About 5countries32days

Mid life traveller with a love of all that is new, old and wonderful. Give me wine, local cuisine, ancient history (or newer history), throw in some art and good times with great scenery!

London Town

September 24

Oh lovely London.  We forgot how busy you are!  With excellent weather it appears everyone has descended upon London to enjoy it’s sights and delights!

With no real map we walked down towards Trafalgar Square – I am looking forward to getting a picture with those lions again!

We ended up taking a rather circuitous route – okay we got a little lost – but those handy map pillars put up by London are great!

Although I won’t be really happy until I have a paper map in my hand.

Canada House sits right on Trafalgar Square.  img_4482So nice to see the Maple Leaf in the sunshine!  img_4484





We found Trafalgar Square but it was all enclosed for an event called Malaysiafest 2016.  I was disappointed as I wanted an updated pic with the huge lions in the square.

We found the London Tourist info office and were able to get a couple of partial maps in their tourist books.  David was looking to see if we could get tickets to a football game (soccer for us) but it wasn’t looking good as the big game was Arsenal vs. Chelsea and Arsenal tickets are notoriously difficult to get.  You can only buy them if you are a member, so it is resales that you have to look for.  There was another possibility but the train ride out would have been 45 minutes and it wasn’t for sure that there would be tickets available.

We were going to walk through the marble arch at the beginning of The Mall road,

but it was blocked off as they were filming the next Transformers movie.  So we wandered over to Whitehall Street and stopped at the Queen’s Guard building to see the horses. img_4517 We walked through that courtyard and found ourselves in  St. James park.  We walked up the park along the the little lake.  img_4496Gorgeous day.  The swans and other birds seemed eager enough to come close for photos, but I think they were really looking for leftover ice cream cones, chips or other snacks. img_4499img_4498


At the top of the park we emerged at Buckingham Palace.  Again, so many people!  I took a rest and sat watching the traffic and people while David crossed the roundabout and got closer to the Palace.

We walked down The Birdecage to the Parliament Buildings and took some pictures.

There is a great park just across from the Parliament and the tower that hold Big Ben.


Then walked back along Whitehall Street to Downing Street.  It is all blocked off and there is a police presence at the street to protect the Prime Minister’s residence.


This took us back to Trafalgar Square, so we went into the Malaysiafest 2016 and had a bite to eat and took in the entertainment.


We walked back and ended up a little bit turned around in Covent Garden.  It was fun to wander about.

We were looking for a pub where we could have a pint and perhaps watch the football game, but everywhere was standing room only.

We decided to head back to Russell Square (where we were staying) and see if we could find something closer.   We did go to a lovely little pub just around the corner from where we staying.  It is called Friend at Hand and features a picture of a dog!  friend-at-handHad a nice time in the very full pub watching Arsenal beating Chelsea.  Definitely an Arsenal crowd.

Then we went off to find a pizza for dinner and returned to the building and up the 4 flights to our room to enjoy the pizza, have a drink and catch up on our email etc.

Lots of walking today!  Time for bed!



Goodbye Scotland Hello London

September 23rd.

David was so smart and arranged for a late check out today!  So we didn’t have to rise awfully early and were able to have a bit of a sleep in!

After a morning tea and instant coffee – not together – he is the coffee, I am the tea, David ran out and grabbed a couple of breakfast baps (breakfast in a bun) or in the case,  breakfast baguettes.

I finished my duties as the Packasaurus.  (I don’t know, is David intimating that I am as old as a dinosaur?) and we hauled our baggage down the corridor, steps and out into Glasgow.  David gallantly took both the big roller bag AND the big backpack, plus his duffle bag which left me with my carry on bag and a day backpack and the small carry on roller bag (too much stuff!).  I think that actually makes him the Packasaurus (as in pack animal not the packing person).

We walked down to St. Vincent Street, the one we had come up on and walked back towards the station.  There are these little bits of building that always interest me.

Glasgow Central is a busy station.  It is only a few blocks away from Glasgow Queen Street. Apparently the trains going further south to England proper leave from Central not Queen.

There are a number of stations about the city, but I don’t know what trains go to them.  Never had the chance to check it out!

We had a bit of a wait, but there was filter coffee to be had.  A note about coffee in Scotland.  Generally if you ask for coffee you will get an Americano made with espresso.  A few places have had ‘filter coffee’ which is what we North Americans generally drink.  Now we have found that those places that offer filter coffee make it pretty strong!!

We got on our train, stowed our luggage and found our seats with out issue.  But we did find out that we had no WiFi with these tickets.  A phone call (using the lovely conductor’s phone) to Virgin WiFi cleared that up and we ended up having to purchase WiFi for our 5 hour trip to London.  10£ and two passcodes later, we were connected.  Although the WiFi wasn’t great at that price.

Our trip on the train was uneventful and the scenery passed by in the bucolic sunshine.

However David noticed on his Twitter feed that there were apparently some issues with tracks coming into London.

Shortly thereafter there was an announcement that we might be a bit delayed in arrival as the ‘fast tracks’ had been found to have an issue and all trains were moved to the ‘slower tracks’ and so there was a queue of trains coming to the station.

The ‘loo’ fullsizerenderon the train made me laugh.  You have to hand it to the Brits – they have a great sense of humour!

We arrived to London to a crazy scene in the station!  With the slow down on the tracks, trains were backing up to leave and so were the people!  euston-stationThe gates were packed!  People were rushing through crowds as their trains were announced.  This is Friday evening and people are anxious to get home or away for the weekend!

We found our way out and onto the street where we spent a few minutes orienting ourselves.  London has done a great job by putting up map signage along major routes.  So sometimes you just walk until you find one and then figure out where you are and where you need to head next.

Our place is at the top (of course!)  there are 54 stairs – yes I counted them.  But the room is large and the area is lovely!  We are staying near Russell Square which is a pretty park in the middle of the neighbourhood.

We wandered over to a nearby mall that is nestled into the old buildings of the neighbourhood.  IMG_4477.JPGHad a lovely sushi, teriyaki and pad thai dinner and then found a pub that was FULL of ‘kids’.





img_4478We were able to get a seat and have pint / whisky but we left after that – tired and ready for bed.


Last Day in Glasgow

September 22, 2016

Our last full day in Glasgow.  How shall we spend it?

Sleep in of course!  Okay not too much!  But after a big day of walking yesterday it was good to relax a bit.

We had breakfast and then we walked down to Glasgow Central Station

and I put David on a train south.  He headed out towards Prestwick and Troon. Or he was supposed to head to Prestwick, but he got on the train and found it was the train headed to NOT TROON!  Never fear, a friendly Scot was nearby that told him to get off at the next stop, run over the connector to the other side and catch the train he was supposed to be on.  Easy peasy.  Done.

David had beautiful weather and was happy he wore shorts (although I am sure there a few Scots who think he is some sort of crazy Canadian, because it isn’t all that warm – but we find it a refreshing 18 or 20 degrees, without the wind mind you.  When the wind comes up it can feel a lot chillier!)

David first went to Prestwick He walked a couple of courses, got to talk to golf people and even played 18 holes.  Here is his story in his words:

“Traveled to Prestwick and Troon today which are courses where the Open has been played; last being 2016 at Troon  . Got to Prestwick and went into pro shop to get score card and had a nice chat with pro there..he asked where I was from and I said BC, Canada and he said he was in BC last summer and was in Vancouver and….Penticton! I said I was from Penticton…small world once again! He said I could just go out and walk the course which I did for a few holes…looks hard!

Went to Troon after and looked fantastic..right by the ocean…had enough time to do 18 at Muni Troon course…fun course and easy to lose balls!img_20160922_162006

Scotland golf…awesome experience…”

All good golf ends with a beverage!

Meanwhile in Glasgow, Diana headed off to the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art.  Free entry!  Which was good.  There wasn’t a lot in it, and what was there was of a rather eclectic nature that didn’t really fit my tastes, but to each their own!

A couple of film clips on loop, some string/rope tangled around poles, some prints of random photos.  The building is beautiful.

I then wandered around the Merchant Square and back up Buchanan Street.

Lots of people about.  There is some sort of food fair going on in the middle of the street, lots of vendors, great smells and people getting their lunches.   I browsed a few of the various vendors of scarves and jewelry and even plants.  But I have NO room in my bags (we over packed in case you haven’t read my previous posts).  So no purchases.  Well except a small one at the local Paperchase store… a couple of washi tape rolls and some letter stickers for my journal.  I think I can squeeze those in.

I stopped at the local grocery store Tesco and got a container of fruit salad and a yogurt and headed back to the hotel.

Our room had not been yet cleaned, so I grabbed my laptop and journal stuff and updated/uploaded  3 blogs!  Then returned to our now cleaned and made up hotel room and wrote 4 more postings for the blog.  I will have to have good internet connection to attach the photos and we haven’t had great internet in the hotel room.  I think it is because of the old thick walls.

David sent me a text that he was finished golfing and catching the 7:30 from Troon to Glasgow.  We agreed to meet for dinner down nearer the station at 8:15 pm.

I left the room to meet him and grabbed my scarf as it suddenly seemed much cooler.  img_4462We had our last dinner in Glasgow with a pint (or two) and had our picture snapped.



Oh how I wish I had taken an after picture from that one!  We walked out of the pub and as we strolled back there was a light mist of water droplets, which became a light drizzle of rain, which suddenly opened up into a full deluge with wind!  We skittered under a covered doorway with other people who also looked like drowned rats!  img_4464We tried to wait it out and it seemed to relent slightly so we hurried on, only to duck under another dry spot less than a block away.  After several minutes it let up enough and we quickly walked back in the drizzly rain.  We were soaked to the skin by the time we made it back to the hotel.

We really haven’t had much rain on this trip at all!

We were in need of some clean clothes, so David gallantly went out to the laundromat located just a couple of buildings down and stayed and did our laundry while I tidied up papers and memorabilia from our various outing.

The hotel leaves these lovely little shortbread cookies each day and it has become a bit of habit to finish our night with them.  So, cookies and tea (or beer for someone) and it was good night.



September 21st

We decided at last minute today to go to Stirling.  Hoofed it to the train station and bought our return tickets and got on the next available train.  Not a long wait!

Stirling has a good reputation for sight seeing and we are heading to Stirling Castle.

Stirling proper (the older part of town) is very cute and quaint.

We spied a future watering-hole for us and took off up, up, up the cobbled roads to the top of the hill.  No sight of the castle immediately, but as we walked up we could see that the building were getting older.

There is a massive church, St Rude, at the bend in the road.  We stopped at the info centre and picked up a map and bought our tickets for the castle itself.

Passing the church we could see a large and obviously very old graveyard attached.  There were old stone walls and massive iron gates.  All very medieval looking.

Up the hill and some stairs we emerged at the top of the hill and even though we were standing in a car park, the fortress looming over us was magnificent.



There is one statue of Robert the Bruce, King Robert I in the esplanade in front of the castle gates.


Stirling Castle has a multi-layered history.  David had read that the free guided tours were very good so we entered the inner gate and waited by the well (now dry) for our tour to start.

The tour guide was fantastic and he obviously loves the castle and the history around it.  He spoke passionately about the various eras, kings and queens and the politics behind many of the battles.

The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times.  It reached its pinnacle during the reign of James VI of Scotland who later became James I of Britain when Elizabeth I died without heirs.  Mary Queen of Scots was also born here.

We enjoyed the vistas and rooms of this castle/fortress

I think Stirling Castle was one of my favourite spots.  But I am not sure, there have been so many great places!!

Stirling Castle was the last stronghold of the Stuart royal line.  Their mascot is the Unicorn!!   If you look on the roofline above you will see a unicorn and a lion (the lion being synonymous with king).

The great hall and my king sitting in his rightful place!  And more unicorns.

The palace had a few rooms that were furnished and actors were there playing the parts of servants for the queen (the king having passed away shortly after the birth of his daughter Mary Queen of Scots)

We left the palace and walked to the high wall walk – what views!!

As we left we checked out the castle ‘vaults’.  Lots of cute little rooms under the castle that have hands on stuff for kids (and big kids)  music, clothes, court life, etc.

They also recreated the castle kitchens.. fun to see

We left the castle and headed back down to town.   We stopped at the graveyard at St. Rude’s medieval church.  Some nice views of the castle above.

Dinner at the aforementioned watering hole!  img_4448And then back to the train to get back to Glasgow.  Just as the rain was starting!

A great day – but we are exhausted!!


Glasgow Museums

September 20, 2016

Another lovely day.  Slightly overcast but not too cold.

We had a quick breakfast in up on Suchiehall ( the main road just above us) and walked down the hill to catch the Glasgow Hop-on Hop-off bus down near the waterfront.

We almost missed the bus!  You have to wave them down, they don’t automatically stop!

We got on and had a lovely live guide giving us insights into the areas we were driving through.  Fascinating tidbits of information delivered quite wittily.

We decided to get off the bus at the Riverside Museum.  This was described as a transportation museum. Admission is free, as it is at all Glasgow museums.

Well this was a happy surprise. Neither of us were prepared for just how amazing this museum is!

Trains, cars, carriages, dog carts, trams, trolleys, buses, motorhomes, subways, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboard, boats, canoes, and even prams!

Ancient and new!  Some great film clips here and there on the history of the item(s).  David was particularly taken with a trailer home that belonged to a family that lived and travelled in it for 30 years.  Rosewood interiors, a huge kitchen and even a ‘fire place’.  I was smitten with the 1880s subway car. img_4260 All hardwoods and padded seats.  They played a little black and white film recreating the era on a wee screen at the far end of the car, so it seemed like you were riding along and listening to their conversations.

Behind the museum is the tall ship Glenlee, a ship originally built on the Clyde river here in Glasgow in the 1880s.  We clambered over this piece of history that has been beautifully restored.   The Glaswegians have such a sense of humour that they coyly placed little rat  figures in various places of the boat.

David tried out one of the beds.  I think he may have been too tall to be a crew member on the ship.

We finished off this visit with an ice cream cone as we waited for the next bus. Yum.

Next stop is the lovely Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.

A gorgeous building in a lovely area.  Some good displays and a bit of French and Dutch art as well as  a big collection of the “Glasgow Boys” artists.  These are similar to our Group of Seven in Canada.  They captured various portraits of Scottish life and landscapes.

There were also a few dinosaurs, animal taxidermies and even a collection of Egyptian art and artifact including a mummy and sarcophagus.

After this we took the bus to the other side of the city and alighted near the Cathedral.

We snapped some pics and decided to walk down to Tennents the brewery to see if we could do a  tour!  It was a bit of a walk, but when we found it there was no mistaking it!

Unfortunately we had missed the tour and the next wasn’t until 6 pm.  We watched a few silly commercials, took some pics and then walked back to the next available stop for our bus.

The tour took us out a bit further but we decided not hop off anymore as most things were closing for the day.  I would highly recommend the tour, but try and get one of the live guided buses! Very funny and lots of good information about the city and history.

The beautiful Glasgow University area:

Great buildings.  They say when you are in Glasgow, be sure to look up!

Glaswegianisms:  Squinty Bridge (squinty – not being straight) not the real name of the bridge!  img_4244The Armadillo and the Rotunda buildings.  The Armadillo is not the real name, but the profile of the building (no pic) gives the impression of an Armadillo..


A great day.  We saw a lot of great places!



The Lovely Glaswegians

September 19

Those from Glasgow – Glaswegians, are very friendly and nice people!

We had  major sleep in today!  Breakfast was at a local shop, small place with a breakfast special.  Then off to find coffees.

Today we simply wandered about figuring out where we are and what there is to do.  We are in the westerly part of downtown.  There is no shortage of restaurants or bars around.  And there is a theatre venue just a block away from where we are staying.

Glasgow seems to be bustling!  The sidewalks are in poor repair, but it seems like there are lots of repairs and construction going on around everywhere.  Loads of places for ‘let’.

There is a pedestrianized area full of all the big shops.  It is funny to see M&S as one of the bigger shops – we used to know it as Marks & Spencers!

There is a huge concert hall that backs onto the Buchanan shops street and there in the sunshine sat many university students.

Still Fresher’s week?  There are tents up for Fresher events.  Glaswegians call ’em as they see ’em.  A local bar:


We found brochures and such, and quiet place for  dinner and drink before calling it a night.img_4242Back at our hotel we poured over our options of what to see and do.

Tomorrow we explore Glasgow!

North to South – Was This All Just One Day?

September 18

Another beautiful blue sky morning in Nairn.  After breakfast served in a very old fashion dining room (eggs, beans, toasts, bacon, coffee), we pack up our few things and head out to set off for a busy morning.

It’s my turn to drive.  We plug in the ever professional Gigi and set off down the road.  David got a chance to see my perspective of the far left side of road, and I could get what he has been dealing with on the middle left side.  Boy it seems like those oncoming cars are close at times!

We head out to visit the golf course Castle Stuart.

Situated on a pretty piece of land right on the North Sea the entrance and club house are understated.  There are beautiful views and huge practice greens and pitching/bunkers.   Pictures taken, scorecard retrieved and David has a few minutes to walk around and take in the aura.

I decide it will be better if David drives and I map.  David wants it made clear that he had no problem with my driving though!  I didn’t mind the driving at all.  I am just better at directions 🙂

We head to visit the Battlefield at Culloden.  There is a large car park area that is full and we end up parking in the overflow field – and yet still had to pay our 2£.  There is a bit of line up to get into the Centre but we do get in and it is very well put together with both sides of the story being told on opposing walls.  Lots of documents, memorabilia, historical fragments and stories of what lead up to the famous battle.  No pictures tho!  It culminates with a theatre that you stand in as 4 screens (one on each wall around you) show a recreation of the battle starting and the ultimate clash.  After this you can take an audio guide and head out onto the Culloden fields.   img_4204It is a big area.

There are flag poles showing the beginning front lines of the British and the Jacobites.  There are stops along the way with information on the battle.

It was a sunny day and the wind was gently blowing.

As you move through the field and upon a remaining crofter’s house you get a picture of the ferocity of the battle.

img_4210Leaving Culloden we head back to Inverness.  We wait until we get very close to where we drop off the car to find a gas station at which point we find out there is nothing really close.  But we simply reprogramed Gigi and she found us a petrol station.  Strange not paying for gas before pumping, guess it is only Canada.

Getting back to the car rental place required some round-about redo’s as we were now back in those multi-laned circles of cars zipping in and out.  Thank goodness Gigi stays calm.  I will miss her.  I think Gigi and the Mapasaurus make excellent travelling companions.

The car rental folks happily dropped us off at the train station which was great because we didn’t have to haul our luggage/bags around.  But we did have a bit of a wait at the station. At least you can get WiFi there!

Our train trip required us to alight at Perth and change trains to Glasgow.  The train from Inverness to Perth was very  busy  and most of the seats were full.  The ticket checker was able to tell us which platform we would need to go to at Perth.

While we were waiting for our train in Perth img_4223we noted that it appeared our train only goes to Glasgow Queen Street – whereas we had intended to go to Glasgow Central.  We had no idea how far it was between stations and I didn’t have a map to plan our route to our hotel! No fears, we will get online on the train and ask the ticket taker there.  Alas no WiFi on the train.  The ticketer says ‘aye not a long way to walk, or you can take the transit provided by bus and you can see the signs in the station’.  The nice young lady sitting with us spoke up and said she was walking to the Central Station and would happily show us the way.  Ahhh the Scots, unfailingly helpful (except Portree).

We got off the train and followed our leader out to wet streets, but the rain had stopped.  As we tottered along behind her I noted we had reached a street that we would be taking to our hotel.  She stopped, looked it up on her phone and pointed us in the right direction.  So sweet!

Well it was a long walk and there was a fairly long hill up, not horribly steep, but steady.   This was really only tiring because I was carrying a full travel backpack, a satchel, my purse and hauling a carry-on rolling case.  David was ahead with the daily backpack, his duffle bag and the big suitcase.

So glad to see our hotel and then to realize we are on the first floor!

We got into our tiny room, and found a comfortable bed and a nice little ensuite.

We headed up Embank to the Variety Bar on the corner of Elmbank and Suchiehall (pronounced sookie-hall) and had a couple of lovely drinks served by a couple of very nice bartenders – he from New Zealand and her a local.  It’s good when your glass reminds you what you are drinking!

We stopped at this little food place that stays open until 4 am (bet they get a lot of late night after bar feeders!) and ordered a take out pizza that we brought back to our hotel to nosh on.

Travelling days are always tiring even though you spend a fair amount of time waiting or sitting on trains!