Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Overview of U.K. Trip

It was definitely a whirlwind tour through England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in 8 days.  We are proud owners of a collection of pictures of blurry trees and trucks as we sped by sites that we wanted to photograph.  They will ultimately have to weeded out.  But it was an enjoyable tour nonetheless and I have a new appreciation for the U.K.

Johnny Cash wrote about the "moorlands and the meadows with their 40 shades of green" and I can't think of a better description.  The landscape is absolutely breathtaking as we made our way through northern England into Scotland.  The 40 shades of green morph into shades of blue as the trees disappear in the distance and the landscape is dotted with beautiful yellow gorse shrubs and white hollyhocks.  It is stunning!  I wanted to get out and hike, but of course there was no time.   

The people in Ireland and Scotland are incredibly friendly.  Maybe it has something to do with the copious quantities of Guinness they love to consume.   As we rode on the ferry from Ireland to England, the rugby fans started with the Guinness at around 9 in the morning.  At the risk of being beaten up by one of those hooligans I had heard about, I asked one what all the fuss was about.  He was very patient and explained about the European Rugby Championships taking place in Cardiff, Wales for the Heineken Cup.  He thought I must be from Mars since I didn't know anything about it, but I explained I was from Canada and only know hockey.  He said, "That's ice hockey, I presume!"  Oh boy!  We have a lot to learn about sports from each other.

The Irish were thrilled that the Queen and President Obama were paying them a visit and they are very proud that there is finally peace between north and south.  They are a self deprecating lot as a statue of Molly Malone pushing a cart, who is portrayed as being well endowed, became the "Tart with the cart" and a spire beside the Liffey River became the "Stiffy by the Liffey."
We attended a couple of typical Irish and Scottish evenings.  They know how to have a good time and they insist on everyone joining in.  The group at the table we were sitting at (Table A) won a singing contest in Scotland, but I have a feeling that Table A always wins so it had more to do with our choice of tables than our ability to sing!

The castles and cathedrals are magnificent, although in 8 days they do tend to blend together.  In fact, it became known as the ABC tour.  The "A" stands for Another, the "B" for Bloody and you can insert either Cathedral or Castle for the "C".  The buildings really are impressive and moreso when one considers how old they are.  It is unfortunate to see, at least in my opinion, modern buildings as backdrops for the ancient architecture.  The modern buildings are spectacular in their own right but it is too bad they couldn't all be in one part of town to allow the older buildings to have their own space.  The monstrous Millennium Stadium is a perfect example as it looms above and to the side of the Cardiff Castle in Wales.  It may well be that the Castle will still be standing long after the stadium has outlived its useful life.

Perhaps the highlight for me was Stonehenge. It is an architectural wonder as scientists have discovered it is held together by ball and socket and tongue and groove techniques.  It is something like 5000 years old!!  Not only that, but they dragged the boulders up to 160 miles.  It is well worth the visit just to stand in awe of its magnificence.

All in all, there was too much food, too much beer and too little sleep so it had all the earmarks of a perfect vacation.  I doubt that I will have another Guinness, although I tried it.  We were accused of drinking all the Carlsberg in a tavern in London one night.  One of the bartenders said, "No one drinks that stuff."  I was also scolded by a waiter for not eating my mushy peas.  There are some things that are just an acquired taste and, while I may have enjoyed peas that had been pureed when I was one, I think they probably fall into the "acquired taste" category.

It was a wonderful eight days and I would highly recommend the visit, although you might want to take more time to do it.

Monday, May 23, 2011


WINDY! The dust was blowing and it was cool as we spent the day touring and shopping in London. Along with thousands of other people we saw the changing of the guard. It all happens pretty quickly.

We have driven a lot of miles and seen a lot of the U.K. in 8 days. Lots of stories to tell. Could be a chapter in another book!

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cardiff and London

We are back in London after visting the Cardiff Castle and Stonhenge. The tour is now over except for a city tour of London. The Cardiff Castle was a palatial casual home for a Marquis and is a combination of contemporary and ancient architecture from a Roman wall to a bomb shelter. Stonehenge is an architural wonder dating back some 3000 years.
There will be more about the tour later. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I need some sleep.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Waterford, Ireland

Not so lucky today as we had to drive for miles to avoid the Queen's motorcade. When we got out of Dublin, we went to a silver factory and then to Kilkenny Castle. This afternoon we went to the Waterford Crystal factory where you can buy this nice little sculpture for around $20,000. It is still sitting there.
Tonight, it will be traditional Irish entertainment, but not for long as we have to be up early to catch the ferry to Wales.

posted from Bloggeroid


We had a wee bit of Irish luck yesterday as we left the hotel early enough to avoid the gridlock that would be created by the Queen's visit. Police everywhere! The British Prime Miniter's cavalcade blasted by us at one point.

We had a great tour of Dublin. Lots if history here. Then we went to a seventh century monastery. It is difficult to imagine our buildings lasting for that long.

Last nigh, Dublin was home to the European football finals. Lots of revellers about.

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

10th Century Church in Ireland

posted from Bloggeroid



posted from Bloggeroid

Belfast and Dublin

As we were about to board the ferry to Ireland, the Customs officer asked to search the hand luggage of six volunteers. Those who didn't have guns or contraband volunteered. When we crossed into Ireland, we drove past beutiful yellow gorse intermingled with white hollyhocks on one side and the coast of the Irish Sea on the other.

We toured Belfast and learned about the history of violence that plagued the city.

Now we are in Dublin and so is the Queen She will see the things today that we were supposed to see and we will see what she doesn't want to. I hope she will send postcards. see if we can understand the Dubliners.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Off to Belfast

You would never guess so I will tell you. It is cloudy and windy in Glasgow this morning at 5 am. Belfast, here we come! More later.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Spent the day touring the Edinburgh castle, wandering along the Royal Mile and enjoying a pint or two in a tavern. This evening we visited a farm north of Glasgow and were treated to an amazing meal of lamb in a barn that was also visited over the years by Rob Roy, William Wallace and wait for it. .. Mel Gibson! The latter was described as about 5'8" compared to the real William Walace's 6' 6"! We also enjoyed a wee dram. Belfast and Dublin tomorrow.


It is cool and damp in Glasgow. Typical maybe? Beautiful hiking trails as we passed through western England. No time to hike though. We also went through Gretna Green, which is known as the home of eloping. Lots of revelry in Glasgow as the local football team won something. Sorry soccer fans, I have no idea what!

Today we are off to Edinburgh.

York, England

After touring London yeterday, we are off on our Trafalger bus tour. Today we saw Shakespeare's birthplace and where he lived with his wife Anne Hathaway (no, not THAT Anne Hathaway). The countryside is beautiful and after a
walking tour of York, we are about to go for a drink and dinner. The bus is comfortable, the people are friendly and all is well. Early wakeup call to head to Glasgow tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

London, Scotland and Ireland

I am about to embark on a whirlwind tour of London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin.  Leaving tomorrow and looking forward to it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Great News From Africa!

I just received word that the well we have been raising money for in Tanzania is now producing 1,800 liters of water an hour, which is more than enough to service 800 preschoolers and 50 households in the community for years to come.

While our classroom project was finished pretty much on schedule, this one took longer than expected.  I was disappointed when we went to Tanzania in February and learned that the drilling had not started. Plan Tanzania staff assured me that it was imminent and we saw the drilling rig working about 10 km away.  Apparently, there are very few reliable drilling rigs in Tanzania so when they found one that can be relied upon, they stuck with it.

It did indeed come through and the project can now be considered a success.  They are still waiting for a solar pump, but the children will have their clean, potable water in no time.  It has been worth the wait and having seen the looks on the faces of the children and teachers who are so satisfied with their new classroom, I can just imagine how they will feel about having water at their fingertips.  It is another reminder of why we are doing this.

Anyone wishing to donate to our new project to help young women establish small businesses, which will provide livelihoods for their families and education for their children, can do so by clicking on the "Donate" button on the right.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My New Kobo

I bought a Kobo eReader about three weeks ago and I couldn't be happier with it.  It is wireless, easy to use and I got it on sale!  The computer interface is easy and downloading books is quick.  It is light and easy to hold.  There are a number of covers designed for it that are relatively inexpensive.  I am not sure how long the battery life is before requiring a charge, but I have been using it quite a bit since I purchased it and the battery is down by about half.  Perhaps the biggest and most surprising feature became apparent when I was sitting in the brilliant sunshine on Sunday afternoon reading one of the 100 preloaded classic books. The text was perfectly clear with no glare! 

There are a couple of things that take a bit of getting used to though and both relate to speed.  I think the speed at which computers work has spoiled us.  At least it has spoiled me.  There is a slightly annoying hesitation when the page turns on the Kobo.  It may be a fraction of a second, but it is there. That can be overcome by clicking to turn the page just before finishing the last sentence.  There is an even longer hesitation when changing from one chapter to the next.  In fact, pretty much any action you do with the Kobo, with the exception of downloading, requires a bit of patience.  If you want things to happen at a lightning fast pace, perhaps you should consider a much more expensive tablet computer.

I find that the pros far outweigh the cons and, if you are looking for an eReader, I would recommend the Kobo.  I am even wading through one of the classics, Moby Dick.  I am finding it to be a slow read, but that is just personal taste.  I have downloaded a Tom Clancy novel that is waiting for me when I finally finish with the whale.  I am enjoying the eReader, but many of the classics may just have to remain unread.