Friday, May 30, 2014

England & Scotland

Unfortunately my pace of updating my blog has slowed to the point where I'm down to updating it once or twice a year.  It's not that I haven't been doing anything. It is just that I don't think what I have been up to warrants a blog post plus by the time I get around to it Alethea has already covered what I would like to write about with another well written blog post. In this post I'll highlight what we did on our recent vacation England & Scotland from my perspective. I know Alethea has already written one blog post on our trip but I have not read it yet. I do not read her posts before writing my own if it is on the same topic. I always find it interesting how we come to different conclusions despite being together on the same trip. Also with this post I'm going to experiment a little bit. I'm going to at least write the post on my iPhone. I'm thinking about for future long term travel only taking my phone with me so this will be a test.

Hadrian's Wall - built in 122 AD to keep the Scottish out & the English in :)

Why the UK?
I'll start off my review with why we chose the UK. The idea presented itself over I believe a year ago when Alethea bid & subsequently won a silent auction bid for the use of a flat in a town called Alnwick, England. The proceeds went to benefit a local theater in Portland. Alnwick is in the north eastern part of Englad about 35 miles from the Scottish border. I'll admit that I wasn't thrilled at first but quickly was intrigued by an opportunity to visit somewhere I haven't been before. I had been to London before but had not been outside the city. When our round the world trip came to an end in Belgium we almost decided to extend the trip into Scotland. When we went on our honeymoon trip we nixed Scotland because of the expense and after having spent spent a month driving around Ireland I was afraid Scotland would be too simiIiar to Ireland which I concluded after this trip that it is not. 

           York Minster in all places- York, England

What we did in the UK
In all I spent 15 days in the UK. We spent a total of 6 nights at the flat in Alwick, England and the rest of our time driving around Scotland. In England we stayed within a day's driving distance of Alnwick. We spent one day walking around Alnwick. We spent another day at Hadrian's Wall & Durham. Another day was spent in York while another day was spent driving to Holy Island and on the coast. In Scotland we spent two nights in Edinburgh, a night in Pitlochry, a night in Inverness, two nights in Portree on the Isle of Skye, two nights in Oban, and one night in Glasgow. Yes, we drove to all these places. We considered taking trains but the UK has one of the most expensive rail networks in the world. Renting a car was far cheapern even with gas in the UK being well over $5 a gallon. 

          Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island, England

What I liked about our trip.
I really enjoyed our trip. It was nice to get away from our lives  here in Portland for a little bit plus I always enjoy visiting Europe. There were many things I enjoyed. I like the mixture of countryside and cities. The English & Scottish countryside were prettier than I was expecting. Edinburgh was my favorite city. I liked the Edinburgh Castle, walking The Royale Mile, & visitng a session of the Scottishe Parliment. I also enjoyed the historical sites we included in the trip such as Hadrian's Wall, York Minster, Stirling Castle, the William Wallace Monument, Holy Island, & the Iona Abbey on the isle of Iona. It would be tough to pick any one thing I liked the best. The Isle of Skye & our day trip to Iona would probably be at the top because of their remoteness, natural beauty, & historical sgnificance. 

                            Edinburgh Castle

What I didn't like about the trip
When it comes to the area of what I didn't like there really isn't too much to list. The UK is rather expensive but I knew that going in. I wasn't impressed with Glasgow, Scotland but I was also pretty much expecting that too. Rick Steves tours do not stop there which ought to tell you something. The only stressful parts of the trip were problems with my flights both on the way there and on the way home. I would like my next big trip to include direct flights or just one layover. I don't like running running thru airports which I had to do to catch my Philadelphia to Portland flight on the way back. The preceding  flight was over two hours late leaving London for no apparent reason. 

      The Three Lochs on the Isle of Mull, Scotland

I forgot about one stressful moment after I wrote the paragraph above. While driving back from Scotland to our flat in Alnwick we almost ran our rental car out of gas. It got to the point where the car was no longer calculating how many miles we have. We ended using the car's built in GPS maps to look for the nearest gas station. I bet we had less than a mile or so left in the tank before finally spotting the service station right where the GPS device said it would be. The funny thing is that we decided to buy a beer made by the local brewery at the gas station and I got carded. In the UK you only have to be 18 to buy alcohol. It's the first time in all my travels across Europe that I've ever been carded.

                Somewhere on the Isle of Skye

What's next?
Well I hope you enjoyed my abbreviated recap of our recent trip to  England & Scotland. I really enjoyed unplugging for a bit and the opportunity to mix in some beautiful scenery with some historical sights. I'll include here at the bottom a link to a public Facebook album of some pictures.
  Scottish Highland Cow that I was able to hand feed

Next up for me after our vacation is work and in about a week from the time I'm writing this I'll start training for the Portland Marathon which will be in October. It will be a grueling 16 weeks of training but this is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I haven't decided if I'll write about it as I train or wait until I'm done. We'll see. That's all for now. Hope all is well!

Link to my Facebook highlight album of pics: