Marathons, Wizards, and Bagpipes: An Adventure in the UK

Hi folks! Long time no chat!

Michael and I just got back from a week in the UK (specifically London and Edinburgh) and I have lots of stuff to share! My parents came along for the journey as well, which made it extra-special and fun. Be aware: this is a long post!

Michael was accepted in a coveted “time-qualifying” spot in the London marathon, so we decided to make a vacation out of it. We flew out of the States on a Friday night and landed in London around 11 AM Saturday morning.

Cool thing about London: the freaking public transportation! You can take the Underground virtually anywhere in the city and it’s extremely easy to use. You can purchase an Oyster card at the ticket machines and fill them with any amount of money you want; whatever you don’t use, you get back in cash when you turn your card back in at the end of the trip! We used our cards like crazy during our 4 days in London; I can’t recommend the Underground enough.

Michael smashed his marathon PR Sunday morning with a finish time of 2:42:42. He’s so fast. We saw him at the 9-mile marker and again about a half a mile from the finish. We got to see all of the elite men and women running at both spots as well, which was really cool. Kipchoge is one fast dude! Here’s us surprising Michael at the 9-mile marker. I was worried we messed up his stride!

 

We mostly chilled after the race on Sunday. I had some perfect Fish & Chips at a small pub and we took a much-needed nap. ‘Twas a lovely day.

Monday was my favorite day. Why? We went to Hogwarts. ‘Nuff said.

I took a couple hundred pictures (no lie) because I’m obsessed. I will put a few of the fun ones up here, plus a bunch of smaller pics so my fellow HP nerds can see EVERYTHING. We saw all of the actual filming sets, costumes, props, etc. It was my Heaven.

This one looks sideways, click play and it’ll show it correctly!

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Here’s a slideshow of about 100 set/prop pictures for all you HP nerds.

There was a HUGE full model of Hogwarts and its grounds at the end of the tour; I’m not sure what the scale was, but it was incredible and like seeing Hogwarts from high up on a broom 🙂

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Michael and I both did a broom-riding experience that made me happier than a toddler with fistfuls of chocolate. Fast forward to about 2 minutes into this video to see Michael’s hilarious ride!

So, basically, if you’re an HP fan, you NEED to go to the Warner Bros Studio Tour when you visit London. It’s worth it. (Plus, they are the only other place in the world with Butterbeer besides the Harry Potter Worlds at Universal Studios).

Monday night we took a spin on the London Eye and had a fantastic British dinner.

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East side of London from the Eye.

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Our neighboring pod at the top of the Eye, over 400 feet high!

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Big Ben and Westminster from the Eye.

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Had to get some double-decker buses in the picture…

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The Eye takes about 30 minutes to go around once and you get spectacular views of the city. I definitely recommend it for first-time London visitors!

My parents left for Edinburgh Tuesday, so Michael and I had the day to ourselves to sightsee in central London. We walked around Buckingham Palace, St James Park, and Westminster Abbey. It was a lovely day, about 60 degrees and partly sunny.

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Peekabo! Tulips were blooming everywhere in London!!!

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Buckingham Palace

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St. James Gardens

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The eye from St. James

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Westminster Abbey

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The tulips were just incredible!

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We went to the West End Tuesday night to see Les Miserables in the Queen’s Theatre and it was beyond incredible. I’ve read the book and seen the movie several times, but the show in London gave me all sorts of feels. If you haven’t seen Les Mis on Broadway, DO IT NOW. Seriously, you won’t regret it.

Wednesday we took a 4.5-hour train from London to Edinburgh! Everything was so GREEN. Even though it was chilly, April/May is a beautiful time to visit the UK because everything is in full bloom! Yellow gorse and rapeseed (canola oil) plants are everywhere and the bright yellow looks gorgeous against all the green. When we arrived in Edinburgh, we walked to the top of Calton Hill and enjoyed beautiful views of the city and the nearby mountains.

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Michael and my dad climbed to the peak in the picture behind us early Friday morning!

Thursday was probably my second favorite day of the trip. We took a small-group tour into the Highlands, from Edinburgh to Loch Ness and back. I’m now absolutely sold on coming back to Scotland and spending a week or two solely in the Highlands. Our guide was clad in his full Scottish regalia and was both hilarious and incredibly informative. We saw several different Lochs, and tons of cool filming sites from Outlander, Braveheart, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Skyfall and more!

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Loch Lubnaig; we were so lucky to have a beautiful, sunny day for these stops! That’s rare here.

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A fuzzy Highland cow!

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Michael working on his photography skills.

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Loch Ness; it started raining at this point so we didn’t go out on the Loch on a boat tour. Honestly, the smaller Lochs we saw along the route were much prettier and more breath-taking than Loch Ness!

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The Highlands are simply amazing. Every view looks like something straight out of a movie, which is why so many things are filmed here! It’s a natural film location that needs no enhancements. This was a 12 hour day, from 8 AM to 8 PM, but it was absolutely worth it.  I’m looking forward to checking out even more of the Highlands in the near future, hopefully.

We spent our final day checking out the amazing city that is Edinburgh. The streets are cobblestone, kilt-clad Scots are playing bagpipes everywhere and everything is oh-so-green.

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I looked everywhere for the Tardis but was sorely disappointed.

We started the day by hiking up to Edinburgh Castle; this castle was built on top of a volcano and is the most besieged place in all of Great Britain. We got to see the Royal Crown and Sceptre here, as well as the Stone of Destiny. Legend has it that this stone was used for centuries of coronations of Scottish and English monarchs. It has a very interesting backstory; feel free to do some research and check it out for yourself!

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View from the top of the Castle.

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I thought this was so sweet and sad. The soldiers created a Cemetery for all of their deceased doggies, you could see their names on the gravestones and there were tulips growing in front of them.

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This tee-tiny chapel is almost 900 years old! That’s insane!

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Various buildings surrounding the Castle Great Hall and Chapel.

We then walked down the Royal Mile from the Castle to the Royal Palace. The tour of the Royal Palace was self-guided with audio and video, and it was one of the most informative and awesome things we did on this trip! We learned a lot about the life and death of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the history during her reign. It was really fascinating. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, unfortunately, but we did get a few of the grounds. The current Queen of the UK still hosts a lawn party on the grounds every July. She still holds council in some of the waiting rooms inside the palace as well! It’s really neat that it’s still in use.

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The Royal Abbey that was never completed.

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We finished up the day with a walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens. This place is massive, so we just wandered haphazardly and enjoyed the views!

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Breath-taking, yes?

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It was cold and cloudy all morning, but the sun came out for about an hour while we were here!

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My green thumb hubby.

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Are these not the weirdest trees you’ve ever seen? At first, we thought they were fake, like giant Charlie Brown Christmas trees. Upon closer inspection, they’re more like giant cactuses! They’re prickly and sharp and this is how they look at full adulthood. I can’t remember what they’re called, but these were my favorite plants here.

Thus ended our quick taste of the UK. We got to see and learn a lot, plus Michael ran a great race! I think he placed around 500th out of 42,000 people, so, yeah. He’s a fast boy. Just watching the runners made me tired. I’ll stick with my moderately paced walks on vacations 🙂

Stay tuned for blogs on Jamaica and the Disney Cruise Line in the next few weeks. Thanks for reading!

 

 

2 thoughts on “Marathons, Wizards, and Bagpipes: An Adventure in the UK

  1. Katie, did you ever finish up your AEP Day recaps? I love reading about Disney trips!! Also, did you ever share where you stayed when traveling in England? Do you have a preference on staying in hotels or AirBnB’s when staying overseas?

    Like

    1. Hi Lindsay! I still need to do one post on the Disney Cruise Line, but that’s it for the AEP days.

      I generally prefer hotels because 1. they feel safest and 2. I like when breakfast is included, especially in Europe where food is so expensive.

      I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Kensington High Street in London and the Crowne Plaza in Edinburgh and absolutely loved both. Location in Edinburgh was fantastic. The breakfast in London was great and we were a 5-minute walk from a Underground Station which we used to get everywhere!

      Liked by 1 person

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