What to Pack for Winter in Europe

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In less than two weeks, I will be heading to Brussels and Paris for a quick weekend getaway with my mom (yay!). As it gets closer to the holidays in Europe, I think the cities become so magical and it always worth a trip! Skipping the summer months for a winter weekend in Europe isn’t only cheaper, but you get to see a little more of that local flair. However, I know the promise of colder weather might initially deter you from booking that flight, but I wanted to share a few of my tips for dressing warm – and fashionably – in the winter which will make sight seeing enjoyable, and you’ll still be camera ready!

Practical(ish) shoes. 
Yes, when walking around Europe, you can typically expect some cobblestones, so stilettos are out, but that doesn’t mean you take heels off the table all together. The Jeremy Campbell booties I added above are a perfect example of a boot that you can rock in the winter time on European side streets. I actually have these myself and they’re super comfy and sturdy. A great pair of sneakers, with a hint of embellishment is also a good option. Gucci is having a total moment right now with their sneakers; I think they’re a super fun splurge. But, if you’re looking for something a little friendlier on your wallet, a pair of white chucks or Stan Smith’s should do the trick.

Layers, layers, layers
Investing in a body suit so you can ensure that your midriff will stay warm between picking up your luggage at the airport and sitting down at a cozy cafe is a must. Do double duty by layering a pair of winter tights underneath a pair of destroyed denim or a knee-length skirt and you’ll be good to go. Some tights you can get now are actually lined with fleece, so if you’re known to be super chilly, or are going to be spending the majority of your day outside, I would pack a pair to layer under denim or a long skirt for sure!

Colorful Knits
Come winter, expressing yourself through color gets a little trick, so I always like to mix it up with a colorful sweater. Pops of orange, red, purple, and baby blue are a great way to brighten up your wardrobe, while you stick to more of the classics in the rest of your look. I definitely recommend packing turtlenecks when you can, that way you can save space in your suitcase because you don’t need to pack a scarf. You can also have fun with color with a knit hat as well. Don’t be afraid to bust out one with a fun pom pom, so your friends can keep track of you around busier parts of the city.

A Second Coat
I always wear my biggest and fluffiest coat on the plane because packing it is a nightmare, but I highly recommend packing a second coat, especially if you plan to take lots of pictures outside, go out on the town, and think the weather might fluctuate a lot in temperature. A fab bomber is always a good go-to, and again, so many brands are experimenting with color, so you can stand out amongst a sea of black and tan.

A Couple Statement Pieces
When traveling, we have a tendency to pack sensibly, especially for trips to areas where it’s cold weather! But, I challenge you on your next trip to pack a few items that really stand out. A perfect dress for a surprise date, unexpected outing (you know, with the Queen or something), or even just for afternoon tea can work wonders. I can’t tell you how many times having a dress handy has saved my ass, especially when traveling abroad. I also always recommend one or two key pieces of statement jewelry. One eye-catching ring or set of earrings can really pull a look together without too much effort. The most obvious statement piece to pack is a great bag. I always say a bag is your best investment piece, so if you’ve got it flaunt it. However! Do not have this bag be one of your two carry-ons. Having to shove your bag under the seat or in the overhead bin on long flights is just asking for trouble – especially if it is an investment piece. Do yourself a solid and pack your day-to-day bag in a duster to pull out in prime condition once you get to your destination.

These five tips are sure to get you off to a good start on packing for a trip to Europe in winter. If you have questions or other suggestions that I may not have mentioned, be sure to leave them in the comments!

Where to Eat: Scotland

Ah, yes. Travel is all about the sites you see, the people you meet, and most importantly: the food. When I reached out to Visit Scotland for ideas on where to visit, and specifically where to dine, they came back with an amazing group of experiences. Naturally, I wanted to try all of them. On our first full day in Edinburgh, we started our evening off with a gin distillery tour, and then made our way to Restaurant Mark Greenaway for an elevated dining experience just steps from some of the most popular sites in the city, but far enough removed that it wasn’t overrun with other tourists. If you don’t know Chef Mark Greenaway, it’s worth noting he was the only chef in Scotland to be newly awarded 3 AA Rosettes for Culinary Excellence back in 2012 – and continues to pay homage to Scottish tradition by using locally-sourced ingredients. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you’re in for a treat, as he’s known for some of the most inventive desserts in the country.

The following morning, we made our way north. This was my first taste of driving on the highway in Scotland (on the left side of the road – gah), so I was a bit nervous, but once we were out of the city it was smooth sailing. Our first stop on our road trip was in Pitlochry; only a few hours north. Pitlochry is a great spot if you like to go hiking or spend time outdoors. We had great intentions to go hiking, but jet lag unfortunately got the best of us. There’s also a few castles within striking distance that you can explore – most notable being Blair Castle.

A night or two at the Fonab Castle Hotel is also an absolute must – especially if you’re looking for a tasty and traditional Scottish dining experience. The restaurant on-site, Sandeman’s, has a six-course dinner that will knock your socks off. With twists on all the classics, impeccable wine pairings, and a sommelier that will leave you laughing throughout the whole meal – it is truly a dinner to remember. Being with my mom at the table, getting to share this uber-foodie experience, was particularly special to me. She always taught me to spend money on two things: travel and good food, so the entire meal really felt like an homage to my upbringing (love ya mom!). In the end, I’m glad I took her sound advice ;).

The next day, the adventure continued! Heading further north, you can’t miss Inverness. For all you scotch whiskey lovers, there are a gazillion distilleries in the area, making this the perfect spot to post up for a night or two. The town sits on the River Ness ( I bet you can guess who’s been rumored to swim through those waters), and really is the quintessential European town. Restaurants and music venues line the river, providing the perfect backdrop to some family-style inspired fare. We stopped into The Mustard Seed for a relaxed and tasty dinner. Their cuisine features a marriage of Scottish and French fare, boasting large portions, and an amazing view of the river. Head in any direction a block or two and you’ll find live music to take you into your evening. A head’s up – if you are driving into town, parking is a little tricky. Be prepared to circle around a few times before you find a spot.

Did someone say food safari?! Why, yes, yes they did. While hunting vests and binoculars sound fun on a trip riding through the Sahara – a safari of the culinary persuasion in Edinburgh was right up my alley. My mom and I were paired up with a local who works with Edinburgh Food Safari; she toured us around a few neighborhoods to taste everything from vegetarian haggis to locally made gin, handmade marshmallows, and tea with scones and clotted cream (plus a homemade lemon custard that was too good for words). This tour isn’t just about the food though; your guide has amazing knowledge about the city, provides spirited conversation on any topic you can imagine, and ours even helped us crash the beginning of a wedding ceremony! I swear to god the father of the bride invited us into the church for the whole kit and caboodle!! If only I wasn’t wearing jeans that day… If you haven’t guessed yet, this was hands down this was one of my favorite experiences the entire trip, and I highly recommend checking them out if you’re in Edinburgh.

To sum it up – Scotland isn’t just haggis, salmon, and scotch (although there is a lot of that), but rather a burgeoning foodie destination with tastes fit for every palette. If you have any questions on what to eat and where – drop them in the comments, and I’ll be more than happy to answer them!

PVD – EDI with Norwegian Air

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To say I was excited to head to Scotland this summer is a bit of an understatement. Who doesn’t like scotch, bagpipes, and some of most beautiful scenery in all of Europe?! This was the first trip that I have taken with my mother in I don’t know how long, and I was so happy to be able to bring her along. For us to be able to step away from our everyday lives and explore a country we’ve both been dying to visit was a dream come true – Scotland far exceeded all of my expectations! I was fortunate enough to be able to parter with Norwegian Air and the team at Visit Scotland for this trip. Both teams took amazingly good care of me, gave me plenty of tips & suggestions for my stay in Scotland, and treated me with all the hospitality you would expect from the Scots. For that, I am eternally grateful.

To start – you may have heard about sales on flights to Europe that are as low $99. Yep! Traveling to Europe is now cheaper than taking Amtrak from BOS – NYC. More often than not, I hear from friends who want to travel that flights to Europe are just too expensive. But, now that Norwegian Air is expanding their service out of New England, it has become more achievable than ever to make it to Europe without busting open our piggy banks. As an added bonus, there are flights out of Providence (PVD), for those who live in the southern part of New England, who don’t want to trek to Boston to make a flight. You can book here based on your budget, whether it be $100 or $500. And guess what, flights to EDI are still $99!

If you are planning on taking a trip with Norwegian Air, know a few things:

  • This is a budget airline, so pack a pillow/blanket, eye mask, and some snacks if you want the most comfortable flight.
  • If you are someone who gets hungry on flights, you can pay for your meal in advance when you book. It may not be super necessary for the red-eye, as it is best to sleep as much as you can, but for the flight back, could be a good move.
  • There is no First Class, but a little extra leg room never hurt anyone. Paying a fee to upgrade into an Exit Row seat isn’t entirely unreasonable. I did this for both my mom and I and it was totally worth it.
  • If you’re flying out of PVD, get there with plenty of time. Because these flights are so popular, check-in takes a bit of time. Expect long lines, and know that, god forbid, you get there a little late, you will be bumped up in line if you’re cutting it close.
  • There is WiFi on the flight! I got a good amount of work done on both of my flights to and from EDI. If you’re looking to get some work done, or just peruse Instagram, you can!

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetIf a trip to EDI is in your future – scroll down for a recap of my first two days in Scotland with some ideas of where to stay, eat, and explore!

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For our first night in Edinburgh, we stayed at a cute, and well-situated spot, Hotel Du Vin. This spot is filled with character, and close to some of the most popular sites in the city! Edinburgh in general is a very walkable city, and this is a perfect location to start and finish your day. Rooms are super cozy – and in typical Scottish fashion, each room is outfitted with an amazing bath, cozy beds, and a hint of tartan plaid (in case you needed reminding of where you were). Some sites close by include:

  • The Royal Mile
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Mary King’s Close
  • Scott Monument
  • The Writer’s Museum (super cool!)
  • St. Giles Cathedral

Another amazing spot close by is Sandy Bells. If you love live music, like me, and just good vibes in general, you absolutely have to head here to listen to local musicians in ‘sessions’. There isn’t any photography or videography allowed (although I may have snuck a Snapchat), but the experience of sitting down with a pint and listening to traditional music being played was one of my favorites in the city.

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Another thing to note about Edinburgh is that they have an amazing food scene! I am going to do an entirely separate post on all of my food experiences throughout Scotland, but wanted to share a couple of quick stops that we made in between sightseeing. Our first meal was at an awesome gastropub called The Scran and Scallie. The cocktails are fantastic, and the fare is hearty and thoughtfully prepared. This was just the type of comfort food we were looking for in our first few hours in Edinburgh. For breakfast the next morning, we went to Spoon – named one of the Best Hangover Cafes in the city. The place is eclectically designed and their breakfast definitely hit the spot. If you’re looking for a cafe to work out of, this is a perfect place to post up, but it is open to all types. In our time there, we saw a bachelorette party, some folks working remotely, and very few tourists (which to me is always a good sign).

Another little known fact about Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, they love their gin. Martini lovers rejoice!  Sure, Scotch seems like the natural spirit to gravitate to on a trip like this – and I like Lagavulin and Laphroaig with the best of them. But, there are so many amazing gin distilleries popping up that we had to check one out. We headed over to Summerhall, which is a multi-arts complex and events venue in an old veterinary school building – cool, right?! Even if you don’t have a desire to check out a gin distillery, this place is worth visiting. The tour we went on was with a small outfit within Summerhall: Pickering’s Gin.  You learn about how two gin lovers started from an old (read: super old) gin recipe from India, and built a sought-after gin that is perfect for a gin & tonic. Of course, you get to do some tasting, and it’s a good way to kick off your evening.

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Alas, we couldn’t stay in Edinburgh forever. We traveled elsewhere throughout the country, and finally stayed in Edinburgh for one more night (those blog posts are coming soon!) and then it was to the airport back home. The Edinburgh Airport is super easy to navigate (Note: there is a bit of walking, especially if you’re returning a car), and their security team has the checkpoint down to a science. Still, give yourself at least 90 minutes if you’re traveling back home, so you have plenty of time to grab a final drink before hopping your flight. If you have any questions about traveling to Edinburgh, definitely don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Happy to answer any questions below! Additionally, Visit Scotland offers a great amount of resources for your travel. They also have a dope Instagram if you’re looking for any inspo for your next trip!

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