Wednesday, May 01, 2013

A Sampling of Great Britain

Okay, so we're back and it was amazing.  Like, AMAZING.  I took 800 pictures is was so amazing.

I thought about posting all 800 and decided maybe not (you're welcome) but one day I might post them in batches.  For now, here's a sampling.

Most of you know that our mom was supposed to go with us on this amazing trip but our house burned down two weeks prior so it just couldn't happen.  Instead, we bought a little bear dressed as a guard, and we named him Nigel, and we treated him like he was mom.  And he photobombed the hell out of Great Britain.

Did you know that Great Britain refers to England, Scotland and Wales, but that the United Kingdom includes those countries plus Northern Ireland? 

Nigel is climbing Big Ben!   
 Here's Big Ben and a glimpse of the London Eye

Tea at Harrod's
 The tour of London finished in Knightsbridge so we hopped off and headed to Harrod's for tea!

A medieval theme restaurant in London!
 Very near our hotel was St. Katherine's Gate which was a little neighborhood of shops and restaurants sort of under the Tower Bridge.  We found a medieval theme restaurant down there.  Unfortunately there was a line to get in so we ended up at a place called The Living Room where we were very confused about a dish that included Steak and Old Spotted Hen.  Luckily, our waitress explained that Old Spotted Hen is a kind of beer.

This is the river Cam, and we're standing on the Bridge of the river Cam.  It's the Cam Bridge
 Nigel is in Cambridge!

King's College at Cambridge

The church of Edward the Confessor, York.
 The War of the Roses was a fight between the House of York (white rose) and the House of Lancaster (red rose) for the throne of England.  In the end the House of Lancaster won and that's how we eventually got Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.  Just think, if York had won, England might still be Catholic!
The white rose of York is everywhere there.

A beautiful old fallen down church, right in the middle of town. York.

Here we are in front of the York Minster

Funny looking flowers. York.

Fascinators at TJ Maxx!
 The really funny thing about Europe (imho) is the juxtaposition between the very new, hip places to go and shop and the ancient, almost crumbling facades of most of those places.  We found a TJ Maxx, a Whistles, a Top Shop, a Marks & Spencer, and everything else you can think of everywhere we went.  And they were all inside of buildings that were hundreds and hundreds of years old.  Talk about building something to last.

Guy Fawkes was born in York.  Go figure.

With a friendly bobby in York.

A cute little coffee place.
 I cannot remember the name of this place but it was something like The Patient Peacock and it was just adorable.
Nigel with my commemorative plate.
 I could not resist.  The price was too good.  And it's such a British thing to do.  I had to get a plate.  I stayed my hand at tea towels, however.
Nigel on Hadrian's wall.
 Hadrian was a Roman emperor who built a wall straight across Britain at the (then) Scottish border to keep out Scottish marauders.  Here's what's left of that ancient wall.
The church at Heddon-on-the-Wall
 This little church at Hadrian's Wall was so tiny.
The kneelers in the church.
 Check out the kneelers.  Hand-stitched, no doubt but still not much between you and that hard wood floor.
What could be better than a quiz and a curry?

At the border our tour manager pulled out a bottle of whisky and we all did a shot.

The heraldic beast of Scotland is the unicorn.

Holyroodhouse Palace (pronounced Holly-rude-house).
 The queen's official residence in Scotland.  Did you know that the Scots refer to our Elizabeth as Elizabeth I?  They do this because when Elizabeth I reigned, Scotland had it's only ruling house, the Stewarts.  It was not until Elizabeth I died that the Stewarts inherited her throne.
Edinburgh Castle
 How did the Stewarts inherit the throne of England?  Well, see that building way up on that hill?  Part of it was built to commemorate Henry VIII's sister Margaret's marriage to King James IV of Scotland.  When Elizabeth died without an heir, it was James and Margaret's descendant who was next in line.
Edinburgh Castle

Another unicorn

John Deere!
 It was like a little bit of Minnesota and dad found us in Scotland!  Nigel tried to make off with it but we prevented grand theft atv.
The Balmoral Hotel
 We had cream tea in Edinburgh after seeing the castle at the Balmoral Hotel.  Is there anything in life better than a good plain scone and clotted cream with some lovely hot tea?
The local Radisson in Edinburgh

Funny place names
Gretna Green, Scotland
 Does anyone remember Pride & Prejudice?  Remember when Lydia and Whickam run away together?  This is where they were thought to have gone.  Gretna Green has a very long history of marrying runaways who's parents did not approve because the legal age to marry in Scotland was 12 (I know!) and GG was right over the border. 
Last House In Scotland
 Even the last house in Scotland will marry you!

Luckily we didn't have to pay a toll.

The last house is also the first house if you're driving the other way.

Grasmere, England
 Home of the best gingerbread recipe on earth.
Wordsworth's grave, Grasmere

A dry stone wall
 A dry stone wall is a wall constructed without the aid of concrete.  They are all over the Lake District in northern England and they're getting to be a lost art.  There's a science to placing each stone and rock in a way that the wall is sturdy and stable.  Just for fun I tried to pry one of those rocks out and nothing would budge.  Very solid.
The sheep are literally everywhere.
 There are roughly three million people in Wales.  And 15 million delicious sheep.
Ruthin Castle
 Our greeter at Ruthin Castle in Wales.

Ruthin Castle

Purple flowers growing out of a wall at Ruthin Castle

 Stratford-upon-Avon was our next stop!

Receiving a benediction from Ian McKlellan

The room in which William Shakespeare was born

Coolest tree fort ever.

Warwick Castle

Mars bar as a beverage?  Starburst as a beverage? Those Brits...

The ancient bathhouse, Bath, England
 Bath is like a tiny piece of ancient Rome, dropped right in the middle of modern-day Britain. 

Watch out I might push it over!

One final feast
On the morning we left, Colleen and I found an open air market with fresh scones.  It was a four pack and we each ate one.  I put the other two in my carry on not thinking we'd get a chance to eat them before we left.  I was right, but at the airport we found a place (The V Bar, I think) that sold us a cup full of mascarpone cheese.  It wasn't quite clotted cream but I couldn't complain too loudly.

Now, I just need to find out where I can buy Pimm's and clotted cream in the U.S.  Any help would be very much welcome.

Until then, Cheerio!

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