Whither Must I Wander


The Remote Part/Scottish Fiction

My friend Georgia refers to Scotland as “Och Aye Land” and that’s not a bad moniker. I had an easier time understanding French than some of the accents we encountered. Scotland was the country I was the most apathetic toward before the trip, but it quickly became one of my favorite places. It had elegance, edge and, uh, Edinburgh. And other things that start with 'e' I'm sure.

I fell in love with Edinburgh. Similar to London, but with more room to breathe and a little more relaxed. The area we were in is divided into the Old Town and the New Town and the above castle is located, of course, in the Old Town. It’s funny because you'll walk out of TopShop or H&M and across the street is a trench surrounding a mountain and on top of said mountain is the above castle. Doesn’t happen so much in Canada. This is Edinburgh Castle, by the way.

This allows for another Pants story. Our first night in Edinburgh we grabbed some sandwiches from, you guessed it, M&S, and sat in the park at the base of the castle and watched expectant mothers smoke and drink Guinness. Lovely. The Pants tried to take pictures of some 'lads playing football' as she termed it. I tried to convince her that it was creepy to take pictures of people without their consent, but by the end of the trip she'd convinced me otherwise. Other people are more interesting. The above is her attempt at surreptitious photography. We later attended a production of "Les Liasons Dangereux" in this fancy theatre. We walked in off the street, bought the most expensive tickets ($40 CAD, can you believe it???) and had great seats. The usherette kept asking, "Are you sure this is where you should be sitting?" We did look rather dodgy. The next day I suggested going to see some sights and maybe the castle. “What castle?” asked The Pants. “You know, the castle,” I said. Blank stare. “You know, the castle looming above us as we ate our sandwiches last night?” Still nothing. We made our way to the main strip and as the castle came into view I pointed it out. “Oh, that castle.” My sister, folks.

Edingburgh had an excellent free gallery, the National Gallery, to be exact. We saw a Botticelli, lots of Rubens and a John Singer Sargent that we both loved. Outside the gallery was a couple of punks doing these amazing chalk drawings (I am in no way an artist so they looked good to me). We gave them a pound and then took their picture. I don't think that's very punk of them. But who am I to argue? And speaking of punk, I've never seen so many elderly women with pink/green/blue hair as I have in Edinburgh. Which further explains why it rocks.

Our brother, Seth, (who apparently is exempt from anonymity) insisted we bring him home a kilt. I tried to tell him how freakin' expensive they were, but he thought I was just being cheap. This is only one of many pictures indicating that I was right, as usual.

Two shots of Glasgow - the bottom one is the view from the hostel. Ask anyone in Edinburgh about Glasgow and the immediate and inevitable response is, "Why would you want to go there?" But I loved Glasgow. We were there on a Sunday so our activities were limited, but the hostel was adjacent to a gorgeous park and a beautiful University campus. And the accents were top notch. 'Pairfect'! I also bought an obscene amount of books in Glasgow. All the music stores carry cheap books so my addiction was further fueled, much to the chagrin of my suitcase. I still have blisters on my hands from the damn thing.

This might be my most favorite picture fromt the entire trip. The Pants had read in British Vogue about a good vintage shop in Glasgow called Starry Starry Night, so we mapped it out and hiked across town to see what treasures we could find. It was located in this dingy alley next to a hemp store - we were stoked...but it was closed. The sabbath strikes again. So we took a picture of The Pants looking forlorn and she plans to mail it to them to accompany the note she left expressing her dismay. So very sad. I do wish we'd spent spent more time in Scotland, but there's always next time.

Up Next: Ireland


England, Yeah?

My time in England confirmed something I have long suspected: I love the British. Their clothes, the humor, their obsession with pre-packed sandwiches, the large selections of vinyl in their music stores, their tendency to keep left…I could go on.
The view from the kitchen in Tara’s flat. Speaking of flats, the cost of living in London is just as bad as you’ve heard, if not worse. To live in central London in the same flatshare as Tara and Sarah would cost me more than 4x what I pay for my reasonably sized apartment in central Calgary. Yikes.
Bored? Walk around and you may come across a free concert by some very talented, foul mouthed Glaswegians.
The Pants searching through vintage finds at Portobello Market. A crowded gong show, but so much fun.

Windsor Castle in Windsor. Oldest working castle in the world and home to the queen, when she’s at home. She was not home when we were there. Silly Liz. We were of course not allowed to take photos inside, and I was at the stage of the trip where I obeyed the rules. You will later see my sneaky snapshots in various museums. Actually, if you hit up Tara and Sarah's blog you'll find a better account of the Windsor visit, and probably better pictures, too.

St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. This place was amazing. It was such a gorgeous church and was the site of many royal marriages and tombs. They even had a 1st edition Leviathan on display. Ack! We decided to attend the service later in the day and were absolutely bowled over by the traditional Catholic mass in the inner chapel, complete with chanting choir and Latin. I was enthralled to be in such a historically important place, listening to beautiful music, never mind the tomb of Henry VIII right in front of me.

Ah, th’moors. Heathcliff? Actually, this is just the edge of th'moors. Diehards, calm down.

Yorkshire. The land of some of our forbearers and great accents. And so many sheep! The little white dots on the other side of the valley are our fluffy friends. We were sitting on the top of a hill, having a moor rest, when all of a sudden the loudest, most frantic bleating you’ve ever heard came echoing across the valley. We were hysterical for about 10 minutes.

Small town Yorkshire did not win The Pants’s heart. In fact, we altered our Irish itinerary and had to miss the Gaeltacht area because three days in small town Ireland would have been just as bad and might have killed her. The best part was the following conversation:
“I’m bored. Let’s go to a movie.”
“But they don’t have a movie theatre in Haworth.”
Silence. “But, how can it not have one?”
“It just doesn’t. It’s too small.”
Confusion evolving to wrath. “I. Hate. Small. Towns.” Her deep-seated hatred of small towns is the result of an unexpected breakdown in Boulder, Montana a few years ago. She’s never recovered. Probably for the best as getting to Haworth was a ridiculous ordeal involving rickety trains and an elusive bus station in Keighley.

I, however, enjoyed seeing a bit of regular English life, as London, I was assured, is decidedly not English. Haworth was obviously built long before modern construction equipment was invented so the unleveled ground made for some insane hikes up some of the steepest streets I’ve ever encountered. We were mortified as little old ladies trucked past us.

York was an incredible city. All cobblestones, narrow streets and old buildings. I seem to recall that it's the oldest city in England, but I could be wrong. As we walked back to the hostel after midnight it was horribly foggy and the gothic spires of the looming Minster scared us silly. We walked very quickly.

The Pants having a chat with her new friend Constantine.

Next: Scotland.


Homeward Bound

We're back, kids!

It's bizarre to be in a city that has:

-People driving on the righthand side of the road
-Wide open spaces
-Lots of Canadians
-Less than 4 flights of stairs in one house
-Front lawns
-No cobblestones

So, due to the lack of photos and ridiculously expensive internet that rendered the blog lame in general, I plan to do a few posts as a last hurrah whilst trying to conquer the jet lag. Perhaps country by country or something. I'm knackered. Nine and a half hours is a looooong flight. But at least it was direct. I had a great view of the north pole, too.

Thanks to great friends like K. and A. who are encouraging and are in general fabulous people. Overall, it was a phenomenal trip and we were so fortunate to have the time and means to do what we did. I don't know that I'll ever recover from 3+ weeks avec the wee Pants...but I have no doubt she feels the same way.

Also, gigantic thanks and more thanks to our cousin Tara and her friend Sarah for putting us up while in London. It was by no means a roomy ordeal and we so appreciate them sharing their floor space, hot water and TP in an already busy flat. You guys are amazing, not to mention hysterical, and we wish you the best on the backpacking trip!

Tara's on the left, the one that strongly resembles The Pants.

Well, for the 4 of you that I think read this, thanks for coming along. And sorry for all the references - no less than 3 people have commented on the apparently obscure references that peppered my entries. I didn't mean to leave anyone in the dark, I guess it's just how my mind was working. Anyway, stay tuned for a few more days, if you like.


Down By The Bay

Since I heard the phrase "Galway Bay", the above mentioned song has been in my head ever since. Not sure what that says about me. But that is a damn good song. Have you ever seen a whale with a polkadot tail?

Anway, never mind about the validation. After my last post, I went and talked to The Pants about my concerns. She was on her top bunk in the hostel in Belfast, reading an Agatha Christie novel and eating digestive biscuits. "Who cares?" she said amidst a mouthful. "We do what we want. Here," she said, shoving the packet in my face, "eat a digestive." And this is why I went traveling with my sister. She drives me mental most of the time, but every once in a while she says the right thing. And we love Galway. It's super hot and humid and everyone is out on patios drinking Guinness, or Diet Coke in our case. It's so relaxing here. J'adore!

We've also been practicing our French. It's pretty much a lost cause, but no matter. Je voudrais un chocolat chaud, s'il vous plait. D'accord? C'est vrai! Ma soeur, quelle dommage! Or something like that, anyway. Perhaps I'll get some pictures up whilst in Galway.



Still Fighting It

What are we still fighting? Everything. Traffic, other travelers, pedestrians, train officials, each other...the list goes on. I'm probably being dramatic, but today is a day of fatigue. We're just over half way, and I can't shake the feeling that I'm not doing everything I should be, making the most of the trip, y'know? I guess I could take every moment and squeeze until I'm wrung out, but... I don't know. Frustrated today, I guess.

Saw some of the murals in Belfast yesterday and the barbed wire on a lot of the back walls and fences. Not on purpose, either. I may have gotten us a little lost. Whoops. It was a little scary, even though I know 'The Troubles' are over. We went to the Ulster museum today and it gave a bit of insight into Belfast history. Fascinating but sad.

Belfast is so far the city most like home, which is a comparison I did not anticipate making. I'm not sure exactly why, but it feels a lot like Edmonton. The Pants agrees. Who knew?

I've accepted the fact that this trip is not about nature and backpacking and scenery, although there's a bit of that going on. It's more a survey of the cities, and getting to know them on foot and experiencing the life of a Londoner, a Glaswegian or...you get the picture. I'm fine with this and I really enjoy it because I'm a city girl at heart, but we meet other people who are going hiking in Scotland or touring the coast of Ireland and I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I'd love to see more remote places, but when it's two girls on foot and limited funds, side trips are really difficult, as Haworth proved in spades. Validation, anyone?

Galway tomorrow.


The State That I Am In

Hiya! So, the first song I ever listened to by Belle & Sebastian was the above mentioned, in which the line 'turning tables at Marks & Spencer' is featured. I was intrigued by this M&S mention ("M&S!" said The Pants, "It's our initials!" She's easily amused), and subsequently heard it elsewhere. As The Pants will tell you, it has become something of an obsession, and that is the state that I am in. I'd like to say it's because of the easily accessible facilities, but in truth, it's the food. I fully understand this "Heathrow Injection" everyone talks about, and it's probably due in large part to the lovely array of smoothies, baked goods and ready made delights that entrance as you enter. Thank heavens I don't live in the UK or I would weigh, well, a heck of a lot. Not to mention all the other things, like Jaffa cakes and Bakewell Tarts and Double Decker bars...you get the picture. Probably just the novelty, but ugh. Barf.

Anyway - today we're in Glasgow. I listened to some Belle & Sebastian (didn't intend to talk about them so much here) and Franz Ferdinand on the train, all proud Glaswegians. It's so green and gorgeous in Scotland. The hostel here is uncommonly nice and friendly. Other titles for this trip, had we officially named it at all, could be "Hostels and Train Stations, all the live long day", or "Why is the crazy lady washing her socks at 11:30pm?" Suffice it to say, hostels are useful, but odd.

Glasgow is misty and foggy today, but I feel an odd and unfamiliar sense of calm. As we sped along on the train from Edinburgh this morning, I started thinking about the poem I nicked the title of the blog from. RL Stevenson was a Scotsman, so it was quite fitting. Not to get maudlin on y'all, but the lines that were rattling in my head...

"Home no more home to me, whither must I wander
Hunger my driver, I go where I must.
Cold blows the winter wind, over hill and heather
Thick drives the rain and my roof is in the dust."

Seemed quite fitting today.

Now, a week in Ireland, to be sure. Once again, no USB ports so no pictures yet. Lame!


Common People

Want to speak like the common people...?

"I'm knackered after slavin' at the TopShop and this to'ally mingin' slapper 'ad the gall to nick the last sarnie at M&S!"

This sentance? The reason I would move to London. So many fabulous things - knackered, mingin', TopShop, M&S...I could go on. Due to hostel internet access, the pictures may be limited at first, but I'll try to add them later.

So far, I *heart* the UK! It's even better than I remembered from a long 12 years ago, or maybe that's 13? London is amazing. You might be walking through Trafalgar Square and notice a free concert going on. Who's playing? Maybe Belle & Sebastian. Seriously. And if it's important to you, celebrities everywhere. We may have taken a stroll past Ewan McGregor's. But no pictures. Even I have some standards. And a shout out to my super cousin Tara and her friend Sarah who graciously allowed us to stay with them, free of charge, and toured us around their new home. Don't worry ladies, we'll make it up to you for sure.

Anyway, after a whirlwind four days of shopping and sightseeing, The Pants and I hightailed it to King's Cross and jumped a train to Leeds then another to Keighley where we hitched a bus to the teeny tiny village of Haworth, home to our ancestors, no less. On the way, we listened to a little Kate Rusby and Pulp to pay homage to the area of Yorkshire. Not sure if small towns are the way to go when it's just two of you, but I still enjoyed the slice of small town British life. The best part was trying to convince The Pants that there was no movie theatre. "But, how can there not be?" she asked, confused. This is just one of many moments that affirmed her distaste for small town living, and why we will most likely have to forgo the Dingle Peninsula and head to Galway instead. 17, a glorious age. Although I'm sure I was no picnic either. Then or now.

On that note, I'm not sure it was such a good idea for us to travel together. As she reminded me, no one ever thought it would be a good idea, but I guess we're stuck with it now. Oy.

After a day in York (freaking beautiful!) we're now in Edinburgh. I listened to a steady stream of Idlewild on the way in honor of the city and after the desk agent said the phrase "freak of nature" in his lovely accent, I was won over. We'll be off shortly to explore and shop some more. The UK is taking all my money and I'm letting it happen.

Wish us luck, kids! Hope you're not bored and I'll hope to update more and get some pictures on here...