15, 2005 at Noon EDT
The first picture of the trip. We just wanted to prove to all of you that we were really doing this year-long journey with one bag and one carry-on each!
July 16, 2005 at 7:00 AM (Greenwich Mean Time)
We arrived in London without difficulty. We sped through the Fast Track at immigration (it is so wonderful to travel first class!), and retrieved our bags. We were on the Gatwick Express departing for Victoria Station at 7:35 AM with about 8 minutes to spare.
From Victoria Station, we took a taxi to our hotel (the Renaissance Chancery Court) and arrived by 8:30 AM. Thankfully, our room was ready for early check-in (oh, the benefits of being an elite member of Marriott Rewards!!) and after a short tour of the hotel and a brief stop to freshen up, we headed to the Club Level Lounge for breakfast. The food was quite nice. Afterwards, we returned to our room for a long-overdue rest. We slept through the afternoon, and didn't emerge until about 5:00 PM.
It was a gorgeous day/evening in London, and we took a stroll down to the embankment along the River Thames. We walked up towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament before heading up Whitehall. We stopped off at one of our favorite London pubs, and then continued on up the Strand to the area around our hotel. We had a late dinner at a small pizza café across the street from our hotel, and then called it a night.
July 17, 2005 at 3:45 am we both awoke, not on purpose mind you, but we are obviously not quite on London time as of yet. We made some coffee and tea and ate the cookies from the coffee service and got back to sleep around 6:00 am. Didn't get out and about as early as we had planned obviously, but still did not do too badly. Had a light breakfast in the lounge and headed off towards the river and Big Ben etc., crossed to the south side of the river (opposite Big Ben) and headed west along the shore. Had some good photo views back across the river and had very few tourists in this area. There is a cafeteria, shops and nice restrooms here which are all actually in the lobby of the St.Thomas hospital which backs up to the Thames (again no tourists).
We continued along towards Lambeth Palace and then cut back across the river and worked our way through St. James Park and up to Buckingham Palace; many, many tourists. Walked back up The Mall towards Trafalger Square and about 100 feet down Whitehall we hung a left into the alley where we found a nice quiet pub called Walker's of Whitehall and enjoyed some refreshments and massaged our feet.
Feeling slightly recovered, we continued the trek back to the hotel, and after dropping our cameras in our room, we went around the corner to a pub for a late lunch. Since our sleeping patterns are not quite right yet, we had to return to our room after lunch for a nap. We spent the balance of the evening in our room reading, downloading pictures and updating our journal.
July 18, 2005
Today we leave London for Edinburgh.
We arose at a very reasonable hour (8:30), got showered, dressed and did breakfast in the lounge again. Packed our stuff, checked out of the hotel, got a taxi to Liverpool Street Station, purchased tickets to Stansted airport, walked to track 2 for the Stansted Express, sat down, the train started to move almost immediately (I love it when a plan comes together).
Checked in for our flight to Edinburgh where they yelled at Bonnie for her heavy baggage just kidding!! Our flight was delayed about 30 minutes but everything else went like clockwork, except ..for the bus drivers' strike in Edinburgh.
Checked into the Holyrood ApartHotel, which are basically small apartments, and after a brief stop at the corner grocer, we settled in for the night. Not the most exciting of days, but surely the first in a string of basically "travel" days.
Well, we told you our body clocks had not yet adjusted to Greenwich Mean Time, and we meant it!! We didn't rise this morning until after 11:00 - can't remember the last time that we slept that late in the day. Of course, the seagulls making an incredible racket outside starting at daybreak (4:30 AM) didn't help a lot either. So, we tried to make up for our sloth-like behavior, and went on a city walk to the top of Calton Hill, by the City observatory and the Nelson Monument. It wasn't that long of a journey - probably about a mile - but it was all up hill.
Once we reached the top, the views were more than worth the climb. Even though it was a mostly overcast day, visibility was pretty good, and the occasional rays of sunshine bursting through were a real bonus. As we were on top of the hill, we looked out to the northwest and saw a massive rain storm moving in, so we made a quick retreat down the hill to Princes Street and into a pub.
Then we stopped at the food hall at Marks and Spencer (many of you know that this is one of our favorite grocers in the UK!) to pick up a few items for dinner. It was drizzling rain as we walked back to our hotel, but we walked close to the buildings, and barely got wet. Once back to the apartment we did the domestic stuff like making dinner and catching up on laundry.
July 21, 2005
We didn't complete our journal yesterday as Bonnie actually got to do a little work for LRG, so we have two days to catch up on! Yesterday, we figured out the city bus service, and took a bus out to the Ocean Terminal, which is the home of the Royal Yacht Britannia. We have never toured the yacht before, but have wanted to, so on this, our 4th visit to Edinburgh, we finally went aboard.
She has a really interesting history, having logged over 1.1 million miles and hosted dignitaries from around the globe, ranging from Ronald Regan and Bill and Hillary Clinton to Nelson Mandela and Prime Minister Bhutto from Pakistan. She has also provided the accommodations for 4 royal honeymoons, including Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Philips, the Prince and Princess of Wales (Charles and Diana, for all of you non-royal watchers) and the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson). Even Mark, being not at all interested in the royals, enjoyed the self-guided tour.
We caught the bus back to the Royal Mile, and after a brief upward hike (why is it that we are always heading up-hill?), we stopped into Maxie's Bistro. Yes, that's the name - but, we learned that Maxie is not the family name, but is the given (first) name of the proprietor. We enjoyed some refreshments, none the less!
Today (Thursday), we got a bit of a late start, but finally made it to the Royal Museum and the Museum of Scotland (housed side by side) after noon. There was a special exhibit showing at the Royal Museum on Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and of course, their family of five children. Many of the objects are on loan from the State Museum in St. Petersburg - since the exhibit runs through the end of October, and we will be in St. Petersburg before then (while it is still reasonably warm in Russia), we thought we should take a walk through. It was a very informative exhibit, and well laid out, but naturally, a sad, sad story.
After a refreshment break this afternoon, when it was still nice enough to sit outside, and during which, we were interviewed by BBC Radio about UNESCO World Heritage Sites, we returned to our apartment to plan our next destination.
July 22, 2005
Today we are to journey from Edinburgh over to Glasgow. Awoke again this morning by "Mike and Mike" (the seagulls that cause such a ruckus every morning and evening). Bonnie named them after the noise that the seagulls make in the movie "Finding Nemo," she thinks it sounds like "mike, mike, mike mike mike, mike . etc.
Caught the noon train to Glasgow after a slight panic situation in the Edinburgh station. While boarding the train Bonnie was on-board with her baggage and I was about to follow when the doors closed with me still on the platform, and would not re-open. The train started to move and as I yelled to her that I would meet her at the station in Glasgow suddenly the train stopped and the doors opened again. Several other travelers boarded after this premature departure and the train left on-time about 5 minutes later.
We walked from the Glasgow station to our hotel, which took about 10 minutes, where we quickly deposited our bags and sought out refreshments and lunch. After lunch, we continued on to the pedestrian area and found the Marks and Spencer, where we shopped for dinner supplies (our room has a small kitchenette).
We dropped our groceries back in our room and went out to explore the city center. We walked to George Square in the heart of the city and then to the Royal Exchange Square where we had refreshments "al fresco". We returned to our room for dinner and bit of reading before heading to bed.