Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Castles, Pubs and Harry Potter!

Monday, June 13 ~ Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh has an old town and a new town; the "center" is relatively easy to navigate (even though Doris and I misplaced our hotel) but filled with construction. All in all, a great city, where we saw Holyrood Palace (which stands at one end of the Royal Mile, with Edinburgh Castle at the other), and Mary Queen of Scots Tower. Our local guide for the morning was Margaret, who was 80 years young, and climbed the stairs all over Edinburgh Castle livelier than any of the rest of us!

Edinburgh Castle. How's they do that?!

A view from atop the Castle.

Inside the Castle.

Looking down the Royal Mile. Busy and fun!

Amazing architecture!

The Elephant House coffeehouse & pub, where JKR wrote her early Potter books. My Scottish Graceland!

It really IS full of elephants! Very kitschy : )

Loved it.

This was walking forwards. Then he walked backwards!

Made a stop at the Mitre Bar for lunch. I cruised up to the bar and asked the young barkeep what he could suggest that was "dark and Scottish". He said, "Do you mean beer?" Uhhh, yeah! What did he think I meant?! And don't you love the saying on the bar?!

When we couldn't find our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the local police station. At least we knew the name of the hotel, which apparently not many people do, according to the nice woman who helped us. No, Terry (our guide), the hotel is not just right down the street like you told us earlier!

Dinner at the the Conan Doyle. I found "Rob" in the ladies room here. He laughed at me and said "You're in the gents room!", and laughed until I showed him the little picture of the lady in the dress on the toilet door. Hahahaha! The pubs here are plentiful & fabulous! Yeah, I liked Scotland alot!

Monday, June 27, 2011

To Scotland We Will Go! (and don't call them Scotch...)

Sunday, June 12

We took a five hour train ride from King's Cross Station in London (I KNOW! The Hogwarts Express stops here!), through the eastern English countryside, to Edinburgh, Scotland. Our first change in countries! Doesn't that sound picturesque, lovely and peaceful?! It was...until...THEY came aboard! But for now, let's look at the picture below of a crazy-eyed, Harry Potter fan. In retrospect, I should've done a hundred other poses rather than this dull one, but, here I am. This mock platform (sadly, I found out there is no "real" platform 9 3/4) is set up outside for tourists. (that's me)

The big orange puff attached to my backside, is in reality, a neck pillow. I will NEVER use one of these again. What a pain in the tookus. I'd rather have a stiff neck.

Oooohhh, fun! I really do feel like I'm on the Hogwarts Express! And they even have wine and beer on this cart...who needs chocolate frogs and cauldron cakes?! (and is that someone pilfering on the right?!)

Our first glimpses of the North Sea!

Beautiful English countryside. (from a train window, so it ain't so good)

From the train again. It goes really fast. : )

A view of the many bridges coming into Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. That's right! Where the beer comes from! Yay!

Ok, now this is where it broke bad. There had been a sweet couple with two charming kids sitting beside us until Newcastle Station. The family got off, and THEY got on...a bunch of drunken, hiccuping lads, with a Scottish brogue so heavy, I swear I thought they were speaking another language for a good 15 minutes. Hahaha, I thought to meself, this is good fun! Then I realized that the word f**k (pronounced feck) is used as often as we use the word "the" here at home. Uh oh, I don't think this is a soccer team. Then it began: "Can ya flyyyyy, Booby?!" shouted over and over and over and over from the lad beside us, toward any one of his mates in the car. For an hour and a half. With a priest and children on board. I wanted to strangle every one of those cute, intoxicated fellows by the time we hit Edinburgh. Turns out "Can ya fly, Bobby" is from Robocop, and these gents had just come from a weekend long bachelor party. Wow, what a lucky girl! -_-

The rest of the night was great, even though my camera ate those pictures the next morning. We just had to visit those pubs again the next night! 

Tomorrow: Lost in Edinburgh, and the Elephant House! 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day Four: Hampton Court Palace (the replacement)

This was our first day with group. Our local guide was called Stuart; he LOVED to dish about the Royal Family, and I loved to hear it! He "had me" from "Charles and Gorilla" (instead of Camilla), and he proved to be a cheeky and knowledgable guide. The Queen celebrated her birthday on this day, even though her actual birthday is in April. They traditionally  mark it  with the Troop of Colours (a procession, I think), and celebrate it in June when the weather is nicer. (must be nice~hey, let's move my birthday to warmer weather!) Stuart suggested that we pass on seeing the Queen, since we would only see her car after waiting hours to do so. Since she would be using Windsor Castle that weekend (I know!), our visit there was replaced with Hampton Court Palace, home of Henry VIII. Ummm, ok! There also happened to be a naked bike race that day in Hyde Park, which my new friends, the Mangus's got to see. Darn!

I'm gonna be honest. I dunno. But it was on our driving tour that morning, and I love it.

In the roundabout by the Abbey. I love the red-coats ; )

So busted! Double-decker bus driver texting. Ok, it was at a light, but STILL!

The bridge that we're actually on is called London Bridge (looking over to Tower Bridge) according to Stuart. I know, London Bridge is really in AZ; don't shoot the messenger.

The awesome Hampton Court Palace. Henry was a ruthless dude; his buddy Thomas Wolsey lived there, but Henry wanted it instead. DO NOT have something that Henry wants!

Dublin roses line the front walls.

Flowers were in bloom everywhere!

Gardens in the back of the Palace.

Another view of the back of the Palace. *sigh*

A side garden. Amazing, since I kill literally everything. We have fake plants in front of our house.

Just wanted to throw in a pic of our garden. Hahaha!

Fovntain Covrt inside the Palace grovnds. They did stuff vp right, hvh?! ; )

16th century tapestries hang open to light in the Banquet Hall.

Just a cool picture inside.

A view through the back windows on the second floor.

I'm usually not so taken with gardens; I've come to love historical things thanks to my history-junkie husband, but these were the most lovely I've seen.

Tomorrow: the train ride to Edinburgh, a real lesson is Scottish drinking!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day Three: 10 Hours! Hurry!

Friday, June 10 (Happy Birthday, Lindsay!)

This was our last day "on our own", as we would meet up with our tour mates for the first time later that night at dinner. We tackled the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral yesterday, but had to fit in alot more today! Back to the familiar grounds of Westminster to the Abbey, then we'd go from there... 

Peeking in at the House(s) of Parliament from the Westminster side. I'm thinkin' "Cool, I'll get pictures of cops for Jack!" Then guy-in-white sleeves turns around with a machine-y kinda gun.
Okkk, movin' on....

Right across the street from Parliament is Westminster Abbey. These are Iraq war & Obama protesters, who apparently have been there for nearly 10 years. Don't think they're accomplishing too much, but they have a cheap place to live. -_-

The visitors entrance of the Abbey. I was thinking "Kate didn't come in through these doors! I didn't see her pay an entrance fee and wrangle through a turnstyle!" She actually came through the Great West Doors, and the view from there, once inside, was magnificent! No photos were allowed. BUT, I loved Poet's Corner (NOPE, I didn't take a picture ; ), and a few of us actually got into the Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor in the center of the Abbey to pray a litany. WOW!

Archway at the entrance.

Another view of Somerset House on Strand. The fountains are active in the summer, and in the winter this area is used as a skating rink! It houses many art & cultural organizations, and is tucked in right off of a main street!

The fountain in Trafalgar Square.

The National Gallery in Trafalgar. I didn't get many good shots here for some odd reason, because the weather was quite lovely at the time.

The Olympic countdown clock in the Square. According to our local guide the next day, the city is no where near able to house all the millions of tourists and participating countries. He said the Olympics there will be "carnage"! Oh my! My advice: Stay home.

The gate at the start of the Mall (pronounced "Mal" as in mal-practice) that leads down to Buckingham Palace. I felt like royalty myself!

St. James Park to the south of the Mall. The sun was shining and warm, and we actually took our jackets off for a few minutes! (Got your stone right here, Linda!)

Fabulous landscaping at the South & West Africa gates, directly in front of the Palace. See the little crowns on top of the posts?!

No one would let me in, so I just took pictures.

Queen Victoria Memorial in the center of the Queen's Gardens in front of the Palace. Look how quickly the weather changed in 15 minutes time! Jackets on, umbrellas out, and to the tube we go!

A home in Chelsea on our walk back for dinner.

This is such a great way for me to remember my fantastic adventures, thanks for sharing them with me!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 2: On Our Own a/k/a Let's Do As Much As Possible in One Day!

Thursday, June 9

Doris and I had ALL day to explore London! So we each packed our little backpack with a bottle of water, an umbrella and a few other essentials, and once again headed for the tube.

Our hotel, the Millenium-Copthorne at the Chelsea Football Club. A cute little English UF student sat beside me on the plane ride across the pond. He said the Chelsea area was "posh" and I would love it. He was right!

Uh uh, not the London Bridge, The Tower Bridge. According to our local guide the next day, a gentleman who bought a different bridge thought he was buying this one. Burned!

The entrance to the Crown Jewels. I pulled my camera out at one point, and asked the young girl behind me if we could take pictures, since I didn't see a sign. I forgot, not everyone speaks English. She just looked bewildered as I began "signing" Can we take pic-tures? -_- No, we couldn't.

I wanted to save this pic for my "fun signs" post, but it's very important to convey this message on day two. If this was not written on the ground at every intersection, there would be injured/dead tourists littering the streets.

Aren't these the coolest?! I wanted to take a taxi ride just to get my picture taken in one! I really should have...

The backside of St. Paul's Cathedral. Imagine our amazement when we got to the front! We caught the last tour of the day : ) Amazing!

The transit cop curiously asked why we wanted to go to SoHo when I asked for directions; when we got there I starting snapping great stuff like this. Right past here, we rounded the corner and entered a very campy part of town! Guess the "Dog and Duck" pub I wanted to go to was famous for various reasons! ; ) I didn't see that it was listed under "Night Life". Ooops.

Doris wasn't thrilled with my call for dinner, so we turned back toward Leicester Square and I had the fish & chips and mushy peas that I was dying for!  Fan-tas-tic!!! We met a nice fellow named Denis from Belfast who bought us our first of quite a few Jamesons during the trip!

We stopped in this little gem of a market on the way back to the hotel to browse. It contained a bakery, deli, barber, market, butcher and a cheese & wine store. If you paid an extra £5, you could sit in the cafe and drink the wine that you bought from them! That's it, I'm moving here!

So ends day two. And it only got better : )

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