Monday, February 4, 2013

A Scottish Sunrise

Hello guys and gals! It's been a little while, but no worries, I have many a photo for you. This past weekend I visited Edinburgh (Edin- Burrow) Scotland which, so far, is my favorite city! I know I say that each time I write, but I really loved it there! Not only did I go on an underground ghost tour but I visited the birth place of Harry Potter and I got to hike for the first time in a very very long time. The shopping wasn't bad either. So sit back, cross your kilted legs and enjoy a Scottish journey.
To your left will see an artsy tilted photo of The Royal Mile. It is a road, that runs from the top of the hill at Edinburgh Castle all the way down the hill to Holyrood Palace which is where the Queen stays when she visits Scotland. The Royal Mile, believe it or not, isn't actually a's longer. along this more-than-a-mile, there are shops and churches and statues of famous Scottish people. It was a lovely place.
 Again, to the left is a picture of a street sign of the royal mile. High Street is the street at the top of the Royal Mile where a lot of very wealthy people lived. It's said that, the closer to the castle you lived, the richer you were. Makes sense. We walked all of the mile and shopped and saw a lot of kilts and tartan, which is the pattern of the Scots. It's basically plaid.

 Down the hill near Holyrood, is where Scottish Parliament is. This wall outside Parliament was visually interesting and confusing. We couldn't figure out what was carved into it, but every few feet or so there was a quote from a scottish person.

The most exciting stop of Friday night was The Elephant House! This is the cafe that J.K. Rowling started writing Harry Potter. As you can see by the picture, they are quite proud of they should be! The food was great and the decor was filled with elephants! It was a perfect place to be inspired.

In the loo (bathroom) the walls are FILLED with notes to J.K. Rowling, thanking her for all her work. To your left you will see my contribution. I had to sit on the floor to write this and it took forever because my pen kept dying but I love the idea that my note is on the wall and will stay there forever. It just gives me a reason to go back :)

Above you will see my lovely meal from The Elephant House. The sauce in the bowl next to the bread was pesto and olive oil, you could say I was a very happy girl that night.

To your left you'll see a sign. In order explain what it is, I have to tell a story. So here goes. A long long time ago, back in the medieval ages the population of Edinburgh was growing rapidly. When the people could no longer build out, past the city walls, they started digging. They dug far into the ground creating very very narrow streets between the buildings along The Royal Mile. Each of these streets was called a 'close'. The streets are now underground because in the 1800's the Scottish chamber of something really important decided to build on top and close the streets off to the sky. Now, they run haunted ghost tours through the underground streets of the city and share stories of the plague victims and intentionally scare you with rubber mice. My friend claims she felt pressure on her neck while we were in a supposedly haunted room. I claimed her crazy. The Close we toured was Mary King's Close which is famous one because it was named after a woman which means that she was a wealthy business person in her day.

This is the spectacular view from Arthur's Seat,  the highest point in Edinburgh right before sunrise. Though it's only 830 ft up it's a tough climb, in the dark, in the wind and in the cold with people who have never hiked before. The mountain-- to those from the 303 it's a hill-- is steep and icy, which is what made it hard to climb... in the dark. However, the view was so worth it. Looking over the city on to the North Sea was one of the greatest instances of my life. The sunrise from here was definitely worth the 5am wake up call.

Though the photo does not do it justice, the sunrise from Arthur's Seat was an experience I have yet to find words for. It was as though every action and every moment in my life was all for one purpose, so that I could be here for this sunrise. It was an ultimate, supreme, defining moment that I will always have with me. It made me feel alive. I was aware of every muscle in my body and the pattern of my breathing, the smell of the wind and the cold rock I was sitting on. But I didn't notice how sore I was from scaling an icy mountain and I didn't feel the wind cut against my cheeks and the cold rock under me didn't seem to matter. It was all perfect.

 After a well deserved nap, my friends and I decided to spend the day shopping on Princes St. On our way, we casually ran into a man in the full Scottish bagpipe get up, complete with the feathered hat. We snapped some photos, gave him a vague amount of change and continued on to the Scots Memorial!

The Scots Memorial was so beautiful! This is the top of the memorial against the sky. The intricate details on the stone were phenomenally done and to see it in person was quite the privilege.

 Before shopping for Haut Couture that none of us could afford, we decided to get some grub. We couldn't find any grub so we had to settle for a delicious panini with a nice small glass of wine..... to ease our sore muscles of course.

In a cooking shop we found lots and lots of chocolate! Here, the lovely Jackie shows off a giant Lindor chocolate ball. We couldn't stay long because I was afraid I was just going to buy the whole store. After Jenner's department store, which is where this picture was taken, we walked along Princes street and I purchased a satchel and a cute dress from a scottish shop. I picked up some gifts for the family and was satisfied.

On our way from shop to shop we saw some homeless people begging for money. This one man, was sitting up against the wall playing the guitar and in front of him was his dog, holding a hat in is mouth! I passed him, started crying, walked back toward them, gave the dog 40pence and an pet, FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE, and continued on. I regret not taking the picture because it was probably the most adorable thing in the world!

 Across from the shops on Princes St. you can see the Edinburgh Castle shown here in all of its glory.
This is a random picture of a gate we walked through in a park at the bottom of a cliff. I thought the rust was pretty and I really liked the shape of it all.

Above, to the left and below you will see all the wonders of the roman fort we visited at Hadrian's wall. Begun in 122AD, under the rule of emperor Hadrian, it was the first military fort built across Great Britain. It was cold and windy and miserable, but I managed to snap some photos of the very exciting moss on the rocks for your viewing pleasure.

I did get a picture of some sheep though! I found them to be adorable. If I had any good sheep puns I'd use one but they're all baaaaaad. Haha, there you go.

 For Those of you who know me, you know that I LOVE cupcakes. So you can understand that when we visited the architecturally beautiful city of Durhan, the only thing I was interested in was Red Velvet and cream cheese!

 This brings me to a sad goodbye to Scotland. It's a lovely country with many proud citizens and lovely sites to see. So, feel free to shimmy out of your kilts, I'm sure they're itchy. Enjoy the Super Bowl everyone!!

Cheers! :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

London Calling

Lords and Ladies, welcome back! I am so sorry it took me so long to update post number four. There were many pictures and not enough free time. None the less, I have compiled my best photos of London to share with you. So sit back and relax as I take you on a virtual tour that won't leave you with aching feet....Seriously. It was a lot!

Had you been walking with me, we would have left the hotel, and walked across Russell Square to the British Museum to see some of histories finest artifacts.

The British Museum was one of my favorite visits. It's so large and there are so many things, you could spend a whole day in there and never be bored. The pictures you see here are from the ancient world. The two men and the dog are from Ancient Rome and the hieroglyphs and Pharaoh are from Ancient Egypt. 

The picture to the left of the screen is of  a row of tiles from The Parthenon. The Parthenon exhibit at the museum is by far the most impressive. Not only were these controversial tiles taken directly from The Parthenon, but the room they are displayed in, was built to be the same size as The Parthenon. These tiles feature different ceremonies from ancient Greece and the story goes, that on these many tiles, there are stories of processions between the Olympic Gods and Man. In one of these processions a 'man' is presenting an offering of some sort before battle to the military elite. However, the man presenting the offering has an exposed rear end and archeology tells us that in ancient Greece, exposed rear ends mean woman. Furthermore, women were not allowed to make such offerings so, we have a controversy. That was the simplest way I can explain's probably not all 100% right. 

Supposedly, according to this wall, Lord Duveen acquired these tiles in the 1700's and donated them to the British Museum. Greece does not like this and there is much controversy here as well. 

As I said earlier, the museum was so large, what you see here is only a small fraction of what we saw. There was an exhibit on clocks dating back to the ancients. There was an exhibit on the financial crisis in England. There was an amazing mummy exhibit but by the time I meandered into that room, it was filled with screaming British school children on a field trip so all of my pictures include blurry faces instead of preserved ones. So after accidentally spending over two hours in The British Museum, we would have walked outside, taken a right and started for Piccadilly Circus, which is not a circus at is known as the 'Times Square' of London and to be honest, I was not impressed. However! I did enjoy the shopping around the area. Girls, behold, the largest Topshop in the world. There was every sort of shop from Whole Foods-- where we had a delicious gluten free lunch-- to every designer you can think of. Omega jewelry, Lush (my new favorite store), Armani Exchange, Calvin Klein, Dorothy Perkins and so on and so forth. Now, since you're walking with me, you would have stopped in almost every store just delaying your arrival to Piccadilly Square which we just walked right through on our way to our next stop and my highlight of the trip.... PARLIAMENT SQUARE!!! 

On the other side of Parliament Square sits the most exciting building in London. The Supreme Court. While my friends checked out Westminster Abbey, I got to go inside the court house and look around......It was beautiful. 

After a lovely time in Parliament square, we headed back through the park to Buckingham Palace where, I'm sure the queen sat inside drinking some tea and....doing whatever it is The Queen does at 4:30pm on a Friday night. We didn't get to close because that meant more walking and we still had to make it back to our hotel by six to meet friend for dinner. So, we started to haul back to north central London. 

(I don't know about you but I find the line of succession incredibly interesting. Thanks to Shakespeare and his Histories, we know about Richard II, Henry IV and V and Richard III, all leading to the Tudor line giving us Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and her daughter Queen Elizabeth I. The sitting Queen right now is Elizabeth II and after her will be her son, Prince Charles of Wales. Then, will be William Duke of Cambridge and his lovely bride Kate. Now, Kate and Will are pregnant so their child, whichever gender it is, will be the heir to the throne after Will.) 

After a long hard day of walking and shopping, we made it back to the hotel early and went out for some good ol' British sushi. Actually, it was amazing. The eateries in London are fantastic and do not reflect the stereotype of English food whatsoever. After some sushi, we headed off to bead with visions of the Globe Theater in our heads. 

On our way to the Globe, we took Fleet Street. Now, anyone who knows Sweeney Todd, know that he and his lovely wife had a barber shop and meat pie shop on Fleet st. If you don't know the story, Sweeney Todd was a barber and his shop was right above his wife's pie shop. He would slaughter, she would bake and they would serve human pies! Gross but oddly entertaining. Any way, as fans of the musical, we took the historically grim street to the river. 
(Left: the court district on Fleet st. had some lovely gothic buildings! Right: A picture I did not take of myself on Millennium Bridge with the Glove in the background.)

At the River, there was a bridge, thank God because it was way too cold to swim across the Thames. The bridge I am standing on is Millennium Bridge built in 2000.....but broke or something and then was fixed and reopened in 2003. The bridge is perfectly safe now but I am starting to wonder about the integrity of London's Bridges...... Anyway, behind me and to the left you'll see a round white building. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Shakespeare's Globe! The history of this building is quite complex but the simple story goes that ins 16th century London, there were many restriction about the theater on one side of the river and not so many on the other side. The Globe happened to be on the side with many restrictions, legend probably doesn't have it but says that in the night, Shakespeare's crew moved the Globe across the river. Though that story is probably not all true, it is fun to tell. 

After a lovely greek lunch at an overpriced restaurant we headed back across the river and east to The Tower of London! Dun dun dun!! For those of you who don't know, the tower of London was built by William of Normandy after the battle of Hastings in 1066 which means this building is 947 years old. Over the years, the tower has served as a comfy get away for the royals and a prison for those who have committed treason. This is where Anne Boleyn died and rests and where two other wives of Henry VIII died and rest. There are 20 towers at The Tower of London and in one of these 20, are where The Crowned Jewels sit. We were not allowed to take pictures of them but they were oh so beautiful! 

Inside the outside walls of the Tower are crows. It is a Law that there always be crows at the Tower of London. If there are not, it is said that the monarchy will crumble and England will fall apart. Presently, there are eight crows at the Tower and they are said to be the fattest and most spoiled birds in the world. They loved posing for me but the person next to the crow wouldn't move so the poor crow had to make it work. 

As I said before, the Tower was a prison back in the day and on the walls in some of the towers, there are engravings of the prisoners' last thoughts. 
After the Tower, which took most of the day, we made our way back to the hotel. The next morning we got on the coach (bus) and made our way to Hampton Court Palace about an our outside of London. This was the summer home of Henry VIII and his many wives! 

Lovely courtyards and gardens fill the Palace with a natural, springy feel. The Tudor Gardens are among some of the most beautiful still my opinion. 

Speaking of Gardens! Above,  you will se a family tree. This is the THE family tree. And as a fan of Shakespeare I had to zoom in on some key characters. Enjoy! 
Here, to your right you'll see the bottom of the tree, at it's roots, John of Gaunt and the Black Prince. 
 Richard III, the Awful man who killed anyone that might threaten his chance of being King 

 Richard II, the boy king whose throne was usurped by Henry of Bollingbrook. Henry IV, the man who usurped the throne from Richard II and Henry V, the most heroic of the kings! If you have ever heard the St. Crispin's day speech, Henry V gave it on their way to a battle they were expected to lose! 
Well, that Finally concludes my London post. It dragged on a bit but I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the history! Until next time! Cheers :)