October 16 will be the 5th anniversary of making the summit of Kilimanjaro. In celebration, we're reuniting with the other climbers to hike in the Lake District of England. We're also taking a week to visit Ireland and the Southern coast of England.
  • Day16

    Manchester to Dublin, Dulles, and Denver

    October 20, 2012 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 52 °F

    A long day of travel ends with a beautiful Colorado sunset. There is nothing like flying into DIA and seeing the vast expanse of cloudless sky over the Rocky Mountains!

    In two weeks, we've taken in more stone structures, churches, and tea than a single person has a right to. Regardless, I think there must be 100 things that I would say I enjoyed the most, but my top ten favorites include:

    10. "Traffic Calming" signs.
    9. Insisting that the door lock was broken on our room at the pub in Kilkenney, when it was actually my inability to figure out how to work it.
    8. Spending 5 minutes trying to figure out how to unlock the passenger's door in the Vauxhall, when it finally dawned us to use the door handle.
    7. After the two clairvoyants told us that they had missed an appointment, due to arriving the wrong day, it struck me that they should have known the right time in advance.
    6. 6'6" roads are wide enough for two way traffic.
    5. Five grown adults playing the Poo Stick game...several times.
    4. Mashed potatoes with two baked new potatoes on top.
    3. Reading Wainwright in a lovely cottage, on a wee road, in the old country. Brilliant!
    2. Clotted cream.
    1. Spending good times with Amy, Anhgus, Nick, Barbara, and finally meeting Millie.
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day15

    One last spin in the Lakes

    October 19, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 46 °F

    We packed up and cleaned the cottage for the next lucky visitors. Once the cars were full, we followed Nick and Barbara to Coniston. This village sits on Coniston Lake, which has been the site of some history. Back in the 1930's through the 60's, a father and son duo broke the world speed record on water at this lake. It is the longest straightest, deepest, unobstructed body of water in the Lake District, which made it the perfect choice for speed. First, in the late 30's Malcolm Campbell set the world water speed record at about 141 mph. His son, Donald, later set consecutive records in the 50's and 60's, and at one point, actually held the land and water speed records at the same time. The last time he broke the record he hit about 320 mph, piloting the Bluebird K7, after which he lost control, crashed, and died instantly. So, I guess he didn't get to celebrate that one. At the museum, we saw a replica of the K7, which looked more like rocket than boat to me.

    We walked a bit near the lake and had lunch at the lakeside cafe. We did a little shopping, then parted for a night in Manchester. It was sad to leave Barbara and Nick, but we'll see them again soon, I'm sure. Anhgus dared to hitch a ride with us back to the hotel, where we were all staying near the airport. I dropped off the rental car, proud to have not hit a single curb in this one. Kim and I will pack, so we're ready to catch our flights back home tomorrow morning.
    Read more

  • Day14

    A day in the Lakes

    October 18, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 48 °F

    We spent the day in Windermere and Grasmere today. Poor Nick had planned an 8 mile hike for us, which was then reduced to a portion of the trail, which was further shortened to a few walks around the towns. We got up way too late for a long hike, and Kim was not feeling well enough for a prolonged walk, due to her gastronomical issues.

    Grasmere is a nice little village that held great inspiration for William Wordsworth. We visited his gravesite at the parish church, as well as the cottage in which he lived. As we took in the views, it was clear to me that anyone could be a great poet with this much material. The area is flush with vegetation, and I'm sure the wildlife was abundant in his time. The lake reflects the fall colors today, and the water is probably still just as clear as it was back then.
    Read more

  • Day13

    Amblin' to Ambleside

    October 17, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 50 °F

    Kim, Nick, and I opted out of the 10 mile run in the rain this morning. Instead, I slept in and got going slowly. We made it out of the house around 11:00 for a walk to Ambleside. The Lake District is carved with hiking trails throughout the area. You cross through a number of gates, as a great deal of the countryside is used for sheep grazing. The sheep don't seem to mind people traipsing across their territory, although the farmers can shoot your dog if they go after the sheep. Otherwise, you are welcome to transverse others' property all you wish.

    Several species of trees are turning here, so the colors are vibrant against the green meadows. It did rain off and on, but nothing that the raincoat and quick-drying pants couldn't handle. The weather hung clouds and mist over the peaks of the fells (mountains) seen from the trail. Barbara gave me a little schooling on proper terms this morning at breakfast. Besides fells, I learned that beck is a stream and force is a waterfall. And I thought we were all speaking English! We had several moments lost in translation that we laughed about. I watched Barbara try to explain where we were, and Kim couldn't quite get it. So Barbara, ever so patient, spelled Rydal, which she received with an "Ohhh!" (insert inflection of finally understanding). Nick is terribly gracious, as well. He and I had walked over a bridge, where Anhgus, Kim, and Barbara stopped to enjoy the river running below. I heard Nick ask me if I had played the pool stick game. I asked for clarification, and he repeated the pool stick game. "No, but I've played billiards." Now, he could have easily laughed at my misunderstanding, but he kindly correct my hearing and said, "Poo stick game, like Winnie the Poo."

    "Ohhh!" (insert inflection of finally understanding).

    We arrived at Ambleside around 2 and enjoyed a lunch of soup and sandwiches. We wandered about the town a bit before hitting the trail home. Nick devised a combination of footpaths to avoid returning the same way that we came. We walked along Rydal Lake and hiked along a hill looking down on a much larger body of water. One of the things I adore about this region is the abundance of water. It seems like everywhere you walk there is a small creek, beck, river or lake. You are never far out of earshot of trickling water. Of course, the result is an endless hue of green in every direction.

    Tired, we arrived back at the cottage around 6pm. We cleaned up and headed to the local pub for dinner. The Britannia Inn is about 500 years old but has been a pub for just 200. I went for the traditional bangers and mash, since I hadn't had it yet. It was a delicious Cumberland sausage with potatoes mashed with sweet red onion and a lovely brown onion gravy. Delicious!

    Lest I forget for those who don't know...The Poo stick game requires each player to find a small stick. Once everyone is properly armed with their own Poo stick, they line up on the side of the bridge from whence the water flows. On the count of three, the sticks are simultaneously dropped in the river, and the players run to the other side of the bridge to see which stick floats past the predetermined finish line first. Quite a lot of fun for grown adults.
    Read more

  • Day12

    It's nice to be here, given there

    October 16, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 41 °F

    We were off to the usual late start, not due to planning but due to misdirection. The instructions I received for Budget said the car rental was in Terminal 1. Kim and I looked all over Terminal 1 and found nothing. Finally, Kim asked the man at "Disabled Services" (seemed logical), if he could tell us where the care hire was. Well, about three weeks ago (which is after I made the reservation) they moved the car rentals off site to the Car Hire Village. We needed to take a bus. So, we waited for the bus and then took a long bus ride to the Village. As we walked in the door, I heard Anhgus' voice. She and Kim chatted while I got the car. With keys in hand, we loaded up, aimed north and hit the motorway. We had very little trouble finding the Lake District.

    It was a joy to see Barbara and Nick again. They oriented us to the cottage, as we got caught up on things. After chatting for a bit, we set out for a walk to the next village over for lunch. We walked along a small river, transporting the fallen leaves of autumn trees. We wandered through some meadows for grazing, being sure to close the gates behind us. There are so many black sheep here. Now I know where they all go! Being called a black sheep here probably means that you're just like everyone else.

    We enjoyed an extended lunch at Chester's, by the water, then retraced our steps to Elterwater, where we will be staying for a few days. Anhgus and Kim immediately took a nap, and Barbara didn't surrender to the sandman until a bit later. I stayed up with Nick and did some reading, until it was time to eat again. We walked a hundred paces to the pub and devoured a chicken and leek pie. When we returned to the cottage, we ate a mountain of cake, literally. Barbara had a cake made with seven hikers on the summit. Unfortunately, Jim and Matt couldn't make it, but we ate enough for them too.

    Big cheers to us! Five years ago today we made the summit of Kilimanjaro together. We all agreed that we were happy to have done it...once!
    Read more

  • Day11

    A quick tour of London

    October 15, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 52 °F

    We decided that a hop on, hop off bus tour of London would be the most efficient way to see the important sites. We started at Victoria Station and discovered that the hotel we stayed in last night was in a very posh district. We weren't terribly surprised, as we had noticed an inordinate number of BMWs, Jaguars, Mercedes, and even a Bentley. We also found out that we stayed on the same street, a block down from 180 Ebury, the location where a little 8 year old boy wrote his first symphony-Mozart. Apparently the rock opera, Tommy, was also penned in this neighborhood.

    Our first hop off was at Buckingham Palace, where I was surprised to learn that the coat of arms included a unicorn. The palace is enormous, probably to accommodate all the tourists. This was definitely the busiest place we've been on our whole vacation. There was no queen, and we missed the changing of the guards, as that happens on the even days of October. Rats!

    We swung by Westminster Abbey, which is an impressive structure. We didn't pay the $20+ to go into the Abbey but opted for the free church of St Margaret next door. We enjoyed reading the crypt markers, and we're pretty sure we stepped on Thomas Payne. Our paths continue to cross. Big Ben and Parliament are right next door and preceded our drive by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the Tower Bridge.

    We hopped off again at St Paul's Cathedral where we ate at a nearby shop. St Paul's is where Charles and Lady Di were married, which surprised me, since I thought that was at Westminster Abbey. Personally, I would have chosen the Abbey, and I would have chosen someone other than Charles. Winston Churchill was also married here, as well as mourned here during his funeral service.

    Trafalgar Square did not disappoint for souvenirs. You can purchase anything with the Union Jack at the surrounding stores. For example, you could get a coffee mug, boxers, pencils, ties, lunch boxes, tea tins, and condoms all proudly displaying British pride. We gathered a handful of items, plus a couple of Olympic 2012 tees, then hopped back on. We finished out the tour passing by several monuments and memorials. My two favorite were the Women in War memorial. It was a large block of stone with coat hangers all around the top, with women's working gear hanging from the pegs. My other favorite was the Animals of War memorial. A variety of animals are seen chipped into the front of this stone monument, wearing their implements of war. For example, the beasts of burden are pulling carts, while dogs are sniffing out trouble. On the other side of the wall are free standing, stone-carved animals that are free from the shackles of war duty. Full sized statues of a horse and a dog prance peacefully away from the memorial.

    The bus dropped us off at Victoria Station again, where we returned to the hotel to collect our bags. We rode the tube to the train station, where we travelled a couple hours to Manchester. We are settled in for the evening and will pick up Anhgus from the airport before 0800 tomorrow. The three of us will drive together to the Lake District, where we will meet up with Nick and Barbara. Ciao for now!
    Read more

  • Day10

    From West, to South, and North to London

    October 14, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌙 43 °F

    We've had a long day of travel, interspersed with prehistory and food. We got out of Glastonbury a little late, which meant we were behind schedule before we even started. Tossing care aside, we drove to Stonehenge to take in the prehistoric site. Although Avebury, where we visited a few days ago, is 16 times larger, Stonehenge is more imposing because of its size and remains. It is the only rock circle that still has "lintels" or horizontal stones spanning the tops of the rocks standing vertically. The stones used here are also larger than the remaining ones at Avebury. Of course no one really knows what Stonehenge was for, but it is a perfect calendar, keeping track of the days and months of the year with great accuracy.

    In a race to get the car rental returned on time, we hit the gas and pointed the car to the east. We quickly popped into Lewes to grab our bags from Amy's house, as well as the two dogs. Actually the dogs invited themselves, getting into the car while the doors were open. They are so sweet, we couldn't ask them to stay home. The five of us drove south to Brighton, did a few circles (and that's WITH the GPS), finally arriving at our destination. We were a little late but they were gracious and didn't charge us another day's fee.

    We had a wonder lunch at a local French place, before departing from the train station. We hugged, kissed, and bid farewell to Amy and the dogs, whose bus was leaving shortly. It was wonderful to spend time with her, so we were sad to be leaving. I think we could have easily spent a month in Lewes, entertained every day by the simplest things. However, it was not to be on this trip. Instead, Kim and I boarded the train north to Victoria Station, where we will be spending a day in London tomorrow. It's a short visit to a huge city. We'll see the requisite sites and travel up to Manchester for the next, and final, chapter of our trip: the Lake District.
    Read more

  • Day9

    Can't get enough of the place

    October 13, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌙 39 °F

    Glastonbury has been interesting enough to extend our stay. At breakfast the two other B&B guests told us about running into a local yesterday, who told them the details of his pond's carp. Apparently they were beamed into a spaceship, and he thought he had lost them; however, the aliens did return them, eventually ejecting them into the pond from whence they came. He was quite animated about the splash made by their return.

    We started the day at the White Spring, across the street from the previously mentioned Chalice (aka red spring) Well. The red spring carries the female energy and the white spring exudes male energy. The spring is located in a dark, damp brick building that is built into a hill, so it feels like you are way underground. As we walked in, a middle-aged man pointed at our feet and said, "You're going to want your wellingtons for in there." Translation...you need your wellies (knee high rubber boots-all the rage in England) because the water is a little too deep for your current footwear. Amy and Kim talked me into stripping my pasty feet and entering the lair of darkness. The water was several inches deep in some spots and super cold. My little toes were shivering! It takes a bit for your eyes to adjust but there were four or so altars near the corners of the rectangular brick vault. The ceiling was about 15-20 feet high and in the center of the place was a large pool, wherein the spring runs, then drains out on the other side. Our B&B friends mentioned that men were swimming naked in it yesterday when they visited. Luckily we were spared that uncomfortable social encounter!

    We did some shopping at places like The Psychic Pig, and Man-Magic-Myth, while glancing at the windows of Faeries, The Wonky Broom (actual hand carved witches brooms), and The Witch's Cat. For personal care, we noticed you could pop into the Inner Beauty Salon or the Holistic Hairdressing and Healing shop. All this shopping was a little much for me, so I left Amy and Kim to do the fiscal damage, and I went down to the Glastonbury Abbey.

    The Abbey, like all other churchy things around this part of the world, was built on a pagan site. A capped spring can be seen in what is left of the cathedral's crypt. The spring was used for pagan rituals long before the church arrived. This church site is special though. Jesus's uncle Joseph is said to have come here and built a small church, the first Christian church in Europe, which stood for about 1000 years. A monastery was later placed on the grounds, which is about 36 acres of the town. Models of the original structure are amazing, and the enormity of the building was not imaginable to me. As I stood at the south end of the cathedral, I looked at the remains at the north end and could not get my mind around the size of this structure. Some of the walls that remain only stand about one-quarter the original height of the building. Incredible. Unfortunately, a king, who's name escapes me, dissolved the monastery, hung the abbot, and raided the church's treasury. The monks ran off to France, and the Abbey has been sitting here, watching over Glastonbury ever since.

    We rested at the B&B for a bit before dinner at the “Who'd a Thought It” pub and inn. I've finally had my official fish and chips, so I am a very happy girl!
    Read more

  • Day8

    Crystals, goddesses, and Christ's uncle

    October 12, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 46 °F

    Wow, they really mean it when they refer to Glastonbury as a spiritual center. You name the belief, and it's got a shop here. I noticed a store front selling Sufi wares, right next to the place with a Native American medicine wheel and a Buddha statue. There are more crystals in the shops here than a healthy mine vein. I've seen fairies, smelled incense, and thumbed through a dish of amethyst angels the size of my finger nail. There is an ancient goddess temple down the street from the dated Methodist Church, just across from the Tibetan meditation center. If you had no spiritual direction when you came here, you would certainly walk away with something from the buffet. If you were confused, you could get your astrological chart, a palm reading, or maybe some past life counseling. I can't wait to see what else we venture upon tomorrow.

    The story of Glastonbury begins with pagans and goddess beliefs. It is said that the uncle of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, brought the child Jesus to the area; Joseph was a trader in ore and lead, and this area is rich in lead mining. This is not as important as the visit Joseph made after the crucifixion. In 37 AD, Uncle Joseph is said to have brought the chalice, from which Jesus drank at the last supper, to Glastonbury. Once here, he placed it in a well. The Chalice Well is in a peaceful garden now, with serene landscape and plenty of places to sit and reflect quietly. The water that runs from the well has been at a constant rate and temperature, since these types of records have been kept. Furthermore, the water runs "red" from the well, as Joseph was said to have brought a little blood of Christ with him. Or there is a lot of iron in the water.

    Of course Glastonbury is the setting of all things King Arthur, as the Tor was identified as the Isle of Avalon, after the Abbey monks found the remains of the king and his queen. Although I prefer Monty Python's Holy Grail, the story of the King is pretty good, too. Lest I digress from Joseph, legend has it that he built a small place of worship here, creating the first Christian site in Europe. This site was later used for the Glastonbury Abbey, which we will visit tomorrow, so more to come on that one.

    Kim's friend, Millie, joined us for much of the day. She lives about an hour away in Bristol. We all met this morning at the Chalice Well entrance. We walked the sacred grounds, drank the healing water, then sat at the well. It was the first step in our spiritual liberation. We then wound our way up the Tor, a commanding hill that seems to have erupted from the earth straight up 521 feet. Once a sacred area for the goddess worshippers, it was later overtaken by the Christians who built the St Michael Chapel at the top. As noted by travel writer Rick Steve's, though, "apparently those pagan gods fought back: St Michael's Church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1275."

    Following the Tor, we returned to the Chalice Well to complete our tour of spirit. Once our souls were fed, we bid Millie farewell, and found a place to feed my empty stomach. I can feel the energy of Avalon all around me, and it makes me hungry.
    Read more

  • Day7

    Avebury RFD

    October 11, 2012 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 52 °F

    We got a late start (seems to be a theme), so we didn't pick up our rental car until about 1pm. The road to Avebury is a mix of motorways and smaller byways. It's quite possible that we went through 50 roundabouts today. Luckily, Amy had here GPS, so we were able to move forward the entire day; as opposed to Ireland, where we double backed a multitude of times.

    We arrived in Avebury about 4:30. With a light mist, the area was magical. Large stones emerge from the earth in flat meadows where there appears to be no rock. Concentric rock circles engulf you, making one realize how terribly insignificant we are and how briefly we appear in the history of the world. The earthen embankment, which I've seen called fosses, also create a circle and were actually constructed first. The embankments run around the outside of the largest circle. The builders dug a ditch thirty feet down, then piled the dirt thirty feet high at the edge of the ditch, creating a hill of sixty feet. These "structures" we're built in 4,000-3,500 BC. It wasn't until 2,600 BC that the stones were placed.

    We walked the interior of the large circle, after Kim and Amy did some serious purchasing at The Henge Store. The NE quadrant is filled with sheep, grazing obliviously around the stones. The other three quadrants were sheep-free during our visit, but there was evidence they had been there.

    Just beyond the henge is Silbury Hill, the largest man made structure in prehistoric Europe. Basically, it's a huge pile of chalk, dug up from the local area. The landscape here is just a few inches of top soil, sitting on top of solid, white chalk.

    We left the henge to eat dinner and drive to Glastonbury. We ate at The Waggon & Horses, a site built in 1669. The food was amazing, giving me the energy to finish off the drive to Glastonbury; home to hippies, crystals, goddesses, and incense. Just like Boulder, just older!
    Read more