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!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Grassington, the Dales Way and Scar House Reservoir

Lucky me, lucky me! My husband of one-and-a-half months swept me away for a romantic Sunday in the Yorkshire Dales. Smug-married I'll not be, so enough of this...

We stopped once along the scenic roads through the Dales, to check out these sheep and bulls with extra-long, shaggy coats.

I wonder what breed these cows are, with their distinctive markings?

Plenty of food, anyway.

Eric had chosen Grassington as our place to stay, it's in the south Dales, also known as Swaledale, between Kettlewell and Ilkley on the Dales Way.

What's the Dales Way? Here it is. It's a walking footpath route, of 84 miles, through the Dales. It is relatively flat, beautifully scenic, off-road, and with plenty of Yorkshire villages, pubs and inns to stop at overnight along the way it's a great introduction to long-distance walking, they say.

The pub we stayed in was the Forresters Arms and was a fine example of an old English Inn.

As time was short, and it was a beautiful sunny day, we decided to take a quick drive to cross the Pateley Bridge,

passing this amazing waterfall (on the walking route, see the path?) on the way, to do a loop from Nidderdale to Middlesmoor, not strictly on the Dales Way route, but an 'area of stunning natural beauty' according to the guidebook.

We began walking along the road, a relatively steep incline, but beautiful.

Snowdrops by the side of the road.

Middlesmoor really is an unspoilt village with a pebbled road leading to a church set on the edge of the hill, and a great view.

An example of a much older way of life.

Rare breeds seem to be the thing here. This black turkey was massive, the photo doesn't do it justice. It's body was like a barrel. Anyone name the breed?

I fell in love with this chapel conversion too. Ooh, as luck would have it, it's up for rent!

Keep dreaming, dancer-girl...

We walked back along a public footpath.

Check out this very old, worn piece of engineering: I can pass,

A sheep could not. Simple.

Other animals could pose more of a problem.
Back in the car and on to our final stop, the Scar House Reservoir. PLEASE check the link for all information not found here, I definitely don't get how this reservoir thing works!
Here's what I DO know: it provides the water for Bradford with a capacity of 2,200 million gallons, and was completed in 1936 with no small ammount of effort and hardship.
An entire village was also built to house workers, complete with flushing toilets (nearby village Pateley Bridge residents did not have this, it was meant to encourage builders while reinforcing the fact that they were easily replaceable, that this luxury was only available to hard workers) school, cinema and chip-shop.
Once the reservoir was completed, the village was dismantled and sold in lots.
The surface area of water is 70 hectares or 172 acres.
The length of the dam is 600 metres, its' height is 71 metres, and is comprised of over 1 million tonnes of masonry.
It's an impressive thing, this reservoir.