Zürich and Miss Saigon

I decided that I needed a calmer weekend after several weeks of back to back travel, so I went for a weekend at home. Well, mostly at home. Saturday was full of errands and the Basel Christmas market (tried the fondue in a baguette) and Sunday was a trip to Zürich.

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This wasn’t just any trip to Zürich, though. I was in town to watch Miss Saigon. It’s one of my favorite musicals. I was almost crushed to know that I was missing the show’s stop through San Francisco, but then I found out that it was going to be in Zürich. In case you care at all, I just re-did my top 10 list for musicals and I’m watching number one on my list.

In any case, I left a little early to explore Zürich, which I realize I have not actually spent any time in since getting here (airport trips don’t count). I had no plan in mind, really, and had just enough time to explore the city a little and maybe grab a quick lunch somewhere. There were small Christmas stalls everywhere (as one days), so I ended up getting hot mead right outside of the Münster and hanging out there for a little while.

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I walked along the street until I hit the one of the bigger markets in front of the opera house. This one was very food-centric and there were a lot of international food stands. I even saw a ramen stand that I would have considered eating at had I not seen the most beautiful two street tacos I’ve seen in a while.

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I didn’t actually have much time left before I had to head to the theater, so I walked along Lake Zürich for a little before jumping on the trams to the theater.

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I made it to the theater with some time to spare, which gave me enough time to find the merch table and my seat (which was pretty good, I must say). The show was fantastic. Horribly sad and emotionally draining, but fantastic. The sets were incredible (the helicopter flew!!!). One minor downside was that the people sitting next time me who were talking, giggling and checking Instagram during one of the most powerful scenes of the musical. For those of you who haven’t seen this musical or listened to the cast recording hundreds of times like I have, the first act closes with the main character singing to her young son about how she’d give her life if that meant that her son could have the life that she wants for him to the backdrop of refugees boarding a boat to escape the country. Milennials, amirite? Otherwise, the show was perfect, but I was missing my theater-going crew from back home.

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By the time I was out of the musical, it had started raining, which killed my plan of walking around the city a little before leaving. The show kind of exhausts you anyway, so I decided to just walk around the big Christmas market at the train station for a little bit. Between the intense crowds and the killer headache I developed right before the show started, I very quickly decided it was better to get onto an earlier train and make soup for dinner instead.

So, that was my day in Zürich. I’ll be back there, though. At the very least, Chris and I need to make it to the FIFA museum. Which, by the way, is my other announcement. Now that they’ve announced the group stage dates, Chris and I got tickets to see the USWNT in the World Cup in Paris next year. I’m super stoked about it. Talk about bucket list.

Anyway, that’s it for my short post.

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Weekend in Vienna

Vienna was one of the stops on the Alea’s 2018 Christmas Market Tour. The Christmas markets, which I will speak of in greater detail in a separate post, are pretty big in Vienna and I’ve been meaning to see the city for a while, so it worked out well. Vienna is a city that I could have easily spent more time in, despite my very full itinerary in the city. I ended up missing a handful of things that I wanted to do (including the big Nachtsmarkt).

I started with a walking tour of Vienna. We spent most of the time in the old town and learned a lot of the history of the city. It was a nice tour, but it was also ridiculously cold. It didn’t help at all that I apparently did not pack socks on this trip (-10 points from Ravenclaw).

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The tour ended around St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which is also conveniently near an H&M, where I was able to get myself socks. Having resolved the big sock issue, I made a failed attempt at going up the spire in the cathedral. There was actually a long line coming out of the cathedral, so I dropped it all together in favor for food.

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Now, this is where my plans went awry a little. I was going to grab something on the go to maximize sightseeing, but it was so cold that my Kfood spidey senses brought me to a Korean restaurant. Soup would have been perfect, but dolsot bibimbap also hit the spot.

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One of the things that I learned during the walking tour was that they do daily tours of the opera house. I didn’t expect to be able to get to the opera that night and theater tours make me incredibly happy, so I figured I’d try even though I had a reservation for the guided tour of the Spanish Riding School at 3. When I got to the opera house, I quickly found out that the line to get tickets was significantly longer than I expected and the tour was too late for me to try to do both.

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So, I did what anyone else should do when they have time to kill in the Christmas season, I had some mulled wine and waited for my tour to start.

The Spanish Riding School tour was pretty fun. I had looked into tickets to go to one of the shows, but it was either showed out or not available the date didn’t work out. I did the tour instead. The best part was obviously the horses, but we weren’t able to take photos for safety reasons. I did learn that one of the horses in the horse hall of fame was named Alea. …Okay, maybe not something to brag about, but yay horses!

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The National Library of Austria was right around the corner from the Spanish Riding School and that was quite an experience. The library is beautiful. Sure, I read the exhibits that were up in celebration of the library’s 650th birthday, but I could have just sat in there pretending I was living the best parts of Beauty and the Beast. Look, the love story and message about beauty being on the inside is great and all, but the library the Beast gives her is the true life goal of the movie.

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Next on the tour of Vienna was the Viennese coffee shop experience at Cafe Hawelka. The cafe was on the list of historical cafes recommended by the tour guide earlier in the day. Stepping into the cafe was like taking a step in the past. The cafe was significantly more crowded than I expected, but I somehow managed to get a table. I got some coffee, tried a sachertorte (delicious) and mapped out my plan for my evening Christmas market hopping. I probably could have stayed longer. Given the crowds, I didn’t want to take up space for too long and headed out for an evening of market-hopping (which we’ll discuss in a separate post).

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I spent a lot of my next day doing some museum-hopping. A few weeks before the trip, I read an article about the opening of an exhibit at the Kunsthistorisches Museum that was curated by Wes Anderson and his partner Juman Malouf. This appealed to the faux-pretentious Wes Anderson fan in me and I had to go. I heard on our tour the day before that the museum gets crowded, so I tried to go as close to the museum’s 10 am opening as possible. When I bought my tickets, the person at the ticket booth wanted to make sure I was okay with the fact that the big Bruegel exhibit was sold out. Little did he know that I was at the museum because I have watched Rushmore more times than any person probably ever should.

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The exhibit was pretty delightful, too. It was so Wes Anderson. The exhibit is centered around a coffin of a spitzmaus mummy (hence the name, Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures). It was practically empty when I got there, which was nice because I took my time in the exhibit. The audio guide with commentary from Wes Anderson, Juman Malouf and a very goofy Jason Schwartzman (!!!!) was worth the five Euros. I’ll make fun of myself for the fact that I love his movies, but the exhibit was worth it.

I actually really enjoyed the rest of the museum as well and spent most of the morning there. There were even mummies, which actually make me more uncomfortable than anything else, but were pretty cool. At some point, the museum did start to get very crowded. I felt like that was a good time for me to leave.

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I left the museum right around lunch time, so I went to the 7 Star Brewery nearby to finally try wienerschnitzel and the unique beers they have at the brewery. I went with the hemp beer (kind of hoppy without the aftertaste) and the chilli beer (super intense at first, but not too bad).

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From there, I went to the Theater Museum, which I felt was the best replacement that I could get for not being able to do the opera tour Saturday or Sunday. Surprisingly, they had a whole exhibit on the Bosch painting and art inspired by it. I used to be fascinated by the painting, but it kind of reminded me of the Good Place when I saw it this time. I’m a sophisticated person, I know. There were a number of things to see there a little more theater-related. I enjoyed going through the exhibits, but many of them were in German. Also, there was also a dog marionette.

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So that was Vienna. I fit a lot of stuff in a relatively short span of time and had a lot of fun doing so. With a little more time, I probably would have done another cafe on Sunday and I wish I had time to get to the opera in some capacity, but I think it was a pretty full trip already.

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The Swiss Life: Five Months and Thanksgiving Abroad

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Hello, my friends. It is Monday and time for my monthly check in. I have returned from a weekend in Vienna where I went face-to-face with my first real experience with snow since getting here (not counting Klein Matterhorn because it’s always there). If it taught me anything, it’s that my boots are not well-equipped for walking around in the snow. At least I didn’t fall, right?

So, I’ve apparently been here for five months, which is somewhat mindblowing, and I have to admit that Basel has kind of started to feel like home. The food stalls and rides from the Herbstmesse have quickly (and I mean, quickly) been replaced with Christmas decorations and markets. The weather has gotten significantly colder (although, it’s been oddly warm today).

Thanksgiving has come and gone and there was a lot to be thankful for this year. A lot. This includes the assortment of things that were sent or brought to me, in part thanks to my previous post whining about various things I wanted. I have never before been so happy to see Tapatio and the Takis are, somewhat embarrassingly, almost all gone. Now I just need to go to Target and impulse buy graphic t-shirts when I’m back in the States next month…

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This isn’t the first time I spent Thanksgiving in another country. Hell, it’s only been two years since Chris and I had our Thanksgiving dinner in Phuket. This, however, was different. Thanksgiving was really just like any other day. It was a little strange to spend the day without any stuffing, pie or turkey, but it also wasn’t that bad. It helped to have everyone around, even if it was a very chaotic week in this very full house. And because this year has just been so different, Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t really the traditional sit down and stuff your face day. Instead, we went to the opening of the Basel Christmas Market. Well, Chris and I ate at the market. Everyone else had kimchi jjigae before we left and were, therefore, too full to eat at the market. Pretty typical, I’d say.

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So, that’s that. We’re barely into December and it’s turned into a little winter wonderland everywhere I’ve been. Christmas in Europe is certainly something else and I’m about half way through Alea’s 2018 Christmas Market Tour. You’d think I’d be done with warm alcoholic drinks after this weekend in Vienna, but I have several more stops to go. Also, can one really ever tire of mulled wine? Probably yes, but it’s not happening any time soon.

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Amsterdam Revisited

I am writing to you from my hotel room in Vienna. I am up earlier than expected because I had one of those classic travel moments where you wake up in a hotel room and don’t remember where you are (#relatable). It’s also snowing outside so I may have once again not packed appropriately for the weather. Anyway, while this could have typically been a good excuse for an early start, I’m not inclined to go out in the snow quite yet.

But, we’re back to Amsterdam. It was a quick weekend trip planned because the troop was leaving from Amsterdam that Sunday.

In typical Garbagnati fashion, our day in Amsterdam involved a pretty decent amount of eating and some level of retracing steps from Chris and my trip there the month before.

We stayed at an airport hotel because of their early morning Sunday departure, which meant that getting to town took a while.

We learned that a replica IAMSTERDAM sign exists at the Schipol Airport and decided that we’d rather just go to the practically empty one than fight people to take photos at the one in the city. Okay, so that was some laziness involved too. James also took this as a good opportunity to get a waffle.

Chris didn’t eat until late morning, though, which meant that we had to contend with my hangry husband as we wound the canals of Amsterdam.

Our first actual stop was back to the frites stand we went to last time. With a larger group, we were able to sample more of their sauce options but the classic may have still been my favorite. The bar across the street lets people eat the frites inside if you buy a drink, something we took advantage of given how cold it was in Amsterdam.

We backtracked a little after that to go through the university to get Mia to a yarn shop on some boutiquey street. Can’t remember the name, but I lasted a full three minutes in the shop before going to a nearby print shop.

It was a lot of walking after that as we made our way through more canals towards the Albert Cuyp Market. Along the way, we had a failed stop at a bar for bathrooms, a stop to sample (and buy) some Dutch cheeses, and a short stop by Rembrandt Square so Mia could continue her dog tour of Europe.

We finally made it to the market, which Umma immediately dubbed Dutch Namdaemun and we made our way in. Now, this market was a very controlled experience when it was just Chris and me. With the five of us and everyone’s shiny things complex, the trip was absolute chaos and we spent a lot of time in the markets (no complaints here). Chris and James immediately left in search of a restroom and we somehow lost Mia.

My shiny things moment where I lost everyone came in the form of kibbelings. This could come from years of episodes of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern’s various shows or my idol worship of Rick Steves, but if I see locals lined up for street food, I’m very often inclined to join. This hasn’t failed yet, even that time I forced everyone to line up at a small stand for small cups of alcohol in Lisbon several years back (we ended up trying ginjinha, which is amazing). Anyway, this time I saw people lined up for an assortment of fried fish. Since I knew I wasn’t going to get anyone to do the herring with me, I went for fried fish. It was delicious. Had a bit of a different flavor than the many fish and chips we had in Edinburgh. I would highly recommend it.

There was a lot more shopping in the market. James decided to buy the bulkiest Christmas sweater he could find because everyone was already stressed about space in their bags. I’m surprised they were able to pack it, honestly. Umma found jewelry and Mia and I found the largest stroopwaffel.

We were cold and exhausted by the time we made it to the other side of the market. Chris also promised Umma some famous hot dog restaurant, but we somehow ended up at a Wok to Wok to get out of the cold and sit down for a while. Also, noodles.

Chris wasn’t feeling well at that point, so we decided we should probably start making our way back to the hotel. This, of course, meant we wouldn’t make it back to the train station for a couple of hours because there was more shopping to be had. This included the flower market because Chris wanted to make some purchases there he didn’t make the previous trip and Uniqlo.

We eventually made it to the train station and thought we barely made the train that would take us back to the airport. Unfortunately, we ended up with a ten or twenty minute delay, which then led us to also miss the hotel shuttle for the hour.

With an hour to spare, we found a cafe to sit at and order drinks. We also took the opportunity to try bitterballs, something that made us almost miss the shuttle again.

We made it back to the hotel and watched them somehow manage to pack all of the day’s aquisitions, including James’s stupid sweater. After all of that, we were still somehow hungry. There was an event space next door to our hotel. There was a churrascaria restaurant that we were not hungry enough for and an Italian restaurant we looked too grungy for. This left us with an American themed bowling alley or McDonalds. So, my last dinner with the family and before they went back to the US was at a bowling alley.

Everyone left early the next morning (😢). I initially thought my flight on Sunday was much later and had a whole day trip to the Hague planned before finding out I also left relatively early. It worked out perfectly, though, because I found out on Thursday that one of my mentors, former colleague and dear friend Alison was in Amsterdam and I got to spend my Sunday morning in an international A-Team reunion. We caught up as much as we could over breakfast and a cab ride to the airport. It was a very pleasant addition to the trip and what I thought was going to be an otherwise sad Sunday.

The trip to Amsterdam flew by and was once again full of food. Despite the fact that everyone abandoned me, it was a fun trip.

Edinburgh, Pt. 2

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We had to switch hotels on our third day in Edinburgh, so while we were able to sleep in more than we had the day of our Loch Ness trip, we didn’t really get to sleep in that much. We threw all of our stuff together from one place and stored our stuff with the next place. Surprisingly, the whole process was mostly painless.

I had set us up on a walking tour in the afternoon, so we had the rest of the morning to kill from there. We hopped around between potential brunch spots before we ended up near the university and at this diner-style restaurant near the university called Mums. The food was good, but the most important part was the quality time I got to spend with my family.

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Between the hunt for a restaurant and the food itself, we didn’t actually have much time before our tour started, so we went to the meeting place and started the tour. On the tour, we walked around the old town and learned more about the city. One important thing we learned was that we were quite literally down the street from the Edinburgh Castle, which we had not yet visited at that time. Surprisingly, there was not too much overlap between the tours even if we did learn the origin of the term “shit-faced” for the third time in just over twenty-four hours. The tour was good, but had we done it again, probably would have had us do the castle for the first part of the day. We didn’t actually have time to go into the castle and probably should have. Oh well.

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The tour ended right around the time when we could check into hotel number two, so we spent quite some time doing that before somehow managing to drag everyone back out. Umma and Mia went to do some shopping, so Chris and I ran into St. Giles Cathedral, which we had learned earlier in the day is not actually a cathedral despite the name. The church was pretty, especially the Thistle Chapel where you can see an angel playing a bagpipe. For future reference, you have to get a permit to take photos inside the cathedral. I didn’t know that, but we didn’t get in trouble because the place was about to close. I ended up donating some money because I felt guilty, though.

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We met up with everyone back outside and finally made our way up to Edinburgh Castle. Almost. We found out along the way that the Scotch Whiskey Experience was still open depsite the fact that we had been told earlier in the day that it closed at 2 pm. We ran inside to see if we could get tickets and then with the twenty minute wait finally made it up to Edinburgh Castle. It was dark and we just bought tickets for a whiskey experience, so clearly had no expectation that it was open and we’d be able to get inside, but it’s still a pretty epic castle.

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(By the way, those last two photos were taken within like ten minutes of each other.)

We then lined up for the Scotch Whisky Experience. Now, I’m not sure what we expected from this experience. We knew some level of whisky tasting would be involved and this was certainly something on my Edinburgh bucket list, but weren’t really sure what the rest of the “experience” would be. It was actually quite fun. You start off in a ride of all things, where a ghost walks you through the process of making whisky (a spirit teaching you about spirits, get it?). It was cute, but our tour guide earlier in the day hyped many more puns than we got. Either that or the puns were way above our head.

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After the ride, they bring you to a video where they walk you through the different scotch regions of Scotland. They use a scratch and sniff card to walk you guide you through the flavor profiles that you can expect from each of those regions. From there, you get a history of blended malts before you get to choose the whisky you want to taste.

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With five of us, you would have thought that we would have each gotten a different one, our group doubled up on Speyside and no one tried the Lowland or blend. I got Campbeltown, but Mia’s Highland was the best of the bunch, IMO. You get to try your whisky in a room with an enormous whisky collection (I think the biggest scotch whisky collection or something?). It was a bit much, but also pretty and kind of awesome. The tour ends after that point. You can buy more whisky and obviously end in a gift shop. The bonus is you get to keep the cup.

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After that, we ran around looking for a place to eat before ending up at a pub. I got some fish and chips and pretended that I tried to use my newly minted scotch whisky knowledge to order some whisky. On the upside, I was able to order the drink that time around. On our first night, I was almost not served alcohol because I could not find ID to prove my age (#humblebrag?). Chris also tried to help an Italian couple order their food. We still aren’t sure if he actually succeeded. After dinner, we called it a night because we had an early wake up call for flights home the next morning.

Other things I missed about our trip to Edinburgh:

  • We did see the Elephant House (which is famously the cafe that JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter). We actually almost ate dinner there one night, but the menu didn’t look that exciting.
  • If it wasn’t forty pounds, I absolutely would have bought one of the many Harris Tweed dog coats that we saw at the stores around town. Also, they had dog kilts, which killed me.
  • The embarrassing Lost fan in me kept calling the philosopher Desmond and not David Hume.
  • We had a relatively short layover in London Heathrow on the way back to Basel. Despite the fact that we did not have much time there, we somehow managed to fit in lunch at Wagamama because James is strangely obsessed with that place.

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So, I’ve said this a million times, but I really liked Edinburgh. The town was beautiful, full of some great stories, and just all around fun.

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Edinburgh, Pt. 1

It’s been a while, but it’s been a busy week. Things were chaotic while everyone was in Basel which was followed up with a weekend trip to Amsterdam (plus a surprise A Team reunion). Now everyone is on their way home and I am hanging out waiting for my gate to be called for my trip back home to Basel.

But, let’s get back to Edinburgh. Did I mention that I loved Edinburgh? We really didn’t venture too far from the Royal Mile, but the city was absolutely lovely. We’re going to do a two-parter again. I think I could have done everything in one post if I wanted to, but I’m posting from my phone and I don’t trust myself to not mess something up if I do it all in one post.

I met everyone in Edinburgh after a very early morning series of flights. I didn’t get to Edinburgh until late morning and ended up getting off the tram several stops early due the fact that I didn’t listen to Chris’s very clear instructions. It was fine, though, just meant that I got to walk and take in some of Edinburgh. I met with Chris and Mia on the street, who then got us back to the apartment we were staying at. After all was said and done, we didn’t leave the apartment again until 1, which meant that we had a short day in terms of daylight.

Our first stop was (obviously) lunch. We were going to find a place to sit down and eat but then my hipster Spidey senses went off and we saw a line of people going out the door for a restaurant. We did the one thing we had to do and stood in line for some pulled pork. The restaurant, Oink, is pretty straightforward. They do pulled pork sandwiches that you can get in different sizes. You can get a topping and a sauce and the crunchy skin parts. I thought the food was good, but this also led to what ended up being a trip-long debate on the appropriate meat-bread ratio of a sandwich. Chris and I are on team more meat, which is why we enjoyed our sandwich. Apparently there are others who are not on that team and those people are wrong.

From there, we walked down Victoria Street to the Grassmarket area, where we found an open air market. There was some shopping and more food (although we didn’t eat the macarons we got until later).

We then went to the nearby Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. We did walk around the graveyard a little, but we went to see Greyfriar’s Bobby because that was the one thing I absolutely had to see while I was there.

Bobby was a small dog who was adopted by one of the night guards of the kirkyard (John Gray). He and Bobby were inseparable for two years until Gray’s death. Bobby continued to go to the kirkyard to stick by Gray’s grave and to do the night rounds every day. At first, they kept kicking him out, but he eventually became a regular fixture and stayed there until his death 14 years later. The story tugs at every dog lovers heart and it doesn’t help that he looked like Bruce. We somehow ended up at Bobby’s statue almost every day of our trip and left him sticks at his grave on our last visit there.

There are more interesting things to see at the kirkyard, though. For Harry Potter fans, you can see a number of names you can recognize from the books, including Thomas Riddle, a Moody and a McGonagal. We spent about a minute trying to find those graves, but ended up walking around.

Speaking of Harry Potter, though, we followed up Greyfriar’s Kirkyard with a trip to one of the many geek culture stores in town. We didn’t spent too much time in it because it was essentially ThinkGeek the store, but I definitely came close to buying an ugly Christmas sweater.

We shifted to the Royal Mile and made our way down High Street to Holyrood Palace, stopping along the way at various touristy shops in search of “SFC plaid.” We also got some incredible fudge.

At Holyrood Palace, we debated whether we had enough time to do Arthur’s Seat. The hike up didn’t look bad until we saw how small the people at the top were. There wasn’t much light left in the day, so we decided to save it for another time and ultimately didn’t do it at all due to time and not having the right shoes for that sort of a walk. Next time.

We walked back to up Royal Mile with the intention of making it all the way up to Edinburgh Castle. We didn’t make it to the castle. Instead, we stopped along some small exhibit and then decided to take a break at the apartment for a while. In retrospect, we probably would have gone up to the castle if we knew how close the apartment was. Oh well.

After a short break, we made our way to the Ediburgh Christmas Market to officially kick off the Christmas market tour of Europe. We got our hot toddies and mulled wine and walked around the market a while. We even split a sausage and some garlic mushrooms for a Garbagnati signature pre-dinner snack. I opted out of the mushrooms and almost got us raclette, before deciding the line was too long for something I could get back in Basel. Also, we were just about to eat dinner.

We then had dinner at the Greyfriar’s Bobby pub (told you we saw a lot of Bobby), where we tried haggis (actually pretty good) and ate meat pies.

On our second night, Chris, Mia, and I did an Edinburgh ghost tour after our Highlands tour (and after almost eating at a Frankenstein themed pub because we could). Edinburgh seemed like a good city for ghost stories and we felt like we’d be able to find a good ghost/creepy history tour (rather than a ghost hunting tour, which are almost always awful).

We went with the City Explorers tour, which was fun. I liked our guide Kenny. He also put Chris’s acting chops to the test when he needed someone to help demonstrate what the public forms of punishment looked like. I could have done with less late night time in a graveyard but that’s just me.

Fortunately, the tour didn’t end too far from where we were staying so we grabbed a famous deep fried Mars bar (meh), walked up a surprisingly empty Victoria Street (inspiration for Diagon Alley) and called it a night.

This is a good stopping point and my flight is almost boarding, so we will pick up later with the rest of our stay.

Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands

I met up with family in Edinburgh and we are now back in Basel. I adored Edinburgh. It is such a beautiful city full of great history. We’ll get back to Edinburgh later, though, because we are going to start with our day trip through the Scottish Highlands to Loch Ness.

Now, if you know anything about the geography of Scotland, you would know that a day trip to Loch Ness from Ediburgh is quite literally a day trip. Our tour left at 8 am and didn’t get back until after 8. It was a long day.

We left early morning on Sunday morning to meet with our tour group, Rabbies, and load up into our bus.

We were quite proud of the fact that we were out on time and made it to the meeting place before 8. It didn’t mean that we weren’t the last people on the bus, but we did make it on time. From there, we left Edinburgh and took off on our very long day trip.

Now, there were two things that made the trip pleasant. The first was that we had many stops and breaks along the way. Many were just pit stops or photo ops, but we had at least one longer stop for food. More importantly, our tour guide, James, was very entertaining. Our drive was sprinkled with a lot of history and culture about Scotland and the Highlands. Among other things, I learned that there was a lot more historical accuracy to the show Reign than I expected (although absolutely zero is a low bar). Also, we learned that most of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed at Castle Doune (as well as Outlander and the unaired pilot of Game of Thrones).

We didn’t stop at the castle, though. Maybe another time. We did stop in this small town, Callandar, where we stopped to some delicious meat pies.

We crossed over to the Highlands almost immediately after leaving the town and stopped shortly after at Loch Lubnaig, our first loch of the day.

We made a few more stops on our way through the Highlands to take in the scenery. It was beautiful, as was the lighting throughout the day.

The best photo spots, however, were our stops through Glencoe. Glencoe was very cold and windy, but absolutely beautiful.

From Glencoe, it was another hour and a half of driving before we got to Fort Augustus near Loch Ness. The drive was long, but filled with interesting stories and snippets of Scottish music, so it wasn’t too bad. We did eventually make it to Fort Augustus and had about an hour to spend there. We opted against the Loch Ness boat tour (no Nessie hunting) and instead spend almost all of the time we spent shopping at a small gift shop (in fairness, they had an exhibit about the canal) and eating. It wasn’t until about ten to 3 (our meeting time) that we thought that maybe it would be good to take pictures of Loch Ness. On the upside, we weren’t the last group back to the bus.

Also, when walking to Loch Ness, Mia slipped and almost fell into the canal. She didn’t, so we not only were unable to see Nessie, but we missed a very prime opportunity for a Kelpie spotting.

In any case, Fort Augustus was a cute town. We had fun exploring (and eating) during our short stay.

We made a few stops on the way back. The best was to watch the sunset by a WWI memorial.

There were a few more stops along the way, including a pit stop and an extended coffee break at a very cute down about an hour outside of Edinburgh. A lot of the ride was in the dark, which made for a good nap.

We made it back to Edinburgh around 8. It was a long day, made even longer by the fact that we followed it up with dinner and a ghost tour. It was a fun day though and I’m glad we had a chance to do a very short tour of the Highlands.