England - Week One
Note: This is a long post!
Once again I had a fantastic visit to England but this time I was able to bring along my friend Darcy. This was Darcy's first time overseas and it was fun to see England through her eyes. Oh we had some near disasters (no food at our terminal in JFK, exhausted temper tantrums in Covent Gardens, forgotten Credit Cards, tears over Left Luggage locations in Bath and drunken fights at a nearby table in a Dublin Bar) but the fun times created overwhelmingly fun memories.
We arrived in London on Saturday morning at 7 a.m. but did not make it to our hotel until 10:30 a.m. After a nice shower and lunch, I left Darcy to the Beefeaters at the Tower of London and set off to explore London on my own (I've been to the Tower at least 3 times and I've seen it. It's great but I had other things to see!) I picked up our train tickets to Bath and set off to Oxford Street where I walked until I reached Regent Street where I turned and walked until I arrived at St. James Park. I love St. James Park. It's quite lovely. I then walked to Westminster Abbey where I was to meet Darcy. I was a bit early and after walking over to parliament and taking some photos decided to nip into the Abbey and then nip back out to meet the Darce. Unfortunately the Abbey was closed for services. So I decided to stand outside and await Darcy where I would apologize for the closure and tell her it was good to save something for next time. Unfortunately Darcy had gotten on a longer bus tour than she had planned so she ended up being a bit late. Not a problem! Except I was so worried that she was lost in London and that I was a bad friend and and and. Never fear! Darcy arrived and we set off to the National Gallery so I could see my Vermeer paintings. After that we tried to ride the London Eye before dinner but a 4 hour wait made us to decide to just have dinner which we did and it was first class! At this point though, Darcy was lagging. She was so tired and I just knew we had to make it home quickly. We couldn't find any cabs and took the tube back to our hotel where Darcy quickly got her stuff together and fell asleep. I took a shower and then fell into bed.
The next morning it was off to Bath! We visited the Jane Austen museum for a friend, saw the Roman Baths and then went on my favorite tour of all, the Mayor's Walking Tour of Bath. This is a free 2 hour tour of Bath by volunteers. It is full of history, facts and beautiful views. After a pint and delicious cheese, we headed via train to Bristol where my friends, Jo and Andrew were putting us up for the next two nights.
I was excited to see Jo and Andrew. It had been four long years since I had last seen them. They had recently moved into an old Victorian house and it was wonderful. Jo made us our first homemade meal of the trip and I know Darcy really appreciated her good cooking.
After entertaining Jo and Andrew with our travel stories, we all settled in for the night. The next morning. they took us to Wells, Glastonbury, Cheddar Gorge (where the cheese comes from) and a small Cotswald village. We had such a good time and I fit in some good car naps even though I had bragged to Darcy on the plane trip over that I never nap which is true except it seems when I'm in England.
The next morning we had a bit of a lie in and then took the train up to Wigan. We arrived a few hours too early for my friend, Mark to pick us up which I said was no problem. We'll just grab some pints at a pub near the train station. Well I think we found the most Wigan of all Wigan pubs. It was smoky, full of really drunk people on a Tuesday afternoon and at the booth next to us appeared to be a kissing marathon. Darcy was most taken with the Wigan accent where she couldn't understand a single word. Well neither could I but I loved her expression!
After an all too quick stay with Mark and Louise, we headed off to Dublin for three days of fun. We arrived in the city and quickly hopped on a tour bus. We made sure to see the Book of Kells, Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Guiness and Phoenix Park. Darcy and I loved Dublin. It's a small walkable city with so much history and life. Darcy especially enjoyed the Guiness Storehouse.
Darcy mentioned that there was a ghost tour at night and so we headed over to Traitor's Gate to await the tour. After waiting a good hour (since we had arrived quite early) and entertaining ourselves with nicknames for passerbys, we determined the tour was not to be and headed back to our hotel. We popped on into the hotel bar for some pints. Shortly into our second pint, there appeared to be an altercation at a nearby table. A man was yelling at his wife and threatening to throw a coat rack at her. I was surprised that no one appeared to be taking an action and started to think about what I could do. I almost got up myself and did something when the police arrived. Whew!
The next morning, we headed out on the Wild Wicklow tour which was absolutely fantastic. I loved Wicklow county and the tour was wonderful. Again thought I grabbed some Z's and Darcy said that I missed out on some beautiful scenery. I guess I shall have to go back!
We visited a lovely monk's settlement called Glendalough where I lost my lens cap and spent the rest of the trip wearing one glove since the other one was being used for my lens cap! At least replacing a lens cap is cheap!
That night we went out to dinner in Temple Bar area and walked back to our hotel through the city. Dublin is beautiful at night.
The next day Darcy followed me as I took picture after picture of Dublin Doors before we headed out to Phoenix Park for a picnic in the rain. We had a delightful time as there was a covered shelter there.
After flying back to Manchester, Mark picked us up and whisked us over to Louise's parents house for a surprise dinner. I was just pleased that Darcy was able to meet Ann and Mr. W, my British parents! They are the most wonderful people and I wanted her to meet them so badly. We had a fantastic meal where Ann fed all of us too much and then made us have chocolate.
Sadly this was the end of Darcy's portion of the trip and on Saturday morning she boarded a train to London. Unfortunately for her, her trip home took over 40 hours due to weather conditions in Chicago. Our friend Meg was a the airport to pick her up though and get her the final few miles home.