A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: DawnaL

England 2

...............and we're home!

overcast 13 °C
View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

Sightseeing with Mike and Mel today. First visit is to Lichfield Cathedral. Amazing edifice to the glory of Christianity right across the street from Charles Darwin's grandfather's home, also a tourist attraction. Location, location, location LOL!
St. Chad Gospels, an eighth century gospel, is on display at this cathedral. The first cathedral on this site was built in 700AD but the present structure was built in 1195. The engineering, the opulence of the interiors of the churches we've seen is amazing. If there truly were a Christian god then Lorri and I would have been struck by lightening many times over for the discussions we've had about power and control by the churches. We are such heathens!
Next stop is Ashby Castle, destroyed in the 17th century by Oliver Cromwell. I found a tunnel leading from the kitchen and followed it before the audio guide I had explained what it was about. I've been going underground and exploring tunnels for a few weeks now so wasn't at all afraid of the dark (yah, right!). The tunnel was quite long and twisty. At one point you could hear water running somewhere above your head. The audio commentary was really well done. Sounded like a couple of characters from Monty Python. You could easily spend several hours just sitting, listening and imagining what it must have been like in the 14th century. Exit through the gift shop, of course, but they had a surprise. English Heritage wine sampling! We had to try them all. Best one is the Traditional Mead followed a close second by the Ginger Wine. If I hadn't already purchased 3 bottles, yes, that's THREE bottles of whisky, I'd have liked to bring back one of each of those wines too. LCBO allows you to import up to a case of liquor or wine. You only have to pay 59.9% of the purchase price AGAIN plus HST. I showed a teensy bit of restraint this time.
Back to Mike and Melanie's. Lorri is going to give Mike a lesson on dog clipping so that Oak never again gets so matted. I am going to start repacking. Have to make room for those 3 bottles of whisky. To make it simpler I emptied out both packs and started from scratch. Turns out I have room to spare. Dang, could have bought that wine after all!
Packing all done and it's time for a wee whisky tasting. Mike has quite the selection. Royal Lochnagar is pretty yummy as is Cardhu. Feeling pretty mellow but have to try the Glenlivet too. Across the street to the Malt Shovel pub for dinner only Steven doesn't cook on Tuesdays. He does lend us his Chinese take-away menus. Delicious! Definitely not North American chicken balls and fried rice. We had crispy duck in miniature tortillas, sweet and sour pork and shrimp puffs. And a ton of other dishes too!
We plan to leave bright and early Wednesday morning and we do. Melanie got up early and cooked bacon! Bacon in the UK is always back bacon. Bacon, marmalade and peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast and we're on the road again. Mike and Melanie very kindly guide us to the main highway. The roads would be tricky but not impossible to follow with a decent map. Ours was sadly lacking in detail. Part of the route to the main highway is across a causeway used by Bonnie Prince Charlie when he invaded England way back when. The Swarkestone Bridge is a heritage road so naturally can't be widened or replaced. Rush hour traffic on a road 600 years old. OMG that is just so cool!
We waved like mad as we passed M&M on the A50 and we're heading for Chester. We should have plenty of time to visit and still get to Glasgow to return the car by 1730.
Chester is still surrounded by the wall the Romans built and is the only town in the world where shops like The Rows exist. We spent about and hour and a half but seriously we could have spent a week and a half there. It's beautiful, it's old, it's quaint and peaceful too. I walked part of The Rows, I walked about a quarter of the wall (the whole wall is about 2 miles around the old town), I sat by the River Dee and watched the ducks and I sat in the Roman amphitheatre and breathed history.
Glasgow here we come. One snack stop and the rest was 75 mph 3-4 lanes each direction. Yeehah! Hertz drove us to our hotel, the lovely Travelodge. Can you hear the sarcasm? I have a Tripadvisor account so check back for that review! Oh well, last night and then we're home. Our plane doesn't leave until 2 but we really don't want to hang around the Travelodge. We're at the airport by 915am. Don't buy coffee at MOSSO, worst ever and that's saying a lot because in the UK they actually like instant. Found the Starbucks and we're good. It'll be so good to be home.
Toronto Airport is the worst! Didn't help matters that the torrential rains they had Friday caused some major leakage in Terminal 3. But throw in a dozen or so different security/handicap helpers who have a dozen or so different ideas about where we need to be and you get the idea. Not to mention that we have been travelling for nearly 20 hours.
Ah, Thunder Bay. Not waiting for assistance in deplaning this time. Lorri is one of the first off and we're home! Yay!
Stay tuned for photos. We only have several hundred to go through. Big grin!

Posted by DawnaL 04:44 Archived in England Comments (0)

England

With Melanie and Mike in Worthington

sunny 15 °C
View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

Breakfast at the Inn in Dumbarton and we're on the road again. Dumbarton is just north of Glasgow. Missed one little turn as we were going through Glasgow and got a teensy bit turned around. Once GPS was happy again we found ourselves on a six lane freeway! Whee! 75 mph and we're being passed like we're standing still! Freeway driving is uneventful so fast forward to Trowell. Mike and Mel had us call and they drove to the junction at Trowell to guide us to Worthington. We arrived at their home around 4ish.
Mike made us the most delicious drinks, Brandy Alexanders! Melanie had some yummy nibbles and then it was across the road to the pub. Finally tried Guiness. Yum!! Met a few of the locals and later had burgers and fish and chips for supper. John Bates, former singer with the Troggs, made for entertaining company. His wife Rita tried to stop him from giving us every detail of his recent bowel cancer surgery but I was fascinated and kept asking questions. John is one of the guys who made Wild Thing a hit. Tammy, we'll get you an autograph.
Today was a relaxing Sunday. As you can see I got caught up with blogging. To the pub for a bit this afternoon. Probably back again this evening after supper.
Monday and we're out and about on the English countryside. Repton church has a display of recently discovered Saxon artefacts. Amazing! Renton school, right next door, is the school featured in the movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
Tuesday and I'm finally in relaxed, don't need to do or see a thing mode. Mike has ordered dog grooming clippers. Lorri and are are going to give Oak a doggy make-over. Oak is Mike's 14 year old Gordon Setter and the reason why Mike has not yet visited Canada. Oak is a sweety but is badly in need of some TLC. Mike gave us what tools he had yesterday and we made a start on Oak. He's going to be one handsome boy when we're done.
Wednesday already and our last day in England. We cut and shaved several pounds of matted fur off of Oak. He actually seems lighter on his feet and he is quite handsome. Melanie thinks we might have added years to his life! Oops! LOL! Today we will see Ashby Castle and tonight will be our last visit to the pub across the street, The Malt Shovel.
Cheerio, Ta-rah as they say in England.

Posted by DawnaL 01:44 Archived in England Comments (0)

Orkney, Wick, Fort William, Mallaig, Loch Lomond, Dumbarton

storm 5 °C
View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

I'm sitting on the Jacobite Train in Mallaig waiting to depart for Fort William. Took some beautiful pictures of the isles of Eigg, Rum and Skye. Wandered around this tiny, little town a bit, had Cullen Skink for lunch. I'll tell you a bit about Orkney while we wait for the train to get under way.

We were the 3rd car off the ferry in St. Margaret's Hope. It was already dark when we arrived so we're heading into an unfamiliar little town, looking for the road to Kirkwall. I've got a ferry load of crazy Orcadian drivers on my tail. Didn't try to stay ahead of them for very long. Pulled over and they all went screaming by. Now I had tail lights to follow. I'm watching the road, Lorri is watching what she can in the dark. She saw a wall of water heading for us but had no time to say anything before the car was drenched by a wave. We found out later this area is called the Churchill Barriers put up during WWII to keep the Nazi u-boats out of Scapa Flow. In really stormy weather this road is closed. It got closed the very next day for several hours.
Made our way into Kirkwall not knowing the exact location of our hostel, the Kirkwall Peedie Hostel. Stopped on the waterfront to regroup when Lorri spotted a tiny sign on the building we were in front of...Kirkwall Peedie Hostel. We had arrived. Found our key, dumped our bags and walked next door to the Ayre Hotel where we had a roast beef dinner. Beef is the main industry and export on Orkney. Mostly Aberdeen Angus and some Charolais. Cattle are free range. All the bulls, cows and calves living together like one big happy family. The bulls look VERY happy! This makes the cattle much less stressed, less need for vaccines and produces a superior beef product. Genuine Orkney beef must be raised, killed and butchered on Orkney or it can't be called Orkney beef.
We had talked about taking the world's shortest flight which would have been really neat but that meant getting up to be at Kirkwall airport for 830am. Pass. Turns out the flight was cancelled because of wind too.
Helen Woodsford-Dean met us at the hostel at 10 and we headed off to visit the Neolithic ruins that are everywhere on Orkney. We visited the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, Barnhouse settlement, Kirbister Farm, Maeshowe and the Unstan Cairm. Maeshowe is a cairn with a long, low passage inside. The visitor centre had a wheelchair so Lorri was able to make it across the fields to the Cairn. You have to bend all the way over as the passageway is just above waist height. I went in first, backwards, pulling Lorri in the chair. And then the roof got lower! Lol! Once inside you could stand fully upright. There were 10 of us including Aneta, our guide. She told us what archeologists have been able to surmise or guess at what it was used for 5000 years ago. She also pointed out the graffiti! Written by Vikings in the 12th century, less than 1000 years ago.
The storm just kept getting worse. First wind and then the rain. The rain was coming at us straight sideways. We packed it in around 330 because it was just not fun being that cold and wet.

Sitting in a pub in Leicestershire with Mel so will continue the saga.

Tuesday we were supposed to tour around with Helen again but the weather forecast is worse. So we switch our days around. Helen on Wednesday, Highland Park whisky tasting Tuesday. Breakfast at Judith Glue. Saw the Bishop and Earls Palace and St. Magnus Cathedral, did a bit of shopping and for the most part stayed dry. Supper at Helgi's just down the street from the hostel which is where I noticed this whiskey, The Dragon. Only £43/ounce. I took a picture of the bottle, that's all I could afford. Lol. Supper was delicious, Salt and Pepper Squid.
Wednesday morning started a bit grey but the sun soon came out. We had a beautiful day. Helen guided us around Scapa Flo and told us about WWII events, Churchill, how the u-boat snuck in and sank a British ship right in the harbour. We saw the Brough of Birsay which is only accessible at low tide. Tricky walk across the causeway but sooo worth it. We also visited the Broch of Gurness, an Iron Age tower. Scara Brae was open today. Scara Brae closes when the winds are high because people have been blown over and fallen into the houses. It really looked like Hobbit homes. When I mentioned this to Helen she said Tolkien had to have visited Orkney. His description of places, the Elvish language are all spookily like Orkney. Helen also explained that the people that lived here were very young, an elder would have been in his thirties. So most of the "adults" would have been teenagers, impulsive, not so conscious of the consequences of their actions perhaps. What in the world happened to them?
Visited Barony Mill. Finally heard the Orkney accent. Tasted bere biscuits and bere shortbread. And suddenly it was 1548!!! Last check in for the ferry is 1635 and we have to get back to Kirkwall first. Yikes! But we made it. Orkney is incredible. I would go back just to spend more time at places like the Ring of Brodgar. Lorri said Orkney was creepy but that's not quite the right word. She said it was like there was whispering all around. It's hard to wrap your head around the fact that people lived here 5000 years ago.

Once back on the Scottish mainland we headed south for Wick. Remember way back at the start of our visit to Scotland we met the Ladies of Lallybroch in Inverness? Elenna and her daughter Janine helped organize the LOL Gathering. Elena owns the Harbour Guest House in Wick. We had made arrangements to stay there and have supper together. 200 year old house and four flights of stairs but wonderful people. Elenna had breakfast ready for us the next morning and then it was off to Fort William.

Our plan was to take the afternoon Jacobite Train to Mallaig. But it is now October and all touristy stuff change their schedules, there is no afternoon train. There is a 3 pm cut off for booking tickets online for next day travel and our lovely Vodaphone throw away is already out of call credits and won't work. Dora Mount, our very friendly and helpful hostess at Myrtle Bank Guest House told us what to do. Queue up by 845 the next morning and buy standby tickets. So we did and here we are, on the train. Myrtle Bank Guest House is the best place we've stayed this whole trip. Reasonably priced, beautiful location, amazing view of the sunset and a really wonderful hostess. Made us feel so at home and made sure we had no stairs to climb.
Met some Australians while waiting for train tickets. They have been to Canada several times and not just to Toronto or Calgary. They did a polar bear tour to Churchill and they've been to Winnipeg. Train tickets are finally on sale. The Australians are first and get the last of the First Class tickets which puts them in the Harry Potter car. That's the one with the passage along one side of the car and sliding doors into each compartment. We're not so classy. Centre aisle for walking and tables that seat 4 along each side. We arrange with the guard to have a table to ourselves so that Lorri doesn't have her cast in the aisle. This is a coal fired steam engine so when we opened the window to get some of the condensation off the window we let in coal dust. Lol! Beautiful scenery and the Glenfinnan Viaduct was everything I expected. Check out the video clip I posted on Instagram, search for icenikween.

The train arrived back in Fort William at 1600. Back in the car and we have the naive idea that we can drive to Lockerbie tonight. Boy were we wrong! We stopped in Oban for supper then back on the road. So in the dark we drove around Loch Lomond. Hairy driving! 35 mph was fast! Tonight is the first time we have no place booked to stay. Got almost to Glasgow and found The Milton Inn Hotel in Dumbarton. Ah, feels good to be horizontal for a few hours!

Posted by DawnaL 09:05 Archived in Scotland Comments (2)

Orkney or Bust!

semi-overcast
View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

Lorri is awake and up before the ass crack of dawn. She is feeling better. We packed and showered last night so just have to vacate the room as quietly as possible so as not to wake the 2 French girls.
Cab to the Hertz rental office at the airport. We have a Skoda Citigo, navy blue, same size as the Chevy Spark we had in Iceland. Easy-Peasy directions out of the airport complex and we are on our way out of Edinburgh by 840. Left side driving, no problem. Left hand shifting, minor problem. A9 roundabouts, mostly no problem. 70 miles an hour is slow. I'm being passed like I'm standing still. One coffee and one comfort stop later we arrived at the Pentland Ferry terminal at Gills Landing. We reserve a spot and head for Castle Mey.
We know it's closed for the season but I really want to see it. The Queen Mother purchased and restored it not long after she was widowed. It now belongs to the National Trust for Scotland. Lorri has been saying she never wants to see another castle but this one she said she would. It is really pretty and right on the North Sea. Into John O'Groats for a lunch of scotch broth and then back to queue for the ferry. We are now under way. The sun is setting on the North Sea.
Aaahhh! More from Orkney.

Posted by DawnaL 10:15 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Edinburgh 3

rain
View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

The Light House Hostel is really nice. The other girls in our room are from France and didn't notice the CPAP or Lorri snoring. Breakfast is included as are towels, bedding, wifi and slippers. Lap of luxury! The other guests are friendly and easy to talk to. The girls we switched rooms with are from Germany, one chatty guy from Germany, another from France travelling with 3 girls (I was eaves dropping when he said travelling with 1 girl even with 2 girls is ok but with 3 you just say "yes" and "ok" a lot). The staff at the hostel are friendly and very helpful even with the 2 old farts who made such a scene on arrival.
Today we will see Edinburgh Castle. Their website said Medieval music today in the Great Hall and they are handicap accessible-ish. Our cabbie drops us as close as he can on the esplanade. We are told we do have to make it up the hill to the draw bridge where the staff will call for the mobility vehicle. Turns out to be a Honda Civic. W are driven up to the top of the caste through alleys and a tunnel that the public will never see. There we get a wheel chair but the ramps are really, really steep and of course it's still pouring rain so they're slippery. Leaving The War Memorial I was afraid I wouldn't be able to hold the chair and so was Lorri so change of plan. She uses it like a walker. Better anyway because where there are no ramps it's all cobblestones. The music performance is wonderful. Lots of different instruments and the performer is quite accomplished on all of them.
Lorri is feeling better today. YAY! We walk 2/3 of the Royal Mile. Sat by St. Giles Cathedral and listened to an incredible ukulele busker. Had a delicious lunch at The Mussel and Steak Bar. Lorri had steak, I had mussels. Walked over to Princes Street. Bought a throw away phone at Vodaphone because TBaytel is no help.
Back to the hostel where I had a 2 1/2 hour nap. No partying tonight. We are both tired and we have to be up at a decent hour to get the rental car and then head to Orkney.

Posted by DawnaL 10:09 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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