Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where in the World have the Claytors gone...Part II

Chris was given the woeful job of traveling to London for work, a terrible burden, no doubt. In order to share in this unenviable task, I offered (begged, pleaded, cajoled) to go along. 

And, naturally, when one is in the vicinity of so many intriguing places, surely we couldn’t just settle on being in London, right?  So we extended the trip and I managed to sort out a wee side trip to Scotland during the second half of our stay. 

While the best laid plans often go awry, I must say, we were not exactly prepared to be the unwitting bystanders to the passive aggressive American Airlines pilot strike. Yeah, that’s right, pilot was a no show and our flight was cancelled. 

We were able to be re-booked on another flight later in the evening, and arrived in London the following morning (Sunday). We hopped on the tube and went into the downtown and wandered (in a bit of a haze, admittedly) around Buckingham Palace, Covent Gardens, and Trafalgar Square, before stumbling into a pub for beer and dinner. 

The next day, somewhat less fuzzy, we head out to hit the sights, toured the Tower of London, plotted a royal jewels heist, and determined we’d not make it past the turrets before the Beefeaters took us down and we ended up in an international incident.  

The thing that seems to strike me the most about the UK is the ever present notion of time.  There is so much history, so much still standing, so much culture; all things that I find to be elusive in the states. That’s the most I can explain as to why I have such a strong affinity to being overseas. 

The next day (Tuesday) Chris head off for work and I was set free to wander the streets of London on my own. I hopped on the tube and head over to the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery to get my art fix before walking to Hyde Park , where naturally, they have parrots. What?!  Cute little green parrots…wacky. Chicago needs green parrots…don’t they get cold?  I digress…

Wednesday found Chris sampling the airline chef’s offerings for its first class patrons, while I head off in the other direction for a change of pace.  It suddenly dawned on me that the week was half over and I was running out of time, so I went full tourist mode and crammed in as much as I could possible see. I tubed over to the Royal Botanical Gardens in the morning and had a phenomenal sunny day for taking in all the cool growie things. Finally had some tea and scones with clotted cream (sounds gross but don’t let the name fool ya) courtesy of my friend Mary Ellen who sent me with money for just such a purpose. In the afternoon, back downtown, I hit the shopping district of SoHo for some gifts. I managed to squeak into St. Martin in the Fields for the Evensong rehearsal. Then I was off to see the London Eye, Parliament, and Westminster Abby before finally heading back to the hotel to prep for our next day’s train ride to Edinburgh. 

Fortunate to have a lighter work schedule than anticipated, Chris tidied up the last of the work obligations in the morning before we went to Kings Cross to catch our 4 hour ride to Scotland. I had my faced pressed against the window pretty much the whole time, trying to smell the green. 

Appropriately, it was dumping rain when arrived, and we had a rather sloshy ½ mile walk to the apartment I’d arranged in the New Town area of Edinburgh. Even in the sogginess, the city was unreal. The castle is up on a cliff, and lit up and can be seen from pretty much everywhere. I loved, loved, loved it, every last speck of all of it; Edinburgh was fantastic. We went out for some Scottish fare and beer that night to become better imbedded in all that the country has to offer. 

Morning brought a misty day, suitable for touring as we head over to the castle on the hill. We followed around some guy in a kilt, red hair, thick brogue, only to realize it was someone else’s private tour. We then made our way down the Royal Mile while on a quest to buy some art (We’ve been trying to buy art whenever we travel). We ended at Holyrood House, the Queen of England’s Scottish residence while she’s in town. We did some grocery shopping that evening and had dinner in, while Chris caught up on some more work. 

Saturday we found a great gallery and bought an original piece of art and a print that I absolutely love.  We’d found another painting, but as we’d gone to check out one last shop before deciding, another woman bought what we’d had our eye on. The afternoon took us to hike Arthur’s Seat, the old hunting grounds of royalty, if I recall the brochure. It was an…invigorating…walk up a steady hill that offered great 360 degree views of the area and a sort of Highlands in miniature feeling, as there was plenty of heather and gorse, expressive rolling clouds and a stiff wind at the top. 

Sunday was go home day, and I was loathe to leave Scotland and return to reality. The country felt the same and tried to keep us – our connecting flight delayed due to London Fog (Meteorological compliance to marketing perhaps? Those Brits!)  We were able to arrive in enough time to make our connecting flight through Heathrow (a ridiculously poor planned airport) and arrived in Chicago mid-day.

I promptly looked up emigration requirements to Scotland. I’ll let you know how that all works out. Wee bastards.