Sunday, July 14, 2013

Scotland the Brave!

The last leg of our journey took us up to Scotland. We got to see some relatives and enjoy the beauty and adventure that land has to offer. We rented a car and drove on the left side of the car and road down ridiculously narrow streets all throughout the country. It scared me to death, so Dima did almost all the driving, and did just splendidly, so I was happy to let him take the wheel as I stared out the window and the beautiful scenery.

 Our first day in Perth we caught up with the Crooks and then headed out to a nearby abandon castle. I loved that this castle was just left as is, and was not renovated. It was a lot bigger than I thought it was from the outside, and it was fun to imagine it in it's original splendor. Also, this family must have been so proud and excited to have toilets in their castle, because they were literally everywhere!! In the majority of the rooms, the end of a hall, the only thing in an isolated tower, etc. Seriously... everywhere! Made me wonder what kind of food they ate back in the day to have so many.
After Elcho Castle we headed to a small town Elie to do a chain walk, but were unable to because of the high tide. But it was a fun hike in and the scenery was beautiful.
We wrapped up the day by visiting St. Andrews and playing on the West Sands beach which was amazing! One of our favorite things - not only was it long from side to side, but the beach just seemed to go forever until it finally met the water - plus to have the beautiful golf course and old buildings along the shore made the whole things just magical.
The next day was Sunday, and I was not feeling well so we headed to church, slept and then just took a walk around Perth. 
Unfortunately that was all the time we could spend there - the next morning we woke up and drove a few hours North where we got to do some white water rafting in the Finghorn River. It was pretty cold and we were afraid we'd freeze the whole trip, but they gave us some crazy thick wet suits, shoes and a windbreaker. We stayed toasty warm and had an awesome time. It ended up just being the two of us on that tour, so we got our own private ride down the river. 
 We then headed up to the highland region and visited Dave and Christine in the charming little town of Ullapool. It stays light super late up there during the summer, so we went to a nearby lighthouse and stoney beach to play around on the coast. That was one of my favorite memories of Ullapool, it was just to natural and beautiful. Also there were cute fluffy little lambs and sheep all over the hillside just yards from us.

The following morning we went on a hike, grabbed some fish and chips, cleaned up then started the long and beautiful drive back down to Glasgow to fly home. Apparently they had recently burned all the brush so it would germinate and regrow, so it didn't make for quite the view I was expecting, but it was still a fun hike. And just like that, the glorious experience was over with not nearly enough time there to see and experience it all. I guess we'll just have to return again in the future. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mind the Gap

We got to know their "tube" system very well while we were in London. I never tired of hearing "Mind the Gap". I love too that they just warn you that the doors are closing. There are no safety measures in place, like slowly closing doors, or a motion sensor that will keep it from closing if something/someone is sticking out. They gave you their warning, and the rest is up to you. If you get a finger/arm caught in the door, it will be a painful lesson, but one you'll only have to learn one. 

We stayed in a cute little B&B wayyyy outside the downtown area. It was probably one of the nicer places we stayed. And it had a teal door. You know I loved that!
After checking in, we hit the ground running and saw all the big sites our first day. Our first experience in London was the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. There were SO many people!!!! And it was SO long!! Seriously, like an hour or more! We weren't expecting that. It was cool to experience - but only once. ever. 
 After that we headed through a park to the bank to visit Parliament, Big Ben, etc.That building is amazing! It's like a castle/cathedral in one. We love that is still being used and not just a museum. We actually went inside and listened to a debate in the House of Commons. 
Then we went to evensong at Westminster Abbey. It was amazing! It made the experience so much more meaningful than just walking around looking at another cathedral. And the boy's voices are so beautiful!! Definitely an experience I'd recommend. (Sorry no pictures inside were allowed). 
Then we took a turn in the London Eye. 

We started this glorious day at King's Cross station visiting Platform 9 3/4! So fun! I was so giddy, it was like Christmas morning!!! They also had a Harry Potter shop there with the most amazing things! They had wands, the entire first book on a poster! a Marauders Map, the hourglass necklace, etc. etc.

Here I am off for another semester! (I don't think I would be in Gryffindor, but I chose that scarf because it is the most recognizable.) 

After that magical experience we headed over to the British Library that had an amazing document exhibit with the Beowulf manuscript, a Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, books of original compositions from musicians, maps, etc.  
Then we went to the British Museum. WOW. That's all I can say. They had sweet exhibits. And I liked the building too. 
 After that our feet needed a break, so we rode bikes through Hyde Park. Europe does parks right. Then it was off to dinner and our fist London show: Les Miserables!! It was amazing! 

We headed to Abbey Road for a little stroll across the infamous cross walk. It is actually a main and still busy street. I feel bad for the locals in that area. It's probably so annoying for them to stop for tourists to stop in the middle to take their pictures. But oh well! 
Next up we saw the Churchill War Rooms, which was a lot more interesting than I was expecting it to be. It was cool to see where everything actually happened, and see what it would have looked like then. Also it's crazy to imagine living there for so long! 
 Next we rode a ferry down the Thames to a British Music exhibit. It was a really cool idea, but fell a little flat on the execution. Oh well. Still a fun experience. Then we rushed over to dinner and were on to our next show at Shakespeare's Globe where we saw The Tempest. The Globe was amazing! And it was fun to visualize what it would have been like back in his day. 

We hit up the National Gallery and saw some more famous and beautiful paintings throughout the centuries (including several that i recognized thanks to a matching game my mom got us when we were little). Then it was off to the bustling Borough Market for some delicious lunch and snacks. 
We also went to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Tower of London is a misleading name. It should be called Tower Village. That place was HUGE!!! We got to see some really cool things, we saw an old armor reservoir and the changing designs of weapons and armor. We also got to see the crown jewels! That was crazy. Then we walked across the bridge itself. 

We ended the night with another show: Wicked!
Our last day in England we did a day trip to Oxford and Stonehenge. Oxford was a lot different than we thought it would be... there isn't so much of a designated campus, as buildings sprinkled throughout the small town. But eventually we found a few and even got to go in one or two. Also, they did some filming for Harry Potter here, and while we didn't see the exact building/spot, I swear I saw one courtyard/outer-hallway. 
Stonehenge was extremely windy and cold. But it was seriously amazing!! I don't know what it was about that place, but it just felt special and magical. I could have stayed there all day!!