This trip, I only intended to go to London (for the fifth time this year!) (No random venturing to find the workplaces of my ancestors this time.) I booked my tickets months in advance for a great price and was excited that I would finally get to fly Icelandair! Right before the trip, I noticed that I somehow booked two Reykjavik to London flights, rather than a round trip ticket. So I called Icelandair to fix it, but they wanted me to pay four times what I initially paid for the ticket. So I took matters into my own hands and made an adventure out of it. I enlisted a friend, booked a train ticket from London to Manchester, a hotel room, and an early morning EasyJet flight out of Manchester...all for $300 less than what re-booking my ticket would have cost! Manchester is actually the Christmas capital of the UK (basically Whoville) but more on that later!
If you like Christmas lights as much as I do, add the UK to your Christmas destination list! I actually lived in London in December 2014, but I think the Christmas cheer has only increased since. Virtually everywhere in London, the streets are covered in lights. Immediately upon my arrival, I met up with a friend to go to Winter Wonderland, London's largest and most famous Christmas market.
Christmas in England has some differences to America. For the last three years, I've brought Christmas crackers and mince pies to my American family. My British friends are always surprised that Christmas crackers are not ubiquitous! For my non-British readers, Christmas crackers are like firecrackers and contain a little toy, a joke, and a paper hat. During the English Christmastime, you'll see work parties and groups of friends wearing these paper hats at restaurants everywhere! They're also used on Christmas Day.
If you really want to experience the English Christmastime, nothing can quite replace making English friends and tagging along for flat Christmas dinners! I'm lucky enough that after a year living in London, it feels like home and I have several friends still in the city.
After my time in London, we headed to Manchester (but not before missing our original train - luckily we were able to take one twenty minutes later with no charge!) Our first stop was Takk, an Icelandic inspired coffee shop!
Manchester is home to several adorable bookstores, including Chapter One, an independent store. Their Waterstones is massive and (despite telling myself I wasn't going to buy a book), I found a book with a fencer on the cover so of course I needed that. (The Dutch Maiden by Marente de Moor. It was a great read!)
Manchester prides itself as the Christmas capital of the UK. The entire city is like one giant Christmas market! We somehow found time to ice skate (yay for rental skates).
We had left our bags at the storage place at the train station. Upon collection, the worker noticed that my hands looked cold and gave me a pair of really nice red leather gloves from lost and found. If you lost your gloves in Manchester recently, I've been taking good care of them (though I almost lost them in a parking lot in Colorado, I found them again).
And then, because I like to keep busy, I flew back to Reykjavik for my skaters' Christmas show and then flew back to the States (and drove across the country while I was at it!).
When my sister came to visit me in Iceland at the end of November, it was her first trip to Europe! I know! The concept is so foreign to me. Anyway, we had long dreamt of exploring Ireland together. I only had two days off of work that we could make the trip, but we booked our flights from Reykjavik to Dublin and went for it!
We left on an early Friday morning and spent the day exploring Dublin. I had visited Dublin twice before, so I showed my sister around. There was one major different from my earlier (St. Patrick's Day 2015 and August 2016) trips - the Christmas lights everywhere!
We also made a stop at St. Stephen's Green and the shopping centre (where I had actually never been before!) in order for my sister to stock up on gifts that said "Ireland" on them.
On our second day in Ireland, we took a day tour with RailTours Ireland. At this point in my travelling, I don't usually opt for group tours, instead preferring to adventure on my own. Due to the lack of time and our desire to see more of Ireland, we decided on this tour. And we saw so much of Ireland in one day! We met at 6:40 AM, hopped on a train, and went as far as Limerick. Our first stop was Bunratty Castle.
The castle tour was nice, but I was most excited about the Inis perfume in the gift shop! I've used this for years, not originally even knowing it was Irish. It is hard to find, even in Ireland. Carissa, however, was more excited to meet this pigmy goat!
We stopped in the small town of Doolin for lunch and then saw the Cliffs of Moher! I had dreamt of these cliffs for as long as I could remember! If was misty and rainy, but that only enhanced their appeal. We then started the trek by coach to Galway.
The last stop was Galway, which was all lit up for Christmas and also had a Christmas market of its own. I loved the town and wanted more time to explore, but after a couple of hours, we went on a train back to Dublin.
As always, it went by too fast and we wanted to stay in Ireland. I might be back sooner rather than later though! I'll keep you guessing for now, but my next post will about my trip to London and Manchester the week before Christmas.
Hi, I’m Crystal! Just like you, I love to travel. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as an ice-skating coach in Iceland and an avid student-traveller around the world. In September 2016, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes so travel as a diabetic will also be a topic in future blog posts. You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: email@example.comHappy Travels, Crystal
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