And there were many times I was going to write something since but I felt guilty, because I wanted to finish the series. But it's been 15 months since my last post, it's way too late to try to finish now.
Summary of what didn't get written:
Belfast, Northern Ireland
We stayed in the Malmaison Hotel (Belfast) which is near the new Victoria Square Mall. The hotel staff there were amazing... and either they're really good at knowing who all their guests are, or we were the only Americans (and us being American must have been obvious), or we were the only people who asked them questions for what to do, where the best place nearby is to get [whatever kind of food we wanted at the time], etc...
That area of Belfast is an interesting couple of blocks... you go from the Europa Hotel ("most bombed hotel in the world") to Belfast City Hall, which was very heavily defended during the Troubles, to the new commercial development of Victoria Square Mall and the new hotels to the docks area. And the docks area itself is interesting... there's the 'it still works so don't mess with it' (the building on the right), Harland and Wolff representing 'still going strong', the Thompson Graving Dock representing 'we used to be important' and The Concourse representing 'we want to be important again' (Revitalize Belfast).
The Thompson Graving Dock is where the Olympic class cruise liners underwent drydock assembly (things like attaching the propellers), and it made for a nice tour.
And if I wore printed T-shirts, I might have bought this one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bartonjs/4749269287/
servalan really liked the spoon chandelier in the restaurant where we ate our last Belfast dinner.
Have you ever heard of Schmap Guides? I hadn't, until they requested my permission for a photo release, making me a published photographer
We flew over to Edinburgh and stayed in The Rutland Hotel (in room 11 out of 12). The room was a bit expensive (~200 GBP per night), but the view was breathtaking (at least, if you're an American and like castles). We wandered around the city a bit, and snuck up on a wild golf course. And, of course, spent a day at Edinburgh Castle.
I'm going to do Edinburgh a discredit by not talking about it much, but it was my favorite part of the trip.
Oh, I need some setup here... we had a late night dessert craving and we got sent to a place called Pizza Express. We had seen one of these in Victoria Square Mall, but we figured they were something like a Sbarro. No, they were a real restaurant, and had good desserts, and were happy to sell us dessert at some random late hour.
London... sounds nice, right? I don't think so. The train ride that we took from Edinburgh to London was crazy... the longest segment we did we had to sit (with several other people) in the link between two cars because the train was overfull. Large suitcases were handy here. But, once we got into London and transferred over to the Underground they became a massive burden... because none of the stations we were in had escalators or elevators (okay, one had an elevator, but it was behind a locked gate). Carrying two 50lb suitcases up/down several flights of stairs in a hurry is not fun. When we finally got off of trains the air was so bad that both servalan and I were coughing and gagging. We finally walked our way to the hotel (Pestana Chelsea Bridge) and asked them for a list of spa services (we had intentionally booked a spa hotel because we had run ourselves ragged with the amount of travel we had been doing) -- and they said it was in the rooms. Okay, so up to the room we go. Guess what? No list of services. Later we found out that they aren't really a spa at all, they just have a manicurist or something. Heck, maybe they actually do have a masseuse, but we saw the "spa area" and it wasn't what we paid for. The hotel also wasn't really near anything else. They said it was a 5 minute walk to Sloane Square... Google Maps calls it a 20 minute walk.
On a Sunday (when everything in London is shut down, apparently) we tried to get some dessert. So we went to a very ornate Pizza Express. There was a wait, and for whatever reason we told the guy that we were just there for dessert. So after 30 minutes (of our 15 minute wait) we got seated, tried to order, and they refused to sell us just dessert "because of policy". So we had a mild row with the manager and person who took down our names ('oh, I thought you meant you wanted both dinner and dessert' (I'm sure we said 'just dessert')). The policy makes no sense! Dessert is usually among the highest markup items, and you get the table back faster! It's stupid! I let them know that, and we left. (That night I left positive feedback for the Edinburgh restaurant and horrible feedback for the London one) We did find a nice local place a few doors down who was happy to sell us dessert. And some alcohol, which made me be less irate.
Before going to Pizza Express we had tried going to some pubs, but they all said their kitchens were closed (in the confused "it's Sunday, why wouldn't they be?" tone of voice). One of them had what seemed to me a very good pub name: The Queen's Head (Pratchett books often have pubs of this name... The Duke's Head, The Queene's Head, The King's Head, etc...). So on Monday when we wanted some food we went back to TQH (they'd been friendly). In the middle of dinner servalan said something which made me observe the clientele, and come to the realization that she was the only female in the establishment. Yep, we went to a gay pub. Twice. They were perfectly nice about it, and our second bartender (fairly flamboyant) even seemed excited to have a normal girl to chat to. You know, about shoes and stuff.
Other than the Tower of London and meeting up with some of servalan's friends (who didn't make the trans-Atlantic trip to come to the wedding), that's about it. But London very much didn't do it for me, and I don't expect to ever go back (though I'm not opposed to England as a whole, just London. And so if we're in England, I'll probably have to at least see if it's feasible to go to a taping of Top Gear).
We flew back to Dublin (Heathrow's international terminal didn't impress me...) where we got looked at in a funny way by the customs officer who noticed we'd been stamped in to Ireland but not out. We summarized our car/plane/train/plane trip and he grunted and gave us a second entry stamp.
We stayed at the Eliza Lodge in Temple Bar. If you don't mind hearing late night bar-goers, it's a nice enough place... but for me, I'd rather stay over in Dublin 1 and walk the few blocks to the night life of Temple Bar.
We again didn't stay long enough to give Dublin a fair go.
The Return Trip
At this point I was convinced that all international terminals were crap... and then we were departing from Dublin. Their international terminal looked super nice. You could, for instance, buy food. How amazing. Oh, but if you're flying to the US you pass through that and enter a bit of extraterritorial United States (so you pass through US Customs in Dublin). The one cafe (only source of food or drink) didn't accept US Dollars (which feels illegal to me, given that there are many, many signs which remind you that you're now on US soil), and didn't really have anything worth having. So, yeah. Lame.
When we finally got to Chicago, there was something going on which had caused a massive amount of delays, and so many cancellations that United Airline's customer service line was halfway around the terminal.
We finally got our spa day on our anniversary. We went to Salish Lodge and Spa, which is a real spa hotel. It was nice.
And so on...
Been married for more than 15 months now. Things are still going well. And I just did some calculations and concluded that we've now been married longer than the elapsed time from first date to wedding. Yay, milestones :)