Random

Edinburgh- Arthur’s Seat

Some nature in the heart of Edinburgh; Arthur’s Seat.  It’s in Holyrood Park, near Holyrood Palace, which is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.  It’s an ancient volcano about 250m above sea level.  So, it’s not a long walk but it’s a big steep hill basically.  Although there were small children and mad ladies in flip flops heading up there, I was struggling slightly.  I am quite unfit these days though, and the torrential rain had finally stopped and the hot sun came out which didn’t actually help.

DesktopOn our first approach we had the choice of a long more gentle slope or the steep shorter one, we chose the horrid one to go up and the gentle one to come down on.  There were some lovely views over Edinburgh, and the sea as we went up.  And lots of tourists, as was the general theme of Edinburgh while we were there.  In fact, we could see Arthur’s Seat from pretty much everywhere whilst we walked around Edinburgh all week and there were always little figures visible on the top.

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Edinburgh- The Castle

Collages22I suppose a visit to Edinburgh would be incomplete without a visit to The Castle, unfortunately everyone else in Edinburgh thought that too!  It opens at 9:30am and we arrived at 9:40am and still had to queue for 25 minutes to get in.  And the seas of people just kept on growing as we walked around.   And the number of people made it hard to see things properly, but then it’s a bit rich of me to complain when I was one of those people!

Collages23edinburgh1It was also delightful rainy in that Scottish way when we were there, so that was nice! The other excellent addition that really enhanced our experience of the Castle was the ‘Esplanade’. This is a huge set of tacky, bright blue, plastic seats for military tattoos (not the inky ones, these are performances by military bands that you can pay up to £74 for).

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There weren’t as many indoor bits that were opened up as I was expecting, which was a shame given the rain and number of people. They do actually still have a military presence in the buildings so obviously you can’t just wander in to the barracks. But for £17 I wanted more from my visit. There was a guided tour you could take but we decided just to wander which was perhaps a mistake given how little info there was on everything.

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New York Vs Washington DC

I guess New York City is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the USA, apparently it gets 50 million visitors a year.   Washington DC was also full of visitors when I was there recently, but it seemed like most of those were domestic tourists and kids on school trips.  They are both incredible cities and worth a visit, but they had very different vibes. Manhattan is densely populated, and the constant bustle of people gives a sense of excitement but also a feeling that the city is moving around you.  There’s definitely a lot to see and do.   Washington Dc on the other hand is much more laid back affair.  The people here are an odd mixture of suit-wearing officials heading to work, and t-shirt wearing families heading to the museums.

Incredible Architecture

New York                                                                     Washington DC

Both cities have incredible architecture and buildings.  In Manhattan, the Empire State Building is a real landmark, but one you could easily walk past on ground level.  It’s only impressive from far away or high up.  A trip up to the top of the Rockerfeller Centre is a great way to see it.  In New York it’s all about height, One World Trade Centre is the tallest in New York mainly due to it’s spire.  It’s the main structure in the rebuilt World Trade Centre, it’s height of 1,776ft is a reference to the year that the US signed the Declaration of Independence.  In Washington DC, these are buildings of governance.  The Library of Congress was founded in 1800, and is the largest library in the world.  The library has three buildings, the oldest is the Thomas Jefferson building.  The main stairs have figures of little boys representing the different occupations like musician, astronomer, student etc.  The frescos on the ceiling and walls represented the arts and sciences.

The Suburbs

New York Washington DC

New York                                                                       Washington DC

Obviously, most people heading to New York visit Manhattan, for good reason.  But I was pleased that we could get out to Brooklyn and see something different.  There was greenery in Prospect Park, and sand and sea at Coney Island.  There’s space to breathe in Brooklyn when the city gets a little too much for you.  In Washington, we took a trip to Georgetown which is a nice, slightly gentrified, centre.  Both Brooklyn and Georgetown are pretty hipstery.

The Landscape

New York                                                                       Washington DC

In Manhattan, a lack of vertical space meant people very quickly started building upwards. Even the apartment blocks loom over you, and the city constantly impresses it’s grandeur and reputation on you.  There’s a real mixture of the old and new.  New skyscrapers are constantly being built and now there are many areas where the buildings all crowd each other.  In DC, the landscape is much more open.  Here the government buildings are the tourist attractions. Each one is still a working building but they seem to have to lot more breathing room so you really get a good look at each one.  Really shots of Washington make more sense in landscape rather than portrait.

Food

New York                                                                   Washington DC

Well these pictures are pretty similar!  These are both big cities, full of lots of different immigrant groups meaning lots of different foods. Obviously, if you wanted to just eat MacDonald’s you can, but we were looking for something a bit different.  I don’t eat meat so in Europe that can just straight away rule out entire restaurants.  In the US, veggie food was easy to come by, but it was still nice to visit places that specifically cater for us types.  New York has more deli places where they sell food by weight I would guess, and just has more of everything generally because it’s much more densely packed.

Street Art

New York                                                                  Washington DC

You could call this street are or just weird stuff you find on the street…New York definitely had more of that.  For no reason there were some dog photographers in the middle of Chelsea.  Of course they have the bull on Wall Street, and now the little girl opposite.  Around Times Square there are a bunch of odd colourful animal statues.  In Washington DC, there was one or two colourful additions but lacking some of the mad whimsy of their NYC cousins.

 

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Washington DC- Georgetown

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We left the Mall and headed out to Georgetown, the university suburb or Washington DC.  We tried to walk along the Potomac but the route turned out to be less than inspiring and our path along the the river was blocked at one point due to construction work.  Also one of us (erm me) really needed to go to the toilet…So we headed into town and stopped at the first place we saw pretty much!  It was Los Cuates, a decent Mexican place with massive portion sizes!

After lunch we wandered around the town a little in the sunshine, and it’s very charming.  They have the lovely, colourful townhouses, and sweet independent shops.  I found a tea and spice shop where I got some loose leaf tea.

Day 62

 

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IT Luggage Suitcase

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suitcase

Last time I went to The Americas, I used my ‘Constellation’ suitcase (which I got from Argos).  This is a pink, hardcase suitcase on wheels, and it turned out to be super super heavy.  My new case is a pink IT Luggage suitcase, which is apparently the lightest in the world. It’s about 2kg empty, and it was very light when I was carrying it home…Or I am very strong.

It’s soft shelled so we’ll see how it holds up.  It’s pretty roomy inside.  I’ve got almost everything I need for a week away and there’s plenty more room for shopping! It’s just a giant open space on one side and 4 pockets on the other.  Two are mesh and two are thin plastic, they don’t look too strong. One of them was already damaged but it looked like it had been sliced accidentally rather than ripping.  Buuuut I couldn’t be bothered to take it all the way back for that.

Anyway, now I’m all packed I really want to…still got a week to wait!

 

 

 

 

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London- Victoria and Albert Museum

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As an early birthday treat mum and I went to London to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum.  It wasn’t my first visit, but there’s tonnes to see.  We took an earlyish train but it was still lunchtime when we arrived.  I opted for a rather nice goats cheese lasagne, the food there is pricey but at least it’s nice.  Across the road at the Natural History Museum the cafe is pretty crap.

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We thought about going to the temporary exhibition which was a history of underwear, but it costs £12 for those tickets, and we found the other fashion galleries instead. It was a through the ages look at fashion.  Mum commented that the ‘modern’ pieces aren’t that impressive.  I agreed but I think it was a little warped.  The older clothes were clearly picked to represent common trends, while the newer ones were ones that would have stood out from the crowd.  I mean there no stretch skinny jeans so it can not be said to truly represent what people are actually wearing today.

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London- Harrods

Whilst in London town we wandered past Harrods.  Last time I was there it was rammed with people and I lasted about 3 minutes before I had to leave.  But it was much quieter this time, and we had a look around the food hall.

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There was yummy looking cheese and chocolates.  And I finally got to the see what a cronut was (half croissant, half doughnut).  I wonder what it’s like to work in Harrods, it must be incredibly busy most of the time.  And mainly with tourists who must be quite annoying, and always taking pictures of cheese…

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But the only thing I bought was some tea!  There were a lot of flavours of regular black tea, but it was really green tea that I was after.  They didn’t have many in tea bag form, and I decided to go for a white tea (with hints of cucumber and watermelon) which was £5 for 20 bags.  Not the cheapest tea ever, but possibly the cheapest thing in Harrods!

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USA Trip Prep

So, our USA trip is fast approaching and I thought I’d fill you in on where I’m with my preparations. Also I can use this to figure out what I still have left to do.  I work shifts so I have sort of more time to get stuff done, but sort of less (it’s what happens when you don’t have regular days off like week ends but you do get the odd week day off to go shopping).

We leave at the end of March and will have an annoying trip from home to Manchester Airport, before we even get on a plane to go to New York.  So we obviously have our tickets by now but we’ll need to check in and I need to get boyfriend to print them at work.  Along with that we need print out our train tickets, to get from New York to San Francisco.

I’m not totally crazy, and I haven’t started packing yet but I will soon start planning my outfits.  I do this with plenty of time so I can make sure everything is washed before I need to pack it.  I used to live in a house share and I couldn’t rely on the washing machine being free so I had to give myself an extra week.  I now have a house (technically it’s boyfriend house but still) and a tumble dryer so that makes life easier.  I do want to buy a new suitcase.  My one is really heavy, it’s pink which is the reason I bought it (!), but a pain to drag around.

I’m going to get some little toiletries, boyfriend tells me not to because I can use the hotel ones, but in Italy the hotels only had shampoo and not conditioner which was annoying.  I need to get my dollars (exchange rate sucks right now), and I’ll need some little snacks for the airport.  But I shouldn’t need to get to much more.

 

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Holiday Books- Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

I want to share some good books that you might like to read on your hols, especially if they have some travel relevance.  Moon Tiger, moves around in time, with much of the ‘action’ taking place in war time Egypt.  It’s also not too long so a good one for a relaxing trip.  I did a fuller review on my other blog, but really you should just read the book!

Plot

Claudia Hampton is old and dying in hospital, and is planning to write ‘a history of the world’.  She is after all a famous history writer and former war correspondent.  But this history of the world is actually her own history, somehow inexorably linked.

Moon Tiger weaves it’s way forwards and backwards through her memories, and then back to hospital in the present day.  Her relationship with her brother Gordon is hot and cold.   She describes it as narcissistic love as she sees so much of herself in him.  Although their relationship is a main theme of her past, the more shocking elements are only briefly suggested.  It’s her love affair with Tom, who she met in wartime Egypt and who died there that seems to have the greater effect on her, certainly she did not seem to leave the war unscathed.

I liked this book, although found our protagonist a little tough to take at times, although she acknowledges she wasn’t the most nurturing mother she also constantly criticises her daughter.  She is also fairly awful to, and about, her sister-in-law which annoyed me.  I felt Sylvia was a little hard done to.

 

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