Throwback Thursday: My Trip to the UK

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately and had the idea to start a new type of series called Throwback Thursday. Every once in a while I’ll share a little something on a Thursday from my past.

So, let’s get started…

I thought I’d share with you some details and photos from my trip to the United Kingdom in March of 2009, which is one of the best experiences of my life. I was fortunate to travel on the dime of my then-boyfriend, who was studying abroad in Kingston, England, for the second time. He knew it was a dream of mine to travel there someday (and ya know, I bet he missed me),  so he made that dream a reality.

UK2It was a 10-day trip and each day was incredible. I loved it all — the streets, the architecture, the culture, the landscape, the cities, the food, even the look of the currency. I drank it all in and fell head over heels. We stayed in Kingston Upon Thames, with his gracious host family who are incredibly kind people.

We made sure each day was packed with activities so I could get as much out of the trip as possible. The first two days were spent in London, sightseeing and visiting The British Museum, Westminster Abby, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Chinatown, and more. He even surprised me with tickets to see Phantom of the Opera on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre. I remember being in awe of my surroundings and captivated by the hustle and bustle of London, the dozens of languages I heard on the sidewalks.

UK1UK3We made sure to take a road trip to Bath, one of his favorite cities, to visit the Roman Baths. It’s a beautiful area, with limestone buildings that shine like gold in the sun. I gotta tell ya, there’s something magical about the baths. It’s like you’ve traveled back in time to a mystical place that couldn’t possibly be real. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip!
On the way there he and I also traveled to Fordingbridge, which is in the New Forest National Park, to see his step-grandmother who resided in a small home.

UK6UK8And holy crap did he pull another surprise. We were going to Scotland! We took the train (OK, I love the train. And the Tube) from Kings Cross — hellooooo Harry Potter — to Edinburgh.

But before I move on! Do you realize there actually is a spot in Kings Cross dedicated to the UK’s favorite wizard? It’s the way to Platform 9 3/4 of course!

UK7There was no way I was going home without a photo at that spot! Nerd and proud, nerd and proud.

Back to the topic at hand. Scotland! Edinburgh! The city is freaking gorgeous. It’s right on the sea and has an “old town” and “new town.” Old town is definitely my favorite section. It has so much character and history, there’s a lot to explore and learn. We checked out Edinburgh Castle, walked High Street, had fish and chips at a local restaurant, visited the National Museum and even checked out some shops in new town. What I especially loved, however, was something called a “close,” which is like a tiny alleyway between and behind buildings. There are tons of them in old town, and some were so long and twisty that you’d end up lost if not careful. Actually, the streets in old town did the same thing, so it was very confusing sometimes!

UK9UK4UK10Another first for me was staying in a hostel, which is not as bad (or scary, thanks to the horror flicks) as it sounds. He and I stayed in a room with eight bunks and there was a community bathroom down the hall. We only slept there, so I can’t tell you much else, but hostels are a great way for students to save some money while traveling and yes, they are safe.

As if the trip couldn’t have gotten any better, he had booked us tickets for a 12-hour tour into the Highlands, Glencoe and to Loch Ness through Rabbie’s Trail Burners. It was probably the best way to see the countryside and see Scotland for what it really is — a picturesque landscape of flat lands, rolling hills, pasture, mountains, locks and even forest.

UK5 UK5Unfortunately, my journey to Loch Ness proved unsuccessful. I saw no monster. But you best believe I watched the water very carefully! 😉 Of course I also had to dip my hand in the frigid water.

I was incredibly depressed when I had to board the airplane back to the U.S. In 10 short days I had fallen in love with a stunning country and intensified my anglofilia.

Some surprises along the way? Paying to use a public restroom in the train station. Accidentally selecting plain carbonated water (YUCK). Bacon sandwiches. Suburban foxes. Paying to use a cart at the grocery store. Becoming disoriented when riding in a car on the other side of the road. A severe lack of rest areas off of the motorway! Smoky bacon crisps (potato chips) and Mini Cheddars — why can’t we get those in the U.S.?! Milk in tea is actually very good. Local internet connection is really slow. All of the swans are the property of Her Majesty, The Queen. When ordering food, “Take Away” = “To Go.” The underground vaults beneath Edinburgh are probably the scariest place on Earth.

To those in/from the UK who actually read this post, I’m sure I sounded incredibly American and touristy, haha. I apologize, but I absolutely adore your homeland and wish to return ASAP, though it’ll probably be years from now. Where should I go next time?

Thanks for reading my premiere Throwback Thursday post. What did you think? Do you like this idea? Let me know in the comment box below.

—K

About Karin

Journalist, singer, reader, movie fanatic, photography buff, GVSU alum, wanna-be-Brit, Crohn's fighter, Coca-Cola addict, animal lover, not a kid person, hater of winter, Michigander
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