Tag Archives: yarn store

Day 10: London – Part 1

After leaving Oxford and taking the trains and underground, we finally got to our hotel. We were centrally situated near the Tower of London, and although it was a budget property, it was very clean and comfortable. We dined at a small Indian restaurant recommended by the front desk at the hotel, and it turned out to be my favorite meal in all of Britain. The Empress is located on Leman Street, and it was rather empty when we arrived on a Monday evening. After we looked through the extensive menu, Russell, our server, asked what dishes we liked, and recommended dishes that weren’t on the menu, but rather his personal favorites. Lamb curry made with baby mangos, Dhaka Murgh (chicken stuffed with spinach, glazed with honey and cooked in a tomato-based curry), king prawn butterfly, tandoori chicken and chicken tikka. Oh my god, my mouth is watering just thinking about that meal again. After our meal, we had a nice chat about the English football teams, the upcoming Man U v. Chelsea Champions League game, and Tottenham’s and Arsenal’s seasons, all of which I’m sure contributed to a fully satisfying dinner.

The next morning, we headed out bright and early to the Tower of London. We got in right at 9:00 when it opened and toured a la audiophones. We had wanted to take a tour with a Yeoman Garder but those didn’t start until later, and we were eager to be on our way. Two words: C R O W N J E W E L S. Those were awe-inspiring, astounding and amazing. They even impressed Brad, who I think is a rather tough customer. The crowns and sceptres were intricate pieces of art and history combined. Unfortunately, we were banned from taking pictures for security reasons but it actually allowed you to focus on the experience and pieces before you, rather than being distracted with taking pictures. I told Brad that I’d like at least one piece of jewelry like that and he said he’d see what he could do. I’m not holding my breath but it was a nice thought anyway. After the Jewel House, we also toured the Torture Exhibit and the Prisoner Exhibition, toured a recreation of the room where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned for years, and listened to stories of those few privileged aristocrats and royalty who were executed inside the walls. We spent a nice satisfying 2 hours or so wandering about the Tower of London, appreciating its history and beauty.

Onward with our whirlwind tour, we hopped on the sightseeing double-decker bus and toured the many famous sights, appreciating them from afar: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square (we were stuck in a traffic jam in a roundabout there for 45 mins; argh!), Piccadilly Circus, Marble Arch, London Eye, Sherlock Holmes Pub, and National Gallery. We easily could spend nonstop weeks filled with wonderful things to experience, but unfortunately we lacked the luxury of time in this trip.

We then walked through Leicester Square (boarded up for London Olympics 2012 construction. Our London Angel, Helen, thought they were putting in the beach volleyball court there, as it seemed they were getting ready to move the trees), through the Soho area, along Oxford Street, picked up tickets to watch the Queen musical, “We Will Rock You!”, and raced the clock successfully to get to Loop, a London LYS, in Islington, another part of town. Imagine my mad yarn shopping powers being put to test in two minutes time. I emerged successful and happy with a Loop shopping bag and some beautiful indie yarn. Ahhhh, more sweet memories.

With only 30 minutes to spare before the show started, we stumbled upon a Hong Kong noodle house, Noodle Oodle (formerly called Noodle Inn) with a guy making handmade noodles in the window, next to the hanging char siu, roast pork and duck. Be still my heart! We popped in and asked the waitress if she could get us in and out in 30 minutes so we could get to the show on time. Not a problem, she sat us at a table in 3 minutes; we ordered our noodles with char siu or duck and Wes ordered his steamed Shanghai dumplings (the yummy kind with soup that leaks out once you bite into it) which takes 7 minutes longer; and we were slurping down noodle soup within 5 minutes. Delicious home-cooking inspired comfort food in the least expected place! It’s located on Oxford Street just next to the Tottenham Court Road tube station. Cheap, not a fancy place to hang out, but good satisfying food, especially on a cold day.

“We Will Rock You!” was recommended by my sister and her family, who saw the show three years ago, and it was a perfect recommendation for us. We splurged for close-up tickets, and enjoyed the music of Queen, albeit with a rather weak story line. Even so, we loved watching the live singing and dancing performances. Squid was entranced by the female performers, and I could hear Wes laughing at the jokes (Who were Tinky Winky and Dipsy? And why did they say, “Eh oh?” In our family he is known for his great obsession with the Teletubbies, when he was a toddler.) The show ended the with a huge, rousing performance of “We Are the Champions” and I promptly whispered to Brad, “What happened to Bohemian Rhapsody??!!” I’m such a sucker and easy target. That was the encore performance, and the true highlight was when Brian May came out and performed his great guitar solo. We were seated amidst a sea of German high-school age students who mostly seemed to understand the show. However, when they performed Queen’s most famous hit, they seemed a bit bewildered at all of the reaction and singing along from the audience. I’m glad to say we have appropriately musically-educated our kids and instilled a love of Queen well before this trip. We loved the performance, and our kids loved the performance. This is the stuff that memories are made of, and it was a great way to end our first full day of London.

Days 4 and 5 – Edinburgh

Day 4 found us whizzing through the Northern English countryside and crossing into Scotland. We arrived in Edinburgh in the early afternoon, ate a bit of lunch, checked into our very nice hotel, which was referred to us by our good friends, the Schleiffers, who had previously stayed in the hotel last summer. It was a near perfect stay in a beautiful city in a gorgeous country. The feel of the city is best described as a dynamic, youthful spirit.

We hopped on the red tour bus which circles the city and lets you hop on and off at stops. Unfortunately, we started our sightseeing too late and by the time we climbed the steep road and reached Edinburgh Castle, it was too late to tour. We snapped a quick pic from atop and decided to head down. That’s on the calendar first thing the next morning.

(ETA: This cool picture showing the castle in the background.)

We walked a bit of The Royal Mile down to the High Kirk of St. Giles. There’s a folklore legend that if you spit on the brick heart on the sidewalk, you will have good luck. All but Brad let the loogies fly, and some people may have spit more than once (not I!). Squid should have plenty of luck now, and hopefully more for the rest of us too.

After an early dinner, we were done for the night. I think jet lag has hit the kids today, so we’ll sleep in a bit in the morning. We need all that energy for a big day tomorrow at Edinburgh Castle and the rest of the city.

Day 5 was a full day, once we were up and about. We breakfasted at a charming little cafe across the way from us, and my American husband and kids all ordered the American breakfast. So predictable! I felt very cosmopolitan with my Scottish scone and tea. The castle was the first order of business, and it did not disappoint. Brad and I fondly remembered our visit to the castle 21 years ago on our honeymoon, and I’m happy to report that we now have more fond memories. The kids ran around and completed the kids’ quiz sheet, which made sure to keep them occupied, entertained and educated (read: not fighting).

The Scottish crown jewels were amazing to behold, as was the ceremonial daily firing of the one o’clock gun. Guess what time they fired it? Yep, one o’clock. It stems from a long ago tradition to help sailors find their bearings. I took some video of it, so let’s see if I’m able to load it.

After the walk about the castle, and peering over the edges for gorgeous panoramic views, we partook in our ceremonial daily ice cream from the ice cream truck in front of the castle. This was a new memory but just as fond. We went for a bit of fun next and ended up in Camera Obscura. It’s basically a fun, hands-on science museum for the whole family with emphasis on visual effects. Touted as the #1 rated sight on Trip Advisor, that was enough convincing for us. The big attraction is the camera obscura at the top of the building which was built by a female scientist in the 1800s. Through lenses, you get a 360 degree panoramic view of Edinburgh. Add in a mirror maze, computerized visual effects morphing your face into a chimp or baby, a vortex tunnel, lots of MC Escher and Escheresque pictures, it was a huge hit with the kids. Brad and I enjoyed it too but I enjoyed the kids’ reactions as much, if not more.

We finished the day with the rest of the tour bus, and strolled about the city to dinner. We’ve enjoyed couple of hearty, delicious Italian dinners that I’ll convince myself were authentic. They spoke English with Italian accents, so the food must have been too, right?

Since this is originally a yarn blog, I’d be remiss in not showing you any yarny goodness. Besides, this is the truly exciting stuff. First off, I finished Brad’s socks I started months ago for this trip. Good thing I finished them while we were here. I think I’ll call them the York to Edinburgh socks; I was binding off while in Newcastle, instead of peering through the windows for a glimpse of their football stadium.

Up the street from us was a lovely little yarn boutique named K1. I stopped in on the first night but it was right before they were closing. I suspect they get a good amount of non-knitter touristy traffic, and I didn’t have much time to shop, nor did I feel that warm of a reception. It was a good thing I went back the next evening, because I had a better experience. The shop girl (just wanted to write that, as sexist as it sounds) was American and had arrived in Edinburgh in October. You could already hear the Scottish burr emerging in her speech. There was a small knitting class going on in the middle of the shop too, and all were friendly and cheerful.

I settled on a bit of Aran weight Artesano alpaca/wool blend for Sweetie Boy’s cap. Fickle boy decided he didn’t want the dark brown, but grey instead. I decided to grab some purple to stripe for him too, since purple seems to be his color du jour as of late. I also may have picked up some blue angora blend for a scarflet, but since I have in the past loudly proclaimed for all to hear that I am neither a knitter of blue nor a lover of angora, I shall neither confirm nor deny this existence of this yarn in my suitcase. (Right now, we’re training to Manchester, and I love the fact that every time we pass grazing sheep, the kids yell, “Sheepies, Mommy, sheepies!” Sheep Watch 2011. Gotta love it! BTW, this is called using your powers for good, not evil.)

I had been toying with the idea of going to a knitting group while in Edinburgh, and had even done a bit of research on Ravelry.com for meet up days and times. I inquired at the shop about the Tea Tree Tea knitters, and one of the gals mentioned that the shop is only 2 blocks away. With my recent yarn purchases in hand, my blood was pumping and I decided to head over to the group. Ashamedly, I knocked on the locked door and when I explained my plight that I HAD to knit even for 15 minutes with them, they unlocked the already-closed shop door and let me in. Imagine this exchange through the window and my gesturing with knitting-like movements and pulling out my ball of yarn. They were cheerful and friendly and maybe taken aback by the crazy American knitter lady, but I can say that I knit for a short while in Edinburgh. I was sad it ended so quickly, but I could tell they were a good lot… friendly to all with all the right kind of yarn and pattern speak. I got a good tip on an Old Maiden Aunt silk/cashmere/merino wool blend knit up into a lovely shawl that apparently the Loop store in London carries. I’ll need to make extra sure I can get there next week.

Remember at the beginning of the post where I described it as near-perfect? We set the alarm early so we could catch the direct train to Manchester. We allowed ourselves 45 mins to throw our stuff into the suitcases before grabbing a cab. Sweetie Boy had just stepped out of the bathroom after his shower when the fire alarm went off. At first we thought it was just our room, and tried to wave away the steam that we assumed set off the smoke detector. That’s when we heard door shutting in the hallway and people leaving their rooms. Evacuation time! We thought it surely meant we would miss our train, but after hearing some business about a pot or hot plate left on, the fire brigade cleared the emergency and we were safe to return to the hotel after just 5 minutes or so outside. Whew! That was a close one but we caught our taxi in time, and boarded the train with 15 minutes to spare. I’m now entertained by the foursome of middle-aged men who are traveling toether and enjoying their pints of beer at 8:30 in the morning.

Next stop, Manchester where we pursue the nation’s and our love of football!