Saturday, March 29, 2014
The woman behind the counter was extremely friendly and began processing my order. I had ordered an economy class automatic car. She asked if I wanted to do any of the insurance plans and because of bad planning by me I forgot to check with my own insurance company and see if I was covered over here. We tried calling but realizing that it was the wee hours of the morning in the US I knew no one was going to be there.. so I opted to get the full insurance coverage. It cost me about 578 pounds for the 17 days but the car would by 100% covered and peace of mind was worth the money.
As I mentioned the woman and I chatted like old friends so she pulled me aside and said, I'm going to give you an upgrade, this car has good gas mileage and a GPS built into the car so no extra cost to rent one. I was very thankful. She brought around the Nissan Juke (I considered buying this car at one time). As I got in to go over how it all works I noticed three pedals on the ground and then looked over at the gear shift and saw that it was a manual transmission. I pointed this out to her and she apologized and said that she would go and get the other automatic that they had in their inventory.
The two employees were very friendly and apologetic. I kept informing them that it was all good as I was in no hurry. Around 30 minutes later another gentleman pulls up in a small little white car. He goes over how it all works and I was ready to go. The boss came over and apologized one last time and said because I had to wait that this car has an internal GPS built in and I would get it at no extra charge... so woohoo!!
So I was ready to hit the road, as I mentioned in previous blogs this is the thing I was worried about the most. First of all the driver seat is on the opposite side of the car as to the US cars and then they drive on the opposite side of the street.
I strapped in, adjusted the mirrors and pulled away from the curb. I had put in the city to where I was heading next and the GPS started to direct me. About five minutes into driving it was as if I had driven here all my life. I actually did a quick video while driving (don't worry I was at a light and was barely moving).
It was a very cloudy and grey day. There wasn't much to see on the road so I pretty much just drove.
About a half hour from the bridge I came across a ruin that I wanted to check out. It's called Jedburgh Abbey, it's a ruined Augustinian abbey which was founded in the 12th century, is situated in the town of Jedburgh, in the Scottish Borders 10 miles north of the border with England at Carter Bar.
It cost me something like 6 pounds to walk the grounds but it was well worth it. A lot of it was gone but some of the main halls were still intact. Every time I stand in the middle of something like this it just amazes me that it's been standing here for over a thousand years.
After I spent about an hour walking around the Abbey I got back in my car and continued my trek south. About fifteen minutes later I came to the Scotland/England border. To my surprise there was this little food vender truck sitting literally on the line between the two countries. It is called The Borderer and on one side it has the Scottish flag and on the other, England's flag. I was lucky as they are normally closed during the winter and this was there first day back. I chatted with the lady who was working there for a bit. I also picked up a burger and hot dog for lunch.
There is also this big stone that stands as a marker for the England/Scotland border, on one side it says England and on the other Scotland.
My final destination for tonight was in the city of Durham. I booked a hotel for a few days in the city of York but knew I wasn't going to get there today so this morning I booked a travel lodge in Durham.
Most of the drive down was in the middle of mist and fog, could barely see the countryside. I drove roughly 125 miles from Edinburgh to Durham with some stops here and there. It was nightfall when I got into Durham and my GPS wasn't cooperating and I had a tough time finding this Travel lodge. After driving around the city for what felt like forever.. I finally found it and checked in.
This was the first bed I was sleeping in since coming to the UK and it was amazing. I ordered some pizza for dinner, turned on the local TV and just relaxed the rest of the night. Unfortunately this Travel lodge had a bar attached to it and it seemed to be the happening place so I got to listen to thumping music until the wee hours, but I didn't care as I was in a nice soft comfy bed and with my ear plugs I quickly feel asleep.
Friday, March 28, 2014
I also did a test run to the Hertz car rental place. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly how to get there as I would be leaving tomorrow and I didn't want to have to drag my two large bags around town. I'm glad I did this test run as it took me a while to find the Hertz but once I did I knew exactly which route I was going to take.
I also picked up a map of England. Since I was driving and I wasn't going to get a GPS as it cost an extra 18 pounds a day and I would have the car for 17 days it would cost way to much money. I figured I'd just get a very detailed map and use that instead.
Picked up some lunch while I was souvenir shopping. I debated the pass few days on weather or not I would get a kilt. I figured if I would get one that it would be awesome to get one in Scotland. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I probably wouldn't wear it that much. And the cheap ones that I found for 25 pounds were for tourists and not true kilts. Those real authentic kilts cost 2 to 3 hundred pounds and there was no way I could afford that... so I opted not to buy a kilt.
After dinner I realized that I had not seen the city at night so I decided to walk around and see what everything looked like during the evening. I took a bunch of pictures but of course my cameras aren't the best at taking pictures in low light so I don't know if they will turn out or not.
I stumbled across an art exhibition at one of the local parks. It was titled "Field of Lights" and it was extremely beautiful. The entire park was covered in this glowing orbs that would change color from time to time. It was a pretty cool site.
I got back to the hostel around 11pm and called it a night. I have a long day of driving tomorrow. This will be my first time driving on the other side of the car and road... I'm extremely nervous.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
So here is what Haggis is, it's a savory pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.
Black Pudding is a type of blood sausage commonly eaten in Britain and Ireland. It is generally made from pork blood and a relatively high proportion of oatmeal. It can be eaten cold, as it is cooked in production, but is often grilled, fried or boiled in its skin.
I'm so glad I didn't read what they were before I tired them.
After about 20 minutes the rain was still falling but much lighter then before and I had gone around the entire exhibit twice. I decided that I would just continue my sightseeing in the rain. I wandered into a near by grave yard when the rain started to fall heavy again so I quickly walked over to the local mall and to my favorite store and used their wifi to post some pictures.
I grabbed a late lunch / early dinner around 3ish before heading back to the hostel to relax. After a few hours I headed back out for an hour and just kind of roamed around the city before nightfall.
When I got back to the hostel I now had 11 roommates, it was a packed room. I didn't do much in the evening and went to bed early.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
This was one of the very few castles that I visited that wasn't in ruins. I spent about 3 hours walking around the grounds, checking out every inch of it.
Some of the highlights for me: "The Great Hall", it's famous medieval wooden roof is amazing. There are these carved stone heads and symbols on which its giant beams rest, which include a Green Man and a pair of thistles, the badge of Scotland. For centuries it was a giant barrack block, the medieval splendor was hidden by rooms crammed with soldiers. Oliver Cromwell’s occupying army began the military makeover in 1650 and by the time the troops marched out in 1886, the Great Hall was divided up by new floors and walls. A huge collection of weapons and armor is displayed around the walls of the Great Hall.
Another favorite of mine was "The Royal Palace", this is the birth place of James VI. His mother, Mary Queen of Scots, endured a long and particularly agonizing labor, so much so that one of her companions is said to have attempted to use magic to project the birth pangs on one of her servants. James became king of Scotland soon after his first birthday in 1567 and king of England in 1603. He made an emotional return to his birthplace in 1617 to celebrate his golden jubilee – the birth chamber was redecorated for the occasion. The last sovereign to sleep in the Royal Palace was Charles I on June 19, 1633, the night before his Scottish coronation.
|Not my picture, wasn't allow to take pictures|
|Not my picture, wasn't allow to take pictures|
Another cool event was "One o'clock Gun" They fire this cannon everyday at 1pm.. there is an entire ceremony that goes along with it. The idea of using a gun to mark time was brought to Edinburgh from Paris by businessman John Hewitt. The gun is not fired on Christmas Day or Good Friday. It fell silent during the First and Second world wars. The first gun was a 64-pounder cannon mounted on the Half Moon Battery, The present gun is a 105mm field gun. It was installed on the Mills Mount Battery in 2001.
After the castle I walked around "new town" Edinburgh for about five hours. Not as old or majestic looking as "old town" but still it had some amazing buildings and structures. I took hours of video and a ton of pictures. Also "old town" looks amazing from "new town" (pic below).
When I got back to the hostel I now had three roommates for a total of 4. I listened to podcasts and played around on my ipad before calling it a night.
You can check out more pictures that I took at Edinburgh Castle HERE.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Once outside the bus station I had to figure out which way was what. Once that was done I just started walking hoping to find where I needed to go. Like in Glasgow my hostel was about 2 miles from the bus station but with two heavy suitcases in tow it made things a bit harder.
I got my key and made my way to my room. I was staying in a 12 bed room (all male) and shared a bathroom with everyone on this floor (both male and female). There was only one other person in the room with me today so it was pretty nice. Had a great view out the window. Each bed is named after an undergarment. I was sleeping in Apple Catchers, the others were Edible, Crotchless, Panties, Thong, Knickers, Drawers, Jocks, Bloomers, Boxers, Pouch and G-String.
I spent the next three hours of daylight walking around "old town" Edinburgh. This was probably my favorite part of Edinburgh as it was so old and the buildings and streets were amazing. This is also a very touristy part of the city. And the people were much happier here then in Glasgow, it might have been because the majority of them were tourist but still even the locals would smile and nod as you walked by.
I spent the evening online, trying to catch up on social media and listening to podcasts. As I mentioned there was only the two of us in the room tonight so I sleep pretty good.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Some highlights from Ireland/Northern Ireland... getting to spend Saint Patrick's Day in Dublin, so much fun. Kissing the Blarney Stone. Seeing the beautiful Cliffs of Moher as well as the Cliffs of Slieve League. The Burren was AMAZING. Getting to experience live authentic Irish music while drinking a beer in a tavern in Galway. And too many castle ruins to mention. What an amazing experience. And what is even better.. is this is just the beginning. Next up Scotland, Wales and England, 24 more days to go.
I was up early, ate breakfast with Thomas and packed up. This was my final few hours here in Ireland with my buddy Thomas. He drove me to the Belfast airport as I was catching a flight from here to Glasgow Scotland to begin my Scotland, Wales and England adventures. He dropped me off and we said our goodbyes.
I was worried about this flight and my luggage. The flight price is fairly cheap but they really gouge you on the luggage and I had two very large bags. There are also weight limits of 20 kg and my larger bag was weighting in at 26 kg while at Thomas' so I moved stuff around hoping that it would come in under 20 kg. For my second bag I was hoping to use it as a carry on but when I got there I started to worry about that one.
I told her okay but I had to take out some electronics and such that I didn't want to check for security purposes. So I went to the side and started to unpack some stuff and put into my backpack so I could use that as a carry on. Stuff like my cameras, ipad, cables and power cords. I also took some out of the big bag to get it officially under 20 kg. Once done I went back to the lady who weight everything again and gave me a slip and said before she could give me my boarding pass I needed to take this slip over to that other counter to pay for the extra luggage. So I headed over to that counter and stood in line for about ten minutes. I finally got to the front of the line to see a not so friendly woman who didn't say a word to me, put her hand out for the slip of paper, went back to her computer typed in something then said in a barely audible voice "that will be 30 pounds (about 50 bucks)". I paid and she gave me another slip which I took back to the first lady who gave me a smile and handed me my boarding pass.
Now time for security, the line wasn't long... which was great, but each countries security is different. For instance you don't have to take off your shoes in Ireland (unless you're wearing boots). I placed my backpack in a bin along with my jacket, belt and miscellaneous stuff that was in my pockets. I walked through with no problem. One of my bins (jacket, belt, miscellaneous stuff) came through the x-ray machine but my backpack was pulled aside and put on the ground with a few other luggage pieces.
I saw a group of people standing off to the side and figured these were the owners of the luggage sitting next to my bag so I walked over to them. We kind of stood there for ten minutes until one of the other people had had enough and went to one of the workers and said that he was going to be late for his flight, he wanted to talk to a supervisor. That got things rolling. Another ten minutes a women held up my backpack and said "who's is this". I stepped forward and we walked over to a separate table. She asked if she could open it and take out the content. I said of course. She took out everything and placed it all into several bins. She did the paper swab thing to check for explosives and then ran the three bins back through x-ray. They seemed satisfied. She came back over with the bins and said I was good to go. So I packed everything back into my backpack and made my way to the gate.
Luckily for me I got to the airport about two hours before my flight so I was in no hurry and could handle these delays. I still had an hour to wait before boarding so I sat near the gate and played some games on my ipad. About 10 minutes before we started boarding the flight was delayed 30 minutes. Not a big deal but then about five minutes before we were to board they delayed the flight again for another 30 minutes and to top it off they changed gates and we now had to board at a gate that was all the way on the other side of the airport. So I made my way to the new gate and found a place to sit. And believe it or not a few minutes before we were to board the delayed us again.
Now people were getting upset. I didn't mind the delays as I wasn't really in no hurry, but what I found frustrating was that no one from the airline every came out to talk to us, to explain why we were being delayed and moved around from gate to gate.
I was suppose to arrive in Glasgow at 12:05 but instead got there at 2:30pm. I picked up my bags and walked over to an information desk and asked how to get to my hostel I was staying at for tonight. After purchasing a map the woman gave me perfect directions on where to go and after an hour bus ride and a fifteen minute walk I was there. I had booked a 6 bed room (all male) but was given a 4 bed room (mixed), which wasn't a big deal to me. When I got to my room no one was there but there was a suitcase that looked to be for a lady. I dropped off my bags and headed out to see some of the city.
First stop was food, I found a KFC and went in to order food. The lady behind the counter had the strongest Scottish accent that I had ever heard. I didn't understand a thing she asked me or said but somehow I got my food (kind of). After lunch I walked around downtown Glasgow. So many beautiful buildings, old and amazing looking.
The best surprise was when I was walking down this cobble stoned street and on the corner of Buchanan and Royal Bank Place stood the TARDIS... how cool is that. The Doctor must be around saving humanity again.
It was starting to get dark so I made my way back to the hostel. When I got back, there was a guy sitting in there eating. We chatted for a bit and about an hour later a girl came in. The guy was from London and the girl from Russia. We chatted for a few hours before I called it a night and went to bed.
This was a rough day, probably one of my worst travel days for this entire vacation. But I'm here in Scotland, next up is taking a bus to Edinburgh for a few days.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
It was a fun tour that lasted about and hour and a half. It was my first time on a double decker bus, we sat up top. Here's a list of places we drove by Stormont and Parliament Building, The River Lagan, St Georges Market, Victoria Square Mall, High Street, The Old Cathedral Quarter, St Annes Cathedral, Clifton Street Poor House, The Crumlin Road Jail and Courthouse, The Belfast Peace Wall, The Shankill Road and political
I think my favorite part of the tour was when they took us to the "bad" part of town, were alot of fighting happened in the past. They still have the walls up that separates the Catholic and Protestant, appropriately named the "Peace Wall". It's kind of eerie because even today at nightfall and weekends massive steel gates at crossing
We meet up with Thomas' sister Stephanie again as she was in town and in our area. We chatted for a bit before parting ways.
We then walked through Queen's University (a very beautiful building) and into the Botanical Garden park next to it. Since it was winter time there weren't many blooming flowers but they did have several green houses so we got to see some pretty flowers in there. Next door was the Ulster Museum and walked around the museum for a few hours. It had a very eclectic collection of things, it is a National Museum of Arts, Human History and Natural Sciences.
First up was S1 Ep7 "The Titans" The stage is set for a clash of the Titans when Gabrielle inadvertently releases three of the giant deities from a centuries-long entombment and one of them proceeds to terrorize a village -- against the wishes of the other two. Xena must figure out how to save innocent villagers.
I enjoyed this episode, I feel like Gabrielle getting in trouble and Xena getting out of it is going to be an on going theme for this series.
When Hera captures
This was one of my favorites of season one so far. I like that they teamed up Xena and Gabrielle with Hercules and Iolaus. I like how they resolve the issue of the one who free's Prometheus being the one who will die. A very enjoyable episode.
Xena must free Hades' sister Celesta,
Another enjoyable episode. I liked the "love story" between Gabrielle and Talus (the young man) who ends up dying at the end (which I knew was going to happen), but it didn't make it any less said. I really enjoyed this story.
When Xena and Gabrielle encounter the Amazons, Gabrielle tries to save an Amazon from what appears to be an attack by Centaurs. While Gabrielle finds herself becoming an Amazon Princess, Xena is certain that the Centaurs are not guilty of the fatal attack and tries to root out the true culprit before the Amazons and the Centaurs declare war on each other.
So Gabrielle becomes a Amazon Princess. I knew she was able to fight in future episodes and it was cool to see this is how she learned her skills. I liked seeing Centaurs. Another good story.