We did A LOT of sightseeing on our Iceland-UK trip. We tend to cram in as much as possible, which is good because we see a lot, but not so good because we sometimes don't have enough time at places we end up really liking. And we are constantly on the go from 7am until 10-11pm, which is exhausting. One of these days we'll go on a relaxing vacation and just stay in one place and do nothing. The kids won't know what hit 'em.
I apologize to those of you who follow me on twitter and or instagram as I include a lot of those photos you've seen already in this post. What can I say? I love using my iphone camera. It's so convenient, light and takes pretty decent pics. I took 472 photos with my iPhone and only 267 with my regular camera.
Iceland July 26-27, 2012
When we learned that the airfare price was the same to the London with a stopover in Reykjavik no matter how long you stayed in Iceland, we knew we wanted to spend a couple of days in Iceland before making it all the way across the pond. Unfortunately, my husband made a mistake in our reservations that we didn't notice until weeks after, our two day jaunt in Iceland was reduced to barely 24 hours. Disappointing, but it is what it is and we enjoyed what little time we had there anyway. Good thing they get LOTS of daylight there.
|Landing in Iceland|
Sunset skies at 10:30pm
On the road from Reykijvak to the airport.
London July 27-28, 2012
We arrived in London late Friday night, which was the night of the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics. We caught some of it on the television in our hotel room, went out to get some dinner, and then watched the rest when we got back. It was pretty neat hearing booms of the fireworks from our hotel while seeing it on television. It was a surefire reminder that we were really in London during the Olympic Games! Except the next morning we hopped a train for Scotland. But we'd be back to London in just a few days.
Scotland July 28-30, 2012
We arrived in Glasgow, Scotland after a very pleasant and scenic train ride. I spent half the time looking out the window at the pastures and towns and the other half of the time reading an ARC of Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady. I was very happy. :)
Here's a photo of the British countryside between London and Glasgow. Look! We even saw Dementors!!!! Okay, okay, so it's grime on the train window. ; )
|Countryside view from train|
between London and Glasgow.
The next day we went on a fabulous day tour of the Scottish Highlands. We used Rabbie's personalized small group tours in Glasgow and highly recommend them. Our tour guide, John, was fantastic. He knew so much about the history and culture of Scotland from a thousand years ago until today. When he wasn't telling us about Scotland, he played a wide variety of Scottish music old and new. He also taught us everything he knew about Scottish whiskey. Which was a lot. Ha!
|Loch Lomond, Scotland|
|Bagpiper playing at a rest stop|
near Glencoe, Scotland
|On a boat looking for the Loch Ness Monster!|
Loch Ness, Scotland
Loch Ness, Scotland
|On plus side of the frequent rain showers in the UK?|
So many rainbows! :)
The following day we took a taxi to Celtic Park, home of the Celtic football club--my husband's favorite team. We kind of got there between a sold out tour and the next one, which would be a couple of hours later, so we opted not to do it. Instead we walked around the outside a bit and then bought my husband some clothing from the shop. He was pretty happy, which made us girls happy. :)
After that, we found our way back to the train station and hopped a train for Edinburgh for the day. By the time we arrived in Edinburgh it was probably after noon. Without a clear cut plan as to what to do, we meandered the streets of the Royal Mile--a landmark area of Edinburgh with a lot of history, culture, shopping and things to do. We knew we wanted to see Edinburgh castle, so we casually headed that way, enjoying the sights as we went along. We got taken in by a fun museum called Camera Obscura and ended up spending way more time there than we intended. So much so that by the time we walked to Edinburgh castle, the attendants literally closed the gate in our faces saying they were closed for the day an no one else could enter. I was stunned. I mean, it was totally our fault for not checking the time of the last entry and totally our fault for losing track of time, but ... but.. we were devastated. It still makes me really sad, and quite frankly mad at myself for letting this happen. So stupid! Argh! :( So now we have to go back to Scotland, too. Not a terrible thing, but with a whole big world to explore, I have to be honest with myself and think am I really going to go back there someday? I just don't know. Anyway, we wallowed our disappointment with an elaborate Thai dinner.
|A view of Edinburgh, Scotland|
|The girls walking the Royal Mile|
|Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland|
London July 31-August 6, 2012
Back in London early this Tuesday morning we checked into our hotel in Putney Bridge and then headed back into London to meet up with our friends for some sight seeing. [Our close friends from home joined us for part of our stay in London. This is the same family whom we visited for our January getaway to Florida]. We met at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre where we toured the theater and then went through the museum, learning all kinds of fascinating things about Shakespeare, his plays and the theatre itself.
Click on photo to enlarge for more detail:
|Inside Shakespeare's Globe Theatre|
|Buckingham Palace, London, England|
The following day we met our friends at London Monument which is a stone tower that commemorates the great fire of 1666 and celebrates the rebuilding of London. You get a certificate of achievement for walking all the way up the 311 stone steps of the spire and back down again. It's true.
That afternoon, we were Olympic spectators for women's court volleyball. We had front row seats! How lucky is that? You can read more about the Olympic stuff and see pictures on my previous vacation post HERE.
After the volleyball, we went with our friends on a London sight seeing boat tour on the Thames. The guide on the boat was very funny and we learned a lot about the history of London, mostly about the buildings and bridges along the river. My favorite part was seeing Tower Bridge up close from the water with the Olympic Rings on display there. After dinner that evening, we went up the London Eye, which is the largest Ferris wheel type thing in the world. I have to admit, it was pretty cool. My favorite part was being able to see inside the stadium where Beach Volleyball was taking place from the top of the London Eye. This is the same area where you can see Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
Here's a picture of London Bridge. It's the one in the foreground. Yes. That very very very plain one. Is London Bridge. Surprised? I know I was. Tower Bridge is the fancy one most people associate with London. You learn something new everyday.
|London Bridge in foreground|
Tower Bridge in background
|The London Eye at night|
|At the Roman Baths|
|The girls at the Great Bath|
Roman Baths, Bath, England
|Walking up to Windsor Castle|
|Moat gardens at Windsor Castle|
|Changing of the guard|
Windsor Castle, Windsor, England
The next day we toured Westminster Abbey and Westminster Palace, which is where Parliament is held. I learned so much about the British government on the tour of the Parliament. Very interesting and educational. I hope the girls got something out of it, too. I felt a little ignorant learning all this in my 40s and not in my teens or 20s. Anyway, the building is quite stunning on the inside as well as on the outside. Speaking of the outside, did you know that Big Ben is not the official name of the clock tower? Big Ben is only the name of the bell inside the tower. The tower is actually called Westminster Tower but is going to be renamed Queen Elizabeth Tower in the not so distant future.
|Westminster Tower [aka Big Ben]|
London Eye in the background
|Tower Bridge at night|
After the triathlon, we ventured on with our sightseeing. First we went to London Tower, which was a very interesting place. So much history there, I really had no idea. It has been used as a prison, an artillery, and as a vault of sorts for the Crown Jewels, which we got to see! All I can say is WoW! So sparkly. Absolutely gorgeous. You look at those jewels and think, "Really? That's REAL?" It's so beautiful that I swear your mind starts to rationalize that nothing real can be that beautiful so it must be fake. Does that make sense? Maybe it's just me. lol.
|A view from within Tower of London|
|Resting inside the pedestrian walkway|
at the top of Tower Bridge
After he got back we had a late breakfast and then headed for a special little spot in London. Can you guess where based on this picture?
We then spent the afternoon in The British Museum which was phenomenal. You could spend days there and still not see everything, so we prioritized a few of their most popular items on exhibit and tried to fit it all in before closing time. The girls really petered out here so they plopped on a bench for a bit while Gabe and I zoomed around and tried to see the last few items on our list. We didn't quite get to it all, but did see most of the things on our list.
|My guy inside the British Museum|
|Holding a Sumerian cuneiform|
from 2700+ years ago! WOW!
I knew we were all starting to fade because this was the first night we were back to our hotel before 7pm! I really wanted to eat dinner at this charming pub right around the corner from our hotel that we passed by every single day walking to the tube, but my youngest is a picky eater and didn't like anything on the menu and I was just too tired to be adamant about it, so we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. The food was good, but the pub would have been so much more British, you know?
The following day we packed up and headed to Heathrow for our flight home.
We had a brief stopover in Iceland again, but this time it was only an hour or so in the airport with extremely expensive food and souvenirs. We arrived in JFK airport in New York City at sundown and basically drove off into the sunset towards home in New Jersey. After being awake traveling for nearly 24 hours, it was pretty darned nice to sleep in my own bed. Even if jet lag did have me wide awake at 4 am for a few days straight. Yikes.
|Arrived home to a beautiful Manhattan sunset|
First morning home, catching up on some emails...
|Me and Peekaboo.|
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my vacation recap and look at my photos. :)