Thursday, June 25, 2009

Interactive Map

Wow, did not know this until today, but you can create your own custom maps in google maps. I feel foolish, because this was available in September of 2007, and I'm just finding out now. It's really, really, really easy. Anyways, this is a work in progress and I'll be updating it more and adding photos to it. I might even go back and do it for our other trip because it's pretty neat.

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Knowle to Salmon Arm

After having a great dinner at Caleigh and Tom's place we went to bed, very tired. Monday me and Cara drove out to Stonehenge. We were surprised to find it free (because of our heritage passes). So that was a bonus and it was also the summer solstice so there were some crazy druids there dressed in white. So that was a bonus too, because they only come once a year. They may hold ceremonies at the other solstices, but the summer on is the major event. We then headed back to Knowle and tried to find a grocery store in vain, so we headed back to the house and googled it. We found them and we went to the european walmart known as ASDA. We bought a bunch of stuff for diner. We also bought some stuff to take home, like coffee, tea and Marmite. Then we went back to the house and made dinner for Caleigh and Tom. Tuesday was our last day in the UK and we did absolutely nothing, haha. We did some laundry and went to the park to read in the sunny weather. It was pretty good and to tell the truth we were a bit tired of sight seeing, so doing nothing was good. Plus I'm sure we'll be back to see Caleigh and Tom sometime again, so we need to leave so stuff to discover over there. After Caleigh and Tom got home, we went to a pub for some food in their old neighborhood in Gosport. Good food although the service was pretty crappy and they made me remove my cap for "security reasons".

Wednesday was going to be busy, we got up at 5:45am and had a quick bite and hit the road. 2 hours later we were returning our rental and checking in for our flight. We asked again to get reclining seat but they guy told us it's automatic and he couldn't do anything (liar). We then did some duty free shopping and waited for our flight. To our relief, we did have reclining seats. The flight sucked, Gatwick-Dublin-Calgary-Vancouver. 13hrs is a plane seat. The food sucked again and they had a problem with the movie system so nobody got to watch mall cop or charlie and the chocolate factory on the old school tv's. Good thing my book was good. I managed to sleep for about an hour though. In Vancouver we took the bus to my Uncle's place and got our car. We decided to try and make it home so we could work the next day since we had made decent time and were leaving the city before 6. Then we drove to Abbotsford where we got some food at Tim Horton's and ran into my cousin Jamie making a call on the pay phone (random). The rest of the drive was uneventful. Although the coffee soon wore off and I had to make Cara drive from outside Kamloops on. But she only lasted about a half hour and then I had to drive again, but I had caught about 10min of sleep, so I made it the rest of the way. Then we slept the night away in our very own bed...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

St. David to Knowles Village

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We left the campground early after making breakfast. We went for a hike in St. David and then went to the cathedral in town. It was old and the floors and walls were at odd angles (build on a bog), but still impressive. Then we hit the road again. This time it was mostly motor ways, so it went faster, but we still needed a pit stop, so we went to a National Trust site along the way. It was an old tin plant and had a cool waterall and waterwheel. More driving and we finally are here at Caleigh and Tom's. Tomorrow we plan to visit Stonehenge.

Caernaforn to St David

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We got up early with another big day and some driving ahead. We hit the Caernaforn castle which was really good and impressive. After the Castle we decided to get on the road since it was already past 1pm. We left and Cara found a good stop along the way at CAT (center for alternative technology). It was founded in the 1970's by some (lets face it) hippies. The compount is built on an old slate mine. There whole compound uses water (water powered funicular), wind, solar and wood burning energy. It was pretty interesting and the exibits really ask good questions about the futur. Some of the things were a litte bizarre though. They use wood pellets for heating (easy yes, but most environmentally friendly, no). Also they use wool insulation in most of the buildings. I can't imagine that wool is more environmentally friendly to produce than other insulating materials. But it was cool, and I have some things to research when I get home. We left the center at around 6 and made our way to St. Davids. We got into town around 8 and hit the local pub, the Farmer's Arms (awesome), for a pint and dinner. Both were excellent and they even had a beer garden out back (garden where you can drink beer). The town only has 1800 people living there, but everyone enjoys this pub. Too bad Canadian liquor laws wouldn't let a place like this exist. After dinner we drove out to the campground. Paying for camping is still against my nature, but sometimes you want to have running water.

York to Caernaforn

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Thursday was a busy day. I got up at 6:30 and hit the minster. It was quite impressive and I was able to have a field day with photography of York. I went back to the B&B and got Cara for breakfast. Next we left and hit Fountains Abbey that we missed. It was a bit out of the way, but I'm glad we did it, it was really interesting and very photogenic. We picked our way into Whales and took a nice scenic route into Caernaforn through the mountains of Snowdonia. We didn't get into town till a bit late and just had enough time to find a spot to camp. We drove out along the ocean, and found a good spot to pitch a tent, but I only looked up the rules for Scotland and wasn't familiar with Whales. So I asked at a boat yark near by. The guy was really friendly, but said that he wouldn't pitch his tent there due to the boy racers occasionally on the road. But he directed us to a great spot nearby. We pitched our tents out in Dinas Dinlle.

Jedburgh to York

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Wenesday we got up early, packed our stuff and hit the road. We visited a few places and drove along Hadrians wall. Hadrian, one of the most famous Roman Emperors, decided that is was too dificult to conquer Scotland, so he built a massive wall to keep them out. 84 miles long and build in 3 years with a fort or tower at every mile. 3 legions built it (roughly 15000 men). Unfortunately we took too long and were quite disapointed because we ddin't get to Fountain's Abbey in time. Also the camping place we phoned in York was rude to us, so we booked a cheap B&B near downtown. It ended up being just what we needed and with breakfast included, it's a good deal.

York is acutally a really cool place, the history is amazing. York was founded in Roman times and remains mostly intact today. The city still has about 75% of the walls intact as well. York Minster is very impressive as well and York is very walkable and the shops are cool. First night we went out and had some hearty food at a pud down the road. We also took a peak at York Minster.

Tuesday we hit the museums in town and according to our guide book the minster was free after 5:30. At 5:45 there was no sign of free time, so I asked and was told it was not like that anymore. So the lady told us that if we just wanted to walk around we would have to come for a service or show up before 9am. Cara wasn't interested, but I panned to come back the next morning before we left town. Next we tried to catch the volunteer walking tours. But it was raining again so there was no walking tour this day. So instead we went grocery shopping and got some gas and had a night in.

Edingburgh to Jedburgh

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After arriving and Christina's we chatted for a bit and then walked downtown for a beer at a pub and met up with some of Christina's friends at a club. We headed home after a while. Sunday me and Cara went downtown again to check out the sights and take the free walking tour with New Europe. It wasn't nearly as good as some of the other cities we went too, but it was still alright. It poured rain for a bit, so after a while we headed back to Christina's, but we picked up some food to make dinner. They weren't able to make it back in time due to some flooding outside the city, but they enjoyed the left overs. We were going to head out Monday, but we didn't get enough of Edinburgh, so we decided to stay another day. So Monday we hiked up Kind Arthur's seat and went to that tartan factory. We did some other things and hid from the rain again. Then we met up for a ghost tour with Christina and her sister. The tour was well done athough, for me totally hokie, but I still enjoyed it. Then we headed out for a drink and went back to the appartment and made dinner.

Tuesday we left Edinburgh, and visited Stirling before heading South. 'To hold Stirling was to control Scotland' is what they used to say. A very strategic point and a formitable fortress too. It was quite a bit out of our way though, but nevertheless we tried to hit the border abbeys as well. The border abbeys are a cluster of abbeys near the Scottish border, they were disolved with the other abbeys in England by King Henry VIII. But still very impressive and spectacularly ruined. Camping in Jedburgh was expensive, so we ended up camping out of town just off the road.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Aberdeen to Edinburgh

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We stayed with Chris 2 nights. The day after Chris took us sight seeing. We went out to see the golf course that the Trump is building just north. It's still in the early stages of development, but the coast is really cool with sand dunes. Then we went to Dunnottar castle in Stonehaven. It was ruined, but really cool, because the castle was left alone so it isn't just the keep, but the stables, smithy and residence. We all enjoyed it and then had a really good seafood dinner at the pub in Stonehaven. Then we went back to Aberdeen and hung out while we waited for the Stanley Cup final to begin (at 1am !!). We didn't make it to the end of the game unfortunately.

The next day we tried to get away early, but 1pm doesn't really count as early in by books. We got to one interesting castle, but found out that our 7 day familly pass bought at Culloden wasn't any 7 days, but consecutive and didn't work for national trust of England and Wales, contrary to what we were told when we bought it. So we had a little tiff with the staff, but in the end we upgraded to a year membership for some more money, but will work for England and Wales and appearantly Canada, although I'm not so sure. After that we tried to see another closed castle and missed the last tour for a distillery. I'm sad that the only tour we're doing is Glenfidich, but Glenfidich actually has a good tour.

We got into Edinburgh later than expected, but found Christina's place easily and we went out for a drink down town promptly. We even dipped into a club to see Christina's friend.

Inverness to Aberdeen

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Another busy day on the way to Aberdeen to see Chris. We did the battlefield of Culloden, which is where the battle with the English and the bonnie prince (last Scottish uprising) took place. It was pretty interesting and the visitor center was well done. On the rest of the drive we had 3 castles and a whisky (Scotch) distillery to see. We drove past 1 castle due to some miss navigation and 1 castle was closed (but still viewable) and the other was completely covered in scafolding. We made it to the last (free! yay) whiskey tour at Glenfidich. It was excellent and made up for the disappointment of the castles. We made it to Aberdeen in time to see Chris and have a night out on the town.

Kinlochewe to Inverness

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We fought some midges on our way out of the tent in the morning, but got all packed up and left the campground. We drove to the west coast and then North, taking the long way to Inverness. The drive was great though and very scenic. We stopped for a hike at a waterfall and lots of other stops for pictures. Cara said she didn't mind though because she was reading a good book. We got to Inverness early though, because we had decided to splurge on an expensive guest house. It was very highly recommended, and rightly so, because it was very posh. We did take a peek at Loch Ness before checking in. Really it's just a lake though, so we found a good spot and pretended to spot nessy. We settled in (felt a little bummy in our camping gear showing up) and hit downtown for dinner. After a good (slightly expensive) indian dinner, we went for a walk along the river. After that we hit our room for free DVDs and a king size bed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Portree to Kinlochewe

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A busy day lay ahead. We looped through Skye doing a good hike, although steep and Cara wasn't happy about getting so high up. Skye is a beautiful island with lots to see including sea stacks, castles and a great outdoor museum on island life. We finished the loop around 4pm, but we kept driving to Elgol to get a good look at some moutains. Then we back tracked and took the Skye bridge to the mainland and made it to the castle we wanted to see, but it was closed. But that was fine because the grounds were open and free (usually you have to pay, but we didn't want to go inside anyway). The sun was going down and the lighting was good too. Then we high tailed it to Kinlochewe, where there was a free camp ground set up for hikers. We were the only ones there, and cara though the bathrooms were spooky.

Mallaig to Eigg to Portree

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We woke up after camping and the midges were horrid. Midges are horrible bugs. So tiny you can't even really swat at them. Even though they're tiny they bite and it isn't pleasant. So next time we won't be camping in a boggy area. We got up to catch the first ferry to the island of Eigg, which had some good hiking. We also booked tickets to Skye on the ferry after we got back.

On Eigg we hiked an awesome cliff and went in a creepy sea cave. The sea cave had a tiny entrance (hands and knees) but opened up way back and was large inside. 400 people hid in this cave to escape raiders from the Isle of Skye in the 1700's, but the raiders found them and killed them all by building a fire in the entrance and suffocating them.

We got back to Mallaig and then took the car to Skye and drove to Portree. We camped just outside Portree, but we paid for camping because we wanted a shower.

Glasgow to Mallaig

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Sunday we hit byres street and bought a SIM card for the GSM cell phone that we brought with us (thanks Jack). Carphone Warehouse is an awesome store. Cell phones work a bit different here and pretty much all plans are pay as you go, so for 10£ we got a card and 50 minutes calling anywhere in the UK, free incoming text and calls as well. We also bought a couple books for reading.

Then we hit the road with the intention of going to the Isle of Skye. The drive was awesome with excellent scenery. We took our time and it was great to have a car and stop wherever we wanted. The driving was ok, but I was still getting used to it, coming out of Glasgow was a bit hectic, and some stretched of road were really really narrow, barely enough room for two cars. I just wasn't used to being that close to the shoulder and passing oncoming traffic so close.

We stop at a few interesting spots passing through Fort William and on the way to Mallaig. We saw the train bridge from Harry Potter which was cool. We made it to Mallaig but not in enough time to get the ferry to Skye, so we had an excellent dinner at a seafood restaurante right on the warf. Then we wild camped in the hills. Wild camping is allowed anywhere in Scottland. Technically you could camp on someone's front yard as long as you aren't disrupting them and you take out all garbage. So camping is allowed anywhere, but usually it means you pull off the road and hike into the hills.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Salmon Arm to Glasgow

We did the usual drive to Vancouver around 1pm on Thursday and after a quick stop at MEC, had a deliciouse dinner with at my Aunt and Uncle's house in down town Vancouver (thanks again Jim). They were also good enough to drive us to the airport the next morning.

The flight was uneventfull, there wasn't even that much turbulence (so Cara was happy). The budget flight didn't give us too much food though and we arrived hungry in Glasgow.

Now for the interesting part of our vacation... Driving. We had some hassle getting a rental car, but after a bit we got our Ford Focus (upgraded from whatever mini thing I booked). Everything was backwards and shifting with my left hand was a bit weird at first. The drive through the middle of town was stressful and by the time we finally got to the hotel I didn't want to drive anymore. So we walked and got some groceries and then had a DIY meal in the room.