Our Travels to the UK and a bit beyond, Part 8
By Diane, with comments from Holly and Allan
2009 – February 25 – March 18 – The Wedding Trip!!
Allan and I left on February 25, arriving in London on February 26, whereupon we immediately boarded the Paddington Express train into central London, switched to a taxi for Kings Cross, then boarded the next train out for Edinburgh. We arrived in Edinburgh weary but excited. Our first three nights were spent at Jury’s Inn, a nice, friendly hotel just a thee minute walk from Waverly Station. On our fourth and last night in Edinburgh, we moved to the Radisson on the Royal Mile because of a “too good to pass up” Sunday rate. Edinburgh was just fabulous – an amazing city to walk around. We took a day trip to Warkworth Castle and included lunch in York on the same day. From Edinburgh, we moved on to our beloved Hampton Court Palace for an entire week. The first four nights Allan and I were there by ourselves – getting in day trips to Kenilworth Castle and Ely Cathedral. On Friday morning, March 6, Donna, Emily and Jeff arrived, and that same afternoon Holly and Paul arrived. Holly, Paul, Jeff and Bruce (who would arrive on Saturday) stayed at the palace with us, and Donna and Emily stayed just outside the palace’s Lion Gate at the King’s Arms, a lovely hotel/pub. We all spent most of Saturday at the palace, including putting together a great lunch in the Fish Court kitchen, and then on Saturday evening Allan and I hosted a “pub night” at the Albion in East Molesey for some of our wonderful palace friends. On Sunday, we hosted a family dinner at the Carlton Mitre, followed by all of us coming back to the palace flat and Ian Franklin, our fabulous warder friend, coming over to give us a ghost slide show about the palace! We had a lot of wonderful special access to the palace this year, including being allowed to accompany Kevin on his late rounds around parts of the palace not normally open to public view. The following morning, we all loaded ourselves and much luggage into a “coach” for Euston Station, where we boarded a train for Conwy Wales. We all stayed at the awesome Castle Hotel on Conwy’s main street, a place Allan, Holly and I had stayed in 2003 and Holly and Paul stayed in 2006. The hotel could not have been more accommodating to us and the food (included in our meal plans) was to die for! Although the wedding morning started out misty and overcast, the clouds parted and the sun came out to make an absolutely glorious day for the wedding ceremony itself. We started the morning with a private guided tour by Neil of Conwy Castle – arranged for all of us by Holly and Paul. This day, March 10, will be one of the most wonderful memories of my life – the ceremony was beautiful and moving and special .
Holly and Paul were driven into Deganwy by their photographer for photos following the blessing, which they wrote themselves and which included a handfasting, and then we all convened back at the hotel for a special wedding dinner. Have I already said the food in this hotel is unbelievable!?? The co-owner of the hotel is the chef, and he cooks for Prince Charles when he is in Wales! The next morning, we all walked Conwy’s beautiful, medieval town walls and then Holly and Paul arranged for all of us to go by bus to Caernarfon Castle, which is the next Edward I border castle down the coast. We had lunch at a local pub and then spent a nice afternoon walking around the town and touring the castle. The following morning, March 12, we all scattered to go our separate ways – Bruce, Jeff, Donna and Emily headed back to London, Holly and Paul caught a train to Edinburgh (via York) to begin their honeymoon, and Allan and I caught a train for Ludlow in Shropshire. I cannot say enough nice things about the beautiful town of Ludlow – we stayed at the Feathers Hotel – a famous Ludlow Landmark black and white building. The ruins of Ludlow Castle were a five minute walk. The next morning, we boarded a train for Shrewsbury, where we spent two days and nights at the Lion Hotel. We really had a nice time at the Lion and in Shrewsbury. Allan and I had wanted to visit because of the Brother Cadfael connection. On Sunday, March 15, we boarded a train back to London where we spent the next few days at the Westminster Thistle near Victoria Station. We posed on Abbey Road for photos, visited the British Museum and just did a lot of walking around London, including a trip to the George in Southwark for a pint or two. On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, we met Paul, Holly, Donna, Emily and Jeff at St. Pancras Station at the crack of dawn and we boarded a Eurostar train for a whirlwind 9 hour trip to Paris! We spent the morning at the Musee D’Orsay, including a lunch in their café, followed by a walk through the Tullerie Gardens to the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe, stopping off for bread at Brioche Doree, and we even fit in a trip to the Eiffel Tower before heading back to Gare du Nord to catch our train back to London. The following morning, Allan and I made our way back to Heathrow to catch our flight home, thus ending what was probably the most fabulous trip we’ve ever taken.
(1) OMG…the WEDDING. Holly and Paul planned the day of their dreams and it literally brought tears to my eyes. It simply could not have been a more beautiful and moving ceremony; (2) three full weeks to enjoy my favorite place on the face of the earth; (3) being able to share our Hampton Court family vacation tradition with Paul’s family; (4) the pub night at the Albion attended by our friends Patrick, Kristine, Katherine, Denis, Malcolm, Denise, and Paul’s cousin Clara, and her husband Eric and kids Corvis and Lavinia; (5) the ghost slide show at the Fish Court flat given by the hugely knowledgeable Ian Franklin; (6) Malcolm and Denise coming to the flat for Ian’s slideshow and bringing their gorgeous wedding photos from their Palace wedding in the Chapel Royal; (7) an extremely special tour of the palace guided by Malcolm and Denise; (8) another special tour of the palace guided by Roland; (9) yet another special tour of the palace guided by Kevin; (6) getting together with Trevor and his lovely wife, Jackie, for dinner at the Prince of Wales; (7) Edinburgh!!! What a wonderful city in which to spend hours and hours walking; (8) the serene beauty and majesty of Conwy and the friendliness of it’s people; (9) morning oatmeal with granola at Pret a Manger in Edinburgh!!!; (10) the six days that ALL of us spent together. What a special trip!; (11) the City of the Dead Tour that Allan and I took in Edinburgh guided by Fiona – she innocently asked Allan to be her “foil” on the tour not realizing he would feed back the lines with a pretty damn good Scots accent, totally cracking up the assembled tour-goers!; (11) finding the Tolbooth Tavern on the Royal Mile; (12) Chatting with the Italian Rugby fans who’d flown into Edinburgh for the Six Nations Rugby Match; (13) the Veggie Haggis topped Baked Potato at the Tattie Shop in Edinburgh!
(1) A pigeon pooping on Allan’s shoulder in Paris (and Allan asking Jeff to wipe it off for him!) (2) Base Court being closed due to the renovation and re-cobbling efforts in connection with the Henry VIII 500 Celebrations – but HA! We got out onto it anyway, and also into the Great Hall, which was also technically closed to the public (Thank you to all our good palace friends!); (3) the new and “improved” Prince of Wales Pub – we liked it the old way. It was SO noisy and crowded it was hard to enjoy our dinner with Trevor and Jackie; (4) Allan and I each catching a cold in Edinburgh; (5) me having a coughing attack on the First Class Virgin Train to Ely Cathedral – the good side of this is that in First Class they are constantly bringing you food and drink and the attendant kept me freshly supplied with bottled water; (6) having to avoid pools of vomit on the streets in Edinburgh the morning following a big rugby match – yuck; (7) OH YEAH, the jerk immigration officer at Gare du Nord who must have been bored and decided to give me the third degree for 15 minutes – questioning why I traveled so frequently to Great Britain – because I LOVE IT THERE, jerk. Jeff got the same guy when it was his turn and he harassed him, as well; (8) getting off the train at Alnmouth for Alnwick and not being able to work the phone to call a taxi for the drive to Warkworth Castle. Fortunately, a local took pity on us and used his cell phone to arrange transport for us.
(1) Royal Jelly – to buy as much as we could fit into the duffle bag! Accomplished. (2) to walk at least as much as was necessary to burn all the extra calories and pints we consumed – I think it was a wash. That could have been worse; (3) to see Kenilworth without rain! Did it! Third time lucky, I guess; (4) to find all the silver “Cadfael” footprints scattered around Shrewsbury to mark locations from P.D. James’ Brother Cadfael books – fail! We found six out of what I think was a possible 13; (5) to try the Scottish delicacy of a deep fried Mars bar…..I must say, it tastes a whole lot better than it looks!
Places Visited (Allan and Diane)
On to Part 9