London: The Royal Mews

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#royalmewsLooking for a family friendly activity on a rainy London day? You might consider the Royal Mews located just next to Buckingham Palace! Having visited London a number of times over the years we’d already checked off many of the city’s main tourist attractions, and found ourselves unable to agree on an activity. I settled on the Royal Mews as we’d never been before, in fact, not exactly sure what a mews was, it hadn’t really ever been a contender.

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I have to admit even with my love of all things royal, I still wasn’t sure I was all that interested in what seemed to be a stable of some sort, but Elliot loves animals, its part of Buckingham Palace and it would be something new. I’m so glad we went!

As I mentioned it was raining, so after ducking into Crosstown Doughnuts in SoHo for a quick bite we set off for the Royal Mews via the underground. In what turned out to be a very happy accident we got off at the wrong stop just in time to see the Queen’s soldiers marching down the street on their way back from the Changing of the Guard! Super neat!

#changingoftheguardNot one for parades or standing around trying to see over the very tall person that always stands in front of me in large crowds, we’d never even bothered to try and see the guard ceremony before, so another first! I highly recommend seeing it via happy accident!

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The Royal Mews is responsible for the transport of the Queen and other members of the royal family via horse drawn carriage and motor car. Unfortunately we just missed the guided tour, but found the 45 minute audio guide to be quite adequate and enjoyed moving along at our own pace. During the visit you’ll be able to view many of the carriages including the Scottish and Irish State coaches, the Diamond Jubilee Coach, and the Gold State Coach,  as well as motor cars, and even some of the Queens horses.

The Scottish State Coach

Built in 1830 the Scottish State Coach and is used only periodically. The Queen used it to carry her to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

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The Irish State Coach

The Irish State Coach’s main use is to carry the monarch to the State Opening of Parliament.

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The Diamond Jubilee Coach

The Diamond Jubilee Coach was first used in 2014 to celebrate’s the Queen’s Diamond jubilee celebration. Not only is this a beautiful coach, but I was fascinated to learn that the coach is made from over 100 donated items from Britain’s historic sites, including 10 Downing Street, The Mary Rose (Henry VIII’s flagship), and a British lead musket ball from the Battle of Waterloo.

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The Gold State Coach

The Gold State Coach was commissioned in 1762 and has been used in every coronation since George IV. Due to its size and weight it requires 8 horses to pull it.

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Royal Motor Cars

All of the state and semi-state cars are painted claret and black.

About halfway along the tour you’ll find a lovely little children’s room where we stopped to do a craft and play a children’s game. During our visit we learned that the Queen names all the horses herself and that the employees both live and work at the Mews. Making it not just a place of work, but a community as well.

I highly recommend a visit to the Royal Mews we all really enjoyed ourselves, and of course seeing all those horse drawn carriages really appealed to me, I won’t lie I was digging the whole fairly tale thing…

Practical Information

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The visit takes place both indoors and out, so jackets are a good idea, but is entirely sheltered from the weather making it a great option for a rainy day. Keep in mind there is airport style security, (it is part of Buckingham Palace after all) so the less stuff you bring with you the quicker you’ll get through security. There isn’t any food or drink allowed, or for sale, but there is a lovely gift shop at the end which I enjoyed quite a bit!

Along The Way… Nottingham

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#robinhoodstatueUnfamiliar with the Midlands of England and looking for a place to stop along the way between York and London we went with the one city name on the map that stood out from all the rest, Nottingham. Yes, that Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men!

Nottingham, England

ALONG THE WAY FROM York to London

138 KM FROM York

#robinhoodnottinghamI was delighted to discover that there truly is a Sherwood Forest, A Nottingham Castle and even a Sherif of Nottingham! Sadly, heavy rain put us off from a visit to Sherwood Forest, but wanting to learn more we decided on a visit to the Castle where we also grabbed a bite to eat and picked up books about Robin Hood in the Castle gift shop. 

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Though whether or not Robin Hood was a real person is up for debate, there is no doubt that the city of Nottingham and the surrounding areas have proudly taken this character to heart with many roads as well as other places bearing his name and that of other popular names related to his legend. We got a real kick out of seeing Maid Marian Way and Friar Lane on the GPS!

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Too rainy for anything more, we set out, and besides, London was calling!

40,000 Problems… A Holiday Gift Guide

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Wait! What? Who has 40,000 problems and what kind of gift guide is this anyway?

No, I’m not gifting you 40,000 problems, but now that I’ve got your attention…

I love to take photos, but I don’t love to delete them, and until recently that wasn’t a problem, until it was. A big one! Sitting in my hotel room in the middle of the trip of a lifetime the storage was full on both my phone and my computer and I was suddenly unable to upload anymore photos.

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What initially felt like memories too precious to delete now felt like 40,000 tedious problems that had to be sorted. Now! That was a few months ago, and I’ve now deleted thousands of photos, but I still have a long way to go.

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My love of snapping pictures hasn’t gone anywhere, so even though I’ve learned my lesson about hitting the delete button, new photos are added daily, making this a two steps forward one step back kind of thing.

So, how is this a gift guide?

Well, with all these photos their must be some worth keeping and sharing, right?

holiday-bannerOne solution to all these “problems” has been to find new ways to display and store my photos off the computer. In my quest to do so I’ve sent, displayed, framed, published and gifted photos. With as many photo companies to choose from as there are photos on my hard drive it can be hard to know which one to use.

Are you considering giving photos gifts this year? If so, here is what I hope is a helpful guide to some of what I’ve learned:

Consider Frames Instead of Flowers

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Consider sending an enlarged photo of you and your loved one, or of a mutual favorite place instead of flowers when friends or loved ones are under the weather or for a holiday gift this year. Ordering beautifully framed prints from companies like Shutterfly can be very affordable, especially if you take advantage of promotions, and they will last forever.

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For an even more budget friendly option there’s IKEA. Their frames come in all sizes and colors, some priced as low as $1.49, which you can use to frame photos you print yourself or have printed at your local drugstore. I personally use these to frame my son’s art and its great!

Teen Decor

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Anyone whose ever tried knows teens are incredibly difficult to shop for, however, they love to take photos. Consider having some of their favorite snaps printed. Using an app called Mixtiles we chose some of my son’s favorite photos and had them enlarged and mounted on removable foam squares. The entire process is done on the phone, takes minutes and according to the FAQ the tiles can be rearranged as many as two dozen times each.

Snail Mail

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Postcards: Looking for something a little lower budget? Everyone loves to receive snail mail (so long as it’s not a bill)! I’ve been using the LaLaLab app to send postcards to friends and family directly from my phone using photos I took myself and its super fun! It’s a great way to say thank you, I miss you, or just hello. What a nice surprise to open your mailbox and find a personalized postcard with photos from a recent visit or fun moment.

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Holiday cards: I love sending holiday cards every year and I love receiving them! Each one is like a little gift and I know many people feel the same. I never feel organized enough to hire someone and usually take my own photo. This year I tricked my boys and told them our photo shoot was just a practice session. I got the photos I needed in 15 minutes!! This year’s card is still under wraps, this one is from 2014.

#movingcardMoving cards: Don’t forget to send moving cards. I know its better to give than to receive, but… There are many great websites and designs to choose from and I usually go with the one having the best sale! This year I used Minted to print my holiday cards and Tiny Prints for our moving announcement.

Photo Books

#photobooksCreating an album of people or memories is the best way to get those files off your computer and they make wonderful gifts too. I’ve been trying out a number of different photo book companies in all different price ranges and skill levels. Here is some of what I’ve learned so far:

Mpix  – Premium Panoramic Photo Book starting at $49.99

This was the most expensive of the books, but with a linen hardcover and lay flat pages it’s also the nicest. I created the book on my computer and once I learned their system was really able to make the book my own, creating custom layouts and adding text. The quality of the paper and prints is excellent.

LaLaLab. – Photo Book $30.00

Offering a range of photo products the LaLaLab. app couldn’t be easier to use. Choose your product, choose  your photos, personalize, and purchase! That’s it! If you’re looking to edit, alter or add text this is not the app for you. While the book did come out nicely, I’m not sure it’s $30 quality.

Chatbooks – Custom Photo Book starting at $12

The cute compact size of these books is a definite plus, however I’m not sure it’s the right company for my needs. I ended up adding a lot of pages, which made it somewhat cost prohibitive. I found their app complicated and the end result less than what I was hoping for. Chatbooks offers a subscription service which would be the perfect gift for a teenager or grandparents who might not be so concerned with all the fine details.

Mosaic – Photo Book $20 plus shipping

Created from your phone and delivered in just 4 days, Mosaic couldn’t be simpler and makes a great gift, especially if you are short on time! Chose 20 photos, rearrange them if you’d like, choose the background color, review and press order. I used Mosaic to create a memento of a girls weekend to New Orleans.

With so many photos left to sort, I’ll be making more books in the future. I’m planning on trying out Apple’s new book formats, along with Blurb, Montage, Mixbook and the Mpix softcover version. Do you have too many photos on your computer? How do you manage them? Will you be giving photo gifts this holiday season? If so, which companies do you love?

 

 

Mom Stuff: I’m Not A Soccer* Mom…

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My kids don’t play organized sports and that’s okay! In fact I’ve always liked it that way, but more importantly they like it that way. Please don’t misunderstand I’m not anti team sports, and we did encourage the boys to try…

#soccercampIn fact after years of signing my older son up for the “right” team, getting up early on weekends, shlepping the little brother along, volunteering, preparing snack, washing the uniform, losing the uniform, returning the uniform and driving back and forth to soccer, baseball, basketball, and swim team I rejoiced when he finally asked to quit.

In truth he didn’t really have the drive necessary to succeed, but expected success, how was that going to work long term? I could see years of disappointment ahead and as a mom I could hardly bear it.

It wasn’t all bad and there were some nice moments along the way, but none of them made up for all the times I had to drag him all of us to practice knowing he wasn’t even really having fun. I used to pray for a rain out and we live in California –  where we’ve been experiencing a drought for the past 5 years.

Freedom

Once we’d liberated ourselves from the grueling team sport schedules, I worried about what would happen to our friendships after spending years being part of “the team.” What would happen now? Would it be okay? Turns out it would! Phew!

We slept in on weekends while our friends did the sports thing and then met up with them later… But, that all changed as soon as we moved. It’s hard to be the new kid when you’re not into team sports? How do you meet people?

Guess I’d Better Set That Alarm After All

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Simon discovered surfing this past summer and joined his school’s surf team! How cool is that?! Watching him practice and seeing the look of joy on his face has finally opened me up to what it must feel like for other parents during their child’s sporting events. Instead of a field we meet at the beach, it’s the rash guard that’s lost and the wetsuit that needs a wash, but the little brother loves the beach and even though surf boards make carpooling difficult I’ll do the shlepping, because I love to see the look of happiness on my son’s face!

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Sunset Surf Team Practice
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Heading to sunrise surf practice

So maybe it’s not a Ball Sport as Simon calls them, but he’s found his passion, which sadly for me means no more sleeping in on weekends. Its back to those early mornings, afternoon practices, team events and competitions, only this time I won’t mind a bit!

So, I guess I’m joining the sports mom club after all… better late than never!

*Insert team sport here.

24 hours in York

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#yorkWhen deciding which cities to visit while in England this summer, York, an ancient walled city, seemed like a perfect choice. Though not a big city, with 2000 years of history behind it, there’s plenty to see. Although the rain was heavier than normal during our visit we still managed fit in quite a bit and really enjoyed our visit.

The York Minster

#yorkminsterHaving learned my lesson about the unpredictability of opening hours (see Seville and Toledo) when visiting houses of worship, it made sense that the center piece of York, York Minster, the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, would be our first stop. The current Minster is 800 years old, but the site itself dates back a few millennia! The Minster dominates the city skyline and is viewable from just about everywhere in the city.

Upon arrival we found that the Minster was open (phew!), however there was a special event taking place during our visit. The Mystery Plays, which tell the story of creation and good vs. evil are a York tradition dating back 700 years, but have only been performed in the York minster twice! The knave (the longest in England) was transformed into a giant 1,000 seat auditorium. I loved learning about the Minster’s impressive stained glass and the exhibit’s interactive exhibits were fascinating.

Another favorite was the Undercroft, a museum in the basement of the Minster, which explained not just the history of the Minster, but York as well. The ancient Roman Emperor, Constantine, was crowned while visiting York and you can see the very spot where it took place. Since we had recently visited Hadrian’s Wall It was fun to see it mentioned on the Museum’s timeline of history. There were many interactive exhibits, films and artifacts to look at and all four of us found something of interest.

York EnglandI highly recommend climbing the Central Tower, which provides amazing views of the city and Minster in every direction. Keep in mind there is a separate charge for the Central Tower and the visit is timed. Younger children are free, but still need a ticket.

Walking the Walls of York

york-england-4389A visit to York wouldn’t be complete without a walk along the city’s walls, which surround the original medieval city and provide lovely views of the Minster and city. To walk completely around the walls takes around two hours, but there are many places along the way where one can enter and exit the path.

The medieval walls are standing upon the remains of earlier walls which date back to the Roman times. We appreciated that their were safety fences in place and as we walked along we imagined what it might have been like for the soldiers up there without them…

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The Shambles

#theshamblesThe Shambles, a charming medieval street, dates back to the time of William the Conqueror and is considered to be one the best preserved medieval streets in the world. We wandered up and down this street multiple times, popping in and out of the various shops. I came back multiple times throughout the day hoping for that perfect shot, but unfortunately the weather was not on my side!

Clifford’s Tower

#cliffordtowerBy late afternoon the rain was coming down in buckets and when I mentioned walking over to Clifford’s Tower the boys were having no part of it. No matter, after 20+ days in the car together I could use a little “me” time, even in the pouring rain! Unfortunately I arrived just after it had closed for the day, but spent some time wandering around the area and snapping a few photos. Clifford’s Tower is all that’s left of York Castle which was at one time the North’s center of government. Its history is quite dark as it was the site of a mass suicide and massacre and was also at one time a prison.

The Hotel Indigo York

#hotelindigoyorkWith cozy rooms, excellent service and a great location we really enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Indigo. Decorated in a very homey style the rooms were a welcome place to relax and wait out the heaviest rain of the day. The boys really enjoyed the complimentary treats, which included cocoa, and candy bars!

Thanksgiving Traditions

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It’s obviously no secret that I love to travel, but when I’m home I take comfort in my daily routines and rarely deviate from them. Throughout the year It’s a nice mix of the excitement of the new and the comfort of the known. For much the same reason I look forward to the holidays every year. We get that much needed break from the tedium of the school week and the joy of our annual holiday traditions!

Making a New Tradition

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Like most people many of our holiday traditions revolve around food, and some of the recipes go back generations! I can’t remember a new dish being added. Ever. Each of us has our favorite, mine was always the sweet potatoes. I admit the mini marshmallows baked on at the end were a big draw… However, I recently discovered a dish I love so much I’ve decided to break from routine and give it a shot at becoming a new holiday tradition! That is if I decide to share…

Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

Not only is this a delicious dish, it’s very easy to throw together! Add as much or as little of each ingredient to make this recipe truly your own.

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 ear of fresh corn per person (remove the kernels)
  • Salt
  • Chopped Cilantro (save some for garnish)
  • Mayonaise
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Cotija cheese crumbled (save some for garnish)
  • Lime juice
  • Chili powder
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over hight heat. Add the corn kernels, salt and toss them a few times before letting them char one side. Repeat this process on the other side and continue until all the kernels have reached the desired amount of charing. About 30 seconds before removing the kernels from the pan add the minced garlic and stir. Transfer the kernels to a large bowl.

Mix in the cilantro, both cheeses, the mayonnaise, lime juice and chili powder. Salt to taste and garnish with extra cilantro and cotija cheese crumbles. Many people also add chopped jalapeño or hot sauce as well. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

One Amazing Day in LA!

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Tourist in my own town, a continuing series…

Los Angeles Urban LightIn a big city like Los Angeles, there is no a shortage of things to see and do, in fact if anything, deciding which amazing thing to do next is the challenge. I know! It’s a struggle! Lucky for me, I live here, so even though I can’t do it all, I at least have a fighting chance! But what if you don’t live here, how do you narrow down all those great options?

The good news is: You just can’t go wrong!

#bronsoncanyonIf you’re looking for a few ideas to get you started, look no further! Our recent 8 hour whirlwind tour, which started in Santa Monica and ended with a gorgeous sunset over Museum Row, hit many iconic highlights, and included something for everyone. We had a lot of ground to cover, especially since some of our group had never been to California before, but I think we did a pretty good job!

One Amazing Day in LA

Sidecar Doughnuts

#sidecardoughA great place to grab breakfast and go over the day’s plan, our group met at Sidecar Doughnuts, which is pretty much our favorite donut shop on the Westside, and we’ve tried a few. Sidecar’s doughnuts are always fresh, tasty, and popular, so be prepared for a long line, and because your first choice will most likely sell out before you make it to the counter, choose a second. Don’t worry they’re all good.

#sidecardoughnutsIf you’re interested in street art you might like to view the large Bumblebeelovesyou mural on the West side of the building. Collecting street art is a favorite pastime of mine, so look out for more on that in a future post.

The Hollywood Sign

#hollywoodsignWhen visiting Los Angeles the world famous Hollywood sign is always a popular sight! If you’re not up to hiking, or just don’t have time, there are many places around town where you can get a great view. One such place is Bronson Canyon located in Griffith Park. Not only is this a great view spot, but its also the filming location for many popular Hollywood movies and TV shows, the list is long, but here are a few: Gunsmoke, Little House on the Prairie, Star Trek, The Scorpion King, and Army of Darkness.

Other great spots to view the sign are, the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood and Highland Center, and the top level of the Broad Contemporary Art Building at LACMA.

The Historic Hollywood Walk of Fame

Los Angeles Walk of FameAnother famous Hollywood institution is the Walk of Fame, which runs 1.3 miles along Hollywood Boulevard between Gower Street and La Brea Avenue. There are more than 2,500 stars along the Walk and you’ll be sure to recognize a few of your favorite entertainers.

Be sure to look up as you’re walking along, otherwise you might miss the famous Grauman’s Chinese theater! I still remember my visit here as a little girl and attempting to fit my feet and hands into the many celebrity prints which have been pressed into the courtyard floor.

Pinks Hot Dog Stand

#pinkchilidogsAfter all that hiking and walking we’d whipped up an appetite and no trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a trip to Pink’s a true LA institution! Famous for it’s chili cheese dog, Pink’s has been in the same spot on La Brea for 76 years and if the perpetually long line is any indication, it’s not going anywhere.

Trust me it’s worth the wait! Even, if like me, you think you don’t like chili dogs. It turns out I do, its just that they have to be from Pink’s! If you’re still not convinced, don’t worry; there are other items on the menu.

La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

#tarpitsOur next stop will be of particular interest to any history lovers in your group! Can you believe that at one time the bustling area that is now Museum Row on Wilshire Boulevard was once the home of dire wolves, saber-tooth cats, and mammoths? It’s true! Of course that was 50,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years… The La Brea Tar Pits and the George C. Page Museum offer a glimpse into what life was life in the LA basin long before people came along.

#tarpitExcavation is still taking place and during your visit you’ll see bubbling tar pits, current dig sites, fossils, informational films and interactive exhibits. A few things to keep in mind: There is an entrance fee to the museum, but viewing the outside exhibits is free. You won’t see dinosaurs here, as they’d already been extinct for 65 million years when animals started becoming entrapped in the tar pits.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

#urbanlightConveniently located across the lawn from the Tar Pits, we walked over to our final stop of the day, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It would take multiple visits to see everything the largest art museum on the West Coast has to offer, but we were running out of steam at this point, so instead of touring the indoor galleries we chose to enjoy some of the Museum’s outdoor exhibits.

one-amazing-day-in-la-9619I could spend hours at Urban lights by artist Chris Burden. The solar powered installation is made from 202 restored cast iron street lamps from 1920s and 30s Los Angeles. This is an incredibly popular place to take photos and hang out, so unless you want to visit in the middle of the night, expect to have other people in your photos.

#penetrableThe boys loved Penetrable by artist Jesús Rafael Soto, an interactive art installation just outside the entrance to the Ahmanson Building. Made of simple yellow tubing hanging from a steel grid, this installation is meant to be touched! The boys spent ages here and I think we need one of these in our yard!

#urbanlightJust as the sun was setting and having had our fill of outdoor art and photos we decided to call it a day. There are so many amazing places to see in LA and I’m doing my best to see them all… I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I think I’m up to the task!

 

Along the Way: Hadrian’s Wall

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#hadrianswall20 days into what had already been an epic road trip we were headed to the stop I was most excited for: Hadrian’s Wall. I know that for some, what basically amounts to a crumbling brick wall in the middle of nowhere England might not be interesting, but for me, a history loving anglophile, this was an absolute dream come true! Built in AD 122, Hadrian’s Wall, was the North-west frontier of the Roman Empire for nearly 300 years!

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I already knew this day was going to be great, but the icing on the cake, was when we accidentally came across a home once inhabited by Mary Queen of Scots on our way to Hadrian’s Wall. Ancient history and royalty, my perfect day!

Mary Queen of Scots House

ALONG THE WAY FROM Edinburgh to York… Jedburgh, Scotland

76.5 KM FROM Edinburgh

#maryqueenofscotshouseI do love a road trip, but I also love a nap, so it was pure luck that I woke up from my nap at the exact moment we were passing a sign that said: Mary Queen of Scots House. Of course we were stopping!! We soon discovered that we were in Jedburgh a little town 10 miles from the Scottish English border.

The boys weren’t as interested in visiting the Queen of Scot’s house, so they had a bite to eat while I looked around. The home contains what is said to be one of her two surviving death masks along with some other of her other items.

#maryqueenofscotshouseThere is no admission fee, but if you want to purchase anything at the little gift shop keep in mind that they only accept cash.

#jedburghabbeyJedburgh though small was a great place to take a break from the road. There were a number of interesting sites, one of which was the Jedburgh abbey, which looked absolutely beautiful! However, Hadrian’s Wall was calling, so we were on our way…

Hadrian’s Wall

ALONG THE WAY FROM Jedburgh TO York… Hexham, England

83.7 KM FROM Jedburgh

#hadrianswallThe challenge when visiting a site 73 miles (80 roman miles) long is working out where exactly to stop. Many parts of Hadrian’s wall are truly in the middle of the countryside, in disrepair, or inaccessible by car. Adding to the challenge were the many fences also made of stone. After all, making sure we were oohing and ahhing at the right wall was key! After doing a little research we decided the best place for our visit to the Wall was the visitor center and ruins of  Housesteads Roman Fort.

#housesteadsromanfortI was excited to discover that while most of Hadrian’s Wall is off limits there are sections where it is acceptable to stand upon or even walk along for a bit. Standing at and on such an important and ancient piece of history was an incredible feeling! The edge of an empire!

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It’s quite popular to “walk” the Wall and I would have liked to, at least for a little while, but serious rain was threatening and after a few minutes the boys abandoned me for the shelter of the Housestead’s Museum.

##hadrianswallThe photographer in me wanted options, so we found another car accessible spot along the Wall, where I overcame my fear of “what might be in the grass,” cows, and bugs and ventured into the fields for a closer look and a few more snaps!

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Maybe you’re not a history lover, but how about entertainment or movies? Hadrian’s Wall, although not a person, plays a major part in the movie King Arthur starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightly, a personal favorite of mine. Standing on the wall looking north might bring to mind another favorite, Game of Thrones? Whether it’s an interest in pop culture, or a love of history, or both consider a visit to Hadrian’s Wall! Especially if it just happens to be “along the way…”

England Hadrian's Wall

Practical information: There is a charge to visit Housesteads and if you’re planning to “walk” the wall for any length, you’ll want proper hiking shoes. We didn’t join a tour, but did enjoy the museum’s short film about the Wall’s history, Emperor Hadrian, and the Roman soldiers who lived at Housesteads and built the Wall. Of course we stopped in the gift shop where we picked up a few mementos of our visit!

Next stop: York, England

 

24 Hours in Edinburgh

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#edinburghHave you ever visited a place that felt so right, so special that it was almost painful to leave? Love at first sight? That’s exactly how I felt about Edinburgh from the very first moment. I’m not exaggerating when I say my mouth literally fell open with the unique beauty of the city, so when Tim suggested we go back for a repeat visit I was ecstatic and  so were our boys!

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Having already visited many of Edinburgh’s major highlights on a previous visit, and because we only had one full day, we decided not to plan too much in advance. This worked out to be the perfect mix of old favorites and new discoveries.

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A bonus was our meet up with close friends from California! How exciting to meet up with friends in a far away place! Our dinner together and a lovely walk along the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle was a highlight of our visit.

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#reunion

First Things First

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Our first stop the next day was brunch! I know I said we weren’t planning anything, but there was one exception, our much anticipated repeat visit to Oink, located in the Grassmarket neighborhood. I guess we were excited because we arrived on the early side and they weren’t open yet. Wandering in and out of the area’s shops was the perfect way to pass time while we waited. The above photo of our meal at Oink speaks for itself!

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

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After brunch we decided upon a walk along the Royal Mile with our final destination the Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Simon, always up for anything, accompanied me to the Fashioning A Reign exhibit showcasing a selection of the Queens wardrobe from over the course of her lifetime. Tim and Elliot weren’t as nice interested, so they waited just outside in front of the new Scottish Parliament building. Cheering on some marathon runners helped them pass the time.

The apartment of Mary Queen of Scots located inside the Palace and the adjacent Abbey were highlights of my last visit and the unexpected revisit to them on our way to the fashion exhibit was a very nice surprise.

Arthurs seat

#arthursseatSimon thought it would be a good idea to climb up Arthurs Seat, the highest point in Holyrood park and just adjacent to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. An ancient volcano, Arthurs Seat, is 251 meters above sea level, so nothing to sneeze at.

I hate to say no when the kids get excited about seeing or trying something new, so even though we weren’t wearing hiking shoes… we thought we’d give it a try. Turns out the hike was very manageable though not easy by any means. Our hard work was rewarded with incredible 360 degree views of Edinburgh and beyond.

#arthursseatWe didn’t spend much time at the top, rain was on the horizon, and we were nervous about a slippery descent. The entire hike took about an hour and a half and we made it down just as the rain started!

St. Giles Catherdral

#stgiles

By the time we finished our hike and walked back to our hotel the rain was coming down quite heavily, so we decided on a visit to St. Giles Cathedral, a place we had missed out on during our last visit.  A lovely cathedral and well worth a look around, especially on a rainy day.

The Writers Museum

#writersmuseum

Although we didn’t have time to go inside the Writers Museum, we did spend time in the courtyard reading the tiles, which are inscribed with lovely quotes written by some of the city’s most famous writers. All of them about Edinburgh of course! Further exploration of this place is on my list for our next visit…

The Inn on the Mile

#innonthemileOur accommodations at The Inn on the Mile were perfectly located right in the middle of the Royal Mile. However, the seven flights of stairs we had to climb each time we came and went definitely presented a challenge, especially after climbing Arthurs Seat. Elliot loved sitting at the bar and watching the bartenders at work… something that isn’t allowed here in America.

#innonthemile

The rooms, although small, were lovely. The bathrooms were especially nice and were equipped with GHD flatirons (to combat the Scottish wind), fog less mirrors, and double sinks.

#edinburgh

Even though our visit was partially interrupted by heavy rain we still managed to find time for a bit of shopping on Princes Street!

Of course there is still so much to see in this amazing and picturesque city, but this time I have a good feeling we’ll be back…

Here are the Highlights of our 24 hours in Edinburgh: