Saturday, June 5, 2010

Look Kids, Theres Big Ben....

Well today was our big London Day, and I feel like we really accomplished a lot...

We got up and made our way to the free walking tour, which we missed by 20 minutes, but we walked then to Buckingham Palace and met up with the group there to hop on. Buckingham Palace was alright, kind of not an elaborate palace looking place but it was pretty cool. What was cool was that we got there as they were doing the changing of the guard so there were horse guards and royal guards marching around with their big fuzzy black hats. We went along the tour seeing o’ther royal homes and monuments, we got to the house of the princes and got to get close to royal guards to mess around with them, and we made our way towards Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. We saw the headquarters of MI6, aka the agency that Bond belongs to, which is still ‘concealed’ from WW2 with ivy all over it, so German bombers would think it was more trees from the park it is adjacent to. We then went to West Minster Abbey which was really cool but unfortunately we didn't get to go inside :( and to end the tour we sat on the spot where Guy Fawkes was hung and the guide told the story of Guy Fawkes (we were all like ahh V blew this building up! haha)

After the tour we headed back to the National Gallery to meet up with Dave's friends from outside London Claire and Carl. We found them and hung out with them the rest of the day as we toured London some more. We headed to a sports bar to have lunch, and made our way to the River Thames to explore the area around there. We showed Carl the Big Ben clock tower for the first time, as he had never been to London before, which was really cool and funny showing someone from this country around - we won't get to do that again! So we headed down the river and found the Tate Museum, which was sooo much bigger then I ever thought. With free admission, we went on it and did a sort of quick run through the museum, which actually was not as full of artwork as I thought, with like a whole 2 or 3 floors of wasted space. After finishing the Tate we headed out and took the 2 minute walk over to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

The Globe was really cool and we really wanted to go in but they were putting on a performance of Macbeth soon so we could not tour it. So we thought, wow awesome! Macbeth in the Globe? Let's do it! But the tickets were £35 so we had to pass, but we looked around the shop and stuff and it was really cool. After that we walked down the Thames more and crossed over that bridge that gets destroyed in the last Harry Potter book to St. Paul's cathedral. We looked at that for a bit and then continued more down the Thames to Tower Bridge, which was awesome. After that we got on a tube in the London Underground, which is way cleaner and it seemed faster then NYC subways. We quickly got back to Picadilly Circle, and had to decide where to eat. We looked around a bit and ended up deciding on, funny enough, Planet Hollywood London.

Planet Hollywood was good, the food was the same but the area was a lot more sparse then the ones in America I have been too. However, they had 2 really cool props that elevated it real high. One, Indiana Jone's whip... the other? Han freaking Solo encased in Carbonite. The whole thing. It was so cool.

After dinner we headed back to the Hostel, Claire and Carl missed their train so they got rooms in the hostel as well, and we all hung out for a bit before going to sleep.

In the morning we all got breakfast in the hostel, and it was off to the airport for Spain. I consider this the end of our first leg of the trip, I think it is 1/3rd through now actually as of today, and it's goodbye English speaking countries!

Also, we are in Spain now so from now on the time difference is 6 hours instead of 5 hours... if anyone was curious.

Goodbye English Language!

Sitting on a plane in London Gatwick Airport waiting to take off for Barcelona! Didn't get to use internet last night, will hopefully upload my London post tonight! (Assuming the hostel can...)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I was Waiting for a Cross-town Train in the London Underground...

Well day 1 in London is over! And by day 1 I really mean just the night because we didn't really go out into the city until around 6ish after rolling in and everyone passed out asleep (which is when I snuck away to blog earlier) and we headed out towards the river, specifically in search of the London Eye because we were not planning on going on it while we were here and it is not on our walking tour's list of things to see for tomorrow. As we walked we saw a slice of the city that started out being like Broadway in NY, changed into Chinatown, then started getting progressively more awesome (and more British!)

We continued on and then got to Leicester Square where around 6 roads converged and on each corner was a different restaurant so we crossed from corner to corner looking at menus until we decided to eat at a place called Spaghetti House (Yep... Italian in England. Oh well.) which was really delicious. Also, I stopped into a real English red phone booth to call home from. Only I didn't want to pay so I used Sharon's blackberry inside it. Also nobody picked up at home so I didn't really talk to anyone, but I left a voicemail. Oh well. After eating our meal we headed back towards the water, and after a little while of walking all of a sudden Big Ben jumped out from behind some buildings on the left. That was a pretty awesome moment, we were just kind of cruising through London like "Yeah, this is pretty cool..." when just bam - woah guys, this is London!

We ran around all giddy taking pictures of the area (seriously, this is London!) and then got to the River and saw the London Eye across the way. We crossed the bridge and headed over to the Eye, which actually closed as we were walking there. We checked it out, it was pretty cool. The view became really cool too because it was getting dark the whole time but now the lights all turned on by the time we got across and everything looked awesome. We walked down past it to another bridge sight seeing before heading back over the bridge (I think it was the Waterloo Bridge? Or maybe that was the next one over because it was a train and footbridge and I don't know if it was on the map or not because it was not a car bridge.

So we are back at the Hostel now and are excited for tomorrow which is shaping up to be a busy day. We are going on a walking tour of the city to hit all the major sights (and since it is the same group that did the Edinburgh one, and it's free, we totally expect it to be awesome) and we are possibly hitting the London Eye since you can get a pretty decent priced combo ticket for the Eye and the London Madame Tussades (why not?) and we are going to meet up with Dave's friend Claire who lives outside London and is going to show us around as well. And at night we have a host of options we are debating between, such as the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the Tate, etc. So it's gonna be a good day!

Tune in next time - same Pat time, same Pat channel! Cheers!

Oly Oly Oxford Free!

Wow okay that was really bad. Anyway, late blog post for Oxford because our hostel did not have computers it only had internet jacks but we had nothing to jack into with so it had to wait. But to be honest we did not really have too much to blog about for Oxford. We sort of spent our time in Oxford doing fairly normal things we would do if we lived there, and all our touristy kind of plans were dashed for various reasons. The first problem with doing things like that was we did not get into Oxford until a little before 4, and as previously stated everything in Europe so far closes around 5/6. And ho-ly crap, Oxford is like bike capital of the world. Seriously, look at that picture! That is the third basically bike parking lot we came across, there were massive amounts of bikes parked everywhere. And people were riding them all around us. We considered renting them but we never really came across a place to do so surprisingly and the hostel guys were not sure where we could, but whatever it was pretty late in the day anyway so we would have had to bring it back quick. So we checked in, dropped our stuff, and then went out on the town. Our hostel is pretty cool, and we had our largest room yet – 18 people. But the room is sort of divided into 2 sections, so all 18 were not in the same area there were 6 in a different area from us. The place was cool though and the guy at the desk was great and we liked it.

So we went out into the city with some things marked off on the map and first decided to head to the nearby covered market. We got there to find all the doors locked but we could still walk around for a few minutes to see in the windows and such and it looked like a real cool market, just happened to miss it. Oh well. As we walked down the main streets of Oxford we stopped into a bunch of stores to look around, including a few book stores (one of which every book inside was £2! Jen and I got a pair of really awesome hillarious books. The picture of the Bush book was a book we found there, it was Yoga instructions using a Bush doll as the model and written in mock-Bush sounding words.) Next on our list we headed over to Christ Church, which is where much of Harry Potter was filmed, including the Hogwarts Dinner Hall (This wizard kid is really dominating our trip lately, eh?) To find that while it was actually not closing for another half an hour, they stopped admitting new guests a half hour prior. So that was a bust. Then we walked some more and everything was closed so we sat down and decided that we would grab some dinner before all the pubs closed and then see a movie, because the cinema was opened until late!
So we ate at a Pub called St. Aldate’s Tavern and I got Fish and Chips, because it was something I just felt I should get in England. It was very good; the home-made tartar sauce was awesome. After that we headed down to the Cinema, Odeon Theaters’, and planned for the girls to see Sex in th City 2 and Dave and I to see Prince of Persia. We found that the theater we were in was only playing Sex in the City and Robin Hood, but that around the corner was another theater playing Prince of Persia so the girls got their tickets and we went around the corner to get ours. The ticket prices are very different here. Cinemas have assigned seating based on your tickets, and 3 available seat types – regular, about £6, premier (what Dave and I got) about £7, and Deluxe Luxury or something like that for £9 (which the girls got, and was not offered in our theater because it was like a quarter the size of their giant one). The regular were normal seats, the three middle rows of our theater (which only had 6 rows and was super tiny) were our premiere. And for the girl’s their luxury seats were in the front 2 rows of the mezzanine (yeah, their theater had a balcony) and were big comfy love seat couches. Crazy. So we saw Prince of Persia and I don’t know if anyone saw it yet but we thought it was awesome. Also British commercials before the movies are really funny, we saw a hilarious A-Team commercial for a cell phone company over here called Orange. Youtube Orange A-team ad its real good.

After the movie we hung out back at the hostel with our roommates who were finally there, Alex and Kate from San Diego, Travis from NY but currently living in Germany, Logan from New Zealand, and this girl from outside Toronto was there for a while but left. We hung out in the room and then the common area for a long time and it was good.

This morning we checked out but checked our bags back in so we could go back out into Oxford to try and make up some of the things we missed, and Travis came with us. We ended up going to a farmers market that was real cool, and a little mall thing including a Gap store which as you can see by the picture Dave was not happy about ha ha. We went to Christ Church and walked through the outer green, and came upon the buildings which were all under heavy renovation. We decided it was not worth it to drop the £4.50 to spend 10 minutes tops walking around and hoping we were able to get into what we wanted too since much of it was closed. So that was a bummer.

So anyway, the next 2 days... London! We are here in the Picadilly Backpackers Hostel just outside Pickadilly Circle and ready to see what we can see! We are hoping to go on the same company's free tour that was so awesome in Edinburgh and I may or may not post again tonight but I may just save it for tomorrow, we shall see.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Well here we are in the final leg of our Ireland/UK leg of the tour starting out England with Liverpool, home of The Beatles! Apparently the intensity of our trip caught up with us for the first day this morning and we over slept our alarm by 2 hours, so we missed the train we initially were planning on grabbing from Edinburgh to Liverpool, so we had to go to a different one. But it was ok because we didn't actually have tickets reserved for this train so we didn't miss anything but time so we got some more rest and felt better then we were expecting to when we were planning on getting up at 6:30. So we hopped a train and started the long (4 hour) train ride to Liverpool. The tickets for this particular train were rediculously priced, but we did not get them in advance and buying in advance online a few days is DRASTICALLY cheaper for rail travel in this area. So we paid an insane £54 each for the ride. (for example, we got our next train in the hostel here a day early and it was £24, and had we gotten it a week ago it would probably be around £10) Oh well, live and learn.

So we got to Liverpool a bit late, and we had to twice ask someone for directions, and both times they were the nicest people. The first guy showed us where to go and actually walked with us a few blocks showing us the buildings and such since he was headed in the same direction, and the second guy was very nice as well and gave us his card in case we got lost and asked us to email him when we found our diggs to let him know everything worked out alright. So our hostel (Everett Hostel on Everett Street) is located pretty poorly. The location itself is actually quite nice, but it is a half hour walk minimum from the actual city part of Liverpool. But aside from that it is a truley awesome hostel. There are bowls of free fruit in all the rooms and the common area, free cereal, tea, coffee, cookies, snacks, milk, etc. all around. It is very homey and we actually have our own kitchen, wash/drier, and bathroom in our room. Our hostel mates are alright, one girl walked in only real late and went to sleep we didn't talk, another guy spent most of the time on the computer but was nice and I actually was able to help him book his trip from Ireland to Scotland (he wanted to do Belfast to Stranraer to Edinburgh, and I just so happened to have detailed notes on that exact stuff in my journal!) and theres a cool kid from Hamburg, Germany and a guy and girl from Finland who are cool as well.

After the train ride and considering the money we had already dumped into getting here everyone seemed pretty uninterested in doing all the Beatles things we had planned (visiting Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, the church where Paul and John met, the Cavern Club they played 292 times at starting their career, etc.) but Sharon and I still wanted to so we got a taxi and made it 3 minutes too late to the Beatles museum, but managed to convince (i.e. beg) our way in. The exhibit was totally cool and we got to see all kinds of great information and I think I learned a lot about the Beatles I did not know. They had lots of cool things including the replica (I think it was a replica, I assume they didn't actually get this) interior of the plane they flew to America for the first time in, a room set up with images of girls screaming everywhere and loud footage of them screaming blaring over everything so it was hard to hear the narrator talk, and best of all a yellow submarine you walked into complete with periscope and observation windows that were fish tanks with real fish making it seem underwater.

After Sharon and I got a cab back to the hostel and we all went out across town to a supermaket (ASDA, basically a Walmart it even had rollback prices and a yellow happy face inside) and got stuff to cook a big dinner in our kitchen since it was there, and it ended up being a super cheap and delicious/filling dinner (only £4.5 each!). Because what better way to spend your first day in England ever then going to a super market? Exactly, I didn't think you would have a better idea. We made prawns (shrimp) fried up in mixed chopped vegtables, seasonings, and a tomato basil/garlic sauce, pasta, and absolutely delicious garlic bread. The dinner came out amazing it was so good, and we over ate to the max.

After dinner we had some left overs (not a lot... but we had already stuffed ourselves so much...) and we tried to give the rest away to any of our roomates but we keep forgetting how late our eating times seem to people in Europe and they were all full having eaten a while before and it was too late to eat for them... too bad, they missed out. We also got ourselves some eggs and bacon to add to our breakfast tomorrow (so dinner was a little less then £4.5o each since it included the breakfast and the snacks we got as well) again, to make full use of the kitchen while we have it! Tomorrow we have a relaxing morning, not leaving until 11 and not having to leave the room before we go down to get breakfast since we make it right here. Also I'm excited about swiping some food for lunch to save from buying lunch tomorrow making 2 free meals, help play catch up for the expensive train ticket today. We will arrive mid-afternoon in Oxford tomorrow, and I'm very excited to see the sights! Not going to lie, Liverpool is extremely unimpressive looking, especially after coming strait from picturesque Edinburgh. But we still made it a totally excellent day. Well considering it is 00:36 right now, I think it's time for bed. Goodnight all!

Monday, May 31, 2010


Hello again, so today we spent the day touring Edinburgh. And what better way to start seeing a new city then to take an awesome and FREE walking tour, provided by Sandeman's New Europe tours. The tour was awesome, our tour guide Andrew was awesome, and we can't wait to take their free walking tours in many of the other major cities we will be in.

We saw so many things and places on the tour it is going to be pretty hard to sum up... I was keeping a running record of the tour as we wen't along in my journal so I'll just kind of bullet point some things from the tour and you can google them if they pique your interest.

  • Edinburgh City Chambers
  • Market Cross
  • St. Gile's Cathedral
  • Lady Stairs House
  • Writer's Museum / Stairs Close
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Balcony where some of Burke and Hare's murders took place
  • Greatfriar's Kirk
  • Black Mausoleum
  • The school Hogwart's is based off of, and the graves around are where the names of many characters in Harry Potter came from (Malfoy, Longbottom, etc.)
  • John Grey's grave and the statue of Greatfriar's Bobbie (this HAS to be the story that inspired that super sad dog episode of Futurama, its the same thing but in real life!)
  • Elephant Cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first few Harry Potter books
After that we hadlunch at a place called Garfunkel's on High Street (what the Royal Mile becomes if you go down a bit more) and Dave and I split a haggus to give it a try, we are in Scotland after all. It wasn't bad... it wasn't great or anything either, actually kind of bland. But it was okay and I'm glad I tried it.

After we stopped into some small shops and looked around, got some deliciuos smoothies from a place called Hula on Victoria at the corner of the Grass Market, and went to a food mart to buy some stuff to make in the hostel kitchen for dinner (hooray for 50 pence dinners!).

Later tonight we are going to go back out and take a ghost tour (from the same group that did our earlier tour) of all the haunted places and paranormal happenings in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is quiet the paranormal hot spot apparently, and we are excited because it is like the only thing that seems to be around to do after 8:30 here haha. (There are actually a lot of different ghost tour signs all over the city)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Edinburgh - night 1! (Also, I posted another below this! Look!)

2 posts in one night! Huzzah! Make sure to check the one below, the pictures are awesome.

So we got on the train to Edinburgh which was 50 minutes, and as soon as we stepped out of the station we were in awe. Now THIS is something truley new and wonderful. The city is amazing. We walked down what is known as the Royal Mile and passed architecture like you wouldn't believe. Cathedrals, Spires, Churches, Parliment, statues, all older then any building in our Coutnry leading right up to Edinburgh Castle on a giant volcanic cliff. And our hostel is right next to the castle! Castle rock is the name of our hostel and it is really awesome, maybe the best yet. We rolled in pretty late so we didn't have much time to get started, but tomorrow looks to be a great day ahead of us. I'll put some pictures of our hostel up. We met 2 of our 6 roomates, the others are probably there by now but I have not been back in the room in a bit.

Gary is from England and he just walked into the hostel after running (and placing 3rd!) in a 104 mile race, and it took him 25 hours of strait running through Scotland north of here. He started pretty near where we were at one point on our tour (my journal is with Sharon so I'm fuzzy on the details) and it sounded insane. He is dead tired so after a very interesting but understandably brief conversation he turned in for the night. We also met Felix from Germany and he is very interesting as well! He has studied and travelled all around Europe and is in Edinburgh for the next 2 days to look at a school here for Post-Grad studies. We talked in the room for a while and then all went out together to walk around and find a pub. We found a lot were closed, which is a problem we have run in to with things closing real early here but he was actually surprised aparently London and Germany things stay open later. No one thought to check what pub we ended up in but it was good fun.

crap out of internet time, pictures tomorrow!

There Can Only Be One... post about the Highlands

That title, of course, being totally untrue since there is a post about them below this one. Anyway.

So as I said before we got a bus tour that took up a very large portion of the day (8.30 - 19.00/7:00p) and took us first to the William Wallace Monument. It was a really tall castle-looking spire on top of a pretty high hill that had a winding spiral staircase to the top and contained the actual sword of William Wallace. (which, by the way, is gigantic and it said he had to be at least 6'6" to even wield it!) The view from the top was awesome. Little did we know that we had not even begun to see awesome views of Scotland yet... (and remember, always click my pictures to enlarge!)

After the monument we headed up to Aberfeldy and got a really delicious big lunch. Scottish beef is amazing, the best beef I've ever eaten. All our dishes were excellent. We got back on the tour bus and were kind of late since the restaurant took a little bit too long for our time limit but everybody had to eat there because it was the only food place open on a sunday in the town (ha!). We got to Dewar's Whisky Distillery and had to take an abridged version of the tour, so we saw a video and looked at the exhibits but then skipped the actual walk into the distillery part and went strait to the whisky tasting. I don't drink so of course that wasn't really a big deal, but I had a sip of my dram anyway since I took the tour.

From there we started a long but increasingly beautiful drive into the Highlands. For the rest of the trip the scenery just got more and more beautiful as we went north. We stopped at a viewpoint to look out to some mountains, stopped again at a the Falls of Dochard (picture right) which was awesome, stopped at a Yew tree that is older then humanity (5,000 years, second oldest living organism on the planet - I took a piece of it haha) and then stopped at Falls of Falloch (or, "Rob Roy's Bathtub", below) which totally trumped Dochard.

After the falls we drove all around Loch Lomond which is quite possibly the most beautiful place I've ever seen. My only regret for the day is we did not get off the bus here, and there were so many trees I was not able to get any real good pictures but it was amazing. A 40 km lake that is just giant sitting surrounded by giant wooded mountains and the colors are just unbelievably vibrant. Really, all the colors in Scotland are crazy saturated and vibrant. There are these yellow and blue flowers that grow everywhere and just make the hills glow unreal colors, and I have already forgotten their names.

We lastly drove through a conserved old village that looked out of a story book where you can actually rent a house on holiday, it was really cool. We got back at 19.00 to Glasgow and then... well... ate at a McDonalds before going back to the Hostel for our bags. (Yeah, I know... cheap and fast though!) We got our tickets from the booth and the guy gave us 20 quid back because of a sale we did not get to take advantage of online, so that was awesome! We got the train to Edinburgh which is just under and hour and... I'll make that a seperate post. This is alll about the Highlands.

Hello from the Scottish Highlands!

We are sitting in a pub called Schielhallon waiting for our food in a small village in the mountains called Aberfeldy. (Home of J.K. Rowling!)

We are in the midst of a coach tour through northern and western Scotland. Starting in Glasgow, we took the coach to Sterling and climbed the William Wallace memorial (saw his broadsword... It is gigantic!) And have since been making our way through scenic roads in the mountains. Too bad I can't put pictures up just right now!