A Europe trip was long overdue for this New Yorker. I managed to clear 19 days (flight time inclusive) to figure out how to plan such an itinerary and came up with:
Day 1 – Fly from NYC to London overnight
Day 2 – Check in hotel, brief sightseeing, sleep
Day 3,4 – Explore London
Day 5 – Daytrip to Paris via Eurostar
Day 6 – Travel to Edinburgh, sightseeing
Day 7,8,9 – Tour the Scotland highlands
Day 10 – Travel back to London, Harry Potter tour
Day 11 – Fly from London to Barcelona, sightseeing
Day 12-18 – 7 day cruise
Day 19 – Fly back home
The most challenging part is planning it all (and saving enough money as well). The flights, hotels, where to go, how to get there, things to avoid, not getting lost, saving money, optimizing time, eating, bathroom stops, what to pack, currency, backup plans for when things go wrong, survival, etc. Somehow, everything went according to plan with a few minor mishaps. Follow me on my travels as I cover the itineraries, highlights, and other random encounters and experiences.
We left for the King’s Cross station to catch the National Rail to Waverly station in Edinburgh, Scotland; a 4.5 hour journey (enough time to reflect and write these posts). I didn’t know much about Scotland except for what I recall from movies like Braveheart and Highlander. I knew a little about kilts, bagpipes, and the Scottish accent from Sean Connery or Scotty from Star Trek. Little did I know that this would become my second favorite country visited (first is Iceland of course).
Unlike Paris, I appreciate that this is obviously an English-speaking country. You know when you’re in Scotland when you hear bagpipes in the background and have to immediately put on a rain jacket. Rain or not, Edinburgh has a unique look and it’s simply a beautiful city. After a quick hotel check-in close to St. Andrews square, we headed to Cafe Andaluz (I recommend) for the Spanish tapas lunch special.
From there, we headed to the park area on Princes street below Edinburgh castle for some photo ops. The tourist thing to do would be to enter the castle but we had little time and there will be plenty of time for castles.
We then made our way to the tallest thing close by; the Scott Monument (I like that gothic look). Several tight spiral staircases leads you to the top for excellent views of the city.
Similar to the magnificent mile in Chicago, Edinburgh has the Royal Mile, which is quite busy. It’s where many of the restaurants, bars, and gift shops are. This street takes you all the way to a large park area with a massive hill; Arthur’s Seat.
The rain cleared but it was still quite windy. You should allow at least 2 hours for the hike. Off we went on our 823 ft ascent to the top using the Salisbury Crags route. At the halfway point, the view of the city is great, but the trail became steeper and required a wee bit of scrambling (Purple route).
The wife headed back down the path with a newly made friend from Taiwan as I rushed forward to the Arthur’s Seat summit. I had to respect the strength of runners who run in this area. My rush to the top became a crawl as it got windier. At the peak, the wind was too strong to keep my cap on for too long or take decent selfies. After a quick feeling of accomplishment, I ran all the way down to intercept the wife. If this was my marathon training grounds, I’d be a warrior.
We dined at Fishers in the City (I recommend) and had ourselves a seafood feast. So many good places to eat but we had to make choices. On the way back to the hotel, we caught a fireworks show from Edinburgh castle. Perhaps there was a festival going on or something.