Friday, August 19, 2011

great-britain trip photo-log part 4: Scotland

Day 6 - August 4, 2011, Thursday

Today was probably the most frustrating day of this vacation so far.
All the other days have been ok. The fact that we can't complete a whole itinerary has been driving me crazy. But we have been able to get things done and enjoy it.
Today, however, the day that I described to my husband as the one day nothing could go wrong or else everything would go wrong, simply went all wrong.

To start with we left half an hour late and it was raining. I programmed the GPS to take us to Alamo, instead of to the Airport, and that was my first mistake. The GPS took us downtown Edimburgh on a rainy weekday and there was no sign of Alamo. So we forgot about the fact that we wanted to get a new car and simply found parking.

Then we walked to the place where we were supposed to get the passes to get into the castle. basically they made us wait about an hour just to tell us that Edinburgh Castle and Urquhart Caslte were no longer part of it, but they'd be giving us an extra 3 days to our pass. Ok, great! So now we not only have to pay to get into the Edinburgh Castle, but we also have to get into a gigantic line.

No, we gave up on that one, since that would mean we'd see nothing else for the rest of the day.

We went and saw St. Giles Church, where J. Knox used to preach and is buried. We saw his burial place, in parking lot number 23. We had a delicious lunch (smoked salmon meals) at this place called Deacon's House and headed out of Edinburgh to visit 2 castles and and admire 3 other ones from the outside. It took us about 1 hour to be able to leave Edinburgh in the rainy traffic jam.

By the time we hit the road there would be time for only one castle visit. That castle should have been Glamis. But Castle Fraser had ties to Dean's family, so I would not be the one to say "Fraser is too far and we might not make it, let's do Glamis," as much as Glamis was important to me. I had to let him choose. And he chose to skip Glamis and go straight to Fraser.

Bad idea. First of all we had to stop at ASDA to get an aux cable so Dean would not be falling asleep behind the wheel. Then 45 minutes behind a Mack truck. Just what we needed to be there 5 minutes too late.

At that point, I knew exactly what had happened - the whole day of castle visiting was done, and we had visited exactly ZERO castles. Every choice we made on this day was the wrong one. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, on a day that nothing could have gone wrong.

I was done. Done with delays, done with plans followed only halfway through, done with my own incompetence to just stick to the perfect plan i had spent I year working on. A year of hard work and dream ended here - on nothing.

That's what was going through my mind when I fell apart and started crying. Frustration. The kind of frustration that comes from knowing you had planned everything so perfectly and failed miserably in its execution. And the knowledge that this was your one shot at it. This day, the chance to visit those castles will never come again. That was it. And I had to drag my husband along with me, in my perfectly flawed vacation.
that's what was going through my head when I stood there and cried like a baby.

NO. I did not want to. I did not want to cry in front of my husband and make him feel like somehow it was his fault. But when all those things go through your mind as in an instant flood, along with all the little failures to follow the plan from all the previous days, the tears just come . And it's silly to think you'll be able to hold them back.

We went to 2 more castles. And we took pictures and you'll see me smiling in them. Just on the outside. And just because I refuse to ruin my pictures. Inside I was destroyed. But I would not let anyone who ever sees our pictures see that.

We arrived at our B&B in Nairn. All the buildings here and in most of the Scotland we have seen are made of stone. Some sort of yellowish stone. Huge pieces of stone.

We had a nice dinner ( I had salmon risotto, but Dean went for some different thing in the menu) and I had a WDK blue, which I was introduced to at that place in Liverpool. It's a yummy drink.

It was nice arriving at such a warm place as this one we're staying. It makes me hope that tomorrow things start to get better.

Day 7 - August 5, 2011, Friday

We left home a week ago. It's hard to imagine. It's also hard to imagine how yesterday was such a crappy day and today pretty much everything went so well. We drove along the Loch Ness and visited the Urquhart Castle. We were not going to get in, but ended up doing so. It's not a full working castle. Just the ruins of what used to be one.

We tried to spot Nessie. Then we drove to the place where Monarch of the Glen was filmed. We walked 3 miles there and back just so Dean could have a glimpse of the castle, since we could not get in (people actually live there, so we didn't even get really close, in order not to bother them.).

Well, 6 miles totals about 2.5 hours, so my plan of still taking a chance at Glamis went out the window.

We did drive through the highlands, and no, no sheep herds crossed the roads in front of us, but the beauty of the place was breath-taking. I wanted to simply bow down and worship the Lord for such an amazing creation.

We stopped at Glasgow and got a new car! We got a Fiesta diesel.
We stopped for dinner at the same place we'd slept the night we drove up from Liverpool. It was quite a coincidence. Dean Mentioned the kid that served him yesterday morning was surprised to see us back. NO wonder. It is a rest spot! How often do you see the people driving by?
Then we drove into England and the place we're sleeping tonight (a Day's Inn) has internet. Again, it's just a bit too late for me to be able to enjoy it.
Tomorrow we drive down to Shakespeare's hometown.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

great-britain trip photo-log part 3: Liverpool and the Lake District

Day 5 - August 3, 2011, Wednesday

It's been really hard to understand people here. Irish people have an accent that is really hard to understand. Hoase for house, dewn for down and other words I could not identify.

Well, it's midnight and we are spending the night at this Days Inn at a rest spot. They have internet here, but it's so late that it's hard to do anything on it at all with a clear mind. I am lucky if I am able to utter intelligible words after midnight.

Ok, by the time we are done with our vacation, I will want to stay away from rotaries, narrow streets, and speed cameras. They have been driving me crazy.

Dean says he does not mind the rotaries so much. Well, if you think about it, it's not really a terrible thing. But I do think they overuse it here. Gee, these people do not know what an intersection is, do they?

oh, another thing that's wierd! There was absolutely nothing telling us that we had entered N. Ireland or Ireland. And while they stamped our passport on the way in to Ireland, they did not do it on the way back into England. I don't get it!

Oh, any way! Let's get to the news of the day:

Today we spent the day in Liverpool. We drove to George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon's childhood homes. Then we walked to St. Peter's Church, where Paul and John first met. I think John was 15, or Paul was...

We walked to Strawberry Fields and drove through Penny Lane. We wanted to see Ringo's childhood home, or the schools they went to bc it was getting late and I wanted to make it to the Cavern Club.

Before The Cavern though we visited the Beatles Story Museum and took the tour. I did it more for Dean than for me, since I pretty much know everything about the Beatles history. When we were done, just outside the Museum we found those Range Rovers playing in the water.

I enjoyed being in Liverpool, being able to imagine what it was like for Paul, John, George and Ringo to grow up there, walking in those very same streets we were.

I am not the kind of person that thinks it's this magical thing to step on the same place SO-AND-SO stepped. I see nothing special about touching the same objects SO-AND-SO touched. It's not magical or special. If I cared about that I would be collecting objects touched by Paul McCartney and be excited just because I was in the same building he was when I tried to get into SNL. But no, I don't care about that. I might tell you that if I shake hands with Paul, I will never wash my hands again, but you bet I am joking.

But I love history and I love thinking about how history happened just because it happened. I love being in places that are historical. I love imagining that so many years ago this Paul I really like was a little boy in those same streets and lived his life there not having a clue that we would care so much about him someday. There is something magical about being in a place of historical value and trying to feel the weight of that history, trying to imagine those lives that once were there.

Paul really walked along Penny Lane. That street was so influential in his life he wrote a song about it. John really used to go to Strawberry Field as a little boy, and he recalled it so well that he wrote a song about it. About 55 years ago those two boys met in that St.Peter's Church backyard and they had no idea how important that meeting was.

To me it was magical being there, in the same places where history happened. Unfortunately I had to keep reminding myself of what was really happening, because I could not grasp it just yet. Maybe when I get home I will. Maybe I will kick myself for not having understood what this meant today.

After the Beatles Story (where I bought a Beatles T and a lunch pale, while Dean used the internet at Starbucks), we headed to Cavern Club and accidentally found The Grapes, the club where the young Beatles would hide from their fans and have a drink (since the Cavern was not allowed to sell alcohol). I took a picture of a picture that was taken in a corner there, but I could not sit in the corner myself, because this fat old man was sitting there taking his sweet time. I was so mad!!!!!

At the Cavern I found out that Paul McCartney went there a few years ago and the place held 300 lucky fans. And I also found a shirt singed by.... PELÉ!!!!

The street Cavern and Grapes are on is called Matthew Street. Everything on Matthew Street breathes Beatles. They really market it.
We had lunch/dinner at a pub in that street, called the Irish Pub and then headed to the Lake District.

Dean really wanted to see small cities in the Lake District, because some of the cities there were listed as the top ten most charming cities in England. So we picked one that was in the heart of the Lake District and GPS'ed it. The city name was Keswick. Unfortunatelly it was getting dark already, but there was enough light to enjoy some of the beauty of that quaint little place. The Lake District is a great place to spend a holiday if you live in England. Just rent a house there or go camping.

I think my grandma would love it there. The houses are made of some sort of greyish stone and they have flowers hanging form windows. The whole place just looks elegantly old-fashioned. A must-do for anyone who loves charming places. I can't quite figure out what to do during the day though. Do you go swimming?

Today we drank Red Bull in order to make it to the motel. We've been on Red Bull since Ireland, in order to be able to arrive places in one piece.

Oh, this morning we had an issue with the car rental.
See, when we left Liverpool to go to Ireland, the rental place was closed and so we just left the keys in the car, right?
They thought we simply had not returned the keys. Well, when we said what we did, the guy was horrified at us. Would you do that if it were your car? As a matter of fact I do that all the time when I leave my car at the mechanic, replied my husband.
Anyway, so they give us again, what we did not ask for - a Corsa. But we ordered a micro! Oh, but we are all out of micros, sorry!

Can I tell you that the experience at the Hertz rental place in Ireland was one bugillion times better than both Alamo experiences so far? I am so pissed at Alamo, it's not even funny! And he was lecturing us on where to leave the keys, when they gave us no instruction as to what to do with them!!!!! And he looked at us and said that a compact car and a micro car get the same mileage bc it's got the same engine!!! Well, congratulations on your amazing thinking! It's a larger car, so the engine has to work harder, but it does not matter, does it!

At Hertz, in Ireland, we were helped by a trainee who told us every little thing we could possibly need to know including what to do about tolls and how to return the car!!!!!

Oh, the fact that we paid for a micro and got a compact was not the only problem! Nor the terrible knowledge of the teller about mileage, or the fact that he lectured us.

The freaking Corsa's gear box is busted. Tomorrow morning we are driving right into Edinburgh's airport, and, before we go anywhere, we are getting a new car from Alamo.

Monday, August 15, 2011

my b-day in Brazil

The Fam

The BLV - BFFs since 1994

church gang

Me and my baby brother

Me and my nana

BLV singing Cheirinho de Nordeste

great-britain trip photo-log part 2: Ireland, small cars and graves

Day 3 - August 1, 2011, Monday

Today I took a wrong decision, I mean, a couple of wrong decisions that cost us precious time. First of all, I decided we should go find stuff on Dean's ancestors in the afternoon. However, instead of checking the schedule properly yesterday and let the lady know we needed breakfast by 7, I told her 8. Well, in order to fit everything in, we had to leave by 7:30.

We left by 9 and we took the scenic route as the guy who sold us Turkish Delight at St. George's Market had advised. We went through pretty old villages and saw beautiful views of the ocean as we reached the town he had mentioned we should choose as a spot to start our scenic route.

That added an extra hour and half to our trip. A pleasant hour and half, but one I was not counting on in order to fit everything in and be back to Cookstown before city hall was closed.

We went to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, which is a cool rope bridge that was used by fisherman to get to this other island. We went to the Giant's Causeway soon after that, just a short drive from there.

On the way to the Causeway, Dean found this very cute village lost at the bottom of a hill. We had to go check it out. So we figured out how to get there and took some pictures.Here is Dean on he driveway that leads to it:

The Giant's Causeway is another cool place. A wonder of nature! It's a bunch of stone pillars in the shape of hexagons.

We can climb on them, since many of them make natural stairs. The legend says it was a bridge made by giants that led all the way to Mull of Kyntire. Dean is pointing to Mull of Kintyre in this pic.

After pics and games we had at this cutsie restaurant they had.

It was already 4 pm and we knew we would not be able to make it to the city hall. We would also have to skip the walled city of Londonderry. I wanted to go there so bad. But there was still hope that we could make it to the church graveyards.

That's when I took my second wrong decision - I punched in the GPS Presbyterian Curches near Cookstown. Well, the stupid GPS took us to Belfast!!!! A whole our out of our way!!!!

Now we are not making to Londonderry, cityhall or any freaking place at all for that matter.
ok, let's stick back to the plan and go to Corkill Rd. We assumed that was the Corkill his family lived back in the 1900s.

We got there and it was already 8 pm. On the way there we saw a pub called McCartney's. We decided we would get back there to eat. However, when we got to Corkill Rd and asked a boy that was outside his house he told us to go talk to a couple at the end of the street. We did. They invited us in and talked and talked and did not want us to leave.
It was finally close to 10pm when we were able to work our way out the door. Oh, don't take me wrong! it was a lovely time! And I feel like I have been getting better at understanding their accents. However, we wanted to eat. And I wanted to eat at McCartney's.
We looked for McCartney's till 11pm and decided it was time to give up since there would be no pub open at that time anymore. We ended up having dinner downtown Cookstown, at a McDonald's where we were finally able to use the internet and I called home or the first time!

One thing that has been pretty impressive here is the freakishly huge amount of rotaries. Here they are not called rotaries, they are called roundabouts. Whatever they are called, they are everywhere! They don't have intersections here, they have roundabouts!!!

Another thing they have a lot of here are sheep! Sheep are everywhere! Everyone in this country might own sheep. I hope we find some sheep crossing the road!

Dean is enjoying driving on the roads. They are just like we saw on Rick Steves - very narrow and we have to constantly make way for cars coming the other way. It hasn't been real bad, but it's been a little pain in the back.
Tomorrow we are hitting some church graveyards.

Day 4 - August 1, 2011, Tuesday

We traveled back to Liverpool today at 10 pm. This morning we went over to some church graveyards near Cookstown. We talked to people who told us the best places to go and we were impressed!
These guys that were just selling fruits next to a parking lot, when we told them the name of the family we were looking for, they said, don't go to the church grave yard up this street, go to the graveyard of New Church. And as we tried to imagine how many hundreds of years old the New Church was likely to be, we also asked, Why not the church up the street? It's a Roman Catholic church! From then we proceeded to try to imagine how on Earth did they know that!!!!

We hit 1 presbyterian and one church of Ireland churches. We took pictures of the graves that carried the last name Watt. I cried like a baby every time I saw a grave of a baby. It just Think babies and gravestones should never occupy the same space. SOmething has gone terribly wrong. Young people, they should live to be old folks.

Seeing grave stones is a very humbly experience. There it is! The end of us all! Some gravestones were hard to read. Time and nature have taken their tolls on the man-made inscription that some day meant so much to someone, but now it lays there, almost completely gone, on a piece of stone that marks the spot of the final rest of someone that no one remembers anymore. No one cares. Some one who lived on this Earth of God, just like me and you. Someone who was a baby, a child, a young teenager, and an adult. Some who lived and loved and dreamed. Like you and me. Some one no one knows anymore. Like you and me will be someday.

That's it, my friends. That's the end. Fifty, a hundred years after you die, unless you were ubber famous like shakespeare, who will know who you were? Who will visit your grave and lay flowers and make sure the inscription that contains those two important dates of birth and death, and the name by which you are now called doesn't get erased by time? And that grass does not grow all around and make your gravestone almost unnoticed? Who will even care?

Well at least in Brazil the cemeteries get taken care of and gravestones don't get eaten up by grass. But who visits the dead of the dead? Who will visit my great-grandma's grave when my brother and I are gone? Who will know who she is?

Now in Brazil we don't usually bury people in graveyards. We bury them in cemeteries. It's a very weird concept for me to think of churches as a place where normal people get buried.

We went over to belfast and saw the place where the Titanic was built, Harland and Wolff Shipyard. And there, another humbling experience - the size of the thing. I think it's called a dock - the actual place the ship was kept - is ridiculously long and deep. The Titanic was a monster!!!! I shot a video of it and the card ran out before I could finish it. The video is about 40 seconds long. I was shooting is as I went alongside the length of it. I was not even halfway through with it when the video stopped.

We bought a couple of magnets and key chains there in order to get free parking. Great bargain, we figured.

We then headed to Dublin, back to our final Irish destination. On the way back I tried to take pictures of the loyalists and the republicans neighborhoods. On the way up we noticed how the flags changed as we entered N.Ireland. But on the way back we did not find them anymore, so I could not get pictures of the change. On the way up it did not occur to me that pics of those things would be interesting.

But even in N.Ireland you can find places that use the tri-color flag. Those people are called republicans. The ones that use the unionist flag are a called loyalists.
here is an example of a loyalist neighborhood.
At first Dean thought maybe people here were really patriotic like in America, bc they display the flags in their yards and stuff, but we came to a conclusion that this displaying of flags is more a political statement than a display of patriotism.

Dublin on a Tuesday is a much different experience than on a Sunday. There is traffic and paid parking. We went to St.Michan's church to see the mummies of St. Michan's. It was a paid tour, but worth every penny. Our guide was fantastic, he even knew I could only be Corinthians or Palmeiras when I told him I was from Brazil. He was a Beatles fan who claims the Beatles were actually Irish. The mummies were amazingly well kept. We got to shake hands with one of them and see some other graves in the crypt. Some of them were lit, because they were officially inactive. Some were in the dark bc they still might be used by the families that own them, even though they have not be used for over 100 years, they are technically still active and can be used by the families at anytime they wish to do so. So we can't get in or keep them lit, as it is illegal to do so.

We tried to make it to the Book of Kells but we were 20 minutes too late. Finally time to eat though. at 5:30 pm, lolol!!!! We went to the Brazen head, The oldest pub in Ireland, dating from 1198...I finally got to try Guinness. Did not like it!!!! But I tried it!

We brought back from Ireland the phone number of a Watt to give to Dean's aunt who is doing to the family line research.

Back to Liverpool and to our Holiday Inn for a nice reasonable night of sleep. Tomorrow, it's the Beatles Trail.