Posts Tagged ‘Traveling’

Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura & Peter Pan

According to the lady at the Camera Obscura centre, today is the shortest day of the year in good old Edinburgh. The sun starts setting around 230P or so and it’s dark by 4P. Despite that, I managed to sneak a lot of goodies into my relatively short day: a trip to Edinburgh Castle, a visit to Camera Obscura and I’m catching a play of Peter Pan tonight at 7P!

Despite scheduling my wake-up call for 830A, I was up and getting ready by 8A. I hit up the Castle first thing in the morning at 930A (when it opens) to beat the crowds. Unfortunately, Scotland is ridiculously cold at 930 in the morning… the sun doesn’t show it’s face until at least 1030A so I faced some serious snow. Although my ears were fighting frostbite, I got some of the prettiest pictures ever! Being that the Castle is quite the fortress on a hill top (an extinct volcano, actually), the views are absolutely breathtaking:

I didn’t spend that much time at the Castle because it was sooooo cold, but what I did see was amazing! I’m definitely planning on going back when my dad makes a trip over — this is something he would absolutely love!
(I miss you, dad!)

I was a bit upset that they didn’t offer student discounts, but the views from the top of the Castle definitely made the 11 pounds worth it!

I also stopped in this cool store right outside of the castle that’s separated into three sections: tour bookings, a cafe and a weaver that creates tartans, kilts, etc. There was also a section dedicated to this Diablo-looking gear:

There’s an actual blacksmith that makes these swords (he lives about 10 miles from the Castle)… there were loads of these bad boys, plus rapiers, chain mail (which is ridiculously heavy, by the way), maces and axes!

After hitting up the castle, I stopped at Camera Obscura, a place full of optical illusions and amazing panoramic views of Scotland! The 15 minute Camera Obscura business on the 5th floor made the 7 pound ticket worth every penny (pence?)– so cool seeing the whole of the city in a warm teensy tiny room! Check out some of these cool tidbits:

If I were tall and had crazy cankles.

The hot points on my body … interesting.

There were loads of cool optical illusions and holograms, too. Definitely a fun place to take kiddos!

After all that fun, I found a bunch of fun Scottish stores to hit up to grab a few goodies for my loves back in California! Now I’m sitting in a super warm pub down the way from my hotel that has offered me free Wi-fi and delicious pear-flavored Magner’s cider (one of my most favorites). I booked a tour of the Highlands/Loch Ness tomorrow with Timberbush tours and I’m so excited to see a different side of the country! Getting ready to head out and see a live version of Peter Pan at the theatre <3.

Hope everyone’s holiday is fannn-tastic,

Wanna see more amazingness? Check out my album!


Snowy Scotland!

Once again, I’m bundled up in my hotel room for the second night with warm porridge from Marks & Spencer, hot chocolate & Lily Allen singing in the background. Alex is staying for night number two after her second flight in a two-day span was cancelled. After she spent two hours waiting at the airport, Easy Jet announced her flight cancellation and she’s opting for the train back to London tomorrow morning instead. Outside the window to our room, there’s snow covering the nearby buildings and a Christmas market lighting up the dark Scottish sky. Despite the fact that the days are rather short, the town is really a gorgeous sight.

After running into Edinburgh Castle, snow and oddly gorgeous mausoleums, we did a bit of shopping for Scottish goodies followed by a mini whiskey tasting! Although snow is slippery and ridiculously cold, it does make for the most beautiful pictures of life! Normal roads are a thousand times prettier when they’re covered with snow.

Our whiskey tasting was super mini, but my three baby swigs comprised the most Scotch I’ve ever had in my life! The smell of it normally makes me sick, but since I’m in Scotland now, I feel obliged to live like the Scots do!

I’m now deciding what to do tomorrow in terms of sightseeing. Roslin Chapel and some other goodies are on my list of must-sees. I bought a ticket to see a live production of Peter Pan at the local theatre on Monday and am booking a Loch Ness/Highlands tour for Tuesday to get the most out of my Scottish excursion!

Any must-see sights in Scotland? I have tomorrow and Monday to fill with goodies!

Sending love and warm thoughts,

Where in the World is Shannon Elizabeth?

This is a story all about how
my life got flip-turned upside-down.
Now I’d like to take a minute,
Just sit right there —
I’ll tell you how I became a
victim of a traveling scare.

So, where in the world is Shannon Elizabeth?

Would it be weird if I said I didn’t know the answer to that? Heh. Well, that’s not entirely true, I suppose. I do know where I am. And I most definitely know where I’m not: I’m not in London like I should be. Here are some pictures of the madness that was my day. See if you can put this together and figure out what’s happening in my life.

Fun story: Our flight from Malta to Gatwick was cancelled due to poor weather conditions (read: London’s inability to deal with snow). Quite problematic, mind you, because I had a trip to Edinburgh planned for Sunday and Alex has a trip to California planned for Monday. All flights to Gatwick were cancelled and we were left with two options: fly to Newcastle today or fly to Newcastle or Gatwick on Monday. Unfortunately, Monday won’t work for either of us, thus we were left with one viable option and grabbed the flight to Northern England instead.

Where did we go from there? Well, that was a feat as we navigated the cold wintery weather up North (thank God for iPhones, laptops & Wi-fi). We hadn’t planned to end up in Newcastle and neither of us really had a plan of attack (or proper cold-weather clothing). We were offered a transfer from Newcastle to London via coach, but considering the gross weather and the 25 mile per hour ride involved with taking the coach, that would put us in London at around 3AM after a 7 to 10 hour coach ride. Ten hours on a stinky, stuffy coach is not my idea of fun.

Instead, we decided to take a train from Newcastle to Edinburgh, a much shorter ride than the one that we would have experienced from Newcastle to London. While we were in the train terminal at the Newcastle Airport looking at the train map someone stole my huge bag from literally behind my back! I noticed within 20 seconds that it was gone and Alex and I chased the culprit down and managed to retrieve my bag (thank God)!

After we arrived at Waverly Station in Scotland, we had to scale three sets of  these ridiculous stairs with huge 45 pound bags:

After getting to the top of the stairs we spotted a hotel across the way from the station — perfect price, Wi-fi, showers & warmth! Fortunately, I had over-packed for my Malta trip and have a load of extra clothes to wear in Scotland + my computer + chargers + my books, etc. Now Alex and I are warming our souls with Marks & Spencer salads and music to re-ignite our spirits after this soul-wrenching day. At least our window comes with a pretty gorgeous view:

Love from Scotland,

PS. Thank you to the best family for staying with us at the airport during this whole fiasco! Love you guys! We appreciate all of your support!

PPS. Paul & Charlie – I know you guys read this occasionally, don’t be afraid to comment on my blog; I love blog comments :)

Traveling Solo — Yay or Nay?

I’m in the middle of revising for upcoming exams, but am taking a much-needed break to figure out some traveling over the Christmas vacation! I am going to Malta to visit family from the 13th through the 18th, but have also been toying with the idea of hitting up Paris solo from the 20th through the 23rd! Now, my main issue is that I have never traveled alone before. The sound of my parents’ voice discussing safety in numbers echoes in my head as I write this. Although traveling in groups is probably the safer thing to do (theoretically), I much like the idea of taking a few days to be alone with myself: a few books, my laptop, my camera and an itinerary that I find 100% thrilling.

Although I have loved most every trip I have taken with friends, partners and family, I find that there is the issue of reconciling desires whilst sightseeing. Everyone is different (with different interests)  and thus people’s desires in sightseeing vary. With traveling solo, I can create an itinerary that I like and don’t have to concede to other people’s wishes. Additionally, I find that when I travel with people my age, there is an inherent need to go out at night and travel like the twenty-somethings that we are. Since I happen to be quite possibly the oldest 23 year old known to man, going out, partying, stumbling around foreign countries drunk doesn’t much appeal to me… in fact, I would much rather have a laid back, low-key night in to prepare for an early morning of cultural immersion.

Wanderlust and Lipstick, a women’s travel website, did an article on 5 Reasons to Travel Solo, all of which act as an impetus to book this excursion. Additionally, Brave New Traveler did a write-up on 10 Things to Learn About Yourself When Traveling Alone. Though there are negative aspects to traveling alone, the majority of write-ups that I have read on the topic seem to find value in solo travel. Though safety should be recognized, I find that I’m not really one to find dangerous situations: I tend to be a relatively smart traveler and understand the dangers inherent in being a) alone and b) a female traveler.

That being said, I’m preparing to book this trip on the Eurostar to stay in Paris for a few days on my own. I imagine it would be a valuable experience — alone time plus learning how to navigate foreign lands by myself. The only downside might be a few minor bouts of loneliness, but I’m sure I can survive and maybe learn a bit more about myself in the process!

Any thoughts? Has anyone had a particularly good or bad experience traveling solo?



LSE Beaver

You know when things are just surreal? When everything around you just seems like a dream and you’re waiting to wake up? That sums up my life at this moment quite well. I just finished packing the two suitcases that contain my life for the next twelve-plus months, and am slowly putting the finishing touches on my carry-on. As I put away my Let’s Go Europe book and zipped up a pouch of toiletries, it dawned on me: I am leaving the United States in two short days. I have one real day left in the US, and then I will be sitting on a flight to the United Kingdom, courtesy of United Airlines. Not only am I moving to another country, I’m moving to another country to study at one of the best institutions in the world. If ever there were one single word needed to describe this university, “institution” sums it up pretty effectively: educating the likes of John F. Kennedy, fifteen Nobel prize winners, a load of Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kings and Queens speaks volumes. Whomever looked through my application and decided that I should study at the same institution that bred that prominence is my new hero. There is such a mixture of excitement (for the opportunity to study at such a magnificent university) and nervousness (for fear of being overwhelmed by the brilliance of it all). I find that for me, the nerves typically breed greatness; at the times when I fear failure in any capacity, I put in that much more time and effort into being able to compete and succeed.

One of the underlying reasons for deciding to study in Europe was to create an inherent opportunity to travel and see the world. I truly feel that experiencing the way that other people live is an eye-opening, life-altering experience that is necessary for total self-actualization. I don’t fully think that I can be the greatest version of myself without knowing everything that is out in the world. There are people to meet, perspectives to understand and valuable lessons to learn, and without having gained that worldly knowledge, your world stunts you; it is too small for you to fully grow and develop. That essentially sums up my greatest goal for the year. To grow and develop. In every possible capacity; as an academic, as a youth of the world and as a human being. Everyone talks about how experiences like this change your life and your views forever. At this point in my life, I think I’m more than open to that.

So, in conclusion, here’s to an amazing year; a year of change, a year of growth and a year of amazing adventures.

Now I’m off to enjoy my last few moments in the States.

Lots of love,


Here’s an undergrad lesson for those not versed in Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs (summed up in a super-fun pyramid):



Inside Look: The Scholar’s Bag

I recently asked a friend to grab my cell phone from my purse and after ten minutes of sifting through everything in my bag, he handed it back to me, defeated. “How can you find anything in here?” I understand the frustration, but there is some level of organization to my madness. My bag is an integral part of my existence. Inside it holds all of the tidbits that I need to be successful traveler & an overall successful person.

What’s in my bag?

My iPhone.

Well, it’s actually a BlackBerry currently, but my multi-functional phone is of the utmost importance. I make phone calls, organize my calendar, browse the internet & utilize the GPS if I’m lost. How did people live before cell phones?

PenWriting Utensils.

Pens, pencils, sharpies, and occasionally my black eyeliner will suffice. Quite frankly, I find that there are too many thoughts floating around in my head. At any given moment, I like to jot down notes so I don’t forget an important thought that arises here and there. Occasionally, I’ll run across something inspirational that prompts blog thoughts — musn’t forget those. Pens are a necessity!

B of A Debit Card.

Who can live without one? I can even use it internationally at certain banks without being charged withdrawal fees! Made for me! Plus, there are a load of identity theft protection features that make my life easier.


{Smart} Water.

Dehydration = nasty headache for me. Considering the extreme amounts of caffeine I ingest
on any given day, I think that water is of the utmost importance. Plus, if I make a stop at
the gym, I always have some serious hydration in hand.

The Kite Runner

Good Reads.

This may take the form of a book, a Social Policy paper from the UN (talk about real excitement) or the latest edition of US Weekly. Whatever the case, I try to keep an attention-grabbing piece with me to read whenever I have downtime. It’s also quite nice to have a book while I’m at the gym (I’m one of the crazies that runs & reads). Additionally, I find that in a crunch, I can rip off a corner of a magazine and use it as a micro notepad!



The ultimate accessory! Carrying (oversized) sunglasses with me at all times is a must! Not only are they important for obvious reasons (when it’s sunshiny!), but they’re also fantastic for early morning coffee runs when I don’t want to put makeup on, long flights that make my eyes look super tired and they’re key in battling fine lines under the eyes (since I know all you male readers care a TON about that!) The bigger the better — my philosophy on most things <3.

CanonDigital Camera!

This item deserves an exclamation point! I cannot LIVE without my camera — I started becoming super obsessive about recording life’s fun over the years and I religiously carry a camera with me at all times. How could I have a super cool, photo-filled blog if I didn’t record my life like the OCD blogger that I am? My pink Canon is the best!

What’s a must in your bag?

Signature Stamp - Shannon