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My Adventure Across The Pond - England, Scotland, & Luxembourg


big ben in London, England


My good friend, Rach, is back to tell us all about her first ever adventure across the pond to England, Scotland, and Luxembourg!


Let her tell you all about it!


 

Recently I had the opportunity to take a trip to the United Kingdom where I visited England, Scotland, and had the opportunity to take a weekend trip to Luxembourg. This was my first time taking a transatlantic flight and I have some thoughts that are worth sharing. 


The Wednesday before March Break, on the evening of March 6th, I boarded my first-ever transatlantic flight going from Toronto to London for two weeks. I was extremely nervous about the nearly 7-hour flight time, as well as having to navigate my way around London to get to my accommodations, but I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself.


plane map

The flight left around 9:00 pm on the evening of March 6 and everything went smoothly getting there thank goodness.


The flight didn’t have any major delays, I wasn’t sat near any crying children, the in-flight meal was decent all things considered, and the airline didn’t lose any of my luggage.


I was feeling pretty decent once we had finally touched down, although a tad tired given that I can never seem to sleep on planes.


My anxiety and nerves had calmed down a lot once landing because, in my mind, the hardest part was almost over, now I just had to make it to the hotel I was staying at.



rach and her man

Before I continue my story I should probably give a disclaimer that the only reason I was in the UK was because of my boyfriend. He was sent there for 2 months for work and this was the only way I would be able to see him again before June.


Okay, now back to the main event!


When I finally got through security, I called my boyfriend so he could help direct me to the Tube platform that would take me into Central London. I had heard that the Tube would not only be my cheapest option, but also the fastest. After a long overnight flight, I wanted whatever would get me to bed the fastest.


Finding my way to the Tube was very straightforward, there are tons of signs directing you on how to get there, just make sure you pay attention to the announcements and get onto the right train. If you’re landing in terminal 2 like I did, and heading into Central London, you can do this by taking the Elizabeth line which runs frequently. 


It took about 30 minutes on the Tube before I got off at Liverpool Station and then walked about 15-20 minutes to the hotel. I dropped my stuff and allowed myself to take only a small nap since I didn’t want to let the jetlag hit me too hard. I had a lot of things planned for the next two weeks. My plan more or less worked, and I was adjusted within a day or two to the five-hour time difference. 

rach at the tower bridge

Since my boyfriend was there for work, he was in the office from 9:00 am until about 5:30 pm which meant I had a lot of time to myself during the week. I was okay with this honestly. Most of the things I wanted to see and do were very touristy things that he had already seen.


I did a tour of the Tower of London on my first full day there (Friday) and I think it was one of my favourite things that I did in London. I did pay for this tour, but it was well worth it, especially if you are interested in history like I am. England is full of history so this is the perfect place for a history lover to visit. 



I did many other typical tourist stops as well like visiting Buckingham Palace, seeing Big Ben, Hyde Park, the London Eye, etc. They were all lovely, but I think another thing that London does well is museums. I went to three museums when in London, but there are more that I could have gone to if I had more time.


british museum

The British Museum is free and worth the visit. It’s huge and full of interesting pieces from varying periods throughout history. However, if something a bit more modern is interesting to you, I recommend the Victoria and Albert Museum or the Tate Modern. 


luxembourg street

While I did spend most of my time in London, my boyfriend and I also took weekend trips when I was there. The first weekend I was there we went to Luxembourg.


We jumped on a quick 1-hour 15-minute flight and landed in the most quaint and charming country. I don’t think you need more than a weekend here, but it has a beautiful history and lush walking/hiking paths.


The second weekend we decided to go to Scotland, and I am not exaggerating when I say I could see myself living here. I loved Scotland. The scenery is beautiful, the people are friendly (in my experience), and the history of the city is mesmerizing.


I would take a tour of Edinburgh Castle if you go. Not only is it interesting to hear about the history, but the views of the city from the hill that the castle sits on are spectacular. Plus, if you like the Harry Potter books, you’ll be in awe of the city/country that J.K Rowling got her inspiration from. The cobblestone winding streets and gothic architecture make everything feel magical. I would go back in a heartbeat if someone asked. 



This trip gave me a newfound sense of courage and independence. Generally, before I went, I didn’t love strolling around the city on my own. It’s not that I couldn’t, it was more just that I never fully felt confident enough or safe enough in big crowded cities like Toronto, or sometimes even in Waterloo.


rach at edinbourgh castle

London is a big city, so part of me was concerned that I wouldn’t have the courage to go out and seize the opportunities that came with being solo in a new place. There was so much to see and do, and I was nervous I wouldn’t allow myself to fully experience all those things.


Luckily, as I became more familiar with the public transit systems and the city itself I found my groove and actually looked forward to being able to do whatever I liked during the day on my own. This trip changed my perspective of myself and I am glad I allowed myself to fully experience the city on this trip. 



I’ll leave you all with these final 7 pieces of wisdom:


  1. A neck pillow on a flight like this where they already offer you a pillow and blanket is kind of pointless and will just take up space. Believe me, you are going to want all the space possible on a nearly 7-hour flight when you have limited legroom to begin with.

  2. SNACKS. I think most people will find this one to be obvious, but I’m going to say it anyways. Bring a healthy amount of snacks with you from home in your personal item (don’t pay for them at the airport, it’ll cost you way more). Yes, they offer meals on board, but if you don’t like it or you end up getting the munchies, it’s always better to have it than to not. Plus, who knows, maybe where you’re going they don’t have the brand of chips, sweets, etc. that you like.

  3. I found it easiest just to tap using my wallet on my phone when using the Tube (subway). You can get an Oyster card for the Tube instead but I found it easier to just use my phone since I knew I would always have it on me anyway.

    1. On the topic of the Tube, I have two more brief comments to add. The first is that it is much easier than you may think but I recommend downloading the app from the app store anyways, just in case.

    2. Two, make sure that whatever card you tap when entering the Tube is the same one you tap when exiting to ensure that you are being charged the correct amount. 

  4. If someone asks you, “You okay?” when entering a shop, grabbing a coffee, or passing you on the street; they do not actually mean it and they do not actually care, they are simply acknowledging your existence. This is the British equivalent of the Canadian smile/head nod when you make eye contact with someone in public. 

  5. Do not stand on the left side of an escalator, they hate that and they will call you out on it. The left side is for the people who are walking up the escalator, and the right side is for those who plan on letting the escalator do all the work (me).

  6. Finally, Europe in general has a very workplace casual aesthetic I found. In other words, do not wear athleisure to walk around, you will stick out like a sore thumb. Opt for comfortable cotton pants or jeans, and classic tops that can be dressed up or down. 


Safe Travels! 


 

Thank you Rach for sharing that beautiful story of courage and exploration. You got to see more of the world, showed yourself how capable you truly are, and spent more time with the man you love!

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