Saturday, October 09, 2010

Scotland Whit A Relief

It was Christine who said first, after we had driven some distance into Scotland, "oh what a relief, I like Scotland". We both were feeling this, maybe it was the better weather, the wider roads, better signage on these roads, or the lack of traffic, but straight away it was more relaxing to be in Scotland.
We met some fellow cyclists right on the physical border who were on the Lands End to John O'Groats ride and this added something special to entering Scotland.
We headed into Dumfries late afternoon and checked out the Burns influence in the quite big little town of Dumfries, he spent a considerable time here. This was the first town in weeks that actually had a free carpark in the centre of town so maybe that's why I took a shine to Scotland straight away, though the sense of humour was also evident pretty quickly as this shop sign displayed.
Then I spotted this sign, pointing to the pub, The Douglas Arms, for Citizens Advice.
Dumfries has a connection with Scotland's national poet Rabbie Burns who spent quite a bit of time in the area.

So off we headed to the place where I was born and grew up (Ayr and Kilmarnock, respectively).
I left at the tender age of 16 when our whole family emigated way back in the mid 60s, more than half a life time ago. I still remember certain things though, and a lot has not changed very much.
Burns Cottage in Alloway, Ayr, the birthplace of at least two famous Scots.

My sister Louise went back to Scotland about 4 years ago, and told me our favourite icecream shop had gone. I was heartbroken, but resigned to change, life moves on, but hey, she was wrong, it's still there with the same decor, and the memories of my childhood came flooding back.

When I was a boy the owner was the little Italian man who started the shop, Varani's Icecream, called The Forum Cafe "The Cream of Kilmarnock". They have special tubs of icecream that spin making that special texture, the flavour's great too, supposedly healthy, tho I was never interested in that. The person serving you uses a stainless steel paddle and loads a miniature bricklayer's hod with a wafer, then loads up with the icecream, much like a bricklayer again putting mortar on his brick. Then they stick another wafer or a nougat  chocolate covered wafer on top and load this amazing sculpture into a very simple paper bag, and off you go out of the shop. With my very old local knowledge I recommended Christine try the plain icecream and she was not disappointed.
I only had two icecreams......honest!
Heading accross the Lowlands of Scotland there are plenty of windmills generating power, we arrived in Edinburgh in August at the height of summer, with an Arts Festival and a Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo all happening  up in the Castle/Royal Mile area. Without all this happening Edinburgh is a wonderful city to explore, and therefore it had far too much to try and take in the 2 days we had in Edinburgh.
This is the famous Greyfriars Church story about the dog Bobby, that stayed on its master's grave for many years till it died.
Tickets for the Tattoo are booked out months in advance, but still it was impressive just to see the setting right next to the Castle, is really stunning.
The Fringe Festival is a busker's paradise, anything goes, it's information overload, one simply cannot take in even a small fraction of what's happening.

So we headed north across the Forth Road Bridge.
In the Cairngorms this was a very cold night in the Hotel Rover for two cheery Kiwis though we did spend a great evening in a pub in Spittal of Glenshee, where a Dundee folkie was in fine form!
Don't know the name of this place, but what a stunner and the photo below was only around the corner of that arch on the left.
So now we were heading for my Auntie Netta in Nairn just east of Inverness. I have extremely fond memories of Nairn, that's where we used to go holidays, where I learnt to ride a bike (a full size man's bike with bar) by pedalling between the bar and the pedals.

Netta is still living in the same house less than 100 yards from the sea, yes it's a special place. Christine had spotted in the tourist info as we drove toward Nairn that the Nairn Highland games were the following weekend so we amended our plans to head around the north of Scotland and down the west coast to Skye and return to Nairn in time for the Skirl of the Pipes and the Kilts.
Auntie Netta still lives in Inverene, on the Links in Nairn, I used to go there as a boy around 10 and thats 50 years ago.
The beach behind me in my last visit 18 years ago was a stoney beach, now it's all sand.
This is what happens when you walk around Scotland dressed like this fella, you meet all the other weirdo's.

The scenery in the North of Scotland (and we had pretty good weather) is stunning, no need for commentary from me!
 Horizontal washing hung across from the house on the shore of the Loch, for every tourist in the world to see....I loved it!
Even the rocks in Scotland are unique!
Another one of our Hotel Rover morning views.
This is Inverness Castle, I'll close now and resume the next blog at the Nairn Highland Games.
Och aye the noo!
Stay safe and Free
Jimu and Christine.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

 So sorry about the frequency or should that be infrequency of this blog...restarting again and playing catch up now before I return to New with no further ado...

Christine arrived at Heathrow in early August, complete with her suitcase and off we headed into London on the tube to see the Queen etc.
It's amazing how the horses stand there all day with  all those foreigners snapping photos and getting too close for my comfort!
As you can see
Now I had a partner in crime, I was forced to eat this icecream just for the photo, with the London Eye in view at the back. We chose not to join the huge snake of a queue and headed around some of London's many attractions.
This was the side of a contemporary building off Oxford Street, certainly impressed me.

This is the view from inside the pub with beer in hand - pretty amazing I think.

There was I just walking along minding my own business, when I was accosted by this fine bunch of Brits, promoting Barclays Bank. (I seem to have shrunk at least a foot or 12 imperial inches)

We were house sitting in Southampton for the first week of Christine's UK experience and kindly had the use of a car, therefore we explored Hampshire, Dorset and Devon with a 2 day jaunt through some amazing countyside, and wonderful little old towns. Christine was particularly taken with the narrowness of the roads and the nearness of the houses to the road, as below. A little seaside village like this one in Porlock, on the north coast of Devon, has tour buses negotiating these roads and the locals will park on yellow lines while they go into a shop, which reminds me, the British love to park on the wrong side of the road. It really slows down the traffic and makes a short distance very long in time, as travelling 10 miles can take up to an hour, not including traffic jams. I think therefore sometimes it would be faster on a bike (barring accidents, of course).

So many Cathedrals, so little photographs, but the shadows are fantastic, as you can see below!
This is in Salisbury Cathedral, which is quite near Stonehenge and we didn't go

My Wife, beside just another one of those amazing walls that are all over Britain. Have you ever wondered how long it must have taken to build all these walls, I certainly have and the variety from region to region is also constantly changing.
The Devonshire Moors heading down to Sidmouth, which turned out to be a hectic place with a folk festival in full swing, about 10 buskers on the sea front and in the town live music all day and night in the various pubs, and we only had a couple of hours to spend there.
So after a week in the south we caught the Greyhound bus to London and the train to York where we were met by our British/Kiwi friend Julie at the station, a very impressive building.

Here we are in the wheatfields of Yorkshire,and all over England there are public walkways through farm fields. As an ex New Zealand farmer, I'm amazed that the general public can and do walk all over the land, the farmers even have to provide the paths through the crops.

This a mausoleum for the outsider of the family at an impressive place called Castle Howard.

 As you can see York and the York Minster is a very impressive place The highlight of our York trip was up in the bell tower, of the Church across the road from York Minster watching Julie ring dem bells, and with the explanations, all that more enjoyable. For those that know York, it's a bit of a Shambles - really!

We met this bunch of blokes biking from Land's End to John-O-Groats raising money for a child cancer charity. The bike was made by somebody in Holland and was a 7-seater with steering wheel.

With the huge help of our Yorkshire friends Mike and Julie we tracked down a vehicle at the local Rover agents who had a sweet little trade-in, a Rover 214si 1995 with only 53,000 miles on the clock and very tidy, and off we headed to find the Lake District and Scotland. I can remember that Londoner's advice as I started my ill-fated bike ride in Tooting Bec way back in May this year Go west young Man". Now we headed North, to wonder what will we find!

Blog #8 is already in the pipe line so stand back, I'm clearing a road blockage!

Cheers, Ciao, Hoots Mon....och aye!