Wow, so even though it’s now coming up on halfway through the IES Dublin program (halfway! I can’t believe it!), I feel like every week I’m learning and experiencing something new. Last Friday I embarked on an amazing trip to the UK, and got to see things that I think I could only have dreamed of less than a year ago.
First stop? London! We bought tickets to spend our first full day in London at the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour and, let me say, the 30 or so pounds I ended up spending on it? SO WORTH IT. For all my fellow HP fans out there, it has everything from props and scene staging to videos of the actors and behind-the-scenes folks talking about how much they loved filming the movies. It was truly incredible to see how much detail went into every aspect of the movies, including creating mechanical, moving figures instead of CGI for things like the giant spider, Aragog, or the magically knitting needles at the Weasley residence, The Burrow. The thing that really blew me away though was the full scale replica of Hogwarts castle that they used for big panoramic shots, like when Harry, Ron, and Hermione are walking through the grounds, or Hedwig is flying around. So cool, and so pretty!
Besides Harry Potter madness, I also had a ton of fun exploring the city of London itself. We did some of the more classic stuff, like check out Big Ben and the London Eye (no way were we paying 23 pounds to ride it though, so expensive!), but we also got to see some more unique places, like the Tower of London at night and the Tower Bridge. Both were so picturesque and beautiful at night, so even though we didn’t get to really go inside the Tower, it was still so worthwhile to go check them out.
My favorite parts of London? Strangely enough, the two most opposite places a person can probably think of when they think of a big city: it’s immense, gorgeous parks (definitely worth a trip through them by the way, so refreshing!) and it’s metro system. The tube was probably hands down the easiest community transit experience I have ever had; what with the maps, the oyster card you can purchase instead of having to continuously buy tickets, and the easy to understand intercom speakers (you’d be surprised how many times I have gotten confused in Dublin by the thick accents of the people who talk over intercoms haha!), it definitely made my time in London all the more easy and enjoyable.
The other part of the UK that I got to experience was just as beautiful as London, but much tamer in the sense of city life and excitement. Edinburgh’s history is seen in every building you pass by and every street you walk down, whereas in London much of what is there is history intertwined with more modern life. We took long walks around Edinburgh, mostly to see the sights and the big landmarks they have. For instance, St. Giles’ Cathedral is a truly incredible church, not only due to the beautiful architecture, but also because it was built in the 14th century!
If there was anyplace I’d go back to in Edinburgh though, it’d be Holyrood Park and the hike up to see Arthur’s Seat. It’s literally in the very middle of the city center, and it’s located on the top of this pretty little hill (though the hike up was a bit more of a climb than I anticipated haha). It’s said to have come from tales of King Arthur, but from my point of view it really just sat atop the highest peak of the hill. Plus, the views at the top were so incredible, by the time I reached it, it really didn’t matter to me at the real story behind it—all I could see were miles and miles of a beautiful Scottish city. What a way to spend an afternoon, and what a way to experience life in Edinburgh.