I finally made it!---June 15-July 1, 2005

Round the World Travels Begin

Hi all-

Just wanted to update everyone on my travels so far. I arrived into London on Thursday morning, a couple hours late because of bad weather in Orlando but was happy to see Hilary's smiling face when I arrived. I spent a couple of days chilling out with Hilary and her family. Mark Hepworth and KT came over for dinner on Friday night to give me more advise for my trip. They took a similar trip a few years ago and after talking to them I am even more excited about the trip! Saturday I visited Leeds Castle in Kent. We took the tour of the castle and then wandered around the gardens and saw a falcon show. We finished with William and I getting lost in the hedge maze! Remind me not to go with him the next time I go into a hedge maze (I was probably as lost as he was!).

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Party at Hilary's

On Sunday, Hilary got the old LEGO gang together for a wonderful picnic in the garden. The weather was gorgeous, if not a little hot for England. We set a tent up (and yes, Jules broke his toe during the setup and had to go to the hospital to get checked out!) and had a relaxing time catching up and seeing where everyone is in their life.

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On to South West England

From Hilary's house outside of London I traveled a few hours west to Barnstaple in North Devon with my friends Karen and Peter and their 2 babies. I spent Monday doing the kid thing...took them to a music class and then up to a yurt (I know, who expected that in England) where we had a nice picnic on the lawn and got to see a sheep being sheared (much more like England). Then on Tuesday we went for a visit to Bath. I did the tourist thing and saw the Roman Baths while the children got some immunizations (I know how bad they are, I had mine a few weeks ago!).

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On to Edinburgh

On Wednesday we got up and drove to Exeter (about an hour away) to the train station. From there I took a long train ride up to Scotland. It was nice to be able to see the countryside and to catch up on some reading and relaxing. I arrived in Edinburgh and found my hostel (the first of many to come) and then I went for a wander around the city. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous and with it staying light until after 10pm, it makes me just want to stay outdoors as much as possible. I got up on Thursday and took care of some visa issues for Russia and then headed off to take a tour of the Edinburgh castle that I really enjoyed. Then I wandered the city some more before crashing back at the hostel for a night in.

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Scotland Highlands

I decided to take a tour of the Scotland Highlands. I went with an offbeat tour company called Macbackpackers and had a great time. This is definitely the way to see the Highlands. It was a hop on hop off tour. There were 5 different stops we could jump off and stay the night or a year. The bus driver was also our tour guide and they were young upbeat and most of the time pretty funny people. They gave us the history of the areas we visited and were very knowledgeable in each of the areas. It seems we stopped at every castle as we went around the loop from Edinburgh to Inverness, to the Isle of Skye, to Oban and back to Edinburgh. Even had the opportunity to visit the smallest Distillery in Scotland--Whiskey of course. I can't say that I liked it any better having tried it at the Distillery any more than I had any other time that I tried it!

We also had a demonstration of how kilts were first done and their importance to the Scottish. Before arriving in Inverness, looked for the Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, but never found her! Some people even went swimming in the Loch... as you all know being from Florida, there was absolutely no way I was going to go swimming in that soooooo cold water!

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Isle of Skye

I decided to stop off the bus for 2 nights on the Isle of Skye. It is on the northwest side of Scotland. A beautiful island with mountains and lots of open space. Definitely a quiet and relaxing place. That is until the tour groups meet at Saucy Mary's Pub to kick back a few pints. Its amazing how much more rocking an area can get with a couple of tour groups and a couple of hostels near by.! I also had a chance to visit the capital of Skye--Portree and took a scenic bus tour around the island.

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Next stop of the tour was Oban. A town on the west coast of Scotland. On the way we stopped and visited Eileen Donnan Castle. After Oban we headed back to Edinburgh with stops along the way including a visit to the castle where the Monty Python movies were shot.

I am still amazed at how late it stays light up here. It does not get really pitch dark until after midnight and it starts to get light out again around 3:30am. I know I shouldn't be up at that time, but sleeping in hostels does not always mean a sleep through the night.

I have met some really cool people on the way. I have met people from all over the world-----Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, China, Thailand.... This is definitely one of the pluses to staying in hostels!

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Next Stop Ireland

My next stop will be Ireland. I will be heading there on Friday, July 1st. I have heard so many great things about Ireland and I am really looking forward to visiting!

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