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I never wanted to leave the United Kingdom.  Even though I was wearing long underwear in June, I could have happily stayed for a long, long time.  After a few days in London we started off in….

Newcastle.  Our motivation for stopping the night in Newcastle was the proximity to Hadrian’s Wall.  When we arrived, we discovered it was actually too far away and it was too late in the day for us to actually go see it.  We did the next best thing and went to the city museum to learn about it.P1160325  We weren’t too impressed by the city itself, and we were glad that we were only staying the one night.  The next day found us hastening gladly towards….

Edinburgh.  Scotland found us in a flurry of plaid frenzy, as we stopped in every single store looking for that perfect tartan design.  We joined a tour leaving from our hostel and went to Greyfriars Kirkyard, where J.K. Rowling got a lot of inspiration for the Harry Potter series, including the names of several characters like Professor MacGonagall and Tom Riddle.  The cemetery is adjacent to a private school, which was the prototype for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Not far away is the Elephant Cafe, where most of the book was written.  The tour led us down the Royal Mile and then over to the National Monument for an overcast view of the city.  Three days were not enough in the city, but we did get to our main points of interest, including Edinburgh Castle, Canongate Kirk (where Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, was recently married), Palace of Holyrood House (the Queen’s official residence when she visits the city) and Arthur’s Seat.P1160524  If we’d had another day, I would have loved to have spent it roaming the moors and taking pictures of gorse, which I’d never seen before but had always read about in my favorite British novels.  The wind and rain completely destroyed our umbrellas, but our new Scottish scarves kept us plenty warm.P1160573  Next it was time to move on, and we took the train to Glasgow, where they were preparing for the Olympic torch to run through, then to another small city, and from there we took the ferry to…

Belfast.  I’ve loved the Titanic since I first heard about it.  Remember those Step Into Reading books from elementary school?  The very first one I read by myself was about Titanic.  In 2nd grade we had to write our own book with illustrations, and I wrote about Titanic, deliberately writing that it was in the ocean, and not the Atlantic Ocean, because I didn’t want anyone else in the class to find it before I did.  Robert Ballard beat me to it, but I was still able to enjoy being in Belfast around the time of the 100 year commemoration of the sinking.  The beautiful new museum is on the site where the ship was built and then launched.  We spent five hours there, and it’s the first time in my life where I’ve read every caption and looked at every single thing in a museum.P1160833  Not too far away was the pump house and dry docks where the ship was fitted out, where we also spent quite a bit of time.   Mom and I also did a tour along the coast of Northern Ireland.  We made quite a few stops at some castles and towns, but the real beauty was the landscape in every direction.  We stopped at the Swinging Bridge, surrounded by beautiful cliffs and turquoise seas, and then we went to the Giant’s Causeway to see the bizarre rock formations. P1160754 If ever I came back to live in the British Isles, I think Belfast would be my city.  But, all too soon we were on a bus and on our way to…

Dublin.  Mom’s original goal in Dublin was to find some ancestors, but our efforts struck out on that one.  There was still plenty to keep us occupied.  We were staying near Temple Bar, and we did a tour of Christ Church Cathedral that let us up into the bell tower for a lesson on bell ringing, which we even got to try out.  I’m sure the locals are thrilled that the tourists get this experience.P1160976  I also enjoyed St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which had a lot of information about Jonathan Swift, who was a dean there.  Dublin is a wonderful place for the book lover.  I purchased a copy of “The Dubliners” by James Joyce, and we also sought out statues dedicated to Oscar Wilde.P1160955   No trip to Dublin is complete without a stop at Dublin Castle and Trinity College, where we watched the lads playing football.  We were ferry-bound towards Wales, as this time we thought we’d try out…

Southampton. To get here, after taking the ferry to Wales, we had to go all the way to back to London and then switch to a train going south.  As we were going through the underground, I turned to the man behind me to tell him the ticket turnstile was broken, and it was a friend of mine and fellow teacher from China!  Owen, Kelly and I had a brief reunion and then parted ways, marveling at what a small world we live in.P1170060  Southampton was another site of Titanic lore.  We visited another museum, and even after the hours spent in the Belfast museum I was pleased that there was still so much to learn.  I hadn’t known that most of the crew was from Southampton, and it was sobering to see a map of the city showing where all the people who died had their homes.  “There wasn’t a street without a loss.”  P1170102We went down to the shipyards to see the hotel where many passengers had stayed, the White Star Line office, the bar that many passengers had visited, and the pier where Titanic departed on her final journey.  From there we returned to London and then back to the United States.P1170115

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