Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
After church, we just hung out at the hotel, napping and reading, and then I went for a walk a bit later. Pretty uneventful day.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I love Asian tourists. While we were waiting, there was a group of Asian tourists who all quickly piled off the bus, took about 200 flashing photos while saying, "Ohhh . . . ahhh . . . ohhh," and then quickly climbed back on the bus, drove about three blocks, and did the same thing. They are so cute and funny to watch. Plus they are all about 5 feet tall. I feel giant. I kind of wish that I could be on their tour bus.
We got started on the tour at about 10:20 and stopped soon after that to look at another castle. We only had ten minutes, and by the time everyone got off the bus, we had about five minutes left. I didn't even get off the bus because I have enough castle pictures, and this castle wasn't that impressive. Our tour guide said that many of the guides joke about ABC tours: Another Bloody Castle. That made me laugh a bit.
We drove down to a small seaside town called Carrick-a-rede. There was a rope bridge that we could cross, but I didn't do it. We didn't have a ton of time there, and I was feeling a wee bit car sick. Our bus had problems with the air conditioning, and it smelled a bit like a gym locker. It was nice to walk along the cliffs of the beach and just get some fresh air.
We finally arrived at Giant's Causeway where we had lunch at the Causeway Hotel. After, we walked down the trail to the beach and causeway. It was beautiful! I wish that we would have spent the entire day here instead of going anywhere else! We were there for about 2 and a half hours, including lunch, and it was only enough time to do the first part of the trail. That place is just enormous! Here are some pictures and a short video of parts of the trail along Giant's Causeway.
Here are the Basalt Stepping Stones.
I know, I need to do a slideshow! That will be later for those, if any, that are interested.
Here are some pictures of a castle called Dunluc Castle. We didn't have time to walk down to it, only to take pictures. Sad! This is one that I would have liked to go in. Maybe because it's old and falling apart and not modernized. Misty, I know you will like that because it's kind of like erosion. :)
Friday, September 11, 2009
Today, I slept in! Yes, I think that sleeping in and naps are underrated. I think they are especially underrated when you don't feel well, which is the case today. I have a horrible chest cough. Hopefully I feel better soon and haven't picked up some strange foreign disease from the UK. Anyway, it was nice to sleep in because every day we've been up early and out doing something. I like to just relax on vacation.
At about 11, I walked down to St. George's Market which is a craft market that is held on Friday's in a corner of the city centre. It was actually a craft market and food market. I walked around looking at a few of the crafts, but there was nothing that I was crazy about. Then, I walked through the food sections. I have never seen so many types of fresh seafood in my life! I'm pretty sure I had the deer in the headlights look. There were squid, octopus, all types of shellfish, crabs, lobster, monkfish, salmon, prawns, shrimp, and a lot of things that I had no idea what they were. I think that I'll have to actually try more seafood one of these days. It would have to be in a city that is by the sea because I want it to be fresh! Today is not that day, but oh well!
After spending a few hours walking through the market, I bought a sandwich, soup, and rolls and came back to the hotel. Basically, the rest of my day went like this: lunch, sleep, sleep, drink, sleep, sleep, dinner, sleep, sleep, TV, sleep. Yep, I basically slept all day. I really needed it, especially since I was feeling so crappy! I hate it because I didn't come here to sleep, but when you're sick, you're sick. I can't tell if I'm getting better, but the sleep sure helped!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Today we rode the ferry from Stranraer to Belfast. The journey took about 2 hours and was calm the whole way. I was disappointed that we couldn't stand up top or on the sides. We could stand on the back of the ship, so here is a picture of that. It was pretty noisy though!
We took the hop on/hop off bus from the airport and around the city for the tour. It was the worst tour ever! We were sitting on top because it was a nice day. Then, they got on the expressway, and it was freezing! I had my hoodie zipped up and tightened around my face because it was so windy that my hair was practically braiding itself and the wind was turning my ears purple with cold.
Even though it was freezing, here are some of the things that I did learn. Belfast was the port city that built the Titanic. We saw the dry dock where the ship was built. The guide said, "Even though the Titanic was built here, we insist that it was fine when it left. That ship had an English Captain, a Scottish navigator, and hit a Canadian iceberg. We had nothing to do with it's sinking."
Other lame jokes, or slow torture, given by our guide:
Q: What's red and bad for your teeth? A: A brick.
Q: What's brown and sticky? A: A stick.
We got to see the Irish Parliment building. It was huge! Apparently, during WWII, the building was covered with manure, poop, and mud to hide it from the bombers that were flying over. The guide added, "If they would have opened their cockpits, they would have smelled it from a mile away." It is quite a beautiful building. There was heavy security, too. Our bus was searched, and for a minute I thought they were going to take our backpacks, but they didn't.
We drove through the town, and basically saw a bunch of murals and blown up buildings and car parks where the buildings used to be. Our guide said that during the civil war here about 10 years ago, if a building was blown up, they just turned it into a car park (parking lot). Apparently, Belfast has the best city parking of any large city around these parts.
The tour was basically a short history tour of the fighting that went on here during the civil war. We were told about all of the groups that were fighting: IRA, IRC, etc. Then, the guide said, "Even though many of these groups are no longer around, there is one group that is still going strong here in Belfast. It's the KFC, and their leader, the Colonel, is working hard to blow people up." Cheesy, but a bit funny. I admit, I laughed.
We drove by this church which has the biggest Celtic cross in the world. However, they also have a huge spire that was added to the building called the Hope Spire. This was added to remember the victims of the September 11 attacks in the United States. It's interesting to see and hear what other people around the world think about this event. We talked with a couple about it on the train the other day. I guess I didn't realize how much other people in other countries were impacted as much as they were. I guess it's because we all could have been on those planes or in the towers.
We truly live in a wonderful country. I love it here, but I love home more. I miss the beautiful Rocky Mountains and my beautiful state more each day.
What a day! First of all, the numbers just line up. September is a great month for numbers. I like it.
It's exhausting listening to people speak in a foreign language! Yes, I know that they speak English here, but with the thick accents, it takes extra brain power to listen and process what people are saying! More then once I've had to say, "Say that again," or "Slow down. I'm American." Usually people just laugh.
I had part of a traditional Scottish breakfast this morning. It consisted of a baked tomato, mushroom, potato scone, and a fried egg. I say part of a breakfast because I just couldn't eat it. I'm feeling sick lately. It's like a got bus sick and never got over it. I just woke up sick feeling. Blah.
We walked a bit around Loch Lomond today. The weather was beautiful for once! I actually felt the warm sun on my face! We walked to the pier and saw a few of the boats. We saw a group from Glascow College learning how to kyak and canoe in the loch. When we walked by about two hours later, they were still there! It makes me feel better about my canoe mishaps in the past.
While on the train for about four hours, we were able to see a lot of scenic Scotland. Very rural and hilly. I love the mountains. I love the rolling hills. And life is a musical.
We took the train from Balloch to Glascow to Ayr to Stranraer where we are staying the night at another bed and breakfast. Our train pulled right out onto the pier, where the line ended. It was beautiful! On recommendation from a local, we went to a Chinese/Cantonese place for dinner called Sun Kai. I had the orange chicken, and it was like breaded chicken in orange juice with pineapple. It was suprisingly quite good. Probably the best dinner that I've had yet in Scotland.
Tomorrow we're off to Belfast! Sorry, pictures later. :)
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Today we rode the Hogwart's Express . . . or the Jacobite Steam Train. You decide. We rode it to Mallaig, which is right on the coast. It was so cold and windy! Here are some pictures and videos of the ride and standing on the seashore.
Our train got back at 4, and at 5 we caught a bus to take us to the outskirts of Balloch. I have never been so close to throwing up on a bus! I think our bus driver thought he was a race car driver. Two plus hours on a narrow, mountainous road in the rain is not my idea of a good time. Hours later, as I am sitting here in my bed at the B&B, I'm still trying not to loose my earlier lunch of fish and chips. I could not be more excited to get on another long bus ride tomorrow . . . or something.
Today we took a tour to the Isle of Skye. We were on this tour all day--and I'm not kidding--from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm. It was the longest stinking beautiful bus ride I've ever taken in my whole life! Vomit.
We started out of Inverness and headed North. Our first stop was to see a mountain range called The Sleeping Maiden. You can see her feet, knees, boosom, and face. I didn't think it was worth getting out of the bus to photograph, but many people did. Our bus driver, Allison, had this to say about the mountain's name and those who named it: "Personally, I think they had a wee bit o' whisky."
We headed on up into the highlands. The tour bus had a narration as we drove along, and it was talking about the main industry in the area. People could be in four areas: 1)Farming, 2)Tourism, 3)Walkers, or 4)Stalkers. He went on to explain all of the industries, with walking being catering to those people who like to walk and hike through the highlands. He then went to say, "And when I say stalking, I don't mean obsessively following celebrities. Stalking refers to hunting and killing the 50,000 of the 300,000 red deer population in the area." So, basically, stalking is hunting, but it was funny nonetheless.
This bridge, the Skye Bridge, connects the Isle of Skye with the mainland of Scotland. It was built with the same architecture as the main bridge in Sydney, Australia.
The next picture is of a shell of a castle called Armadale Castle of the Donald clan, also known as MacDonalds (not the food chain!). From what I read, most of the castle was destroyed by a fire, but they are working on eventually rebuilding it. In the meantime, the ruins are being overtaken by beautiful plants.
Next, we stopped on a beach where there were also ruins of a castle. Here I am on the beach with the ruins behind me. On the beach, we saw a lot of mussles and some type of red squishy snail like creature, but without the shell. I asked our driver what they were, and she said she didn't know and proceeded to squish one to find out. Yeah, it was just a squishy red something. I'll have to google that later. She wanted everyone to take a small rock with them or something from the beach. She said she had this vision of a piece of Skye all over the world, but I was not carrying a stinky piece of rock in my bag. Nope, not doing it. I told her I had photos. She eventually let me on the bus.
The roads were so narrow! Most of the way, it's single lane with a passing place every tenth of a mile or so. We had a couple scary passing places with a few other vehicles!
I was amazed at how far the tide had receeded from high tide to low tide. Here we are at another stop, Isle Ornsay. It's known for its whiskey distillery and art gallery. Here is a picture of how drastic the tide change is during the day. Also, one of Scotland's oldest lighthouses, built by the family of Robert Lewis Stevenson.
Then, to end the day, we drove along the shore of Loch Ness. That's right. The one and only. Here is a picture of the beautiful loch, and if you're still reading, I think you should be rewarded. Don't worry, I saved the best picture for last. Now, I know it's been rumored that this is hard to photograph, but it's actually true! I had to grab my camera so fast! Here she is: Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. Have a look. Cool, huh. You can see the body at the bottom and the neck to left.
Just another day in Scotland.
As I was walking out of the shop, I noticed the road was gone. Yep, they were bringing two yachts into the canal locks. The locks go from the end of Loch Ness up to Moray Firth. There were about six locks that I could see without walking the length of the canal. It was awesome to see the locks working and the boats moving through. The sections emptied and filled rather quickly and the locks moved quickly. For the lack of a better word, it was just neat!
There is gum everywhere on the streets here! The sidewalks look like they are paved with small cobblestones, but really, it's just old gum. I saw a sign for a gum bin (a litter bin just for gum) that said, "Throw your gum here. Help save 30,000 pounds a year in gum removal." Seriously? They spend that much just removing gum? It's a serious problem. I'm baffled that people just spit their gum out on the ground. I guess they would just expect to step in it a lot, also. I seriously think they should consider not selling gum here.
A girl taught me a new Scottish word today. It is faff. She said that it means to fiddle about, messing around and not doing what you should be doing. For example, if my students were chatting instead of working, I could say they were faffing about. The less extreme version of faff would be footer (but it sounds like "fitter" the way they say it). So, you could be footering about all day instead of being productive.
I also learned that you can go skiing in northern Scotland. However, you would always want to call ahead to make sure they actually have snow. A guy on the train, Tim, told us that the highest mountain point in Scotland was between 4 and 5,000 feet high. We giggled a bit about that one. He also told us that the best place to see Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, was in the gift shop.
The Scottish really don't drink that many soft drinks. The only real choices are Sprite, Diet Coke, Coke, and Fanta. Oh boy, these people like their Fanta. I got a bottle of so-called orange Fanta, but it's pretty much yellow and tastes like our Squirt. It's really not that great. Good thing for Sprite! Really, they have their own soda, Irn Bru, which tastes like bubble gum. I was told that they wanted to market it in the USA, but the FDA wouldn't approve an ingredient. Go go FDA. I'm not sure I would approve it either. Grape soda? Anyone?
People here carry an umbrella like we would carry our purses or cell phones. People always have umbrellas in their hands. I can totally understand why, as it's been raining about 90 percent of the time that we've been here. I think that we have had a total of 5 to 6 hours of sunlight. Of all the things I bought for this trip, I've used my umbrella the most. I don't like it. I thought that I could live in a city like Seattle, where it's always raining, but I now know that it's not the case! It's pretty gloomy!
By the way, I think the mullet is coming back. At least in Scotland and maybe the UK. I have seen several while here, and had to stare at the back of one on a bus for about 10 hours. This whole trip, I just didn't want to look like a scrounge or a camper, but apparently, everyone here looks a little scroungy, thrown together, and damp. They look as if they just got up, threw themselves together, and off they went. Maybe it's because they have to deal with rain every day, and getting ready is just not worth it. Maybe I'm just vain.
Monday, September 7, 2009
We've been traveling like mad, or at least it feels that way. At least today is sunny! I can actually wear capris and a t-shirt and not feel cold. It's the first day of really good weather that we have had. And we are spending most of it on the bus. :(
Today we are traveling to a small town where we will stay the night, and tomorrow we will take the Harry Potter train! Woot woo!
I can't believe the trip is half way over! Everywhere I go, I think of how beautiful it is, but I still miss home. I just love Utah (and America). It's so beautiful!
My time is running out, so hopefully I will be able to put up my real posts and pictures soon. Cheers!
Friday, September 4, 2009
Today brought better weather. We actually saw the sun shining for a few hours today!
After walking back to the B&B from the monument, we picked up our backpacks and walked into town. I definitely packed too much. Ugh! We were going to store our bags at the bus station, but all of the lockers were full. We walked through town, and ended up eating lunch at a little place called the Shake Bar. We met a guy from Turkey who spoke with a Scottish accent. He was quite hilarious. Part of me thinks it was because I am also funny. :) I had a panini for lunch with a Scottish soft drink called IRN BRU. It tasted like bubble gum. Actually, it tasted almost exactly like Inca Kola from Peru. Weird, I know. It was not good, but it was a drink. We actually came back later and had shakes--a caramel shortbread cake shake--and he laughed again at our accents. He kept saying, "Good" but it sounded like "Gud" and we were all laughing. I know, it's probably only funny if you were there. I was, and it was funny.
Now, we are on the train headed to Inverness. The train takes a little over two hours, but has been delayed because of flooding in different cities along the way. We should get there tonight (Friday) at about 8:30pm, or something depending on how many delays we have. We're currently stopped right now. :)