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 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!

Traveling—Again …

AAAH … TRAVEL. YES, once again I’m gearing up to travel. My new passport just arrived and it has my head buzzing with ideas. But first, I have some tedious taxes to tend to (lol—an unintended alliteration) … and book four to polish. In the meantime, “normal” life goes on …

I read an article in Monday about how we are so tearjerker (what??? I do have issues with autocorrect … can you tell?)—let’s try that again: about how we are so tethered to our smartphones … and, so says the “CNTraveler” writer, even in travel—that it is “dumbing us down”. It article was shared on Facebook by International Hostelling—an organisation I love, by the way … inexpensive rooms and so many diverse and interesting people under one roof, no matter where you stay. IH makes travel more fun because you are able to put your money into seeing the places you visit, rather than into the accommodations … yup. Hostels are awesome.

Well … anyway, this writer disagrees with the article. Perhaps I’m the oddity, but I’ll wear that title gladly. I find travel stimulating, whether within the confines of our political borders … or when breaking away and crossing those borders—or an ocean—to explore.  Yes, I do use my laptop, but the cost of using my smartphone abroad (all those gigabytes add up so quickly—yikes!) becomes prohibitive and besides … there’s way too much to see and do to be bothered with spending much time with my electronic devices. No texting, no phoning, no Googling. I’ll only go on it to work on my blog … or perhaps to write down some ideas for my ongoing storyline (but I also have a notebook—the paper kind), or check out and reserve a room at the next spot I’ll be visiting … and of course, to off-load all the photos I take whilst traveling. And there’s plenty of them!

This year will be no exception. As a matter of fact, I will be concentrating on my photography—especially whilst in Scotland, since that is going to figure into my story line. In some form … OOPS. Well, mo more spoilers. I’ll just leave you to ponder that one. Teehee.

So. I’ve been working on getting my itinerary in order. There are fixed events that I must plan my stay around. The Celtic Invasion Vacations tour in Cornwall is set in stone, so to speak. I know I want to make a trip to Cardiff to the Dr. Who Experience (foiled twice … definitely going to get it right the third time!) and have two friends in London and outlying areas that I want to visit … which will entail a visit to the Shakespeare Theatre to see “Midsummer Night’s Dream” … and maybe a visit to an elementary (primary) school to entertain the youngsters with spontaneous storytelling (working on that right now). But my primary destination will be Scotland. As far north as I can manage in the time I have. The furthest I’ve managed in the past is in and around Edinburgh—don’t get me wrong … I could spend my entire trip in Edinburgh and be completely happy. But I want to get up near Wick (south of the northeast tip of Scotland) if it’s at all possible, as our clan castle (Gunn) is somewhere near this area—I need to research this further. If not this trip, then on my next trip. Yup, there will be another trip, health permitting …

Trying to juggle all the places and things I want to do definitely requires planning, so even though I’m three-months out, I’m already behind. I do have my air fare to/from the states and the hotel rooms just before my tour and a couple nights before my departure for home. My first night’s stay is not settled, as I really don’t know which way I’ll be headed. Do I travel by trains? Rent a car? (Maybe a wee bit of both??) So many things to figure out … and so little time to do it.

Not much more to say at this point, but my next “trip” blog will be more informative. If you are interested in any of my previous travels, then look through and click on the Tags (on the right) for “Europe Travel” (and others) to keep you busy till my next blog.

Until then, hoping your St. Paddy’s Day was a memorable one and that you can see the proverbial light (Springtime) at the end of the long, dark (Winter) tunnel.

Slainté

 

 

 

 

 

Good bye Edinburgh, Hello Glasgow & Stranraer: One nighters

18 April 11  Edinburgh
Oh, my!  Woke to a swollen, itchy eye this morning.  Took my antihistamine & if it doesn’t improve, once I’m in Glasgow, will probably take a Benadryl…

Other than that, it’s 8:30 and all I need to do is check emails, turn in my key and get a cab to take me up to the train.  I’ll check the times & which track then wait for the next train.

LOL…what I’d forgotten about these tickets, is that you can catch any train you like…the ticket is for the whole day.  So, I caught an earlier train (was supposed to catch one close to 11am…took the 9:26 instead.  As I walked to the platform, I remembered that I didn’t turn in my borrowed power adapter — it’s sitting on the little table in the room.  How irritating…I just lost ten pounds to that lapse in memory, and that puts me very tight on money till I can get to an exchange to change from euros to pounds…

Several people had told me that I must see Glasgow.  That it is beautiful, majestic, etc.  So, I am really looking forward to it!  On my way, now and the first stop is Haymarket, not more than five minutes out of Waverley Station.  There are some absolutely beautiful homes right up against the tracks.  Not the norm for the states.  The homes abutting on the tracks in the States would be so much less desirable, tenement living.  All the posh homes would be far from the noise of the tracks.  But these are beautiful, well cared for homes, with nice little yards and gardens.

Today is a wee bit cloudy — little sheets of puffballs with bits of blue sky sneaking through here and there.  It has been weather I could not have planned for better.  So little rain had dampened my path — I am delighted to say, but I really don’t care what weather comes…it is all good.

I’m already into farmland, not that far from Edinburgh, really.  Fallow fields and some with well established green.

I’ve tried to take shots from the train, but have failed miserably.  The seat available to me has my back to where we are going and at the first seat in the car, so I really can’t catch things in a timely manner.  So, I’ve decided to just do my ‘snapshots’, or glimpses, in words:

field upon field, partitioned by long winding stone walls

little puddle of a pond along side the tracks at the base of a sheer stone wall, mostly dead-looking branches hanging over, some tiny sprouts of green beginning to bud out on parts of one branch

the edge of a small town with house after house, almost identical is design, nestled up next to each side of a river, with a beautiful arching stone bridge reflecting beautifully in the water below; a field just beyond fully covered in green

new bits of green popping up on swales of rich brown tilled soil

red tiled, steeply roofed homes clustered together creating a tidy little neighborhood

much newer construction amidst not so old (1960’s?)

tunnels that put pressure on my poor allergy-prone ears, but popping out one with trees and shrubs above, rickety wood stair case running crookedly through brambles and trees to the tracks — for pedestrians, or railway workers?

We’re coming through Falkirk High now.  Oh, my — this is a large thriving town, with a mix of old and new, spires from very old churches rising above it all — except for one monster high rise, so out of place

more well kempt, long skinny lots  with homes, laundry out to dry

cows grazing and lazing; and scottish broom with their bright yellow blooms doting fields; a large pond with ducks

finally, horses!  I think of my friends, Marji & Nan and smile; corrals and stables–oh, what I would give to get out and get a good smell of that lovely aroma

abruptly, I see major construction on an interchange — gone as fast as it popped into view

beautiful, large, stately stables & home with horses everywhere

sheep dotting a green field, with remnants of stone outbuildings scattered here and there

Now entering Croy, and my weary eyes are tired, so for the last bit, I will save you from further descriptions. ^,^

Upon arriving at the Glasgow train station, around 10:45, and grabbing my taxi to the hostel, I saw so much new married to only a few older buildings that is was disheartening.  I was ready to turn around and get back on the train.   As I approached the hostel, my hopes were lifted at least slightly when I saw an increase of ‘ancient’ architecture.  But, the City Center (where the station is located) is really very much more modern than I am interested in.

About a half-hour walk from the train station — I am so glad I took the taxi!  And I keep forgetting that these old building don’t have elevators.  Stairs — lots of them — greeted me.  Stairs up to the front door, stairs up to the luggage room…I am glad my knee is not bothering me.  My hostel seems to be at the top of a knoll…so if I go out, there will be an uphill journey to get back.  And then, stairs up to my room…later.

With my luggage in the storage room (room won’t be ready till 2 pm), I wandered down (key word, that!) the street into a magnificent garden:  Kelvingrove Park, part of Park Circus — I’ll post several photos of the park and the map showing what is where — neat.  Beyond the park is the oldest university in Glasgow:  Glasgow University.

In the park, there are a multitude of lawns, trees, flower beds bursting with color, paths, a walking bridge over a river and a pond with ducks and other water fowl.  The park is built on a bank.  Remember I said the hostel was at the top, well, the park is on the hillside that takes you down to the City Center.  Long walk down, and hopefully a less steep way back up.

With the map given to me, I made my way through the park to the main streets, heading to the post office, where I could exchange my euros to pounds — and was glad to see it was at 0% commission — Edinburgh exchange I went to charged 6 pounds…ouch!

Money exchanged, I wandered further towards City Center, reluctantly.  I found a pub — O’Neil’s — for lunch.  Pretty Irish, yes?  LOL…preparation for my next two weeks ^,^  Chicken & Mushroom Crock Pot — sounded good to me & oooh, was it!  Chicken breast with mushroom & brandy sauce, served with colcannon (mashed potatoes, onions & cabbage mixed together), topped with Irish cheddar — all for three pounds, 49 p.  Oh, yes — and a half pint Smithwicks beer for a wee bit more.  Perfect.

Here’s a lesson:  my taxi fare was 6 pounds & the driver conveniently didn’t have change for a tenner >.<  I’d already handed him a one pound coin as tip when he handed me the change back with his “sorry, don’t have full change” — planning on keeping the amount he’s short.  So he ended up with a very flush tip.  Next time, I’ll use my change to make it exact.

The Irish ballad music is quite soothing…not too anxious to leave.  I think I may just wander back up (hoping to find a route not as steep as the one through the park) to the hostel.

Saw a photo of Albert Einstein and Sir somebody, noting that they were standing outside Einstein’s home on Park — that is somewhere near the hostel… ^,^  Always liked Einstein.

Back at the hostel, recouped my energy (somewhat) and have decided that I am not going back out.  Too tired.  Think the train ride, my walk around Glasgow, the bite on my eye and my antihistamine & decongestant are taking their toll on me.  Plus, the disappointment of the big city atmosphere and lack of old-world charm.  Not what I really wanted, so ready to move on.

7pm — just spent two hours on the internet, pretty much trying to figure out my itinerary.  Train website bumped me, so I’ll just do it in Belfast…train every two hours, so no big deal.  There’s no room in Galway, so I’ve decided to stay in Dublin, using it as base and do day trips out to all of the places I want to go to.  If I get tired, perhaps I’ll move on to Shannon sooner.  But, for now, Dublin for six days, then a train ride to Limerick, bus or taxi to Shannon & collapse for the night, repack, shower & be ready for my plane ride in the morning (I think it’s morning) — only five minutes by car to the airport ^,^

For now, I am going to retire to my room and get all comfy.  I’m tired.  Too much cerebral work today, on top of the walking I did.

19April
9:55am
Oooh — got too early of a start!  Had breakfast, packed up, checked for an email confirmation to correct my mistake (double reservations in Dublin), checked out, got a taxi and am now spinning my wheels at the Glasgow Central train station.  Having a lovely cup of green tea as I type…my train does not leave until 11:42, so I have a bit of time.  It’s not even on the overhead boards yet, so no clue as to which platform I should go to.  I’ll give myself till about 11 and go check the boards.

I did buy postage and mailed my first post card — LOL — trip is almost over, so it will be interesting to see who makes it first:  the card or me ^,^  It is airmail, so I would hope, the card!  I had to buy four stamps, so, three more lucky people will get postcards, I guess…I’m not one for sending postcards — as you can see, I like to write, so postcards are too limiting for me.  I could just send cards willy-nilly, saying dumb things like “wish you were here”, so people know I’m thinking of them, but really, I have thought of almost everyone at some point or another–something I see triggers the thought and I smile.  People around me must think I’m a bit bonkers…but I don’t care.

Ouch!  They just did a test for a fire alarm (nicer ringing–two-tone, though still loud–than the shrill siren in the states).  Then they did a “voice test” — lol…as if that was necessary.  Oh well.  Everyone in the cafe I’m in was laughing and mocking the “voice test”.  I think they even shut it off in the cafe, because it stopped so abruptly inside, but continued outside.

I keep being drawn to scarves.  A tenner will buy a beautiful scarf — that’s about 15.50 US.  Nice, but I’m acquiring too many, I think…and besides, they are either made in London or India.  I’m in Scotland.  I think I’ll wait till I’m in Ireland and see if I can get something local.

I’ve caught the news a couple of times since I landed in Scotland and the economy here seems to be doing as badly as in the US.  Their elections are coming up in May and there is a contest between politicians (as usual) to see how many votes they can draw.  At stake are many public service jobs (sound familiar??), which will effect some towns in Wales heavily — upward to 30% population is in the public service areas & they are spending less to prepare for possible job losses, which is hurting the economy badly.  Listening quietly to locals talk has been very informative.  I do not profess to be terribly “politically savvy” but everything I hear (little about the US, but I’m sure it’s nearly the same) points to a turn around not coming soon — seriously.

And that alarm keeps going off randomly (never finishing the announcement), so it is being ignored.  Wonder what would happen in the case of a real alarm…the boy crying wolf too many times makes people oblivious to a real problem, eh?  Ah — still part of the “testing” — they just announced the testing is over — LOL.

Just past 11am & my train is not posted on the overhead yet, but by the looks of it, within the next 15 minutes or so, should be up there.  I have a reserved seat for this journey, as do I on the ferry (cushy, if I do say so on the ferry ^,^ )  But I’ll have to dash to make the train to Dublin, I think, or wait for two hours.  The ferry area is nice, so it wouldn’t be too bad a wait.  Just two hours from Belfast to Dublin, then to the hostel…can’t remember the check in time, but shouldn’t be more than an hour (maybe my room will be ready early ^,^ )

But, I get ahead of myself.  First, Stranraer.  I can hardly wait — QUIET little town–such a lovely change of pace from all of this big city stuff.  Guess I really and truly am a country girl at heart! ^,^

11:20, well, posted as “on time”, but no platform # yet.  Probably another 10-15 minutes before I can board…

LOL…was actually late…”delayed” for about five minutes — probably got underway just before noon, which is fine, since I am NOT trying to make the StenaLines ferry connection today.  There are quite a few that were pacing & making phone calls to say the train was late and they may have to take a later ferry.  So glad I decided to wait so I would not be in the same position.

Now, this is truly beautiful country!  Beautiful, expansive and loads of sheep and cattle.  And you know it’s spring time by all of the lambs frolicking in the fields or hovering close to their mothers.  I am seeing so many sets of twins — more than I thought was normal, but who knows…one set waggin’ tails, butting at teats, looking for a taste of mother’s milk.

Don’t know how long I’d survive this far afield froma town, but I do love this part of Scotland.

Tomorrow.  StenaLines, then look for a connection down to Dublin (I believe they run every hour or two, so no big deal.

While waiting, I’ve run across a mom & her 18 month old boy (a cutie) that live in Skye, visiting grandparents one last time before they make the move to Minnesota (she is from Seattle, married to a Scot)…he is hoping they will be “home” before their son starts school…at least Minnesota has an excellent school system if they get “stuck” there. LOL… They are on the same train, but will be getting off earlier than I — I’ll be going to the end of line.

Arrived!  Stranraer train station is right next to the StenaLines.  And I saw exactly where I need to go tomorrow on my way into town to the Swan Inn…nearly at the other end of town!  LOL.  I will definitely be taking a taxi to the ferry in the morning.  The want passengers  to arrive one hour before departure, so I need to be there by 8:30am.  It’s less than 5 minutes away — by car…with luggage, it took me about 15-20 minutes, asking directions along the way.

My room’s not quite ready, so I’ve been roaming around the children’s park (very beautiful & well kept) and now just waiting a few extra minutes before going in.  The husband was mopping up the pub portion of the Inn — food & spirits downstairs, rooms to let upstairs.  Thankfully, he allowed me to drop my stuff & promised to take to my room for me — WONDERFUL!  No hauling up a flight of stairs (poor guy…my stuff is deceptively heavy — no one thinks an “old lady” would be hauling around so much weight!

My room is cozy, plenty of room, with a tv, refrigerator & food for my continental breakfast & tea (or coffee).  I am happy!  I took pictures.  At some point I will post these at Flickr.

8pm and completely settled in after a very nice shower.  TV going, to get caught up on news (though, not US news, by any means) and non-timed (yay) internet access.  Will be back to paying for my time tomorrow night…  So, if I get around to it, I will post pictures tonight.  That is, unless I get too tired.  I went to bed last night at 8:30 & was afraid I’d wake during the night…LOL…I slept till 5:30, rolled over and slept till just before 7am!  Worked out well.

So, I’ve bored you long enough & time to get on with choosing which pictures to post to my Flickr page (you can access from my photo page on creationsbydjamesonsmith.com — maybe even from the home page)

Cheers!