13.09.2010 - 21.10.2010 12 °C
We took the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer in Scotland, having driven for 6 hours, from Cork city. We still had nearly 2 hours of stressful driving along narrow wet roads, competing for space with loads of HGVs, before we arrived in Livingston. It was wonderful to be with our friends, Bernie and Estralita, again.
We could just relax and keep warm, and felt no inclination to go out and do things. We had hilarious and naughty evenings in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, quaffing wine, and generally having [often outrageous] fun around the table, while eating wonderful food. Old friends - treasures indeed.
We had planned to put ourselves onto a low carb diet for 2 weeks, but as we were enjoying the food and wine so much, we kept on putting it off!
We needed the time to pack our last two crates, which were to join the other 10 being collected from Judy's house by the shipping agent. We advertised Mr Stubby, our darling van on Gumtree, washed it several times and had a few interested buyers, but no sale. Then, on cousin Judy's advice, we performed a ritual to bid the deva of the van farewell - imagine the sight of Bernie prancing around Mr Stubby on a frosty Scottish afternoon, with incense wafting out the doorway, and David and I earnestly doing our farewell-van thing behind her! What will the neighbours think?!! Unfortunately, as our departure time drew near, and we had still not sold the van, we had to book it on a ferry for our return to Ireland. We hoped that we might still sell it in Ireland, failing which a kind farmer (who is a CareDOC driver) had offered to store it on his farm until our return in the summer.
We had also been invited to use their house as a base, while we considered doing some package trips to different parts of Europe. We went to see the local travel agent, who suggested the cruise on the Nile, which sounded just right. So, no Europe - but lovely hot Egypt instead. We wasted no time in booking the trip for 2 weeks later. We also looked at a 4 day trip to Rome, but eventually decided it would have to keep for next year.
Bernie took us into Edinburgh for the day and we wandered in and out of shops, ate good food, and had lots of fun before heading home again. The architecture in the centre of the city is so interesting!
While the girls trawled through M&S, David went up inside the Scott Monument. It was built 170 years ago to commemorate Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish novelist and poet, who wrote Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, amongst others. David climbed the 287 spiral steps to the top; the passage became so narrow in places that both shoulders touched the sides!
The views of the city from the top were spectacular!
The nearest point at which we could join the Thomson tour to Egypt was Manchester airport, which was 5 hours away by road. We decided to go via Newcastle-on-Tyne so that we could visit the Bracchis again. This also meant that we would only have a 2 hour drive in the morning, to be at the airport by 07:00. When we were close to the Bracchis, our satnav, Molly, decided that the shortest way to cover the last stretch was to take a walking track through the woods! We bumped along, with Mr Stubby getting scratched and dented by branches on either side, unable to turn around. Finally, after about 2 miles, we emerged on the other side, rather bruised and worse for wear! Sue, Kev and the lads were astonished that we made it through the narrow lane, which they considered a physical impossibility for any vehicle - let alone a hulking great LDV van!
On our last weekend, Bernie had to attend a workshop in the Lake District, in the pretty town of Keswick. The rest of us decided to go along and make the most of it. We booked into the very nice Highfield Hotel, and enjoyed a superb 4-course dinner that evening. We were having such fun and laughing so much, that the other diners must have thought we were bonkers! We had stunning views over Derwentwater from our room.
We enjoyed browsing through a lovely street market on the Saturday, and discovered a unique jewellery shop called Expressions, from which we did not emerge empty-handed! Sandi dragged Estrelita back to the shop, and we are happy to report that a birthday present for Bernie left with her too!
We strolled along the edge of Derwentwater, admiring the beautiful scenery.
Autumn chill was really in the air and the leaves were changing colours.
The time in Scotland flew by, and all too soon it was time to leave our dear, kind friends and head back to Stranraer, bound for Ireland.