For someone who has not experienced four seasons, I am full of gratitude that I was able to witness both winter and spring in the UK. It has been a week since I returned to the still not so sunny UAE and as usual, I still have a hangover (do we really move on from trips?). The good news is that I have improved on timeliness of sorting of photos compared to last year’s US trip and other previous trips. While I wrote an overview of my first US trip, I decided to share some of my adventures and misadventures starting this July instead. In a sort of reminiscent way. After all, it was 4th of July when I first landed in the US territory.
I am grateful that I was able to experience Scotland (in winter), Wales (in spring) and England (both in winter and spring). With at least 3,000 photos from our spring break trip alone, I thought it would be a pretty idea to challenge myself, that for this post, to share only 2 photos each from Scotland, Wales and England, and 1 video. Photos which are not necessarily the best ones in terms of composition, but for photo no. 1 – one which will give an idea of the highlight of my trip (or better put as the first thing that re-occurred in my head when I found myself blogging today); and photo no. 2 – my most beloved food in that country. Then, a video that can randomly tell how I feel about this recently concluded trip.
While Edinburgh (its capital) is charming, so very rich in history on its own, and is the gatekeeper of The Elephant House Cafe which is considered the birthplace of the first Harry Potter book, I immensely enjoyed the highlands of Scotland (see above/ first photo). Since I spent majority of my life in a tropical country and being currently based in the Gulf, I was freezing though I reckoned as aptly covered last January (few days past New Year), particularly when we took the cruise in Loch Ness (did we see Nessie the monster? I will tell you next time.) It is the kind of freeze that made me so ecstatic and warmed my heart though.
I have been advised not to miss Haggis. In the photo, they are meatballs-like. Inside those are sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, spices, etc. Not too many first timers appreciate it, but I liked it a lot. I remember experiencing it in a patty form, i.e. on a Saturday market day in Cardinal Place in Victoria, London. I think I like the meatball/ bon bon way better.
In our weeklong-recent visit, we invested most of our time in Wales since it was our first ‘taste’ of Welsh life then. Wales has 641 known castles to date and at least 15 million sheeps, outnumbering the human population of at least 3 million. We stayed in Cardiff (its capital) which is 2-hour from London by railway. With the available time and resources, we explored South Wales only as it would be wise to go to North Wales next time if we get a chance to visit Cambridge and other nearby areas in England.
I encourage you not to miss a visit to and if possible, to spend the entire day in Saint Fagans Natural History Museum. It is an open air museum which will let you experience the old Welsh life. I can not get over how impressive this museum is, particularly the castle and garden, and it offers face-to-face experience with the blacksmith, workers from woolen mill, and more. Did I say yet that there is no entrance fee? I will write more about the experience in the coming weeks.
Every morning, our first agenda was to go to Cardiff Market at Saint Mary Street and get my supply of Welsh cakes from Cardiff Bakestones. There are chocolate chips, lemon, and many other flavors. But I have stuck and loved the traditional Welsh cakes soooo much! After that, we consistently would stop by at another stall which I unfortunately forgot the name, however, I will never forget how sumptuous and addicting their burgers are. My favorites were the ones with bacon, sausage (rare and delicious!) and egg. I will not trade any chance I get to have a bite from this stall, forget Shake Shack. While we enjoyed other Welsh food, it was alarming that I gained weight in this short trip. To be exact, we stayed in Wales for 4 nights and 5 days. While in our almost 3-week visit in England and Scotland last time, I lost 5 kilos. In both cases, we did LOTS of walking and eating. In conclusion, I seriously love Welsh food even if I reckoned that it is potentially fattening.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to explore different areas of England, e.g. Oxford, Wiltshire which houses the Stonehenge and gatekeeper to the small yet beautiful medieval Lacock village where I had fond memories in its oldest inn, Stratford-upon-avon which is otherwise known as the birthplace of Shakespeare, and more. While London (its capital) will eternally be charming and interesting in so many aspects and for varied reasons, I can say that the highlight of my separate trips to England was climbing at least 800+ stairs (going up and down) to the dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. In January, I promised myself that if I get to revisit London I will climb even if I have fear of heights. Hence, on our last day before heading back to UAE this month, we braved it. Of course, it was a bonus that I had my closest encounter with cherry blossoms so far. They happened to surround the cathedral, i.e. the side going to the Millennium Bridge.
While we enjoyed different food in England, a shop named ‘Knot’ (beside Krispy Kreme) in London Victoria Train Station kept us happiest in terms of meal time. I cannot describe it enough, but these artisan pretzels made us feel so at home (yet, we only had it in England) and taken care of. Just looking at this photo makes me crave again and again for the vanilla and chili pretzel.
Lastly, this video represents my current assessment of my recent trip. This one was on a market day at Portobello Road in Notting Hill. There are some things that I will always look forward to visiting again. That day, it was a combination of sorts and old and new — which let me view and experience things like it is always a first time yet being at home.