Saturday, August 19, 2017

Still lazy in London

I slept late in a delightfully cool room and then walked not quite a mile to see a new play, The Ferryman.  After picking up tickets, I grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby Shake Shack--sue me for eating at a U.S.-based chain, but it was just what I wanted--and then entered the theatre.

I need to do a longer review of this play later, but as the title of this post notes, I'm still lazy in London.  Suffice for now to say that though the play was emotionally devastating, it was absolutely brilliant.  After three acts and about two and a half hours of watching the play, I leapt to my feet to join a well-deserved standing ovation.  If you get a chance to see this play, do not miss it.

Dinner was at another of my favorite London restaurants and another of the top 50 restaurants in the world, The Ledbury.  The meal was awesome from start to finish, a true world-class feast.  If you can afford the admittedly high cost, eat at The Ledbury.

Now, to read, and then to crash.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Too late, too late

One thing led to another, and suddenly it's after two in the morning, and I want to crash.  Today involved low food--cheap Chinese noodles and a very long hot dog--and odd culture, including the wonderful John Soane house, a surprisingly fun and interesting tour of the huge Masonic Grand Lodge here, and the fun movie, The Hit Man's Bodyguard.

More later, I hope, but now, to sleep.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I'm back in London

I spent four hours sitting in the First Class car of a Virgin train today, riding the rails from Edinburgh to London, and I have to say that it was an entirely lovely experience.  From the lunch and non-stop beverages, to the free Wi-Fi access (slow but good enough for email), to the absolutely gorgeous views of Scotland and England, the trip was great.  The only way it could have been better would have been to offer more legroom; the guy across from me and I shared our space amiably, but I would have liked to stretch out my legs more.

Upon arriving in London, I took a taxi to and settled into my hotel, picked up some beverages, worked a bit, and then headed out to dinner at The Clove Club.  That meal was sufficiently amazing, and it is sufficiently late here as I write this, that I am going to save a discussion of it for a separate blog entry.

Now, it's time to crash.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Clouds over Edinburgh castle

The weather returned to seasonal form today, with the skies gray and drizzling rain coming and going at random.

Click an image to see a larger version.

On the walk to the castle, a small crowd watched as two folks prepared to do something--I didn't stay long enough to find out what--with two live owls.

Owls are even more gorgeous in person than in photos.

My lunch was steak pie and tatties, though I believe the yellow lump is in fact a pile of neeps, not tatties.

I didn't finish it all, but I am sticking to my belief that the menu was accurate and the contents of the pie included steak.  Yup, must be true.

The entrance to the castle was appropriately grand--and old.

The grounds were large and contained many buildings of various ages.  The castle has seen a lot time and a great many uses--including its current primary role as a tourist attraction.

The views over the city were stunning.

From the entry point, to see the best bits, you had to climb stairs or winding roads.

I particularly liked St. Margaret's Chapel, a small building that was the oldest on the grounds.  Built in about 1130, it's still standing and felt, to my irrational self, quite a lovely place.

The inside is obviously restored but evocative of what it once was.

I enjoyed seeing and learning about the "Honours of Scotland," which are the Scottish symbols of sovereignty:  the crown, the sceptre, and the sword.  I have no photos, though, because the rules forbid camera use.  I also got to the see the Stone of Scone, the large stone on which Scottish monarchs sat as they took the throne.

The Great Hall, notable for having the largest hammerbeam roof extant, was a lovely room now restored probably beyond any splendor it once enjoyed.

Late in the day, blue skies made a stunning return, though the temperature stayed low.

Tomorrow, I train to London.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A sunny day in Edinburgh

It was, it really was.

Click an image to see a larger version.

On the walk to the royal palace, this building struck me as lovely.

Wouldn't you love to take the afternoon air in that little turret?

Along the way, a place called Oink was serving what looked a lot like pulled pork.

It smelled delicious, but I had already eaten, so I did not stop to sample the meat.

The Holyrood palace was a lovely old building, nowhere near as grand as most palaces I've seen, but nonetheless worth the time I spent roaming it.

The fountain in front was a particularly lovely piece of work, every image a bit different from the others.

The rules forbid photos in the palace, so I can't share any images with you.  My favorite bits were neither the king's nor the queen's areas, but rather those for Mary, Queen of Scots.

The remains of the abbey that once abutted the palace struck me strongly.

The gardens were also lovely, lush and full of life, but my favorite was this solitary tree.

Proud and strong and windswept, it embodied the spirit of the place.

On the long, uphill walk back, I saw this sign.

In my opinion, no one needs the haggis tower--and I say that with absolutely no knowledge of what the haggis tower is.

The main lunch of the day was beef on fries with chimichurri sauce, a dish two of us shared.

A young woman was selling gelato that she made.

How could anyone resist?  I certainly could not.  It was tasty, good but not great.

After a lot more walking, a stroll through the shady and interesting Greyfriars Kirkyard (a churchyard cemetery) was just the ticket.

After some rest and email, dinner was at the relatively new Edinburgh branch of the extremely popular Dishoom restaurant family.  The food was delicious, though way spicier than I'm accustomed to eating these days.

Tomorrow, I hope to visit both the castle and the Scottish National Gallery.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Now I'm in Edinburgh

After essentially no sleep in my once again overheated Helsinki hotel room, I got up at 5:30 a.m. to begin the process of traveling to Edinburgh.  Many hours later, I arrived to weather that felt like it was competing in the Scottish Stereotypes Olympics.

Click an image to see a larger version.

The good news is that it's actually on the cool side here, so I'm quite enjoying walking around in a t-shirt.

After settling into my new hotel, where the AC works and my room is delightfully cool, I set out to explore a bit.  My hotel is just around the corner and down a bit from the Royal Mile, so off to it I went.

The crowds were amazing, people everywhere, small acts from the Fringe still lining the streets and fighting for attention.

I stopped at the St. Giles Cathedral, which was huge and lovely.

In addition to a great many interesting Gothic features, St. Giles houses some lovely stained glass pieces by Edward Burne-Jones.  I couldn't get a great shot with my phone, so you'll have to trust me that this window, for example, was amazingly beautiful in the light of the closing day.

I did mention that the cathedral was huge and lovely.

To get a sense of how crowded the street was, check out this view from near (but not in) the castle at the top of the road.

Coming back to the hotel, I got this shot of the rear of The Scott Monument.

Up close, the monument was too big for me to be able to capture all of it, but I quite liked it.

From a distance, it resembles an alien spaceship ready to soar.

For dinner, I took a risk and went to BubbaQ, a local barbecue place.  Two of us shared a platter of all of their meats.

The food was fine, decent but not a patch on the quality of the better barbecue joints back home, not to mention those in Austin.

Facing the water on the walk back from dinner, I found I loved the night sky.

Tomorrow, I will explore more of the city!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gotta travel early, so here, have two pics of me in Helsinki

Yeah, tomorrow is a travel day.  I have to arise about 5:30 a.m., shower, and head to the airport for a flight to Edinburgh.  Despite the unpleasantly early departure hour, I'm quite looking forward to my first visit to Scotland.

Multiple correspondents have requested that I provide pics of myself in the places I visit, so despite my hatred of how I look in photos, I'm trying to oblige.

In one of today's adventures--more on today later, I hope--I spent time walking through and enjoying a park and the garden abutting it.  This bridge really charmed me.

Click an image to see a larger version.

I like the way the sun's glare transforms my normal "I will kill you now" resting gaze into the rather more interesting "I am somewhat sad to say that I will kill you now" look I'm giving here.

By contrast, in this photo at a stop at a nearby Pystygrill, I think my expression has graduated to an almost smiling "I will kill you after I enjoy a delicious burger" expression.

Quite the improvement, eh?


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