Travelling on the 4th, prematurely
Wooler Travel Blog› entry 9 of 19 › view all entries
Today was transit day. I started with the 9 am ferry to the Isle of Mull. Along with a couple dozen other people since Fridays are when retreat groups leave Iona. Am I becoming a hopeless curmudgeon? Being surrounded by gaggles of teens in high spirits does not make me say "oh, look at their joyful exuberance! What a blessing!" It makes me say....something quite different.
Plus, they all raced to the buses as soon as the ramp dropped on the ferry to ensure they got seats. Hey, a little respect for us old folks here! I helped a woman walk her toddler up to the bus since the toddler was much more interested in staying rooted to her spot and watching the departing ferry. But, with a grown-up ahold of each hand, she decided she could indeed march smartly forward. (And she was adorable, all in pink).
The bus ride across the island was punctuated by the youthfully exuberant joyful singing of B-I-N-G-O, over and over, by the joyful exuberant teens in the back of the bus, at high volume. Until the bus driver had enough, pulled over and quietly told them .... well, he must have made a convincing argument because they shut right up. The rest of us applauded.
I'm gaining more sympathy for Mr. Wilson in the Dennis the Menace cartoons the longer I live.
The bus ride, just as careening as the one over, left me a bit quesy, so my time on the ferry across to the mainland was spent sitting oh-so-quietly (while keeping an eye on the teenagers at the next table) sipping Pepsi and nibbling chocolate (my favorite cure-all, as you can tell).
I had 45 minutes to catch the train in Oban once we landed, so I skipped out to an outdoor store and picked up a pair of waterproof pants (men's XL, only thing I could find that would even remotely come close to fitting me) and a waterproof cover for my backpack.
Changed trains quick-quick in Glasgow. Still no teenagers. Changed trains quick-quick again in Edinburgh. And.....there isn't a seat to be had. Hadn't noticed that this is the train from Edinburgh to ... London. On a Friday night. Ahem. So that's what they meant on my itinerary about "reservations recommended". I found a spare bit of floor behind some seats and hunkered down. Getting un-entangled to show my ticket was a neat trick but I did manage.
It's sort of a shame this was a transit day because it was gloriously sunny all day. I was only going to be on this train for 45 minutes so I finally just crawled out of my hidey-hole and stood by the exit door and the open window. The countryside whizzing past was lovely. Yes, lots of cows and sheep, green hills, open water.
When we got to my destination, I couldn't figure out how to open the door. Turns out, you have to stick your arm out the window and grab the handle on the outside to open the door, extracting your arm along the way. Wow, I never would have figured that out on my own!
One more connection. Walked out of the train station and hopped a cab for the last 20 miles (there is a bus, it turns out, but I didn't learn that for several more days). My driver was a lovely chatty fellow and we talked all the way to Wooler.
The countryside here is very agricultural. It looks a lot like the Shenandoah Valley, with hills rising in the background instead of mountains. Incredibly green, rolling, and lovely. More sparsely populated than the much of the rest of England (yes, it's in England rather than Scotland, just across the border). It's not a popular travel destination, which is a bit of a blessing.
I got to the hotel and discovered....I was 24 hours early. I didn't need to arrive till Saturday.
Oops! Well, they did have a single available so I just checked myself right in and wandered into the town center for a bite of dinner. It's a cute little town, very, y'know, English and all. Very friendly people. Small bookshop (thank you God!) and all the other necessaries.
The gardens around here are just ablaze with flowers. I'm really enjoying that. I don't have many pictures to document it yet since the camera hasn't actually recovered fully from its dunk in the Atlantic. I'll be fixing that soon.
How did it feel to be travelling in the land of our former colonial masters on our Independence Day? Well, I did have the urge to stand up and sing "The Star Spangled Banner" on the train at one point. I resisted the urge since (1) it would be rude, (2) most other riders wouldn't get the significance, and (3) it's a damned hard song to sing and I suck at it.
Those other passengers have no idea just how close they came......