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!

 

London In A Day–No Way!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Journey Has Begun…And Then Some

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Who Experience-Closed

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

Directional signs in Cardiff

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

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Millenium Centre from across the bay in Cardiff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A little lesson about the ringing of bells.

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

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

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

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