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My Travel Diary!

During my time abroad, I was so lucky to be able to see as many things as time (and money) would allow.  Here’s a list of my main destinations with a quick description of each.  Hope this helps any future travelers decide their route!
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England
*  London – Being my favorite city, you’ve heard about this one already. London does so many things right.
*  York – This cute town is actually a decent size and is filled with rows and rows of shops; good for a day trip.
*  Chester – Chester, like York, is filled with shopping. It’s actually famous for it’s rows: shops that are one floor above ground.  In the olden days, the streets were filled with sewage – Chester residents, most of them quite wealthy, would shop at the rows so to avoid this mess. Ladies in particular frequented the rows to ensure that their long dresses of the time were kept clean!
*  Lake District – Scenery, scenery, scenery!  The Lake District is absolutely beautiful, I’d say its best suited for a visit by those who love hiking, boating, or anything that involves taking advantage of lots and lots of nature.
*  Bath- The former home of famous writer Jane Austen, Bath is quite beautiful – you can tell why it’s an expensive area to live!  The Roman baths here are definitely something to see. Its seriously so crazy to think that they have survived after all these years.  The same can’t be said about the water that remains in the baths, though – its green in color and definitely toxic!  Nevertheless, Bath is stunning.
*  Stonehenge – You’ve heard me talk about this is a previous post.  It’s one of those things that’s neat to see, but only put aside an hour of your day for seeing it.
*  Windsor – Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I’ve been there 4 times now, and I still love it. If you’re in England, this is a MUST!
*  Salisbury – A little town not far from Stonehenge, Salisbury is like Canterbury’s fraternal twin to me. Like Canterbury, it has beautiful bridges, rows of small shops, and a beautiful cathedral.   It’s a nice stop just for a leisurely break from sightseeing. I’d recommend seeing Bath, Stonehenge, and Salisbury on the same day.
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Scotland
*  Edinburgh – This city was the most pleasant surprise of my entire trip. Who would think Scotland has a little somethin’ somethin’?!  It’s historic, yet modern.  But what makes it special is that the people there are so welcoming.  In England, I must admit, I try to hide my American accent, but Scotland makes me feel so much at home.
*  St. Andrews: Famous for it’s golf course, St. Andrews is beautiful. It’s also the home of the univeristy of St. Andrews, where Prince William and Duchess Kate met and attended university.  Surprisingly, the inside of the university looks like any other one I’be seen. I guess a lecture hall is a lecture hall…even for a prince and princess – to- be!
*  Loch Ness- Famous for it’s monster, Loch (which just means “lake”) Ness has pretty views and is situated on Scotland’s highlands which are stunning to drive through. They reminded me of the Grand Canyon a bit.
*  Glasgow- Nice to look at, but that’s about it. There’s not really much to do there, so don’t be heartbroken if you skip it.
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Wales
*  Snowdonia- Like the Lake District, this area is best suited for the outdoorsy types. Lots and lots and lots of beautiful landscape await hikers!
*  Cardiff – This is basically a very modern university town. If you’re in the area, Cardiff castle is something neat to see.
** Overall, Wales is often known for two things: sheep and rain; this is pretty accurate. But the people there so nice…even if it’s difficult to understand them sometimes…
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Ireland (mainland) 
*  Dublin – Probably the most visited city in mainland Ireland, they say Dublin is actually the “least Irish” city of the country.  It’s true actually, because it’s quite built up. But it’s still full of history and of course, the Guinness storehouse. Dublin can be done in 2 days.  Stephen’s Green is a MUST, along with Temple Bar.  If you’re there on a Sunday, splurge and get a traditional Irish roast – there’s a restaurant called “The Bank” (it’s located on College Green) that is my favorite!  I liked seeing Dublin from a green Hop-on-Hop-off bus – it’s not too expensive (about $17) and you learn about what you’re seeing while keeping out of the rain.  Also, on that note, BRING AN UMBRELLA!
*  Ring of Kerry – Beautiful to see if you don’t mind spending most of the day on a bus just stopping here and there to take pictures.  Book a trip on a guided tour to get the most information about the area as you can.  Viator is a little expensive ($110 for a day) but you see a lot in the day!
*  Cliffs of Moher – This was one of my favorite sites in Ireland.  The cliffs had a cameo in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (during the part when Harry and Dumbledore venture to find the first horcrux) What’s more, the ride getting there is full of Ireland scenery just as you’d expect: rows and rows of green grass. Emerald Isle at it’s best for sure.  If you have to pick doing Cliffs of Moher or Ring of Kerry, I liked Cliffs of Moher better!*  Blarney Castle – This was neat, but not as cool as I thought.  I kissed the stone, but then found out that it wasn’t as clean as I thought…
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France
* Paris –  You know you have to see this place if you haven’t been there before.  Personally, Paris isn’t my favorite place in the world, but it’s a must see.  French onion soup in a cafe is not to be missed.  Grab a crepe for dessert next to the Eiffel Tower, and you’re doing things right.
*  Strasbourg – Located right on the border of France and Switzerland, this is an adorable provencial town that legit looks like it’s right out of Beauty and the Beast.  It’s wine country, but in order to see any vineyards you have to take a train to a nearby town (which is possible – go to the tourist office and they’ll assist you – it was only about 11 Euro, too).  Although it’s cute, there isn’t really much to do in Strasbourg.  Fun for a few hours, but travel with fun people and you can just wander the city or eat tarte flambee in a cafe.
** Side note:  When going to France, be sure to learn at least a little French!  Almost everyone speaks English, yes, but this is a place in particular that the locals (understandably) prefer to speak French.The
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Netherlands
*Amsterdam – A friend and I went to Amsterdam because it was a nice stopping point between England and Switzerland, and we figured it was worth a look.  I always expected Amsterdam to be scary and just smell like marijuana.  I WAS SO WRONG.  Amsterdam is BEAUTIFUL.  ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.  Seeing parking garages full of bikes is just ridiculous and the canals are just gorgeous.  The city is clean and the people are incredibly friendly!  Their tram system is so easy to use and not too expensive.  Get a day pass and go to Anne Frank’s house, the flower market, take a boat cruise along the canals, and check out the Red Light District (it’s not as creepy during the day, but be sure to go with a friend).  If there’s time, head over to the Rijks museum to take a picture in front of the I AMSTERDAM sign.  Leave plenty of time to do this (1.5 hrs) because it’s a little distance away from the Central tram station.

** Also, if you can find them, GET A STROOP WAFFEL – a friend gave me hers, but she said you can buy them in grocery stores there.

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Switzerland

Before I go any further, I just have to say that Switzerland is SO INSANELY GORGEOUS.  I am absolutely in love with  Switzerland.

*  Zurich – From the Zurich train station, you can buy tickets for a package that takes a train to nearby Mt. Pilatus.  Once you get to the town, you can take a cable car all the way up this HUGE mountain and have lunch at the top.  It was expensive ($180) but one of the best things I’ve done.  The day we went, the visibility from the top was basically zero, though, so ask before you buy the tickets if it’s a good day for it.

*  Fribourg – This is just a small town that we visited because a friend of ours was living there – it was a really cute Swiss town…covered bridges and all!  We spent just the morning here and then took a train ride about an hour to the Nestle factory!  It was SUPER busy so we couldn’t go on a tour, but their factory store is open to everyone so we DEFINITELY took advantage of it.  We’re talking about getting chocolate from the Nestle factory in Switzerland – doesn’t get much more legit than that.

** Overall, Switzerland is so beautiful, but it is EXPENSIVE.  Don’t go unless you are willing to splurge.  We spent just 2 days there and our wallets were hurting!  Nevertheless, if you have the time and money, get there!  Also, try to find Swiss cheese fondue – we didn’t have time for it, but I’ve heard it’s to die for!

That sums up most of my travels – hope this list helps!

xx Renae

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