After lighthousing, we headed down to Birmingham, England--not the
most popular destination. It's kinda like coming to the US and going
to Cincinnati or Pittsburgh. Regardless, we had a great visit with my
mother's oldest friend, Joyce. She was very nice, and even gave me
wine. She's now my good friend too. Since Birmingham is not the
most tourist-friendly town, the next day we took the train to Warwick
Castle. It's now owned by Madame Tussaud's, so there were great
displays showing what life was like at the castle long ago. There was
also an entertaining re-enactor demonstrating medieval weapons; he
didn't try to make it sound pretty for the tourist.
Monday morning the train ride back to Edinburgh was looooooooong.
There were a ton of commuters and the train made a lot of stops.
Fortunately, Mr. Branson provides comfortable seats and a nice snack
bar on his trains. They are also a lot quieter and smoother than the
typical US commuter train.
Our next stop was the Castle Apartments, about two blocks from
Edinburgh Castle, so it was a fabulous location. Only problem is that
the building is old (ok, it was ancient), and we had to walk up four
stories of spiral stone stairs. It wasn't so bad once we go the
luggage up, but we definitely made sure we had everything we needed
for the day before going down. And being so far up the hill, we
quickly figured out which buses take us back up the hill (# 35 bus
rocks!). We were also across the street from the world's tackiest
tourist shop, and spent hours amusing ourselves watch what we called
the Scottish Flag Explosion.
We visited Edinburgh Castle while we were there, and after fighting
through the hordes of Japanese tourists, saw the royal jewels and the
Stone of Scone, recently returned to its rightful place (well, almost,
at least it's in the right country.)
Our last place to visit was the Edinburgh Zoo, home of the
world-famous penguin parade. The zoo is, like the rest of the city,
one big hill. They even offered to rent wheelchairs to the elderly.
However, after seeing a couple of women almost lost control of their
baby strollers, we decided that was a pretty silly idea. We saw lions
and tigers and bears, oh my! And sea lions and flamingos and lemurs
and pygmy hippos, that secret an oily mucus—gross! I think everyone
in the zoo ended up down in the penguin area around two for the
parade. The penguins have a small circular path that they go around,
but only 4 of them decided to go out that day…too hot for them. A few
minutes later, it started to pour rain, and all the penguins dove into
the pool so they didn't get rained on. Rock hopper penguins were my
By the time we returned to Edinburgh, it became obvious that something
was going on (the G8 Protests, of course). Large barricades started
going up in front of important buildings, and "Make Poverty History"
banners started appearing on buildings. It was also obvious who was
there for the protest, as hordes of young people with backpacks could
be seen getting off the trains.
For the most part, everyone we encountered was very friendly,
especially the staff at the hotels and the waiters in the Indian
restaurants. The only really rude people were the German
tourists-young people traveling in packs with backpacks flying
everywhere. Hopefully the exchange rate will improve, or I'll win the
lottery, and return soon.