Europe 2015: 34 Days Out, and Closing in Fast

The past couple weeks have been quite busy and as such, my writing has definitely slacked. I also turned another year older and some of the festivities included a small getaway to Marina del Rey for the weekend, highlighted by the US Women’s National Soccer Team game versus Mexico.

USA vs. Mexico
USA vs. Mexico
USA vs. Mexico
USA vs. Mexico

At just over a month out, we have finally wrapped up a few of the remaining loose ends for the trip:

Harry Potter London Studio Tour

A trip to England wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Harry Potter Studios just outside London. Julie went to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Orlando before we met (which I’m incredibly jealous of ) but the studio tour will be a nice treat for us both. We also will be going to Oxford to visit the inspiration for the Great Hall.

After reading many reviews online, we decided to book just the tour itself instead of the tour package that includes transportation to and from the studios. The most common complaint we read was that the transportation was too time restrictive and that crazy fans (like us) felt too rushed. So we opted for public transportation which seems to be straightforward enough. Write-up to follow!

Harry Potter Studio Tour (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Harry Potter Studio Tour (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Driving to Explore the Scottish Highlands

After much deliberation and sifting through countless tour companies, we have made the decision to drive from Edinburgh to the Highlands. While the tours certainly simplify everything for you, they also tend to pass by destinations that might be worth more than just a passing glance. And though we have definitely heard our fair share of nervous stories about driving on the left side of the road in the other side of the car, we look forward to the both the challenge and the opportunity to see the beautiful and scenic countryside at our own pace.

Neist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye
Neist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

Airbnb: Kyle of Lochlash

For a few months now, the only night we had not booked a room for was our second night in Scotland. Deciding whether or not to commit to a Highlands tour was the biggest deterrent to booking a hotel room. Our most probable overnight destination had been Inverness which was a common stopping point for many of the tours. The town is good sized and has a variety of hotel options. But with the change in plans shifting from a tour to driving on our own, a new stopping point was starting to make more sense.

As a change of pace, I decided to search airbnb for a place to stay somewhere closer to Skye. With an early start planned, it made more sense to stay in the Skye area to really get the most out of our time in the Highlands. This will be our first time trying out airbnb and I’m looking forward to trying something new. I know friends who had good experiences and swear by it, though I have also read some horror stories too. Reviews are great and the location in Kyle of Lochalsh, on the edge of Skye can’t be beat. Review to follow 🙂

The Rest and What’s Next

  • Though far less exciting, we booked our train from York to London. Hooray!
  • We will be visiting my Homestay Family in Oxford sometime during our stay in London. Six years later, I’m excited to see them again! The train is our most likely mode of transportation, but we plan to wait until we are there to buy our tickets.
  • London Underground: I have been debating buying advance subway cards for our time getting around London. I think ultimately I will grab us a couple of Oyster cards since we aren’t really staying in the heart of the city.
  • Belgian Day Trip: All the advice I’ve been given is that one day in Brussels is good enough and that a day trip to Bruges is well worth it. The train ride is about an hour and fifteen minutes, so we will definitely be making the short trek. I have also been debating Ghent, but we may not have enough time in Belgium to do both.
  • Ireland: Our last three full days will be on the Emerald Isle and aside from one day in Dublin, we don’t have anything planned. A trip to the Cliffs of Moher is definitely something we would like to do and we may rent a car again in Ireland to get there. The rest of our stay is still up in the air, which at the tail end of our trip, isn’t such a bad thing.

Seventeen days doesn’t seem nearly long enough and we haven’t even started yet. It’s pretty damn exciting though, that we are almost there!

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