A Summer Adventure In Edinburgh, London, and Copenhagen
My fiancée Reni and I were able to get away to Europe for a few weeks this summer. In addition to the fun of seeing new places, old favorites, and good friends, it meant a chance to do some travel photography! I thought it might be fun (and maybe helpful to others) to write up a trip report to go along with a few of my favorite photos. Don't miss my list of recommendations and tips at the end.
We planned to visit Edinburgh, London, and Copenhagen. We had been to the first two before — I went to graduate school at the University of Edinburgh and have friends living both there and in London who we were excited to visit. As for Copenhagen, neither of us had been before and everything we heard made it seem like a fun place to explore for a few days.
To maximize our time in each place, and to minimize the cost, we booked our transatlantic voyage round trip to Edinburgh on Delta's relatively new once-daily JFK-EDI route. Previously, the only direct option from New York to Edinburgh was out of EWR on United. I booked my flight as a great low-cost award for only 60K Delta SkyMiles plus $149 in fees, and we paid cash for Reni's ticket. The 2-3-2 seating configuration on the 757 meant that we could sit next to each other in relative privacy, which is always something to appreciate.
Our flight was at 10:50pm. We got to the airport plenty early by subway and zipped through security thanks to TSA PreCheck. With a few hours to kill until the gate even opened, we decided it was worth buying discounted access to the Delta SkyClub at Terminal 4 with my Delta Gold Amex card. At $29 each, it was cheaper than dinner and a drink at most of the terminal's restaurants and bars. The “Sky Deck” outdoor terrace they have overlooking the tarmac and runways is incredible. The warm, breezy July evening weather certainly helped. It made for a relaxing place to enjoy dinner and a couple of glasses of wine while watching planes take off and land. Soon enough, we boarded, and promptly fell asleep until an hour before landing.
After we landed and caught the AirLink express bus into the city center, we met a friend for lunch before heading to her flat (where we were staying) for a shower and quick nap. Then it was off to the pub to meet up with the rest of the crew. We spent the next day getting our bearings and seeing a few sights, including the National Museum of Scotland, which I had never been to before – surprising, considering how central it is. It's also free! Tip: go to the roof observation deck for some incredible unobstructed views of Edinburgh Castle. We went to a few of the University pubs that night, before going back to the flat to pack for the train to London the next day.
Reni and I arrived in London from Edinburgh on July 13th, following a pleasant train ride in Virgin Train East Coast's first class. First class is often worth it on Britain's east coast rail operator, especially for long journeys. If you travel off-peak at the right time of day and book in advance, the price difference from coach can be as little as £15, and the ticket includes a hot meal, snacks, and hard and soft drinks. We each had the particularly tasty lemon risotto, a few glasses of a slightly too-sweet rosé, and tea. After checking in to the DoubleTree Westminster (mmm, those cookies), where we were staying for one night on Hilton HHonors points, we decided to take a walk and look around, since the Parliament area was nearby.
Having deliberately disconnected during the trip down, we didn't realize until we saw the news crews and protesters that Theresa May had been appointed PM that morning. There were at least two dozen news outlets camped out in a green across Abingdon Street from Parliament. A Sky News helicopter circled continuously overhead.
We kept walking north and approached Downing Street, where a huge crowd had shown up for what must have been an impromptu protest. The crowd was on both sides of Whitehall Street, and had some colorful, interesting signs.
After watching for a bit, we walked to the UCL campus and took the Underground up to Camden for dinner.
The next day saw us checking out of the hotel and hopping on a train to Cambridge for a day trip to visit another friend, Pon. We spent the day with him wandering around the city, the gorgeous Cambridge University campus, and debating whether or not to go punting (spoiler alert: we didn't).
We stayed with family friends in Hornsey, London that night and the next. On our last morning in London we tried to visit the Churchill War Rooms, but were disappointed to find an hours-long line. If you want to see them, I suggest queuing up first thing in the morning. After lunch, we went to the Tate Modern, which had a fascinating multimedia exhibit on cities, followed by Harrods for afternoon tea, and then back to our friends' for dinner.
The morning of the 16th, we caught an early train from St. Pancreas station to London Luton airport. I had never had the pleasure of flying from Luton before, so I did not appreciate just how crowded it can get. We were originally scheduled to fly EasyJet to Copenhagen, but our flight was cancelled about three weeks earlier, leading us to rebook on RyanAir. There was only one check-in agent for three departing flights, and we were seriously worried about missing the flight in spite of arriving almost three hours early. If you've never flown RyanAir internationally before, note that you always have to have your ticket stamped by the check-in agent as a "visa check,” even if you've already checked in online. Fortunately, we made the flight with enough time to spare to grab breakfast and coffee.
Copenhagen is a cool city, there's no better word for it. Parts of it reminded me of an older, more aquatic Brooklyn. We drank beer in local craft beer pubs (shout out to Mikkeller); we ate at street food fairs in warehouses and in restaurants run by highly skilled chefs using all local ingredients; we sipped wine on the sidewalk at a small cafe; we biked everywhere. Since we missed out on a reservation to Noma, we decided to go to Manfreds, a veggie-focused restaurant and wine bar opened by Noma alum Christian Puglisi. Ironically, they're famous for their steak tartare, which is incredible.
We took a canal tour one day on a friend's advice, and I would recommend that to anyone visiting the city. In addition to being a different way to see the city, the hop-on, hop-off ticket is a convenient way to get around if you need a break from biking. We stayed at the Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade hotel, which was both central and comfortable, especially considering that it was a budget hotel.
A few short days later, we flew back to Edinburgh on EasyJet — fortunately, this flight wasn't cancelled. Over the next few days, we did something very unusual for us when we travel; we relaxed and moved at a slower speed. We hung out with friends a lot, tried bakeries, cafes, and pubs, wandered around Leith, Bruntsfield and Marchmont, and had an all around nice time in one of my favorite cities.
We decided to take a day trip to St. Andrews on our last full day. We took ScotRail from Edinburgh Waverly to Leuchers, and then walked a few minutes to the Edin Mill, a brewery and distillery which founded in 2012. Some of their first beers were sold at the farmer's market near my flat during graduate school, so it was a lot of fun to see how much they've grown in the few short years since then. From the mill, we caught a bus which took us the rest of the way into St. Andrews, and enjoyed the unbelievably perfect weather while walking around the small city. We spent the last night hanging out with friends in their beautiful Victorian flat.
All too soon, it was time to head home. While it was sad to say goodbye to friends and vacation, I was so happy that we had such a great time, and can't wait for the next adventure!
Take a look at my Flickr page for the rest of my favorite pictures from this trip and others.
Recommendations and Tips:
- Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland, Lovecrumbs Bakery, Hanging Bat Beer Cafe
- Saint Andrews: Edin Mill Brewery/Distillery
- London: Churchill War Rooms (arrive first thing!)
- Copenhagen: Mikkeller Bar, Manfreds (get the steak tartare), Copenhagen Bike Share (Bycyklen), Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade (skip the breakfast and walk to Myers Bageri around the corner)