Packing for Riga!

I am heading off to Riga, Latvia with mum and sister.  I am very excited.  I’ve never been to Latvia before and I wouldn’t have picked Riga myself so might not have ever gone there if mum hadn’t picked it.  As of yet I’m not sure what we’re going to get up to, we’re only there for 4 days including travel days.  But the weather looks quite British.  The forecast is for about 13 degrees and cloudy.

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Clothes wise I’m taking 2 pairs of jeans (including the pair I’ll wear on the plane), 3 t-shirts, 2 long sleeve tops, 2 dresses, pajamas, and underwear.  We’re only taking hand luggage but it all fits in to my rucksack easily.  Actually, I have a nice amount of space to fit any purchases I make!

I’m also taking a couple of books, toiletries (in a clear plastic bag when packed), passport, euros, travel insurance, purse, keys.  I’ve got 2 film cameras (and I’ll take my digital camera and phone) and a couple of little notebooks.  The notebooks are because I’ve been quite into scrap booking my trips recently, I’m going to take them with me so I can roughly plan which pictures to use.

 

 

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The Food of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Day 1

Here we have the food of Edinburgh.  Bottom left is vegetarian haggis pie, there’s plenty of Japanese food; sushi, tempura, and gyoza. I had a veggie hotdog, a green tea latte, a giant garlic bread, and the absolutely essential Irn Bru.

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Edinburgh Alleyways

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Just a quickie with some snaps of the interesting names of some of the old alleyways in Edinburgh.  I rather like fleshmarket close…but it’s name that as there used to be an abattoir at the other end.  We ate at World’s End Pub, which, like World’s End Close, is situated at the old Edinburgh boundary.   Edinburgh was a walled city, and the gates were locked each night.  The ‘world’ was everything inside the walls, so they represented the end of the world.

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Edinburgh- The National Museum

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Whilst in Edinburgh we meet up with my sister and niece and needed a nice, family friendly activity  for us all to do.  It’s free, although the temporary exhibit had a charge.  Following the schedule of a two-year-old we had lunch at about 11:30am, then headed to the museum.  There’s an eclectic mix of things to look at.  We looked at the skeletons of extinct animals, we learnt about camouflage with an interactive fish game, and we explored robotics by programming a robot arm to spell out my niece’s name.

My niece enjoyed seeing the planes hanging from the ceiling, although asked where the stairs were so we could get on board.  We liked seeing the crazy shoes in the fashion exhibitions, and feeling the samples of the different fabrics that designers use.  It’s hard to go into more depth as we spent most of the time running after a toddler (running along the corridors is the best game ever obvs).

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Renowned brick artist Warren Elsmore (why did I not become a brick artist???) made this 3m long replica of the museum out of lego.  It’s pretty cool, and hard to photograph due to glare on the glass case.  But he’s recreated some of the key items on display, like a dinosaur and a whale jawbone.  There’s also a couple getting married, the groom is wearing a kilt!  And it’s generally very cute!  But I do love models of things.

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Edinburgh- David Bann Vegetarian Restaurant

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We went to a rather fancy vegetarian restaurant while in Edinburgh, David Bann.  It was a little pricier than we usually go for but not too much more if you restrain yourself.  The mains are about £12-14, starters £4-8, we didn’t manage to squeeze in a desert but they are about £6.  I went for the Beetroot, Bramley apple and Strathdon Blue cheese pudding, which was rather delicious.  Boyfriend chose Risotto of runner beans and roasted red pepper which he enjoyed but didn’t think it was as special as mine.  Anyway, I highly recommend.

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Edinburgh- Botanical Garden

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On our last day in Edinburgh we headed to the Botanical Garden, which turned out to be a pretty good day out.  The weather had improved greatly and it was quite lovely to walk through the flowers.  The gardens are free but the greenhouses cost about £6 each, which was a good deal.  I don’t think it would have been as interesting if we had missed the greenhouses though.  Around the gardens and in the greenhouses there were a variety of different ‘themes’ such as woodland, Chinese hillside, vegetable garden, and so on.  Collages

We stopped at one of the cafes and got a light lunch, which was pretty affordable but nothing to get excited about.  There was also a couple of small exhibitions in the visitors centre.  One thrilling one was on peat, and another was some kind of art exhibition.  Boyfriend was a bit disappointed I think that there wasn’t more info on stuff, he likes plaques and things. I just liked looking at the pretty flowers.

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Edinburgh- Arthur’s Seat

Some nature in the heart of Edinburgh; Arthur’s Seat.  It’s in Holyrood Park, near Holyrood Palace, which is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.  It’s an ancient volcano about 250m above sea level.  So, it’s not a long walk but it’s a big steep hill basically.  Although there were small children and mad ladies in flip flops heading up there, I was struggling slightly.  I am quite unfit these days though, and the torrential rain had finally stopped and the hot sun came out which didn’t actually help.

DesktopOn our first approach we had the choice of a long more gentle slope or the steep shorter one, we chose the horrid one to go up and the gentle one to come down on.  There were some lovely views over Edinburgh, and the sea as we went up.  And lots of tourists, as was the general theme of Edinburgh while we were there.  In fact, we could see Arthur’s Seat from pretty much everywhere whilst we walked around Edinburgh all week and there were always little figures visible on the top.

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Edinburgh- The Castle

Collages22I suppose a visit to Edinburgh would be incomplete without a visit to The Castle, unfortunately everyone else in Edinburgh thought that too!  It opens at 9:30am and we arrived at 9:40am and still had to queue for 25 minutes to get in.  And the seas of people just kept on growing as we walked around.   And the number of people made it hard to see things properly, but then it’s a bit rich of me to complain when I was one of those people!

Collages23edinburgh1It was also delightful rainy in that Scottish way when we were there, so that was nice! The other excellent addition that really enhanced our experience of the Castle was the ‘Esplanade’. This is a huge set of tacky, bright blue, plastic seats for military tattoos (not the inky ones, these are performances by military bands that you can pay up to £74 for).

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There weren’t as many indoor bits that were opened up as I was expecting, which was a shame given the rain and number of people. They do actually still have a military presence in the buildings so obviously you can’t just wander in to the barracks. But for £17 I wanted more from my visit. There was a guided tour you could take but we decided just to wander which was perhaps a mistake given how little info there was on everything.

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Packing for Edinburgh

Boyfriend has decreed that we are not allowed to take two foreign holidays in a year. We went to the USA in April (and I am going to Latvia with mum in October), so our summer jolly had to be in the UK.  London was on the cards for a while, but we decided to head away further north to Edinburgh.   Annoyingly, London is enjoying a heat wave and Edinburgh is not but the tickets are booked.  Also it means we can see my sister and niece who live in Glasgow.

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So, I headed out today and picked up a new rucksack (actually three!) to take with me.  I bought the Blacks City 30, which is a 30L rucksack designed for travel and commuting rather than hiking.  And it was in the sale.

You can see what I was able to fit into it, and now it’s pretty full:

  • underwear and socks
  • sleepwear
  • 5 x t-shirts
  • 1 x shorts
  • 1 x trousers
  • sunglasses
  • snacks
  • painkillers
  • itinerary
  • purse
  • 1 x skirt
  • 1 x dress
  • 1 x cardigan
  • raincoat
  • 2 x books
  • 1 x tote bag
  • toiletries
  • cameras
  • hairbrush
  • keys

And left out:

  • small day bag
  • travel outfit
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New York Vs Washington DC

I guess New York City is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the USA, apparently it gets 50 million visitors a year.   Washington DC was also full of visitors when I was there recently, but it seemed like most of those were domestic tourists and kids on school trips.  They are both incredible cities and worth a visit, but they had very different vibes. Manhattan is densely populated, and the constant bustle of people gives a sense of excitement but also a feeling that the city is moving around you.  There’s definitely a lot to see and do.   Washington Dc on the other hand is much more laid back affair.  The people here are an odd mixture of suit-wearing officials heading to work, and t-shirt wearing families heading to the museums.

Incredible Architecture

New York                                                                     Washington DC

Both cities have incredible architecture and buildings.  In Manhattan, the Empire State Building is a real landmark, but one you could easily walk past on ground level.  It’s only impressive from far away or high up.  A trip up to the top of the Rockerfeller Centre is a great way to see it.  In New York it’s all about height, One World Trade Centre is the tallest in New York mainly due to it’s spire.  It’s the main structure in the rebuilt World Trade Centre, it’s height of 1,776ft is a reference to the year that the US signed the Declaration of Independence.  In Washington DC, these are buildings of governance.  The Library of Congress was founded in 1800, and is the largest library in the world.  The library has three buildings, the oldest is the Thomas Jefferson building.  The main stairs have figures of little boys representing the different occupations like musician, astronomer, student etc.  The frescos on the ceiling and walls represented the arts and sciences.

The Suburbs

New York Washington DC

New York                                                                       Washington DC

Obviously, most people heading to New York visit Manhattan, for good reason.  But I was pleased that we could get out to Brooklyn and see something different.  There was greenery in Prospect Park, and sand and sea at Coney Island.  There’s space to breathe in Brooklyn when the city gets a little too much for you.  In Washington, we took a trip to Georgetown which is a nice, slightly gentrified, centre.  Both Brooklyn and Georgetown are pretty hipstery.

The Landscape

New York                                                                       Washington DC

In Manhattan, a lack of vertical space meant people very quickly started building upwards. Even the apartment blocks loom over you, and the city constantly impresses it’s grandeur and reputation on you.  There’s a real mixture of the old and new.  New skyscrapers are constantly being built and now there are many areas where the buildings all crowd each other.  In DC, the landscape is much more open.  Here the government buildings are the tourist attractions. Each one is still a working building but they seem to have to lot more breathing room so you really get a good look at each one.  Really shots of Washington make more sense in landscape rather than portrait.

Food

New York                                                                   Washington DC

Well these pictures are pretty similar!  These are both big cities, full of lots of different immigrant groups meaning lots of different foods. Obviously, if you wanted to just eat MacDonald’s you can, but we were looking for something a bit different.  I don’t eat meat so in Europe that can just straight away rule out entire restaurants.  In the US, veggie food was easy to come by, but it was still nice to visit places that specifically cater for us types.  New York has more deli places where they sell food by weight I would guess, and just has more of everything generally because it’s much more densely packed.

Street Art

New York                                                                  Washington DC

You could call this street are or just weird stuff you find on the street…New York definitely had more of that.  For no reason there were some dog photographers in the middle of Chelsea.  Of course they have the bull on Wall Street, and now the little girl opposite.  Around Times Square there are a bunch of odd colourful animal statues.  In Washington DC, there was one or two colourful additions but lacking some of the mad whimsy of their NYC cousins.

 

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