I just back from my first trip to the UK and had an amazing time! So much history and so much to see – I love visiting new places for the first time and how it just opens up your senses and your brain. To me it feels like an indoor cat looks when you they go outside for the first time – peaked and intrigued!
I started the trip in London and stayed at Earl’s Court – a quiet little tube stop with a bunch of hotels and some shops. The first day I ended up walking all the way to Big Ben and back and then slept and my twin brother – a surprise – showed up the next day and I was able to spend some vacation time with my brother for the first time ever outside the US. It was an awesome and pleasant surprise but the excitement of travel and his love of London got the best of him so he bought a ticket on the spur of the moment and joined me for a few days. We toured around some of the more famous sites like: The Tower of London; The British Museum: St. Paul’s Cathedral; Westminster Abbey; Temple Church; Covent Garden; etc… He had visited 18 years ago so it was a refresher for him and all new to me. I did manage to play one open mic at place called ‘The Spice of Life’ and it was awesome – one of the more established and frequented open mics – I stayed for a few hours and listened to some of the local talent as well as more damn Americans! It was nice though and I met some nice people and got to experience a first class open mic in another country.
After 3 days I continued on to Dublin and my brother stayed in London for a few more days. I decided to toss Ireland in to the mix because my DNA tests indicate Irish ancestry and I can say that it was quite interesting what little I did get to see but I enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind going back and seeing some country side but I did the hop on hop off type tour bus and hit a lit of the stops and of course – The Guinness Factory! This was probably the biggest tourist attraction in all of Dublin besides the castle and the sky bar atop the building is a great way to get some 360 degree shots of the city. I never managed to find an open mic on the nights I was there however they do have them, but a lot of the information on the Internet was out of date and I just didn’t pick the correct nights to try – maybe again next time? It was overcast and cold the whole time in Ireland but I still got the impression or the city and a better glimpse in to the history of Ireland and the birthplace of some of my ancestors.
On to Edinburgh! This was my favorite part of the trip and I have to say that the Scottish people are friendly, funny, and damned likeable! I really had some great conversations and the overall attitude of everyone I met was happy and sarcastic – a trait my taxi driver said more Americans don’t get and I understand that – most Americans are uptight. I stayed near Haymarket and was in walking distance of the castle (despite that huge hill I walked up there 5 times) and the older part of the city which to me was extremely interesting. There was such a cool mixture of old brick streets and medieval looking buildings with hints of modern but in the older parts there are few International chains like Subway and McDonald’s although they’re around but I didn’t see many in the main part of the old town and only Starbucks on the Royal Mile. I spent a few days just wandering around streets and the castle area in awe of such an interesting city – everywhere I turned there was something that made me go “oh, I need to check that out…” and so I did. I probably lost 10 pounds of weight and walked 50 miles in Edinburgh alone.
I played an open mic at The Ale House on Clerk St. and it was terrific! An ancient pub near the university with a robust open mic scene and a bunch of awesome performers – they let me play 4 songs and I did try to film it, expect people kept standing in front of my camera so the videos aren’t so great. I’ll never get good videos on a trip – I failed in Argentina and now the UK. I was invited to one the next night but that was to be my last night in Edinburgh with a real early train ride back to London the next day so I didn’t chance it. I think Edinburgh is an amazingly lively city with an exceptional amount of live music and open mics and I can’t wait to go back and see more! I went to the BMW motorcycle dealer just to drop in and chat and they suggested the next time I come to rent a bike and take a day trip to the highlands – something I think I will do one day soon. It was just an fascinating city and I highly recommend going if you have not been – the Indian food is on a level above what I get here in SF and was mainly what I ate! The UK isn’t known for good food other than Indian restaurants 🙂
I ended the trip by spending part of the day back in London after a near 5 hour train ride and walked around some of the new stations built for Olympics – King’s Crossing being one and then the surrounding area. After I grew tired of toting my luggage around I headed back to the airport where I flew to Frankfurt to spend the night in the airport and then a direct 11 hour flight back to SF, which wasn’t quite as brutal as I thought it was going to be. I ended sitting next to an elderly German couple who was coming to the bay area to visit their son and we had some good conversation and I manged to drink enough red wine to pass out for 4 hours which definitely lessened the burden of a long flight.