Our trip to Istanbul was born out of the death of another trip. Our big end-of-summer adventure in the West Bank, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt was abandoned mere days before it was supposed to begin after the husband was evacuated from Ramallah during the unrest in July/early August of 2014. I’d purchased my ticket to Tel Aviv through Turkish Airlines and, given the nature of the trip cancellation and the fact that Turkish Airlines had canceled all flights into Tel Aviv for several weeks that summer, I was given airline credit for the value of my flight. Flash forward several months and we were looking into our options for using the credit. Easy solution? Istanbul. The credit was enough to pay for two round-trip flights from Edinburgh and the flight time was short enough for a long weekend trip. Continue reading
The University of Edinburgh owns an outdoor center on the banks of Loch Tay, at the base of the Highlands. This outdoor center is used by university groups on retreats as well as individuals affiliated with the University who want to get away for the weekend. In February, the MBA’s had our first weekend retreat to Firbush, where we had the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities (structured and unstructured) and team building. We drove up on a Friday night and arrived in time for dinner. The facility is pretty barebones in terms of amenities – it’s very much like a summer camp – and dinner is pretty communal, but the food was decent and there was a bar and game room on the lower level that got plenty of use.
The next day we headed out for our big activity for the day: a group hike. We made a quick pit stop at a church and the burial-place of Rob Roy, a Scottish folk hero who fought in the Jacobite uprisings of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Continue reading
We went to Stockholm as part of the hubby’s Christmas present to himself. The real present was tickets to a UFC fight and it just so happened that the fight was being held in Stockholm, Sweden. So it didn’t take much persuading to get me on board with the whole “Let’s go to a UFC fight” thing. £99 for two round trip tickets? Sure. New city in a new part of Europe? Sign me up. Even in cold, snowy, dark January.
We stayed in an AirBnB in Södermalm, in what was one of our weirder AirBnB experiences. I’m sort of half convinced that we were staying in some sort of student housing, but I’ve never been able to confirm that. The flat was on the top floor of a high-rise building with some sort of club on the ground floor level. You walked past the club to a set of doors which required a key to access. Our initial instructions were basically to wait at these doors until someone let us in – “there’s plenty of traffic in and out, you won’t have to wait long”, so we waited. And waited…and waited. Continue reading
When you think of Prague, you think of the Old Town: the architecture, the astronomical clock, that church, the cobblestone streets. It was what we had come to see and experience. Wandering around the back streets and getting just a little lost is always one of my favorite activities in a new city and Prague was no exception.
The last and final city on our week-long, whistle-stop tour of Central Europe was that almost-mythical capital of Bohemia: Prague. Ever since college, when people in my immediate circles began travelling outside of the US in earnest (study abroad! summer backpacking trips! spring break!), I have heard stories of how amazing Prague was and how you just had to go there. It’s so cheap! The architecture is so grand, so quaint, so different! It’s a hidden gem, undiscovered! People returned from their trips positively gushing. So needless to say, my expectations were a little high.
Coming off of our less-than-stellar stop in Vienna, this could have been a recipe for disaster. Luckily for us, Prague did not disappoint. However, spoiler alert: Prague is most definitely not a hidden gem, nor is it the bargain destination it once was. Sure it is on the more affordable end when it comes to Europe, especially compared to the likes of London (especially at the height of the pound), Vienna, and every Swiss or Nordic city, but things seemed to have gotten more expensive than its reputation had led me to believe.
Despite what Instagram and Facebook feeds may say, almost every trip has a low point. Maybe it’s the day you woke up a *tad* hungover and had to drive for an hour and a half just to catch a bus headed for another city up north…and you get car sick. Maybe it’s that city that just didn’t meet your (unreasonably) high expectations and seemed as if it belonged in a theme park instead of the quaint little town of your dreams. Maybe it’s the couple of hours you spent hangry while searching for an acceptable place to eat lunch. Or maybe you and your travel companion just couldn’t agree on what to do and you spent the majority of the day grumpy at each other. (None of these things have ever happened to us…) For our Central Europe trip, that low point was Vienna. It’s not Vienna’s fault. No, I’m sure Vienna is a lovely city full of amazing things just waiting for us to experience. No, the fault lies squarely with us, with our poor planning, over scheduling, and just general road-weariness. And maybe a little with Mother Nature. She sure didn’t help matters. Continue reading