New Activities

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When I moved out to Colorado I realized how active one person can be. The average person living in Denver either is incredibly active or knows someone who is. If they think of any sport you can possibly do in the winter time then at least one person they know is very passionate about that sport and does it every weekend; skiing, ice climbing etc. If they think of any sport you can possibly do in the summer then at least one person they know is very passionate about that sport and does it every weekend; hiking, mountain biking, climbing, etc. With all this “activeness” I realized there was a lot more “stuff” to do out there then I imagined. Take snowshoeing for example, the most I had heard about it was from Kirsten my sister’s American Girl doll she had when we were kids. In the books that came with her it describes them as real people and Kirsten and her family snowshoed. It was one of her accessories you could buy. I must say Kirsten and her family were on to something because I went snowshoeing for the first time with some friends in Rocky Mountain National Park last weekend and it was awesome.

The weather was perfect; it was warm the sun was out. We started at Beaver Lake then stopped at Nymph Lake and then finally Dream Lake before we turned around. Seriously so fun!

The night before  snowshoeing we stayed in the city and had dinner at a little Idian restaurant called Nepal. If you are looking for Estes Park dinner suggestions then my number one suggestion would be Nepal. It is owned by am adorable Nepalese family. The food was delicious. The restaurant is decorated in things all Mount Everest and the dad of the family, who we were lucky enough to have as our server, will tell you all about his experience climbing the mountain at age 60.

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Bear Lake

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Dream Lake

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We also enjoyed some great views of wild elk. Even one decided to cross the road in front of us.

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Happy New Year!

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Happy 2014 everyone!! I hope everyone had a great time celebrating the new year! I flew to South Carolina so celebrate the new year with my old friends from when I lived there. We hit up all my old favorites like Poe’s on Sullivan’s Island and I finally had my first pain killer (now called game changer) from Home Team.

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I couldn’t bring myself to buy a real ticket and decided to risk it and fly standby around the holiday. It went shockingly well. So I learned I will not throw in the towel just yet for my non-revenue travels. What I did learn though was not to talk on the phone while you are in line to get on the plane. I forgot my water bottle at the chair I was next to at the gate and sat in the wrong seat. You would have thought it was my first time flying.

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Can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for me…

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My Two Favorite Things; Cheese and Roger Federer

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My train rolled into Geneva at 5:30 pm and the dark was just setting in. I got out and started to walk to my hostel when I saw the snowboarders standing waiting to get on the train and that’s when it set in that I was in Switzerland. And that I was in the land of my lover…Roger Federer.

I walked to my hostel nervous about my first official alone hostel experience. I am one of those people who has a hard time with hostels. I’m outgoing and love meeting people but when its forced I feel like I’m back in college and its freshman year where you walk around asking if people will be your friend. My nightmare. So I walked into that hostel (Geneva Youth Hostel) with my positive thinking cap on. When I walked into my room there were two Canadian girls there talking about what they were planning on doing that evening which was eating fondue. I quickly channeled my inner freshman spirit and invited myself along. It ended up being just fine.

We dined right on Lake Geneva at a restaurant called La Buvette des Bains. Its was at the end of a pier where the public swimming area and the public bathhouse are. It definitely has the hole in the wall feeling so instantly I  felt like it was going to be good. It also almost felt like you were sitting  in a cabin in the mountains somewhere. We showed up without reservations and were lucky enough to snag some seats even though there were lots of empty tables. When they pointed out their reservation system they pointed to a wall of post its. They were very advanced, but once again another sign it was going to be good. Another interesting thing about this restaurant is it is community dinning so we got sat at table of eight with four seats already occupied. We didn’t have to deal with the awkward small talk because our neighbors spoke French which was good but we might have missed some potential best friends though.

Fondue is the national dish of Switzerland. It is traditionally made with cheese, wine, seasoning, garlic and kirsch. Kirsch is a fruit brandy traditionally made with cherries. You can get fondues with different things in them like mushrooms, onions, meats, etc. The earliest record of fondue dates back to the late 1600′s and at that point they added eggs to it which makes it like a souffle as well. It was created for winter times by peasants in the mountains because they cooked what they had; bread, cheese and wine. Fondue took a big turn when cornstarch was added in 1905 which made it not separate and very smooth. There is controversy over whether the dish was created by the French or the Swiss but the Swiss locked in as theirs in 1930.

The fondue was delicious. It was hearty, earthy, and immediately stick to your ribs good, which was good considering it was probably below zero with windchill (I’m for sure exaggerating). We just got bread to dip in our cheese but you can also get a meat plate that has carne secca, a dried Spanish meat, pickles, and pearl onions. Fondue in Geneva, since it has a heavy French influence, is made with half gruyère and Fribourg-style vacherin, which is  a cow’s milk cheese. Another littler fact is we never found chocolate fondue. Clearly an American thing.

We finished our bread when there was still a little bit of cheese left but we weren’t too upset and didn’t order more because we were pretty full. We got some strange looks when we didn’t finish our fondue but we didn’t understand why. It was at the next restaurant in the old town that I read about how you are supposed to finish fondue. The crusty, not burnt, cheese crisp the cheese turns into at the bottom of the pot is the best part of fondue. They sometimes put a splash of wine on it to help it become golden. Clearly I didn’t do enough research on my fondue. Who know there would be these secrets.

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We walked around the old town and stopped in for hot chocolate and crème brûlée. I also made sure to use a Suisse Credit ATM. I felt like that was something you have to do.

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I got up the next morning for sunrise; it was at 8 a.m.  so it was not impressive. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy on top of the alps so it wasn’t the best sunrise but still pretty.

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St. Pierre Cathedral

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Maison Tavel

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The famous flower clock.

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Dijon Part Deux

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In my previous post I mentioned that I didn’t have time to eat in Dijon. That was a mishap on my planning side but what I made sure I had enough time for was buying the traditional food; so I could try it when I got home.

I did my research so I was prepared and the first stop was for pain d’épices which means spiced bread. This bread is a traditional French bread and is very well known for the Dijon area. It is made traditionally with rye flour, honey and spices. First thing you notice when you take a bite is the dense cake/bread consistency. Then the spices and then the almost overwhelming honey flavor. Honey can taste very different from different regions of the world and this one is extremely floral. With that said I still loved it but if you aren’t a honey lover you could have an issue with it. It is perfect for this time of year.

The second item on my shopping list was mustard. I got traditional grainy dijon mustard and I have to save it is the best mustard I have ever tasted. I wasn’t shocked by this discovery, considering it originated there, but still when I tasted it my eyes opened wide and I had to saw wow. I can’t describe really why its better but it is fresher and has a more powerful punch. What can I say if you are a mustard person I guess you should add Dijon to your “places to go” list.

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Dijon: More than just Mustard

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J’adore Dijon France. I loved my time there; my two hours there to be exact. I was travel ambitious and planned to visit Dijon then make my way to Geneva, Switzerland before nightfall. In result of this squeezing two cities and two train rides into eight hours I did not get to have my fabulous leisure lunch in Dijon and I made it to Geneva maybe five minutes before it was dark. But with that said I would not have had my December 1st any other way.

I didn’t start planning my trip till the Sunday before my trip, and I left on Tuesday. When I tried to purchase my train tickets online, the type of tickets I was purchasing were not available to be printed they needed to be mailed. So that was a no go since I dind’t leave enough time for that. So on December 1st at 8 am I found myself in the Gare du Nord train station at the kiosk trying to purchase my ticket. Luckily, since it was a main train station, the ticket office was open and I was able to get a real person to help me pick the best times/tickets and also accept my credit card (tougher to find than you would think).

I was traveling on a Sunday so I knew things would be closed but I didn’t think that would be something I enjoyed but it really made my trip even better.

What I saw in Dijon while strolling around was the real French life. I saw families walking around. A man running to the patisserie to pick up his baquette then finishing his morning run home. Kids and families enjoying the holidays and ice skating in the city center. I felt like someone had invited me in to their personal life and I was there to watch and observe. I also was trying my best to look, speak, and act French—I wore my beret.

Dijon is known for the mustard, obviously, and they have another little gem, an owl on the side of the Notre Dame Cathetral. If you walk around the city you can find a walking tour of different sites all marked and arrorws leading to each stop. The path will lead you pas the owl on the cathedral. It is a good luck charm and you are supposed to rub the owl with your left hand make a wish. It was beautiful watching people walk by the owl. Even if they had walked by 100 times before it was just a simple act to rub the owl.

Since I didn’t have enough time for lunch at a restaurant in Dijon I settled for a jambon et buerre baguette (ham and butter) on the train. I also remembered I had put a pain au chocolate in my purse from the hotel breakfast earlier that morning. This visit if you asked me if there was a pain au chocolate in my purse the answer would have be yes 99 percent of the time.

I sat there on the train and watched the French coutry side. I sipped on my coke and smiled to myself. I reached into my purse and pulled out the smushed pastry wrapped in napkins then thought nah I’m not hungry for that. I went to put it back in my purse then thought who am I kidding and pulled it back out and took a big bite.

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The marker for each stop and the arrows leading you to each stop.

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The good luck owl.

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Had to get a photo of this family helping the boy reach the owl.

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Maille house of the Maille Mustard.

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Working in Paris

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I got back last night from my trip to Paris for work. Everything went well and it was pretty much smooth sailing. The best part; it didn’t feel like work. There is something about Paris in the winter time. The dreary colors and feel just work and you wouldn’t want it to be sunny. You can walk around and enjoy the city without the hustle and bustle of tourist, to a certain extent, and just take in Paris.

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Last time I was in Europe during the holidays was when I was in sixth grade so I didn’t remember how much Europe got into decorating. It was beautiful. I also got to enjoy the Christmas market on the Champs-Élysées. That was pretty packed since we went on a Saturday afternoon but it was full of treats and presents and of course vin chaud (hot wine). It is basically a hot spiced wine and it is so tasty. It is seriously the perfect drink to sip on walking down the streets of Paris in the cool weather. I will be making this for an evening with friends around Christmas for sure.

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Vin Chaud

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Also I of course did lots of eating and I of course documented it all.

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More vin chaud.

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Even had Japanese in Paris at a fabulous noodle place around the corner from the Louvre.

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Below is a pain perdu.

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Paris pour Thanksgiving!

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Last night I started to get ready for my trip. Besides doing laundry I had left everything for the night before, which I think for most people is pretty standard. I stopped by target to pick up a few last minute things; hairspray, downy anti-wrinkle spray (great for traveling), and my favorite travel snack pretzel goldfish.

This is my first real work trip. This past summer when I traveled with work it was to see how our tours run but I was only supposed to observe. This time I will really be working, helping, and presenting. I packed my leather portfolio full of business cards that I will hopefully use for the first time as well this trip. This trip is about firsts.

With the theme of traveling today I wanted to suggest a blog to all of you, Two Wooden Spoons. The writer behind this blog is my sisters friend Dollie. Kara met Dollie in Australia studying abroad and I met her there as well when I went to visit. She is an amazing, funny, beautiful person and I think all of you will enjoy her posts! Make sure to read the story behind the spoons because it is an incredible story that should not be missed when visiting her site.

I hope everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving! Eat a lot. That is my only advice.

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Sleepless in Portugal

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After my work tour ended (see previous post if you are confused) in Paris I headed to Portugal for a much needed vacation. I know that doesn’t sound right since the nine days on tour for work were basically a vacation, but what I needed was a vacation from was group travel. Just envision 43 American tourist, mostly ages 16-18, all trying to make a transfer on the Paris RER (subway). We would all get the notice that it was time to get off by each of shouting to each other that the next stop would be our stop. We would push and shove to get off as soon as the doors would open and then line up in our spots on the wall so the tour leader could walk down and make the head count. The looks from the Parisian we received were pretty special. Just another experience. But like I said I was ready to be on my own travel and responsible for myself.

I went with two of my girl friends to Portugal. We stayed in Lisbon for one night and then Lagos for basically three nights (its basically three nights because we spent our final night on a night bus headed back to Lisbon). What do I have to say about Portugal? It was spectacular. It was beautiful and full of culture. It had a Mediterranean feel on the streets and on the plates. Delicious fish and cheeses. It also was a city that came alive at night. The streets filled with tourist from all over. It was the type of European party city where you start drinking at midnight and stay out till at least 5 am. We hung out in the Bairro Alto area with a few Austrian guys we met at our hostel one night and after we said our goodbyes, I received an email from one of the guys with this message, “coolest handkerchief I have ever met.”No idea what that means but I’ll take my compliments where I can get them.

Lagos was 100 percent a place to go to party. We staying at the Raising Cock hostel which was voted one of the top 10 party hostel’s by CNN. The first thing we did when we checked into our hostel was sign up for the booze cruise, it seemed like a right of passage. The only nationality that was in Lagos was Australian. No joke. Every single person we met was Australian. It made me wonder who was in Australia? I also learned that if you hang with Australian brothers you will most likely leave with a good story… that is all I’m saying.

Simply put Portugal was amazing and I can’t wait to go back to explore more.

Before I share photos from the trip I wanted to focus on food, traditional food. First is a photo of pastel de nata. They are amazing. It is thought that they were originally made by 18th century Catholic monks in a parish in Lisbon. They would use egg-whites to starch their linens so there was leftover egg yolks, so they made custard tarts! And I am sure glad they did. They have a richer consistency than crème brûlée but the same delicate sweetness. The crust is flaky and buttery.

The traditional fish dish is bacalhau, which is salted cod, and is said it can be cooked in 365 different ways; a different way for each region. Mine was a salted cod with potatoes and it had oil will garlic covering it. I had this dish in Lagos and was nervous about what it would taste like but it was amazing. The cod had a harder exterior then a soft, flaky, buttery interior. It was delicate and delicious. They idea of drying and salting the cod was designed to preserve the fish longer because there was no refrigeration.

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Now let the pictures begin…

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Portugal is known for their Azulejo, “tiles”.

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Bairro Alto area in Lisbon

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Delicious monk fish dinner!IMG_9230

At night these streets are filled with hundreds of people.IMG_9244

LAGOS

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Below is one of the main squares called Praça Infante Dom Henrique

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Kayaking in the Grottos.

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This is a the toucan burger from Nahnahbah. Huge and delicious and the potato chips with garlic aioli sauce is just as good.l

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Hard Day At Work

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I work for a travel company. One of the perks of working for a travel company is we get to travel—crazy right? It was my company who sent me on my trip to Europe this summer. Each employee goes on a tour each summer to experience our tours to be able to understand our product better. So they paid me to go to Europe. I think it is safe I found a pretty good gig. Don’t worry it has its down falls as well, but this post is focusing on the positive. I work on our division of high school international tours so I was with 50, 16-18 year old students from Florida, Washington, North Carolina and New York. We went to Dublin, around Wales, London and Paris. It was incredible to watch these kids have their first time international experience and bonding with the other students. All and all it was great and a perfect day at the office.

Warning this is a photo heavy post.

Dublin

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Above, Library at Trinity College

Below, St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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Wales

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An actual name of a city in Wales

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Fish and Chips from Neptune

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Beaumaris Castle

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London

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Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford Upon Avon

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Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens

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Eastgate Clock in Chester

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Original Tudor architecture

Paris 

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Craziness at the Mona Lisa

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All of Scotland

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Lets talk about Scotland. Scotland was an amazing trip and experience. I was there for four days and went to Edinburgh, The Highlands, Loch Ness (I know its in the Highlands but had to add it), Isle of Skye and the Fairy Pools, Glasgow, oh and hiked to the top of Ben Nevis. I felt like I saw the entire country. I saw all of this with a couple of friends and one of my friends brought his cousin with him, and by cousin I mean “kind of” cousin who was about my dads age with kids. He was without a doubt the most interesting yet kind person I ever met in my life. I feel I have met some pretty special people during my travels, normally though they are foreigners, which maybe makes it less hilarious. He was such a big part of the trip I have to talk about him.

This man, Pat, was fabulous. First day of meeting him, he initiated skinny-dipping in 30 degree water with 60 degree air temperature. Ok that is an exaggeration but it felt like it was freezing.

Next I learned that he had a prosthetic leg by him sitting next to me in the car and asking if I minded if he took off his leg. No judgment what-so-ever but that is a pretty shocking for your car neighbor to ask.

At our first hotel we were staying at we grabbed a beer at the hotel pub and ran into a wedding party. It was the groom and groomsmen enjoying the night before the wedding. It was so great to sit and talk to locals and hear about the Scottish culture. We learned a lot that night for example the Scots really don’t wear anything underneath their kilts. We learned this the nice way, meaning the groom told us it was tradition and he wanted to be extremely traditional for his wedding. We weren’t as fortunate the next night at a pub in Edinburgh when we were surrounded by stag parties (bachelor parties) and lots of hairy butts were shown. But back to the hotel, before we know it when we looked over at Pat, the leg was off and he was telling three stories of how he lost his leg for us all to guess which was correct. The night ended with lots of people have his leg in their face or on their shoulder—the shoulder was mine.

When we got to Edinburgh, the magical enchanting city of Edinburgh, we thought he might not go out partying with us like we were planning on doing or at least the chance of the leg coming off at a very crowded pub was less. But of course as you predicted we were wrong. We were talking with a group of guys and next time we looked over the leg was off again. Natalie, my friend, had to have a talk with him at that point letting him know that he was being too “dad” and she was not going to meet guys this way.

But on a serious note he made the trip great and I would not do it over without him.

Scotland on it’s own was amazing. Beautiful green land that you would only expect would exist in Scotland. The intimate city of Edinburgh with character on every corner. Oh and I’m forgetting one of my favorite parts of the trip! I was in Scotland for the Wimbledon finals and if you are a tennis fan you know Murray is Scottish. Being in his country for his first Wimbledon win was one for the books. But I think the leg coming off at the bar tops it.

And of course below is lots of pictures.

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Urquhart Castle

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Loch Ness

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Fairy Pools

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Hiking Ben Nevis

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Top of the highest mountain in the UK

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Edinburgh

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First of many fish and chips

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Brew Dog is a Scottish Brewery that is sweeping the UK with the craft brewing.

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Grassmarket

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Sandwich from Oink on Grassmarket St

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Watching Murray win in Festival Square

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Glasgow

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Scottish meat pie

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Traditional haggis with neeps and tatties and whiskey sauce

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Edinburgh Castle

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Arthur’s Seat

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