2018 UK and Ireland Adventure: Home At Last

Dublin's Ha'penny BridgeAS ONE OF MY READERS has remarked, “this has been quite the adventure”. Yes, it has been very different from my previous trips. Not what I had envisioned, but I can easily say it was fun, adventuresome, a learning experience, I saw things I’d not seen before and I was able to share my experiences with a friend—at least two voiced desires (from previous adventures) finally met!

I’m going to apologise now for this final, super-long blog (I could break it into two or three to make it more manageable, but nope—sorry). I’m trying to get all the left-out bits pulled together to create this one last travel-Image of cloudy, blustery skies on the way to Dublinblog entry. Also, you’ll see photos scattered throughout this blog. Make sure to click on them to see the full size—and more importantly—more information about the photo. They will not necessarily be in the order seen on the trip.

Being home. Aaah. What can I say? Standard response is “it feels so good to be in my own bed”—definitely. But almost I want to travel posterimmediately, I’m wishing that I could go back. Travel more. Wander and ponder more. See more things—crazy, I know, since I have been away for nearly three months. I am glad to be home; back to my sweet little kitteh, who did not shun me one bit this time—he was purring and rooting the moment I stepped foot in the house (and yowling loudly till I could get the door opened to step inside)! What a lovely greeting (he’s usually pouting and ignoring me for a good half-hour—I like this new response).

I’ve already had a few of the usual questions pop up: Sunrise from our hostel room in DublinWhat did you like most and least? Which was your favourite place? What would you Hanging Flower Potsdo differently? I’ll answer those and more, plus add a few observations since arriving stateside.

What I liked most has always been a hard one—there are always so many amazing things—so I choose to give four Image of River Liffey from a Bridgeanswers: one per “country” (yes, yes. I know—I only visited two countries, but since Wales and Scotland each have their own governmental structure and a distinct and very strong sense of ownership to go with it, I will break my answers down to the four regions we visited.)

Ireland: For this trip, I’m still National Leprechaun Museumenthralled with Dublin’s energy. I’m usually not a fan of the busyness of cities (and Dublin had its fair share of busy, noisy stuff. Though I was unable to keep my usual pace, there were Cannonball into harbourtimes, just walking through the the various areas of the city (especially Temple Bar and Trinity College areas) gave my spirits a lift. As a close second, I loved the Donegal area. We did not really get down into Donegal, but instead, were up in the countryside overlooking it. Secluded, tranquil, beautiful vistas everywhere. I was still seriously nursing my ankle injury (in addition to a wound acquired fighting with the step to the shower area <giggle> at the B&B we were at), so the tranquility was nice. Next time around, I do want to spend more time on the west coast—around Connemara and the wild countryside along the southwest coast.

Wales: ooh, what isn’t lovely image of tomatoes, cucumbersabout Wales?? Sandy would say, “getting stepped on by a horse …” Yes, that bit was far from lovely, and this created two gimpy gals trying to have fun. Sigh. Back Rooster Weather Vaneto the question at hand—Snowdonia National Park will always have a place in my heart, but it now must share space with Brecon Beacon National Park—both are shining gems in Wales. Definitely worth the Crystal Ball Shot of Garden and Treestime to explore the hills, mountains, lakes, rivers and valleys. I’ve only seen a wee bit of Shaggy Sheep Seeking Shadeboth Snowdonia and Brecon Beacon. One of these days I’d like to explore each more. As for towns … Llanberis and Betws Y Coed. Llanberis because … well, it’s just a cool little town and I love to say the name (it’s not Lan-beris, Beautiful Window at Tintern Abbeyit’s … um, Ll is a lispy L sound—tongue at the front, allowing air out the sides. Kinda—here’s a link for the pronunciation <grin>).

England and N. Ireland: I know I keep talking about the countryside in all of these Image of two shadowsareas, but well … yeah. Can’t be helped. For this trip, hands down the Yorkshire View of Tintern AbbeyDales—the amazing beauty and tranquility I find in this heartland of the Yorkshire countryside gives me such peace. If it’s a town you’re looking for me to recommend, the only one that comes to mind is Hay-on-Wye. It’s really the only one where we did much exploring. If you’re a bibliophile, I think there are more book stores per block in this town than any other I’ve seen … and there’s an annual book festival. Walkways alongside the river were quite amazing also!

Model of the TitanicScotland: as much as I’d like to say Edinburgh’s diverse character and all the amazing sights to be seen, I must say—this time—that Isle of Skye captured my heart and I yearn to return to take in its beauty. The towns are small and fun to roam around in—its easy to poke around each one in an hour or so … it’s the traveling from one to the next that takes the time (but, time well spent). We pretty much stuck to the coastal route—except for one time (when we finally saw some highland cows—squeeee!), but the single track roads are not everyone’s cup of tea. I have no problem with them (didn’t get to experience them Stage for Riverdance in Dublinon Skye, but did take lessons learned from Marc’s and our guide’s driving and put it to good use on the second half of our trip). The only down-side to Skye is that “the powers that be” cannot keep up with the needs of the huge influx of tourists—most of the Concessions the Old-Fashioned Way at the Gaiety Theatretourist sites (ie: Fairy Pool, Man of Storr, etc) do not have toilets or any kind of concessions, which leaves one to use the great outdoors if you “can’t hold it” … which is not the Riverdance dancers at the Gaiety Theatrebest for the environment (or privacy). Not a deal-breaker for me.

Having rented a car, we registered a “few” miles—not counting the Isle of Skye segment—as I was not the driver for that portion. Skye was a nice respite, but by the end of the week, I was eager to get back behind the wheel <grin> and continue exploring. Below, you’ll find the google maps of the highlights of our trip, including the mileage. Wow.

Map: Leg One Ireland May-July 2018
Map: Leg Two 2018 Trip Wales, Yorkshire, Scotland
Map: Leg Three-Inverness to Isle of Skye and Back June 2018
Leg Four-Inverness, UK to Holyhead, UK 2018
Leg Five-Holyhead to Dublin with day trips 2018

Embellished Cover, Dublin Ireland Earth-Rod Manhole Cover, Dublin IrelandNow for what I don’t really like to discuss because others may find they have had or will have a completely different experience. So, take this with a grain of salt (but be forewarned) if this is where you want to travel. The least favourite place we visited—hands-down—was Bath, England. I was disappointed in the hospitality industry, the hostel we were in (could not change our reservations—no cancellations allowed—otherwise we would have left after Fancy Wrought Iron Railingthe first night), and I was unimpressed with the sameness of the architecture. Admittedly, my ankle definitely held me back, so many of the things to see were out of my reach and the heat was stifling during our stay. Had we stayed in Bristol (now that is a town to put on your places-to-see itinerary—very cool place) and made a day trip to Bath, that might have been Trinity College Old Librarybetter. Mostly, it was the attitudes and trustworthiness of the hospitality industry that left a bad taste in my mouth (from the Bath Tourism office to the supposedly knowledgeable staff at points of interest—Jane Austen Tea House, Hop-on Hop-off bus’ recorded tour, and we even had issues at our hostel). I’ve never had such a bad experience on such a large scale before.

Jameson Whisky Barrel Table in Temple Bar, Dublin Brass Flower Sculpture in Temple Bar, DublinAfter returning home, I was reminded of how polite the drivers are in Ireland and the UK—compared to the egotistical, self-centered drivers (I know—they’re not all like that) I’ve encountered in my short time back home. It’s truly amazing how much faster one can get through a bottle neck (lose a lane and need to merge together) across the Pond as compared to the “you’re not getting in front of me” attitude of many California drivers when confronted with the same situation. One can only take a deep breath and shake the head … otherwise go bonkers.

I have learned quite a few things along the way.

Friends always ask me how much to plan on spending for a trip abroad. I can never give them a figure—not even a guesstimate—so, I need to keep better financial records. I mean, I have the receipts … but I never do anything with them—baaad me! Especially when sharing expenses with a friend <insert eyeroll>. Also, I need to keep record of the places I visit—my little booklets I created ended up not being used (by either of us) past the first week or so … I didn’t take the time to take notes, so places are (as usual) blurring together. I am surprised that I’m remembering things better, but there really was a lot to remember, so there are gaps—big gaps. Photos will help, but the photos need notes, too. “What’s this one from …?” is my most frequently asked question to myself. And usually, there’s no answer. Sigh.

Another lesson: As the “planner” and “guide” I felt like I was responsible for everything. Sandy and I had a talk about this and she tried to make it clear that I was not responsible … but I kept feeling that way—my issue, not hers. So, if and when I do have a friend with Sphere Within A Sphere, Trinity College Dublinme, I need to plan “me” time in the schedule … actually, for both of us, which would alleviate the pressure I was feeling. I did it a little, but not near enough. I also need to find out the expectations of my friend before traveling—I was not fully aware of the fact that Sandy liked to use a “base camp” and go out from there to see things for at least a week, whereas I like to “touch base” with an area and move on after a couple days … with an occasional “hunker-down and explore for a bit”—but definitely on a more organic/spontaneous level. Yup … I need to work on this. And I need to make sure my travel companions know I prefer spontaneity to planning things out in advance. In a way, I felt trapped having the trip so “well-planned” (sniggle—Sandy probably would not call it “well planned”, but that’s okay too).

Most importantly, I loved having a friend with me so I could share my experiences, but in future I will limit the time to one or two weeks (or some percentage of my trip)—not the whole The Quay's Bar, Dublin Irelandtrip. Not because we ended up hating each other. Nope—far from it. We learned a lot about each other. And that’s kinda cool. It’s just that ten weeks was way too much “together-time” <grin>. Sandy agrees. When (not if, but when) we travel again, it will be for a much shorter time. I will either go earlier to explore and meet her on a designated day or stay afterwards to travel on my own.

In closing, I can now say that, whilst abroad, I’ve traveled alone, with friends and with family; I’ve traveled by car, train, boat (well … kinda—I will do it for real next time!), bus and plane. I’ve done tours (very small and way too large), done day tours and planned things on my own. I’ve stayed in B&Bs hostels, hotels and friends’ homes. I’ve travel to various Aged Manhole Cover, Dublin Irelandcountries on the Continent and extensively (yet not) in Ireland and the UK. Each and every time, I find myself wanting to go back and see more. I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep this up, because there will always be so much more to see <insert grin>.

So finally, I say cheers, my friends. I bid you adieu for another week.  Have a blessed Friday, week-end and beyond. I will go back to my routine of keeping you updated about my goofy Painterly and Writerly sides—there are a few events coming up and much to do to get my books republished … toodles!

Week Eleven: Dublin To the Very End …

[As this is the last official blog for our little adventure, it was to be extremely photo-heavy, but my computer froze on Thursday, so not as many as planned—I’ll add them later or in another blog once I get the computer up and running again (do make sure you click on images for descriptions) … and the blog is rather verbose]

OUR FRIDAY IN DUBLIN WAS wonderful—even though a wee bit damp! Thursday I walked oodles and Sandy had a good time on her Cliffs of Mohr and Galway adventure … both of us slept very well—actually slept in on Friday, because it was raining when we awoke. Rain—that is a good thing. We planned on wandering around a bit, but with the rain, we changed plans (yeah—that “best laid plans” bit … teehee) and worked on sorting through receipts (we’d put that chore off for a little too long). There were lots of receipts. Sandy got a bit fidgety as I sorted mine and decided to go out to Mountjoy Square to attempt to fly her kite <giggle>—yes, a real kite (wish I’d been there to take photos!). She asked staff at the front desk for help and they willingly “abandoned” their post and went to the park her to put it together for her (very sweet of them!). She did manage to get it airborne, but only for short bits. But, she did have fun and that’s the point. When she returned, we made lunch and preparing for our special night out (<giggle> … no, we didn’t finish working on our receipts). Our evening was set in stone. We were not going to let that plan slip away, so we grabbed a taxi to attend the event across the River Liffey near Temple Bar. It’s so nice to not have a car—honest. A car has been wonderful to get into places inaccessible by train and buses—and for those spontaneous moments—”Oooh! Stop. I wanna check that out” moments. But now that we are in a fixed place … a large city, it’s easy to depend on foot power, buses and taxis. Not having to find parking, paying the parking fees, etc—that’s really nice.

An Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies, held at the An Evening of Food, Folklore and FariesBrazen Head Pub near Temple Bar, was a delightful experience. ‘Twas not the normal storytelling of fairies and such, but more of a historical telling of the Irish people, their food and how the fairies shaped their lives—plus a few fun fairy stories and some Celtic music thrown in Two men playing Celtic Music A Full House at the Brazen Head Pubfor good measure. Don’t let the “historical” bit put you off—it was well told, very informative, definitely entertaining and I’d highly recommend it. The weather was perfect (rain had stopped by midday) so, though we hired a cab for both directions, we only “cabbed it” to Dusky Shot of the River Liffeythe event—’twas far too beautiful to miss out on our first walk “home” at night. After all the delicious food and drink, we walked in the twilight back to the hostel to help burn off those extra calories. Timing could not have been better—as we came up to the last long block, it started to get a wee bit misty. We were slightly damp when we reached the hostel. It was a delightful evening!

Saturday was our planned downtime day. Well, sorta: time Trinity College Bronze Sculpturewalking around Temple Bar and Trinity College (Book of Kell & their massively gorgeous library archived with smelly ol’ tomes <insert a similarly Image of a green space at Trinity College Trinity College, Dublin Irelandmassive grin>) was factored into the day. Our late night … and breakers-of-the-11pm-Quiet-Curfew kept us up till nearly 2am, so we were a bit groggy come morning-time. After breakfast, we has a bit of a snooze <insert grin and a wink> Nothing wrong with a late start … but we weren’t able to tick off all the to-do items from our list. The day is a bit of a blur, honestly …

We did finally see Temple Bar and Trinity College together … on Wednesday, I think.

Earlier in the week, we actually found a Protestant church to attend on Sunday … but a new group of all-night (literally!) chatterers (though relatively quiet), kept us up again most of the night. Another groggy morning. Very groggy. There’s even a sign posted on the door to the patio stating the open hours of the patio: 7am-11pm <sigh> Instead of church, we took a long time getting our engines running, then wandered down to the River Liffey to Dublin Discovered Boat Rides Samuel Beckett Bridge: aka The Harp Bridge Boat along side the tour boat Image of rugby arena just beyond Liffey River reserve seats on the Dublin Discovered Boat Ride. Another way to see the city—one I don’t think I’ve explored before … and we enjoyed it very much. Pictures from river level were interesting. Unfortunately, the ride was in a closed cabin, so there’s window splashes and glares in my photos. The heat was a wee bit stifling, but because there was no rain, they were able to keep the large hatch open for ventilation—thankfully. After the boat ride, we wandered back down into the area we’d seen from the boat (to capture a Artwork of squirrel on pub wallphoto of a very famous red squirrel), then The Dublin Custom Housewhile Sandy visited a museum at the Dublin Custom House, I worked my way partway down the street and onto a bridge to take a few more photos of the area.

We started to walk back, but the heat was too oppressive—caught a cab back to the hostel. Like I said—foot power and local transportation is a good thing <grin>. Taxi rides, depending on how far we’ve ventured, have averaged about 7 Euros. marginally “expensive”, but well worth it when all you can think of is lying down to cool down.

Monday was spent in a day-long Paddy Wagon tour of Monasterboice Plaque Image of round tower and gravestone at MonasterboiceMonasterboice Cemetery, Belfast City Centre and the Titanic Museum. When talking with Sandy, I’ve made it no secret that I really didn’t see a reason to visit Belfast and was still a bit wary of the tension that might still exist. I’m glad I did the tour, but would never have done the trip on my own. The Titanic Museum was well worth the time, as was the tour-within-a-tour—Black Taxi Tour of areas that the Paddy Wagon would not be allowed. It was extremely educational, filling in huge gaps in my knowledge of what transpired in the late 1900s. As an outsider, though told things are so much better by our old-timer tour guides (who lived through the worst of it), I see that the tension and separationist attitudes still exist. Scary in a way … I did feel safe, but would never have ventured this far without a local. Absolutely not. I will put the pictures here with only one comment: what I saw and heard (with the tour guides’ information given) is the appearance of a city united, yet still quite divided.
Belfast and Black Taxi Tour Photos: Image of building with copper dome at Belfast City CentreDowntown Belfast and Traffic Welcome to Belfast-Peace BallImage of Belfast street scene, with old Presbyterian church and a tower structure A Neighbourhood in Belfast Murals on buildings paying tribute to their fallen in Belfast neighbourhood. Memorial of neighbourhood streets lost in the conflicts of Belfast Black Taxi Tour—Belfast Neighbourhoods Peace Walls Between Neighbourhoods Black Taxi Tour: Peace Wall Image Peace Wall Image, Belfast 2018 Peace Wall Image, Belfast 2018 Image of neighbourhood with an Irish flag flying. Image of Peace Wall Art
Titanic Museum Photos: Titanic Museum: Time Clock Titanic Museum: The Launch Titanic Museum: Path of the Titanic Image of quote from "The Convergence of the Twain" by Thomas Hardy Image of The Titanic Museum: The Building Image of The Titanic Museum: The Building The Titanic Museum: The EntranceImage of Yours Truly: Windblown, Hot and Tired

Tuesday—oh, my … so close to departure day, and still so much to cram in before then! … And laundry <ugh> Guess I shouldn’t complain—I brought way too much clothes, so not having to do it as frequently <giggle> and, Sandy has offered to do it the last two times (God bless her!!). She did the laundry and I worked on uploading photos for the blog.

Wednesday evening was spent attending a Riverdance performance at the Gaiety Theatre. It was great, even though I had two tall people sitting in front of me, blocking about half the stage. I concentrated on listening to the story, music and the sounds of the Celtic dancing … and enjoyed what bits I could see from stage right. I think I will re-visit the theatre and performance the next time I visit Dublin and go for a seat closer to the balcony edge, to avoid long-torsoed bodies blocking my view … it’s well worth a second viewing. Aaah, yes. And, up to this point in our trip, there has been no issue with using a credit card for taxi rides—until after our Riverdance experience. We kept walking down the queue of taxis, asking if they took credit cards Nope, nope, nope … this went on for about ten taxis. At that point, I said we’d walk—pulled up the route to take …1.9 miles  Ugh. So, we asked one more driver—thank God he said yes. Moral of the story, make sure you have cash!! We did have to listen to a rather heavy dose of extremely “salty” language as he joked with us the whole way back—yikes!

Thursday was to be my usual time-to-tidy-up-blog-and-download-photos Day. Oh, yeah—and Packing Day. Yup. Thursday ended up being spent attempting to edit on my iPhone (so sorry if there are missed bits of bad grammar, spelling, punctuation,  etc—so hard to work from the little phone); packing and repacking followed. Did I mention that we each purchased a small carry-on sized, four wheel suitcase last week? Teehee … we got tired of mailing stuff off. If checked, it will probably cost an extra $60, but it’s worth it—and now, I’ve a four-wheel case that actually works the way it should! I did manage to squeeze in a bit of walking, but I’ll add those photos when I load the others.

Our plane leaves at noon today, and we must be at the airport three-hours prior for our international flight. I’d crossed my fingers and prayed I’d get the upgrade for business class so I could lay flat for a portion of our trip. Did that happen? Nope … so I am assuming I’ll be in the cattle car with everyone else. Sigh.  Oh, well. It was worth a shot.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I will either revisit this to add the photos that are hiding on my computer, or I will have one final blog with a hodge-podge of photos and thoughts on our travels to the UK and Ireland.

So, until I can get things sorted out, I’ll bid you adieu and wish you well on this Friday, weekend and upcoming week—see you next week, when I’ll be home once again.

Toodles and God bless!

 

Week Ten—We’re Winding Down: Anglesey to Dublin

View from window in a quaint little town somewhere in Snowdonia, Wales

Please remember to click on each photo—I’ve made comments on many of them.

“BEST LAID PLANS THAT’S how the saying goes, right? This week was no different <giggle and eye roll>. On Friday, Navi took us on a wild goose chase because, even though destinations are saved, Navi doesn’t really save specific routes taken. And I didn’t stop to try to save the location … but I did remember—miracles—the name of a nearby hotel. When I put our previous destination in, a different route came up … with lots of alternate routes thrown in—leading us to a completely different place. I tried to outsmart her (I should know better—insert eye roll) by altering the final destination … but later we discovered that was even worse. Our sweet little Navi took us on a very long, very bland trail of one track roads that were populated with newer homes—far, far away from the majestic mountains and the quaint village I sought in Snowdonia. Sigh—not what we were looking for. Not knowing the town name was the problem. Not finding the landmark I remembered (The Swallow Falls Hotel) in Navi’s “accommodations” failed. We did make one stop for lunch (wish we’d taken time to wander around as it was the only lovely bit of our trip—sniff). Finally, after a long, dismal day of driving (after returning to our room), I reached out to friends on FB, trying to discover what town it was the CIVers had traveled to a number of years ago—eureka! Betws Y Coed! (see pronunciation here) So I finally had a destination to put into Navi—but it would have to be another day! Sigh.

All of the driving on Friday wiped us out, so Saturday was a recovery day—we hung around the hotel and the Old Derelict HomeCommunity Safety Information posterImage of foliage and a white castle Image of walled in white castle "Castle" Manor Turretharbour, meandering and taking photos. The plan was to find a church to attend on Sunday, then make our journey to Betws Y Coed and have fun wandering the streets and paths. Again, that “best laid plans” thing reared it’s ugly head. Though we Holyhead As Viewed from Soldier Point Breakwaterwere given church names by staff at the hotel, we could not find information about service times—nor locations … so again,we altered our plans and decided our drive into Snowdonia would be our priority on Sunday. It Spectacular Snowdonia Park in Wales Mountainous Terrain of Snowdonia Image of sheep grazing Creek (River?) in Betws Y Coed Bridge at Western Edge of Betws Y Coed The Town of Betws Y Coed St Mary's Church with clock tower Commemorative Bridge in Betws Y Coedwas lovely! A tiny bit of rain (yay!) cleared the air, oodles of deliciously billowy clouds parading up in the sky … just lovely! Lots of photos were taken, both in the valleys surrounded by mountains and lakes … and in the quaint little town I sought! We even managed a yummy lunch at bistro (near the western edge of town) … and an ice cream near the centre of town.

Did I mention that the island we stayed on (where Holyhead is located) is called Anglesey? And Holy Island? It’s Welsh name is Ynys Môn. ‘Tis the seat of the ancient Welsh empire. I’m finding the history via the Welsh tales I’m reading—purchased in Betws Y Coed. Loving the book. Love the folklore, too. It’s actually starting to bring my imagination alive <insert monster grin> … well, that and the deliciously beautiful countryside.

Monday was a travel day—after turning in the rental at the terminal. I’d been trying since Friday to reach Hertz via the phone. It left me very frustrated, not knowing if I’d have someone to turn the car into. When we picked up the car, we were told to call to let them know the date we’d be returning it (making an appointment, so there would be someone there to take it). It did resolve itself, but I did let them know I was unhappy with the way they handled things.

On Our Way—Stena Lines (Stena Plus Lounge) Good bye, Wales …! The ferry ride was uneventful, even with the bit of rain we had at the Holyhead side of the trip (oh—and half-way across). Dublin had a bit of rain a couple days prior to our arrival, but it looks Image of lighthouse at point of Dublin Harbourlike at least this week will stay dry, even though there are some lovely clouds floating by. There was a bit of a delay at the Dublin Terminal as immigration was doing spot checks on the cars <insert rolling eyes> … we didn’t get off the boat till around 6pm … and finding a taxi was a challenge for quite a few folks—including us. Image of plates and "grafitti" on wall

We spent the remainder of Monday settling into our new digs at The Gardiner House Hostel, located at 76 Gardiner Street in Dublin. This is a hostel I would heartily recommend. It seems to be closer to downtown Dublin than the Dublin International Hostel (DIH) on Mountjoy Street. Also seems to be better managed—the place is cleaner due to the fact that cleaning is scheduled at least four times a day—or more, which is amazing. And a big sell for me (over DIH) is the lift. Tiny, but functional. It is a God-send for me an’ my feeble legs (stairs are a really big nemesis for me).

Tuesday and Wednesday, we wandered around Dublin on foot—separately on Tuesday, and together on Wednesday. Together, we went to the Leprechaun Museum (it’s not just for children)—we both enjoyed the storytelling and I purchased a book, Dublin Folktales. I seem to be collecting folktale books <insert grin>. We finally made it to the Jameson Distillery, which was a let-down (for the first time ever). Two years ago, they did a massive (and apparently very expensive) overhaul of their facilities, jettisoning their lovely Barrowman’s dinner (celtic dancing, music, whiskey tasting and yummy food) and their lovely dining area upstairs … and cut their gift shop in half, with far fewer non-alcohol related items for sale. Despite the name (my maiden name), the appeal for me has been tarnished with the overhaul. I’ve no desire to make that a point of interest on return trips. But, if you enjoy whiskey and like to see the process, the tour is informative. Thursday had Sandy on a tour of Galway and Cliffs of Mohr whilst yours truly finalised this blog—downloading photos, etc.

Starting today, the upcoming seven days (day seven and eight will probably be spent packing, repacking and jettisoning items to keep under the 50# restrictions … and perhaps <insert grin> mailing a few items to help with the weight) will be filled with last-minute plans—seeing things we’ve missed, attending a fun event here and there. Plus time to play with our cameras. Please make sure you click on all of the photos I’ve included—I’m starting to be more consistent with making notes about most of the photos—notes I’m not mentioning within the blog itself.

I hope you are enjoying these blogs—I know they are a wee bit word heavy with these travels, but I’m hoping the verbosity is adequately off-set by the photos. Thank you for following me in my adventure in Ireland, Wales, England proper and Scotland … and back again. One more—maybe two blogs till I return to the “normal” craziness of this author-storyteller-photographer-artist. There are challenges ahead of me as a writer (and new publisher) and I must get artwork together for quite a few upcoming things. I’m trying to leave those worries and challenges back home … to be dealt with once I return home.

Until then, I wish you adieu for another week. May your Friday, weekend and upcoming week be blessed in amazing ways. Cheers!

Week Nine … but not really

GIGGLE … JUST WENT BACK TO CHECK my “weeks”. Not sure how I ended up at nine weeks. My first “week” was nine days long, but even if I did two days then a regular seven, I still wouldn’t be at week nine <insert eye roll>. This should really be week seven—but I’m not going to confuse readers at this point. We’ll stick with Week Nine.

Church in Bath

Don’t forget to click on photos to enlarge.

Having purchased our 24-hr passes on Thursday (we were ensured the timing began upon first “hop-on”), Friday morning had Sandy heading off to Stonehenge and I spent my time on the View from the Hop-on Hop-off bus in Bath Birds-eye View of Bath River Boat Rides Hop-on Hop-off bus for most of the morning in Bath: two of the City Centre tours—one was recorded, the other was live. Much preferred the live—the recorded version sounded like an advert for Bath <insert serious eye roll …> with some mild falsehoods thrown in. I tookGarfunkel Restaurant in Bath's City Centre a break for lunch at Garfunkel’s at the Empire after the two City Centre trips. Nice place. If you ate inside, you could spend your meal listening to Simon and Garfunkel music, but it was entirely too warm for that, so I was on the patio, under an umbrella, trying to cool off. Then, I hopped on the HH that took me to the outer parts of the city—including a huge garden that would have been wonderful to wander through … but when I saw how hilly it was, I knew there would be no way I’d see much in the heat, so simply stayed on the bus. (After asking the driver about the “start time”, I discovered we’d not been told the truth— River Boat Ridestime began with the date stamp from the prior day—so I’d pretty much used up my time). With a quiet grumble, I hopped off and wandered the streets a bit, taking photos, then trudged back to the hostel, disillusioned with Bath’s HH buses and the tourist centre.

Bath has a thing aboutOne of the Many Owl Sculptures Owl Sculpture near City Centre Plant-sculpted Owl in City Centre Park Owl sculpture in court yard Owl sculpture in mall Owl Sculpture across from Backpackers Hostel in Bath owls. I was seeing them everywhere I turned. A local artist creates them, places them throughout the City Centre and then they are auctioned off in the fall with proceeds going to several worthy organisations. Very neat idea! I was going to use the HH to discover all their locations and photograph them all, but the weather simply had not cooperated and I’d need a new HH pass.  I did not get all the owls … too many in the far corners of the city.

On Saturday, we found ourselves craving a different environment, so we drove to Bristol proper. After a wee hiccup (went to a suburb first 🙄) and some bend-over-backwards help from staff at the Mercure Brigstow (Bristol)Mercure Hotels sign Hotel, we found everything we needed to enjoy the town’s Hop-on Hop-off bus pick-up points. They hotel staff was amazingly helpful! Both of us wish we’d Fantastic Bristol Bus Tour Commentator City Centre in Bristol Marriage of Very Old, Old and New Buildings in Bristol Victorian Tall Shipcome here instead of Bath. Much more interesting environs, architecture, openness of locals💕 The HH (even though we only had a few hours) around town was hot but fun. I’ll be coming back to Bristol—definitely. Wonderful city, wonderful locals!

On Sunday, we were glad to leave Bath. It was too hot, too noisy and the city had a sameness to the architecture that I found boring. Plus the seagulls were making a racket from about 4am to 11pm; hostellers were not considerate of their fellow room mates and revelers in the street kept waking us up. I’ve never had such a negative impression of a town before. Never. Both of us were so glad to be leaving. And so looking forward to our stay at Part Y Seal B&B. Teehee … Navi sent us on a wild goose chase—dumping us in the middle of nowhere in front of the one and only farmhouse … obviously not what we were looking for (only one of a few times the postal code did not work to locate the next destination). I kept driving and thankfully we found a very helpful local that—even though he was exhausted from a bicycling race (he’d just arrived home when we pulled in behind him …), he pulled out his smart phone … and between son and father, they found our next stop for us. God bless the locals! They’ve been lovely.

Part Y Seal Bed and BreakfastThe heat (and lack of sleep for three days) really wiped us out. After showers, all we could muster was to hang out in our lovely room, windows and doors open for cross ventilation and listen to the sheep bleating in the distance. We did manage to get Large Zucchini Plant Beautiful Gardens Abound with Flowers Fresh egg in a bucket Flowers for the Senses and the Bees Sneak View of Part Y Seal's Gardeninto the garden briefly (once it had cooled somewhat), then retreated to our room again.

On Monday, we were off to visit Jo and Ian for a bit—the time had passed quite quickly. We were delighted that Jo and Ian wanted to spend more time with us, so Tuesday was spent poking around Raglan Castle. Raglan Castle in Wales Image of Tintern Abbey WallsIt was a beautifully preserved ruins—it even had a moat Moat with Water Lilies<insert monster grin>. We hated to even think about the fact we would have to leave the area on Wednesday. We had so much fun with Jo and Ian—both sitting around and “nattering” as Jo says or trudging around with them showing off the area. We popped over to the Café for a bit of a nosh and on Jo Hiding in Faerie Treethe way, we found a faerie tree! We had to check it out. Castles, waterfalls and abbys are their thing. They have this amazing video blog where, among other things, they showcase different areas in Wales—their newest venture is to video visits to each of the 130 CADW historical sites. This is in addition to their waterfall trips (put on hold due of the overly dry season has brought the waterfalls to less than a trickle!) … please do check out their website and vlog at Patreon.

We’ve been dealing with road construction during this entire adventure. Patience is a virtue—definitely—in these instances. And our Wednesday departure from Part Y Seal was no different (though, not nearly as bad as some bits). A three-hour drive turned into five hours, which necessitated several stops so the driver (me) could get out and stretch her legs. The stops are always turned into tea breaks (which I always laugh at, as it perpetuates part of the reason for the stops …) The scenery was spectacular as we wended through Wales and England. We arrived to Boathouse Hotel in The Boathouse Hotel in Holyhead, WalesHolyhead around 4pm. We were greeted with 19C temps (absolutely lovely!) And the forecast is for overcast to partially sunny skies. I’m in heaven. Our plan (as we drove into the area) was to spend Wednesday recuperatingHolyhead Harbour (we did poke around a bit), Thursday was for poking around Holyhead (and me talking with Hertz to finalise when I’d turn the car in) and Friday through Sunday would be spent exploring Snowdon Mountain area and a few towns I remember from an old CIV trip to the area. Both Sandy and I did do a walkabout on Wednesday—which helped me sleep quite soundly <grin> but apparently I snored—oooopsie (sooo sorry, Sandy)! Thursday was a bust for me—Sandy did do much more walking whilst I slaved over the blog … trying to get the photos uploaded (tricky internet connection—very spotty <insert quivering lower lip>. We decided that Friday will be a combo of poking around and starting our Snowdonia adventure—maybe fewer photos next week than this of the areas we visit … I’ve no clue what our next location’s internet reception will be like. Finally managed an internet connection, so enjoy the remainder of the photos (the ones of me are courtesy of Jo). Have a good giggle …

Our time abroad is winding down rapidly—I’ve mixed feelings about that. But, there will other trips … I bid you adieu, wishing you a blessed Friday, weekend and upcoming week.

Squash FlowerBoats in Holyhead HarbourBlack-eyed Susan Flowers

 

 

 

Harbour Park Raglan Castle Bridge Atop Raglan Castle Yours Truly and Sandy at Raglan Castle- Raglan Castle PhotographyFaerie Tree Attempt SeriesFaerie Tree Attempt ContinuesFaerie Tree Attempt ContinuesFaerie Tree Attempt Continues

Week Eight And Counting …

Aberdeen Youth Hostel

Don’t forget to click on all images for full view.

IS IT REALLY FRIDAY ALREADY?? LAST FRIDAY was spent traveling from Aberdeen to Edinburgh and we chilled mostly. Settled in. Nice cool weather <grin> We mapped out our plan of attack. I kept getting towns mixed up (that happens when you’ve been on the road as long as we have). I kept looking for day tours to Glasgow. In the middle of the night I had an “Oopsie” recall … the day tours are for when we arrive in Dublin and have ten days to explore everything between Dublin and Galway.

Sandy and Dinosaur at Dynamic EarthSaturday we walked our socks off. The Hop-on Hop-off bus was definitely our friend. We ventured to the base of the Royal Mile to see the home of Dynamic Earth. {Once upon a time, it used to be a distillery and the Queen did not like something as ordinary as that so close to her residence, so she had a “castle wall” built around it.} At the foot of the Mile, the old buildings and very modern Parliament buildings and apartments are a very House of Parliament Near Foot of Royal Mile View of House of Parliament from Dynamic Earthinteresting contrast. Sandy and I were separated in the middle of the Dynamic Earth experience, so we did our own thing for the remainder of the day. I did see a few other things, but didn’t make it to the one place I really wanted to see—Camera Obscura. My photographer-side of me really wanted to make sure I managed that on this Edinburgh Writers' Museumtrip—guess it’ll happen tomorrow. I did find the Writers’ Museum (another must-see item), with the help of the Hop-on Hop-off commentator. A lovely exhibit hidden down in Pixeled Imagery of Three Writers Busts of Burns, Scott & Stevensenthe Lady Stair’s Close. The museum honored three famous Edinburgh authors: Sir Walter Sir Walter Scott's Chessboard Robert Lewis StevensonScott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. Very nicely done.

Lunch View of Castle from Grass Market

All those stairs lead up to the castle … nope. Not happening.

Sunday was a late sate start for me, so Sandy left to venture out on her own—church then sightseeing. For me, it was get the engines running (wow—it seemed to take forever), laundry (that took forever also!), walked up to Waverely Station and the tourist Info area to catch the Hop-on Hop-off Buildings: Old vs New Construction Everywherebus and took the first stop: Grass Market—apparently food mecca of Edinburgh ☺️ so I had lunch, then hopped back on the HH and hopped off near the Castle—I wasn’t about to take all those stairs. I’d already seen that—Camera Obscurat’wasn’t my destination. I headed straight for Camera Obscura. I Image via Camera Obscura: Edinburgh Yours Truly, Topsy-Turvey More Infinity Corridor Imagery definitely had my CO fix as I took a zillion photos. This is one Edinburgh From Atop Camera Obscuraplace that encourages you to take photos. I love that fact.

Monday was a travel day—as was Tuesday. Ugh. For some reason, on this trip, I’m finding the drives exhausting—whether a couple of hours or especially when there’s Newcastle-on-Trentmore. Monday we drove from Edinburgh (cool temps) to Newcastle-on-Tyne (warmer temps) for a one-nighter before moving on to Stoke-on-Trent (actually Hanley) for two nights. We did wander around Newcastle a bit and mailed some packages back home to lighten our load <grin>

When we checked into our Hanley hotel, we were handed a map for exploring. I was overjoyed to find that the Trentham Gardens (Add for Trentham Estategardens, various medium sculptures) was only ten minutes drive away—something that’s been on my bucket list for a number of years. I was giddy with excitement. I’d seen the twisted-Wire Statuary in Trentham Gardens Outlet of the Trentham Gardens Lakewire sculptures on Facebook quite some time ago and was delighted to discover I was so close. I could not possibly throw away this opportunity, Patchwork of Colour at Trentham Gardens Ferry Boat at Trentham Gardensso we hired a taxi to take us (I’m glad we did, as I was too tired at the end to try to make the drive back and a bus ride would have been long—very long. There were two accidents the taxi driver avoided nicely. Yay. A bus would have needed to stay on its route as closely as possible. That would have been awful. The estate was huge (that is an understatement) and my “little” faeries were tucked in all around the grounds, The gardens were beautiful, the water features and pond were lovely … and the faeries were a delight—well worth the over-three-mile walk. When we got back to the hotel, Sandy went back out in search of a few groceries for dinner (though I was not hungry due to the heat)—and for Thursday’s breakfast before we headed out for our hostel in Bath.

Yup. Another travel day on Thursday. On the way to Bath we popped into a service area to grab a bite to eat. Lovely place, really—with a lovely garden and pond that I did not explore <pout>. The road construction (wow—plenty of it!) and heat (26C/79F—felt so much warmer than that!) had me more tired than usual, so staying around would have been nice. But we had to keep going—an hour more of driving. Our Hostel Room in Bath View From My Hostel Room Bath: Owls About Town! Yours Truly with Too Much Heat! Up-Cycled Telephone BoxBath is a very busy little city. Most of it is too “new” (1700s?) for me, but it’s a place Sandy wanted to visit, so we’re at a hostel for three nights. We did a wee walk-about to find better/cheaper parking for the duration, then chatted with the information centre people about tours. We both bought tickets for the Hop-on Hop-off bus so we can see what there is to see … but Sandy also bought a ticket for a day tour to Stonehenge (since I’ve seen it before, I opted to hang around town on Friday. Maybe visit the Jane Austin Centre …

Friday. Yeah … still hot. Unfortunately. I really don’t function well in the heat.Mornings will be best. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing today. I’m sure I’ll find some fun things to photograph (owls at the very least <grin>). So, I’m going to call it quits and say adieu for this week. Have a gloriously blessed Friday, weekend and may your upcoming week fly by without a hitch.

Cheers!

WEEK SEVEN: Farewell Skye …

Coffee/Food Stop

Don’t forget to click on images to see full photos

IS IT REALLY SEVEN WEEKS?? I could have stayed so much longer on Skye. It was amazing. A teaser for all my senses. The scenery, the cottage industries … even the history. I would like to come back—alone next time. This has been a bustling week, with non-stop chatter. Sandy and I are back to traveling by ourselves and I am enjoying the relative quiet. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time with the CIVers—we had a blast—but I’m apparently not used to that much conversation happening all day. I’m learning. Inverness SkylineLearning to say no to going out with the group—missing out on sightseeing—for health’s sake. Apparently, that’s a hard lesson for me to grasp—or at least one I’m not readily willing to accept. This whole trip has been a learning experience—just like all my previous trips. I’m learning I like “alone” better. I’m not the social butterfly some people think.

My allergies have taken a toll on my state of health. I’m on edge with loud noises—I find myself seeking solitude constantly. Music, huge amounts of chatter in the dining areas … things like that are jarring to my senses—especially my fluid-filled ears. The further away from Inverness I get, the better I feel—yay (and the offending trigger: lemongrass cleaner, I think. Even the hostel in Ft. Augustus used it to mop the floors—midge deterrent).

Young Busker Playing BagpipesSkye, Inverness, Fort Augustus (Loch Ness), across Scotland to Aberdeen … then on Friday, onto Edinburgh for a second look. We “slowed down” in Aberdeen and for Edinburgh—three whole nights in each location <insert grin> so we could explore Hanging Planter on Building in Invernessmore. Honestly, my first full day in Aberdeen was a day to recuperate—even if we did wander around (a 3-mile meander) and saw Victoria Garden, plus two chemists and two grocers as we searched for things on our “to buy” list. Trying to stay healthy is a Ft. Augustus Hostel Roomchallenge when one is traveling out of country. You’re on the go all the time. Remembering to mention “handicap” (at least for me, it’s hard to admit it) so I don’t have to climb up to the upper bunk & can have a room with the least number of Water spilling over a lock at Ft. Augustussteps. Down-time is hard to come by, too. And medicines can be different—some that are available over the counter at home are scrips here, while others are over the counter here are scrips at home. Trying to find the right

Storekeeper in Ft. Augustus with Shaped Images from Books

I took this one for the framed artwork behind her—images created out of full books. May do this with my series.

strength is fun too. I had to giggle. One chemist helped me to figure out what I should buy, but in reality, I should not have been able to purchase it. Naproxen (Aleve) 250mg—stronger than the over the counter version (220mg) at home

Local Wildlife Sightings 2017 ...

… they forgot midges (oh, my!!)

—is usually a scrip here, but it can be purchased over the counter for menstrual cramps—you must be between 15-50 to make the purchase <serious case of giggles here> Really?? Well, I did purchase a package of them (a whole nine pills!)—it seems absurd to me, but the chemist "Mall" at Invernesssaid to mention female problems (if asked) and it shouldn’t be an issue. Other things just aren’t there at all—in any form. So, my advise is to check and Loch Ness Mapdouble check what meds you bring. Make sure you have what you need. You can go to Boots.com (for the UK—check to see what company dominates in the country you’ll be visiting) and check with them to see if they have something comparable.

All-In-One: Petrol, Groceries, Gifts, Post Office and Pharmacy

A little bit of everything here!

It will save you a lot of grief later on down the line. I apparently did not do the double check for several things. I cannot find anything stronger than 30C in homeopathic River Scene in Ft. Augustusmeds (requires a script), and I’m having a devil of a time finding CoQ10 and Omega-3 in any strength … At least I was smart enough to have my prescriptions refilled and “topped off” with a 30-day vacation script before I left. I’ll need to get my refills done fairly close to when I arrive home, but I am good to go.

Victoria Park-Giant Chess Boards and Whimsical FencingThough I was interested in seeing what the Fort Augustus hostel receptionist meant by “different” when describing Aberdeen, we really didn’t venture far. There were loads of castles to see (if you’re in to castles … me, not so much) and a botanical garden down in the Center of town, but nothing nearby (except two gardens, which we did visit)—with my ankle acting up, buses seem to be the only way to see much of anything. Even Sandy’s injury (horse stepping on foot early on in our trip) seemed Aberdeen Weatherto flare as we tried to decide what to do. Gorgeous weather the entire time we were Victoria Park-Giant Chess Boards and Whimsical Fencing in Aberdeen. Sigh. So much for doing much walking or even sight-seeing. Aberdeen became a place to mend our bodies … and for me to work on my blogging. Guess I’ll have to find another Picture of book: "My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece"—Good Readbook to read, too. Last night, I finished one I’ve been working on. Very cool point of view, very well done, too. I loved reading “My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece” by Annabel Pitcher.

We will pretty much saidImage of homes in Aberdeen BBC: Scotland sign in Aberdeen good-bye to Scotland after finishing up our stay in Edinburgh (first day will be Friday (29June)—a short drive, unless I make a huge mistake again). A few friends have posted on Facebook about a bog fire that will be just south of the route we will take to one of our hotels (Stokes on Trent). Not sure if they’ll have it under control by the time we get down that far. We’ll probably go through smoke—hopefully nothing more. I’ll let you know when we get closer to that point in our travels.

In the meantime, I’ll say adieu, farewell and have a blessed Friday, weekend and week ahead. May the week be peppered with serendipity <insert warm glowing smile> Cheers!

SIXTH WEEK: Good-bye Edinburgh, Hello Inverness and Isle of Skye!

EDINBURGH BID US ADIEU—WITH WIND. Lots of wind. Sandy spent Thursday on her own and had to stick with me (in the car) on Friday as we drove to Inverness. It wasn’t a long drive, but plenty of the “I’ve-seen-this-before” countryside—which doesn’t bother me (and I actually love whatever the area provides for scenery) … but puts Sandy to sleep as a passenger—also safer for her motion sickness. Friday was spent settling into the Waverley Guest House Our View at Waverley Guest House and trying to figure out how we were going to sleep. The room was higher at the far end, lowest at the door. Our beds were set parallel to the “door wall” … and the head of each bed was so low (from overuse and no mattress flipping). Sandy chose to put her backpack in the low spot (under the mattress) and I chose to put my head at the foot of the bed <grin> The only problem we had was the music that started up at ten and went on to I-don’t-know-when … and (at least for me …) the air freshener used on everything. When morning came, both of us were blurry-eyed and I had a major stuffy nose. I’ve crossed my fingers, hoping that parking in the disabled parking is not going to get my car clamped (I did ask a “Parking Police” if it was okay, but he may not have understood how long I was talking about …)—we’ll find out next Saturday, I guess …

Loch Ness ... and stairs to itOur first day (Saturday) of the tour was wet—no biggie. I’ve got a raincoat, but didn’t pull it out because the rain was too light to bother. We stopped at a Loch Ness gift shop (teehee—I bought a t-shirt with “Loch Ness—Scotland” and a celtic design on it Loch Ness—View from gift shopto use as pjs), snapped a few photos and moved on. There were a few stops for photo ops <insert grin> along the way to the ferry … but, with the weather and Another Loch with Moody Skieswind, we chose to take the bridge across to the Isle of Skye instead (I’m sure Sandy appreciated that, though she said nothing about it). Marc and Pace played their instruments for us to end the evening on a high note.

Sunday (purple—see google map link below) was spent hiking up in the hills (fairly near our cottage) called The Quiraing, wandering View from Lower Level of The Quiraingaround. It was beautiful—windy, but beautiful. Actually, both are View of Skye from The Quiraingunderstatements. We found buying groceries on a Sunday to be a challenge, but we succeeded—the Staffin Bay Store had most of what we needed.
Monday (red) was a guided tour around the area, showing us Windy, Cloudy Skies along the Coast of Skye Driving in Skye with Moody Skies (but not stopping at): Brothers Point (where the recently found dino tracks are), Man of Storr, the town of Portree (we did lots of wandering around here … lots), Kilted Rock, with Edinbane as our turn-around point. We stopped at a Session with Marcbigger grocery store on our way back to pick up the stuff we couldn’t find at the co-op store. We ended the day with a lovely session with Marc and his autoharp.
Tuesday (yellow?) was a day of climbing. Climbing up to Man The Man of Storrof Storr … (yeah, I didn’t make it anywhere near the second gate—apparently there were four gates, so no pics), a quick Kilt Rock Kilted Rock (looks like there's more than one) Waterfall Near Kilted Rocktrip through the Staffin (dino) museum, Kilted Rock, climbing up to castle ruins (oh, my gosh—windy is an understatement), walking around Portree for a shopping spree, exploring and climbing down to see dino tracks near our cottage. Off and on rain all day, wind all the time … it’s beginning to get to my sinuses <insert pout>
Boarding Boat for Three-Hour CruiseIf it’s Wednesday, it’s a three-hour boat cruise from Uig (ewe-ig) out to an island with puffins. It was on the opposite side of the island, so we had lots of time to see flora and fauna on the way. For some reason, everyone kept humming the tune from Marc Playing Autoharp on the Radiant Queen View of the Uig Bay & BoatGilligan’s Island <giggle> Image of underside of thatched roofWhilst we waited for the time to board, we wandered into the pottery store (beautiful locally made pieces). I’ll be on their website when I get home … <insert sheepish grin>Poster about found cache and homestead
The puffins were actually there in abundance—last time (Galway), the cruise was on very windy, rough waters … with not one puffin in sight <pout>. This time around, it was beautiful—with only one wee little rough spot with a touch of wind and rain.  We had a few sessions on the boat with Marc (autoharp) and one of those included Pace with his tin flute (missed that one). Sandy stayed ashore due to motion sickness—she would not have appreciated the beauty. She’d be hugging the porcelain throne the whole time. She did miss out on some lovely scenery. Hope my photography )or one of the other CIVer’s—Selena managed some lovely shots!) will suffice … Bidding the Owners of Radiant Queen AdieuOh. Did I mention that the roads we were driving on were mostly single-track (only one lane wide)? They have an amazing system of “Passing Places”—little pull-outs spaces regularly. Whoever Traffic Jam ... sheep on roadis closest either moves forward to it, or backs up to it. Everyone has been very polite about sharing the roadway (well, save one—he must have been an American … <giggle>). It’s perfect. Oh, yeah—and the sheep have the right of way <giggle> And Highland Coo!… we found Coo! They were very, very scarce on this trip <insert pout>
Thursday was a late start sheep crossing the road(thankfully) … we were on the road by 9:30, heading to the other side of the island again. Marc told us a number of times what the agenda was—but my blurry brain was more like a On The Move—Quick Grab of "Passing Place" Signsieve … <sniggle—insert eye roll> Our weather? Well, we had some liquid sunshine to start our day, clouds, sun, blustery wind—think that covers it <giggle> Image of Midge-Proof Nettingbut it did turn into an amazing day. We were on our own from 11:30-3pm at Dunvegan Castle—it belongs to the Chieftain of the MacLeod clan and includes lovely gardens … where I was attacked by midges whilst trying to get some lovely photos (most of my photos are in my good camera still I’ll upload those to either Flickr or SmugMug when I get home—and have a better Dunvegan Castle Store of Lanterns in Dunvegan Castle Blue Irises at Dunvegan Castle Marc Playing Autoharp Isle of Skye Coastal Vista Near Lighthouse Lighthouse Nearing "Sunset"internet connection). Last stop was Neist Lighthouse—involving plenty of walking … Dinner in town after touring the castle and town was the plan, but Marc couldn’t get reservations at a decent time, so we headed Sundog Near "Sunset" at Keepers Cottageback to the cottage and made a quick, but delightful (and late—9pm!) meal.
Friday. Our last day to play … but all of the wind and walking has taken a toll on me. I’m taking today to recover whilst everyone else has fun checking out dino tracks (at Three Brothers) and a fairy glen. I’ll be spending the time trying to recover, finishing up my blog entry, adding photos and maybe doing a bit of tidying up around the cottage. The CIVers will be back by 3-ish pm to help with clean up and packing up in preparation for our early departure tomorrow. (I must admit … I am enjoying the quiet—and quick access to the internet <teehee> in their absence …)
Saturday morning, at an obscenely early hour, we must begin our trip back to Inverness for everyone to catch their trains and planes. Sandy and I will spend the night at Waverley Guest House, then move on into the next leg of our adventure.
If you have a Google account (maybe even if you don’t), you can get into the map showing where we traveled—courtesy of Pace. Each days travel is colour coded. Even our day on the Uig Bay should be posted (at some point—he’s a bit behind in getting all of the days posted). I’d love to get the app from him so I can do the same with the rest of our trip, but maps each so much of my data plan <insert pout>.
So, my friends … another leg of our journey is coming to an end. I hope you are having fun following the CIVers adventure. May your day, your weekend and upcoming week be blessed with little serendipitous gems. Until next Friday—slainté!

 

FIFTH WEEK: Yorkshire Dales, Glasgow, Edinburgh and on to Inverness

IT IS NICE TO SLOW DOWN A WEE BIT. Our last one-nighter (for a while) in the Dales wasYorkshire Dales Creek and Bridgelovely. We both slept quite well even though it took a bit to settle in (my ankle was being a bit of a nuisance). Our drive up to Glasgow took five hours, three of which were 20-40mph, windy roads through the Dales. Beautiful scenery, with changing flora and fauna—mostly sheep, with sheep and cows sharing the same fields. There were black and white ??? (with a solid black bit in their middle section), proper “chocolate-milk” cows (dark brown all over) and “normal” spotted black and white. Rock Walls AboundThere were parts of the countryside that had hidden treasures we couldn’t stop to photograph because there were no turnouts to stop in: drop-dead gorgeous churches, wall after stone wall fences and stone outbuildings that had me oohing and aaahing (Sandy, not so much), and the rich green colours of the fields mixed with wildflowers. It was quite calming for me, and gave me something to entertain my mind whilst driving. (click on photos to enlarge)

“We’re off the map now …” Sandy and I have made that our private joke. All of the Land Trust maps have N. Ireland, Wales and England on them—and even though Scotland is part of the UK, it is conspicuous by its absence on the maps. We thought that strange. Oh, well …

Scotland welcomed us with a right proper downpour whilst on the motorway—severe enough to drop speeds from 70mph to 30! And the temp dropped fro 25C to 14C before the deluge hit … then proceeded to go back up to 25C. I was glad when it was done! We’ve been rained on twice on Saturday whilst walking—thankfully the worst part was while we were in Sainsbury’s getting a few groceries.

Glasgow—I don’t understand the feelings some people have for this beautiful city. View from Glasgow Hostel“Nothing to see”, “industrial”, “boring” … I delight in the areas I am able to see on foot. A massive park just opposite the hostel, a botanical park about a mile away—and the hardscape of buildings Glasgow Museum/Architecture Fountain (with seagull) at Glasgow Park Nature's Showcase in Glasgowand Fountain at Glasgow Parktrees is beautiful. (panoramic shot—definitely click to see entire shot)

Our Glasgow hostel is lovely … perhaps an old hotel? But there are a zillion (well … approximately 54) steps to our room (on the third floor) and there’s one more flight of stairs after our landing. And there are more stairs to get down to the self-catering kitchen. My knee and ankle are not appreciating all the stairs. They will be happy to be in Edinburgh—elevators in the hostels (yay!!) This is not stopping me from walking about around town. For me, Sunday was spent making reservations for accommodations for the last half of our trip. Sandy went off on a day trip with a touring company, exploring castles etc.

Our roommates have been fantastic—this is what I love about Hostelling! One from Australia was fretting all day about her luggage (which had been lost due to a short layover in Abi-Dabi—misspelled, I’m sure—and had been mislaid at the first hotel she’d stayed at). She relaxed when it finally was found and retrieved—she left the next day. Another was a UK mother-daughter “team” walking from place to place, averaging 150 miles a day. Wow.

We’re just about finished up with Edinburgh … one more night with a new room (so we’ve been “kicked-out” (it’s Thursday) till the check-in at 3pm. We may have slowed down stay-wise, but we certainly haven’t slowed down walking-wise <insert grin … and an eye roll> since we’ve been averaging 4-6 miles the couple of days. Oh … my.

I do have photos to upload, but the connection at the Edinburgh hostel is marginal for that—I’ll see what I can do today …

Tomorrow is a travel day for us. Departing Edinburgh (my favourite city, hands down) and will get into Inverness at some point on Friday. I don’t think we can check in till 3pm—maybe our room will be ready (I’m hoping …), but I’ve found they are pretty rigid about check-in times over here. It’s only an overnight stay—we’ll need to be ready quite early to meet up with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group. I’m excited—I haven’t seen the “Regulars” in quite some time. And there will be new faces to get acquainted with. I can hardly wait … even if the weather may be the wettest I’ve encountered on the CIV tours. I’ve got my raincoat and Sandy has a rain poncho, so we’re good to go. It’s the wind I’m worried about. Lots and lots of wind here on the east coast of Scotland. The brunt of the storms apparently sweep through from the west coast—and that’s where we are headed. Oh, dear. <insert a winky smile—teehee>

Lately, I’ve been leaving you with rather verbose blog entries. My apologies, but it’s how my brain works. I’ll bid you farewell until next Friday—but leave you with a few last photos (and apologise if one is sideways—my attempts to right it has been unsuccessful … sniff).
Edinburgh: Top of Leith-Giraffe SculptureWaverley Tower and PiperHaggis, Neeps and Tatties at The Whisky ExperienceBeautiful Edinburgh Castle: Bits and Pieces

Edinburgh Castle Cannon—Waverley Tower In Its Site Next Friday, we will be on our last full day of our CIV tour—hmmm … I may need to hold off till Saturday to post, so please bear with me if you don’t see it on Friday. Have a blessed Friday, weekend and a delightful upcoming week—remember to keep an eye out for serendipitous blessings … cheers!

 

WEEK FOUR: Good-Bye Wales … Hello Yorkshire!

OUR FOURTH WEEK HAS been filled with more one- and two-night stays than  three-night stays at hostels and BnBs. I know I’m not thrilled with the one-nighters—nor the two-nighters even—but I must be slowing down a wee bit because even the three-night stays are wearing me down and not allowing time to explore. Or maybe it’s just that those are too few. In either case, we’re finally slowing down a little and enjoying the areas. This week will be the last of the shorter stays (well, mostly). From now on it’ll be three- and four-plus nighters that hopefully will allow for more exploration  <insert happy dance>

Holyhead Beach at SunsetI think Llanberis has been the poshest of our hostels so far and Brecon Becon has been the roughest—but not in a bad way. BB is simply more remote—and appears to be a favourite for backpackers (as was Llanberis’ hostel). Whilst at Brecon, we’d planned on doing laundry, but their washing machine was on the fritz. Snowdonia's Cloud-Shrouded MountainsBecause of the remoteness (and the fact that the way “out” was up a rather steep drive), there really were no short walkabouts that could happen for the “Gimp Sisters” so we chilled. No wifi till we checked in at Llanberis—just the beauty surrounding us that we couldn’t View from Brecon Beaconexplore. Oh. By the way. These were the first two hostels I’ve been to in a while that had catered meals—a wee bit pricey (£9 for dinner and £6 for breakfast), but decent and filling!

Seems we’re having more than our share of hiccups but we are managing to make things work despite the problems.

Our one-nighter at Brecon (without wifi—or phone service) wasDowntown Hay-on-Wye followed by a three-nighter in Hay-on-Wye. Apparently I hadn’t noticed how close the two locations were—only about 25-30 minutes up the road <insert eye roll> Oopsie. Oh, well. The Swan at Hay (hotel)We needed a break from the “rustic” stuff … and a chance to recuperate. And get our laundry done—by now, I was needing to wear things two-three days in a row! Ugh. Our first night at The Swan at the Hay we were told there were no self-service launderettes in town. I thought that odd. The hotel, of course, The Joys of Laundrywould gladly do laundry for us—charging by the piece (standard for hotels). Each of us had a bag full of laundry. That was definitely not an option, so we started laundering our clothes in the bathroom. Sandy Laundrette and A Bit Moretried to wash all of hers and I chose a selection of items to get me through for a couple more days till we could find a launderette. Trying to find things to hang all the clothes on was hilarious. I had three braided elastic lines, but finding something to attach them to was proving problematic. Getting to the sink and toilet required some gymnastics. And all I could think of was “what is the staff going to think when they come to freshen the room?” That made me laugh so hard.

We arrived in Hay on the last day of the Hay Festival—a literary festival. Hay is known for its many bookstores—it is a delight to pop into all of the shops and rummage through all of the books. I looked at the festival schedule, hoping to find something interesting to attend, but no … there were some authors reading pieces from their books, but the speakers seemed to be more aligned with politics and socio-economic stuff. Not my cup of tea. So, wandering the streets and taking photos (away from the festival) was what we did on our first day. By the way—Sandy’s foot is much now—thank God! And Hay is where we met up with Jo and Ian. We had a delightful time with them—they showed us around town, showed us where the laundrette was (YAY!) and we had a lovely meal at one of the few open pubs—many of the shops were recovering from the long weekend event and closed up on Monday! We walked some more, but I put a damper on things with an upset stomach, so we returned to The Swan for tea and some wonderfully diverse conversations. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our day—and on into the night—with Jo and Ian. They have a delightfully informative and fun video blog, “Something Vloggy” that is terrific—all about castles and waterfalls in Wales. We were finally ready to turn the lights out at 11pm! Waaay past my bedtime. But so worth it! Nearly twelve hours of visiting and wandering together. Truly delightful!

Riverside Walk to the WarrenOur third day in town, we split up—I was desperate to get laundry done and Sandy needed to walk. So laundry was my first order of business and during the wash and dry cycles, I did a little walkabout, getting errands done at the chemist and Spar. After sorting out all that, I was free to walkabout around the town.  It is beautiful with many interesting features. There’s a lovely path (actually two—one just above the other) that takes you along the River Wye. Very picturesque.

Wednesday was departure day for us. We said good-bye to Hay and mosied up to West Yorkshire to stay with another of my FB friends, Anne. Anne Our Hostess with the Mostess Anne and Sandy in the KitchenWe were not expected until six, so we occupied our day with little stops here and there—and a healthy walkabout around Brighouse. A lovely, leisurely day of travel. Anne fed and pampered us royally. She’s taken us around Haworth (pronounced how-with), pointed out “Crinkly-Bottom” (Cromwell Bottom) as we drove by, we did a walk through Halifax Piece Hall (as in “piece work” of fabric)—the last remaining cloth hall in England … and then we went to B&M for fresh supplies of Jelly Babies <insert monster grin>—sniggle—then took everything we bought home and finally went back out to a lovely dinner at Toby Carvery (delightful—Sandy enjoyed the Yorkshire pudding … as did I). We returned home for a nice spot of tea (and parkin). With all we’ve been fed, I would expect my weight to be up … (well, maybe it is), but had my first proper weigh in and I’m 171.9!) Friday—today—we must say good-bye to this lovely lady and move on up towards Inverness. Friday will be a one-nighter at Buckden in the Yorkshire Dells, Saturday-Tuesday am will be Glasgow, Scotland and Tuesday-Friday is Edinburgh … and finally, Inverness on Friday. We’ll try to get up there as early as we can so we can do some roaming.

So, my friends … I leave you once again to peruse the photos—I may add more later (once in Glasgow … perhaps). Have a blessed Friday and weekend and I’ll have things to post next Friday! Toodles!

 

WEEK THREE: Bushmills, Dublin, Holyhead and Llanberis

AAAAH. FINALLY, WE WERE getting into the swing of a real vacation in this last week. There were only two hiccups that popped up—a twisted ankle (foolishly not wearing my ankle brace), which is definitely on the mend and not holding me back much and needing to do a little shuffle of accommodations/car rental to adjust for arrival times in Holyhead, Wales.

Note to self: always verify car rental hours before scheduling ferries or any other conveyances (Hertz closes their doors at 1700, ferry arrives 1830—oopsie). And, don’t rush when making new accommodations—be sure everything is right before clicking the “Book” button.

We said good bye to Donegal and Ireland as we wandered up through a zillion roundabouts—even I (lover of roundabouts) was getting tired of them … just a wee bit. We saw sheep, cattle, trees … more sheep and glimpses of shoreline—unfortunately, Gabby chose the fastest route that took us through more inland roads than coastal roads. The coastal route would have been glorious, but it would have added too much time. Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway were our destination for this bit of travel. And it did not disappoint. The weather and scenery were amazing. We even had time to attend church during our short stay in Bushmills. And, no … we did not go to the distillery. Nature was our goal along this lovely bit of Northern Ireland. Click on the photos to enlarge them.Red Telephone Box Giant's Causeway Giant's Causeway Erosion Patterns at the Causeway

From Bushmills, we traveled back down south, touching on the outskirts of Belfast—a huge metropolis—before working our way back into Dublin and our hostel for three more nights. Each time we arrive, we find new things to do—wondering the streets of Dublin. We were checking out the farmers market one block off O’Connell Street when my ankle twisted on uneven pavement—it really pays to keep a keen eye out for uneven surfaces if you have ankle issues  I was not <pout> and it knocked half a day out of our sightseeing.

I’ve been wearing both knee brace and ankle brace since the incident on Monday (hate wearing them) and all is well. It took a couple of days of taxi rides into town before I felt comfortable walking around and by Wednesday, we were back to “normalish” touristing.

The first of the “recovery days” was spent on a Gray Lines tour of Wicklow Mountains and the Glendalough area. The scenery was magnificent, the stops we made had marvellous photo ops … and our tour guide, Richie, was wonderful—a great commentator, full of that Irish “gift of gab” (in a very good way) and fun to chat with. There was plenty of giggles on his tour. The history of the area was told in a way to hold your attention—nothing worse than a dry bit of history to put you to sleep—not with Richie. So glad we made the trip! Click on the photos to enlarge.

GrayLine's Driver, Richie

Great commentator and conversationalist, Richie was our tour guide for the day on the Wicklow Mountain and Glendalough tour.

roof and trees near Glendalough Military Instillation on Glendalough/Wicklow Mtn Tour Glendalough/Wicklow Mountains Creek Near Guinness Lake Glendalough Tower and Graveyard Glendalough Scenery Church and Round Tower at Glendalough

Thursday was ferry ride day into Holyhead, Wales and we had a good time. The Stena Lines is a lovely boat to ferry across the water—and I booked us seats up in the lounge, so it was even better.

Because of the mess-up by moi, we only had the one night in Llanberis, so not a ton of time to wander in Snowdonia <insert huge pout> This is a gloriously beautiful area and deserves multiple days to begin to absorb its beauty. This will require another trip <insert grin> to make sure I get “my Snowdonia time” in. Definitely! Actually, Sandy and I talked about it and decided we’d make sure to spend a few days here on our return trip—after visiting my London friends and before we hop on the ferry to go back to Dublin.

Aaah. One final note: It’s called “Payback”—Sandy was trying to wrangle some horses that decided to come out of a gate that we had permission to open (to turn the car Muddy print on a shoearound) … and one stepped on her foot <insert grimmace> so we’re being super cautious today. Only the front half of the hoof stepped on her foot, thankfully, but the knee-jerk reaction to pull it away may have caused more of a problem …

We did a little look around in Llanberis, but she’s alternately icing it and keeping it elevated. We’ll see how things go—I’ll be catering to her needs as she did to me when I had my little incident.
Llanberis and our hostel (click on photos to enlarge):
Little Cabins at the Hostel View of Hostel Grounds View of Hills of LLanberis LLanberis View from Hostel

And … now, it’s time to get this blog launched so you can read it. Have a blessed Friday and weekend.

 

VACATION BLOG: WEEK TWO Dublin, Galway and County Donegal

TECHNOLOGY IS MY FRIEND … NOT (insert eyes rolling to the back of the head …)—at least where GPS and pay-as-you-go phones are concerned!

Oh, dear. I was not successful in getting Gabby to do her thing—at all— and decided I’d simply buy a new one. And I could not get the old iPhone to work (for Sandy) with a local SIM card … I’ve clocked in so many hours trying to get things to work together—I’m so blessed that Sandy hasn’t killed me yet. We’ve been connected at the hips for entirely too long <giggle> As for the phones … yeah. Things haven’t gone as planned and we now have two Eir (Irish) phones that we’ll change SIM cards when we arrive in the UK (tomorrow). We can talk and text as needed—we’re not chained to each other as we’ve been the last week. Talk about liberating—for both of us!

Gabby-2 is working fairly well, though she doesn’t know the English names of Irish towns and I’m unfamiliar with the Irish names, so we’re having a wee bit of a problem there—but she’s gotten us to where we need to be so far. But occasionally she sends us in circles (no, not the roundabouts—literally sends us around the block (and once into a dead end street. At least I was able to figure that one out quickly.) Knowing where I’m going makes me a happier person.

On the upside, I’ve managed to achieve a goal—I’ve gone over 1,200 steps several times in our walk-abouts in the first week. This is excellent and hopefully it will continue to be the norm throughout our entire trip. With a lack of internet, I haven’t had a good handle on steps on a whole (but will after I send this blog out).

We had a grand time in Dublin (a few hiccups due to technology and some short days for the same reason) using the Hop On-Hop Off tour bus to get us around the town and to spots we wanted to check out. Photos will be added later (when we have a decent wifi connection). We were on to Galway where we wandered the streets, down by the docks and up the touristy quarter—and, yes, we helped the economy <wink> nicely. I’ve already a few gifts filling my luggage. Three days of poking around (and finally had the technology issues fairly well sorted out—yay), taking pictures and noshing on lovely food … yes, we liked Galway. Still no pub grub—I really must remedy that.

When we arrived at the hostel in County Donegal (pronounce Donny-gaul)—at the Blue Stack Centre Hostel (this is one that Gabby-2 refused to give directions to, so I did a bit of a work-around to get us in the general area), lugged our baggage into the hostel … to find that they accidentally double booked a large group of teens atop our reservations, so there was no room for us. The hostel folk were so kind—they managed to find an accommodation in Frosses (not too far away) at an AirBnB for two nights. It was lovely—much better than what we would have had. Except … no wifi. So, we came back to the hostel for Friday night (the 25th) only to discover that I’m connected to the wifi, but so far … no internet connection. So I’m not really sure when this blog entry will actually happen. Hopefully we can get it sorted out very soon and you’ll get it at some point on Friday. Otherwise, I’ll just have to try again when we go to our accommodation in Bushmills, N. Ireland on Saturday (26th).

We finally had a lovely pub dinner in Donegal—absolutely lovely. I had a venison stew (drool …) and Sandy had the Irish cheeseburger (local beef and cheese). Sandy had a white wine recommended by the bartender (owner) and I had the Donegal Stout (“dark-rich-smooth”—yes indeed!!!) We left very comfortably full. And had to rush over to the chemist to buy some stuff before they closed at 6—all the stores closed at 6pm, or no later than 6:15—on a Friday! I’m so used to later hours.

Perhaps I’ll add some photos if the connection improves, but I’m thinking this is it till I can get ahold of my notes (all on the iPhone—insert eye-roll—which is usually not a problem). SIGH. Well, I do have a good connection—I hope. I’ll try to add to them a little later this today (it’s already 4:20pm on Saturday here).

Next week we’ll be back in Dublin to see a few things we missed on the first go around, then hop on the Stena Lines Ferry to Wales where we will be meeting up with two new friends: Jo and Ian (you can meet them too if you go to their Something Vloggy Patreon site (I’m working on setting up one for my business). I think I’ll enjoy meeting these two. Then, up to West Yorkshire to meet another new friend: Anne Lister. Another one I’m thinking I’ll feel right at home with.

So, until next Friday … or sometime around then … slainté (good health) and blessings. Now to go get caught up on my Facebook page—FB is so nice … on my iPhone, it says I have “9+” notifications. Probably close to one hundred <insert dazed stare> Laughing nervously …

Hawthorne Blooms??

Tight Fit in Bunk Bed ...

Blue Stack Centre Hostel bunks are a wee bit low …

English Daisies in Donegal So Many Choices ... street signsOh … I give up for now. Half loaded sideways. I’ll need to do some — there’s that technology monster rearing his head again!

… And We’re Off and Running!

SO … THE JOURNEY HAS begun for Sandy and me. And did it ever start out with a bang—our plane had a tyre with low pressure and it needed to be attended to. They tried to get the pressure up to snuff, but that wasn’t working (that took us about 45 minutes beyond our departure time) … and when that didn’t work, they realised they’d need to replace the tyre. Things got a bit timey-wimey whilst they went off to find a tyre … then install and test it, plus (of course) paperwork to complete, but finally (after about 2.5 hours) we were back on “schedule”. Our 11:50am arrival time on the 17th was pushed to 1:30-ish. In the end, it was closer to 2pm, leaving quite a few passengers anxious about connecting flights. (Which, by the way, I feel Aer Lingus handled brilliantly.) All Sandy and I had to worry about was making sure we had wheels to get-about with whilst in Ireland. We let those connecting-flights get off before us, then started to get off the plane when three wheel chairs came down the ramp for those of us requiring them. My attendant went well beyond what others had done in the past. I usually get “dumped” at the baggage claim, then I’m on my own. This young lady took us all the way to the Car Rental lot and I didn’t get off the wheel chair till we were literally in front of the car. (Well done!!) I’m happy to use Hertz—it may not be the cheapest, but they’ve been very good to me in the past, and they didn’t fail us with this bit of a wrench in the plans.

Next bit to throw us off was my little GPS (Gabby—but she wasn’t …) decided she was not going to talk to us. Rather cheeky little thing. (I checked her out prior to departure and she was working just fine). She simply told us to get to M-1 so she could direct us. She never redirected us when I didn’t get into the desired road. Thankfully I was vaguely familiar with the area and, though we never got into what she felt was the right street, we apparently paralleled her route in the downtown area and made it safely—well … there was one block of driving the wrong way on a very quiet one-way street, but I got that sorted out right away and we made it in one piece. (Poor Sandy—she’s a very patient soul.)
I love Dublin—and the area we are in. Mountjoy St., where the hostel is located, has a lovely ancient church with a beautiful spired steeple just a block or two down from the hostel (photos will happen in the next blog, since we were exhausted from a very long flight and time change). The hostel itself has a small church attached, which has been turned into the dining all. We have a Spar (kind of like a 7-11 in the States, but no petrol station attached) just across a very quiet street—same street we drove down to get into the car park at the hostel.
We settled into our room then walked over to get dinner makings—almost bought stuff requiring cooking, but decided we were too tired for that. I was more tired than hungry, so we simply purchased a pre-made sandwich, some grapes and blueberries and shared all of it. We discovers like and dislikes in food—apparently we both love blueberries enough to challenge Violet (from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) at being the biggest and bluest berry that the Umpa Lumpa’s would be rolling off to their presses … <insert mischievous grin> and I love yogurt, but she does not—same with mushrooms.
With dishes cleaned up, we got the wifi code, grabbed some crafting tools and settled into the dining hall to get Sandy an e-membership at the HI hostels (didn’t work—for a number of reasons, including forgetting the credit card … we’ll try again later) and for a quick lesson in putting signatures together (blocks of pages that are sewn together to make the pages of a book) for our travel journals. That didn’t last long, as my mind was muddled (as was Sandy’s) from fatigue and I couldn’t answer or show her how to do it properly <insert eye roll—and serious amount of yawning> … so we packed up our supplies and went back to our room at 9pm to retire for the night.
Today is Friday—a new day and the real beginning of two and a half month journey. Today is a “chill day” so we can recover from our jet lag (I slept in to 9am!), we will do a walk-about around Dublin and use the Hop On-Hop Off Tour Bus to venture into areas we can’t get to by foot. We’ve three nights (one’s already under our belts) to explore before moving on to Galway and beyond. We are going to have a wonderful time—whether Gaby helps us or not! Have a blessed Friday and weekend and join us again next Friday for another chapter in our journey.
Cheers and Slainté!

Travel Blog: Week One, Part Two

{Well … I was wondering why this was sitting in the draft “pile”. Guess I forgot to combine the one I ended up posting with this one, so you get two blogs today <insert sheepish grin …> Bear with me … I’ll eventually edit and combine the two together so this isn’t permanently plopped into the middle of the trip. Oopsie. So sorry.}

ON MY MARK, GET SET … GO! THE TRIP HAS BEGUN! Sandy’s husband was so kind as to cart us up to the San Francisco airport (thank you, John!!), where we caught a 5:30pm flight to Dublin. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never taken Aer Lingus, so it was a new experience. As much as I love to take pictures of the clouds—I have such a plethora of clouds-from-a-plane photos—I would much rather have an aisle seat so that I can get up and stretch. I really didn’t know what to expect in the way of seating—whether it would be like packed sardines or if there would be much in the way of leg room (after all, Aer Lingus is a no-frills airline…). Yes, that meant I needed to accommodate the window and middle seat passengers, but I’d much prefer the ease of getting up to stretch or use the WC. Yup … definitely.

Sandy sat in the aisle seat across from me (and we have the same set-up for our return flight). Both flights are non-stop—something I’d recommend, if you can afford it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s well worth the extra expense for peace of mind. No dealing with rushing to catch the next leg of the journey … or missed or cancelled connecting flights. Definitely worth it.

We arrived on Thursday, 17 May around noon—I was a little preoccupied with deplaning (grabbing my carry-on), grabbing baggage and finding our rental car to take notice. Our ticket says 11:50am as an arrival time—a little over ten hours in the air. How did I fare flying with Aer Lingus?

Thursday was spent getting settled in and adjusting to the 8-hour time change (extra hours, mind you … so an extra long day). And I had to juggle when to take my medicines—that’s always fun. Departure/arrival day is always a jumble where my medications are concerned (insert big eye-roll here—haha). At least there are only two pills that are prescriptions (and the doses are low enough that taking sooner than scheduled—or even later—is not a bad/harmful thing. Hopefully my doctors never hear about the weird scheduling I always end up doing (insert eye-roll … teehee). Friday—aaack … that’s today—is our first full day in Dublin and I will be back on schedule medicine-wise. And we will begin our exploring slowly—working up our stamina for all that walking (insert sheepish grin). I am so excited to finally get to Dublin (and Ireland/UK in general) and show Sandy all the neat things there are to see! Sadly, even with two and a half months, we will not see everything, since it is, of course, a leisurely trip.

I wish you a blessed Friday and weekend. Hopefully there will be a good internet connection to get this blog out to you on schedule! Until next Friday and the second installment of our travels—slainté!

Traveling with Friends

TRAVEL IS NIGH AND I am definitely filled with excitement! I’ve completely ignored my travel-blogging lately … well, there have been tiny bits peppering my blogs of late, but not much else. Oopsie!

Just so you are aware, I will be at the mercy of internet availability during my travels, so blogging posts may be sporadic—I’ll try my best to adhere to a schedule, but it will completely depend on availability. I do have hotspots for my computer whilst traveling in Ireland and the UK, but I’ll need to figure out how to use them again (it’s been waaaay too long—hope I can remember passwords …) and I’m sure I’ll have to “feed” them before they can be used.

In the past—beginning with our maiden voyage in 2007 (or was it 2008??), I’ve traveled with my daughter for two and a half months; I’ve traveled with her and friends for a week, then just with the friends (stationed over in Germany) for another week … then on my own; I’ve traveled alone for 3-6 weeks; taken trains and buses; rented a car. Each time has been fun; each time has been a learning experience.

This time around, I’ll be traveling with my daughter’s mother-in-law. Sandy and I have hit it off well since our childrens’ nuptial tying of the knot—but we have never spent more than a couple days together, so this will be a delightful experience in patience, understanding and sharing close quarters (the car, dorm-room style sleeping arrangements with 4-8 other roommates—complete strangers—that sometimes turn into lifelong friends, short and long tours cooped up in a van together …et cetera). It’s a matter of give and take for both of us. I think we are adult enough for this trip to be wonderful for both of us. Everyone has their own personal quirks that must be taken into consideration. If you are not able to be flexible, traveling with friends may not be for you.

We will be visiting my new (and old) internet friends that live in Wales, London (and surrounding areas), and Yorkshire area. I love being able to meet my internet connections—at least one face-to-face enriches the relationship. I will be showing Sandy around places I’ve seen (and have fallen in love with) and we’ll experience other places together for the first time. And we will do tons of walking. Literally tons … my habit of “park-it-and-walk” still applies for as long as I am able to walk. We’ll stay at hostels as often as we can—I’m sure there will be a few B&Bs and hotels when hostels are booked. We’ll do mini-tours around the “big cities” via the Hop-On/Hop-Off buses, more mini-tours with some of the tour companies that take jaunts out into the nearby country-side … and perhaps take the car out to look at the lovely countryside, ruins and other little towns. As I’ve just mentioned, I prefer the “drive to a location and park it till we move on” philosophy—walking is such a wonderful way to observe and soak in the beauty of the cities and towns. But sometimes, to see special spots and places far afield, cars are required. (Usually, I find cars are way too fast for sightseeing, but with a car, I can pull over or turn around if I see something that interests me—unlike various forms of public transport!) We will have our week-long tour (with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group, a annual tour organised  by Marc Gunn) up on Isle of Skye in Scotland about a month into our journey. Then we’re back to poking around and working our way back to Dublin for our journey home. There will be two ferry rides—I love these. Allows for a re-boot.

There will be at least one ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) for us to attend in Dublin at the Jameson Distillery (insert a very happy, smiley face). The date has yet to be set … I really need to get on that soon. Yes, there is more planning to do before we set sail. All in all, I’m looking forward to a laid-back, delightful tour of Ireland and the UK.

So, until next week (after my first book signing of the year—and just before the next one), I wish you all a beautiful, blessed Friday and weekend. Toodles!

 

Mother Nature and Creativity

Whilst the Midwest and East Coast have been dealing with an extremely fickle Mother Nature, our weather on the Central Coast of California has been spectacularly beautiful the last week or so. The on again-off again wind has been a nuisance, but compared to the weather elsewhere, we cannot (or should not) complain. Chilly to simply cool mornings melding into cool to “just right” temps as the day progresses has been Mother Nature’s offering. Spring is definitely in the air. And that makes me happy!
The clouds have been amazing. Billowing cumulus (decorator clouds), the dramatic stratocumulus and cumulonimbus have paraded across our skies, keeping my eyes looking upward in awe. Late evening to early mornings have been just as delightful—our fog that rolls in and out like tidal currents makes me smile. At times, it’s a heavy blanket darkening the sky and hiding the sunsets and sunrises. Other times, it’s a white veil that caresses the hills and trees, reluctant to yield to the sun. It’s the veil-like presence that I enjoy the most. That fog that, as it finally yields to the warms of the morning air, stratifies in the nooks and crannies of the hills, finally dissipating altogether. So pretty.  As I stand at my windows watching, it reminds me of Brigadoon—the magic that happens in the mist of the morning …
And, indeed the magic of the mornings (ever so early, I might add) brings creativity. I know that I’ve been very restless (and frustrated), trying to complete the next few books in the series. It has left you, my readers, wanting more and probably just as frustrated as I am. These last few months, with my renewed energy and my mind finally bursting with more and more ideas (of all sorts—not just storylines), I find myself excited—yet even more frustrated as I realise I’ll not be able to follow through with most of them due to my trip across the Pond. Excited—but frustrated—that ideas are flowing at a rate I cannot possibly keep up with … and they come at the oddest of times. It seems 2-3 am is the most prolific creative time (insert massive eye-roll here). Seventeen years ago—when this story in my head would not go away—I was oh-so-much-younger. I was able to handle late nights and early mornings … and middle of the night “eureka moments”. Now? Well, I can still manage a few days and nights like that, but … oye vey! Sigh. Is it possible to train creativity to happen at more convenient times?? This old doddering woman needs her sleep … teehee.
Apparently not. One of my recent middle-of-the-night eureka moments produced quite a few haikus. Really? I don’t do poetry. Yet, my mind kept spitting them out—I managed to get a few written down before I finally collapsed back into my sleepy coma for what remained of the night. They’re not great, but they do adhere to the 5-7-5 rule.
Creativity/Imagination
The mind like Spring blooms
Ideas flowing anew
A canvas of words
Paintbrush poised in hand
Colours explode on canvas
Rains down settles in
I guess that’s how the mind works—at least, my mind. At these “magical hour” moments, I work out ideas for gardening, for building projects, stories—and apparently poetry in the middle of the night. It’s been a very long time since my mind was this active (maybe a year before my spinal surgery—that’d be about 3-4 years ago!). It feels good—but I sure wish it would choose daylight hours for all of these revelations … honestly (eh-hem—as I write this at that “magic” hour in the morning … which has drawn out till 4:30—good grief!). Well, at least the blog has been written.
So, my wonderful readers, even though I’m nearing the time to head off across the Pond (only a couple more weeks—yikes!) and won’t be able to concentrate fully on my edits whilst abroad, you will be able to follow me during my adventure in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland via my blog. Then, once home and recovered from my trip, I promise to dedicate time to complete book four in the series before I go back to preparing the first three books for re-publishing. I promise!
So, as the roosters begin to announce the new day, the plan is to back to sleep for a bit, before I edit and post this piece. May your Friday and weekend be blessed abundantly! Toodles till next week.

Neverending Traveling Preparations …

AAAAH … NEVERENDING—IT SURE SEEMS that way. Once again I am spinning my wheels, attempting to prepare for the journey across the Pond. I do this every time (and I think I’ve mentioned that before … but really—it seems worse this time around). This year there seems to be more distractions, more “last minute” things that need to happen before I disappear. And, more reluctance. Not because I’m afraid I won’t have a blast, but because of all the “unfinished” business (my books and incomplete manuscripts) I’ll be leaving behind. Yes, I can work on them whilst abroad, but I’d rather not take the editing binders with me. I will take a USB with me to work on the WIP (book five: The Catalyst). Maybe, by some miracle, I can complete the edit on book one and four before I leave. Sigh—one can dream.

Aside from the books, there are a few more accommodations that need to be arranged before the departure; two cars to rent—yeah … at least two. I want to use one whilst in Ireland for the first leg of the journey, then turn it in when we take the ferry across to Wales. We’ll grab a car at the ferry station, then use it the entire time we’re in the UK (I know … seems frivilous to have it sit for a full week up in Inverness, but I don’t think I can easily find a rental agency up there—and that’s what I do once I reach a destination anyway … park and walk), then turn it in when we catch the ferry back to Ireland. I’m of a mind to spend our last week roaming around on foot in and around Dublin and/or taking mini-tours (let the business do the driving)—there are plenty of them in the area … and hailing cabs when necessary (any night activities or things too far afield).

So, in planning the rentals and accommodations, I need to know the when—need more planning on how much time we’ll spend in various places. Do we hunker down in Dublin and take day trips? Do we travel to the west side of Ireland (Galway) and make day trips north and south? My planning time is running out … I need to focus on the nuts and bolts of the trip and not the other things that keep coming up in my day-to-day life—I need to put all the other stuff on the back-burner, so to speak.

Since I’ll have my daughter’s mother-in-law with me, I’m feeling that I need to be more organised than I usually am. She has a fairly laid back personality (we don’t fit the “normal” mother-in-law profile—we actually get along …), but I still feel the need for things to flow more smoothly. Not quite so spur-of-the-moment or spontaneous … or coddiwomple (teehee … I do love unusual words. Hmmm—should I make you look that one up? Naaw!) “(v.) to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.” Yup. That’s me in a nutshell. When I travel, I like to know some of the places I want to visit, but it’s not written in stone—there are way too many things that might be even better than what I’d planned. Or, circumstances may change the direction we need or want to go. I’m all for keeping an open mind and a loose itinerary (insert huge grin).

Luggage is also more of a concern this year than in the past. I’ve usually used one of the major airlines and they are fairly lax on checked bag size—Aer Lingus is very rigid about size. Usually, I’ve taken one 21″ 2-wheel bag so it’s never been a problem—except when I return … it’s usually bulging with gifts. Once I took two—the major airlines allow two, but not Aer Lingus. Only ONE free checked bag. So, this year, I decided to upgrade—I’ve got myself a 25″ spinner (4-wheel, omni-directional suit case).. I will still pack light (wash clothes on a weekly basis) and have room for plenty of gifts without the bag bulging. I still must limit my suitcase to 50# (same with all airlines). I’ve purchased a hand-held digital scale (don’t know why I didn’t think of this before!)—it will be a great way to keep tabs on how much we’ve accumulated. Overages can get very expensive—$100 (if I recall correctly) if even one pound over the max. An added suitcase would only have a $60 fee (plus the purchase price of the bag), so if we find ourselves overweight, that may be the way to go. I’m planning on staying under the limit—hopefully. We can always ship some items home—it may be worth that extra cost. We’ll see. My advise to you is to choose your airline carefully—this is the first time I’ve flown with Aer Lingus—they were the only airline that had a non-stop to Dublin from San Francisco that didn’t cost an arm and a leg … a “cheaper” airline may not be that good of a bargain—like I said … we’ll see.

Okay … so that’s enough rambling today. We’re in for a very rainy weekend … beginning later tonight. Have a delightful Friday—and weekend—despite the weather. Make sure to keep your eyes open—check around the corner for serendipitous happenings. Many blessings and cheers!

 

 

 

Progressing Nicely …

 


 

GOOD MORNING! FRIDAY IS turning into an absolutely gorgeous day here on the Central Coast of California. I truly live in Camelot—um … well, except for the three-ish days of rain and horrific winds. And now, it is the calm before the storm—a small respite before the next storm comes in tomorrow … the proverbial “calm before the storm”. The weather seems to be mirroring my life right now—at least, somewhat.

The storm is gathering. So are all the things that need to be accomplished. They are piling up … and I either tackle them—quickly—or they will run me over like a bulldozer. These last few storms have been like that—slamming the Central Coast with monster wind and rain (seriously unusual for this area—and these new weather patterns seem to be morphing into the “norm”)—major flooding elsewhere in the state—and mudslides in Big Sur are hopefully not undoing what CalTrans has worked so hard to repair from last year’s storms.

Well, I wrote all of the above last week. Monday—after a damp rainy weekend—was another gorgeous day, as were the rest of the days this week. Truly wonderful weather. I think the serious rains are really done for the season. And I still have a mountain of things to tackle before my trip. But, better weather and my ever-improving health is making the list look not quite as daunting.

So much as been accomplished this week—so refreshing. Editing has happened all week, plugging away at transcribing corrections for book one, editing book four and adding words to book five. (Book two sits in limbo, waiting for me to start the edit.) It truly feels wonderful to be getting things done—two long years of recovery, with its ups and downs. I think I can finally put that problem to rest. Yay!

My upcoming trip has certainly put a fire under me. I’m even getting things done around the house and in the yard. Can you see me doing Snoopy’s happy dance? (Insert foolishly giant grin here). My give away pile is growing; I need to make dump and recycle runs and I’m knocking off things on my to-do list. Feels good. Definitely.

I’ve even celebrated two birthdays (sniggle—same person …), spent time with my writing group and worked on getting my ducks in a row for the trip (still need to purchase some euros and pounds to take with me). As I came home these last few nights, I’ve seen the amazingly bright almost-full moon shining overhead—the weather has been very kind in that regard. I’m looking forward to Saturday’s blue moon—apparently it is the second of two blue moons for 2018, if I read the information correctly. I may be up extra late (or would that be super early??) to catch it with my good camera whilst it’s at its peak—my Painterly side is even getting a boost this week! Additionally, I’ve a few incomplete watercolour paintings that I’ve been studying off and on this week, trying to decide what to do next. Both have nice qualities (trying to decide it I’ll be able to layer them together in Photoshop—I hope so. It will be the beginnings for the cover for book one.

My upcoming trip has certainly put a fire under me. Honestly! I’m even getting things done around the house and in the yard. Can you see me doing Snoopy’s happy dance? (Insert foolishly giant grin here). And it does feel good!

My give away pile is growing; I need to make dump and recycle runs and I’m knocking off things on my to-do list. Feels good. Definitely.

I’m looking forward to Saturday’s blue moon—I may be up extra late (or would that be super early??) to catch it—my Painterly side is even getting a boost! I’ve a few incomplete watercolour paintings that I’ve been studying … trying to decide what to do next. Both have nice qualities (trying to decide it I’ll be able to layer them together in Photoshop—I hope so. It will be the beginnings for the cover for book one.

… And, this week culminates with Good Friday. Seems an ironic name for the awful thing that happened a little less than 2000 years ago. Christ dying an agonising death, taking on all of our sins. ‘Tis solemn and sad … but not really. It is the beginning of a celebration. The BC cartoonist, Johnny Hart, Good Friday Explanationexplained things in a nutshell (click on the image to enlarge), don’t you think? Sunday is a new beginning—a new week, with Easter—the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. And with all the flurry happening in my life right now, I’m glad to have both Good Friday and Easter happening—both are humbling for me, centering me. Very special days to celebrate.

So, my friends, I leave you with wishes for a blessed Friday and weekend … and the week to come.

Happy Easter—he has risen.

Books an’ Travel an’ Stuff …

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING ARRIVED with a bang … rain and wind that I’d prefer not driving in—but I did. The third Tuesday of each month is the Central Coast Writers meeting, on the Peninsula, tucked away in a corner of Pacific Grove. This meant I was driving in the wind on very wet roads … and the wind was ferocious enough that I felt like my car would hydroplane at any moment (if it wasn’t already …). Speed didn’t seem to be a factor at all. Let’s just say I was glad to get off of the highway and onto surface roads that were protected from the wind. The roads were dryer when I headed home (thank God!), so the winds (which were still pretty stiff) were no problem.

The meeting was wonderful—the guest speaker, C. S. Lakin, was quite engaging. She’s written quite a few books—the one she spoke about on Tuesday was Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Secrets to Supercharge Your Story. She shared visual storytelling techniques and I was surprised at how many techniques I was already utilise in my series. Perhaps not as well as the examples she used, so I listened carefully to what she had to say. It was well worth the trip in the horrific weather. Well worth it! (And … by the way, I bought the book.) The timing is very good, since I will be republishing each one of the books in the series. I am still (insert rolling eyes) working on getting book one’s first edit done for the editor—or, would it qualify as the second edit, since the book was already published (insert impish grin). I am a third of the way done transcribing all of my corrections into notes for him. In any case, I can take a good look at the whole thing once he sends it back to me with all of the changes. And I can start on book two—and three, looking at them in the same light … then move forward with a more critical eye in the edit of book four and five.

It’s times like these that I question my traveling abroad this year, but I am committed to the trip, and I know I’ll enjoy myself—once I get over there. I’ve been vacillating back and forth ever since I paid for the non-refundable airline tickets. I did this last time, too … but I ended up not being able to go last time due to my neck surgery. I truly love my time across the Pond. I’d live over there if I could figure out how to afford it (and keep my home here). Not in the cards unless I find myself a “deep-pockets” hubby. Sigh. Don’t think that’s in the cards either (insert major giggling here). I will be taking photos for book art and for my photopolymer etched printing … but I will not be taking any of my usual promotional materials—or even books. Well, maybe a few books, but my supply is limited and freebees are going to be few and far between. I say no promo material because the books are not really available for anyone to purchase over there—Amazon is not carrying any of them (or will not in the very near future) and I think overseas shipping for me to mail anything would be outrageous. Hmmm … mayhaps I should find out how much it would cost before I make too many assumptions.

Anyway, back to reality. I’m serious when I say (in one of my previous blog posts) that I may need to take a hiatus once I return from my trip. Distractions abound. It will be the only way to get editing, artwork (which I’m afraid I’m going to have to start from scratch …) and publishing done in a timely fashion. But when? Almost immediately after I get back, there’s a Scottish Games that our clan tent needs to be at—a friend and I host the tent every year—I cannot back out. Then the book signing season starts up with a bit of a sputter in early September and goes all the way through the first week of December. One of the November weekends, I’ve signed up to be in Columbia, South Carolina at a book fair. I know … I am plum loco. I committed (monetarily) to that before my publisher passed away. Before the headache of regaining rights to my books. And the artwork. Sigh.

So, the challenge will be finding time, saying no to friends and OGS (insert huge pout)—unless it gets me closer to my goal, cancelling commitments that can be cancelled … and focusing—not procrastinating—on the task at hand. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’ll keep you apprised of my progress. Blogging will stay—possibly much shorter posts than my usual blogs (and I do apologise for the length of this one!), but I won’t disappear.  I promise (I may link to my other blog account, since things look nearly full again—I do not want a repeat of what happened in January!) I promise to keep you up to date.

Please make sure you subscribe to both blogs so you don’t miss anything.  I’ll add links later—or in the next blog—it’s not like I’m leaving tomorrow. Not until May, so there’s time.

I leave you with wishes of a delightfully blessed Spring—even if you’re presently knee deep in snow. It will pass (I know—not soon enough, I’m sure). Have a delightful Friday and weekend … and I will be back next Friday! Toodles!

 

Gally One and What IS This Crazy Weather …?

[Dear Readers: My apologies for the length of this blog—no good spot to cut it. Sigh.]

WELL, IT’S BEEN A VERY INTERESTING TWO weeks. Between threats of major storms, I managed to make it down to The LAX Travelodge—reasonable traffic (considering it’s LA), not bad accommodations and service for what we needed. And not too bad a walk (0.5mile—three long blocks) to the event hotel—Marriott at LAX. That is … if my knee wasn’t throwing fits and the wind was trying to turn my umbrella inside out. Still, all in all, it was not bad.

I left home on Wednesday and made my ritual over-night stop at Lebec, hoping I would be in good enough shape to trudge around taking pictures—beautiful mountainous countryside. Mmm … not if I wanted to keep my camera dry and me upright. Fits of rain intermingled with bigger fits of wind (gusts) … and exhaustion kept me from playing with my good camera. I was going to take a few Blustery Skies ...shots from the window (a south-easterly view), but really not much of a view—18-wheelers were parked between the hotel and my view. Drats. Well, this one is from my return trip.

Since I ended up with loads of “chill-time” on my hands in Lebec, I caught up on what wasForcasting Rain happening at home via my iPhone and Facebook. The beginnings of a monster storm front started to dump rain … by the time I arrived in LA (actually, Inglewood) the next day, the front had hit the entire coast line—including LA. It only took a little over 1.5 hrs to get to the Travelodge from Lebec and thankfully they were able to accommodate my early arrival (yay). So I settled in and leisurely Dr. Who Paraphinalia unpacked before trudging up to the Marriott. Registration officially opened at 3pm … so I wandered around up in the Lobby for a bit before heading downstairs—plenty to do. By the time I got down there, they were already allowing people through (around 2:15-ish). Score! No queuing, no waiting! Lovely.

Whilst waiting in the faux-line, I met two gentlemen from Canada. After I was asked a few questions—I won’t say what, as John will probably use the same ones next year … we exchanged con ribbons—not my first since I was activelyRibbon Collecting Begins seeking people out up in the Lobby to share my ribbons (and hope to get some in exchange). John and Jake turned out to be hilarious—quick, dry wit that had me in stitches. We ran into each other over and over all weekend—and they had new costumes for each day. Jake did purchase all three of my books on Saturday—I was ecstatic! If he likes them, he promised to do a review and spread the word up in Canada! Yay! Saturday was the “dress your best” day—costumes were absolutely magnificent on everyone!

I nearly forgot the two Thursday events: trip to the local InNOut Burger place (unofficial)—poor locals never know what hit ’em—and Ice Cream Social Ice Cream Socialthe ice cream social (official) … both were tons of fun (but I cheated—took a taxi A Sneak Peek at Dealer's Roomto and from the InNOut Burger spot … I vividly remember the walk last year—LOL).

Captain Jack

Captain Jack

The costuming all weekend was amazing—especially on Awesome Weeping AngelSaturday as I mentioned. Weeping Angles (very few this year, but that made the ones I saw more special), tons of different Osgood or Zygon ...? Third DoctorDoctors, oodles of Amys, Daleks, TARDIS costumes in various shapes and sizes, a delightful K-9 Lovely Cardboard K-9(full size, but of cardboard and pulled about on a leash), Osgood … oooh, the list goes on. This year, I chose to not cosplay, but rather wear a hodge-podge of Dr. Who things: 4th Doctor’s hat and scarf, question mark pin (I didn’t realise so many doctors used that—three of them to be precise … do you A Bevy of Doctors Sutek and Mummiesknow which ones without googling it?), bow tie of the 9th My "Cosplay" AttireDoctor, vest of Sarah Jane … etc. I left the Osgood lab coat in my bag—no glasses (they broke the week before I left) to make it official. I also left Sarah Jane’s raincoat behind. I didn’t want to be lugging it around—no cloak room. Next year … I plan on making my cosplay outfits (only two) much more special. Next year—that is, if I’m able to manage scoring a pass …

I did have an umbrella—a Doctor Who “special” umbrella (insert huge grin) Dr. Who Umbrella-Inside Dr. Who Umbrella-Outsidethat I found a rubber tip for (I used it as a cane on Thursday—oh, yeah … I’ll explain that later) I finally got to use it asUmbrella ... and Crutch an umbrella on Friday and Saturday. It’s gorgeous—and huge! I didn’t need any other protection and stayed relatively dry—once I worked out how to keep it from becoming a “rain collector” (sniggle) and still keep the rain off.

I scoped out the Dealers Room as early on as I couldDr. Who Pins and found my two missing pins for myA Sneak Peek at Dealers Room hat—the War Doctor and 12th Doctor (Capaldi). Yay! That made me happy!

My buddies that came down late had awesome costumes! Renée was a very posh Dalek and Pam had a dress with the exploding TARDIS. Friends' Cosplay OutfitsMichelle chose to be neutral—she’s not into cosplay, which is perfectly fine! She and I did a number of the talks together … we only occasionally saw Pam or Renée (at Gally) since they had their own agendas for the talks.

Ood

Gallifrey One was amazing, running smoothly throughout the weekend. The all-volunteer staff did a marvelous job. Kudos—to all of them—for their tireless work that made the event such a fun time. I didn’t do Best Doctor Cosplay Ever What Can You Do With Ribbons??Queen Elisabeth or Zygon ?? Dalek Ood and Nurseany of the autograph or photo sessions like I did last year as I was feeling a bit “poor”—unwilling to spend the money for the opportunities. I did attend quite a few talks, both in the main room and auxiliary rooms.  And … unfortunately, I did not go on Sunday. My injured knee (remember the “caned” umbrella? That was not a Ooooh!prop—I trashed my knee … and ankles at the end of January), using a cane instead of the crutch for two days and all the walking took its toll on yours truly. So instead, I packed up my bags, put them in the car and headed home—I was going to try to do it in one day, but knew I needed the down-time in Lebec, so I made reservations at “my” Motel 6.

My trip home was relatively uneventful … Leaving LebecStop For BreakfastOminous Cloudsuntil I was about fifteen minutes away from my house. Flooding, downed trees/power lines and road closures from slides Accumulation of Rain (Wed-Mon)Flooded CulvertDowned Trees—Across Power LinesMore Downed Trees On My StreetUmbrella Damage Umbrella Damage Umbrella Damagebrought the highway to a standstill. I attempted to take alternate routes, but the country roads couldn’t handle the amount of rain and were completely flooded, so back to the highway to wait it out with everyone else. It took over an hour to drive a normally 15-minute drive. I came home to no power and a boil water notice. A tree came down and took out the water pipe for our little community. They had it fixed by the time I got home, but contaminants were in the system (my neighbor had told me to just stay where I was, but I really just wanted to come home, so I had steeled myself for the worst). It wasn’t too bad—that’s what blankets, coats and bottled water are for … and power was back on 24 hours after I got home (still on a Boil Water order … hope that ends soon because hand-washing dishes with boiled water is a nuisance). A glass-topped table with an opened umbrella toppled over. Only damage was to the umbrella (yay) and an aluminum ladder that mysteriously moved in the winds. There’s lots of very soggy ground so I’m treading lightly. I consider myself extremely lucky. No, let me amend that comment—I am blessed. There’s no luck involved.

Many people have standing water—or even literally running water—rushing through their homes. The roads are not just flooded, but in many cases the foundation of the road has given way and whole sections of road are gone. In the case of Big Sur, slides and flooding are the least of the problem—one bridge near Pfeiffer has been deemed unsafe and will need to come down and rebuilt. Our area is not the only area that has been inundated by the storms. Dams and roads in Oroville, San Jose and Yosemite (to name o few) have been compromised with flooding and erosion. Getting out from under all of this damage is going to take time  … and money—lots of it—and I’m not sure California has planned for a catastrophe of this magnitude.

I still have to clean up around my property plus empty out my refrigerator and freezer—”better to be safe than sorry” is the adage I’m holding on to—then make a trip to the dump to toss the spoiled food. We have a few days respite before the next round comes.

My biggest concern is that I live on a hill … I’m praying that my hillside stays put.

Dear readers, please enjoy your Friday and the coming week. If you’re a praying sort, please pray for California and all of the effected residents—for their safety, for dams to hold back their burgeoning water supply and for this rain to slow to a trickle for the remainder of the rainy season.

The drought is over for the majority of the state—a blessing. Have a serendipitous week, my friends.

 

 

 

Happy Christmas To All


 

LAST WEEKEND I VENTURED UP into South San Francisco with my daughter and son-in-law, searching for a very specific building. I’d only been there once before—as a passenger in the very back of an SUV. ‘Twas a straight-forward drive with little traffic (I use that term loosely, for those that know SF and LA traffic) on a Saturday morning, but even if there’d been traffic, it was such an easy drive. Google Maps reinforced my vague recollection of where it might be.

Our destination? The famous Cow Palace. Looking back at the ease of the trip, I am definitely kicking myself for all of the missed concerts and events hosted at this venue. Too far … all that traffic … I’ll get lost! All of that and more, plus, my younger self wasn’t nearly as adventurous or as self-confident as I am now. It’s all in the attitude.

Our purpose? To have an adventure at the Great Dickens’ Christmas Faire. It’s an annual event held on a months worth of weekends, ending the Sunday before Christmas. It is fun to wander the streets of Dickens’ London. I will openly admit it’s one huge tourist trap, but there are so many delightful things to see and hear … and taste and smell. There are period actors wandering the streets, playing their parts wonderfully. Many of Dickens’ characters from his books join in on the fun—Marley in his nightgown and chains, Christmas Present … plus someone that looked suspiciously like Alice and another that appeared to be the White Rabbit (hmmm … so, characters from his contemporaries too) and oh, so many more! The pubs are great fun … not just for the food and drink (I enjoyed a hot buttered rum—oooh, yum!—and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding among other things), but for the sights of a period family dining quietly in the corner, for the militia dressed to the nines toasting with their chums and the barmaids doing their jobs cheerfully.

My little family and I tasted roasted chestnuts—my daughter and I had never had them before … we quite liked them. The taste of whisky and rum cakes were enough to entice me to buy two (and now I wish I’d purchased more). We even tasted the haggis at one of the shops. It was “okay” … had I not tasted the best-ever haggis whilst in Edinburgh long before this—had this been my first example of what haggis was all about—I’d never try it again. My Edinburgh haggis is the standard I set all haggis against. Now I understand why most people sport a sour look on their face when haggis is mentioned. Well, that … and if they know what the ingredients are (though, most haggis is not made that way anymore for health reasons …).

We had a delightful time and I spent way too much money on gifts (insert Cheshire grin). We were done before it became unbearably busy—gone by 2:30, I believe … the crush usually begins at 3-ish, when the entry fee is cut in half. Perhaps it wasn’t as busy because it was the second to last day … who knows. All that matters is that we had fun exploring and I had a wonderful time—and am thinking about going again next year. Yeah … I know–I’m crazy!

Until next week … Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and have a blessed weekend and week as we gear up for the finale …