Monday, April 27, 2015

Goodbye England!

We packed our bags in the UK for the last time this morning and ventured east to London City airport for the final two days of our trip. A short one hour flight brought us in to Dublin where we checked in and walked out in search of a pub. We ended up at The Brazen Head which claims the title of the oldest pub in Ireland. The food was fantastic and the bartender was hilarious. If you're ever in Dublin, find it.

We didn't take any pictures today so here is Jackie trying to befriend a Scottish Yak with hay.

Come On You Gunners!!!

Sunday early afternoon we took the tube out to Emirates stadium once more to pick up our tickets for Arsenal vs Chelsea!

Unlike the FA cup (where we were in the opposing team section), we were able to wear our colors and yell as loud as we liked!

Our seats ended up being fantastic. Unfortunately the game ended as a draw (boring, boring Chelsea) but it was still an amazing experience being able to cheer on our favorite Gunners in person. As of right now we have moved up to 51,482 and 51,483 in line for our season tickets!

Back to London!

After a delicious Welsh breakfast we drove into Cardiff city to visit Cardiff castle. The fort itself was a traditional motte and bailey castle perched up on a hill surrounded by a moat. The outer wall was rebuilt back in the 1800s and used as a bomb shelter during the second world war.

After Cardiff castle we drove back to London for the final leg of the UK portion of our trip. After checking in to our hotel we ventured out to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for pints and burgers on the recommendation from a co-worker. The nearly 400 year old pub had a very unique atmosphere and was well worth the trip to eat down in the basement bar.

Roman baths and ruined castles

We started the morning by touring the Roman Bathhouse in Bath. Very interesting to learn a spring-fed pool known for it's healing properties is lined with lead.

After the bathhouse tour we drove out of town and on our way to Wales. Our only castle of the day was Caerphilly, an old fort that was partially destroyed on orders for Parliament. Caerphilly castle and the surrounding city was a ghost town. Very eerie walking around with a giant stone castle to ourselves.

From Caerphilly we drove just north of Cardiff city to our hotel which provided another amazing view.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Heading West

On Thursday we finally checked out of our central London flat and took the tube to Heathrow to rent a car and drive west. Our first stop was the absolutely massive Windsor Castle. Unfortunately due to a time crunch we only had an hour in a castle that easily could have eaten four.

After Windsor we made our way to Salisbury where we had what turned out to be a private tour of the Salisbury Cathedral. Our guide lead us and one other couple on a two hour tour of the cathedral including access to the tower spire itself. This picture is from the bottom of the spire looking up around 120 feet of supporting structure.

The base of the spire had four exits outside where we were able to see all of Salisbury and the surrounding countryside. One of the exits was closed however due to a nesting Peregrine Falcon.

After Salisbury Cathedral we made our way out to this five thousand year old pile of rocks.

We weren't allowed to enter the Stonehenge circle but the path did lead up fairly close to it. Overall it was a very spiritual experience. We lucked out with beautiful weather too!

Back to England

Wednesday morning we woke up to the most spectacular view we've ever seen from our hotel room. We stopped downstairs for a Scottish breakfast (Jackie tried haggis, I avoided it) and then began our journey back to Inverness. We've already decided that we will be returning to The Torridon Hotel again soon.

 The drive back to Inverness provided even more beautiful scenery.

Finally the road widened back to two lanes...

Scotland Highlands

On Tuesday we grabbed our backpacks and hopped on a plane up to Inverness where we grabbed a car and went on a road trip. The highlands are absolutely beautiful...

Our first stop was Urquhart castle on Loch Ness. The Scots blew it up several hundred years ago to prevent it from falling in to enemy hands. Now it sits as a small ruin with a beautiful view of the lake.

Next was Eilean Donan castle. We pulled in at low tide which left the castle a bit exposed. This one was also blown up several hundred years ago but was reconstructed by a private family to show how it used to look.

Finally, after way too many miles of one-lane bi-directional road, we reached our hotel in Torridon. After checking in we enjoyed an absolutely delicious five course meal followed by peppermint tea and scotch over several games of chess (Marc won all four for the record).

Harry Potter Studio Tour

On Monday we went to visit the Warner Brothers studio just north of London where the Harry Potter movies were filmed! We ended up spending four hours in the tour/museum looking at all of the old sets and props. This included a massive replica of the entire castle.

Dumbledore's office was re-created for the tour.

They built an entire house for filming!

They even let us walk down Diagon Alley!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Parliament

We started today by visiting the Tower of London. We first joined a tour guided by a hilarious "Beef Eater" (or more appropriately, a Yeoman Warder). After the tour we went through and saw the Crown Jewels (no pictures allowed), which included some of the biggest diamonds we will ever see.

We stopped for a quick photo op with Tower Bridge and some hot candied nuts.

Then we hopped on the tube to Westminster and walked around Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Very awesome Gothic architecture all around.


Finally! After joining 2000 Arsenal supporters in a nearby pub for pre-game festivities (including a live band playing popular songs re-written to entirely Arsenal-related lyrics) we made our way to the famous Wembley stadium to watch our gunners!

The final gate count was just over 84,000. Unfortunately the only seats we could get were in the Reading supports section. This meant we had to be sneaking wearing out Sounders tops instead of Arsenal red. We also had to stifle our cheers when the Gunners scored their two goals.

Despite being in the "wrong" section and being rather high up, we were still ecstatic to be there!

Friday, April 17, 2015

British Museum

After picking up our tickets for the FA Cup (!!!!!!!!!) from a really awesome local Gunner fan, we went to go visit the British Museum.

We spent a good amount of time in the ancient Egypt section, fist bumping statues (don't worry I didn't actually touch it).

There was a really cool temporary exhibit containing propaganda prints from the Napoleon era. This particular one was printed to mock France lowering the conscription age from 20 to 19.

Before leaving we swung by another Egypt section that was full of dead bodies.

London Eye

To finish off our second day in London we hopped on the London Eye for a great view of the city.


A quick ride on the tube brought us to Emirates Stadmum! We had booked a guided tour of the stadium including a visit to the Arsenal museum.

The absolutely hilarious Arsenal legend Charlie George was the host on our tour. Here is a picture of Charlie next to a picture of Charlie wearing part of the 1971 FA Cup as a hat (having scored the winning goal).

We cannot wait to visit this ground again when its full on April 26th vs Chelsea!

Changing of the Guard

For our second full day in London we hopped on the tube over to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. We got there nearly an hour early and the crowd was already immense. It ended up being a cool ceremony but we ducked out early before it finished.

First day in London

Our first day in London we took it pretty easy. We slept in, cooked breakfast, and then visited the Science and Natural History museums which are luckily right next to each other (our legs are getting tired).

The entire Natural History museum building had awesome architecture ranging from older almost Gothic styles to more modern styles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Au Revior France

We packed or bags this morning and hopped on the Eurostar to cross the English Channel today. After getting the keys to our flat in Leicester Square we did some quick grocery shopping, cooked dinner, and had a nice relaxing evening after four days of multi-mile walks. We're already planning out what to do on our next visit to France, whenever it may be.

Le Jules Verne

Our final night in Paris ended with dinner at Le Jules Verne, on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. Beautiful views, delicious food, and perfect service were had.

Dinner lasted five courses over three hours, allowing us to catch the sunset and watch the tower flash from the inside.

After dinner we ducked outside to grab a picture and see the city from above at night.