Dream trip Day 101 Farwell Glasgow, ferry ‘cross the sea, Belfast

Ah morning! Ah deadline! Ah travel day!

It was actually cold this early in the city so I wore the hoodie I bought in Edinburgh.

Mornings feel unique to me, just like nights: still, calm and not many people out.

I fast walked through the city until I arrived at the depot.

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Bus Delayed read the electronic TV. Least I now had time for coffee and supplies.

There was a small market conveniently next to the depot as well as the ever-present homeless guy who howled and yelled at anyone passing by. The more things stay the same eh?

Fortified with coffee, breakfast and snacks for later, my bus arrived.

It was only a couple hour ride until we arrived at the port city of Ayr. I wound up falling asleep once on the bus with my headphones on listening to music.

The ship was huge once we arrived in Ayr. I’ve never seen such a large ship! It was like a moving mountain.

We had to pass through customs though they didn’t seem too concerned with me once I told them my full plans. I was on my way to Dublin, but wanted to see as much of Ireland as I could.

The rule at the time was if you are a US citizen, you were allowed in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa. You couldn’t make any money during this time. If you wanted to make money in a foreign country, that was a separate visa.

There was lots of activity once I was on the ferry. We had to climb several floors to get to the deck with food and beverages on it.

I elected coffee vs beer. They did have breakfast for sale, eggs, porridge, fruits, your basic breakfast fare.

The coffee was incredibly hot so I added more milk than I usually do in order to cool it down. I was also able to fill up my water bottle thus maximizing my savings on the overpriced ferry food fare.

I selected a seat near a window as well as an outlet for charging my electronics.

Knowing how a previous hot coffee between the legs scenario played out, I sat my cup on a nearby table, thus making it a real coffee table.

I was soon joined by a scruffy looking man with a pint of beer who sat to my left in front of the window.

“You Scottish yeah,” he inquired after taking a big swig off his pint.

His eyes lit up when I told him I was American. It was always referred to as ‘The States’ by anyone when I was in Europe. Never America.

We chatted about The States, DC, Grand Canyon (usually the 1st thing people brought up aside from Obama) and his life in Northern Ireland.

He worked in Scotland, returning home to Northern Ireland on weekends. I was part of his commute which involved a couple buses and this ferry.

We were crossing the Irish Sea when he told me he mainly repaired cars and worked scrapping parts from some of the more damaged vehicles he came across.

He had a couple families due to his drinking, which he said was under control now seeing as how he was only drinking beer, not whiskey or ciders.

I was happy to have a pleasant conversation for a change. We talked for over a half hour before he turned and just stared out the window. I guess he was done talking.

Excusing myself, I circled the observation deck to take some pics of the Irish Sea.

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The sea breeze was cool and water droplets pelted my face at times. I took the whole walk around the boat on the outside deck. Water as far as the eye can see.

It does take longer going by ferry but the feeling you get from being on the water is worth the time by my estimation. Wind in your face, water all around you was the way to go for me. A more elegant mode of transportation.

It was also just a bit less expensive to ferry vs airplane. Plus no metal detectors, pat downs, it was a very proper means of travel.

We ported in Larne where a row of buses waited us. You showed your ticket to a guy who directed you to the bus based on how you bought your ticket. Full ride included everything but you could just get a ferry ride or bus into town from this port.

It turned into a very grey, overcast day in Belfast upon our arrival as if rain could happen at any moment yet rarely did.

Maybe 15-20 minutes later we were dropped off in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I hit the streets in search of my youth hostel. I was now noticing hostels used the word youth as well as having an age maximum. Happy to say I was just under that requirement for this trip.

Belfast was unexpectedly beautiful city. I very much enjoyed the half hour walk to my hostel. I noticed every sign was in 2 languages: English and gaelic.

I noted the street I needed to turn on to get to my hostel, as well as the restaurant’s name on the corner. Best to always have 2 points of navigation to find your way around.

Still too early to check in so I scoped out my surrounding areas looking for pubs, good food options and a grocery store.

I turned around once I arrived at Queen’s University. Big green space behind a black iron fence seemed like a good place to explore once I checked in.

My hostel was on Donegall Road. Off in the distance was a mound, very similar to Arthur’s Seat. This was the Divis Mound and was several miles outside Belfast so taking a hike up the mound was not in the plans this trip.

Across the street was a destination I marked to visit, a baked potato shop.

The bar next to it was seemingly a set out of an IRA movie, complete with a couple ever-present guys smoking out front,  so I felt best to avoid it.

The girl who checked me in had long, thick red hair to match her thick Irish accent.

Pretty much every th word that came out her mouth sound like just a hard T. Every O sound was elongated like sew.

“Sew, ya want ta check in ta t hostel?” she asked. It took a moment to translate that, yet she was speaking English ha.

I was sharing a 6 bed room in the men’s dorm. Here the rooms were separated by gender as the showers were individual rooms with lockable doors.

Getting into the room, I placed my things on a top bunk near the window. I had a nice view of the now wet street below. It had began to rain as soon as I checked in.

Having no real choice, I laid down listening to the pouring rain.

Soon enough a couple guys come in and take the bunks across from me. They literally throw their things onto their bunks and back out the door.

It was still raining, though a lot less heavy and felt I needed to walk more, at least until sundown. Maybe get something to eat before heading to a pub I saw just down the street.

There was a small chicken shop that wasn’t a major US chain a few blocks away. It was a hybrid fried chicken/Pakistani spot.

Scanning the menu this was likely just supposed to be a fried chicken spot but they also had chicken and rice curry, and briyani (a Middle Eastern pilaf with spices).

Make mine a briyani please. I can get fried chicken anytime but I hadn’t seen this rice dish before.

It was delicious of course, a bit spicy causing a runny nose. A more flavorful chicken and rice dish than I was used to eating.

The rain began again outside, raindrops plinked against the windows. I began to chew slower and soon I was full. It was true, just slow down eating and you were full sooner.

I always feel bad throwing away food but they gave me probably 1 lb of rice.

“Can’t stand to see good food go to waste,” as my uncle used to tell us.

One particular breakfast, he scrambled probably 2 dozen eggs for 4 adults and 2 kids. He kept spooning eggs onto our plates until they were gone. We were young and still growing, you see.

I hurried across the street as it was still raining and headed into a huge, 2 story bar.

There were several big bouncers with tattoo sleeves out front of not just this pub, but every pub I passed. There must be fights all the time.

This bar was huge! 10 pool tables on either side of a huge room, bar along 1 wall. No place to sit near the bar so I sat along a wall near pool tables.

Of course first beer I got in Ireland was Guinness! So creamy and delicious, it made me feel what I’d heard was true, Guinness tastes better in Ireland.

It is nostalgia that makes you think, remember something tasting better, a more beautiful sunset, I feel. Just enjoy the moment, whatever you are doing, that is exactly what and where you should be.

There was an outside smoking section I availed myself of, a break from watching guys shoot pool and throw darts. It was a nice, brisk evening in Belfast.

Returning inside I sat watching sports highlights and a groups shooting pool.

A pretty blonde girl walked up to me, “Dew yew want tae plaay puhl?”

Of course I did! I met the group which included a couple gals and guys. Most of them were attached but not this one.

We talked about the States, Northern Ireland, beer while occasionally taking a shot at the balls on the table.

I got to know one guy the best, after a while I guess my charm wore off but not with this chap, he wanted to ask questions.

A tray of beers arrived with instructions to toast then chug them. I think it was a green bottle skunky beer so I was ok chugging it. Super cold brain freeze.

One doesn’t chug Guinness, that much I know.

I was led through a backdoor to a huge alley behind the pub. No one could leave through the front.

As I was about to say farewell and head home, I was instructed to get into the back of a taxi. I tried to pitch in on the fare but was waved away.

I had no idea where we were going, but I did know the name of my hostel, I could get back if necessary. There’s an app for that!

We were at someone house, with a front gate and everything! I followed everyone in, the pretty blonde who invited me was not around yet.

I spied an acoustic guitar in the corner so I began strumming chords, trying to make myself useful and entertaining. I wasn’t sure whose house we were at yet.

More people arrived and a beer was handed to me. I traded the beer for the guitar and they played a lot better than I.

Eventually the blonde who invited me to play ‘puhl’ arrived and nearly fell down some stairs. She had taken a few shots at the bar in addition to beer.

Her and several others disappeared into another room not to be seen the rest of the evening. I listened intently to the Irishmen playing guitar.

A long-haired chap sat and began rolling a joint. A couple of us followed him outside.

Ah ah, finally I met someone who lived here. We exchanged pleasantries and talked about life in Belfast. Long hours at work but he had a nice place to hang out in the backyard so he was happy.

He was excited about someday going to the States. I told him to just do it, go now. Only 1 life to live, so do what you want. They cannot take away memories, not yet.

The Grand Canyon came up again, he wanted to see that as well as just drive for hours across the country.

I was given instructions back to where the bar was, it wasn’t far and he said the area was safe to walk. It wasn’t raining so I figured why not walk for over a half hour at 3am in Belfast. What could go wrong? Nothing did.

What an amazingly long yet excellent day in Belfast!

Beer: Guinness Draught

Song:  Them   Baby, Please Don’t Go

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Dream trip Day 100 Glasgow city centre, street performers, school bar scotch

Last day in the city of Glasgow for me. Parting is such sweet sorrow or so the saying goes. It is rough leaving a cool town and I was in the middle of a streak of visiting several cool cities.

The final days in cities on my trip were rough, but I made them rough with daydreams. I had this situation I conjured up where I’d meet some friendly local (female ideally) who wanted to hang out with me. I’d be invited to their cabin outside of town, the old family hunting cabin haha.

“Why don’t you stay at the family cabin for as long as you like?” I’d dream they’d ask me.

I’d seen too many movies, I guess, but I had a suspicion, hope in the back of my mind that something or someone would compel me to stay longer in a city I enjoyed.

I took the same route as the day before to the Necropolis, turning right once I found one of the main roads to city centre.

This area was packed with pedestrians and street performers.

Lots of guys, gals strummed banjos, guitars, hell I am pretty sure I saw a guy with a washboard strapped to his chest. Busking they called it over here.

I sat on a bench and watched several performers. It was great to hear tunes sung with a thick Scottish accent too. They accentuated certain words in just the right way.  I do miss the accent of Scotland.

If you can believe it, there were so many buskers out I was able to stay around a couple block radius downtown listening to 1 for several minutes before moving on to the next.

Quite amazing as this was just a normal day in August, no festivals, events.

There was time to plot out my path to the bus station to get an idea how long it would take in the morning. Hey it was not only an early bus, but 1 of only 2 per day.

The station was a few blocks from the highway crossing. I had a plan. Bus to ferry to Belfast in the morning! Northern Ireland.

I took the road back to my side of town though I walked down streets with houses on them so I’d get a feel for what life in Glasgow may be like.

Staying in a place for a day or a walk down a street doesn’t give you a great amount of info, details you may catch a dog barking, or kid playing in the street.

You’d miss grill outs, bakings, fights, wrecks and things that happen in a neighborhood.

Tonight I felt it appropriate to have some Scotch in a new place. They’d converted a school into a pub just down the street from my hostel.

This place was huge, tall ceilings, lots of windows. I suspected the entrance and main room used to be the gymnasium.

They had so many bottles of Scotch, I just asked for 1 I could only drink in Scotland, an in country special.

Alas had I created a note on my phone or emailed myself the name of Scotch but I didn’t so I can’t say what I had. It was served with 1 ice cube.

I know that I for sure had a Belvenie and a Dalmore when I was there as those were my go to scotches back home.

I sat outside and mentally joined a pub quiz that was in session, keeping my answers to myself.

Time flies when you have somewhere to go, before I knew it, last call was made and we had to leave.

Back through the hairpin turn to my hostel.

I set an alarm as my bus left at 9am and I had about a half hour walk to the depot.

As I’ve done many times before, I lingered out front of my hostel, looking up at the moon and stars, enjoying a slight breeze as my time in Glasgow ended.

 

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Beer: Bitter and Twisted

Song:  the Beta Band  Dry the Rain

Dream trip Day 99 Necropolis, the Arlington, stone of Scone

The hostel had a small assortment of beers, teas and coffee so I started my day with a cup in the common space.

Everyone had earbuds in and were furiously typing, talking or watching a video.

I longed for a decent conversation but others didn’t it seemed.

Out onto the streets of Glasgow go I, heading towards the Necropolis, the city’s ancient cemetery.

It probably would have been faster to take a bus but I sure saw a lot of the city. To my surprise, I just had to get to 1 road which ended at the Necropolis. Easy peasy.

There were few houses along this route, mainly it was a business street, warehouses, that sort of thing.

There was a main road through city centre to my right so I knew what I was doing tomorrow.

There was a large, dark cathedral off in the distance so I just keep that ahead of me. It was Glasgow Cathedral, built on the same spot as a previous church overseen by the city’s patron saint, St. Mungo.

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All over the grounds out front of the cathedral were intricately carved headstones and tablets.

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Celtic crosses were all around as well.

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Atop one of the mausoleums was quite a memorable image.  Time flies

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There were several people in the Necropolis taking full advantage of life by picnicking, drinking beer and sunbathing. Totally saw a woman in a bikini at a cemetery catching some rays. I love the juxtaposition of this image.

It was likely just the highest place in the city so why not catch some sun, vitamin D amongst the gravesites.

After about an hour wandering through the immense cemetery, I took another road back to my side of town.

Whilst walking back, I was crossing a street but not fast enough for 1 chap who just drove behind me. Through his open windows I heard as he passed, “Took yer sweet time dinnit ya?”

I stopped by a pub called The Arlington, purely because it was the same name of a city next to Dallas, something familiar in a foreign place.

What I found inside was a sort of homecoming.

This pub was what you would accurately describe as a dive bar. No big thrills or lights here but they had a hell of a soundtrack playing.

Ska, two tone, easy skanking beats, that sort of sounds. Not just Specials, Madness or the Selecter, this was New York Ska Jazz Ensemble, just smooth, horns and heavy bass.

I was towards the wall of the L shaped bar, the door to my left, wall to my right.

After I made my first trip to the loo, I spied a big void in the wall, a stone was illuminated in a dull green.

I read the plaque on the wall next to the stone. Now the tale will be in your court.

This was the Stone of Scone, the rock slab that every king, queen had been knighted on since the 14th century. Read up on the stone’s history.

The slab originated in Scotland and when the crowns were united between Scotland and England, it traveled across the sea, resting away from home.

Many Scots feel the stone should always be in country. It disappeared for a time in the 1940’s, the story goes some students at the university stole it and replaced it with a similar stone.

The stone was on display at these student’s favorite pub, the Arlington. The one on display in Edinburgh Castle is fake.

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By now it was passed end of work day time so the pub filled up. A couple gents began chatting me up.

They asked me about a futbol score of a local team so I told them having seen the highlights on a TV behind the bar.

‘You are American?! I thought you were a Scot! Haha, who are you?’ bellowed an uncomfortably stereotypical red-headed, bearded, burly man.

Soon his mates came over and we talked awhile about the stone, the pub and Glasgow.

They patted me on the back, ‘Your home mate, you’ve got Scots blood in you, I know it! Cheers!’ We clinked pint glasses.

A big grin spread across my face. I may very well be home! I am not certain of my family roots, no family line exists back to Scotland at this moment, that is for certain.

After awhile my new friends wandered off and I was left with a new bartender.

For a few minutes I expounded about Dallas, the US to the bartender, a man who dreamed of going to a city and country I had just left, perspective anew.

One of the hallmarks of UK pubs was the bar cellar. There was a small room beneath the bar that a large door, sometimes a rope and pulley system was used to open it.

I wondered how many times someone had fallen into a cellar. Maybe that is why some places had an elaborate opening system to let everyone know when it was open.

On my way out as I was settling my tab, the bartender warned me it was due to rain. He said his brother told him it rained in his city and as things go, if it rains in city A (alas I forgotten which city), it will surely rain in Glasgow later.

I heeded his warning which did indeed come to pass. I spent the evening at my hostel, having a couple bottles of beers.

Outside rain drops pelted the window.

Beer: Isle of Arran Blonde

Music:  The Proclaimers  500 Miles

Dream trip Day 98 Downtown Glasgow, park stroll, skate park

I had made a booking mistake. I booked this hostel for 1 night but had booked another hostel for a couple days including today.

The hostel names were similar, I didn’t check the details close enough so I had to pack up shortly after waking up.

I searched for a place to eat while having a coffee at the pub attached to the hostel.

I’d seen this chain before, it reminded me of Boston Market back in the US. Just rows and rows of rotisserie chicken spinning.

Nando’s was a South African concept that used peri-peri hot sauce of varying degrees of heat on chicken. It was really good chicken and hot sauce.

They had 6 bottles and you picked how hot your meal was based on the selection.

I lingered for awhile, watching large families come in. There were more whole families here, grandparents, kids, grandkids. Made me think of some trips a long time ago to the cafeterias when I was a kid.

I took the long way to my hostel, wandering around city centre, checking out shops, billboards, everything.

Seems that the boss in the Office (UK) was back as a singer/songwriter. I saw posters up everywhere for David Brent, pasty white guy with a guitar hanging off his back.

Soon I was at a highway so I had to find the walking path over it to get to the other side where my hostel was.

Always cool but always distressing to walk over cars.  I’d recently read about someone who was dropping stones on cars around Austin via an overpass.

Once over the highway, it was very green and residential. Large parks mixed in with rows of 2 story town homes. It was very nice.

My hostel looked like a boy’s academy like you saw in movies like Taps or School Ties. Lots of wood, oak stairs, dorm like feel. Only thing missing was uncomfortablely tight very short shorts.

There was a guy sleeping on top of his sheets in one of the beds when I arrived. Maybe he was meditating.

I placed my things under my bed and decided a light nap would do me good.

Once I was refreshed I hit the streets in search of cool spots. I was almost instantly rewarded.

There was a huge park, Kelvingrove, near where I was staying. I soon stumble upon a stream.

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Following the water as well as crowd noises I arrived at a skate park! For sure one of the least expected yet greatly appreciated, attraction.

I spied an empty bench under trees with a view of the skaters, bikers, roller bladers turning tricks in the park.

In short time I was joined at a nearby bench by some high school teens.

All the things I figured kids did here they didn’t actually do. No one smoked, had a bottle of liquor or beer, none of that bad stuff I saw on playgrounds growing up. They just talked, cut up and generally made fun of each other.

More walking lead to a huge Baroque building, the art gallery.

 

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Gorgeous campus and huge building, it was hard to get it all into 1 frame. Check out some better pics and history here.

I walked around the entrance to see about entrance fee. It was free but wasn’t going to be worth it today as they were closing soon.

Instead, I lingered around a walking group who had paused at the entrance and listened in to the guide’s story about the grounds and gallery.

I found out that the University of Glasgow was near but also closed due to the hour so I couldn’t check it out.

It was getting late, dusk time anyway which means get out of the park time.

I’d located a pub a short walk away that would take me through the eastern side of the park, through a nice neighborhood.

What is the going price on a house here, I wondered? What did these people do, where did they work, how long had the families live there?

My path led down a hairpin turn street that had a small green path in the middle of the turn it that lead to the main road this pub was on.

Any place called Dram! is worth checking out in my estimation. A dram is a unit of  measure for a shot’s worth of liquid, about an 8th of a fluid ounce.

An excellent wooden pub this is with stuffed animal heads on some walls. The wall behind the taps was filled with bottles of Scotch and whiskey.

I ordered a pint and sat at an empty booth in the next room over as there weren’t seats at the bar.

I ordered chili after awhile. It was a weekday night, still early at that so I wasn’t able to chat up some Glaswegians.

The thing people get wrong about chili is it isn’t supposed to just be hot, spicy and red. Nor is it a delivery vessel for fritos chips, it should be able to stand on its own.

When made properly, a bowl of chili is the best thing on a cold evening.

I mainly watched footy highlights sipping on my pint for a couple of hours.

The bartender came up and told me in a very thick Scottish accent they were ‘calling for last drinks.’

I paid my tab and headed out into the night. Coming up at the steep path up was completely dark and foreboding. Pretty sure I hear scurrying up ahead in the bushes too.

Take the long way home

take the long way home

Ah yes, Supertramp would help me on my walk to my hostel.

A fine day of green walking today, tomorrow the Necropolis!

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Beer: Fraoch Heather Ale

Song: Primal Scream  Rocks

Dream trip Day 97 Scottish fry up, train to Glasgow, Drygate Brewery

Even though my hostel was literally across the street from the city’s main train depot, or is it train station? At what point does it become a depot?

At any rate, I had all afternoon as it was a 1 hour train ride so I had to kill some time due to the late afternoon check in.

I had talked with one of my friends about a beer that we felt should have been easy to obtain in Scotland: McEwan’s Scotch Ale. Turns out it is made by an English brewery.

Using a beer finder app, I located a bar that a user reported had McEwan’s beer, plus they served breakfast. I’d need both things before heading to Glasgow.

I packed up my bags and headed into the overcast day. A few turns and I was at the Black Rose Tavern.

This was the pub I should’ve gone to most nights, it was real Scottish pub/music venue!

They had an all day Scottish breakfast consisting of eggs, hashbrown toast, haggis, black and white pudding, fried tomato and mushrooms. It was sooo much food!

This was one of my favorite meals on my trip. It was the 1st of many UK style fry ups that I’d have in Scotland, Ireland and England.

This was my first encounter with pudding, aka blood sausage. It came in black and white options. I presumed the black was the one made with blood, while the white was just a regular breakfast sausage. Both are delicious especially when dragged through the runny yolk of a fried egg.

Again, haggis isn’t bad and I enjoyed having it again. A nice Scottish meal sendoff from Edinburgh!

I did get a McEwan’s but not their scotch ale, it was a draft lager. My group of friends back home discovered this beer and hounded the bar where we visited to carry it. That was years ago, the brewery stopped exporting it for some reason.

Making my way back to the train station was easy, the hard part was finding the right place to buy tickets, then finding the correct track.

Lucky for me, Scotland has an intern program so there were people all over the station desperate for someone to ask them a question.

Not only was I pointed to the right booth for tickets, I had enough time to get the next train to Glasgow.

I was quite fortunate with my trains, but soon enough, I’d stumble like we all do.

Only an hour trip which flew by as fast as the countryside. A lovely country, made me wish I went up to the Highlands to see more.

I’d selected a YMCA style hostel near the tracks, but I only elected to stay 1 night so I could check out the place and that part of the city.

It was about a half hour’s walk through the bustling downtown. I arrived with still time before my check in time so I elected to wash clothes until they would let me into my room.

After washing I was able to check in. My room was empty when I got into my bunk for a nap, then was completely full when I awoke.

I noticed that there seemed to be 1 person who never left their room. They would arrange their bed with a sheet door so they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Some would be on their phones chatting, skypeing or just playing games their entire stay, from what I saw. At least I would have some stories other than hey remember that time we talked when I was in Scotland? Yeah that was cool….

I got dressed and mapped out a route to the nearest brewery, Drygate Brewery.

My route took me through an industrial part of town with not many houses, but I soon faintly heard music.

I saw a pub across the road I was walking and they were blasting Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35. You know that song: Everybody must get stoned.

Well this was a karaoke version lead by a man with the most stereotypical Scottish brouge I’ve heard to this point.

He was also adding in lyrics in between Dylan’s so it went:

They’ll stone ya when yer walking down the street (tha bastards!)

They’ll stone you when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat (cunts!)

They’ll stone you when you’re walkin’ on the floor (wankers!)

This is what I heard all down the street, big grin on my face. What a welcome to the city!

After turning away from the loud pub, I was on a main thoroughfare with lots of shops, pubs and restaurants.

Another right hand turn and while I thought I was heading the wrong way, the empty lots and warehouses gave way to the brewery.

It was a 2 story building with several picnic benches on an outside patio.

I made my way through the large indoor bar. In the back was the store where you can buy beer to go.

This would never work in Texas. The current law, unchanged since Prohibition, requires a 3rd party distributor. You can brew beer but you cannot just sell it directly to a person.

Sparse crowd out tonight, a week night and early at that. I’d soon learn they closed early too.

I picked up my pint and opted to sit outside, there was another group of guys out there as well as a table of girls, maybe it was a mixed group.

The sun went down just like the beer in my pint glass.

I sauntered back to the bar where I was informed this would be my last beer, but I could buy 2 if I liked.

Opting to taste a couple beers, I selected my final pint and sat down inside.

A girl came in and ask me for a lighter which I lent her. I’d gotten into the habit when traveling of carrying a lighter as it is a good way to meet people, start a conversation.

“You from Glasgow?” I ventured.

“Have to run, thanks for the light, cheers!” Came the reply.

I returned to my beer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t.

The walk back was a bit concerning due to the low light. They really needed to upgrade or install more lights, as several times I had to walk down a dark street.

No loud karaoke from the pub I’d passed before, just a group of people out front.

Once again I’m faced with McDonald’s as a late night option as there was 1 across the street from my hostel. Nah it isn’t real food.

I’d read this book and stopped eating fast food a few years ago. This trip was my ultimate test. Could I resist a taste of home?  A taste of something familar, or ould I venture out and try some local restaurants, a taste local flavors?

Tonight I won the battle and still don’t know what McD’s tastes like overseas.

A good travel day, tomorrow I explore Glasgow!

 

Beer: Ax Man

Song:  Belle & Sebastian   Stars of Track and Field

Dream trip Day 96 Princes Garden, bagpipes, nightclubbing

Last day in Edinburgh. I’d found 5 days to be a good amount of time in a place. You didn’t feel rushed, had time to unpack and unwind.

Anything less than 5 days in a city I felt rushed, like I had just arrived. I liked to unpack my bag and get laundry done every Sunday.

All the thing you normally don’t want to do are what you end up missing. Chores, errands, all the mundane, tedious activities that come with living in a home or apartment, that’s what you end up missing on a long trip.

I enjoyed a cup of coffee at the bar next to my hostel, which was surprisingly full of families, locals. I soon headed out and hit the streets.

Ascending the stairs yet again, I paused at the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde pub, based on a real Edinburgh resident, Deacon Brodie. By day he was a furniture maker and city councilor. By night he was a gambler and thief with several mistresses.

He made furniture and keys for people he eventually robbed since he had their keys and trust based on his good standing. The legend has it he designed the gallows on which he was hung for his crimes.

It is quite an interesting true tale should you care to read it.

Fringe Festival was still in full swing so I walked the Golden Mile pausing here and there to listen to a songwriter or see performers dance.

Such a bustling area, full of people walking, crowding around a performer and just having a great time. I do highly recommend if you are to visit Edinburgh, going during the August Fringe Festival is a great time

Had my final pies at Piemaker, another spot I’d recommend. A great way to start the day.

I took up a locals advice about a walk through the Princes street gardens, a green space near city centre.

It was a great, tree covered walk. They were setting up a stage for a performance that night and were playing some tunes on a towering rows of speakers.

I took at seat on a grassy hill and watched the workers building scaffolding for a bit. I turned my gaze onto some kids playing and saw a carousel, so I walked a bit further to get a good view of the carousel.

I don’t see many carousels in the US. I like that they are fun for kids so it’s a good people watching spot if I ever spy one. Round and round they go! They are finally free as most parents stand and watch or take pictures.

Soon I moved over to a bench and spied the castle from afar, perfectly framed between some trees, a Scottish flag flapping in the breeze.

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It moments like this that while I knew I missed a lot of must see spots in the cities I visited, I needed to focus on enjoying everything I did see.

I doubt that anyone living in a city sees all the sites either, all the historic places of interest so why beat myself up over missing them too?

I was walking several miles per day so I was seeing a lot, but I didn’t have a top 10 list I was trying to cram in. I’d done that before and grew to dislike the hurried nature of pursing a list of must see attractions.

Pausing at another bench I watched a street bagpiper play. I’m pretty sure Scotland during the national tattoo festival is about the only time a bagpiper is tolerated on a busy city corner.

The lone piper was fully dressed up with tall black hat, jacket with belt strapped around his chest, and kilt. Lots of oddly placed buckles adorned his attire too.

You do get into bagpipes sound eventually, the droning repetitive nature of the instrument does lull you when played properly. Or perhaps I have some Scottish blood in me that makes these tones set off feelings and memories.

I watched the sun go down whilst the piper blew his pipes. A nice end to a nice day.

Winding my way closer to my hostel via the cobblestone streets. Upon arrival I was shocked to find the pub next door was full.

It seems while I thought this bar was mainly for people at the hostel, it was a locals spot on weekends.

The Doric next door, where I saw the live band, was also full, too.

On the corner in the other direction I recalled a big pub so I went in to check the scene there.

I was in the UK equivalent to a sports bar. Pool tables, shuffle boards, TV’s everywhere showed current and past sporting events.

Not feeling in the mood to walk into the night for another option, I saddled up to the bar and ordered a pint.

To this point, I’d had bad experiences with stag parties, aka guys bachelor party where they are only out to get drunk and screw chicks. Tonight I encountered 2 hen parties, aka gal’s bachelorette party where they also just want to get drunk and screw guys…or gals.

Shortly after I sat down, a group of girls arrives, the bride has a shash that reads: brides just wanna have fun!

They proceed to order 2 rounds of shots, each time toasting ‘to finding some hot lads’

The maid of honour encourages the ladies to “get out there and find some fit cock!”

I knew some girls did this just as guys do, we are all human with desires, we just express these desires differently. But, they didn’t even look my way. How rude!

Throughout the night another hen party came in and began taking shots at the bar.

These parties usually dressed up the same with same colored shirt, white letters spelling out their group’s name and the parties event name:  “McKenna’s Wedding Party. There will be no surviors!” You know that sort of thing.

It wasn’t a crazy evening, no fights, no heated arguements, just a night on the town.

Edingburgh surprised me. I only picked it due to the affordable plane price. It’s wonderful, historic city. It was one of the most scenic places I went on my trip.

The Fringe Fest was another amazing bonus. People sure are talented and I saw many performers accomplishing many feats.

And hey, anywhere that in August, you had to buy a hoodie due to the cool weather, is a great escape from a place that regularly had August temps over 100.

Hooray Edginburgh! On to Glasgow.

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Beer: Deuchars IPA

Song:  Edwyn Collins  A Girl Like You

Dream trip Day 95 Arthur’s Seat, street performers, a live quartet

It must have been travel day because the pub was full this morning, nowhere to sit and charge my phone.

There was a luggage room with couches I could use though so I started my day there.

I was not the only 1 in the suitcase storage room, there were 2 couches and one had a female with a sheet pulled over her hair.

No sense waking her up to chat so I put in my headphones. Within 5 minutes, a girl comes in and begins blow-drying her hair.

The sleeping girl rustles and makes a sound. She was trapped, can’t ask someone to be quiet in a room that isn’t meant for sleeping. Yet why of all the places to dry ones hair was this girl here though?

Also as a balding man, I don’t understand the need for blow-drying one’s hair. Is hair mildew an issue? I  air dry my head hair, but it isn’t past my shoulders.

As it turns out the previously sleeping girl had arrived very late and had elected to forgo paying full price for only a few hours. It is a strange thing, all the rules about check in, out times but the biggest one is no discounts if you get in very late.

I mean, things happen, plans are delayed, roads get closed at night. I figured deals could be made, but in my experience, there is only 1 price no matter if you use a bed for 1 hour or 12 hours.

Today was a satchel day as I needed to carry water. I was going hiking up Arthur’s Seat, a small mountain near town.

Well it is much bigger than a hill or mound, but not a mountain.

If you are traveling, it is a good idea to get a messenger bag or some sort of over the shoulder satchel for carrying small items.

Inside your satchel should be a durable water vessel. You’ll save a lot of €, £ or $ on water, which you need during the day.

To maximize your savings, don’t buy water, tea or coffee. Little expenses add up.

Spending 2$ per day on water everyday for 30 days = 60$. That is 1 if not 2 nights cost of a room in a hostel. All you have to do is buy a water bottle…

Breakfast was at Piemaker again. They had quite a variety at  reasonable prices. It was also quite filling food.

It was perhaps a mile walk from High St to the entrance to Arthur’s Seat. You have 2 entrance options, both lead up. I elected to take the route with stairs options.

There is also another route that has hills going up. It isn’t hiking per se, but it is for sure more than just walking.

The stair route took about 15min of non stop walking. I was definitely winded but once you’re on top, your breath is going to be taken away at the view!

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Looking out to the west was the North Sea.

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The wind whips by at great speed. It’s so fast that a couple times I felt I would be lifted off the ground or more realistically my hat would blow off.

It was so beautiful, so I sat down for a few moments, to my left was aerial view of Edinburgh, to my left was the North Sea.

Alls well. I’ll remember this for a long time. Be sure to visit Arthur’s Seat, it is a wonderful place.

There are trails in other directions around the seat, it is a large park. I saw several long worn paths in the green grass.

The path down just seemed like a steep decline, but there were moments where it looked like you had to grab on to pull yourself up. A light hike, I’d say.

I soon recognized I’d been in this area before once I saw the Scottish Parliament building.

It was a road that lead to High Street. It also passed a fish and chip shop. I felt being back in the UK, I should have a proper fish n chips meal.

The entire menu was fried items, pizza, cookies, vegetables, most anything you could think of they’d fry up.

The size of the fish and chips I  received was intimidating. Felt like a pound of thick cut potatoes, chips with a big fried fish that was cut into 2 halves, a few inches of both ends of the fish jutted out of the styrofoam box.

It wasn’t too greasy, nice flaky breading. I added a brown sauce the guy behind the counter said I should have. It was like vinegar-y ketchup.

So much food! Too much food, I had to throw a lot out. I wondered if fish and chips warms up well as a leftover? Maybe put it in the over vs. microwave.

Now full I made my way to catch as many performers as I could.

I saw a singer songwriter with a guitar. A sword swallower. A fire breather. Groups of dancers. A drum group who pounded out rhythms while chanting. A contortionist who fit through a tennis racket.

Why there was even a guy yelling bible verses at everyone, but maybe he was just a local who was there every week.

The long street was blocked off for cars so there was lots of room for performers. It was quite a remarkable spectacle!

I found the stairs that lead down to my hostel. There seemed to be several ways to get to High St. I usually followed a road, but there were now 2 sets of stairs I could use.

What made this set of stairs cool was the fact there was a small restaurant on the left and a covered walkway. Looks like someone had a room up there!

Tonight I opted to try the nice pub a couple doors down from my hostel. It was a good thing I did.

The place was full, seats along the walls to the left and right, and in the middle were 5 musicians facing each other and a table. They played acoustic instruments: guitar, fiddle, pipe, a drum and mandolin.

I got a pint and a place to sit just as they began a new tune. A small lady played the violin standing up for the first few measures before holding it to her side. She sang a mournful tune.

They played several tunes alternating from slow dirges to faster tempo hoedowns. I heard a lot of jumping off points for bluegrass in this style of music.

They played for a couple hours. I noticed that as people left, they tossed in a coin or note into a bowl on the table. Ah ye old tip jar.

I made a point to drop some £ soon after I finished my pint. What a wonderful evening of music!

And they weren’t a band, they were just individuals who played there!

I popped into the pub next to my hostel to see if anything was going on. I knew nothing could top what I just heard but you never know.

There was a few people hanging out there, one guy motions to me and then the bartender. He had just bought me a pint.

The bartendress just smiled and poured me a pint, “He’s just arrived, been buying anyone who comes by a pint. He doesn’t talk much tho. Cheers!” she said as she plopped my pint onto the bar.

The guy who bought me the beer never spoke to me, just acknowledged me while dancing with his girl. He bought me 2 pints that night and I don’t know his name or where he is from.

Thanks mystery guy wherever you are!

Beer: Tennent’s lager

Song: Big Country  Big Country

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