Nature coolness


HAH! Finally! USB!

Alrigh, here goes. Ready thine eyne.

I believe I left you…

…here:

Fabric, floor one. By which I mean, one DOWN (from ground level), not up.

Fabric, floor one. By which I mean, one DOWN (from ground level), not up.

That was London. This (points round at surroundings) is Rome. Now for for how I got from one to the other. As I believe I have mentioned before, it involved a great deal of train.

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FRANCE

France, for me, began in Paris. That is where I popped out of a tunnel and into sunlight. The ride from London was only about two hours but even with a Eurail Pass it set me back £85. That’s like $160 Canadian, for you lazy converters. Anyhoo, didn’t stay in Paris long, so there were only three things that really impressed upon me.

One: big, wide boulevards.

Two: OMG PASTRIES!

Three: Hey! Isn’t anybody going to say Bonjour? I don’t know if it was just the fact that I loked like a scruffy backpacker or maybe I smell, but nobody seemed particularly friendly. Oh well. Their pastries covered for them there.

French Pastries! Mmmmm!And, of course, up the tower with me.

We weren’t sure what the dealio was with the elevator and the paying for it and whatnot, so we took the exit stairs up. There was no sign not to…

Tower of Eiffel

Tower of Eiffel

I walked, I talked to Emily, I headed south without a real plan but intending to go to Madrid. I scored a night train with a small booking fee to Toulouse. I didn’t really stop there. It was cold, it was morning, and I just kept heading south. Wound up in Narbonne around noon. From there, I soon found yet another southbound and made my last French stop in a place called Cerbére.

Here I got a bit worried, as it didn’t really look like there was anything there and it didn’t look like I could get to Madrid, either. I would show you the shabby shot that I thought was the entire town, but instead I’ll show you the lovely little Southern French town that I discovered as soon as I got around the corner and under a bridge from the train station.

Cerbére. Most definitely NOT just a train station.

Cerbére. Most definitely NOT just a train station.

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SPAIN

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I couldn’t get to Madrid from Cerbére, but I COULD get into Spain. My first Spanish stop was a station/town called Portbou. I then found a train to… Barcelona. Not Madrid, but hey! It’ll have hostels and I did want to go there anyway, so no biggie. Only trouble was, I couldn’t get in contact with Emily. Our phones were being problematic.  She wound up in Madrid. Moving on…

A street in Bacelona.

A street in Bacelona.

I’m lying, a little bit, in showing you this photo first. It wasn’t this nice when I arrived. In fact, Barcelona rained on us pretty much the whole time. Blegh. But it had some damn cool architecture! We went around and saw as many of the Gaudi buildings as we could, and got to go insode the Sagrada Familia! My god, what a place. It was incredible to get to witness the construction of a modern-day Cathedral. And this guy’s work really is modern-day. It’s incredible.

Sagrada Familia, front entrance.

Sagrada Familia, front entrance.

Close-up of one of the statues.

Close-up of one of the statues.

Seriously, you’ve got to love the style. Modernism meets religion. They were made for each other. Oh wait…

Anyhoo, I was seriously impressed. The overall effect was both stunning and inspiring.

The finish on the ceiling, just starting to go in. This place is going to be stunning when it is finished.

The finish on the ceiling, just starting to go in. This place is going to be stunning when it is finished.

The above photo is worth a click. Go on, click it. Click!

Barcelona was also equipped with some pretty fantastic food markets. The main one we found, along Las Ramblas, was like a visibly loud and olfactorily overwhelming circus of edible delights. It would have been an almost sinful sight of sweets and gastronomic indulgence if not for the vastly predominating fruit vendors with their naturally brightly coloured and healthful wares.

Mmm! Fruits!

Mmm! Fruits!

Oooh! Sweets!

Oooh! Sweets!

There were also meats and fish and little restaurants and juice spots. It was pretty intense. I kept my bag in my armpit and my camera tucked well inside my clothes.

We went walking along the beach but the weather wasn’t cooperating as well as it could have…
Still, there were some cool sights.

Fish building.

Fish building.

I think there was a restaurant under there or something.

And some cool art:

A cool sculpture on the beach. It was actually a sort of tower thing... quite odd, really.

A cool sculpture on the beach. It was actually a sort of tower thing... quite odd, really.

We stopped several times in Madrid, as well, but didn’t get far from the train station, unfortunately. This was kind of in the middle of us getting a bit lost and turned around while trying to get South and not spend our ENTIRE trip stuck on trains.

Cool Madrid Buildings

Cool Madrid Buildings

Eventually, after much hulabaloo and trainarounding, we managed to get South. We wound up in this really nice little town called Mojàcar. It was beautiful!

Hello Cactus!

Hello Cactus!

Mojàcar, a white city.

Mojàcar, a white city.

It turned out our hostel was quite a hike from the bus station. You can see where sea level is here, and the bus station was down there, a ways up the shore. We had to hike up here with our 35-pound bags and groceries and water. Did I mention that on the way here I dropped said bag on my face? Well I did, and now I have a black eye and a band-aid. Bummer. But Mojàcar was nice!

From here we went back up to Barcelona and across to Italy by Ferry. Like I said before, I am now in Rome.

I will show you Rome later.

Right now, I am off to the Vatican, if possible, and Florence, if not.

Ciao ciao!

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I went to Mull!  And it was good.

Off we go!

Off we go!We've been trying to get there for the past two weeks, it seems, but things kept getting in the way. First I was sick, then the bus timetable was posted wrong on the internet. We were starting to think it wasn't going to happen. But it all turned out to be for good! Had we succeeded either of the first two times, we would have been hit with blizzards and harsh windchill the whole time. The day we wound up with: mild, sunny, beautiful. And on a trip to a place like Mull, the weather can really make all the difference.We packed three different towns, four buses, two ferrys, a chcolate shop and a distillery into our little trip. It was awesome. I will show you.The ride there certainly whetted our appetites for scenic vistas!A cloud is born...

I must say, taking photos from a moving bus on a sunny day is truly an excercise in avoiding reflection.

It's enough to make you want to stop the bus.

It's enough to make you want to stop the bus.

Shaggy hills, shaggy cows.

Shaggy hills, shaggy cows.

Oooh, lovely.

Oooh, lovely.

These were all taken on the way to Oban, the town with the ferry that would take us across to Mull. It was quite nice riding through the mainland. And then we got to ride a ferry! Off to Mull with us! But forst, here’s a taste of Oban:

Check out that little Colosseum on the hill there!

Check out that little Colosseum on the hill there!

And second…

oh wait. I’m out of time again. Alas.
OK, I think (I hope) I can come back and finish this in a few hours. Don’t hold your breath, though; you’ll turn blue.

I do, however, promise I will come back and finish eventually.

 

Dalgety Bay is just outside of Edinburgh; across the water from it, actually. There is a quite famous bridge there that is on one of the one-pound coins. I will show it to you…

But first – train ride!

Ah sheepy hills.

Ah sheepy hills.

 We took the train to Edinburgh before continuing on by car. It is nearing Christmas, and BY GOD if I thought Edinburgh was busy last time I was there…
Yeah, whew, the place was mobbed*. But we didn’t stay there long. We just popped into this one domey building to wait for our ride and maybe have a drink (we didn’t, thanks to the massive queue). It was quite the place. Edinburgh sure knows how to do Christmas.

*New British word usage: means ‘very very busy’.

And it smelled like cinnamon.

And it smelled like cinnamon.

 

ooo. Sparklez.

ooo. Sparklez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time we got there, it was dark, surprise surprise, so naturally my next photo is of dawn I was quite determined not to waste that day.

 

 

Sun on Suburbs

Sun on Suburbs

The area had lots of good walking, and even a beach or two!

That pointy thing is some sort of WWII communication device

That pointy thing is some sort of WWII communication device.

 

This was also a remnant from WWII. It had a turny gun-thing.

This was also a remnant from WWII. It had a turny gun-thing.

[moss]A ways down the beach, and you come to this old Kirk. We could go inside and everything, up to the second floor and into the main hall area below. There was also a really cute cemetery around it (yes, I can call a cemetery cute) whose gravestones often had the peculiar fashion of almost cartoony skull-and-crossbones decorating them. 

 

 

 

 

A Kirk.

The Kirk.

And from the side...

And from the side...

 

Now tell me that's not just the sort of skull you would expect to find in a Flash video, eh?

Now tell me that's not just the sort of skull you would expect to find in a Flash video, eh?

 

 

 

 

Inside the Kirk.

Inside the Kirk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello!

Hello!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And out we go again.

And out we go again.

On a completely different note, the last day of school was yesterday.
People have already started to leave and I’m pretty sure the time from here until Thursday (my date of departure) will be one big goodbye party/photo-taking fest, so I’m likely to be pretty busy. Also, I’ve got to get my Christmas presents and cards together and pack my stuff and get my files from school. Oh my.
I don’t really want to leave.
Wait, scratch that.
I really don’t want to leave!
It’s been so good here… and I can’t really bring any home with me. After I go, there will be nobody in my physical vicinity that I can reminisce with about my stay or talk to about how different/the same it was. This makes me sad. I hope when I get home that there will still be some sense of permanence; that I don’t feel like I just dreamt it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Kelvingrove park with the U of G poking out.

Kelvingrove park with the U of G poking out.

You may remember this same park from an earlier post… but in the previous photo the scene was a bright orange conflagration of trees. Not so any longer.

Last night it even snowed.

 

Because the air was so crisp and cold and dry, the chimney's smoke was extra fluffy this morning.

The chimney’s smoke was extra fluffy this morning; perhaps because the air was so crisp and cold and dry.

 We also had some great fog last night. It made everything so story-like, somehow. I didn’t get a picture of the thick of the fogblob, but you get the mist of it.

Fog. There you have it.

Stillness.

 

And a clock you may also remember from an earlier post... running through fog this time.

And a clock you may also remember from an earlier post... running through fog this time.

 

 

 

Oooh I'm glad I have this giant fluffy hood!

Oooh I am SO glad I have this giant fluffy hood!

 

Edinburgh, as seen from Capitol Hill

Edinburgh, as seen from Capitol Hill

Apart from the ground floor with all the shops, the city is a towering display of the many shades of brown.

Apart from the ground floor with all the shops, this city is really a bright display of the many shades of brown.

I finally got around to having a nice day trip to Edinburgh to see the sights and do some more in-depth exploring. It was really cool to see all the places that I saw last year with my folks – I got to experience the feeling of “hey, I’ve been here before” in a place that wasn’t Vancouver. It was cool. I even recognized some of the little shops we went into when I was on a mission to find a flask last year, and one of the shopkeepers I remember was there too. 

 

Edinburgh has very different architecture than Glasgow; everything has a “castley” flavor to it, and there is even more stone and a variety of different types of brick. The streets are more often cobblestone and you can see either the castle or the capitol hill from most places at street level.

A tunnel in one of the lower areas.

A tunnel in one of the lower areas. I don't know what that building in the middle distance is, but it has a turret 😛

Heh, the name made me laugh.

Heh, the name made me laugh.

There were lots of small shops as you got away from the main thoroughfare on Princes Street with its malls and department stores and monoculture. Princes was just packed with a seething horde of people rushing into these places to try to buy a good Christmas. We left there promptly and headed up some smaller, though sometimes equally busy, streets.

We stopped in at one of the many cozy-looking pubs for lunch, and I took a to of photos while we waited for our tasty foodstuffs to arrive.

 

Our lunch spot.

Our lunch spot.

Plaid wall-paint.

Plaid wall-paint.

My trusty mittens.

My trusty mittens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I passed by the parliament building again, on the way to Capitol Hill. It’s still one of the coolest buildings I’ve been in.

A side entrance to the building.

A side entrance to the building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Scottish Parliament Building

The Scottish Parliament Building

One thing you can't see in these photos is how COLD it was. And windy too.

Hello!

 

 

Up the hill with us!

One thing you can’t see from the photos is just how cold it was. And windy! Birds were having trouble taking off it was so windy.

 

 

 

Capitol Hill, with Edinburgh behind me.

Capitol Hill, with Edinburgh behind me.

We made it to the top just in time to watch the long sunset. This was around 3:00pm.

One of the many awesome vantage points on Capitol Hill.

One of the many awesome vantage points of Capitol Hill.

Side entrance again, at 4-ish.

Side entrance again, at 4-ish.

We walked by the Parliament Building again on our way back into the city. They did a good job of lighting it to be impressive at night, too.

 

Edinburgh at night. Well, not "night" exactly, since its only about 4pm, but in the dark, at any rate.

Edinburgh at night. Well, not "night" exactly, it being only 4 something, but "after dark" at any rate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went into one more bar before heading home. I don’t have a photo of it per se, just the bathroom. Everyone (well, every establishment) makes a big deal out f bathrooms. I find they are often even nicer than the rest of a building.

Clean, shiny pretty bathroom!

Clean, shiny pretty bathroom!

 

 

 

 

We made an early day of it because we – everyone in my year, pretty much – were all headed out to this massive once-monthly party that everyone says you absolutely have to go to if you’re in Glasgow. It was called “Death Disco” and was held in some giant abandoned tunnel-place called called The Arches. Oh boy, were there arches. I will do a post on it later and show you photos. Oh yes I shall.

 

 

So, that’s the end of my Edinburgh day. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the parliament building to leave you with for the day:

 

 

 

 

wildness and wet

Lomond Forest

just off the path, looking through the forest

Now for the second installment of our journey: Tarbet (not TarbeRt), another small town, this time near Loch Lomond rather than Loch Fyne. Our main activity of note in this town was our wee hike through the woods. They were lovely woods.There was SO much moss. Anywhere there was light, there was moss. I don’t know why it only grew on the tree trunks once you went under the canopy, but everywhere else it grew like a rolling natural duvet to the soil. Under all that shaggy scottish grass, there was often mossy support. It had a fantastic texture. When you pressed on it, it looked like you were pressing your fingers into a beautiful miniature forest, but it FELT like you were pushing your fingers through a spider web made of starch. It was rather mesmerizing.

Moss Forest

Moss Forest

 Th forest showed us many different faces as we walked through it. Sometimes it felt like we had walked through several forests that just coincidentally met up right there.

Skinny Tree Area

Skinny Tree Area

 

Lumpy Ground Area

Lumpy Ground Area

Those lumps look like they would be kind of hard if you tried to squeeze one, but in fact they offer all the resistance of a shag rug.

Brown Lumpy Ground Area

Brown Lumpy Ground Area

a view of the path from within the forest...

A view of the path from within the forest...

Majestic Tree

Majestic Tree

Running through the forest was also this low rock wall which we encountered twice but oddly enough only appeared to actually cross once.

It was a mossy wall.

It was a mossy wall.

Hello!

Hello!

and goodbye, until next time.

 

Tarbert Hill ViewAh, I never realized just how good I had it in Vancouver in terms of easy access to beautiful, quiet, clean forestyness and industry-free shoreline. It was quite the undertaking to get out of the city, involving many bus rides, trains and ferries – but we made it and it was worth every pence.

It was one of those trips that almost didn’t happen, you know? It seemed everyone from school wanted to go to the highlands, there were at least three different groups of people intending to go and inviting me along, but slowly, one by one, nothing happened. By Tuesday I was concerned that nobody was actually going to get themselves together enough to go *anywhere*, so I grabbed Eulalia, who also really wanted to get out for a bit, and we decided that we would plan a trip, book a hotel and whoever wanted to join us could. We found an awesome hotel and went just the two of us for the first night before being joined by two other friends for the next two days.

Whee! There goes Bute!

Whee! There goes Bute!

The original plan was to go to Bute. Why? I don’t know – it just looked nice there, and close enough to get to without too much trouble. The hotel we found was this

The Stonefield Castle Hotel, as seen after 5pm

The Stonefield Castle Hotel, as seen after 5pm

crazy little castle on a loch in a forest. Perfect. Right in the middle of nowhere. But, as we discovered upon arrival on the Islay of Bute, it was NOT located on Bute. It was in Argyll, close to Tarbert. We had a god laugh about that, hopped a bus and a ferry and got to see a bit more of the countryside than we originally had planned. The view from the bus was great though, and it was nice to get to see Bute, even if we didn’t get to stay there. After our bus ride, there was a ferry and then a drive yet to go to take us to the Hotel. I had thought perhaps to grab some tea or something when we got to the terminal, but that plan was quickly put aside upon arrival.

 

The Ferry Terminal

The Ferry Terminal

As you can see, it rather lacked coffee facilities. Eventually, one other car pulled up and another foot passenger arrived out of somewhere (could have been a bus, we were on the beach for a while). The car sat at the end of this little pier like it was just ready to drive straight into the water. I was curious to see how the boat would load up when it arrived, as I have never been to a terminal quite like this. My curiousity was soon satisfied:

...and there goes the ramp

...and it has a ramp!

Here comes the boat!

Here comes the boat...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view from the breakfast table.

The view from the breakfast table.

 

 

 

When we finally did get to the hotel (only a few hours late) we were quite suitably impressed. The closest settlement to the Stonefield is a little town called Tarbert. More on that later, first I must revisit the beach and grounds of Stonefield itself. After all, this was the first time in months that I’ve actually been on a beach.

It was great to be on the shore again.

It was great to be on the shore again.

Like so many other things about the Scottish landscape, the seaweed was quite similar to but not quite the same as BC's.

Like so many other things about the Scottish landscape, the seaweed here is quite similar to but not quite the same as the stuff found in BC.

Lichen!

Lichen!

 

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Tarbert; I really have very little experience with small towns of any kind, but the place really grew on me. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.

Beautiful Tarbert

Beautiful Tarbert

We got a ride both to and from our hotel, first with a lady we met on the ferry (the other foot passenger, who had her car on the other side) and then with a guy who must have been delivering fresh fish to the Hotel, if the smell and the water were any indication. Our bags were placed on floaty styrofoams in the back of the van to keep them safe from the ambient fishwater. Both our drivers pointed out all the places they thought we should check out and suggested things to do and places to stay. We ran into the first lady, I think her name was Chris, a couple more times while we were there and each time she helped us out – it seemed she knew absolutely everybody in the place and everything that we could need to know. When we needed to use an internet connection to check transportation times, we learned that there weren’t any public places to do this *at all* and she just went up to a group of others and asked if we could use the one in their building. It was great, and really helped us enjoy the place.   

We also kept getting recommendations to this same B&B called The Moorings, and everyone seemed to know the guy, Andrew, who ran it. It turned out to be another little gem, if I may be so quaint as to use the word, that made our trip extra nice. Andrew was a great host, and his place was full, floor to ceiling and wall to wall with all sorts of crazy art-nouveau style decorations, objects and knickknacks. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos that really exemplarize just how much of it there was, but here are a couple so that maybe you’ll get the idea. I mean, it wasn’t as if the place was just full of stuff, either. It was all cool stuff that might have been rather kitschy on its own but seen as a collection, polished and displayed around this little cottage by the marina, it was actually quite impressive and oddly homey.

The table has a big glass ball in the middle with laser-etched dolphins in it.

The table has a big glass ball in the middle with laser-etched dolphins in it.

)

Notice the ducks by the lamp and their wooden coasters 🙂

We got up early, had breakfast (massive delicious meaty Scottish Breakfast) and headed for the hills. This is really what I came for. Tarbert has a wee castle close by and lies at the beginning of the Kintyre Way, a fairly new walking path that goes south into Argyll.

Tarbert's several-centuries-old castle.

Tarbert's several-centuries-old castle, and shaggy grass.

Alex and Eulalia, on the trail.

Alex and Eulalia, on the trail.

 

 

Happy Camper ^

Happy Camper ^

On the way back, we encountered this cool backwards path. How can a path be backwards, you ask? Well ordinarily, I would say, a path is a strip of brown or grey running through some more upbeat natural colours like maybe green or yellow with flowers. But check this out: green path, brown landscape!!

 

The Backwards Path

The Backwards Path

 After our second day in Tarbert, we decided to move on to… Tarbet. Notice the lack of a second letter ‘r’. But I am going to leave that for another post, because I believe it is deserving of its own 🙂
adios!

 

  
 

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