Thursday, March 20, 2014

Skye High: Scotland Adventures

I spent roughly a week in Scotland and loved every minute of it.
Here goes:
I had a decent 3 days here in Aberdeen to visit Amber, see the city, and relax before my Haggis Adventure Tour!
I had the best luck with my flight from Luton! I was sitting next to 2 super friendly kiwis who had just spent the last 6 months travelling around both America and Europe. They had the most fantastic stories, we literally spent the WHOLE flight in conversation and they made me even more excited for my travels. 
Who knew that would be possible.
Their friend offered to drive me into the city so I wouldn't have to deal with public transport which absolutely made my day!!
After just 10 mins of driving in from the airport I could definitely understand why they call this gem 'The Granite City'!
The streets are lined with stunning grey granite buildings which have such intricate detailing and beautiful facades. I was completely blown away by the intensity of these buildings.
However, as beautiful as they are, they contribute a little bit of a dull atmosphere to the city. 
I still loved it though.
I spent the days relaxing and wandering these wonderful streets, spending my first day just walking up and down Union Street (the cities main street) getting my bearings and soaking up some sunshine (I couldn't be too sure how long this would hang around).
During my stay I managed to visit the Marischal College (now used as council buildings), the Aberdeen Art Gallery, Union Terrace Gardens, the Train Station, Union Square, the Maritime Musuem, and St Nicks Kirk, as well as spend some quality catch up time with Ambo!!
I regrettingly missed out on the Tolbooth Museum out of pure forgetfulness and the Provost Skene House because of demolition in the area :( so incredibly gutted (google it, it sounds amazing).
I won't bore you with my experiences of each of these places, all I'll say is that I enjoyed each and every one and I'll leave you with some photos;
Marischal College
Art Gallery Interior
His Magesty's Theater
Union Terrace Gardens
Inside the Maritime Museum
St Nicks Kirk

I want to live here.
There is something incredibly jaw dropping and mind blowing about Edinburgh. The beauty of the Architecture and city scape really speaks for the city's character and history! It is absolutely stunning.
I didn't spend much time here at all so I didn't do any of the touristy visits or tours, I just wandered around both Old and New Edinburgh for a few hours.
I fell in love.
I am definitely coming back here. 

The rest of my week in Scotland was absolutely jam packed with travel and sightseeing, all thanks to Haggis Adventures.
I fully recommend doing one of these tours, there is no way I could have seen what we did, heard what we did, and got to do what we did without the aid of the tour guide! 
Trip of a lifetime!!!
And I met some incredible people; 
people I hope to be friends with for a long long time and possibly even visit them later on in their home countries...
(Hint hint)
Bright and early on the friday morning we met and started awkwardly introducing ourselves to the strangers who were to become our friends, then jumped on the bus and set off down the Royal Mile!!
The guide was fantastic at telling us the Scottish myths, legends, and history throughout the tour, stories told with such enthusiasm and excitement.
She enticed us with challanges at each stop and entertained us with some Scottish tunes while giving us a truckload of information to digest and understand.
Following are just a few of my definite highlights and most memorable moments of the trip:

Whiskey Distillery
This was a definite must do while in scotland.
We did a wee tour, was taught the process of making whiskey, learnt about how to properly drink it, and then finished off the tour with a wee taster!
I can't say I was the biggest fan. I thought I did like the odd whiskey, buuuut this was so strong in flavor I can't see myself drinking a lot of it in the future!
A very interesting tour!

Fairy Waterfall
Hearing about the fairies was very entertaining.
These myths were my favourite ones.
It's a nice idea, believing that these creatures are looking after the landscape for you.
Here at the waterfall we were challanged to make our way up to the top, grab a mouthful of water, run back down and spit the water on to the fairy rock. It is said that in doing so the fairies will grant you a wish (you make the wish while spitting).
This was a lot of fun.
It sounds easy enough, but this was terribly muddy and slippery and rather difficult, running back down with a mouthful of water deemed itself to be quite the challenge.
After a couple of slips, mud splashes on my jeans, and extremely muddy shoes, I approached the rock and made my wish.
Challenge completed.
Now just to wait for the wish to come true.
Fingers crossed.

River of Eternal Youth
Before reaching the river we were told a story of a lady who, on her way to her marriage to a member of an rival clan, tried to cross this river, fell off her donkey, hit her face on a rock, lost an eye, munted her face, basically came out looking the like the ugliest woman alive. Her father sent her to marry anyway, covering her face and tricking her husband to be. After their 'I Do's' the veil was lifted and the husband was so disgusted he cut out the donkey's eye and banished them.
So the lady and her donkey, on their way home, came across a fairy and asked it for help. This fairy worked its magic, told them to dip in the river where the accident happened and they came out looking more beautiful than ever before, with eternal youth and beauty. And the donkey turned into a black stallion.
So the story goes, if you dip your face in the water, you too will receive eternal youth and beauty.
So, of course, thats what we did.
It was cold. But so fresh.
And quite a lot of fun!

Eliean Donan Castle
I absolutely loved this place.
There was a battle here long ago and the castle was blown up from the inside, turned completely to ruins.
Many years later the owners found the plans hidden away at Edinburgh castle and set to rebuilding it exactly as it was designed.
It is a beautiful place.
I actually think I preferred the ruins of castles that we saw throughout the trip because of the state that they are left in, leaving more for the imagination to create, but it was pretty incredible seeing one in working order, still occupied by people, in its full architectural glory!!!

Culloden Battlefield
This is a pretty sombre space.
Incredible crazy story of battle and death.
I thought the information center building was very tasteful and effective, and the wall of the dead was striking.
It definitely grabbed my attention and seriously made me stop and think.
Each stone sticking out represents 10 people who died in this battle
Incredible place.
Can't even describe.

The Hermitage
This walkway is home to some of the tallest trees in Britain.
A very cool place and an amazing waterfall.
This was one of our last stops before we arrived back in Edinburgh, and we spent a lot of time here taking photos and just soaking up the stunning scenery!

Winnie the Pooh
He was our tour mascot.
We had a bit of fun with him.

All in all this was a fantastic trip to Scotland and a great way to break into the touring life.
I'll definitely be coming back!
Next stop,
Europe on Topdeck.

Friday, March 14, 2014

First Impressions: Bristol

I'm not really sure where to start.
Stepping out of the bus station into the unknown I realised I had absolutely NO idea what to expect from this city.
I booked a bus here to spend the weekend with my friend Tom.
 I hadn't thought about what I would do to fill my time while he was working.
I guessed I would just relax.
I was wrong.
There is SO much here to explore.

While waiting for Tom I spent a decent amount of time people watching; there is such an interesting mix of people here, a lot of students wandering around the place, and the odd professional making their way through the crowd. 
Tom met me about half 5 and we went for a beer and a catch up before making our way to the harbour for dinner at this AMAZING pizza and cider place! 
It was a delicious first impression of Bristol!
He continued to show me the sights and the streets after dinner. I'm not entirely sure how much I took in, everything was so incredible and old and beautiful. Amazing cobblestone streets and pavements, beautiful old buildings with the most intricate detailing, just an all round impressive and stunning town!
I couldn't wait to go exploring the next day!!

I slept for hours 
It felt amazing.
So I didn't actually end up leaving the house till around 2pm the next day. And it was such a stunning day!!
Sun shining, blue skys, I even took off my coat and just walked around in a t-shirt. 
I was very impressed.

Walking into town from Knowle took me about an hour.
I stopped at nearly every street and every church for a photograph; every building caught my attention in some way. I couldn't get enough.
My poor camera battery.
I spent a decent amount of time at St Mary Redcliffe Church.
There were daffidols planted out the front and it looks so serene and beautiful, so, of course, I took a few photos here also.
I continued my walk down the river and through the beautiful public space that is Queens Square.
There is so much history in this small town, and in England in general, that there is so much to learn and understand. The construction of this square was finished in 1727, a good 40 years before James Cook had even first stepped foot on and mapped New Zealand land!! A large majority of the square was destroyed during the Bristol Riots of 1831 (this is about ten years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed back home, just for context).
Things like this boggle my mind, some of the buildings here are older than our country's known existence.
They rebuilt the square and now have a high level of historical protection to keep it well maintained and preserved!
And because of this it is a very inspiring space immersed in history, surrounded with cobblestone streets and beautiful historical buildings!

Once I managed to pry myself away from here I continued on my walk around the river and visited both Arnofini Art Gallery and The Architecture Centre.
Both places are beautiful and filled with incredible examples of art and design. The Architecture centre was my definite favourite of the 2 with exhibition posters of award winning architecture around the world including 2 of Zaha Hadid's buildings and models and some incredible urban design work from Singapore!
The plan was to visit M-Shed (Museum) but as it was such a nice day I decided to follow the crowds to the waterfront, grabbed a hot drink and a crepe, and soaked up the sunshine while waiting for Tom to finish work.
That evening tom introdued me to his friends and we had a night out on the town, visiting different pubs throughout bristol. Everyone here is super lovely, some of the friendliest people I have met so far, and the night was a blast!
Sunday was yet ANOTHER beautiful day! I even spent the morning in my jandles :)
With the sun shining, and after a feed of nachos and coffee at Bristol's oldest coffee house, Tom and I set of on an adventure!!
We walked all around town, up to the university, and over to the suburb of Clifton to see the historical Suspension Bridge and the views it had to offer!
And it definitely did not let me down.
Opened in 1864 for the use of light horse and carriage traffic, the bridge stands out as a definite tourist hotspot of Bristol;
I wasn't the only one talking photos for once!
The cliffs of the Avon Gorge are insanely dramatic, beautiful, and incredibly impressive.
And that view.
That city.
All of it.

I was just blown away by this whole incredible area! The streets of Clifton are adorable.  A beautiful boutique looking suburb with the cutest shops and lovely facades, it is my favourite area of Bristol by far!

We made our way home, completely shattered from a weekend full of adventures and ready for an early night before heading off to Scotland the next day.
I couldn't have asked for a more perfect weekend

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

First Impressions: London

I've been in the UK now for about a week and I just can't get over how familiar everything feels in this beautiful city of London. I'm so incredibly comfortable here!! 
From the moment I stepped foot into the tube I felt like I knew where I was and exactly what I was doing.
Which is crazy, I dont even know where I am back home.
What follows is a record of my first experience of London, I apologise in advance if it bores the shit out of you. 

Getting through customs was such an anxious experience. I just wanted to finally see London, and this waiting game was getting rather painful. 
Maybe it was because of this that Heathrow unimpressed me. There was something really unfriendly about terminal 3. 

All that didn't matter once the airport disappeared from view.

Amy had given me the most incredible instructions from Heathrow to her stop, so this first trip on the London tubes was super easy. 
The tube is incredibly efficient, actually reminded me a lot of the subway in NYC, except a bit friendlier, more over ground travelling which was nice! Great views! I must have looked like a bit of an idiot with a constant grin plastered across my face!

Jetlag affected me far more than I could have expected. I can't remember having felt anything like it travelling to America. It sucked.
I didn't have too much trouble sleeping, but during my waking hours all I wanted to do was nap.
The worst of it was when I stood still, constantly feeling like I was on a boat, swaying, like I was seriously about to fall flat on my face. 
So I kept in the move, and after a nice wee sleep in the next morning I took myself off to see what London had to offer!

London seriously amazes me.
I trained into Waterloo for a look around the river, not really knowing what to expect. I followed the crowd out of the station and down the street and just stood there in awe. 
I mean, I've seen the London Eye heaps in pictures, but seeing it in person was something else!!!
It is such an amazing and beautiful structure.

And then there was Big Ben!! Words can't even describe the intensity of this building.
I'm pretty sure 'wow' came out of my mouth numerous times.
That clock.
The river is such a cool buzzing area and makes for an amazing walk, these two structures taking over the skyline!!

Amy took me on a wee tour of the streets and we stopped off at the incredible St Pauls Cathedral. There is this amazing viewing platform at one of the restaurants around the corner from St Pauls where we stopped and took many photos.
Again, I couldn't wipe the grin off my face the entire evening.

After this initial venture into the city I couldn't wait to see more. The next day I ventured around the suburb of Putney and soaked up the spring sunshine!
 Putney is stunning.
I walked part of the "Riverside Walkway" and spent some time at the park.
This is the first time I've truely noticed Christchurch's heritage. I think it helps that it is spring and the blossoms and daffodils are in full bloom, you can probably imagine my excitement in seeing these beautiful spring plants scattered around the place.
With one more day left in London before heading off to Bristol I decided I wanted to do the token touristy experience of Buckingham Palace, so on thursday I jumped on the tube to Victoria Station and did just that!

I couldnt have been happier. It is such an amazing area and an incredible building, I cant even describe.

After an embarrasing amount of selfies (and a few serious photos too)  I continued on my adventure, wandering aimlessly through St James Park.
I spent far too much time here.
It is so beautiful. And I think because the weather was amazing it made it even better! I couldn't get enough, it was incredibly inspiring.
It reminded me of the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch quite a bit, walking along the rivers edge with daffidols planted in the grass! So familiar, so beautiful. One side of the river, I found this  incredibly interesting, is set aside for wildlife and is fenced off from human use. I thought this was such a great idea and a wonderful way to encourage wildlife in a city as busy as this!
The views here are also astounding. From multiple points along the river you get glimpses of the London Eye and other impressive English architecture!!!
 I could have spent hours here, but there was more to see and I was running out of daylight hours.
I walked all afternoon, to the Horse Guards Parade, Trafalgar Square, the Bristish Museum, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Hyde Park, and then gave in and jumped on the tube at Marble Arch and made my way home, leaving the rest of London for another day, another adventure!!