James Horner wrote the soundtrack of my childhood, The Land Before Time being the most influential of them all. I was a little girl obsessed with dinosaurs, watching this film again and again with my family, loving Littlefoot's journey with his friends to that final paradise, The Great Valley. I shared this song with my brother (who did the final master cut), since James' music touched both our hearts growing up. "If We Hold On Together" was one of the first complex songs I learned on the piano as a child, from sheet music and a little bit of my personality thrown together. This isn't a glamorous performance by me, it's breathy and raw and I believe you can hear my voice shaking throughout from trying not to cry.

"If we hold on together, I know our dreams will never die. Dreams see us through to forever..." Sleep sweetly, James, we love and miss you so much already. Thank you for sparking so much magic inside us and leaving behind you a legacy of music for generations to cherish.

Download the free MP3 here.

Performed and arranged by Ashley Serena
Final mastering by Birth Place Audio Productions
Original music by James Horner, Diana Ross, Will Jennings

This was a "relaxing" day of getting to know Edinburgh better, with no planned tours.
We started by finding a wee Italian cafe that provided the healthiest of breakfasts.
(When you're on holiday, every food is good for you, that's the rule.)

An Italian pizza made special for my stomach? Couldn't pass that up!

I desperately wanted to sample their gluten-free desserts as well,
but that pizza blew me up like a balloon. Next time. 

We found a joke shoppe that looked quite like the inspiration for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.

On passing St Giles' Cathedral again, I couldn't help but giggle
at the seagull so perfectly perched on his head.

And the unicorn spotting continues!
For a creature of myth, we certainly found a lot of the beasties... :)

We found a Warhammer!
(They make miniatures and games.)

We slipped into a boutique and found these GIANT COOKIES
along with steampunk pocket watches and handmade scented soaps.

Down the Royal Mile we ambled, unknowingly snapping shots of Calton Hill
(friends informed us later what exactly we saw).

Making our way to the end of the road,
we came upon Canongate Kirk blanketed in pink petals.
The kirks in Scotland certainly are peaceful places to rest your cares (and bones).

We reached the end of the Royal Mile and found ourselves at the Queen's Gallery
the museum guarding the entrance to the royal residency of the Queen in Scotland.

Unicorns helpfully pointed us inside.

"This way, if you please."

Princess Charlotte of Cambridge had just been born,
so the ticket office was full of celebratory pastel plush toys and tea sets.
After purchasing tickets for a tour, we were handed free audio guides
and set loose on Her Majesty's royal grounds.

The left towers are preserved original stone, while the remainder of the palace
underwent renovations some hundreds of years prior to our anniversary-ing in Scotland
by kings and queens of old.

Outside the palace, we received a royal welcome from
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
in the most English accent I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.

We toiled outside, enjoying the quiet courtyard and sparse fellow tourists.

Isn't this stonework incredible?
I can't even make a cup out of clay.

Leisurely, we trailed behind a group of businessmen towards the palace,
our comfy tourist clothes clashing loudly with their fine suits.

Heralded by unicorns, we entered Her Majesty's royal palace.

As this is still a functioning residency for the British monarchy when visiting Scotland,
photographs are only permitted outside its protected walls.

After learning much from our audio guide on the history and goings-on of Holyrood Palace,
we found ourselves in the remnants of the royal house's abbey.

Many a poem and inspiration has come from these ancient ruins.
I felt a bit whimsical myself just standing there.

The early afternoon sunlight threw deep shadows against the stonework,
causing the intricate designs to stand out boldly.

We only bought standard tickets, not wanting to foot the extra garden tour fee.
However, there were parts of the royal gardens open to thrifty travelers like us,
giving a taste of the quiet beauty surrounding the palace.

Some of the architecture looked ripe for the picking to a budding conspiracy theorist.
Just what do these designs signify? Our audio guide was silent on that answer.

Our audio guide did inform us that the gardens of Holyrood host royal celebrations,
and I could just see modern equivalents of this minstrel strolling about, fiddling away.

Outside the Holyrood Abbey rest its original ancient foundations,
well preened and maintained for royal usage.

After learning about the dramatic history of the royal line,
we ducked into the palace's café for an afternoon tea of rich hot chocolate and cake.

This orange cake was the gluten-free dessert option and it was divine.
If you visit Holyrood Palace around teatime, do try a bite in Café at the Palace!

Full of creamy chocolate and cake, and wanting to give our feet a rest,
we hailed a cab to take us to Scayles, a music store I had my eye on.
It did not disappoint me either, I found an abundance of ethnic woodwinds!
Happily, I bought a beautiful new penny whistle in low G
(which I have yet to master, as it is much bigger than my high D whistle.)

Lazily, we strolled towards where we thought our flat might be
and found ourselves on Candlemaker Row, outside the gates of Greyfriars Kirkyard.
And this time, they were open. 

Only having a few minutes to spare before we needed to meet friends,
I scoured the grounds, searching for Tom Riddle's name.

There were so many tombs and headstones, I could not find the Riddle one.
I did however, find a Mr. John Watson. :)

Scrambling to unload any unnecessary baggage in our rooms,
we hurried as fast as our tired feet could carry us to meet up with Fox Amoore
who had trained across the firth to show us around Edinburgh.

He again proved an invaluable guide, telling us the story of this curious cannonball
that escaped our notice the first few times we passed Edinburgh Castle.
Story goes, soldiers got a wee bit drunk and fired towards Holyrood House
where Bonnie Prince Charlie (the Jacobite leader) was staying at the time.
Only, they missed... a little.
Other folks say it was placed there as a marker for plumbing in the city,
but I like the first story better.

While waiting for Fox's friend, Stuart, to arrive,
we ambled towards the castle, breathing in sights like Arthur's Seat from afar.

Ahh, the castle in the evening glow. 
I could've stayed there until the sun finally rested. 

But no! There was so much to see with Fox and Stuart!
Promising the best of pub dinners in Edinburgh, they lead us into The World's End.
(Photo courtesy of Stuart!)

I ordered a proper Scottish meal of haggis, neeps, and tatties.
(Sheep... stuff, turnips, and potatoes.)

This was honestly the most delicious dinner I ate our entire stay.
If you get a chance, go to The World's End!
(Just try not to fall off the edge, hee hee.)

Our authentic dining experience was not yet over
until we had the most Scottish dessert imaginable...
a deep fried Mars bar. 

The cook was very kind, helping me film the entire deep fry process
and offering advice on how best to eat the resulting creations.

Horrified yet amused, KK and I accepted our Scottish companions' sweet gift,
delicately nibbling as much as we could physically stomach.
It tasted like an incredibly rich donut.

Fox tweeted the experience.

Clutching our stomachs, we hiked back up the Royal Mile on a mild pub crawl.
After the two Scots graciously helped another group of foreigners find their ghost tour,
we stopped at Frankenstein: A Monster Experience.
This pub had silent films playing in its dark rooms while pop music boomed.

We finished our crawl in Greyfriars Bobby, the pub neighboring Greyfriars Kirkyard, 
where we happily chatted away with our friends as the sky finally darkened. 
All too soon, we parted ways, needing sleep for our tour of the Highlands the next day. 
We will forever be grateful to Fox and Stuart for their company and guidance around town. 
To be continued... in the final post! 

I've been playing Dragon Age: Inquisition endlessly since its release and have loved every second of it. I knew I wanted to cover the beautiful bard songs and this is the first one I heard when stepping into Haven's tavern... so now Korozjin and I present our version to you.

My brother gifted this lovely maple clarinet to me and I just had to play it in this song. I still have so much to learn when it comes to woodwinds, but slowly am building an understanding of their beauty and complexity. Practice makes perfect, 'eh? :)

Korozjin is an incredible guitarist who adds his own personality to everything he records. I loved working with him on my original song, "Warpaint", and was thrilled to play with him again on something so dear to my heart as "Nightingale's Eyes".

My little brother did the mastering of this song and I am eternally grateful for the hours he put into softening my s-sounds. Sorry and thank you, Ali!

Please do consider supporting us by purchasing a copy for yourself: Nightingale's Eyes!
I hope you enjoy our little rendition. ❤

Performed and arranged by Ashley Serena & Korozjin (Drag Lines)
Final mastering by Birth Place Audio Productions
Original music by Raney Shockne feat. Elizaveta & Nick Stoubis

Rousing around 5 am, we strolled off to board the train for London...
King's Cross Station, London (eee)!

A healthy brekky of cheese puffs and my favorite Juicy Water.
Oh, and Mars bars. Gotta stay balanced.

Passing rolling hills of green and shimmering seas of blue,
we chugged into King's Cross and stepped off the train into pandemonium.

People were everywhere.
And the ceiling looked just like the Harry Potter films! Wait...

I stepped all over my own feet when it was my turn 
to don the colors of my house (roar, lions!) and go through the wall 
to Platform 9 3/4

Ready? One, two, three... jump!
I skipped right in and never really came back.
My heart's still there. 

And of course I bought the professional photo in the shoppe around the corner too!
And a chocolate frog and a Platform 9 3/4 ticket and a... 

King's Cross Station made me so happy,
I was in a lovely mood for the rest of the day
(even when our train home was delayed because of electricity problems).

The edifice neighboring King's Cross was eye candy to say the least.
Just look at that rouge!

After 4.5 hours of train riding, we were a bit peckish,
so we picked a pub among the millions and hopped into The Queen's Head.

Might be the best pub in London for drinks, buuut...

...for food, it wasn't quite what we expected.

Being a proper pub, of course they had literature to tide over
those whose drinking buddies fell short of entertaining.
Huh, this looks familiar...

Not feeling the fullest, I gobbled this little guy down in the cab...

...on our way to the palace!
Buckingham Palace!

The regal lion and unicorn once again,
representing the unification of England and Scotland.

A small handful of ladies and gentleman
all dolled up for royalty
flitted around the courtyard beyond the guarded fences of the palace,
along with an assortment of stunning transportation.

A regal lion and his bond stand vigilant outside the gates of the palace...

...forever guarding the Queen Victoria Memorial.

My, what a regal sight!

Ooh, and a handsome one too.

The memorial's statues were massive.

Surrounding the palace were gardens and gates of gold.

Flags billowed in the rain-threatening winds.

Feeling a few drops, we ducked under tree cover on our way to Parliament Square.

Hullo there, Big Ben!

And a hearty howdy-doo to Parliament too!

When I first visited the Statue of Liberty in New York City, I was disappointed.
All the films and photographs made her seem like a towering beacon,
but she and Big Ben are a lot smaller in real life.
Still, they stand formidably against the skyline, ever tall and proud.

Turning the corner, we spotted another famous landmark:
The London Eye!

This enormous ferris wheel allows riders a bird's-eye view of the city --
on a day with more hours than ours, that is. :)

These wee Wallace and Gromit sheepies were sprinkled around the city.

Oh ho ho, another!

We ducked beneath the twisty Millennium Bridge on our walk down the riverbanks.
Any Harry Potter film fans out there?
This is the bridge the Death Eaters twist and snap in their attack on London.

Run, Muggles, get across the bridge!

And then, we were there
at Shakespeare's incredible Globe Theatre.

We only had time for a glimpse,
but someday I will see a performance here.

Yeah, no busking! 
.... *Googles what 'busking' is*
Yeah, no street performing!

All too soon, we said goodbye to this beautiful place
to try to make it to the daunting prison that is the Tower of London.

I think, uh, we're on the right path... *brr* 
Doesn't this look like a place right up Harry Potter's alley?
Hee hee, get it? ...Okay, sorry.

Emerging from the alley, we passed this quaint little pirate ship.

Southwark Cathedral!

This is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark
and has been a place of worship for around five times the age of the United States.

A little bit late, but...
Thanks for the welcome!

By the time we reached the famous London Bridge,
our time budget's wallet was bare threads.
Next time we're in England, we'll surely explore London more!

Knees aching (but feet very much alive, thank you goofy shoes)
we staggered into Dishoom, attracted to them for their gluten-free options.

And boy, did they deliver.
Practically everything tasty on the menu was gluten-free!
(The green highlighted areas.)

I of course, treated myself to my favorite Indian drink -- a rose lassi.
I also ordered the Murgh Malai, a melt-in-your-mouth chicken dish.
Everything I ate was Heaven on Earth, and not just because I was a hungry wolf. 

8/9 desserts were gluten-free and I was so happy, I almost ordered everything.
Thankfully, logic slapped my mouth away and I got just the one thing:
Memsahib's Mess
a bouquet of fresh cream, crushed meringue and strawberries, with rose syrup and gulkand.

Cory's fashion designer friend from back home (O'ahu) joined us for dinner
and I was surprised how refreshing it was to speak to another American.

Kelli ducked down the stairs to use the "water closet" and advised us to do the same
because oh my gosh, the aesthetic of this place.

This was the most interesting toilet I had seen since Japan.

Lush incense, ooh, these toilets smelled nice.
Is that strange to say? Probably.

When we return to London, we will definitely be paying Dishoom another visit.
This was the best Indian food I have ever had in my life.
Shortly after dining, we rolled our food-swollen bodies back onto the train for Scotland.
To be continued... in the next post!