On Sunday morning, my older sister, Alexandra, arrived in Edinburgh!! Her job requires that she take off two consecutive weeks of work, so she scheduled her vacation time to coincide with my spring break. Hooray! We spent Sunday and Monday exploring Edinburgh before setting off to Prague on Tuesday.
Alexandra and I had a very full day on Sunday – according to my phone, we walked over 18 miles! She took the bus from the airport and I met her at the bus stop. The walk back to my flat is about 25 minutes, which worked out quite nicely because I got to show her a bit of the city. Once we dropped her bags off at my flat, we went to Edinburgh Bakehouse. My flatmate Rachel recommended it to me, and we were not disappointed! I got a “snowball” – a soft cake with raspberry jam in the center, covered in coconut flakes. Alexandra got two miniature pies – one apple strudel pie, one macaroni pie. 🙂 After that, we went to Filament Coffee, where Alexandra got a cappuccino to help fight the jet lag! We sat and talked for a while – it was so nice to be with her and share stories of our lives from the past few months. Since she works full-time and we usually have a 5 hour time difference to work around, I have not been able to talk to her much during my semester abroad! So, I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be together. Luckily, we have almost two whole weeks together. I truly am thankful for each moment with her so far, and for all of those to come!
Once we left the coffee shop, we began exploring the city. We went to Greyfriars Kirkyard, the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk (Church) – admittedly, it was actually my first time there. I told her the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the dog who guarded his masters’ grave for 14 years. We saw Bobby’s grave as well as the grave of his master, John Gray. We also found three graves which inspired characters in the Harry Potter series. While she was writing the books, J.K. Rowling strolled through Greyfriars Kirkyard and apparently found inspiration! The grave of Thomas Riddell was the inspiration for the character of Tom Riddle, William McGonagall for Minerva McGonagall, and Elizabeth Moodie for Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. Alexandra is a big fan of Harry Potter, so of course this was a must-do!
We walked the Royal Mile, stopping in a few Taste of Scotland of shops along the way, of course. Then we made our way to the Grassmarket, where we got lunch and ice cream. For lunch, we went to Graze – somewhere I have been wanting to go but had not gotten around to yet! It was delicious, and I will definitely be back. We both got salad boxes – they are a fixed price, and you can fill it with whatever you want from the salad bar until the box is full. It was such a great deal and SO yummy.
After lunch, we went to Mary’s Milk Bar (they recognize me there now. It’s fine) and got ice cream cones! I got fresh mint creme – one of the daily specials, and dark chocolate – a resident flavor, if you will. Alexandra got goat’s cheese & honey and hazelnut – both daily specials. At Mary’s, there are only three flavors offered every single day: milk, dark chocolate, and salted caramel. Everything else depends on what Mary decides to make and what is in season. She is so creative – I have seen everything from tea & lemon to violet to cinnamon & peanut to hot cross bun spice. There are always so many different flavors – at least ten each day. Can you tell how much I love Mary’s Milk Bar…?
We climbed Arthur’s Seat (my fifth time! it still hasn’t gotten old). Here is a photo of us together at the top:
And here is a dorky picture of me near the start of the climb:
After the climb, we went back to my flat to freshen up. Then, we went to dinner at The World’s End – my third time there! Of course, we got fish and chips, their specialty. After dinner, we met up with some of my friends from church 🙂 Since the normal student mass time is not offered during spring break, we went to another mass together at the local Jesuit center. Afterwards, we went to Teviot, the student row house, for drinks and conversation. I was so excited for Alexandra to meet some of my friends and to hang out with them one last time before heading off on my adventures in the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. We had a wonderful time all together, but Alexandra and I were exhausted from our long day (Alexandra was especially tired, having only slept a few hours on the plane!) so we had to leave after a bit 🙁
On Monday, we got lunch at The Elephant House, which is where J.K. Rowling started writing Harry Potter. I loved it there and definitely have to go back! I was (for the several-thousandth time in my life) inspired to read the Harry Potter books, especially after going into the bathroom where the walls are covered in fans’ notes about how the books have impacted their lives. Every year I vow to read the books, but the page counts are daunting and life just gets busy! One day.
After The Elephant House, we went to the National Museum of Scotland. We spent a little over an hour there. We walked through the exhibits and watched the Millennium Clock on the hour, which was so cool!
We walked around New Town for a bit and stopped in a few shops, a perfect rainy day activity. Finally, we went to dinner at Fiddler’s Arms, where Alexandra tried haggis for the first time 🙂 Monday was much less jam-packed than Sunday, in part because of the rainy weather, but also because we were tired and had to recuperate before our big trip! So, it really worked out quite nicely.
On Tuesday we were off to Prague! We had a connecting flight, and unfortunately, we ended up sitting on the first plane for over two hours before it finally took off. Because of this, we missed our second flight and ended up taking a much later one, so we arrived at our hostel around 10:00 instead of 6:00 as we had planned :/ After checking in, we walked around the city for a little bit and got excited for the exploring we would be doing on Wednesday! Prague is beautiful at night, and the view from the Charles Bridge is just breathtaking.
We tried to do as much as possible on Wednesday, as it was our only full day in Prague. First, we went to the Prague Castle. Our ticket allowed us entry to St. George’s Basilica, St. Vitus Cathedral, and Golden Lane. First, we went into St. George’s Basilica:
Then, we headed towards St. Vitus Cathedral, but came across an adorable market along the way! We bought a hot chocolate from the first stand we saw – it was not typical hot chocolate though. Imagine a melted chocolate bar. That gets you pretty close. It was so delicious. Honestly, I’ll be thinking about it for years to come…
Here’s a picture of the market:
Then we went to St. Vitus Cathedral!
Our ticket also included Old Royal Palace, but that did not open until the afternoon so we did not get the chance to go. However, we did stop in the castle gardens for a bit – they were beautiful!
After visiting the castle, Alexandra and I climbed the Old Town Hall tower for a magnificent panoramic view of the city.
Then, we met Alexandra’s college friend Rachel at the Astronomical Clock! Here is the clock:
Alexandra went to New Zealand with Rachel on a short-term study abroad trip and now Rachel is spending the semester in Prague. They also know each other from their sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, at the University of Maryland.
Rachel showed us around the town for a few hours until she had class. We started in Old Town Square, where we saw something so cool – I don’t know if there’s a name for this so I’ll just call him a bubble street artist.
We stopped in a few shops, went to the Jewish quarter, and (of course) got ice cream. But not just any ice cream… doughnut cone ice cream. With nutella and strawberries.
Then we went to the John Lennon wall, which is where we spent most of our time 😆 I have never seen anything like it, and Rachel said that the wall is vastly different each time she goes. I could spend hours there and still keep finding new things on the wall.
Rachel went to class while Alexandra and I got a late lunch, then went to a park with peacocks roaming around it! We walked around the town some more and went to a Salvador Dali exhibit in a museum. He is my favorite artist, so I was so excited about that!
Finally, we met back up with Rachel for a late dinner at a restaurant near her apartment serving typical Czech cuisine. They did not speak English, and it was not in the main touristy area of the city, so it really was an authentic experience! Luckily, Rachel (and Google) helped us figure out the menu. The food was delicious! After dinner, Alexandra and I got packed and ready to head out early for our train to Vienna, Austria. (Stay tuned for a blog post about Austria!!) I loved Prague and I am so glad I got to visit. I hope to go back one day! It was a great start to our trip (even with the flight fiasco).
As always, thanks for reading!