Monday, October 13, 2008

The Last Vinhais of Scotland

Exploring Edinburgh has been on my "must visit" list for months. Unfortunately, the logistics just never seemed to work out and was beginning to think it was just not meant to be. Luckily, the opportunity opened up this past weekend and boy did I make the most of it. It was worth the wait and loved every minute of it.

Here are some of my favorite highlights of the trip:
1. Holyrood Park (Hike to the top of Arthur's Seat. Amazing and worth the effort.)
2. Edinburgh Castle (You just have not seen Edinburgh until you've explored this architectural marvel)
3. Walking the West Princes Street Gardens (The landscape was gorgeous! Plus, the castle was the backdrop to all this beauty which appeared to be straight out a dream.)
4. Calton Hill (Beautiful view of the city here, where you'll also run into the Nelson Monument and the National Monument)
5. Scotch Whiskey Experience (I felt it was important to learn more about Scotland's #1 export by taking a great 1 hour tour. Did you know that Whiskey must be aged in an oak barrel for a minimum of 3 years before it can be legally sold?)
6. Palace of Holyroodhouse
7. Walking the Royal Mile (This was capped off by having my photo taken with a William Wallace impersonator who said I was the best tourist he's posed with in months. No joke! The reason why? Well, because as he yelled and screamed into the camera (trying to attract people and get into battle mode), I yelled and screamed right along with him...But much louder. This 5 minute stop attracted more then 25 people who thought I was part of some act. It was great. Amazing how little one gets embarrassed when they're in the presence of people they'll never see again. :)
8. Festival Square
9. Watch a futbol match at a local pub (Caught a world cup qualifier match between Scotland and Norway. I was among 200 Scottish fans yelling words of encouragement and anger for the local side. Good times.
10. Memories (When I arrived in the city late Friday and took a leisurely walk to get the lay of the land there... The skies opened up and was immediately soaked while wearing my precious wool pea coat. I sprinted back to my hotel and was greeted by a native who gave me this openly sarcastic look where it looked as if he was thinking the following: "Welcome to Scotland, where an umbrella can be your best friend...Bloody Tourist!". This moment made my top 10 list because while on my jaunt back to the hotel, I was laughing the entire way thinking to myself "Why would you not bring an umbrella? Rain is pretty much guaranteed here! You're in the UK, you fool." Anyway, It made for a great memory...)

Photos were taken on the weekend of October 10th, 2008.

Edinburgh Castle:

I decided to try something different and chronicle my hike to the top of Arthur's Seat. Look how tired I look! I power walked the entire way...

Resting at the top of Arthur's Seat...Victorious!

Here's another clip...This time a view from the top. You don't hear my voice because of the wind, but my exact words when I looked into the camera were "worth it!"

Entire photo gallery from the weekend: Click Slideshow

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cheers, from London!

Photos taken from the weekend of March 1st, 2008.
My weekend retreat to London was a wonderful time. I expected rain and got sunshine instead. I'm big on exploring new towns on foot and try to avoid public transportation at all cost. I just feel there's no better way to get a true feeling of a new location then by foot. One tends to overlook things on those cheesy tourist buses. My sightseeing consisted of a 7 hour walk on Saturday and about 3 hours on Sunday. Well worth it.

Lessons learned from my weekend excursion:
1. Taxi drivers and bus drivers are crazier then NYC drivers. It actually seemed like they were intentionally trying to run people over at times.
2. I observed several unrelated conversations where English people opened display a pure distain for French people.
3. The British currency is so much stronger then the US currency that it actually makes me physically ill to think about it.
4. Tourists always mix up the Tower Bridge with the London Bridge.

Here are some photos from my weekend:

Buckingham Palace:

Saint Paul's Cathedral which was easily my favorite spot:

The old London Tower:

The Tower Bridge (Very impressive up close):

Photo I took within the National Museum. This was seconds before a security guard verbally scolded me and insisted I put away my camera immediately. Whoops...I was in complete tourist mode and didn't even think before I clicked. Oh well:

The London Eye:

Photos taken from within the eye:

Cheesy picture in front of Big Ben:
Trafalgar Square (awesome place...Tons of energy):

James Park (and a freakishly big bird):

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