When you live in America, you become accustomed to the standardized allotment of vacation days throughout the school year–a three day weekend in the fall, two weeks vacation between semesters, and a weeks spring break in March. But then you take a girl out of Florida, only to inform her that in France, vacations are necessary and quite frequent. The result: a two week “winter break” vacation in February. Point France.
So here I sit, back in my cozy house catching up on emails and posting photos from part 1 of February break: Operation London and Scotland. What’s nice about studying abroad spring semester is that the first half of your time abroad it’s still winter, which means its off-season (tourism wise) in a lot of places. Thus lines and crowds are nowhere in site, and a lot of tickets for planes and trains are cheaper. The minor flaw to this: *weather may prohibit you from doing some of the typical photo-ops. And it might also make you wind up back in your hostel for some early nights. Neither of which is bad, you just have to understand that your photos of Big Ben might be sub-par to what you see on google images. Then again, I’m pretty sure any of the photos I take will be sub-par to google images, so I’m okay with that. The point is, when you travel abroad, you are going to experience both pros and cons in any country you visit, during any season of the year, and it all depends on your attitude and gumption as to whether you will let minor setbacks stop you from envisioning the city as you saw it on google.
As for me, I knew walking into both places the weather was not going to be the same as it was for my friends heading to Portugal. But I’ve always pictured Scotland as a green, foggy country so the season wasn’t going to stop me. Et Voila! It was. And I loved it. It was cold, but oh so cozy when we stopped in any pub, hostel, or cashmere store. And the nature was beautiful–we went hiking in Edinburgh up on Arthur’s Seat twice–only to find the best views of the city and mountains surrounding it. When it rained we laughed, and when we got really cold, we went to the hostel and watched Harry Potter. It was perfect really.
Then there was London. Again, a little different from my google images. But just as amazing. It was quite a lot larger than I anticipated, which made it hard to check off every “site-seeing” must. But I’m not a conventional traveler, nor one for the perfect tourist photo-op, so instead I walked through the streets of the financial district, along the river, and through a multitude of side-streets. Sometimes I think the most charm a city can give lies in the streets right next to those that thousands walk because they’re told that it’s simply the best place in London. But if you ask any of the locals in cities you roam, of course there are must-see locations, but that’s not the daily life and daily walk of the inhabitants. And that’s what I search for. Alas, I can definitely say I saw parts of London that won’t be cited in any travel guide anytime soon, but I feel I got a local perspective of the town. Point Elle.
This all being said, I now sit on the brink of part 2. For the next few days, my program will be doing some activities here in Lyon, but in the weekend that lies ahead I know I’ll be planning some spontaneous travel. Again, if your anything like me, I promise spontaneous travel is a good thing–so far I’ve seen some of my favorite places this way. Keep that in mind when you plan to come rendez-vous with me in France. Until then, Cheers!