25 September 2011

northern ireland

On Wednesday afternoon (21st September) I arrived at Luton Airport in London in plenty of time to drop my bag off and the check out lady says, "Oh this is your return flight." What!? I take back my web-check-in ticket and look it over. It's definitely a London to Belfast flight. I rummage through my bag and check my actual return flight. Then look at my "to" flight ticket again. How the heck did I miss that!!? I managed to book both my flights for 28th September and only discovered so at the airport. Bummer. So I had to go buy a new ticket, which is obviously expensive being I wanted one for that day. Still, it was cheaper than changing the ticket I had. And I did get to Belfast in Northern Ireland. That was the most important part. :)

I managed to find my hostel and check in. Quite a nice one too and I shared a room with two other girls. One was a lovely Aussie who I had lots of good chats with. Thursday morning I went down stairs to the cafe and enjoyed some soda bread with egg and cheese for breakfast. Then I got on the tour bus for the journey north.

Mostly I just sat back and enjoyed the scenery along the coastal route. We stopped briefly at Carrickfergus Castle. Just to look at the outside. The main stop was what I really went for. The Giant's Causeway. The driver had called ahead to order our meals at the hotel so we could eat as soon as we got there. The meals were good too. But if I had to re-do it I would have just bought a sandwich from the little shop we stopped at earlier on the drive up so I could have more time down at the Giant's Causeway. Lunch still took almost an hour and we only had 2hrs there. I walked fast down the track that led to the causeway and that took 20mins too. So it all felt a bit rushed. And crowded for that matter. There was loads of people there.

Time trials aside, it was a lovely day for it. The sun was shining and it was a nice walk down along a beautiful coast. I was thrilled when the causeway came into view. Such fascinating rock formations. There's not really any words for it.
The legend goes that a giant from Northern Ireland built the causeway to challenge a giant in Scotland. The Scottish one accepted the challenge and started over the causeway. The Irish one got a bit freaked by the size of him as he saw him coming and didn't want to get pulverised. So his woman giant dressed him as a baby and put him in a giant crib. The Scottish giant saw the crib and 'baby' as he got closer and thought, "Heck, if that's the baby I'd hate to meet the dad." Panicked, he fled back to Scotland ripping up the causeway behind him. Now of course, I first heard this story on my Scotland tour and the Scottish tell it in reverse. Either way, in my opinion, you have two stupid giants. ;)

The major worry for the day was my camera. It started playing up. I'd taken a whole bunch of photos and when I went to view them they were unrecognisable. It said they couldn't be displayed. In the short, I somehow managed to get it working properly again but I'm a bit disappointed I didn't end up with more photos (and the good ones before the clouds came over again). The Giants Causeway was the reason I even went to Northern Ireland. At least I did recored some and I squeezed in a few more shots before I needed to hike back up the path to meet the bus again. It was good to actually see it in person too. We went on to Bushmills Distillary which is apparently the oldest licenced one in the world. Then to the next stop--Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Fisherman once crossed this 100ft high 6oft gap on a rope bridge with only a single handrope to fish for salmon from the island. It's a lot sturdier now and regularly checked to make sure it's safe. It barely even sways so it wasn't scary at all. I thought it might be a bit more of a thrill but it was still fun to cross.
I enjoyed the scenery. We had to walk a km down to the bridge from the car park. And a km back obviously. It was a nice relaxing journey sitting on the bus watching Northern Ireland pass by out my window too.

Back at the hotel I uploaded my photos onto my computer and formated my SD card. I'm hoping the problem was with the card not the camera as this in my 2mth old camera. So far it seems to be working fine again.

I wandered around Belfast a bit before I settled in for the night at the hostel. I was up early the next morning to catch a bus to Dublin airport to begin my Republic of Ireland road trip.

08 September 2011

surviving my own rollercoaster

I think my emotional regulator is broken.

Since getting back from Scotland, whatever the emotion it's been dramatic. When I'm happy I'm blissfully cheery. When I'm sad I'm devastated. When I'm worried I'm panicking and woeful. Even my calm has been perfectly peaceful. And all that can be in the one day. It's doing my head in.

Perhaps it's all the change and unsettledness of my current situation. The abrupt loss of my job, the high of my wonderful Scotland adventure (mingled with necessary preparations for my return), moving out the day I got back and in with a guy I don't know very well that I find a bit of an odd experience and being a state of limbo, even now with having a new job but having to wait three weeks for it to start. That's a lot of change--sudden and unprepared for. Especially when I'm the kind of person that takes time to adjust. Perhaps that's why I've been wildly emotional. It would make sense.

Maybe I just need to hang on and ride it out.

06 September 2011

scotland--the wild

Tuesday 23 August I got up quite early after a late night to get to the meeting spot in Edinburgh for my tour through the Highlands and Hebrides with Wild in Scotland. Six days of wonderful adventure, fun company and splendid scenery. As I said in the last post, each day continued to be better than the last making this section certainly the best part of my time in Scotland.

So this day, Day One, I joined about 15 others and our tour guide drove us off on our adventure. We stopped first at Glencoe hearing about the corrections to the Braveheart movie. It was quite interesting but I don't actually remember the details now. We saw the statue of Robert the Bruce King of Scots with Stirling Castle in the background. Then we drove on through the great glen stopping for a while as we reached the mountains. We wandered around for a while along a track in the valley. Heather was in flower all over the place. Back at the bus Matt, our tour guide, got out some whisky for us all to have a toast. Slangevar! (That's the gaelic salute.) We were just starting to roll into the highlands and settle into our tour and warm up to the group.

We had a few stops along the way that day. We never drove more than about 2hrs at a time and that didn't happen often. In fact our longest straight travel time was the ferry from the Isle of Lewis back to the mainland. But that comes toward the end. As for the first day, we got to see some highland cows up close. Funny hairy things they are. :) Apparently very lean meat and not so tasty but I do wonder if they've ever used their hair for yarn... We also had a short stop by an area that tourists kept adding piles of rocks by the side of the road. Interesting and odd to see. Later in the day we also stopped by Eilean Donan Castle still owned by the Clan MacRae that they open to the public. We then drove on to Plockton where we stayed in a compact hostel which was probably good for a bit of group bonding. We had a kitty we all put in to, we shopped for food supplies and cooked our evening meals together as a group. I actually quite liked this method and it made it a cheaper tour too. And Matt did a great job at finalising a decision for us easy-going bunch. Ha ha.

Day Two had us first into Stromeferry where the Wild in Scotland office is--overlooking Loch Carron. There we met a character, Neil, who took us out on his little fishing boat. While Captin Allison (one of the group) steered us around the lake, we scrapped the Loch floor with a net and pulled up an assortment of critters. Mostly oysters I think but also some starfish, sunfish, rocks, shells and other wierd bits and pieces. Neil cut open the oysters and people ate them. He also cooked some up in a little garlic butter as well. Everyone was poking around the pile of Loch floor stuff except me. I found myself standing back thinking, "I don't want to touch any of it." We also looked at some crabs and a lobster Neil was holding in some cages closer to shore. After that we climbed aboard our bus and drove over the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Here we got our first downpour while we were grocery shopping in Portree. Wonderfully this one downpour and most of the last day of the tour were the only real wet patches we had on tour. We really did have splendid Scottish weather. Matt told us loads of stories about the two main clans of the island, the MacDonalds and the MacLeods, and the horrible massacre.

Matt took us to see the Fairyglen which was a really pretty place that it seems the locals tried to keep from tourists for a good while. Some have found it though and I'm glad I got to see it. We drove through the Cuillin Mountains and stopped for a walk. About half way along you could take a track down to the road where you could meet the bus. Those who didn't take that track adventured along a route our tour guide hasn't been himself that was suppose to take us right to the hostel we were staying at. The scenery along the way was amazing. The mountains were intersting shapes and the scene across the neighbouring ones were full of rocks and grass and sheep but not a tree in sight. Certainly not what I'm used to seeing. We got to a point where the instructions we were given were not so easily interpreted in our surroundings. We ended up deciding to go down a track we thought might be the one. Down a very steep hill. A very steep muddy hill. Ha ha. Adventure I tell ya. :) We survived no worries and we even came out where we were suppose to though we weren't too sure at the time as the track led us to a road and we were expecting to end up at the hostel. But just as someone decided to call Matt we found out he was just around the corner in the bus coming to pick us up. The hostel we stayed at here was much roomier than the last and by the time I settled in I was hungry. Tonight I mucked in with getting tea prepared. Actually, Allison and I got it started and organised. Tonight, as the night before, and the nights to come, we ate and we drank and we played lots of Uno and dice games. And chatting and laughing too naturally.

Day Three I think perhaps was my favourite. The scenery this day still has me swooning over Scotland. And as a group we were really getting on and having lots of fun. Of my ten days in Scotland, this is the day I wish I could go back and relive.

We caught the ferry from the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Harris. About a two hour crossing in which I spent most of my time below deck by the window with a hot chocolate and my knitting. I went up on deck where most of the others were closer to Harris and soaked in some of the sunshine with them. It was another brilliant day. On shore we went into a Harris Tweed shop. There was lots of cool things in there. I particularly liked a bag and a funky poncho style coat but I couldn't bring myself to buy anything. Everything was pretty expensive--it all being made in Harris Tweed which has to be made on the Isle of Harris or Lewis to qualify as authentic. As well as it's the kind of stuff I look at and go, "I could make that and it would be cheaper." Besides, I was on a fairly tight budget with this holiday happening suddenly. So I just adored and fingered and left it all there.
Back on the bus we set off around the Golden Road. Called this because it cost a fortune to build. I can't remember why though. There was lots of rocks, grass and lochs over the hills out my side of the bus. The ocean was out the other. It was a perfect drive. Glorious sunshine, interesting scenery, chatter, music, Matt havering away with various stories. ;) I would have happily done another lap. We stopped off at a supermarket for more supplies and headed up toward the Isle of Lewis which is actually joined to Harris. We stopped by Rodel Church built after the Vikings were converted. Interestingly Matt pointed out that built into the side of the church is an image of the pagen god of fertility. My most favourite part of the day was the drive past the beaches. I've never seen sheep at the beach before. He he. The beach we stopped at was brilliant. After living in a coastal town in the south east of England I happily proclaimed, "Now that's a beach!" Silly Brits. This scene was simply stunning. Our guide and the USA guys actually went swimming and most of the others went wading. As nice as it looked and even though it's summer here the water was apparently pretty cold. I didn't actually touch it. I happily stood and sat on the sand and soaked it all in. I was in the glorious sunshine sitting on a sandy white beach--in Scotland--looking across the shimmering blue ocean to the horizon where we witnessed a huge raincloud unleashing it's drama on the earth. It was magnificent!

Our next stop was along the shore a bit where most of us set out walking to our next accomodation. The shore line was great here. Loads of cliffs covered with grass and sheep... Oh yeah, Matt said there was one, maybe two hills. Try about five or six. This body is not built for hiking. Or rather, it's not maintained for hiking. Thankfully I wasn't the only slow one so I had company and we stopped often to play with our cameras and enjoy the view and try and figure out where the next marker was. It was also deceptively muddy. You had to watch where you were stepping in all the winding and creek-jumping we did. I got it wrong at one point and when I stepped down onto the grass my shoe sunk right into the mud below. Ha ha. My whole shoe went black. From then on though I wasn't too worried where I stood and trotted around a little more carelessly. What I did like about this walk was it felt like we were just roaming the hill tops. There wasn't actually a path to follow, just the next marker to make it to. The sun was setting by the time we got to our destination--the fabulous blackhouse village of Gearreannan. We stayed in one of the blackhouses for two nights. They are great. Built like the old days but modernised inside.
Tonight Matt led a team to cook the very scottish meal of haggis, neeps and tatties for tea. Don't ask me what haggis is. I don't know and I don't want to. Neeps is veggies and tatties is potato. Only our neeps and tatties, only half mashed, were mixed together. I didn't think much of the haggis but I'd be interested to try it again from a restaurant. Just to have something to compare my first and only trial to. The games came out again to accompany the talking and drinking. There was a long conversation between the Aussies and Americans about lingo, teaching new phrases and explaining their meaning and how to use them. Ha ha.

Day Four got switched around a bit as some of the group needed to do some things in town first. So we spent the morning in Stornoway and did some group grocery shopping and also bought ourselves something for a picnic lunch. Then it was off to one of the beaches to eat whilst the sun bathed us again in another beautiful place. After lunch we walked over to the Iron Age house. It's a bit of an archealogical site but it's been rebuilt into a working hut, or something along those lines. The lady there explained about the hut and how it would have likely been used which sometimes, more practically, differed from what the scientists concluded. It was very dark inside and she had a fire going for us which was kind of a nice experience but without a breeze that day it wasn't venting very well. Yeah, we all stunk after that. Not just smoke but peat smoke. They have this cool fuel source there. Dirt. Ha ha. I'm not sure how it actually differs from other dirt but it's actually called peat. It's harvested from the hills and dried and stacked as 'firewood'. Apparently it takes 50years to regenerate or something so you're only allowed to harvest for your own personal use from your own area. Anyway, with the windows cracked and the fan blowing our stench away we comfortably travelled to Callanish.

Here there is a most ancient stone circle. Older than Stonehenge. The Callanish Standing Stones are 4000years old. Matt gave us a spiel to consider about earth energies and where various paths cross and the mysterious impact it can have on people--with a 'believe what you will'. I'm not sure what I think about all that but I do like rocks. These rocks were quite big and I wondered if they were found as they are or cut out before being brought here and pillared in place. There was a lot there too. Not just a circle but paths to the circle and other offshoots as well. Would have been quite a job setting them up. The next place was more rocks. The broken down Broch (fortified dwelling house) of Dun Carloway. It pretty much had the top half missing. It was interesting hearing how it was designed for defense with a very short door so attackers had to bend over to get in meaning they were in no position to fight the waiting defenders as they entered and how the walls were designed to hide the inhabitants so they could they could defend from above through small windows. Ingenious really. And we got to climb all over it. Though I didn't actually get to that part myself. From there we went back to the blackhouse through more splendid scenery. I joined some of the guys sitting on the ledge around the blackhouse roof as the sun was going down. Thought midgies were fricken annoying. Mozzie-like little buggars but smaller and don't make you itch quite as bad. Mostly just pesky but it began to rain a bit too so we went inside. We were soon cooking pizzas for tea anyway. As well as the ritualistic chatting and game playing began, the spanish girls, Nadia and Sandra, concocted a brew of sangria. (The main ingredient is red wine.) We were a happy bunch that evening as it was shared around. We were all playing around with the various languages this night--having spaniards, germans, french-canadians and swiss in our group. Laughing at the way things were said and trying out some new phrases. Ich liebe dich alle!! Ha ha. :) A few of us went outside later that night. Being in a little blackhouse village meant brilliant star viewing. We could see heaps out there, until someone else came out and the light coming through the door of our blackhouse had us readjusting our vision all over again. Got to see some shooting stars and we found Orion. I asked if they'd seen an iridium flare before but since I had to explain what they were, I guess not.

Day Five we packed up early from our stay in the Blackhouse and headed off. We stopped by a local weavers workshop to see some weaving. Unfortunately he'd finished a bolt the day before and was in the process of tying in a new one. So many threads--he said it takes about 3hrs just to do that. He explained how the loom works though and I found it interesting and I found myself hanging about when just about everyone else had gone back to the bus. I couldn't help myself. It all looked so wonderful, those bolts on the wall. Fabric--real Harris Tweed--full of endless potential just waiting to be crafted. I had to buy some. I ended up buying half a metre of two different tweeds.

I liked that this guy did his own patterning rather than the set patterns to be transported to the fashion designers. Makes it even more unique. And what was even more awesome was that he gave me some labels that verify this is authentic Harris Tweed so I can put it on whatever I make. Matt told me later too that the guy's face had lit up when I asked to buy some. :) So I didn't buy a Harris Tweed product from the store but I got my own Harris Tweed fabric direct from the weaver who made it on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland! With the added bonus of being able to create with it. I'm thrilled. Ok, moving on from my rant :p ...

We then drove up to the Butt of Lewis. Shortly after I mentioned to Matt that I found it an amusing name because its the north most point of Lewis (though Butt mean cliff or something like that) he realised he had missed the turn off. Would have been back where I saw the sign that made me think about the amusement of the name. So we had to backtrack. Ha ha. It was another interesting place to visit. We wandered slowly along the dramatic cliffs that dropped way below to stand in the way of the crashing ocean. Lots of rocks. ;) It was nice to just wander around there, viewing, chatting, photographing, playing. Then we were back on the bus and back into Stornoway. I went and had a nice lunch with a few of the others at a local hotel restaurant. Most tables were reserved so we squished around a coffee table on couches and ottomans. After lunch we boarded the ferry that would take us back to the mainland. This was the longest non-stop travel of our tour--about 2hrs 45mins. But being a ferry we could move about or eat and drink so it's more like chilling out while you're transported somewhere. I sat with some of the group and flicked through some of Dan's photos on his camera and then did a bit of knitting until Uno started up. I then played for about one and a half hours straight with Dan and the various others that came, played for a while and then went.

Back on the mainland we continued on to our hostel for the night stopping for a short while in some town to buy up a few more groceries and get ourselves some tea. Matt was able to give us each £15 back from the kitty (being the thrifty spenders we were) which he said is the most he's ever given back to a group. Since the sangria was a hit the night before we splashed out on a good supply of more ingredients for this night, our last night together. We had loads too. So much left over even after all the consumption that they filled up big softdrink bottles with what remained to take with us the next day. It was a loud and merry night. While Dan taught the USA guys some card game the rest of us played UNO and we all dug in to new york cheesecake straight from the pan. And Maree got friendly with all of us on facebook with the help of the gathered swarm of merry women. Ha ha.

Day Six began with a trade off. There was another Wild in Scotland tour there as well and six of us went with them to continue up to Orkney and five of them came and joined us to make our way back down to Edinburgh. It was a bit sad really but at least the first couple of stop offs were the same so we still got to see a bit of each other before we finally said goodbye. And our first stop off for the day is probably the most famous location in Scotland--one of those places you simply must go to if you're there. Loch Ness!

The weather today was perfectly atmospheric as Matt told us tales of the Loch and of Nessie (known to the rest of the world as The Loch Ness Monster). We stopped at Fort Augustus were some braved the cold to swim. I made sure I went wading--partly due to my nephew, Tim's, interest in my going to Loch Ness and partly because I wanted to. Now I can say "I went wading with Nessie in Scotland." The water wasn't too bad once the numbness had set in. The rocks on the Loch floor were a little uncomfortable to walk around on but there was a buzz from all of us just from being there. We also stopped briefly to catch a view of Loch Ness over the top of Urquart Castle. There I ran around taking some photos in the misty rain with my raincoat on and barefeet. He he. It wasn't really cold and my feet were a bit dirty after walking up the shore of Loch Ness from my wade. I hadn't wanted to put my shoes on but after this stop where it was all tarred parking area my feet got washed. I put my shoes back on for the next stop--tourist shopping stop. A big souvenier shop for Nessie and general Scotland memorablia. That's where we finally said good bye to the switched travellers, hugs all round, and while they headed off north for another five days of Scottish exploration, we headed south (in a round about way) to wrap our tour up.

We went up through Inverness to Culloden and the Battlefield Memorial there. I honestly don't remember much details unfortunately. Some massive battle between the government army I think and the Highland Clans known as the Jacobites and I can't remember what exactly happened but it was a short battle and there was massive life loss. The story was interesting I just don't remember the details now. We didn't stay outside on the battlefield for long as it was raining. We also stopped by Dunkeld and checked out the over 1400 year old cathedral that was attached to the ruins of a Roman Catholic church. Inside, shoved aside into a corner, was the tomb/casket of Alexander Stuart, Earl of Buchan known as the Wolf of Badenoch rumoured to have been so cruel and evil that no one wanted his dead body until the church here finally took it. Leaving this place I felt quite sad simply because I knew our next stop was the airport to drop me off for my flight back to London.

The whole trip was just fabulous. The scenery--especially the outer Hebrides--was stunning, the group was a fantastic bunch of people to explore and share the days with, lots of fun with them, and Matt was an awesome guide in many ways. Six days was certainly a good length of time, I wouldn't have been near as happy with a shorter stint, but it was such a great experience that there was most definitely that longing in me for it not to end. But such is life. I was soon left at the airport after hugs and farewells with just my luggage, hundreds of wonderful photos and splendid memories and a bunch of new facebook friends. And what better ending really? It was a fantastic tour!

If you're going to tour in Scotland I highly recommend Wild in Scotland. Not only is it friendly to the wallet it's a fun way to experience Scotland.

01 September 2011

scotland--the cities

On Friday 19th August I set off on my quickly planned Scotland trip. I was quite excited. It was a busy time to go. I trained from London to Edinburgh and had to sit on the floor for half the trip. Apparently with the Fringe Festival on and the York races this was the busiest weekend for the train service. And thanks to the Fringe Festival I only found some accomodation to book two days before I went. (I'd found and booked a Scotland tour leaving from Edinburgh before I realised the Fringe was on.) Anyway, first stop was actually Glasgow. I went and spent a night couch surfing with a girl who hates Glasgow. Hmm, tainted my stay there. I didn't really enjoy Glasgow. It's a grungy kind of city and I wasn't sure what to go see and my host was going to show me around and then dragged me around town while she viewed flats and left me to wander by myself while I had to delay my train back to Edinburgh because my stuff was still in her flat and she didn't want to go back there yet. *Grumble*Mutter* That's my Scotland whinge. Thankfully, wonderfully, each new day was better than the previous. I still tried to be polite and make the most of my happily short stay in Glasgow.
They were filming in Glasgow. All hyped up because it's a Brad Pitt film. A zombie one...what's he doing one of those for? Oh, and it's apparently called World War Z. Surely they could have come up with something better. Ha ha. I must admit that Glasgow architecture will make a good backdrop. Just remember, it's not really Philidelphia like the movie will portray.
Saturday was a brilliant sunshiney day and I let myself out for breakfast and went wandering while my host slept in. I went to the People's Palace and winter gardens. The fountain out the front is apparently the tallest terracotta fountain in the world. Or in Europe. Something. The winter gardens weren't as big as I thought they might be and they had it sectioned off so you couldn't even wander around in there. Pfft. The People's Palace had a museum about Glasgow which was quite interesting. During the war days and how the government prepared well, the problems in Glasgow through the years with drinking, housing and crime, how they enjoyed themselves (in ways other than the ones I just mentioned) and daily life style. It's known for it's grunge and violence though it's far better these days. They even had a house/room set up to display what was a common living space for a family. Very compact. I met my host and we trappsed across town. Right across town on foot. In a hurry. I sat in the Botanical Gardens while she viewed a flat. By this time I was wanting to head back to catch a train but remembered my stuff was at her place still. She had another flat to view in a few hours and didn't want to go back yet so I had to settle for a later train. She showed me a couple of buildings and then left me to it. I had a short look in a museum and then wandered slowly back toward her place. Glasgow was all a bit of a wierd experience for me. I managed to get to Edinburgh and my accomodation alright.

Sunday came and I got into Edinburgh city (I was a 40min bus ride away) by about 10:30am. Once I'd walked into the Old Town the smile and joy came back about being in Scotland. The old town has wonderful buildings. The Royal Mile in particular. It's quite fabulous to see. The streets were packed with people for the Fringe Festival. It's a gazillion little events of all sorts of media--music, drama, comedy, performances of various kinds. I wondered around....and around....and around.... I don't think I really knew what I was doing. I was getting annoyed with myself because I was in Edinburgh and I hadn't done anything but wander around. Ha ha ha. Oh dear. I had eaten some food and bought a few souveniers and decided not to go to the castle until tomorrow hoping it would be a little quieter. I did decide however to go to Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park. They looked cool coz I like rocks. :p I climbed up the path so I could get a good view of the city.

I went right along the face you can see in the pic but when it went around the end the path flattened out and I wasn't sure where it went. I just enjoyed the view from there and came back down. I later found out that this is Arthur's Seat and you can climb right up to the top. Oh well. I then wandered around again until it was dark, bought some Maccas and went back to my room.

Monday came and I got my butt in gear and got into town early today. Just after opening I was inside Edinburgh Castle. I went on a free tour, saw the crown jewels of Scotland that are no longer in use (being now a part of the UK) and the Stone of Destiny (used in Scottish coronations) and the room where Mary Queen of Scots apparently gave birth to King James VI of Scotland. Also saw the prisoner section and some live displays of weaponry and history and hung around for the one o'clock gun. Some of the buildings in the castle are still used for present day military business.
In the afternoon I decided to go and see some of the free festival events. I was here and the Fringe was on so I thought I'd embrace it. I went and saw a puppet play that was well done. They'd made their own puppets and I like how they displayed souls and spirits. Clever. It was based on a Russian tale about a soldier who basically cheats death and then is punished by not being allowed to ever die though he grew weak and sickly. It was interesting. I also went and saw a comedy by a group of british guys. They performed an improvised "tv" viewing (flicking between a documentary, a couple of soapies and news) with subject input from the audience. I always find improvisation impressive. Gave me a good laugh too. I was then on my way back toward the bus stop. But on passing through the Royal Mile I scored a last minute ticket to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo for £10. So I decided to go ahead and see that.

It was more than I thought it was going to be. I was on the side only a few rows from the 'stage'. It was also very impressive. My favourite was the Belgian Bike Band who came in riding pushbikes WHILE playing their instruments. That alone was magnificently impressive but they were also funny with their little skits. The music was great by itself but they were all marching around, some were dancers, some displayed military practises like the gun runners and modern day pirate subdueing. As it got dark they shone lights and pictures on the castle too. See the dragon? :) A fabulously enjoyable day.

It was late by the time I got back to my room and I was up early to pack and make it back into town to meet my tour group. And my Scotland experience just kept getting better.