The last few years I have chosen a word of the year over a list of resolutions because I felt it would be easier to focus on one word instead of an entire list of goals. This year I am feeling incredibly goal-orientated. I love the practice of focusing my year on a particular word and working to feel that word in every aspect of my life. However, I also love a good old fashioned to do list and there is no time like the present to write out a lengthy one. Like many people, I ended the year feeling mentally and physically exhausted but some much needed family time at the end of the year has me feeling better than I have felt in long time. I survived last year and now I feel ready to take on the world. And the word. [Read more…]
Every morning we would walk out of front door, walk down the street, turn left, and be on the real Diagon Alley. Magical doesn’t even begin to describe the way it felt to wake up and walk down this street every day on our way to a new adventure. Both the Warner Brothers Studios tour and Universal have their own versions of Diagon Alley but what makes Victoria Street so special is that it is an actual working part of town with real shops and eateries. Once you’ve strolled down the street, you can see exactly where J.K. Rowling found her inspiration for the whimsical place where Harry buys his school supplies.
John and I stopped in to this little witchy shop and found all sorts of curious things. I ended up buying a few witchy prints and cards for friends. Next time I definitely want to sign up for a tour!
My favorite store by far was the one filled with all things Harry Potter. I’m no stranger to Harry Potter merchandise but this store had many items I had never seen before. As I’m sure you guessed, I bought everything that would fit in my luggage.
One of my favorite sites on Victoria Street was the AHAHAHA Jokes & Novelties shop that clearly served as inspiration for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter, historical land marks, and whimsical shops, definitely add Victoria Street to your list of places to visit when exploring the real Wizarding World.
The Elephant House has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. J.K. Rowling famously wrote parts of the Harry Potter series while sitting in this quaint little cafe near Edinburgh’s cemetery, Greyfriars Kirkyard. Scottish authors Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith have also spent time writing in The Elephant House. Over the years it has become a destination for both authors and Harry Potter fans alike.
I visited as the latter, hoping to become the former. On our first visit I took in the views of the cafe, explored the shrine to J.K. Rowling, and spent a long time going over the menu. On our second visit, John and I had breakfast while overlooking the graveyard and Edinburgh Castle. John read through the real estate section of the paper to find our dream home (if only Brexit wasn’t making a move even more challenging), while I started officially writing my first novel. I’ve had the plans outlined for quite a bit but I wanted that first page to be written somewhere magical.
It’s easy to see why so many writers have camped out at The Elephant House hoping to pen the next New York Times Bestseller. The food is great, the tea is wonderful, it’s quiet and cozy, and the views are picturesque. If I lived in Edinburgh, this would definitely be my go to neighborhood cafe.
The skyline in Edinburgh is dominated by it’s stunning castle. Not only is the castle an inspiring site, but the views from the castle are breathtaking as well. It was easy to see where J.K. Rowling found her inspiration for Hogwarts when looking at the castle. In fact, from the castle you can even see the private school with four distinct houses that also is said to have inspired Rowling. I assume that the school inspired some of Hogwarts operations while the castle inspired some of the aesthetics. As someone who has been on the studio tour in London and lives down the street from Universal’s Wizarding World, I can truthfully say that Edinburgh Castle and the surrounding areas felt more like Hogwarts to me than anything else I have experienced.
Although there has been a royal castle here since the 12th century, human occupation here started in the 2nd century AD. As a history lover, I enjoy the feeling of standing on ground that is rich with history. With a history that starts in the Iron Age, includes being a royal residence, a military stronghold, and an army base, I knew that my footsteps followed those who made history in the United Kingdom. And while Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most visited paid tourist attraction, on the chilly March days that we were there, it was never too busy. And although there are many castles to be seen throughout the United Kingdom (and some more famous than this) Edinburgh Castle has a certain mysteriousness to it that really drew me in.
Drawing parallels from Edinburgh Castle to Hogwarts are not difficult. Both are castles located in Scotland, both are surrounded by an old city filled with quirky shops and delicious eats, both have stunning views that include mountains, both have been the location of violent battles, and both sit high up in the sky, forcing us to look up in awe at them.
I’ve been denying the inevitable but it’s happened. Summer is here. It’s certainly my least favorite season but I’m trying to embrace it as much as I can. I am a big believer that we shouldn’t rush time along so I made a summer bucket list to have some things to look forward to. Here’s hoping this list makes the summer heat a bit more bearable.
1. Visit a National Park.
2. Make pineapple popsicles.
3. Relax in a hammock.
4. Have a picnic.
5. Take a day trip.
6. Wear shorts (and feel confident about it).
7. Beat the heat with a spa day.
8. Enjoy live music.
9. Make watermelon lemonade.
10. Get a summer themed manicure.
11. Have ice cream at Disney.
12. Do yoga at sunrise.
13. Rock a flower crown.
14. Eat S’mores.
15. Sparkler photos.
16. Read on the beach.
17. Collect seashells.
18. Eat pizza on the lake.
19. Watch movies on a rainy day.
20. Play with watercolors.
Standing in the train station with my phone in one hand and bag in the other, I tried to figure out which exit would be our best choice for the walk to our AirBnb. The first person who walked in our direction immediately stopped and asked us if we knew where we were going. “Kind of”, I sheepishly told him.
I didn’t plan to fall in love with Edinburgh. The plan was to fall in love with London and maybe Oxford but Edinburgh definitely stole my heart. John and I originally planned to just tour England but decided shortly before our trip to add a trip to Edinburgh so that we could visit some of the sites that J.K. Rowling used to frequent while writing.
Of course I assumed I would enjoy all of the Harry Potter related sites and I was certainly right but Edinburgh has a charm that goes even beyond the Wizarding World. As soon as we stepped off of our train, we started to experience a bit of what makes Edinburgh so magical.
After being set on the right course by the kind stranger at the train station, John and I soon learned why so many travelers choose to Uber from the station, even if the location they are headed is only 15 or 20 minutes away. On earth there are hills, there are mountains, and then there is Edinburgh. The streets heading toward the Royal Mile in Edinburgh are incredibly steep. So steep in fact, that at one point, the street were hiking up had an actual guard rail!
Journeying through the winding streets with two rolling suitcases and two large heavy bags was a bit of a disaster. Moving that amount of luggage can be challenging on a flat surface but through streets steep enough that some of them actually have guard rails?! It felt impossible! Luckily, I’m incredibly stubborn and once I set my mind to something, I will do it. I won’t say I didn’t dream of the warmth and ease of sitting in the back of an Uber with our luggage but John and I do a lot of squats at the gym so we were able to make it through the cobblestoned streets, even if we were somewhat slow. I will suggest that anyone who isn’t looking to take a hike should just call an Uber.
Once we arrived to our AirBnb we quickly put our things down and headed to Edinburgh Castle. The view from the castle makes the trip up with luggage completely worth it. I would carry 20 bags and take that hike again to see that view. Standing up there, you see so much of what makes Edinburgh a fantastic city…enormous mountains, historic stone buildings, modern chic buildings. There is so much history and culture in this amazing city.
John and I spent the next few days exploring museums, trying new foods, writing in coffee shops, exploring old buildings, and meeting new people. The people we met were my favorite part of our trip. From our hilarious and charming AirBnb host Darren, to the lovely people at coffee shops who jumped at the chance to tell us which U.S. cities they have visited, to the strangers all over the city who asked us how we were enjoying our holiday and invited us to move to Scotland (this really happened often), the people in Edinburgh are reason enough to visit again. I can only hope that our next trip is that much longer.