Friday, October 30, 2009

Vacation Part III - Edinburgh

I am going to post of our trip to Edinburgh and then I will have to post of a few things going on around here before I post about Inverness and St. Andrews.

Our newest granddaughter (and her family) are coming to visit us this afternoon and staying for a couple of days so I will want to share pictures of her.

Getting back to the trip......... We left the southern coast of England and took a train to London. From there we connected to Euston station and caught a delightful train to Edinburgh. Their trains are nothing less than fabulous and, unlike our Am*trak trains in the U.S., generally run on time. We sat back with our tea and biscuits while we enjoyed the trip through the countryside and small villages as we headed North. Passing through Lockerbie, Scotland, I couldn't help but think of the impact that the plane falling from the sky in a rather small town must have had on the residents.

We arrived later in the afternoon and made our way to our hotel on High Street and in the area known as the Royal Mile. The streets are cobblestone and the town is charming. With several universities within the town itself we found that the streets were filled with young folks out and about enjoying themselves for it was a school holiday weekend.

The castle was lit and the night air was refreshing as we walked about.

We were told that this was the "shortcut" to High Street. I thought the first flight (that is visible) was the end, but, no, there was yet another flight that is invisible. I must admit to being a little winded when we got to the top and the theme of Roc*ky was playing in my head.

This is the John Knox house which was located across and down a few buildings from our hotel.

A view of High Street which is the main street with Holyrood Palace on one end of the street and the Edinburgh Castle on the opposite end.

I wonder what one would find in here. Hmmmmm.

Out of order photo which is within the castle grounds.

A great view of the city of Edinburgh.

The colors of the trees was just spectacular although the camera did not pick it up. The days were very cloudy with threatening rain each day.

The city is very hilly so one gets wonderful exercise when you go out and walk.

This is from the castle grounds and is a view looking down on Edinburgh. We found that Edinburgh was in a transition of trying to be very modern and yet being burdened with so much history. The newer buildings are very modern in design and almost look like they simply do not belong.

The Edinburgh Castle. It was a very cold and windy day when we visited it. I had always thought that the coldest I had ever been was the first trip we made to Edinburgh - also at the castle. I am not sure that this one did not compare to that visit quite evenly. It was nice to grab a currant scone and hot tea in the tea room within the castle grounds.

Forever will the pets lie in rest at the pet cemetery - a true tribute to their love of their animals.

This is Mons Meg, a cannon capable of firing gunstones two miles. Built in 1449, it is believed to have been a gift to James II. It saw action only once against the English at Norham Castle. It was also fired in 1558 to celebrate the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the French Dauphin.

This cannon is fired daily at 1 p.m. and is heard throughout the town. It has been fired each day at this time since the 1800s and is a delight to all visitors and townsfolks.

What was once the largest public open space in Edinburgh is now know as the Grassmaket. It was here where the public executions took place and people came to participate in the events. The area is now marked with a floral arrangement.

This is the whole area and one can only imagine what it must have looked like when it was filled with spectators.

An appropriate pub for the Grassmarket area - The Last Drop - and painted in red.

Another one located within the Grassmarket was Maggie Dick*sons Pub. Maggie was a gal who was sentenced to hang for concealing a pregnancy. She was sentenced and the hanging carried out. Her body was placed in the coffin and sent home with her family for burial. Upon arriving at home, the family heard noises coming from the coffin. Upon opening it they found Maggie quite alive. Nothing more could be done to her since she had already been charged, convicted and the sentence carried out. Maggie went on to live into her 60s.

The contrast of the new and the old trying to each find their space within the city.

The area know as "the hub" on High Street.

The White Hart in is another very old pub. In 1128, the Scottish King, David I, against the advice of his priest set out on a hunting trip on the Feast Day of the Holy Rood. He came upon a huge white stag that immediately turned on him. David began to frantically pray to God and, as the story goes, a fiery cross appeared between the antlers of the stag before it vanished. He immediately built a shrine at the spot which was became the Holyrood Abby. The pub got its name from the story and the White Hart Inn which was built on the site in 1516. The Inn was kept busy during the periods of execution as well as visits from many guests including William Wordsworth, Robert Burns and the notorious Edinburgh "bodysnatchers" William Burke and William Hare. In 1828 Burke and Hare spent their time enticing fellow patrons back to their homes only to be killed and their bodies sold to Dr. Knox at the Edinburgh Medical School.

After about a nice pulled pork sandwich for lunch?

We also visited the Royal Yacht Britannia. It was just gorgeous and I will only post a few of the photos from the inside. It is now retired, but still quite spectacular. This is the bedroom where Diana and Charles stayed on their honeymoon. The Queen and Prince Phillip each had their own rooms as well - one very masculine in decor and the other very feminine.

This is the formal dining room. It must have been quite the sight to see this table filled with people.

The drawing room.......a large Grand piano sits in one corner and this is where the family retired to in the evenings for board games and conversation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vacation, Part II - England

I apologize for getting edition number II so many days after the first, but I have been so busy playing catch up on all that got looked over while I was gone. Isn't that the worst part of coming home from a delightful trip? Well, perhaps the fact that we are still waking up at the wee hours of the morning is bad too.

I also apologize that some of the photos will be out of order, but once I got them up, I was not about to try to regroup them again.

After we disembarked from the ship we had a short drive to the hotel. The warmth of the countryside in it's beautiful autumn colors was a welcome sight. Still early in the morning, it was a good time for a brisk walk.

The flowers were stunning.

The shops were inviting.

The secret gardens were enchanting.

The morning dew on the cobwebs made for great photo opportunities.

The geese were begging.

The village roads were welcoming.

The one thing that we have always enjoyed when visiting England are the wonderful footpaths. These are designated areas especially meant for a good walk. They will take you through some beautiful countryside and you will find yourself in all sorts of interesting places. YOU have the right of way too.

Through pastures of sheep.

Across golf courses. Just watch out for those stray balls.

There are little surprises just waiting to be found.

And...always a pub for some good food and warming atmosphere.

Our dear friends met us after driving down from beyond London and spent several days with us. It is always that moment of panic when you first pull out onto the roadway while driving on the opposite side of the street, but the Brits are great drivers. We never saw even a fender bender.
They took us to some charming places and the weather was absolutely fabulous - sunny and glorious.

This was at Barton on Sea. We were fascinated by the fact that low tide REALLY means low tide. In California it is hardly noticeable, but in England when the tide goes out it goes out all the way. Notice the boats stranded in the mud? Guess if you are planning a boat trip you would have to check on the tides. It was very interesting to us. When it did come in, it came in very quickly.

We walked for miles along the shore and after we ascended the stairs we looked down to see that some horse riders were in the water cooling down their horses.

We were also able to tour the New Forest in N. Yorkshire. This was formerly the royal hunting grounds, created in 1079 by Wm. the Conqueror. It has been designated a National Park. There are many wild animals on the grounds that are owned by the "commoners" and they roam wild throughout. There are also many homes and villages within the forest. I did notice that the horses have been caught and a reflective band placed on them which I suppose is to make them more visible for vehicles.

Another town that we visited was the waterfront town of Portsmouth. It was definitely a tourist attraction, but it was fun to walk around the city none the less. The town has a rich naval and literary history with museums and ships available for viewing.

This is the historic Nelson flagship - HMS Victory, one of the most famous warships ever built. You can tour the ship and learn more about Admiral Lord Nelson. Launched in 1765, her most famous moments were at the Battle of Trafalgar.
In leaving I will show some of my favorite pictures of the homes that can be seen in England. I do love those thatched roofs!!!

Would you like this one?

Or this one?

Or how about this one?

Ahh....the spectacular colors.....
From there we caught a train to London and headed off for Scotland. My next post will be the start of our trip in Scotland. I hope you are enjoying it as much as we did.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vacation Part I

With all the photos that I took on our fabulous trip I am going to have to break this journal into sections. If not, you will all be asleep before you get to the end of it.

First off.......I would like to introduce you to our newest granddaughter who made her arrival into the world on October 11th. We received news of her birth while we were on board the QM2 and we are just thrilled and looking forward to meeting her in person. Our son and his family live about 2 1/2 hours away from us so we will make the trip up to visit soon. Right now my DIL's mother is there with them so we will give them time with the baby before we start pounding on the door.

Our fabulous vacation started off with a business meeting in Orlando, Florida. Despite the fact that we once lived in Florida, I am still amazed at how totally flat the landscape is there. We have hills and mountains here wherever you look and there you are able to see forever. I must say that I do love the Florida skies with the wonderful clouds. The temperatures were setting record highs while we were there and the humidity only added to the heat. It is amazing the difference the humidity has on the "feel" of the temperatures.

From Orlando, we caught a plane to Newark and headed for New York before boarding the ship. Would you be nervous about signing in at this gate? After hearing about a flight that overshot an airport by 150 miles, I might give more serious thought to it.

We able to spend the afternoon and night in New York city and enjoyed a few brisk walks and taking in the sights. I love N.Y. for the vitality one experiences, but I would not want to live there. The traffic is a nightmare and that is coming from someone who drives in L.A.

We enjoyed Rockefeller Center where they had just frozen the skating rink for the winter......

and Times Square......................

and......the jewelry district. Don't you love the street lights made to look like giant diamonds?

Friday afternoon we were picked up by the Cunard bus to take us to the Brooklyn terminal to board the Queen Mary 2. Our excitement on the bus was a minor traffic collision with the bus of the Minnesota Twins baseball team in N.Y. to play the Yankees in the playoffs. May I repeat, the traffic is a nightmare there?
After passing through heavy security, we were shown to our staterooms. What an incredible experience that was. The staff is simply amazing and the vessel itself is indescribable. Here we are up on the top deck with fabulous views of the cities of New York and New Jersey, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Sailing occurs just at sunset. We were escorted from the harbor by armed Coast Guard boats.

Departure time is determined by the tides as there is a narrow window of time for the huge ocean liner to pass under the bridge without hitting it. It truly is just a matter of a few feet when it goes under it.

This is the entrance that one walks into when one steps on board. It is the grand lobby and soars several stories high. There are all sort of comfortable chairs, a grand piano and fresh flowers everywhere.

The picture does not do this metal sculpture justice, but it was spectacular - as though the ship was coming right out of the wall.

There was so much to do on board with live theatre, a planetarium, eating, lectures, eating, computer and photography classes or simple relaxing. Did I mention eating too???? The seventh floor is the walking/jogging deck and that was busy all of the time. The crossing follows the Gulf stream so the weather and the water are at a pretty constant 70* for the whole trip. We passed within 50 miles of where the Titanic went down so many years ago.
Here we are out walking on the deck on the coolest day with gale force winds.

There are numerous restaurants on the ship and each one is fabulous. The food in the main room is always served in the most elegant of ways, much like a fine restaurant. Four of our nights were formal wear with tuxedos and formals. It is so nice to get dressed up like that and to see everyone else dressed so elegantly as well.

We arrived in Southampton, England around 6 a.m. and it was still dark. We were both awake at 4 a.m. when we first noticed the appearance of lights on the shore. We got dressed and went out and sat on our deck while the pilot captain boarded the ship to bring it into port.

The sun had started to come up in Southampton and cast a stunning reddish color to the town when we disembarked. We both hated to leave the elegance that we had so enjoyed over the last six days. The first few days on solid ground was an unusual sensation after so many days at sea. This was such an easy way to adjust to the time difference as you set your clocks ahead one hour each day. That was much easier than flying home and being eight hours ahead all at once. I'm still awakening at 2 a.m. each day.

England to follow. Stay tuned.

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