I made it!

13 July 2006

Well, I’m home.

Nearly lost my backpack in Chicago and almost missed my plane, but I did in fact make it back relatively unscathed. “Relatively” referring to the four nights of sleep I didn’t have prior to the night of the sixth, or as they’d say in the land of GMT time, the morning of the seventh.

All in all–fantastic trip. Incredible. Amazing. I’m still jetlagged and already planning my next escape from the Real World.


London Makes My Wallet Hurt

29 June 2006

But I’m still alive and adventuring. See you all on June 6th.

The Hills are Alive . . . With the Somewhat Grating Sound of Julie Andrews

18 June 2006

That’s right, folks, I’m here in Salzburg a. k. a. Sound-of-Music-Land. The hostel bar plays the movie continously on a big screen, the dulcet tones of the Von Trapps follow one up and down the street, and the souvenier stores are full of movie memorabilia. Anyone want a singing, dancing, nearly lifesize Maria or perhaps a bouquet of resinized edelweiss?

After getting very little sleep in Prague and spending twelve consecutive hours on the train, I think i must have been a little off my rocker, as when I awoke from my semi-comatose state I found myself on a five-hour Sound of Music tour. I’ve now seen more movie relics than I thought existed, listened to an inhumane amount of Julie Andrews, and experienced enough of the lovely Austrian countryside to make up for the cheeseball tour. Afterwards, I hiked up to the Fortress with a couple of girls from Seattle that I met on the tourbus, checked out Nonnberg Abbey (another SofM relic), and hit the St. Augustina’s beer garden for fantastic knodel and brew. A pretty decent day, all in all.

Nearly Two Months In

17 June 2006

I'm still alive! I'm currently in Prague, though I'll be taking the train to Salzburg tomorrow night after nearly two weeks in Eastern Europe (Budapest, Krakow, a small town in rural Czech Republic, and now Prague). I'll be heading back to Scotland the night of the 25th before heading back to England and eventually home.

Briefly . . .

1 June 2006

—> travelled in style: first class on the Eurostar
—> the Louvre made me cry (and the Mona Lisa was unimpressive)
—> did not go see the Eiffel Tower
—> stayed in a Swiss chalet, a 14th century convent turned hostel, a seedy Parisian hotel, and a place called The Treehouse
—> met lots of great people everywhere (and the one creepy Aussie)
—> walked the Cinque Terre
—> loved Siena, particularly the Museo Civico´s frescoes
—> thought Florence was overrated
—> got snowed on in Kandersteg on May 29
—> paid dearly for internet everywhere–1 Swiss Frank a minute at one point ($.80!!!)
—> lost my Eurrail pass (only one day left on it, but I still feel stupid)
—> decided to head back to Scotland on June 25!!! Two more weeks of super Scottishness!

Having a great time . . . currently in Grunau, Austria, and hoping the weather improves so I can go hiking. Next up is Vienna, then the Czech Republic. Miss you all!

Latest News from Nessie-ville

18 May 2006

After Fort William, I took the hostel bus to Oban (town on the west coast south of Fort William, primarily a jumping-off point for the Inner Hebrides) where I stayed just long enough to sleep a few hours and go for an early morning walk to MacCaig's Folly. It's a bizarre Romanesque structure that looks out over the town and ocean, built by a rich social reformer-type a couple hundred years ago to provide work for the impoverished townspeople. He intended to turn it into a museum, but ran out of money before it could be finished. Now it's just a pretty circular wall with a garden inside–not quite the tourist attraction it might have been, but the views were lovely.

The bus left Oban for Edinburgh as soon as I returned from my walk, via Hairy Coo Land and the Wallace Monument in Stirling. I spent two more nights in Edinburgh, then two in Pitlochry, and I've spent four nights so far in Inverness (home of Loch Ness and, of course, the Loch Ness Monster). I'll be here tonight as well, then tomorrow night I'll take the night train to London and make my way onto The Continent from there.

Some highlights of the last week:

—> Hairy Coo Safari

—>Stirling Castle

—>Pubbing in Edinburgh at The Last Drop (near the old gallows, ha ha) and The Jolly Judge (near the courthouse)

—>climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh's Holyrood Park

—>Dancing all night at a Ceilidh (traditional Scottish dance) at Blackfriar's in Inverness

—>swimming in Loch Ness (yes, it's frickin' freezing, but now I can say I swam with Nessie!)

—>lovely lovely lovely Scottish tour guides 🙂

I've finally downloaded my pictures to disk–I'll post a few sometime very soon.

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

8 May 2006

Contrary to all indications I am still alive, though the high cost of internet access and my busy schedule have kept me from posting further updates. After three nights in Grasmere and a drive through the Yorkshire Moors and the Peak District with my Aussie friends, I took the train to Edinburgh and stayed for two nights. It's a very pretty city, very old and historic and a great place to wander around. I arrived on a busy weekend, though, so on Saturday–with every hostel in town fully booked–I took the train to the Isle of Skye. I spent three nights there, which gave me enough time to see a lot of the island and even take a day tour with MacBackpackers.

Kyleakin, the little village where I stayed, was all pubs and hostels–there wasn't even a grocery store–but it had a great little ruined castle just outside it and a terrific waterfront location. Skye itself has an amazing landscape, unlike anything I've ever seen before. It's very barren, but rugged enough to be interesting and with pockets of green, especially in the north part of the island. Very cool. I took lots of pictures.

After Skye, I took the MacBackpackers' bus to Fort William, the supposed Outdoor Capital of the UK and home to Ben Nevis, the UK's highest peak. Though it rained for the first couple days that I stayed, the skies brightened on Thursday and stayed clear until last night–perfect hiking weather. Today it's a bit grey, but as I'm leaving in an hour I didn't have plans to do much anyway. Thursday I explored a bit of Glen Nevis (the valley with the Ben to one side) and climbed Cow Hill via a trail that starts near the hostel–nice, but the weather was yuckily muggy. After a great thunderstorm on Thursday night and sleeping in late on Friday morning, I biked to a trailhead and hiked in to a waterfall. In the afternoon, I took the train to Mallaig from Fort William and back again, a beautiful route that was featured in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express.

And then, yesterday, I climbed Ben Nevis–not incredibly tall or anything but it is the tallest mountain in the UK. Again, great views, good walk, etcetera. I celebrated my triumph by going out with some people from the hostel, which was fun, though the nightlife in tiny Fort William is possibly even less exciting than it sounds 🙂

I'm now off to Oban for at least one night and possibly two, then it's back to Edinburgh for a couple of nights and on to Inverness. I'm thinking of taking the train to Europe from there, via London, so I can see a bit of France before heading to Italy.


“I wandered lonely as a cloud”

27 April 2006

Today is my third day in Grasmere, home of Willie Wordsworth and innumerable sheep. It's a pretty little village in England's Lake District (in Cumbria, the northwest) with a very comfortable hostel and lots of pretty walks. I spent Sunday night at the Borrowdale YHA after hiking the 15 1/2 miles from a B&B/pony farm in Ennerdale Bridge, and previous to that I was in St. Bee's, a small town on the coast. The walk from St. Bees to Ennerdale should have been only 14 miles (4 miles up the coastal cliffs, 8 through farms and fields, and 2 over desolate tarns to the west of the Lakes), but I walked something closer to 20 thanks to several directional mishaps. Dayhiking out of Grasmere has been nice as well.

For the most part, the weather has been lovely–it's not sunny today, as it was on Monday, but it hasn't rained just yet. I've met a couple of Aussies on holiday and have been traipsing about the countryside with them–we've driven nearly all of the roads in the Lake District and done a hike or two as well. Aussies call hiking "trekking", the English call it "walking".

The Lake District is not what I expected, but still very beautiful; the scenery looks a little like Eastern Washington, a little like the Sierras, but with the odd and incongrous addition of green pastures in the valleys and sheep, sheep, and more sheep (the breed, Herwick, is peculiar to the Lake district). The tarns (mountains) here are sectioned off by low stone walls, built without mortar, some going all the way up to the craggy summits. According to Lonely Planet, some go back to the 16th century!

I'll be heading up to Scotland in a few days, though I may stop in York beforehand. The journey continues!

28 miles later . . .

24 April 2006

I'm here, I'm safe, I'm exhausted. Hiked 14.5 miles today and about the same yesterday.

Internet costs £5 an hour–utterly ridiculous. And the Lakes District looks like the Eastern Sierra with more sheep. It's confusing.

Finally packed

20 April 2006

Passport, check. New digital camera, check. “Let’s Go Great Britain” guidebook, check. Sanity–I seem to have misplaced it.

Ah well. At least I look organized.

11 hours until liftoff!