Tuesday, July 10, 2007
July 3rd London
We woke up at about 5am, and headed out for the airport. There were no delays, and no extra security that we noticed. Our plane left at about 9am, and we arrived in London at about 10:30. After finding our hotel we grabbed some lunch, and stared some sight seeing. We walked past West Minster Abby, and Parliament (Big Ben) on out way to Buckingham Palace.
We took lots of photos, and video tape of the guards, the palace, and the surrounding area. From the Palace, we got our first look at the London Eye. We walked through the city and found our way to the British Museum. There we saw the Rosetta Stone, statues from the Parthenon, and a wide assortment of items from the ancient world. We then stopped at the National gallery were we saw works from all the masters. We also saw Leonardo's "The Virgin of the Rocks" , Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" and Rembrandt's "Belshazzar's Feast" . While walking back threw out the city, a thunderstorm rolled in, so we headed back to our hotel. We stopped at a grocery store and picked up some bread, cheese, lunch meats, and a bottle of soda (we had a mini refrigerator in out hotel room). We had sandwiches for dinner, and we were asleep by nine o'clock.
July 4th Stonehege Tour
After a very good nights sleep and a light breakfast, we went out in to the city for an up-close look at the near by sites. Our first stop was Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. We crossed the river Tames, and stood beneath the London Eye. We then went to Westminster Abby, where inside I saw the tombs of Queen's Elizabeth and Mary, Henry the 8th, King George, Mary Queen of Scott's, Chaucer, Newton, and Darwin. After lunch Ben took me to wait for the tour bus that would eventually take me to Stonehenge. Ben preferred to stay in the city and look around some more. The bus arrived and after a kiss from Ben, I was off. Our first stop was to the largest stone circle in the world located in Avebury. There was also a sweet village complete with thatched roofs. Our next stop was a neolithic burial mound that we were allowed inside to explore all the chambers. Right next to the mound happen to be a crop circle that had "formed" in the past few day. It was a simple circle however there were a few people in the middle, chanting. Next we drove threw Pewsey valley, passing the white horse carved in to the chalk hillside. Our last stop was Stonehenge. Normally visitors are not allowed any closer then with in ten feet of the site, and there is a fence to make sure of it. The tour I took is called the "beyond the Fences Tour" and takes its passengers inside the site so you can walk around the stones and touch then. This tour runs either before stonehenge officially opens to the public at sun rise, and just when it closes at sunset. I was on the sun set tour. We spent about an hour walking around the stones and taking photos. It was an amazing experience. The best part was at the end. Myself and another person from my tour were the last people to leave the site. Because of this we each took a turn standing in the center of the stones all alone. It was an unsurpassed moment. We then boarded the bus and headed back to London. We arrived at about 10:30 pm where Ben met me at the hotel and we headed to bed.
July 5th All Over London
This was a very long day that ended with blisters formed on top of blisters on our feet. After breakfast we headed West to reach the days attractions. All the places we are visiting offers free entrance if you buy "The London Pass" which also gives the bearer special offers at shops and restaurants. We first crossed London Bridge (the original one is long gone and is now just a normal bridge) to arrive at "The Monument". The Monument is the largest stone column in the world, and was built to commemorate the great fire of London. After climbing the 311 steps to the top of the tower, you are rewarded with spectacular views of the entire city. Our next stop was the "HMS Belfast, which is a cruiser that fought in World War Two. Visitors are free to explore nine decks and see recreations of what life was like on a war vessel. The best parts were the boiler rooms, and sitting the captains chair. This was much bigger then we thought it would be and could have spent a lot more time there. We then visited Tower Bridge which most people mistake as London Bridge. We rode to the top and crossed the Thames from the foot bridge at the top of the towers. The bridge was built in 1894 and survived World War Two, because the Germans used the bridge as a landmark to find their targets. For this reason, no pilots were allowed to bomb the bridge. We visited the engine room, and saw fun interactive displays on how the bridge hydraulics work. Next we visited the tower of London. Here we saw the Crown Jewels, traitor gate, the White Tower, The Bloody Tower, and of course the Ravens. We then headed to St. Paul's Cathedral which was featured on Disney's "Marry Poppins" as the location to buy crumbs from the old lady to feed the birds. Here we climbed 530 steps to the top of the golden dome, for more breath-taking views of the city. Our final stop was a gift shop that gives a free teddy bear to you if you have a London Pass. We did a little bit of shopping on the way back to the hotel, and stopped at Pizza Hut for good hot food. When we returned to the hotel, we backed out backpacks and got ready to return home.
We started our last day with a good breakfast at the hotel. We checked out early, but left our packs so we could squeeze in a bit more sight seeing before we had to be at the air port. We walked to Hyde park to see the "Wellington Arch" then walked threw the city to see Harrods department store. Our destination was the Science Museum which we arrived at a few minutes before it opened. Once we were in the museum, we saw exhibits on space, train travel, airplanes, and a display on plastics. After a few hours, we headed next door to the Natural History museum. Here we saw lots of dinosaur skeletons and very cool dinosaur displays including some life size animatronics. From here we walked back to our hotel and picked up our bags. We took a bus to Heathrow airport and checked in. Our flight was delayed an hour, and sat on the tarmac for an hour after we had left the gate. We finally got home at about 10 pm, and headed to bed after we took a nice hot shower.
All in all we had a fantastic trip. We saw lots of amazing things and had some fantastic experiences.
Monday, July 09, 2007
June 29th Glasgow
Last friday we met up with some guys from Trolltech at the bus station down town to fly to akadamy. We were flying out of the small airport that is a two hour drive from Oslo, which meant the long bus ride was unpleasant. The flight was uneventful, and was soon over. We took a train from Prestwick airport to Glasgow central station. On the train ride we saw many wind turbines on the hills. Once we arrived in to the city, we all split up to find our separate hotels. Ben and I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, which is located along side the River Clyde. We grabbed some dinner and headed out in to the city. We found the statue of the Duke of Wellington, which is famous because teenagers place a traffic cone on the dukes head, and will replace the cone no matter how many times the sanitation department removes it. Unfortunately for us, there was no cone on the Dukes head when we visited it. We visited George square and saw lots of kids dressed in punk and goth styles. We picked up some groceries so we would have food to snack on, and headed to the hotel for an early bed time.
June 30th Day trip to Loch Ness
After breakfast at the hotel, Ben walked with me to George Square to meet the bus tour I would be taking that day. Ben kept walking to aKadamy, while I waited anxious for the bus to arrive. There were only 16 of us on the tour, so the bus was a small coach. When it finally arrived, we all got on board quickly and headed out 10 minutes early. Once we were out of the city, we headed towards Loch Lomond. We drove the length of the loch and stooped for photos. Next we headed north towards the great glen beneath Ben Nevis ( Britain's highest mountain) and learned about the great massacre of the McDonnell's at the hands of the Campbell's. We stopped for lunch near Fort August were I had a tranquil experience. The place we stopped for lunch had a large gift shop and a coffee shop. Since I had packed my own lunch, I went walking around a bit. I saw a fast moving stream down the banks behind the gift shop. I saw a little path threw the woods and decided to explore it a bit. I had only gone down the hilly path for a few yards when I realized I was now parallel to the stream. I walked very carefully across moss coved rocks, until I reached the dry rocks of the shore. The river ran around the shore in a way that made a small peninsula. I walked out to that part of the shore and sat to have my lunch. I was very peaceful and tranquil. Even though I knew there was people and a town up the bank, I could only hear the rushing water, and could only see the wooded tree filled banks. I was a bit saddened to leave my secret stop to rejoin the tour group. After lunch we drove along the four lochs including, and on the way, to Loch Ness. The other Lochs were, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Linnhe. After driving along the bank of Loch Ness for a half hour, we stopped at Urquhart Castle which is one of the most famous and most photographed castles in the world, although not many people know its name. We toured the castle for an hour and a half taking photos of the castle, and the Loch. At 2:30 we gathered together on a boat, and took a half hour cruise on the the Loch itself. The cruse ended at a gift shop were there were two "Nessy" full scale models. We gathered back on the bus (which drove to the spot while the group toured the castle, and took the boat cruise) and headed back towards Glasgow. We drove threw the Forest of Atholl. We stopped for dinner at a sweet little restaurant in Pitlochry where I had roast beef with yorkshire pudding. While people were returning to the bus, the bus driver was on the phone with the office. This is how we learned about the terror attack on Glasgow airport. The airport was now closed with no indication on when it would reopen. Some of the people on the tour bus were suppose to leave in the morning. Since they were not sure if they could get out, they started to discuss taking another tour instead. After the dinner break we drove on the high way to return to the city. Since the road was mostly empty we made it back to George Square an hour early.
On Sunday I spent the day in Glasgow and took advantage of a Hop on - Hop off tour. These tours are in most big cities and the premiss is that you buy a tickets and can get on or off the bus at any of the stops all day long. The bus stops at all the popular tourist attractions and gives a commentary about the sites and about the city itself. I jumped on the bus in George Square and took it to the city limits to see the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The museum is home to real stuffed animals like birds, a giraffe, elephants and many other land and sea creatures. There are fossils, skeletons and Egyptian artifacts on display with hands on experiences for the kids. On the second floor there is an impressive collection of art from many masters like Rembrant, Monte and Rafael. There was also a room dedicated to Scottish painters and a wing for Scottish history. I then took the bus to the 'Barras' Market, which is a large flee market. I then went to see the Glasgow Cathedral and its crypts. When I was done touring the city, I went to aKadamy and picked up Ben. We went to the largest glass top mall in Britain and looked around for a while. We went out for dinner for a hot meal (which is severely under appreciated) during a rain storm. We picked up some ice cream and headed back to the hotel. We ate the ice cream and had a relaxing evening, going to bed early.
July 2nd Edinburgh
I headed out early on Monday morning, and made it on to the 7:13 train to Edinburgh. The journey lasted for a little more then an hour, and took me through the rolling hills of the country side. Along the way, I saw many cows, sheep, and horses grazing in the pastures. When I arrived at Waverly station in Edinburgh, I first visited the statue of Greyfriar's Bobby (check out this site if you are unfamiliar with this story, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greyfriars_Bobby ) before heading up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. The castle was fascinating, and is home to the crown jewels of Scotland, and the destiny stone, as well as the "one o'clock gun" that has fired everyday at 1:00 for the past hundred and fifty years. After about two hours I headed out of the castle and down the Royal Mile. I stopped in at the Tartan Mill, which is a free walk threw exhibit of a real tartan production factory. It is also broken up with many opportunities to buy scottish products. My next stop was the Scottish Whisky experience, where you can learn about the production of scottish whisky. There was a "barrel" ride that took you threw the history of whisky in the country. I had never been more bored on "amusement park ride" in my life, simply because of the slow movement of the cars. My next stop was Giles Cathedral, with it's crypts and lower sanctuaries. After a bit of shopping, I went to high tea (lunch) at Clarinda's tea room. It was extremely quaint, and served tea family style (shared tables). I then headed back towards the train station, stopping at Princess St. Park, and walked around the grounds for a while. My last stop was at the Scott Monument, which is a gothic tower with 287 steps to clime to get to the top. I boarded the train headed back to Glasgow. I met Ben at the hotel and we went out for dinner. Once we were back at the hotel, we packed our backpacks and went to bed early in anticipation of Tuesday being an early and long day.