Visiting Scotland on a day trip by train
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - May 17, 2019 - 12:00am

LONDON, England – Last Monday, we took a two-and-a-half-hour tour bus ride from the Victoria Coach Station and visited for the first time, the world-famous Windsor Castle, the City of Bath, and finally the United Nations heritage site Stonehenge. Touring England made me realize that while the British Isles are islands, which are relatively small as compared to the European continent. However, you will see that England is truly a huge and vast country. I mean when our tour guide told us that the area where Windsor Castle is located is surrounded by 5,000 hectares of land. That means it is nearly as huge as Hacienda Luisita. It is owned by Queen Elizabeth II and the Windsor Family. It truly is a huge estate to be owned by the royal family, among the many other lands they hold in all of England.

The area surrounding Stonehenge is a huge plain without any structures for miles. You can only see Stonehenge as you come closer to the famed rocks. One thing I noticed during our bus tour is that the area outside London is totally agricultural and very lush, green with huge hectares of yellow flowers. Within the City of London itself, they have a lot of parks, Hyde Park being the most famous and huge. However, they have so many small or mini-parks even as small as 200 square meters, which many Londoners use so often.

Another thing that amazes me in London is their very effective use of roundabouts. These are circles in many traffic intersections that they put without installing an electronic or digital traffic light. While there is still traffic congestion within the city, it is mostly due to traffic signal lights. But as you go further out of London, traffic becomes bearable.

Another thing to know about in London is if you have a family of four it is cheaper to use an Uber car than take the underground subway. No, they don’t have Grab cars in London. Middle Eastern drivers drove the many Uber cars we took. Also, London has a great tourism industry where double-decker buses with an open top are used by tourists as a hop-on/hop-off service vehicle which allows tourists to go down a particular location to explore it…and take another hop-on/hop-off bus with the same company to go to the next location.

Last Tuesday, we toured the Imperial War Museum where I had a great time with my eldest grandson, Mico, explaining to him the beginnings of World War I and why Europe could not prevent the rise of Hitler who started World War II. In the Imperial War Museum is a holocaust exhibit on how six million Jews were slaughter by the Nazis during the war. He was surprised when I told him that the field marshal for the American Troops in World War I was Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing and there is a Pershing Square in Zamboanga City.

Then off we went to Harrods, the world-famous London shopping mall which led Londoners to coin the phrase “for your eyes only” which became the title of a James Bond move. Harrods had a huge food court selling all the foods you are looking for…and rows upon rows of chocolates. However the huge disappointment was that they didn’t have a place to eat. The food you purchase in Harrods is for take-out only.

So we ended up eating a sumptuous meal in a Turkish restaurant called “Mantl” and it was one of the best Middle Easter experiences we’ve ever had. In the evening, we watched the Walt Disney musical play “Aladdin” in the Prince Edward Theater. I haven’t seen a play in London since I saw “Jesus Christ Superstar” for the second time. This is the beauty of London, all its theaters, dramas, or plays. I saw Les Miserable 20 years ago and it is still showing there up to this time.

Wednesday was another first for me; we took the train for the nearly five-hour trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Much of England’s history was about how the English were able to capture Scotland. As you know, the Scots and the Irish have a very distinctive tone when they speak. Yes, we toured the formidable fortress of Mary Queen of Scots and watched “Outlaw King” on Netflix on how the Scots wanted to be independent from England. This is the place of kilts and bagpipes!

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