The kids are on half term break this week so we ventured to a couple places around Derby then up to Scotland with Bob and Lona. As with my last couple of posts I will not comment much on places we have already visited, instead I will only include a few facts and pictures on this post. I will also include a link to the previously posted blog entry for any that missed reading about those initial trips.
Our first stop was at the Derby mall for a few items and then onto cold Nottingham on Saturday.
Spoiler Alert! Nottingham Castle from the crusader days of good King Richard the Lionhearted and evil King John (he's the reason for the Magna Carta if you remember) days is long gone.
Restored Eastern Facade which replicates the 17th Century facade from above.
And those were the highlights of Nottingham (knotting-um) Castle. Inside the castle were a few museums on local artifacts and history, 17th and 18th Century attire, art displays, and the small Sherwood Foresters Regimental Museum. The local history museum was interesting but no pics allowed so I lumped it in with the sub-par museums out of spite. On the grounds was a medieval type fayre selling the usual medieval fayre treasures/food/games/crap and there was some boring shirtless guy in a ring performed for the grandstands. Nothing worth standing in the biting cold wind for though so we walked down to our next stop, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (you can read about our first trip to the pub here).
Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem.
The inn is to small to get any decent picture inside but I still like the carved-into-a-rock rooms. This shows the ceiling of one of the larger rooms.
From there we dawdled around Nottingham for a bit until it was time to watch Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Nottingham Royal Theatre. Adding fun to our dawdling was finding out that our people carrier (Brit word for van) fits in parking decks somewhere between 6'-6" tall opening and 6'-9" tall openings. Fortunately only the radio antennae doesn't fit in a 6-6 parking deck (voice of experience) but I still opted not to chance it and instead decided to drive for an extra half hour looking for taller opening parking decks. So not only is driving a conversion van (see van pic later in post) fun in towns we also had a height restriction for parking. And just forget about finding a curb side parking spot when driving a tour bus in a busy town on a Saturday afternoon. Good times, good times.
So after finding a parking garage within reasonable walking distance to the theatre we stopped for a snack then proceeded to the theatre. The show was entertaining with everyone enjoying the show although I don't remember Vegas Elvis in that part of the bible. Artistic license I guess. Even teenager KJ enjoyed it which was great. Bob and Lona liked it so Derby/Nottingham day ended up being a draw. I aimed the short bus towards home for the night with a quick McDonald's stop for supper. I opted not to make after theatre dinner reservations and we didn't feel like waiting an hour plus at any restaurants so fast food won that battle.
Before the performance. Cosy theatre. Lori and Kal said it was just a step down from watching Les Mis in London. Obvious sarcasm for those not lucky enough to enjoy a London show yet (including me but we just received our February Phantom of the Opera tickets so my time is coming).
On Sunday we ordered cold rain with gusting winds and teasingy temperatures between luke warm and cold enough and it delivered with gusto! We started our driving part of the holiday in Liverpool (see our previous trip to Liverpool here) for the day to check out some local architecture and get a Beatles fix. Our first stop in Liverpool was the Three Graces, the impressive architecture buildings on the Pier Head. But before we could see them we had to walk into a sheet of stinging rain on the Liverpool docks so we ended up walking right past them and into a coffee shop in front of the Three Graces where we could sip a hot drink and admire the buildings from under cover. Mildly wimpy I know but at least we could look up to see the buildings from here.
The Port of Liverpool Building.
Royal Liver Building on left, Cunard Building on right.
After drinking our coffees and viewing the buildings we puddle jumped back to the van for a quick trip to the Liverpool Cathedral.
If you look closely you can see people walking in front of the cathedral.
The Altar. Hard to walk through here and feel like this cathedral could be your worshipping "home". Just feels a little more "look at me" than some of the cathedrals we have toured over here which is really saying something.
Looking at The Lady Chapel.
Required stained glass window pic.
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's iconic red English telephone booth.
Yup its still raining out. On the right is the Beatles Story, the girls next destination. The guys went to the Maritime Museum.
From the slavery floor. Read about them below.
A James, Duke of York mention again.
High level view of the cotton supply chain.
Onto the maritime part of the museum now.
Interesting Titanic info board.
Our room at the Best Western in Liverpool. Thus starts our sketchy hotel holiday. The best part of this place was my new pub glass - another Guinness! I know it is a duplicate but can I have enough embossed harp glasses? Probably not.
Monday was a travel day. A long travel day. Weather only slightly improved to intermittent rain in England but mostly dried up in Scotland. Our first stop was a couple of Hadrian's Wall sites by the England - Scotland border. For the non-history buffs here's a Wiki link. Not only is the wall almost two thousand years old it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so I figured it would be worth a short detour.
For the non-link readers.
Kalle on the wall at Bank's East Turret 52A.
View of the English country side from the wall.
After soaking in the scenery and looking at the wall we piled into the van and drove down to Birdsowald Roman Fort (English Heritage link) which had a more complete wall section as well as fort and other building foundations. Once we arrived we opted out of visiting the site and instead perused the gift shop and checked out the wall sections that were near the road.
Looking down Hadrian's Wall.
KK and KJ in front of the fascinating (to me) roman wall.
After driving for two and a half hours then exploring a couple of sites it is early afternoon so we hopped back into the tour bus and headed back to the motorway for our final four hour long driving leg of the day. Add food and gas stops and we will be pushing darkness when we finally arrive in Fort William, Scotland.
Driving through the gorgeous lochs (lakes), mountains and clouds in the Highlands of Scotland.
Sun is setting which gave us some great views through the Loch Lomond, Trossachs, and Glencoe Mountains regions.
The Glencoe Mountains and clouds outlined by the orange sun.
Finally at our destination, The Cruachan Hotel in Fort William. Sadly this view was the best part of the hotel. The silverware, glasses, cups, and plates were all dirty for breakfast. And the food was typically British... in Scotland! Really Scotland?
Our family room. Nice except for the slowly draining shower that required you to shut off the water every few minutes to avoid flooding the bathroom. And the bed was horrible. But it did have a hair dryer.
Tuesday was spent driving to then touring the Isle of Skye. Great scenery but poor picture taking weather limited the blog photo opportunities. Sorry Kathy.
Now I know how Chicken Little felt. The low hanging fog over the loch outside our hotel was our daily morning companion for the next few days.
Jim Seppanen Pic - some roads in Scotland felt like driving through the UP.
The tour bus. If it were any bigger I would need a CDL to drive it.
Irn-Bru and Haggis potato crisps. Only in Scotland. I did eat the chips and the only thing worse tasting on the trip was the Cruachan Hotel breakfast. But not by much.
Tammy Foster Pic - Sporting my Tech apparel in front of the Skye Bridge as we approach the Isle of Skye.
Harbinger for the day - fog resting on the mountain tops as the rain falls on us.
Coastline by Kilt Rock.
Kilt Rock by Staffin. The rocks on the shore reminded me of Giant's Causeway. The views here were so good I made the kids brave the rain with Lori to see them in person. Bob and Lona opted to stay dry in the tour bus.
Quiraing mountain region overlooking the coastal village.
Quiraing close up from pic above. Beautiful country Kathy, pack Mark in your checked luggage and come on over to see it yourself.
Steve Frey Pic - this grass is lip licking good. You even get a bonus sheep on this one Steve!
Steve Frey Pic - Lori's favourite hairy cows or Highland Cattle to be proper. He was slowly working his way over to see us so I wasn't sure if he was coming over to say hi or tricking us into complacency before ramming us full on so I drove off after he came this close.
Dunvegan Castle (castle link) proudly flying St. Andrew's Cross as nightfall closes in on us. Dunvegan is the ancestral home of clan MacLeod and also of Kathy MacLeod Elliott. C'mon Kathy - the Freys have been here, we've been here, isn't it your turn next?
Our room at the Skeabost Hotel. Check out the CRT (cathode ray tube) TV. This place seemed to be a converted manor house which had a fun feel to it.
After checking in and relaxing we played a couple of games of snooker/pool.
Kevin Coleman Pic - I enjoyed a couple/few McEwan's after the day's rainy drive on the single track roads although I can't complain because the roads had many pull offs for passing and there was usually good visibility ahead unlike English single track roads.
Dana Johnson Pic - we tried Highlands steak but it wasn't anywhere as good as the Inverness steak we had last time. Oh well.
On Wednesday we drove southern Isle of Skye then up to Inverness and then onto Fort William.
Dana Johnson Pic - breakfast. I love the Muller Waffles on the right. Scrambled eggs, bacon and potato cake were all okay.
Skeabost Hotel - the picturesque hotel tour continues.
One the way to our next stop was a short detour back to the Isle of Skye Baking Company. Lunch the previous day was at this converted warehouse building followed by picking up some isle photography pieces we liked in the art gallery upstairs. Lunch was okay but we came back the next day to pick up some homemade bread that the rest of the group loved. Lori also picked up some gluten free flour.
The pointy mountains watching the sun and clouds fight for sky dominance.
Tammy Foster Pic - a quaint stone bridge over a bustling little river with the Cuillin Hills for a backdrop.
More of the Cuillin Hills. We had planned on driving down to Glenbrittle to see the Cuillin Hills but after talking to some locals we stopped at Sligachan to view the hills instead. Long drive for a worse view from our current spot was their advice. We don't need no stinkin' itinerary!
Tammy Foster Pic - final shot of the beautiful Isle of Skye and Skye Bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh.
I didn't plan on taking this pic but it was appropriate as we had to stop at this layby so Bob could clean the dog dropping off of one of his shoes.
Gorgeous view of the Western Ross region as we drove the single track roads from Lochalsh towards Strathcarron.
And Loch Carron closer to Strathcarron. Keep twisting Mark's arm Kathy - it'll be worth it. Plus the boys can each get their own MacLeod tartan patterned kilts. And don't forget one for Brody.
Tis the end of the month so the Triple Crown Facial Hair of the Month has to leave us. Sadly I might add as Miggy and rest of the Tigers were swept in the World Series. Double bummer.
We are nearing Inverness now.
I am quite tired of seeing these road maintenance lights by now. Lots of road work on our six and a half day, almost 1300 mile driving holiday.
Next stop was Urquhart Castle (link) on Loch Ness. Half price admission thanks to our National Trust membership - thanks NT.
Grant's Tower overlooking Loch Ness. We looked but no Nessie sightings today.
The girls posing.
View of the castle grounds from second level of Grant's Tower.
View of Loch Ness looking northeast from Grant's Tower.
View of the castle grounds from third level of Grant's Tower. Finally a sunny day for us.
More of my favourite info boards. Concise written descriptions and colour pictures - how can you beat that?
View of castle grounds from other side of grounds.
Here's your Word of the Week Auntie "B".
Harp from castle history exhibit. An interesting fact of the British Isles is the mixing of Welsh, Irish and Scottish cultures combined with the common dislike of England. Younger siblings ganging up on the mean oldest sibling syndrome I guess. In western Isle of Skye we were chatting with a local and they told us there were stories of German U-boats docking in the outer islands coves and buying fuel from the locals in WWII. Apparently the island locals hated the English so much that they would sell fuel to the U-boats.
Interesting St. Columba trivia you will never use.
Kevin Coleman Pic - end of the day refreshment as we are back at the dirty dinnerware hotel. As for Caledonia - nice try but I think you can do better.
Thursday was another long driving day as we drove five plus hours from Fort William to Lancaster south of the Lake District in England. Five plus hours is not counting stops so our actual drive time was more like all day.
Ferry flashback as we stopped to show Bob and Lona the Inn at Ardgour across Loch Linnhe. The Inn was where we stayed on our last trip to Fort William (read about our previous Scotland trip here).
SNOW! Snow capped peaks as we approach the awesome Glencoe Mountains.
Picturesque loch and anchored sail boat snapshot.
Snow capped peak close up. I took it because you can see that the fog level elevation is where the snow is starting to melt on the mountain.
More Glencoe Mountains.
I loved how the tiny white house on the bottom right is nestled at the base of the mountain.
One of the many waterfalls we saw on the trip. As you can see from the fog we are in the mountains now.
And this is what it was like driving through the foggy mountain passes.
We are out of the mountains and on our way to Glasgow now. A little to much light here as the view was better than the picture.
I loved the elevated fog in this picture.
Scotland's National Dish - Haggis. Here is the sheep's stomach holding the lamb meat, lamb heart, lamb lung, onion, oatmeal, spices and etc. Sorry Scotland but I have to pass.
We are back in the Trossachs region again.
Loch near Inverglus.
Steve Frey Pic - more of Lori's favourite hairy cows. These guys give off Oreo milk I guess.
Sounds interesting so we stopped to see "the famous blacksmiths shop".
Turns out the "shop" is an old smiths shop that is now a wedding chapel that requires admission to see the "famous" wedding anvil. Lame. So we took the free pic, checked out the merchandise stores, and moved on.
At least it stopped raining. And the clouds were still cool as we headed towards Lancaster.
Dinner was at a decent Italian place with the highlight being Kalle's build your own pizza. Literally. Here she is making her stuffed crust.
Ready for the oven. The waitress complimented her stuffed crust, the first one she has seen made. Way to go Kal!
On Friday we woke up to hail. Bob picked up a bug or something in the previous couple of days so we decided to cut the vacation short. We had planned on driving the Lake District Friday and North Wales on Saturday but with Bob being ill we went home instead. In hindsight it may have been a good decision as there was a six car accident in the northbound lanes and a ten car accident in the southbound lanes on the motorway between Lancaster and the Lake District so we would have been driving right into the weather that caused the accidents. Plus the roads in the mountains probably would not have been fun driving as the hail was still pounding down as we headed south. After six and a half days and almost 1300 miles in the tour bus I think we were all ready for a little more space so going home early wasn't all bad.
Probably a bad omen for a Lake District drive. Thanks for being sick Bob.
November rolled over on the calendar which means Lori's favourite blog feature - the Facial Hair of the Month. After the Triple Crown ended I figured why not trim it a tad and keep it going? Viola - we have the Billy Goat Beard. Lori is so excited she is speechless. Oh wait, that may not be excitement...
The Billy Goat Beard has a decent start already - Lori is so excited! I think.
On Sunday we capped the week with a trip to Tutbury Castle for Bonfire Night. We went with the Lhereaus last year (read that blog link) after the Freys ditched both us and Ed/Becky so we guilted Steve into attending this year. We arrived around 5 PM which meant very few picture opportunities due to the darkness. The format was a little different this year which I didn't like as much as last year's show. This year the Vikings fought "with honor" (no killing) in one on one combat until one of the combatants gave up which was a little better than last year's mass melee except for the one on three battle where the single combatant was victorious. The part that wasn't as entertaining as last year was when the Vikings brought Ragnor (sp?) the Black's body up to the funeral pyre boat. Last year the whole Viking village walked the dead king up to be flamed into eternity and the queen's heart wrenching and eerily realistic wailing felt a little to realistic. This year they just marched him up and turned on the BBQ. A little anti-climactic but okay overall. The fireworks were pretty good though so the night was short and fun. Slacker Steve doesn't have this week's blog up yet but you can eventually read his take on Tutbury at www.ukfrey.blogspot.com.
The funeral pyre boat and the last sliver of daylight.
Tutbury Castle info board.
The bundled up group. Now Lona is not feeling well so she stayed home.
Token fireworks shot.
A final update - the Carol Seppanen Book Update. I have given up on Ulysses by James Joyce, 657 pages. Not sure if I'm not Irish enough or not smart enough or not artsy enough but this book is just a bunch of confusing nonsense. It is quite rare for me to just give up on a book but this is pure rubbish. It is so confusing I can't read more than three or four pages at a time without quitting in frustration. So I am taking a break from reading and am playing Dragon Quest VI on DS to occupy my spare time for a while.
Thanks for listening,