Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thumbs Down on the Holiday Inn Express

We decided to pick something cheap and close to the airport, since we were flying into Gatwick at midnight and than leaving the next morning. The Holiday Inn express was relatively inexpensive and had the benefit of a 24 hour shuttle. Little did we know, they're a bunch of liars! We landed at midnight to find out that instead of the $2 shuttle, we were actually a $30 taxi ride away (not to mention the $30 to come back to the airport in the am). Big bummer, but I guess you can't have everything go your way.

Show me the way to go home
I'm tired and I wanna go to bed
I had a little drink about an hour ago
and it went straight to my head.
Wherever I may roam
On land or see or shore
You can always hear me singing this song
Show me the way to go
Show me the way to go
Show me the way to go hoooooooooome

Monday, June 23, 2008

Arthur's Seat

We hiked up this bad boy today... it was definitely the highlight of Edinburgh.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

6/22 St. Andrews & Edinburgh

Hey guys and gals, sorry for being so late with the posts. As it turns out, just because the advert in the B&B booklet says internet available, does not mean they actually have access anywhere other than their local library.
This morning we were off for St. Andrews before we headed into Edinburgh. It's amazing how the weather can change in a matter of 15 minutes. We were walking around the grounds with some menacing clouds looming overhead. Once it began to drop a bit of rain we decided to head to the gift shop to let it pass. By the time we got halfway through the little shop of junk, I mean souvenirs, the sun had come back out and there was no sight of rain.
Don't fret though, we picked the rain back up while enroute to Edinburgh and while in the city. We found our B&B without much incident. Each day we are within about 50 yards of where we are staying and have to do just a bit of searching. We decided to hoof it (walk) into the city and check out what we wanted to do tomorrow before our flight. We toured the castle at the price of about $24 a piece US.... just for the castle. I thought it was worth the entrance fee 15 years ago when I went but not this time. Christina was in search of the coffee shop that the Harry Potter author wrote from which was just down the street. From there it was off to Calton Hill (quite a hike) to snap some pictures of the town below. Tomorrow we will climb the opposite side (Arthur's Seat) which is an extinct volcano.
On the way back to the room we wanted to stop at a local pub with wireless access (which is where I am writing you now) and got completely dumped on by rain on the way. We are sitting here soaked head to toe even with rain jackets on.... but at least I have a good beer and the Spain v. Italy game.

Sorry for the lack of pictures. We didn't upload them from the camera to the computer before we left the room so they will have to come tomorrow. Tomorrow is our last real day, hopefully we can get one more post and some pictures in before we fly back.

Things to note:
Virgin Atlantic Airlines rocks even in economy!!!!
Zeus et al - we only booked our first nights in London and tomorrow night near Gatwick. The rest of the time we have completely winged it usually the day of. We got a little nervous when we hear about the agric. festival but it all worked out ok. We are early enough in the season that there is still plenty of room somewhere.
Tourist info centers really are good at picking out great places. We got better B&B's through them than doing 3 months worth of research on my own. Go figure.

6/21 Pitlochery and Anstruther

By now, we were really starting to get the hang of these big English/Scottish breakfasts. We decided what better way to start the day than washing down black pudding with a little local Scotch. We picked Edradour, the smallest distillery in Scotland, for its handcrafted Scotch and because they gave a free tour :) What can I say? We are near the end of our trip and feeling it in our pockets. For some reason they built the place for midgets and Joel was forever running into doorways. I think he was just trying to gain enough pity for more free Scotch.
We left Pitlochery and headed along the coast towards Anstruther(a random pick on the map, just south of St. Andrews). I was not thrilled about being stuck in the car for another long drive, but was pleasantly suprised by what we found. As we were reaching a real lag in our journey, we happened upon a small pick your own strawberry/raspberry farm with a cafe attached just outside of Leven. We stopped in for scones and homemade strawberry jam and then grabbed some raspberries for the road. I had been joking the whole trip about if only we could find a place with the beach, mountains, and farmland than I'd never leave and thats just what we found in Anstruther. It was a real quaint fishing town. Unfortunately, after our quick walk through town it got real cold and started pouring. We spent the rest of the longest day of the year inside reading and playing cards.

B&B: 8 Melville Terrace
Afternoon snack: Blacketyside Cafe

6/20 Hadrian's Wall and Pitlochery

We said farewell to our beautiful farmhouse and headed towards Scotland. We became very familiar with the town of Hexham in our quest to find Hadrian's Wall, or whats left of it, and Chester's Fort. We were not impressed by the work of Chester and continued on our journey to Pitlochery. We were lucky enough to book a place through the tourist information center which was a struggle due to the Agriculture Convention. On day 8 of flying by the seat of our pants and still smooth sailing. Our B&B, Strathgarry, was a very "posh" room located above a small cafe, which was made even cooler when we realized the name of our room was "Sheeps Dip"(that one's for you, Tom M). We wandered the town and then settled into a local pub where we enjoyed drinks, Croatia v. Turkey game, and live music. You couldn't understand a word out of the Scot's mouth, until he started singing a pretty impressive rendition of everything American (Green Day, Leonard Skynard, etc). Nothing says Scotland like the sweet sounds of Sweet Home Alabama.

Kicking Turkeys

We bought a walking book and decided to hit the trails. We went on the one that was stated to be 2 miles round trip and easy walking, sounded safe enough. About half way through the trail, we noticed the path to another trail that looked more inviting than the one we were on. 2 hours, many goat poop piles, and a little rain later we found ourselves up and back down a gorgeous mountain. The 360 degree view of the Lake District was well worth the heavy winds, rain fall, and exhaustion. When our shaky legs made it to the bottom of the mountain we rejoined our original trail. Luckily for us, we had purchased the walking guide book, because little did we know, the barely visible path cut through farm lands and backyards. We were midway into crossing one path when we realized we were in the middle of a cow pasture and the path cut through 8 full size cows. We froze and debated whether to continue or turn around and haul butt. All I could think about were Mel’s stories of being chased by cows/bulls (at the moment I couldn’t remember which one it was, which made me hesitate even more). I took a deep breath, blocked out thoughts of being knocked on my butt into cow piles, and we made our way through with cows glaring in our direction. We made it safely and laughed at how scared we were of cows when we come upon another field of chickens, goats, and turkeys. Once again, fear of angry roosters entered our heads. We walked slowly, deciding if we didn’t look the animals in the eyes we’d be ok, when up walked the king of all turkeys worldwide. We tried moving out of his way, but he kept getting closer. As he came closer, so did the other chickens. I quickened my step and bummed into Joel, which sent Joel into a tailspin. Freaking each other out, we both hauled ass the rest of the way to the fence. “You almost made me kick a turkey” Joel yelled. “Better me than you, I’m a vegetarian. I can’t kick animals.” When we made it to the other side of the fence we realized the poor guy was just hungry, but in the heat of the moment that turkey monster looked like it wanted to take revenge for turkeys everywhere. Sure gave the farmers something to laugh about.

Yorkshire Dales

We ate breakfast in York and decided to see the Yorkshire Dalles before making our way to the Lake District. Feeling tired of planning, Joel put me in charge of the traveling guide and map reading. I picked a small place called Pately Bridge(SE side of the dalles) and How Stean Gorge. We drove through the most gorgeous country side on the way to Pately Bridge. I was tempted to make Joel pull over and just leave me on the side of the road. With the beautiful weather, gorgeous countryside, and my nose buried in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d rather do than leave behind my life and become a farmer. Pately Bridge was a cute town, filled like all the other towns with gift shops. It wasn’t so much the town that impressed us, but the drive out there. Carsickness, headaches, and all, I’d do it again. After picking up some cheese, biscuits, and pork pies, we made the 20 minute drive to How Stean Gorge. For 11 pounds, it was much smaller than we expected, but we both fell in love with the secluded stream and breathtaking walk. We found some fallen logs and had a picnic in the open fields. When we got in the car to continue onto the Lake District, we finally saw real English rainy weather. It took several hours to get to our bed and breakfast(Tock How Farm), but we were extremely pleased when we pulled into the most quaint farmhouse. Our room overlooks the cow filled farm, a beautiful lake, and mountains in the distance. We were wet and cold when we arrived and were happily greeted by a fireplace, tea, and hot chocolate. This has proved to be the highlight of our trip this far. We’re ready to kick back and enjoy a few days in the English countryside.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 5: York

Gas shortages throughout London made us a little nervous as we made our trek from Suffolk to York, but we filled up when we hit 1/2 a tank and are hoping for the best for the rest of the trip.

We got to York around noon, checked into our B&B, and cruised through the busy downtown streets. York is a beautiful town with plenty of shops filling the historic buildings. We went on a guided walk around the town and over the city walls to get a bit of York's history, but approaching hour 2 decided to bail out a little early. Originally we had discussed spending 2 days here, but not wanting to spend 2 days of museums and abbeys we think an afternoon is really enough. We are mapping out our journey now for the Lake District.

Bed and Breakfast: Abbingdon
Meals: Sainsbury, small side street restaurant

Monday, June 16, 2008

Crumpets, teacakes, and scones...OH MY!!

We had a lazy morning here in Suffolk, drinking tea, reading, and playing on the internet and then John and Annie took us out to get a little local flavor of the neighboring towns. We strolled through the streets of Bury St. Edmunds and enjoyed the church, shops, lattes, and scones. We happened upon a wine shop and Joel was able to pick up something nice from Dujac to share with our hosts. Then we moved onto Lavenham where we were treated to High Tea at The Swan. The food was absolutely delicious and Joel and I have decided that we must find a way to get clotted cream in the states. John was quite amused with himself, this being the first time to ask for a "box" for the leftovers since a "box" in England refers to a cup that a man would wear during sports. The ride home our bellies were full enough to put anyone into a deep diabetic sleep, if it weren't for our bat out of hell British driver and a major caffeine high. On the ride back to John's we stopped to see a small portion of his car collection (this section being strictly for racing). Amazing to imagine having a different car for almost every day of the month, all in tip top condition, with some dating back to as early as 1935.
We stopped by the Tourist Office, which proved to be one of the wisest ideas we've had and picked up a load of wonderful guide books to get us through the rest of our trip. This evening will be filled with snackettes, browsing the guide books, and relaxing. Tomorrow we head out for York.

Heathrow to Bury St. Edmunds

Sorry we didn't get to write last night. We didn't get the internet connection up until this morning. Yesterday we took an early morning tube ride our to Heathrow airport in order to pick up our rental car. The lady at the counter gave us a pretty neat little upgrade; Peugeot 307cc (convertable). We drove out to see our (parents) friends John and Annie who live out in the country just north of London where we will be staying for a couple of days.
We had a couple wrong turns here and there but driving over here is like riding a bike, once you done it once or thrice, it comes right back to you. I had no issues with other drivers or figuring out how/where to go.
Once we arrived we all went out to lunch at the local pub which is apparently a fairly common Sunday tradition. It was a very large meal and that was all we needed for the rest of the day really. John took us in one of his old cars (1935 Talbot something or other) which was really impressive. They are taking that car on a road trip through France next month. Most of the cars he collects turns out are off other places but I'm going to take some pictures of different cars he has in case anyone cares. They are pretty neat.
From there on out we just lounged around the house and talked all night about all kinds of thing. Today we are getting a slow start and about lunch time we will head into Newmarket for a wander around town to see how the locals operate. More pictures to come today.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Joel Turns 27!!

12 hours of sleep was just what we needed. Today proved to be a much better start to our trip, beginning with the man of the house (B&B) making up for his wife's flakiness. She was out rowing this morning, so he treated us to breakfast and a good conversation. We found out that a house like the B&B in this area (Hammersmith) runs about 2 million pounds ($4mil). Guess we won't be buying a house in the area. After breakfast, we headed to Greenwich, by boat, to see the Prime Meridian. The boat ride was one of our favourite things (notice the Brit spelling already). Christina's on the east side of the world, Joel's on the westsiiiiiiiide. The sights from the top of the hill were unbelievable gorgeous and the Greenwich market was a lovely treat (vegan and gluten free treats for Christina in the land of meat, wheat, and meat wrapped in wheat). We ate our lunch overlooking the Thames River and headed back into Westminster.
It being Christina's 1st time in London, we thought it only be fair to hit all the tourist spots; Big Ben, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square (Holy Asians, Batman! We accidentally stumbled into the Taste of Thailand expo along the way.
 Sherlock Holmes had already gone home for the night when we got to 221B Baker Street. I guess it was 5 o'clock somewhere. 
From there it was a quick trip home and a stop at the local Tesco to recharge and fill our stomachs. We decided about dusk to head back out and see a little bit of London at night. 
Tomorrow we jump up early and head to Heathrow to pick up our rental car. For those following on their maps we are heading to Suffolk to stay with some friends of the family (John and Anne Ruston). 
Joel & Christina

Friday, June 13, 2008

'ello Gov'na

Today was a mediocre day, to say it nicely. The flight left an hour late (arriving an hour late). The flight itself was fine other than the lack of sleep. We moved through customs quickly, got our bags, tickets for the train, and some cash quickly. When we arrived at our B&B, we were lucky enough to find that our hosts were not home. We sat and waited 1/2 hour and then walked around the block for another 1/2 an hour in search of food or some entertainment. After an hour, I found a way to hide our luggage under some stairs on the property so we crossed our fingers, said a quick prayer that our stuff wouldn't get stolen, and took a chance as we ventured off to explore London.

Kew gardens was the big sightseeing trip of the day. Again, mediocre. We paid about $26US each to get in and it was a really nice large park. Every other botanical garden I've ever been to has been much more impressive. If you ever visit, skip Kew unless you have a deal on tickets. We stopped at a pub on the Thames and had a pint while getting lost consistently. Somehow with a map and directions we got lost in the same borough time after time. After almost 3 hours of aimless wondering we stopped at a pub 2 blocks away for our B&B, had dinner, and are now wrapping up the night. The 3 hour detour really killed the excitement we had of heading downtown. Not to mention Christina isn't a big fan of Britian's 'great' food, or should I say it is not a big fan of her. Come to think of it, I'm not getting along with it either. Its almost 7:30pm for us here being up for almost 2 days straight. We are heading to bed. We promise tomorrow will be a better and more eventful day. Nonetheless, we are still glad to be here and excited to start exploring tomorrow.

B&B: A Better Way To Stay (Very cute place, but the service was a little less than par)
Dinner: Queen's Head
Weather: PERFECT, sunny and about 60 degrees

Monday, June 9, 2008

Almost ready

Just getting the travel blog setup and ready to go. We are about 3 days out from leaving for the UK for 2 weeks. Our plan is to do 2 days in London, 2 in Suffolk, pass through York, The Lake District, the Highlands of Scotland, and end up in Edinburgh. We will end up flying by the seat of our pants for most of the trip. Stay tuned....