Finally Home!

Home Sweet Home!

What a great journey but I’m glad to be back. We’ve been up for 24 hours now and are ready for a good night sleep.

Day 21 – We’re coming to America!

We woke up early, 6 AM and got ready to say goodbye to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye for good. We got through our long 8 hour flight from London to Toronto just fine, minor turbulance. But now we see we are stuck here for an extra hour at the Toronto airport. It’s already 9 PM London time and this flight won’t leave for another 3 hours. We were hoping to be able to stay awake through the 5 hour flight back home to try to get our sleep schedule back to normal quickly but now I’m not sure this is going to happen. I’m already running low on energy. I just want to get home and get a good night sleep in my own bed.

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Day 20 – Trip Favorites

We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite things we liked about our trip.

Top 3 favorite places?
Kari: Liverpool, York, Cotswolds
Alex: Portree in Skye, Cotswolds, Liverpool

Best breakfast?
Kari: Scotland @ The Drynachan B & B Sonia’s pancakes
Alex: Tree Tops B & B in Moreton-in-Marsh, Liz’s full breakfast

Favorite lunch?
Kari: Glasgow @ Maggie Mays, chicken burger with salsa and jalapeños and hand cut french fries.
Alex: Liverpool, bangers and mash

Best Hotel?
Kari: Glasgow @ Citizen M
Alex: Glasgow @ Citizen M

Best B & B?
Kari: The Drynachan in Scotland
Alex: The Drynachan in Scotland

Most comfy bed?
Kari: The Drynachan B & B in Scotland
Alex: The Drynachan B & B in Scotland

Best Photography Locations?
Kari: Isle of Skye, the Highlands and London
Alex: Isle of Skye

Favorite touristy place visited?
Kari: The Cavern in Liverpool
Alex: Big Ben

Most memorable moment?
Kari: sing a longs at The Cavern
Alex: hiking through the Cotswolds

Day 20 – Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s

Well, this is it.

The 20th and final day of our whirl wind tour around the main British isle. We’ve seen so much and traveled so many miles. Our feet hurt but our minds have been massaged with beautiful country side, history and culture.

Today we set out to see the last of the major London attractions. We started with a stroll to Trafalgar Square for a little photography and people watching.

We then walked through Admiralty Arch and marched down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. The thing that stuck out to me was how the gates are the most luxurious thing surrounding an otherwise vanilla building.

It’s the history that matters, though. We got in position for the changing of the guard. There were so many people nudging and pushing and positioning themselves to squeeze into any opening to the front.

The ceremony itself was quite long and drawn out. As the incoming guards passed by, I got some nice unobstructed video. Once inside the gates, though, the sea of people and the gates themselves blocked the view mostly.

It was still neat to watch. Those black furry hats have got to be heavy and hot!

After the guard change, we strolled through Hyde Park. Included was a stop at the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain.

A tube ride later and we had lunch in the Notting Hill area. It’s a cute little part of town. A little quieter with more shops and restaurants than historic sights.

Our final stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral. The outside of this place looks really plain. Actually, it looks more like a government building than a cathedral.

Inside, though? Magnificent.

20120920-214012.jpgPictures aren’t allowed so that’s all I’ve got. The rest was magnificent, though. It rivals the inside of many others I’ve been into, and I thought it was nicer (inside only) that Westminster.

We’re ready to come home I think. Three weeks of walking takes a toll. Three weeks of washing clothes in sinks gets tired. Three weeks of sleeping in a foreign bed gets uncomfortable.

But this is what I label as a first world problem. I expect no pity and feel blessed to have been able to experience this.

We’re on our way back, America.

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TOTAL STEPS WALKED 26,714
TOTAL MILES 10.54

Day – 19 London Tower, Tower Bridge and Abbey Road

We had a lot of walking to do yesterday… So much in fact that we were too tired to post last night.
11 miles of walking over about 11 hours of being on our feet = sore everything!!

We got to see some really neat stuff though so we can’t complain too much.

First stop was at London Tower to see the Crown Jewels. Unbelievably sparkly! Pretty awesome to see up close. 20120920-210606.jpg
Next stop was right next door to see the Tower Bridge. We got to go up top and see the view of the city up high. It was a gorgeous crisp end of summer day. A few clouds hovering above and a lot of sunshine.

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Then we headed off towards the Globe Theatre. We used our London Pass to go on a tour inside. The theatre has the only thatched roof in London. It is not the original one but an excellent replica all the same.

And to top off our long day of walking we headed to the underground subway and headed out towards Abbey Road.

Although it is technically just a crosswalk, it is the most famous crosswalk in the world. There were many Beatles fans there trying to replicate the famous Abbey Road album cover. There were also many cars just trying to go about their day passing through that intersection frustrated by the Beatlemaniacs in the road taking pictures.

I would hate to live near by with all of the car honking happening everyday. And of course Abbey Road Studios is right next door so we added our names to the wall along with thousands of others.

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After Abbey Road we went out to do some night photography by the London Eye and get a bite to eat. Long day and 1 more to go!

TOTAL STEPS WALKED 28,026
TOTAL MILES 11.05

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Day – 18 London Baby!

Here’s a few more pictures from today. London is pretty big and we only have two more days to conquer it.
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Day 18 – London (AC)

Travel days are quite crazy. Not just the hustle and bustle of going from a place that you’ve just finally mastered to a new, unknown animal. At the end of the day, the place you left seems like a dream you just remember bits and pieces of.

We hopped on the train in York at 10:25 – which was a bit later than we’d like, but that express train to London was literally half price (£50 vs £100 each).

Once in London, there was a sense of “making it.” We purchased our London Passes (multi-attraction discount card) and Oyster Cards (tube/bus pre-loaded fares), then hopped on the Tube for a 15 minute ride to our hotel in the Westminster area.

20120918-212139.jpgAfter checking in, we shot out and like little ball beatings got sucked in by the magnets that are historical and iconic sights.

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Westminster Abbey.

I wasn’t supposed to take these and even feel a little guilty.

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We toured the Churchill War Rooms and Churchill Museum. Both are amazing exhibits. The history of WWII just never gets less staggering. This was just one piece of that time in history.

The museum was phenomenal. So many pieces of information, artifacts and interactive displays on the man’s life.

20120918-214410.jpgSeeing Big Ben was similar to The David or the Statue of Liberty. These are places you learn about from a young age. When you see them up close, they consume you. It’s hard to stop taking photos. You just stare at the detail, soaking in the fact that you’re actually seeing it.

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On the other side of the south bank, we poked around the London Eye. We bumped into an arcade that was part of our London Pass. £3 in free tokens each was enough for us to play a giant PacMan game and some air (hockey) soccer.

I won three games in a row. I played the fourth left-handed. After taking a 4-2 lead, Kari tied it up 4-4. Then I went up 6-4. She again tied it up. The machine’s air turned off and we had to play the final point without air. Lame. Left-handed and without air, I finally lost. May as well have used my foot!

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And one more pic of Big Ben!

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TOTAL STEPS WALKED 17,954
TOTAL MILES 7.08

Day 17 – More York

We’re just about to the finish line, which turns out to be an aptly used cliche seeing as how my feet feel as if I’ve been running a marathon.

Shoes were put to pavement once more this morning as we we made our way from our B&B, through the ancient walls and back into the certified most haunted city on earth.

We started by meandering through the Yorkshire Museum. This place had all sorts of information and artifacts spanning the city’s history under the rule of Romans, Vikings and evil Kings.

Built among the ruined St. Mary’s Abbey — with some foundation and pillars still incorporated within — it’s phenomenal to ponder the change this relatively small city bore witness to.

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After poking around the museum for a couple hours, we had a midday beer at The Golden Fleece, one of the oldest and, supposedly, most haunted joints in town.

Then it was time for the free walking tour hosted by the city volunteers group. Our guide, George, was an older chap that knew the city quite well. Having been born and raised within the walls, he had an undeniable passion and love for York.
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We learned about different inhabitants, rulers and invaders. We were given bits of info on everything from Guy Fawkes to the Harrowing of the North. We even learned about how certain terms originated in York.

Such as “a hole in the wall,” which derived from a minister using a secret passage out of the Minster into an adjoining pub back when businesses surrounded the cathedral.

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Can you spot where the door was? It was filled in when Charles II came to town and ordered all non-church related structures be removed from the holy grounds.

After three hours of walking the city, it was time for dinner!

Kari had green thai chicken curry — or something like that — while I had a chicken and mushroom pie with mash and veggies.

Okay. It’s time to relax. London tomorrow!

Day 17 – The Golden Fleece

I find stories of hauntings interesting. Whether the tales are far fetched or not I can’t say for sure.

Today we stepped into the Golden Fleece pub for a beer and a snack.
This pub is full of atmosphere. Lots of pictures and drawings of York and many, many ghosts encounters posted on the walls. The floor is slanted to the right and the tables are packed in tight. The light is dim and the door is creeky.

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This pub is considered the most haunted pub in England.

This excerpt is from the Golden Fleece Web Site:

“Possibly the most famous ghost is Geoff Monroe, a Canadian airman who was staying at the pub in room four when he died in 1945, by throwing himself or falling out of one of the windows. People staying in his former room have been frightend in the night by his figure, in full uniform, standing over them, his icy touch having woken them from their slumbers.
Customers have complained of bedclothes being removed, clothes had been taken off the rails and thrown on the floor, the sound of footsteps were frequently running across the passage ways and The Lady Peckett’s Dining room.
During a ghost hunt in 2002 a number of people including a (now former) skeptic, saw a man walking through the wall of the front of the bar, Dressing in late 17th century clothes, he walked of a wall adjoining Herbert’s House, across the corridor to the Shambles bar. The most chilling aspect of the sighting was that the ghost paused as he crossed the corridor and looked straight at the horrified ghost hunters.”
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Pretty crazy huh? While I didn’t encounter a ghost here, one that I know of anyway I did have a creepy feeling while I was alone in the restroom. I crossed my fingers hoping I wouldn’t get an icy touch or slap on the butt when I was in there. Definitely creepy, but a fantastic stop on this amazing journey we have had so far!

TOTAL STEPS WALKED 16,396
TOTAL MILES 6.46

Day 16 – York, England

Today we woke up early and drove to York. It took about 1.5 hours to get here from Durham. Durham was nice but full of “older” ladies dressed up for a night on the town. Basically they were acting like drunken idiots at 6:00 PM. Good times!

Anyhow, when we arrived in York we dropped off our Mercedes rental and Alex said goodbye to driving on the left forever… Until we return someday that is.

We hadn’t had wifi access in 24 hours so we had no idea how to find our B&B that we reserved. After about a 1/2 mile or so we found a Costa coffee shop and a nice young lady who helped us out by using her phone. We’ve found most people very willing to help out with directions and have been very thankful for them. All it takes is a very lost look on our faces and strangers come out of the woodworks to help us.

When we finally found our B&B we checked in to our lovely room and started out on the town.

First stop was the York Castle Museum.
A very well put together story of how people fought and lived during times of war in the 1940’s. There were rooms decorated as they would have looked back in the 20’s , 30’s, 40’s all through the more modern times like you might see today.

There was even a whole street decorated with shops and a horse carriage with sounds of thunder all about. Easy to imagine how it might have been back then with this set up.

After the museum we walked about the Shambles, a shopping district here in York. This is where we sit and drink our beer and write these posts.

The enormous church here is called York Minster. So large in fact that we couldn’t fit the whole church in our photos. The bells were chiming as we passed by, I was able to get the sounds on video. Quite an amazing sound to here from such a beautiful church.
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We spent quite a while today walking around the city and up onto the old city walls.
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Tonight we head out for a ghost walk tour about York. I’m excited but I don’t think Alex is as into it as me.

It’s 10:15 PM and we just finished our ghost walk. Our guide was pretty good. He knew lots of tales of haunted York. York is supposedly the most haunted city in Europe. His stories were good and he gave me a fright and a few others too. We lucked out with the weather, it was a bit rainy before the tour. We walked all around the town listening to stories of murders and hangings. There’s a bar called the Golden Fleece that was featured on Most Haunted, a tv show. York is in the Guinness Book as most haunted city.

The tour was £5, pretty worth it considering the length was over an hour. It was not cheesy like some others we heard were. All in all, a good time.