Touring Edinburgh, Scotland

Below you’ll find a few of the images that tickled my funny bone while strolling Edinburgh, Scotland. At the very bottom of this post you will also find a short Youtube video featuring the sights of Edinburgh. My one regret is that I didn’t take a photo of our constant roommate for three nights in Smart City Hostel. Randy met his match in that this outgoing young English man out-talked him. Randy did happen to run into him in the hallway just as the young man was coming home from his night security job, so they did get a “proper” goodbye. Hope all is well…

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Hmmm… I’m not sure if we are “kick ass” enough for this hostel!  Smart City Hostel worked well for us.

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I also found the people taking photos of each other at tourist spots interesting…


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…and then you have the typical bored kids at a historically significant location ~ Edinburgh Castle.  Bored looks bored in any language.

The short video below features some of the typical tourist spots such as, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyrood House and Holyrood Abbey, St. Giles Cathedral, Grassmarket…

West Highland Way: Glencoe Mountain to Kinlochleven

September 4, 2015: We pack up and leave our cozy hobbit house at Glencoe Mountain Resort to diligently start down the trail finding the air chilly, but the weather generally pleasant.WHW_Day7-1100155eSeems as though we are in the middle of nowhere and here appears The Kings House, which is thought to be one of Scotland’s oldest licensed inns, originally built in the 17th century. It is called the King’s House because British troops were lodged here following the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Coffee, please!WHW_Day7-1100195eThe challenge today will be the Devil’s Staircase which was named by General Wade’s road building soldiers who were lugging materials up and down it all day. ~ Wikipedia

WHW_Day7-1100218eIt’s a long hike with several switchbacks, but really not a terribly strenuous hike so far.

WHW_Day7-1100224We finally reach the top and the views are spectacular today with clear skies all around.

WHW_Day7-1100230ecrThe Love Rock comes out of my pocket for a little fresh air and is perched on a cairn at the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

WHW_Day7-1100288eBlackwater Hostel is named after the Blackwater Reservoir and is our home for the night after a little more than ten mile hike.  Nice drying room and kitchen with dorm type rooms containing cozy bunk beds. From a camping perspective, the name does not sound desirable to me since waste water is called black water. It’s not the case here, though.

WHW_Day7-1100293eSign on the side of the hostel warns dog owners to keep their poop in a group or the Paw Patrol will take action.

WHW_Day7-1100284eWe find ourselves at the Tail Race Inn at the end of the day to take advantage of their advertised special prices on meals. All eyes are NOT on us as Scotland is playing Georgia for the Euro 2016 soccer qualifier and local patrons are glued to the TV screen. FYI ~ Scotland lost.

Video below shows highlights from day seven. I was able to video the Grand Canyon Girls as they skipped across a stepping stone bridge. We have observed that they are like mountain goats when it comes to rock scrambling. One has hiked down and up the Grand Canyon nine times and the other has hiked the Grand Canyon five times. They are a couple of tough hikers with strong legs and determination.

Down, down, down… to Roncesvalles

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.
~ Ed Viesturs

We continue on the 2nd day of our Camino through the fog with the chilling rain cold on the fingers.

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2014Camino-1060980Keep smiling!  Here’s one for Liz’s blog called  Fashion Backwards.  Click link to see what that is all about!

2014Cam-24dmvcrRoland, commander of the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army, was defeated by the Basques in 778.  It was fought here in Roncevaux Pass, a high mountain pass in the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain.  While oral tradition has the Christians defeating Muslims, both sides, actually, were Christian.  ~Wikipedia

Decision time… take the longer, but easier, hike along the highway or this steep trail risking a tumble down the path.

Pyrenees-36-road-down-and-shell-stoneWe opt for the steeper trail and Joan is the lone highway hiker of our group and we hope she doesn’t get lost.   It’s raining, the trail is difficult and I just plain forget to snap a shot, so the camera stays in the pouch. (Image above from rscottd13.blogspot.com) It is a tough descent down to the village and I find it helpful to grab tree branches (tip from another hiker at the top) to keep from sliding down.

2014Camino-1060994Challenging, but worth it for the colorful view.

2014Camino-1060997Slugs were plentiful on the trail and were quite entertaining, serving as a good excuse for a rest break.

2014Camino-1070010-2plWe arrive at our destination, Albergue Roncesvalles, and hope for a bed.  The available beds fill up quickly so the slow pokes may not be in luck. We are able to score enough beds in the newer three floor albergue which is set up in cubicles of 2 bunk beds each. 183 beds total.  They open the old church albergue for overflow (120 beds) and some will be sleeping in little box-like houses resembling fish houses near the grounds.  Unfortunate pilgrims arriving too late are forced to either sleep outside or keep moving on down the trail.

2014Camino-1070012-2dmvIn order to help pilgrims crossing the Pyrenees along the St James’ Way, around 1127, the Bishop of Pamplona, requested by King Alfonso I ‘the Battler’, founded the Roncesvalles Hospitality Institution.

Now, it’s time to sign up for the Pilgrim meal so we can be assured that our evening is complete.

2014Camino-1070026-2dmvWe take time to visit this small early Gothic chapel, The Chapel of Holy Spirit, built in the XII century. It is the oldest building in Roncesvalles.

2014Camino-1070025-2crSome legends state that the Frankish warriors killed in the battle of Roncesvalles in 778 were buried here and that fact was the reason to build that chapel. Some scientists and researchers say that is very doubtful and the Chapel of Holy Spirit was built in XII century. Pilgrims and Augustinian canons that died in Roncesvalles used to be buried here.  ~ Virtual Tourist

2014Camino-1070016-2pldmvcrWe attend the Collegiate Church Pilgrim Mass at 6 p.m. to see what that is all about. Built in the XIIIth century, pews filled up quickly plus people stand all around the back.  Air in the chapel is damp and chills to the bone after walking in the cold rain.2014Camino-1070015-3

2014Camino-1070009-2The stairwells are open between floors so we hear  fun conversations (In other languages) upstairs in the kitchen until light must go out.  It’s time to settle in for the long night and by now expect to be lulled to sleep by a serenade of snores.  I’ve been told that I am also a member of that choir.

Tomorrow we begin day three.

Iglesia San Millan

Now that it’s daylight we can start exploring Segovia. Where to go, what to do?
Spain-1040840Wonder what Jane has noticed up in the air so high? Bird, plane, superhero?

Spain-1040876Birds nesting on the top of a building near our hostal.

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The aqueducts are an obvious sightseeing tour, but I think we’ll start with this old church.

Iglesia San Millan is a Roman Catholic parish church built between 1111 and 1124.  Its architecture is Romanesque and Mozarabic.  Patterned closely on the cathedral of Jaca in Aragon, San Millan is noted for its pre-Romanesque mozaric tower and porticoes with abundant Romanesque figurative carvings.  Inside, there are three naves and three apses.  ~Wikipedia

It is located between the bus station and aqueduct outside the old city, just off Avenida de Fernandez Ladreda.  It is open daily 10-2 and 4:30 -7:30.  Free of charge.  The price is right so let’s check it out.

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Cold and damp feeling inside the old structure so we don’t linger and meditate.

What will our next Segovia adventure involve?  My crystal ball shows a Gypsy…

High Speed Train to Segovia ~ All Aboard!

We head to the charming train station in Santiago so that we can proceed on to Segovia.

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Spain-1040787Petite Kathy appears even smaller in comparison to all of our backpacks.

Spain-1040780Killing time until the train leaves.  People watching is my activity while this gent smokes his cigarette.

Spain-1040799Almost time to hop on the train.

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Spain-1040805BYOB party?

Spain-1040836We see many wind farms along the way.

Spain-1040819What to do while riding on a train? Look out the window? nibble on snacks? sleep? I choose to take photos of our reflection in the window. To each their own, right?

The Segovia train station is a few miles from the city, so we need to take a cab or bus.  I had read about the city bus line that shuttles to town for 1 Euro.  A cab pulls up and is quickly filled.  Our new friend from the train is so helpful with our questions as the bus pulls up to load. We opt for the bus and enjoy the night views of the city.

129081858.ksrRHIey.SegoviaAqueductnight[1]Oh, what a spectacular sight as we enter Segovia with the lighted aqueduct in the distance.

We search for our hostal, Don Jaime, only to find it near the bus drop off spot. Oh, well, the walk did us good since we had been sitting on a train for the past few hours.

Camino Day 8 ~ Travel to the beat of a different drum

The 2-way radio comes alive: 

BLIP…Hurry up and get here.  We are having SO much fun!!  Ireland is here, the Dr. and his fiance are here, Switzerland is here, Spain is here, drummers are here…  (Apparently, everyone but us are there)

We hear the clicks of our walking sticks pick up the pace as we try and catch up to the fun.

We arrived too late for the fun, but did catch some drumming on video.  We see evidence on the bar from the previous crowd:

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Ireland and Switzerland are still lingering on the steps of the bar enjoying the first consistent rays of sunshine that we have seen in days.  Oh, well.  Guess Randy and I aren’t having the MOST fun on the trail today.  We missed most of the festivities at the bar, including unique stamping techniques, but it is still a wonderful day to be alive!  Can’t complain.

Back on the road again.

Spain-1040024dmvThe sheep munch on the tender, sweet blades of new spring grass.

Spain-1040025dmvSome lucky critters will get a treat today!

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Yep, tail’s still there.

Spain-1040028dmvAlone and together at the same time… That kind of sums up the Camino for most of us, I think. Plenty of time for private reflection, but still try to watch out for one another.

Spain-1040037dmvTwenty kilometers to go to fulfill our goal!

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What does this say?

Although everyone, Nolle-guamos (tall branching leaves of trees used to shade coffee plants), bodies in souls become oars all.

Is it something to do with the fluid movements of our walking sticks as we flow down the Camino path of life?

May need to phone a friend and use a lifeline on this one.

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Clothesline in the old lean-to. Why not?

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This garden is way ahead of mine.

Spain-1040047kpsh50We see quite a few gardens with these tall plants.  Collard greens?

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Tall, tall trees remind me of what I envision of the California Redwoods.  I’m guessing these trees would appear dwarfed next to the Redwoods.

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It helps to look at things from a different angle, from time to time.

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Another one bites the dust… Memorial to an Irish pilgrim. By the grace of God…

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E.T., phone home?  Not sure what this is, but it may have something to do with the tub at the bottom.

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Busy traffic as we near our albergue for the night.

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This pilgrim from Chicago has decorated his backpack with the traditional shell, practical umbrella and the common yellow flowers we see along

the way.

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We find a nice albergue in Arco do Pino.  Large room full of bunk beds, nice hot showers and food/bar across the street.

A-h-h-h-h… a little bit of heaven here on earth.

Only one more day of walking… after laundry and sleep.

Camino Day 7 ~ Walking in a winter wonderland

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We wake up to a winter wonderland in Palas del Rey and put on our warmest clothing to start day seven. The hotel last night had nice heaters for our socks and shoes, laundry facilities complete with dryers and a restaurant/bar nearby.

Spain-1030748dmv  Oh, baby, it’s cold outside!

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Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time. ~ Stephen Wright

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Built in the 13th century,  Iglesia de San Tirso  church has a  Romanesque doorway and scallop shell motifs.

Spain-1030767dmvWe are walking through downtown  Palas del Rey (2nd time for some of us) where there are many bars, restaurants, albergues, hotels and small shops. Here we also see the typical Galician Ayuntamiento, Town Hall, built with a mixture of granite and whitewashed render.

Follow the shells, follow the arrows, turn here, turn there and we eventually find ourselves outside of town and on our way.  Listen… I hear some cheerful singing.  It’s the Spanish angels!  The video is short due to pushing the on/off record button at the wrong time.  (Another note to self:  figure out video settings)

 

Spain-1030778dmvO carteiro means “the postman.”   Looks like a good place for a break  and a person could send a postcard. Ultramarinos means “groceries” and a snack does sound good.

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Beverages purchased and apples for the road.

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Buen camino!

Spain-1030780dmvRemains of someone’s fun last night sitting outside the bar along the street.

We will be walking through Ponte Campana, Cazanova, Laboreiro, Melide and will be aiming our sights on Ribadiso today.

Day seven is warming up a little with just a few snow and rain showers, so far.  The leg muscles even feel better, but ohhhh, the blisters!

Camino Day 6 ~ Meet Carmen, Luisa and Ireland

Portomarin was where we slumbered last night in Albergue Ultreia which is run by a charming woman named Carmen.  Carmen’s eyes sparkle and shine and she has a way of getting her message across with grand gestures of arms and hands.  She is a strong, hard working woman, grabbing two wet backpacks and hoisting them up a flight of stairs as though they were merely purses.

We settled in to our dorm room filled with about 10 bunk beds and were immediately invited into the kitchen area by a fun group of young Spaniards having happy hour before their home cooked meal.  They offered us shots of some kind of liquor that had a good “kick” to it, so that helped warm us up inside and out.  I’m guessing it’s the anise liquor made in Spain. Again, must have been too tired to take a picture.  You will meet them later, though.

We were lucky enough to have a washer and drier which is accessed by going outside to the upstairs balcony.  Carmen’s English speaking daughter, Luisa, is extremely helpful with everything from washing and drying clothes to planning our next day, day six.

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Thanks to Albergue Ultreia, our clothing has been washed and dried and our boots have been on little heaters all night.  The blisters on Randy’s feet catch the attention of one of the young Spanish girls staying at the hostal and she offers sympathy and blister salve, if he needed it. People on the Camino show such kindness to complete strangers, that it warms the heart and gives a positive outlook towards mankind.

Coffee machine in the kitchen brews me some delicious, hot java to get my groove on and we eat the rolls we had purchased the night before at the local grocery store. What a great way to start a new day!
Spain-1030715dmvWe are in the center of town so Lori is getting directions from Luisa.

Spain-1030714dmvDiane, Jane and Joan pose for a photo with our friend, Luisa.  Luisa is also a pharmicist along with helping her mother with the albergue.  We met Dad this morning when he was opening up the albergue for the day. Wonderful family.   I am wondering if the black and white photo on the wall is of the old Roman bridge that is now under water.

Spain-1030720dmvLuisa manned the camera, so this is one of the few photos I am in.  I notice the sidewalk is dry and no rain is falling ~ Hooray!

Spain-1030724dmvcrMeet our new friends from Ireland.  They are all turning 30 years old this year and are celebrating their birthdays together on the Camino.  They signed up with a travel tour that transports their luggage for them, so they only have smaller daypacks.  With or without bags, they will still get wet today. Rain gear is essential no matter what you are carrying.  From now on they will be referred to as Ireland.  Such as…

Did you see Ireland at the pub today?

Yes, I did see Ireland at the pub today!  No, wait… that’s tomorrow. 

Camino Day 5 …and the beat goes on…

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.  ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Spain-1030694dmvThe challenging path continues to be flooded in areas and muddy at best.  I think all of us are beginning to wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into and what may lie ahead.  Water-soaked boots are heavy weights and pull on our tired, sore leg muscles as we schlepp along.

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We are now in Galicia and the scenery has blossomed into the emerald green of spring as we weave through woods and dale.  We crossed into Galicia on day four before crossing the snowy mountain and the village of  O  Cebreiro sits near the top.  I must have missed the sign.  (Better go back and hike that mountain so I can see the Galician border sign.)   I’ve read that in the Galician language,  O replaces El.  Our final destination, Santiago de Compostella, is the capitol of Galicia.

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Two languages are official and widely used today in Galicia; the native Galician, a Romance language closely related to Portuguese with which it shares the common Galician-Portugal medieval literature, and the Spanish language, usually known locally as Castilian. 56.4% of the Galician population always speaks in Galician or speaks more in Galician than in Castilian, while 42.5% speaks always in Castilian or more in Castilian than in Galician. ~ Wikipedia

Spain-1030704dmvOur path continues through a muddy, hilly wooded area and we come across a colorful, although tacky, looking memorial made of cast-off clothing, snack garbage, socks, hats…  It appears as though it is the  pilgrim dump.  I am not impressed with this area since it contrasts so starkly with the quiet, remote woods,  farmlands and small villages.  The site does kind of remind me of Jamaica with its bright colors.  Randy would like to take home that nice jacket on the lower right, but it’s not his size.

Spain-1030705dmvI have no idea what the pine cones are all about.  Any ideas?

Spain-1030707dmvcrRomanesque stone walls border our path as we cross through pasture areas, working our way down to the city of Portomarin.  The slimy mud pulls on our boots and the path is also mixed with  sweet smelling cow manure ~ Watch your step!   The farmer is getting the herd adjusted to their new pasture grounds using a stick and his dog.

Spain-1030712dmvRomanesque walls border the path and pasture and makes for an interesting cattle fence.

Portomarin bridgeThis long bridge over the rushing waters of the Mino River is the only thing between us and our destination for the day, Portomarin, Spain.  I hang tightly onto my walking poles as the strong gusts of wind push, tug and pull on me as if playing the old playground game, King of the Hill.    ~ Photo from Google images.

Portomarin is tucked in amongst the hills of Monte do Cristo and the river intersects the village.  During medieval times people lived on the right bank of the river, in an enclave (territory surrounded by another territory) by the Camino de Santiago.

The Portomarin we see today dates mostly from the middle of the 20th century with much of the old town now below the waters of the Miño.  In the 1950’s Franco decided he wanted to build a hydro-electric dam 40 kilometres down river and in doing so would flood the town of Portomarín.  The townspeople wanted to save some of their most important monuments and transported these stone by stone up to their new home, high above the river, which you see in the photo above.   Now, that would require some heavy lifting!  Parts of the old town resurface in the fall when the water level gets low.

As we first come across the new bridge, we pull our tired bodies up some steps to an arch where we see the Iglesia de Santa Maria de las Nieves, built on the site of a former pilgrim hospital.  The staircase is actually the sole remaining part of the original 2nd century Roman bridge, which was destroyed by Doña Urraca.   I would have taken a photo but it was raining.  Go figure…

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Wet, tired, stiff, sore, hungry… A-h-h-h-h…. home, sweet, home.

Camino Day 5 ~ Angels among us

All God’s angels come to us disguised. ~James Russell Lowell
camino-frances-26O CebreiroWe eat our normal breakfast of tostados with coffee or tea and hop in the taxi  at 8:00 a.m.  We are fast forwarding the mountain from Vega de Valcarce, and will go  about 30 miles to Sarria due to the weather conditions. The van is  large enough to hold all seven of us, plus the driver.Spain-1030656dmvThe treacherous roads are full of slushy snow and it is sleeting. The taxi driver is carefully maneuvering through the icy mountain roads and we are quiet, so we don’t disturb his concentration.  It would not be a pretty sight if we slip off the mountain road. We don’t see any other vehicles going over the mountain this morning.

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After about an hour, we arrive in Sarria and begin our 14 mile trek to Portomarin.  We tip our driver since he did such a wonderful job and did not charge as much as we had expected.  He keeps trying to return the tip.  No es necesario!  We finally convince him to keep the tip since he is very deserving and is well worth it.

Spain-1030668dmvWe begin our march through Sarria and grab a quick beverage and snacks for the road.

Spain-1030663dmvcrFollow the arrows and you can’t go wrong.  Rats!!  It’s starting to rain again.

We look ahead and see that our path has been washed out and fast, deep water is rushing across.  (It seems much deeper than the photo depicts and we don’t see the grassy area on the other side of the rocks, yet.)  I hear a gasp and discover it came out of my mouth.  How are we going to cross this mess?

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Listen… Do I hear angels singing?

Yes, I do!   Singing Spanish angels have appeared out of nowhere to save the day.  Randy goes ahead to crawl over the rocks and is ready to help the rest up and through to a grassy patch that wasn’t so deep.  The Spanish Angels take over the middle and rear to help us up and over the rocks.

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Now that we are all safely across, they proceed to splish, splash down the water-filled trail singing their happy Spanish camino songs.  Buen camino!

I wonder if we’ll see them again?

Spain-1030688dmv Stepping stones help us get through this flooded area.  The walking sticks are valuable to help keep balance with all the water rushing by.

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Kathy gets the prize for the most waterproof boots, but even her feet are wet now.

The cold rain continues to fall.  This is going to be another long day.