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Saturday, October 19, 2019

More Packable Halloween Costumes

Depending on where you live or travel to, Halloween can be all kinds of weather. It's easy to figure out warm weather costumes that you can pack, but harder for costumes that can be worn in cooler or straight-up cold weather. One year we went to Disneyland and the weather was really hot and I needed to change up my costume at the last second. It turned out fine, but it was stressful for a minute.

Though it can be challenging, when traveling somewhere hot, to find a costume that doesn't give you heat stroke. It can be just as difficult to find a costume that isn't too bulky and will keep you warm when the temps drop. We went to Paris in October a few years ago and had tickets to attend Disneyland Paris's Halloween party. This trip to Paris was totally different from our last visit where it was unseasonably warm in November. This time, there was a crazy cold snap and early October saw temps in the 20s. Ouch. Let's look at costumes that can be worn anytime and also when it's super cold, but that are still easy to pack.

One Walt Disney trip, Eric and I dressed as a couple on safari. Easy, because you can do long or short sleeves, shorts or pants.

Mild Weather

If you're lucky, the weather can be cool, but not too cool to warrant a jacket. That's kind of my favorite weather for Halloween, because you have a wider selection of costumes to choose from.

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Be a Lumberjack
I always travel with layers, whether I'm traveling in the summer or the winter. A plaid shirt makes a great layer, so why not toss one in your bag with a pair of suspenders and a knit cap. Just like that, you can be a lumberjack!

Toga, Toga, Toga
There are tons of different toga and toga-like costumes for both men and women. Make your own or buy one to be Caesar, Aphrodite, a frat partier, Socrates and more. Add a laurel and your favorite sandals and you're done.

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Yer a Wizard! (Or witch)
You basically just need a black outfit, a cape and a hat for this one. If you're a Harry Potter freak like me, you possibly have a Hogwarts sweater in your closet that you can put on with a black skirt or slacks, slip your wand in your pocket and you can be a wizard- (or witch-) in-training.

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Any Superhero
Always wanted to be Superman or Batman or Cat Woman? Now's your chance. When the weather is mild, you can go full-out or a little skimpy and not be uncomfortable. Of course, you can always be a superhero in disguise by wearing a part of your costume underneath your shirt, like Superman does. This is creative and also easier to pack.

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Burglar & Police Officer
It was so cold in France that I literally had on four layers of clothes, so I was basically wearing all black and you couldn't even tell I was dressed as a burglar. It was also raining, which didn't help matters. I rimmed my eyes with some serious black eyeliner and carried around a money bag. The effect was a bit ruined when I also had to bundle up in my coat and wear a scarf, but it was an easy outfit otherwise. Get your significant other to dress similarly or wear dark blue or black pants and a blue/black button-down shirt with a badge to be a cop.

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This isn't done nearly enough and can be really simple. All you need is a lab coat and some semi-dressy clothes underneath. Make a name badge for yourself (ex: Dr. Bob, Nurse Barb) and add a cheap stethoscope, so you can do your job, and voila! Change this up into a mad scientist outfit by adding crazy hair and some safety goggles.

Prom King/Queen
We always bring some dress-up clothes with us on vacation. At least, we usually do, because we tend to do a couple things where we need to look a bit nice. Even an LBD can work for this. Pair it with a Prom King or Queen and a crown and you're ready to party. You can bring a paper crown you've made, pick up a cheap one at a party store or, my personal favorite, stash this inflatable crown in your bag. They'll take up little room and if they get wrinkled, you can just blow them up.

Cold Weather

It's going to happen. You find that you're going somewhere that the weather is too cold to wear the traditional costume, but that leaves you free to be more creative with your choices.
Snow Bunny
Put that puffy coat and those furry boots you're wearing to good use. Adding an adorable hat and some ski goggles will really sell your outfit, especially if you've got a cup of hot chocolate in-hand.

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Mountain Climber
You can kind of wear everything for this costume, because you're climbing a mountain and it's freezing! This is when you'll want to break out that backpack again and put on a head lamp (you probably have one of these at home). Make yourself a cute little flag to make the peak and go conquer that mountain...and the cold weather.

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Polar Bear
So simple, it's ridiculous. White pants and a white coat, then add a pair of ears and paint your nose or wear this fun hat/scarf combo and run around going "Rawr!" The bulkier you are, the better, so don't be afraid if you have to put on some long johns underneath your clothes. 

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This one works well with a bunch of layers as well, because you're just going to cover up with layers of white fabric. I'd suggest white underlayers and a set of thermals under that, since a coat would ruin the effect. You can use toilet paper for this, but if you don't want to unravel or walk around with toilet paper on your shoe, think sheets that you've ripped into strips works really well. Just make sure you can get your pants off to use the restroom, or else you might hate this really quickly.
There's not much warmer than leather/pleather, so why not dig out your pants and jacket, a black sweater, some comfy boots and wrap a bandana around your head and go as a biker. You might be taking most of that on your trip anyway, so put it all together and get tough. This works for everybody and you can add more layers as needed, like a vest.

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Sherlock Holmes
If you've got a trench coat, you've got a costume. Sherlock Holmes is easily recognizable, especially with his trademark deer hunter cap and pipe. This works for men and women, you just have to wear some decently nice clothes underneath. Your significant other can wear a suit jacket and driving cap and be Watson.

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Get your camouflage on. You can most easily create the hunter look with a camouflage jumpsuit, but you can also do this by wearing dark colored clothing with a camouflage jacket and cap. Get all Duck Dynasty with a big beard and you'll also keep your face warm if it's that cold out. You could also go in a Harry Potter direction and be Dumbledore or Hagrid if you like the idea of a beard and many layers.

Are you traveling somewhere for Halloween? If so, do you plan on dressing up?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which may result in monetary compensation if you choose to shop through them. Also, thanks in advance if you do.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Where to Spend Halloween

Do you like to be scared or to visit disturbing places, especially during the Halloween season? There are so many awesome destinations to check out. I'm partial to theme parks, ghost walks, and cemeteries, because I don't really want to get scared or depressed, but I also like a good medical museum (think Mutter Museum in Philly, the Pharmacy Museum in New Orleans, or the Old Operating Theater Museum in London). Here are some non-traditional October destinations:

Where will you be visiting over Halloween?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

How London Explorer Pass Can Save You Big

Last month I visited London. This was our third trip to the city, so we've done a lot of the regular touristy things already. Even so, we plan to return again in the future to see more, both in the city of London and outside. If you want to save big bucks in the city, then London Explorer Pass can help you see and do more for less.

I had the opportunity to work with London Explorer Pass on this last trip to show you some of the great things included on the list of attractions it can be used on. Choose from a 3, 5 or 7 attraction card, depending on how much you want to do. Plus, the more you do the more you save. It's easy to find great ways to enjoy in London, so why wouldn't you save money on them if you could?

The Coca-Cola London Eye

The Eye has been part of the city's skyline since our first trip, but we decided to see it in other ways. Because of our love of the High Roller in Las Vegas, we gave the Eye a shot this trip. We weren't disappointed. We chose to visit at night, because we saw everything from above during the day all those other times. London has a whole different vibe at night and I love it. 

See the river crisscrossed by glittering bridges, the Parliament buildings, boats, and park blocks. The capsules of the Eye are large and easy to share with others. There were 5 of us in ours and we weren't ever in each others way. There are tons of photo ops, whether you visit during the day or evening. Near the end of your 30-minute ride, you're encouraged to go stand by one of the windows for a group pic that you don't have to take yourself. 

Download the Coca-Cola London Eye app and use your phone to not only take pics, but also see what you're looking at out the windows. This is a great way to learn what you want to see on your other days in London or, like me, find a place to eat dinner (we saw how close the S.S. Tattershall Castle, aka The Pub On the Thames, was and hightailed it over there after our ride). If we paid full price for the London Eye, we would have spent £30 each.

Wesminster Abbey

Since hearing about the opening of the Jubilee Galleries, I have been looking forward to making a visit to Westminster. Not only is the church large and gorgeous, but it's full of amazing Gothic architectural features and historical religious artifacts. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to take photos inside, because they all would have been stunning. The church has been the site of 16 royal weddings and nearly all the royal coronations. The stained glass is worth admission alone.

If you've seen the Abbey on TV, then chances are you've wanted to see it in person. You can view the choir chairs, the Coronation chair made of King Edward I, and Poets' Corner, where over 100 poets and writers are buried and commemorated. Your entrance comes with an audio guide, so you can learn as much as possible about this church that's over 1,000 years old. 

The Diamond Jubilee Galleries have a separate admission of £5 per person, but they are well worth the cost. You can see the whole Abbey from above, plus see artifacts that haven't been seen by the public for 900 years. On display are all the funeral effigies of future kings and queens, with original clothing, the oldest surviving alterpiece, and even more amazing stain glass. Our visit to Westminster Abbey would have cost £28 each, but with our London Explorer Pass, we only spent £5.

[Make sure you go across the street when leaving the Abbey to the small park and view the awesome statues that pay tribute to everyone from Winston Churchill to women in war.]

Churchill War Rooms

Speaking of Winston Churchill, London has an Imperial War Museum devoted entirely to him. The Churchill War Rooms are the actual rooms where Churchill and his government team ran the entire war effort. Inside you will see his actual desk, map room, bedroom, and private dining room. There's a lot to see in a small space, since it remains untouched (aside from some walls being taken out to be replaced with glass) for the over 40 years. 

There's an area where you can see artifacts that were better to be seen up close as well as first-hand accounts from those that worked in the war rooms. 6 years working long hours in close quarters bonded those pretty tightly, making them more like family than coworkers. Each stated how much they were proud to work under Churchill, even though he wasn't easy or fun to work for. 

To make room for more artifacts, interactive exhibits, and videos about Winston Churchill's life and career, a new space was opened up underground next to the war rooms by drilling through a 10-foot concrete wall. It was a necessity during wartime, but not now. It took three months to drill through it and it made way for an entire timeline of the life of Winston Churchill and his family. 

If you're interested in British history, this is a must see. You'll have to queue for this, since there's only so much room in the underground. If you want a shorter wait time, try to get there at opening. This museum regularly costs £22 and includes an audio guide. 

[Across the street from Churchill War Rooms is St. James's Park, which is lovely to walk through and you'll find Buckingham Palace on the other side. On the Churchill War Rooms side, you may see a group of pelicans being fed.]

Kew Gardens

Other attractions we've visited before that can be included in your London Explorer Pass: 

Tower Bridge
Kensington Palace
The London Dungeon
SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Hop-On Hop-Off Thames River Cruise
HMS Belfast
Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew Gardens)
Royal Greenwich Observatory
St. Paul's Cathedral
Shakespeare's Globe (this year we actually took in a play at the Globe and it was awesome!)

Attractions that we've not yet visited, but also included on your London Explorer Pass:

Madame Tussaud's 
Body Worlds London (we saw Body Worlds in Las Vegas and we highly recommend it)
Palace of Whitehall Banqueting House
1-day Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
Emirates Arsenal Stadium Tour
Royal Albert Hall
DreamWorks Tours Shrek's Adventure
Planet Hollywood (free meal)
Chelsea FC Stadium Tour
Cutty Sark

As you can see, there's a ton of options for your time in London, whether it's a short break or a long vacation. My best advice for choosing the right London Explorer Pass is to look at the list of attractions, decide which you want to do most, and then purchase your Explorer Pass based on that. If you have a longer list than the 7-attraction card, then choose the most expensive ones to use your pass on. 

Don't worry about having another thing to carry either. Your London Explorer Pass can be downloaded to the app, and one person can keep your whole travel group's passes on their app, making it easy to deal with everyone in your party at each ticket counter. Not only that, but your app shows you all the attractions available and their hours. You can star the ones you like most. There are transport maps, so you can get to each attraction easily, any offers attached to your pass, and useful information on the city, including where to find free WiFi. You can purchase passes through the app as well, so if you plan to return, don't delete your app and be prepared for your next visit.

Our 3 attractions would have cost £70 each, but with the 3-day Explorer Pass, they only cost £64 (or would have had we not been given complimentary passes). If you chose the most expensive attractions, your savings could go from £6 to £39. Either way, any savings is money that could be spent towards delicious food, the Tube, or cool souvenirs. 

Learn more about London Explorer pass on their website, or follow them on social media:

What are your favorite attractions in London?

Disclaimer: I was provided with 2 3-attraction London Explorer Passes for the purposes of this post, but all opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Activities That Preserve Edinburgh's History

There was nothing that we did in Edinburgh that I thought was terrible or boring. I feel like they really know how to preserve history in cool ways. Ways you probably don't expect of a city like this, and then ways you completely expect and would be disappointed in them not having. 

As you walk around the city, make sure to look up and down at all the fun details you'll find on buildings and sidewalks. While plenty of stuff is out in the open, there are some awesome things tucked away too.

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

In 1853, a clever female Victorian scientist created the Camera Obscura. It's an inverted dish and three mirrors that allow you to view what's happening outside without cameras or windows. Your visit to the World of Illusions comes with a 15-minute show that shows you how the Camera Obscura works and lets you play with the images. Women in science, yo! My brother-in-law was so into it that he asked a bunch of questions to see if it was something he could create at home. This old technology is amazing, even for people who have all the modern technology.

After the view of the Camera Obscura, you have the views of the rooftop terrace to take in and then 4 floors of optical illusions to check out. There are over 100 inside and they are almost all interactive. Switch noses with your friend, see a giant spider climb out of a picture, walk through the hall of mirrors, try to walk straight through the Vortex Tunnel (we thought this was so entertaining, we each did it 3 or 4 times), play a tune on the musical stairs, and try your luck at seeing 3D magic pictures (why did they ever go away?). 

There are so many things to see and do here, and it's especially fun with friends. 5 of us visited and spent several hours making our way through room after room of things we had never seen before and taking pictures of wacky and weird things we tried. One of our favorites was the box that looked like your head was on a platter on a table and the forced perspective room that made the person on one side look huge and anyone on the other side looks small. This is one of those places you have to see to believe.

St. Giles Cathedral

I'm not a religious person, but that doesn't mean I don't like beautiful things that are rooted in religion. Right on the Royal Mile is a massive church with gorgeous stained glass windows. Inside is even more breathtaking and you can still go to services here. I can't imagine being able to pay attention to anything other than the awesome construction. Between the brilliant ceiling, the Thistle Chapel, and the gorgeous pipe organ, there's no part of the building, built in 1124, that isn't beautiful. 

Much of Old Town wasn't even built when St. Giles went up, which should tell you how important of a landmark to Edinburgh it is. St. Giles allows visitors to explore the cathedral for free, though they ask for donations or £2 if you want to take pictures of any kind, because first and foremost, this is a working church that costs £20,000 a day to run. Attend afternoon service, Sunday services, and even Holy Communion. We contributed a few pounds to the cathedral for photo taking and also by making a purchase in their gift shop. You'll also find a small cafe in the basement. 

Check the website for tour times, if you want to know more about the cathedral, services and hours. There is a rooftop terrace, but the person who could take me up there wasn't in when I visited, so I didn't get to check it out. (This does cost a fee.)

The Real Mary King's Close

Old Town is full of little alleyways that lead to other buildings, shops, and restaurants. These are called closes. Mary King's Close was once the second widest street in Edinburgh, only matched by the Royal Mile. This seems like a feat when you visit, because it's probably only 6 feet wide. This small alley used to be the main street for housing and was 11 stories high on both sides. During the day you'd find stalls on either side selling wares and also stairs going to people's front doors. 

Mary King's Close has remained unchanged for the last 400 years, except for the electricity and safety measures added, and can be found underneath the streets of Old Town. As such, you are not allowed to take pictures, but that just makes it that much more authentic. Learn about the poor people of Edinburgh and how they lived, including those who contracted the plague. Your one-hour tour teaches you about Plague Doctors (and how they avoided contracting the plague by sheer luck), what life was like in the Close, the ghosts that might still reside there, and the man who had the first indoor toilet and was so proud that he would use it with the door wide open. Gross, right? But it's still there, so he moved on up to a better life.

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The Scotch Whisky Experience 

So, there's this thing you should know about me: I love whiskey. I'd rather have whiskey than most other alcohol. I like it room temperature without ice, but I also like it cold, with ice, or mixed in drinks. The Scotch Whisky Experience takes you through all the steps to make a whisky and focuses on the flavors each region of Scotland brings to their different whiskys. Scotch whisky doesn't have an "e", which distinguishes it from all other whiskeys. 

Your short tour starts with a barrel ride that takes you through the whisky-making process to the bottle. Did you know each distillery has its own style of still? I didn't, but I know now. The next part of your tour shows you the different regions of Scotland and what flavors are brought out in their whisky. After this, you go into the tasting room to learn even more about these smells and flavors and it's where you will choose the one you want to try*. 

Hold on to your hats, because the end of your tour takes you to the Whisky Vault, where thousands of unique bottles from a private collection surround you on all sides. This is where you actually learn to taste your whisky correctly and see if you can taste the individual flavors. At the end of your tour you get to take home your whisky glass and are taken to the bar. You can choose to try even more whiskys than the handful available on the tour. And then you move onto the "gift shop", which is just a huge store that sells a ton of bottles of whisky and whisky foods and candies. 

*if you don't drink, but still want to learn about the process, you don't have to miss out. Your tour guide will offer you a bottle of Irn-Bru, a Scottish soda with its own unique flavor. You still get to keep your glass.

*Witches Well

All over the world witches were persecuted for being who they were, and many more were wrongly accused. To honor those who were burned at the stake, Edinburgh put in a memorial fountain to remember them. If you blink you'll miss it, but it's on the left-hand side of the walkway as you're coming from Edinburgh Castle. 

*Armstrong's Vintage

As a person who loves vintage goods, I've been following the awesome vintage clothing finds at Armstrong's Vintage on Instagram for quite some time. If I'd had more time in the city, I certainly could have spent hours in this store, and quite a lot of money. I took a quick spin through the labyrinth of rooms stuffed top to bottom with gorgeous old clothes and accessories. If you find yourself in awe of the Scots and Brits in their fantastic fashionable coats, then you can get yourself one here with vintage flair. There are racks packed with them. 

Everything I saw was amazing quality with equally amazing prices. Next time I visit, I'll be bringing along an extra bag to bring home all my treasures there. You can find them right at the bottom of Victoria Street, across from an adorable little ice cream hut. 

Who's interested in my Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh? Not just the actual tour, but the tour we took on our own over the course of the week? Well, I'll be talking about that next, because it was awesome! 

Have you been sucked in by Edinburgh's history yet?

Disclaimer: My admission to the first three paid attractions were complimentary of Visit Scotland, but all opinions are my own, and I'm truly grateful for the opportunity to work with them on this whirlwind trip. *These are just places I visited that I thought were cool and should be added to this list. They have no affiliation to Visit Scotland.

Monday, October 7, 2019

3 Ways To Find Cheap Places To Eat In London

London has a reputation for being expensive, and most of the time, it deserves that reputation. It’s a great city that has so much to see and do, but it is so expensive. Most people would think that a budget trip to London just wasn’t possible because everything is so costly, but that isn’t true. If you know what you’re doing, it is possible.

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The thing that people struggle with the most is food because the restaurants are so pricey, and you end up eating out a lot when you are away. With the food and drink being so expensive, the cost quickly adds up and before you know it, you’re way over budget. But believe it or not, there are actually ways to eat out for cheap in London. These are some of the best ways to save money on food when you visit London

Avoid The Tourist Traps 

This is a good piece of advice in general if you want to save money in London. Anywhere that is near a tourist attraction like the Houses of Parliament or the Tower of London is going to put their prices up a lot. There’s no point looking for places to eat out near any of the tourist attractions because you will pay way over the odds wherever you go. It’s best to look at the places where the locals would eat, like Shoreditch, Soho, or Camden. They’re still going to be expensive, but nowhere near as much as you would pay if you were right in the centre of the city near all of the tourist hotspots

Find Chain Restaurants 

Chain restaurants are a bit more expensive in London than they would be elsewhere, but compared to most restaurants nearby, it will be a lot cheaper. If you are looking for a cheap meal, you should look for chain restaurants. The good thing about London is that a lot of chains from other countries will open up there before moving to other cities, so you can find a lot of reasonably priced chains like Chuck’s Roadhouse (find the menu at www.chucksroadhouse.com), a great American style rib place. You’re still getting new dining experiences, but you benefit from the low prices of the chains.

Do Some Research 

London is expensive but people exaggerate sometimes. We all assume that you can’t find anywhere in the entire city that won’t rip you off, but that just isn’t the case. There are always cheap places to be found, as long as you know where to find them. If you do a bit of research beforehand, you will be able to find some more affordable places to eat while you are out in London. A lot of the street food places give you a cheap option for lunch, and some of the food is amazing. If you visit www.standard.co.uk, you can find a great list of London meals for under £10. 

It’s true that London is expensive but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find a cheap bite to eat while you are there. 

Edinburgh Museums I Loved

I'm a sucker for a good museum, and Edinburgh is full of them. In fact, the whole of Old and New Town are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning they preserve as much as possible when they can. You'll notice in my pictures just how many old buildings there are, and I'm there for it. It's amazing.

All four of the following museums are promoted by Visit Scotland, though only one charges admission. This means your day out in Edinburgh and the surrounding area can be really affordable. Save your money for all that scrumptious food that I'm missing.

Scottish National Gallery

Our first day in Edinburgh was spent at the Royal Yacht Britannia in the morning and then walking through Old Town when we returned from Leith. It was really windy, so we decided to duck into the Scottish National Gallery, which has free admission and is warm and inviting. The walls are all painted in jewel tones, which makes for a perfect backdrop to the wonderful art you can find there.

Throughout the rooms, you'll find art from many different artists, including Rembrandt, Monet, and Van Gogh, but also a whole exhibit featuring Scottish artists through history, giving you a wonderful look at the art of the country. I found some of my favorite pieces here, and we also found the original piece that had a prominent place in our Airbnb living room, which was fun. 

I may not have a great eye for artwork, but I know what I like and I can appreciate a well done scene, purposeful brush strokes, and, for some reason, an amazing gilded frame. This gallery has it all, including gorgeous skylights. If the one gallery isn't enough for you, there are two others in the collection, and you can pay £1 to take the gallery bus between the Scottish National Gallery, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (which features portraits of important Scots). Of course, walking is not a bad option either. I'm only sad I didn't have more time to get to either of those.

National Mining Museum of Scotland

Had we not been out by Dalhousie Castle, we probably would not have made it to the Mining Museum, but I'm so glad we did. When I looked at where the wedding was being held, I Googled all the places around it that we could easily walk or Uber to. There are several cool ruins out by the castle, but the Mining Museum caugh my eye, because it wasn't a traditional tourist attraction and tours are run by actual ex-miners, meaning I could ask questions that someone who had real experience could answer. 

Our tour guide was Jim Lennie. He's one of the 6 miners who work at the museum and take you through the operations, what the miners had to carry for safety, and the way mining changed with technology and machinery. Jim wanted to become a miner at age 15 (his father worked in the mines), but his mom set him up with a job in a kitchen, so he had to learn how to cook for 4 years until he could go work in the mines. He then worked there for 16 years until a bunch of miners were let go. At age 70, Jim was still passionate about the mining industry and only seemed sad that he couldn't work in the mines longer. 

Us with our tour guide in front of the still working (over 100 years old!) Winding Machine that raised and lowered the cage into the pithead throughout the day. 

On this tour, you go through a recreated pithead and the surviving colliery (where they brought up and processed the coal) and learn about the intricacies of 8-year-old boys pushing mine carts and little girls who were hired to keep certain doors closed for safety. You also learn about how the miners were paid by cart loads, how the carts make it up from the mine and even the shenanigans miners engaged in before their shifts. The building itself is original and made from local bricks that were produced down the road. Even if you don't think mining is that interesting, you might think differently by the time you leave. I know I did. You can even take the bus directly to Newtongrange (8 miles from downtown Edinburgh), which drops you off directly in front of the museum. (It takes about an hour, so just think of it as a cheap tour of the countryside.)

Writer's Museum

Another great free museum is the Writer's Museum. It's down Lady Stair's Close, which is a small walkway off the Royal Mile that opens into a sweet little courtyard that features a Celtic cross, the Writer's Museum, a bank of apartments and a bar. If you love classical authors, literature, and/or poetry, then this little museum is for you. There are multiple floors, which you have to get to by small staircases, including a teeny spiral one, and each room is very small, but still packed with information, books, and items from author.

The museum focuses on Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson, three prominent Scottish writers. See some of their original works, writing desks, clothing and more. Though there are several small rooms to explore, there's a lot to see, and there's even a fantastic little gift shop right in the main room. 

Even if you don't get excited by literature, the building itself is beautiful and worth exploring. It's an old building filled with antiques, which is pretty much all I need to draw me to a place, but I learned quite a bit about these writers and added a few new titles to my must-read list, not having read all the classics yet. 

National Museum of Scotland

I have a lot to say about the National Museum of Scotland, much like the museum itself. There are 5+ floors full of artifacts from Scottish life, science, flight, nature and more. The building is gorgeous and broken up into different galleries like Ancient Scotland, Transportation, fashion, and Wildlife. As you walk through each level, you learn more about the world and Scotland in general.

I love that the whole middle of the building is open and airy, giving you the feeling of being outside a bit. Half of one veranda is devoted to the cafe, so people can dine, watch others, and see artifacts across the way. You could easily spend half a day wandering in and out of rooms and reading about the different things housed in this museum, so if you have limited time, make sure you have a strategy for what you want to see, especially if that includes the ever-changing main exhibit that requires a paid ticket. During our visit, that was Wild and Majestic, an exhibit featuring landscapes, tartans and everything Scottish.  

You can also take a museum tour if you don't want to spend all your time trying to figure out what is most important for you to see. I adore science, so I beelined to the Dolly the Sheep exhibit. Dolly was the first cloned animal and was the only successful embryo out of over 200. You can view her in the lower gallery (despite what your map says). And don't forget to wander the main floor between galleries for gorgeous exhibit pieces, like a lighthouse glass and the most beautiful drinking fountain I've ever seen. You'll even find cool things along the stairs and down in the lobby. 

If you can find your way to the stairs that take you to the roof, I highly recommend it for the view. I'd suggest the elevator (it's probably a safe option), but we got trapped in there for over an hour with a bunch of other people and they finally had to call the Fire Brigade to come get us, since only the elevator engineer could get it open using the mechanism, and it was Saturday. It's cool though, because the story was on the news and all the people in there were chill and nobody had to pee.

This is just a small sample of the cool museums of Edinburgh, but I liked all the ones I visited and would love to go back to see more, including another visit to the National Museum of Scotland where I don't get trapped in a lift. 

My next post will take you through some of Edinburgh's historical attractions and landmarks that didn't fit in the last two categories. 

If you've been to Scotland, what activities would you recommend? If you haven't, what do you want to do/see most?

Disclaimer: Our admission to the Mining Museum was complimentary of Visit Scotland, but all opinions are my own, and I'm truly grateful for the opportunity to work with them on this whirlwind trip.
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