Winter has descended upon NYC, as evidenced by the first snowfall this week. So while I’m layering on sweaters to keep warm and drinking hot cocoa on my day off, I figured it’s a good time to reminisce about my summer vacation.
Destination: London, Scotland & Ireland
We arrived in London early Thursday morning. Since it was really just a stopover for the weekend, I didn’t make any plans to tour. Better to save it for a full trip and not try to cram all the sights into one day. We were staying in The Connaught, a beautiful 5 star hotel in Central London (that someone else had paid for ). From there it was a 10 minute walk to Oxford Street and Selfridges, which has a beautiful food court. If you think Times Square is busy, try shopping in Selfridges after Ramadan – the crowds are ridiculous.
I couldn’t leave London without seeing a show on the West End, so I had bought tickets to The Pajama Game. The show seemed pretty chilled out compared to Broadway. It was cute, but I think I prefer the Doris Day movie. They don’t give out free playbills on the West End but you can purchase a program instead. The theater also had opera glasses in front of each seat that you can use for £1.
Friday morning we walked to Buckingham Palace and then through St James park to Westminster where we took the underground back to Mayfair. For Shabbos we had ordered meals from Hermolis which was delivered to our rooms at The Connaught. Saturday morning we davened at the Marble Arch Synagogue and then relaxed in our rooms.
Sunday morning we took a train from King’s Cross Station (and no, I did not see Platform 9¾) to Edinburgh. We arrived in the midst of the Edinburgh Festival so the city was packed with tourists. The buildings in Edinburgh are all very old, it’s fascinating to look around and see so much history. From my room in The Caledonian (Waldorf Astoria) I had a beautiful view of Edinburgh castle. Our first day was spent just walking around the city and taking in the sites.
On Monday we took a full day tour with Rabbie’s of Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands. Our tour guide was very informative, funny and personable, he regaled us with tall tales and spouted poetry throughout the day. The Highlands are breathtakingly beautiful and lush with greenery. We probably saw about 5 million sheep over the course of our trip. (Fun fact: Scotland has more sheep than people).
Tuesday (my Birthday!) we had a private tour guide take us to Linlithgow Palace which is mostly just empty ruins. Afterwards we took a tour of the Deanston Distillery and Stirling Castle.
The most exciting part of our stay in Edinburgh was the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo which we attended Tuesday night. The Tattoo is an annual event that takes place in August as part of the Edinburgh Festival and people come from all over the world to see it. The show featured over 1000 performers who danced and marched with amazing precision against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
On our last day in Scotland we took a tour of Edinburgh Castle which I found disappointing. It was furnished to resemble a historic castle but felt like a cheap reproduction instead. Somewhat more interesting was the Scotch Whisky Experience tour which you can enjoy even if you’re not a fan of whisky.
Thursday morning we flew to Ireland on Aer Lingus (which I don’t recommend since they lost one of our suitcases!) We were staying at the historic Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, right next to St Stephens Green. That night I saw what was probably my favorite performance of all time – Riverdance. It was 1000 times better than expected after seeing recorded versions. The cast was spectacular and the show couldn’t have been more perfect.
Friday morning we toured the Guinness Storehouse (way too crowded to enjoy) and then moved to a Bed & Breakfast in Rathgar so we could be close to the shul on Shabbos. There is a very small Jewish community in Dublin but they were very welcoming and arranged Shabbos meals for us by very nice families. After Shabbos we moved back to the Shelbourne Hotel.
Sunday morning we had to be up extremely early for our bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher with Extreme Ireland. I think everyone on the bus was sleeping until our first stop in Limerick. When we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher we were treated to some authentic Irish weather- sideways, windy rain. It was not ideal conditions for taking photos and I damaged my camera attempting to take some pictures which all had spots from the wet lens. (Fortunately my camera dried out a few hours later.) Even more frustrating was that the sun came out and it stopped pouring right as we were getting back on the bus. After that we made a few more photo stops which were much more successful. Ireland is truly a beautiful country. Like in Scotland, the countryside is also dotted with sheep and and equal amount of cows as well.
Our last day of vacation was spent walking around Dublin, shopping and packing. Lots of pretty buildings and interesting street performers, though it was pouring on and off all day. St Stephens Green, the park across from our hotel was also lovely to explore. Overall, it was a wonderful trip and I had a fantastic time.
1-2: Selfridge’s Food Court 3: View from plane 4: Fountain outside the Connaught Hotel 5: St. James Park 6: Building on Mount St in Mayfair, London
7: London Underground 8: Pond in St. James Park
1-2: Edinburgh Castle 3-5: Highlands 6: Firth of Forth Bridge 7: Deanston Distillery 9: Edinburgh Military Tattoo 8: Sign outside a bar in Edinburgh 9: The Scotch Whisky Experience Tour
1: House in Dublin where George Bernard Shaw lived 2: Guinness Storehouse 3: All the buildings in Dublin have colorful doors 4: Sign posted on restaurant in Dublin 5-8: Cliffs of Moher
9-10: Burren National Park 11-13: Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre 14-17: St Stephen’s Green