Christopher Solomon

Joined June 2016
  • Day27

    Madison

    July 14, 2016 in the United States

    We arrived home, safe and sound with only a few minor mishaps on the way back! I already miss Scotland; I tried to sabotage our travel plans so we'd have to stay, but Bogey wouldn't let me. Towards the end of the trip, we ran out of steam to keep the travel log updated, but I'll keep updating posts and adding pictures below. I added a some new pictures to our biking trip posts. Stay tuned for more. (Here's a "small" photo for now! Moo!)Read more

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  • Day19

    Day 19 - To the Isle of Skye

    July 6, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    Today was a true rest day. The plan for the day was to make it to the Isle of Skye, and H+I planned for us to arrive in dramatic fashion. They booked us on the “Harry Potter” train - the old-timey steam train that runs from Fort William to Mallaig, where we would take a ferry to Armadale on Skye. The train ride was picturesque and fun. I don’t know if I’ve ever ridden a steam train before. The highlight was of course passing over the Glenfinnan viaduct (see the picture). After arriving on Skye, the Bear drove us across the windswept island where he’d secured us a spot to tour the Talisker distillery. At Talisker, they make the burliest whisky to be found in Scotland (at least the marketing would have you believe it to be so). The tour was basic, but interesting. They were in production so we were able to see some mash in the tun, wort fermenting, and the spirit coming off the stills. We then had a brief tasting. It was fun! We then decided to check out the Fairy Pools, which are supposedly a series of calm green pools of water that form as the River Brittle comes off the Black Cuillin range of mountains. As we got there, the Bear warned us that they not be so calm as we’ve been seeing so much rain recently. Turns out the Bear is not only an expert mountain biker, naturalist and cultural historian, but he’s also a keen meteorologist - he knows his weather as we found out on more than one occasion. In this case, his prognostication was spot on. After a short hike, we saw that the fairy pools were not calm, but rather a raging torrent of water descending from the the rain soaked mountains. They were beautiful nonetheless. And true to their name, there are fairies inhabiting these wyld lands (they tried to steal Bogey’s cell phone).Read more

  • Day18

    Day 18 - part 2 - Who is Ben Nevis?

    July 5, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    After our morning “easy” ride on Cow Hill, the Bear took us to the Nevis Range resort which is at the base of the Ben Nevis mountain and acts as a ski resort in winter and a bike resort in the summer. We rode a few trails on the mountain, including a short piece of single track that was used in a recent Scottish Enduro Series race (a profession mountain bike race). It was dicey, but fun! After enjoying a brief respite in the cafe at the bottom of the hill, Bogey and I took the gondola to the up to get some great views of the area, and we also watched the riders with real cojones ride down the mountain from the top. After our day’s adventure was complete, we had dinner at the Nevis Inn, a gem of a restaurant which we was so good we had dinner there both nights we stayed in Fort William. We even had some haggis! (it was delicious) This night we were treated to a performance by a local cèilidh band (pronounced “kailey"), playing traditional gaelic music (picture to come). It was the perfect end to a day spent in the west highlands.Read more

  • Day18

    Day 18 - Fort William and Cow Hill

    July 5, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    After a hearty and delicious breakfast at Myrtle Bank (I got the full Scottish breakfast - toast, fried eggs, black pudding, mushrooms, fried tomato and a sausage), the Bear planned to give us an easy recovery ride in the morning, to allow us a respite from the previous days' hard effort. The town of Fort William is located on the west coast of Scotland alongside Loch Linnhe (one of Scotland's longest sea lochs) and the skyline is dominated by the surrounding mountains (when it's not inundated with clouds), the chief of which is Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain at 4400 feet. Our destination for the morning ride is Cow Hill, where we will circumnavigate the peak that obscures views of Ben Nevis in Fort William. We start the ride from the Braveheart car park, so named because it was a production site for the movie. Despite the Bear's promise of an "easy" day, we start the ride with a steady, but taxing ascent in multiple stages that take about an hour for us to complete. Once at the top, we enjoyed a nice rolling descent with vistas of wind swept mountains all around us.Read more

  • Day17

    Day 17 - Cairngorms - Part 2

    July 4, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    The Bear guided us through forests thick with Scots pines, alder and aspen. It was the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen. The floor of the woods were carpeted with thick peaty moss, ferns, and dotted with reindeer moss (which the Bear taught us was not actually moss, but rather a type of lichen). When we emerged from the wood into the open glen, the rolling hills were a flowing mosaic of heather just beginning to bloom with purple, and gorse sprouting yellow flowers. Interspersed were flashes of brilliant purple and white fox glove flowers. After completing our tour de force, we finished the day with a drive across the highlands to the west coast of Scotland to the quaint town of Fort William ("outdoor capitol of the UK"), where we stayed in the lovely Myrtle Bank Guest House B&B for two nights, where Dora (a former florist - evident in the beautiful state of her gardens) rules the roost with a firm, but jovial manner.Read more

  • Day17

    Day 17 - Cairngorms Mountains - Part 1

    July 4, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    Because of the skill and agility Bogey demonstrated during the introductory/evaluation ride the Bear took us on the previous day, he decided we were able to take on a challenging ride deep into a remote area of the Cairngorms mountains, Glen Feshie. We rode to forests and glens only accessible by riding through several miles of technical single-track trails. It was an extremely tough day and tested both our physical endurance (we ended up riding about 30 miles through wild, rough trails) and our mental toughness (we both crashed a few times). From the pictures, you’ll notice that we crossed a few rivers, including having to ford the River Feshie. We got wet, muddy and even acquired a few bruises and scrapes, but the reward was the unsurpassed beauty of the wild Scottish highlands.Read more

  • Day16

    Day 16 - Inverness and Aviemore

    July 3, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    We woke up early to do some laundry and buy some last minute warm weather clothes for the bike trip. Chris (“the Bear”), our guide from H&I adventures picked us at the B&B at noon. (I’ll refer to him as “the Bear” throughout the rest of the post to not confuse him with the other Chris). We went to their office, a beautiful old converted stable where we met Donald (the organizer of the trip). They had coffee, tea and a delicious lunch of Caprese salad, three scottish cheeses and oat cakes waiting for us. The milk from one of the cheeses (a cheddar from Mull of Kintyre) came from Donald’s family’s farm and was our favorite. As scared as I was (disclaimer from Chris: Bogey wrote this post), I knew I was in good hands after that. The Bear fitted us for our bikes and we were off to the Cairngorms National Park for a test ride. He used this as an opportunity to assess our comfort and skills in order to create a custom biking itinerary for us over the next few days. We rode for about two hours through forest and glen in Rothiemurchus estate. I was very happy to have detailed instructions and coaching from our expert guide! We got settled into our B&B in Aviemore, the Ravenscraig and then walked down the street out to dinner at the Winking Owl where we got a good taste of some of the local beer made by Cairngorms Brewery.Read more

  • Day15

    Day 15 - Edinburgh to Inverness

    July 2, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    Our stay in Edinburgh was short as it was only a stopover on our way to the highlands. We took a train from Waverley station to Inverness. The train journey passed through rolling hills that eventually turned a bit more rugged and dramatic. Like many older European cities, Inverness is situated along a river and has a scenic walking path alongside where you can enjoy a stroll. We didn’t have enough time in Inverness to take in any of the sites as we had to prepare for our cross country mountain biking and hiking expedition which started the next day.Read more

  • Day14

    Day 14 - From the Alps to Edinburgh

    July 1, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    Today is the day we leave for Scotland. We rose early and went for a workout at an outdoor fitness playground on a hill overlooking the lake (I couldn’t figure out whether some of the apparatuses were actually designed for exercise or for humiliating/injuring you). We finished our workout with a run to the lake and had a quick swim in its chilly waters to cool off. We then packed up, headed to the airport and arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland late in the evening. After the hot weather we had in Slovenia, the cool climate of Edinburgh was a welcome change (50s and breezy). We checked into the hotel and then went for a walk around the old town. Even though it was after 10pm, due to Edinburgh’s northerly latitude it was still light enough to see the beautiful architecture and feel the weight of history that is pervasive in the atmosphere and has shaped the city throughout the centuries. We finished the night with a quick visit to a quaint pub, where four gentlemen were tucked into a corner playing traditional Scots Gaelic music. It seemed as if it were an impromptu jam session and that they were playing for themselves, not knowing or caring that a handful of people watched with rapt attention. We enjoyed a few songs until we needed to retire for the evening after a long day of travel. How amazing it is that we started our day with a swim in a Slovenian alpine lake and ended it with a traditional folk music performance in Edinburgh’s old town.Read more

  • Day13

    Day 13 - Lake Bohinj

    June 30, 2016 in Slovenia

    We woke up to another beautiful day with a stunning vista outside our hotel window overlooking Lake Bohinj and the mountains beyond. We took an early morning walk around our town of Stara Fužina in search of breakfast, but as it’s a sleepy, small village nothing was open yet except for a cafe that mostly served pastries. Since our hotel room had a small kitchenette, we opted to drop by a little market and make our own breakfast from fare we found. We had a great meal on the hotel room terrace with fried eggs, local cheese, salami, apricots and pears, whole grain bread and cottage cheese. While we ate, we watched paragliders descend down from a launch point to the north and land a few hundred meters away from us on the shore of the lake.

    On our last full day in Slovenia, we decided to “take it easy” and settled on spending the afternoon hiking the trail that circumnavigates Lake Bohinj (about 7 miles). Shortly after leaving Stara Fužina, which is situated on the eastern shore of the lake, the trail goes through the town of Ribčev Laz. At the edge of town, there is a picturesque stone bridge leading up to an old church - the Church of St. John the Baptist which was built sometime in the 10th or 11th centuries (almost one thousand years old!). We continued along the south shore of the lake and on to the far western shore where the trail leads through the town of Ukanc (there we passed a nice little restaurant where we returned later for dinner). As we worked our way along the north shore of the lake, we were treated to great views of the towns we passed through and of the various boaters out on the lake. This area of Slovenia is known for rowing and produces many athletes that compete in crew or rowing and rank among the top in the world (a recent olympic medalist in rowing was from Lake Bled). In fact the New Zealand olympic rowing team was currently residing in the Lake Bohinj region and I’m pretty sure we saw them training on the lake as we hiked around it.
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