Mark\’s Rants, Raves And Other Things ;)

Rants and raves about things that interest me

Archive for the ‘Edinburgh’ Category

I wouldn’t want to be touching that…

Posted by Mark Sztainbok on March 31, 2008

One thing I forgot to mention about the Edinburgh to London train is that under every sign there was a braille sign for blind people. I’m not sure about you but I wouldn’t want to have to feel over every surface in a toilet on a train to get the instructions how to use it…


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Edinburgh, Day 3 and train to London

Posted by Mark Sztainbok on March 27, 2008

We started the morning with breakfast with Luke, Richard (the groom not the techy), Pamela and Beth, we checked out and headed to Waverley Station where we left our luggage as our train to London wasn’t leaving until 3PM.

We then used the hop on hop off tour voucher that we had received as part of our accommodation booking. The tour was on a double decker bus with an open top and was an audio guided tour (which was a bit of a pain as the headphone cables were not long enough and every time I moved around to take a photo I’d pull the cord out of the socket). We stayed on the bus until Edinburgh Castle where hopped off.

At this point, it was nearly 12PM already and due to it being the Easter weekend, there was a long queue for tickets and by the time we got to the front it took about 1/2 hour and we didn’t have enough time to actually go inside the castle. Instead, we simply bought a guidebook and headed back to the Royal Mile to catch the bus again.

While waiting for the bus, we checked out a few of the tourist trap stores around the area. A piece of advice: if you get tempted to go into the real working tartan mill on the left as you come down from the castle, avoid it at all costs, as although you do see them making the tartans, you have to go through about 10 different stores before you can get out of the place.

After the bus arrived, we hopped back on and continued the tour before arriving back at Waverley Station to catch our train to London. As we had a bit of time to spare, we grabbed some lunch (I had a chicken pasty and Craig had a sausage roll) and sat down to relax before we had to pick up our luggage and head to the train. One weird thing we noticed at Edinburgh Station was lack of bins which was odd given the number of food outlets at the platforms. I don’t know what the station expect people to do with their trash. The strangest thing about the lack of bins was that the station was unusually clean still with very little trash.

After collecting our bags, we headed to the platform to wait for the train. Due to the amount of luggage we had, we had to put our luggage in the guard carriage then proceeded into the carriage to our seats. The train was quite crowded and fully booked due to the Easter holiday and unlike normally, there was no seat food service. We did however get offered drinks and snacks at our seat.

As the train had Wi-Fi, I took out my laptop for a while and caught up on some of my blogging. This had the other benefit that the train had a web page which showed where it was so I could see how far we were from London. We also chatted for a while to Billy and Sandy from North Carolina who were sitting at the table in the seats opposite us.

Once we arrived at Kings Cross Station, we proceeded to the Underground to head to our hotel in Earls Court. Due to work being down at the station, we were unable to catch the Picaddilly line which would have normally taken us directly to Earls Court and instead had to catch the Victoria line to Green Park then the Piccadilly line to Earls Court. One thing we discovered is that you wouldn’t want to be in a wheelchair or have to push a stroller through the Underground as it is not very accessible as there are often many steps on the interchanges between lines and to the station exits. As you can imagine, this made it relatively difficult to move our luggage. Luckily, Earls Court station had lifts and a ramp to Earls Court Road so we had no trouble with our luggage once we reached our destination.

We then proceeded to our hotel which was the K+K George. We checked into the hotel and took our luggage up to the room only to discover that it was tiny. You literally walked inside and there was a small bathroom, a TV and a bed and nothing else. The room was just big enough for the bed itself and there was nowhere to place our luggage. According to our paperwork, we were meant to have a “superior room” so I rang reception and complained. A brief time later, the porter came up to help us with our bags to the new room. The new room was a big improvement with a flat screen TV, desk, small table with chair and  enough room to place all of our suitcases.

We then decided to go for a wander up Earls Court Road to have a look around the neighbourhood and had dinner at Wagamama before heading back to the hotel and bed.

Monopoly places visited:

King’s Cross Station

Euston Road

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Edinburgh, Day 2

Posted by Mark Sztainbok on March 27, 2008

After breakfast with Luke and Richard, I did a little blogging then headed out to take some photos while Craig did some preparations for the wedding.

I ended up walking down High St past St Giles Cathedral, down the Mound to Princes St where I did some shopping, up George St, St Andrew Square and back up North Bridge to the hotel. Overall the walk took nearly 3 hours and I walked about 6km according to the GPS log. I took lots of photos which I’ll upload when I have a chance.

I got back to the hotel around 1:45PM and the wedding started at 2:30PM. I quickly had to go down to the business centre and print out Craig’s best man speech for him while he finished getting ready and then get changed into my clothes for the wedding. Craig headed down to the wedding while I was in the shower and I managed to get down just in time for it to start.

The wedding ceremony was beautiful with readings by Luke’s Mum Lynne, Richard’s Mum Sheila and Pamela, who was one of the bridesmaids and the exchanging of vows and rings by Luke and Richard.

After the ceremony, we moved to the room next door where we had the first of 2 wedding receptions. The first reception only had about 40 people and was for the family and close friends of the 2 grooms. I was placed on a table with Luke’s family who we had drinks with the day before. As I said previously, Luke continually apologized for seating me with them but I had a fun time and once again had some good chats with all of them.

The food was quite good. I had leek and potato soup, followed by a herb crusted salmon with vegetables and a dessert consisting of a flavoured cream in a brandy snap.

During the reception, speeches were given by Lynne and Phil (Luke’s Dad), Sheila and Ian (Richard’s parents), Craig (who I’m has details of his speech on his site so I’m not going to talk about it here) and Martin (who was Richard’s best man).

After the reception, we moved to the lounge to have some drinks while the other guests arrived and then moved into the big ballroom for the second reception.

I had a great time at the second reception which had a Scottish music band who led a number of dances, quite a few involving Highland flings and spinning around your dance partner. It was a little like a Scottish version of a barn dance to be honest. It was quite fun though. One of the weirder dances was the Helicopter Dance, which involved spinning people around. I took a video of the whole dance which I’ll upload later.

The food at the second reception was a buffet which wasn’t overly impressive. It was mainly finger food such as sandwiches, pakoras and chicken skewers.

I spent a bit of time talking to another Richard (who was the boyfriend of Beth, who was the other bridesmaid) for a while about techy stuff (thanks for introducing us Craig :P). Beth and he are coming to Seattle in June and I’m going to take Richard on a tour of the Microsoft campus while they’re there.

Towards the end of the reception (around 12:15AM), the fire alarm when off in the hotel and everybody (including all the hotel guests) had to evacuate the hotel. The silver lining in this is that we could have been asleep in bed when the alarm went off.

After the reception finished at 1AM, we headed up briefly to Luke & Richard’s room before heading off to bed ourselves.

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Edinburgh, Day 1

Posted by Mark Sztainbok on March 24, 2008

We woke up relatively early and headed down to the hotel restaurant to have the traditional English buffet breakfast which consisted of cereal, juice, pastries, fruit and hot foods such as sausages, scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, fried bread and baked beans. I ended up having a bowl of cornflakes and some baked beans, scrambled eggs, fried bread and potatoes.

After breakfast, we quickly went up the road to purchase some prepaid UK SIM’s so that we could use mobile phones to communicate without having to worry about expensive roaming fees.

We were then picked up by Luke and Richard and driven to Glasgow where the suit hire place was as Craig needed some adjustments made to the length of his suit pants. I was really tired so I ended up having a bit of a nap in the back seat on the way there.

The suit hire place was very interesting and specialized in formal kilts as well as normal suits. There was even one kilt there which was hot pink crushed velvet. I kid you not!

You can see it here in the bottom right corner. They also had the same set in purple!

After being dropped back in Edinburgh by Luke & Richard, Craig and I went back to the mobile shop so that he could buy a new battery for his Motorola V3 as the one had was dead. We then wandered around the Royal Mile which is located near our hotel (The Carlton) looking for somewhere to eat for lunch. On the way, I ended up buying a cashmere scarf as I didn’t bring one with me and the weather in Edinburgh was too cold to not have one.

In the end, we ended up eating at an Italian restaurant called Bella Italia. It wasn’t bad although when we first came in it was really smokey in there for some reason (I think someone had burnt something in the kitchen).

After lunch, we returned back to the hotel where we found Luke & Richard checking in. There we also met Luke’s mother Lynne and his father Phil. Luke & Richard asked us if we could help set up the rooms in the hotel where they were having the reception and ceremony so we spent the afternoon assisting them with their preparations. We were also introduced to Richard’s mother, Sheila.

We also gave them their wedding present which was 2 teddy bears that we had made at Build-A-Bear Workshop while we were in Seattle, both of which we dressed in tuxedos. We named one Luke and one Richard and made their birth date the date of the wedding.

We then had some drinks with Luke, Richard, Lynne, Phil, Luke’s aunt Di and uncle Gary, Emmy (Luke’s cousin), Alice (Emmy’s friend) and Arden (Alice’s partner). It was a lot of fun and even though Luke kept on apologizing for his family, I thought they were great and had some good conversations with all of them.

After drinks, we then met Luke & Richard for dinner down in the hotel restaurant.

Following this, we went on a ghost tour which took us into the vaults under South Bridge. The tour was interesting for learning some of the history of Edinburgh but it wasn’t really scary at all (except if you include that we actually paid good money for it!). Craig was excited though as they took us to one of the locations where Most Haunted had been in one of the shows he had watched.

I thing I learnt from the tour though was that if I take my camera somewhere I should always bring a cleaning cloth as during the tour I accidentally put a big fingerprint smudge on the lens and had nothing to clean it with.

Then it was off to bed to get some sleep before the wedding the next day.

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What goes up doesn’t have to go down apparently…

Posted by Mark Sztainbok on March 22, 2008

This is a sign in the Carlton Hotel in Edinburgh where we are staying:

Sign at the Carlton Hotel

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