UK Trip 2016

5 May 2016

For Christmas this past December, Luke and I surprised my mom (and lets be honest, it was a gift to ourselves as well) with a 10 day trip to England and Scotland. I had been to England two times before this trip, once in 2008 by myself to stay with a friend, and again in 2012 with Luke. This was my mom's first time heading across the Atlantic, and I was so happy we were able to share this experience with her!

We did some serious planning for this trip because we were really crunched for time between meeting with friends along the way and visiting the places we wanted to see. In the weeks leading up to it, I worked on an itinerary and even planned out places we could eat that worked with my (and luke's) vegetarian diet, and my mom's gluten free diet. Doing this really helped cut down time we spent looking for places to eat - I recommend doing this ahead of time if you're on a tight schedule while you're away, it makes all the difference. We booked three Airbnb flats and one hotel in different cities along the way. It was our first time trying out Airbnb and we had overall great experiences with all three hosts and flats. We stayed in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow flats and stayed in a hotel in Sheffield before making our way back down to London for our flight back home. 

Over the course of our trip we met up with 5 friends, visited 13 different cities/towns, traveled on 2 planes, 9 trains, countless tube/subway rides, a couple of cars, vans, and busses, and we walked over 40 miles! This is without a doubt the most I've ever traveled in such a short amount of time - but it was all worth the limited amount of sleep and aching legs. The weather was lovely for us, we never got rained on and the sun was always out (as it always is when I'm over in the UK - I think I bring the nice weather with me!). We did so much over the course of 10 days that I'll be breaking this trip into 5 or 6 different posts so each post isn't too picture or content heavy. The map above shows our route and every place we visited along the way, we covered a huge portion of the UK but there is still so much more to see. The moment we landed back in the US, I was ready to go back again!

  


Days 1 and 2 - Arriving in London, Bath, the Cotswolds, and Stonehenge Tour

(left, Castle Combe village / right, Roman Bath's museum ceiling)



Days 3 and 4 - London/Tower of London & Westminster Abbey, and Nottingham

(left, Tower of London / right, Westminster Abbey)


Day 5 - Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace & Holyrood Abbey

(left, Edinburgh Castle / right, Holyrood Abbey)


Day 6 - West Highlands Lochs & Castles Tour

(left, Inveraray Castle / right, Doune Castle)



Days 7 through 10 - Glasgow, Luss, Sheffield, Chatsworth House, Home

(left, The Drovers Inn / right, Chatsworth House)



UK Trip Posts

Days 1 - 2   Days 3 - 4   Day 5   Day 6   Days 7 - 10 

Extra Trip Photos


* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated. 

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UK Trip: Days 7 - 10, Glasgow, Luss, Sheffield, & End Of Our Trip

5 May 2016


On Monday morning my mom woke up with pains in her side, radiating towards her back. We asked her a few times if she'd like us to take her to the emergency room, but she kept telling us that she'd be fine (stubborn, as usual). Luke and I ran out for breakfast, and when we came back to pack our stuff and leave, she was in severe pain. We had a tight schedule - our train to Glasgow was leaving in an hour, and once we arrived we would have to meet our Airbnb host as she was also on a tight deadline. We asked her once again about the emergency room, but she said no. We quickly packed and caught the train for the hour ride to Glasgow, and that's when she finally decided that she needed to see a doctor. As soon as we arrived in Glasgow, we took a cab straight to the emergency room and got her checked in and settled before rushing off to meet our Airbnb host on time. I felt a little bad leaving her there, but she had many chances to visit the ER in Edinburgh! After a little while, and after we got settled into our Glasgow flat, my mom took a cab to where we were staying and announced that she had a kidney/bladder infection. She was all set with antibiotics and cranberry juice, and was feeling a little bit better, though still felt out of sorts the rest of the trip. 



Our Glasgow Airbnb flat was super cute! I loved how our host decorated the place, she had welcomed us with fresh flowers, chocolates, juice, and other necessities for our stay. It was definitely a nice touch, and a nice welcome to Glasgow. The shower was a bit strange - you had to turn it on by a switch and then let the water in the sink run, click the button to turn on the shower, and then turn the tap off. A bit tricky - but it worked well until our last night when it decided it didn't want to work anymore. The flat had these lovely window seats that were comfortable to sit in and take in the views (which were mainly of a construction site and seagulls, but hey, I didn't mind). A big highlight of this flat was the rooftop terrace - it was so cozy, with colorful lights lighting up the wall at night time. Our flat owner loved plants, they were displayed all over the terrace. If it was warmer, I know we would have spent a lot of time out there! 





Glasgow reminds me of New York City - a mix of new and old buildings. We didn't spend much time there, but the shopping scene looked good. There were a lot more people in Glasgow than in Edinburgh, but at night it seemed like a ghost town! Monday night we met up to have drinks with Pete and Ayden from Little Blog of Horrors. Pete and I have been friends since 2009 when we met on Tumblr - my list of Tumblr meet ups has grown a lot over the past 7 years! It's strange having online friends that you've known for so long, it seems like you know them already, so when you finally meet them in person it doesn't feel like something new? Just like you're meeting with an old friend you've seen a thousand times before. We walked to Brew Dog first and had a couple of drinks while we chatted. After that we went to a tiki bar with a £111 drink!! It was dark in there, and aside from us there was only one other person in there. I guess many people don't go out on weekdays. Our last stop was another place where we had a couple of drinks and then some food before heading back to our flat for the night. 



By Tuesday, I was so exhausted from the past week of constant traveling that I was struggling to stay awake. Pete and Ayden picked us up in the early afternoon and we headed to Loch Lomond and visited Luss again. This time we had extra time to explore, and we walked along the Loch with the ducks. The pier was SO windy and cold! I imagine it's absolutely beautiful in the summer though. For lunch we stopped at the Drovers Inn, a 310 year old haunted inn used by Highland drovers who used to drive their cattle down the side of Loch Lomond to the markets. It was super dark inside with dark wood all throughout. A stuffed grizzly bear, among many other old taxidermy, greeted us as soon as we walked in! I really loved the whole place - creepy taxidermy and all. The staff wore kilts, it was the first time I had seen one over there. The building gave off an energy - you could actually feel how old it was. After a filling lunch and a drive back to Glasgow, they dropped us off and were so kind to give us gifts of Scotch for Luke, and another drink for me. I've been working on a little thank you package that I'll be sending their way soon! We said our goodbyes, and then relaxed and packed the rest of the night. 

Wednesday was Luke & I's 6 year anniversary. It feels more like SIXTY years, and I couldn't be happier to have him by my side. We woke up early and made our way to Sheffield by train to visit Naomi, Eric, and Ollie. I've been friends with Naomi for over 10 years. We met online back in the "zine world" community days where we would make online magazines through email & send them out to subscribers. From there we joined RTA's ("reply to all" email groups - some themed, some random) and became close friends. Back in 2008, as my graduation/birthday/didn't go to prom present, my family sent me to visit her in England all by myself! I know it really freaked everyone out, but I came back alive two weeks later and I had finally met my best friend in person. Fast forward to 2012, Luke and I went to London to stay with her and Ollie for two weeks, and now 4 years later, we got to visit them again! This time was a bit different since Naomi and Ollie have a baby now - Eric! He's absolutely the cutest, happiest baby I've ever seen. 



We met up with Naomi and Eric (Ollie was working) at the train station, and quickly dropped off our bags at her flat before catching a bus to the Peak District. Poor Eric had the chicken pox, but he was a serious trooper and hardly ever cried the whole time we were there. We decided to visit Chatsworth House, which is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Chatsworth house was built in the 16th century and it sits on a 35,000 acre estate. The grounds are absolutely beautiful - rolling hills, water, free roaming sheep and their babies. The "house" itself has 126 rooms - 100 of which are closed to visitors. Even though most of the house is private, we spent a few hours exploring the inside alone, I can't imagine how long it would take to explore the whole thing! It was definitely the most pricey entrance fee we encountered at £25 per person to get in - but I can imagine why they charge visitors so much, 35,000 acres to take care of!? It's a wonder how they've kept it running for so long. Upon arrival, we grabbed some food at the buffet inside. Luke held a baby for the first time ever! It was so funny, Nai kind of just handed Eric to him and he didn't know how to hold him. Luke is the baby whisperer though, and all babies love him so all was good. Guess who "lived" here? You got it - Mary's back at it again being in every building in the UK. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in Chatsworth House by her hater cousin, Elizabeth I. The guest wing of Chatsworth House is decorated how it would have been hundreds of years ago, and many of them still feature hand painted Chinese wallpapers. The ceiling and stairs in the Painted Room were so ornate and detailed (pictured below), and the doors and doorways were absolutely huge!


We meant to catch a bus to Bakewell and explore the town, but we ended up on a bus back to Sheffield. In the end it worked out because my mom wasn't feeling well again, so when we got back in the city we checked her into our hotel (the Leopold Hotel, which is an old boys school) and went to Starbucks where we were meeting Ollie when he finished with work. The 4 of us + Eric went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant right behind our hotel, where we talked and ate for a while. After finishing up we walked back to their flat, took some pictures, and then grabbed our suitcases before heading back to the Leopold. Ollie was kind enough to walk us back, otherwise we would have gotten lost for sure! We said our goodbyes to him there since he had work early the next morning and we wouldn't see him again. 


Ollie's picture! 

The next morning we got breakfast with Naomi and Eric before setting off to the train station to head back to London. We all hugged goodbye, and then the three of us traveled by train, plane, cab, train again, and car before arriving home late Thursday night. We were greeted by two very cuddly cats who I know missed us SO much - and boy did I miss them! 

This trip was amazing. Aside from my mom not feeling well towards the end, it went just as planned and I couldn't have asked for a better vacation. While it was quite expensive due to the fact that we traveled to different cities, it was 100% worth it. I know my mom had an amazing time, and it was so nice being able to take her somewhere she's always wanted to go. Edinburgh is my new favorite city, Luke and I have decided that we're going to become sheep farmers and move over there right away. While England is amazing and I'll always love it, Scotland definitely stole my heart. It's the most beautiful place, and I can't recommend it enough. If you get a chance - please go, you will not regret it. 


UK Trip Posts

Days 1 - 2   Days 3 - 4   Day 5   Day 6   Days 7 - 10 

Extra Trip Photos


* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated. 


UK Trip: Day 3 and 4, Exploring London & Nottingham

5 May 2016

Tower of London

Thursday was our only free day in London so we explored the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. This was the third time I've been to London, but since I stayed with friends the last two times, I never really did many tourist-y things. Both the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey were right at the top of my must-see list. In the morning we grabbed breakfast at Pret, which Luke is a huge fan of. We have Pret in some major cities here in the US, but the ones in the UK have a huge vegetarian-oriented menu which I love!

After our quick bite to eat we took the tube to Tower Hill and walked to the Tower of London, we got there around opening time which I highly recommend as it gets quite busy in the afternoons. Right inside of the gates you can join a free Beefeater tour, which we didn't do but I wish we would have. The Tower of London was founded in 1066, and the White Tower (pictured below) was built by William the Conqueror in the early 1080's. Inside the grounds are many buildings of different ages, and this is also where the Crown Jewels are kept. I wasn't very interested in them, but many people are and I'd recommend seeing them first as it's the busiest part of the Tower. Throughout the Tower you can find wire statues of exotic animals, which commemorate the animals that were given as gifts to the Royals by other Royals over the centuries. A polar bear once living at the tower was chained but allowed to wade into the River to catch fish, and other animals at the Tower included lions, monkeys, a leopard, zebra, and an elephant. In the 18th century the price of admission to see the animals was 3 half-pence, or you could bring a cat or a dog to be used as food for the animals (which tore my heart out when I found out). Eventually the animals were moved to what is now the London Zoo, or they were sold off. It's definitely an interesting part of the Tower of London's history that I had never known before.


The White Tower is the oldest part of the complex and it houses the Royal Armories collection. Inside we were able to see a very small armor set dating back to 1610, belonging to either a child or a little person. Right beside it stood a set of armor that looked like it belonged to a giant, which is believed to be from the mid 1500's. This part of the Tower has been a museum for a very long time, and a lot of the armor housed here has been on display for hundreds of years. One of the most popular pieces is King Henry VIII's armor c. 1540 which included a special piece to protect his man parts (and by it's size, I think he had also hoped to impress the ladies with it). We spent a couple of hours exploring the grounds and learning about what the buildings were used for. We even visited the part of the tower where two young princes were kept by their uncle, who ultimately took the throne for himself. The princes disappeared, and it's likely that they were murdered here. The Tower of London is a must see if you're visiting the area, you can spend hours exploring and learning about the centuries worth of history that was made here. 



Westminster Abbey

The second half of our day was spent at Westminster Abbey. After hearing my aunt talk about it on her recent trip, I couldn't wait to go and I wasn't disappointed! The present church dates back to 1245, but there was another church on this site since the 7th century. Many coronations, Royal weddings, and burials have taken place here. There were so many monuments inside that I couldn't even look at half of them! They're everywhere - on the floor, the walls, everywhere you look. Among the first graves that we noticed were Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. We spotted the tomb of The Unknown Warrior, who was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1920. His is the only grave you're not allowed to walk on. Geoffrey Chaucer is buried next to the Poets Corner, where many famous poets and writers are memorialized. We stood next to where Mary Queen of Scots was laid to rest, which is close by to where her hater cousin, Elizabeth I is buried. Inside of the Abbey there is what's thought to be the oldest door in all of the UK, c. 1050 (pictured below on the left)! It amazes me that something so old is still around, and that I was able to see it in person - even something as common as a door. I'm a huge history lover, I even majored in history for a short period of time before I left college. 





Nottingham

On Friday morning we had breakfast and then packed as it was our last day in London. Our Airbnb checkout was easy, and we headed to the train station to catch a train to Nottingham to visit a friend. I met Twikki (or George) on Tumblr 7 years ago, and he has visited us once before back in the states. We weren't able to do much because we had a train to Edinburgh to catch, but we stopped at a pub that claims to be the oldest in England, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. It rests against Castle Rock, where Nottingham Castle is located. Luke and Twikki had a drink while we chatted, and we eventually made our way up the hill to look at the Castle, which was closed. We had an early dinner at Whetherspoons and said our goodbyes at the train station.

 

Click here to read about day 5!



UK Trip Posts

Days 1 - 2   Days 3 - 4   Day 5   Day 6   Days 7 - 10 

Extra Trip Photos


* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated. 


UK Trip: Day 1 and 2, Arriving In London & Bath, Cotswolds, Stonehenge Tour

5 May 2016

We chose to fly out of JFK airport in New York because the price of our flights to London and back were unbeatable, about $600 per person round trip (compared to my last two travels to the UK when the cost was around $1200 per person). I'm absolutely terrified of flying. I'm not sure when or why exactly it happened, but within the past few years I've developed major anxiety before and during flights, and it gets so bad that sometimes I even end up crying while we're on board. This time was different, and I think it had to do with the fact that we chose an overnight flight that I was able to sleep on, and the ride was so smooth and easy. 

We landed in London on Tuesday morning and took the tube to Shoreditch where we met our Airbnb host. The flat we stayed in was on Brick Lane in East London. It's a trendy area with a lot of nice places to eat, vintage stores, street art, and food carts. It was quite a bit away from the places we visited in London, but the Underground makes it easy to get to where you need to be that it didn't bother me. This was our very first Airbnb experience and it wasn't bad! Our host, Lorena, was so sweet and she had a helpful booklet explaining the area and even had restaurant recommendations. The flat itself was nice, though due to it's location, a bit noisy. The kitchen was well equipped with everything that we needed for our short stay, and the whole place was very spacious for a flat in London. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, and while we were out later on picking up some food for the flat, we stopped at Las Iguanas for dinner. I chose the halloumi skewers which were amazing! I love halloumi, and it's VERY pricey and hard to find at home, so when I'm over in the UK I tend to eat it as often as I can. Luke got a smoky chipotle butternut squash enchilada which he enjoyed. If you're vegetarian or gluten free, Las Iguanas has a great selection to choose from! Back at the flat we had a few of our favorite Kopparberg ciders (strawberry & lime flavor!) which we can't get in the US, and headed to bed. 


Bath, England

On Wednesday we took a City Wonders tour to Bath, the Cotswolds, and Stonehenge. The tour was a bit pricey at around $500 for the three of us (included travel, lunch, and Stonehenge admission), but we got to see some places we otherwise wouldn't have been able to see. Early in the morning we met with our tour guide, driver, and our tour group which included a Canadian couple and the three of us, so it was a very intimate tour which I liked a lot (I think we were lucky in this sense because it was the middle of the week, if it were a weekend or in the summer I'm sure it would be a much larger group). The ride to Bath from London was a couple of hours, so we chatted with the other couple while the driver set off to Bath at an alarmingly high rate of speed (seriously, he was crazy), and our tour guide slept. We kept getting the same question over and over again while in the UK: "So, what about that Donald Trump?" It's weird to know that the whole world is watching what's going on over here regarding the US election, and I'm just as afraid as the rest of the world. 



Our first stop was Bath, where we had some free time to explore on our own. Bath is a beautiful city, and most of the buildings are made from the same golden-colored Bath Stone in Georgian style architecture, giving it a uniformed look. Many sidewalks in Bath were made to be very wide so women in the 18th century could leisurely walk together with their wide, Gerogian style dresses. During our trip to the UK I noticed that a lot of windows were boarded or bricked up, and our tour guide explained that in the 18th and 19th centuries there was a window tax, and you were taxed on how many windows you had. To avoid paying more than they were willing, many people boarded up some of their windows, this was common all over England and Scotland and you can see many examples of this to this day. We passed by the building where Sally Lunn, a famous bread maker from france, lived and baked in 1680 (though the building was built in 1482!). Jane Austen also lived in Bath, though she wasn't a fan and wasn't afraid to express it in her writings. 



During our free time we visited the Roman Baths, which sit below street level. We paid admission to enter the Roman Bath museum, which sits above ground and allows you to go underground and explore where the Romans relaxed and bathed. You can see the water steaming, though you're not allowed to touch it. There's a little fountain that you can drink from, and Luke was the only one brave enough to try it. He said it tasted chalky but otherwise wasn't bad! The museum allowed you to easily picture what it looked like in the place that you were standing over 1000 years ago, and if you're ever in Bath, it's a must see. We didn't get a chance to explore the inside of Bath Abbey (pictured below), but the building itself is stunning. It was founded in the 7th century, but rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. In the photo on the bottom right you can see the "stairway to heaven", which I thought was lovely. 




Castle Combe, England

Our next stop was Castle Combe, an old small weaving village in the Cotswolds. Castle Combe is named after a 12th century castle that once overlooked the village, and it is often called the prettiest, most picturesque place in all of England. A 14th century market cross still stands in the town, this is where the people of the village would go to sell their goods and livestock. The buildings are all well preserved, with no additions or things like satellite dishes allowed to be added even though people still make these ancient buildings their homes today. We spotted a bakery stand that works on a trust system, take a goodie and leave money in it's place. This would NOT fly here in New Jersey, but I thought it was so sweet! Our guide told us that many wealthy, retired people stay here during the summer and it's common to see expensive cars looking out of place in this tiny town. Castle Combe has starred in a few movies and TV shows, among a few are Doctor Dolittle (1967), War Horse (2011), Stardust (2007), and an episode of Downton Abbey.

We stopped by St Andrew's Church in the village, a portion of it was built in the 1200s, but the rest of the building was built in the 1400s. Inside there is a monument and burial place of Sir Walter de Dunstanville, who died in battle in 1270. He is thought to have fought in two crusades due to the fact that his legs are crossed in his memorial. We didn't get the chance to explore the graveyard, but many of the tombstones looked so worn down that I doubt we'd learn much from them. Lunch was included with our tour price, and we ate at the White Hart, a 14th century pub with very short doorways. Since two of us are vegetarian and one is gluten free, I figured we wouldn't be able to eat anything because it was a meal set up by our tour, but our server was understanding and immediately offered us jacket potatoes which were absolutely huge! They were without a doubt the biggest potatoes I've ever seen in my life, and they came with a nice side salad. My mom ended up trying jacket potatoes at many of the places we ate at along our travels, and she said none compared to the one we had in Castle Combe. 




Lacock, England

Our next stop was the 13th century town of Lacock. Pictured above is St Cyriac Church, built in the 1300s. I much preferred Castle Combe over Lacock, but it was still a lovely place to visit nonetheless. Many Harry Potter scenes were filmed in this town, including the home of James and Lily Potter, where they were murdered by Voldemort when Harry was a baby (pictured below, on the right). Snape and Quirrell's classrooms were filmed inside of Lacock Abbey (which we didn't visit but saw from afar), as was the Mirror of Erised, some Hogwarts corridors, and some Hogwarts courtyard scenes. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Slughorn resided in Budleigh Babberton, those scenes were also filmed in Lacock. We explored inside of an old 14th century barn (pictured below, on the left) and even had the chance to go into a small lockup from the 1700s where drunk, unruly people were sent to spend the night. There was only enough space for a wooden bed and an 18th century toilet. We stopped at the local tea room for some water and ice cream (let me tell you - English & Scottish people LOVE their ice cream - you can find ice cream stands all over). Luke overheard some old women gossiping Mean Girls style about a friend of theirs who sat at another table with someone they didn't like, all while they drank tea from their silver tea sets outside. I can't imagine living in a place so small that everyone knows everyone else's business! 





Stonehenge

The last stop on our long 12 hour tour was Stonehenge. Now, I've never been too interested in Stonehenge, and to be honest I wasn't excited that it was on our tour. However, I really enjoyed it once we got there (aside from the constant wind). Stonehenge itself seems like it's in the middle of nowhere - surrounded by fields, hills, and sheep all over, and I think that's what gives it this strange energy that I was feeling. In the distance you can see ancient burial mounds, assumably belonging to the people who once inhabited this area. No one knows exactly why or how these rocks were placed here 5,000 years ago, but it was interesting listening to theories from our tour guide. Apparently you're not allowed up close to the stones because of a rare type of lichen growing on them (the green moss-like forms on the stones), though after doing some research it looks like the lichen are very stubborn and not likely to be damaged! So in the end, I'm not exactly sure why tourists aren't allowed up close anymore. 

After finishing up at stonehenge, we headed back to London and ended our tour. By this time we were so exhausted we just went back to the flat, ordered some food, and went straight to sleep! 

Click here to read about days 3 and 4!




UK Trip Posts

Days 1 - 2   Days 3 - 4   Day 5   Day 6   Days 7 - 10 

Extra Trip Photos


* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated. 


April Snapshots

5 May 2016

Bath, England


Castle Combe, England


St Andrews Church, Castle Combe, England


Cobblestones, Tower of London, London, England


Old Door, Westminster Abbey, London, England


Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland


Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland



Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Scotland



17th Century, Holyrood Grounds, Edinburgh, Scotland


Arthurs Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland


Chair in the Lord's Hall, Doune Castle, Scotland


Done Castle, Scotland


Loch Lubnaig, Scotland


Loch Awe, Scotland


Kilchurn Castle, Scotland


Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe, Scotland


Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Scotland


The Saloon, Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Scotland


Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Scotland 


Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Scotland


Highland Cows, Stirling, Scotland


Chatsworth House, Bakewell, England


Airbnb Glasgow flat, Glasgow, Scotland


Airbnb Glasgow flat, Glasgow, Scotland




UK Trip Posts

Days 1 - 2   Days 3 - 4   Day 5   Day 6   Days 7 - 10 

Extra Trip Photos


* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.