Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Edinburgh / London

Edinburgh, Scotland is my new favorite city and I would move there tomorrow if I had the chance.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and has a population under 500,000. The city felt clean, safe and was so much less intimidating than London. It doesn't hurt that the people were all very friendly and welcoming of us. Including one Scot that proclaimed his love for me - which was actually a bit scary.

It was funny to run across a guy who had a sign stating "piper for hire" playing on the street corner (below). It was freezing cold out and starting to rain but this guy just played on. I'll admit, it was pretty cool to be walking around with bagpipes in the background.

In order to make the most of our time in Edinburgh and to see as much as possible, we took one day to ride the tour buses. I'm not generally a fan of these but it was nice to know what you were looking at and to learn some of the local history.

One of the tour buses took us out to the coast and I was able to snap this quick shot. I love boats, the harbor, lighthouses and as previously mentioned, anything that has to do with water!

This little street was just the cutest. It had a lot of great little shops and the only Mexican restaurant that we saw during the entire trip.

After 3 days in Scotland it was time to pack it up and head back down to London. It was nice to take the train during the day so we could see some of the countryside and the coast.

We ended up getting back into London earlier than expected so we headed out to do more sight seeing. I had cashed in some of my Hilton points and scored us a room at the Hilton Green Park. The location was amazing and so worth the 40,000 points! Just a short walk across Green Park and we found ourselves in front of Buckingham Palace. Well, this is just one of the gates....

But here is the real deal!

We did get to see some of the guards change posts but it wasn't the official changing of the guards ceremony. Could someone please tell me how the gentlemen on the far left can see anything!?

We started walking away from the Palace and got a great view of the London Eye:

I have no idea what this is but I thought it was really neat.

We continued walking down to Trafalgar Square which was really pretty when lit up at night. There were crews working like crazy trying to get ready for the big St. Patricks Day parade which was held on Sunday the 18th.

Later that night we ended up stopping by the box office for the show Les Miserables. The seats were sold out but we were able to buy a standing ticket for 10 pounds ($20). We kind of felt like the red headed step child standing at the back of the theatre but it saved us some money and we got to see the show. It was amazing and well worth it!

The next day we headed over to Notting Hill. Sara had wanted to see the Travel Book Store from the movie 'Notting Hill' but since the movie was filmed its been changed into a furniture store. The area was still a fun place to have lunch and browse the shops. Not to mention that the town is just adorable and I loved all of the different colored buildings.

Obviously Notting Hill is a nice area but we were in no way prepared for the price of real estate. There were some ads listing homes for sale around 3-4million pounds. Wow.

The next stop was Abbey Road studios.

On my previous trip we had driven by but did not stop. It was nice to have a chance to look at it closer and add our names to the wall out front. We ended up running into another group of American girls which was kind of funny. They (unlike us) nearly got hit by cars as they tried to recreate the famous Beatles sidewalk crossing photo - over and over. Idiots! The road is far too busy to do that and I remember my previous tour guide saying that many people get hit because of that.
After we left the studio we hit up a lot of the other famous areas of London like Piccadilly Circus and shopping down Oxford Street. We finished our last night in London with dinner in Covent Garden.
It was great to see so many new places and meet so many new people. If I had my choice I would have stayed for an extra 10 days! Guess that just means that I'll have to go back!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Stonehenge / Stanage Edge / Chatsworth House

After spending about 48 hours in London we hopped a train that took us out to Stonehenge. I have to admit that I've always been a bit intrigued by this place - how was it made, why was it made, etc. so it was pretty neat to see it in person.

While we were waiting for our train to take us to Derby, we stopped in and ate at this cute little pub. I'm sure that it is just gorgeous in the Spring when everything is in bloom.

In Derby, we picked up a rental car and head out towards the Peak District. Since I was the only one who could drive a stick shift & who had experience with driving on the wrong side of the road - I was the designated driver. It had been 5 years since I'd driven over there but it was kind of like riding a bike - it came right back. Thank God!

The next big stop was at Stanage Edge which was beautiful! One of the girls had seen it in the new Pride & Prejudice movie and wanted to check it out.

It was about a 2 mile hike to get to the top of the edge but it was well worth it. The views were amazing and we decided to take advantage of it with a little photo shoot. The wind was blowing really hard so I crawled out to the edge of the cliff.

Here is the good / normal photo - check out the countryside behind me. It was just beautiful!

The photo below will give you a little better idea as to why I was crawling to the edge of the rock! Since the cliffs are so high and steep, there were a ton of rock climbers out. It was neat to see them but I couldn't help but think they were crazy!

Here is a photo looking away from the cliffs on top of the edge:

On the hike down we passed a herd of sheep that were grazing. I guess they are used to people because they weren't startled at all when they girls started "talking" to them.

After that we jumped in the car and headed over to the Chatsworth House. This estate was just beautiful and it was also used in the move Pride & Prejudice.

Here is just one of the photos that I took inside the house - this is The Painted Hall.

The gardens surrounding the house were just beautiful. I've always been a big fan of fountains and anything that includes water so I found this fact fascinating - this is the oldest water fountain in the UK and it's entirely gravity fed. Crazy, huh?!
They also had a garden maze which is always fun. The last time I did one was at Hever Castle 5 years ago and that was child's play compared to the one at Chatsworth! It took nearly 45 minutes to find the center and I was the only one to find it! The middle was a bit anticlimactic; there was just a tree and a bench. I didn't even have time to enjoy it because we had to leave right away to get back to the train station to head up to Scotland.

Check back for more about Scotland and the rest of our London stay.