A Travellerspoint blog

The North

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Edinburgh, Scotland – tartan, cashmere, castles and bagpipes. We arrived in Edinburgh late in the afternoon. Feeling exhausted after a long drive which took us through the Lakes District of England and up through Ayr before coming across to Edinburgh. Everyone was a bit grumpy, so we decided to have a quiet night in and explore this new city in the morning.

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After a good rest we headed to Edinburgh Castle. The castle is the centrepiece of the city sitting at the top of a mountain that was once a volcano. After a tour of the castle we walked down the Royal Mile – a famous strip leading from the castle to the Queens Palace. We didn’t quite make the mile, but we passed plenty of shops, restaurants and pubs in the process.

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It was when the sun went down that Edinburgh looked its best. The castle is beautifully lit up and the streets were full of Christmas lights and once again there were the Christmas Markets. The markets were the same as those at London and Bath, though on a smaller scale. Couldn’t resist a Nutella and banana crepe.

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The next day we headed to Stirling Castle, about a 50 minute drive outside of Edinburgh. We had heard that this castle was better than Edinburgh Castle and we found this to be true. The palace, home to Mary Queen of Scotts has been beautifully restored and our time there had been very hands on.

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Our last day in Edinburgh and we headed to The Royal Yacht Britannia – my favourite attraction so far. Being a royalist, it was surreal being on the yacht that the Royals holidayed on until it was decommissioned in 1997. Access was given to the Queens bedroom, the sitting room and the dining room that had hosted amongst others, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. Personal photographs of the Royals were everywhere to be seen.

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Finally we summoned up some energy and headed up to Arthurs Chair. After about 40 minutes of hell, we arrived at the top and were greeted by extremely strong winds together with a magnificent view of Edinburgh. It was worth the effort.

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Edinburgh was great but I can see that it is a city that would suit singles or young professional couples yet to have kids. Lots of cafes, restaurants and bars, perhaps we should have come here 20 years ago.

Next we headed to Newcastle for two days so the boys could experience more English football and a low point in our accommodation (cold shower with no pressure and a breakfast even Maple would reject). Newcastle appears to be about Football and shopping, as its two biggest Tourist attractions are promoted as St James Park and the Metro Shopping Centre. The girls are all fake tans and over the top make up!

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We visited the Newcastle United Football Academy through invitation and watched some up and coming 15 year olds play while we froze our butts off! Bret and Ben then headed to St James Park with 52,000 mad Geordies to watch Newcastle against Southampton. It was The Hobbit for Ryan and myself.

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Next stop York.

Posted by AllisonP 13:10 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

The Real English Football

rain 3 °C

Here we go here we go here we go - time for a traditional English football match. The ground was Hillsborough, an English football ground with real history, glorious and tragic. We are to see Sheffield Wednesday (the Owls) against Nottingham Forest.

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A quick grab of a burger and cheesy chips from outside the ground serviced the hunger requirements, now off to find our seats.

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Inside the ground an hour before kick-off, we soaked up the atmosphere and the history. Seated at the Lepping’s Lane end with the away Forest fans, where the Hillsborough disaster occurred in 1989 with 96 people losing their lives. We felt a real sense of being right in the thick of real English football.

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As the crowd grew and the players came out to warm up, the Forrest fans would chant for their players.

Forest had to win to stay in touch with the top four while Sheffield Wednesday had just sacked their coach, they responded through the week with an away win over league leaders Leicester. Both teams had plenty to play for.

We were surrounded by hardened Forest fans who understood what it means to play for Forest, a club that has won two European cups, there is a lot of pride in those shirts.

The banter between the Forest and Owls fans added to the atmosphere. Fans point out each other and then invite each other outside. The Forrest fans chant ‘We feed our family’s’ at the Owls fans.

An Owls fan is singled out. The whole away end in unison chants ‘ What a Twat, What a Twat’.

Into the second half and Forrest take a 1-0 lead. The Forrest fans step it up continuing to engage the Owls fans and reminding them of the score.

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The crowd is announce at 24,000, the Forest fans sing ‘ Your only here for the Forest, here for the Forest…’.

Game over. Nottingham Forrest wins 1-0. Fantastic night.

Note: A special thanks to Adam and Sam Brader for organising tickets for us.

Posted by BretP 09:07 Archived in England Comments (2)

Cotswolds

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The next stage of our journey took us to The Cotswolds. The English countryside was beautiful, complete with quaint villages, stone houses and green paddocks.

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We arrived at our accommodation – ‘Bothy Cottage’ in Winchcombe.

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This was to be home for the next three days and was to be where we could take our first deep breath and relax. The weather was on our side and the sun finally made an appearance and we saw blue sky for the first time since arriving in England (it should be noted we have had none to very little rain). We settled in and cooked a lamb roast for dinner.

The next day we drove to Oxford for a look around. Oxford is a vibrant, bustling University town set amongst historic buildings. You could smell the learning in the air. It was easy to understand why so many aspire to attend Oxford University. Bikes are the main mode of transport in this town and they are everywhere.

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Driving through the Cotswolds is one of the most enjoyable aspects, roads wide enough for one vehicle, through beautiful countryside linking historic villages such as Chipping Campden, Tetsbury and Cirencester and many others.

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On our last day in The Cotswolds we woke to hear of Nelson Mandela’s death, ironic given that Bret had only had his photo taken with a statue of him in London less than a week previously. A man that made a real difference.

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It was a clear day so we went for a walk to the ‘top of The Cotswolds’. The view was amazing.

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Next we drove to Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare. A stroll past his resting place, along the river and back to his birthplace gives a quick tour of this picturesque town.

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Next stop Nottingham – the home of Robin Hood.

Posted by AllisonP 12:28 Archived in England Comments (5)

Beautiful Bath

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For the next leg of our journey we hired a car. With Bret as driver and Ben navigating (I felt very safe) we made our way out of London and headed to Bath. Even though we loved our stay in London, the Christmas crowds were becoming horrific so we were looking forward to somewhere less hectic.

Our drive took us through beautiful English countryside, via Stonehenge. We had a great view of the historic structure from the car, so we decided not to stop and pay the excessive fee required to have a closer look (the English economy is reported to be going ‘poorly’, so it appears they charge for everything, even 20p for a pee). Before long we arrived in Bath.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bath, but my first impression was one of amazement. The whole town consisted of beautiful sandstone buildings. Our hotel was right in the town centre, so we went for a walk after our check-in.

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The Bath Abbey surrounded by the Christmas markets is postcard perfect, by all reports we were lucky in missing the weekend as it was standing room only, Bret tells me it is in the planning, I think it was just luck.

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Bath has all the specialty and chain stores but it does not compromise the look or feel of the town.

The next day we visited the Roman Baths, without a doubt the highlight of Bath. The Baths were used by the Roman’s approximately 2000 years ago and have been beautifully restored.

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We were working up an appetite sightseeing so we decided to head to The Raven pub for lunch – pies and mash for everyone and a Guinness for Bret. A warm pub and hearty food was just what we needed to see us through the afternoon.

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After some shopping (super cold resistant jackets for Bret and Ben) we headed to the hotel for a quick rest before going to the Christmas Markets one last time. After a look around, we broke all the rules and had hot chocolate and caramel cashews for dinner before having yet another early night – why is it when the sun goes down at 4.00pm you feel to need to go to bed three hours later????

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Next stop The Cotswolds.

Posted by AllisonP 12:01 Archived in England Comments (2)

London Calling

overcast 7 °C

As soon as we drove into London I knew I was going to love it. We arrived at our accommodation; a flat located across the road from Hyde Park and went for a walk straight away to ward off the jet lag.

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First stop, Kensington Palace, (Kate & Will’s place) which just happens to be one of our neighbours. The palace is quite impressive without being over the top set within Hyde Park, which looks beautiful in all its autumn/winter glory.

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At the opposite end of the park a Winter Wonderland has been created for the Christmas period. There were stalls, rides, ice skating, German bars and plenty of food. It would have been rude not to embrace the atmosphere so we had a mulled wine near a fire pit to keep warm. Christmas card perfect!!

On the walk home we passed Harrods and the natural History museum which both showed their Christmas style. Thumbs up to the English, they sure know how to do Christmas.

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The next day (Thursday) we headed to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. I loved seeing the pomp and ceremony of the occasion, however the boys were getting restless and eager to get going, Wembley Stadium was next on the list. The stadium was amazing. We saw the press conference room, England change rooms and Royal box. We then headed to Oxford St. Again the Christmas lights were amazing, the one million other people that decided to go shopping on this night were not. Dinner was at The Goat Tavern, Kensington’s oldest pub, est. 1692.

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Day 3 (Friday) in London and still so much to see. On the agenda today was history and a lot of it. The Tower of London is our first stop, the oldest castle in London. It is also home to the Crown Jewels. Next stop was the Churchill War Rooms, a museum dedicated to Sir Winston Churchill and a self guided tour of the rooms underground occupied by Churchill and his staff during WWII. The rooms are exactly as they were the day the war ended.

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This morning (Saturday) we went to Westminster Abbey, one of the most amazing buildings I have seen. Est. in 960, the go to church for Royal weddings and funerals. The Abbey houses the tombs of past royalty and other notable English citizens such as writers and poets, and of course the Coronation Chair is awaiting Charles.

The boys headed off to their first Premier League game, The Hammers v Fulham, a London derby. They commented that they visited the real London; the contrast between Kensington and West Ham is night and day.

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Saturday night was back to the Winter Wonderland for dinner – German sausages, beer, mulled wine and Nutella crepes for dessert. Yum!!! Great night shared with about 2 million other people.

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Last day in London with no history lesson planned, we head into Trafalger Square and Piccadilly Circus for a look around. Once again people everywhere, most of them in the M&M store.

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Time to pack and prepare for our next destination, Bath.

Thank you London you were awesome.

Posted by AllisonP 11:39 Archived in England Tagged london england tower_of_london kensington hyde_park_winter_wonderland Comments (7)

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