Friday, May 15, 2009

Weymouth and a monster bike ride (part 1)

The big boss people have given me a whole week off! As much as I'd love to say that Eric and I took the opportunity to skip off to the Maldives, there's a credit crunch going on and so Weymouth, the jewel in Dorset's coastal crown is where we went.

The family where there waiting for us with a massive lobster/crab/oyster feast.
Unfortunately they all had to go back to work the next day, but Eric and I had plans.
This is the route. Ignore that bit at the bottom (maybe, on a clear day, with the wind behind you, as well as a motorised engine.)
This is the map.

This is Eric, on bike, with map.

We cycled along the esplanade, taking the turning for Sutton Poyntz, which was not only beautiful but seems to be home to this amazing 3 wheeler.

You always know, when a bloke walking a dog laughs and yells after you as you pass 'That's a big hill!' that you're in for a climb.

Eric was undeterred:
'Lance (Oympic cyclist)...I'm coming to get ya!'
Once we got to the top, just above the White Horse (more on this later) the wind having been in our face the whole time, I was quite euphoric.
We rested here a while, taking in the view.

We crossed a field above the Horse, which is (taken directly from Wiki): a hill figure sculpted in 1808 into the limestone Osmington hill just north of Weymouth called the South Dorset Downs, within the parish of Osmington.
The figure is of King George III, who regularly visited Weymouth, and made it 'the first resort', riding on his horse, and can be seen for miles around. It is 280 feet long and 323 feet high in size and is best viewed from the A353 road.
There is a legend that King George was offended that the figure was riding out of Weymouth — a sign that he was not welcome — and never returned.

We actually stopped to try and walk down to see it, but the sculpture hasn't been tended to in a while and the 'permitted path' was overgrown and unclear. This is Eric, about to give up.

He did cheer up when we found this surveyance marker. This is the highest point in all the land, and, that's right folks, Eric's higher.

I was just happy to be cycling along, rather than up.

Then, it came time to cycle down again in to Osmington. In this picture you can just see it in the distance.

Problem is, our bikes are far from the mountain variety. Eric picked his way through the stones and steep decline well, but I am never one to go along with the phrase 'Nothing bad can happen' and so walked a while.
Another stile! Anyone who knows my love of these features of country rambles will know how much I rejoiced.

After cycling through Osmington, the guide basically tells you to head back, but I decided to take charge and divert us another 2 miles in to Osmington Mills and a 13th Century pub called the Smuggler's Inn.
The pub is so named because it seems that right here was a great place to land smuggled goods from boats. Geologists are really into the rock formations and beach here.
I'm really into cider after a hard bike ride,
and this particular proverb!

From Osmington Mills, you can just see the Weymouth Bay.
'Bex, that's where we're headed...'

After another ridiculous 1st gear climb from the coast to the main road, we paused to look at the White Horse we never managed to see up close.
Eric's disappointment is clear. Unfortunately, at the exact moment he made this gesture, a van drove past, obscuring the horse from my photo (and causing a similar reaction from the van driver).

And so back to the Weymouth esplanade. I love this picture of a thoughtful Eric.

Ah, the harbour! By this point it was 5.30pm. We left at 11am...2 hours my sore, um, seat!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

1X mountain hike= 1X deep-fried mars bar

Apologies for lack of postage! I had to get a colleague to post some pictures on Facebook so that I could use them (never will I be caught camera-less again!) to prove I DID actually climb Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.
But more on that later.

This is Edinburgh, where I was lucky enough to be joined by my family.

Edinburgh has a big university where apparently some of the students still speak Gaelic.

It also has a Royal Mile,
a castle, and lots of history.
This can only mean one thing: my father points.

All day.
But occasionally I point too. I mean, who is that?
This is The Writer's Museum where the most interesting thing I saw was
Sir Walter Scott's rocking horse, which had one higher leg brace than the other, evidence that he suffered from polio at an early age.
Basically, the Royal Mile has lots of tiny streets leading from it, where people lived and worked. There are lots of ghost tours you can do which I'd highly recommend.
My folks stayed at the Balmoral Hotel, again, highly recommended.
Sharing the afternoon tea can lead to arguments, it's that good.
Speaking of food, The Witchery is arguably the best restaurant on the Royal Mile, and due to the yearly festival, the guestbook is full of interesting autographs.
When you walk the length of the Royal Mile, you walk past the Parliamentary building, which looks oddly like some kind of prison for cattle to me.
At the other end of the Royal Mile from the castle, and nestled in between two hills, one being Arthur's seat, is the Royal Family's official residence in Scotland, Hollyrood House.
Eric went to the top of Arthur's seat before me, while I was working. So these are a mixed bag of his photos, plus subsequent ones when I managed to get to the top with my friends. For some reason the pictures are tiny, but if you can see in one the white pillar, that's the top. It wasn't easy...
...and I decided I deserved to try one of Scotland's famed culinary delights: the fried Mars Bar.
And a cross section. Mmm.
Cholesterol in a greasy, chocolatey bar folks! It was, I have to admit, pretty tasty.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Man's an Island

So, we've been in Douglas, in the Isle of Man.
To be honest, I know very little about this place, because I've had no transport to explore the island (and no trains run 'til Easter!) but what follows is what I did learn:
Anything originating from or typifying the Isle of Man is given the prefix 'Manx'.
The emblem of the Isle of Man is this three-legged symbol, on some examples wearing spurs.
Douglas has a pretty seafront, and apparently during the summer when the electric railway runs, is very quaint.
The Isle of Man is a very small island, close to Liverpool on the coast of the UK. It is only 33 miles in length and 13 miles wide, and is famous for the annual TT motorbike race.
I found this bike for sale. I thought about buying it, riding a few laps and then selling it on, but then thought better of it.
There is a Manx language, not commonly spoken but the thing of greetings cards, road names etc.
As you travel in to the Isle of Man, you cross the 'famous' Fairy Bridge. Fail to say hello to the fairies at you peril!
The Isle of Man currency is sterling, but they print their own pound notes, even £1, not seen in the rest of the UK since the 70's!
There's a pretty harbour, too.
The Isle of Man gets a great deal, really. They're officially part of the UK so they get to use the army, yet they govern themselves, so don't have to abide by annoying things like speed-limits on roads.
It's also known as a tax haven. This means that the average business will pay at most 18% tax, where the rest of us have to pay around 40%. Maybe that's why English comedian Norman Wisdom moved here.

This was the dining room at my B'n'B, the Wicklow Hills Guest House. Great place to drink wine and heat up microwave meals after the show.
I love this flower bed on my way to work.

But the real gem of Douglas is the Gaiety Theatre. It truly is the most ornate theatre we've played.
This curtain is amazing.
And these plush seats.
And this roof.
And these boxes.
To get us off of the Isle of Man, and on to Aberdeen in one day, they chartered three, nineteen-seater aeroplanes.
This is mine.
Here are the others.
This is the captain.
This is the only other flight attendant, giving us our safety briefing. Exactly.
This is me trying to stand up in the cabin. Me, claustrophobic?
When the aircraft pulled up in Aberdeen after a turbulent hours' flight, this man put these blocks by the wheels to stop it rolling!