London, Scotland and the Open Championship

As I previously mentioned, we had a couple of trips previously planned that would not include the RV. Our trip overseas had been on the books for about a year. Once the RV was secured and the pets were boarded, we headed out. One of the reasons we selected this trip was it was sponsored by the Meridian Community College Foundation. We had been on a trip with them before and had a great time. Also, the trip would span over our 25th anniversary. What a great way to celebrate our milestone.

I had never been to Europe, mostly because I never wanted to take a 7 hour airplane flight. An upgrade to ‘preferred coach’ status made the trip a bit easier! Still, leaving Atlanta at 5:45 pm and arriving in London at 7:05 am was a bit rough on the internal clock. Having just one night in London made it a bit tough to see much of anything, so we chose seeing a little of a lot. We hopped on one of the open top double decked buses and took a whirlwind tour of the city. If I ever go back, I will know where I want to spend more time seeing specific sights.

For our only night in London, I had arranged a surprise for Jimmie Kay. When we were recently in New York, we wanted to see Beautiful, The Carol King Musical. It just didn’t work out, so I bought tickets for it at the Aldwych Theatre in London. Let me tell you, if you get a chance to see it, GO! It is fabulous. The story of her life, her songs that she recorded and the songs she wrote that made other groups famous. Great story, great humor, great music. It was a wonderful production. The Aldwych Theatre is in the west end of London in the theatre district. It was built in 1905 and decorated in the Georgian style. Very elegant, as everything in London should be!

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Aldwych Theatre

Aldwych Theatre

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From London, we took a bus ride to Highclere Castle. You might know it better as the castle where Downton Abbey is filmed. Majestic building, grounds and garden. Unfortunately, they would not allow photos inside the castle but if you click the above link, there are plenty of photos there.  An interesting aside to the castle was that a previous owner, Lord Carnarvon, was the financial backer of Howard Carter, the discoverer of the tomb of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt. As a result, many artifacts of that archeological dig belong to Lord Carnarvon and ultimately to the castle. There is an impressive collection of these viewable on the castle grounds.

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A flight to Edinburgh Scotland brought us to Melville Castle. On the flight we sat next to a young lady originally from Scotland who was working for the Glenmorangie distillery. She was on her way to the Open to host their booth. With a hearty invitation from her to come have a drink, we bade her farewell and moved on to the castle.

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The grounds of the castle were immaculate. Scattered on the grounds were various sculptures and wood carvings. It was interesting to stroll around and see the sights. Jimmie Kay even made friends with one of the critters walking around the grounds.

One of the highlights of the trip, certainly the most anticipated for me, was the trip to St. Andrews. The Old Course at St. Andrews is considered to be the Home of Golf. The game has been played on this site since the 1400’s. There is just so much history on the grounds, it is palpable. Walking the course is a treat for any lover of the game.

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One of the things they have done well at the Open (after all, they’ve had hundreds of years to get it right) is the fan experience. They are areas for lounging with man sized cushions where you can watch the big LED screens and keep up with the action or take a nap.

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Mastercard is one of the major sponsors and they had a fan area where any Mastercard holder could gain access. One of their ambassadors is Tom Watson, the 5 time winner of the Open. They had a display of his five Claret Jugs and he was there one afternoon for photos and autographs. Since this was his last year to play in the Open, it was a big deal!

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Another highlight was running into D.J. Gregory. D.J.’s story is inspirational. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and his parents were told he would probably never get out of a wheelchair. During his childhood, he fell in love with golf. He know he would never play at the professional level, but in 2008, he made it his goal to walk every hole on every day of every tournament on the PGA Tour that year. He succeeded and has been doing it every year since. For a truly inspirational story, WATCH THIS VIDEO. He has established a foundation called Walking For Kids whose goal is to raise money for children’s charities. For more information on the foundation, click here.

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While in St. Andrews, we also got to walk through the town and take in the ambiance of an ancient Scottish town. The streets are definitely NOT RV suitable!

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Another stop was the West Sands Beach, just east(?)  of the course at the shore of St. Andrews Bay. This long, wide beach was used for the filming of the opening of the Chariots of Fire.

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Back to the course for a quick whisky at the Glenmorangie hospitality tent. Our friend from the plane, Leanne, graciously welcomed us and bought us a beverage. I have to admit that I am not usually a Scotch drinker, but when the Scotch is this good, I can handle it. The two golf brand ambassadors for Glenmorangie are Sir Nick Faldo and Tony Jacklin. While we were there, Tony Jacklin was sitting for an interview. Leanne said he would be happy to pose for a photo as soon as he was done with the interview. Unfortunately, we needed to scurry to get to our bus to leave. It was still a thrill to see Mr. Jacklin. He is a true gentleman of the game.

FOOD:

For this post, I decided to separate the travel from the food. I have heard from many friends and followers that they enjoy looking at our meals. I hope they enjoy seeing them as much as we enjoy eating them!

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Who says you can’t get good food on an airline these days? After our ‘welcome aboard’ drinks, we were served a full meal. Salad, Ravioli, cheese, crackers, bread, cake and wine.

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Jimmie Kay’s London vegetarian meal of Roasted mushrooms on Yorkshire Pudding, mashed potatoes, Green beans, spinach and gravy.

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I went with traditional Fish & Chips. It is always served with a large piece of Cod. I never finished a piece of fish while there.

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Arrival Guiness, room temperature. I have to admit, drinking room temperature beer really does allow you to appreciate the complexity of flavors in the beer. Very nice. I have become a fan.

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The meal of the trip for the Scottish leg was this one in Edinburgh. It was at a family restaurant, similar to a Shoneys. How many times do you get to eat authentic Scottish food. This was the ‘Sausages and Mash’. It was a bed of mashed potatoes with sausages and grilled onions. Also alongside were green peas and carrots. It was served on a bed of Yorkshire Pudding with a boat of gravy. Seriously, I could only eat about half of it. Awesome meal!

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Probably the most famous Scottish food is Haggis. Haggis dates back to the Old Days. Without sounding too gross, a sheep would be killed and the heart, liver and lungs would be ground up along with spices and stuffed into the stomach and baked. Now days, a sausage casing is usually used rather than the actual stomach. I didn’t have the nerve to try true Haggis, but I did find these Haggis flavored potato chips. They were tasty with a hint of spice and about as close as I will ever come to Haggis!

NEXT UP: IRELAND!