is just stunning!

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After Mass, we walked to Brasserie on the Corner for lunch. There was a two-course meal deal for €18.95, which was fantastic. Especially because of…

THE SODA BREAD.

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we’re slightly obsessed and vow to not eat anymore unless we are served it

I ordered the salmon with pea and bacon cream for my entree. The entrees came with potatoes two ways + steamed vegetables. Everything was so tasty!

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I had to eat very slowly, because this stuff was rich. But the dessert compartment stayed open for this peanut butter parfait (not the kind of parfait we’re used to back home…parfait is more of a frozen mousse here, kinda like a semifreddo) with vanilla ice cream and honeycomb.

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This meal kept us full until almost 10 pm!

And so we just strolled some more until our bus ride back home. We saw a few churches and revisited Salthill to walk down the whole bar and feel the wind in our hair. A very Titanic moment.

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what a precarious moment lol

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We barely talked, except for the few times we starting singing “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. We just wanted to soak in the views and the breeze.

Megan and I also had a weird obsession with the award plaques on restaurant fronts. We just wanted to touch all of them.

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We’re adults. We travel on our own.

And now I’m back at the dorm, gearing up for our second week of classes. It’s funny, because finals are in less than a month. YAY.

But seriously, I am so grateful for this weekend in Galway with Megan and for the experiences I’ve had here in Ireland so far. God is good.

(All the time!)

So tell me:

Have you ever been to Galway?

Do you like Irish soda bread?

Have you ever used Airbnb?

Have you ever had an unfortunate experience, but somehow all the circumstances to deal with it were in place?

What did you do this weekend? 

Mall + Disney World

Hi there!

I didn’t post anything yesterday, but it feels as if I haven’t blogged in a week or something. Is that some magic Disney World time warp conundrum? Or is that just vacation? I actually told my friends that Disney is oddly scary because it’s this utopian world that is obnoxiously clean, constantly happy, frighteningly systematic, and meticulously attentive to detail. Sounds like an evil empire to me.  The happiest place on Earth!

I’ll shut up now and go right ahead into filling you all in on these past couple of days which included a trip to the Mall at Millennia, Gaylord Palms Resort (#why choose that name for a resort?), and the elusive Disney World!

Mall at Millennia

This is a beautiful mall in Orlando that my family loves to visit whenever we’re down here. For me, it’s not even the shopping; I just like to look at the place. There are palm trees inside the mall. INSIDE.

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After shopping and walking around for a bit, we walked across the street to the Elephant Bar restaurant for a super late lunch (3:30 PM— we were late risers and had breakfast at 11 AM). I ate the Grilled Salmon with Cilantro Cucumber Yogurt Sauce and some other Asian-y spiced sauce. Delicious!

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Gaylord Palms

Next we headed to the Gaylord Palms Resort (none of us could say that with a straight face…we’re mature), which is another beautiful place with some restaurants, shops, and gator/fish ponds.

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As we were walking, we came across a man casually reclining in his chair carving amazing fruit sculptures. He allowed me to take a picture of his works and told us that he carved fruits for Ivanka Trump’s and Kim Kardashian’s wedding! Hit him up if you want some profesh fruit faces at your Florida party!

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Frozen yogurt also happened. Peanut butter + cookies and cream to be exact.

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After we got back home in the evening, my aunt, Daliza and I walked over to these food trucks parked in our neighborhood. Apparently they come once a month, but I’d never seen them in past summers. We didn’t buy anything, but it was cool to visit!

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Disney World

I wouldn’t be surprised if you skipped to this portion of my blog post. Disney does that to people.

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Hitchin’ to the castle. Stay classy.

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As you can tell (if you’re familiar with Disney World), we visited the Magic Kingdom park with the iconic Cinderella Castle as the centerpiece. Daliza and I ventured to each of the “lands” in the park and managed to hop on quite a few rides throughout the day (we were there from 10 AM until 11:30 PM). Splash mountain was probably my favorite because it was the only one that was remotely thrilling with the big drop and splash (obviously) at the end. I got soaked.

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In my most romantic princess attire.

Daliza and I also tried the famous Disney Dole Whip! I had the pineapple-vanilla twist, which was good, but I liked Daliza’s orange-vanilla one better. The pineapple-vanilla was more icy, while the orange-vanilla one was creamier.

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Brought our own lunches to save SOME money from Disney’s black hole of revenue.

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“It’s a small world” ride! It had been 14 years since I went on this. It used to be my FAVORITE ride when I was a nugget.

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Daliza met her Peter Pan/her hero/her future husband.

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Dinner at “Columbia Harbour House” in Frontierland. This grilled salmon with couscous and steamed broccoli was surprisingly very delicious and satisfying!

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Evening festivities

After this electric parade, we watched the big shows at the Castle, which were easily my favorite parts of the whole day at Disney.

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And Tinker Bell 🙂

My feet were crying since we probably only sat down for a total of one hour in the whole day, but it was a blast. Amusement parks are 100 times less stressful when you’re not 5 years old.

Today? We already had a nice, big breakfast, and now we’re headed to the BEACH…”each, let’s go get away..”

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Have a fabulous weekend, friends!

So tell me:

Have you ever been to Disney World?

Who is your favorite Disney character?

Do you like amusement parks?