Published: June 26th 2006June 26th 2006
Just when you thought it was safe to log onto your PC…… we turn up again with another little Bloggaroooooooo!
To set the picture straight here before any of you cunning minded sharp eyed readers clock on… we are not in mainland Europe yet. I know, I know, I know, we said that we were leaving for Spain on the 22nd of June, but frankly that’s all gone a bit tits up and we’re still in Bonnie Scotland. It ain’t so tragic though, no not at all. In fact its rather excellent because we’ve been having a lovely time catching up with family and friends and doing some shopping in Marks & Spencers food hall (MEGA incidentally - we forgot how amazing their chocolate mini rolls are) and organising stuff like mobile phones, flats, and cars for ourselves again. All very, very exciting. I think it’s easy to forget how much one appreciates home comforts until they are not there - then you rediscover and it’s wonderful. We are still going to Europe - we’ve just had to reorganize ourselves a little bit for a short time.
So what we been up to then? Well first things first…. the
On the beach at Luss, Loch Lomond, taken on probably one of the most miserable rainy days we've seen - even by Scottish standards.
horror trip home!!! In addition to the 24 hour delay at Hong Kong airport courtesy of British Airways, we had a 5 hour transfer time added to our journey at Heathrow, then they ran out of food on the flight to Edinburgh and to top it all lost one of our backpacks. Yes indeed - we’re sure you can probably imagine the complaint letter. Although maybe they won’t be so interested in our grievance at the moment seeing as how they are up shit creek for price fixing and facing fines of up to 850 million quid and a couple of nice jail sentences?
Moving on then…. We’ve been mainly staying at Shaz’s sister’s place in sunny Bellshill in Lanarkshire. Cathy and her husband Alec have been looking after us (putting up with us more like) while we’ve camped in their spare room. A very big THANKYOU to them both - we really do know that it’s a pain in the arse having us here and we promise we’ll ship out very, very soon. Enormous gratitude also goes to Lynne, Paul and wee Holly who picked us up from the airport, bedraggled, exhausted and in dire need of the
Yes, we have definately arrived in England!
Just about every car and every house, pub and shop are flying England's flag at the moment. Still don't think they are going to win though. Come on the Soccaroos!!!
golden amber nectar of Irn Bru!! It was so good to see their familiar faces, and as we reflected later, their presence was the only thing that marked a difference in the feeling we used to get when we arrived at Edinburgh airport after a work trip down to London or Bristol before we went travelling. It’s the Royal Bank of Scotland advertising that does it, honestly it’s EVERYWHERE (doing our brains in a bit if we are completely honest). Our first day back was spent visiting with the family which was brilliant - then a big sleep was required. Later that night we had our long awaited Glasgow Curry (mmmm) from the Shish Mahal in the west end. We also won a tenner on the National Lottery and that was nice too.
Since then we’ve been busy organizing things - the main one being the rental of a flat in Edinburgh’s Marchmont area next to the Meadows (V cool, V cosmo, V central, V classy, V cultured, V ‘roundthecornerfrom2goodpubsandplentynicefoodshops’ more to the point!!!). We are supposed to pick up the keys this Saturday and are totally looking forward to it. Some of you may be wondering why
we’ve decided to rent in Edinburgh when we have our own place already in Dunbar? Well the thing is that we don’t really want to move back to Dunbar at the moment - it’s a bit far away from the majority of our pals and folks, plus the house we have there is really too big for us right now. We figure that we’ll keep letting it out to tenants and get the mortgage paid, then we’re free to live wherever we want in the meantime…. You may also be wondering why we’re taking on a rental flat right now while we still have some travelling that we want to do before returning to the workplace? Again there’s a simple answer to this one - availability and convenience. We really wanted to source an apartment that we could put a deposit down on now, but move into at the end of August (which is when we planned to come back from Spain), however during our research into properties available, we found that we were going to struggle to find something suitable that would still be available when we reappear. We had to make a decision then to bite the bullet,
Alan steps back into the Eighties
...to use the biggest mobile phone ever known to mankind! not really - this is his free audio guide at Furness Abbey
take an apartment early and leave it empty for a month while we take ourselves abroad for the final leg. It’s a blow on the financial front, however we’d rather have an ideal place to live in rather than faff around again when we get back - plus it’ll allow us to settle ourselves before we go and have everything ready to step back into normality upon our return.
In addition to catching up with as many people as possible and sorting out all our bits and bobs, we also took ourselves down to the Lake District for a few days last week. We figure that there’s no point in sitting round twiddling our thumbs while we have this time off so we’re trying to make as good use of the days as we can while we are still in the UK.
Bowness on Windermere
Bizarrely enough, neither of us have ever been to the Lake District before - which is actually nuts because from central Scotland it’s only a coupled of hours drive without speeding. Anyway - we had originally planned to go the Isle of Skye, however the weather reports for Scotland indicated rain (and
you’ll appreciate that we’re a bit sick of the rain) so we checked out where was going to be better, and hey presto, Southward to the Lakes we were bound! Leaving at about 3pm on Monday, we arrived in Bowness at around 5:30pm and quickly found ourselves a charming little B&B to stay in for the night. It was called the ‘Melbourne’ and gave us a mild nostalgia trip to our recent wanderings in Aus. Bowness in charming, situated on Lake Windermere, filled with winding twisty cobbled streets, antique stores, and quaint pottery filled English Real Ale pubs. We were in our element, and after checking out a few of the locals, we settled down in the John Peel bar, watched the football, and dined on steak & kidney pudding garnished with millions of chips! El Magico! Alan thoroughly enjoyed his pints of Bluebell & Theakstons, enthusing wildly about the quality & taste for hours.
Next day we headed out towards Ravenglass, which is situated on the coastal part of the Lake District, via Barrow-in-Furness for a trip to 700 year old Furness Abbey. Right - ever the lazy one - I’m going to nick some wording
Playing (screeching) away outside the gates at Furness Abbey for reasons only known to himself.
from the guide book about Furness, so stand by your beds:… “Set in the beautiful Vale of Nightshade are the extensive red sandstone ruins of Furness Abbey, founded by Stephen, later King of England. The abbey first belonged to the Order of Savigney and then to the Cistercians. In it’s heyday Furness knew prosperity on a huge scale, and at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530’s, was the second richest Cistercian monastery in England. The importance and wealth of the abbey is reflected in the quality of the upstanding remains. Today the site is one of the most impressive religious monuments in the care of English Heritage.”
It was a real interesting historical visit for us. Entry is about 4 pounds, and you are given a free audio guide which is very informative, not only about the actual ruins, but also giving fascinating accounts of visitors to the abbey (such as Robert the Bruce & William Wordsworth) telling tales of how the monks lived their lives. As the name of this blog suggests, every day is indeed a school day!
We wanted to visit Ravenglass because we read somewhere ages
ago that there are some ancient Roman baths there. So we came, we saw the ruins, and we conquered some more real ale in the pub next door to our guesthouse while the rain battered above our heads, and the wind pounded the windows! We weren’t prepared for this rain as we previously mentioned the weather reports indicated sunshine and fairness - tsk! Nevertheless we had a good old time - the Roman Bath house was in pretty good condition, if a tad lacking in information, and the rain only lasted an hour or so. We watched the England game against Sweden that night and enthused silently while Henrick Larsson booted in an 11th hour equalizer. Now it’s not so much that we don’t support England - it’s just that we do love Henrick. Alan went up to the bar afterwards, and likes to think he asked for a pint of Larsson instead of a pint of Lager - but he didn’t really. If he did then he’d probably have been given a punching from all the England supporters in the pub.
Now while we’re on the subject of the World Cup, I’d just like to make you
One of three carvings above the crypt at Hamilton Mausoleum near Bellshill.
aware of our allegiances in this tournament. While we were in Sydney, we promised Paula that we’d support the Soccaroos, and I’m happy to announce that we are sticking with them as our number one team. Shaz also has a bit of a thing going on for Spain (naturally as we love to spend time there so much), but deep down Alan reckons that Brazil are going to walk away in the number one slot. He’s a careful man is our Alan!
Ravenglass is tiny place; 2 pubs, and a couple of places to rest your head. It’d be a very quiet holiday destination indeed, however there are lots of walks that you can do in the beautiful surrounding countryside and also there’s a lovely old steam train that runs all the way to Barrow should the notion take you. We probably wouldn’t bother coming back here to be honest as it’s a bit quiet for us, but we did enjoy our visit.
Vindolanda & Hadrian’s Wall
Ravenglass got us in the mood for more Ancient Roman culture!!! On Wednesday we drove north again heading towards the A66 road and a detour trip to the excellent
Vindolanda Roman settlement and fort site. It really is an amazing place to visit and we had a great afternoon there.
The fort was occupied by Romans around AD 85 - nearly 2000 years ago, and is located close to Hadrian’s Wall (despite the fact that the wall was built after this particular settlement was formed). Shaz came to Vindolanda in her third year at school on a visit with her Latin class (ooooohhhh!) and remembers it being a good site to encounter, but not anywhere near as fabulous as it is these days. There are ongoing excavations at Vindolanda which are due to continue for the next 200 years. Every year there are volunteers who join a summer dig at the site, and every year they find more and more amazingly well preserved artifacts which have lain in anaerobic (no oxygen) soil since the first century AD. You can see the archaeologists working away but you need to keep back a bit behind a railing. It’s still exciting to witness this though - history today and all that!
There is an absorbing museum in the site grounds which has so many wonderful ancient items found in situ.
The pond in Cathy & Alec's garden
This is where Shaz has been sitting on sunny days (OK there was ONE sunny day) relaxing with her Diet Irn Bru and a book. The yellow flowering tree is a Laburnum tree and this has grown from a cutting taken from the garden of the house that Shaz grew up in. Such nostalgia - it's great!
These include; Leather shoes, attractive & detailed Jewellery, pottery from Gaul and from Britain, Tools, Coins, Bones, Weapons, Combs, Animal Adornments, and the best thing of all……………preserved letters written on bark tablets.
The Vindolanda letters are the thing that makes this site stand out from all others in the UK, and are in fact the earliest examples of writing found anywhere in the UK. Included in the correspondences are; official letters to/from the Governor of Britain, notes between slaves regarding social events, accounts and trading reports, military duty rotas, officers reports, and even a regimental strength report! They are truly captivating and we spent a long time looking at the translations.
Later that day we drove to Hadrian’s Wall at Housestead and walked among the sheep to stand on the only part of the wall that you are allowed to. Recently, Hadrian’s Wall has been allocated the status of a ‘World Heritage Site’, and this means that it protected (to an extent) from further damage, in the hope that it may be preserved for millennia to come.
Other things we have done include a visit to the Hamilton Mausoleum, a day trip to ''sunny'' Loch Lomond (yes,
From Cathy & Alec's garden
it was pissing it down), touch of shopping in Glasgow and Edinburgh, been to a birthday party, had a night out in Jools Holland's nightclub in Edinburgh and generally relaxed our way through the last 2 weeks!
Here are some links relating to what we've been up to: FURNESS ABBEY VINDOLANDA RAVENGLASS BOWNESS ON WINDERMERE HAMILTON MAUSOLEUM LUSS ON LOCH LOMOND BELLSHILL LOCAL GUIDE - OH THE SHAME!
Now, the reason that there's shame attatched to the Bellshill link is that's where Shaz grew up and the link is outlining all the ned related aspects of Bellshill. However it's worth pointing out that within very close proximity to Bellshill are a number of wonderfully decorative and highly cultured pieces of architecture and places of interest. We're also close to the Lanarkshire Riviera ( Clydeside) where you can go picking strawberries, indulge in a spot of salmon fishing, visit Loch Lomond, shop in Glasgow and - of course - eat exceptional curries till your ears fall off! Don't knock it till you've tried it!!!
The next time you hear from us we’ll be over in Edinburgh, and hopefully we’ll
Moody Loch Lomond
It's so different looking on a sunny day.
have some more interesting stories for you & perhaps some photos too, as we get our home life back on track and prepare for the final leg of our journey!
Bye for now,
Shaz & Al. xxxx
There are more photos below