Lovely Little York & Durham

Durham Views

First off, I would like to formally apologize for not having updated you all on exactly what’s going on with me and my travels. As many of you know, once you start to travel, the tiredness and the constantly moving gets to you; it’s hard to want to do much but sleep. However, I will try to give a summary of what’s happened since the last time I wrote.

York: Since we only were staying in York for one night, we knew we would not have much time to go out or to really have time to see many sites since we only had 1 evening and one night there. We first got to York around in the evening since we had been in Durham earlier that day after boarding our coach then stopping to explore Durham for a bit. Durham Castle is supposedly where some Harry Potter scenes were filmed, however, the castle was closed for a private function. However, I did manage to get a photo to give you a look which I will insert here.

Later that night after seeing Durham, we drove more on our coach till we got to our hotel in York. York is a really cute town with lots of little shops, restaurants, and even a little wall around part of the city. There was a completely gluten-free and vegan restaurant called El Piano that was marvelous. I got an entirely vegan burger with some vegan chocolate ice cream as well and took it back to eat in my room with my friends Nathan, Rachel, Jaylene, and Caitlynne. I took a lovely little walk complete with a beautiful bridge and a river full of lily pads and lovely yellow flowers. A phrase I have gotten used to saying since coming on this trip is, “Oh look, another church/castle.” They are everywhere and are all beautiful in their own way whether they be big or small.

When I was walking to get my burger and ice cream, I passed a church and what looked like a demonstration was going on with signs about feminism and equality. It turned out to be part of a demonstration by the local theatre about the suffragettes of York and their fight for the right to vote back in the day. I did not get to see this production due to our one day in York, but I’m sure if I had more than one day, I would have been there. Feminism is my stuff.

Going back to Durham for a second, I saw the most dogs I have seen on this trip so far there! I met and pet 7 dogs who were all beautiful and gracious puppers. Seriously, dogs are too majestic. What did we as humans do to deserve them? Their names were Barrett (Whippet), Allyah (Golden Retriever), Molly (White Westie), Charlie (Brown Westie), Bonnie (English Setter), Annie (Yellow Lab), and Connie (French Bulldog.) 14/10. Dogs are the best things ever. I want to pet all of them. If you couldn’t tell I love dogs by now, you may not know me very well.

London blog coming next and I shall try to upload all my photos of my travel, or the best ones, to Facebook as soon as I return home or anytime I can. Thank you all who keep up with me through here, it means a lot!

Till next time,

Lydia, The Dog Lover

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Edinburgh Days 1-3: Dogs & Other Happenings

Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog!

Recently, as you all know, I went to Australia and New Zealand with my family for 2 weeks to places like Gold Coast, Auckland, Wellington, and other travel destinations. We had a blast and I miss it already with its wonderful food, the lovable abundance of dogs to pet, and meraculous landscapes. However, I am now off on another adventure with EF College Break that takes college or just past college students from ages 18-28 on wonderful adventures overseas.

I started off my day leaving from Tri-Cities airport, flew to Atlanta, then had to run to my gate in Amsterdam due to a delay at Atlanta, finally arriving in Edinburgh, only with one problem… My suitcase wasn’t on the belt anywhere! Needless to say, I was worried. I asked the help desk to send my suitcase to our hostel and gave them my phone number in case they found it. I assumed that it just didn’t make it on my Amsterdam flight due to our quick turn around and my delay overall. I met up with the rest of my group in the hot outdoors, and headed to our hostel via bus. We arrived and had free time until our mixers and dinner that evening. Having worn the same makeup and clothes all day, I wasn’t excited about my suitcase being missing. However, I wasn’t the only one missing their belongings, so I felt slightly comforted. We walked around a Beer Festival with live music and plenty of dogs to pet. I met a wonderful little mop of a dog named Rosy, I forgot to ask the breed, I do apologize. I also do not have photos of these dogs as that would hold up the group as a whole. She was so soft, gave me a quick kiss as we left. We then went to our mixers where I had some delicious wine, along with a wonderful pizza (veggies no cheese) and proceeded to have some lemon sorbet as dessert.

Day 1 was a tiring success.

Day 2: We woke up early, had breakfast at 8, and headed off on a walking tour of the town while Tim, our lovely Scottish tour guide (complete with kilt), toured us around closes, told stories of the town, and told us some witty jokes.  Closes are the back alleys of Scotland where the worst slums weren’t equipped with the latest in hygiene, everything just running through the streets due to gravity and rain. He told us a story about Half-Hanged Maggie the fishwife who came back to life, a carpenter named Deacon Brodie who would copy the rich’s keys and steal from their homes, and also Buddy, the most loyal dog Scotland ever saw. There was a statue of him, and believe me, I definitely booped the snoot. We also went to see Edinburgh Castle and heard the Leonardo DiCaprio had visited in the last year and asked some wonderful questions. I also went on a Harry Potter tour complete with the Elephant House Cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the 2nd and 3rd Harry Potter books. We also visited Spoon, formerly called Nicolson’s Cafe, the inspiration for Lord Voldemort, Hogwarts, and its 4 houses. I got sorted into Slytherin and clarified that the Spoon, not the Elephant, was the “birthplace” of Harry Potter. After the Harry Potter tour, some of us took a long nap before going out for a quick drink with the group. We went to an Ozzie bar, an Irish bar, and our hostel bar.

Day 3: This morning I woke up at 4 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. As we headed down for breakfast, we realized how many people were in line. Only having a few minutes to eat, I packed an apple because snacks are always necessary on exploring trips. We headed up to see Stirling Castle, rode around the countryside, and took a small hike in the Highlands. There I met another dog named Holly who was a black lab that loved for me to throw her tennis ball far out into the water. We stopped at the Scottish Wool Center for some food, shopping, and to see the different kinds of sheep, We also watched Swift, the beautiful girl Border Collie, herd some ducks through different obstacles. Then we headed back on the bus, took a wee hike, chilled on the beach for a minute, and headed back to downtown busy Edinburgh. We are now relaxing and getting ready to leave early tomorrow morning for our 3 and 1/2 hour bus ride to York for one night, then 3 days in London. I am having so much fun, have made a lots of new friends, and have pet as many dogs as I can.

More updates coming soon! Please feel free to message me with any further questions about my trip. Cheers!

Day 3: Currumbin Wildlife and Hello Auckland!

Day 3 consisted of waking up early by 7:30 am, packing our luggage from our Air B&B in Gold Coast, and heading out to get some coffee before heading to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to see everything from koalas to kangaroos to wombats. If you know anyone who has told you anything about Australia, you may be used to hearing things like this rant that my favorite Youtuber Mini Ladd did a couple of years ago on a Twitter Q&A.

After getting some coffee and discussing plans for the rest of the day such as leaving Gold Coast to fly to Auckland later that afternoon, my sister Emma’s 23rd birthday the next day, and also sitting lazily by 2 adorable dogs and petting them while drinking my iced coffee.

After finishing up our coffee and late breakfast snacks, we drove our rented car to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and walked across the street to the entrance. Plus, with each ticket you bought to come in the sanctuary, your money was donated to the closest animal hospital. As soon as we entered the park, we immediately looked to our right to see the koalas sleeping in their trees and also to the kiosk where you could get your pictures taken with these furry gray teddy bears. We decided to get one family picture and I decided to get another picture with one individually just for me later. All the animals we saw had been rescued from the wild, taken in for medical problems, or other ailments. There were all kinds of animals such as emus, koalas, kangaroos, wombats, Tasmanian Devils, quokkas, lizards, poisonous toads, alligators, and much more. Although I must say that my top 3 animals I got to see where the koalas, the kangaroos, and the bilbies. After seeing all these animals, we went back so I could get a personalized photo with a koala and was told that the long line would only take 10 minutes max; we ended up waiting 40 minutes instead. All koalas have a very distinct smell, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but in my case, my koala smelled like fresh laundry right out of the dryer. I stroked its fur before letting it go to be photoed with the next person and headed to purchase souvenirs for my two friends, Kim and Maddie.

After a long day of looking at lovely animals, we had to head to the airport to leave for our Virgin Australia flight to Auckland, New Zealand. I must say, security in Australia is a lot more technologically advanced than the security in American airports and a lot faster. I know that to a lot of people being a vegan seems more like a burden than anything, but here in Australia, with a few exceptions, most places are very vegan-friendly.

After taking our flight from Gold Coast to Auckland, which was about 3 hours, we finally landed in Auckland, exhausted and ready to eat and go to sleep. We found a 24 hr grocery store right down the street from our Air B&B apartment and decided to pick up some breakfast food and also some snacks as well. Exhausted and full, we decided to head to bed and ready to wake up for a new day of adventure ahead.

Sincerely,

Lydia

(More updates to come!)

Day 2: Hiking in Gold Coast

Today we hiked at Springbrook National Park and decided to do the Twin Falls hike that was around 3 miles to the falls itself. We ended up hiking further into the rain forest due to the nice weather and the fact that the trail actually extended on past the falls anyways.

We first headed out towards the National Park which was about 20-35 minutes away but decided to stop nearby to pick up some early lunch to take with us on our hike as a sort of picnic. Pita Pit wasn’t open yet so we decided to get Subway instead. I saw beetroots on the menu but was disappointed to learn they actually didn’t have any beets to get. 😦

The difference from hiking in the rainforest of Australia versus say the forests of Bays Mountain were significantly different. First off, the canopy of trees in the rainforest made the temperatures much chillier and had less light hitting the bottom of the jungle floor. Secondly, the change in elevation and terrains including lots of switchbacks was a second striking difference. There were so many different types of flowers, trees, and wildlife in the jungle, but not much wildlife that we got to witness. We saw a sign indicating to not touch the leaves on the edge of the trail because some of them could sting you as a defense mechanism to protect the trees of the undergrowth. However, I, thankfully, did not get stung by any of these said “stinging leaves.” I tweeted during the course of eating my Subway lunch next to the two falls, “just eating lunch next to two waterfalls, no big deal.” Another cool feature of the falls was the fact that you could go behind them and take photos as well as a little wet if you got too close to the second tinier falls. I took tons of photos of the foliage around me and posted a few on my Instagram to show to the great beauty of the hike itself.

Finishing up the hike was a wonderful feeling and so was looking through all the gorgeous scenery photos we took along the hike itself. It was definitely more strenuous than Bays Mountain, but it wasn’t the hardest hike I have ever done in my life.

Sorry for the late upload! More to come!

Sincerely,

Lydia

Day 1: Byron Bay Lighthouse and Palm Valley Beach

Today was a wonderful first day in Gold Coast, Australia! I’m sure everyone must be asking if I am adjusted to the time difference as well as used to the jet lag. The truth is, I am. Besides waking up at 4 am with a pounding headache, going back to sleep was no problem.

We woke up this morning and headed out with our family to Byron Bay and also to see the Byron Bay Lighthouse. This lighthouse is the brightest in all Australia, and the LED bulb inside it cost at least $10,000 dollars. The light was originally made in France and shipped in 445 pieces to Australia. The lighthouse oil lamps used to have to be re-litevery hour and the crack would have to be wound in order for the light to turn. Up until 1989, the lighthouse was maintained by workers but then switched to be all computer run.

After taking the lighthouse tour with my sister, uncle, father, and cousin, we climbed down and started further down the cape to see better views and more of the coast. The cliffs were so steep and the water so blue! Around the lighthouse was particularly calm because no commercial fishing, jet skiing, or boats of any kind are used around the cape because there are no boat docks. Wind whipping through our hair, we continued down the cape and actually ventured off the path a little to get to climb on some rocks and to take more photos. We were constantly going from hot to cold with added wind. We were either taking our jackets off or putting them back on in the shade.

After we drove down from the Cape, we decided to stop and get some lunch in the village below and found a wonderful Mexican restaurant with the most amazing Mexican mandarin orange soda pop and stopped to get some vegan gelato. I got 2 scoops, one of lemon, and one of mango with passion fruit mixed in. Best vegan gelato I’ve ever tasted by far!

Finally, we then drove from Cape Byron to Palm Valley Beach for a little beach and sun despite it being about 65 degrees including the wind. We wanted to stay on the beach until the sunset to get a spectacular picture, but it was getting too cold and we were ready to head back to our Air B&B house anyways.

Day 1 of Gold Coast complete! Wonderful views, temperatures I love (60s-70s), wonderful vegan gelato, and Mexican burritos, what’s not to love about Australia? If I were ever to move somewhere else besides the United States, Australia, specifically Melbourne, would be my first pick. It is listed by The Independent as one of the Top 10 Cities for Vegan Travelers, and I will certainly have to visit there if I shall ever return to Australia.

Sincerely,

Lydia

Getting to Australia

We started Tuesday off by getting up early and making sure to have completely packed the night before. We woke up knowing we would have a 5 Step Journey ahead of us. The 5 Step Journey looks a little something like this:

5 Step Travel Plan

  1.  Drive to Atlanta
  2. Fly from Atlanta to LAX
  3. Fly from LAX to Sydney
  4. Fly from Sydney to Gold Coast
  5. Rent a car and drive to our Air B&B in Gold Coast

Driving to Atlanta was no big deal between coloring, sleeping, or listening to my new Stephen King ebook 11.22.63. I am used to driving from home back to MTSU and that isn’t even bad. So driving to Atlanta, while it was longer, was not bad at all.

Flying from Atlanta to LAX at 4 hours or so was also not bad. I decided to watch some movies as well as the updated X-Files episodes. I was more nervous about my flying from LAX to Sydney than anything else.

For anyone who doesn’t like being on a plane for long periods of time, I would not recommend flying from LAX to Sydney for you then. I have been on decently long flights, but I have never been on a flight that was 15 hours. Between falling asleep while trying to watch a movie, to intentionally falling asleep or taking a nap, our time left on the plane seemed to drag on. When I first boarded the plane, the First Class cabin had small compact beds to lay down in with a pull out screen in which to watch their programs. Needless to say, between trying not to let my legs cramp up or fall asleep to actually trying to sleep, I would definitely have loved a bed more than a slightly leaned back seat, but I managed.

After we landed in Syndey, we had a little bit of time to kill in the airport before our flight to Gold Coast that would be at 11:15 pm our time. One thing I am already loving about Australia is that it is SO vegan/vegetarian-friendly! Melbourne is actually in the Top 10 list of most vegan-friendly cities in the world! Taking Virgin Australia to Gold Coast was only an hour and a half and with a quick nap and a couple word searches, we had landed.

Finally, we napped for a couple of hours and got ourselves settled, we then decided to get dinner with our family out at a place called The Collective. Basically a common sitting area, but there are multiple menus so you can order from whichever restaurant you like, all in one location! They even had a two column menu for Vegans and Vegetarians that included salads, chips (fries, to us Americans), and vegan cheese pizza. That is one of the best vegan pizzas I have ever had! A waitress asked me how I liked the pizza and asked if I was a vegan too. I told her I was and had been since August and she recommended another wonderful place to eat not far from our house here in Gold Coast.

Overall, tired and exhausted, Australia has already amazed me with its eating choices, it’s driving on the right side of the car but the left side of the road, and also its stunning views out my airplane window. Cannot wait to have an amazing new day here tomorrow!

– Sincerely,

Lydia