Visiting Scotland

london_viewWe are spending my birthday in England and Scotland this year. Our friend Meagan lives in London now, so we had a chance to visit her and see some of the sights – like the London Eye (which I always called the Millennium Wheel, which is in fact its aka). It gives you a fabulous aerial view of central London and molts of photo opps. We got to enjoy our first Sunday roast with Meagan and a friend of hers (Sunday roasts don’t mean you eat roast necessarily, it just means a Sunday midday meal with family and friends but commonly features roasted beast of some sort with roasted potatoes and gravy). The weather was very obliging and stayed not-rainy for the day we arrived and the following day. Meagan lives in the Chalk Farm neighborhood of London. Basically it’s an area that anybody who ever fantasized about packing up and moving to London would want to live in. The area is full of little pubs, restaurants and shops, and super close to Regents Park and Primrose Hill so offers great recreational options as well. We had a great 4+ mile run on Sunday morning with Meagan who took us around Regents Park and to the top of Primrose Hill for a lovely view.

We stayed at a nice hotel in London, the Radisson Blu Edwardian Grafton (about $250US/night), right across the street from the Warren Street underground station and easy walking distance to Regents Park. We bought Oyster cards when we purchased our Britral passes, which was a great idea, as were the Britrail passes (which work on the Heathrow Express trains that go from the airport to central London). The Oyster cards are RFID (tap cards), easy to use and reload. The underground has been hugely upgraded since the last time I used it (15+ years ago!), and has new trains and very spiffed up stations. It makes me realize how LA sucks when it comes to public transportation.

We flew Virgin Atlantic non-stop from LAX, which meant 10+ hours in the air. We arrived at 11:30am Saturday and managed to stay up until after 9pm. So we were mostly awake for over 20 hours but the good news is that we were able to sleep Sat night and get largely caught up with ourselves, suffering minimal jet lag.

I am once again impressed with cell phone connectivity in Europe – we experience fewer dead zones and generally better reception overseas than inn the US. Wifi has been good, too. The hotel offered it for free and I amusing it right now on the train for about $15US for 24 hour access (they give you 15 minutes for free, hah!) and it’s been great the whole way with no drops. Chuck managed to negotiate a good deal with AT&T before we left so we’ve been able to use our iPhones for getting around (though with Meagan as our guide we didn’t really need them).

Now we are on the train to Edinburgh, whizzing along at 100+ miles per hour (at speeds like that Amtrak trains would probably fall/fly off the tracks). This is Chuck’s first time in Scotland, and we’re doing things that I’ve never done, so it should be a fun adventure!