19 November 2011

Vacation: Bruges

For the final part of our trip, we departed England in a ferry and headed across the North Sea to Belgium. Ever since we saw the movie In Bruges, Mom and I have wanted to visit the "fairy tale city," and this was our chance.

We weren't disappointed.

We took a canal ride and the captain gave the tour in English (for Mom and me) and French (for everyone else on the boat). He switched back and forth with ease, making jokes in both languages. His ease with languages was amazing and also made me jealous. I wish I could do that.

In addition to the Belgians having a sickening ease with multiple languages, we even saw Madonna and Child, a Michelangelo sculpture, in the Church of Our Lady.

I climbed all 366 steps to top of the Belfort and got to hear the bells pealing. It was glorious.

I got to see a vial of Christ's blood in the Basilica of the Holy Blood.

And, of course, we ate lots and lots of delicious chocolate.

Even when we left, we were ready to go back. Bruges was amazing! Everyone should visit.

We took the train through the Chunnel back to London for our flight home.

17 November 2011

Vacation: The Lake District

On a cold, drizzly, windy day we drove over narrow, twisty, hilly roads to the Lake District. We stopped briefly at Lake Ullswater

before moving on down the road past miles of stone walls. They were built up the sides of hills.

I have no idea how much effort that took, but I can't imagine being the poor soul who had to haul the stones up there and build a fence.

Then we took the world's narrowest two-lane road

to Ambleside where we road a boat across Lake Windermere, caught a water taxi and then a bus to Hill Top Farm.

Hill Top Farm was Beatrix Potter's home. Pictures weren't allowed inside, but we could caught a glimpse of Peter Rabbit in the garden.

It was a cold, dreary day, and we were glad to return to our bed and breakfast.

15 November 2011

Hadrian's Wall

We left Scotland and headed south into England to see Hadrian's Wall. Construction on the wall began in 122. Upon its completion, the wall was almost 80 miles long and stretched across northern England.

It was so cold and so windy.

But seeing the wall and parts of structures that are still standing after almost 2 millennia was worth the poor weather.

Mom loves Roman history, and this part of the trip was a highlight for her. Look at her smile!

10 November 2011

Vacation: Traveling South

As we left Edinburgh, we went to Rosslyn Chapel.

Construction on the chapel was begun in 1456. Both the outside and inside are covered in ornate carvings.

And there were also various gargoyles and faces carved into the stone.

Everywhere we looked there was some other ornate carving to see. Unfortunately, photos aren't allowed inside the chapel.

Some of the carvings depict items that weren't known in Scotland at the time they were carved - such as corn - leading many stories to develop around the chapel. There are also theories that Rosslyn Chapel is connected to the Knights Templar and the Freemasons.

After the chapel we drove and drove to Jedburgh to see Jedburgh Abbey. The ruined abbey sits on a bluff right in the middle of town, looming over the residents like a fallen guardian.

It is beautiful.

Jedburgh Abbey was established in the 1100s. All that remains now is a shadow of what it once was. But what a shadow!

While we were at the abbey, we asked the helpful salesperson in the gift shop if there was a McDonald's in town. We were desperate for a burger. There wasn't one in Jedburgh, but he told us there was one in a nearby town. Off we went for the best McDonald's hamburger I have ever eaten!

The next day we left Scotland

and drove into England.

07 November 2011

Vacation: HMY Britannia

After the Go Ape Adventure, Inchmahome Priory and Doune Castle, we returned to Edinburgh. Our final stop in Edinburgh was Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia.

The Britannia was built in 1953 and retired in 1997.

The boat was luxurious without seeming ostentatious.

In addition to carrying the royal family, it included marines and sailors - some of whom had to store 21 different uniforms (plus band instruments!) in a tiny space.

Even the engine room was pristine!

Since there was a tea room on board, Mom and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to dine onboard a royal yacht. We had Edinburgh tea

and a slice of chocolate cake.

We expected the cake to be dry, but it was phenomenally good. Quite delicious!

02 November 2011

Vacation: Go Ape Adventure

I've been sidetracked from the vacation posts while I was editing my young adult novel. But I need to finish these, so here goes!

As I said in my last post, before we went to Inchmahome Priory and Doune Castle, I spent the morning climbing trees and swinging on zip lines.

In the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, the Go Ape Adventure has five sites set up amongst the trees.

Those sites involve climbing up into the trees - a good 30 feet off the ground and moving from tree to tree through various methods. After a brief training and safety lesson, you're off on your own.

Yes, those are my tiny feet.

Some of the ladders were rope, and some were wood. Both required using the safety equipment to climb. By the time I hit the last site, I didn't think I had the strength to climb any more blasted ladders! My arms felt like they were going to fall off, and my hands had no more grip left. And the rain in the middle of my experience didn't help!

But I struggled through the last site and made it to the final zip line - 426 meters long (which is almost 466 yards).

The safety equipment that was all there was between me and certain death. I clung to this (the blue line, per the safety instructions!) for dear life.

The zip lines were my favorite parts. I had always seen people using them on The Amazing Race, and they looked like such fun. Turns out, they're even more fun than they appear on TV. I would go on another zip line in a heartbeat.

I spent all my time in the park playing in the trees and swinging on zip lines. What I did see of the park was glorious. A beautiful spot for a day out from Edinburgh or a short holiday.

And this was me at the end of the day. Exhausted, but exhilarated. Filthy and fabulous.