-spend four days in London without once getting lost on the tube
-end up in the same place and time as Queen Elizabeth II and the current Harry Potter movie set, without intending either
-learn more British history than I had in the past 19 years of school
-get a sunburn in Scotland
-travel 32 miles by bike and foot in one day, and still have the energy to walk back up the hill to the hostel
-shell out only £15 in said used-book-capital despite great temptation
First stop in Britain was, of course, London, where I was immediately awed by the spectacular architecture. Lots of opportunities for cool photos like the below, of a gazebo in the yard beyond the parliament building:
I spend the greater part of those three days walking around with my mouth hanging open. As well as constantly trying to pull open doors I was supposed to push, and flip up light switches that were already up (it's the little differences that befuddle you). Met with Ludi, and the two of us immediately fell into talking as if we could read each other's minds--very bizarre to be hanging out with someone who thinks so similarly to onesself. Had my breath taken away by all the layers of history I walked through in Westminister Abbey, and stared saucer-eyed at the Rosetta stone in the British Museum. And happened to walk by a building just as the queen was leaving:
From London it was on to Wales, with brief stops at Stonehenge, Lacock, and Bath. Wales is all about the castles (though the jaw-dropping scenery in Snowdonia National Park makes a nice side-dish). Interior view of castle grounds at Caernarfon (including the slate platform where the Prince of Wales is crowned) and of the chapel room in Conwy castle:
Wales is also home to Hay-on-Wye, the town of used book stores, which I couldn't resist going to after hearing about cruelest_month's visit there. Picked up a beautiful copy of Bulfinch's Mythology along with some British childhood books--Alice In Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, with Carroll's illustrations, Swallows and Amazons, the original Winnie The Pooh, and Roald Dahl's The BFG.
Then, up to the Lake District--Ambleside on Lake Windermere. It rained almost the entire time I was there, but damn if it wasn't so gorgeous I didn't care:
It also gave me a chance to get to know a very-like-minded person by the name of Talia, who has promised to join me in further exploits abroad.
Next on the itinerary was Scotland, starting with Edinburgh--a city with character to spare. All full of blackened medieval buildings and narrow alleys and winding streets, with ghost stores and underground chambers galore. Hardly surprising to find out this place inspired Frankenstein. I have no doubt I will be mining it for story settings for years to come.
And if the scenery in Snowdonia and the Lake District was gorgeous, that in Glencoe was nothing short of sublime:
I scrambled up the side of one of those mountains and into a lost valley where apparently the MacDonald clan used to hide the cattle they stole, back in the mists of time. I also wandered past the makings of the Harry Potter film set, just a five minute walk from the hostel, and yes, I took pictures.
Long shot of the set:
Close up on the hut and the standing stones (covered in green tarp on the right):
Another building on the set:
The HP-fanatics among you are welcome to pass these pics on if you think anyone else would like to see them, but please link back to this journal so I get a wee bit of photographer credit. ;)
After my short stay in the Highlands, I moved on to the Isle of Skye. Much hiking and biking followed, through fairy glens and the Quiraing mountains, allowing me to capture landscapes such as this:
I also had to contend with the thousands of sheep that seem to exist in every nook of the Highlands. They were kind of cute until I read about the Clearances (during which the majority of the Highland people were literally kicked out of their homes to make room for sheep pastures), and now they kind of give me the creeps.
My final stop before heading back to London was the city from which my own once took its name: York. There I met up with sallyrei and we had great fun meandering about the Minster and the narrow streets for which the old city is famous, like The Shambles:
From York, I day-tripped to the Bronte sister's home in Haworth, with the necessary stroll through the moors (see below), and also to Whitby, where I walked up Dracula's 99 steps and explored the churchyard (further below) and abbey at their top.
There's something rather eerie about treading in the rooms of great literary figures. You almost hope their talent will somehow seep through your skin, but at the same time it reminds you that they were human, too.
Speaking of great literary figures, I of course stopped in Stratford-on-Avon on my way back to London, and visited both Shakespeare's birthplace and the church where he is buried:
I returned home with a good deal more books than I'd left with (including M. John Harrison's Travel Arrangements, which I finally tracked down--yay!), plenty of notes, and a newly-developed addiction to travel. Not to mention a minor cold, a tan, and a shot of jet-lag, all of which I am recovering from.
Now that I'm back, I'd like to extend a greeting to the new names I'm seeing on my Friends list. Why not say hi and introduce yourselves? :)
And now, back to the writing desk...