Tuesday, 31 August 2010

UK Day 1 – Manchester to Lancaster

Arrived at the Marriott last night and Daniel was there waiting. I checked us in, and after a bite to eat, checked out the hot spa and pool and went for a dip. It was lovely! Most welcome after the exertions of the previous day. Had an early night, since there was nothing to blog because I’d done nothing all day except blog for the previous day! They had no free wifi at all (like the Shelborne), so I could do no planning there, really.

We picked up the rental car at 10. The taxi dropped me off at Terminal 2, but of course the Sixt counter there was closed. So we had to walk a couple of kilometers along the skywalk to Terminal 1 to pick up the car. Of course it was bucketing down rain when we got the car, but getting on the right road to Lancaster was no problem at all after getting good advice from the dude at car rental place. Unfortunately, there’s no GPS in the car, and the map they gave me is pretty basic. But still, I managed to navigate the right way and Daniel did a good job driving, with minor direction (read yelp of horror) from me as to what side of the road he should be driving on….

When I saw the signs for Southport, I had to divert, so I could see what Southport looks like here in England. It’s a bit like Rainbow Beach in that there’s sand and cars on the beach, other than that it’s more like the north sea off Germany: brown, flat and windy as hell:

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My luck with the weather really held out – it started clearing up before we stopped to check out Southport! We had lunch at the pub here: Sunday roast for 4.95 GBP. We had a choice of Turkey, Beef or Pork. It wasn’t masses of food, but not bad for lunch.

Next stop was Lytham. This was still on the coast and they had a nice windmill on the waterfront (not that you could see the water from the road), and some other pretty buildings we saw in town as we wandered through in search of coffee and wifi:

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I thought this vase I found in a shop-window was pretty amazing. Something to inspire Petra, maybe:


Next, we headed towards Blackpool (since I’d seen a TV show about it, starring David Tennant) and passed this beautiful white church. I thought at first it must be decked out in marble, but it was tiles instead. Amazing:


Next stop was Blackpool. The beachfront drive is set up with ‘Illuminations’. I don’t know what they’re for, or if they are always on, but they look pretty permanent. They were amazing in any case, with the themed sections – Dr Who stood out to me, of course! The whole thing reminded me a bit of Las Vegas with its kitsch. The giant rollercoaster, the pier with its ferris-wheel, the tower:

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We headed onwards to Lancaster, once we finished following the ‘illuminations traffic’ signs that seemed to take us in circles for a while. I couldn’t resist photographing this cute little church in St Michaels-on-Wyre, or the river it was next to, allowing private fishing only (note the fisherman):

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Next photo-stop was at Guy’s Thatched Hamlet, which was on the river with lots of longboats parked on it. Made me want to go on a boat ride! The ‘Hamlet’ was cute, but I doubt its authenticity:

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Then there was no more stopping til we got to our last pre-booked accommodation at Slyne,Lodge in Slyne, just north of Lancaster. We drove through Lancaster city and are dying to see it! It looks great! Lots of old stones for me :-). I took some photos of the lodge, and then we settled in a bit because they were too busy to serve us dinner before 8pm. The staff were dressed up in various costumes (princess, fairy, commando, life-saver…) for a charity family fun day thing they had going. It was packed! The place had slowed down a bit by 8pm though, so we went in and ordered dinner. It was really good and really reasonably priced! We both had the 8oz rib-eye for 9.95 GBP each (about $18) and it was so tender! Of course there was the standard  peas with it, but also grilled  tomato and deep fried, battered onion rings (which I thought was calamari at first!), and new potatoes.


Before you ask if we’ve actually seen anything on my list of over 200 attractions….No. We haven’t – well, we did drive through Lancaster but it was too late to stop. Oops?

I couldn’t do much on the blog afterwards because I was seeing double out of one eye. My eyes were really tired, moreso than they should. Probably the sand in the eyes at the sea-side, I think. So it was another early night :-)

Ireland Day 15 – Dalkey Area

Today, I was supposed to do a tour of Powerscourt Gardens, Glendolough and Wicklow Mountains. I walked to the Busari (bus station) to get my tour, which took me past this colourful house and Customs House:

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After waiting around for the bus for nearly half an hour, and seeing all the 10am buses being called, except for mine, I enquired at the Information Desk. I was eventually told that the tour was cancelled because there were only 5 people wanting to go on it. I’d already paid for it so got my refund. They offered me a tour to Glendolough, but that was of less interest to me, and it was just a ride there and back for 20 Euro. So I decided to follow my alternative plan and take a train ride (DART) out to Dalkey, since the weather was beautiful. Bus Eirinn (the tour operators) gave me a lift to Tara Station, and I got a return ticket (4.20 Euro!) for my day trip. Much cheaper than the 32 Euro tour! I took a couple of pictures out of the train window, though that often worked as well as taking them out the bus window – lots of speed blur and brick walls and trees instead of what I wanted in the picture:

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Dalkey is an historic town and has some really beautiful houses in the village centre, as well as the outskirts. People like Enya and Bono live in this area and you can see why! I wandered through the town, heading for the Information Centre, located at Goat Castle:

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At the castle, I did a tour of Goat Castle for 6 Euro, mainly because the tour was by actors dressed in Tudor costumes. It was quite fun, and the views from the top of the tower were great:

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I stopped for lunch so I could use the free wifi, at a little cafe up the road. The coffee was absolutely awful, but at least I could use the wifi! I’d put my Samsung Galaxy down on the table, letting it synch, while I placed my order, and some guy stopped by my table (right behind me) and I was wondering what he was up to. When I’d placed my order and returned to my table he asked me about it. He’d recognised it and complained about his HTC Desire to me and wanted to know about the Galaxy and have a hold of it. I showed him a few of its features and let him hold and covet. :-) (Guy brought an iPad with him and he told me later that people are always asking him about it).

I’d bought a guidebook for 4 walks around Dalkey at Goat Castle (I thought it was a rip-off at 3.95 Euro for this 12 page booklet, which needed some grammar checking at that!), so I sat and planned my route. I’d decided to combine two or 3 walks into mine. I did walk 3 and 4 (which included bits of 1 and 2), taking me up Killiney Hill to the Telegraph Castle above the old quarry, and to the Pyramid on another hill and then into Killiney before heading back to Dalkey and then walking past the harbours and down to Sandycove Station to catch the DART back to Dublin in time for dinner with Donna and Guy.

So at about 1pm, having finished my lunch, I headed up the hill. I’d dressed warmly, thinking I’d need it going up the mountain, but I stripped down to t-shirt and vest soon enough! It was hard work!:



I continued up the hill, past the playground and through the quarry, heading towards Telegraph Castle first off:


For some beautiful 360 degree views with Dunleary harbour on one side, and Killiney beach and the Wicklow Mountains on the other:

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Then I headed to the other hill with the Pyramids on it, passing through some beautiful forest:

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and conquering the first pyramid:





Then I headed back down but this time into Killiney, past the old gate, which is lived in and the tower section is used as an artist’s studio (I could see the painting and paintbrushes):


Just past this, heading toward the coast, are some beautiful houses and a castle (Enya’s place!):


Once I reached the road closest to the coast, I walked towards Killiney first, before turning around and heading into Dalkey again. This is where Bono lives, apparently, though I’m not sure exactly which house. Whoever lives along this section of road must be filthy, filthy rich:

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I now headed towards Dalkey to walk alongside the coast past the harbours and had a great view of Goat Island with its church ruin and tower on it:



Corolie harbour was tiny, but very pretty:


I walked past some more beautiful, posh private properties:



The next harbour I passed was Bulloch Harbour, opposite Bulloch Castle which is maintained by Carmelite nuns:

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Then there were more posh homes on my way to James Joyce’s Martello Tower and the 40 foot swimming pool:

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Note the crazy people swimming:


I was getting close to my limit. My feet were killing me by this time, from the miles and miles I had walked, but the station was still about 2km away. The views made up for it though:

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I was never so happy to sit down as I was when I got on the train back into Dublin! By the time I got there, it was pouring rain at the other end. I was so, so lucky with the weather today! I quickly went in search of somewhere to connect with wifi to find out where to meet Donna and Guy for dinner. Unfortunately, it was after 6pm by now, so I was too late to meet them at their hotel as per suggestion, at 5.30pm. I wrote Guy on Facebook to tell him I was on the way there anyway, but of course got no response (they don’t have free wifi at their hotel!). I headed there anyway on the off-chance they’d still be around and came across them just before the turnoff to their hotel. I was so glad I didn’t walk that distance for nothing and that I’d see them again. We had dinner about 20 steps away (thank goodness!) in what looked like a classy bar like I’d been in in Singapore. They served excellent, and reasonably priced Thai food.

Afterwards, we went back to their hotel, the Shelborne, since I’d been dying to see the inside of that. I had already photographed the outside when I was here the first few days but hadn’t dared go inside. Guy and I went exploring (and photographing) the posh interior:

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I went back to their room and we looked at my photos from the day and had a glass of good Aussie wine before saying goodbye til we meet again, either in the U.S. or in Aus.

I caught a taxi back to the hotel, since I was too worn out to walk any further and didn’t set any alarm for a change. Flying to Manchester tomorrow evening, but will do nothing (except catch up on my photos and blog) for a change!