One of the advantages of studying abroad in Europe is the amazing potential for travel during school breaks. While visiting London, my friend and I were in relative close proximity to Scotland, so we continued our spring break travels in the vibrant city of Edinburgh. A scenic train ride from London to Edinburgh treated us to gorgeous views of rolling green hills and grazing sheep while warm sunshine through the window blanketed us on our journey. We had reserved beds at Edinburgh Backpackers, a hostel that offered a central location on a street directly off the Royal Mile. Our first evening in Edinburgh was quiet as we enjoyed dinner and a walk around the cobblestone streets as the sun set behind the historic buildings. The next morning, we woke up to the joyful Scottish sound of bagpipes resonating from the streets below. We explored the historic city with a walking tour of the Royal Mile and St. Giles’ Cathedral, and then as two Harry Potter fans, we could hardly resist finishing the day with a delicious dinner at the Elephant House café where J. K. Rowling wrote a few of her books.

The following day, we visited the National Museum of Scotland where I was impressed with the variety of exhibits for all ages. As it was Good Friday, we attended a beautiful service at St. Giles’ Cathedral around noon and then joined a walking tour called The Potter Trail, which took us to sites such as Grey Friars Cemetery with gravestones known to have inspired the names of some of J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter characters, and Victoria Street, which is the avenue which inspired J. K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley. Edinburgh is a wonderful city and as our time there progressed, it became evident why Rowling was inspired by this very magical place.

Meeting new people is one of the many rewarding opportunities of studying abroad. Not only do you meet people at your new university through classes and activities, sometimes you make connections between friends or friends of friends. As this was the case with my travel partner, we decided to take a day trip to meet a friend of a friend who is a native of Glasgow and a student at the University of Glasgow. He generously offered to meet us for hot chocolate and give us a personal tour of Glasgow and his university. The University of Glasgow is known for its resemblance to Hogwarts, the magical school in Harry Potter and the beautiful architecture of the school did indeed bear a striking resemblance. We were blessed with a beautiful day of sunshine so we continued on to explore Kelvingrove Park, which took us down a walking path next to a river. The flowers were beginning to bloom and many birds were flying about in the trees above us.

The following day, we attended a beautiful Easter morning service at St. Giles’ Cathedral. The acoustics were incredible as the choir sang joyful praises of the Lord’s resurrection. We then enjoyed a lovely brunch of waffles at St. Giles’ Café followed by shopping at the Royal Mile Market where we found a variety of crafts, jewelry, clothing, and antique vendors. We completed the day with a tour of Edinburgh Castle, which sits at the top of the Royal Mile and offers a beautiful view of the entire city. Although it was a bit cold that day, we couldn’t resist sampling a handmade Scottish ice cream cone at the end of the tour.

On Easter Monday we departed from Edinburgh on a flight to Shannon, Ireland. After a series of long bus rides, we were greeted in Dingle by breathtaking views of rolling hills with intense shades of green, sheep and cattle gracefully grazing within stone walled pastures, and the beautiful sight of Dingle Bay at the bottom of the valley. I kept repeating over and over in my head that this is the most beautiful place in the world. After numerous nights of sharing rooms with other travelers at hostels, we treated ourselves with a couple nights at Murphy’s Bed and Breakfast, which is a few minutes’ walk from Dingle Bay. Our hosts were very kind and we enjoyed delicious breakfasts of bacon, eggs, fruit, and homemade brown bread both mornings.

After the busyness of London and Scotland, we soaked in the relaxed atmosphere of Dingle as we explored the shops and visited a huge pasture of grazing sheep where young lambs played with one another. As I have been missing my three cats at home, I was excited to find a few wondering among the shops. One friendly kitty was willing to let me shower it with love. We finished the lovely day at John Benny’s Pub on Dingle Bay listening to live Irish music. I could not help but fall in love with the quaint and friendly town that seemed made especially for me.

On our last days in Dingle, we took a coastline bus tour of the Dingle Peninsula, which included magnificent views of sparkling blue waves and rolling green hills, and a two-hour horseback ride through the hills. Although it was a cold and extremely windy day, we had wonderful horses. The views at the top of the hill displayed the entirety of Dingle with its ships in the bay and lovely homes. Sore and cold, we ended our day at the Dingle Pub to warm up and have a delicious meal. Of all the places I have visited on my travels so far, Dingle is definitely my favorite location.

The final days of our spring break were spent in Cork. My favorite location, about an hour outside of Cork, is the Blarney Castle and Gardens. We climbed the narrow, winding stone steps to the top of the castle and were rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding gardens and green fields. Unfortunately, during the final days of our break, I felt under the weather and needed to stay at our hostel to rest. The next day it was wonderful to return to Galway. It truly feels like home now and it was a comforting feeling to return to a place so welcoming and familiar.

Already my classes are coming to an end and I am beginning my preparations for final exams. I look forward to some quiet and relaxing weeks in Galway to study and read before I will be excitingly welcoming some visitors!

Last modified: July 2, 2018

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