Scotland… here we come!

Hiking destination:  West Highland Way. 96 miles of Scotland’s rugged beauty.

August 27, 2015: My sister, Joan (the accountant/flight attendant, travel guru extraordinaire), has the spreadsheet analyzed and revised multiple times. Following months of research, the departure date has finally arrived as Joan pulls up to park her vehicle, saddle up her backpack and hands me a copy of the FINAL spreadsheet for our three-week adventure. As for my husband, Randy, and I?  Well, we did show up on time so give us credit for that. Thank goodness for Joan!!

Public transportation is how we roll…

First bus – Chanhassen, MN/downtown Minneapolis/transfer to the airport. Bonus for Joan since she can ride the whole way for 75 cents.  What a deal.

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After landing in Glasgow mid-afternoon August 28th, we take a convenient bus from the airport to Buchanan Station where we hop on a transfer bus to Milngavie, Scotland, the starting point for the West Highland Way.
E1_webScot-1090056eAre you sure this is our bus?

E1_webScot-1090066e

Really?  We get a double-decker bus?

Wide eyed, even with lack of sleep, I gaze at the views of Glasgow from the top level, as we sit in the front seats of the bus.

My apologies to the young students that didn’t get the front seats on this day. You can sit in the front tomorrow.E1_webScot-1090083e Hair extensions while waiting for computer repair.  Interesting combination.E1_webScot-1090092e E1_webScot-1090101eE1_webScot-1090102e E1_webScot-1090112e

School has now dismissed, so our bus quickly fills with chatty students releasing their pent-up energy. Just like home, except our students ride on school buses instead of city buses. Unsure as to our stop, we ask a 12-year-old in the next seat who, luckily for us, ignored any previous stranger danger lessons and informed us that he gets off at our stop.

E1_webScot-1090119e Not a great day for this truck driver. Our B & B for the night is on the other side so we now must figure out a way to get around it.E1_webScot-1090128e Have no fear, a friendly, born & bred Scottish trail angel has already arrived to show us the way and we cut through the park. E1_webScot-1090132eSafe and sound, we arrive at Best Foot Forward Bed & Breakfast to rest up for our first day of hiking the West Highland Way!

Well… maybe find a pub first and then we’ll rest up…

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A planned fast forward on Day #5: Pamplona to Ponferrada

It’s the morning of Camino de Santiago day #5 and we pack cookies purchased in a quaint little cookie shop last night in Pamplona.

2014Camino-1070180dmvNo, we didn’t buy all these cookies.

2014Camino-1070181dmvcrThrough the dark morning air, on our walk to the bus station, we pass a life-size monument depicting the running of the bulls.

map_dotsThe black dots mark our route via bus today.

2014Camino-1070183dmvWe notice the drier appearance of the terrain on the flat plains on the plateau of central Spain which is referred to as the Meseta.  I have read that this section is challenging in a way that is more mental than physical, but can also be beastly hot in August.  Since we don’t have enough time to walk this section, we are fast-forwarding by taking a bus today to Ponferrada, Spain.  Maybe this would be a good region to tour on a bicycle rather than walking?

2014Camino-1070188dmvkpOur bus arrives in Ponferrada, which is surrounded by mountains and is the capitol city of El Bierzo in the province of Leon, Spain. In 1178, Ferdinand II of Leon donated the city to the Templar order for protecting pilgrims on the Way of St. James who passed through El Bierzo on their road to Santiago de Compostela.  The castle hosted the Knights Templar’s Grand Master of Castille.  The Templars were only able to enjoy the use of this fortress for about twenty years before the order was disbanded and its properties confiscated.  ~ Wikipedia

Seems like a lot of work for just twenty years.

2014Camino-1070197dmvcrEven though we spent the day on a bus, we still seem to have an appetite and find a cute little bar/restaurant with a personable owner. It appears as though the locals frequent this establishment, so that should be a good sign.

2014Camino-1070192dmvcrRussian Salad – a cold, vinegar potato salad.  It’s not only pretty, but delicious, too!

2014Camino-1070193dmvCocido, a hearty chick pea stew with pork.

2014Camino-1070196Cochinillo (roast suckling pig)  Pork dishes are common in this region.

The mural above brightens the street near our hostel as we dream of the adventures that lie ahead. We will be taking a short bus ride in the morning to Villafranca del Bierzo where we will start walking again.  Oh, it will feel so good to drink in the surroundings and just walk again…