Skype is a godsend when you cant use your phone as a phone, as it only uses data (Internet) and not phone credit to make voice and video calls. We bought a British sim when we arrived with unlimited data.
Getting on a train soon to our next stop - Edinbrough, Scotland. 4 hour train from kings cross station. Packing like a madman, trying to hit everything in. All souvenirs and gifts we've bought so far have already been boxes up and posted home, but still our suitcases seem to shrink...
Our bags are ridiculously heavy. I think we injured our cab driver. Shame our train wasn't on platform 9(3/4). We're in a quiet carriage. It's not that quiet. I have a few hours supply of chocolate. Strawberry & yoghurt filled Cadbury bar and Tim tams. Oh Europe.
So the countryside is really flat. Also we could see the (north?) sea on the train ride over! Gorgeous scenery. Fields if canola flowers and red poppies and sheep and cattle and the angel of the north.
It's not as cold as I expected, but lets not jinx it. Jeans and a jacket weather. Wandered the streets (we meet our tour group tomorrow night) and found a small strip of markets. Bought some felt hair clips. Have been looking at similar ones on etsy for months! Love felt jewellery and hair accessories.
There are a lot more homeless people with hats out huddled under blankets than I remember the being in London, which surprised me.
Scotland feels so liveable. London was busy and packed tight with businessmen or tourists. Edinbrough, or what we've seen of it so far, is so much more relaxed. So many locals. Not so much a big city feel. I could see myself living here.
Stopped by a pub near our hotel on the way back. Their equivalent of rekorderlig was so good. Strawberry and line cider. Had a drink with ma sitting at the bar and chatted to the bartenders - one from Australia, the rest with GORGEOUS Scottish accents. Ohhh I don't think I could ever grow sick of it.
Had a relaxing bath and broke out the warmest fluffiesy bath robes you've ever seen.
Stayed overnight with my great aunt Freda. So many of them still live in the village. Stopped by to see grandma for a while before we got the train back to London. Cried leaving her.
Walking through the town to reach the rail, we found another chocolate shop! Couldn't believe we found Tim Tams in there. We haven't even reached Switzerland yet!
After unpacking and repacking our bags back at our London hotel, though we'd try our luck with last minute theatre tickets two hours before the show started. Couldn't believe we scored dress circle seats right in the middle! Ugh wicked. Will never grow tired of that show. Couldn't believe mum hadn't seen it before, all the shows we've seen together. Elephaba was pretty much phenomenal. That vibrato. UHHH so good! And had never heard it before with English accents.
Row of grade ten students behind us torturing every song during interval.
After usual hot buffet breakfast, made our way to kings cross station for our 20 minute ride to Stevenage. 20 minutes! The trains are so fast here, when they zoom past it's actually frightening.
Stevenage is quaint and beautiful and very English. The main town is well populated and busy with locals, whereas the outlying village of Bennington is one-car width roads with overgrown hedges on either side and wild flowers and BUNNIES AND SQUIRRELS! Breathe.
We visited the church my grandmother and her family attended, saw where they grew up (all 14 children together) and the chapel where my grandmother (a Draper) married my grandfather Cyril. I never really though about where my name came from before my father. I had never known my grandfather Cyril.
Back in Stevenage, I visited my grandmother. She had just returned to her flat after weeks in hospital and then rehabilitation after falling and breaking her hip. The poor thing. She's tough though. Determined to do things herself, though she has support in place. Saw a picture of her with Cyril on their wedding day. She made the gown herself from parachute silk. I had never seen her so young - she didn't look anything like my grandmother today, and yet she looked almost exactly the same. Took some presents from Australia for her to add to the growing number of kangaroo and koala adorned ornaments around her home.
Found a Westfield. A whole floor for Prada and other high end stores. Different to ours. Bought some clothes in a Myers-y store (Debanhams?). Found a chocolate cafe. We have w gift for finding chocolate shops and cafes. Everything here has cream. Whipped or clotted.
Saw billy Elliot! Wore a dress i bought earlier. Probably enjoyed the Australian version better when we saw it in Sydney, but gosh the accents! Proper English accents by proper English performers.
We're currently on a tour bus to bath, Salisbury & Stonehenge! 2 hours to bath, an hour to Salisbury, then a short trip to Stonehenge. A whole day trip with a tour guide (who has the best posh English accent). Great commentary! So great to hear about the history of Britain and not just about the buildings by the roadside. The rule of Cromwell and the only British king to be executed. How pub fish and chips are not the proper authentic fish and chips! Handy to know, we would have gone to a pub. The reason why they drink ale warm and the difference between traditional ale and lager.
Loving this tour guide commentary. He answered a question ma and I had been wondering about - they drive on the left hand side like we do, but stand on the right side on escalators? We were standing on the left casually on a really long escalator at an underground stop and the guy behind us obviously realised we were tourists and suggested we stand on the right (that's when we noticed all the signs lol). Apparently it's because when the English pioneered moving stairs everyone was afraid and wanted to hold on with their good hand, most people being right handed. We stand on the left because that's where we drive (and walk on footpaths). I'd never heard that explanation before. Interesting.
Okay, so bath is probably the most beautiful place in the world so far and I want to live there. You don't realise how big it is until you leave and look back from a distance. The buildings are just beautiful! We visited the Roman baths. Mind blowing that so much of it is still in tact. Imagine being the excavators who discovered it. After a stop at the gift shop we wandered through the small but busy streets and found some traditional fish and chips with vinegar! Vinegar? I suppose we use lemons. We got so caught up we almost missed the tour bus and had to run about trying to find where we were. Now we're off to Salisbury. Giant horse and australian defence force symbol in chalk hills are magnificent! Also, thatch rooves are still a thing. The building below is Bath Abbey.
Salisbury cathedral is beautiful and tall and intricate and gothic. Huge spire added post-completion that makes some points of the cathedral lean over 40cm! Salisbury is all about clotted cream apparently, so we stopped to have scones with jam and cream... And another hot chocolate with whipped cream D:
Also the home of a well preserved copy of the magnatcarta, the first notable democratic document. Hand written on a sheepskin, it's hard to believe it still looks so good.
Stonehenge is so commercialised! I thought it would be in a field in the middle of nowhere, but it's so close to the road with a car park and a gift shop! All I could picture was the doctor who episode that was shot there. Certainly a fantastical explanation of the purpose for the stones.
Spent the entirety of Sunday eating cake waiting for the shops to open. In aus they open around 10am on a Sunday. Here it's more like 1230. After a giant hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and chocolate mousse cake, and a quick visit to a tourist shop next door (shot glasses, snow globes, 'keep calm' mugs) we went over the road to harrods where hundreds of people were lining up outside the doors.
Apparently we stumbled upon their once a year end of financial year sale! Talk about lucky. As soon as the doors opened one crazy lady pushes everyone assigned and ran to the Gucci counter. I'm guessing she had a game plan because not long after she had things put away under the desk (they didn't start serving until an hour after opening) and had rushed off in another direction. We were fine moseying through at our own pace. We weren't set on buying anything as harrods is notoriously expensive. The sheer size of the place was staggering. Like a Westfield in one shop. There was an entire floor almost all dedicated to food. Grapes and vines covered the ceiling and they had so many counters and sections. A whole room and then some for candy and sweets. A huge cabinet filled with rabbit, game, almost anything - pies. Baguettes and giant meringues in various flavours. Cupcakes and cakes and slices and a deli and a "fromagery" lol. So much food! I wasn't expecting so much in a department store. We bought some baguettes and salads to take back to the hotel for lunch.
Needless to say we for lost several times somewhere between the pizzeria and the chocolate cafe and the floors and floors of discounted shoes and fur coats and crystal homewares. We picked up some bags and supplies from the gift shop. New bag for Uni big enough for my laptop and text books with a big gold "harrods" on the front.
Tuesday is another shopping day, but we've found an actual Westfield nearby!