Former TravelPod Member: londonpenguin

Joined: September 27th, 2009

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North America » United States » Washington » Seattle April 28th 2016

Geo: 47.6353, -122.302My Hilton room was nice: large room, good-sized bathroom, all the usual amenities. But this morning I couldn't get any hot water. The shower started out warmish and I figured it would keep warming up, but no. After maybe 20 seconds, the water turned freezing. Talk about a shock to the system! I turned the water off and washed and then turned the water back on hoping it would at least get warm again, but no. Sigh … Still, if that's the only time that happened on my trip, I think I did okay.Checked out of the hotel just before noon and then hiked back to the airport (via a handy but long covered walkway that leads directly into Terminal 4), where I hung around for the next three hours. The time it took ... read more

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Greater London April 27th 2016

Geo: 51.5002, -0.126236I hate having to say goodbye at breakfast, but James started telling my table about our own primaries, and that was enough for me.I took a city bus out to Leith to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now moored permanently there. I have a vague memory of it coming to Seattle sometime in the early '80s. It was decommissioned in 1997 and was the last of a long line of royal ships stretching back to 1660. Queen Elizabeth christened her in 1953, and "Britannia" was a very popular name with the people. The Queen said it was the only place she felt she could truly relax.It was initially commissioned for King George VI, but he died before it was finished. The Queen and Prince Philip then took a keen interest in the ... read more
Royal Yacht Britannia
Me with the ship's bell
State Dining Room

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Midlothian » Edinburgh April 26th 2016

Geo: 55.9503, -3.18761I complimented the proprietor of Wellpark when we left today. My room, the lobby, the breakfast room — all were absolutely spotless. My room in particular had the feeling of being truly clean, instead of just superficially clean. He got all puffed up with the compliment and smiled proudly.It was mostly a bus day, as we returned to Edinburgh. We had a quick "technical stop" at Luss, where we had the opportunity to step out onto the beach of Loch Lomond. It was, indeed, bonnie (as was the resident multitude of ducks), but it was again very, very windy and arctic cold.Martin told us what the lyrics to the song "Loch Lomond" mean. The song arose from the '45 campaigns, when it was pretty easy for a Highlander to die in battle in England. ... read more
Ceiling in Stirling Castle
Another ceiling in Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Argyll » Oban April 25th 2016

Geo: 56.4104, -5.46972(quote from Thomas Crawford)I sat with Martin at breakfast this morning. He's been guiding for around 35 years. Before that, he was an archeologist for a while, and he owned a restaurant. He's an interesting guy, but I wish he would talk linearly (is that a word?). He'll start lecturing on a subject, then it's like he gets distracted by something shiny so he'll start going on about that, and then it's back to the original subject but the reversal was so quick you don't even realize what's going on. When we're walking around a town or whatever, he'll stop to talk about something and then abruptly, "Follow me!" And he darts off. It's like following Willy Wonka through the chocolate factory, only there are no snozzberries.James, on the other hand, is almost taciturn. ... read more
Ferry to Iona with Iona in the background
Apparently, The Doctor lives part-time on Iona
Flowers in the nunnery

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Argyll » Oban April 24th 2016

Geo: 56.4104, -5.46972Another gloriously beautiful day, though still cold. When the wind kicks up, it's very bracing, as the English might say.We drove first thing to Loch Ness to take a boat down the loch to Urquhart Castle (pron. ER-kert). The loch is pretty impressive, being 23 miles long and 750 feet deep at some points. It's not very wide, though; maybe a mile or so? This morning, the water was a mirror and could not have been more lovely. I mostly stayed inside the boat (just our group was on it) but did go out in front a few times to take photos. Brrr! The loch, the surrounding hills and tiny towns, the castle … it was all so impossibly pretty!We docked at Urquhart Castle and were the first ones at the Gate House. It ... read more
Ann takes a picture of Martin on Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle from the loch
Urquhart Castle

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Inverness-shire » Inverness April 23rd 2016

Geo: 57.4767, -4.23145The pigeons did go to sleep last night, but they were up really early!I haven't mentioned the various hotels' breakfast buffets. It's mostly standard stuff like bacon, sausage, eggs (mostly scrambled), cereal, fruit, yogurt and small pastries. However, there's also baked beans, broiled tomatoes, mushrooms, and haggis. This hotel also has fried eggs and potato scones. The potato scones don't look very scone-like: they are made of potatoes (obviously) and look more like naan bread. Tasty though.It was very, very cold this morning and trying to rain. We got on the coach and drove to Culloden battlefield, the site of the last major land battle fought on British soil. In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie began a campaign to take the throne (the yearlong series of battles is known as "the '45"). He had a ... read more
Cairn passage
This does not inspire confidence

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Inverness-shire » Inverness April 22nd 2016

Geo: 57.4767, -4.23145We are officially in the Highlands now. It wasn't as clear a day as we've been having, but it was still not bad. Very, very cold though. The landscape is gorgeous, ranging from low hills and glens to pleasingly alpine crags. I've mentioned all the sheep and lambs, but Martin says what we see is a pittance compared to how the area would have looked in the 19th century when there were tens of millions of sheep in Scotland. We've seen a few Highland cows (aka hairy coos) too.We visited Leault Farm, run by shepherd Neil Ross, this morning. I had actually been there before back in 1998 when Didi and I traveled together. I confirmed it by asking Neil if he had a dog named Glen 18 years ago. He did; Glen died ... read more
The dogs herd the sheep into a circle
I like this one with his butt up in the air
Neil gets the dogs to line up next to him

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Ross and Cromarty » Kenmore April 21st 2016

Geo: 56.5851, -3.99899I was awakened by the sounds of other hotel guests getting ready. I lay in bed with my eyes closed for a while and then realized that I'd been lying there for a long time. Why hadn't my alarm gone off? I finally opened my eyes to look at my clock: only 5:45. Sheesh! I fell back to sleep for another 35 minutes. Other than that, it's very quiet around here.It was another glorious day, though definitely nippy. We walked for 15 minutes to the other side of the loch to the Scottish Crannog Center. We learned a bit about crannogs on the Ireland tour, but this was more in depth. This loch, Loch Tay, held up to 30 crannogs in the Iron Age (500 BC). The Scottish Crannog Center works under the auspices ... read more
The crannog
Looking up inside the crannog
Daniel demonstrates an Iron Age lathe

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Ross and Cromarty » Kenmore April 20th 2016

Geo: 56.5851, -3.99899It took forever to get out of Edinburgh this morning because of commuter traffic. It was as bad as Seattle!We stopped at a viewpoint to see the three bridges over the Firth of Forth. The first one was built in the 19th century and was admired by Gustave Eiffel. It was (and still is) used solely as a railway bridge and was one of the marvels of its day; it's a World Heritage site today. The second one was built in the 20th century and is the automobile bridge. However, due to accidents involving heavy goods vehicles and ordinary passenger cars, a 21st-century bridge is being built. This will allow the heavy goods and regular vehicles to travel on different roadways. It's quite unusual to see three centuries in a row like that.We got ... read more
Culross Palace
Culross Palace

Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland » Midlothian » Edinburgh April 19th 2016

Geo: 55.9503, -3.18761"Edinburgh is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again." -Alexander McCall SmithWe had a local guide today named Liz. (She also guides for Rick Steves.) She walked us over to the old town via Princes Street Gardens. This is more of a park than gardens, but there are some well-tended flower beds. The space, which sits below and between Princes Street and the volcano on which the old town is built, used to be the Nor' Loch. (The loch was originally carved by glaciers.) Because the people of the old town would empty their chamber pots down the side of the rock, the Nor' Loch became completely polluted and reeked to high heaven. When it started to stink in ... read more
In Princes Street Gardens
Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street Gardens
The Elephant House

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