Instagrammed: Europe for the Holidays

For those who wondered where I’ve been these past five weeks: I’ve been everywhere! Kind of. I spent all of December living out of my suitcase while traveling around northern Europe, doing a minorly whirlwind tour from Italy and France to England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, and Iceland.

It’s all been fairly spontaneous. I decided last-minute to join Joe on his trip — leaving me less than two weeks to pack up my life in Italy(!), pack for the trip, and plan all sorts of logistics — and from there we’ve only been laying out rough plans as we go, seeing where the road and our whimsy takes us (whimsy is the best navigator).

Which means in just over a month, I got to experience eight different countries at Christmas time — a very happy way to see out what was already quite a stellar year. Here are a few instagram favorites from our travels this 2013 holiday season:

Ile St Louis, Paris at Christmas by Expat Edna

Paris: Île St Louis all gussied up for the holidays at the end of November: a perfect last look at my beloved island before I left, for good this time.

Champs Elysees from Concorde, Paris at Christmas by Expat Edna

Paris: In two years I never made it onto the Ferris wheel at Concorde, even though it came through twice a year and I’d swear up and down I’d ride it this time. Well in true Edna form, I did finally get on that wheel and look out at the Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysees — my very very last night in Paris.

Oxford Circus, London at Christmas by Expat Edna

London: I love London. I love Christmas decorations. Heading to England after Paris was a no-brainer.

Edinburgh at Christmas by Expat Edna.JPG

Edinburgh: My first time in Scotland! and I adored it. I’m not sure what this building was — I was dragging my bags to the train station at the time and was busy trying not to develop scoliosis — but I liked how festive it looked with twinkling lights around its serious pillars.

Christmas Fair, Edinburgh by Expat Edna

Edinburgh: At first I was disappointed I never got to go ice-skating outdoors — it’s been on my to-do list ever since the first time I saw the rink at Hôtel de Ville when I moved to Paris — but then I realized it was far more fun to people-watch on a balcony above, drinking warm booze in mugs and trying to spot who was on a first date (and who wasn’t getting a second).

Go with Oh Xmas, London by Expat Edna

London: From Edinburgh we returned to London for a second week, bringing a surprising amount of sunny Scottish weather back with us — which would normally be very welcome, but for a girl from Pennsylvania it didn’t exactly scream Christmas. We tried sprucing up our gowithoh flat with this mini singing Santa, but ultimately just decided it was London giving us an early Christmas present of minimal umbrella use.

Harrods at Christmas by Expat Edna

London: The only Christmas window displays I saw this year were at Harrods, where each window resembled a train carriage done up in a 20s vintage style. Quite a few of the windows were both travel- and booze-themed, which I found most appropriate.

Temple Bar, Dublin at Christmas by Expat Edna.JPG

Dublin: All my Irish friends very politely implied that I was an idiot when I told them I’d planned a trip to Dublin for Christmas. “The country’s shut down! The place’ll be empty!” they assured me. While it wasn’t as bad as they’d predicted (we still managed to get quite a number of pints of Guinness in us), this was the emptiest I’d ever seen Temple Bar.

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen at Christmas by Expat Edna.JPG

Copenhagen: Our flight to Reykjavik had a 15-hour overnight layover in Copenhagen, and since neither of us had been to Denmark, we turned it into a challenge: instead of booking a room, we would stay out all night and try to see as much of the city as we could. This was both one of the first and last things we saw during that Danish all-nighter: the lit-up grounds of the Tivoli Gardens.

Reykjavik at Christmas by Expat Edna.JPG

Reykjavik: Icelanders decorate their houses in a way that feels perfectly fit to the season: not too gaudy, not too overdone, just the right amount of lights and trimmings on houses and in windows. It’s like seeing gingerbread houses come to life. (This is the view from the dining room at my colleague’s house, where our first night we got to enjoy a traditional Icelandic Christmas dinner with his family!)

Reykjavik New Year's Eve by Expat Edna

Reykjavik: The main reason we chose to go to Iceland in December (when there’s about two minutes of daylight and 23 hours of crazy windy) was so that I could spend my favorite holiday in a city obsessed with fireworks. Reykjavik’s celebration was both the most extravagant and most low-key New Year’s Eve fireworks I’ve ever seen, and totally worth the frozen toes and nearly losing a limb to wayward explosives.

Where were you for the holidays? I hope you all had wonderful Christmases and New Year’s! 

Follow me on instagram at @expatedna

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  1. I love that last photo of the fireworks in Reykjavik – and I love your idea of pulling an all-nighter in Copenhagen! I *may* do a bit of research and see if I’ll be able to do that in Kuala Lumpur on my 16 hour stopover…although I will have a major timezone change to contend with. Hmm. I’ve never seen the Harrods window at Christmas, but in my former home (Newcastle), the Fenwick’s window was always a big event.

    Happy New Year, and hope you have a wonderful 2014!

  2. These photos are so incredibly pretty, Edna! I loved them all, but the ones from Edinburgh really convinced me to make Scotland my 2014 travel priority! It looks amazing!

  3. Just spent my NYE in London at a weird reggae space party. Magical!

  4. Norway & Sweden also put up the glowing stars in windows during the holidays. We joined the tradition this year & I loved it!

  5. I love the photo of the fireworks in Reykjavik- but may I ask, how many last nights in Paris have you had exactly?

  6. I’m loving these, Edna. I’ve heard so much about Copenhagen so I’m quite intrigued… Wishing you a great start for 2014!

  7. But where are all the FOOD pictures?!? Please tell me that you have a post on that coming up!

    (Christmas in Europe looks so pretty. Saigon has some decorations, but it’s not even as festive as Singapore was!)

  8. That’s a lot of travel and I love how you’re just flowing with life. You’re photos of London are making me reminisce about my time there a year ago for the holidays!
    And you had me chuckling about trying to avoid scoliosis- I was the unfortunate recipient of scoliosis in my teens and now have an awesome scar and titanium rods fused to my spine…

    Great photos as always

  9. I believe that building in Edinburgh is the Royal Scottish Academy – an art gallery if I remember rightly! looks like you’ve had a great festive season x

  10. I’m so glad you liked Edinburgh! It’s one of my favourite cities and it’s especially excellent in winter.

    PS CENSUS!!!!!!!!!!

  11. This is exactly how I would have liked to spend the holidays. :D Ooh, I can’t believe you got to go to Iceland – That’s in my top five places I really want to go to! :D And I’m sorry I missed you while you were over this side of the pond!

  12. Amazing photos, Edna! I love the one from the ferris wheel in Paris. Iceland is next on my list. Any tips for planning a trip there?

  13. How fun! I love the idea of experiencing Christmas across multiple countries in the same month! I detect a blogger challenge :-)

  14. I love how you were telling me about your plans to go to Ireland for Christmas. And then not only did you do that, but added on 7 more countries! Sounds like the perfect holiday! Unfortunately I was working for most of it, but still had lots of time to catch up with old friends, which was nice after being away for so many Christmases. Already starting to itch to travel again, though… and your Iceland pictures are not helping.

  15. Great idea for a post. It’s fun to see places you know all decked out for the holidays.

  16. I love your photo recap of your whirlwind trip! The one of Tivoli Gardens is my favorite – looks like a perfect place to start and end your Copenhagen all-nighter.

  17. I’ve been playing with Instagram a lot lately and I loved it. I must admit the photos of Paris are so lovely! I hope to do some ice-skating in Edinburgh next year! Planning on spending Christmas there :)!

  18. Wow, they´re stunning! I´ve had the opportunity to visit Vienna during Christmas period and they really know how to make your jaw drop, too. The Christmas market at the Rathaus was my favourite in terms of having a bit of everything. The lights, old fashioned carousel, gluhwein aroma everywhere… You get the impression very quickly that they´ve got a long history of Christmas markets in Austria. Highly recommend to everyone.

  19. Europe for the holidays is the best! I wouldn’t mind heading back and checking out Christmas in all the places you listed above.


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