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.

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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.

Traveling Alone In A Car…

TRAVELING ALONE DEFINITELY HAS it’s drawbacks, but overall, it’s still a lovely experience. Traveling alone in a country you don’t know can be daunting, if you let it–especially in a car, driving on the “wrong” side of the road.

In 2007, when I came over with my then 19-year-old daughter, I ‘d been driving a manual transmission vehicle back home, so the transition from driving on the right side of the road to the left was a bit more complex. Not only was I groping for the seat belt over the wrong shoulder, but I kept searching for the shift mechanism and mirrors with the wrong hand. It took a day of constant reminders to make my right and left turns correctly, in addition to the ‘nagivator’s’ (my endearment for my navigator) warnings that I headed to the wrong side of the road–no near misses, thankfully.

Since about 2010, I’ve been driving an automatic, and I think that has made the transition much easier. About two weeks or so prior to departure, I began a mantra in my head every time I turned: “Left near, right far”. It seems to have worked. I have had no problems with turns, nor with locations of anything. Except an occasional lapse with the seat belt. I can deal with that.

My reason for having a car for this trip was so I could go where ever I wanted, whenever I pleased. So far, this has worked beautifully. But being alone means I’m the driver all of the time. No time in the passenger seat, admiring the scenery. My attention is always split between the view and the business of driving. And, fantastic photo ops come up…and pass me by because there is no place to pull off–there are very few shoulders to pull off into in the country (or the city, for that matter!) and by the time you find something, there’s no way to make your way back by foot. Walking along the road can be a very hazardous venture. Now I know why those that do wear the bright vests you see on workers stateside.

This week, I am on a quest: to find a specific type of scene that I might use as a cover for my third book. I need rubble from the ruins (plenty of those) with trees growing up and around them (plenty of those, too)–just need to find them together, in a spot I can actually get to.

I have yet to find that specific view…but I have definitely experienced some very interesting times on the road–because my GPS is not been working (worked beautifully up until the day I needed to get down into the southern part of Dublin to catch the ferry over to Wales). It wouldn’t zero in on anything–showing me driving ‘off-road’, as it were…so, seat of the pants driving, lots of errors in turns and a cool head (as cool as possible after a zillion wrong turns) finally got me to the Hertz office to turn the car in, unload my stuff and hail a taxi to get to the ferry. I left with a huge (we’re talking hours) window…and ended up with only a half hour before passengers were to load. Well, I made it. I was able to relax on the 2.75 hr ride to Wales…spending some of the time trying to figure out why it failed. I’ve given up–tried all the obvious (turned it off and on, removed the sim card, replaced it, removed it again, wiped it down, replaced it…). I really don’t know why it’s not working. I’m not going to worry about it.

Then again, here in the UK. Still no GPS and no verbal or written directions on the iPhone. Just basic map. It’s been interesting driving without electronic guidance, but it’s been doable–people did it for so long before wifi and GPS…I figured, certainly I could do it. A few chats with locals, paying attention to sighs…and everything was good.

And, remember the comment about photo ops? Well, I’ve been excited with all of the beautiful things I’ve seen–and captured digitally. There are other things, like the bridge I saw out of the corner of my eye, that haven’t been captured–yet. It was one of those “I-wanna-stop-right-here-in-the-middle-of-the-road” moments to gaze upon this gorgeous bridge off in the distance in lower Wales, just north of Holyhead, parallel with the Britannia Bridge (that’s the one I was driving on). I will have to check it out on my drive back. This is when I wish I had been the passenger and was able to snap a few shots. But now, I will go on a mini-quest to find it and get some really nice shots.

It’s getting awfully late and I have an early rise tomorrow, so I’ll leave you with this blog to mull over until next time. I will post some photos later, too!

Good night all. Enjoy.

It’s Official…

WELL, I’M OFFICIALLY crazy. Not only am I trying to do the promotion on book one (doing an awful job at it), but trying to get book two finalized and to the publisher, book three’s back story woven in and editing done so I can turn it into my editor, plus work on book four and bring it to completion…all of that so I can start on the other ideas bouncing around in my head while the editor does his editing thing. On top of that, I now a new love to explore.

My book’s characters are up in arms over this new ‘love’ in my life, protesting by filling my head with way too many ideas for any one person. It’s ready to explode.

My new love? Travel. Well, it’s not ‘new’, I just haven’t done much. My writing has come first for the last year. Everything else has taken a back seat. Until now. Now, I have finished with all my vacillating back and forth on when, how long, where and finally made my plane reservations, rounded up and confirming critter sitters and have a mile long list of the things I need to accomplish before my travel dates! Yikes!

I am looking forward to driving in the UK and Ireland–yes, the wrong side of the road…I know, but I have no problem with it–well, my daughter may take exception to that comment, so I’ll modify it: once I’ve been behind the wheel about ten to fifteen minutes, I’m fine. And, I’ll make sure I know how to put the car into reverse before Ieaving the lot this time. I actually had to call the car company to ask how to get it into reverse so I could pull out of a parking space. I’d forgotten about the possibility of a ring that needed to be pulled up during the shifting action. So few cars in the US have that feature. I take pride in knowing these things. Oh, so embarrassing!

I will be sure to keep you updated with a travel blog I’ll start before I leave. If you have aspirations of traveling alone, it could be informative–and surely you’ll at least get a chuckle out of my sometimes tongue-in-cheek comments and situations (see some of my previous blogs on my travel adventures…you will see what I mean). One should not be afraid to travel alone. I’ve had friends tell me I’m brave to travel alone. Balderdash. I’ve simply learned to travel smart, and not fret over the small stuff…and, there will be small stuff–guaranteed. I had a navigator the last time I drove…no navigator this time, so I’m figuring I’ll get lost more–wheee! I’ll see areas I hadn’t planned on seeing! (See? That’s the way to think when traveling.)

Oh, yeah…and I’ll try not to run over pedestrians. (Inside joke, for my daughter…sorry.)

I will also have my camera with me and will share my photos either in my blog or via my Flickr account (or both). Europe is an amazing place for photographers. The US has many awesome places, but Europe has the “age” advantage…everything is so much older over there. I love it. I love to just sit amongst the ruins and breath in the oldness, imagining the life as it was, way back when. And life is so differently compared to the US. Not necessarily better (though in some cases, yes), but definitely different. I’m all for differences.

Keeps things interesting.

I’m excited.

 

 

 

 

Dublin

24 April, Easter Sunday 8:35am

Happy Easter to all!

I got up a little too early today…service starts at 9am. Think I’m anxious to step inside?? You betcha, but not out of fear — it’s been four weeks since I’ve been able to sit down in a formal setting in a church — it will feel good!

The town is so quiet — except for the occasional bus (fewer today) — and it appears that street traffic down into the center of O’Connell Street is being diverted (from 5am-4pm) — construction of some sort, or some Easter celebration? I’ll find out later when I try to find a pick-up point for the hop on/of tour bus (usually I’d get on mid-O’Connell St…obviously, not today).

1:25pm.

Well, if I could read, then I’d have realized the 9am service was mid-way down O’Connell Street at the Spire…didn’t click for some reason (tired & info doesn’t filter through as well at that point)… But, it took two glances at the billboard, at 8:50am, before I realized I had a wee bit of a walk!! And the traffic blockade was for an Easter/City celebration of sorts — officials, military band & show of military forces. I had to get through the blockades to the center (literally) — thankfully, long before the activities began. Made it just as the service began.

Did one “spin” of the hop on/off tour bus — pressing my luck to get back to the Abbey Presbyterian Church for the 11am communion service, having to literally wade through people traffic to get there, practically running the whole way (uphill, mind you, with my short legs!) — dodging slower foot traffic and made it — completely out of breath…but knew I’d be able to sit & recover while enjoying the service — just as the minister finished up his opening prayer.

I’ve had my exercise for the day, thank you!

But, after the service, I then walked the whole length of O’Connell Street (once again) to get back to the tour bus — but at a much leisurely pace this time, stopping for post cards & a huge 2 liter bottle (what was I thinking??) of water. And waited for the tour bus (a live tour this time–last one was ‘canned’ audio of tour–this was much better!) to get under way. Definitely better — Oemin? (pronounced long a-men) was the tour guide and when we reached the statue of Molly Malone, he sang in a lovely voice, the whole song! A few facts I learned–Garda (their police) means guardian of peace, the Irish have an interesting way of pronouncing ‘film’ (we use it as once syllable, they turn it into two: fi-lem).

I only got off at the Jameson’s Old Distillery (my pilgrimage to there is simply because it’s Jameson — and they have lovely Butler’s chocolates with Jameson whiskey ^,^ ) where I bought bars for each of my brothers, daughter & myself and a tiny bottle of Irish whiskey to bring home. I was going to stop in the Temple Bar area, but after all my running, decided not to.

Oh, my. Why do I keep doing this to myself ^,^ I waited for the bus to pick me up to bring me as close as possible, but it seemed to take forever, so, thinking it wasn’t that far, I started to walk…oh my. Well, it was a whole lot further, and nearing 4:30 — wanted to get into the kitchen before it became a zoo…obviously, I didn’t make it by then. It was much closer to 5 when I drug myself into the hostel, collapsed in my room for about an hour or two & finally managed enough strength to go make dinner…chicken, zucchini, tomato & mushroom sauté with a side of yogurt and oj to drink. After cleaning, drying & putting away the dishes, I went back into my room and realized that there was only one person left — and she was from Australia & a delightfully quiet person ^,^ My two giggle boxes were gone, as was the one above me that spent the night grinding her teeth. Silence tonight. YAY!

25 April, 3pm

I was so tired last night, I felt foolish going to bed at 8:30pm, but did anyway. Slept most of the night through (woke once when the sun came up, but rolled back over) all the way to about 7:30 or so.

This has been an uneventful, quiet day. My Australian room mate left this morning & absolutely no body has come in. That can still change, though. I’ve done the “last chance” laundry, folded and tucked away in my bags, had the left-over chicken sauté for lunch and getting this last post done before I pack it up. I need to go down into the kitchen either late tonight or early tomorrow & mark everything of mine in the kitchen (refrigerated/non-refrigerated items) as “free” so they won’t go to waste. I will use a couple of the eggs for breakfast, but the rest stays — hard to make purchases at the mini-marts because everything is prepackaged, so for one person, I end up getting enough to last me forever! Such a waste.

Tomorrow I start my 2nd to last leg:  Dublin -> Limerick -> Shannon by train & bus. Then an overnight stay in a hotel & my final leg is on Wednesday 27th, from Shannon Airport to NY to SFO. I have had such a lovely time, and if I have not said in the past, traveling alone can be great fun! I’ve met so many people, from all backgrounds, from many countries. Hosteling is great for this kind of travel. In hotels and B&B’s, you are more isolated. In the hostels, the vast variety of nationalities are really “in your face” — no getting away from it (I’d never dream of trying!)

But, that said, I know I would have enjoyed it even more if I had a traveling companion — be it a friend or my daughter. I am a people person and love to share. To not have someone I can share the experience with has been hard — so, I hope you don’t mind all my ramblings, as I have been able to share my experiences (at least in part!) with you!

So, tomorrow — we’ll see what that holds…hopefully NOTHING like my daughter’s 24-hr travel experience…straightforward would be nice ^.^

Slainté!

Stranraer -> Belfast -> Dublin…and more

20 April

9:35 and we are off, heading to Belfast.  This is a much smaller ferry than Jameson and I were on in ’08.  The StenaPlus (you pay extra for this) is much smaller, not as grand a view as on the big ship.  Shucks. Oh, well.  I might go downstairs and see if that one is any better (thought the upper deck would provide a better view, but wenches are in the way.  Perhaps I’ll go out on deck first.  Jacket will be needed — I see people out there and one lady’s hair is blowing pretty good.  We’ll see — I have three hours to check things out.

Didn’t sleep that well last night — mattress was a wee bit lumpy (an inner spring mattress), but mostly because I didn’t want to oversleep & miss my taxi, so I kept waking up — lol.  Coveting horizontal surfaces (none anywhere to be seen, except the floor & I don’t think that would be acceptable)…

Just saw what I guess is the Brit’s version of Regis & Kathy (or whoever his current “co-anchor” is…) — morning talk show that hosts celebrities, etc.  They had some interesting people on this morning:  young man named Milos that plays an amazing guitar — I’ll be looking for his music when I get home; the star of a new movie, Beastly (updated & probably PG or R rated version of Beauty & the Beast).  I’ll have to do a little research, but I think I may go see this one.  The actor, after finishing the move, had a whole new view of people with deformities (after playing the part — and going out during break, still in his makeup); and a star that is hosting two shows — one a documentary of newly found family members (adoptive children looking for birth parents or family members, families that have been separated for decades, etc) — neat.  They are able to do a more exhaustive search where the individuals have failed.  The other is a game show…ho-hum.

12:55pm
So, I have about 45 minutes before my train boards…not enough time to look around the city and almost too much time to just sit.  But, Belfast is extremely smoggy — reminds me of LA (not a good thing), plus the exhaust in the taxi needs work!  At first I thought it was the “fresh air” I was smelling — but once I got out, wasn’t so bad…no wonder he kept opening his window wider!  LOL!  Not a very chatty fellow, either.

Guess I could take this time to get a bite to eat, but it looks very “fast food”-ish…not terribly appealing.  Ah!  I keep forgetting I have a few bits in my “kitchen” bag ^,^ : nice fresh orange or two, bread & some jam that I nicked from my last accommodation (I paid for it, so guess I didn’t really nick it, did I?)  So, I’ll enjoy some fruit & a wee bit of bread w/jam.

Ah…refreshed!  And now, on my two and a quarter hour train ride.  A cutie across from me (love it when I’ve got a youngster across from me — so far they have been very well behaved.  This little lassie is about three or four.  She and her mum are going to Limerick Junction — off at Dublin station, switching to another station, then on in their travels.

Saying farewell to Belfast — it’s started to clear already!  I can see the haze in the distance.  Sorry, I’m sure there’s beautiful stuff to see, but I just couldn’t handle the smoggy city.  Balmoral is beautiful!  Just passed an old graveyard–I like them for some reason.

Oh, dear.  Lovely young lady just sat across from me…Why is it women feel they must take a bath in perfume.  My eyes are now quite itchy.   I may have to move if she doesn’t get off soon.  Arg.

21 April
6:50pm

Hot and sweaty — you just don’t equate those two word with Ireland, unless you’ve been working hard outside in the summer…and the weather has been a lot like summer!

The weather here has been phenomenal!  I arrived in Dublin yesterday late afternoon, booked a train to as close to Shannon as I could get (Limerick), then took a taxi to the hostel, made my bed & grabbed a locker.  Then I tried to get on line to check emails, FB, and to check the bus schedule to Shannon from Limerick (since it looks like the way I’ll end up going…that or a taxi) — succeeded for about five minutes — the system kept cutting out (too many trying to get on at once), so I gave up.  I concentrated my efforts figuring out where my day trips would take me.  One of the girls at the reception desk gave me a ton of fliers to look through…back to my room. After weighing the cost, timing (up, out & down to the pick up point–furthest point away, before buses started–by 6:30 for one!!!), I decided on one, went down to book & was told tI just needed o just show up…but after more discussing pros and cons of multi-day tours (not my favorite idea at the time), I decided to go for one that provided two tours AND an overnight accommodation at a hostel for 75 euro.  Their normal rate is 50/tour, so I thought I had a pretty good deal — what closed the deal was the fact that they would come pick me up at the hostel at 6:30–I could do that!  I will need to get a taxi back to the hostel on Friday night, because it doesn’t get back till at least 9pm.  But I’m happy with the arrangements.  We ended calling the tour company quite a few times to ask various questions…(I’d walk away, think of a question & come back…I don’t know how many times I visited the reception staff, but I’m sure they were sighing as they saw me coming as the day ended…LOL!  They were probably glad that I would be gone two whole days!)

So, today I was picked up, taken to Galway by the Dublin Tour Co, along with about 36 other people (picked up at various spots in the city).  Two tours were running: Connemara & Cliffs of Moher.  I had decided to do Cliffs of Moher, but they needed to shift people & I volunteered to do the Connemara tour instead.  It was very nice — I took notes on things that interested me & shot a zillion pictures…until my battery died.  I then resorted to the iPhone camera until it was down below 20%…by then, we were pretty much finished with the official part of the tour & coming into Galway.

I find it interesting that the tours I’ve been on, when I sit up front, the tour guide seems to talk to me rather than the whole tour group — lol.  Kinda weird, but flattering?  But the guide today was great — full of historical facts, some blarney and lots of laughs. (Did you know the blue/pink marks on the sheep were to indicate boy/girl? ^,~ )

The hostel I’m staying at in Galway did not have any adapters, so I had to go out and buy an adapter (only a week left — LOL!) for my camera’s battery charger…the front desk did not have any adapters for US plugs…only 3.80–not bad.  This is really a quite nice hostel (called Snoozles — how cute) — newer than mine in Dublin, and it has an elevator!  YAY (though, didn’t bring my rolly…but my knees certainly appreciate it–always took it up, and the stairs down!) and there is a bathroom W/shower (interesting–just a shower curtain, drain in floor…) en suite.  Happy camper…which brings me back to hot and sweaty!  Our bus’ air conditioning (you wouldn’t think you’d need it this time of year, right??) was out of whack.  So, the driver’s thermometer gauge read 32.9 degrees Celsius!  That’s 91 degrees F, folks!  The only windows were the drivers window and one ceiling vent in the back.  Once he opened it up, the temp dropped slowly to 27…(80).  Everyone was pouring out at each stop, whether they wanted to take photos or not, just to cool down.  But, it wasn’t too bad up front…I had the breeze from his window keeping me reasonably cooled (still very warm, but tolerable)…hence, hot and sweaty — and wanting to take a shower.  I will, just before going to bed (lol…will have to deal with crazy hair in the morning).

Just have to decide if I want to go out to eat tonight, or just munch on a protein bar or an orange or something…funny thing about just sitting all day.  I am tired from doing nothing much — oh, yeah…and getting up at 5:30 to be ready for my pick up…(forgot about that).  And I’m not really all that hungry, either.  Had a salmon & spinach quiche w/carrots — yummy — for my “lunch” at 2pm, so still very full.

Saturday, 23 April, 5:30pm — my where did the time go??

I was way too tired and had no time to do any posting yesterday.

Yesterday was a blast — leisurely rise, dress & breakfast (included with my room)…went for a walk to kill time, then checked out at 9:30 am, wandered over and sat for nearly an hour, kibitzing with the staff…half of them seem to know me by name — was I that much trouble??  I did, tongue-in-cheek, ask why everyone knew my name & the answer was because I was one of a few that were “overnighters” & they had to keep track of us…lol.  I certainly seemed to get good treatment on my first tour.

Now, this next tour was to cover the Cliffs of Moher, Burrens & some other miscellaneous stops.  Did I tell you that the Galway Tour company allows their drivers to pick and choose their routes & minor stops, plus their spiel that they give along the way?  Right!  And each guide had a great repertoire & route.  The Cliffs were breath-taking–in more ways than one–l o n g walk, folks up to the top.  I opted to NOT go up to the tower, which was a bad choice — puffins were up there!!!  I had plenty of time, too…just no energy. >.<

Our tour guide, Desmond Murphy (I think…his Irish accent was pretty heavy) had to be about 70 — years young!  This guy had a sharp mind & quick wit.  His humor could get kinda corny, but great, nonetheless!  He took the time to stop so we could get close up shots of lambs & other things.  He introduced us to the lamb-cow…”it goes moo-ma-a-a” — when we finally saw them, I had to laugh…alpaca!  Must be quite an oddity there.  Nothing but cows and sheep for miles and miles, and yet, relatively near the Cliffs was a heard of alpaca.   LOL.

We saw the beautiful Kylemore Abbey — unfortunately $$ to go in, so I opted to just have lunch (which was also expensive, but this I needed!) and leisurely walk around a take pictures.  Took some great shots of the Abbey with the lake in front.

It was a very long tour, leaving at 10 am and getting back to the bus depot by 6:25pm–20 minutes for me to make a quick pit stop & inhale an orange & scone I had the forethought to put in my bag ^,^ before getting onto the Dublin-bound bus & a 2 1/4 hour drive back.  I contemplated walking back to the hostel — sooo many people still out and about — but I had no more energy!  I found a taxi & paid the 5 euros (including tip) to get me back to the hostel.

I had a delightful day & when I got to the room at 9:30 pm, there was only one person in bed.  So, I quietly got into pjs, tucked stuff into my locker and no sooner than I was in bed, two giggle-boxes came in, whispering very quietly, then giggling louder than they needed.  I thought they were school girls (maybe 16-18), but I saw them today & they were early to mid 20s!  Just acted like school girls…I guess.

Today, I got up, dressed & had breakfast — free except for the extra scrambled eggs (2 euro) I added to my meal — and started in on my laundry…got it folded, and repacked my bag.

I only had a few things on the agenda today: laundry, walk to the botanical gardens and find out the time for Easter services at the Abbey Presbyterian Church.  That’s all…not much, eh?

Well, as I said, laundry was done, so I headed out to find the gardens…found several other things on the way (a community garden that had an award), the Royal Canal with four locks (took some pictures) and a magnificent cemetery.  I remember that the staff person at the hostel said it was before the cemetery…so, I missed my turn.  I asked at the floral center in the cemetery for directions & she gave some good ones, so I headed out again (after wandering through the grounds).  I finally found Botanical Road (I remembered that from the directions given at the hostel, but had apparently missed it) and aimlessly wandered for a bit, but realized I really had very little energy left — I’d been walking for almost 45 minutes, uphill, at a fairly good pace and figured I’d better give up because I saw nothing up the road that resembled a garden & absolutely no signage.  So, reluctantly, I turned around and headed the long walk back at a much more leisurely pace…dragging my sore feet along…even my calves were in on the action (arg).  I stopped and stretched them a bit, which helped, but as each bus swished by, I thought about stopping and hopping on.  I decided to brave it out and make my way back to the hostel, at the very least.

At the hostel, I almost went in, but decided to persevere and keep trudging along–knowing it was only about four blocks more (and downhill, thankfully!) to Abbey Church.  I made it, checked the times, saw a memorial park for fallen heros across from it (in 2008, the gates always seemed to be closed), so I went in.  Beautiful little park with a reflection pond in the shape of a cross, with mosaic tile design at the bottom.  At the head of the park, there is a beautiful sculpture of several people, with birds flying up and away from them.  Very restful — except when unsupervised pre-teens and teens started to scare the ducks in the ponds & bee-lined for the structure & noisily climbed it…until one very loud voice told them to get off. I think everyone in the memorial park was happy to see them leave.  I took some photos & rested my weary feet for a bit, then headed back up to the hostel, but first stopped into the Centra (mini-mart, very popular) for some yogurt & vittles (meals for the days ahead).  Then, drug myself back to the hostel, found some room (just barely) in the fridge for my stuff, gobbled some of the yogurt down & headed up to my room.

I think I must have fallen asleep, but not for too long.  I’ve been surfing the web & getting my photos into iPhoto so I can pick and choose which to upload later.  iPhoto is not being terribly co-operative right now, for some reason…can’t get in to add information about my photos (not a really big deal, but it has been nice to add the info while it’s fresh in my sieve-like mind…)–I’ll deal with that later!

So, my posting is almost ready to copy and paste into my blog, but first, I’m going to do a wander around the hostel to see if there’s anything interesting happening–and maybe grab a bit more food, before I publish the blog.  ^,^

Well, no desire to eat (I know I’ll regret it later…).  Finding power plugs that I can use to charge things is a challenge at this hostel.  One power plug for 8-bed dorm…drats.  I’ve found a plug in the “wifi” station, but I certainly cannot leave my laptop plugged in and walk away…so…here I sit, charging and typing (which slows down the charging–catch-22! LOL).

So, I’ll get this copied & published, then do some surfing (Facebook & all of my emails…etc)…and wait for the computer to fully charge!

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday & I WILL get up and go to church — only a short four blocks away!  I am really looking forward to it — then I’ll ride the hop-on/off tour bus around Dublin to refresh my memory of where everything is & take more photos!  Jameson and I didn’t spend much time over in the Temple Bar area (some beautiful stuff over there) when we were here in 2008, so I’ll definitely hop off in this area.  The bus is good for 24 hours, so I will definitely get good use out of it!

So, cheers for now!

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!

Prague

It is now Saturday, 9 April.  I spent my first night (Friday) in Prague rather uneventfully: napping, posting to my blog & checking emails. Still can’t get the photo feature in my blog to work so I will post to my Flickr account–in the next day…or three.

My first night was spent in an all-girl dorm.  Today I need to pack up and change rooms, to a coed dorm–I’ve done this before both stateside and Europe and there are no problems (there’s no parading around of half-naked men/boys or anything like that)–very respectful of whoever is in the room.

Our girl-dorm does have a talking sink–every once in a while, it gurgles. Kinda funny.  The co-ed dorm is actually two rooms–enter one, walk through to the next.  There is a shower in the first one, but just outside is the girls showers & bathroom, so I think that’s where I’ll do my showering — no offense meant, guys.  Hmmm….sounds like our sink in the co-ed dorm may also make sounds, but much quieter.  This is good!

Today is going to be fun–I will need to bundle up–the expected high will be 54 and it looks a bit overcast–I think it may clear. Great for picture taking.  And I love crispy weather–allows me to walk a lot without overheating.   I’m happy.

First up: Greyline Tour, to hit the highlights so I can focus in on what I really want to see ^,^  After talking to a local at Greyline, the trip from hostel to train would probably be 20 minutes. Now I need to decide if I want to haul all of my stuff for that long, or just grab a taxi.

Zdenik is our tour guide.  Studying law at the local university.  Education in the Czech Republic is free.  Wouldn’t that be nice back in the States!  A bachelors degree is achieved in three years, then masters in another three or four, depending on what you have decided as a major.  Hmmm….nope, won’t go there, but I have noticed that many students in the US take an average of five years to get their bachelors degree…longer, depending on how many times they change their major ^,^

My new friends  (befriended on the tour) from Australia tried to take a few photos if me in one of the squares, but my camera was being a nuisance!!  We all decided I must have programmed the camera to malfunction if I am in the shot.  So, they took one of me wtith their camera.  We will be exchanging photos.  These two were delightful travel companions.  I would have loved to spend more time with them, but they needed to start back to their hotel.  Another couple, on their honeymoon, was from Atlanta, Georgia.  Their trip seemed to be filled with mistakes (by their travel agency & the tours in Europe) and they were getting frustrated.  Since I usually try to look for the brighter side to things, I passed on my bit of wisdom in hopes they wouldn’t be so stressed out.  They agreed, though were not sure that was going to be easy since there seemed to be obstacles everywhere they turned…but that they would try.  We all had our little half-hour break together while on the tour and enjoyed each others company.  At the end, we all said good bye and went our separate ways.

I stayed in the town square where the guide dropped us and found a restaurant (for lunch) where I had a view outside looking at the Astronomical Clock (unfortunately under repair, so the mechanism allowing the apostles to march out, around and back into the clock was not working).

Lunch–oh!  Was going to take a shot before I demolished it! Well, you’ll get the idea:  ham, sauerkraut (red & white) dumplings, both potato & Czech, along with my  dark Czech  beer–yummy!  I’ll post the half-demolished lunch on Flickr.

A couple to my left wee from the UK–the young man’s family is from Scotland–loved to listen to him chat. We had a good talk. Traveling alone does not mean being alone–really!

After lunch, I looked at the map and made an amazingly good guess at the direction I needed to go.  I wanted to head back in the general direction of the hostel, but browse stores on the way.  Found several gifts for friends and family (and a few for me) made by local artisans along the way.  I am very satisfied with my purchases.

Once I had my bearings of the city, I then set out on foot — but first ^,~ I had lunch.  Yummy–Czech-style slow roasted pork & cabbage, with Czech potato dumplings.  It was really good.

Now, I needed to walk off all of the food, so I proceeded to try to read the map — haha…  Considering I really had no idea where I was going (I just looked like I did).  And amazingly enough, I actually headed in the right direction (wanted to figure out where my hostel was, then using that as my land mark, go out and about).  I was very happy.

In my wanderings, while on or near one of the bridges (not Charles Bridge), sirens began to sound.  One police car after another, and emergency vehicles — finally totaling well over 15 zoomed down the road that parallels the river — sometimes driving on the wrong side of the road (in this town, that is usually the only way to get anywhere fast).  Finally, I could see, somewhere just past the Four Season’s Hotel (I was told, the MOST expensive hotel in Prague) about a block off of the river, you could see smoke billowing out of one of the buildings.  By the time I reached it, police had blocked roads to keep cars from coming in that direction from all over the city…as far back as 5 very long blocks, I think (at least the distance Charles Bridge and one north of it).  The fire was pretty much out by my arrival, but the ladders were up and a fireman was pouring water from a hose into the top of the building.

Excitement.  For the sake of the people involved, I wish it hadn’t happened, but I was able to see locals doing their job that would not have otherwise been seen.  Pretty darn efficient — though, one or two police cars seems to do an awful lot of zooming up and down the road  (I was starting to think they were really bored & used it as an excuse to zip around on the wrong side of the road, just because they could, but I think it may have been the fire or police chief checking on manned stations…but why not let “motorola” do the hard work?

On the GreyLine tour I did see the Presidential Palace.  Beautiful.  But funny that there was no EU flags flying.  Yes, Czech Republic is part of the European Union, but the President does not like it, so he refuses to fly the flag.  I am sure there is more to it than that, but this is what our tour guide told us.

My husband was half Bohemian.  My daughter is 1/4 Bohemian.  Prague is part of the Bohemian country.  Our tour guide explained to us that another definition of Bohemian is gypsy.  This I did not know.  I always thought that the “bohemian” lifestyle was that of the artist community.  Now, that may be another meaning that was created later, but before that, to be Bohemian was to be gypsy.  ^,^  My daughter will like that.

I walked from 11:00 am to 4:30pm, covering a fair amount of ground for an “old lady” as my taxi driver identified me yesterday.  My lunch was so filling that I really needed to do all of that walking.  I am still full (at almost 7pm), so I just nibbled on an orange (shared half with one of my roommates) and some leftover bread from lunch, water and then tea from the kitchen.

I took many photos, so I will now stop my posting and start downloading them onto the computer and choose which ones are worthy (without touch-up) to put into my Flickr site.

Schüss