Mari Goes to the U.K.

 Scottish Highlands

TMA'ed while jammin' to I Want It That Way by Brittany Howard, Jim James

Before I start, grab a snack because this is a long one. Ready? Here we go:

So while Temi was in Japan, I was gallivanting through the United Kingdom with my partner in crime, Kari. It all started when Kari bought tickets to the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play last year. As crazy as she was to wake up at 3 am to buy the tickets, we weren't that crazy to go all the way to London and not see the rest of the island. 

First Stop - Glasgow, Scotland

Our first morning in Glasgow, we upheld the Seattle Sunday brunch tradition at Café Gandolfi. The Scottish love their bacon, but they love their blood sausage, aka black pudding, more. Since I couldn't indulge in a Scottish breakfast, I settled for their Eggs Florentine and a Homemade Fruit Scone. 

 Cafe Gandolfi: Eggs Florentine

Cafe Gandolfi: Eggs Florentine

 Tour of Britain in Glasgow

Tour of Britain in Glasgow

After brunch we stumbled upon the starting line for the Tour of Britain race, just in time to see the bikers ride off. 

Driving through the Highlands

Satisfied with getting to see the start of the race, we headed to our rental car and began our first adventure: Driving on the wrong side through the Scottish Highlands.

 Somewhere in the Highlands 

Somewhere in the Highlands 

The highlands were motley shades of green rolling hills and we got lucky as we drove away from the storms towards Glenfinnan Viaduct.

 Glenfinnan Viaduct (used in Harry Potter for Hogwart's Express)

Glenfinnan Viaduct (used in Harry Potter for Hogwart's Express)

After a quick hike to see the Glenfinnan, we made our way to the Urquhart castle, which sits near the Loch Ness.

 Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness

Second Stop - Inverness, Scotland

Defeated from our failed attempt to find Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, we decided to hunt down a place to grab dinner in the smaller city of Inverness and ended up at Number 27.

I ordered the Pan-Fried Fish of the Day with king prawns, potatoes, spinach and a red pepper dressing. The fish reminded me of my grandma's, which is usually fish pan fried until the skin is crispy on the outside and all the flavor has soaked into the meat of it. 

 Pan Fried Fish @ Number 27

Pan Fried Fish @ Number 27

Third Stop - Edinburgh, Scotland

The next day we hit the road towards Edinburgh going through the other side of the highlands.

Edinburgh is absolutely gorgeous, the street performers swarm the city just like they do in Time Square. Although, I bet you wouldn’t see a Scottish man in a util kilt playing the bag pipes in Times Square, but on second thought it's New York so you just might.

As soon as we arrived in Edinburgh we went to Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter series.

I was starving so I got their Homemade beef lasagne. I'm a cheese lover, and even I thought they layered way more cheese than pasta. I also got a Malteser bar on the side, but it wouldn’t have been noteworthy if it wasn't for the Maltesers.

 Streets of Edinburgh

Streets of Edinburgh

 Beef Lasagne & Malteser Bar

Beef Lasagne & Malteser Bar

In Edinburgh we saw our first castle of many during the whole trip. The castle was cool and all, but I loved the views from it.

Those views just weren't enough, so we decided to hike Arthur's seat. I'm so glad that was the last thing we ended our day with because it stole the show. When we reached the top we were literally breathless from the breathtaking sweeping view of the city and water and the difficult hike.

 Edinburgh Castle Views

Edinburgh Castle Views

 Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat

Fourth Stop - Dublin, Ireland

Fast forward to the next morning when we made moves to Belfast at the crack of dawn.

As soon as we landed, we grabbed a bus to Dublin where we visited the infamous Kilmainham Gaol prison. Man is it pretty for a jail.

 Kilmainham Gaol Prison

Kilmainham Gaol Prison

After strolling around in the heat, yep we got that rare summer day in Dublin, we went to quench our thirst and feed are growling tummies at The Temple Bar. What better way than at a bar with 100 sandwiches to choose from. It was a hard choice and I ended up getting a Gourmet Closed Sandwich with chargrilled chicken, roast garlic, parsley, mayo, brie, mixed leaves and vine tomato.

 The Temple Bar : 2 of 100 sandwiches

The Temple Bar : 2 of 100 sandwiches

Fifth Stop - Belfast & All of Northern Ireland

After Dublin, we headed back to Belfast to get some much needed sleep. The next day we saw all of Northern Ireland through a Game of Thrones tour. Some of you might be appalled, but I've only seen up to season 2. Luckily, Northern Ireland was gorgeous and worth seeing even if I had no idea what the tour guide when he explained how the location was used.  Game of Thrones fans, do ya'll recognize any of the locations below?

 Ballintoy Harbour

Ballintoy Harbour

 Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

 Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

 Dark Hedges

Dark Hedges

Final Stop - London, Bath, Canterbury, basically England...

After seeing basically all of Northern Ireland in one day we were on to good ole England. A day by day recap of our time in London would get cumbersome and frankly boring, so here are the highlights.


Harry Potter Play & Studios

The reason this trip even came into fruition is the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play so it would be wrong not to mention it. Unfortunately, I'm bound to #keepthesecrets. All I can say is if you are a HP fan who  wasn't feeling the script, it is SO much better to see the play. Also to complete the HP experience we hit up the Warner Brother's studios  . 

 Palace Theater
 Butterbeer from Harry Potter Studios

Butterbeer from Harry Potter Studios

Bath, England

Bath looks like a pot of honey in a sea of green. All of its buildings are made from a specific limestone that was also used by the Romans for their hot spring baths. Also this city has the best ice cream, I don’t know what it is about the milk they use but it was creamiest of creams.

 City of Bath

City of Bath

 Biscoff Toffee Cream

Biscoff Toffee Cream

Canterbury, England

The city is quaint and has so much character. It is also home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals I've ever visited. 

 Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

Stonehedge

I never thought rocks would be something I'd go out of my way to see. Compared to everything else we had seen on the trip so far these were a little underwhelming. The mystery around their formation and the scenic drive out to see them made up for it.

 Stonehedge

Stonehedge

Castles for Days

We got as close to royalty and the royal history as one possibly can, unless of course they are meeting the queen and the royal family. The castles were majestic, enormous, and I learned more than I probably did in grade school.  We visited Windsor Castle, one of Queen Elizabeth's current homes. Leeds Castle, last owned by an American duchess who turned it into a breeding ground for black swans. Tower of London, which is more of a fortress than a tower within the London City limits. 

 Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

 Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle

 Black Swans at Leeds Castle

Black Swans at Leeds Castle

 Inside the Tower of London Fortress

Inside the Tower of London Fortress

Food

Nordic Bakery,  Carnaby Street

A quick stop for breakfast is all we ever had time for with our packed schedule of activities. This was one of my favorite ones.  I had an oven baked pancake, which was a first. It was crispy on the outside and a fluffy soft inside and reminded me of bread pudding. The homemade jam on the side made it even more noteworthy.

Unfortunately this was the day of the play and I didn't have my camera to get a picture of it. 

Dishoom, Granary Square

Much like breakfast, lunch was usually a quick snack and dinner was a quick meal except for the one time we went here. This is probably the bougiest and largest Indian restaurant I've even been to. We were starving as usual after a day of adventuring, so when the waitress said that the portions were big enough for 3 people to share we though it was best to start with two and an appetizer. 

There were 3 samosas, which were pretty good. When our order of Sheekh Kababs and Chicken Ruby came out, you can probably guess what I thought. It wasn't going to be enough to fill me up. 

The kebabs were a little too bland for my liking, the lamb didn't seem to have absorbed any of the flavors from their marinade and tasted too gamy. The Chicken Ruby Curry was the real winner. Creamy like butter chicken, but with the perfect kick of spice and flavor. Truly the best Indian curry I've had in a long time.

 Kababs & Curry

Kababs & Curry

The Sketch, SOHO

You can't go to the UK and do Afternoon Tea Time at least once. I had this place on my list from the last time I went to the UK, but wasn't able to get a reservation. Although it was a little pricey, it was so worth it. How can bottomless sandwiches, pastries and tea for TWO hours not be worth every pound?

The place itself is phenomenal. They have different rooms for different purposes. Tea time is in the Gallery, a room that looks like Pink Panther's home but classy with their black and white sketches and dishes. Lunch is served in the Glades where you feel as if you jumped through the same rabbit hole Alice did. Then there is the Parlor and the Library lounge where the former is a bar and the latter is for dinner. The bathroom is also something worth seeing and lets just say it's out of this world with its rocket ship pods.

 Gallery Room @ The Sketch

Gallery Room @ The Sketch

 Bottomless Food platter

Bottomless Food platter

That's all folks.

If you made this far by only looking at the pictures, which one was your favorite shot? If you read everything, you are a trooper and I salute you, like the guards at Buckingham Palace, for taking the time .  Have any of y'all been to the UK? What did you think or do that I didn't?