Monthly Archives: February 2014

Tips for future travelers!

I thought I’d make a post with what I suppose would be helpful information for anyone reading this blog that has plans to travel to or study in Edinburgh in the future.  This is pretty much just a hodge-podge of things I’d tell anyone thinking of coming here, so it may seem kind of random. These are things I wish I’d either been told in advance, or that I think are just nice things to know. Here we go!

  • Bring a bag with you when you go grocery shopping! Most grocery stores do not automatically give you bags like they do in the U.S. You can ask for one, but you usually have to pay for it. Best not to learn the hard way like my friends and I and end up spending an extra five pounds so you can carry your things home.
  • You can’t buy alcohol after 10 PM. Not a problem really, but if you think you’re really going to want a glass of wine while you stream re-runs of Doctor Who at 11 (or, you know, for other occasions), then just go to the store before 10.
  • Jay-walking is legal here. Just look out for cars, and remember they drive on the opposite sides of the road here!
  • ATM’s are free!! Yeah, there are a few ATM’s throughout the city that will charge you, but don’t use them, because most will not and it’s a glorious thing to get cash for free!
  • Everyone dresses extremely nice. Whereas in the U.S., 95% of the students on campus are wearing old jeans and sweatshirts with pizza stains, the vast majority of the students here are dressed like they just walked out of Teen Vogue. So you might want to save your sweatpants and hoodies for your flat, lest you be seen as the sloppy kid on campus. (But if you really don’t care, then where what you want!)
  • Apparently tips aren’t expected here. If my friends and I leave a tip the waiter looks like they want to cry and hug us. So it’s nice if you leave one, but you don’t have to. (Which is kind of nice when you’re a college kid living on a budget!)
  • Don’t bring curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers, or anything like this. These things use motors to run and are really tricky when using adapters. They easily “blow up” and break when plugging them in with adapters/converters. I suggest just going to a cheap store (Poundland, Pound Stretchers, charity shops) and buying one there. Just give it to someone or throw it away before you leave.
  • If you’re looking to buy things cheap, go to Nicholson Street. This is where all the charity shops, Pound Savers, Poundland, etc are located. Stuff for your room, toiletries, envelops, and even some food – shop here first. You’re probably going to get it a lot cheaper in a shop on this street than somewhere else.
  • Don’t bother bringing or buying an umbrella. If it’s raining hard, it’s probably also going to be very, very, windy. It will just blow inside out and break. A coat/jacket with a hood is good enough.
  • If you are coming to Edinburgh as a student, don’t bring bed sheets or blankets with you. Either buy them when you get there or pre-order a bedding pack from the university. (Or do both, there isn’t much to the bedding pack but it gives you something sufficient to sleep on so you don’t have to run out shopping as soon as you get there.)
  • Don’t call pants “pants”. They are called either jeans or trousers here. I say don’t do it but let’s be honest, you are going to end up calling them pants anyway and it will be awkward because “pants” here are underwear. This mix-up is inevitable. Accept it.

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Filed under Study Abroad Advice

Durham, England

I was so excited to visit Durham, England this past weekend. Such a lovely city! It’s about a three-hour drive from Edinburgh, but totally worth it. (Probably shorter by train.)

The flecks in this picture - yeah, that's snow!

The flecks in this picture – yeah, that’s snow!

I visited Durham Cathedral, which was absolutely amazing! As both a history nerd and a Harry Potter fan, I loved the place. The history buff in me geeked out over the fact that I was, you know, strolling through a gorgeous Norman cathedral built in 1093. Two major historical figures, which I studied last semester, were buried in the cathedral – St. Cuthbert and Bede – so it was pretty cool to see those!

The door to the cathedral.

The door to the cathedral.

Left: Shrine of St. Cuthbert/St. Cuthbert's Grave, Right: The Venerable Bede's Tomb

Left: Shrine of St. Cuthbert/St. Cuthbert’s Grave, Right: The Venerable Bede’s Tomb

The Harry Potter fan in me nerded out over the cloisters. This served as the courtyard at Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films! So not only did I get to visit a cathedral, I also got to visit the wizarding school of my childhood dreams.

This screen cap and the one above it show scenes from Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone which were filmed at the Durham cloisters.

This screen cap and the one above it show scenes from Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone which were filmed at the Durham cloisters.

While we were able to see the castle from the outside, my friends and I were not able to get tickets to tour the inside. Instead we strolled through the streets and shops in the city. Could not get over how cute this city was!

So yes, I would definitely recommend making a trip to Durham, perhaps for more than one day as there is a bunch of awesome stuff outside the city which would be great to see. (Escomb Church – look it up!)

P.S. On a completely irrelevant note – the sun is the weirdest thing here. When I arrived in Edinburgh it was completely dark by about 4:30. I would leave my last class (which ends at 5) and it would be dark out. I leave class now and the sun is still shining. There’s become about an hour difference in sunset time in only about three weeks. It’s so disorienting, I thought I was losing my mind. Apparently, by the time I leave Scotland in late May, the sun won’t set until about ten o’clock at night! (Thought this was interesting enough to put on the blog, but not enough so to get it’s own post, so I’m tacking it on here.)

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Filed under England