Adventures in Edinburgh- Excellent exhibitions and dog friendly hospitality

Gandalf the VW is parked up on the C&MC Club site on the south side of Edinburgh, having had a good run up from Grassington Club site (Wharfedale) this morning.

We made a stop Tebay services on the M6 just before the Scotland border- this (somehow, despite many recommendations to stop here over the years) was our first stop ever here. Lets just say it was a very expensive but jolly tasty Loo stop! And forever more our journeys north will factor in this very wonderful Services/Farm shop/deli. We stocked up with meats, sausages, beers, cider and even some Scottish Tablet, pasties and sausage rolls for lunch. And enjoyed the sight of the winter wonderland that surrounded the M6.

On arrival at Edinburgh Club site, we had a very quick set up – less than 10 mins- amazing how much quicker when we aren’t faffing with the awning etc, before whisking Jazz out for a mile loop before the sun set. The site is very close to the Firth of Forth and we could have walked for miles along the wide promenade taking in views of Crammond Island and enjoying the beach area too. But it got dark!

We settled in for an evening in Gandalf, I cooked up a Spag Bol and we enjoyed a few drinks together and a read of our books. The facilities on site were, as always with the Club site network, clean, predictable and good. Heated shower blocks and endless hot water supply are just lovely for mid winter camping – especially when you’ve not had any at home for a while. Perhaps the facilities at Edinburgh were touch dated, but they were clean and worked and thats all that bothered us!

Wednesday arrived after a very peaceful night on site, and was a glorious winters day. Hurrah! Cold yes, but absolutely stunning clear blue skies and wonderful winter light. We had pre arranged a cab from the site as we were taking Jazz to doggy day care- aka Cousin Simon in Leith. However for your reference, there is a very handy mini bus service from the site to the city centre, dog friendly and just £3 pp. This is ideal as the bus stop is a bit of a walk down an unlit road (although there is pavement). It runs from 09.30 to midday into the city and from 4-6pm back to the site from the city. We however used Central Taxis for the entirety of our stay as we were needing to go off the beaten track and returning to site later than the minibus. They are totally dog friendly- just mention when you ring and they will send, very promptly, a dog friendly car to wherever you are. 

So, after settling Jazz – who was about to get incredibly spoilt!- into the window seat at Simon’s pad overlooking Leith Links, Keith and I did a very brisk walk from Leith to Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Two)- the main reason we were in Edinburgh at all.

We had tickets for the Ray Harryhausen exhibition. Ray Harryhausen was an American animator and special effects creator who created a form of stop motion model animation known as “Dynamation”. His work involved making the latex moving models for many films such as Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and many many more. Harryhausen left his collection, which includes all of his film-related artifacts, to the Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, which he set up in 1986 to look after his extensive collection, to protect his name and to further the art of model stop-motion animation. This collection was being exhibited in Edinburgh to celebrate the centenary anniversary of his birth this year- but it is only on until the end of February.

Keith being a massive film fan, but also a huge admirer of Harryhausen’s work, was beyond excited at the prospect of this visit.

To say that the exhibition delivered all he hoped it would and more is a huge understatement. It was excellent, but especially for Keith who has enjoyed, and been inspired by these films for his entire life.

We spent a good two hours or so enjoying the models on display, before nipping back to Leith to collect Jazz, and making our way into Leith for lunch. Leith and Edinburgh are exceptionally dog friendly. There was only one place in our entire stay that said no dogs allowed, and so we had plenty of choice to wine and dine ourselves with our furry friend. We used this website and looked out for the stickers on windows Another good resource for Dog Friendly Edinburgh

We enjoyed lunch at Teuchters Landing, a really cool Scottish whiskey and Gin bar with a roaring fire and overlooking the river. Their food was delicious and we liked it so much we went back for breakfast the next day! (dog friendly only until 6pm) 

From here we were suitably stuffed, so we decided to walk again up from Leith into Edinburgh along the Water O Leith pathway, part river path and part disused railway path. It took us all the way to Waveney station right in the heart of the city and was lovely (2.5 miles from Leith but the path runs for 12 miles in total and is all traffic free) 

We then spent the remainder of the afternoon mooching about and enjoying some drinks and more food at Holyrood 9A, another exceptionally dog friendly bar that bring dogs out treats on a silver platter! 

Thursday dawned not quite so bright and crisp, more damp and dismal, but it wasn’t going to stop us. Our cab took us to Leith to drop Jazz again, but not before a humongous breakfast at Teichter’s Landing and a breakfast cocktail.

We dropped Jazz and then made our way to Holyrood Palace, the official royal residence for when the senior Royals are in the Capital city (which actually tends only to be for a week in July.) Situated at the bottom of the Royal Mile and beneath Arthur’s Seat, remnants of a former volcano, Holyrood dates back to the 16th Century and was even home to Mary Queen of Scots.

We visited all of the state rooms which were brilliant to see, and the historic apartments where Mary Queen of Scots resided too. Before the Palace was built there stood an Abby, the remains of which are now engrossed into the wing of the Palace.

We really REALLY enjoyed our self guided tour, taking the processional route in and especially seeing the Royal Dining room, the state rooms, Queen Victoria’s Tarten dress dating from the late 1800s, and even jewels that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots.

We can’t believe we haven’t visited before. It really is a great place to see.

From here, we made our way back to pick up Jazz who once again had been spoilt and pampered with lovely Simon, and then walked back into the city centre via the Royal Mile. We had a few drinks in the historic pubs, full of atmosphere, and abnormally quiet; we really felt for the businesses up here, tighter restrictions but not tight enough to close and therefore get financial help, were definitely emptier than any time we’ve ever been before. 

At the top of the mile we took pictures of the Castle – usually when we visit in August the area is taken over by tattoo seating. My gosh it was bitterly cold up there though! 

Dinner was at The last drop, on Grassmarket, a favourite area of ours, and we both enjoyed haggis of course along with Crofters Pie and Cullen skink before making our way back to Gandalf at a respectable hour in preparation for our journey back home and a bump back to reality in the morning to sort our heating and hot water at home out!

We made the journey in home in a record 6 hours 50 mins – leaving the site at 8am and pulling onto our drive at 3pm, with just one very brief 5 minute leg stretch south of Grantham. 

The heating is still not fixed nor is the hot water but our guy now has discovered the problem so its on its way to being fixed which is good. 

We’d had a brilliant time away and absolutely no regrets in abandoning the house last weekend whatsoever! We highly highly recommend visiting the Ray Harryhausen exhibition if you can, they say its not going to be touring anywhere else in the UK and this is a rare trip out for the memorabilia. 

We’ve got a couple of weekends at home now but we are looking forward to lots of camping that is arranged for February onwards. 

Until Next Time 

Lx 

Adventures in Edinburgh

Having had a wonderful night at Fletchers Farm, we hit the road north, Ruby’s wheels heading for Edinburgh. Unfortunately it seemed the rest of the world were also heading north and our 3 hour journey turned into a 5 hour journey. We did however manage to stop off at Carter Bar for lunch and we found the journey along the A66 very picturesque- we normally are on this stretch at midnight!

We arrived at Keith’s cousin Simon’s house in Leith late afternoon and embarked on a lovely couple of days in the sunshine enjoying one of our favourite cities.

We like Leith and as the Proclaimers sang, the sun really DID shine on Leith during our stay. The shore

area is particularly lovely and dotted with bars with outside seating. It felt very continental.

We stocked up on Haggis too- enjoying a full Scottish breakfast and also some Haggis Scotch eggs from the market.

Despite the Fringe festival and the Tattoo being cancelled due to Covid, the centre of Edinburgh was busier than I expected- I mean not as busy as a normal August by far, but still plenty out and about.

The Royal Mile – a bit emptier than a normal August day

We had a nice meal on Grassmarket and did a great 10+ mile walk taking in the sites.

It was lovely to see Simon again too.

Anyone recognise which film was filmed here?

Tomorrow we venture further north again; heading for the Cairngorms.

Until next time

Lx

Adventures on the Rocky Mountaineer and Alaska Cruise – July 2019 Part 7 – [Hopefully not Sleepless in] Seattle 

Wednesday

Wednesday morning 7am, and the MS Volendam docked for the final time of our tour, in Vancouver. It was time to disembark and I felt flat as a pancake about this. All good adventures must come to an end, I know, but I was willing to have another week on the ship, you know, just to check we weren’t missing out on anything! Today the rest of our Great Rail Journeys group were flying home. It really was the end of their adventure, but not us. We’d tacked on a 3 night stay down the coast in Seattle. One of the things we like about using Great Rail Journeys as a tour operator is that they are very open to you doing your own thing at the beginning or end of the tour and will sort this out for you happily. This time, their hotel was out of our price range, so they sorted out our flights home and train (which actually ended up being a coach) to Seattle whilst we arranged an air b n b for our accommodation.

We waved bye to our group at the cruise terminal and suddenly we were on our own. We took the Skytrain the short distance to the Pacific Station where we promply discovered our tickets were for Vancouver WA and not Vancouver DC. After a very short panic and some fabulous customer service from the team back in York we ended up on the coach transfer to Seattle leaving an hour early (but we’d arrived 3 hours early!) Thanks Gary and Links for sorting us out. 

Our coach journey crossed the international border from Canada into USA and as such we had to empty the coach with all our luggage and go through customs etc. This took roughly 30 minutes and then we were back on the highway towards Seattle. The journey took about 4.5 hours so not too bad at all.

We used UBER to get to our accommodation, a cool little basement in the Central District, before heading out in search of a Seattle beer or two and some dinner. We didn’t need to go too far – there was a nice local bar 10 mins away with a great menu, and we were in time for happy hour which meant £2.20 pints! We set up camp there for a while before heading back for an early night as we were pretty drained! 

Thursday 

I didn’t sleep very well as I was missing the movement from the sea! We had a fairly lazy morning – as in we didn’t set an alarm for the first time in the 2 week holiday, but around 10am we headed into town via the local Downtown bus which took about 20 mins.

Our first stop was the Space needle observation tower. This was built in the 60s to coincide with the World Fair in 1962. When it was built it was the tallest tower west of the Mississippi, and its unique shape makes for a very interesting skyline. 

We couldn’t have picked a better day to go up – the weather was amazing and visibility was brilliant. Mount Rainier – named after the beer we drank last night!! – stood proudly and snow topped – it almost looked like a painting actually, it was picture perfect and we couldn’t take our eyes off it. 

We spent quite some time at the top, enjoying the views and the interactive photo points. We even managed a beer at the top – surprise surprise! We also enjoyed (in a loose sense of the world!) the glass revolving floor.

After our visit, we took the 2 minute ride on the Seattle Monorail, also built for the World Fair in 1962. This one mile stretch of track which is above ground in the air, connects the Seattle centre with downtown near to Pike Market, which was where we were heading for lunch

. 

Pike Market was a sensory overload. Flowers, food, trinkets, you name it- we loved it! there was even a man playing the MOP!

We joined the queue for “the world’s best mac n cheese”. They make their own cheese and the mac n cheese was amazing.

Just down the street was the first ever Starbucks but we didn’t go in as it was queuing and heaving!

By now it was getting towards 30 degrees and the sun was just so hot. We had a quick beer and water stop at the historical Virginia inn before grabbing a nice air conditioned uber back to our digs.

We had a siesta and after a shower and change headed back out, this time on the bus, for a pizza at the Diller Hotel, which dated from the late 1800s.

We then walked down Harbour Steps to the waterfront where we joined an hours harbour cruise to watch the sunset

. This was a lovely way to spend our evening. The waterfront area was alive and buzzing. There were loads of delicious looking seafood restaurants and a big ferris wheel. It was a lovely place to spend the evening. 

After our cruise, we couldn’t resist some of the “best clam chowder” at Ivan’s takeout before heading back to the accomodation.  We can confirm the clam chowder was delicious! 

Friday 

Our last day of our adventure! Sad faces all round. 

It was forecasted to be another scorcher, so we decided we would take the ferry to West Seattle’s Alki Beach. On our way to the  ferry at pier 52, we stopped for a drink at Pike Place Brewery

checked out Post Alley

and it’s very random Gum wall

and also did a taster flight at Seattle’s Copperworks Distillery, which resulted in some more gin being purchased!

We then got tempted by the close proximity that we were to Ivan’s, so decided to have lunch there before going to the beach. We bagged a fabulous waterfront outdoor seat and ordered more clam chowder and then battered jumbo shrimp and chips. Yum! 

We then made our way across the sound on the ferry ($12 for two) to West Seattle and jumped on the free shuttle to Alki Beach.

As it was rather hot by now it was heaving, but we enjoyed our time there. We couldn’t go in the sea as there was a lot of seaweed unfortunately but the sea breeze cooled us down, as did the west seattle brewing company lager!

We had an Uber back to the air b n b, and another siesta before heading out in search of BBQ! We found it on Capitol Hill – similar to Soho, and enjoyed brisket, ribs, mac n cheese and coleslaw before walking it off with an explore of Capitol Hill area. 

By now, we were starting to feel sad about our imminent departure and also a bit sensory overload! We had eaten and drank to our hearts content for 2.5 weeks and there is only so much that you can take. Plus, similarly to Vancouver,  there were some interesting characters out on the street- falling out with themselves and wandering down the middle of the road. Like Vancouver there is a high level of homelessness, and you can’t help but wonder if its linked to the legalisation of cannabis. Maybe not- Who knows, but I wouldn’t have wanted to have been there without my big strapping 6 foot 4 hubby! 

Saturday arrived and it was time to fly home. I was distraught. We had THE BEST time ever. I can’t even begin to describe how much we enjoyed our trip, and wholeheartedly recommend this trip to anyone. Travel with Great Rail Journeys and you have the security of a tour manager and logistics team behind you every step of the way. You also have enough free time for you not to feel like you are on an escorted tour. But you get to enjoy their group discounts, which means the price is really competitive and hard to beat by going solo. 

https://www.greatrail.com/tours/premium-rockies-and-alaska/

Let me know if you book with them!

Until Next time 

Lx 

Our Escape to Colditz

Keith is a huge history enthusiast and has expressed a desire to visit Colditz Castle for as long as I’ve known him. In fact, we almost made it there in Bluebell the Motorhome in 2016, however decided to stay in Austria and revisit another time when we were a little more prepared. The opportunity finally arose this year as I decided to book tickets for Keith’s Christmas present – the man who has every gadget under the sun – and it went down brilliantly! Due to work commitments, I decided that rather than drive, we would grab a quick weekend return flight from Stansted to Berlin, however I’ve included motorhome/campervan stopovers too on this blog.

We stayed overnight prior to flying at the Holiday Inn Express Stansted, which was convenient as it offers onsite parking and evening meals – we wouldn’t arrive until gone 8pm following work so would need dinner. Free breakfast was also offered, and was actually very pleasant despite it being 5am! A shuttle bus took us to the departures terminal in just 7 minutes at a cost of £3pp.

10.30am local time on Friday saw us touchdown at Berlin Schönefeld airport and by 11am we had picked up our wheels for the weekend – a VW Golf hired from Sixt.com. They did manage to sneak some added extras on which meant we ended up spending over €100 extra to the hire charge which was a bit of an irritating beginning.

Although we had flown to Berlin, due to the regularity of flights available to ensure we got the most time possible from our limited time away, our destination was 2 hours south – Leipzig. It is possible to fly direct to Leipzig however they only fly twice a week from Stansted and it didn’t work timing wise for us.

Leipzig is a very exciting place to visit as a musician, and I can’t help but feel that it’s massively overlooked on the tourist trail. Leipzig was home to J.S.Bach, who worked at Thomaskirche as the Kapellmeister for many years.

His family, many of whom were also musicians, also were based in Leipzig, and although their family home no longer exists because of WW2 Damage, the cathedral does and their neighbours and friends house is now The Bach Museum and Archives.

Inside the church you can see Bach’s grave along with many very rare and historical musical instruments from the Baroque Period.

We were lucky enough to hear the organist perform some Bach’s Organ Pieces which was incredibly moving and really very exciting.

 

Our visit to the Bach Museum also didn’t disappoint, we got to see some very rare, handwritten by Bach manuscript, which was ridiculously neat and just completely awesome to see. (No pics allowed)

We did some of the Music Trail although time was not on our side – you could easily enjoy 2 days + here. Other famous musicians who are linked to Leipzig are Felix Mendelssohn’s who died here- his house is now a museum which we’d have liked to have visited but we ran out of time, and Richard Wagner.

During the walking tour we enjoyed looking at some of the beautiful buildings which have survived the war including the opera house.

We also stumbled across a traditional winter fayre, which was a great chance to warm up with some Gluwein.

We had three delicious meals in Leipzig – lunch at Ratskeller, a really atmospheric beerhouse which serves local Saxon Fayre, a bratwurst at the winter fayre, and finally our evening meal at the historic and atmospheric Auerbachs Keller and tried loads of absolutely delicious local beer and even a Leipzig gin!

Our home for the night was the Mercure Hotel which as just down the road from Mendelssohn’s house and had an underground carpark for us to leave the car whilst we explored on foot.

On Saturday we were up fairly early and checked out at 9am. Keith was very excited as today was our trip to Colditz Castle. His reaction as we caught our first sight of the beautiful looking castle was priceless.

I’d booked us the extended tour (€18 pp payable in cash on arrival) and we were surprised to learn that we were the only one booked on the tour – so it was to be a private tour – an unexpected perk of being out of season. Our guide Steffi, began leading us around the vast corridors, cellars, and grounds, giving us brilliant commentary throughout.

Colditz Castle is a striking Renaissance Castle, sat perched on a large rocky outcrop, high above the River Mulde and became best known during WW2 – it was used as a High Security Prisoner of War camp for allied officers who had repeatedly tried to escape from other POW camps. Despite being considered as a high security camp, it had the highest number of successful escape attempts and only one assassination, and that was, according to Steffi, an accident. Prisoners here were treated with respect and a little more dignity than elsewhere and had huge libraries to peruse, a fully functional theatre in which they used to put on full scale productions and also the dorms were less crammed in and some officers even had their own rooms which were bigger than you may expect.

During the tour we got to see the famous gap in which Pat Reid managed to escape from – he later went on to develop the famous boardgame “Escape from Colditz”;

The French tunnel which ran 44m in length right underneath the chapel

The end of the British tunnel

the attic room where the famous glider was built in secret and found when the Americans liberated the castle

and much more. We saw the theatre, complete with secret trap door under the stage,

the officers rooms, the British Dorms, and heard story after story of escape efforts – some successful and some not. Despite the nature of the history here it was hard not to feel inspired here, the sheer determination of those who were held here almost lives on in the walls, its just truly fascinating – even for someone who isn’t such a history buff as her husband!

Our tour was supposed to last 2 hours, but Steffi, encouraged by our enthusiasm and interest I think, showed us some extra places and we actually ended up being there for over 3 hours!

There is a Campsite within walking distance if you go in your campervan/motorhome and also a Stellplatz (overnight parking area) in the next town – although Colditz is very small and I’m not sure I’d fancy driving our old motorhome up to the castle.

Our final stop of the trip was 1.5 hours down the road on the border of Czech Republic, at Bastei. This addition to our itinerary was last minute after reading about it in the Lonely Planet Germany Book and my goodness are we pleased we discovered it.

Bastei is a large area of rock formations which tower 194m high above the River Elbe. There is a fabulous bridge nestled amongst the rocks and lots of viewing platforms dotted around – some of which aren’t for the faint hearted, especially when they are covered in ice and snow as they were for our visit!

I managed to put my big girl pants on and conquered them all, despite a few deep controlling breathes and jelly legs as you can just about see from this pic!

We managed an hour of exploring the paths before we lost the sunlight

and enjoyed a bratwurst sausage and beer (alcohol free for me being Des, but it was fab!!) at the kiosk just as they shut, before returning to our car and discovering a car parking ticket -whoops!

Our journey back to Berlin Schönefeld Airport took just under 2 hours, where we stayed in an airport hotel (which was grim but served its purpose) ready for our extremely early 06.30 flight back home. We had a lovely traditional meal of Schnitzel at the local Gasthaus – which we needed to drive to as there was nowhere within walking distance of the hotel and no restaurant at the hotel. Check out the size of those Schnitzel’s!

We had a brilliant time – and can’t believe we were actually only in Germany for a day and a half. We covered 582km/361m and found German roads brilliant. A note to myself, next time the car hire kiosk asks me if I would prefer automatic or manual – get automatic! I kept going for an invisible gear stick!

Until Next Time (which won’t be long as this time next week we will be in the Lake District for half term in Ruby- woo)

Lx

 

Prague Christmas Market 2017

Mid November, and we were having a lazy morning on a campsite in Norfolk. Keith was reading the paper and I was writing the blog. “Have we got any weekends free in December” he asks? “Errr no way” I reply – “what about any free days?” he counteracts. I look up and can almost see the cogs working overtime. “Whhyyyy?” I query.

Half an hour later, and we’ve managed to cram a mini break to Prague in on our only 3 days off in the entire month! He’s on Easyjet, I’m on AirBnB. What spurred this on? An article in the paper about the best Christmas Markets in Europe. Advertising at it’s best!

A few weeks later and we are frantically packing our cabin bags, between Christmas Concerts, Music Exam days, packing Ruby for our trip to Dad and Jenny’s in France for Christmas – leaving 12 hours after our flight from Prague gets in to Stansted. We’re both stressed to the eyeballs, absolutely SHATTERED and wondering, is this one trip too far?

In true Keith and Lydia style though, we manage to get to the bottom of our lists and before we know it we are taxi-ing down the runway at Gatwick. We land in Prague on time, despite some snow on the ground. No disruptions here though, life moves on despite a covering of snow on the ground.

On arrival, we order an UBER cab – so useful to avoid being scammed by local drivers, and half an hour later we are checking into our Prague City Centre Air BnB apartment. The apartment is fabulous, a really cool space, and a steal at only £60 a night. We love the convenience of Air BnB’s for city breaks. If you want to give one a go, use this link for £25 off your first stay.

After a quick shower, we head on down into the city centre, a short walk away.

As we get close to the centre, we start noticing little pop up Markets, all serving Mulled wine and litres of local beer. It would be rude not to try a sample, so just over an hour after touch down, there we are enjoying our first taste of Prague. We noticed a stall selling the most mouth watering pork on a spit – we could not resist a plate of this to go with our drinks.

We wandered down to the main square and got blown away by the level of cute christmas-ness. The Christmas Tree was magnificent. This was where the main market was, so we browsed some of the stalls, intermittently stopping to be refreshed of course!

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