Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Overview of U.K. Trip
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.