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The drive from Alexandria, Virginia was scheduled to take 2 hours and 45 minutes but due to multiple car accidents, it took a little over 4 hours.

Traffic on I95
Never a good sign when traffic is so backed up that people get out of their vehicles.

We still made it in time to walk around Colonial Williamsburg and have dinner at Aromas Restaurant.

Williamsburg Ambrosia Restaurant Patti and Logan
We chose to sit outdoors at Aromas Restaurant since the weather was so beautiful. Aromas is a casual restaurant with a good vegetarian selection. John had the Shrimp and Grits which was particularly yummy. Logan ate a Portobello mushroom burger with pesto. I had the Thai Vegetable Wrap with delicious mango pieces. If you’re in Williamsburg, I highly recommend Aromas as a casual, delicious and not too expensive place to eat. The cost for the three of us was under $30 including a bottle of water and a coffee. If you want to check out the menu, click here.

Colonial Williamsburg
Planning the rest of our visit

Colonial Parkway
We had a chance to drive on the gorgeous Colonial Parkway. No dividing lines!

Williamsburg Colonial House

Williamsburg Colonial town

Williamsburg Garden

Williamsburg Governors Palace

Williamsburg House

Williamsburg Logan and the water well

Williamsburg Pathway

Williamsburg Sheep Blue eyes
Blue eyed Sheep

So glad we finally made it to Williamsburg. We’ve been planning to come to the area a couple of times but have had to cancel for various reasons. Tomorrow we’re heading to Historic Jamestowne which is the first permanent English settlement in the US.

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Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions about my visit to Belfast. If you’re looking for an in-depth history of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, this is not it.

Most of my reluctance to visit Belfast was the recent renewed tensions (violence) ~ it’s covered extensively on British TV. In the end, I’m so glad I went to see the city for myself rather than rely on the media. It’s obvious there has been a lot of progress made in the last 15 years since the Good Friday Peace Accord was brokered (in 1998). We didn’t plan it, but we were in Belfast on Good Friday so there were a few events happening for the anniversary. Unfortunately, the famous pub “Crown Liquor Saloon” (circa 1826), which is located in a beautiful Victorian building and still has gas lights overhead, was closed due to Good Friday. The Irish take the Good Friday holiday VERY seriously ~ even the pubs in Dublin were closed or so we were told from our Dublin cab driver.

City Hall, Belfast

City Hall, Belfast

Staircase in Belfast City Hall

Staircase in Belfast City Hall

Stained Glass in City Hall, Belfast

Stained Glass in City Hall, Belfast

"No Mean City" Exhibition at City Hall, Belfast

“No Mean City” Exhibition at City Hall, Belfast

Memorial to the Titanic Victims, Outside Belfast City Hall

Memorial to the Titanic Victims, Outside Belfast City Hall

We visited City Hall which was dealing with the “British Flag” flying controversy.  From my understanding, the British Flag used to fly 365 days a year but recently, Sinn Féin formed a coalition, gained a majority in the government and voted to fly the Union Jack a limited number of days. The decision is not sitting well with the Loyalists and so it is ratcheting up the tension once again in Belfast. As we were leaving town, we saw Loyalist demonstrators in front of City Hall waving the British flag. Our taxi driver said he was making about £5,000 a month prior to the latest controversy but since news about the renewed tensions (and bombs being found), his income from tourists has dropped to £1500.

St Annn's Cathedral, Belfast

St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast

Mural in Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Mural in Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Belfast has beautiful and interesting artwork throughout the city

Belfast has beautiful and interesting artwork throughout the city

Mural in Belfast

Mural in Belfast

Belfast Alleyway

Belfast Alleyway

Parliament Building, Belfast

Parliament Building, Belfast

Titanic Experience, Belfast

Titanic Experience, Belfast

Extreme Style in Belfast

Extreme Style in Belfast

We opted for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour with a live tour guide. As a lifelong Belfast resident, she was a fantastic guide and gave us the dramatic, tragic history of the area while infusing just the right amount of dark humor to keep the story from depressing us too much.

Peace Mural in West Belfast

Peace Mural in West Belfast

Political Mural in West Belfast

Political Mural in West Belfast

West Belfast Mural

West Belfast Mural

Curbside paintings designating what side of the political argument you're on(one hint: this would be "loyalist"

Curbside paintings designating what side of the political argument you’re on(one hint: this would be “loyalist”)

Political Mural showing how far back the tension goes in West Belfast

Political Mural showing how far back the tension goes in West Belfast

Intimidating Political Mural

Intimidating Political Mural

Peace Wall, West Belfast, Northern Ireland

Peace Wall, West Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Peace Wall, also known as “peace lines,” have been built all over West Belfast to separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. It’s the hardest part of the Peace Agreement for me to understand. Everyday, people in West Belfast wake up to these peace walls which are build with corrugated metal and barbed wire. Graffiti created by locals express everything from “Peace” to “Break the Wall Down.”  The walls are a constant reminder to residents (and visitors) that this kind of peace is fragile. I feel in order to move forward, integration is essential. Once you get to know your neighbor, you then start to respect your neighbor. Easier said than done, but I’m a hopeful person!

On a happier note, the restaurants we ate at in Belfast did not disappoint! Muriel’s in the City Center was a favorite of mine ~ delicious food and a quirky interior complete with “knickers” hanging throughout the restaurant. It used to be a hat shop at the turn of the century (I think) and the restaurant is filled with art deco.  Made in Belfast had a very fun atmosphere.  Both restaurants had comfy couches and a relaxed ambiance.

At "Made in Belfast" Restaurant

At “Made in Belfast” Restaurant

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Since I love the musical Mama Mia, I couldn’t help but think of the Super Trouper lyrics “When I called you last night from Glasgow, all I do is eat and sleep and sing …”

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and it has the most hipster people we’ve seen so far. London and Edinburgh can boast very elegantly styled businessmen and women, but the style in Glasgow is definitely more avant-garde. Some of the styles bordered on Jerseylicious (way too much makeup and big hair) but mostly the styles seemed fresh and fun. I took a few “stalker” photos

Fun Socks, Glasgow

Fun Socks, Glasgow

Collar up, Stylish Stores in Glasgow

Collar up, Stylish Shoes in Glasgow

Glasgow Fashion Window

Glasgow Fashion Window

We didn’t hit up the bar scene nor did we check out the guidebook’s promise of  hedonistic clubs but we can attest that the restaurants we ate at are fun, funky and top-notch. On the first night we ate a delicious Mediterranean meal at “Brutti Ma Buoni”  ~ very friendly staff made for a happy place to have dinner. The second day we went to a vegan restaurant called “Mono” ~ fabulous food right down to the non-cheese cheesecake. There was a performing Arts Group called “Buzzcut” which was part of their 2nd Annual Arts Festival. Another indication of Glasgow’s vibrant and energetic music and arts scene.

Mono Restaurant ~ Delicious Vegan options!

Mono Restaurant ~ Delicious Vegan options!

Greek Salad and Hummus at Mono Restaurant, Glasgow

Greek Salad and Hummus at Mono Restaurant, Glasgow

Stir Fry at Mono Restaurant. SO DELICIOUS!

Stir Fry at Mono Restaurant. SO DELICIOUS!

One of Many Statues througout Glasgow

One of Many Statues througout Glasgow

Straight, No Chaser

Straight, No Chaser

Glasgow Phone Booth ~ Dr.Who?

Glasgow Phone Booth ~ Dr.Who?

Archway to City Hall, Glasgow

Archway to City Hall, Glasgow

Gallery of Modern Art

Gallery of Modern Art ~ don’t know why there’s a safety cone on the statue but seems appropriate in front of the Modern Art Gallery

Gallery Of Modern Art at Night

Gallery Of Modern Art at Night

There’s a lot to do in Glasgow but since we only had one full day, we opted for the Glasgow Cathedral and the Beautiful City Hall which I’ll post next…

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We’ve had a wonderful time in Edinburgh and there’s such a fun vibe to the city, I could stay for another week but we’re heading to the Highlands. We explored as much as we could in our two days here but there’s so much left to see and do.

Rabbie Burns Bar along the Royal Mile Edinburgh

Rabbie Burns Bar along the Royal Mile Edinburgh

Poppy Wreath in honor of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice

Poppy Wreath in honor of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice

Orange Bike in Ediburgh ~ nice color for a grey day

Orange Bike in Edinburgh ~ nice color for a grey day

Scott Monument

Scott Monument

Tolbooth Tavern ~ along the Royal Mile Edinburgh

Tolbooth Tavern ~ along the Royal Mile Edinburgh

Clock along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Clock along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Love seeing Tartan everywhere ~ including on the public bus CCTV screen

Love seeing Tartan everywhere ~ including on the public bus CCTV screen

Passageway along the Royal Mile

Passageway along the Royal Mile

Another plus about Edinburgh is the vast number of restaurants. We had a traditional Scottish Breakfast in the am, Turkish food for lunch, and Japanese food for dinner. All delicious! As we walked down the Royal Mile we realized it was lunchtime and stopped in at Cafe Truva (Turkish Mediterranean food). It was an excellent choice! Good service and yummy food.

Cafe Truva Spinach and Feta wrao ~ delicious!

Cafe Truva Spinach and Feta wrap ~ delicious!

We’re hoping to return in June. Hiking to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the National Museum of Scotland are at the top of the to do list.

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We arrived in Edinburgh at about 5:30 pm yesterday after 4.5 hours on the train ride from London. It’s even colder than it was in mid-November and I’m definitely going to need a few more layers of clothing. Edinburgh’s Waverly Station is still one big construction zone and difficult to maneuver through.

We had such a wonderful visit in Edinburgh last fall but didn’t get a chance to see enough of the sights so I put it at the top of our Spring Scotland adventure. On our last visit, we “winged it” with restaurant choices. We walked around until we found a place. I pre-planned a little more for this trip and decided we would splurge on the first night of our holiday. I booked “David Bann” ~ a Vegetarian Restaurant which has great reviews in The Lonely Planet Guidebook and on Tripadvisor. Even the carnivore in the family came away very satisfied with his dinner.  Only glitch was I emailed my reservations, got a confirmation but when we showed up, they didn’t have our name. A little awkward but after a short wait the hostess took us to a booth.

David Bann is elegant and yummy! I agree with the positive reviews. If you’re in Edinburgh and want a delicious meal in a nice atmosphere, it’s located just a couple blocks off of the “Royal Mile” at 56-58 St. Mary’s Street.

David Bann Restaurant

David Bann Restaurant

At David Bann

At David Bann

Olive Starter ~ very yummy

Olive Starter ~ very yummy

Spicy koftas of roasted aubergine, chick pea and toasted cashews

Spicy koftas of roasted aubergine, chick pea and toasted cashews

Stir fried vegetables with udon noodles and smoked tofu.

Stir fried vegetables with udon noodles and smoked tofu.

No one could decide which dish was the best so we all shared our plates...

No one could decide which dish was the best so we all shared our plates…

We did have dessert but it was gobbled up before I remembered to take a photo. The hot pear and passion fruit tart was my favorite.  We walked back to the hotel for a few blocks and I attempted to take night photos but couldn’t keep my hands from shaking due to the cold and wind. None of the shots came out. Maybe today…

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Camden Lock Road Sign

Camden Lock Road Sign

It’s hard to resist having a snack once you get to Camden Market. There are so many wonderful choices and many different countries represented. The only problem is deciding on which one to choose. I originally was going to go with the Ala Turko Kebabs:

Ala Turko Kebabs

Ala Turko Kebabs

but then I saw the plantains at Mama’s Jamaican Jerk and couldn’t resist. Turns out the Veggie Wrap was delicious with just the right amount of spices to make it hot but not painful. If you like it really spicy, you can request a dash of their hot sauce.

Mama's Jerk Station

Mama’s Jerk Station

Logan chose the freshly made vegetarian sushi. I so wanted to taste it but didn’t think it would go with my spicy meal.

Sushi Made Fresh

Sushi Made Fresh

John had the pulled pork and thought it was very tasty:

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Not only did we each have delicious food, we were thoroughly entertained by people-watching as well as boat watching.

Photo Shoot in Progress at Camden Market

Photo Shoot in Progress at Camden Market

Lock Broken ~ Boat Backing Up

Lock Broken ~ Boat Backing Up

Original Keystone of the Old Bridge (circa 1815)

Original Keystone of the Old Bridge (circa 1815)

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Bridge Arch Along the Canal

On Sunday, we decided to continue along the Regents Canal trail ~ this time heading for Camden Market. I’ve been to Camden Market before (click here) but instead of taking the bus, we walked through Regents Park and along the canal. Regents Park fields were full of the big boys playing Football whereas on Saturday it’s the kids’ leagues on the field. Another example of active and fit Londoners.

 

Blow Up Bridge

Blow Up Bridge

There’s a story behind every bridge and the “Blow-Up” bridge was blown up in 1874 by the boat “Tilbury” which was carrying gunpowder. It demolished the bridge when it exploded, killing three people. When the bridge was rebuilt, the pillars were turned so the smooth side faced out for the boats towing ropes. You can see the ropes groves on both sides of the pillars.

Here’s a bit of what we saw along the way to Camden Market:

Floating Restaurant on Regents Canal

Floating Restaurant on Regents Canal

The blue sky came out for a hot minute:

Church and Directional Signs along Regents Canal

Church and Directional Signs along Regents Canal

Church Window

Church Window

Manor Works Along the Canal

Manor Works Along the Canal

Cow on Balcony of Canal House

Cow on Balcony of Canal House

Ducks on a Sinking Boat

Ducks on a Sinking Boat

Boat Landing for the Zoo

Boat Landing for the Zoo

Along Regents Canal near Camden Market

Pirate Castle near Camden Market

Pirate Castle near Camden Market

Bridge Over the Canal

Bridge Over the Canal

Camden Lock

Camden Lock

We enjoyed the beautiful day and I plan to walk through Regents Park frequently throughout spring and summer. The flowers are just starting to bloom and I can tell it’s going to be absolutely gorgeous in a few short weeks. Time to get the allergy medicine ready!

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