Now that we are back in the USA, I can look fondly back on our trip and say what a great experience it was.
Things that were great:
- train travel: no driving (and getting lost), toilets (with a 3 year old need I say more?), and the ability to bring lots of snacks and drinks along
- packing light: for my 2 children and myself I used only one carry-on suitcase and each one of us had a backpack. Yes, you don’t have a lot of clothes this way and you’ll have to do laundry, but as soon as you see all the other American tourists lugging their large suitcases up a flight of stairs or trying to find a spot for it on a crowded train laundry won’t seem like such an evil anymore
- Welsh people: by far the friendliest people we met. Overall though most people in the UK are quite helpful.
- The Lake District (specifically Keswick): English walking at its best
- Glasgow: one of the most underrated cities in all guidebooks. Its not nearly as industrial as most people make it out to be and it has some great museums and not (that) many tourists.
- double decker buses: the biggest thrill ride for my children, especially when you can get a front seat up top!
Things that were not so great:
- crowded train travel: even though you do not have to reserve a seat in the UK you may wish that you had. Several times we had difficulty finding a place to sit down for all 3 of us.
- Brighton: reminded me of a spring break town here in the US
- confusing streets in Edinburgh: some are higher than others in the old city so make sure you have good directions to your hotel if you are walking
Train travel in the UK can be a bit foreign to us Americans, but it is delightful. If you haven’t already stumbled upon the website seat61.com then I would suggest you head over there. It answers a wide range of travel questions for the UK and continental Europe.
I chose to go by train because with two young children my main concerns center around food and toilets. When traveling by train you can bring food with you (and hopefully score seats with a table) and there are toilets on board as well. No scrambling to find a restroom or hoping to find a place to buy snacks lends itself to a much happier mother. Added bonus, map reading/GPS skills are not needed.
I think the most confusing choice to make is what type of ticket do I want to purchase and deciding on whether to purchase a rail pass. Again, ahead over to seat61.com for more details on these decisions. For us, I chose to purchase a Family and Friends rail pass at our first station (Edinburgh). It gives us great discounts on all tickets and easily paid for itself (£30) within the first two trips. If you don’t like to plan ahead at all then you may be better saved by buying a rail pass in the US before traveling. It may be more expensive than when you add up your individual fares, as it was for us, but if you want great flexibility as to when you travel then it probably can’t be beat.
The one thing that I found that really surprised me is that you are allowed to break up your travel if you have a particular type of ticket. For example, when traveling from Edinburgh to Inverness you can get off in Stirling, sightsee for a bit, and then hop back on another train to finish your journey. This doesn’t work with advance tickets, but most other types of tickets will allow you to do this. Also, i found it odd that no one really checks your tickets. Of course they could if they wished, but we have yet to have our tickets inspected.
We are currently traveling through Scotland and I thought that I would post some of the highlights of our trip thus far.
In Edinburgh we enjoyed the National Museum of Scotland so much. It has an eclectic mix of cultural items (from all over the world), science things ( with some great films), and Scottish history. Easy to walk to and free entry as well.
We also liked the Museum of Childhood…not necessarily because of its collections, although they are a little interesting, but because they have some toys scattered about for little ones to play with. This museum also boasts free entry, is located on the Royal Mile, and if you have young ones traveling with you that need a play break then this is a great stop.
Hiking King Arthur’s seat was also a favorite of my children. If you have a beautiful day and just a few hours to spare then head down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Just across the street from the Palace is a wonderful park with great hiking trails. After taking several breaks on the way up to the top we were treated to a stunning panorama of Edinburgh.
Our hotel in Edinburgh was the Holiday Inn Express Royal Mile. While not exactly on the Royal Mile it is super close (just one street down), but far enough removed to avoid the crowds. We had no problem walking to everything that we wanted to see in the old town section.
Well, we’re giving it up. My daughter was on lesson 10 of the second level and she doesn’t remember a lot of the words. Little retention means that there is little point in reminding her to go through the program.
While we loved the K and 1st grade level of this program, the other levels are decidedly different. Instead of picture vocabulary cards and a cute story, there are now dry definitions of each word. When we first began using the online program it seemed to be a bit more palatable for my daughter than the workbooks, but now I know that if it is a slightly difficult word (eg. girder) then she will not remember the definition.
I think we need to go back to more of a picture based study. Or perhaps we will forget all about vocabulary and just talk about the words that we stumble across in our readings.