Touring UK with the Gnome – Pt 2

Greetings! And welcome to my little nook…..this is well overdue. I posted about my trip to the UK with my mum (affectionately known to me as “my little British gnome”) a few months ago, and promised a “part two”. Life happened, along with many distractions, and probably a move knowing my crazy life. The first post is back a few months so look it up if you want to see the first part of our UK tour, which covers Great Britain.

This one covers the areas of Wales and Scotland. It was well beyond description, and mum often refers to it as “A trip of a lifetime”. I am hoping the photos tell the story of how a daughter planned a trip for her mum, and how they ventured three countries together, laughed more than humanly possible, tried many things for the very first time, walked more miles than either of them thought was possible, and created too many memories to count. I hope you enjoy sharing our adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed going back over these many photos as I edited and chose, made me smile, laugh out loud, and certainly remember.

WALES

Leaving the UK we entered into Wales. Neither of us had ever ventured outside of the borders of England so everything was new. The countryside over in the UK as a whole is literally breathtaking. The greens are simply intoxicating, and Wales was no exception. The combination of mysterious history, coupled with the innocence of a simple view of sheep grazing in front of architecture thousands of years old, is quite a sight.

The towns we visited (can’t pronounce but just knew we were in Wales) all were full of character. Small shoppes lined the streets, selling their wares or foods. You could smell years in the air, the breezes were cold, but there was always a warm scent of something baking near by.

And more…….

And…..well……there were no shortages of bakeries……

And no shortage of flowers…….

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EDINBURGH SCOTLAND

I never realized that so many shades of gray could actually be beautiful, but it most certainly is. There is just something magical about being surrounded by so much history and walk along streets that have been there for longer than your homeland has even been in existence. It felt comparable to be walking in some kind of a story. With each corner sharing with you it’s secrets.

The accents were extreme. Yes, the language was most certainly English, and you could recognize the English words, but you still felt as if you were listening to a foreign language. The Royal Mile was probably my favorite, with each building taking on a personality of its own. Each shoppe with a personality just aching to be known, and color sprinkled about.

Personality for days….. The people were friendly and welcoming. Pubs were more present than any other establishment, times about a hundred.

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And…..of course…….The infamous William Wallace was everywhere! Couldn’t help but feel like yelling out…..”They may take away our lives, but they’ll never take our FREEDOM!!”

THE SCOTTISH COUNTRYSIDE AND HIGHLANDS

Amazing as you traveled north just how different the landscape became. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I didn’t expect it to be so rugged and so desolate. Once in a while you would find a small spattering of homes, but for the most part, the land was untouched. Raw. Clean. And went on for as far as your eye could see. (And snow. Wasn’t expecting snow!)

EXPERIENCING A WORKING SHEEP FARM IN SCOTLAND

We could have never anticipated being able to experience such a thing. Away from technology and the business of clicking and scrolling and driving and clocking in and out. We met a man who had spent his life working this farm, harvesting wool for various suppliers. This farm and lifestyle had been in his family for generations. He knew nothing else. And it was something I will not soon forget.

It was cold and windy. We sat on a wooden bench and watched these trained sheep dogs herd these sheep. It was simply amazing! He used sounds that no one else would pay any mind to and these dogs just took off in all directions, usually as one group in unison. Herding this huge group of sheep. It really was a sight to behold. What was even more mind-boggling, is when the “show was over” he shared with us that three of his dogs were 100% blind! What????

ST. ANDREWS ….. GOLF ANYONE?

Architecture for days……

SCOTLAND…….AND TRYING HAGGIS FOR THE FIRST TIME

Haggis is very strange. Made out of all kinds of things that I would never normally eat. Wrapped up and cooked in an animal stomach lining???? Seriously? But? Hell, we were there and couldn’t actually not TRY it, right?

What I wasn’t expecting is the “Celebration of the Haggis” routine before hand. There were young girls dancing in traditional costumes, bagpipes, and the pub owner literally dancing some kind of a jig with the Haggis proudly displayed on a plate as he sang loudly and danced and paraded the plate in front of all of us present. It was crazy enough that we just joined in! I’m still not sure I understood what we experienced, but it was certainly one for the books!

And guess what? The Haggis? It was simply delicious. And we all had a complimentary shot of traditional Scottish Whisky too.

The experience as a whole was definitely one of those “bucket list” things. For any of you second guessing whether or not to go on a trip with your parent? I highly recommend the experience! It will be one to be remembered and supply you with laughs and memories for the rest of your life.

I sure hope you enjoyed our adventure. I know we sure did!

Until next time…….be kind……always.

Polley93

aka Tink

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Top 12 Solo Travel Tips

Greetings and welcome to my little nook of random. For those of you returning, welcome back! And for those of you visiting for the first time, welcome! Make sure you subscribe so you can follow along on this journey! All photographs on my blog have been taken by me in various places.

My blog usually consists of Travel, Photography, Minimalism, and the occasional post about writing a book. For today, I am going to spend some time answering the number one question I get faced with: “How can you travel so much solo?”

The short answer is, if I didn’t travel solo, I probably wouldn’t travel at all. With my crazy nomadic work life, and my desire to go to places I’ve never been, it suits me fine just to get up and go and go by myself. I have learned much along the way, and far too much to completely share it all in one simple blog post, so I will make a dent in it and cover the top 12 tips for solo travel.

A sidenote. This post will be specifically about long haul flights to destinations far that you probably need a passport for. It is a myth that you have to be loaded to go on trips to faraway lands. My recent Budapest/Prague trip was a total of $1450 (airfare, accommodation, daily breakfast, and four side trips or excursions). My entire month excursion to Thailand next May is under $1800 and that includes a week add-on down south on the islands. You can get a one way flight from San Francisco or Denver to Paris, France of $259…..and no, that is not a typo. You don’t have to be rich. You have to be driven, creative and patient. I can dedicate an entire post or two on travel hacks and cheap travel sometime later if the interest is there. Let me know.

Here we go……..

1. RESEARCH BEFORE YOU GO

Get yourself a travel book. There are plenty out there that are good and cover just about everything you need. Moon. Lonely Planet. Fodor’s. If you are on Facebook there are travel groups that have been amazing! Have learned a ton about travel this way! Groups such as Solo Women Travelers. Solo Travel Society. Nomad Women 40’s and up. Solo Female Traveler Network. To name a few. For me? The best teacher is someone who has already done what I would like to do. So that’s YouTube. Every place, food, experience, is all on YouTube someplace.

2. PREPARE FOR LONG HAUL FLIGHT

The flights are no joke and preparation makes it much easier. (again, this deserves a post of its own but for today, will hit the highlights) One must have a neck pillow, eye mask, and ear plugs. A killer playlist and ear buds. Something to read. A one liter water bottle. Mints, toothbrush, Melatonin, and Advil. You get where I’m going. A flight 8 hours or longer is considered long haul and you are literally going to be sitting in a small seat. My flying time to Europe this past Oct was a little over 13 hours. The trip to Thailand is over 20. So comfort is key. Prepare!!!

3. TRAVEL LIGHT

Less is more when traveling and honestly? You don’t need as much as you think. Downsize everything you can. I went to Vancouver/Victoria BC and went with a backpack only (Osprey 40L). It worked just fine. Carry on only is a recommendation. Makes your trip simpler and you spend so much less time on unnecessary tasks and more for the reason you went to begin with. Take necessities only. Trust me on this one.

4. BE FAMILIAR WITH CURRENCY

Get familiar with exchange rates. The currency. How much each bill translates into your currency. Avoid scammers (YouTube again is a great place to learn about this), using a card is safe as you don’t need to carry around a lot of cash, but cash is necessary so learn how much it translates into.

5. ARRIVE EARLY

If at all possible, arrange a flight or flights that arrive during the morning or afternoon. This is such a nice way to start your adventure. There isn’t a sense of urgency. You have the time to take your time. You will be tired and a little off-balance after long flights and time changes, besides, being a traveler at an airport is pretty obvious so daylight hours helps with safety issues.

6. PHOTOGRAPHS AND JOURNAL

Always carry a little notebook around with you. It’s amazing what you can pick up, what you want to jot down so you can remember. Food suggestions, shoppes you’d like to return to, people you meet, things you see. True, we have smart phones now, but I prefer good ole paper and pen.

7. GET FAMILIAR WITH THE CITY

Get a map, or download google maps before you go to your phone so you can use offline, Get the layout of the city. Find a free walking tour (these are in every major city in Europe, usually free and tip only fees, very helpful and awesome to get to know the city by. local!) Find a hop on hop off bus and ride it for a couple of circuits. Saves you time in the long run and you can find things you want to return to.

8. USE CITY TRANSIT

City buses. Trains. Trams. Trolleys. Subways. Try them all. City transport is usually organized and cheap! Avoid taxi’s. Just avoid them.

 

9. FIND A BENCH AND PEOPLE WATCH

10. TALK TO THE LOCALS

11. TRY NEW THINGS

New Foods!

Try something for the first time!

Spending a day on a working sheep farm in Scotland. (no sheep was harmed, even though that is a humongous knife)

Eating fresh produce as you walk down the street in Chinatown.

Ride on a water plane……..

Walk amongst the giants and drive through clouds!

12. LEAVE THE FEAR AND HESITATION AT HOME

Get out there and find your adventure! For all of these of mine, I look back and wonder how. The list is long. London and all throughout England. Scotland. Wales. Victoria. Across the US a half a dozen times. Budapest. Prague. I guess I just did it. Figured it out. And went alone. The solace of being with your own self is very mysterious. You find things you never thought you’d find, meet people you never thought you’d meet, see things you never thought you ‘d see, and yet you have. You gain a new confidence within yourself and an amazing sense of accomplishment when you come home. You find and meet people who remain in touch and your friends. And your world view grows and grows. And why? Well……easy. You just decide.

So decide. And go. And if you are one of those like me, who have, then please either share your blog site, or your experiences with me! I thank you in advance.

Lots more to come in the coming weeks and months. Travel hacks and budget travel. My journey towards Minimalism. Blog on Budapest and another on Prague. There are destinations in the US I have never posted about. The list is endless.

For now? I thank you for the moments you spent here with me. You are very appreciated. Please leave a comment, suggestion, experience, share with me your favorite trip or destination, or perhaps a destination you would love to go to someday. My bucket list is very long, and in 2018 I plan to make it shorter.

Until next time……..be kind…….always.

Polley93

aka Tink