|Subject: brief travel log - part 1|
Hello to all of you out there.
We departed Corpus Christi, Texas, February 27 for London. We stayed in Belgravia for 4 days. We took the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station and it was very painless - and no more or less expensive than the hour ride in a hired car. It took about 30 minutes.
If you have never stayed at the Halkin Hotel on Halkin Street, we highly recommend it. It is small and in a great location as Halkin Street is right at the brick wall of the Queen's back garden. We learned that the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham is not the place to see the horses as a routine. You must go down the main street in front of the Palace to what they call the Main Gate to Buckingham. Don't miss the Royal Mews and as long as you're in that vicinity, slip into the Bag-o-Nails Pub for some potato leek soup and a sticky toffee pudding! Theirs is to DIE for! If you want to experience something unusual, go to Belgo for dinner. Another great spot is Langan's. Morton's is a great place for drinks. For some great Chinese, go to The Jade Garden on Wardour Street. There is also a fabulous Japanese place on Berkley Square. It is very Zen if you enjoy that. If you insist on wearing those WHITE Nike's, you can't get into the Ritz for high tea (you can skip on down the side street off Park Lane to the Brown Hotel, though. They are very happy to take your money as long as you are wearing shoes and clothes.). That's OK - go on over to Kensington Palace and have high tea in the Conservatory there. After that, you'll be glad you are wearing those unsightly *white* Nikes as you walk on over to Portobello Street and visit the vendors and see all manner of things.
Actually, the day we arrived, we ate lunch at Harrod's. I know I know, there's no bargains there, but there are so many restaurants there. Some 34 to be exact! We chose the Rotiserie. YUM! We had drinks that night at the Grenadier, a very historic pub in Belgravia. We ate dinner at Le Caprice in St. James'. We saw Lady Di's step Mother (if she hadn't been pointed out, we wouldn't have known her from adam) and found that the clientele's hoity was only exceeded by their toity... If you want to dine among the rich and famous, that's the place for you. However, we prefer making friends in low places... we get to see more of the REAL city that way.
We moved on from London out to the country. Gloucestershire is a very quaint spot. Our friends live in Highnam - what you might call a suburb of Gloucester overlooking the Severn. In Gloucester don't miss the Cathedral. It is quite extraordinary. We journied to Stratford on Avon on a Sunday. I don't recommend that day of the week. Not much of the historic places are open and there are so many people milling around you can't stir'em with a stick.
We went to Cardiff on a Monday. Don't miss the Castle there. In the gift shop, they have lovely little silver charms of the castle and the clerk was very kind to inform us that it was THAT castle... DUH! We got a kick out of that for many days to come. Don't miss out on a Love Spoon either. I passed on one and have regretted it ever since! The finest place in Cardiff is the public rest room in the Square! James said the Men's was just as clean. The stadium is quite a sight. They built it right on top of the old one incorporating it as part of the new. There is much to see there. On the way back, we traveled through the Forest of Dean. How beautiful. We saw deer and squirrels. There are some wonderful bridges along the way.
We flew to Edinburgh for 3 days. We recommend the B&Bs in the Charlotte Square area rather than the ones on the way in from the airport.
I must say, we were not prepared for the sight of the Castle. It sits high atop the most rugged escarpment I've seen this side of the Rockies. It was breathtaking. The railway waaaaaaaaay down below was a river the Scots drained long ago. That was unbelievable too. Be sure and visit the Old Town Weaver and get your Clan Tartan. They have an outlet there of seconds, though for the life of me, I couldn't find the irregularity. Take an empty suitcase so you will have room for the Scotch and the wool! If you want some classic Scottish food, there is a wonderful resaurant in a restored home on Charlotte Square. It is #27 Charlotte Square and belongs to the National Trust. We even got some Scottish wine which I understand is as scarce as hen's teeth. Now here's the thing about THAT place: Be SURE and go to the bathroom while there. You will go down into the basement and walk right by part of the old underground city. It is SO spooky! Then - once in the bathroom - as you are, ahem, powdering your nose, there is such comotion outside the door you will drop the puff in fright. When I returned to the table and related this, strangely, one by one, each took a turn for the bathroom. No one was ever able to solve the mystery of the voices and commotion. As long as we're on the subject of the old city. The EdinBURRA of today is actually built atop the original city. After the plague, the old city was abandoned because of the disease and the people simply built right on top of it. There are tours down there at midnight - no - we did not indulge ourselves. We don't go to scarey movies either.
Another really great place to eat with a NO SMOKING dining room is a pub on George Street called The Standing Order. It is a converted bank building and is very ornate. We ate Haggis there and it was delicious! We were not prepared for the HUGE serving of Suet pudding for dessert!
We ate dinner one night at a pub called The Abbotsford on Rose Street. It was unbelievably good. There is a very small dining room upstairs above the pub. Reservations are a good idea... the food is authentic and not touristy at all.
Before leaving Edinburgh - don't forget to go to the Church and spit on the Heart of Midlothian!! We missed that I'm very sad to say. We turned too soon and never found it. IT is at the opposite end of the street from the Castle - very long street, so don't turn too soon.