Travel

Scotland, England & Paris

In Short

This was our first trip as a couple alone in a foreign country.  We planned and were looking forward to this trip for a long time.  The trip did not disappoint.  We took a week and a half so we could have plenty of time in each location and enjoy the experience.  We went from Texas to Edinburgh, Scotland to Berwick-Upon Tweed, England, to London England, to Paris France and the finally back home to Texas.

Outbound Travel

Our nearest airport is DFW and American Airlines was our choice for air travel on this trip so we could collect some frequent flier miles and also because it was the fewest stops to our final destination for our first night of sleep in Berwick-Upon Tweed.

Berwick-Upon Tweed is on the north-eastern corner of England.  The closest airport to Berwick is in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The best choices for routing was with a layover in JFK airport to switch planes prior to making the leap across the ocean.

Not the 757, This is the 777 at DFW.

At the time of our travel American Airlines only flew trips from JFK to Edinburgh during the summer travel season so make sure to check the scheduling before making plans.  The current choice of hardware they fly on these shorter international routes, the 757, was not the best reviewed so we were a little nervous about comfort.  Checking on SeatGuru we were able to pick some seats that were more comfortable than the others.  We payed a little more for a seat with extra leg room, and also one that was only a couple of rows back from the entertainment screen which is only included in the single center aisle.  I think being prepared for the worst and being surprised helped survive the flight. Check out the surviving a long flight page to pick up some tips on still feeling like a human after being trapped for double-digit hours.  After we landed we went on to explore Edinburgh for the day.

Arriving in Edinburgh

The approach into Edinburgh was from the east over the North Sea.  The view was spectacular from the air so make sure that you are up and ready for landing so you can take in the views.  Customs & Immigration forms were passed out after our morning snack on the plane, so make sure to have a pen and information about your trip in your carry on to help speed things along.  You will need dates, address and phone numbers for where you will be staying during your visit to the United Kingdom.  There was not really any area to stop and easily fill out the forms before arriving at the passport control desk so make sure to come prepared.  For complete information on visa needs and current information check out the UK visa and Immigration Page.

Princess Street Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland

The airport in Edinburgh is relatively small when compared to larger international airports.  The first stop will be the passport control/customs desk.  It took us no longer than 15 minutes and they have the standard two-line system, one of EU/UK passports and one for all others.  Make sure to read the signs and get in the correct line to help keep things moving smoothly.  After clearing customs you take a quick walk down the hall to the baggage claim.  In the baggage claim area there is a bathroom that you should use.  After this point most bathrooms are pay for use or non-existent. There is also a fee free ATM to get any British Pounds you need to stock up on.  Check out our foreign currency page for information and tips on the most efficient way to handle transactions regarding foreign currency.

Once out of the airport we used the public transit to get to the main downtown area.  It is always interesting, and I think a very unique insight to the community to use the public transit.  The trams from the airport are very clean and we took the them to the St. Andrew Square Station which was very close to the bus station for storing our bags.  A bit nervous about our bags we took the suggestion of some others and used the bus station lockers as a place to keep our bags while we explored.  This was the best idea ever as the bag storage at the train station is astronomical.  The self-service machines at the bus station are run on coins, which there is a change machine by the bathrooms.  There are various sizes for your particular needs and you can buy as much time as needed.  The access to the bus station is super easy and a rather friendly place.

Exploring Edinburgh

Once out of the airport our first priority was to get to the Elephant Room.  My wife being a huge fan of all things Harry Potter the Elephant Room was on the bucket list.  We enjoyed a fantastic breakfast and coffee while decompressing a bit from the flight and trying to orient ourselves to the area.

Harry Potter and Great Breakfast

We opted to just travel on foot since we only had a few hours in Edinburgh.  We traveled to the nearby cemetery since we always enjoy seeing the very old cemeteries.  It is always interesting to see what the prior generations did to honor the dead.  From the cemetery we walked down the main street and explored the sights and sounds of Edinburgh.  Check our day in Edinburgh page for more information on our adventure and pictures.

Exhausted, we arrived to the train station early so we could get our bearings on where we needed to be to catch our train to Berwick.  The markings at the station are very easy to follow and they also have a pay toilet, and ticket counter should you have any questions.  Interestingly when we sat down I noticed another passenger reading a paper that the headline was “Trump Selected as Candidate.”  While this was no surprise to us just coming from the circus of American politics, it was a shocker when I realized we were along way from home and that was still the headline. Our train ride on Virgin East Coast Trains was very short, but enough time to enjoy a glass of wine while we were whisked to our next destination through the beautiful countryside.  Why we do not have such rail service in The United States astounds me.

Berwick-Upon-Tweed

Upon arrival in Berwick we were amazed at how beautiful the scenery was around us.  We were in Berwick for three nights and decided to stay in the Tweed View House.  Mainly because it was right next to the train station, but also because with our kind of last name how could you say no.  I will shower them with more compliments in our Berwick-Upon-Tweed page, but that was the absolute best experience choosing them as our bed and breakfast.

Looking up the street in Berwick

While in Berwick we explored the historical areas, went on a city walking tour, and explored the beautiful beaches right on the North Sea.  Please enjoy the pictures that I hope do justice to the beautiful countryside in Berwick-Upon-Tweed.  The food was great and it was our first experience into British Style Beer.  Which even though I am a huge fan of beer in the states, I was not a big fan of beer that was served out of their traditional pump-type taps.  Even not being a huge fan I kept trying different ones at different bars just to get the experience.

From Berwick we took the train over the Tweed river and on to London.  Again I am still astounded why we do not have high-speed rail in America. Check out our information on traveling by rail in the UK for tips if you are unfamiliar with traveling by train.

London

We arrived in London at Kings Cross Station.  The famous station of Harry Potter.  We found the touristy Harry Potter Shopping Cart into the wall scene as our first stop.

Welcome to London

The line went quickly and the folks working made it very fun for everyone.  We spent three nights in Tune Hotel near Paddington Station.  It was a great spot for getting around on the subway.   Tune is a discount hotel chain that typically charges extra for what you would normally expect, so book through a site like Hotels.com or Expedia to get deal where they package some of the amenities in your room rate.  It was a no-frills hotel, but it was great for the budget and we did not go to London to have a big fancy hotel room.

While in London we explored the many parks, had some great food, took in an impromptu show and also took a side trip to Bath, and Stonehenge.  Check out our London page for more details and photos.  London was a bit of shock coming from the peaceful English Countryside, but it was enjoyable and I am glad we made the stop.  I would definitely go back to explore more of the city.  Getting from London to Paris was simple with the utilization of the Eurostar.  Again, why we do not have such travel options in the United States absolutely shocks me.

Paris

Last night of a great trip

We arrived in Paris from the Eurostar and had a short walk to the subway station that we needed in order to get to our hotel.  We choose the 3 day unlimited for the inner zones of the subway system.  Since we only had a few days and there was so much to explore inside the inner zones we figured that would keep us busy.  Check out the Paris transportation website for more information.  We stayed in small hotel named Hotel Saint Roch, which I found using Hotels.com so that we could stay near subway stations and near the typical tourist sites.

While in Paris we utilized a Paris Museum Pass that really helped to bypass some long lines and save money on admission.  We had the benefit of having a friend in the country that was able to help us tour around and see some nightlife, and eating that the typical tourist may not get to see.  Read all about it on our Paris page.  At the end of our stay we were able to take the Paris rail to the airport with ease.  Make sure to check the schedules to get an express train that goes basically from the city center to the airport.

Overall we had a great trip and got to see some things we never have before.  If we had another go at this region of the world I think we would explore more north from Edinburgh to check out the Scottish country side.  The country side in Berwick-Upon-Tweed was the highlight of the trip.  Not to discount London and Paris, but they were about as expected and the country side was absolutely beautiful.

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