In the morning the Innkeeper turned out to be the mother of 4 who was trying to “do it all” The breakfast was not as fresh as the 2 previous days and she certainly didn’t have the time to make recommendations. We paid our fee and drove on to Dublin.
Driving to Dublin was actually lovely, albeit long. Driving IN Dublin was a horror! We had programmed Garmin to find us a hotel and it simply wasn’t there. As luck would have it, we found another soon after called the Castle Hotel. Pricey, but in the middle of the city where we could walk to everything and again, we were happy to have a clean room and BIG shower. The Innkeeper, Finn McCool, was dressed in a baggy, old, dirty suit, but he was the epitome of a leprechaun and he took us up to our room, talking politics and economy all the way. We settled in and headed to the “Hop on, Hop Off bus. We found it parked a block away and sat back to enjoy the sights of Dublin. We got off to check out the Book of Kells, but were put off that it cost another arm and a leg to see it. Back on and took way too many pictures of the architecture of every church, pub, and Georgian building.
Stopped off to see a lovely cathedral which turned out to be a tourism center (and shop). Got a bit lost in the Temple Bar area which was really charming (only lost from where we needed to pick up the bus) and finally got on a bus that announced it was the last one of the day, so we stayed on for the remainder of the city.
Best part of Dublin was visiting with the boys at the firehouse. They treated Andy like royalty and gave us biscuits (cookies) and tea and a tour of the stationhouse. Very nice!
Monday, June 29, 2009
Thursday morning, June 4th, we raced to the airport to return the car and board an hour and a half flight to Inverness. Goodbye warm weather. Views from the airplane were awesome. Inverness greeted us with both sunny and cloudy skies (bipolar weather as Mandy says). Andy upgraded our car to a bigger one and Mandy came to greet us and we all took off for a giant store, much like WalMart, to get some provisions. Not at all what I had imagined we'd find in Inverness.
We headed for the house she lives in and got her bags and computer (Thank God for the bigger car!) and then headed to the adorable little retreat house she reserved for us. Bridge End at Reelig. I didn't want to leave the place - it was such a lovely retreat - quiet and lovely with trails to explore.... Alas, we headed out to inspect downtown Inverness and really never enough time with the grounds around Bridge End.
Inverness was cool, though. Neat and historic, nicely laid out around a river...er, Loch...really very visually appealing with a castle in the center and some cool architecture all around. We had ourselves a spot of tea and a bit of soup and stopped off at the tourism center to collect brochures and ideas. Then we headed to Mandy's L'Arche house to celebrate a birthday. 19 people for a big sit down celebration. It was really quite amazing to participate in this community celebration. Then back to Bridge End for a little bit of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" on my computer and the BEST night's sleep in days!
Saturday morning we had to pack up our charming retreat house after a lovely country breakfast. Andy wanted to head for some lighthouses. Mandy was eager to get to Edinburgh. We attempted to do both with a poor understanding of the geography and how far everything was from each other. On the map it looked easy - just head east and stay along the coastline and, after discovering lots of cool towns and lighthouses we'd arrive in Edinburgh.
In reality we'd gotten a later start and were headed in a direction that wouldn't get us to our final destination until the following day. Would have worked except we had reservations in Edinburgh and, after Mandy contacted them, learned we would be responsible for paying for the night whether we showed or not. So, we found the Lossiemouth Lighthouse and turned around and headed south for another long drive. Once again, the landscape along the way was magnificent.
Friday, June 26, 2009
6-8. Monday morning & we awake in Edinburgh after being here 1.5 days. It is quite an interesting city – more London feeling than I remember London. Rows and rows of tall, old, tan colored buildings that have blackened with age, all with majestic roofs and a truly historical feel. We climbed to Arthur’s Seat – quite a climb for an old lady with 4 layers on carrying camera and pocketbook filled with an extra lens. I am feeling the aches today. But what a glorious 360-degree view we were met with on top!!! Awesome is putting it mildly.
When we finally got down, we walked through a pretty park at the base of the giant volcanic cliffs and spotted the beginning of a heart walk. Andy wanted a Heart Healthy Scotland t-shirt so we walked over and had a talk with several local ladies. One old woman was happy to tell us that where we now stood had been her backyard growing up and they had boat rides in the local loch and, as we stood beside Holyrood Palace, she claimed that they used to bring excess food to the gates and all would be delighted at the spoils.
Hollyrood Palace is a place the Queen still stays at when she is in Scotland. We toured the palace – ostentatious ceilings, beautiful tapestries, lots of giant portraits on wooden carved walls – then began our decent up the Royal Mile.
We stopped for a lovely break in Clarinda’s – named for the inspiration of a Robert Burns poem – a lovely tea shop, where I had a brie and cranberry toastie followed by an almond delight .. all with tea of course. Up the hill to oooh and ahh over the architecture and the many silly tourist shops. Stopped to buy Scottish souveniers for N&K, past St. Giles –a very Gothic Church. Mandy told us that they make decrees here (still do) and, many years ago, if someone was accused of robbery, he would have his ear nailed to a thing in the middle of the road and have to stay there for 24 hrs. He could pull away, leaving him with a permanent scar that all could see and know his crime.
Onto the castle. But it was getting late and we like to take our time inspecting, so we went across to check out the Camera Obscura. That was a lot of fun. So much so that we went back on Tuesday.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Since Edinburgh has so much to offer, and we booked the B&B for 3 nights (one of out least favorite B&B's - tight quarters, run by a talkative man from Gibralter who sounded Scottish even though he didn't look it) we woke up on Monday morning raring to see more of the fine city. We headed for the castle, at the top of the Royal Mile. We were blessed with yet another beautiful day although it felt more like early April in NY than June - still it was sunny and pleasant. The walk there was invigorating and the castle itself was like a small city with much to explore.
Back to Camera Obscura since they had closed the day before, before we had played with all of the exhibits. We stopped off at an adorable pub with a "story" that I've already forgotten. Then we went for a tour of the vaults built underneath the city, which was cool. 400 years ago they were where the elite had their office space...later they became the den of inequities and the place where body snatchers sold their wares. We went on to explore the "New Town" which was built in the 1700's and had a lovely dinner at the Witchery. Afterwards we took a walk up to Carleton Hills for a lovely sunset (which happens at about 11 pm). All in all a cool visit to a really fascinating city. If you haven't seen enough pictures here, go to http://chrisdaviscina.smugmug.com. Truely a wonderful trip with so many beautiful sights!