Writing Dreams Come True in Europe

These past few months have been super great for me in a multitude of ways. Moving to a new house and gaining more responsibilities at my job are both super exciting and positive things, but they have also brought new challenges. More on this topic in Writing Routine: Interrupted. But my writing dreams consist of more than just time spent writing. They include traveling and learning as much as I can about the world in order to better inform my craft.

At the end of September, my husband and I took a ten-day trip to Europe and it was so amazing! I just want to share a bit about our trip with you because it gave me such a jolt of creative energy and so much happiness. I am a huge HP fan and while we didn’t exactly plan a Harry Potter vacation, we did happen to end up at some pretty cool HP locations as well as some regularly awesome European ones.

London – Writing Dreams and HP Things

My 28th birthday was on Friday, September 22, which also happened to be the day we booked tickets for the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. Guys, I can’t even explain how excited I was. You can read more about my love of Harry Potter here but suffice it to say that this was literally a dream come true for me. And, as if just being there wasn’t enough, all the people (read: children and me) whose birthday it was got to push open the doors to the Great Hall. I was totally fangirling the whole time.

I’m the tall one with the goofy smile.


Kiersten Lillis Great Hall Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

Can. You. Believe. It?

We spent over three hours wandering through this sacred place and I think I took 200+ pictures that night. Here are a few:

That night we had a super late dinner, and as the day changed from Friday to Saturday, it also changed from my birthday to my husband’s birthday. Yes, we were born exactly one year and one day apart. We shared a piece of lemon cake to celebrate.

Paris – Writing Dreams of Culture

Paris is romanticized as a city of artists. And why shouldn’t it be? The greats wrote there, so why shouldn’t us amateurs have writing dreams about the City of Lights? I didn’t do much writing there, but Paris in itself was an education in culture—something writers just can’t get enough of.

I went to Paris in the summer of 2011, but only briefly. I studied in Angers, France that July and I flew through Paris on the way in and out of the country. My first memory of Paris from that trip was stepping into Charles-de-Gaulle airport and trying to figure out how to get on the high-speed train. My traveling companion (an acquaintance from school) and I spent the next few hours dragging our giant suitcases through the streets of Paris, onto the metro and the bus and generally looking like the ridiculous, lost tourists we were.

Perhaps more on that adventure later, but this recent trip was simply marvelous. We rented a small flat on a super old street which housed at least three or four Asian takeout restaurants. We slept in a loft for three nights and neither of us rolled off or died! That in itself was a success, but my favorite thing about Paris was exploring it! Here are some of the fun things we did:

Went to Sacre Coeur, the highest point in Paris.

Wandered around the garden at Versailles.

Ate a LOT of croissants.

And walked up the 200+ stairs inside the Arc de Triomphe!

Scotland – Writing Dreams: Cake and Trains Edition

Scotland was a whirlwind because we hit three cities in three days! Yes, you read that correctly. We arrived in Glasgow from Paris and had approximately four hours before we had to catch a bus to Edinburgh. We wandered, got some food, generally just enjoyed the city. Here’s a juxtaposition of architectural styles in Glasgow:

That night in Edinburgh we made another one of my dreams come true—we had dessert and tea at the Elephant House cafe! If you don’t know why that’s significant, Google “Where did J.K. Rowling write Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s, if you’re in the UK) Stone?” and then you’ll know. It was literally one of my writing dreams come true.

The next day we hopped a bus back to Glasgow, got on the train, and headed north to the Highlands. I spent the four plus hour journey staring out my window, not blinking, and taking TONS of pictures. Most of them look like this:

 

But I couldn’t help it. It was so pretty it almost hurt my eyes.

We changed trains in Ft. William and in another hour-and-a-half or so we arrived in Mallaig, a small seaside fishing town in the Scottish Highlands. It was so quiet and wonderful. Here are some pictures to illustrate:

I was so pleased we saved Mallaig for last. After the hustle and bustle of London and Paris it was nice to be able to breathe in the fresh air and spend some time away from other people. We went on a hike and literally did not see another being (human or animal) for almost two hours. From the hike:

One more of my Harry Potter writing dreams come true—we rode the Jacobite, aka the Hogwarts Express on the way back south and went over the Glenfinnan Viaduct!

Traveling Takeaways

All in all the trip was super fast. Traveling always makes me introspective and gives me lots of story ideas! There’s so much going on in life that we rarely take the opportunity to notice the way we live. For instance, in the US I take for granted that we don’t have to pay to use public toilets. Free public restrooms are not a thing in Europe, at least not where we went. Because of this, in the US we don’t have to be afraid we’ll accidentally pull the turn-style instead of pushing it and end up with a bruise the size of a nectarine on our upper thighs. That absolutely happened to me.

Also, Parisians eat their meals at very specific times. Don’t try to go to dinner at 5:30pm in Paris. You’ll end up buying a sandwich from the supermarket. I’m not complaining about these things. On the contrary. I love learning about these kinds of cultural differences, because they open my mind to different ways of thinking and feeling and experiencing.

And as a writer, I can’t think of anything more exciting than that.

At the top of my list of places I want to travel next:

-Iceland

-New Zealand

-Italy

-Spain

-Germany

-South Africa

-Japan

-Indonesia

What is the most interesting place you’ve traveled? What have you learned from your experiences? Where do you still want to go? Comment below or email me at author@kierstenlillis.com.