When my family comes to visit, this is what happens.
We speak Chinglish.
Genny’s parents spent 16 hours traveling to get to London from Taipei. They speak Mandarin so we speak Chinglish to understand each other. I also finally learned the Chinese names for Edinburgh and Scotland. It’s 愛丁堡 (Àidīngbǎo which literally translates to “love castle”) and 蘇格蘭 (Sūgélán which sounds like “Sugarland”). All of the cashmere shops along the Royal Mile have Chinese staff to speak Chinese to the new market of Chinese tourists. Just last year, Mandarin names were even given to Scottish landmarks and food. I find it so interesting how they name things and how Scotland is really trying to market themselves to China.
- Kilt -科特短裙 (short skirt)
- Haggis -咩咩布丁(baa-baa pudding)
- The Elephant House – 魔法咖啡館 (magic cafe)
- Glenfinnan Viaduct – 天塹飛虹 (highland rainbow)
- Royal Mile – 融蘊美徑 (beautiful street with history and culture)
We have drinks with a view.
One of the coolest things we went to in London was going to the Sky Garden. The Sky Garden is a public garden that spans three stories and offers a 360 degree view of London. The Sky Garden is located in the building of 20 Fenchurch Street and has beautiful glass windows to offer the best views. It even has an observation deck so we were able to go outside and see the views of the city. If it’s raining, we wouldn’t be able to go on the deck. The best part is that it’s completely free! You just have to make a reservation online to reserve a time slot. The only thing is that the Sky Garden only opens dates up around 2 weeks in advance so we couldn’t book too far in advance. There’s a bar there too so you can order drinks and get snacks there while enjoying the view.
We watch a musical.
We went to see Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre. As expected, it was good. Les Miserables is the longest running musical in the West End. I’ve seen Les Miserables a couple times, but was delighted to see an Asian Fantine (Rachelle Ann Go) and black Gavroche (Rio Myers). My parents fell asleep since we did 10 miles of walking that day, but I enjoyed it.
We eat ice cream.
We tried Chin Chin Labs, a liquid nitrogen ice cream spot that has been described as “the best ice cream parlor in England” in Camden Lock Market. I was really excited since I’m a huge fan of liquid nitrogen ice cream. It was good, but Andrew and I still like Smitten’s ice cream better. One scoop of ice cream had a steep price tag at £4.45 per scoop (with one topping included). We ordered the Valrhona Chocolate with chocolate truffle crumble and Burnt Butter Caramel with cardamon.
We relax by the spa.
We stayed at the Balmoral and got to enjoy the Spa there. There’s a pool, sauna, steam room, and relaxation room. Andrew has been teaching me to relax on vacation since I feel a need to see all the sights, eat all the foods, and experience as many new things as possible. Andrew likes to sit and read and I am learning the art of taking a nap by the pool.
We get afternoon tea.
We went to the Dome, a venue that functions as a bar, tea room, restaurant, and nightclub. The building itself is beautiful with its Corinthian columns and is decorated to reflect a classic time period. During Christmas, it is amazing. The Dome was originally built for the College of Physicians. Then, it was sold to the Commercial Bank before it became a dining venue. Afternoon tea (without champagne) is £16.50 per person and included sandwiches, scones, sweets, and unlimited tea or coffee. I couldn’t finish all the sweets.
We go to a palace.
We went to the Palace of the Holyrood. This is the royal residence of the Queen when she stays in Edinburgh. I’ve passed by many times but never went in. A nice perk about visiting the Palace of the Holyrood is that you can get your ticket stamped so the ticket can be valid for one year. If Andrew and I return again in the next year, we won’t have to pay the entrance fee. When we went, they had an exhibition of the Queen’s outfits that was pretty cool to see. My favorite part of the visit was the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey.
We go to a castle.
We went to Edinburgh Castle. Andrew and I have been there before since we have the Historic Scotland membership. However, this time, we joined one of the tours so we were able to find out a little more history of the castle.
We go to an island of clouds
We joined a tour group to visit the Isle of Skye. The Isle of Skye has been on my Scotland bucket list because I’ve seen so many pictures on Buzzfeed about how beautiful it is. It is a beautiful place. However, the two days we were in Skye were cold, wet, and rainy. We had the typical Scottish weather so it’s hard for me to say that it was immensely beautiful because I was cold. I’d run out of the bus to see something and run back in because it was too cold. I suppose if it was sunny and warm, this would be a totally different story.
We take a train to Hogwarts.
We rode on the Jacobite Steam Train from Mallaig to Fort William. The route and trains were used in the Harry Potter Films. The most famous part of our train ride was going over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a concrete bridge built on a curve.
They cook for me.
My parents and Genny’s parents made a delicious dinner for some of our friends and me. We had Vietnamese oxtail stew with sweet potato and carrots, garlic spinach, black fungus (wood ear) salad, and fresh spam/tofu Vietnamese spring rolls. It was all so good. On another night, my dad made pho and spam musubi for us.
We go to the beach.
The weather was actually good on one of the days so we went to Portobello, a seaside town in Edinburgh. It reminded me of the Outer Richmond in San Francisco. It’s a residential area that I imagine to be super foggy like San Francisco. There is even a Victorian Turkish Bath House in Portobello that was built in the late 1800s just like Sutro Baths in San Francisco. The only difference is that the Turkish Baths are still in operation and Sutro Baths are only ruins now. There weren’t many seafood restaurants along the boardwalk as I expected so we didn’t spend too much time here.
We eat seafood.
We went to Fishers in Leith. Fishers has another location in the city centre, but this is the original Fishers set in a 17th century watchtower. Andrew and I have been there before and liked it. I love seafood and they have these seafood platters that are really good.
Also, look at all this stuff they brought for me (and Andrew I suppose). Just look at that mango, noodles (the healthy, not fried kind), cheez its, seasonings, wheat thins, and other goodies!
It was so nice to be with my family and to enjoy 2 weeks of vacation. Now, I’m counting down the days until the Fourth of July when I’ll be taking a train, a subway, and two flights to come home to sunshine, ripe avocados, and techie gentrification. I’ll be in the Bay July 5-18. Let me know if you’re free to hang out…cause I “hella” want In-N-Out and Asian food. 🙂 #yayarea