City Spotlight: Edinburgh

City SpotlihtWe had the opportunity to live in Edinburgh, Scotland while my husband was interning with the Scottish Parliament! It was my first time in the UK and we absolutely loved Scotland – the country, castles, amazing landscapes, people and culture. We would move back in a heartbeat!

We arrived not having a place to live (!) but luckily we found the perfect flat just a few minutes walking from my husband’s internship. We found the flat through Gumtree, which is similar to Craigslist.

Edinburgh is an amazing blend of old, historical buildings and new and modern shops, restaurants and businesses. They have a pretty great public transportation system in the city, we got everywhere without a car.

See & Do

Edinburgh Castle – take a tour of the beautiful Edinburgh Castle, set atop a hill overlooking the city, it even includes a pet cemetary!

The Royal Mile – the main street that starts at the castle and ends at Holyrood Palace, lined with shops, restaurants, pubs, etc.

Holyrood Palace – The Royal Family residence when they are in Scotland. Tour info here.

Scottish Parliament – The building across from Holyrood has a very unique architecture (which you’ll learn the significance if you take a tour)! Tour info here

Princes Street/Old Town Edinburgh – centrally located shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, and gardens.

Climb the Scott Monument – named after Sir Walter Scott, one of the most admired men in Scotland.

Football – or soccer as we call it in the US 😉 There are two main clubs based in Edinburgh,  Hearts and Hibs (Hibernian)

National Museum – free admission

Elephant House – One of the tea and coffee shops where J.K. Rowling penned Harry Potter. They also serve pastries and have a great view of Edinburgh Castle!

Arthur’s Seat – an easy hike up the mountain, you will be rewarded with amazing views of the city!

Edinburgh is cold in the winter and usually gets a small amount of snow. The sun sets in the late afternoon. The summer days are long, similar to Alaska.

There are lots of other amazing things close by: 

Glasgow – the largest city in Scotland is a short train ride from Edinburgh’s Waverly Station

The Highlands and Islands – you would need a car to get there, but there are lots of tours that leave from Edinburgh, like Highland Exhibition Tours – be sure to check out Loch Ness!

St. Andrews – the “home of golf”, St. Andrews Cathedral, St. Andrews University

Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument – about an hour from Edinburgh, you can take a tour of the castle and also hike the monument.

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I may or may not have a price alert set to Edinburgh! Hoping we can make it back one day!

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City Spotlight: Washington, DC

Vantage Points

I had never been to the East Coast before we moved to DC and it’s one of my favorite cities. Its very beautiful, especially in the Spring (Cherry Blossom festival!) and the fall with towering trees and changing leaves. We left Utah in January to drive across the country to our apartment in NW DC and arrived shortly before Obama’s first inauguration which we were lucky enough to attend – an amazing experience which would need a whole separate post 🙂

See & Do

Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall: My favorites were the American History Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Natural History. Also located just off the mall is the Holocaust Museum (reserve tickets online beforehand). You could literally spend weeks at the museums and most of them are free.

Monuments: from the Washington Monument, Iwo Jima, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veteran Memorial, WW2, Lincoln Memorial you will be amazed by the history and reverence of these monuments. Tip: they are also cool to see at night- a lot cooler temperatures and less people! 

White House: tours need to arranged prior to visit

US Capitol, Library of Congress, National Archives – where you can see the Declaration of Independence and Constitution!

Arlington National Cemetery: Very accessible by Metro (the stop is literally across the street), make sure you watch the changing of the guard (The guard is changed every hour on the hour October 1 to March 31. From April 1 through September 30, there are more than double the opportunities to view the change because another change is added on the half hour and the cemetery closing time moves from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.)

Mt. Vernon: George Washington’s home on the Potomac River, tours are approximately $20 and is located 15 miles out of DC. Book tickets online for $17.

Georgetown: lots of great shopping, restaurants, movie theater. Metro accessible. Also original location of Georgetown Cupcakes, my favorite cupcake place!

Nationals Ballpark: catch a ballgame with one of MLBs most exciting teams, metro accessible. Food selections include Ben’s Chili Bowl and Shake Shack.

Eat: 

(all of these are on/near Capitol Hill except Ben’s Chili Bowl)

Ben’s Chili Bowl – a DC landmark known for their chili dogs, metro accessible.

Old Ebbitt Grill – historic bar and grill with traditional American cuisine.

Good Stuff Eatery – delicious burgers and shakes, located next door to We The Pizza

Georgetown Cupcake – second location in Bethesda, they have classic flavors and daily and seasonal flavors. The Vanilla Squared and Chocolate Ganache are two of my everyday favorites.

Getting Around:
DC has a great Metro system and most things you’ll want to see as a tourist will be metro accessible. Check out their website for travel info, stop locations and predicted travel times: http://wmata.com/ . A friendly tip for visitors: while on the escalator, stand on the right, walk on the left 🙂

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Portland: City Spotlight

Since one of my favorite things to do is travel, this series will spotlight cities I love and also destination cities – a brief summary of things to see, do and eat!

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I’d been fascinated with Portland for a while before we actually went last fall. My husband and I also love the TV series Portlandia 🙂

See and Do

We both loved Cannon Beach, where the famous Haystack Rock is found. We lucked out and were there during a low tide so we could see the tidepools and walk basically all the way out to the rock!

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Multnomah Falls is even more beautiful than the pictures! It’s a short drive from downtown Portland and is not a long hike. We only went up midway but it was a pretty easy, paved trail.

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Tillamook Cheese factory, about an hour west of downtown Portland, is great for adults and kids alike. They offer tours, delicious cheese samples and my favorite part, the ice cream!

Crater Lake – about 4 hours south of downtown, but worth the drive! We went in a non peak season and basically had the place to ourselves! There’s a short hike down to the lake and they have boat tours (we didn’t do one though). You can drive the loop around the lake with lots of viewpoints – it’s very beautiful if you have the time to drive out there!

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While this isn’t a full travelogue, I of course wanted to include a few of the amazing places we ate at because 1) I love food! and 2) a cool thing about visiting new cities is trying new restaurants!

Eat

Voodoo Donuts and Blue Star Donut – apple fritters are my favorite donuts and I was beyond excited to try these places! Voodoo had more novelty donuts and crazy flavors while blue star had more classic and gourmet flavors. I loved both places!

Salt & Straw – between here and the Tillamook ice cream, I feel like we ate best ice cream in the country! I tried the ‘Oregon Rocky Road’ and it was probably my favorite ice cream ever, no exaggeration!

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photo from Yelp

Piazza Italia – both the food and the decor were awesome!

Image-1Check out this amazing 10 day road trip from Kansas to Denver including the beautiful the Pacific Northwest! She included lots of good food places, which is something I always look for on trips 🙂