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My Travel Blog

[a modern day adventure journal]

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Mon
18
Jul '11

Dublin

On Thursday morning my host mom drove me to the airport to catch a flight to Dublin for the weekend. It was my first experience flying on a low cost airline…definitely an experience! Everything went smoothly, and by 9am I was in Dublin. My friend from London (Caitlin) also decided to visit Dublin at the same time, so we met just beyond customs.

By midmorning we had found the hostel, dropped our bags and began to walk around the city. Obviously the first thing to do in Dublin is find a small pub, and get a pint of the black stuff, we obviously that’s what we did. We ran into two other Americans from Colorado in the bar, and had a great time getting to know the city courtesy of a great bartender. After that, we kept walking around, visiting museums, and just ‘getting to know the place’. We had a cheap dinner back at the hostel, then met some people in our room and went out to get ‘Obamaburgers’. Yes we can. Yes we did.

The next morning (Friday) we split up and did some sight seeing on our own, and then met again for lunch. After lunch we met two of Caitlin’s friends who flew in that morning (also working in London for the summer) and toured the Jameson Distillery. What a blast. We got to see how they triple distil their legendary Irish Whisky, then got to taste it in the bar upstairs. We even got to compare it to Scotch and Bourbon, which was a neat experience.

Later that afternoon, we toured the Guinness brewery. This self guided tour was quite popular with tourists (moreso than the guided tour at Jameson), but still fun nonetheless. We got to learn how to pour a perfect Guinness (even got a certificate to prove it!), and then made our way to the 360 bar on the roof for a great view of the city.

That night, we rounded up about a dozen people from the hostel to go and listen to some banjo music at the pub we first visited. Rachel and Sarah from Texas, two Brandons from Toronto, Josh and Allyson from Colorado, a Brazilian girl, and two people from San Francisco, plus Caitlin and I. It was a fun group! The bartender said it was the best banjo picking he’s ever heard, but he’s OBVIOUSLY never been to Carolina. ‘nuf said – I thought it was mediocre at best, but it was still fun.

Saturday morning I took a bus out of Dublin, which I will blog about next. Right now I’m in Edinburgh for a few days, on my way towards Canna.

Thu
14
Jul '11

Stonehenge!

Well, this was a wonderful surprise. After visiting Avebury, we realized that Stonehenge was only about an hours drive away, so we decided to make a small detour. What a wonderful and unexpected blessing, it was something that I really wanted to do, but never was able to fit it in. Very very cool!

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Anyways, Stonehenge was built with stones that had to be carried/moved over 200 miles, and then stood up on end, and THEN had the really big top stones placed. Wow. They believe that Stonehenge was built as a religious site (what else would motivate someone to do that?!), but no one is really sure. Either way, it is a very impressive site!

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And while we were driving in the country roads back from Stonehenge, we passed several of these signs since we were driving through a military practicing zone. Interesting…

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On the way home, we stopped by the Stanton Drew stone circles, which I will blog about later (I don’t have the photos with me now). I am currently in Dublin (!!), and will soon be headed to Edinburgh (Dublin to Bristol to London to Edinburgh) and then onto the Isle of Canna (Edinburgh to Mallaig to Canna via the mail ferry). Then Glasgow then home! A very busy next two and a half weeks, but soooo much neat things to see. Thanks for all the support! (and I’ll try to get better about timely blog updates…)

Thu
14
Jul '11

Avebury

On Sunday I was able to go and visit the stone circles and other earth works at Avebury. The son in law of my host mom drove us, and was our tour guide, so that was a great way to see it all. And it was very weird to be sitting on the left hand side of a car as a passenger!

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The stone circles at Avebury are very very old, and quite large. There is one large circle, with several smaller circles inside, but the majority of the standing stones were either removed and destroyed in order to build houses, or in an attempt to remove the pagan ritual site. Anyways, surrounding the large circle is the remains of what once was a very deep ditch – the meaning of which I don’t know, and probably they don’t know either.

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Also at the site is GIANT mound of dirt that was built over thousands of years. This thing is really really big, and very impressive to see in person.

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Anyways, that about wraps up Avebury. Definitely a very cool thing to see!

My “tour guide”, David:

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Me in the Devils Chair:

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Sat
9
Jul '11

The Farm

So today marks the second Saturday on the farm, and the last week has flown by. Currently I am a bit scatter brained from an, um interesting morning, but we will get to that in a bit.

The farm is located a bit southwest of Bristol, England, near the village of Chew Magna. It is near Chew Valley Lake, and Chew Stokes – you can guess what the common thing is here in the Chew Valley. The farm is an organic farm, about 30 acres I would imagine. Or maybe 40. Bryony lives in the house (her husband died a few years back) and her daughter and son in law (plus granddaughter Pip who is 16) lives behind in an attached but separate house. Anyways, here are fields of grass and wildflowers that get rented out for the sheep farmers, and there is an orchard as well as a ‘forest garden’. Overall, a beautiful place to live, and quite picturesque.

There are a few other WWOOF’ers who are coming and going, from various continents and ways of life – definitely an interesting group of people when you combine all of us! The food here is – well, organic and semi-vegetarian. Yeah. Its a bit of change of pace for me, but I am adapting well. I haven’t had coffee in well over a week now, which is weird by itself. I am becoming much more purposeful about eating alot of calories since I am working all day, and since organic food naturally requires eating more of it to get the same nutritional value. We eat mostly what comes from the garden, and absolutely nothing processed. Fruit is a luxury and a dessert, and I am beginning to jealously eye vegetables. She makes bread daily, which is very good, and overall we eat well.

Today I talked my way into attending a bee keeping group meeting/lesson, partly because it is interesting, and partly because Stephen loves bees so much – so Stephen, this was for you, and I am really quite interested in it now! And I didn’t get stung when opening the beehives, so that was nice as well. This afternoon, I volunteered with the Chew Valley Bed Race – “Almost as much fun as you can have in bed” is the tagline. Basically, teams of six make a wheeled bed that they race along a course (5 people push, 1 person in the bed). Onlookers throw eggs (albeit forbidden), water balloons, flour, chocolate sauce .. you name it, all while they run the 4 or so mile course. Its quite an event, and the costumes are hilarious. I was a marshal, directing/stopping traffic and making sure no one died (no one did) – and I even got to keep my bright orange vest!

Work on the farm is going well, but there is always something to do. The rain has become the biggest thing to work around, but that isn’t too much of a problem. So far I have cleared several fields of thistles, mowed a lot, moved dirt, and am now working on painting the entrance to the cellar and constructing a revolving chicken coop. Yep. A revolving chicken coop. I just picked up the car axle (the pivot point in the contraption), and this week I will concrete it in the ground and then afix the chicken coop on top of that. Don’t worry, photos will follow!

Tomorrow I am headed out to Avebury, a stone circle that is quite old. Hopefully the weather will be good, and I will blog about it later on in the week. At the later end of the week, I will be visiting Dublin for a few days, and then moving on (through Bristol and then London without really stopping) to Edinburgh and then to the Isle of Canna for 9 days. I was going to volunteer on the Isle of Skye for a week or so, but decided I would rather spend my time on the Isle of Canna instead (I have family ties there) since the transportation onto and on the Inner Hebrides Isles is cumbersome. Anyways, I will try to keep blogging as time permits!

Mon
4
Jul '11

Bath

On Saturday morning, my host mom had to go to the city of Bath for work (she is a governor at three schools, and it is examinations time – which here means speeches or presentations). She dropped me off at the park and ride bus stop, and by about 930, I was right in the middle of Bath.

Bath is special because there are natural hot springs there. The Romans took a liking to the hot springs, and decided this would be a great place to have some hot tubs and a resort city… so, the place is an old Roman resort.

The city is pretty popular with tourists and Brits alike, both coming to spend a day in the spas, which although newly renovated still have much of the ancient Roman aura. I was too cheap to spend the $30 to get in the actual spas, but instead took a two hour walking tour of the city. Overall, a wonderful little city to visit, with a lot of Roman architecture and other interesting features – and even better that was a spur of the moment decision to go!

Anyways, I am still here on the farm. We are working hard and today I spent some time rebuilding and repainting a cellar entrance as well as clearing some overgrown land. Tomorrow will be a war against the great evil – the thistle, and finishing up painting. Looking forward into the week, I will probably be doing some window repair, and maybe some woodwork and fence repair. Tomorrow night there should be two more ‘WWOOFers’ coming to stay as well, so the pace of work should pick up quite a bit.

The farm is starting to feel like a home away from home – I’m learning where the dishes go, and where all the tools are, and what keys go to which doors. I might be able to continue doing some travel in the coming week or so, as there is a nearby lake and stone circle (older and larger than Stonehenge, but not bigger) that is within walking distance. I’ll keep you updated!

[Oh, and my host mom’s surprise way of wishing me a happy July 4th is to try and make cornbread in addition to the daily pitcher of sweet tea she makes just for me. Nicest way a Brit has ever wished me a happy July 4th! If the daily fresh made bread is any indication of the cornbread quality, I’ll be in for a treat!]