Posts Tagged With: Holiday

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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Packing for Edinburgh

Boyfriend has decreed that we are not allowed to take two foreign holidays in a year. We went to the USA in April (and I am going to Latvia with mum in October), so our summer jolly had to be in the UK.  London was on the cards for a while, but we decided to head away further north to Edinburgh.   Annoyingly, London is enjoying a heat wave and Edinburgh is not but the tickets are booked.  Also it means we can see my sister and niece who live in Glasgow.

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So, I headed out today and picked up a new rucksack (actually three!) to take with me.  I bought the Blacks City 30, which is a 30L rucksack designed for travel and commuting rather than hiking.  And it was in the sale.

You can see what I was able to fit into it, and now it’s pretty full:

  • underwear and socks
  • sleepwear
  • 5 x t-shirts
  • 1 x shorts
  • 1 x trousers
  • sunglasses
  • snacks
  • painkillers
  • itinerary
  • purse
  • 1 x skirt
  • 1 x dress
  • 1 x cardigan
  • raincoat
  • 2 x books
  • 1 x tote bag
  • toiletries
  • cameras
  • hairbrush
  • keys

And left out:

  • small day bag
  • travel outfit
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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- The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress in Washington DC was founded in 1800.  The terrible British burned the building in 1814, and destroyed 3,000 volumes.  Those rotters.  But the following year Congress approved the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library.  The LOC is the largest library in the world with more than 164 million items.

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We went for a visit, but didn’t bother with a tour and just wandered around with a info leaflet.  It’s the interior decor and murals that are particularly impressive.  Along the ornate staircases in the Great Hall there are figures of little boys, or ‘putti’.  The represent the various occupations and pursuits of contemporary American life (that’s contemporary to 1897 when the building was completed).  Above it depicts a farmer, bacchanalian, hunter, and mechanic which is an interesting mix.

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The ceilings and walls were all covered in depictions of the arts and sciences. The lady in red (bottom right) is a mural representing understanding.   The lass in the blue represents understanding.  Above the Main Reading Room is a Government mural (top right), which reads ‘A government of the people, by the people, for the people’.

In the Main Reading Room (below) there are eight giant marble columns supporting 10ft high figures representing: religion, commerce, history, art, philosophy, poetry, law, and science.  But, unless you’re an official library person, you can’t actually go in the Main Reading Room and just have to look at it through glass from a balcony above.

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Virginia- Air and Space Museum

Whilst in Washington DC, boyfriend suggested we ‘pop’ across to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Virginia.  ‘Popping’ turned out to be about an hour on a train and 30 mins on a bus but anyway…

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There is already a Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC which is also worth a visit.  But they had so many flying machines they to build another one, and the Washington Mall was getting a little crowded.  Anyway, the Udvar-Hazy centre is basically in the middle of nowhere next to the Dulles airport.  Since it was a 3hr round trip we didn’t actually have much time to spend in the museum.  There is a lot to see, mainly planes in two large aircraft hangars.  There is also an IMAX theatre and an observation tower. We didn’t do either of those, so I can’t report back.  We did peak into the Restoration Hangar where they do restoration one I assume, although no one was working in there at that moment.

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I had some issues with the white washing of any negative elements of aviation.  Each plane had a little plaque usually with minimal information, but some gave a little more of the history.  None of them really suggested anything bad had ever happened.  Included the Enola Gay from which the an Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, killing about 70,000-80,000 people.

One of the main reasons that we went there was to see the Space Shuttle, Discovery. According to boyfriend, who knows these things, there was a controversial launch when the government put too much pressure on them to launch before they were ready.

usa1My major annoyance was the lack of places to eat.  The only place in the Museum was a McDonald’s, which did not have any vegetarian options!  Or any options for any other special diet.  So I ate fries and a cookie and felt sick.  You are not allowed to take food inside (not at all, so you would have to eat it before you go in).  If you drive there I guess you can drive somewhere to buy food but that breaks up the visit.

 

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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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New York- Brooklyn and Coney Island

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Brooklyn Bridge from the Subway Carriage

Day two in New York and we decided to leave Manhattan and head out to Brooklyn.  This was my first trip to NYC but I’d never been to any of the other boroughs before, Brooklyn seems huge by comparison.  There were a few places I had starred on my map to visit but trekking back and forth around Brooklyn was too much.  It was about 4 celsius (google says that’s 39.2 F), and I had a terrible migraine but other than that it was a fun day out!

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We took the subway to Prospect Park, we passed the carousel but it was closed.   So we headed into the zoo.  It was $8 each which seemed reasonable given how expensive it must be to house animals (bit suspicious of cheap zoos and roller coasters).  It’s not very big but was nice to look around, and thankfully most of the animals were inside where it was nice and warm!

Day 24We walked across the park to find somewhere for lunch.  There were some other things in the area like the Brooklyn Public Library, and a fair at the Grand Army Plaza but I was dying of jetlag so we had to give these a miss.

On 7th Ave we found a burger place to get lunch, Bareburger, which is a hippy eco-friendly hipstery place that did a pretty yummy milkshake.  7th Avenue had some cute shops, a lot of which had anti-Islamophobia signs up, something of a theme of the trip as a whole.

We headed up to the top of the street to get the subway again, this time further South to Coney Island.

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Coney Island isn’t really an island, more a little man-made sticky out bit.  Unfortunately, the theme park, Luna Park, was closed.   I think the snowstorm they had delayed the Spring opening but there were people cleaning the park, presumably in preparation for opening.  This meant most of the shops and stands along the water front were also closed.  This Brighton Beach area has a lot of Russian-speaking immigrants, and there are a lot of Russian shops and signage.

Manhatan is so built up it’s easy to forget it’s an island surrounded by water.  And even in Brooklyn it seemed weird, to me at least, to be walking along an actual beach.  Like I said it was a little (a lot) chilly, but in the summer I can imagine it would be fun down here.

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New York- The Lego Store

Day 12

We wandered out on day one in New York in the drizzle to get breakfast at the Argo Tea Cafe in the Flat Iron Building, which I recommend.  And just around the corner was the Lego Store.  It’s not actually that big but it quite fun because of the models they have made out of the Lego.

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Day 13There are a few Loge stores in NYC, this is just the one we visited, I definitely recommend a visit if you have kids or are a big kids.  Lego is pretty expensive these days though, so I settled with a key ring.

 

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New York- The High Line

We spent our 3.5 days in Manhattan entirely South of Central Park.  I found, you can, very quickly, get used the steel and stone jungle that is New York, and sort of forget that grass and nature exists. There are little parks and squares dotted around, but I’m not sure they’re the reason people travel to NYC.  Not to burst your bubble, but it turns out Madison Square Garden is neither square or a garden…some kind of entertainment venue…

Day 31

Anyway, the weather turned much nicer (it jumped from 4 celsius to 18 the next day).  So we, and everyone else in Manhattan, decided to walk The High Line.  The High Line is an old railroad that runs about 20 blocks (1.5miles) that has been turned into a kind of park.  It runs from 34th street to Gansevoort street on the West side.  I would say it’s mostly a raised walkway with plants along it.  It was quite pleasant but at times we were trudging along behind people we couldn’t get around.  It was, however, a much quicker way to move through the streets of New York than on street level!Day 32

Above and below are some views from The High Line.  It’s a little hit or miss with what you see, Manhattan is so built up that at various points you’re just surrounded by sky scrapers.  But there is some interesting street art dotted around. In between the buildings though you do get a few good views along the long straight streets.   It’s a free activity in a city that can get quite pricey.

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