Posted in Travel

It’s Potter time!

Throughout our travels, we’ve told Sophie that when we were in England, we would go on a Harry Potter tour.  She even agreed to hold off on a birthday present in April so that she could get an extra HP souvenir in June.  That’s some serious delayed gratification for a 7-year-old.

So imagine my horror when I tried to buy tickets to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour  and discovered they were sold out until August!  After hours of internet searching, I discovered that if we drove to Birmingham, we could join a day tour that included a 3 1/2 hour bus ride each way, so that we could spend 4 hours doing the tour.

It sounded ridiculous, but it was worth it.  Soooo worth it.  Ben and I could easily have spent a full day touring the studios, but 4 hours was enough for the kids, and they had a fantastic time. Parenting fail avoided.

What follows is approximately a gazillion pictures from the studios.


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Posted in Travel

Everything I do, I do it for you

For anyone not old enough to get the song reference, yesterday, on our drive from Edinburgh to Birmingham, we stopped at Sherwood Forest to visit Robin Hood.

We saw Robin Hood fighting Little John for leadership of the Merry Men…

And the kids finally found out what happens when I count all the way to 3…

Quick!  Pull up the drawbridge!

Ready to steal from the rich, and give to the poor…

There were lots of little houses carved from tree stumps.  We had lots of possible explanations for them, but I’m pretty sure they’re fairy houses.  It’s called Occam’s Razor people – look it up.

But I won’t attribute this one to the fairies.

The Major Oak is meant to be where Robin and his Merry Men sheltered and met before their adventures.
We also did a quick drive by Nottingham Castle, but the sheriff wasn’t in, so I didn’t bother taking a picture.  

Posted in Travel

Edinburgh – land of the afternoon sun

After our nature break, we were ready to check out Edinburgh.  We’d heard people say the city is very Disney, and it is definitely one of the cleanest cities we’ve visited.  We started with the biggest attraction – Edinburgh Castle.  Once again, Scotland outdid itself with making its castles come to life.

The view of Edinburgh from the castle.

Look how excited the kids are to be at another castle!

The kings of Scotland, in chronological order.

Cool, but also slightly creepy.

Touching replicas of the Crown Jewels, before we went in to see the real things.  Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures of the real deal.

They’ve actually recreated the dungeons.  There was even a fake rat on the beam!
On our way back home, we walked through the Royal Mile…


And learned the story of Greyfriers Bobby, a dog who sat by his master’s grave for over 12 years.  When the dog died, they buried him in the graveyard, right outside the consecrated soil.

Unlike the dog, it appears the pirates can be buried in consecrated ground.

And a little wander through the old town.
The next day, Sophie was sick, and Connor decided that if Sophie didn’t have to leave the house, he shouldn’t have to, either.  Ben and I took turns staying home with them and going out for a solo explore.  I started with a walk through the new town…


Then wound my way back through the Princes Garden.


Like pretty much everyplace we’ve been on our travels, we could have spent way more time in Edinburgh than we did, but we have a date to keep with Harry Potter, and we can’t be late!

Posted in Travel

Oh, deer!

Ok, I’m falling farther and farther behind on my posts, so it’s another two post day today.  After verifying that Nessie is, in fact, real, we headed off for Edinburgh.  On the way, we stopped off at Highlands Safaris, which was way farther off the beaten track than we were expecting, and due to the very winding roads led to Connor throwing up in the car.  But, as Ben pointed out, we’ve dealt with way worse (who can forget the time we showed up at a friend’s house with a vomit covered baby, and the first words out of our mouths were, “Where’s your bathtub?”), so we did a quick roadside clean up and continued on our way.  We spent a few happy hours panning for gold…


Playing…


Learning about barn owls…


And feeding the deer.


True story – the ranger tells us that a deer’s horns are made of keratin, and asks the kids what else is made of keratin.  One kid raises his hand and says, “Fingernails.”  Correct.  Connor then raises his hand and says, “A pangolin’s scales are made of keratin and they use them for defence.”  To which the ranger had no response and quickly changed the subject.  For those who aren’t sure, pangolins are real, and Connor was correct.  Thanks, Wild Kratts!

Posted in Travel

Nessie!

We were up and on our way to learn about the Loch Ness Monster first thing during our stay in Inverness. Loch Ness has a great exhibition center that uses multimedia to give you the history of Loch Ness and its purported Monster.  While they don’t give a conclusive answer about whether Nessie is real, I still believe.


We came out to find lovely (ok, decent) weather, so we made our way to nearby Urquhart Castle.  Between the introductory video, free tour, and weapons demonstration, it was a great visit.


By the time we finished up, the kids were tired and I was so hangry no one wanted to be around me, so we called it a day and prepared for our next journey – Edinburgh.

Posted in Travel

Watch out for fairies!

I’d been very excited to head to the Scottish Highlands, mostly because I was convinced we’d find a fairy glen and fairies.  We left Glasgow early in the morning, but made a quick-ish stop at Stirling Castle before heading north.  It was especially interesting to see, as I’d just finished reading about Mary, Queen of Scots living there for the first five years of her life.  I have to say, Scotland does a much better job of bringing their castles to life than England does.


Our castle quota filled for the day, we took the long way to Inverness, and were rewarded with some spectacular views.  We were actually greatful for the cloud cover, which filled the drive with fantastic ambience.


It was a long drive, and we were ready to settle in by the time we reached Inverness.  We may not have seen any fairies, but we were pretty sure we’d get to see the Loch Ness Monster the next day.

Posted in Travel

Sunny Glasgow

We woke up in Glasgow to something we hadn’t seen in days – sun!  We didn’t have any indoor things we wanted to see, so we set off for the Glasgow Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace.  Maybe it was the beautiful weather, but these gardens were pretty spectacular.


It even had a playground – woo hoo!


Since the days are long and the sun was still shining, we decided to stroll along the Kelvin River walk…


To Kelvingrove Park, where we found not one, but two playgrounds!


By now, we were tired, and even the persistent sunshine couldn’t keep us out longer, so we headed for home, and our last evening in Glasgow.