Started shaky but finished strong in Dublin

This morning I was out the door before 5:00 am to walk Dublin streets and take photos. I got a bunch that I really like including a ton of doors to add to our collection. (If you have ever been in our home, you know we have more than 100 photos of doors on the walls.)You will find a lot of my favorites below. But while I was walking alongside the River Liffey I got a  text from Kathleen that she wasn’t feeling well and was going to go back to bed.

We had planned to join the rest of our Bellomo/Dorff entourage on the Hop-on, Hop-off (HoHo) bus but this put a slight crimp in our plans. Instead Kathleen slept (remember when I slept in last week, the day we toured Leeds?) in and the rest of the gang went off to ride the bus and I worked on my photos from the early morning. By 11:00 Kathleen was up and ready to go get some food and then we did a round of the HoHo bus ourselves. We rode all over Dublin (it’s a pretty compact city) before we came back to the house to FaceTime with our kids back in Washington. Had some big news there as they did what they have done before while we have been in Europe, started a big move.

This evening the entire group of us including Bob and Holly met up for a dinner and a show at the Irish House Party. It’s a combo dinner and show and we should have just gone for the show but we did both. Not the best food (kind of Irish cafeteria food) but adequate but the show is outstanding and if you are in Dublin, it’s worth seeing. Just get tickets for the show and skip the dinner.

Tomorrow we still have HoHo bus tickets and a few others things we want to do before we board Celebrity’s Reflection to sail to Iceland on Monday. Here’s the pics and remember, they look better if you click the first one to watch a slide show.

Irish music in the local pubs was my first exposure to musical expression, and I feel like Irish music is very close to musical theater because it is always telling a story. —Rory O’Malley

On to Dublin

After six days in Yorkshire we bid a fond farewell to Paul and Gail. Paul drove us to the airport at 6:00 am (thank you again Paul) and Gail got up to tell us goodbye (thank you again Gail). We caught our 8:22 Aer Lingus puddle jumper flight from Leeds-Bradford airport to Dublin. Arrived 10 minutes early, but unfortunately, our ride to the hotel arrived an hour late. After that snafu, we got a great driver who took us in to the city to our luggage drop where we…dropped our luggage. Then we walked a few blocks to meet our buddies Bob and Holly for lunch at a great little place called O’Neals. A real Irish pub. It was great seeing them again. Bob and Holly, not O’Neals.

After that it was back to pick up our luggage and head to our AirBnB where we got settled, welcomed my brother and his family around 4:30 (they were wiped out after flying non-stop from LA) and went out to dinner to Brookwood, an outstanding restaurant that turned out to be right across the street, we watched a little more of Britain’s Got Talent and it was off to bed.

A couple of quick thoughts about Dublin and our AirBnB. Dublin seems more crowded and crazy than Edinburgh and definitely more than wonderfully sedate Leeds and Yorkshire (where of course we were staying in a neighborhood and not right down town as we are here). For instance, we have a very famous pub (Toners) and a couple of bars across the street from us. Normally when I get up to walk in the morning (like today when I am up at 4:30), it’s quiet in the neighborhoods. Not here. There is still a loud crowd out in front of a bar down the street (I can see the bar from our front window). At 4:22 am??!! Do these people ever sleep? Our AirBnB is pretty cool. The host, whose name is Phil, met us and has really taken great care of us. A super guy. We have a big living room, a gourmet kitchen (not that we will cook) and a four bedrooms. Check out the listing at the link above. Another win for us picking great AirBnBs. It even has a bakery downstairs and we will see how great they are later today.

As I was finishing this up at 4:30 am I realized that for the first day in 10 days, I hadn’t taken any photos. Well, I took two. Both out the window from the living room. One of the world famous Toner’s Pub and the other of Brookwood, the restaurant where we had dinner (they make a wonderful lamb) so sorry, that’s all you get today. But as I am going out in about 10 minutes for an early morning walk, you should have much more tomorrow or tonight.

Fabulous place, Dublin is. The trouble is, you work hard and in Dublin you play hard as well. —Bonnie Tyler

Wensleydale, Ilkley and back to Leeds to meet a special lady

Our last full day in Leeds was all about getting home and getting ready to head to Dublin tomorrow. When I posted last night we were on our way out to dinner at the Wensleydale Heifer. Their food is the main draw to the inn. It makes it a destination and the reputation for food is well deserved. I wish I had taken more photos but you will have to settle for dessert photos.

After a very filling dinner it was off to bed, a good night’s sleep and then I had my encounter with the Wensleydale Heifer shower. Our room came with a spa jacuzzi tub (that if you tried to fill it with hot water, would have taken more than an hour—worst water pressure ever) and a shower in that tub. No matter how I tried, I could not get that shower to turn on. Tried for more than an hour. Of course I did try to call the front desk to ask them what the trick was but that’s when I found out that no one is at the front desk until 8:00 am. Seriously, no night manager.

Finally at 7:30 I went down and found a very nice lady who was cleaning the lobby and she told me to look for a black cord on the opposite side of the bathroom and to pull it. If I did that the shower would come on. Seriously? How were we supposed to know that. At first I thought it was a British thing but Paul and Gail said they had never heard of it. Just crazy. Thankfully we did finally get showers (still worst water pressure ever!) Other than this one thing, the hotel and especially the restaurant were outstanding.

After a large and really great breakfast we were headed off to Leeds by way of some of the narrowest roads we have ever driven on. It was crazy. Paul did an amazing job of getting us back. We had considered a stop in Grassington but when we got there it was POURING rain and we decided to forego a stop.

It was on to Ilkley where we stopped for our last proper Yorkshire tea at the Ilkley Bettys (remember, no apostrophe) and one last Fat Rascal. After that (since the sun had finally started coming out and the rain had stopped) we decided to walk around Ilkley before heading back to Paul and Gail’s.

When we arrived back at their place we got to meet the best (and definitely the cutest) person we met on this trip, their adorable granddaughter, Jemima. We have never met such a smart and creative six year old (in case Maylee reads this, remember you are only five) and she was a true charmer. And Paul and Gail are obviously very proud and loving grandparents (another thing we have in common).

I am finishing up early tonight because we are going to dinner in a few minutes and then we will come back, watch a little more Britain’s Got Talent and then off to bed as we have to leave for the airport at 6:00 am to fly from Leeds to Dublin. See you there.

You have to accept the storms and the rainy days and the things in life that you sometimes don’t want to face. — Bai Ling

Off to the Lakes and cheese!

Woke up today to get out of the house for a day long road trip to the Lakes District,  winding up in Hawes, home of the Wensleydale Creamery (we bet you Wallace and Gromit fans know what we are talking about). We are spending the night at the Wensleydale Heifer, a truly British country inn that has been serving guests since the 1700s.

Our day started out with me feeling much better! I think my cold has turned the corner. That said, we were out of Castle Howard by Paul’s set time of 8:30 and headed to Windermere in the Lakes District. The drive out was beautiful. Not sunny but not raining either. Truly a typical northern England day (or so we have been told). We got to Windermere around 11:00 am and set off looking for a…what else…tea. We have really grown to love our tea stops and proper English tea is really good. It has helped me get over this cold. And this time we had it with scones. Yummy!

After our tea and conversation (we always have the best conversations over tea) we walked back through Windermere to the lake side where we decided to jump on a tour boat for a 45-minute run up and down the lake. It was pretty cool in more than one way. The tour was cool but the weather was COLD! We tried sitting on the open deck and Kathleen and Gail gave up and went in the cabin in about 15 minutes. Paul and I gave up at the 35 minute mark. One thing of interest that kept happening while we were in Windermere was that military jets and vintage WWII aircraft kept flying overhead at a VERY low altitude. I am pretty sure the first two planes were WWII RAF Spitfires. After that it was just jets. Nasty looking Blue Angel-type warplanes. They would buzz the lake at about 1000 feet or lower. Got a couple of good pics.

Back on the road after our boat ride, heading here to the Heifer we had the one real scare of the trip. As we came off motorway in Nateby all of sudden Paul’s Audi started making a horrible noise. We were able to get into a neighborhood where we could look at the car and some kind of cover that is supposed to protect the undercarriage of the car had somehow come loose and was scraping as we drove, making a horrible noise. Paul tried knocking it back into place but no luck, so we started driving again. It didn’t scrape unless the wind blew it down so there was no noise unless the car went over about 15mph. Of course at that rate we would reach Wensleydale around midnight. So as we were trying to figure out what to do, Paul drove (slowly) around a corner and lo and behold, an independent auto repair shop. In the middle of absolute nowhere. Seriously. It was a gift from God.

We pulled in and Paul asked the mechanic working on a car out in front if he could take a look at it. He put the car up on a jack, slid underneath, tightened three screws and we were on our way. He even refused to take any money. He told us there was a charity box on the desk in his office and we could put something in there. They got a bill out of Paul’s wallet and all my coins. What a champ he was!

Then it was on to the aforementioned Wensleydale Creamery where you can sample about 30 kinds of cheese—which we did. After that (and buying a couple of trinkets) it was back in the car and on to the village of Hawes where we walked the small downtown and stopped for…no, not tea this time…a proper half pint (Paul had to drive still and we didn’t want to make him feel bad so we got a half pint too) of beer. Delicious.

After our quick stop, back in the car for a half hour drive to the Heifer. If you look at the website (linked above) make sure and check out our room, the Heifer suite. Paul and Gail are in the Herriot suite. The rest of the rooms are totally themed and a hoot to look at. Check out the James Bond cow in the movie room.

We are here and in for the evening and in about so minutes will meet Paul and Gail in the hotel’s bar for a pre-dinner drink and then we have 7:30 reservations in their dining room (which is world famous…according to their website). I will let you know after dinner.

Sadly, I even though I can post this today, I don’t have any photos to add because even through I brought my Mac, I forgot the card reader so I can’t get the photos off my camera’s card until we are back at Paul & Gail’s in Leeds tomorrow. I promise there are some good ones.

Well, time for dinner. More tomorrow. PS: Not the greatest quote below but how often do you get to quote Amanda Peet, who I have always thought was awesome.

If I had to give up cheese or chocolate, I’d give up chocolate in a heartbeat. —Amanda Peet

Late to Leeds but we saw it all

Last night (Monday) my cold was at it’s worst so I popped two NyQuil tablets and that was a big mistake when it came to today. It knocked me out and that meant we didn’t get out the door this morning (Tuesday) until well past 10:00. But that was OK because Paul and Gail had planned today as a local day where we could see the local sites and architecture of Leeds which is amazing. I am going to let the photos speak for themselves. They don’t even really need captions. We had a nice lunch in a kind of a food court (where Gail recommended an outstanding Vietnamese salad) and headed home so that I could take a nap and try and kill this stupid cold.

After a little rest we set out tonight to go back to Harrogate for a lovely Italian dinner and then we stopped at the Bingley Arms, Great Britain’s oldest inn. Now I have to say that this is a pretty broad claim to fame but they have historical proof that this inn was founded in that same building in the year 970. That means this inn dates back more than 1000 years. Amazing. Think about what Washington State (or any other state) was like 970. A few native tribes and that was it (probably a lot better off than it is now). We were very lucky to come in on a Tuesday night when there was a very light crowd of regulars who were happy to tell us all about the Bingley and her history. The manager of the inn even took a few minutes to give us a quick tour and show us things like the “Priest Holes” which were holes carved into the inside of the fireplace in the main inn where Catholic priests could hide to evade capture and execution after Henry the Eighth founded the Anglican Church and ordered all priests to leave England or die. I even got to go in the basement to see the start of the tunnel that leads under the road outside to the church across the highway.

Stay tuned tomorrow. Not sure if I will be able to post on Wednesday as we are headed to Wensleydale and the Lakes district and will be overnighting at the Wensleydale Heifer. Not sure if I will be able to post. May have to wait until Thursday.

That was about it for yesterday. As I said, a very easy day.

What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past. —Victor Hugo

Whitby & Scarborough (Scar bruh)

Castle HowardBefore I even start telling you about today,  I have been very neglectful in not telling you about where we have been staying with our friends Gail and Paul Howard. We have been guests at their home since Saturday night and will be here until we go to Dublin on Friday. They just call their place, home but we call it Castle Howard. Here’s a picture and you can see why and the link will tell you all about it. It’s quite the place and we have loved meeting all their staff and the entire court. 😀

Back to our travels—we have been getting quite the education about proper British pronunciation. So today we learned that Scarborough is pronounced Scar Bruh. We were there today and I didn’t see a single scar or a single bruh. Everyone had great skin and my brutha was still back in California. But it’s still pronounced that way.

Today was beach day. We were out the door at 9:00 am and headed to the North Sea (doesn’t that sound cold) coast, first to Whitby and then to Scarbruh.

Whitby is quite the town. We parked and walked it from one end to the other as well as crossing the old swing bridge and going up the other side of town. Then Paul and I went all the way up the 199 old stone steps to see the Abbey. Paul was very surprised at the Abbey with its brand new visitor center. When he was last here three years ago with our fellow Martini Mates Mike and Carol, it hadn’t been in existence and you could not walk around the ruins of the Abbey. The Abbey itself was built in 1539 but there has been a church on this site since 604 AD. (Now that’s old.) And not only that but the author Bram Stoker set part of his novel Dracula here as well. Paul and I climbed the hill and walked all around. Please see my photos for more. They are at the bottom of this post.

Yorkshire Day 3-115After descending and finding Kathleen and Gail ensconced in a cute little pub, (Gail having a cuppa and Kathleen tasting an ale), we headed back down the hill to the village to see if we could get in the line at the Magpie Cafe which as Paul related to us a number of times, has the “Best Fish and Chips in England.” I have to say, he may be right. After standing in line outside for about 20 minutes we had some incredible fish and chips. If you go to Whitby, eat there. It is worth the wait…which may be much longer.

After our wonderful and very filling lunch, we were off to the car to continue onward to the seaside town of Scarbruh. The best way to tell you about this is through the captions on my photos so please see those below. That was our day. We did a slow slog back to Castle Howard due to everyone coming home from the Bank Holiday (which is today) and once we got here that was it. There was a lively discussion about what to have for dinner but my cold is so bad, I knew I would not be able to taste anything so while I write this, Kathleen, Paul and Gail are having some of his world famous Yorkshire scrambled eggs in the kitchen.

Some of my fondest memories are holidays by the seaside. —Mary Berry

In Hebden, Haworth and Saltaire, hurricanes hardly ever happen

But it does rain. Please excuse the My Fair Lady reference in the title but hey, I’m in the UK. What did you expect. Yesterday was all about driving around and seeing West Yorkshire. I am going to do most of the describing of what we saw in the photo captions so check there.

It was a better day than I hoped for because other than a couple of hours in the morning we had a pretty nice day of clouds but no rain as you will see from my pics…which yes, I did retouch a little.

The official name of the first place we went was actually Hebden Bridge, a really nice little village with a steam train, a Sunday market and a…wait for it…bridge. We actually saw a lot of bridges and to be honest, we just weren’t sure which one was the actual Hebden Bridge but they have a lot of nice ones. Especially over the canal that winds it way through village. We walked around  a bit and then had a nice lunch in Hebden Bridge before driving on to tour Haworth.

Haworth’s claim to fame is that the Bronte sisters (please forgive the lack of an accent mark on Bronte but I can’t figure how to do that in WordPress) lived there while writing their books. I was the sacrilegious member of the group as I have never read any of their books and/or seen any of the movies made from them. Shame on me. It’s a really quaint little town that’s built on a pretty steep hill. Reminded us of the French Riviera village of Eze (missing another accent mark). We climbed the entire hill and stopped in a bunch of really cool shops, bought some chocolate (after being accosted by their pusher in the street 😀 giving out free samples). She was very persuasive and we had to take some back to Paul and Gail’s house because there was a distinct lack of sweet treats there…Gail had only made four desserts for dinner 😀.

After grabbing the chocolate, we finished our climb and then turned around to head back to the car when we discovered that we were all quite thirsty and needed to stop for a quick cup of tea. I could get used to this stopping for tea thing. It provokes some very nice and convivial conversation that you really can’t have while walking or driving. We have done it two days in a row and it’s a habit I wish we could pick up. This time, we played it smart and didn’t buy anything to go with it so just tea.

After tea it was on to a rolling excursion through Saltaire, a mill town that was really cute and quaint. We were cutting down on the walking today due to my cold, my knee, Kathleen’s back, Kathleen’s leg and now Gail’s foot which she apparently hurt while she and I were off delivering invitations to their friends and relatives all over their neighborhood to their 40th anniversary coming up next month. We kind of looked like the walking wounded coming down that hill. Paul was the only one walking without a limp.

After Saltaire it was back to Leeds to tour the parts of it that can be seen from a car. We drove around and around the city center and are going back to see the parts that are inside the no-cars circle. A very cool city but I would get lost in it, in no time.

Then it was back to Paul & Gail’s where my cold got to me and napped for a an hour or so while Kathleen read and surfed and Paul and Gail made us a marvelous dinner. After that Gail and I spent the better part of an hour trading recipes and getting her Paprika 3 recipe app set up on her phone before it was off to bed for us early risers and a little more TV for our late-to-bed Brit buddies.

Misery, trains and automobiles

Sorry to have to start this with a complaint but the one thing I really did not want to happen on this vacation, has happened…again. I am sick. All day yesterday (Saturday) as we transitioned via train and then car (driven by our dear friends Paul and Gail) I felt like I was getting a sore throat. Tried to pretend it was because I was around smokers and all the people on the train who used too much perfume. But by the time I went to bed, I knew…someplace about four or five days ago I had found a way to catch a cold. Woke up in the middle of the night with all the usual symptoms. I guess if there is a bright side to this, it’s that I should be over before we get on the ship a week from Monday. On the bad side…so many things.

As those of you who knew me from before I started posting on this site, on our last big vacation in October, the same DAMN thing happened. I got sick. It was on a cruise ship. And it pretty much messed up our vacation. All the most vivid memories I have of that trip are about being sick. I despise being sick when I am not at home. I feel miserable but I am stuck just living through it without the comfort of my own bed, my own illness rituals and just being able to be miserable. I am sure you know what I mean, don’t you? For instance, when my head gets so stopped up I can’t breath and I am at home, I go in the garage and ride my stationary bike for a while and it breaks things up. Or when I just don’t want to deal with people, I can go hide in my room.

When you get sick on vacation, you still have to do what’s planned and soldier forward. And being sick when you are with friends is even worse since you don’t want to infect them…or Kathleen (it’s probably too late to think about that—DAMN! I sure hope she can miss this one) You just hope it’s a light one and you can get through it but since this is the first time I have been sick since October, I am not sure I will get that lucky. I just wish I knew how to avoid this. I am a religious hand washer, can’t remember the last time I got close to anyone that I could tell was sick (other than my grandkids about three weeks ago) and I do just about anything I can think of to not catch this and now for the second major trip in a row, I am sick. Like I said, DAMN!

OK, complaining over. And please don’t fill the comments with cures, sympathy and/or ways to avoid this in the future. We all know, there is no way to avoid a virus. You get it or you don’t. On to travel.

Besides starting to feel this coming on, yesterday was a pretty great day. We were up early in the morning to catch our train from Waverley Station in Edinburgh down to York in England where we are to spend the next few days with the aforementioned Martini Mate buddies, Paul and Gail. We first met them on a Cruise Critic Roll Call back in June 2013 and we have sailed together three or four times since then. When we did our last Martini Mates reunion cruise to Alaska in 2017, we picked them up at the airport in Vancouver, BC and toured almost a week, first in Vancouver and then at our place in Redmond, before the cruise. We had such a great time and they have been wanting to show us Yorkshire (as they have shown other Mates) so this trip gave us the opportunity to see them and stay in their lovely home where I am writing this now at 5:00 am.

First a couple of notes about our train trip. I was worried about getting our luggage on the train. One of our fellow TAs at our agency that travels even more than we do (hi Marjorie) suggested that I just look for a porter who would help me get them onboard and then give them a nice tip. We checked the day before we were to board the train and were told that “Waverley Station has no porters!” so I would have to struggle with them on my own. Thankfully our train originated at Waverley so I had plenty of time to get all five bags on. We were in first class so this also meant we didn’t have to struggle for seats as they were reserved. Suffice it to say, it all worked out…getting them on the train.

A quick note about First Class on this train (can’t speak for others). It’s almost funny but when we sat down in our FC seats, (which were very comfortable) we found a beautiful menu detailing the breakfast we could order once the train was under way. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It showed our food being prepared and served in a truly first class manner (table cloths, linen napkins, silver service). Now the reality: After we left Waverley, two very nice guys came through with a coffee pot and a cart with tubs of yogurt and ice-cold, cellophane-wrapped danish (worse than what you get on Celebrity) and that was it. Kind of false advertising? Not only that, but we were in the second car of three first-class cars. Our car’s restroom was out of order so we went through to the first car to use theirs. That was fine but then after using the facilities, Kathleen discovered there was no running water in the loo. Which is great after she had completely soaped up her hands to find that there is no way to rinse them off. Kathleen always carries wipes with her so she got to wipe off all that soap—fun (where’s that sarcasm font when I need it). Other than those two things (which were more funny than irritating) the train ride was great…for about half of it. When we first boarded, we pretty much had the entire coach to ourselves with only two or three other people until we got to Newcastle and then it started filling up—first with some really posh folks headed to (we later learned) a big horse race in York and then it became standing-room-only when a huge crowd of footballers got on to head to London for a big match that will happen later today. From that point on it was almost impossible to move around at all. The train staff kept coming on the public address system to apologize for the overcrowding but that didn’t help if you needed to use the facilities or move around at all.

It did help us having the soccer guys onboard because when we went to get off in York, a bunch of them were standing in front of the luggage area where our five bags were. I excused myself and told them we needed to get the bags out (which had others luggage who had boarded after us, on top of our bags) and the guys immediately asked if they could help the old people 😀. I (smartly, if I do say so myself) offered that I would get the really heavy ones as I didn’t want anyone hurting themselves with their weight. Well they took this as a challenge and said, “You just get off mate, Neil and I will get you your bags…” and so they did. Placed nicely on the platform in York. Outstanding!

I hope I didn’t make it sound like the train trip was bad, it was just funny how different the advertised First Class was from the actuality of it. We loved the train. I was totally geeking out about train travel in Europe, which I love. We had free, speedy WiFi and comfortable, reserved seats. It was truly a great trip.

Which brings us to York where Paul and Gail were waiting on the platform to greet us and start our tour of their Yorkshire. They had made an awesome sign Gail was holding up with our names and the details of our upcoming tour and it’s upstairs in the bedroom where Kathleen is sleeping or I would take a pick and toss it in here.

As soon as we had put our luggage in the back of their car, we were off to do a walking tour of York, one of the most medieval of British towns, a true walled city. The photos I will add at the bottom of this post will tell a better story so make sure and check them out and view them as a slide show so you can see my captions. After touring York and having a nice lunch (hard to find a place that sells sandwiches on a Saturday—really) we were back to the car (the walk took a lot out of Kathleen—she was wearing the wrong shoes and it killed her back and hip) we were back to the car and off to Harrogate.

HarrowgateMuch of this week we will be playing by ear as we are trying to dodge the weather. Paul and Gail have some great plans—some of which will work better if dry and others not so dependent on weather. After four days of glorious sunshine in Edinburgh our weather luck ran out in Yorkshire when the skies kind of opened up. Since we had seen this coming Paul had headed to Harrogate to take us to a truly British institution, Bettys (no apostrophe—really) Tea Room. Bettys is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year, so I guess they really are an institution. Amongst our Mates they have become almost legendary because you really can’t say you have had the entire Martini Mate experience until Paul and Gail have taken you to Bettys for a Fat Rascal (think really, really good scone…but bigger). Between that and some proper English tea, we were all set except for the obligatory Harrogate picture frame photo. Others who came before us (Mike and Carol) had posed in the same spot, so we we had to do it too.

Then it was off to Knaresborough to see their castle (as Paul said, “Every proper English town has a castle”) and some great views from the castle’s parapets. The pictures do a better job of explaining this. After some time there we stopped by a beautiful old, British hotel where Agatha Christie had disappeared to for a few days in what might have been a mid-life crisis. It was all the scandal at the time. Google it. Really. The hotel was truly lovely even though we couldn’t see some of the historic Agatha stuff because they were having a wedding in the room where we needed to be. (How rude—didn’t they know American’s were coming to see things?) I thought I should just go in and wish the bride and groom a wonderful marriage and take the picture I wanted but I was terribly underdressed so I skipped it (much to Kathleen’s relief).

After that I think our two good friends realized how exhausted their American Mates were so we headed back to their place to get settled in before going out to a late dinner at a wonderful Greek restaurant, not far from their house. Originally Paul was going to grille and Gail had made some great salads so we would eat at their place, but as I said…we go with the weather here and Paul really didn’t want to grille in the rain. So it was out to Greek last night and (weather permitting) a nice grilling tonight after a day of touring…to be determined by…the weather.

PS: One piece of good news health-wise: my knee is doing MUCH better. Hardly any problems with it at all…or the cold has me so worried that I am not noticing it. 😀

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. —John Ruskin

 

 

Calton, Stirling, Lomond and Kelpies

For our last full day in Edinburgh we left Edinburgh. We had pre-booked an all day coach tour to see Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and the Kelpies. This involved being about three blocks up the Royal Mile to Highland Explorer Tours at 8:15 am, boarding a 32 passenger Mercedes bus with 14 other travelers and spending the day on the road. A quick mention that I was kind of dreading the bus ride as I was sure I would get crammed into a tight seat and with my knee it was going to be a painful day, brace or no brace. But lo and behold, the bus was half empty and Kathleen and I had the entire back row to ourselves. And since there was an emergency exit there, I could completely stretch out my legs, YEAH!

Before we did that I went out again at dawn (or just before) to take a Photowalk and shoot some more sunrise pics, this time on Calton Hill, the third highest point in Edinburgh. It was worth it as it wasn’t near as difficult as Arthur’s Seat but it gave me a chance to shoot some more great sunrise stuff.

After breakfast we were off on our tour. The first stop was to see the Kelpies. If you haven’t seen the Kelpies, check out my pics. It is a GIANT equine sculpture (the largest in the world we were told) that honors Clydesdale horses that used to pull the barges on the Scottish Canal which runs right next to the Kelpies. They are incredibly impressive and a photographer’s dream. We spent about 30 minutes there before we were off to Loch Lomond, Scotland’s biggest lake. We saw a part of it but not all (that would have taken too long), had a nice cup of coffee and then it was off to Stirling Castle.

On the way I have to say that the is country is SOOOOOOOO green. Green and lush. Check out my countryside pics and know that I did nothing to enhance them. They are amazing.

Stirling Castle (according to our superb and hilarious driver/guide James) is even better than Edinburgh Castle and I think he is right. Part of why we liked it better was Frank a Stirling Castle tour guide, who took us on an amazing tour that was one of the best tours I have ever done. Just outstanding. Pictures say it better than I can describe. I think you may recognize Frank as I am pretty sure when he was a lot younger, he played Dobby the house elf in the Harry Potter films 😀. He was stupendous as was his castle. Topped the tour off with lunch and a bus ride back and then packing. We have a 8:00 am train to York tomorrow morning where we will be picked up by the amazing Paul and Gail, our Martini Mates. We are staying with them at Castle Howard and touring what Paul calls, God’s Country—Yorkshire. Can’t wait.

One last thing before I throw in the photos. We are finishing up this trip a week from today in Dublin where we will meet up with my brother Steve, his wife Jamie, our niece Cassie, her cousin Analee and Jamie’s sister and her husband Pam and Dave. And two more special people, our buddies Bob and Holly who are enroute to Dublin as I write this. I mention this as Bob does a blog as well and he blogs as he travels. I want to recommend it as he always takes great pics and sometimes movies. You can find it by clicking here. It’s always a fun read so try it out.

Don’t forget you can always see the pics as a slide show and as soon as Flickr gets their act together and fixes their uploader, I will have more pics in my Flickr feed (see the column at right.)

I have rarely if ever found anyone out of whom I could not extract amusement or edification. —Sir Walter Scott (seen in the Waverly Rail station while walking today)

Arthur’s Seat & more

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My inspiration, Tony Broonford

About three months ago we discovered The Broonfords. Really just a great Edinburgh YouTube vlogger named Tony Broonford. Since then he has become a huge part of our Edinburgh planning. If you ever come to Edinburgh, watch his videos. We have followed his directions for places to go all around the city. For instance, he has a series of videos following every Close that branches off from the Royal Mile. We keep going down all the ones he suggested and have found some pretty neat stuff (like a proper British garden).

About two months ago he did a video about climbing Arthur’s Seat. I will pause while you click the Wikipedia link and see what that is. As you may know, I love to walk and at home I try and walk at least 15 miles a week. But most of my walking is flat. I don’t do many hills. At least I didn’t until I saw that video and decided I had to climb Arthur’s Seat myself and I had to do it at dawn to get some great photos. To do that I have been training on our Power Line Trail which is a lot of ups and downs. Arthur’s Seat is all up and then all down.

Then this morning, with the weather cooperating, I set out to do it. And I did! What a great experience. One I won’t soon forget. The photos say it all (There will be more on Flickr as soon as they are back online). Just know that it wasn’t as tough a climb as I had thought it would be, that it was freezing cold and that the wind howls up there. I mean really blows. As the sun came up, my guess is that it hit about 30 mph and the temp was in the lower 40s. And I was in shorts with a knee brace. And I loved it. The kind of thing that really makes you feel alive.

After I climbed up, I climbed down (which was tougher than going up), came back and after a shower and some breakfast we did the lower Canonsgate section of the Royal Mile. As I mentioned yesterday, Holyrood Palace was closed due the the Lord High Commissioner of Whatever being “in-residence.” But the attached Queen’s Gallery was open so we toured an exhibit about Charles II which was moderately interesting, followed by a visit to the Scottish Parliament which is a beautiful piece of architecture and then a visit to the free Edinburgh Museum which chronicles the history of the city. Also moderately interesting. Then lunch at another great pub.

After a short nap (still somewhat jet-lagged) we headed up the Royal Mile again to check out the St. Giles Cathedral and a few other great places. Then back to home (we love this AirBnB) so I could process photos and another short nap (still jet-lagged), then dinner at a great little Italian place and back here and I am writing this.

Tomorrow we do a tour outside the city to visit Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and the Kelpies so stay tuned. Might not get that done until we are taking the train on Saturday to meet up with our Martini Mates, Paul and Gail in York.