This past May I had the chance to visit the United Kingdom for six days and somehow managed to talk my mom into coming along. We had two days to spend in Scotland and I wondered what the best way to see it would be. I knew we wouldn’t be driving while we were there. Searching TripAdvisor, I found the Heart of Scotland Tours company. While they offer a variety of tours (six, I believe) depending on your timeline.
I was mostly drawn in by their small tour concept. they have small groups of 16 people per tour. If I have to spend all day with a group of people then I would love the chance to get to know them. Out of the 16 people in my group 14 of us were from the United States with the last couple being from Thailand. Our group was great with a wide range of ages. Most individuals were in pairs but there were two individuals who were traveling by themselves.
Since our time in Scotland was limited we decided that we would spend one day doing the tour and the second day as a free day to wander Edinburgh. We went with Tour 1 – Loch Ness and the Highlands. The tour started bright and early at 8:00 am and ended around 8:00 pm. I was a long day but honestly, there is no way we would have been able to see all that we did if we hadn’t done the tour.
The tour bus you take (appropriately called, “The Wee Red Bus”) was awesome. With the large windows on either side, didn’t matter where you sat you still had a great view. The seats were comfortable with plenty of legroom. There was also small storage above the seats for small bags.
(above – Mom by the tour bus)
Our tour guide was Andy P., he was hilarious. he kept the group laughing the entire trip. He gave us lots of information along with some funny stories. There were also plenty of stops to take pictures, get food and use the bathrooms. All in all, it was a great trip for the day. Definitely worth the money (it cost us $152.57 USD for two of us). Andy P. was even kind enough to drop us off close to where we were all staying! 🙂
Places we saw:
- Loch Lomond
- Glen Coe
- Ben Nevis viewpoint
- Cruise on Lake Loch Ness (optional activity for an additional charge of 14 pounds per adult) *Yes, we did see Nessie…painted on the side of our boat 😉
- Cairngorms National Park
- **Secret spot**
For more information check out their website at https://www.heartofscotlandtours.co.uk/
Until next time,
As we wandered through Edinburgh. Our hotel was near Carlton Hill, great views!
When I went to Amsterdam last year it was my first time ever leaving my country. I still can’t believe that I went by myself! I was so terrified so I tried to look up as much information as possible beforehand. Still, there were some things that I was not prepared for, not that they were bad but just unexpected.
- I was told to be careful because Amsterdam is a dangerous place and there are a lot of pickpocketers. First I never had any issues during my trip. In all the places that I went too, I never felt unsafe. It was quite comfortable while I was traveling day or night. I think you just have to make smart choices and don’t do dumb things and you will be fine.
- Enjoy your time If you know Americans you will know that we are very rarely relaxing even while on vacation. It’s like we don’t understand the concept of enjoying the moment. For the first two days I was in Amsterdam I was constantly speeding through things like I didn’t have 4 more days to explore. When I ate I did it quickly and found myself waiting for a waiter to come around. I remember thinking what are they doing? Can’t they see I’m done? And then I looked around and realized that everyone was taking their time. They were enjoying their meals, their company, the day. I noticed people just sat on the banks of the river just being there. That they were relaxed and happy. For my remaining days, I had to really try to just slow down the pace of things, to take my time, live in the moment. I just enjoyed the calm that I had while I was in Amsterdam.
- Free refills anyone? We very spoiled in my country in that we have a lot of things that are normal for us but might not be the norm in other countries and I never knew until I went to Amsterdam. Like almost every restaurant or fast food, location gives free refills of your drinks. This was not the case in Amsterdam. It was so hot while I was there and I was always thirsty.
- Air conditioning I discovered that while in my country air conditioning exists almost everywhere I did not find a single place that had air conditioning. I went in July and it was extremely hot so it was something I noticed. The hostel I stayed at said there was air conditioning but it was not something you would notice. If you visit in summer drink plenty of water!
- I was told there I would have no access to wifi Lies! I never had an issue connecting to the wifi in any of the places I was. When I would stop at a place to eat the owners were very nice and always gave me the wifi password. When there was construction going on my google maps worked perfectly fine to show me alternate routes. I have TMobile just the regular plan, not the international plan.
- Regrets What do I regret?? Here it is, I regret not being able to try the coffee. I know I know, you’re in Amsterdam drink coffee everyone does, but I actually can’t drink caffeine. I was definitely bummed because every time I saw a cup it looked amazing!
This past year I spent Halloween in South Padre Island, Texas with my family. South Padre Island is known as a resort town just across the bridge from Brownsville, Texas.
If you have ever heard of South Padre Island then you know it’s a popular place for college kids to go during their spring break. So if you have ever wanted to go with your family then I advise you not to go during that time. During spring break rentals on the island can get quite pricey.
Instead, go during the off season like the winter months. Texas can get really hot during its summer season so if you go during the winter season the temperature is still really nice. We went in late October and the temperature ranged from 80 F to 90 F. I’m from the north and we wear shorts when it’s 60 F. So the weather was perfect.
We got to stay in an amazing rental house (really a mansion). It was big enough to house 18 people comfortably and it really was a stroke of luck that we were able to stay there. My sister and her husband arrived a day before everyone else and called the realtor to get the keys for the house we were supposed to stay in. Imagine their surprise when they found out the house they had already paid for had been lifted off its foundation and was under construction. They spent the day with the realtor going around the island looking at available houses. The last one they saw was the beauty you see in the pictures below. We were able to stay in this house for our family vacation for the original amount of money they had paid. It was fabulous!!!
But where do you eat? Everywhere of course! The island offers plenty of food options all over. However, there are no grocery stores on the island so plan ahead. The drive across the bridge to the island can take about 25 minutes depending on the traffic. Luckily the island has plenty of Stripes. Stripes is a convenience store chain and they have everything. My mother and I are early risers so we spent our mornings walking to the closest Stripes to get enough breakfast tacos for the house. By the time we would get back everyone would just be waking up. So it worked out perfectly.
South Padre Island offers plenty of things to do by yourself or with the family. Check out their website for more information at http://www.sopadre.com
The word cosplay is used to describe individuals who wear costumes and accessories to represent or imitate a character from an anime, comic or tv show. Individuals will usually cosplay their favorite characters.
Often times die-hard cosplayers will take time and can put some real money into their cosplays. Some cosplayers will build their outfits and accessories from scratch and other will hire someone to make their cosplay for them. Regardless of the type of convention one goes too there will usually be a mix of characters from animes, comics, and television.
Almost all conventions will have events geared towards cosplayers with many having a cosplay contest at some point over the weekend. During such contests cosplayers have the opportunity to showcase their cosplays by walking on a stage or performing a skit. Awards are given to individuals chosen by a panel of judges.
If you’ve never seen cosplayers than it might be overwhelming the first time you attend a convention but you can see some amazing cosplayers and then you can see some not so amazing ones. If you do see cosplayers feel free to ask to take their picture. They like that.
What is Anime Central?
For those of you who do not know what Anime Central is, it is an anime convention that is held in Rosemont, IL. It is currently the largest anime convention held in the Midwest. It typically gets over 30,000 attendees during a three-day period. It usually takes place in the month of May. For more information on Anime Central, check out their website at www.acen.org.
Join me in my next couple of blog posts for more information on Anime Central, Cosplay and participating in the Artist Alley.