Our Travels to the UK and a bit beyond, Part 6
By Diane, with comments from Holly and Allan (and Paul!).
Note: The photos used here were chosen to go with this narrative....to see more photos from this trip, go to our home page and click on "2006 Vacation” and “Holly 2006 Vacation”.
2006 - October 27th thru November 10th - Allan and Diane
2006 - November 6th thru November 18th - Holly (Joined by Paul, November 9th thru 18th)
On this trip, Allan and I visited England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Holly met us back in London at Hampton Court Palace for the last four nights of our two week trip. Holly’s boyfriend, Paul, flew over and joined us at the Palace for just the last night of our Hampton Court stay, and then Allan and I flew home and Holly and Paul continued on for another 8 days seeing more of England and they also took an overnight excursion into Wales. In Stamford Allan and I stayed at Candlesticks Hotel, a lovely small hotel run by the Portuguese Pinto family. In Edinburgh we stayed at Jury’s Inn on Jeffrey St. We were a bit worried because we’d read some bad reviews about this hotel on Tripadvisor just prior to our departure, but we’d gotten a great room rate over the internet so had decided to keep our reservations. Wow, we were happy that we did! The hotel is a two minute walk from Waverley Station, our room was spacious, clean and quiet, and if you walked out the back door of the hotel and up a flight of stairs, you were literally standing on the Royal Mile just outside of John Knox’s house. It simply could not have been more perfect. In Northern Ireland we stayed in the little town of Bushmill’s near the North Antrim Coast which is 66 miles from Belfast and happens to be the home of Bushmill’s Distillery. We stayed at Bushmills Inn, which I think may have been the nicest place we’ve ever stayed on any of our UK trips (except for Hampton Court, of course – you cannot beat HCP for atmosphere!). But Bushmills was just fabulous. We had a beautiful room in the Mill House, the food in the Inn’s restaurant was delicious and the people who work at the Inn couldn’t possibly have been any nicer or more helpful. We will certainly return some day. There is a whole photo gallery in this year’s trip photos dedicated to just Bushmill’s Inn.
Quests: (1) To purchase of as much Royal Jelly product from Boots as could be carried; Allan: Funny, I thought we had room for some more; (Holly: and as much boots hair wax as could be carried!); (2) an attempt to find Ballynacree in No. Ireland – the town my ancestors came from. We found every other “Bally” imaginable, but no “nacree”; (3) to visit Rosslyn Chapel – the latest stop in a continuing series of recent excursions to “Da Vinci Code” locations; (4) to return to the fabulous veggie restaurant called the The Place Below which is located in the crypt of St. Mary Le Bow Church in London; (4) to visit the V&A’s 60’s fashion exhibit – for me it was like taking a trip in the “way back machine” – fabulous paisleys, mini-dresses, Mary Quant stuff. All the things I’d have loved to have in the late 60’s, early 70’s, but could only afford the “rip-off” discount versions. It was nice to see the real thing. Allan: For me it was like taking a trip into my sister’s closet, completely a waste of time.; (4) to add to Holly’s collection of shot glasses from Holy Places (we added three!); (5) to finally make it to The George on London’s South Bank for a pint. Allan: We are going to have to figure out which is the closest tube stop toThe George, because it is a wonderful place for a pint but it seems like such a long walk to get there. The George is London’s oldest galleried coaching inn and for some reason even though we’ve started out to get there on past trips, we’d never made it all the way there until this year’s trip. (6) Holly to buy clothes!!! which is doable and affordable in Oxford, we found! (Paul: although trying to find Paul Smith jeans that were affordable didn’t happen.)
Highlights: (1) Northern Ireland! What a gorgeous, breathtaking place. Allan and I rented a car in Belfast and put 281 miles on it over three days. (OK, so Allan put on 271 of them and I did 10, but I DID drive!) Allan: The car when we picked it up had a half inch of ice on the windshield. Welcome to Northern Ireland! The car also had a navigation system but no CD . Boy would that have been helpful. The many times we went the wrong way we blamed each other, until we learned we could simply drive till the next roundabout and come out of it going back the way we came. A very enlightening experience. I wanted to visit Antrim County No. Ireland because that is where my ancestors on my father’s side originated. I was disappointed that I didn’t feel any psychic connection, but I totally fell in love with the country and we got some fabulous pictures along the coastline, most notably at the Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle; (2) Bushmill’s Inn in Bushmills No. Ireland. What a fantastic and atmospheric place! We enjoyed ourselves here so very much. I fell in love with the wheaten bread served at the Inn (a hearty brown Irish soda bread). I’ve been trying to duplicate it ever since we returned home (pretty unsuccessfully I’m sorry to say); Allan: Don’t forget the whiskey flavored ice cream. (3) Lunch at the Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast – a pub that undoubtedly has the very best mashed potatoes (called Champs potatoes) I’ve ever eaten, bar none. When our waitress at the Crown learned I’d traveled 11,000 miles to try those potatoes she gave me extra! I’ve also tried to duplicate these fluffy, creamy, buttery, spring onion-laden mashed potatoes since returning home (with a bit more success than I’ve been having with the bread); Allan: Bangers and Mash at The Crown is a must. (4) a return trip to Scotland, including four nights in Edinburgh and a side trip to Loch Ness and UrquhartCastle and another to Rosslyn Chapel. Rosslyn Chapel has received a lot of attention lately as the chapel in the DaVinci Code where the Grail was supposed kept for a time. Edinburgh is an absolutely stunning city. We really love the darkness of the city’s old stone buildings and the numerous little alleyways between streets; Allan: Walking around Edinburgh at night is one of my favorite things to do. (5) Hampton Court. We will never tire of staying a few days here at the end of each of our trips to the UK. We’ve made so many lovely friends during our years of staying at the Palace and they always manage to give us some special little treat (Holly: including Malcolm, who this year terrorized my poor, jetlagged boyfriend into thinking he was in a restricted area) – maybe a flashlight tour at night, or a trip to a part of the palace not normally seen by regular daytime tourists. I cannot imagine a vacation without ending it at the palace. We were especially pleased that Holly’s boyfriend, Paul, was able to join us there this year. It’s always nice to share this experience with others. (Paul: Staying at the palace is incredible. You really feel the history. Having the chance to walk around the palace late at night without anyone else around is an amazing experience!) Holly really did see a ghost on our 2005 trip and I’m still waiting to see mine. (Paul: We did have fun taking our own ghost pictures late at night.)My excuse to keep returning year after year! Allan: Mine is to photograph the local parrots that we have heard but have not seen.
(6) Allan and I had some incredibly delicious (albeit, fairly expensive) meals on this trip – one on Halloween night at The Witchery on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Allan: Mmmmmm, lavender ice cream. one with our friends Patrick, Christine and Katherine at the aforementioned Candlesticks Hotel in Stamford, Allan: Espada fish from Portugal was a special treat, and a couple of fabulous dinners at Bushmills Inn – at this one I even had warm pecan pie topped with Whiskey ice cream! (Holly: Paul and I had a nice, fairly expensive dinner at our hotel in Conwy. The restaurant there is award winning and quite expensive, but dinner in the bar is more affordable and cooked by the same chef. However, I have to admit I think my favorite dinner on this trip came from a truck parked outside of a club in Oxford: chips with beans and cheese.) (Paul: I tried the blood pudding in Conwy for breakfast which wasn’t bad at all. The Sunday roast with bread pudding in York wasn’t what I expected…ok, so my typical American came out when I expected sweet pudding for some reason.) I completely ignored my diet on this trip (Holly: I prefer to think of it as 'loosely interpreting one's diet” rather than ignoring), and still somehow managed to lose one pound over the two weeks – most likely from all the walking (Holly: in my case, more likely from all the CLIMBING. Paul and I climbed towers in Oxford, York and Conwy adding up to a total of around a million steps climbed) (7) watching in horrified fascination as Allan manoeuvred a “double” roundabout near Coleraine in No. Ireland in our rented Vauxhall (as if the single roundabouts are not stressful enough) and being happy that I was not the one behind the wheel. I swear we must have gone around several hundred roundabouts in our three days in Northern Ireland but I must admit they do seem to keep traffic flowing rather nicely once you’ve gotten over the fear; Allan: Fear can be a healthy thing. (8) having our friend, Patrick, drive us from Stamford to the little town of Geddington to visit one of only two complete, surviving medieval Eleanor Crosses. Most of the others, including the one outside Charing Cross station in London are either replicas, or heavily restored (Holly: And having Patrick drive us to The Victoria pub in Oxshott! I was finally able to visit my friend Natalie's village); (9) a visit to Burghley House on the last day of the season – a beautiful, sunny day. Burghley is the magnificent Elizabethan mansion built by William Cecil, Elizabeth I’s Lord Treasurer and Secretary.Allan: After visiting Burghley House we wanted to find a pub for lunch. Patrick said it should be the easiest thing in the world. Just drive down any road and you’ll surely run into a pub. Well an hour later and many roads we finally found Ye Olde Bertie Arms in Tallington, where I had perhaps the best ploughman’s lunch I have ever had. (10) it was really nice to have Holly’s boyfriend, Paul, join us for our final night at Hampton Court. The afternoon he arrived could not have been more spectacular – golden sunlight was casting huge long shadows over the gardens and glowing off the windows and bricks of the palace – it was probably one of the prettiest days we have ever spent at the palace. (Paul: I brought the LA weather with me!) Holly will have to add some highlights here from her continuation of the trip with Paul. They visited York, Oxford and Conwy, Wales after Allan and I returned home.
(10) Holly: Seeing Goldrush play in Oxford and a few other bands in London. In all my trips to the UK I'd only ever gone to a show once before this trip. (Paul: the Truck Records / Goldrush hospitality made Oxford fun). Holly: Also spending a Friday night in London with Shalini! (11) Our stay at the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford, which was a very generous gift from my boss, Heather. We'd never have stayed someplace so nice if we'd been left to our own devices! The hotel is remodeled from a 17th century prison, so there was a definite spooky aspect to it! (12) and speaking of spooky, Paul and I also stayed somewhere I've been dying (pun intended) to stay for quite some time - the Golden Fleece Inn in York. The place didn't disappoint either … the four poster bed and view of the shambles was really special, and I'll never forget how excited my dad sounded when I called from York and told him I had the key to the pub's front door in my coat pocket!! (Paul: Holly was excited that I had my own “ghost” experience in the Golden Fleece, when I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom, a cold breeze came through rustling the shower curtain beside me. There are no windows in the bathroom!?) Holly: Another highlight in York was going to the Black Swan pub for a drink with our York Ghost Walk guide! (Paul: Just to get the full effect of being in the oldest bar in York, they were having a Pagan meeting upstairs.) (13) Holly: Even though it was just for a night, being with Paul in Conwy was amazing. Conwy is my favorite place in the world, so it was really great to be able to share it with him. (Paul: I loved the fact that you get off the train and immediately see a 13 th century wall. Your mind races as you try to imagine what it would have been to lived back then. Also loved having to flag down the train in order to take it back to London. The porter told us “If the train is moving really fast, don’t stick your arm out too far.” Good advice!) Allan: Diane still finds Holly’s fascination with Conwy a little odd. I’m surprised that Holly did not mention as a highlight her close personal encounter with petrified Viking poo. That would certainly have been a highlight for me! How many of us can say we’ve handled honest to goodness Viking poo? Allan: And how would you know it’s not poo from a Yorkshire person? Perhaps the absence of herring and lingonberries is the clue.
Lowlights: (1) Returning to Durham via train from Edinburgh (not a five minute trip, mind you) for the SECOND year in a row and still not being allowed to photograph the interior of the cathedral (in spite of an email last year telling us we could, for a fee.) Allan: This has really started to frost me, not because I don’t like Durham, because I really do like Durham, but being misled 2 years in a row and to be told that putting our pictures on the internet would not be appropriate. I’m certainly not trying to make money off of it or infringe on a copyright, what is so inappropriate? A consolation: Canterbury Cathedral does allow photography; (2) having a female security guard at Belfast airport literally stick her bare hands down the back of my jeans. I know that security is important, but geez. (3) I swear I really cannot think of a single other lowlight, other than just not having enough time to fit in all we wanted to do. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of things I want to see in the beautiful United Kingdom. Oh, yeah, maybe one other lowlight. One piece of our luggage was so heavy flying between Edinburgh and Belfast we had to pay a surcharge – and the surcharge was more than our tickets – so in effect, it cost more to fly our suitcase to Belfast than it did to fly ourselves! (4) Holly: Sadly, I have one. I had the most horrendous jetlag on this trip, due to British Airways getting me to London 3 hours late. The lack of daylight hours after my landing really threw me off and sadly, even after two weeks on UK time, I never quite recovered. (4) and due to unforeseen circumstances, I wasn't able to meet up with Becca as planned (although I did get to see Shalini!) . . .next time though!
Allan and Diane
Stamford, Lincolnshire, England (including Burghley House)
Rosslyn (Roslin), Scotland (day trip from Edinburgh)
Inverness and Loch Ness, Scotland (day trip from Edinburgh)
Durham, England (day trip from Edinburgh)
Bushmills, Northern Ireland
Belfast, Northern Ireland (day trip from Bushmills)
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, England
Canterbury, England (day trip from Hampton Court)
London (excursions from Hampton Court – it is just a 31 minute train ride)
Holly and Paul:
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey
Canterbury, England (Holly only – Paul hadn’t arrived in the UK yet)
Oxford, England (Holly: St. Mary's tower, The Oxford Story)
York, England (Holly: York Minster, York Minster Tower, York Ghost Walk, Dig)
Conwy, Wales (Holly: Conwy Castle)London, England (Holly: British Museum, Westminster Abbey, TONS of walking and shopping, Paul: couple clubs rocking out to local bands who were great.)
On to Part 7