England, Scotland, and In Between

We had an amazing trip to the U.K. to visit our friends Kyle, Maureen (Mo), and Zoe.  We left last Wednesday and arrived late Thursday morning at Heathrow.  Our flight left Austin at 6:00 p.m. and from there we flew from Dallas to Heathrow (about an 8-hour flight).  Isaac was great on the plane.  He was awake for the first couple of hours, but then slept for about the last 6.  He had a tough time waking up when we actually landed in Heathrow, which made for an interesting de-boarding process.  From the airport, we got through customs and immigration fairly quickly, which was a nice surprise because there had been a strike of customs/immigration employees the previous day and there had been warnings of 12-hour waits which, thankfully, never materialized.  We then caught a bus from the airport to Reading and a train from Reading to Newbury followed by a taxi to the Voosens’ house.  🙂  Isaac was a great traveler and even took a short snooze on Todd on the bus.

Thursday, we walked around Newbury a bit and Mo and Zoe kept us as awake as possible so that we would be able to sleep that night.  Isaac went to bed super early that evening, he even fell asleep in the stroller as we walked to dinner and didn’t wake up until we were leaving the restaurant!  Todd and Kyle went out to a local pub to see one of their coworkers play in a band.  Mo and I stayed up too late and chatted.

Friday, we decided to stay in Newbury again and we walked up to Donnington Castle, which is about a 2-mile walk from Kyle & Mo’s house.  It is really fun to be able to walk across town to see where a castle once stood!

Isaac enjoyed stretching his legs once we got to the castle and was eager to explore.

He didn’t want to be still for a family picture!

Zoe showed Isaac some new places to check out:

…and of COURSE he enjoyed climbing on the rocks!

He is much more sure-footed upon returning to Austin after all of his practice climbing.

After our castle exploration, we walked down to a little pub where we all had an outstanding lunch.

Saturday, we packed quickly and left for the train station.  Off to Scotland!  It was a long train ride up on 3 separate trains.  The kids were both terrific.  Mo was a saint and actually walked a restless Isaac up and down the train a number of times.  We were all glad to finally arrive in Edinburgh.

The first day in Edinburgh, we walked up to the castle.  It was snowing when we woke up, but warmed up to be a wonderful day for walking.  The stroller we borrowed for Isaac had a plastic rain cover, which worked well for keeping him warm as we walked.  He was a trooper for being in the stroller as much as he was.

One of the many beautiful, snowy buildings we encountered in Edinburgh.  I can’t remember whether this was part of the university…

Family photo as we climbed up one of the hills in Edinburgh:

Amazing view!  You can just see the ocean in the distance.  It’s the patch of blue in the very center of the photo.

Zoe, Maureen, Kyle, and Todd all climbing up to the castle.  Todd is pushing Isaac in the stroller:

View of the city and the mountains in the distance as seen from the castle grounds:

Statue of the real (non-Mel Gibson) Braveheart:

Chilling, quite literally, in his stroller:

Checking out the snow:

Stretching his legs after the stroller ride up to the castle:

Father and son looking out towards the ocean:

Checking out the view through one of the cannon holes:

The view they saw:

In spite of the amazing views, Scottish crown jewels, and fascinating history, this was Isaac’s favorite part of the castle:

Other sights around Edinburgh:

I loved this clock.  It’s at least tall enough for a person to walk into it.

After a long day, we went back to relax at the apartment.  I love this picture of Zoe, Maureen, and Kyle!

Mo also played with Isaac quite a bit when the menfolk went to check out a local brew pub…

After our time in Edinburgh, we took the trains back to England.  We left just in time.  The following day, there were winds measuring 165 mph at the top of the castle in Edinburgh!  They stopped running all of the electric trains and had only diesels.

On Wednesday, the Voosens and Walters (Team Texas, as Kyle dubbed us) headed to Bath.  I somehow managed not to take a single photo as we walked through!  The city has a fascinating history, which we learned on one of the free walking tours they offered.  I didn’t realize Jane Austen had lived there.  We also learned some interesting things about a “window” tax that was once in effect.  Homes were taxed based on the number of windows.  The residents ended up either bricking over windows or moving them closer together in some cases (if they were less that 1′ apart, they could be treated as one window).  It was really amazing and I’d love to go back some day.

While in Bath, Mo wanted to check out this really neat light installation that was done near one of the local restaurants.  I don’t know that the photos do it justice, but it was just stunning.  They had used fiber optic cables to connect all of the bulbs, so the lights changed colors and so did the cords connecting them.

On our last day in England, Todd, Isaac, and I headed out on our own.  We toured Salisbury Cathedral, which I again forgot to photograph.  The history there was also pretty amazing.  We got to see the Magna Carta and hear some facts about what its original purpose was (hint: it was NOT to help the common man). There was a pretty nifty display within the cathedral showing how it was built in only 38 years.  Given that it was built in the 1200s, that is pretty impressive!  It was originally intended to have a modest spire.  About 100 years afterwards, they added a new, huge spire.  Apparently no one did the math to be sure the current structure could support the new spire.  It couldn’t!  Even though they have since braced the original supports, the spire still tilts 2 1/2 feet.

Finally, we toured Stonehenge.  It was interesting to see, but I was surprised to find that I already knew most of what we learned on the audio tour.  It is mostly speculation about who used the stones, how, and why.  I did enjoy hearing some of the theories on how they got the upper stones into place.  The answer is apparently not giants…  🙂

It was INCREDIBLY windy at Stonehenge.  Todd carried Isaac about half-way around in the Ergo.  We then let him stretch his legs and run a little bit.  He got blown over a number of times, though he seemed to think that was just part of the fun.  We got in the car to head “home” just before the rain started.  Perfect timing!

We had an outstanding trip and I can’t wait for our next adventure.  It wasn’t too hard to say goodbye to Kyle, Mo, and Zoe because they’ll be staying at our house in another 3 weeks or so.  I am eager to see them again!

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