Tuesday, May 31, 2005

May 15: Pit-Stop in Newcastle & Gateshead

(Along the Tyne River in Newcastle, with Gateshead Millennium Bridge in the background...)

On our way back south to Manchester from Edinburgh, we made a pit stop in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (aka, Newcastle), to check out the Gateshead Millennium Bridge along the waterfront. Also, it was a nice break from being in the car. :+)

Here's the Millennium Bridge in its resting position...

...and here's what it looks like in action. The bridge kind of swoops up, sideways, to let large ships pass underneath it. (If you're familiar with the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth, it's a little bit of that same concept, only with more of a horizontal lift to it.) Pretty neato.

Near Newcastle, in a town called Gateshead, there stands a giant sculpture called the Angel of the North. Pretty neat. Although it was really hard not to sing "Here's the angel, see the angel, it's my angel, no-one else's, next to the rakes!" a la Homer Simpson.

Carl: I say it's the angel of peace, you idiot.
Lenny: I say it's the angel of mercy, you jerk!

Homer: What the hell are we going to do with ten thousand angel ash-trays?
Bart: I could take up smoking.
Homer: You damn well better.

May 13-15 : Edinburgh

After our time down south, we took a train from Bath to Manchester, where we met up with Josh's old friend Steve (he met Steve when he was studying in Cardiff during college). From Manchester, Steve drove our merry band of miscreants up to Edinburgh, where we spent about two days wandering around. We went to the Whiskey Heritage Museum (yay for Scotch!), an incredibly cheesy place called the Edinburgh Dungeon (torture implements are cool, but overacting former theater majors aren't so much), and we tried some of the finer delights of Scottish cuisine such as haggis and deep-fried hamburgers.

Josh does his best imitation of Bono as The Fly. :+)

A winding street...

Right around this area, we were accosted by a "monk" who was "fundraising" for some kind of "charity project." Now, despite the fact that I'm a consummate hayseed, even I know that when presented with such people in the streets, one should simply smile, shake their head, and walk away briskly. Apparently, Josh's brother Adam hasn't ever gotten that memo, though, because he somehow not only got roped into talking to the "monk" for a while, he wound up getting badgered into giving a "donation" to get some CD of "monk rock." I don't know what "monk rock" means, and frankly, I don't know that I want to find out, but I'd wager it's some cross between Green Day and the Benedictine Monk albums of the mid-1990s. Oy.

The castle...

May 14th--Floor of lobby at hostel in Edinburgh, 10:50 AM: I really need to eat something. In the past 24 hours, all I've put into my system is an Odwalla granola bar, a deep-fried hamburger (tastes as good as it sounds!), and three pints of beer. Oh-and some Cherry Coke. Nutritionally complete? Not really. Lacking in most areas, really. To say nothing of the possibility of scurvy!

May 14th--Hostel room in Edinburgh, 7:24 PM: Revellers in the streets last night kind of kept sleep at bay in our hostel room by the busiest part of town...as did waking up and finding some big doughy German guy staring at me from the bunk above. Everyone together now--ewwwwwww! Dude, that's not cool. It was a moment where I actually felt slightly comforted knowing that I had three guys traveling with me...well, I don't know how much good they'd actually do, but you know, it's the idea that counts in moments like that, I guess.

Dig the phone booths!

Almost enough to make me want to put on some blue face paint and a kilt and run amok with an ax or something..."You may take our lives, but you'll never take our freeeeeeeedom!!!"

Taken from Steve's car on our drive up north...you know, it's weird, but it kind of reminded me of Montana. (All the little white spots in the distance are sheep, by the way.)

Written on the side of our hostel...I figure if the snails do show up, it can't be any worse than the zombie apocalypse, and lord knows Josh and his friends are ready for that. So I'm not too worried. :+)

May 11-13: Bath & Salisbury

(Along the river walk in Bath...)

We spent the first few days of our travels on the move from London to Bath, with stops in the Salisbury area in-between...some excerpts from my journal (I'm like a modern day Lewis and/or Clark!):

May 11th--Train to Salisbury, 12:35 PM: Seven hours on a plane with little to no air conditioning, compounded by a lack of food, hydration, personal space, and an average of about 15 minutes of sleep between the three of us makes for very giggily people. Irrationally giggily people. Like, the type of people who will giggle at Paddington Bear jokes for hours on end and taunt pigeons. In other words, we're basically behaving as we usually do, only more drowsily.

May 12th--Bath hostel room #1, 10:30 AM: Whoever said women are slower in the mornings than men was clearly not spending time around the right kind of women. All I have to say is, score one for the X chromosomes, because I'm up and road-ready and the boys don't even have their beds stripped yet. :+)

There was this weird dude downstairs in the bar last night, supposedly from Alaska, and yet he had a full-on British accent. Curious. Josh thinks most of the people there were escaped convicts, because no one's accent matched up with where they said they were from, and they'd say cryptic things like "I'm from North America." Who says that? Seriously?

I look a little bit of a nutter here, I guess...but bear in mind this was the day after we got there, and I was still a bit sleep-deprived. Or maybe all the secondhand nicotine was getting to me. ;+)

A representative photo of a street in Bath--they all kinda looked like this.

A view from our 2nd hostel (the Bath YMCA) window...look how they put those Hiltons right in the eyelines of the poor people. :+)

Behold--the wonderment that is THE WOOKEY HOLE!!!!!!!!

Now, we were really tempted to check this out...alarmingly tempted, really. But in the end, we decided that it could never possibly live up to what we'd dreamed up in our imaginations. The mere name, "Wookey Hole," is enough to conjure up...well, sheer wonderment, really.

Josh and his brother Adam at the center of a wee meditational maze we found along the river walk...we probably would've gotten more out of it if we hadn't cheated and taken shortcuts, but c'mon, it's the American way, right?

May 15th--Pub for breakfast in Edinburgh, 10:27 AM: Have I mentioned yet that a drunken Scotsman at the first hostel in Bath the other night kept stroking Josh's muttonchops and calling him "Mr. Wilkes"? Didn't think that I had. That sort of thing simply must get put down for posterity.

We took a little tourist shuttle out to Stonehenge (near Salisbury--yes, like the steaks) one afternoon...here's some pictures of the fields along the way, so you can get an idea of the landscape. Lots of rolling farmland, very green, narrow little old roads...nice to get out into some open space again.

May 12th--Stonehenge, 3:11 PM: So I'm my father's daughter and I'm officially too cheap to pay $10 to go & walk around at the Stonehenge site. There was a time when I would have been ashamed to admit that...but you know, you can see it from the road, seriously. And it's swarming with tourists--SWARMING. It's not like I'd be able to break into a rousing rendition of "Stonehenge, where the demons dwell/where the banshees live, and they do live well!" or anything. I was just as easily contented by running up to the fence and taking some pictures from there--less fuss, less hassle. Oh god, I really am turning into my parents.

Showing my inner dork here (oh, like it's even hidden at this point!), but when I saw this field across from Stonehenge, I immediately thought to myself, "Somebody's been four-wheelin'..." (from Mystery Science Theater 3000, the Cave Dwellers episode, in case you haven't wasted brain cells memorizing that nonsense like I have)

The yellow plants here are called rapeseed, and apparently nearly every farmer in the U.K. has decided to grow the stuff, because it covered about 80% of the fields we passed during our time there. Pretty from a distance, but it has kind of a stink when you get up closer to it.

"'Ello? 'Ello? Can ye hear me now?"

Honestly, is no place safe from cell phones?

At Stonehenge, they have a special bathroom for one-armed women.

More fields! This time, with bird action!

Some old church along the road. (Sorry, I get scant on the details when taking pictures from moving vehicles.)

Our Stonehenge tour included a jaunt into a little nearby town called Bradford-upon-Avon, which made for a nice little excursion.

A bicycle in the river...

Here's a church estimated to be over 1,000 years old, called the Saxon Church of St Laurence--this is the primary reason our tour stopped in this town, methinks.

Monday, May 30, 2005

More to come...

Home in Helena, and I'm as safe & sound as usual...I came home to blooming lilacs, a very happy housecat, and a dead car battery. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life. ;+)

I'm still sorting out pictures and piecing together journal entries I wrote on the road (my handwriting's bad enough normally, but it's even harder to read where I scribbled things down on bouncy buses & trains), but I'll start posting some pictures & stories tomorrow, I swear. :+) I'm still re-acclimating to being (A.) by myself, (B.) back in Montana in the sweet, dry, cigarette-smoke-free air, and (C.) reading my piles of junk mail, let alone re-adjusting to having constant computer access, so I think I need another day before I go hog-wild.

Here's a teaser from Missouri...a taste of things to come. :+)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Real quick-like from Edinburgh...

Hey, all--we're alive and/or kicking in Edinburgh, after numerous adventures & misadventures in the fledgling trip thus far. Too little internet time for going into much detail, but let's just say Uno is fun in any country, Josh's muttonchops garner him attention from entirely the wrong people (mostly drunken Scotsmen, actually), old people really need to shut up & go to sleep on all-night trans-Atlantic flights, and one can never EVER run out of amusing Simpsons lines to quote.

Will write more soon...gotta go rouse up the layabouts, we're supposed to be checked out of our hostel soon and I must lay down my iron fist of discipline yet again. ;+)

(Edinburgh, 9:47 AM)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

What I'm doing up at 3 A.M.

--burning music onto CDs in a half-hearted attempt to clean up my computer
--trying to finish a music review, so that I can enjoy that sense of accomplishment for about 12 hours or so before I have to start the next one
--making a list of things to do before I fly out to Kansas City on Monday
--making a list of things I have to do when I get home to Helena on the 28th
--re-examining the Europe itinerary and trying to fill in logistical holes
--glancing at the "Babies on Parade" insert from my hometown newspaper that my mom mailed me to giggle at, even though I really need to get this review done...
--thinking that I need to buy cat food tomorrow (Flannery approves of new Meow Mix Indoor Formula)
--feeling leftover Chinese food gurgling around in my stomach
--noticing that I've adopted my "tongue-against-the-roof-of-my-mouth" mouth posture that I always do when I'm thinking really hard or worrying too much.

(I think it was Emily that once told me that some people's tendencies to keep their tongues pressed against the roofs of their mouths was a sign that they were always thinking, or that they worried too much. Whenever I think of that, I think of a former coworker of mine who spent most of her days in the office with her mouth hanging open like a cow that'd been sucker-punched in the jaw, to the point where some more cruel-hearted than I referred to her as "Cletus, the Slack-Jawed Yokel" after that character on the Simpsons. I never had the heart to tell her about the tongue-against-the-roof-of-the-mouth theory, mostly because she had a tendency to throw beer at people and she was probably scrappier than I am.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"Trouble in Paradise"?

Excerpts from an article in the Helena Independent Record today...
Gov. Brian Schweitzer promised '80s rocker and Bitterroot Valley homeowner Huey Lewis that he'll be at the star's home later this month to see for himself the disputed waters of Mitchell Slough.

Schweitzer and Lewis spoke briefly over the phone Monday, but Lewis said he was uncomfortable saying much as there were reporters in the room, whom Lewis wasn't expecting. The governor had Lewis' phone call on speakerphone.

"I'll be there or I'll be square," Schweitzer said.

...Schweitzer, an avowed country-western music fan, clarified after the conversation that his "square" remark was not a reference to Lewis' 1986 hit "Hip to Be Square."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Oprah's guide to getting buzzed

Stemming from a post on Lindsay's blog, tonight I discovered Oprah's little primer on alcohol. And the picture above just about killed me for some reason. Looks like maybe Oprah's reached "Phase Three: Drunk," and if she keeps downing that wine, she'll hit "Phase Four: Wasted" in no time! :+)