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Craignure Travel Blog

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Home sweet home (for one night).


So, my luggage finally showed up Sunday. I rushed back to the hotel, changed into clean clothes (aaaaaaah), checked out and caught the bus into Glasgow.  The #500 took me straight to George Square, which is next to the bus and train station.

Bought a train ticket to Oban and had a few hours (like, 5!), so I stowed my luggage (getting all confused by a pretty straightforward process; the manager had to take over for me. Maybe I wasn't completely over the jet lag).

The exchange rate (and the weak showing of the $) hits me in odd places. The left luggage locker was £4.

The door to my room at the backpackers.
OK, except that with the exchange rate that's just over $8! For the privilege of stowing my luggage for 4 hours. A bottle of water is £1-2. But that's $2-4. That seems like a lot of a bottle of water.

Eh, I knew it would be high when I decided to take this trip. Suck it up and move on. I walked down the road to the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art ( Normally, I'm not a big modern art person but it was close and I wanted to go to a museum, so I thought I'd give it a try.

There are things to enjoy at modern art museums but it really isn't me. I did find one particulary moving exhibit by a photographer, Jo Spence. She experimented with 'photo therapy', which is using photography to work with issues in her life.

I had the top bunk, named 'Stimpy'. The one below was, of course, Ren. We also had Marge, Homer, and a few others.
She used it to explore her relationship with her mother, her world, the medical community's treatment of women, and her body. The last two are particularly important because she had breast cancer (eventually dying from leukemia). The pictures where she deals with her grief and rage about what her body is going through struck straight into my heart.

Even more stunning, she arranged for a friend to take pictures of her immediately after her death. She left him specific instructions on how to use two head shots, merging them over the course of four pictures, to symbolize death as a return to the womb. The visual effect is striking and incredibly effective.

Worth the visit all by itself. Plus the museum is free! I do love a free museum.

After the museum, I had a chance to do something I especially wanted to do in Glasgow: have tea at one of the famous Willow Tea Rooms (www. These were a thriving business in the early 20th century and are still in business today. Established by a woman seeking a good place for women to relax in peace and truly enjoy each others companies, they are also famous for their design.

Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the look is art nouveau-ish. They are especially famous for their chairs -- tall and thin and reminding me of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright in many ways. In a small room, they are a bit crowding, making you feel like you're walking among trees (they are 5-6 feet high in the back).

I ordered the standard afternoon tea -- 4 squares of sandwich (quite good and not 'finger' sandwiches; a full quarter of  a normal sized sandwich) of different types, scone with some light as air whipped butter, a piece of shortbread and a slice of chocolate cake (which was actually too sweet for me by then).

A happy looking sailboat in Craignure.
Plus, of course, a proper pot of tea.

What a perfectly delightful place to spend an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon.

I wandered a bit around the pedestrian shopping zone. It was a bright clear day, just some breezy. My jacket felt good outside and a bit much inside. I love pedestrian shopping zones. I find them in lots of European cities and I wish it were practical to do them in more US cities but that's not the way we shop and it's not conducive to the way we design cities. Mores the pity.

The train ride to Oban, 3 hours, was lovely. Mostly. Extremely green scenery. Clouds mixing with rain alternating with brilliant sunshine (the sun doesn't set here till about 11 pm!). Unfortuantely, I ended up in a car full of young 20-somethings on holiday. Not quite as bad as a car full of teenagers (or a snack shop full of junior high kids on their class trip to DC!) but still self-consciously and unconsciously (at the same time somehow) loud.

The view from the cafe, while waiting for the bus.
No apparent appreciation for the effect of their behavior on anyone they aren't immediately travelling with.

<sigh> I am soooooo middle-aged.

Once we got to Oban, I huffed and puffed my way up the hill (the hill wasn't that bad but I was still tired and the waist belt on my backpack doesn't, ahem, fit so well anymore, squeezing the air out of me a bit) to the Oban Backpackers ( I like this place. Funky in a good way. Hand painted walls and doors, old furniture draped with cheap Celtic design throws. Pool table in the main area. Very very clean. The bunk rooms are tidy.

I had a top bunk (nicknamed 'Stimpy'). The first step was pretty high up (thank heavens for long arms and legs) and getting down this morning took me several minutes while I figured out how to get myself onto the ladder (I'm not as agile as I used to be).

Leaving Oban
The mattress was a bit thin but I still slept like the dead.

Except for the crew that came in about 12:30 (yes, after midnight). Half the room was already asleep. I was getting my PJs on in the dark (no problem) but they apparently just couldn't figure out how to manage so they simply.....turned on the overhead light and had a regular volume conversation. Spent about 15 minutes getting themselves ready for bed. Completely oblivious to nor embarassed about the fact that they'd woken up 6 other sleeping people.

There are some fundamental etiquette rules for sharing a backpacker or hostel dorm.

1.  Bring a flashlight. If you get in after the lights have gone out, use your flashlight to get yourself ready for bed. (note to self: bring a flashlight next time)


The Oban waterfront
NEVER have a regular voice conversation after most people have gone to bed. You are always louder than you think you are.

3.  Stow your stuff under the bottom bunk if you are in the top bunk. If you are in the bottom bunk, leave room for the bags of the person in the top bunk.

4. Don't unpack or spread your stuff around. In addition to the consideration of shared space, it reduces the chance of you misplacing something and leaving it behind. Take things out of your bag as you need them and then put them back in.

5. If you are leaving early in the a.m., get your morning stuff (clothing, shower gear, etc.) ready the night before so you can do your thing quickly and quietly (and in the dark, if necessary).

6. Don't use an alarm clock unless you are good about turning it off very very quickly or it's relatively quiet. Remember, your alarm isn't going to wake just you up.

Those are my rules for sharing space peacefully in a backpackers / hostel / etc. Now, if only those girls had known that last night (and this morning!).

We ended up with a guy in our room since it was the last space available. I changed into my PJs in my bunk and decided he would just have to deal with it. Sadly for him, he wasn't in the room. Missed a great chance to get a look at big ol' (middle-aged) American boobs. If he knew what he missed, I'm sure he'd be crushed. :)

This morning, I ended up sort of oversleeping since my alarm clock has decided to go on vacation too. Yet I still work up in time. Go figure.

Got dressed and checked out (I'll take a shower when I get to my hotel this afternoon). Stopped by the hardware store to pick up an adapter for my camera charger (and bought a new battery for the clock). Stopped by the post office and mailed a package. I had to bring some class work with me (I have to review 30 student business plans before July 21st so I brought most of them with me and got them read while in transit). I finished them and mailed them back to the school. Keep your fingers crossed they make it there in time!

I've also finished 1.5 of the 3 books I brought with me so I threw the finished on in the package too. Thank heavens my friend Kitty sent a birthday present with me to open on my birthday next Sunday. It's already wrapped so I'm sure I don't know what it is but it's shaped an awful lot like a book, bends like a paperback, and is the right size for a book. Thank you, in advance, Kitty! I'll need more reading material by Sunday, which just wigs me out (the thought of running out of reading material).

I also stopped by a bookstore because I managed to leave my Lonely Planet guide to Scotland in the Glasgow train station. D'oh! Fortunately, they had a copy. I've resisted the urge to buy any other books on this trip, mostly because I don't want to have to carry anything else. But, oh, it's been tough!  There's a history of art that I've seen in a couple of shops that keeps calling me......

Othewise, today is all about transport -- ferry to the Isle of Mull, bus across the Isle of Mull, ferry to Iona. Lovely Iona. I'm seriously considering extending my stay there and going straight from there to my hike next Friday. It will depend on my ability to secure lodging for the while week.  I'll let the Spirit decide if that's going to happen or not.  I've already put in my request. :)

Till the bus gets here, I'm sitting in a peaceful cafe checking out the lowering and rising clouds and gazing across the inlet / bay / firth /whatever it is at low green and black hills.  Hmmmmmmm, this must be Scotland!  Couple of sailboats looking pretty out there too. Main and head sails up and moving smartly.

Be well and you'll probably hear from me again tomorrow.  I'll post some pictures when I get a chance.

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Home sweet home (for one night).
Home sweet home (for one night).
The door to my room at the backpac…
The door to my room at the backpa…
I had the top bunk, named Stimpy…
I had the top bunk, named 'Stimpy…
Some hallway decoration at the bac…
Some hallway decoration at the ba…
A happy looking sailboat in Craign…
A happy looking sailboat in Craig…
The view from the cafe, while wait…
The view from the cafe, while wai…
Leaving Oban
Leaving Oban
The Oban waterfront
The Oban waterfront
photo by: Vikram