Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Flight Back

Luckily we had time to spare at the airport, because we didn't count on being doubly-violated today.  Apparently, Homeland Security doesn't trust Ireland's competence, since we had to go through two separate security gauntlets before getting on our plane this time.  One with shoes, and one without.  But no X-rays at all, so bully for that.

We'd again reserved our vegetarian and vegan meals in advance.  Again, we were served before everyone else on the plane.  Nice!  ;)
Penne pasta, side salad, roll, and a choco-chip biscuit-packet.  (The vegan had a fruit cup instead of cookies.)
Followed by coffee or tea, of course.
Not bad for airplane food.  Thanks Aer Lingus!

We received a nice flapjack bar and tea service as an afternoon snack as well.  UK flapjack bars
seem just a little larger / moister / heartier than an American granola bar.

What's worse?  Being on a plane for 6 hours with a loud and fussy infant, or sitting directly behind an old man who's obviously having some sort of intestinal issue.  :(

This time our flights end with us back in good ol' Raleigh, NC at 6:00pm, so the jet lag isn't bad at all.  This is definitely the way to go.

Back home safe & sound.  Not a whole lot to eat in the fridge, but at least our soymilk is still good.  Go veggie power!

Monday, May 5, 2014

No Sleep 'Til Dublin!

Had some time to waste at the Edinburgh airport before the short flight out to Dublin, so we had a quick lunch at  Yo! Sushi.
Novel concept for an airport restaurant.  You just sit and eat in front of a conveyor belt bringing you an infinite supply of colored dishes containing sushi et al.

The avocado sushi was fine, and the veg yakisoba was ok, but nothing to write home about.

Followed by the mad dash to our prop plane.  Apparently "Departing Time" and "Boarding Time" are two different things.  Who knew?  :}

So long Scotland; we hardly knew ye.

The shores of Ireland, at last!  (Well, after about an hour flight, actually.)

The Crowne Plaza Northwood

We arrived safely in Dublin, and then took the free airport shuttle to our hotel.  Just a quick 10 minute ride.

Luckily, the Crowne Plaza Hotel wasn't very full tonight, so the concierge jumped us up to a posh Club Level room for free.  Ooh la la!
The room was noticeably larger and more luxurious.  Thanks Crowne!

(Apparently, the bathroom is too expansive for the "Photo Sphere" function of my Nexus7.)

We had a nice and quiet night's sleep.  Two thumbs up!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Edinburgh Observations

There are LOTS of pidgeons in the city:
Nah, not really.  There seems to be the usual amount.  Not quite as many, and not quite as aggressive as the pidgeons in London.

But there are more smokers in the UK.  Or perhaps it's slightly more visible since there seems to be a ban on smoking anywhere indoors.

We also noticed that there seems to be more dog owners compared to the U.S.  And it's apparently not uncommon to bring one's dog to the local pub with you.  (We saw this numerous times.)

But out of all the dogs & owners we saw, we rarely heard any barking or even noticed any bad behavior whatsoever (unlike the stereotypical hyperactive U.S. dog).

Children, however, seem to be a bit more brazen.  Louder, free-range, and more willing to engage strangers than you might expect (or want).

Lastly, we never quite figured out proper restaurant service.  Restaurants are some of the few establishments that accept credit cards (despite posted signs), but they never seem to allow tipping via credit cards.  The tip jar is also a bit more rare in the UK.  Sometimes wait staff will automatically include a standard 12.5% gratuity.
But one universal standard throughout the British Isles is:  wait service is slow, and if you want anything, you have to ask for it.  Nothing will ever be preemptively brought to you, no matter how obvious your need (especially the check).

Mummers Gathering

(Unrelated to Mums restaurant.)

We had a little time to waste before heading to the airport, and we stumbled upon the local Mummers Gathering.  Not a big turnout as it was starting to rain.

Lunch at Mums

Great comfort food.  Adjacent to Edinburgh University.  A very hearty veggie-friendly menu.

Melty mushroom Wellington pie, and a pumpkin & sage pie.  Not as big as they look, as they're a bit puffed up.

Not sure if the lavatory decor is some sort of political statement or not...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Last Supper at The Auld Hoose

After the long cold hike up Arthur's Seat, we needed to go back to The Auld Hoose for a substantial supper.

Union pale ale, Addlestones Cloudy premium cider, and shots of Highland Dalmore and Dalwhinnie whiskey.  We're now warmed back up.

We tried to order Muchos Nachos with haggis, but the bartender would only do five-bean chili on it.  Apparently, the "structural integrity" of the nacho platter would be at risk.  :-P
Still, a very large and yummy pile o' nachos.

For dessert, we made the right choice:
Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.  Smashing!
A wonderful spice cake covered in mild liquid caramel syrup.  The ice cream is amazing:  very whipped-up and full cream.

Arthur's Seat

Looming over Edinburgh, visible between the buildings on most every east-ender street, Arthur's Seat looks huge.

Lucky for us, it's not quite as tall as it looks.  The lack of any trees, and presence of low-lying Gorse (yellow flowering bushes) skiews the American perspective.

Rather a popular destination with today's nice weather.  We did about 3 miles of photo shooting.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dinner At Palmyra Pizza


After a long day shuttling around, we decided on take-away and a cozy night in our hotel room.

We bought one Veggie Patty sub from Subway, and then a nice falafel and chips from Palmyra Pizza.

The chips were a bit greasy, but very tasty.

Unlike Burger King, the SubWays in the UK are exactly like the ones in the U.S.

Loch Lomand hike

We stopped in Balmahar for a 5 minute photo shoot.

Then on to the piece de resistance: Loch Lomond.
Aye whot a sie!

Then a long drive back to Edinburgh.

And a walk through the Royal Mile again.

Lunch in Aberfoyle

Stopped for an hour for lunch in Aberfoyle.  Slim pickins for anything vegetarian around here.

After walking out of a few establishments, we finally found The Clachan Lounge.

They do a nice mac and cheese.  Their cheese, onion, and tomato panini was so-so (and very oniony).

Finished off with a stonking Empire Biscuit.  Even tastier than it looked!

Wish we would've had a little more time to sample a pint here...

Of course, we patronized the fudge tablet shop next door.

Loch Lomand and Stirling Castle Tour

We had the good foresight to book a tour with Rabbie's Tours.  9:00am to 6:00pm being driven around the countryside with 9 other passengers on a shuttle bus.

Rabbie's Tours is named after Robert Burns.

Our driver / guide, Tony, was great.  He regaled us with Scottish history, humour, and even some good tunes.

Plenty of brilliant photo ops, and loads of less than brilliant ones too.

According to our guide:  Scotland has 5 million people and 10 million sheep.  Two sheep for every person.  One to eat, and one to keep you warm.

According to legend, Kelpie are water serpents that when hungry, take the form of a horse and leave the water to feed.  These big black stallions lure you into the water, until you drown and then they eat every scrap of you except your liver.

A 90 minute stop at Stirling castle isn't quite long enough to see everything thoroughly.

View from Stirling castle.  The brown tower in the middle is a monument to William Wallace, A.K.A. Braveheart.
Our guide says:  Braveheart could not be less accurate if it included an animated dog and was called Wallace and Grommit.
William Wallace was around 6'7" and spoke Gaelic, not Australian.
He also never painted his face blue.  The Picts painted their bodies blue.

Next, it's on to Loch Lomand...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Room Service?

Tired out from a long cold & drizzley day.  Our hotel's restaurant doesn't have any decent non-greasy veggie options, so we're forced to strike out again.

The next-door Lebanese cafe (Palmyra Pizza) wins the proximity prize.

A surprisingly tastey and hearty pizza with mushrooms, black olives, and sweet corn.  Nice mild tzatziki-like white sauce on the side went well with it too.

Upon arriving back at our hotel room, we discovered we had some difficult decision(s) to make.

David Bann

Super frou frou nouveau vegetarian restaurant "David Bann" is brilliant.  We only ordered three of their tapas, but all were excellent.  Portion sizes are a bit small for the pounds, but it's within Frenchy frou frou expectations.