Our flight to London was via a quick stop off in Shanghai, China as we flew with China Eastern airlines. . We arrived in London on time, but on time with 1000 other people. Heathrow airport would be up there with the world's worst airports. We waited in line for 2 hours to get through customs. By the time we got through, Hilary and Jo had already left the airport so we were basically stuck. Not only were we late, we had told Hilary to meet us at the wrong terminal. We managed to get in contact with Hilary and made our way to her house by train. It wasn't the prettiest house but we made ourselves at home. We spent 2 days in London before picking up our car for our travels around the UK.
We left London and headed for Stonehenge - A prehistoric monument. Basically a bunch a large rocks.. unsure what they mean but a great stop for some lunch on the green grass.
Next stop was Bath. The city was first established by the romans as a spa in the AD 60's. They built baths and a temple on the surrounding hills in the valley of the River avon. There are plenty of hot springs and pools around the town where people still bath daily. We slept in our car that night as the accommodation prices were very high! We almost froze to death but managed to save $100. =)
We pre-booked accommodation for New Quay which is a small seaside town south-west of London. The weather was amazing here which meant we were able to visit the beach and actually touch the water. There were plenty of activities to do but we decided to relax and enjoy the sun. We didn't go out on the water but we had a visit from a few seals who seem to hang around the fishing docks. The soccer was on so we grabbed a seat at a local pub and watched it over a delicious pub meal.
#1 Worst accommodation in the world was right here in Bristol. We were actually offered a room upgrade when we arrived. I can't imagine what the other room was like if what we slept in was somehow an "upgrade." The city itself wasn't much better so we went to the movies for something to do. We stayed here just one night and headed straight across to Wales.
We stayed In Cardiff which is the largest city in Wales. It was a perfect little spot to gather some of the Wales culture and history. We visited the Cardiff Castle, Cardiff bay and the millennium centre. We stayed right by the stadium where the All Blacks were to play the following weekend. We ate good food and had a blast here in Wales!
In Birmingham we met up with Cat and her Boyfriend for a night out on the town. We went to a few local bars and a few clubs for a bit of a dance. Our second day in Birmingham Cat took us to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory! We were given bar after bar of delicious chocolate and enjoyed every minute of it. I never knew this was where it all started! Birmingham was very British! We were surrounded by the sound of old drunken men but it wouldn't have been the same without it. The waterways here are also very interesting. Many years ago people created locks which they would open and close to let water in and out in order to move up hill. These waterways are actually all over the UK. Woah!
When we first got to Manchester, straight away we felt surrounded by football fans and true british culture. When we looked around town I really liked the architecture. We found museums, art galleries, cathedrals and sports clubs. We went to the museum of technology which was all about Manchesters 1st's and displayed everything that was founded or discovered here in Manchester. We also had a first roast meal here since being on or trip. It was delicious and was definately something we had missed! Roast meat nd veges, covered in gravy with Yorkshire puddings on the side. Mmmmm.
Liverpool was our last British stop. We took a walk down to Albert dock where we saw the Museum of Liverpool, The beatles memorial and museum and checked out a bit more of the city before our 2 for 1 pub meals. The water looked so inviting but not many people were jumping in at this time of the year. There were dinner cruise boats and even Aqua ducks (Boats with wheels or Cars that float.) What i liked most about liverpool was the friendly people. They just seemed to have it all figured out. Even their accent and dialect was slightly different to other parts of the UK. It also wasn't too hard to understand which made it easier for us!!
Glasgow Rained! A Lot! So we were forced to play indoor mini putt golf instead of thr usual outdoor exploring. We booked tickets to the Blink 182 concert which was being held at a stadium near by. It was amazing! Such a great atmosphere! I think we were the only 2 non scottish people there. They were all wearing kilts and carrying around bagpipes.
Last but not least was Northern Ireland, Ireland and everything in between. We flew from Glasgow to Belfast airport where we were greeted by Jamie Toole - Williams irish cousin. Before we saw Belfast we were whipped away to the Tooles caravan located in Port Rush, a small seaside resort town in Northern Ireland. When we heard we were staying in a caravan we pictured a small dodgey trailer. But no, not this! This caravan was luxurious! What a treat it was. The main part of the town in built on a mile long peninsula and I believe it is well known for it's 3 sandy beaches and for the Royal Port Rush golf club. The only golf club outside of mainland great britain to host the open championship! Jamie took us for dinner at a very well known waterfront restaurant and finished off the night with movies before bed. On our way to Lisburn we visited the Giants causeway, Bushmills distillery and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. The giants causeway is a natural wonder in the UK. To describe it, hundreds of rocks, mostly shaped like hexagons but some with 4,5,7 or 8 sides. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that led from the cliff foot and dissapeared under the sea. The myth is that the giant used the stepping stones to get to scotland to defeat the scottish giant. Such history! The Bushmills Distillery gets around 120,000 visitors a year and claims to be the oldest distillery in the world. We got a tour around distillery and were shown where and how all the whiskey is made. We were also given a free sample at the end of our tour. Carrick-a-rede rope bridge links the mainland to the tiny carrickarede island. Its only 20m long but 30m above the rocks below. Its mainly a tourist attraction but was great for testing my fear of heights. We made it to Lisburn that afternoon where we met the rest of the family. They were so welcoming and made it feel more like a second home. We were given the large room downstairs all to ourselves. Rita and tommie lived in the house right next door so we had plenty of visits from them. Jamie, William and I did a day trip to explore Belfast city where we met up with Katrina and did a hop on hop off bus tour. We checked out the city hall, queens university and the new Titanic museum. There is such fascinating history. It has emerged from decades of strife to a vibrant city. It really is a buzzing place with a unique atmosphere that was definately worth a visit. Before finishing up in Ireland we popped down to Dublin for a night of relaxation. It was a really friendly city with friendly locals that were definately "high on craic". On the top of our dublin to do list was to go to the Leprechaun Museum where we were taken through a big fairytale world. It was okay. We gathered a few interesting facts and myths from it. We also managed to fit in the Guiness factory which was the biggest and flashest factory I have ever seen. We toured around and saw Guiness in the making and even got to try pouring our own!! When we returned to Lisburn we went along with the rest of the family to the opening of the arch where we watched the bands march through town. Before we knew it our Ireland trip was over and we had to head back to London to get ready for our trip around Europe! Although we were super excited, Ireland and the family were amazing and we were so gutted to leave!