Another British Ramble – Day 5

Distance Walked: 3.5 Miles

Salmon Sandwich Tally: 4

Writing Soundtrack: Marvellous Musicals Playlist

*** All photos are the property of yours truly – Please don’t use them ***

I spent the first bit of my final full day in Edinburgh (and Scotland) at the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound, something I’ve passed numerous times but never visited. Its collection of art is beautiful and spans several centuries and its outside architecture and location are picturesque as can be, perched between Princes Street Gardens and Waverley Station. And like so many great museums in the UK, admission is free, although a £5 donation is encouraged and a small price to pay. Since I’m odd and love listening to the train announcements at Waverley, I headed there next since I’m flying out of Edinburgh tomorrow and it seemed weird to visit Edinburgh and not hear the announcements.

I finished the day relaxing at a cat café just down the street from my flat that I’ve passed each day I’ve been here. I’m not really a cat person and am missing my dog terribly, but it seemed like a nice way to end the day.

I can’t say that I didn’t do everything I’d planned to Edinburgh, but I know I’ve packed more into my days here during past trips. However, I’m usually here when there are fewer people and after my body clock has had some time to adjust. But hopefully, I can make my way back before too-too long.


Another British Ramble – Day Four

Distance Walked: 4 Miles

Salmon Sandwich Tally: 3

Writing Soundtrack: Sensational Sondheim Playlist

*** All photos are the property of yours truly – Please don’t use them – Please ***

Day Four was a shorter day than I’d originally planned due a combination of too little sleep and too many people. But I’m glad I finally made it to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh…and that I successfully navigated the very efficient bus system without getting lost (blame my nervousness on California’s car culture). From my Grassmarket flat, it’s a shortish walk up to George IV Bridge where buses 23 and 27 will take you right to the East Gate of the RBGE. Entry is free (the first of the multiple botanic gardens I’ve visited in the UK to be free) but admission to the numerous amazing glasshouses (I met a friendly bumble bee in the orchid one) is £6.50, still quite a bargain that supports a fabulous place. I spent a couple of hours wandering through the various gardens and could have easily stayed longer and seen more and will probably visit again on another trip. It’s also apparently a lovely place to have a wedding, complete with a horse-drawn carriage and a piper (and numerous refrains of “Flower of Scotland”). And it took all of willpower not to buy a packet (or numerous packets) of bluebell seeds in the garden shop. Sigh.

Other highlights from today include Scottish tablet ice cream from Mackie’s of Scotland atop the Royal Mile and glimpses of the often-seen-on-Tumblr Writers’ Museum off Lady Stair’s Close.

Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 21

Distance travelled: 6 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 16 (still…although I did have a bagel with salmon spread, so…)

My plan for Day Twenty-One was to revisit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, a place I’ve visited on my two previous solo trips and is probably one of my favourites. I managed to get up and moving and functional early enough to be ready in time to head to Paddington by 9:30, catching the District Line to Earls Court where I changed to a Richmond-bound District Line train, finally getting off at Kew Gardens, the Tube stop only a short, scenic walk from the Victoria Gate entrance. Although I’d visited twice before, the sheer size of the gardens and their seasonal changes mean there’s always something new to see, so I made a point of wandering paths and areas that I hadn’t on previous visits. I was so very glad I did when I came across a badger sett along the southern border (although the fluffy inhabitants were napping for the day); I saw quite a few other badger setts later on in areas I’d explored before, but without seeing that first one and its sign, I’m not sure that I would have known what they were.

There’s always an interesting juxtaposition at Kew as you walk through nature, often quiet except for beautiful birdsong…while every twenty or so seconds a jet goes roaring overhead with its gear down on its approach to Heathrow. Anyway, a little while later, a flash of blue in the woodland was something I had been desperately hoping to see on my visit: bluebells. I’m just a little bit obsessed with them as that particular bluebell isn’t found in North America at all (Virginia bluebells are a different plant) and a bluebell wood in bloom is a wondrous thing to behold. My first UK trip was in April and May during the height of bluebell season while my later two trips have been about a month earlier. Last year, I missed them completely so I was crossing my fingers that they would begin to emerge before I head home to the States on Thursday. Luckily, the bluebell gods smiled on me and while there weren’t the huge swatches of purplish blue that there will be later in the month, there were quite a few of them out and about throughout the gardens.

After going ga-ga over the bluebells and wandering through the rhododendron dell – which I always leave with the opening of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca running through my brain (“The rhododendrons stood fifty feet high…”) – I made my way to the Orangery for a bite of lunch, sitting outside to enjoy the cool weather while constantly being monitored by a magpie who would hop around on the umbrella above me and then peer down over the edge (I think he was eyeing my brownie). Side note: A sign in the rhododendron dell explained that scientists have found that the poisonous nectar of the invasive plants is toxic to honeybees (Read more…).

When I’d finished, I wandered over to Kew Palace and its Queen’s Garden before continuing on around the rest of the perimeter to the Alpine House, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, and the rock garden before passing the Palm House on my way back to the Victoria Gate and the garden shop in search of any new bluebell swag.

Successful, I said goodbye to Kew and walked back along Lichfield Road to the station to make my way back to Paddington, grabbing some groceries for dinner at the station’s M&S before heading back to the flat. Tomorrow is the last full day of my trip and I’ve a bit of an idea of how I’ll spend it.

Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 15

Distance travelled: 7.15 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 13 (but I also had salmon sushi for dinner so one could argue that salmon meals stand at 14)

Day Fifteen was my last full day in Oxford and even though I don’t leave until tomorrow afternoon, the thought of having to say goodbye makes me sad. I let myself sleep in again this morning and like yesterday, was on my way to breakfast at the Vaults and Garden around 10 am. The sun wasn’t out, but since it wasn’t raining, I couldn’t resist sitting outside to enjoy the view of the Radcliffe Camera again.

After breakfast, I went to the post office to mail home that box filled with Jaffa Cakes and caramel biscuits. They were busy again (I have a feeling that post office, being in the Oxford City Centre, is always busy), but it wasn’t too long until I was back on St. Aldate’s, heading toward the River Thames. I’d decided to dedicate as much time today as necessary to walk down to Iffley Lock, a location from my favourite episode of Inspector Lewis (“The Ramblin’ Boy”) that a friend showed me the way too during my visit last year. It’s just over a two mile walk each way along the tow path and I wasn’t in any hurry as I made my way along the river, stopping on my journey at a horse-filled meadow for a few minutes (although they were busy eating and ignored me).

I reached “The Bridge” at Iffley Lock and after snapping lots of photos, sat on a bench to watch the ducks for awhile (there were lots of ducks and I’m not sure who was more fascinated, me or them). 

After enjoying a trail mix bar and some water, I made my way back along the towpath, past the horses (who had either disappeared or all turned into geese), and across the Thames, deciding to take the daffodil path along the Cherwell again as a longer means of getting back to the Broad Walk at Christ Church College. After stopping at Paperchase for a luggage tag (funny that my luggage makes it to my destinations but my luggage tags don’t seem to), I headed to the Ashmolean Museum with the intention of seeing some of the exhibits I didn’t get to last year, but found it difficult with it as crowded as it was. So, I didn’t stay particularly long, visiting the museum shop before stopping at Boots and then Wasabi for some take away sushi for dinner (something not Costa), making my way back to my hotel via Market Street, Brasenose Lane, and Radcliffe Square.

Tomorrow I return to London for the final stop on my trip, one last week which I know will fly by no matter how desperately I wish time would slow down.

Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 14

Distance travelled: 4.6 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 12

I decided that on Day Fourteen, I would sleep until I woke up without an alarm…which meant sleeping until 8am. Around 10am, I headed across High Street to the Vaults and Garden, my favourite breakfast spot in Oxford (and perhaps my favourite Oxford spot period). They have delicious sourdough toast and the view really can’t be beat.

After breakfast, I wound through Merton College and along Dead Man’s Walk to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, situated along the River Cherwell near Magdalen Bridge/College. I spent about two hours meandering through the glasshouses and along the paths and river, encountering the same duck couple multiple times (they seemed particularly friendly, even though I didn’t have any duck snacks…but Mrs. Duck’s limp made my heart hurt). 


I considered taking the bus down to the university’s arboretum on the chance that their bluebell wood would be in bloom (the above flowers are Scilla), but decided against it (figured the chances were remote if I haven’t seen a single bluebell anywhere else – I’m hoping they’ll make an appearance before I head home). I thought I might make my way up to the Ashmolean Museum to see some of the things I didn’t manage to last time but that will be on tomorrow’s agenda, since I wandered south along the Cherwell and Christ Church Meadow to the Thames, passing huge patches of daffodils splashing yellow along the banks. Navigating the numerous geese (and their presents) and managing not to get hissed at, I made it to the Inspector Lewis Robbie/Laura fangirl bench (from the episode “Beyond Good and Evil” – see posts from last year’s trip) and sat for awhile to watch the river and take in the quiet.

Eventually, I wandered back up Poplar and Broad Walks, dodging massive groups of school children and tourists, and crossed St. Aldate’s to Tesco for multiple boxes of Jaffa Cakes (don’t judge me) and then to the post office for a box in which to ship them home (please don’t judge me) and some more international stamps. As they were quite busy, it took awhile, but I was finally successful and then grabbed a late lunch (from…Costa) and headed back to my hotel room to read and relax. A short trip out for dinner later and then back to the room to read some more…and sing and dance along (badly) to musicals again. Current album stuck in my brain: the original Broadway cast recording of Into the Woods, one of my most favourite favourites.

More Busy Wanderings: Another Big British Adventure – Day 14

Day Fourteen began by sleeping in a bit and then un-zombie-fying myself, pausing my dancing around the flat and singing along (badly) to the Beautiful soundtrack just long enough to dry my hair and make myself presentable. By 10:30, I was on my way to Paddington to catch the District Line to Earl’s Court, where I switched to a Richmond-bound District Line train that took me to Kew Gardens. I visited Kew during my trip last spring, but knew as soon as that visit was over that I wanted to see it again. So I did. It was interesting to see the seasonal differences throughout the grounds, since my visit last year was almost two months further into spring when the trees were full and the bluebells were sprinkled everywhere, carpeting the ground. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too early for bluebells, but the daffodils have bloomed like mad and there where huge swatches of yellow loveliness everywhere.
Last time, I jumped on the Kew Explorer at its first stop near the Victoria Gate (a handy hop on/hop off tram that runs throughout the gardens, stopping at various spots, with the drivers providing a guided tour along the way). I didn’t plan on doing so today, but thought I probably would later, so I went ahead and bought my wristband when I got there (the gardens are huge, so it’s a wonderful remedy for sore feet and well worth the £4.50). However, I never did catch a ride on it, wandering around on foot for my entire visit. I meandered along the paths and down the vistas, climbed the eight or so flights of stairs up to the Treetop Walkway (I’m discovering this trip that I’m not as cool with heights as I was when I was younger. Unfortunately, this is always realised once I’ve climbed to the top of something), and through the rhododendron grove, the “rhodies” having just started to bloom. I even crossed paths with a peacock near the water lily pond and a fox as I neared Kew Palace.    



Eventually, my stomach let me know that it was time for some sustenance, so I headed for the restaurant in the Orangery where I ate last time. After a salad, a cuppa, and a delicious, perfectly portioned chocolate cake, I resumed my wanderings, my feet carrying me along the broad walk, through the Princess of Wales Conservatory, Alpine House, and rock garden, past the Palm House, and back to the plaza at the Victoria Gate.  
I bought a few bluebell-vintage London Underground things and then said goodbye to Kew, making my way back to the station and a District Line train to Earl’s Court and then Paddington, where I grabbed some groceries at Sainsbury’s before walking back to the flat to write some more … and do more laundry (laundry takes awhile with a tiny washer-dryer).