Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

MY MIND IS A WEE BIT NUMB from all my zooming around from county to county, district to district and from country to country. From the west coast of the US to the beautiful east coast of Ireland, and then over to it’s rugged and

(right) Beauty of Wales awaits you...everywhere you look.

(right) Beauty of Wales awaits you…everywhere you look.

unforgettable west coast and back again…crossing the Irish Sea into Wales,

Ferry Crossing

(left) Land Ahoy! Ferry ride…

up to Manchester and back down to Wales (Snowdonia) for the tour.

Snowdonia turnstyle

Creek running in Wales

Then, crossing the Midlands to the south and eastern parts of Great Britain, a slingshot up and over London down to the southern portions of Wales and back up to Holyhead for another trip across the Irish Sea to Dublin and back home again.

Westminster and Big Ben

Westminster and Big Ben makes a lovely skyline.

Six weeks of exploring, valuable lessons learned, making new friends, of unexpected discoveries and excitement, visiting with old friends, traipsing around and poking into nooks and crannies of the big cities, small towns and countryside.

Architecural Designs

Millennium Centre in Cardiff

It’s been an eventful trip–perhaps a bit more eventful and maybe requiring a bit more energy than I planned, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat…with a few modifications.

Things I’d do different:
1) If I rent a car again, I’ll keep the same one for the whole trip, picking it up and dropping off at the same location to reduce the every increasing cost due to

One of six cars

The last of six car rentals…not a scratch on it 🙂

“drop off” fees (unless I plan on visiting Europe, too…though, it might an interesting challenge driving on the “wrong side of the car” in a right-hand drive car…), even if I have a week of touring with a group (I’ll just park it for the duration of the tour at the cottage).

Going Nowhere Fast...for quite some time. On the M4, in the heat of the day (25.5C--warm for the UK)...trying to get to Crawley...will I ever make it???

Going Nowhere Fast…for quite some time. On the M4, in the heat of the day (25.5C–warm for the UK)…trying to get to Crawley…will I ever make it???

2) Get an in-car satnav (remember ‘local’ vs ‘visitor’ directions my Gabby was providing?)
3) Whether I drive or take trains/buses, know how far it is (and add an hour) from point A to point B before making any kind of reservations.

Dr Who Experience-Closed

Did I mention it was Tuesday?

4) Make sure there’s adequate time to experience any area I visit and know the days exhibits will be closed
5) Pack even lighter than I have done in the past! Long pants will last for 2-3 wearings…add a simple casual dress to the wardrobe (I so enjoyed the one dress I bought–I ended up wearing it three times and wished I had another one to alternate with it).
Even though I packed for all weather conditions, I could easily have purchased socks at my destination if necessary. They take up loads of space. So do shoes…

How Many Shoes?

So…how many shoes does one really need?

I think I wore my close-toed shoes once? A waste of space. I wore my rain slicker once and never wore the rain pants that came with it. No weight, but bulky…and though I did wear my medium weight jacket a fair amount while in Wales, I could have layered instead. Again, not much weight, but definitely bulky (the plan was, it makes a great “blanket” for the chill of the airplane…but I ended up using my very lightweight sweater and that was more than adequate). The umbrella was nice to have, too, but I could have purchased on if it was needed, and left it behind to cut down on weight. Think about being willing to shed some things before you head home to make room for some of your gifts. I have a hard time with this…letting go is hard for me (wink)…but I did.

So many thing to take into consideration when traveling:

1) Will you have room for all of your gifts for your return flight? The bag only weighed 41 pounds when I left on my trip. I was 11 pounds over the 50# limit (cost me $68 in overage fees–worth it!), so either be prepared for an added expense or consider shipping items separately. Shipping costs can be steep, but the post office will allow you to bring the items you want to ship in for them to weigh and then you decide if it’s worth it. Also consider the fact that you are only allowed $800 worth of items carried with you as duty free. So, if you have an expensive small item, it may pay to ship it separately to keep under that $800 maximum (the airport does not count items shipped separately as part of your purchases during your trip, those will be tallied separately when you ship).
2) Keep a good record of goods purchased (keep it on you for your last leg home)–and figure out what the value is in dollars the night before your departure, as you will be asked to give an accounting on the declaration slip handed to you on the plane, when you most likely won’t have access to conversion tables. I forgot about the per item bit (only tallied the totals into dollars), so I just put down the euro and pound prices and indicated the total in dollars. It seemed to be okay. 3) And, this one is a biggie for me: even though I have traveled with and without others (daughter, friends, new acquaintances) and am comfortable either way, I find that I do prefer sharing my experiences, so the solo travel is not as rich an experience for me. Though I always find people to converse with when traveling alone, it’s just not the same. So, consider this when making your travel plans. Are you a people person or do you love the freedom of ‘solo’ travel…?

I’m home…and still decompressing from my trip. I do have more to share, but will save it for another blog, since this is a bit long-winded and I’m already a day late getting this posted–sorry!

I hope you’ve been enjoying the craziness of this latest experience, living vicariously in my travels…until next week, slainté

 

Driving Abroad 101

YES, WELL…I DO LIKE DRIVING, EVEN IF IT IS on the “wrong” side of the road. some people feel it’s such a grind, taking away from the experience of their visit abroad. Whether on the right or wrong side, I really enjoy it. For me, it adds to the adventure. As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re an ‘automatic’ vs ‘manual’ driver, I’ve found that it’s easier with the automatic–no groping on the right side of the car for the shift nob. But if you are at ease driving either, then, by all means, go for a manual transmission. I do. It’s cheaper and by the end of the day, you’ll have the “groping” to a minimum.

As for staying on the correct side of the road? As one of the Hertz agents mentioned, keep the driver at the center line. That keeps you on the correct side of the road, whether you are driving a right- or left-side car. And my piece of advice for the UK and Ireland is the mantra I mentioned in a previous blog for turns: “left near, right far”. It works wonderfully.

Speed limits can be a bit confusing–many times you will not find them posted (especially the higher speeds). This is where a SatNav/GPS comes in handy. It will indicate the posted speed. Then all you have to do is watch your speedometer.

The SavNats built into the car–I liken them to having a local sitting in your car–are nice. One of the cars I acquired had the built-in SatNav so, combined with my little Gabby (yeah, I named my GPS…so what?) made things much easier. I used the SatNav for verbal directions–remember I mentioned it was like having a local give you directions? Well, there were several instances where Gabby wanted me to go one way and the SatNav, another. Each time, I saw that it cut time off my travel. I really don’t know if it would have been an easier route if I’d followed Gabby, but it certainly was a gloriously beautiful route when I followed SatNav–the route a local would show a tourist, to show off the lovely things about the area. The other reason I used them in tandem was the flat screen of the SatNav faced straight into the center of the car, making it hard to see without taking my eyes off the road–don’t like that, even when I’m driving in the States. So, Gabby was used for the map-reading. I’ve been able to mount her in the low part of the window so not to obscure the road, but so I can see her without my eyes leaving the road. I can see the map out of the corner of the eye, or a short movement of the eye to look at it straight on (and still be seeing the traffic ahead of you). The Sat/Nav actually required the head and eyes to turn to get a look at it, taking the road out of your sight…didn’t like that.

I know, all of this is quite boring…but if you are planning to travel and rent/hire a car, it’s all good information to know. Now, if you’ve managed to get this far, here comes the excitement (and I’m sorry…I’ll warn you right now–this is going to be a long post).

With all I’ve said above, watching the speed ‘limit’ is important, but you need to drive to your abilities, not drive the maximum speed. Just because it’s posted at 30, 40 or even 60mph…believe me, you really need to drive at a comfortable speed. I’ve autocrossed and have been on a race track, know how to take corners, etc…all under controlled conditions (even on the roads that I’m familiar with back home). Some of the back roads in the UK and Ireland are posted pretty fast, but only a fool would attempt to drive those speeds. Heed the corners recommended speeds (since many are blind corners, some with curves that get sharper as you go into them)–and if that’s too fast for you, slow down. If you have people piling up behind you, find a turn out, driveway or parking lot to pull into and let them pass (the rules are the same abroad as at home–you are supposed to yield to more than about three or four cars, but if you are going under the posted limit, be nice–let them by). Otherwise, ignore the few impatient drivers you might come across. Road safety is more important.

I guess I was feeling a bit too confident (with over three weeks under my belt) after leaving my friends in Colchester, just outside of London. I still drove well under the speed limit since there were roads I was distinctly unfamiliar with, but on one particular corner, I apparently took it wrong–too wide–(one of those that kept turning onto itself) and found myself on the wrong side of the road. Before me was a car coming around the corner from the other direction in his lane.We both made corrections to avoid each other, but it wasn’t enough. I ended up sideswiping his car from behind the driver’s wheel…with the front/driver’s side of my car, then bounced off slightly and the damaged front end pulled the car into the side of the road on the wrong side.

After the accident

This really IS the WRONG side of the road to park a car…but it’s where I came to rest after the accident

It, in a way, was fortuitous. Where each car stopped, as traffic began the entry into the curve, they could see a disabled car from each direction, so it made directing traffic for us ‘civilians’ much easier. But I get ahead of myself. (also forgive me–some of you have already seen these photos…)

Upon impact, my airbags deployed. Yikes. I’ve only had it happen once before (in a rear-ender accident that ended the life of my Miata). The airbag burned my left forearm and I somehow managed to get a small cut on my right little finger (probably from plastic flying off the steering column when the airbags broke through), but otherwise, I was fine. Shaken, but fine…by the grace of God (my poor guardian angels sure work overtime, sometimes). After a few moments to gather my wits, and with some difficulty, I managed to get out of the car–the door was tweaked slightly, only allowing it to open about 1/2 way–and I immediately went to the driver (found out later his name was Paul) of the other car to see if he was okay.

Ouch!

My poor baby. I loved this car. The damage went all the way back to the back end of the front panel, making it hard to open the door.

Aside from being shaken (both of us visibly shaking from the incident), hitting the under-bits of the dash with his knee/shin, and the seat belt locking, causing some discomfort to his shoulder, he was fine too. Thank God.

Remember me mentioned how I’ve never run into anyone that didn’t make a positive impression on me on my trips, no matter what the circumstances? This incident continues to show that courtesy and goodwill in people is alive and well. I feel so blessed. Paul, whose car I hit, could have railed at me for inattentive or bad driving–or worse, and I would have accepted it. Instead, he was gracious, concerned and friendly. We helped each other and both of us were in good spirits. I think we set the mood for all that was to come.

We immediately went to each corner and started directing traffic to slow (or stop, as needed) as they came into the corner to allow safe passage through the area. Traffic where my car was needed to go into opposing traffic to go around the car…then around his car. Almost everyone paused to check and make sure we were okay. The first person that actually stopped was a motorcyclist. He was delightful–unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. He lent his mobile (cell) for Paul to call his wife, then to call police to the scene. Then, being the stereotypical British citizen, he asked if either of us needed tea–he happened to have some on his bike. We both declined the offer, and laughed, helping to lighten the situation. Delightful. And so funny. I still chuckle when I think back to it.

Community Officer Carol

Officer Carol arrived on the scene first, taking over the traffic control issues.

Next on the scene was a Community Officer (not sure if that’s her official title), Carol.  We kept calling her the “police” and she kept correcting us, saying she wasn’t a policewoman–but in our eyes, she was. She asked if either vehicle was movable and if so, to move it to a safer location (mine was not–and in the worst of places to be but Paul’s was in good enough shape, so he moved it down the road to a safe spot and returned). She took over the traffic directing job (with only one of her, it made it far more more difficult), but she felt it was her job to keep us–and traffic–safe until the official police (officers Dan and Claire) arrived. After taking statements (a very informal affair compared to the red tape in the US) and deciding neither of us required a breathalyzer test, Paul was anxious to light a cigarette–he said it might mess up the breathalyzer, so he abstained until he was given the okay. (Hmm. You learn something new every day, don’t you?)

Once traffic was being directed by the police and Officer Carol had departed, leaving the situation is very capable hands, I called my friend and let her know about the accident. She was gracious enough to let me stay another night (later that night, her dad and I had a good laugh–upon my departure, he’s said to come back soon…I’m sure he didn’t mean quite this soon).

Then, the l-o-n-g wait began for Hertz to send a tow truck to pick up my car. In the still heat of the day on a blind corner…

The accident happened around 9:30-9:45am. I have no clue when Officer Carol or the others arrived. At some point (after they had all the info they needed), they allowed Paul to call his wife back to pick him up. He walked off to his car to wait for his wife.

The swarms of black flies (I meant to ask if they were midges and forgot) were drawn to the officers’ bright green vests, making directing traffic a royal pain (you try signalling traffic with your hands and wanting to wave off these nasty flies at the same time!). Poor guys. I think I managed two bites on my nose and maybe one on my shoulder. That’s all. I have no clue how many they received. They were so good about all of it: the flies, the standing for hours in the hot sun with all their official stuff (flack vest, heavy trousers, shirts and that blasted fly-trap green vest). With all of that misery, they kept lighthearted, cheerful and helpful. I felt so guilty keeping them out there…

I struck up a conversation with Officer Dan. A very amiable person, we chatted

Officer Dan

Officer Dan, on the scene, directing traffic coming towards my car.

about many things. I talked about my trip, where I was going and my book and he talked about his kids and an app he’d just published for mobile phones. I love it! It’s an app for the deaf. It translates spoken (and written) word into sign language. It’s set up for both ASL and British Sign Language. He even showed me an example. So cool. It’s called Eye-Sign. I wish I’d gotten more information, since I’m not able to find it by Googling it (insert very sad face)–hopefully Officer Dan will see this and post a comment to help me find it (I’ll pass on the

information–I have a few friends that might be able to use it).

There were some hiccups with the tow truck.

My car being towed.

Dave was my tow truck driver–great guy with a delightful sense of humour…but after my accident, a wee bit fast on the back roads…

Though I mentioned the car was not movable when I called Hertz, they had sent out a truck that was going to flat tow the car. When he called to let us know his arrival time, he asked if the car was movable. I said the front wheel would not allow movement. Scratch that truck. He called in for another to be sent out…a flat bed truck. And we had another hour or so to wait. Finally, around 1:00-or so, the truck was there and the officers could finally pack it up and go on their way. I thanked them both before hopping in the truck with driver, Dave–a very down to earth, chatty man. He drove me and my car back into Colchester and once we found the Hertz office (poor instructions on the part of Hertz delayed us slightly: the postal code given to him didn’t actually take him to the location he was to go to…how dumb is that).

By the time I got my new car and was on the road (back to my friend’s house for another night), it was past 2pm. I actually contemplated driving straight on to Cardiff, but I’m glad I decided against it. By the time I arrived at Natalie’s, I was getting a wee bit achy. I spent the rest of the day sorting out changes in my reservations: several rooms & ferry. My friend’s mum made a very simple meal of grilled cheese and ham (I wish I could remember what she called it). It was perfect.

By morning, the aches manifested into a very stiff neck, some soreness in my upper arms and for some reason, sore abdominal muscles, but I needed to move on (I certainly didn’t want to impose on them for another night, either). I think those were the longest four and a half hours I’ve driven, but by the next morning I was feeling much, much better. To be safe, when I checked in, I asked if I could set up an additional night…just in case. They cheerfully obliged. I graciously thanked them accepting my last minute changes (both the previous days changes and the current request). Though I arrived by 2pm, I was not up to trying to see the Dr. Who Experience–it will have to wait for my next trip to Cardiff. I’ll plan my trip around the visit this time. By the next morning, I was ready to make my five-hour trip to Holyhead. Thankfully, it was uneventful and easy, but I was glad to get settled into my B&B room at The Gables at the end.

Because I arrived before the prescribed 3pm check in time, I walked down to the Irish Sea and had a lovely, late lunch, chatting with a few locals as we ate. Then a nice walk and back to my room for the night so I could repack in preparation to the ferry ride the next morning. Oh. No, I did go back out to grab a yogurt for ‘dinner’ and decided to go for a walk out on the bluffs and took a few photos. Then I returned to my room…and collapse for the night.

So, now you have it up to my last day in the UK. Full of fun, adventures, changed plans and new experiences. Next week, I’m back in Ireland and nearing the end of my six-week trip. I have a plan in my head as to what I’ll be doing, but I know it will probably not happen that way. There’s so many things to do and so little time left. Dublin could be a trip all by itself, believe me!

I vacillate between be excited that I will soon be home, and wishing it could last longer. I often wonder if this will be my last trip abroad, especially after all that’s happened this time around. But I have a tendency to rebound well, so I’m thinking there will be at least one more trip. At least one more…(insert grin)…

 

London In A Day–No Way!

I HONESTLY CANNOT IMAGINE HOW LONG it would take to see London properly. I had a resident, Vickie Johnstone (a fellow writer), show me around London on Sunday. We did a whirlwind eight-hour tour, starting around 11:30am till we said our goodbyes at 7:30pm (maybe? I wasn’t really paying attention, but I was home before 9pm and it was only about a 35-40 minute train ride, then ten minutes by car)…we managed to walk well over six miles, yet only covered the tiniest bit of the city.

Mostly, we walked. And walked…oh, my, did we walk! It was the most incredible experience. By car, by bus…even if you dared to travel by bicycle through the city–it would be too fast to take in all the sights with all your senses. Going down little stairwell that brought you out to the breathtaking expansive view of St. James’ Park, the towering buildings–modern new structures standing tall and strong next to the beautiful old stone buildings, worn and weathered stone and filled with stories, and the bridges…meeting people on the street–and chatting a bit with passersby and getting directions (that weren’t necessarily followed to the ‘T’), plus the hustle and bustle of traffic whizzing by. I loved the skyline: old and new next to each other in stark contrast, created a beautiful silhouette against the decorator cloud patched blue skies (it was a warm day for London–around 75 or so). As much as I am a country girl and love all things country, I found that I did, indeed, loved it all. When we tired of walking, we would find a café or restaurant and take a break. When we really got tired–dragging our feet noticeably near the end of the day, we hopped on one of the tour boats and took a leisurely ride up and down the Thames River–a delightful way to see the skyline, by the way, as well as get a brief history along the way. The waterway version of the double-decker bus tours. Very nice.

Something I’m realizing now, as I think back on it, is the lack of smog I’m accustomed to in large cities–at least visible or breathable–it was nice. Perhaps it was the rain the previous day that made the air so fresh. That, and the delightful breeze washing away any lingering impurities.

Despite the immensity of London, you can get a feel for it, even if you are only seeing parts of it. At least, I’d like to think you can. The grandness, the history, beauty, vibrancy and resilience. The old vs the new. Depending on the time you have, choose a few things you like, but be sure to include just wandering, to take in the pulse of the city.

Another way to “experience” the grandness is to visit area outside of London…I’ve spent a couple of days in Crawley (basically south southwest of London) then drove to Colchester (pretty much west northwest of London), which took a very solid 3+ hours using the dual carriageways that circle London…with all the congestion and construction slow-downs that is normal-day stuff. Then Friday, it took me an additional two hours just to cover the distance between Colchester and the western edge of the carriageways that wrap around London. That means, four four or so hours just to traverse half of the perimeter of the city. After that, I did a “slingshot” down to Cardiff, where I plan on staying for the night…or possibly two, depending on how I feel (the second night’s room is reserved–just in case…I just need to let them know in the morning, one way or the other).

While I’m talking about all this driving, I really should say, I love the people and drivers in this country. In the US, there is so much disobedience and discourtesy where traffic rules and sharing the road are concerned. The courtesy of drivers in the UK and Ireland has been outstanding. Of course, there are a few–there are always a few that have no regard for others, no matter where one finds oneself, but in the States, it’s more like 50/50 (or worse)…sigh. Drivers hog the fast lane even if there’s someone faster coming up–or hovering behind them in the US (I call them Left Lane Lemmings–they hunker down in the lane and refuse to move over). Here, the fast lane is kept free for passing. I love that. Drivers give way (I’ve never seen an exception in my times over here) to merging traffic, whether on high-speed carriageways or in slower, in-town traffic, unlike their US counterparts, where one must fight to find a space to squeeze into, whether high speed or low. Our friends across the Pond are very aware of their surroundings and their personal courtesy extends to the road. We could learn much from them.

And, for now, suffice it to say, meeting people has been an excellent experience–all around. I’ve had so many interactions. No matter what the circumstances. (I’ll explain that next week…gotta keep you wanting to come back and read more, right?)

(PS: my apologies for no photos–my iPhone is being stubborn and refuses to relinquish them…I’ll figure it out later and add when I can…) Until then, you can peruse some photos on my business Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Creationsbydjamesonsmith?ref_type=bookmark

 

My Journey Has Begun…And Then Some

Personal note to my readers: I apologize for being late getting this posted–spotty internet connections are to be expected when traveling…especially when using hostels. It’s been a pleasant change of pace to be so “disconnected”, but on the other hand, I do have commitments that I should be keeping, so I’m sorry for that. Now, onward to my post:

IT”S ALREADY A BLUR…BUT I’M having fun–still! With internet being very spotty in the countryside (at least the places I’ve been staying), I’ve been working on the blog as best as I can offline…then planned to post when I had a steady connection, which I finally do have (yay), now that I’m back to the ‘civilized’ world of Crawley (West Sussex, south of London).

I’ve had plenty of adventures…and misadventures (that’s what makes it so fun–all the surprises that pop up, right?)

Let’s see…without my blog handy, I’m not sure where I left off. I’ve posted bits on the business Facebook page (in addition to my personal page), so I’m getting confused. I’ll save the Celtic Invasion Vacation (CIV) tour of Wales for another post. Let’s just say there was a lot of vertical walking involved to see some of the most spectacular sights. I’m tired, but glad–so very glad that I took the time and effort. Snowdon Mountains are magnificent.

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On left: within Snowdonia Nat’l Park in Wales…it is amazingly beautiful. On right: breathtaking view in Snowdonia Park.

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Ending week three: I ‘left’ most of the CIVers the night before as they all left for their flights early in the morning. I had breakfast with the remaining three, then one was off for a little adventure in Cardiff (to the Dr. Who Experience) before returning the next day for his flight. The remaining  couple and I hopped the train for downtown Manchester. We said our goodbyes then they went their way and I headed to the O2 store to sort out my personal wifi. Well, I did get it working, but, it still has it’s issues–apparently, it’s not that good…or the service in the area is not that good. I haven’t been able to use it much. I do look forward to getting back to Ireland, where I know the connection is far more reliable.

So, my first week away from the CIVers has been quiet. No internet at the hostel, but I don’t mind it much, since the beauty and serenity that surrounds Leominster is fabulous. It was the getting there that was a bit sketchy. No wifi (yeah…that personal wifi I bought for the UK? Not much good), and the satellite was in and out, so I just gave up on using Gabby (my GPS–satnav for those that live over here), too. I’ve had quite a few walks, exploring all the nooks and crannies that make up Leominster (pronounced Lemster). I watched a cricket practice, took quite a few pictures–there are some beautiful churches in and around Leominster. Some are on my iPhone, some on my other two cameras (setting are for higher resolution shots). I’ll make sure to add some to this blog.

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The Priory Church of St Peter and St Paul in Leominster, still has active services.

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On right: Some of the beautiful stained glass windows as seen from the inside of the Priory

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Here’s another church (didn’t see what the denomination or name was) in downtown Leominster.

I did have a wee bit of a misadventure on Tuesday. It was the best day this week, weather-wise, for a trip out and about. There were threats of rain that didn’t appear until I was almost back home. That was good. But, my plan was to go into Cardiff to see if I could sneek a visit to the Dr. Who Experience. Without wifi or GPS, it was fun trying to find my way, but I managed it just fine with the basic map (available on both GPS and iPhone–no secondary streets available), and with the aid of a wonderful server at Y Mochyn Du, a pub in Cardiff (wonderful selection of food, lovely atmosphere!), where I stopped for my lunch. He was very helpful, but even with that, I did a bit of bumbling around. I eventually found it…I had a very nice long walk, wandering around, looking at the city as I searched (I often laugh at people that get flustered when they can’t find what they’re looking for, missing out on the cool things around them in the process)…

Did I mention it was Tuesday? I proudly walked up to the entry…and…saw a sign saying it was closed on Tuesdays. All I could do was laugh out loud. People waiting at the bus stop nearby turned and stared, but I didn’t care.  I just shook my head, pulled out my camera and changed my plans. If I’d been able to get on line proper-like, I’d have found out it was closed Tuesdays (and remembered that one of the CIVer’s probably mentioned that fact). Oh, well. I spent the next several hours snapping shots of interesting things: The Millenium Centre, the BBC Wales complex, the exterior of the Dr. Who Experience, wharfs, new and old buildings…it was fun. And tiring.

Dr Who Experience-Closed

Did I mention it was Tuesday? The “closed” sign that glared in my face through the window…sigh.

Directional signs in Cardiff

On right: So many things to see and do…as long as it’s the right day (wink)…

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Millenium Centre from across the bay in Cardiff.

One of the Cardiff Sightseeing Tour buses (you’ll find one or two of these business in nearly every big city over in the UK, Ireland and Europe) pulled up into the lot just ahead of me and I dashed to catch it. These sightseeing buses are great (I should have grabbed one right off, right?) for checking out the sights, identifying the areas you want to focus on and getting a little bit of history of the city you happen to be in.

I didn’t have enough cash on me and he didn’t take credit cards, so he said he’d wait till I could pop into the ATM across the way–so sweet of him (I have not run into anyone that hasn’t been overly helpful with me–courtesy abounds in my travels)…I dashed off to acquire money and returned. After plunking my money down, I climbed the stairs to the open top and settled in. A beautiful afternoon, a huge city to explore by bus and I was able to sneak in a rest, on top of it. Good deal. After a while, I was too tired to even take photos, so I just sat back and listened as the tour lady talked about the different aspects of the city’s history. To think, as a kid I hated history. There is so much to learn about our world, both past and present.

The drive home took longer than planned. I was still tired and looking forward to crashing in my room. I think the 1.5 hour drive took closer to two plus hours…it was rush hour, both in the city and in the country. I think things finally settled down once out of Herefordshire (that’s about 2/3 the way back). Crazy traffic.

Have I mentioned the craziness with the speed limits? First I’m cruising at 60, then suddenly, I need to be all the way down at 30 to go through a town…then back up to 60 (or maybe 50…depending on the area). It’s fun trying to keep track. At least my GPS was able to recognize the posted speeds, so I was able to stay at the correct speed. You need to realize I’m talking about two lane roads (not dual carriageways or highways, as we know them)–the ones we’d label as secondary or even, at times, tertiary roads. HIgh hedges, no shoulder…an occasional turn out, in case you come across a large bus or truck and need to squeeze by…interesting.

Originally, when I came to Leominster, it was a place to lay my head, to use as a place to come back to after a day of driving out and about. My car only left the car park once for a day out (and you know how that ended)… I think I want to come back to Leominster and the surrounding areas again (but I’ll stay in a B&B next time–not that I didn’t enjoy my stay…it’s just that a few more amenities would be nice)–there’s lots to see here: steeped in history, gardens & arboretum, entire towns of brick, walking paths, biking paths (wish I had a bicycle!)…so, so much to see! Now that I’ve discovered it is a destination in itself, there’s no way I can see it all in the few days I have left.

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Narrow passage way for foot traffic only with great little shops.

Tomorrow is my last full day. On Friday, I must pack up and check out to head to Sussex for four days before I visit with friends in Colchester. It’s a 3.5+ hour drive, so I’m hoping to get out by 10-11am…

My last full day is Thursday. I am excited. I’m hoping to get a first-hand experience with bell ringers as they practice in The Priory Church next door. I keep getting little tastes of what they’ll be doing every once in a while. It’s lovely, really. Kayleah, the receptionist is tired of hearing it every. single. week…it’s sad, really. Just not her thing, I guess…I’m very excited…

As it turned out after I heard them practice, I was just about to leave, when they asked if I wanted to hear the final four bells–they were saving those for last, I guess. Of course, I said yes. It was amazing to hear the higher note (treble) bells, but the deeper (tenor) bells were brilliant. The resonating happening was beautiful.

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A little lesson about the ringing of bells.

Bell Ringing 101The gentleman in blue (subbing for the actual leader, who was unavoidably late) syncs the ringers, telling them which bell is to ring before or after another. Really, kind of fascinating. He will also scold, especially if one of the newer ringers is doing something wrong…too slow or too fast in following a fellow ringer, standing incorrectly, twisting as he pulls the rope, etc. But he’s an equal opportunity guy–he’ll scold the more seasoned ringers, too. It all makes a difference.

Bells Pealing… This is what I heard as I left the church. Before I left, at the end, they did ask if I wanted to ring the bells. I desperately wanted to say yes, but knowing my shoulders, if I did something wrong, I’d be paying for weeks, so I reluctantly declined. They then told me a previous guest had done it and didn’t listen to the instructions and ended up on the floor. So wish I’d given it a try and proved a non-ringer could manage it without looking like a fool.

Hopefully the two above links to the short bits of bell ringing work (never posted a video before). Unfortunately, I am limited to 50mb–the better ones are 80-150mb…I’ll have to figure out where I can load them and post a link later for those of you interested.

So, there you go. That sorta catches you up to just before I left Leominster.