Tag Archives: London

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Flying back home

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Flying back home

Flying back home to the States – The tail of the adventure

Wednesday, 04-Jan-2017


Flying home from an adventure is bittersweet. Home is calling, but the road is calling too… In this case, the plethora of Scottish roads that hadn’t been explored were calling pretty loud.

Oregon also has roads and mountains that need to be explored too though. Our own bed and Ollie were also calling pretty loudly… or at least barking and wagging at the thought of seeing us. Whether Ollie or us were the ones barking and wagging is still a point of debate.

Flights! Metal birds carrying us home!

Bill and Greta dropped us off at Aberdeen airport mid-morning for our short hop to London. This was our only non-fancy flight of the trip, though honestly it didn’t feel like it. European airlines still beat the pants of US airlines, in terms of comfort and service. That first picture, of the awesome breakfast? Yep. That’s what coach gets in the UK.

London was quick, nothing really of note. We landed, got on a new plane, and then took off again. London airport did have a pretty cool lounge, though. Very excellent butter chicken. Seriously. Everywhere. Everywhere in the UK serves butter chicken. If it’s not the official dish yet, it should be.

Then – a long flight. Like… you don’t understand how long this flight was. London to San Francisco. 13 hours, or something like that.

But we had comfy chairs! And movies! And booze! So much booze! I think we got up to 8 or 10 glasses, by the end of it… and that wasn’t even trying too hard. It reminded me of when I flew back to the States from New Zealand, and they had free drinks. Make the most of it, right?

We did make the most of it. They didn’t have the lobster mac and cheese that I was hoping for (that’s only East Coast to UK, it turns out), but they did have some amazing grilled cheese and tomato soup that I made great use of. And dinner? Ohh man… appetizers, main courses, desserts, wine… yeah. We enjoyed our flight.

An excellent end to an excellent vacation.

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: The Train to Aberdeen


Train to Aberdeen

Friday, 23-Dec-2016 into Saturday, 24-Dec-2016

I’m going to be honest here… I had a lot of misconceptions about this train. The size, the quality of the breakfast, how much the rocking would make my stomach into something more resembling an unhappy stomach… yeah.

I mean, it wasn’t the worst. Sarah and I got to the station with a fair bit of time to spare, so we were able to relax for a bit and settle into our bunk before we got underway. It was a quite small bunk, but still. Adventure!

Aside? I don’t really know what to write about it. It was a train ride, and we slept through most of it. I got a little motion sick, since our bunk faced backwards, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t ignore through some sleep.

Breakfast was a bit weak… especially after all the amazing pictures that they’d posted on their website. We were expecting a full Scottish fry up – eggs, sausage, steaky bacon, tomatoes, hash browns, and haggis. Instead… we got a small takeaway container of microwaved food. It technically had all of the components… but in much smaller and less appetizing quantities.

Thankfully, after Bill and Greta picked us up from the train, we had second breakfast at the house! Pecan waffles with everyone definitely helped make the train ride better.

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring London

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring London

Exploring London

22-Dec-2016 & 23-Dec-2016, Thursday and Friday

London… London is awesome. As in, London is super huge, and a big city, and has tons of stuff and tons of people and at least dozens of tons of history and, and, and…. well, it’s London.

We could have easily spent our whole time in London. I mean… I’m pretty sure people spend their whole lives in London, and still don’t see everything. But we had two days. So, we used those days to the best of our ability. And by that, I mean we walked a lot, and went to museums.

Thursday, 22-Dec-2016

One advantage of the bed and breakfast that we’d booked was that it included two meals per day; we’d assumed that an “organic delicatessen” would include some pretty good food… but we honestly had no idea just how good it would be.

When I finally wandered downstairs, Raffi was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Armand and a new gentleman named Ben (great name, I know) were working the counter. As soon as they saw me, they jumped into action – asking how we’d slept, if there was anything we needed, and if they could make us anything for breakfast.

Since there wasn’t an official breakfast menu, I wasn’t quite sure what to ask for… so I just went with what Ben recommended; scrambled eggs with toast and jam, alongside coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Not quite as British as the meal we’d planned for our train to Aberdeen, but still pretty good. And amazingly prepared – it definitely did the trick for preparing us for the days adventures.

The British Museum. Known around the world for its amazing exhibits, unparalleled store of treasures, and its penchant for stealing things from other cultures and getting away with it… somehow. And coincidentally, our first stop after traipsing through Hyde Park, and checking out the New Zealand memorial along the way (both of which are excellent, if I may say so).

Let’s see if I can give a concise synopsys of our adventures through the British Museum…

    • Egypt! Tons of statues and other relics that have been “preserved” by the British Empire.
    • Mesopotamia! Wall carvings and armored doors… specifically, lots about a king who loved hunting lions. Still definitely cool.
    • Wow…. these are awesome relics!
    • My favorite quote was at the enterance to the Parthenon exhibit, where sections of the hallmark of Athens are on display… if I may paraphrase, it read: “People disagree… but since we took these, we’ve kept them safe. A lot of the rest have been destroyed. We don’t apologize”
    • One of the best parts of visiting museums with Sarah is the lesson’s that she gives – as an expert Scenic Artist, she sees things that I can’t. I’ve learned to ask “What do you see?” when she’s looking at an exhibit… and almost every time, I get a really interesting story about some aspect of the exhibit that I would never have learned without her.
    • After a while even we can get tired… but coffee helps, and the cafe has it for us. But water is nowhere to be found, and we were starting to bonk out pretty bad. We finally find some in a barely-working water fountain outside the men’s room. Someone tried it before I did, remarking “No use here kid… unless you want to lick it” to his son. Well, I was able to make it work for half a nalgene, so… who’s the winner now, huh?
    • After our second wind kicked in, we kept exploring… but honestly not much else was as good. There was a weak exhibit on Japanese culture, that tried to cover far too much ground in too little space. Then there was an ancient English exhibit, which was fun, and even some cool Viking stuff that I wasn’t expecting.

Even the greatest museums close though, and unfortunately Sarah and I were at the receiving end of British efficiency, as the security guards physically herded us to the exits. A visit with the ‘historic’ London Tube took us back to Jakobs, our Bed and Breakfast, which in turn led us to having dinner at the restaurant.

An amazing dinner. But not even an amazing and excellent salmon dinner, followed by a few random bars could keep us awake, so soon enough we were back at the place (we did hit two bars, at least) and in bed.



Friday, 23-Dec-2016

Another morning at Jakobs, means another excellent breakfast. Simpler this time… just enough to give us the energy to do a nice walk down to the Thames and back to get the blood flowing.

We didn’t have much time – our goal for the day was a big one… a place that could easily take up a week of solid exploration. The Natural History Museum!

    • Dinosaurs! Since I was a kid, I’d wanted to go to the Natural History Museum in London. Dinosaur bones, exhibits, and everything else a dinosaur-obsessed kid could ask for.
      But… honestly, it was kind of a let down. The fossils and dinosaurs were amazing, but the curation was definitely lacking. Sarah explained it better than I, but basically it felt small, cramped, and too controlled for our liking.
    • Mammals, marine animals, and more! These exhibits were a bit better than the dinosaurs… but still cramped. And not just because there was a literal blue whale stuffed into a room that could barely hold a blue whale.
    • The “treasures of the earth” exhibit – full of amazing minerals and other cool details. THIS. Now this exhibit caught our eyes… not only because it was literally full of incomparable gemstones, but because it was full of neat tidbits without being overwhelming.
    • Here’s the thing… This museum has so much writing, I could have spent days in it. Weeks, maybe. So we walked through pretty quickly… and still stayed there right until the end.
    • The Treasures – cool one-of-a-kind pieces
    • Minerals – The mines of moria, basically. Different than the treasures of the earth section, the minerals area was just a huge room full of vaulted pillars, full of mineral specimens. I legitimetely think that it was a seed for the Mines of Moria, and I could easily have spent days in this room alone.
    • The Vault – even more “one-of-a-kind” stuff than before… This room had two cameras on every piece, and a massive automated vault door that I’m sure would slam shut if I so much as sneezed at one of the pieces. An example of what’s in here: a collection of all the possible colors of Diamonds. A snuff box from the Russian Tzar covered in gold, diamonds, and other stones. An emerald the size of my fist. Real ocean’s 11 stuff.

This time, unlike the British Museum, we didn’t stay until we were kicked out. I mean… we did stay ’till closing, but we weren’t chased out by security. So that counts for something, right?

Dinner? Indian. Amazing Indian.

Then? Back to Jakobs, picking up bags, and getting ourselves onto the tube and to the Caledonian Sleeper train, steaming its way North, into the dark lands of Scotland.