Aug 08 2013

More Catching Up

Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 08:18

Picking up my narrative from our stay in Canterbury, our next day was driving to the South of Wales via Stonehenge. Stonehenge seemed to be a fiasco on approach, as we hit a massive, miles long, “queue” as we approached. However, It was just traffic, and the site was not overly packed. Plus, we bought a pass at Dover that got us in without waiting through the ticket line. Another perk, was timing was such that we were looking for food when we left, and with no large towns around we just pulled off in some random village and stumbled upon a small town pub in action and had another really great native experience. Just with a few faukin less fauks in the lingo.

Weather turned to the poor side and we were later than desired getting in to our hotel outside of Cardiff in the South of Wales. It was near a culture park we hoped to hit but the park was closing by the time we arrived. So we went straight in for the night, and it was our first of four Travelodge stays in Great Britain, and I’m glad it was the worst of the bunch as it was not great. However, it was not horrible, and it WAS dirt cheap, so, like the old Motel 6 ads, “What difference does it make, you’re just going to be sleeping?”

We headed off the next morning to drive to Northern Wales. This was some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen anywhere, despite a lot of the drive being in heavy rains. Our place in Caernarfon and Caernarfon itself were fantastic. We just had the afternoon and one full day there, but it is now on a list of places to come back and visit. We did not have time to really visit much of the area like we would like, but I wouldn’t have known that if not for this visit. We loved Wales, the Welsh, and pretty much everything but the one grocery store I went in, which is quite possibly the worst grocery store in the world. It sold nothing but frozen, preservative added, foods. And it’s a chain there, so I’m guessing Welsh home cooking ain’t what it used to be and isn’t what they were serving in the pubs.

Our next two days were just drives to and through Northern Scotland to see the countryside. We stayed the first night in a hotel that’s been a hotel for centuries, just North of the famous Loch Lomond and it sure seemed like it. It was a beautiful structure, sadly in real need of some freshening up. Still the history and the food in the restaurant there made up for it. It was our first try at haggis, and both Hugh and I liked it. Of course, they did not serve it in the sheep’s stomach, so some of the vibe may have been lost.

The next day, I shortened the itinerary a bit as I felt it was too slow driving to safely go as far North as I first intended. We went instead right on up along Loch Ness and into Inverness for the night. The routing we were sent on to get to our hotel seemed insane, but later looking at it, it appears it really was necessary. There was no other way to get to the side of the river where we were without having driven up the other side of the lake first. As we had a good view of the entirety of downtown Inverness during our stop and go drive through the heart of downtown on the way to the hotel, I had zero desire to try and drive back in just to walk the streets at a faster pace than we drove them. So we basically just holed up for the night and got ready for the drive into Edinburgh the next day.

Our first stop on the way back south was at a place I had looked up on the internet the night before, as we did not want the breakfast at the hotel, and knew about when we’d need some brunch. That was the Old Mill location we posted some pictures of before. While there, Rita got into a conversation with one of the staff and found out he was from (the) Czech Republic. We mentioned our over touristed visit to Prague and we were informed that if we thought Prague was crowded wait for Edinburgh, as the Fringe Festival was going to start that day. Rita misunderstood and was trying to figure out how Edinburgh looked like Prague. Not looks like, CROWDED like! Nutz!

While the Fringe Festival is something I might not mind sampling some time when psyched up for it and prepared, and after having a chance at seeing the city “unadorned” with a bazillion signs and banners, I wasn’t really pleased. Other than getting to say I was at the Fringe Festival, it added nothing and detracted a LOT from the visit for me. I was all about the visual look of a medieval city and it’s hard to capture that with everything plastered in banners, poster, decorated temporary gates, etc, etc. Still, I’m glad we were there and now I know when not to visit next time. Had I wanted to do “street” photography, it would have been bliss, where else do you have “crazy Karl Marx” guy running down the streets throwing flyers and yelling at the crowds? The best thing about Edinburgh for me was dropping off the car and not having to sweat getting around. It is a city where everything is pretty walkable. It was fun to see some of the places we’d seen in movies, and I’m sure I want to spend more time in Wales and Scotland than we did, so I’m hoping to make it back when it’s less chaotic.

We left Edinburgh by train, just a regular commuter train, to Glasgow. We went and found out about tickets our first day to be sure it wouldn’t be a problem. The man at the information booth informed us it was easy. Buy your tickets “day of” and climb on a train, one about every 15 minutes. When I inquired if luggage would be a problem on a commuter train, his reply was, “No. Luggage isn’t a problem at all. Well, unless you have a phenomenal amount of luggage.” We all got a kick out of the way he said “phenomenal” and joked for day’s about what does or doesn’t constitute a “phenomenal amount” of anything.

We had already decided to only spend an afternoon in Glasgow, based on what we had read about the place. While some people noted that some of the images from Glasgow seemed “bleak” I didn’t really see it that way. Parts of it did seem run down, but it seemed very energetic and sort of on the upswing. It did not have the feel of being run down as much as work in progress. Reminded me a bit of Tacoma, Washington right at the beginnings of their rebuilding of the downtown area.

From what I had read it seemed like a city where a couple of months to live in it and get a real feel for it would be interesting, but as a tourist destination, there was not really that much available. That was what I had read and why I allowed so little time there, and in that time that is how I came to feel. I think it might be the base of operation I would choose for Scotland excursions. Way cheaper to stay, enough nice places there to see, eat, do things. And then very drivable for trips North and West. Much easier to get into and out of if one were using it that way than Edinburgh would be. We stayed at the same brand of hotel as Edinburgh, but at 25 pounds a night instead of 115. We could have stayed at a top tier hotel in Glasgow for the same money as Edinburgh’s cheapest.

It was now Tuesday, and we had passed our halfway point in Edinburgh on the weekend. We were now moving to Ireland for a bit less than two weeks there before the return trip home. The longest part of the commute from Glasgow to Derry was the bus from Glasgow to the ferry terminal just outside of Cairnryan. The ferry was a bit shorter (and much more comfy), and then the bus ride from Belfast to Derry was not that long at all. We left at 8 in the morning and were in Derry by 4:45 that afternoon. Not a bad trip, especially as, unlike airports, there was no security lines, just “herding in the door” lines at the ferry terminal.

Getting into Ireland was a bigger change than one would think. Not so much the scenery even dealing with essentials, as this is Northern Ireland and they are still on the pound for currency. The big change we noticed was the kids. Well the kids and the accents seem harder to decipher here as well. The kid’s I’ve decided, are different because of the pubs. While we saw kids in the pubs in the rest of Great Britain, it was more like a regular restaurant environment. Here, the pubs seem a lot more like an American “bar” environment, but the kids are still right there with Ma and Da. Our first real note we took of this was at the bus station in Derry, where as we left the building a kid of about 3 years age came around the corner, looked at the goings on in the station and pronounced loudly, “What the hell?!?” I noticed it again here and there, but especially at a pub we stopped for a break at before going to the movie yesterday. I’d have paid a pound to have heard what the little girl said, but with the accent and a bit too much distance between our tables, I couldn’t make the words out. But the gestures and tenor of the exchange was definitely more “adult to adult” than 10 year old to mom. Something was not quite right with the little girls drink and mom was going to taste it and and then fix the problem. We also saw similar behavior at a restaurant for teens and parents. It just seems like there is no adult/child behavior line. The kids, walk, talk, and act like adults from a remarkable early age. In my mind I envision them from toddler age thinking and talking like Stewie on Family Guy, but with an Irish brogue instead of an English accent.

This morning we did a loop on the tour bus to see more of the city. I was surprised again by the changes. While tension seems higher, the public effort at settling things seems much more overt. Several of the Protestant murals in the “waterside” areas, that always seemed more confrontational than the Catholic ones that were more protest oriented, had been very deliberately repainted to be more “optimistic” and less political. One of the ones I remembers as particularly “in your face” had been painted out altogether with one that was a cooperative effort with Catholic and Protestant artist contributing. I can’t help but wonder, myself, if the government efforts to wipe some of it out didn’t help fuel the fire more. Like the decision in Belfast to reduce the number of days of flying the Union jack brought out the Loyalist protesters there. I didn’t lear much from the tour today, as I’d been there before, but the commentary of prerecorded message by a decidedly British narrator putting out very whitewashed and politically correct explanations of events contrasted strongly with our live commentary from an Irish guide the last time we were here.

Anyway, that’s where we are at now. We will rent a car and do a day trip to Giant’s Causeway and the Antrim Coast tomorrow, then pack it up and head South into the Republic of Ireland the day after. I’m done for now. I might have a batch from today later, but right now I have yesterday’s pictures from around Derry up and captioned. They are POSTED HERE.

And I think it may.

Aug 05 2013

Heading West

Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 15:54

Today was our last morning in Edinburgh. We did a last bit of running around before boarding a commuter train to Glasgow. We only had the afternoon here, and we leave early tomorrow on a bus/ferry excursion to Londonderry Northern Ireland. This set is fairly large, but minimally captioned. It’s an overview of the day, plus a batch of shots from a city tour bus here in Glasgow. It’s POSTED HERE.

Our last day and Hugh wanted to check out the Edinburgh University library. Turned out only students are allowed inside, except there was a nice exhibit on chemistry.

Aug 04 2013

Edinburgh, Town ‘n’ Castle

Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 00:48

Rita’s color shots from our day walking around Edinburgh and touring the castle are POSTED HERE.

You may notice the scarcity of people and traffic in these first few. Rita an I went out early before breakfast for a walk to shoot some of the areas that are inaccessible in the day due to crowds.

Aug 03 2013

South to Edinburgh

Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 15:20

A set fro Friday’s drive to, and afternoon out in Edinburgh. Up now. POSTED HERE.

After the map app told us to

Aug 01 2013

Another Road Set

Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 13:56

This batch is from Yesterday’s drive from Carnarfon, Wales to The North end of Loch Lomond. It was a longer driving day, and the place we ended up at, while highly interesting and of some history, was only slightly more than “passable” as serious accommodation. I’m sure someone hiking through might feel otherwise, but it seriously needs some work. I know it was established in 1705, but the rooms shouldn’t feel like they were from that day and hadn’t seen a new rug or paint job since.

I really don’t mean to complain, the food was pretty good and they do sort of have a corner on the market for their location. My guess is it just makes too much money without investing, and that any remodeling would mean shutting a room down longer than the owners want. All in all, it was a win. It was well located, reasonably priced, and it provided us with our first encounter with haggis. Probably not the last haggis we will try, as both the boy and I really liked ours. Maybe it helped that it was not served IN the sheep’s stomach it was cooked in. Presentation is everything.

Anyway, this is a mixed set of color and black and white. Not so much because Rita’s color didn’t cover the whole day, but the place we stayed made for some really nice black and white stuff as well. The set is up now. POSTED HERE.

The bar proper being guarded by a bird of prey.

Aug 01 2013

More Driving in the Rain, More Boring Scenery

Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 09:43

Today we drove from The Drover’s Inn on the North end of Loch Lomond to Inverness, on the edge of the North Sea, almost straight across from Stavanger, Norway, where we were about this time last year. Maybe I have a thing for these latitudes.

We only stopped a couple of times for photos, and of course, Rita shot a few out the window. With the weather, the views, while still spectacular, were not as conducive to photography. Still a few we shot very near the peak used in the last Bond film, Skyfall, and a few on Loch Ness, were good enough to put up. I think if you look close in one of them you will see Nessie, just as I’m sure I have one of a ghost at the haunted Inn from last night. I think you just have to look really, really, hard. (And being just a bit insane might help!) The set from today’s drive is POSTED HERE.

Jul 30 2013

Steam Engine Smoke and High Places

Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 13:58

Overview drill again. Had a big arse breakfast where Hugh and I both had the black pudding. We both liked it, though it was a bit dry for me. Maybe with an egg yoke over it tomorrow. After that we hauled our laundry off to get washed while we went and played today. After that, Rita did an AM walk while Hugh and I laid about catching up and resting up.

Our play today was a couple of hours on an old narrow gauge steam powered railway through the Welsh countryside. It’s pretty nice. I am most definitely coming back here with a couple of weeks in my pocket instead of a couple of days. We have to head out for Scotland tomorrow. It will be a long driving day unless we find faster roads than we came up here from Cardiff on.

I still have not had time to write any more than in the captions, but I am more concerned that we get some of Rita’s great shots up than my drivel. The day’s set is POSTED HERE.

Hugh on the phone with one of his friends to report where he was, and that it was great, but he was terrified. He still doesn't like heights, but will do it for the view and experience.

Jul 30 2013

Wet Mountain Roads and Mines

Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 02:55

My apologies in advance to all who have to suffer through a long set. More shots here than previous. But I couldn’t bring myself to not show more of our mine shots now (rather than just a couple for overview). However, there won’t be a lot more captioning to read than normal, so you should be able to get through in a similar amount of time. I think when your done you will see it was worth it, at least I hope so. We had an awesome time.

When we left Cardiff it was cloudy, and on the drive it turned to thunderstorms and got so thick I nearly pulled off. Then it mellowed a bit. By the time we got North the sky was nice and the rain was only threats. We got in a bit later than I wanted, but not too bad. We have decided on a “down day” meaning only here, not trying to see the bazillion other cool things right around here. I must say, I’m coming back some day for a two of three week Wales only trip. This place is just fantastic.

I hope to have enough time today to do a bit of writing about my thoughts (maybe I can even add context tho Rita’s hilarious collection of quotations). For now, here are yesterday shots. POSTED HERE.

The bar (where you order) in the Black Boy Inn.

Jul 28 2013


Category: Family & Friends,Sony Baloney,TravelRandall Kelley @ 15:36

Really just bombing across the south of England today, be we did manage to stop in at Stonehenge, and to stumble into a really cute little town for a nice pub lunch. A set of overview jpegs with captions is POSTED HERE.

Rita went for the Grandpa and Hugh shot and so I asked Hugh,

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