Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's a New Year!

Today we headed back to London. We left Stirling after a quick breakfast at the hotel, and returned the car at the airport. It was a quick and easy return process, and then we headed to the bus terminal at the airport. As we got there, our bus pulled up, excellent timing. We jumped on the bus (£2.70 for both of us on the 30 minutes ride!) and settled in for the ride to the train station in Central Edinburgh. Upon arrival, we made out way to the station to get our tickets and await the train.

Edinburgh has an amazingly large Hogmanay celebration, the video of it on the new last night and this morning was extremely impressive. I had originally planned to go to that celebration, but getting around town would have more difficult with the car and the cost of hotels was prohibitive (£400 a night, two night minimum sort of deals). The result of last nights party was evident everywhere. The streets were awash in cleanup crews and crews dismantling temporary fences. The bus and train stations were packed with revelers passed out in any corner that they could find. I had to step between sleeping bodies to make it to the ticket machine. These people apparently now how to party!

We were eventually allowed onto our train. Karen immediately settled in for the 4 hour plus trip, donning her headphones and passing out within 20 minutes of departure. I'm currently wrapping up my blogs, enjoying the countryside and the intermittent points that the train follows extremely close to the coast. It's a great train and a beautiful route thus far. Maybe snoozing time for me soon enough though!

(okay, back from my snooze) We got off of the train at King's Cross Station and starting looking for Platform 9 and 3/4s, from Harry Potter. The entire station is undergoing a face lift, so I was afraid it might not be accessible, but it was, sort of. The cart is there, but it's been moved to a different spot, and it was bolted to a wall with fake brick graphics on it, instead of the really cool bricked in archway that it's normally at. The "wall" is surrounded by whitewall, so the pictures I took turned out like crap. Partially my fault, but still a bummer. Oh well, an excuse to go back?


We jumped back onto the underground and made our way to our hotel, Caring Hotel. Karen's cousin Ilaria had clued us into this place before we came over, and I booked it sort of last minute. It's about the most affordable place in London at £70 a night. I think it would be classified as a mini or maybe even micro hotel, but it was cool. Very basic, a double bed, a stand up shower, sink and wardrobe in a space about twice as big as our old small walk in closet. It had a TV though, so we were good.

We checked in, took showers, and relaxed for a while before heading out. We ended up back over on Queensway Road with a ton of options. We initially went to a pub that looked pretty good, but for some reason the kitchen was closed at 5:30 in the evening. I never did get a good feeling for normal eating times the entire time we were in Britain. Most breakfast places didn't open until 10:00am, lunch places would not have a full menu at 1:00pm, yet we could often find dinner from 5-7:30, or 7-11pm. I don't know what was going on here.

So, we walked around a while and found a Moroccan restaurant called Mogador. It was a bit chilly inside, but I found it very welcoming and comfortable. We had a starter of humous and pita, really good. The humous was mild and smooth (the way I like it, not too bitter, not too sweet) and the bread was wonderfully thin. Perfect! I had a vegetable tagine, and Karen had Cous-Cous Royal that was also served in a tagine ( The vegetable selection in my dish was not what I would have choose for a big roasting like this (too many carrots and I don't like olives) but the flavor was really well balanced and the meal as a whole was very warming on a chilly rainy night. I had the most perfect buttery rice to go with my food, and it worked as a great sponge for the wonderful juices left in the tangine. Karen's dish had beef or lamb sausages, lamb meat, chicken, and whole bones in it. She really enjoyed in, and I think she liked the vegetables in her dish as well. I actually got her to eat some of the bone marrow and she said it wasn't bad. Everything she had smelled really good. I've got to be the weirdest vegetarian ever. I'm really becoming more and more steadfast in my diet as time goes on, but at the same time, I'm at a point in my life were I would actually eat the weird stuff. Oh well!

My wrapped up our meal, and hit the road again. This road has a ton of restaurants and shops. We finished our gift shopping, grabbed Karen a coffee and just milled around with the crowds for a bit before heading back to the hotel. We thought about taking in a movie at the local cinema, but nothing looked good and they all started really early. We stayed in, watched the second episode of "Come Fly With Me" (AWESOME show) and watched some TV before crashing out early.

Tomorrow we are going to hit the South Bank again before flying out.

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