Across the Pond Part 5: Wrapping up in Scotland, On to Dublin

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In December 2013, my boyfriend’s brother gave us the opportunity to use his rewards points to book a free flight for a trip to Europe. We planned a 10 day trip to the UK and Ireland. This is our story.

Glasgow – Mitchell Library
Lisa’s Journal
7/14/14

Skylor recapped some of this, but I wanted to give my two-cents. :) We had a lovely day yesterday – traveled by train from Edinburgh to Glasgow – switched stations – and caught a glimpse of the city – and took another train to Ayr – and then a bus to Dalrymple – where my last name comes from. There’s not much there, but we walked through a small graveyard, and picnicked on a hidden bench by a bridge over the River Doon, a very sweet, romantic spot. It wasn’t too difficult traveling by bus and train. People are helpful. The weather was actually beautiful, at times overcast, and then minutes later, sunny. Our host in Glasgow said it’s been some of the best weather we’ve had all season, as though we’re meant to be here. Skylor was such a gentleman when I got tired or wanted to explore – he dragged or carried my bags. Last night we traveled back from Ayr to Glasgow, and ate a fantastic dinner at The Bunker. Our hosts, Brendan and Anna, were very hospitable, and had a very well-located flat. I’m not used to the city noise though. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay long, but we got to know Brendan a little better by watching The World Cup final with him and learning more about each other. He’s from South Africa, and could relate to getting questions about why one would move from a warm place to a colder one (I moved from Florida to Virginia). We slept well and came to the Mitchell Library this morning to print out our RyanAir boarding passes. It’s a beautiful library, and I could definitely spend a whole day here if we had the time.

Glasgow 3 Alas, I’ve finished my delicious latte (coffee and tea are REALLY GOOD here), and it’s time to move on to the train station to get to the airport. Ireland has big shoes to fill. I adore Scotland and it’s people.

Glasgow Main Station to Dublin
Skylor’s Journal
7/14/14

We snagged the 11:30AM train to Ayr toward Prestwick Airport. At Glasgow Central there was a bro who was daytime drunk with an opened six-pack. He had four beers left, and was on at least pack number two based on the number of cans around him.

We quickly observed at Prestwick that it’s a RyanAir only airport. At the ticket counter there were no reps there to accommodate the growing line of people on the flight for about 15 minutes. :( Security at Prestwick is similar to the States. There were only two differences: 1) You can leave your shoes on, 2) They were pretty stringent about having both liquids from toiletries and “food stuffs” in a plastic baggie.

Waiting is by far my least favorite thing about travel. If I could, I would build a teleportation device to eliminate waiting at airports. Even then you’d have to wait for either weather or “the flux capacitor to reroute the mainframe’s encryption code.”

We landed in one piece in Dublin around 4PM. The flight only took about 40 minutes. We took a bus from the airport to Trinity College, and then walked about 10 minutes to St. Stephen’s Green, which reminded me of Times Square (filled with tourists and other folks). Many Americans saw my Tennessee volunteers shirt and immediately started talking to me. From St. Stephen’s Green we took the Luas tram to the Ranelagh neighborhood, where our host’s flat was.

It was a lovely home on a corner lot. This is by far the most luxurious spot we’ve been in. These guys are serious decorators. 5 stars! A+! Medal of Honor! Certificate of Achievement, etc.

Fred and Feargal gave us great recommendations for dinner, and we ended up walking down the street to a place called TriBeCa. After days of carefully budgeting, we totally splurged on dinner and dessert. Buffalo wings to share. Lisa ordered pasta with olives and tomatoes (blerg). I ordered mussels (Lisa said blerg). Raspberry soda. Lemonade. Sundaes for dessert. Amazing.

Dublin 2Dublin
Skylor’s Journal
7/15/14

I woke up and did some light reading while Lisa slept. She was so excited by the comfy bed, and now I see why.

After departing the house around 10AM, we stopped at a café called Mima, right by the Luas tram, and enjoyed hot beverages and a muffin. Our first attraction of the day: The Little Museum of Dublin. It was fantastic. It has really sparked my interest in learning more about Irish history. It’s a great way to recognize that many of our perceptions of Ireland have been shaped via our (the United States’) relationship with the UK.

Skylor stands at a podium that President John F. Kennedy stood at when he visited Dublin.

Skylor stands at a podium that President John F. Kennedy stood at when he visited Dublin.

Duck face! (an Irish woman)

Duck face! (an Irish woman)

Lisa sitting at a typewriter used at The Irish Times newspaper.

Lisa sitting at a typewriter used at The Irish Times newspaper.

U2 had a whole room in The Little Museum.

U2 had a whole room in The Little Museum.

We ate a great lunch at Hatch and Sons, which was located right next door to The Little Museum. Ham cheddar sandwich with arugula. Chicken salad. The bun was baked fresh, as was the brown soda bread.

Next, we visited the Irish National Gallery. I learned that there are two artists with the last name Yeats, a painter, and a writer. Lisa enjoyed looking at Classical art. I still get guys like Renoir, Monet, Manet, Vermeer, and Picasso mixed up. I really like the “swirly” style by Monet. (As Lisa types this on Skylor’s behalf, she is shaking her head in mock disdain. Most of those artist’s come from totally different periods/styles, and that “swirly style” is Impressionism…the fast food of Art History).

Next, we went to a bookstore called Eason. It reminded us of Barnes and Noble. Lisa was on the hunt for some gifts. Now that we’re nearing the end of our trip, we have a bit left over to spend.

Our first bit of bad luck happened today. Ironically, in Ireland. We arrived at the Guinness Storehouse with plenty of money/time to indulge. We had added stress of jumping on buses trying to get there. Once we reached those delicious black gates, we were informed that they were closing early for a private event. To add salt to the wound, they gave us FREE VOUCHERS for the next day. Unfortunately, we had already booked and paid for our bus trip to Shannon in the morning, and would not have the opportunity to return. Womp, womp. Jim Joe.

Dublin 22Dublin 20We took it in stride (sort of), and headed back to the city center to totally be tourists. We stopped at a Starbucks for the wifi. Since this is Lisa typing on Skylor’s behalf, she would like to note that he was totally flirting with the barista because she upgraded his drink at no extra charge. ;) In all seriousness, we enjoyed our respite from all the adventures of the day.

Fun on the double-decker bus

Fun on the double-decker bus

Not only did we not have a pint of Guinness in Ireland, we didn’t have a pint AT ALL. Dinner time, and we pass by pub after pub without stopping. Finally, Lisa says “can we go to that Chinese place?” LOL. It was actually quite tasty, though your standard westernized Chinese food.

Dublin
Lisa’s Journal
7/16/14

Skylor is asleep. He is so precious when he sleeps. I have to wake him up in a few minutes though. I love him so much.

We had a nice day in Dublin yesterday. I will journal more about it later. We have to get up and get ready for our long bus ride to Shannon today. Flying home tomorrow. :(

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Across the Pond Part 4: More of Edinburgh and on to Glasgow and Dalrymple

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In December 2013, my boyfriend’s brother gave us the opportunity to use his rewards points to book a free flight for a trip to Europe. We planned a 10 day trip to the UK and Ireland. This is our story.

(Edinburgh Continued)
Skylor’s Journal
7/12/14

I took some sleep aids last night because of the brightness outside. We must be very far up north because it is 10:30 pm at night and it is still sunny outside. I got a good 8 hours of sleep. Hooray!

Lisa laundered some of our clothes and then we ate breakfast. I’ve noticed that produce in the UK is very fresh and flavorful. The strawberries and apples were to die for. They are also smaller (probably because there are fewer hormones pumped into the food).

IMG_1037 IMG_1039We began our adventures today by taking the double decker bus to the Prince’s Mall in the center of Edinburgh. The weather today was a bit drearier than yesterday. It was mid 60’s with a side of gray and a spot of drizzle. As we got off the bus, we noticed that the Scots have retrofitted many unused Catholic churches. They have been turned into vibrant cafes. I like that.

We saw the Scot Monument. I mistakenly thought it was for all the Scots in Scotland. Lisa pointed out the plaque for Sir Walter Raleigh Scot. He’s the dude who wrote Rob Roy. I never read it :)

Edinburgh 2 Edinburgh 7We walked up the steep mound to the Royal Mile. This area reminded me of Beale Street in Memphis, Carytown in Richmond, or Times Square in NYC. It’s the place to be. Lisa then informed me that we started at the top and we’ll be walking downhill the rest of the day. Yay!

We started at the Scotch Whiskey Experience. I learned a lot about whisky. The first 10 minutes was an interactive video/ride like “It’s a Small World” (but less terrible). The second part was a tutorial on the regions of Scotch whisky.

  • Highlands= vanilla flavor
  • Lowlands= citrus
  • Speyside= fruity
  • Isley= burning/smoke

Scotch Whiskey 2 Scotch Whiskey 9 Scotch Whiskey 10Next up we walked around the kilt/tartan mill. I felt bad because we were low on funds and I wanted to buy everything I saw. We then walked to the end of the Royal Road at into Holyrood House. It’s the Queen’s summer home in Scotland. The place oozes with historical intrigue: from Mary Queen of Scots to Bonnie Prince Charlie (he’s totally worth Googling). Just walking in the halls more than piqued my interest in Scottish history.

Holyrood 1 Holyrood 2 Holyrood 9After the audio-tour at Holyrood House, I took Lisa on another death march to get to our bus. This time we rode on the top of the double decker bus. I was very happy that it was a closed roof top on the bus. Today’s adventure has definitely been the most enjoyable thing we’ve done so far.

We decided to save money in Edinburgh and bury much of our food at grocery stores for dinner tonight. We picked up Twix, crisps, Iron Bru (Scottish soda that tasted like root beer and cream soda had a delicious baby together), ham, and Cadbury Turkish Delights. Yum!

Traveling to Ayr, Dalrymple and Glasgow
Skylor’s Journal
7/13/14

We ate the rest of our food then packed/cleaned up and headed out from our lovely lodgings in Portobello (Edinburgh). I really enjoyed this area and would have liked to stay at least a day longer. I think that’s a good trip, because it left you wanting more. We hopped on the bus and made our way onward.

Lisa did a great job planning our journey today; everything ran smoothly. We had an hour to kill in Waverly station. While I was preoccupied in the loo, Lisa picked up our train tickets at the kiosk and we just enjoyed each other’s company while we waited.

While on the train I noticed a sign that read: www.snh.gov.uk/train. This is a free app and podcasts for stories about “Scotland’s amazing nature and culture.” I now regret not bringing my smart phone.

On our train to Ayr we sat behind six very spirited and jovial Irishmen. One of their conversations was about American football: “US team plays another US team in the Super Bowl and they call themselves World Champions.” But most of their conversations were pub humor and very inappropriate jokes… I liked those guys! The countryside wasn’t bad either.

Train to Ayr 1 Train to Ayr 4We had to take a bus ride from Ayr to Dalrymple because it’s a small town. On the bus, Lisa said “We must be in the Deep South of Scotland” as she pointed to bus adverts. To my amazement there were six separate verses from various books of the Bible as advertisements. We also noticed the Scottish brogue is way stronger and more pronounced in this part of Scotland. Even looking out the window reminded me of traveling through rural Georgia, but not Deliverance…never been there.

When we exited the bus we noticed that Dalrymple was quite small. We walked along the main street and reached the end of the town within 3 minutes…womp womp. We looked around and saw 2 pubs in the town and both were closed (probably because it was 11:30 in the morning on a Sunday, and most people were in church, or they are not raging alcoholics who need to drink at 11:30 on a Sunday morning). Lisa posed in front of every Dalrymple sign we could find:

Dalrymple 2 Dalrymple 4 Dalrymple 28We sat by the River Doon at the edge of Dalrymple. I really enjoyed Lisa’s company here. We talked, snacked, laughed and (ugh) selfied. I also made Lisa reapply her sunblock. She hates that I’m such a stickler for protecting her skin.

Dalrymple 9Dalrymple 14 Dalrymple 25Later, we walked down Church Street. To my surprise there was a church there (lol). We explored the church’s cemetery looking for any of Lisa’s ancestors (we didn’t find any). Lisa informed me that her last name “Dalrymple” may have meant “crooked pool” (probably referring to the River Doon). We then later guessed that the name was a title used by the nobility who ruled the area or was used by servants when they earned their freedom or was used by immigrants who entered the USA.

Dalrymple 23Next, we ran into a neighborhood cat. Lisa cooed and petted the cat (actually I cooed and wanted to put her in my pocket and take back to the states.) The cat realized we were not going to give her food so she left us alone. :(

Dalrymple 27We decided to leave Dalrymple a half hour earlier than expected. We were hungry and wanted to eat in Glasgow. Upon our arrival in Glasgow (around 4:30 pm), we walked toward our host’s place to find dinner. P.S. Glasgow is hilly as hell! We ended up in a place called Bunker. Our waiter was a super friendly dude from Edinburgh. He suggested that we try a local Scots brew called St. Mungo’s Lager… it was quite tasty. Lisa agreed.

Glasgow 1Lisa ate the Nacho Chicken Burger (yum) and I had the Chieftain (onion ring+ haggis+ beef+ cheese gravy= OK. Both the beef burger and the haggis were scorched well-done). For dessert, Lisa ordered the Brownie and I ordered the Orange Honey Cheesecake. If the courts would allow it, I would marry those desserts.

We walked from the restaurant to our hosts’ place, Brendan and Anna. He was from Johannesburg, South Africa, and she was originally from Russia. They were both recent transplants to Glasgow. Their place was awesome. They were such gracious hosts. They provided a wide variety of toiletries, gels, sprays, lotions, soaps, etc.

We spent our night in Glasgow watching the World Cup Final with our host. He admitted that he was not a football fan, but a World Cup fan. I completely understood what he meant. There is just a sort of electricity when watching international sports. You get to see the highest level of competition on the world stage. Our host was a big fan/player of cricket and I told him I vaguely knew some parts of the game thanks to my parents. I saw a few cricket matches before when traveling with my parents to Jamaica. I told him I was six years old and the games bored me to tears, so I climbed trees instead. He laughed and said “that sounds about right.”

We more or less used Glasgow as a bedroom. In fact, I was disappointed that we only got to spend a few hours here. We’ll have to further explore Glasgow next time. Next stop, Dublin!

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Across the Pond Part 3: Edinburgh, Scotland

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In December 2013, my boyfriend’s brother gave us the opportunity to use his rewards points to book a free flight for a trip to Europe. We planned a 10 day trip to the UK and Ireland. This is our story.

Skylor’s Journal
7/11/2014

  • I have no idea what caused my insomnia, but this morning I warned Lisa that I might get a bit testy today. It’s not okay to be behaving the way I am today. It’s very frustrating to have one intention when speaking, but due to tone and facial expression, a different meaning is implied entirely.
  • Couldn’t find underground terminal as quickly as I desired. In my agitated state I pissed off Lisa because I mistreated her. :(
  • We left Tope’s place at 8:30 am and headed to Waterloo Station. From there, we jumped on the Bakerloo Line (brown) north and then changed to Victoria Line (blue) north to get to King’s Cross station. (Yes, Lisa got a picture of Platform 9 3/4).
  • Tried Jaffa Cakes. The flavour (wow, Britain has rubbed off on me) was dark chocolate with orange. Lisa thought that the orange flavor was too strong, but to each their own. I liked them. We decided the texture was like a moon pie without the cracker crunch. Also ate “American style” pretzels (sour cream and chive). Lisa liked these the best, probably tasted a wee bit of the home we know and love.
  • Lisa also geeked out because of the sheep she saw grazing in the countryside from the train (cows too).
  • Upon seeing the rolling hills and the vast farmland of Scotland, Lisa wept like a wee lass. I’m glad that I got to see that.

IMG_1004Lisa’s Journal
7/11/2014

We’re on the train to Edinburgh. :) It’s a gray day, but I’m really enjoying sitting back and looking at the view. It’s nice to give my feet a break. I’m sure it will be very strenuous walking in Edinburgh because of the hills. These shoes might be too tight.

It’s a very full train, but it is Friday, so I imagine there are a lot of people going on holiday. There are some people gathered around the car connection points who don’t have seats. I guess booking online was a good call.

Honestly, there’s not much to England. Farm land, row houses, industrial buildings, farm land, and repeat. Newcastle seemed interesting though. The houses are drab – like the food. Anytime I see colorful things I get excited.

train ride 2

Skylor has been driving me crazy at various points in this trip, but I’m trying to be patient. He blames himself, but I’m definitely not perfect. I love him and owe this trip to him and his family, and I’m glad he’s here with me. Hopefully he’ll sleep better tonight.

There are a lot of wind turbines here.

The passengers behind us are interesting to listen to. The woman is Scottish, and her male companion is English. He commented that he thought of an interesting story about trains: About how whenever a train passed under a bridge, the passengers might hear the voices of the dead. Because for a few moments, the conductor left the microphone on.

We just passed a coastal town, bordering what Skylor guesses is the North Sea. I’m getting excited to see more of Scotland! The sun keeps popping out to say hello. Maybe we’ll have a nice day after all.

Skylor’s Journal
7/11/2014

  • Things all worked out when we arrived to Edinburgh, and we made it our final train stop. After a few hiccups, and a long walk, we made it to our place. Had a great view of the bay (lovely beach) on a surprisingly warm day. Felt like mid 70s and sunny.
  • In our apartment, we had a micro water closet. It made Harry Potter’s room under the stairs look like a grand imperial chamber. I’ve been in porta-pottys that were roomier. Not a complaint, just an observation.

Edinburgh flat 5

  • Walked back out to the beach after getting settled. Enjoyed the spectacular views and each others company. The beach was filthy (not enough rubbish bins), water was freezing, but many folks still took the plunge, and it reminded me of Ocean City, Maryland, but in a good way.
  • Ate food from a wonderful food shop called “Fish & Chips”, which was run by an Asian guy with a Scottish accent (the Starburst commercial is true!). We ate fish and chips (duh), deep fried haggis, cheddar cheese chips (fries), and a chocolate milkshake which tasted like iced chocolate milk. Deep fried haggis=yum town, population Skylor.

Edinburgh Portobello Beach 13

  • The seagulls sounded like cats and were huge!
  • After eating our food in the apartment, we headed back out to explore the neighborhood some more. We wanted to make good use of all the sunlight. It’s 9 o’clock here and still very sunny. Crazy! While walking around we realized that many of the shops closed early. (resort town). We went to Sainsbury’s Market to buy breakfast, lunch, and dinner supplies for our next day (lots of produce, bread, ham, muffins, and cheese).

IMG_1036Lisa’s Journal
7/12/2014

Edinburgh is amazing! Once we got to Scotland on the train ride yesterday, the sun started shining and the drizzle went away, almost like we were meant to be here.

Our flat in Edinburgh is in the Portobello neighborhood (the beach area). It’s so lovely. Our host has excellent taste. I’d stay here again in a heartbeat.

Edinburgh flat 1Last night we took a stroll along the beach. Two of my favorite things: Scotland and the beach! We ate yummy fish and chips and Skylor tried fried haggis, which tasted alright, but not my cup of tea. You can truly buy haggis everywhere – in every grocery store. Speaking of tea – of course the tea here is superb, as is the coffee. We collected some sea shells at the beach.

Edinburgh Portobello Beach 2 Edinburgh Portobello Beach 11 Edinburgh Portobello Beach 6 Edinburgh Portobello Beach 8The Scottish people overall are incredibly kind and patient. Today we took a bus to central Edinburgh and did the Scotch Whiskey Experience and learned A LOT about how good whiskey is made. It turns out, the kind I was brought up on, that mom enjoys, is from the region of Scotland that Skylor and I liked the most!

Scotch Whiskey 7 Scotch Whiskey 1 Scotch Whiskey 4We then walked down the Royal Mile and explored Holyrood House, where the royals still reside when in Scotland and where Mary Queen of Scots lived. Overall, one of my favorite days. I’m truly happy and impressed with Scotland, and I’m finally getting the hang of all these damn British coins.

Holyrood 10 Holyrood 4 Holyrood 7  Edinburgh 9On to Glasgow and Dalrymple tomorrow!

Tune in next week for more!

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Across the Pond Part 2: London Day 2

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In December 2013, my boyfriend’s brother gave us the opportunity to use his rewards points to book a free flight for a trip to Europe. We planned a 10 day trip to the UK and Ireland. This is our story.

Skylor’s Journal
7/10/14

-Breakfast at the Corner Cafe (a place our host, Tope, recommended, saying it’s “cheap, fast, and good”). All British (English) food is pub food. It’s all fried and lacking overwhelming seasoning for a purpose. You’re supposed to save room for a pint. I ate chips (fries) with my omelette…God I love this country!

-Started our day walking along the east bank of the river Thames. The weather was a typical London affair. Drizzle, clouds and gray. Temperatures near 60° F. Yesterday’s 74°F sunny day was very unique.

IMG_0946

-Lisa and I walked about 40 minutes to the Bankside Gallery. It was a small gallery that featured abstract art.

-While there, I ran across some good research books and resources for school. Lisa purchased a great children’s titled “Katie and the Mona Lisa“.

-Then moved onto the Globe Theatre. Along the way we saw a few bridges and debated which bridge the Deatheaters destroyed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Lisa said we saw it yesterday. I thought we saw it today. We wanted to watch Julius Caesar at the Globe, but we were short on quid. There’s no way in hell that I was gonna stand in the grounding locale for that amount of time.

Lisa Globe

Skylor Globe

-Then went to the Tate Modern museum. It featured lots of very nice conceptual, abstract, cubist, surrealist, realist, and industrial art. I enjoyed looking at the artwork where I had to stop and think “wow that’s talent” or “what the fuck is that?”. Anything that grabbed my attention and forced me to process it and absorb it in all the way. Louise Bourgeois‘s art focused on motherhood and being a woman rearing children. I liked her stuff. Also, three floors of art is a lot of art to soak in. I might need to watch a movie with lots of explosions, so no one thinks I lost my bro cred. I really liked the Russian revolutionary art. It’s a style that’s accessible due to its use for propaganda in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We overheard a tour guide talking about Mark Rothko: “Rothko didn’t want his art displayed with other artists. This is why his works sits apart from others in this room. Rothko wanted to ensure he was a destination and not an also ran.” This fits in with what I’ve read/heard about the artist. He also had specific terms for how his art was to be displayed. No natural light, dim lighting, no other artists’ works. Rothko believed that art should be contemplative and inspiring.

A Picasso piece

A Picasso piece

Russian Revolution propaganda art

Russian Revolution propaganda art

Louise

Louise

-We ate dinner at the Gourmet Pizza Company. We ordered garlic bread, beet root bacon goat cheese pizza with a sprite and coke. Soda in the UK had less carbonation than in the US. I also thought that it had less sugar, but Lisa disagreed. Lisa hates the lower carbonation, but I like it. The garlic bread was very fresh and very yummy. The pizza was a 10′ thin crust masterpiece. The beets were sweet, the bacon was salty (and as though Canadian bacon and American bacon made sweet, sweet love and popped out a baby called British bacon) and the onion and spinach added both a tangy and earthy flavor.

-On the way home, we passed by a bagpiper playing a lovely tune on the low tide beach of the Thames River. We gave him money. We went in search for a Tesco to buy some snacks for the night. We bought some sour cream and chive crisps and some Jaffa Cakes and chocolate Cornettos… I prefer the strawberry ones. Lisa is liking the crisps, but isn’t a fan of the Jaffa Cakes. We’ve been trying to eat every snack food referenced in Spaced and the Cornetto Trilogy.

bagpiper

-Lisa has mastered which way to look when crossing the street. I never realized how ingrained our habit of left-right-left is until you have to flip it.

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Across the Pond Part 1: London

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In December 2013, my boyfriend’s brother gave us the opportunity to use his rewards points to book a free flight for a trip to Europe. We planned a 10 day trip to the UK and Ireland. This is our story.

Lisa’s Journal
7/8/14
3:14 pm, 15:14, Eastern Time

Skylor and I are waiting to board flight number one from Richmond, VA, USA to Washington, DC, USA. It’s been delayed by about 45 minutes. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been on a flight that departed on time – but I refuse to stress. All I’ve been doing since almost day one of planning this trip has been to stress – so it stops today. I’ve tried to cover as many details as possible, but part of the adventure is the unknown. Time to get out of our comfort zones and think on our feet.

Through this process I’ve come to realize how old I’m getting…I’m now one of those people who wants her next vacation to be as little work as possible, LOL. Cruise please. :)

But I am very excited and also very grateful. This is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it is! Yay!

Waiting in DC for the plane to LDN

Waiting in DC for the plane to LDN

Skylor’s Journal
7/8/14

  • Flight delayed from Richmond
  • Made great time on flight from RIC to Dulles, but now have a 3 hour lay over in Dulles
  • Exchanged money in Dulles. $800 became 450 Pounds
  • I got 120 Euros
  • Lisa was much more comfortable afterward
  • We were only charged one service fee (Thanks random dude behind the counter in Dulles).
  • Budgeted the money per location and are feeling pretty good. Just hope that the money goes far enough on our travels. Otherwise there may be some lean nights.
  • During the layover, I learned the “joys” of Instagram. Apparently if Facebook and Twitter had a one night stand, the result nine months later would be Instagram.
  • Wow, those are some terrible thunderstorms. I hope we are not delayed. :(
  • Met three people while waiting. One “grown ass woman”, Male singular traveler and a female college student. Male singular traveler was a veteran of overseas travel. Especially at Heathrow.
  • Interesting charger experience at Dulles… 3 out of 4 chargers worked on the charging station. We were polite and told people that one outlet was not charging. While we waited we told so many people about the broken outlet that Lisa made a sign to save time… it did not work. Interesting observation: Most elders and most males didn’t believe either the sign nor our verbal warnings about the outlet. Most had to try the outlet for themselves and see it was non functioning.

human experiment

Lisa’s Journal
7/8/14
6:08 pm, 18:08, Eastern Time

Converted $800 to get $450 pounds. Ugh. I just died a little inside.

Skylor’s Journal
7/9/14

  • Red eye flight. I now understand what the term means. 6 hour 30 minute flight at 10 pm to 10 am. The seats were more comfortable than the California trip. But after a while it didn’t matter and I became uncomfortable. The food was great. Dinner was Chipotle chicken over rice and a corn salad with a garden salad. Dessert was a yummy brownie. Breakfast was a cantaloupe and honey dew with a crescent and jam.
  • Movie and TV selections on the flight were wonderful. I watched Anchorman 2 and three episodes of Brooklyn Nine Nine. Attempted, unsuccessfully, to sleep the other three hours.

Lisa’s Journal
7/9/14
? Probably around 8:30 am, London Time

We’re on the plane from DC to London.* Going to be going over Ireland soon. Map says another 1.24 hours before we arrive at LDN. Just as we suspected, sleeping on the plane has been pretty much impossible, so we feel zombie-like. But, I am getting very excited, and I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas morning.

Skylor’s Journal
7/10/14

  • Arrived at Heathrow around 10 am. So very tired. Lisa said I was being a grump due to sleep deprivation. Need to do a better job staying positive.
  • Went through customs. Our agent was a firm, but friendly Irishman. He stated that “there’s nothing in Shannon but an airport and a river.”
  • Our first host will not be available until after 2 pm. We killed time (2 hours) waiting in Heathrow because we did not want to drag all our luggage through the streets of London.
  • London Underground = Subway. Many stops. We navigated the underground routes very well. Arrived at our host’s, Tope, within 30 minutes.
  • Observations while on the Underground… the Piccadilly Line was very cosmopolitan. Many Indians, blacks and Asians. The Waterloo line was almost exclusively white.
  • Dropped our stuff off and walked around downtown London. Saw Big Ben and Parliament. Big Ben is bigger than you think. Also very ornate.
  • Apparently you have to pay to use bathrooms in London… 50 pence.
  • Bought Cornettos (strawberry) in St. James Park. Laid down and looked at the clouds.
  • Walked to Buckingham Palace; it’s a cool place.
  • Walked to Trafalgar Square. I don’t know the historical significance of Trafalgar. I should probably look that up.
  • Ate a bite at Look Mum No Hands, a food truck near the London Eye. We split the Ploughmans Platter. It was real British food. Pickled onions, ham, sweet relish, tangy relish, cheese, bread, apples and celery.
  • Today was a rough day. I took Lisa on a death march throughout London. She was a trooper and hung in there even though she wanted to stab me on more than one occasion.
  • Highlight of the day was eating dinner at the Pineapple Pub. The place straight up looked like the Winchester from Shaun of the Dead. Right down to the dim lighting, worn grandma colored furniture and the stagnant air inside…I love this place!
  • Went to bed at 8:30 pm and slept about 12 hours. Wow we were tired.

Lisa’s Journal
7/10/14
Morning

We were so tired last night after sightseeing that I didn’t write again yesterday. After we arrived at Tope’s place (we’re staying in the real London for sure*), we proceeded to walk around London for several miles. So many fancy buildings. After trying the disappointing Ploughman’s Platter, we found more substantial food and drink at The Pineapple Pub and ate pub food and I drank a Guinness. Skylor hates Guinness- he thinks it tastes like a loaf of bread. We also stopped at a food shop for crisps and wafers and such. I also bought a really gross Fanta that Skylor liked – because Skylor likes everything that I don’t like. ;)

IMG_0902London Eye 3IMG_0920London pubI was getting overwhelmed yesterday, which embarrassed me. I want to have the “stiff upper lip” and don’t want to be perceived as an ignorant American. Turns out I hate feeling stupid (duh), which, every time I tried to buy things I felt stupid because money = huh? I think I’m getting the hang of it though. Well- Skylor’s almost ready for Day 2 of exploring London. Here we go!

P.S. We can hear Big Ben from our bed!** :)

*We used AirBnB to book all of our accommodation abroad. It was a great decision, because it gave us the opportunity to stay with “the locals” and meet new people. We had a great experience with all of our locations, and would recommend AirBnB to anyone. Try it out!
**Tope’s place was nice, but noisier than I am used to, because I don’t live in a big city. Ear plugs ensured I had a good night’s sleep though. :)

So I’m Back

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Tomorrow I return to work after a long holiday, or in Amerispeak, vacation. I just traveled through the UK and Ireland for about 10 days. It was lovely, strange, tiring, overwhelming, funny, and eye-opening. I’ve left my companion at his home, to nurture his recovering tummy. I suspect now that we’ve returned to the land of over-processed food that his stomach is having a hard time adjusting. It may be expensive, but I’ll be damned if you UK and Irish folks don’t have some of the best produce, bread, coffee, and tea I’ve ever tasted. Our food really sucks by comparison. I truly get it now. We may be a bit more creative on the cuisine side, though I did have a few delicious restaurant meals there.

I actually didn’t intend to write about my trip today. You’ll get to read all about it every Monday, beginning tomorrow, with my first installment centered on London. Along the rabbit trail I go. I was thinking about returning to work tomorrow, and how hard it will be. I’m not afraid to admit that. I think most people have a hard time getting motivated to work after a long vacation. I have some challenging goals ahead, and I hope my vision for the future will take shape soon. Skylor and I are moving in together in the fall, and I have a happy image of our cohabitation…me, returning from an arduous, but hopefully more fulfilling, day at work, to a lovely home that is uniquely ours, where we will work together to prepare a healthy, delicious meal, and then watch our shows together. I want a bike for my birthday…or Christmas. I want to recommit to being healthier. A long trip of barely fitting the airplane seatbelt around my waist, and awful foot pain from long walks I’m unaccustomed to are some of my recent motivators.

I’m not looking forward to Monday, but I’m holding on to that vision of what I’m working toward.

Animal Metaphors: A Rough Prose Poem

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I talk to animals. As though there is an invisible coil telephone cord between our ears and actual communication is exchanged. As though a nesting bird cares that I care. As if. Cats are people. Dogs are people I like but feel like an outsider to. I don’t associate with ferrets. I envy the ducks of Belle Isle, riding the current with their little boat bodies, gliding between every rock and hard place. My elephant collection is gathering dust in the basement I hate to visit. I used to draw birds in a V shape, usually involving triangle trees and bosom hills, crossing some horizon I have yet to see.