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Rounding out my two-month adventure was a weekend with dear friends in the marvelously medieval Edinburgh, capital of Scotland.

I opted for an East Coast Rail train from London. It should have been a pleasant, four-and-a-half-hour journey northward along the eastern coast. Unfortunately, in classically British fashion, the train broke down moments after leaving Kings Cross. (Had I not had the pleasure of efficient, fully-functioning trains in Spain, France, Ireland and, to a certain extent, even Morocco, I might have been more forgiving of this mechanical malfunction!) An hour and a new train later, however, I (and a car full of screaming children) were on our way out of London.

Thankfully, my time in Edinburgh was otherwise worry-free and altogether delightful.

Aside from the usual things one does with old friends (wine, dine, reconnect, reminisce), we took in the curious Jupiter Artland on the outskirts of town. A sizeable outdoor sculpture garden, it afforded us the opportunity for some air and culture at the same time. (Always a great combination.) While it obviously fell short of the splendours on offer at the Gardens of Versailles, it was a lovely little place all the same.

Also, worth noting: Edinburgh Castle. I’d had the opportunity to visit this spectacular site when I last visited the city in 2004. Unsurprisingly, little had changed; it was still the same, imposing grey fortress overlooking the city that it was six years ago.

The return train journey to London was, to be fair, much more pleasant than the journey up. Even if the train had malfunctioned, however, I suspect my recollection of the trip would have still been quite positive: I was travelling with two very good friends, both of whom had joined me in Edinburgh that weekend.

During our trip, we reflected on the weekend that had just been and concluded it was splendid. We’d spent it together at the home of our dear friend and, despite the rain and altogether dreary weather, were thrilled to have had the chance to make the trip.

For me, of course, the weekend in Edinburgh proved bittersweet: it was, after all, the final leg of a summer adventure that had begun in Barcelona nearly two months prior, taken me southward along the Spanish coast, across Morocco, to Paris, then London, westward across Ireland, back to London, before finally arriving in Edinburgh.

All in all, it was a remarkable ride; one I’m so very thankful to have taken. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the summer!

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After almost a week in the Emerald Isle, I returned to London, my friends’ lovely flat, and a readily-accessible laundry machine.

Like before, tourism wasn’t at the top of my agenda. No, again, I spent my time relaxing, recharging and reading. However, I did manage to squeeze in a few museums — and why not, since London has so many.

Top of my list: Sir John Soane’s Museum. What a gem! If you ever find yourself in London, I highly recommend this eclectic little number. You won’t be disappointed.

Also on tap: Tate Britain. (I figured, since I’d been to Tate Modern during my last stint in London, I ought to round out my tour of Tate with the one that started it all.)

Other than that, as before, I did precious little and was happy for it. Even better: by week’s end, I was ready for the final leg of my two-month adventure: Edinburgh.

So much Guinness! So many cows!

The Emerald Isle—aptly named—is lovely, especially once you make it to the Atlantic coast and can truly appreciate the end-of-the-world-iness of the place.

Following a brief stint in London, I flew to Dublin to meet up with a cousin and her friend who had planned a little Irish getaway. Together, in just over a week, our travels, which began in the Irish capital, took us westward, first to Galway then to Doolin.

Dublin

Nice town; a Lilliputian London, really.

Looking back, I’d say, in the three days we were there, we managed to hit all the highlights (and some lowlights, too!) Of note were the Guinness Storehouse, honouring the man who started it all and celebrating his most glorious brew. We also visited the infamous Kilmainham Gaol, which was at once haunting and fascinating, and Trinity College, Dublin, wherein we glimpsed the Book of Kells, which was, if I’m being honest, an expensive disappointment.

(It’s not that I don’t mind forking over cash to visit such places—I happily handed over oodles of Euros whilst in Paris for the pleasure—but I do think the cost should in some way reflect the… scope of the place.)

Anyway, after three days, and more pints of Guinness than I care to recount, we boarded a train for Galway, on the western coast of the island.

Galway

Unbeknownst to us, our visit to Galway coincided with the city’s eponymous races. Thankfully, we still managed to find ourselves a room in a quaint little place just steps from the town’s main square. Reminiscent of Fawlty Towers (sans Manuel, sadly), our hotel served as a perfect jumping off point from which to explore the city’s lovely, pedestrianized shopping district.

Of course, as we did in Dublin, we also took great delight in imbibing on the country’s most precious resource!

Doolin

What an adorable place!

Picturesque little Doolin, nestled on the coast, south of Galway in County Clare, became our home-away-from-home for the duration of our time in the country. And we couldn’t have asked for a nicer, cosier place to hang our hats than Lane Lodge.

For three days, we ate, drank, hiked, and boated… to the southernmost of the Aran Islands, Inisheer.

Without question, however, the most extraordinary part of our time in Doolin was spent admiring the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher—from both the sea and the land. Incredible.

Sadly, as with all things, my time in Ireland had to come to an end. London was calling, again; Edinburgh, too.

And so, I bid farewell to my cousin and her friend and, pack on back, made my way to Shannon International for a return flight to London.

After five glorious days in Paris, I bid adieu to the city and headed westward across the English Channel towards London (by way of the Channel Tunnel!).

Truth be told, I was saddened to be leaving Paris. I’d loved the city so much, and felt I’d only just begun to discover the place. Still, other destinations were calling and I had to press on.

Once arriving at the beautifully restored and renovated St. Pancras International, I made my way to friends’ house in Westminster, which is where I resided for about a week. Doing so allowed me to catch my breath, rest up and do some much needed laundry before the next leg of my adventure: Ireland.

Whilst in London, I did very little in the way of classically touristy things since I’d been to the city so many times before. I did, however, pay a visit to the Tate Modern, which is always a treat; I also discovered the National Portrait Gallery, which I absolutely loved.

Otherwise, it was a quiet week in London, which, when one is trying to navigate the crowds on the hot, sweaty, cramped Tube, seems like a near impossibility. I managed… thanks to the extraordinary generosity of friends.

What took me so long? I’ve been to so many places in my life, but always managed to avoid Paris. Idiot!

Rarely have I felt so foolish as I do now: this city is without equal and I’m madly in love with it.

Following almost three weeks traipsing across Spain and Morocco, and after bidding farewell to my dear friend and trusty travel companion in Casablanca, I headed north to spend five days in Paris.

I don’t usually arrive at a place with a checklist of things to see and do, but I made an exception in this case.

The list, while trite, definitely helped me maximize my time in and around the city. To wit:

I’m proud to say I hit them all. And at no point was I disappointed. On the contrary, each site was more spectacular than I even imagined it would be.

The Palace and Park of Versailles—specifically the expansive and ornate gardens, as well as the more organic ones found around Marie Antoinette’s adjoining estate—were a particular favourite of mine.

Of course, Paris is about more than its museums, gardens and galleries. There are the gorgeous, tree-lined avenues; the people-watching from sidewalk cafés; the food. And so, I strolled, I watched and I ate. Oh, did I eat! And I dare say, nothing was more delicious than the escargots swimming in herbed butter at the lovely bistro pictured below.

I can’t say for certain when I’ll be back in Paris, but I do know this: back I will be. Absolument!

WTF?!

Evidently, there’s something worse than a ferry trip across the Strait of Gibraltar and a ten-hour train journey from Fes to Marrakech: a three-hour bus ride from Marrakech to the coastal town of Essaouira on an un-air-conditioned coach bus, overloaded, old and having a cabin temperature of close to +40C.

I wish I were friggin’ kidding. Hell sounds like a paradise after a trip on that God-forsaken deathtrap-on-wheels.

That said, once we arrived in Essaouira, noted for its famous visitors of yore (Hendrix and the Beatles to name but a few), we were greeted by the refreshing winds off the Atlantic, which, we agreed made our harrowing and altogether horrible journey to the town worth it. Almost.

In fairness, our guest house was positively charming, as were the staff. Tucked away at the end of a narrow corridor off one of the medina’s main drags, it offered us a sanctuary for three marvelous days. Moreover, it proved to be a wonderful way to conclude our grand adventure.

Of course, most everyone comes to Essaouira for the beaches and so, when in Rome, we spent a fair amount of time soaking up the sun.  (We’d been on the go since we arrived in Morocco and deserved the break, frankly.)

As is happens, we were also in town for the World Cup final, between Spain and the Netherlands.

Having caught a number of the games whilst in Spain, we were positively delighted our adopted team were vying for the cup. I don’t need to say what happened next, but I will say this: what a way to finish!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and, after three days of rest and relaxation, we packed our bags one last time and caught the bus to Casablanca where, nearly three weeks after we began our adventure together, my friend and I would call it quits.

Sigh.