Saturday, March 29, 2014

Coventry (Southam) and Salisbury (Stonehenge)

We left Edinburgh bright and early that morning; we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to catch our 5:30 long train ride to Coventry, England! We made it to the station with plenty of time to spare, or so we thought. I swear the train gods were working against us that morning. I couldn't get my phone to connect to the internet to look up our booking number and print off our tickets. I could have SWORN I had already printed them off, but when we got to the station, they were no where to be found. When I asked the man working at the counter if he could look it up for us, he said that the only thing that could be done was for me to email him our pdf file of the tickets and he could print it off there. Of course, like mentioned above, I could NOT get the internet on my phone. It was sooo incredibly frustrating. Finally, the worker told us to just run for the train and see if they would take our copy saved on my phone once we got on. This was 1 minute before the train left, by the way. So we take off and literally get in front of the train door and....closed! Oh man, I was sooo angry. I threw a little hissy fit because of how mad I was. We had to go back and buy more tickets, which cost a small fortune, by the way! Such a joke. I'm getting mad all over again just thinking about it!
The train ride to Coventry was relatively unexciting; I fell asleep in a really creative, and impressive if I do say so myself, position! Slept most of the journey. Woke up, stared out the window for a while, finished my book, "Walk Two Moons," and repeated, but with different books. 
When we finally got to Coventry, it was raining...surprise! We left the train station immediately and ended up getting a cab to our hotel since it was outside the boundaries for public transport. That's what I get for trying to save "money" (points) on a hotel. Save on the hotel, pay for the transport! Sometimes my insane cheapness doesn't workout quite like anticipated. Okay, on the way over we started chatting with the cab driver who told us he would take us to our hotel, wait for us while we checked in and dropped every thing off, and then drive us to Southam, drive us around Southam and then back to our hotel at Coventry for a great price, which was in pounds, which is a great price if you make pounds, but we make dollars, so it wasn't so great! 
The drive there ended up being the second most fun thing we did on this journey, second only to our nerd fest at the gaming store in Edinburgh! That driver was HILARIOUS! We found out his whole life story, which included: He was from Kashmere, but has lived in Coventry almost his entire life; he has 6 kids, but is not Irish or Catholic; he doesn't drink; he got married at 18; and most importantly, he loves flying because he LOVES airplane food! But seriously, this guy was a riot! He had just as much fun as we did driving around the tiny town of Southam and taking pictures of us! We totally made him hop in a picture!
Our hotel in Coventry was surprisingly not awful. It was a pretty old and slightly stinky Holiday Inn, but we got put in the "executive room," so it was tolerable. But really, it actually was pretty nice. I couldn't fall to sleep that evening because I had slept all day on the train. It was a lot of fun when I was still rolling around in bed at almost 1 am, watching some totally weird "iron chef" but for hair dressers show where they had to give their model a "mohican," not mohawk according to the host because, and I quote "Americans say mohawk because they are lazy!" Jerk! I finally got sick of the show and decided to go workout. That did not workout at all. I didn't have tennis shoes, so I figured I would just look like a freak and go workout in my gold glittering toms. Did I mention another reason why I couldn't sleep was because my husband snores like, well, I don't know! Like nothing you've ever heard! It's out of control! Back to working out. I left the room, went downstairs, the gym was closed, left my key in the room, couldn't get a new key because I didn't have my id, and couldn't wake Nathan up over the snoring. Needless to say, I spent about 30 minutes outside that door in the stinky hallway waiting for the hubs to wakeup. I just kept sending him messages via Facebook and eventually the persistent vibrating was enough to wake him from his blissful coma!
Alright, next morning we left the Holiday Inn and took another cab back to the train station. The cab driver this time around was just as friendly and fun as the last driver. Coventry cab drivers should win an award for funnest and most friendly cabbies! We FINALLY made our train this time! Yay! We were off to Salisbury to make a quick trip to Stonehenge and then on to London!

Salisbury was soooooo beautiful! Nathan and I were so bummed once we started riding our gigantic double decker tour bus to Stonehenge through the city and seeing all the amazing sites! We want to go back to the UK just to spend time there. 
We made it out to Stonehenge. It was INSANELY freezing and rainy and there were like 3 different GIGANTIC groups of teenage school kids visiting. It was a little obnoxious and, well, they really kind of ruined the experience a little bit! Stonehenge really was amazing, though. I have been dreaming of visiting that place for a LONG time! On the way back to the station, Nathan and I were the only ones on the bus, so we did absolutely nothing exciting and sat in the front row on top and watched and wondered how the driver didn't run over people, cars, and entire buildings! 

We made it back to Salisbury in one piece and then went straight to the station to catch our train to London! Yay! It was definitely a little bit confusing figuring out our tickets, but this great attendant helped us, which made it so that we didn't have to wait an hour and a half to catch our train and got to London much earlier!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Off to Europe! GJT-DEN-FRA-ABZ-EDI

I'll just start off by saying that I SUCK at taking "selfies!" I swear, I try. I stand in front of the mirror and twist and turn my body and face into the odd contorted positions I see so popular on facebook and instagram, but in the end, I end up looking like a mix of Quasimodo and, well, someone else twisted and weird looking! The purpose of this specific selfie here is to show proof, honest to goodness evidence, that I, Toni, was able to pack ONLY a carryon and a purse for a three week vacation to Europe, IN THE WINTER! See that backpack, folks? That's everything! And by everything I meant that I managed to shove:
5 pairs of jeans
7 T-shirts
2 paris of Toms
7 pairs of undies
2 workout pants
2 pairs of pjs
7 pairs of socks
1 blow dryer
1 curling iron
1 Lap top, charger, camera battery charger, and phone charger
5 under shirt tank tops
Shampoo, conditioner, makeup, hair spray, root boost (all travel size) a round brush, bobby pins, a tooth brush, and probably more! Why did I decide to do this. Well, I think for one, I am a glutton for punishment and like to torture myself, and two, the last time we went to Europe, I brought a suit case, carry on, and purse. Each loaded to the brim with shoes and dresses and things I never even took out of the case. Carrying all the junk through airports, trains, and through the biggest cities in the world was enough to send me to the loony bin. So, lesson learned. I have to say that we are on day 6 of our adventure and it has worked out quite nicely, although insanely heavy, and at times very painful! Okay, to the trip!

We started our day like any other regular Thursday, except that we were running around packing last minute items...okay, that's kind of a lie. I may or may not have packed about 2 weeks earlier to "practice" and make sure I could pack everything I needed in just my carry on! Okay, back to average Thursday. At some point, Quincy also threw my iphone 5s into the bathtub and it wouldn't turn on again! That was definitely a bad omen for things to come! 
So, afternoon comes and it's time to head to the airport! We get there, and meet my parents outside who were running late, which we were freaking out about a little because we needed to get to our terminal at the "giant" Grand Junction airport! Parents take the kids, we go to check-in and the receptionist breaks the news to us. The flight is delayed and there would not be anytime to catch our connecting flight in Denver to Frankfurt! Yay! Believe it or not, there were 5 of us altogether on our way to Frankfurt! Crazy!
So we spend over an hour going through every option possible to find a flight. Finally, they get note that the new plane is on its way. We would have 10 minutes from the time we land to run our tooshies off to the Lufthansa terminal in Denver to catch our flight. We went and sat with our German comrades and mapped out the best way to get to the terminal! The plan was ready to be put into action. Long story short, we are standing waiting to board and more bad news. The new plane was broken! That's exactly what I wanted to hear. I was already shaking like a baby beagle getting a bath, I seriously hate flying, and now we had to wait for the plane to be repaired. Goodbye all hopes of catching our connection as well!
Long story short, they finally fixed the plane, we get on and they tell us something was wrong with the engine, shoot me now, and that they didn't have a certified United mechanic at the airport, so they had to call another mechanic who had to call United and had to be walked through the process of fixing the plane! I kind of wanted to curl up in a ball and die! Why would they even tell us this! Then we get ready to leave and the engines won't start. "No big deal! The mechanic just forgot the air cart!" The captain says nonchalantly! I just knew we were going to die on that flight! Lucky for us, the flight went up and was smooth as a baby's bottom!
We made it to Denver and had to go see the most pleasant *sarcasm* worker to help us rebook our flights! She managed, and I'm sure she worked very hard to find this *more sarcasm* a flight from Denver the next morning, which would stop in Washington DC, then in Frankfurt, and finally Aberdeen! We would get there Saturday evening! Ugh! We checked into the Hilton Double Tree, which was like a bloody half an hour away from the airport, and spent a pleasant night in room 622, remember that number! Left bright and early the next morning, sat at the airport for ages because of another delay, made it to DC, took off to Frankfurt, got to Frankfurt, slept on the terminal benches like bums, best nap ever, hopped on the next plane to Aberdeen, went straight to the train station, got on the train for another 2.5 hours, and FINALLY, we made it to Edinburgh! I couldn't see straight I was so tired!
We were sooo bored at the airport in Denver. I decided to walk around and take some pictures, and then I realized that there was nothing worth taking pictures of, so I sat back down and continued to be bored!
The train station in Aberdeen. It was quite beautiful and quite cold, as well!
We sat next to a "lovely gal" on the train who helped show us the direction we needed to go to our hotel! 
Climbing the stairs, our first views of Edinburgh were breath taking! Directly above us sat the Royal Mile, covered with beautiful buildings, the castle, and more. We majorly lucked out with our hotel selection as well, because it sat right a top The Mile, just blocks from the castle! We checked into our hotel and guess what room we were in? 622! Crazy, right! I mean, what a coincidence! We dropped our things off in the room, which was fabulous. It sat on the top floor and had a great view from the window! We quickly realized that we were going to need to get a thicker jacket; Edinburgh was co co freezing (as Carter would put it!)
One of the many "closes" in Edinburgh! These were my favorite things about the city!
We walked around and explored the city a little bit that evening! We had a fun dinner at a neat little pub/restaurant called the Duric just down the road and off The Mile. One of the many "closes" in Edinburgh! These were my favorite things about the city!
I never did figure out what this tower thing was or even it's name! It was on Princes Street and was so beautiful!
Day two was pretty exciting! We had no plan, which made it that much better. I'm kind of a control freak and like to have every hour of every day planned to a "T." Nathan, on the other hand, likes to go with the flow. It took everything for me not to google every single detail about Edinburgh, and you know what, I'm so glad I didn't! It was such a fun change just wandering around and exploring!
 We walked over to the shops on Princes street. I dragged Nathan into an H&M so I could get a better coat, and maybe a few other things! Another perk about bringing only a carryon; you can't blow tons of money on crap because then you have no way of getting it home! After the shops, we walked up towards Edinburgh Castle and did some serious exploring! The walk up itself was soooo incedibly beautiful! When we got to the castle, we were not disappointed! It was even more amazing than the walk! We spent quite a while looking around, and freezing, the castle! We actually spent a really really long time there. Side note: All the bathrooms at the castle were basically underground. I had to walk down this rather large flight of stars to use the loo! It was kind of odd!

Our walk up to the castle was spectacular!
Maybe I've already said this a thousand times, but Edinburgh was soooooo cold! I was mind blown at how the people there must literally have become immune to the biting chill! I saw the shortest skirts, lowest shirts, etc. there in Edinburgh! I had two coats on, a scarf, snow boots, and I still didn't want to go outside!
Some random guy bombing my shot!
After the castle, we had lunch at some random place, went back to the hotel to rest for a few, and then headed back out on the town! We headed left over to Hollyrood Park and the little mountain hill thingy where Arthur's Seat sat! After some smooth talking, I finally convinced Nathan to just do half of the hike with me! Half way turned out to be great for several reasons. A. my high heeled wedges were not conducive to safe hiking and I still don't know how I didn't fall on my face in the mud and B. it was soooooo cold and windy! Even the view from halfway was beautiful! I can only imagine what it would have looked like from the top!
After our little hike, we just kept wandering around Edinburgh walking through and exploring every street we came across!

The next day we laid around in bed for half of the day before finally deciding to brave the cold. We didn't really have anything planned, so we figured we would just go out and improvise! We left our hotel and decided to head right because we hadn't explored that road yet.....(Okay, my timeline is screwed up and I can't remember what we did first, so I'm going to leave both!)...We made another quick stop at H and M for more socks, and then decided to just keep walking down Princes street. We just walked and walked and walked and walked until we finally came to a random cathedral just sitting in the middle of the town! It was so beautiful and the best part, not a dang tourist was anywhere nearby! We walked inside and looked around, and then we sat on the bench out front for about an hour and just took in the scenery and snacked on nasty potato chips! We began our walk back to the hotel and just continued turning up and down random roads, checking out anything and everything we came across! It really was dreamy!

After our lovely walk, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our first tour: The Real Mary King's Close! On our way up, we saw this monstrosity of a Lord of the Rings board game sitting in the window of a smelly gaming shop. We just had to go in and see what it was about. Well, we asked the worker and he was more than thrilled to let us play around of the game. Apparently, the game is huge everywhere and was actually just a version of a bigger game called War Hammer 40,000. Nathan and I are kind of lame and had never heard of it! Anyway, it was the most complicated game on the face of the planet, but holy funness! That worker was a blast and we had such a great time playing a round of Lord of the Rings whatever its called! Probably one of the funnest experiences on the trip!
Now back to the tour. It was, unfortunately, a typical tour, but the close itself was amazing! It was crazy to think that entire town of around 700 people once thrived in that tiny underground (it wasn't underground when it was inhabited) area! Amazing! Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed!

The next morning I woke up incredibly early. It didn't have anything to do with my dear husband's snoring, I swear! I walked to the nearby pastry shop and grabbed some breakfast, came back to the hotel, and got our stuff ready to head out! We made it to the station and as per usual, we missed our dang train! Seriously, 2 trains missed now. Technically the one in Aberdeen wasn't our fault, but we still had to pay for it! I was sooooo ticked off! I mean smoke coming out of the ears angry! We were there, plenty of time to spare, and our dang phones wouldn't connect to the wifi there to get the confirmation for the tickets! Ahhhh! I'm getting mad just thinking about it again! We just sat there and watched our train go by while we tried not to throw our phones across the station our of frustration!

Now on to Coventry!