Around the World with…Laura!

world lauraHi I’m Laura and I blog over at a girl & her home, where I share my travel adventures, food posts and most importantly recipes inspired by my travels! I was so excited when Amy started hosting this series as it’s been great seeing bloggers all over the world share their adventures. I’m glad I can be a part of it and wanted to share some photos of my home country – Scotland.

Now there’s a joke in Scotland that we get four seasons in a day. I say it’s a joke but it’s quite often true; we can experience rain, snow, wind and sun all within the same day, sometimes the same hour! However when the seasons are right, Scotland is an incredible place year round and I have included my top picks for each season.

Spring
Generally the most calm season here, spring time is when we often get the nicest weather and the days are starting to get longer. It can however still be quite cold and of course rainy and it has been known to snow as far south as Edinburgh in April before.

Gardens

Spring is the perfect time to visit the beautiful gardens on offer throughout the country. Three of my favourites are in Edinburgh. Dr Neil’s Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens and Lauriston Gardens.


Dr Neil’s garden is a beautiful garden, known in Edinburgh (only by the few that know it) as the secret garden. Situated on Duddingston loch (a Scottish lake), this garden is beautiful in the spring as the flowers come to full bloom. You’ll often be lucky enough to have this garden to yourself so take a picnic and enjoy gazing out to the loch on one of the many benched.

Royal Highland Show



June is a huge month for foodie festivals in Scotland. My favourite of these is the Royal Highland Show which takes place every year just outside Edinburgh. It’s more of a farming festival so it has a truly Scottish feel with animals to look at as well as delicious food stalls.

West Highland Way

The West Highland Way is a famous walk starting in Milngavie just north of Glasgow, and finishing 100 miles later in Fort William. Walking through beautiful scenery it is the best way to experience Scotland and this has been on my list ever since I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Late spring is the best time to do this walk as you will hopefully get dry weather (although do see my note above, it has been known to snow in April) but before the midges (tiny biting inspects) start in the summer. If you don’t fancy the whole 100 miles, you can stop and start from the various locations.

Summer
Definitely the busiest time to visit Scotland and probably the most expensive. However the days are long, with the sun rising about 4am and setting about 10pm on the longest day of the year. Prepare to carry an umbrella for those summer showers, are you seeing the pattern here yet?

Edinburgh Fringe festival

The Edinburgh Fringe festival is a huge comedy and arts festival. Taking over Edinburgh in the month of August you can catch some street performers, a comedy show or sample food from the stalls set up in the city. While it’s the most expensive time to visit Edinburgh it’s definitely worth it for the buzz in the city. Every day finishes with the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a show of military bands and performers which finishes with a fantastic firework display (my favourite part).

Bute


All up the west coast of Scotland the islands have the most glorious beaches. For a trip close to the mainland try Bute, an island about an hour and a half away from the city centre of Glasgow. Get the ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay and drive to the west side of the island for lots of amazing beaches such as Scalpsie Bay – even I have a hard time believing that is in Scotland.


Bring a picnic and enjoy the (hopefully) nice weather.

Villages of Scotland


Summer is by far my favourite time to visit some of the pretty villages and seaside ports in the Scottish lowlands. My top picks are Pitlochry, Anstruther (be sure to get a portion of fish and chips from the famous cafe) and Crinnan with its beautiful canal.



If you do stop in Pitlochry, make sure you visit Edradour, the country’s smallest whisky distillery for a tour and whisky tasting!

Autumn
I would struggle to choose a favourite season between spring and autumn. While the spring flowers are beautiful the gorgeous autumnal colours of woodlands are hard to beat! Although the weather is often miserable! Forget the umbrella, it’s too windy! But catch it on a clear, brisk day and it’s beautiful.

Benmore botanic gardens


These gardens, run by the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, are beautiful all year round but especially stunning in the autumn when the trees turn beautiful shades of red, amber and yellow.


Drive up Loch Eck and the argyle forest to experience the beauty of Scotland in the autumn.
Note: the gardens are closed November – February but you can still enter free of charge, there just isn’t as much to see.

Enchanted forest and Loch Faskally
Every October, the forests in Pitlochry transform into an enchanted show of lights and sounds. Tickets go on sale in June and fill up quickly, with multiple shows throughout October you should easily be able to grab tickets. I have to admit I’ve still never been myself but I have heard great things from those that have made it along. Before heading to the show, check out Loch Faskally in Pitlochry for some more stunning autumnal scenes.

Falls of Shin
Over the months of April to September it is Scottish salmon season. Towards the end of the season, the salmon swim up river to reach the top to breed. Head to the waterfall at the Falls of Shin and you may be lucky enough to see salmon leaping up. It becomes a bit exciting as you start to cheer them on. Note: the visitor centre has closed due to a fire but the waterfalls are still accessible.

Winter
As expected weather conditions in winter go down a little, snow isn’t guaranteed, especially in the southern areas but often that means damp and wet winters instead of pretty snowy scenes with blue skies. The days are remarkably shorter with the sun rising at 9am and setting about 4pm. The low sun does make for beautiful photographs however with the so-called golden hour turning into the golden day.

Skiing in the Cairngorms


A huge national park in the north of Scotland, the Cairngorms is a fantastic place to head to for some skiing. It does get very busy so make sure you book a ticket up the slopes. If you are not a fan of skiing, head to Aviemore and visit the Rothiemurchus estate. There’s plenty to do from seeing reindeer, to sledging and just enjoying a coffee in a cosy little cafe.


I love loch Morlich, which if the weather is cold enough is often frozen over and looks simply beautiful.

Edinburgh Christmas market



If you are in Edinburgh over Christmas, the Christmas markets are definitely worth a visit. Sample lots of delicious treats such as mulled wine, haggis rolls and mini pancakes covered in chocolate sauce. There is also an outdoor ice skating rink set up every year. You can also pick up lots of Christmas gifts for friends. Stay and see in the new year at the famous Hogmanay (Scottish for last day of the year) celebrations. Whether you want to join in the famous street party or watch the fireworks from one of the many view points (check out Calton Hill or Blackford Hill), the city has a real buzz at this time of the year.

Glencoe

The Glencoe valley is a must for any time of the year but it looks especially beautiful in the winter with the snow-capped peaks.



Drive down to the King’s Hotel or down Glen Etive and you may be lucky to spot some majestic stags by the side of the road as they come down from the snow-covered mountains to find food.
Note: if you are fortunate enough to see some deer please remember these are wild animals, please also take great care driving in the dark. Glencoe is famous for walking but during the harsh conditions in winter it is only recommended for experienced walkers.

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See the rest of the Around the World series, from Panama to Egypt to Ecuador to California, here

Hello from Croatia!

Hello from Croatia!

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We arrived in Croatia last night after a long, stressful day that included saying farewell to our flat in Prague and getting delayed AND re-routed on our plane here. Of course, we immediately got lost upon arrival and ended up hiking up a steep, gravelly road that involved one frightening incident where my backpack (that probably weighs more than me) almost won the gravity game.

It only took a few minutes for me to be smitten with Croatia once we dropped our packs off, though.

IMG_2430Can you blame me?

I admit that this blog has been lower on my priority list the past few months. The schedule of my life has certainly been off the charts–in between finishing school, juggling three sets of visitors, all within a few days of each other (or even overlapping, in the case of my cousin and my parents), saying goodbye to my private clients, moving out of our flat, and planning a wedding that is less than three months away (!!). Primarily, though, I have wanted to live in the moment, and soak up the time showing our family and friends around my beloved Prague and the surrounding area.

Now E and I are on the road, on the way to making our nomadic lifestyle dreams come true. We’ll be going back to Prague after a few weeks in the Balkans (thankfully, I haven’t had to say farewell to Prague just yet!) then doing one last summer camp in the Czech mountains. Before flying home to finish preparing for our wedding, we’ll have a few days in the UK.

I was devastated to move out of our flat in Prague. I remember feeling so triumphant when we found the lovely, airy, bright flat on its perfect little park, right near the river and a tram stop. One with a bathtub and a balcony, no less! It was hard to let go of that part of my identity–the “I’m living in Europe part” that I’ve treasured so much this year. Now, I kind of live…nowhere. Or everywhere? (I like everywhere better).

Luckily, Croatia is truly incredible, so it’s not such a hard pill to swallow at the moment.

I’m looking forward to having more free time to devote to this blog–I have so many travels yet to share with you! From Paris to Ireland to Budapest to Germany! Not to mention, I have so many comments yet to respond to…working on it…

But for now, I’ll leave you with a few shots of the little seaside village we’re staying in for the next few days: Cavtat, Croatia.

(And make sure to follow along on Instagram for more updates!)

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Linking up with Travel Tuesday

Around the World with…Nathalie!

around nathalieHi everyone!

My name is Nathalie and I blog over at Snowflakes in California about my life in the US. It’s been almost two years since I moved from Belgium to San Diego and since Amy was kind enough to let me take over her blog for today I thought I’d show you a (tiny) bit of my adopted city. Ready?

1.SanDiegoSkyline

To be honest, I had never heard of this city before I met my husband who grew up here. Everyone around the world knows Los Angeles, but San Diego seems a bit underrated next to its big sister. And for no good reason, because it has the same mild climate, (even better) beaches & waves, some of the best craft beer in the United States (although I’m not particularly fond of it) and LESS traffic. Very important.

THE CITY CENTER

2.GaslampQuarterSD 3.DowntownOldtownSanDiegoDowntown vs. Old Town

So let me start with the beginning: San Diego is the first place on the West Coast where the Spanish built a settlement many centuries ago and is therefore sometimes referred to as the ‘birth place of California’. Since then it has become the second largest city in the state and the eighth largest (!!) in the country – according to dear Wiki. And even though it all started in the historic center appropriately called Old Town, you’ll find the pretty skyline Downtown.

4.ConventionCenterSDThe Convention Center

If you are short on time and want to get a first feel of the city, Downtown is definitely the place to start. The Gaslamp Quarter provides the perfect surroundings for happy hour drinks or a night out. There’s the convention center to admire – world-famous for hosting Comic-Con – and Petco Park right around the corner if you want to catch a baseball game. And don’t forget the harbor, where you’ll find the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, now a museum.   

BALBOA PARK

5.BalboaPark 6.SpanishVillageSD

The next stop for every tourist has to be Balboa Park. With 1,200 acres it is the largest urban cultural park in the US and home to 15 major museums. There’s a replica of The Old Globe for anyone who’s into theater and can’t make it to London, you can spend a day at the famous San Diego zoo or you can just wander around and enjoy the scenery and beautiful architecture. Also, as you can see from these pictures it can be pretty cloudy in San Diego. So don’t let anyone fool you, it might never rain in Southern California but that doesn’t mean it’s always sunny!

ACROSS THE BAY

7.CoronadoBridgeThe Coronado Bridge

9.CoronadoHotel Del 

One of my favourite things to do when I find myself Downtown is cross the Coronado Bridge and drive into the city of Coronado. Coronado beach was ranked the number 1 beach in the country only a couple of years ago (according to this list) and you can’t miss the incredible Hotel Del Coronado while you’re there. It’s the second largest wooden structure in the country and a National Historic Landmark. Like any old building in the US – this one opened in 1888 – it’s supposedly haunted, but I wouldn’t know since it’s a bit out of my price range. Nevertheless, I love the architecture and the lobby will simply take your breath away. It always makes me feel as if I stepped onto the Titanic…

THE WAVES 

10.MissionBeachSanDiegoMission Beach

11.SanDiegoBeachesLa Jolla Shores, Children’s Pool with seals, Torrey Pines State Beach

There is so much to say about San Diego and so little time, but one thing is for sure: there’s plenty of coastline to explore. Whether it’s a good surf spot you’re looking for or you just want to soak up some sun, don’t leave without sticking your toes in the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. From Torrey Pines or Del Mar in the North of San Diego to the more touristic destinations of La Jolla Shores or Mission beach, there’s something for everyone. Even though I did not grow up near the beach, I don’t think I would want to miss it anymore.

12.LaJollaShoresPierLa Jolla Shores/ The Pier

13.RainbowinLaJollaAnd if you’re lucky you get to see some rain!

San Diego is a fun and laid back city where you can pretty much wear whatever you want wherever you want. I’ve had some of the best food in my life here and my favourite is still the obligatory California breakfast burrito or the fish tacos. You pick. Beer enthusiasts can tour the many breweries and wine lovers definitely have to take a trip to Temecula. Bored of the beach? Then there are plenty of beautiful hikes to do. My only advice would be to remember it cools off quickly at night and it can be pretty cloudy near the coast – especially at this time of year – so don’t be me and bring some extra sweaters on that first visit!

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Have you ever been to San Diego? 

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