I arrived in Southampton by train, as many of the passengers on the Titanic would have. I couldn’t arrive just as they did as the tracks that lead to the South Western House hotel and then on to the docks weren’t really an option for my train. No matter, the hotel is no longer a hotel, but is now luxury apartments, and the train station that used to be adjacent to it is now just a nicely covered car park.
London is extraordinary. It’s almost incomprehensibly big, busier than seems possible, and so loaded with history and life that it is astonishing. And intimidating. To arrive in London with no plans other than a place to stay is to open up a set of encyclopedias and start reading at random—you know there’s lots to see and do, but where is it? And what is it?
After our journey southward from Alnwick, Whitney met Kara and I at Oxford station. How exciting! Whitney! In another country! And Oxford, a place that’s so steeped in history and beauty that it makes you mourn the state of Calgary much more acutely than before. Everywhere you turn in Oxford you find something that once inspired CS Lewis, somewhere that JRR Tolkien sat, or some deer that belong to the Queen and are officially classed as people.
When you’re from Western Canada, “close” is a relative term. You can live in the same city as someone and still be 60km apart. If you’re talking about the next major city, that distance is generally measured in hours of 119km/h highway driving (at least 3). A ski day generally requires 3–4 hours of round trip driving, and the family cottage can be anywhere from 4 to 18 hours away. And while this means you aren’t exactly taking day trips to Vancouver, it does have the distinct advantage of making many other parts of the world seem adorably (and conveniently) tiny. The United Kingdom definitely qualifies.
Kara and I left for Alnwick (pronounced “On-nick” or “Aah-nick”, but definitely not “Aln-wick”) from Edinburgh on Wednesday morning. We were traveling from southern Scotland to northern England—changing countries and everything! The train ride to Alnmouth took all of 30 minutes. The bus to Alnwick took another 15. Small and quaint indeed. (more…)
Ah, Scotland, my ancestral home (or one of them—the most major one, at least). Where men wear kilts, plaid is hip, haggis is readily available, bagpipes are always playing in the distance, and the name Doig doesn’t get you quite so many strange looks.
I haven’t seen much of Scotland, but from what I have seen, Edinburgh is easily my favourite city. It’s wonderfully medieval, full of cobblestone, and buildings older than Canada. Its wonderful Royal Mile starts and ends with beautiful palaces, and there are tourists everywhere. I guess you can’t have everything.
I landed in Glasgow, Scotland at 9:30AM on Wednesday, September 5, with my body thinking it was 2:30AM, and enough adrenaline and excitement to not really care. I’d planned to arrive in Belfast by sea; it only seemed appropriate, as it was the ship building capital of the UK (and even the world) for so very long. This plan involved taking a train to Ayr from Glasgow Central Station, a bus from Ayr to Cairnryan, and then finally a ferry to Belfast.