Outdoorsy

It’s summer.

It’s really hard to enjoy all wonderful things summer in freakin’ hell on earth Texas. Not that Texas is a mecca for torture and pain as I imagine hell to be, but it is probably just as hot.

So I ordered this:

Umbrella

 For this:

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Outside

It’ll still be hot but at least I can get all outdoorsy in that I like to get drunk on patios, under some shade.

I do brave the heat during the mornings and late afternoons to do some gardening.

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Balcony

I’ve even put together some succulent container gardens that I haven’t managed to kill yet:

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 Although, I did have to move them out of the direct sunlight because they were getting sunburned.

So yeah, it’s pretty hot down here.

We met Mickey!

It was such a great time. At first, I wasn’t really feeling it. It was hot, crowded, and there were strollers and scooters everywhere. It was literally a mad house (and it was “low season”). Buuut…by the end of our week there, I loved it. Well, most of it. Sure, it was still scorching and overcrowded, but the steady flow of strollers became easier to circumvent once we figured our way around the parks. We mainly hung around Magic Kingdom, and mainly at night, but we did spend a considerable amount of time at Epcot – for the food and alcohol, of course. The other parks – Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom – were ehh okay. Actually, I really disliked Animal Kingdom so we only spent half a day there. Park hopper tickets – well worth it.

Mickey Ears

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Castle

Daphne met just about all the princesses, except for Anna & Elsa. Since we planned this trip last minute we weren’t able to get fast passes to see them and the stand-by wait time was 300 minutes. 300 MINUTES!  Yeah, not happening. Luckily, Daphne’s not really a super princess-y type girl so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

We still didn’t mention them by name to be on the safe side.

Ariel

Mulan

 We ate a lot - a lot – of junk food and I took a lot of pictures of topiaries.

Topiaries

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Topiaries 2

treats

Food

drinksOne of the best parts of the trip was when Daphne got to play Chip during Enchanted Tales with Belle. Seeing her happy face was priceless! She didn’t really know what was going on, because she’s three, but she still had a super fun time.

Chip

I want to go back! But preferably sometime around Halloween to see all the villains. Everyone loves the villains.

Selfie

Carousel

Have you been to Disney? Did you love it?

Thanks for reading!

UK Trip Part 5 – The Clava Cairns

We’re finally back from Disney World! It was our first time there and I’ll probably post about it next week, but first I wanted to talk about the Clava Cairns in Scotland (like a week late, eeek!).

As you can probably tell by now, I like exploring hidden gems off the beaten path. The Clava Cairns (more accurately the Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Balnuaran of Clava) were just that. They’re located just a few miles from Inverness, down some narrow country roads in the middle of nowhere (duh). No information center or tickets to buy. They just were in all their majestic glory.

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Clava 3Without going into too much detail, a Clava Cairn is basically a prehistoric burial tomb. This particular site has three Clava Cairns with an additional, younger burial ring. These things are ooold. Like 4000 years old, old. Basically the oldest things I’ve ever seen in my life.

Inside the cairn looking out:

Clava 2They are huge. Very, very wide and tall. Two of them you can walk inside, and one of them is completely closed off. Apparently they used to be completely roofed with stones, too.

This picture looks like it’s completely filled with stones, but the center is really empty:

ClavaThe cairn without an entry point:

Clava 8What was really neat were the giant standing stones that were surrounding the circular tombs:

Clava 4It was kind of like Stonehenge, but better because you could actually explore and touch the stones, instead of having  to see them from behind a roped barrier.

side note: I still wanna go to Stonehenge.

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Clava 13A lot isn’t known about the people who built these things, except that they probably worshiped the sun judging by the placement of the graves in relation to the movement of the sun – which is super interesting if you think about it. I mean, these were prehistoric people who knew next to nothing about the world they lived in except for the fact that the sun made things grow. Kind of blows my mind.

There are no remains left in the Clava Cairns. They were excavated in the 1950s by eager beaver archaeologists and got lost sometime between then and now. The cairns were also probably part of a much larger area of prehistoric tombs that no longer exist because, well, time.

Clava 9We were able to see a few other cairns that were a little down the road, but they weren’t nearly as impressive as the Clava Cairns.

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The whole area was amazing and peaceful, and not the least bit creepy considering the context of the stones. It was truly a beautiful experience and a perfect way to end our explorations in Scotland.

I can’t wait to go back.
Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

UK Trip Part 4 – Stirling and The Scottish Highlands

Okay, this will be my last* recap of our trip abroad, and I think it’s going to be my favorite.

*side note: turns out I was lying when I wrote this

After a few days in Edinburgh, we rented a car and drove the 30ish miles up to a small village called Stirling. We were staying at a gorgeous old manor from the 1700s that had been converted into a bed & breakfast by the owners. I found it on TripAdvisor when I was planning the trip and researching the area, and was really, really excited because the pictures online looked like a dream.

Driving to Stirling was much different than driving in North Yorkshire, because we were on an actual highway this time, instead of narrow two-way, country roads. Which was good, except the highway we were on – the A9 – is like a virtual deathtrap for tourists. It would arbitrarily change from being a divided highway – with two lanes for each direction – into an undivided highway with only one lane for each direction. So, you could be driving along thinking you’re going to pass someone – in the PASSING LANE – when really you’ve just moved into oncoming traffic. Luckily, I had read about this notorious highway before, so Jason and I were extra vigilant.

Oh and it doesn’t help that there is this kind of stuff just hanging out for distracted drivers to admire:

2014-04-19 12.15.45Just a couple of ginormous horse sculptures off the side of the highway, nbd.

Anyway, so we arrived in Stirling in one piece and found our way to the B&B. It was just as beautiful as the pictures online, but you could totally see its age in some areas.

The driveway to the B&B:

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Powis House:

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Powis House

The owners were super sweet and let us explore the property.

Sheep and an old sundial (c.1700s):

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You couldn’t get closer to the sheep because of this 4 foot drop:

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Trail around the property:

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View of the manor, sheep, and gypsy caravans from the trail:

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Gypsy caravans for glamping & Daphne trying to squirm away from her dad:
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The inside was quirky and fun:

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Ceiling and sky light:

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Powis House 27While in Stirling we climbed the William Wallace Monument (Braveheart, anyone?) and made a quick stop at Stirling Castle.

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The castle:

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 Both were interesting in their own right, for their history and architecture, but to be honest, they were some of the more forgettable parts of the trip.

They were just too touristy for my tastes.

What I did like was the little trip we took to Inchmahome Priory (near Stirling). The priory is on a little island on the Lake of Menteithand – the only “lake” in Scotland, fyi! –  and in order to get there we needed to take a short boat ride.

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory 4It was cold day and it was windy on the island, but the ruins were lovely and Daphne had fun chasing Canada geese.

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Where the priests would sit during mass:

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On the rest of the island:

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Inchmahome Priory 26Can’t help but laugh when I look at this picture of Daphne pointing her green foam sword at some poor little Scottish boy that ran by her:

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After a couple of days in Stirling we hit the road again north to Inverness. I was excited for this part of our trip because there was a short detour I had planned for us on the way: Finlarig Castle.

Finlarig Castle is a 17th century castle that has been completely left to ruin. It is not protected by the government or any other type of historical organization, like all the other castles, abbeys, and ruins we had previously visited. Instead, it sits completely neglected on private property (the public is welcome to explore at their own risk).

We had a little trouble finding the castle since it was in the middle of nowhere and there weren’t any precise GPS coordinates to input in our navigation system.

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Finlarig Castle 46I liked this castle the best out of the whole trip because of its sense of authenticity. The grounds were unkempt, the staircase collapsed, and the roof non-existent, and yet, all that is what made it so much fun to explore.

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Both Jason and I took turns climbing the rubble of the ruined staircase up to the second floor. Once you were at the top, you needed to hop across a large opening to get to the remaining enclosed portion.

Needless to say, Daphne wasn’t allowed to participate in our exploratory adventures. But she did make a good spectator!

The staircase:

Finlarig Castle 3From the second floor:

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What I think was a fireplace on the right:

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More of the castle:

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Apparently this panel dates the castle back to 1609:
Finlarig Castle 40Behind the ruins of the castle are ruins of an old mausoleum:

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The whole experience was kind of creepy/exhilarating.

There was this giant hole in the ground that I didn’t get pictures of because I thought it was just that, a giant hole in the ground, but I later learned it was probably a beheading pit.

Yikes.

Anyway, so after our short detour we made our way to our B&B in Inverness (in the Highlands) where we got some rest for the next day.

When we awoke, we ate some breakfast and were promptly picked up at 9 o’clock by our private tour guide who was going to show us around the Highlands and the Isle of Skye.

I could seriously go on and on about how gorgeous the Highlands are and how beautiful the Isle of Skye is, but this post is already way too long so I’ll just have to let the pictures do the talking.

Urquhart Castle on the Loch Ness (where Nessie lives):

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The Loch Ness:

The Loch Ness

Highland cow friends:

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Highland horse and pig friends:

Tour

Some more pictures from the Highlands:

Tour 3Eilean Doran Castle:

Tour 4

Tour 5

From the Highlands our guide drove us up to the Isle of Skye aka The Most Beautiful Place on the Planet.

The ruins of “Saucy Mary’s Castle” on the Isle of Skye:

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Thatched roof cottage:

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The North Sea:

Tour 8The private tour took all day, and afterward we returned to Inverness.

The following morning we packed our bags and prepared for the long drive back down to Edinburgh for our flight the next day.

Buuut…there was one more small detour to check off our itinerary before heading to the capital city: a 4,000 year old burial ground.

Okay so this post is already long enough, and I really want to do justice to the amazingness that is the Clava Cairns instead of briefly skimming over it. But I need to pack and get things ready for our flight to Disney tomorrow. So instead of rushing to squeeze it all in here, I’ll just draft it tonight and publish tomorrow from my phone. That’ll make the recap of this trip a whopping total of 5 posts. We did so much during our time there, I don’t know how I ever thought I was going to be able to write about it all in only four parts. If you’re still with me, thanks for reading. I appreciate it! 

UK Trip Part 3 – Edinburgh, Scotland

We spent our last day in England relaxing at the park and packing for Edinburgh. The park in Harrogate was cute and Daphne really enjoyed the playground.

Except for the strange swings. Those took a little getting used to.

This is a look of uncomfortable tolerance:

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The following day we woke up early and walked down to the train station to catch our ride to Edinburgh, Scotland. The trip was pretty uneventful, but we did get to see a lot of beautiful scenery on the way.

After getting off our train in Edinburgh, we walked a short distance to our apartment on the Royal Mile. Apparently, The Royal Mile is the old, historic part of Edinburgh, and there are a lot of stairs.

A. Lot. Of. Stairs.

And there are these things called “closes” that are just like narrow, steep alleyways with stairs. And you need to go up them in order to get to the Royal Mile the fast way.

2014-04-16 13.51.44Someone decided it would be a good idea to fill our suitcase with books from the Bronte Musuem and other various bookstores.

Sorry, babe.

Our apartment building was super old and had no elevator. So we had to climb a few flights of…?

You guessed it! Stairs!

They were practically ancient.

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Inside:

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Fireplace was going, because it was COLD!!!!!!!

2014-04-16 22.41.21We had a nice view of the Royal Mile and St. Giles’ Cathedral:

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Once we recovered from climbing the inane number of stairs to our flat, we decided to go back down them to explore a bit.

Camera Obscura:

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Street performers:

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We were in Edinburgh for a total of three days. I didn’t think I would like it at first because it was so much bigger and busier than the quaint English villages I fell in love with at the beginning of our trip. But once we got settled in and I got used to the size, it became my favorite city.

The Scott Monument and Princes Street Gardens:

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Old bookstores (I was only allowed to buy two books):

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The National Monument:.

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Our last day in Edinburgh was especially sunny, so we decided to make a go at climbing Arthur’s Seat.

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2014-04-18 12.17.51We didn’t make it to the very top because we tried the more adventurous route, and the path became too narrow and steep for Little Legs.

But we did get pretty high:

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After attempting to hike to the top, we wandered back down to explore some ruins we saw earlier on our way up.

Sunbathers:

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Trust me, it was not warm out.

The ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel:

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I’ll be posting about the remainder of the trip on Monday. It’ll probably be a super long post since there’s still a lot to write about and I don’t want to divide it into another two parts, because 1) I think a total of four posts is excessive enough, and 2) we’re going to Disney World on Tuesday!

Woo hoo!

So, I want to thank you if you’ve stuck with me this far.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

 

UK Trip Part 2 – Knaresborough Castle & Fountains Abbey

I was trying to get this post out earlier, but that didn’t happen.

Procrastination.

And a stupid amount of photos to upload.

Anyway, so the day after York we decided to drive to the village of Knaresborough to see our first ever, real life castle. Knaresborough is a picturesque little village right on the River Nidd.

The castle there is in ruins, but it was still fun to walk around in. The girl who gave us a little tour was super sweet and talked a lot about Game of Thrones.

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2014-04-14 12.17.58Looking down from the top of the castle:

2014-04-14 12.38.49This would have been the king’s sitting room. Daphne’s in one of the three fireplaces:

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Looking up to the king’s small bedroom (they kept them small so there was no place for potential assassins to hide, and we weren’t able to climb up to it because the stairs are now too dangerous):
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More of the castle grounds:

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The stairway down to the kitchen from the sitting area:

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Dungeon baby:2014-04-14 12.57.27After the castle, we walked down to the River Nidd for lunch.

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“Chili”
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Everything was hilly and green:2014-04-14 14.27.30

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2014-04-14 14.32.34After wandering around for a while, we got back in the car to drive to Fountains Abbey which was in another nearby village.

Now, Fountains Abbey wasn’t a huge “to-do” on my itinerary. I read about it in a book about English ruins, and I figured since we were in the area we could check it out. That’s where I screwed up. Fountains Abbey was the most amazing part of England, and we should’ve dedicated an entire day to it.

After buying our tickets from the visitor’s center and cafe, we were told to stroll down the walkway for about 10 minutes and pass the gate at the end.

The tower of the ruins peeking out from the woods:

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Past the gate:

2014-04-14 16.39.01We borrowed that stroller from the visitor’s center because Daphne was asleep when we got there.

Then we lost it somewhere in the ruins.

‘Merica.

When we saw the abbey from the front, I was surprised at how big it was.

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But it wasn’t until we actually walked inside of it that I realized it wasn’t just big, it was enormous. Like nothing I had ever been in before.

Now I’ll post a billion pictures of the place to further my point of just how big it was:

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2014-04-14 17.10.16Really big, right?

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I’m not much of a religious person, but I could totally understand why monks choose this particular  location for their spiritual practices. There was just a wondrous sense of peace surrounding the whole area.

And since we were some of the only people there at the time – because we came when the day was almost over – it was so quiet all you could hear were the ravens.

Which is either really cool or really creepy, depending on how you look at it.

More of the abbey:

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Inside the tower:

2014-04-14 17.50.12 HDROutside the tower:

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The trees and small stream surrounding the abbey:

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By the massive amount of photos I just posted, you could probably tell that I fell in love with the place.

You could easily spend an entire day here, and when we go back, that’s totally what I’m going to do.

Tomorrow’s post is on Edinburgh, and I promise there won’t be nearly as many photos of old rubble.

Thanks for reading!

UK Trip Part 1 – Bronte Museum and York

During our time in England we stayed in a small village in North Yorkshire. We rented a small flat as our “home base” since we were going to be in and out exploring nearby villages, and needed something with a little more freedom than a hotel or B&B would offer. Having our own apartment felt sort of like having a home away from home, except without ever having to vacuum or make the bed.

Our front door (it was a lower level apartment, so it was really a backdoor):

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The neighborhood:

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2014-04-11 16.02.58On the patio:

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2014-04-11 18.04.57We didn’t do much on the day we flew in because we were so exhausted, but we did manage to walk to the ASDA to get some snacks. I spotted this little gem:

2014-04-11 16.10.19Eww.

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The next day we rented a car and drove the 20-something miles to Haworth to visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Or actually Jason drove. On the left side of the road.

It. Was. Terrifying.

But we survived, and Jason actually got pretty good at it!

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On the way we met some sheep:

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We had to drive through several little villages with narrow, winding roads before we got to Haworth, and when we got there it was wet and misting, very Bronte-appropriate weather.

Haworth is a quaint village with cobblestone streets, and it’s where the Bronte sisters lived!

I was so, so, soooo excited when I saw this sign:

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The Bronte house on the right:

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The garden area in the front of the house:

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The house!

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Inside was even better than I thought it would be. A lot of the original furnishings and personal artifacts/letters of the Bronte’s were preserved and on display. Most of the rooms were still arranged as they were when the sister’s lived in the house, and I saw the room and sofa that Emily died on. Macabre I know, but Emily’s my favorite so I think it’s pretty cool. I accidentally took some pictures of the inside too, which, turns out you’re not supposed to do.

This is one of those secret inside photos – it’s looking out to the back garden from a window by the staircase:

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After the museum we explored the old cemetery in front of the house:

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Headstones said some pretty gloomy stuff back in the day:

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How short is life. How soon comes death.

The village:

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Ended our day with an early dinner at a local pub before heading back to the flat:

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The next day we drove to the historical city of York, and used the Park & Ride system.

Basically you drive toward the city, park for free in a large parking lot just outside the city, then buy an all-day bus ticket for like £3. The buses travel into the city and stop at every bus stop before returning to the P&R parking lot. I think they ran every 15 minutes or so, and the last bus time was at 8 pm. It was a really efficient way to get into the city without actually having to do the driving, because the traffic there is ridiculous.

York is really neat because it has ton of history. The city has had walls surrounding it for protection since the time of the Romans, and some of the original sections of the walls still remain today.

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We spent a lot of time walking along the walls:
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The interior of the city:
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Bought some delicious smelling, luxurious soaps from here:

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2014-04-13 14.36.01York Minster:

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More of the walls:

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2014-04-13 15.01.20We spent our last few hours in York at the Museum Gardens and the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey within the gardens:

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Any guess as to what these are?

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Roman multangular tower:
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I hope you liked the pictures!

I’ll be posting more of the trip either tomorrow or Thursday.

Now I’m off to plant some vines before it gets too hot.

Happy Tuesday and thanks for reading!