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The UK in Eight Days, Part 2

The UK in Eight Days, Part 2

After getting settled in the flat and managing to get back down the circular stone staircase without losing anyone, we headed up the Royal Mile to see what we could find. DD#2 is very good at spotting sewing machines in the wild (who knew?), and she alerted me to this one in a shop window.

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I had never seen that decal set before. I couldn’t find it on the ISMACS website (and not knowing its official name made searching more difficult as well). Stay tuned—it will make another appearance here.

As we came out of St. Giles Church, I heard someone singing. It turned out to be this woman:

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I don’t know if you can see from the picture, but she had her hair moussed up into a spiky mohawk. And that plaid combo! Her singing was much better than her spinning. (I looked at the skeins of yarn she had for sale.) I wondered if perhaps she was singing some traditional spinning and weaving songs. I still have a cassette tape, put out long ago by Interweave Press, of some of those traditional songs.

It was late enough in the day that the weavers in the mill had shut down their looms. We wandered around a bit and then headed to a restaurant for drinks and dinner. The hostess told us the kitchen didn’t open until 5:30 and we would have to wait for a table. We ordered drinks. The whiskey sour was the “drink of the day” and half price until 6 p.m. Unfortunately, “half price” seemed to mean “half strength,” as well. This one was anemic enough that I ordered a second one and had it with my meal of fish and chips.

The next morning, we headed down the Royal Mile toward Holyrood Palace. I am told that there is a difference between a “castle” and a “palace,” and Holyrood falls into the latter category. This is the palace where Mary, Queen of Scots lived. The current queen of England also vacations there for two weeks every July. DD#2 very much wanted us to see Holyrood as she is a student of history and enjoyed her previous visit. It did not disappoint. We went through an exhibit on the Restoration period—with an excellent personal multimedia system narrating the displays—and then went on a tour of the castle. I was delighted to find out that Mary, Queen of Scots worked on embroidery projects during her privy council meetings. Apparently, she had as little tolerance for sitting idle during meetings as I do.

Speaking of multitasking, I had managed to knit up all the Creskeld wool yarn I had brought with me into a scarf, so while we were in Edinburgh, I looked for a resupply. Lots of the stores had small displays of yarn and I found two skeins of some 100% wool from the New Lanark Mill just southwest of Edinburgh. I loved the color:

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One skein got knitted into part of another scarf during the remainder of the trip. I’ll finish it soon.

After lunch, the girls and I went to explore Edinburgh Castle. It had been used as a military installation for many years until the government decided it would bring in more money as a tourist attraction. We toured the underground prison cells and saw the Honours of Scotland, which are the oldest crown jewels in Great Britain. When we were done, we met up with my mother and sister and went to dinner at a restaurant right next to our flat. There, I had the most amazing Spiced Fig Sour, which was a whiskey sour made with Maker’s Mark bourbon and spiced fig syrup. That drink stands out as the best one of the week. Our dinners were fabulous, too. Both DD#2 and I had the gnocchi with wild mushrooms and pesto as our entrees. Yum.

The following morning, we wisely took a car service back to the train station and boarded the train to London. We had decided ahead of time to stop in York and wander around the city for a few hours. A place to leave luggage near the train station is available, although the signage indicating its location leaves much to be desired. It took us the better part of half an hour to find it.

York has a section called The Shambles, which is where the butchers used to display their wares to customers. It’s now an area of shops and (I think) parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed there. The buildings are old timbered structures, clearly out of plumb and level, and we wondered how some of them were still standing. Next to York Minster, the church, is a building called the Treasurer’s House. As its name implies, it was the abode of the treasurer for the minster, but then was purchased by a dandy named Frank Green in the late 1800s. He wanted to show off his family’s money, so he did extensive renovations, some of which included removing walls and cutting through timbers to remove floors. We were on the second floor part of the tour—hosted by two very entertaining ladies—when I noticed exactly how spongy and bouncy the floor was, sagging toward the center of the house. I hoped that none of the walls or timbers that Frank Green had removed were structural. (And that bouncy floor reminded me more than I liked of the deck collapse we were in two years ago.)

Late in the afternoon, we got back on the train for the two-hour ride back to London, but about 45 minutes out of the station, the train came to a dead stop due to something blocking the track ahead. We sat there for an hour, which put us late getting into London. By the time we got to the third flat, in the Fitzrovia neighborhood (and with an elevator), we were pretty wiped out.

On Friday morning, we went to brunch at a restaurant near Buckingham Palace, where I again had smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches and tea. I could subsist on that diet for a good long while. By 10:00 a.m., we were walking across Hyde Park with thousands and thousands of other people all heading toward the palace to watch the changing of the guard. There were so many people that it was hard to get a good view, but I enjoyed watching and listening to the marching bands.

DD#2 had promised to take us to Fortnum and Mason, one of the big department stores in London. She had been there on a previous visit and brought me some of their tea. That brand is available here in the States through Williams-Sonoma, but W-S doesn’t carry all of what the flagship store offers. And what they offer is amazing. The store has a huge section devoted to nothing but tea. All kinds of tea. Tea accessories. The market downstairs is equally amazing. My sister said that when she dies, she hopes that heaven is the market at Fortnum and Mason.

I bought two kinds of tea in London:

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The one on the left is from a London chain of stores called T2. It’s White White Cocoa—white tea with coconut and chocolate. The one on the right is Countess Grey. The store had samples of this made up as iced tea and it was delicious.

I also bought a tea strainer:

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I want to transition to drinking more of my tea as loose leaf tea brewed in a pot.

Friday night’s dinner was at a restaurant close to the flat, where I had a New York Sour as my drink and a salad.

Tomorrow, the highlight of my whole trip—the visit to the London Sewing Machine Museum.

The London Sewing Machine Museum

The London Sewing Machine Museum

The UK in Eight Days

The UK in Eight Days