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Before the Departure

No boring, typical, or cliche summer for me this year! This summer I will be traveling all over Scotland through UMKC’s Study Abroad Program. I am so excited for this opportunity, although I am not really sure what to expect.  This is the first time I have been out of the country on my own and I am really nervous. I have flown and gone out of the country before, but I always had my parents with me, now it’s just me. I’ll have to figure out the airport, customs, taxis, trains and all that other fun stuff on my own in another country. I don’t think there is anything that can really prepare me for that, no matter how much “practice” I have had traveling with my parents. In retrospect, I never really payed much attention in the first place since I didn’t have to know, I just played follow the parents (and of course they never let me out of their sight so I didn’t have much to worry about). Now I am the traveler, responsible for it all. Ahhhh! (that’s a scared but excited ahhhh!)

I have found that planning a trip abroad is stressful! Of course, everyone says it is but you never really know until you are actually doing it and if you’re like me where you think you’re organized but really you’re not, it’s pure chaos. There is so much more that goes into it than I thought: health insurance, calling phone companies and the bank, the change in currency, the adapter thingy for electronics (who knew there was such a thing as different electricity!) and the list goes on and on.

It’s crazy to think that I can call myself a world traveler at the ripe old age of 19 going on 20. I’ll get to spend my 20th birthday in London (that’s where I am flying out of!) I feel like turning 20 is normally kind of boring because nothing exciting happens. I sure planned this trip at the right time, huh? My 20th birthday will be spent in another country! I just can’t get over that. It feels like I am going to a whole other world, which I guess I kind of am; another continent at least. This experience is going to be so surreal. I think I am going to have to pinch myself every day…  Although reality still hasn’t set in, I better start pinching myself now.

I can’t wait for that first moment when I will take my first step off the plane into another country; the feeling of awe, excitement and that jittery feeling you get when you’re in a new place that you have never been to before. It’s like that feeling when you’re a little kid going to Disney Land, knowing you are about to experience the greatest thing in your life but on a much greater scale. I’m not sure what I am going to do with myself every day. So much time to explore!

I can’t even fathom all that I will see and experience in just a few weeks. I want to see and experience everything while I am there. I am going to burn the candle at both ends as my mom likes to call it. I can picture the green scenery and rolling hills ahead of me as I sit and write this in my kitchen. The stone buildings, exquisite architecture, the Scottish history and all the people I will get to meet. I’m ecstatic to get to see a real castle because my dad always told me I was a princess and so as a kid, I always imagined living in a castle but have never gotten to see one. My little kid dreams are going to come true!

I think the hardest part for me will be packing. I love to over pack and I am limited to a 44-pound suitcase and a backpack. I also love to shop and in a foreign country, I am afraid I might just go crazy. It may be my only time there so I need to buy everything I possibly can, right? I already know I am going to get myself in a bit of a predicament. And of course, friends and family are going to want gifts too…

I also wonder how I am going to fare in a foreign country with my poor sense of direction. I get lost just going to the grocery store sometimes and I know where that’s located let alone in Scotland where I have no idea where anything is, street names or anything related to direction. All I can say is it’s a very good thing they speak English, a language I know kinda well. I’m afraid what would happen if I was going to a place where I didn’t know the language. I am predicting that I will get lost on multiple occasions, so this could get interesting. Stay tuned.

Final thoughts, I think this will be the best experience of my life, something I will remember and talk about forever. How can anything else compare to a summer abroad in the United Kingdom? I want to try and capture every moment of it with blogging, pictures and going out and doing something every day. I am going to cram a lifetime worth of adventure into one month. Think I can do it?

Sincerely,

Nicole Wilhelm, future traveler of the world


Nicole Wilhelm is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Nursing. Nicole is spending the month of July in many different cities in Scotland with the UMKC Honors College Program in Scotland. Nicole is involved in UMKC’s Campus Ambassadors, Swim and Dive Club, BHS Society, and Student Nursing Association.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Cead Mile Failte (100,000 Welcomes) to Bonnie Inverness

When I made the decision to study abroad I choose to go through a program instead of a direct exchange. One of the benefits of going through a program, like IFSA-Butler, is that they will plan cultural activities and meals throughout your stay, and best of all every semester they will take you on an amazing trip. The trip that my program took me on was to Inverness. This post will give a run down on all that I got to see and do, and there will be a bit of Scottish history thrown in for good measure too.

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Friday

I departed Edinburgh at 9:30am and loaded up on the bus with all of my fellow IFSA students to make our way to Inverness. The trip to Inverness is a little over three hours with no stops from Edinburgh, but of course we made stops along the way. Our first stop was at Pitlochry for brunch. One of the warnings we had from our tour guide is that the farther north you go the slower life is, so with about 100 students stopping in the same small area for brunch we had to be prepared for slow service and try the best we could to leave in one hour. We managed to complete this task and as far as I know no students were left behind.

The next stop was at a sheep farm called Leault Farm in Kingussie. Now when you think of the highlands you picture sheep, hairy cows, and men in kilts blowing into bagpipes, but this was not always the case. Firstly, on the entire trip I saw no one wearing a kilt and playing bagpipes. The only people I saw in kilts were the tour guides. Second, sheep did not always populate the highlands. Due to the Highland Clearances, Highlanders were paid, forcibly removed, or shipped off their land to make way for sheep farms. This was because landowners could make more off of the wool from sheep than they could on the meager crops farmers provided, but sheep need a lot of land and so many people were displaced. This led to the Highlands having a lower population than the Lowlands of Scotland and there being a lot of sheep or clouds on the ground.

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At the sheep farm we got to see a traditional sheepdog display. The shepherd had about nine dogs out, but he only needs one dog to handle about 300 sheep. He trains the dogs and gives commands through shouts, movements, and whistles. For instance, if he moved left then the dog would herd the sheep left. Also, one of the dogs was blind; the dog depended on the whistle and spoken commands that were given to him to move the sheep successfully. Then we got to hold and play with the puppies!

The next stop of the day was to the Glenlivet distillery. Glenlivet is famous for its single malt whiskey around the world. The oldest bottle they have on site is 50 years old, and as a standard they age their whiskey about 12 years. Glenlivet was started by George Smith over 200 years ago. The license to distill and sell whiskey has too high for the average distiller to pay, so George Smith and many others distilled and sold ‘illicit’ whiskey. Although, George Smith’s whiskey stood above the rest, and soon he was able to procure a license making him the first to be legally licensed in the parish of Glenlivet to produce whiskey, and better yet Scotch whiskey.

We had no more stops on our way to Inverness. We arrived at the youth hostel, unpacked, and went out to explore the town.

 

Saturday

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At 9am we left the youth hostel and headed to Dunrobin Castle. Dunrobin is a gorgeous home that looks like a fairy tale castle. The castle was completed in 1845 and is the family seat of clan Sutherland. The Sutherlands were the instigators of the Highland Clearances. After walking through the castle and the gardens we sat for a falconry display. We were shown a hawk, an Eagle Owl, and a falcon. We learned a bit about the pecking order of these predators and how they are trained. Birds of prey have been used for hundreds of years to hunt game and provide food for families.

When the falconry display was over we took a quick drive to Dornoch for lunch. After lunch we walked on the Royal Dornoch Golf Course and headed toward the beach. Some brave souls ventured out into the North Sea and some played touch rugby, I just enjoyed taking pictures and walking along the shore. Looking out from the beach to the North Sea it appears that water and sky begin to merge to create an endless world of blue and white.

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One interesting tidbit on Dornoch is that it is where the last woman to be tired and sentenced to death for witchcraft, Janet Horne, was killed in 1722.

To keep the depressing note going we then went to Culloden Battlefield. This is the site of the last battle on UK soil, where Highland clan culture went into its decline, and the Jacobite rebellion was laid to waste. In 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Prince from across the water, the Young Pretender came back to recapture his birthright and his father’s thrown from the Hanovers. The Jacobites were loyal to the Stuarts (Prince Charlie); they were staunch Catholics, many belonged to Highland clans, and there were many Catholic supporters across Europe. The Jacobites made their way south and captured Edinburgh and kept marching south to take London, but there was a problem. Men were tired and they were running out of supplies so they turned back before ever reaching London.

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The redcoats then took the offensive and pushed the Jacobites back toward the north. Charlie decided that it was time for a large battle to turn the tide back into their favor. The Jacobites had so far been fighting in the Highland style, which worked well for them because they did not have the weapons or organized military training that the redcoats had. They used scare tactics, intimidation, and the landscape in all of the previous battles, but at the last battle, Culloden, Charlie decided to fight in an open, relatively flat field. The Jacobites were desecrated. They were tired, cold, and hungry while the redcoats were well rested and prepared for the battle. The battle lasted 45 minutes. But once the battle ended the real horrors began. The Duke of Cumberland also known as the Butcher had all the fallen soldier’s faces beaten in so that they would be unrecognizable to their family and clans, the wounded were left on the field to die of exposure, the women and children who rushed to help were beaten, and the surviving Jacobite officers were taken to a small barn and burned alive. At the battlefield a memorial was later erected for the fallen soldiers and clan markers are placed around the battlefield to give tribute to the men who never made it home. There was not another attempt made by the prince to take back the thrown.

 

Sunday

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We woke up early to pack up all of our belongings and strip the bed linens at the hostel. Then at 9am we departed Inverness. On the way back to Edinburgh we stopped by Loch Ness. Normally the loch is very foggy and has an eerie feel, but today was clear and sunny, and unfortunately there were no Nessie sightings. The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was made hundreds of years ago. An Irishman known was St. Columba told one of his monks to cross Loch Ness. When halfway across the loch, a giant monster rose from the deep to capture the swimming monk. St. Columba ordered the pagan monster away and to leave the terrified monk in peace. So Nessie could exist or she could be made up as Catholic propaganda to convert the pagans. Also while at Loch Ness we also saw Fort Augustus.

From there we made one last short stop at Glencoe for photos of the Three Sisters. On the way to Glencoe some sights were pointed out, like the filming location for the first two Harry Potter films of Hagrid’s cottage and James Bond’s childhood home from Skyfall. We also passed a foreboding BenNevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland.

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At Glencoe we were told of its historical significance in Scottish history. William of Orange had sent out a treaty for the Scottish clans to sign, swearing their allegiance to the new English monarchy. Clan MacDonald had left it to the last moment to sign the treaty, and because of circumstances out of the laird’s control, he was six days late in signing. When news reached the new king that they were late, he decided to make an example of the MacDonalds of Glencoe. Clan Campbell, the hated enemies of the MacDonalds, asked for Highland hospitality. With Highland hospitality, grudges are left at the door, and guests are fed and kept warm, to break the trust that is given during hospitality by either host or guest is sacred it is seen as the highest dishonor to break the trust made with hospitality. For ten nights the Campbells stayed with the MacDonalds, and then on the tenth night the Campbells snuck into the rooms of the MacDonalds, and under the orders of their king, began murdering them in their sleep. Women, men, and children fled for safety as they tried to escape the massacre. 38 MacDonalds were killed that night in 1692. So if you are a Campbell visiting Glencoe or meet a MacDonald in Scotland, you might not want to mention that your surname is Campbell. Grudges can last a long time. Then we got back on the bus, watched Rob Roy, and I finished my book. It was a fun and informative weekend. My favorite part was the scenery. The landscape is beautiful, mysterious, and harsh. It is awe inspiring.

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Helpful Hint: Most trips you take when traveling abroad are not going to have an itinerary and everything planned out for you. So to cut costs plan ahead what you want to do. Sometimes you can save money by buying your entry tickets to castles and museums online.

Sights of Scotland: Stirling

This weekend my friend, Alli, and I went on a small adventure! The tour bus left Edinburgh at 9:15am and we were to return at 6. We were off to see Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond.

Stirling Castle was incredibly beautiful, it was only surpassed by the amazing views that it provided. My favorite was of the Monument to William Wallace. There was a dream like quality to the view. The sun was managing to break through the clouds, and fog was beginning to lift off the ground to ascend into the air. We arrived at this moment. And it was amazing.

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Battles, massacre, love, murder, and a failed flying attempt. For hundreds of years people have flocked to Stirling castle for various purposes, and their histories drip from the walls. One story that caught my interest was the Birdman of Stirling. A man named John Damian, an alchemist in the court of James’s IV, declared that he would fly to France dressed in a chicken suit (this was to be the first recorded flying attempt in Scottish history). One day, in the year of 1507, John climbed onto the ledge of Stirling Castle; the court crowded the battlements to watch in apt anticipation. He leapt. Flapping his chicken wings vigorously, John plummeted to the ground below. Luckily he survived and only incurred a broken leg and bruised pride.

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Side of Stirling Castle                                         Doune Castle

 

After leaving Stirling Castle, we headed on our way to Loch Lomond when our tour guide took us past Doune Castle. This was where Winterfell was filmed for the pilot episode of Game of Thrones; before they changed location to Belfast, and then we stopped for lunch.

Now a side story, earlier this week I had my first taste of Haggis. Knowing what Haggis was I was expecting the worst, basically I thought I would be scrubbing my mouth with soap to destroy the flavor, but surprisingly it was very good. I went the Greyfriar’s Bobby, and if in Edinburgh and wishing for a taste of Scottish fare I highly recommend going here. But it really is all about where you get it. My friend Alli and I got Haggis and Scotch Pie at a small takeaway shop on our way to Loch Lomond, and I will just say that after eating there we immediately began looking for somewhere else to cleanse our pallets.

Once lunch was over we made our way back on the bus and kept on toward Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain. We decided to do some hillwalking to get a better view of the loch. The views were spectacular, and when walking here it’s hard not to picture yourself in some fantasy world. We were also surprised to see that a small local festival was occurring by the shores of Loch Lomond. We didn’t get to join because the bus was leaving, but we did catch a glimpse.

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And that about sums up the weekend adventures; oh and I was able to pet a highland cow.

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Helpful Hint: Fish and chips are safe to get almost anywhere in Scotland, and you will be happy with your meal. But go to a nice restaurant if you want to try Haggis or Scotch Pie.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dawn of a New Term

Hello again! Let me apologize for this post being overdue, but the first week of classes is always a busy time. Now week one is done and gone and I am officially in fall school mode. Back in the states I would normally take 15 hours a semester with five classes, but in Edinburgh the equivalent is 60 hours with three classes. Over here lectures are short and meet only a few times a week, and much of your education rests on your shoulders, so it’s imperative to do a lot of research and reading outside of class and to attend tutorials (which are essentially small group discussions with classmates). Usually 40% of the grade will be based on coursework (in the form of one paper), and 60% will be the final. The grading scale is also entirely different. For instance, a passing grade is a 40%, A’s are rare, and a perfect score is almost unheard of. It takes a bit of mental adjusting as to not go into a panic attack once grades do come out, or even at the beginning because here you start with a 0.

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What I found extremely unexpected was that many of my fellow classmates are not from Scotland. Most I have met are foreign like me, and many are on exchange too. In my International Marketing class there are only a handful of business students from the UK, I would say about 90% of the class is from a foreign country. What was also unexpected was how fast students jump into their studies. At home we tend to procrastinate on midterm papers, in favor of working on upcoming tests and the weekly homework; here we began working on research for midterm papers right away. Students can be found in campus libraries, in the park, in local cafes, like the Elephant House (where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter) hard at work studying. And it is only the first week of classes! The scholastic culture is much more self-taught here with little professor intervention.

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So my week in a flash has involved classes, reading, socials, meetings, crashing a pub crawl, and my first rugby match.

This week the Rugby World Cup began. Before coming to Edinburgh I had not seen a ruby game and I was totally ignorant of all the rules and regulations, so to prepare for the World Cup I saw my first rugby match over the weekend. Edinburgh challenged St Andrews at Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday night, for the oldest varsity rugby rivalry in Scotland; in the past St Andrews has mainly emerged the victor, but this past Saturday, the underdog, Edinburgh, emerged victorious!

To celebrate my friends and I went to Mary’s Milk Bar the next day, but to be honest we go anytime we can to get our gelato fix. Having been in the city a few weeks now I definitely have places I regulate. Mary’s Milk Bar is one, for lunch on a nice day we will head over to Made in Italy, on a late night when we’re are craving fish and chips we will go towards Bobby’s Takeaway, and for a taste of home we will stop by Starbucks. This week we tried the chain Nandos, the City Café, the Boozy Cow, and Bella Italia. There are so many local places to try around the city and we have only gotten a taste of a few, but I can guarantee that we will do our best to try them all.

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Helpful Hint: Get the local flavor. So taste the haggis with neeps and tatties, go to the rugby match, try to submerge yourself into the local culture and see the life of the country you are in in a new way. There is more to a city and culture than monuments, museums, and local sites. You can learn a lot by heading to the local bars and cafes, watching people interact and speaking with locals.

The Freshers are coming, the Freshers are coming

Welcome to Freshers’ week!

Every college freshman will encounter a welcome week; where the newbies settle in before classes and all of the societies have booths lined up to recruit the fresh blood, but welcome week is a wee bit different in Edinburgh.

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First off, it is called Freshers’ week, and is aptly named because it is mainly for freshmen (but all students are welcome). Second, it is more like a fair. There are tons of activities and tasters (taste sessions of clubs and societies) throughout the entire week that you can participate in. This makes it easy to meet new people, get involved, and never get bored. Edinburgh is famous for their Freshers’ week because it is the largest one in the United Kingdom. There are over 240 clubs and societies available, but sorry to anyone participating in Greek life back in the States, there are no fraternities or sororities here.

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Although I am a senior, here in Edinburgh I am new and I blend right in with the Freshers. We share the same wide eyed look of being in a new place, starting a new adventure. Normally at this point in my life I would hole up in my room with a few snacks, a movie, or a good book but I have been pushing myself to get out and meet people; to get the full experience of studying abroad.

Part of stepping outside of my comfort zone involved participating in a Ceilidh. All of my friends and family at home know that at best I am an awkward dancer, with all the gracefulness of an Ostrich doing ballet, but I dragged a few of my friends to a crash course in Ceilidh. Ceilidh is the traditional Scottish dance (pretty much line dancing). The dance involves a lot of jumping, stomping, clapping, and spinning. As long as you are having fun you are doing it right. No one really cares if you don’t know the exact steps, just that you put some enthusiasm behind it. There are many Ceilidhs that Edinburgh throws throughout the year. The various societies will also have Ceilidhs/dances, for instance the Harry Potter society will throw a Yule Ball around the Christmas season, and there is a big Ceilidh to celebrate the end of Freshers’ week. They are extremely fun and I recommend trying one, or at least looking one up and seeing what it is.

 

Now my flat-

If anyone at home is like me you are very curious what the living accommodations are going to be like. For students in the United States most on campus living consists of a shared room and a shared bathroom with sweet-mates or a communal bathroom; at the University of Edinburgh on campus living is slightly different. I live in a flat; where I get my own study room. There are two toilets and one shower that is shared between five people, a large kitchen/ living space, and the flat is co-ed.

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This week has been insanely crazy trying to move it, buying everything I need, and getting involved with all the festivities occurring around campus. It is crazy to think that I have already been here one week and that classes begin Monday, and as cliché as it is time flies when having fun.

 

Helpful Tip: Join societies and get involved. Don’t be embarrassed if you have never done something before because everyone is welcome and there is an entire class who is new too. The societies are a great way to meet new people, get discounts, and during Freshers’ week receive some free food which is great for the budget.

What’s the Rat Pack?

So I haven’t posted much but I would like to catch you up on my 1st weekend trip.
My first week flew by and I headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. In the three days I was there I couldn’t believe how much I had gotten accomplished! After arriving late Thursday evening and meeting Sue, the lady we stayed with (our first airbnb experience), my travel buddy and I found a great fish & chips restaurant, then hit the hay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday: June 12, 2015

•We woke up fairly early to go hike Arthur’s Seat {the #1 thing to do on trip advisor in Scotland😊}

Just an FYI, it’s steep, bring water, sunscreen, and tennis shoes!

•Next we walked to The National Museum of Scotland, by far one of the largest museums I’ve been in (also it’s FREE) From space to animals this place has it all.

•We ate lunch at The World Famous Frankenstein Pub 1818, first off the food is to die for, and secondly, there is silent movies and a robot monster that does a little dance every 30ish minutes.

•After lunch we came across these underground tours, being the curious tourist that I am, I wanted to check it out. Ashley and I did the Ghostly Underground Catacomb tour of Scotland, we found out about the Burke and Hare murders

  • Burke and Hare were two men who in the beginning sold corpses to Dr. Robert Knox, then got carried away with the money and began killing people so they could sell those corpse for money.

We also found out Scotland basically had an underground city that is now supposedly “haunted”.

•Finally we finished the long day window shopping and eating dinner at Amarone, an amazing Italian “ristorante” on the Royal Mile.


Saturday: June 13, 2015

•Just like the day before, we woke up early and headed out, on this day is was half the temperature as the day before (it went 27 C to 15 C) and slightly misty. Our first stop was a place I had found on Pinterest called “Mary’s Milk Bar” they are world famous for their frozen hot chocolate. I sat inside the vintage pink & white striped shoppe and enjoyed the dark chocolate with sea salt hot chocolate with a big peanut & Carmel gelato. ({delizioso} that’s Italian for delicious)

   •Our next stop was the Edinburgh Castle, this stone wall castle looks over all of Edinburgh. We took a short tour and truly didn’t spend much time there due to the weather and loads of people. But I was able to snap a few photos and see The Crown Jewels.

•After leaving the castle we came across The Scottish Whisky Experience, we found out how whisky was made, tried whisky, and say the largest collection of whisky in the world.

  • Fun fact: Scottish spell their whisky without the “e”

•Directly across was Camera Obscura, a 6 story illusion museum. Each level has a different theme and you’re able to experience them all by using all of your senses. It’s very hands on and fun just to play like a child again! The best part is on the rooftop, you see breath taking views as well as close up views with large binoculars.

• Walking around the city we passed “The Elephant House” for any Harry Potter fan, this is the location J.K. Rowling enjoyed coffee/cake while writing Harry Potter.

•We finished the afternoon enjoying Patisserie Valerie Selva (Chocolate sponge layers filled with whipped cream, zabaglione custard and fresh fruits) and Strawberry Gateau (Layers of vanilla sponge filled with whipped cream and fresh strawberries)

•Deciding to go back to Sue’s we were walking to the public transport bus and saw a live music pub called “Rat Pack” we debated going in, but it was our last night in Scotland so we decided to go. The fellow was singing Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett.. The sound was beautiful. A few hours later, ears ringing, we were tired and ready to go back to Sue’s.
Sunday: June 14, 2015

•This morning we had a fairly early flight back to Dublin, Sue drove us to the airport and we were Ireland bound. Ashley and I had arrived back in Dublin around 9:15 thinking we had until 10:30 to catch our GoBe bus back to Cork. We slowly made our way to get breakfast, while I had gotten my bagel and Ashley was getting a full Irish breakfast, I doubled checked our bus time…. The bus was coming at 10:00am it was 9:50am!😖I yelled at Ashley from across the airport, she hurried over with her food and started shoving her food in ziplock bags. We ran through the terminal down the escalator and through all the different bus stops arriving at ours just before the bus was taking off (we made it)

This concluded my first weekend of traveling through Europe. Scotland treated me very well, I couldn’t have asked for a better first Airbnb experience, itinerary of things to do, and first experience using public transport (Edinburgh has a wonderful app for public transit called Transport for Edinburgh I recommend anyone traveling to Edinburgh download the app, it was a lifesaver)