Outlander Effect on Historic Sites, Careful How You Tread

LastFullSizeRender travel season I hit up tours in Scotland and traveled the Bonnie Prince Charlie trail as much as I humanly could on a three week trip. Let’s face it, as filming continues on the fourth season of Outlander, the hit book and television series from Diana Gabaldon’s famous book series, there are many film locations across Scotland, Prague, and South Africa. Enthusiastic fans of both the books and the television series have traveled in epic numbers to reach Scotland, Prague in the Czech Republic, and may be doing so in South Africa. So, what does huge traffic and a huge amount of filming locations to track down mean for travelers, and the environment they trample on? It means Scotland needs to figure out how it will continue to handle the increased human traffic in its borders. Each historic site has seen large increases over the last three years due to the popularity of the series and films.

Outlander Filming Locations and Travel Table

Respect
When people travel, they have certain expectations of where they are going. We want accessibility and that the location looks like it does in brochures and travel books. It will never look quite like it did in the film, series, or travel book you bought. When filming takes place, areas are blocked off, and dressed for scenes. It can also be exhilarating and frustrating to fans who traveled to hunt down their favorite series, to get a glimpse of behind the scenes or be close to a star, but escorted off the property. Film crews are trying to work and bring you your favorite show. The instant gratification of selfies and pictures while filming have made some fans go to extremes to get pictures. Everyone becomes a Paparazzi. Producers and studios want to keep the element of surprise for the audience, keep that storytelling secret for the reveal. This can lead to some conflicts. Hopefully as a traveller, you can help promote responsible observance and help keep the area picked up.

To add to it, the popularity of film and TV series like Outlander have lead to fans picnicking and causing erosion at historic sites such as Culloden Moor. At the Fraser stone alone, damage has been done due to trampling and it will now have to go through restoration of the surrounding soil to restore the erosion caused by multitudes of fans coupled with extreme weather. Let us not forget, this site has historic mass graves. Those that have fallen are due respect. Leaving tokens causes more work for the grounds staff.

Embrace Balance
When you are a guest in another country, or any historic site, you should always think about leaving it the way it was when you found it. As a society, we like to collect and grab things for remembrance. People also bring in things as tribute, and the curators then have to dispose of hundreds of items. Just think about how you might feel if something was defaced or trampled on and you could not enjoy it when you arrived.

Clan Fraser grave at Culloden damaged amid ‘Outlander effect’

NTS Applies to Extend Culloden Centre Hours

You should always check with a historic site if something is going on that day, or at the very least check out the local papers. Most historic sites have a web page with current conditions and closures listed. However, these may not get updated frequently. Face it, Scotland is now an ever increasing hotspot for film and television. There are websites for local papers and they love to cover filming and will tell you if filming is in the city, such as Glasgow, and what streets are blocked off. Also, go in mind that no matter how much perfect vacation planning you do, something is going to be blocked or not working at one of the places you really wanted to see. Adapt.

Channel 4 Bid for Glasgow

Budget and Transport
How can you get to cram in as many sites for filming a series as possible in a two week span and not blow what little budget you have? Could you do less damage and annoyance to the environment or any landowners if you took buses or bikes to a local site, and not hired a car? Face it, Outlander is an example of massive amounts of filming locations, spread all over Scotland, and some of them only accessible by car. Or are they? On my trips I was only able to make it to a fraction of the sites I could hunt down. I made it to several S1 and S2 sites, and then continued on the Bonnie Prince Charlie. How can you cram it all in? Some Outlander and Game of Throne tours will get you to many of the locations, but are expensive tours and booked very solid, months in advance. Make a list of the sites and find out how to get there on your own.

Roaming Rights in Scotland
Scotland has roaming rights. What that means in a nutshell, is that the public has the right to go to public historic sites without access being denied. Unless a historic site has hired itself out to be filmed in and is shut to the public. There are many historically significant buildings and sites that are on private land, or you may have to cross private land to get to it. Enter these at your own risk, property that has agriculture going on, many of these are adjacent to working farms. Private residences are not right to roam, even though a deer path may go through it. If filming is going on, and you are blocked, or you want to see the filming and think you can get around another way, watch it. Guards are posted and can make you leave.

Too Many Filming Locations
The best way to get to most of the filming locations is by car and hiking in. Problem is rental cars in the UK and Ireland are very cost prohibitive unless you are traveling with a group. Group tours can be expensive as well. Many of these sites are not happy with the excessive car parking, people damage, and noise occurring. So, is it possible to see these filming sites via train, bus and walking a bit? Yes and no.

On my last two trips, I divided up what I could according to the larger cities I visited, Glasgow and Edinburgh. I went two summers and still came back and had only seen a fraction of what there is being filmed in. To get in more sites and manage the traveling better, I started compiling a locations and places table in a Google Doc, with public transit accessible sites. I will be making this accessible to you, my fellow traveler. It’s a work in progress, so if you have had some good or bad experiences with public transit and Outlander sites, send me a line so I can add your info to the table.

It is possible to see many of these sites, if you plan around the larger cities and take trips in sections. Hiring a specialised tour will help, but you can get to many of these sites with planning and not be on a tour timetable.

Outlander Filming Locations

Outlander Travel Itinerary

Bonnie Prince Charlie Trail

Season Five Revealed for Outlander

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-44059430

Outlander Effect on Blocking Development at Culloden Site

Glasgow Botanics: Spring Blues Cure

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A Celtic Muse

It’s slowly crawling towards spring, but you know that last stretch seems to be a huge hill to climb. Especially with this past winter, Scotland has had record snows and storms.It’s a great time if it’s safe to do so, to seek out a place where you can get a tropic feel without having to fly. Whether you are visiting Glasgow or a seasoned resident, having a bit of green during the dreary grey and white filled months, that seem to include Spring, will help those with the doldrums spring. If you find your Seasonal Affective Disorder won’t let go, Glasgow has answers.

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Two of the best indoor flora venues are in this town, The Glasgow Botanics Gardens Kibble Palace and the smaller Winter Gardens, and the People’s Palace at the Glasgow Green. Both feature classic Victorian Green Houses and are free to the public, but if you have a fiver, please donate at these free venues and any other museum in the city. It all helps to give you a cheer when you have the grey throughout.

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Glasgow Botanic Gardens

730, Great Western Road Glasgow G12 OUE Tel:0141 276 1614 Open from 7am until Dusk Every Day, Glass Houses Until 6pm, 4:15 in Winter.

Easily accessible by public transportation, near the Hillhead Underground stop, and off the Great Western Road with plenty of bus access. It’s close to the West End and Glasgow University grounds and has great access to fabulous food and other activities in the area. The Heritage walk encompases the exterior gardens off the Kelvin River and links up with the Kelvin walkways. A great way to add to a day of walking the parks in this very walkable town.

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The Kibble Palace is a Victorian Glass House Arboretum that was founded in 1817 by Thomas Hopkirk, and was part of the university in its early days. The gardens began in another location closer to campus, offering support and the teaching of botanics to students. The current site has been in use since 1839, and has a grouping of large glass structures that house several collections of specimens from around the world. The palace houses the main collections, with several other glass structures surrounding it. Glass houses mean protection from the elements for the many plants that are tropic, and this means a great out of the elements exploration for you.

Each greenhouse features different world plant zones, from the tropics to the deserts of the world. There are plants from all of the continents. My favorite is the collection of Carnivorous plants, and any fun Orchid that is dangling. Every inch imaginable is packed with plants. There is even a seed exchange or purchase, but you’ll have to go soon, they are only available until about mid April.

Kelvin Walkway

Maps Courtesy Walk Highlands

The Kelvin Walkway extends the West Highland Way walking trails into the city proper, going through Minlgavie. This a nice river walk/hike that goes through the city and lets you pop up in several neighborhoods. The full pathways route is a good 17 Km. Keep an eye out for blocked access as some of the stairs are under repair and it may be a few streets before you can exit. You can walk portions of the river walkways and come up to view attractions or neighborhoods, there are great eats in the West End. You can start the full walk from the Riverside Museum and do the Botanics and other attractions along the way. Mind the midges.

The Riverside Museum, Glasgow

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Transport, it’s what Glasgow has been about for over a hundred years. Shipbuilding and the arts. A city filled with people, theatre and film. It has always kept moving, and that was aided by transport. What a city, and one that has been burgeoning in the last two decades, and soon may even have space travel. The best place to see this passage of history and the coming of the future is going to the Riverside Museum.

Riverside Museum, Pointhouse Place, Glasgow, G3 8RS Scotland UK

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Absolutely an architectural gem, but that’s just the housing. It’s what’s inside that will grab you,  for several hours at least. I have visited the eclectic transport museum twice, there is just too much to see about the life of Scotland’s transport and the culture that surrounded it. The museum is situated on the bank of the Clyde River and in a great area for an afternoon of fun, taking in the Glasgow Science Centre is another must in the area and will make for a very complete day.

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The Riverside is a transport history museum, filled with the rich history of this industrial town and its people, how they traveled about and lived their daily lives through recent years. Vehicles and  ships models are displayed here, with up close and personal viewings for most objects, when they are not stacked high against the walls. If you are a big fan of period dramas and love those 1960s British cars in Endeavor and Downton Abbey, or love anything to do with ships, you and your family or friends will be entertained for hours.

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The building was created in 2011 by the Zaha Hadid Architects in London. It is a phenomenal beauty to behold. The displays swoop and flow with the buildings architecture, and help to convey the movement of transport, the flow of the traffic feel even though the over 3000 objects are parked.

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I spent my first visit enamored of vehicles we just don’t see often stateside. I am a huge fan of cars from past eras, and find that commercial vehicles of the past such as milk floats, trams, a hearse with model horses, shop models you can walk in, full train engines, and the motorbikes display. I’m a big fan of UK motorbikes, and this museum has some rare beauties. They are stacked up a wall and extremely drool worthy. Can you say Motorbike Porn? Nortons, a Triumph Bonneville and other classic bikes from many eras are featured. You’ll want to grab one and take a ride.

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The displays are organized by Streets, where you can walk cobblestones and shops of old, The Clyde where the biological and human life of the great river is displayed.Transport and Leisure where the displays run from classic cars to the history of skateboards. There is a section on Made in Scotland, that shows the rich shipbuilding history of the area, and other transport build and developed in Scotland to be used in the UK and the world. The historical cars and other vehicles on display show the tastes and changes in technology that helped develop our favorite modes of transport. There are also some fun fashion displays that show what people wore while living with such great transport.

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When you exit, take a walk on the decks of the Tall Ship Glenlee. This makes for a very highly recommended day of exploration with family and friends, or just a solo wander while walking Clydeside in this amazing industrial town. Rain or shine activity.

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Ed Weber Photo ©2012

J. Canning Photos’s ©2017

Links

Riverside Museums Pictures of the Week

Riverside Museum GlasgowLive write up

Clyde Waterfront

Glasgow Museums

Glasgow Science Centre

The Best Laid Schemes: Money Matters While Traveling

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It is with chagrin that I write this. It has been a few months since my Ireland and Scotland trip. And what I came back to certainly wasn’t fun. Last year I wrote about being careful while traveling, especially where money and safety is concerned. I had two incidents happen to me while traveling, even though I was vigilant and had planned well in advance, was always on guard. One of the big drawbacks of traveling alone, you don’t have a mate to watch your back. You spend a great deal of time watching every corner, when really you want to be watching the sights. How do you tour and enjoy sights while not being targeted is the big question. And even when you plan, you can still get swiped.

In my last article I wrote about how to carry your money, do money belts really work, how hard was it to travel with cash or money. This most recent trip I had gathered up and taken some cash from the UK and Ireland, Pounds and Euros. I kept a certain amount for both on or locked in safes in places I stayed. I only carried small amounts of cash and guarded my concealed chip card fiercely. I still had incidents. I didn’t want to have to access ATMS or anything that would be compromised unless I needed to. Best laid schemes and all.

Cash

Cash is always good to have, especially when you have a desire to not collect chip card fees. It is also a bit of a burden while traveling. You can keep large amounts of cash, but it’s not usually a good idea. Even with a lockable case, or if you are lucky, a hotel room with a safe, you shouldn’t have large amounts on your person as you are making yourself a target. So, I had to decide what the cash budget for a day would be, try to keep that very low, conceal it, stuff a fiver or a tenner in the key pocket of the Levis for cash items, the rest was prepaid travel card. I didn’t want to have to access foreign exchanges too often, there were always fees involved. Card use depended on using for food at restaurants mainly, and I tried to keep that down because fees may be charged again. They may seem minimal, but usage fees can total over £ 50.00 by the end of your trip, and if you are limited to currency because your card company won’t do two or more currencies to your card, you will get exchange fees. So budget £ 5-8.00 for a day if using one for the extra fees.

For the most part, money belts do work, especially if you get a low profile one that you can sling low and hide in jeans it’s not quite as obvious. Cloth money belt may be more desirable due to heat and moisture, but one with internal pockets.

I carried my cash from town to town and through airports using a money belt. Problem was they made me take it off and put in the bins during boarding. This was extremely nerve wracking as it was out of sight and I had to keep chasing down the bin and keep track of everything else as well. The money belt worked otherwise for the most part, I found it was better while traveling on trains. So, even though the belt was made to not trigger alarms at the airport, they still found it. Concealed card holders usually make it through if there is not a metal snap. Better to wait and get the cash there after you arrive.

Backpacks

Most of the cities you will tour are filled with students, and backpacks are the norm. You also want to be able to meet and greet locals and get a feel for a place. You should be able to just talk to anyone, right? But you always have to think the most affable could be sizing you up. Pickpockets have been in the trade for over a thousand years. And they have gotten more sophisticated than you think, think super spy.

If you are touring and doing serious backpacking with a kit and this is your mode for travel as well, you will probably want to take a smaller low profile version along for town day excursions. Back packs are magnets for a lift or slash. If you are touring and need to do several hours away from hotel or other lodging, purses and such are not a good thing. Too easy to slash and grab. You can buy modified purse/backpacks with reinforced straps, but the best thing to do is buy very small back packs with low profile or lockable zippers. While some thieves will still slash a bag, many are subtle and will unzip while standing next to you and you are distracted by the sights or your companions. Be wary of who is next to or near you.

I purchased a very low profile, small backpack that really sat against my body. It had hidden, recessed zippers and a compartment for my iPad. However, with careful planning I still was almost a victim. While in Dublin in large crowds, apparently someone went for my iPad. The recessed zippers hadn’t mattered. I had barely noticed the jostle and almost forgot it all together until two young girls came up and said that my pack was open and looked like a grab had happened. I checked everything and luckily the would be thief had not made off with the iPad, or any other valuable item like the passport. The girls said it happened a lot in the area. So, whenever possible, practice looking tragically hip while guarding your backpack, especially in the Temple Bar area.

Cash Card

I went with a cash card again on this trip. However, I did bring my ATM card as a backup if it got stolen. Big mistake. I had been really vigilant about getting cash. I was trying not to use the chip travel card to get cash, wasn’t sure how safe it would be. If I needed cash I went directly to accredited money exchangers after checking Yelp for reviews, and in some UK Post Offices you can use their exchange. I figured if you got a receipt and if they are a chain, you have some recompense if there is a problem. However, depending on remote locations, sometimes the card wouldn’t work for buying meals and such, being WiFi processing dependent. I was doing really well with managing the money, and really thought I had done okay until I got back to the US and found my checking account had been cleared out. The bank got me the records and after contacting Scotland Police by email, I began looking at a trail of how my account was cleared out. It appears the one time I got desperate for cash on a tour, I used a small stand alone ATM at a petrol station. Bad idea. A card skimmer had been attached and as I looked at records, I followed a parallel track to my travels, going through the Highlands and into Edinburgh, the same days I was there for Fringe Festival. Lesson learned, don’t bring anything attached to your bank account and use it to access funds.

Credit Cards

When traveling we often use our credit cards, they usually can be replaced when lost or stolen while traveling if your card is supported internationally. Just be prepared for the the foreign transaction fees. Check with your bank about their rates of exchange before you go. Always plan in your budget for the fees that will hit you when you return. Depending on your countries of travel, you may want to have a card that is with one of the major card companies, Visa or Master Card. Virgin Money is still only available in UK, Europe and Australia.However, the interest rates are terrible. Use credit card sparingly and use the prepaid card for food and expenses.

Large card companies will have the best infrastructure to wire money or replace card overnight in some countries. Travel cards that you preload can be advantageous, but will also accrue per use fees, and if you return and still have money on them, you may get charged monthly fees as well. Close out your cards when you return unless you plan to travel within a year. Contact your card holder for details. I went with Travelex again and for the most part they worked, but the cards were not the latest processing cards and some of the newer chip readers had trouble with them. If you bring your card, make sure you know about any emergency limits. If you have a medical issue in another country, your personal insurance will not cover most expenses. You should buy travel insurance for your trip, make sure that there are allowances for transport fees (ambulance) included. Your credit card will help get you in the door of a medical facility, and you will have to work with the travel insurance later. Pay as you go cards may not be accepted at Casualty rooms.

Travel Cards

I had a Travelex card which is a UK card. Coming from the US, I was told I could only purchase one currency. While in the UK and EU countries, there are cards that allow you multiple currencies on the card. Research this before you go as new card services are popping up, exchange rates will always accrue.

American Express is not accepted by most merchants, if any in the UK and Ireland.

Piece of Mind

There are no guarantees in travel. For the most part, if you have companions you can look out for one another. If you are the single traveler, you have to be even more prepared to be a target. Think about what you really need to do, and do you really need more money in cash. I didn’t want all my eggs in one basket. Even though the travel card was supposed to be the best option, I was concerned about if it got stolen, and considerations about tracking and stopping the old card going to get me refunded funds or were they truly lost. The company claimed it would refund me, but I had my doubts. So, when shopping for your travel cards, research well in advance and talk to them about all their policies. Look at their online interface and see if you think you will be able to access while abroad, or if they have an app for your smart phone. Research through articles and see which cards are performing the best, and in which countries. I found the online web interface really difficult to get to with Travelex. Their app was easy for daily monitoring and topping up.

Hotel Safes

You can shop for accommodations that have a room safe. While you are looking for accommodations on a travel website, contact the accommodation and see if they have room safes. These usually rely on a code that you set yourself, however there are a few locking types which means you have another key to keep track of. In days of old when you traveled, you could rely on a main hotel safe for passports, etc. Try to avoid them. You have no guarantee that the employees won’t skim your funds or access your passport.

UK and EU Travel Cards Information and Articles

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/travel-credit-cards

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/travel-money-options-cash-cards-and-travellers-cheques#using-pre-paid-cards-abroad

http://www.wisebread.com/travel-and-money-using-prepaid-travel-cards

UK Residents http://www.holidayextras.co.uk/travel-money-card.html

https://www.what-prepaid-card.co.uk

Cards

Travelex

Check if you can have multiple currencies https://www.travelex.com/travel-money-card

Visa Prepaids from Visa Partners https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/cards/card-finder/prepaid-finder-page.html

Virgin https://uk.virginmoney.com/virgin/travel-prepaid-card/index.jsp

The Gregory: Belfast Accommodations

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The Gregory Bed and Breakfast, Belfast Northern Ireland

30 Eglantine Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6DX, United Kingdom ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ £ £ £ Moderate

One of the best, most comfortable accommodations I had on this last trip was The Gregory in Belfast. I had a quick 48 hour stay and needed a safe place to stay and be able to walk or bus from where I was. I found a place in a great neighborhood by the university, and plenty of local entertainment, including The Cuckoo club around the corner, owned by a GOT alum (Nairn). IMG_0706

I was going on a great tour for one of my days on the trip, a Game of Thrones Tour that would encompass one whole day. I needed a safe, quiet space to rest from travel and get plenty of sleep the night before. This was just the place. Large, spacious room, good flooring and carpet. The decor was not too loud, fairly neutral. The bathroom was very good, plenty of room to turn around in. The heaters were great, yeah summer in Northern Ireland. The bed was very comfortable, one of the few I didn’t have to use the duvet as padding for. The meals in the restaurant were okay for breakfast, accommodating for early departures if you order the breakfast.

IMG_0707.jpgThe shower was well kept and the at the source heater worked well with a good flow. My room faced the back, with a side window that looked on a nice red brick next to the hotel with a good garden space. The restaurant was very accommodating in the am for early departure on tour.

Local food was very good, being by Queen’s University there were plenty of restaurants to choose from and since school was out for the summer, seating was quick. Remember student restaurants equals great foodie fun and portions. Not all are equal so check the local apps and Yelp.com for reviews. I ate at Molly’s Yard with a huge curry chips I could never finish.IMG_0708

Great price for the comfort, private and crashable after a day long tour. Would definitely stay again.

If you have more time, take the Art Walk Tours of the political murals and community murals in Belfast. Great insight to the wonderful city and it’s history.

Links

https://irishtourtickets.com/game-of-thrones-tour-from-belfast/

Belfast Blast: 48 Hours in Belfast, Northern Ireland

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Galway Tempest

On the second part of my Irish journey this summer, I decided to take in Galway, a medieval town on the Western coast. After three days of intense heat in Dublin, a city I never thought I would see such heat in, I took a tranquil train rides through to the West of Ireland and reached Galway city mid- morning. The ride had been filled with views of great fields of green and an interesting political conversation with an Irishman. Warning, if you start up any politics with the Irish, it will be a long conversation. Actually, most conversations, especially with men in Ireland, will be long and take a while to end. It was a wam, bam, 48 hours well spent and I wished it had been longer.

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The weather took a funny turn right after I arrived, I got off the train needing a good long walk, dropped cases at the bed and breakfast and took College down into the downtown area of Eyre Square, passing through the shopping mall that boasted one of the remaining walls of this great walled city of Ireland. I headed down into Quay and Spanish Arches area, chased the lanes around  for a couple of hours. It looked and smelled of rain, so I tried to cram in the sights as much as I could. Then came in the storm. I had been napping at the B&B and the whole place shook. Within 10 minutes and amazing wind storm with hail, thunder and tree bits blew in and was gone. That’s Galway for you.

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A Taste of Irish Feminism: Crestfall by Mark O’Rowe

One of the main reasons I was in Galway was to take in a play as the Arts Festival was in full swing. I had been trying to book plays from overseas and several had sold out but luckily I snagged a seat at the Druid for Crestfall, a play with three powerful women on a night and what their lives had culminated in for that one night. Deep and insightful to the psyche of womankind it gave a great snapshot of real life tragedy and life in a tiny compact stage. I was on the edge of my seat and drawn in, raging inside with the cast. The play ended up with few favorable reviews, but I think that is because the reviewers just could not handle the raw nature of the play. I was relieved to see a man could write about women, actually capture some of the guttural essence of single mothers and other women downtrodden by society. Directed by Annabelle Comyn, and starring Kate Stanley Brennan, Siobhán Cullen, and Amy McElhatton. Three very different women struggling in a dystopian Dublin.

Galway Arts Festival

If you get a chance to come in the month of July, this festival is a good kick off for festival travels. I managed three festivals this trip, and this was a great beginning. In the beautiful surroundings of the city and university, the big top is also filled with concerts and Trad musicians. If you are planning to go, book your accommodations early and try to get them near the river. Taxis can be rough during the festival and you will need to walk everywhere. But it’s a great little city for walking. Many big and small acts come to the festival, with some famous Irish musicians booking in because they like the festival. Keep an eye on the website as tickets sell out fast.

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Dress in layers, you are by the sea. There is a great many shops to keep you busy. I usually don’t do the tourist shops things, mainly stick to galleries of which there are plenty in this town. Plenty of buskers and jewelry and clothing stalls to pass the time with. Galway is one of the arts hubs of Ireland with creativity on every corner. And then of course Galway is a tourist hub, filled with tour buses and bus barns that amazingly manage to fit in such a small downtown area.

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Connemara

The west of Ireland has many magical places to visit, all lush and green. I had planned for months on my day two being a fantastic trip to the Aran Islands. The weather the following day got even worse, the ocean filled with darkness and wind, so I opted for a coach tour of Connemara National Park instead. What a ride; fjords, endless sheep and landscapes, all seen in the mostly rain filled summer’s day. If you can manage it, stay in the park either camping or at a nearby inn. There is so much to see and experience hiking it will take at least a full day. The highlight of the tour was the Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Gardens estate tour. This massive estate was once home to a very wealthy family, but now has been converted to an Benedictine Abbey. The grounds are lush and rambling, you are in for a good walk with many photo opportunities.

Ireland’s west coast and the Atlantic Way is filled with a great many treats for the senses, wear layers and bring your imagination. Two days was not enough, so if you can manage it try for three to four days to explore this beautiful area fully. This is one of the few places where doing a hire car with a group may be your best advantage so you can get to all of the sights around Galway. Just be patient if you drive into Galway, for the streets pack fast and it may be better to park at the outskirts and walk in.

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Spanish Arches

Abbey

Benedictine Abbey

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Connemara State Park

Victorian Walled Garden

Dreichy in Glasgow, You’ve Got Places to Go

IMG_0731I love visiting Glasgow. I have several times. I keep going back and finding new things, and of course revisiting some favorites. Scottish weather is lovingly joked about, just like San Francisco or Portland Oregon weather. The fact is, any country with changeable weather must be taken with amusement, how else can you survive when it really gets bad?

Rain, dreich, and more rain. We have that in Portland, other wise known as Puddleton. So when I keep traveling back to a land with the wets, people wonder why. The inhabitants are desperate to get to the Canary Island or Spain, Italy, anywhere with a mild climate. What, you live near California, why do you come here? Simple, love the place, can’t get enough. Lived in foggy, drippy port towns most of my life. Have that Viking ancestry and too pale of skin to go back to California, yeah pink in five seconds here. But mostly it’s places like Glasgow teaming with life and music, food, culture and close proximity to magical day trips to places like the Trossachs National Park that make it a great hub for exploration.

So what do you do when it is positively dripping, or worse, torrents. Most inhabitants bundle up inside and have tea, binge watch if not working, and some maybe while working. If you are one who gets restless when it pours, need to get out a bit, find whatever free entertainment you can for the best dreichy to drookit days. And it’s heading into the Hols, so you need to save money where you can, or shop for gifts that help the museum out.

Museums

Since my youth and living in San Francisco Bay Area, I found that museums were always a day well spent. In the US, most museums charge fees to get in and some of the attached galleries as well. In the UK and Ireland, admission to most museums are free of charge, with special exhibits having some fees. There is always something going on in the museums that will entertain you in the main exhibits areas.

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Kelvingrove Museum Argyle Street, Glasgow, Scotland

I keep coming back to this fabulous place. Recently I went the Frank Quietly Exhibit there, the hours were well spent. The rest of the galleries will keep you busy for hours, and a great way to keep the kids entertained for free. The museum is a classic museum layout with many floors and galleries and a good place to have a tea half way through. The Life Collection features natural history, human history and prehistory sections, with the taxidermy animals is a very good collection and I must admit a childhood favorite to peruse. The Egyptian interactives are a bit of fun. The best spot is the technology and sciences galleries, where I saw a actual Enigma machine putting something tangible on history for me.

In the Expressions Galleries, there are exhibits from painters and other artists. Monet, Gaugin and Renoir are featured. There are also many works from Scottish artists and The Glasgow Boys. This next year will be Charles Rennie Macintosh’s 150th birth year and an exhibition is being planned for that.

The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, Scotland

A great museum on an amazing campus. Plan to spend quite a few hours and not far from Kelvingrove. It’s a fabulous place with collections that should not be missed. James McNeill Whistler and Charles Rennie Macintosh have permanent collections there. The other collections feature art, archaeology, cultures, historical, coins and metal, fossils and a great medical exhibit. Check with the museum for hours of display and access since this is on the university campus.

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People’s Palace and Winter Gardens

Aptly named of course for a great indoor garden experience and galleries of local history. This great local exhibition place gets you in the feel for the history of Glasgow. From “Steamy” displays to local shops and other historical displays about everyday life. My favorite display was seeing Sir Billy Connolly’s famous Banana Boots. The sheer size of the Big Yin’s unique equipage was boggling. How did he walk in those things?

The Palace has a nice Victorian Glass House with a great botanics display and tea house. The line can get quite long for the tea. But well worth it after a few hours spent looking at displays.

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Hidden Lane Tearoom, Finnieston, Glasgow

My favorite place to go back to for tea. This hidden gem has a great alley space with a eclectic food menu and great relaxation spaces, mismatched tables and chairs, tea sets. Squeeze through the alley to get there, great to get off Sauchiehall Street bustle for a bit, although in summer the West End is pretty relaxed as many city residents are still working or out on holiday themselves. Their clotted cream is the best, the real deal. Cakes, biscuits, savories and soup.

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New/Used Bookstores

Ah, the very best thing to do when it rains and snows, brave the weather and find a book nook. Glasgow has many great new and used book stores. Problem is when you’re traveling you want to scoop an armful, but really can’t fit it in. Just grab one or two, read and leave at your B&Bs with notes about your reading thoughts. You’ll many dusty pages to chose from, Voltaire and Rousseau is quite a jumble to meander through, and that’s the fun. Don’t forget to look up Thistle Books as well, just in case you haven’t found everything imaginable to read.

Articles

Scottish Weather

http://www.scotsman.com/heritage/15-words-which-can-only-be-used-to-describe-scottish-weather-1-4104762

Hunterian https://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/collections/collectionsummaries/art/theglasgowboys/

Books Shops

http://visit-glasgow.info/shopping/top-ten-bookshops-in-glasgow/

Great Escapes From Glasgow

Frank Quietly Exhibit at the Kelvingrove, Glasgow

Glasgow Art Walk July 2017

Glasgow Westend Summer 2017 Musings

ashtonI have just spent a few rare, mostly sunny days in Glasgow’s West End. What’s not to like about this festive and eclectic area in Glasgow. Situated right next to University of Glasgow, as in all great university towns, a great area hub of several very diverse communities on all sides of the university, each with it’s own flavor.

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It’s warm and happening here in the West End and Hillhead area of Glasgow. A rare, two warm sunny-ish days are indeed happening. I probably cursed us by wearing my sleeveless shirt for a while, sans jacket. Highly indulgent of me, I know. Feel the sunburn happening. Just walking the Byres Road area in the afternoon and the beach chairs are out near the  Hillhead Bookclub, an eclectically intense eatery that even has a clothing jumble sale on weekends upstairs. Great  vegan offerings along side traditional food. Had a sweet potato cake that was spicy indeed, and the plates are large portioned.  Just look for the dapper sea horse mural and you have found the spot.

Kelvinside and Botanic Gardens

This area boasts the enchanting Glasgow Botanic Gardens. In the summer you can see Bard in The Botanic, the local Shakespeare in the parks production. Places to eat and venues like the Oran Mor and Webster Theatre offer entertainment as well as good food and bar facilities.

Hillhead

Besides having a lot of student housing areas, with more being built as of this writing, this part of town has a vast array of restaurants that appeals to many cultural flavors and pricing is influenced by the student population. Therefore, great bargains can be had food wise here, and like most Uni areas, volume comes with the plate in many cases. Check out the other patrons plates to see if you can dine al fresco or if each plate can feed two to three people. There is also a lot of shopping to be done in the area at several brand name

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 as well as boutique stores. And don’t pass up the Oxfam and other local charity shops, you may just find a fun, hip article for a good cause.

West End

Just south of Kelvingrove Park is the area that is the eclectic and hipster area of West End and features Sauchiehall Street, Fitzroy Place, and Argyle street. There are a great number of bars and high end restaurants in the area, and plenty of places to do whisky tasting like the Ben Nevis. Other real notables are Ox and Finch, Mother India, The socialHidden Lane Tearoom, and Cubatas Tapas Bar, and the recently voted best place bar in West End, J. Sharpe Dispensary or The Drugstore Social . This was a great retreat one day from lang walks and the need to feed at lunch with a great glass of wine. The area features a few small boutiques for shopping fun. I recently ate at Ox and Finch, a small plates Tapas style eatery off Sauchiehall Street, after trying to have a sit in there for a few weeks. This restaurant is so popular you may have to book a few days in advance via their website like I did. It was worth the wait. The sommelier was very knowledgeable about both food and wine pairings, and helped with a Gluten Free adaptation of meals. The atmosphere was relaxing and a wonderful West End experience. Also after a good feed at the local, walking the Kelvin riverside walkways are a pleasant way to make room for a later whiskey tasting.

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Kelvinbridge

Two favorite places near where I was staying and just a convenient hop across the Western Road were Inn Deep at the Kelvinbridge, featuring a very twisty stairs down through the main door, or a bridge staircase down to the Kelvin walkway, which by the way is a must river adventure. This foodie enclave features dog friendly spaces, riverside seating you will have to fight for or make friends over. Music tends towards the 70s and even some American Funk. But beware of being blasted with Fleetwood Mac and other golden oldies you may find yourself singing along to. Great hand cut fries, too.

Another dog friendly spot, and people too, is the The Belle on the Western Road. Quiet some nights, raucous talk the next. Good selection of drink options. 

 

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Whiskey

Yes, national drink and all, most bars, pubs, and taverns will carry a very good selection of regional whiskey. If you have mostly had American or only a few Scottish varieties, you may want to go to a whiskey bar or even go on a whiskey walking tour where you can hit up a few specializing places. If you are in the West End, Ben Nevis Pub is a connoisseur spot but gets packed of an evening. If you don’t like a huge crowd and want to talk to the barkeep, try a late afternoon visit.

Hint: Kitchens can close early in Scotland, so if you are used to tavern food up until midnight, that may not be the thing in some parts of town. Sundays mean earlier closures for most restaurants.

© 2017 Photos by J. Canning

Glasgow Art Walk July 2017

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I had been looking forward to revisiting the Glasgow Mural walk for some time and was not disappointed. This walk features a great many murals all over the city with many of them being situated in the City Centre and outlying areas. There is a map you can download and print out, as well as just keeping your eyes peeled as there are many other murals that just keep popping up and unless you are a local, would not be aware of them and where they are situated. Check in out of the way spaces like under the bridges and lots.

These colorful depictions of life and interpretation have become such a part of the landscape, it’s hard to notice that some are suffering the sad realisation that wind and elements are taking their toll. To my relief I had not seen any of the murals suffering from deliberately being altered, although some other tagging and art seemed to be butting up against some of them. Street art is highly respected by fellow artists, and street art has a huge fan base. Indeed, as in other great mural and street art works from around the world, the sides of buildings are slowing giving away and altering some of the murals. Some artists see this as part of the landscape, that the art itself will have to show time. Good news is more are being created, including some new ones dedicated to the comic Sir Billy Connolly.

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Start with the City Centre and follow the circuit. You will see a great many parts of the city and get a good healthy urban hike. Don’t forget to stop off at some great restaurants and pubs along the way. Wear sturdy walking shoes. Happy hunting.

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Download the brochure here:
https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=19649&p=0

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© 2017 Photos by J. Canning

Get Ready to Pack: The Reality of Living Out of a Suitcase

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When you are flying domestic or traveling via car or bus, you usually just dump a bunch of clothing, what you think you will need while gone for a few days, into a case. You may have some sense of how you pack, but it’s a ,”Hey, I am going for a few days” mentality.  At least this is what I have experienced in talking with other people from the US, not much thought goes into what we cram into the case. This is  probably why we get held up at airports, the not thinking about carry on restrictions and what we cram in a case, liquids in too large amounts. If you are going overseas, you need to pack less and more useful clothing, toiletries, devices, and pack definitely more efficiently.

How Are You Traveling?

Will you be on large domestic to international flights? What are their current restrictions on weight and size? You can find most weight and size charts online, but they can still be a bit confusing. You should keep in mind that you may be able to really cram a case full of your belongings, but you have to lug that around for a few weeks and also the planes, trains and automobiles you may use have limited space. When traveling in a train, its a free for all on luggage racks and space behind the seats. You need to monitor your cases and know where they are on public transit. If you can get reserved seating, try to get a seat near or facing the racks to keep an eye on your gear. Check with the airlines, all airlines you are traveling with. This includes the smaller flights you may take in between islands or countries. Don’t rely on what it says on the online travel site you may use to  book, contact the actual carrier or railway.

Start Packing Trial Run

Some people are born packers. Some have been in the military and really know how to pack. Others travel a great deal for their jobs and have learned over time the best way to pack a case and survive TSA. You should rehearse with your cases a few days ahead. Now you may think that you have this down, but it’s better to have the trial run and edit than do so 4 hours before flight.

Start by lining up your clothing and thinking about weight. When you are at home, things go in drawers and closets, weigh is distributed. It’s amazing how much we don’t think of clothing as having weight unless it’s work boots. It adds up quickly, and you will pay for extra weight. Not all airlines let you check the cargo baggage free. Many charge per bag.

Methods

Rolling is something I have learned to do. It also means you can cram more things in in the case, and keeps wrinkles down. That doesn’t mean you should keep cramming. Again, weight is very restricted on overseas flights. I find rolling works well because you can keep some wrinkles out of clothing and even when you start accumulating dirty items, you can have one side clean and the other dirty. You will need to do laundry somehow, many wash in the sink, but some dense items that really doesn’t work well for. Plan to loose a few hours to finding a launderette for wash and dry. Some small items just need a rinse, and packing them just takes a quick fold. You may want to take a picture of when you successfully get the cases packed the way you want, just as a reference for the re-pack. Pack a bag for laundry run.

What to Pack

Lists can be found online about this topic. My experience has taught me this:

Several pairs of jeans, trousers. 4 if you can fit it. Easy to move around in, have pockets. Now my experience has taught me get real levis or non-fashion jeans. That’s right ladies, your hip and trendies have no real pockets. Totally useless for travel. You may want to bring one pair for an occasion. If you are on a tight budget, you may want to do what I have done in the past, get to the army surplus and get some real camos or other army pants that have pockets. Otherwise get to the outdoor store and get cargo pants. Works really well for train travel. Zip off kind make cargo shorts.

Tee shirts. Get plenty of teeshirts that can work as layers. Try to have a weeks worth with you. Sadly you will need to wash things, otherwise you have to lug too much with you. Keep  in mind that many UK and European cities do  not have a laundry set up that you are used to in America. Most of it is service wash and that can take a few days to get back, which won’t work.

One nice set of clothing that packs tight. Unless you are going for a wedding or some other really big affair, one outfit that can go to the theatre or very nice dinner.

Lightweight rain jacket if traveling spring/summer. Heavier weight worn if traveling fall/winter. Don’t bring large umbrella, or brelly. I would advise just buying one there and leaving it if you need. Here in PDX we mostly jacket hood if we have to, and it rains torrents. Think mobile.

Devices. You need a phone and an international plan. Tablet maybe. With new restrictions on the horizon you may want to rethink this. I have to take something because I  blog. Make sure you have your power converter. This trip I am relying on the phone for pictures and will be testing some camera phone lenses out. Cameras can be a hassle when traveling, one more thing to keep track of. But if you are a picture fiend, then finding a travel worthy camera is a sound investment.

Money belt. Yes, you will be a tourist target. Try not to be one. You are allowed one small personal bag on most flights. When out on the street, these bags can get slashed and grabbed very easy. Consider money belts for when you really need to have the money with you. Leaving money stashed in hotel rooms is not really safe unless there is a room safe. Backpacks and or travel bag purses should be on the smallish side and reenforced and antitheft built. If you are going the travel backpack route, I suggest you flatten and pack it in your cases and use when you arrive. If they make you check it, it can get damaged on conveyer belts, or just go missing in the system.

Toiletries

I try to buy most of these when I get to the country I am visiting. This works well if it’s a Western country or one that has a large metropolis. Otherwise, you need to pack your shampoos and such in regulation size containers. Double bag in clear zip lock bags and place in clear organizers. Things get jostled about and even with careful planning, can make a mess before you get there are cause inspection problems. Some things you will need to have like medications need to be packed with you in your. Carry on. Just  bring enough in your budget to get to the apothecary when you get there.

More

The Savvy Backpacker – Great article on all aspects for consideration while traveling. Including traveling using underground.

https://thesavvybackpacker.com/europe-packing-list/

http://toeuropeandbeyond.com/europe-travel-packing-list/

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Photo © Jan Voigtmann