Pretty Churches

During our trip to the UK we visited lots and lots of old churches and cathedrals. Husband especially loves touring old churches. There is so much history, architecture, art and intrigue. The United Kingdom had some especially beautiful old churches, and we were lucky enough to spend lots of quality time in them.

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When we visited Westminster Abbey in London they were about to start services and weren’t allowing visitors, sooo we did the only logical choice and told the guard we were going to services, which we did. We sat and and listened to the choir and services start, but Luna wasn’t exactly enjoying it or sitting quietly, so we left after about ten minutes. Unfortunately, that was the only time we had in that famous Abbey, BUT have no fear, we made up for all of that lost time in the York Minster, my all time favorite cathedral, er minster? Does anyone know the difference?

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The York Minster is HUGE. Huge and gorgeous. We spent hours and hours covering every inch, brick and stained glass window. We toured the basement, which goes 2,000 years back into the Minster’s history. Husband and Dad-in-law climbed the winding staircases to the top of the Central Tower. (I had to stay back thank to some baby and “it’s too dangerous for kids” rule.) I spent a lot of time in “the orb” It’s a new exhibit that gives you a very rare opportunity to see some very cool, very old ancient stained glass. I’m not typically a huge fan of stained glass, but I found a whole new appreciation for it after spending time in the orb, and in the Minster for that matter.

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In Scotland, our favorite Cathedral, and Husband’s all-time fav church, with the St. Giles Cathedral. St. Giles is over 900 years old and is located in the center of The Royal Mile. It’s dark, mysterious and has some incredible stained glass windows. However, the most interesting part of the church is the Thistle Chapel. This little room caught Husband’s attention because it was off limits, due to theft. Obviously, he was intrigued and determined to go in, after a little research and a convo with one of the workers, the doors were unlocked and we were taken in right before closing for a little private tour.

stained glass more glass little room

I REALLY wish I would have immediately written down everything we were told because it was so interesting, but of course, i didn’t write down a single word. Here’s what I do know… The Thistle Chapel is a room created for the Order of the Thistle (Scotland’s great order of chivalry). There are 16 members of the Order. Each member has their own stall in the Chapel with their own “heraldic device” on display. After one member dies, another is invited to join the Order. The room is full of the most detailed and intricate carvings and designs. There are many symbolic details, and some silly ones too…like an angel playing the bagpipes. It was a cool room, made cooler by the fact that we got a private tour.

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Oh, so many gorgeous details.

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Where will our next ancient Cathedral be?

Cheers!

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How to Pack a Diaper Backpack (video!)

I have been debating creating YouTube videos for the blog for a VERY long time now and am happy (and relieved) to say I have finally done it! It has been a long few days of recording, editing and learning new software, but it has paid off. My first topic? Well, it was actually requested by one of you!

One of you asked that I share what I packed in Luna’s diaper bag while traveling through the United Kingdom. I loved the idea and then thought, why not make it a video?

Hope you like it!

If you have any requests for future videos or blogs, let me know in the comments.

Cheers!

The Big Three

My happy little traveler.
My happy little traveler.

While we were in London, we took a few trips outside of the city to checkout lots of bucket-list type attractions. Our longest day trip was an 11-hour bus tour that took us to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. It was a lot to cover in one day, but the rushed trip was very much worth it.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

We booked the tour with Viator. They picked us up at our hotel, bright and early. We were ready with our cameras, snacks, packed diaper bag and carrier.  The first stop was Windsor Castle and it was about a 2-hour drive from London. Windsor Castle is gorgeous. My favorite part was Queen Mary’s enormous and elaborate doll house. I’m talking BIG. It took a good 15-20 minutes to look at quickly. I wonder if any kids were ever actually allowed to play with it… Interesting fact: Queen Victoria was often called the “Widow Of Windsor” after Prince Albert’s death because on the rare occasion that she was spotted outside she was always dressed in black and mourning.

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We rushed through our tour because poor Luna had broken out in horrible hives all over her torso for the second time in a week. I realized she was wearing the same wool shirt both occasions so we quickly scoured through a couple souvenir shops and bought her a touristy London kids cotton tee to wear.

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Next stop, Stonehenge! To be frank, I was not super excited about looking at a bunch or rocks. The fact, that Luna was refusing a nap (shocking, I know) and being a grumpus didn’t help. I wore Luna in her carrier out to the rocks and was blasted with the craziest winds. She was screaming and I just did my best to keep bouncing and to cover her with my scarf, neither of which helped. Too bad too, because those giant prehistoric mystery rocks stacked on each other were very impressive. They are a part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, which is a good list to check off if you travel. After a few photos, Luna and I spent most of our time in the gift shop playing with stuffed sheep and trying the wine samples.

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Our final stop, and longest drive, was to Bath. In my opinion, they saved the best for last. Bath, yet another World Heritage Site, is gorgeous. The yellow stone, Georgian architecture and the river that runs through it is stunning. Just the sight of the city as you are getting close is breathtaking. Sadly, we didn’t get a lot of time to explore the city of Bath because we focused our time there at the Roman Baths. Somewhere around a million years ago, give or take a few, Romans turned bath into a spa town. They used the natural hot springs to create lots of baths and fancy places to hangout and relax. These Romans had the right idea. I just wanted to go back in time and hop into these hot springs while I walked around listening to the audio guide with my scarf and coat wrapped tightly around me. That hot water and skinny dipping sounded heavenly.

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So, drinking the water from the hot springs is  said to be "healing".
So, drinking the water from the hot springs is said to be “healing”.

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It took almost 3 hours to get home, but it wasn’t horrible. The entire day was fast and furious, but considering it was the only way we would have possibly been able to squeeze all 3 sights into our itinerary, I’m thrilled we did it. (Plus, even with all the driving, we still managed to get more than our 10,000 steps in for the day.) If you are ever in London, I highly recommend taking the day trip to all three sights. unless, you have lots of time. If you have the time then I would suggest spending a full day in Bath. I would love to go back and spend a day exploring!

Guess we will have to plan another trip to England one day…darn.

Cheers!

Edinburgh, the Last Stop

view from the train, apparently not as entertaining as T. Swift
view from the train, apparently not as entertaining as T. Swift

Our final stop on our United Kingdom vacation was Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the cherry on top of what was already a fantastic trip. The 3 hour train ride was a little long for Luna, but we had a nice view and Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” video on repeat to keep us (i.e. Luna) happy. We learned quickly that Edinburgh was going to be the coldest of all our stops, but also the most beautiful. Stop #1: Edinburgh Castle.

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It was very windy. So windy, that it was difficult to push the stroller uphill. I tried to stay inside the state rooms, exhibits and gift shops as much as possible. There was a minute where I went outside in a courtyard area… I sat Luna down, told Peter to watch her and walked ahead of them to study the map. A few seconds later, I turned around to ask Husband something and was shocked to see a Chinese woman holding Luna and her Chinese tour group of about 20 surrounding them and taking photos with their iPads. I then see Husband with this face…

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But, really, who wouldn't want to pick up the cutie and take her picture?
But, really, who wouldn’t want to pick up this cutie and take her picture?

We walked around doing touristy stuff and exploring the dark and mysterious St. Giles Cathedral before hitting the sack that night. We had to go to bed early because I was making everyone wake up an hour before sunrise the next day. We got up with the moon, dressed in lots of layers, put Luna in the carrier and started walking.

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The goal was to walk through town, to Holyrood Park and hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat. It’s a very tall hill formed from an extinct volcano and is very popular for hiking, but is known for being a little difficult and often very windy. The plan was to hike to the top at sunrise, take in the amazing views, hike down and eat an enormous breakfast at a local family restaurant where I made a reservation. That was the plan…

Halfway up we could barely stand the incredible winds whipping us in the face, and poor baby Luna could not make it one more step. She was inconsolable and I felt like the worst Mom in the history of Moms for even attempting to hike with her to the top of a windy small mountain. In an attempt to redeem myself, I sent the boys up to the top and hiked back down with a baby strapped to me as the sun came up. I managed to find the restaurant where I had made a reservation and decided I’d have coffee until the boys made it down.

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At least they got to enjoy the views.
At least they got to enjoy the views.

Here’s a video that shows just how strong the wind at the top of Arthur’s Seat was, and of my Dad-in-law almost falling down.

I was confused to find the doors locked, and even more confused when I read on the door that they don’t open until 11am everyday, especially since I made a reservation online for breakfast at 9am. I began walking uphill on The Royal Mile back to our hotel feeling peeved that I missed the sunrise, the views, a huge breakfast and had yet to have any coffee. Luna was feeling like 50 pounds hanging from my shoulders and was sound asleep, but as I carried her and wondered the very quiet empty streets as the sun came up I began to appreciate the moment. How many people can say they walked the Royal Mile with their baby in their arms as the sun rose? Besides, we got coffee and breakfast somewhere else.

Okay, I have rambled a lot on this post, so let me speed through some other top spots in Edinburgh. We hit up Holyroodhouse Palace where Queen Elizabeth stays during the summer and where Mary Queen of Scots lived and watched her boyfriend get murdered! (Have I mentioned my new fascination with Mary yet?)

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We climbed the teeny tiny narrow 271 steps of spiral staircases of Sir Walter Scott’s monument, shopped and ate lots of good food. (Food blog to come!)

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view from Scott's Monument
view from Scott’s Monument

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We toured the Royal Yacht Britannia, the retired yacht of her royal majesty. It was impressive and interesting and oh-so very ridiculous. The queen would have the boat travel to somewhere, say Australia, then she would fly there with her forty-three palace workers and stay on the yacht like a floating hotel. That’s a little nutty.

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The queen's bed, surprisingly modest.
The queen’s bed, surprisingly modest.

Husband’s highlight of Scotland was the video game exhibit (no photos allowed) at the National Museum of Scotland. Luna loved the kids playroom, running around the video game exhibit distracting people and dancing with me to “Just Dance”.

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And, that’s the end of our amazing trip. No worries, though, there are many more travel stories to come!

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Cheers!

The Noble Trip To York

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While planning our trip to the United Kingdom I knew I wanted to start in London and end in Edinburgh, but I was not sure where we would stop in between. In fact, I basically looked at the map and thought, York looks about halfway…okay, done. My handy dandy  Fodor’s travel book, as well at the Internet, helped me outline an itinerary for York while staying in London. I knew NOTHING about York prior to our trip, so I needed all the help I could get, especially since I was the designated tour guide.

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Our first stop was Grey’s Court, which is a magical country cottage hidden between the Minster and the city walls. It’s a home that is over 900 years old and is now a restaurant/hotel. We had lunch and coffee and it was oh.my.gosh. amazing. Great food. Great service. Great ambiance. And, a great view. Everything we ordered was delicious and when we finished our waiter offered to give us a tour of the rooms and the property. Let me just say this; if you ever find yourself in York, book a room at Grey’s Court.

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No high chairs, but Luna enjoyed eating on the comfy couch
No high chairs, but Luna enjoyed eating on the comfy couch

Next stop was the York Minster and I swear to you this was the most interesting church I have ever visited. St. Peter’s Basilica is unbelievable, but there was something so captivating about the Minster. Maybe it was the lack of tourist, the stain glass exhibit or the underground rooms… whatever it was, it kept us there for hours. The boys got to climb the spiral staircases to the top in capture some amazing views, but it was “too dangerous for children” so Luna and I stayed down below.

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There was on room with dozens of these heads, each one different and so detailed.
There was on room with dozens of these heads, each one different and so detailed.

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poor baby was terrified to walk on the glass floor!
poor baby was terrified to walk on the glass floor!

We spent the rest of the day walking and touring. We went through the Shambles (old narrow street that was once all butchers and now touristy unique shops). We naively hiked to the top of Clifford’s Hill, only to learn that the tower was closed. We drank beer and cider at the Trembling House of Madness, a cozy pub adorned with dozens of stuffed animal heads and is apparently haunted, and did some shopping, of course.

The Shambles
The Shambles

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Day 2 we did some extreme walking. As soon as the sun was up we walked through the Museum Gardens before having breakfast in the gardens. After our huge meal, we spent a couple of hours walking the full loop of city walls. After that long walk (with a stroller) we earned a coffee break at the Perky Peacock, which is inside an older bridge tower. Then, off to the National Railway Museum! (Somewhere in here we went to the Yorkshire Museum..it lead much to be desired.)

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I am not typically interested in trains, but these trains were so very cool! We saw royal trains with complete designer bedrooms, living rooms, offices, kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms. Fancy overnight trains for very wealthy people. (Why can’t we all travel by train these days?), bullet trains, very old mail trains, enormous engines and so much more. Every single person told us that the museum was “must-do” in York, and I now agree.

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Our last night in York was topped off with one of their famous ghost tours. Yes, York is apparently the most haunted city in Europe. The tour was cheesier than I had hoped, and we froze our butts off, but whatevs, we did it. Next stop, Edinburgh!

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Cheers!

‘Ello Gov’na

London was our first stop in Old Blighty, home of the queen, Paddington Bear and Big Ben. Honestly, I knew little of London before jetting off to spend a week traipsing about the city. What I did know, I learned from Mary Poppins, Harry Potter and Bridget Jones. I went expecting very rhythmic chimney sweeps, Diagon Alley, awkward single girls and not much else. However, I was chosen (by myself) as the tour guide/planner for the trip, which meant I needed to do a bit more research before taking my chaps on holiday.

I learned a little before we set off, and A LOT once we were there. I spent every night studying my guide book, city map and favorite travel websites in order to make sure the next day was planned to the max. We did, and saw so much that’s its absolutely impossible to write everything about London in one post. I’ll dedicate future blogs to more specific topics (food, shopping, Harry Potter, churches, etc), but this post covers the best of the best stuff you gotta see when you are in London.

must see

I used Fodor’s Great Britain tour book on this trip. Fodor’s is always my go-to. They tend to cater to the thrifty traveler and their suggestions are on point 99% of the time. For London, they offered a walking tour (yay!), and we did it the second we dropped our bags at our hotel.

Covent Garden Plaza
Covent Garden Plaza
Chinatown
Chinatown
Picadilly Circus is their "Time Square"... a pathetic excuse for a Time Square if you ask me.
Picadilly Circus is their “Time Square”… a pathetic excuse for a Time Square if you ask me.
The gates to Buckingham Palace
The gates to Buckingham Palace

The tour took us to Covent Garden Plaza, Chinatown, the theater district, Picadilly Circus, Green Park, Buckingham Palace,  the mall, Trafalgar square, passed the National Gallery and right back to our hotel at Charring Cross. We hadn’t slept in 30 hours, but it felt good to walk. The city invigorated us. Of course, when the walk ended, we had a little espresso break back in our hotel room before heading out for another walk through the city. This time we saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millenium Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and the Tate Modern. Holy Cow, that’s a lot to see in one day!

Buckingham Palace, looks a lot like a big White House to me.
Buckingham Palace, looks a lot like a big White House to me.
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Millennium Bridge
Millennium Bridge
The Tate Modern
The Tate Modern

Our next full day in London began with another early morning walk. This time we began by walking to the London Eye, to Big Ben and to Westminster Abbey (where we attended the first 5 minutes of a service, until Luna lost her patience). Finally, we took the tube across town to London Tower. There’s so much to see at the Tower, but the most popular attraction is the crown jewels, which you look at by standing on a large conveyor belt. After a lunch of fish and chips (fries), a walk over the Tower Bridge (NOT London), we took a rainy trip on the Duck Tours.

The London Eye, and no we didn't ride it
The London Eye, and no we didn’t ride it
Big Ben
Big Ben
entrance to Westminster Abbey, it's gorgeous
entrance to Westminster Abbey, it’s gorgeous
The four of us in front of Tower Bridge
The four of us in front of Tower Bridge
Aww. aren't we cute
Aww. aren’t we cute

The day we went to Harry Potter Studios, we managed to squeeze in a shopping trips to the most incredible department store, Harrod’s. And, yes, it’s bigger and more impressive than Bergdorf Goodman. We also had time to do some shopping at Hamley’s, which is a crazy old and super famous toy store in London that opened in 1760. Obviously, we bought souvenirs and gifts from both places. Luna and I both needed things.

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Our last full day of walking all across London was a record breaking day, as far as steps go. It began at Kensington Palace, home of William and Kate and former home of Princess Diana. We toured the state rooms and then walked to Victoria and Albert. I LOVED the Victoria and Albert museum and their incredible gift shop. We stayed and explored until we had to leave to make our reservation for afternoon at Fortnum and Mason. (More on that magical experience to come.) And, because we ate so much we decided to walk it off by walking a few miles back to our hotel after taking in the view of London from the Shard.

Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace
playing dress-up in the palace
playing dress-up in the palace
a little bit of  V&A
a little bit of V&A
mmm fancy tea
mmm fancy tea
someone massacred their first macaroon
someone massacred their first macaroon
The Shard
The Shard
view of London Bridge at night
view of London Bridge at night

If you managed to get through all of this, congrats. You just got my very long summary of all the best stuff to see in London, minus the food, the shopping and anything hip and trendy that the locals do (that will have to wait until next trip). After my fast and furious tour of London, I’ve got to say it’s awesome. It is a cleaner, more polite and beautiful version of NYC. Although, our friend in London feels the same way about New York… grass is always greener I guess.

Tower Bridge at night
Tower Bridge at night

Have any of you been to London, or do you plan to go? What was your favorite spot? What do you plan to see?

Cheers!

A Trip Across the Big Pond

We are home and recovering from our 2 week vacation across the Big Pond, and I must say it was AMAZING. Yes, even with a baby, it was freakin’ awesome. I have been mentally preparing sooo many blog entries for you and I am itching to get started. If only this little baby would leave me alone for more than 2 minutes. Geez, obsessed much? Well, while Luna naps for 2 seconds I’ll very quickly give you a synopsis of our trip and a sneak peak at blogs to come!

Our first stop was London, and 6 days was not enough time!

Tower Bridge in London
Tower Bridge in London

We took a day trip to Cambridge and hungout with our very good friend Katy and her daughter, who we haven’t seen in almost 3 years!

Cambridge, that's me and my best friend Katy on the bridge!
Cambridge, that’s me and my best friend Katy on the bridge!

And, in one very busy day we saw Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath! That makes for one very big, busy and long day.

Windsor Castle - the largest inhabited castle in the world
Windsor Castle – the largest inhabited castle in the world
Stonehenge, more than just rocks
Stonehenge, more than just rocks
The Roman baths, in Bath
The Roman baths, in Bath

We took a train to York to spend a couple of days, and oh my…I fell in love with this city. Just the Minster itself with mesmerizing, but there was so much more. Like 900 year old restaurants, haunted pubs, shopping in the Shambles and enormous trains.

York, it was love at first sight.
York, it was love at first sight.

Our final stop was Edinburgh, Scotland. It was by far the coldest city we visited, but walking in the gale force winds, rain and snow was so worth it. And, also, Harry Potter.

Edinburgh, Scotland, so much more than I expected
Edinburgh, Scotland, so much more than I expected

And, Luna is the cutest little international traveler you ever did see. Just wait, there is a bunch of adorableness headed your way!

You can expect A LOT of  baby photos
You can expect A LOT of baby photos

Cheers! (Just in time too, guess who just woke up?)