Castles + gin are ok by me.
We left our hotel shortly after breakfast, as we had a tour booked later in the day we needed to be on time for. Edinburgh was our next stop, so we hit the road! We experienced actual freezing temps for the first time on the trip, but it made for some beautiful scenery.
It was about this time that I started thinking about how being in a different place makes you consider a lot of different factors, like how you react to certain things. We were sitting in traffic on the way to Edinburgh (morning rush), and we just needed to move one lane over to ensure we were on the proper route.
In SoCal, flipping on your turn signal would have probably meant the guy would have sped up to try to block you, or you may have been honked at if you tried to start moving over and they didn’t want you there. During the entire trip — and we drove over 2,000 miles — I think we heard a horn only once. And I think it was in the other direction.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, first, the folks we encountered in all of our trip — England, Wales, Scotland — were so pleasant and overall really kind. They were happy to share information if you had questions. No one was a jerk when we didn’t realize we needed to swap lanes and had to last second. It made me consider my own reactions to a lot of things, and whether or not it’s warranted. That guy that cut me off when I was driving home…he may just be a total jerk, OR he could really be lost. He might not care if I’m pissy that he whipped in front of me, but how much energy am I going to spend being angry about it? And, is it really worth it?
It’s definitely not. I think overall it was a nice little reminder to treat other people the way you want to be treated, and understand that you have no clue what other people might be going through…so a little kindness and compassion goes a long way. This is something I’ve taken away from the trip — in addition to the kindness and hospitality — and I’m going to try my damnedest to be a little more conscious of how I react toward other people. (Truthfully, it’s been hard this last week with the jet lag, work, and adjusting back. Real talk.)
We made it into Edinburgh right about the time that folks should be going to work. It’s definitely a big city. It’s crowded, a lot of traffic, and a lot of buildings…but golly was it pretty. I love, love, love old buildings!!
We went on a bit of a walk before we made it to Edinburgh Castle… up winding hills right outside the castle … thinking we could get in somehow. Unfortunately, the entrance was on the *other* side of the castle, so we walked a bit more. I mentioned before that Edinburgh was one of only a handful of Scottish castles that made money from admissions. This place was no joke, it was crowded! Bus loads of folks were already there.
We didn’t spend as much time in Edinburgh Castle as we’ve spent in some of the others, mostly because it was so crowded. That said, I’m really happy that we stopped because I can officially check it off of my bucket list, and I did really enjoy what I saw whenever we were there. We decided to walk the Royal Mile a bit, and we went in a few of the shops there. The kids came away with some cute little souvenirs from Edinburgh. And so did we 🙂
We stopped at a little cafe for a beer, and then went to a place called Devil’s Advocate for lunch. Devil’s Advocate was recommended by a client of ours, and it did not disappoint! I thoroughly enjoyed the Idle in Islay drink I ordered, and the food was delicious. Not to mention, they played Bon Jovi the entire time we were there, so I mean, it’s hard to go wrong with that.
Up next was the Edinburgh Gin Distillery.
I don’t remember how we heard about this place, but I recall Jeff telling me that there was a gin distillery that required bookings for the tour sometimes months in advance. I’m not a huge gin fan, but I know he is, so I really wanted him to book this tour for the both of us. I’m really glad he did, too, because I really enjoyed the tour! And, believe it or not, the gin, haha!
Our tour guide’s name was Alan, and he was quite possibly the most engaging, entertaining tour guide we had for any booze-related tour we went on for this trip. The distillery itself was smack in the middle of the city, sorta underground almost, and quite small but cozy. They had a nice waiting area, and the tour was more like a classroom setting, though we did get to take a look at the equipment, too. Once our history lesson was over, we got to go to a little “cave” with the rest of our tour group to sample their product. Like I said — I wasn’t a huge gin fan, and have found it to be slightly off-putting. However, I actually enjoyed the gin + tonic. We also got to sample a special gin they had on hand in limited quantities. Since our suitcases were already packed to the brim (we had to buy a second suitcase for the trip home, because we bought too many souvenirs, haha), we skipped bringing home any bottles from Edinburgh Gin, and I’m mildly regretting it.
We stayed in a cute little place in Edinburgh after a day full of walking called Victoria Park Hotel. Upon arrival, Jeff checked to see what size room he’d booked, and when he asked if we could get a king bed instead…they upgraded us for free to the bridal suite. The catch, according to the gal, was that there wasn’t a shower — only a bathtub. Suppose that’s a catch I’m willing to deal with, haha! The room was nice, and the area was pretty quiet.
On our way to the hotel, though, as we were driving through the streets of Edinburgh, I saw a familiar sight. The Brewdog logo! As I tried to place what I’d just seen and why it was familiar, I realized that I’d completely forgotten that the owners of Brewdog — and the hosts of the Brewdogs show — are Scottish! I decided immediately that Brewdog needed to happen, somehow, while we were on the trip. I’d have been content to figure it out later, based on the fact that they had a ton of locations all throughout the UK, but Jeff booked us a cab, and we were well on our way to Brewdog.
Brewdog was the most US-like place we wound up in — they call it sorta punk. I’d call it edgy. Either way, it was right up our alley, with a huge selection of beers, and a really nice menu. We spent a bit of time here, and quite enjoyed ourselves!
Banished at Wroxall Abbey
The next morning, we set out on our way back to England. This time, Birmingham, because … Cadbury!!
We missed Cadbury on our first England trip, because the factory was on holiday at that point, so it was a must this time around. The factory tour was geared toward younger kids, for sure, but I’m not even gonna lie…the gift shop was what I wanted. Cadbury for days, in so many different forms. Needless to say, we brought back a very large amount of candy, and I get to check Cadbury off of my bucket list.
Wroxall Abbey would be our next stop. I recall whenever Jeff booked this place that he showed me a quick pic, and I know I got excited about it. BUT, I completely forgot about it! You can imagine how excited I was to realize that we’d be staying in this beautiful place. Certain structures on the Wroxall Abbey estate date back to the 12th century. How incredible is that?
We walked the grounds for a bit, and then went to the bar to get some food. Whenever we checked in, the receptionist told us that we could turn up at the bar to order dinner, rather than make a reservation to eat in the dining room. When we turned up at the bar to order, the bartender — who looked a bit like Sam from GoT — told us that the owners no longer wanted folks to eat in the bar, so it wouldn’t be possible. A brief discussion ensued between the receptionist, who had not been informed of this, and the bartender…and the result was that he’d take our dinner order, but because we had no reservation for the dining room, we’d have to eat in “The Vault.”
I wasn’t sure what “The Vault” was but it sounded like we were being banished to the basement, haha. I’d sort of assumed that there would be other folks there — like, the more casual, don’t-want-to-eat-in-the-dining-room type.
They had to unlock the door for us, and we were basically banished to the basement! It sounds sort of appalling, but it was the greatest. The Vault was actually a second bar + lounge that they only use occasionally. So, not only did we get a delicious dinner, but we got the entire Vault to ourselves! Jeff and I decided that they could make a killing if they opened the Vault up a bit more, or made it a members-only type thing, but the hotel staff said they simply just don’t have the manpower to warrant it. It’s a shame, because it was probably the coolest place in the hotel. Needless to say, I’m happy that the little hiccup happened, because dinner was great down there.
Who knew a suitcase would be so hard to find?
The next morning, we set out on a hunt for another suitcase. With our trip ending the very next day, it was imperative that we find a second suitcase to bring back. Although we could have fit everything in our suitcase, there was no way we would have made the weight limit, and since we both got a free checked bag, it seemed like we’d be further ahead to have a second suitcase than pay for overweight fees. We wound up going to four different places before we actually found suitcases. I experienced Asda for the first time — the UK version of Walmart. And really, it was basically the same set-up. We eventually found suitcases at TK Maxx, the UK version of TJ Maxx. The one we picked up had a broken combo lock on it, and a sticker that said, “Damaged but adorable.” Just our speed 😉
Our next stop was Warwick Castle — the castle was really impressive coming up on it, but we wound up not even going inside. We made it to the parking lot and the gift shop before deciding against it. We were at the point in the trip where we were leaving the very next day, and we’d just about had our fill of on-the-go and crowded spaces after Edinburgh Castle. When we saw the queue for admission to the castle, I think we both threw in the towel. I would have gone happily if Jeff wanted to go, and I think he would have gone happily if I wanted to go, but I don’t think either of us wanted to deal with it. So, we left!
And then, we took a detour to Milton Keynes on our way to London where we’d spend our last night. Why? Because there was another Brewdog there. We really did enjoy Brewdog enough that we wanted to seek out another location — it was equally as good. Brewdog was in the news, actually, while we were there. They were supposed to have a deal going with a US-based brewer, and said brewer decided to push out an allegedly unauthorized press release, promising free beer for Trump supporters. Brewdog cancelled future events immediately, and issued their own statement, the long & short of it being that they were not ok with this, and they supported love instead. I rarely get political publicly, but this was a statement and action I can stand behind. Brewdog has this girl’s support, for sure.
We finally made it to London — we stayed right outside of Heathrow — and then we actually went *in* to London via the tube to meet up with one of Jeff’s friends for drinks. We met up near the Tower Bridge and Tower of London, and found an Italian place to have a few beers and a snack. Washy, Jeff’s friend, and his gal, Carmen, were an absolute delight, and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with them. I’m really glad to have spent the last night in good company!
The next day, we’d be heading home, concluding our amazeballs trip. It’s taken me about a week and a half to recover from the jet lag and time differences — the first few days, we were waking up at 3:30 in the morning! We started talking about our next trip, but I was really unwilling to commit to any idea after having spent about 11 hours on a plane to go home, and then another almost 2 hours after landing to get through customs and catch our Uber home. It took me about a week and a half to recover from that, too, because I caught myself looking at flights about a week after our rturn to figure out what we’d be looking at, cost-wise, for Iceland, Ireland, and Morocco.
Who knows where our next adventure will be?!
In the next week or so, I’ll be posting a little helpful information for y’all if you plan to do a trip similar to ours in England, Wales, & Scotland — namely, a few of the things we did to make our trip easier. International travel is probably one of my favorite things, but it can be a bit of a daunting thing if you’ve never done it before! Stay tuned, y’all!