Adventure Officially in Progress

Well that took way to long but also just as long as expected!

I left my front door at noon on Friday June 24 in Vancouver BC to arrive at my first night away (Beaches Hotel) at 9pm in Prestatyn Wales. Just 25 hours – not to bad considering it involved a taxi (45mins), a plane (1hr), another plan (8hrs), a very long bus ride (6hrs), and one final taxi(1.5hrs).

But crazy enough – and I still can’t believe it – everything went exactly as planned. I love when that happens! Customs was long but efficient, my bag arrived, it took about 3mins to switch my over to UK, and I got a window front seat on the bus. A good omen for the rest of the trip, for sure!

The day/night travel and time change are messing with my brain mind you. To quote the last taxi driver who kindly said ‘you look right knackered dear’. Yup that is exactly how I feel – but smiling!

I was hoping for a nice meal and a pint to wind down but the food is a bust (they stopped serving at 8:45 no surprise there). Although the pint is in progress and yummy. Made even more amazing with this view …

I took a little stroll to stretch the taxi, plane, bus legs and wow so beautiful. Tomorrow morning, I start my day’s walk on this beachside promenade right outside my hotel.

A few observations of the day …

  • Sitting beside a 10yr old on the plane Calgary to London gives you fantastic shoulder room but may not be worth it when you end up with the piping hot coffee all over your lap when he randomly kicks out in his sleep.
  • I am reminded a highway in Canada is very different than most highways in UK …ours do not include a small, vintage towns every few kilometers that have at least one traffic circle. Green in the gills!
  • West Jet offers complimentary alcoholic beverages on long haul flights, and a pillow and a blanket. Yes please!
  • Also did you know a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich is a thing? It is, and yummy as all heck. I was skeptical but now sold.

Ok enough tired rambling! I am off to my room to get organized for tomorrow’s hike … 21km, Prestatyn to Bodfari tomorrow with 70% rain in the morning. Sounds great!

Hmm wonder if should eat the complimentary shortbread cookies in my room and have a tea for my super. Why wouldn’t ya?!

Brandé

Absorbing All Things Endinburgh

We have had 2 amazing days in Edinburgh! With so much history in every stone, a story about every street and the amazing back drop of Arthur’s Seat – how can you not love this place?!

We started our first day with a much too fancy Scottish breakfast at the Delgarven House Hotel on Kilwinning. I think the breakfast room must also be used for wedding receptions. We did our best to get our fancy on in our travel clothes eating sausages and beans!

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From there we caught a taxi to the train, the train from Kilwinning for Glasgow Central Station, took a quick walk from there to the Queen Street Station and then a train to Edinburgh Waverly Station! A quick 1.5hr travel time for 20pounds to discover an awesome historic city – perfect!

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Once in Edinburgh we found our way in no time to MacBackpackers Hostel right on the Royal Mile! This is the first hostel experience for a couple of the crew and I wanted to make sure it was a good one. I have stayed with MacBackpackers before and they are great! Always super central, super clean, a great price and the staff are so nice! We were able to book a room all to ourselves too (4 beds, bunk bed style) so that also makes a great into!

We check our bags into luggage lock up and stepped out the hostel steps on the Royal Mile to find some lunch and a pint. We found it almost right next door at the Royal Mile Tavern – a recommendation from the hostel lady who lovingly calls it ‘The Tav’. We call it that now too! It was so great. The Haggis was amazing, the pints cold and the staff were so friendly.

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From here we set out to see, absorb, sip, walk and eat our way through Edinburgh! We started with a walk down the Royal Mile to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Palace. Here are some pics of our walk down the Mile and our visit to the Palace and Abbey.

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It’s hard work this tourist stuff so our next stop was the very old and just so cool Tollbooth Tavern for a cold pint and a glass of water. Such a cool pub and it was super busy – good energy!

But then we got hungry and a little chilled from our cold pints … needed a tea and scone after that at Procaffeination. There may have been some shenanigan picture taking on the very steep stairs to the bathroom after the caffeine soaked in.

Pints in, caffeine in – we were ready to waltz about the city for a few more hours and see what we could see! Wow you can just walk in any direction in this city and see cool, old stuff! Love!

Guess what? We got hungry and thirsty again after all this seeing the sights stuff! So off to find some dinner and another pint. Oh and this stop (our last for the night) included some live music. One guy playing a harmonica, tambourine secured to his foot, played guitar and sang. Amazing! He even sang a Mumford & Sons song – yahoo, our fav!

Day 1 Edinburgh complete. We headed back to the hostel for a good sleep so we would be ready for Day 2. Well the beds were comfy and the room was a good temperature but being right on High Street (Royal Mile) comes at a cost – the street never sleeps so we couldn’t either! We heard every siren, all the drunken crowds, and some guy loudly looking for Paul (wonder if they found him?).

On Day 2, our morning alarm was a window washer all the way on our second story – filling our drying boots on the windowsill with soapy water. Maybe they will stink less now!

Well we are up now – so Shar and I went for a quick hike up Arthur’s Seat as our morning workout, checked out an amazing old cemetery that included a watch tower that used to be manned by guards to catch grave robbers who were stealing bodies for medical study in the 1830s, and enjoyed a Turkish coffee. Great morning!

Shar and I headed back to the hostel and once all of our crew was ready for the day we headed out in search of breakfast. We were all happy it was sunny outside and took full advantage of this rare occurrence in Scotland by eating our eggs and drinking our teas on the Carruber’s Cafe patio right on the Royal Mile.

After breakfast we headed up to Edinburgh Castle – Rosa has a friend of a friend who left us free tickets for the Castle! No jokes! How epic is that? Cheryl and Rosa who have never been before set off to discover the secrets of that amazing stone building.

Shar and I who have been the castle before heading off to see what we could see in the crazy steep and twisted streets around the castle. Well we got so far as the Castle Arms Pub!

During our pint, we did some research on what else and where else our crew should venture in this amazing place. We planned for some Old Town time, a pub for lunch, tea in the afternoon and our ghost tour that night.

After our pints and after the Castle, we all had a chance to see the inside of a very old church that sits on the Mile. We had the chance to talk to the history lady at the church about the Order of the Thistle – the highest, elite order of knights in UK who are appointed directly by the Queen. This is not for the Sir Richard Bronson or Sir Sean Connery knights of the world but a much higher order and only 16 sit on the Order at a time. They had a women on the Order once too .. well besides the Queen herself of course. The first picture below is one wall of seats of the Order’s meeting place. The crest of each night sits above their seat.

Post our Church visit we headed over to Princes Street area where we checked out an old Parish, and walked through a cemetery where the oldest grave was from 1820. Amazing all the stone work on the headstones and tombs.

After this we headed went up to Rose Street which is so neat with its pink banners and pub after pub along the largely closed to traffic street. This area also has a bookstore which we could not resist! Yah got me a new book for our flight home.

Next stop was the Sir Walter Scott Monument which if you have the stamina and fortitude to climb the small, winding 287 steps up the tower to the top offers amazing views of the city. I made it to the museum and then platform 2 level for pics – then chickened our as the steps got smaller and more twisty. No thanks. The views were still amazing!

After that wee workout we needed a tea and scones. So off to Deacon Brodie’s Cafe we go. Sadly they were already out of scones when we got there so I sucked it up and settled for a Nutella crepe and a tea. Rosa got one too and we shared a banana to kick it up a notch. Mmmm Deacon Brodie is a perhaps one of the most infamous character of Edinburgh’s history – he designed the gallows and devised the best way to hang criminals. Years later he committed a crime himself (burglary) and was hanged by the very device he invented. Karma?

Here we are post tea ‘locked’ behind the Cafe bars.

Our next agenda item was to get some souvenirs or gifties for folks back home – the amazing cashmere tartan scarves in every shop were so hard to resist. Post shopping we headed back to the room to pack up a bit, and ready ourselves for our Haunted Ghost Tour we had scheduled for 930pm.

The tour was awesome. Ella our guide was dramatic (but not too much), sarcastic (in the funniest way possible) and just all around a cool gal for sure. We spent about 30mins above ground hearing ghost stories about the closes and winds (skinny alleyways between buildings) and then another 30mins in the vaults below the city.

The vaults were awesome! We were so deep below the streets you could not hear any street noise or see any natural light. It was all bricks, stone, rock and coldness. They had the place lit with candles (I am sure for effect) and some electric lights on the stairwell down. It was cold, it was damp and it was creepy! Good fun! Ella would stand with her candle in hand and tell the story of each of the ghosts in the vaults.

Post tour we of course had to snap a photo with this chick, she was just so cool. The picture does not do justice for her hair though – it was all purple, white, pink and teal dress locks. She had dragon earrings and a cape and funky heels on as well. What else would you expect from a trained historian turned Edinburgh ghost guide!?

Wrapping up the tour it was about 1030pm and we felt one last pint to toast our couple of days in Edinburgh was in order. So we headed to one of my favourite pubs, Deacon Brodie’s (yes that character again), and all enjoyed a cider while we chatted about our favourite moments of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh thanks for an amazing time. Now onward to Stirling and Glasgow for our final day in this wonderful little country!

Brande

Chilling in Lagg

Day 3 (the real day 3 – sorry about the typo on yesterday’s post) here on the Arran Coastal Way was amazing. We walked from Machie to Lagg just over 20kms and loved every minute of it. A day full of amazing views, challenging and beautiful trails, and many a quintessential Scottish moment. Cheryl and I couldn’t believe how many Scottish moments we got in before noon!We began our day at 8am with a full blown Scottish breakfast – complete with Black Pudding or Haggis. Shar and I of course took the Haggis, we both love it. Rosa had Haggis too but Cheryl went with Black Pudding. She originally hails from Newfoundland, Canada where Black Pudding is a regular menu item and she wanted to know if it was as good as home. It was!We dallied way too long at breakfast but how could we help ourselves with such an awesome meal, beautiful sunny dining room and all the tea and coffee we could drink. Ok full disclosure here… we were expecting rain and no one was ready to get out there into the potential sogginess.Leaving our B&B, the amazing owner woman lady (I feel so bad I can’t remember her name) knowing our love of Helian Coo’s offered to take us out to her family’s pasture where she raises them for a ‘wee look’ before she drops us off at the start of our day – heck yah!We met Aggie a beautiful brown mom nd her baby, and another black Coo (I don’t remember her name) and her babe – they are absolutely adorable! Standing in a classic scotch mist rain seeing Helian Coo’s – now that’s quintessential!Oh my goodness they even have a Coo named Pippa and she knows her own name. The B&B gal called it out and all the way across the field Pippa raised her head and made to come our way! She is the Coo way way across the field.Once we got our Coo time in, we were dropped off in Machrie (where we were picked up yesterday) to start our day of walking … with standing stones! Oh wow, wow, wow. Sadly, Rosa did not hear the buzzing of bees and find Jamie Fraser but we had an awesome time all the same!Overall I think there was 3 or maybe 4 standing stone circles in that field – some more impressed than others in size but all pretty awesome to see. Our standing stones excursion was a 3km+ detour and worth every blister bandaid step! Just amazing how they have stood the test of time. From the standing stones we made our way the couple of km to King’s Cave. This is the cave where Robert the Bruce hid out and they say spoke to the spider who changed the course of Scotland. I have heard many a cave claim the Robert and spider story so I am not sure about that but it was amazing all the same!The walk to the King’s Cave Park area was 1.6km on the road but once there it was the most amazing path trough the forest and across the hill top then down a rock gulley to the shore – beautiful!From the King’s Cave we continued along the coast on a gassy knoll just above the boulders on the beach heading towards Drumadoon cliffs and Blackwaterfoot town for lunch. This section of trail is so far my favourite! Easy underfoot on the knoll and then entertaining boulder hopping with amazing views of the ocean to the right and imposing beautiful cliffs to the right – wow!We wrapped up this morning with a 1km+ beach walk to bring us into Blackwaterfoot for lunch. We hit the Post Office/Liquor Store/Grocer to refill snacks and suck for our packs and then grabbed some lunch from On A Roll.I had a very tasty Scotch Pie and the rest of the crew enjoyed super fresh sandwiches. Sitting outside at a picnic table we enjoyed our lunch, took care of any feet concerns, and reviewed the trail info for the afternoon.Once back on the path, our next milestone was Preacher’s Cave at about km 1.6 – we found it. It is a massive triangle shaped cave that was used as a church in the early 1800s. Pretty neat to see! From here the guide book describes the path as ‘tortuous’ over boulder fields grown over with vegetation making for difficult and uneasy footing with very few way markers. Bang on!Well the description was correct .. but we loved it! The sun came out, the stepping up and over and across to the different rocks was entertaining, and the conversation was great. For sure our speed slowed right down as every second stone was an ankle breaker but we didn’t care – we were happy as clams out there and we saw a seal!From this tortuous path we made our way up a very steep – outside of my comfort zone – hill to the top of the cliffs where we rejoined the road.Once up the hill, we took in the amazing view and changed from boots to shoes and continued walking. We had 6.8km left to cover on the road to reach our evenings destination, the Lagg Hotel built in 1971.We walk on the side of the road where the traffic is coming at us so we can give them a chance to see us and give us some space or we can jump into the ditch. There is no shoulder on these roads and barely enough room for cars to pass so it’s a little sketchy but easy underfoot.At 3.8km we happened past a bus stop and hmmmm don’t mind if we do! We didn’t come here to walk on roads – we came to walk on paths and when there is no path, we are outta here! Sure it was only a 3.8km trek and only saved us about 30mins but wow did our feet thank us!We made it to the Lagg Hotel at just after 6pm our earliest at night so far! We checked in and even had time to shower and get into clean clothes before dinner, which was booked for 830pm. It was so nice to have our home right in the very place we were enjoying a cold pint and our meal.We even met the hotel owner who lives part-time in the Calgary area, just like 3 of our peeps! Lots of chat about the Calgary area ensued. We finished the night off with a wee dram of Arran Gold Liquor (like a really good and more real Baileys) liberally poured by Peter and then headed to bed – all secretly hoping the rain in the forecast was a bad weatherman’s joke.Brande

Hobbling in Blackwaterfoot

Day 2 on the Arran Coastal Way proved to be another doozy. A beautiful doozy that has left all of us with a bit of a hobble or a limb tonight- tight muscles, dogs barking, sun burns, and blisters seems to be the order of the body today for our crew.

The day started amazing! We stayed at the Butt Lodge (not a typo) which had the cutest rooms, comfy beds and was so quiet. Except for the temperature of the rooms (too warm) it was a perfect stay. Oh and we had the pleasure of a full Scottish breakfast!

If you don’t know what a full Scottish breakfast is let me tell you! 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausages, baked beans, grilled tomato, potato scone, fried mushrooms, and toast. Most of the time it also comes with Black Pudding. Ours did not but it would have been epic if it did. So yummy!

After breakfast we packed up and heading out the door. Leaving our big bags for Contours Walking Company to carry forward for us, and just taking our daytime backpack.

At 930am we were on the road. We kicked off the day with a visit to the Lochranza Castle built in the 13th century. Robert the Bruce stopped here on his way from Ireland when he returned to claim the throne. Today, it is just some really impressive ruins – in really gold shape!

From there, we started out on the path. This included a short distance on the road around the headland and a steep, long uphill to take us to a fern filled, undulating path on the cliff above the beach.

A few sections of the trail where beyond my ‘fear of heights’ comfort zone – just a foot wide if that with what would be a hard drop off of it wasn’t for the ferns growing out of the hill to give you illusion of solid ground. You can’t fool me. I took the lead and powered through it! I find when spooked on a trail just ‘doing it’ gets me through it!

Following our up on the cliff walk, we then came down a very steep hill to the village of Catacol where we got to step over our first ladder stile.

These are basically two ladders leaned against each other over a fence. They are used to keep the sheep in the pasture but give us humans an easy way up and over without the pain of a gate. Seems sheep don’t know how to climb ladders. I wonder about that!

The village of Catacol is famous for the row of 12 white houses that face the sea. Each has a different shaped window design so the wives of fisherman who lived there could signal their husbands by placing an oil lamp on the sill.

From Catacol we did a bit more road walking (about 4-5km) before making our way back onto the beach for some Coastal hiking. This is such a beautiful way to see the coast but it’s hard work keeping your balance and purchase on the rocks. Worth the work though for the amazing views! Well the view from the road is awesome too but the is just something fun about hiking on the road vs on a path or the beach!

We soon left the beach to walk into Pirnmill where we were excited to have a warm lunch and a pint at the Lighthouse Cafe. I could already taste my cheese and tomato toastie and a cold pint of Tenants lager.

Well hopes dashed, there was a homemade sign on the door announcing it was closed for today and tomorrow. Boo! Well when life serves you lemons you make lemonade.

There was a small village store next to it where we grabbed some Tuc crackers, Island of Arran Brie, a lemon loaf, some candy and bought a can of Tenants. We then grabbed a picnic table and popped all our pack snacks and new purchases into a pretty epic family style lunch.

After our picnic, we had a few more kms of road walking before getting back on the beach. The road walking while flat surfaced and easy is tough on the body and the mind.

There is no shoulder at all so you are have to be hyper vigilant for cars, walk single file (so no chatting), and the hot black tar with the sun makes for warm and very sore feet. We were glad to get back onto more natural surfaces!

Along our travels we came across 2 seaside graveyards. Wow they were pretty old. The stone fence around the outside always falling down in places and all the graves were covered in lichen. I think the oldest grave stone we could read was for a poor soul who died in 1812. What an amazing final resting place.

By mid afternoon we were no longer beach walking but rather rock balancing and hopping – these amazing lava formations stretched for kms of the coast with a few random grassy or beach breaks. The surfaces were very rough making for sticky walking allowing us to easily walk up and over and across, picking the route we wanted so long as the ocean stayed on our right we were heading in the right direction.

From here the path turned into a very grassy headland with lots of vegetation- mostly some type of tall fern and thistles. At some points we were pushing through shoulder high ferns on the path hoping spiders and tics were in residence on another part of the island today.

Totally worth the vegetation foraging as we got a glimpse of a golden eagle above the cliffs and found some cool caves!

Our beach walking wrapped up around 430pm and a quick look at the map and some math confirmed we still had 8km of road walking left before our day was done. None of us were keen to be back on the road.

Rallying our selves for the next 1.5hrs of a silent, windy, hot, sore slog we tried to think of just how lucky we are to be here and that the road was right beside the sandy beach so we could seal watch while walking! The idea of a spot of tea and a fresh scone at the Machrie Tea Room and Golf Club (our day’s destination) was also a big incentive. Sure glad we didn’t know then it was closed – nooooo! Sad face!

Instead we called our Greannan B&B lady who was picking us up to drive us to the accomodation in Blackwaterfoot as it was far off  today’s walking route. She was lovely and had lots of say about the island so raised our spirits some. Oh and what she couldn’t raise, the beautiful B&B did! A bed has never looked so comfortable!

No time for resting! It was almost 7pm and we still had to walk … hobble, shuffle, wrangle … the 1km down to the Kinloch Hotel for some supper before they stopped serving meals. Our B&B lady was so sweet and called to book us a table to we wouldn’t miss out on getting some eats! We cheered our amazing but tough day and commiserated on our hate for road walking over cold pints!

What an awesome day and fantastic evening meal – now let’s back to our home for the night to tend to the blisters, muscle pain and sun burns!

Brande

Giggling in Lochranza

Today was quite the Arran Coastal Way kick off … perhaps a little trial of fire really with such high temperatures, 27km distance, bouldering, beach walking, hill climbing and wardrobe malfunctions. Amazing every step of it, wow what an experience. We began our day with a yummy continental breakfast at our B&B, The Broomage, after a decent night’s sleep. Most of us were up a few times in the night – our brains refusing to adjust too quickly to Scots time from west coast Canada time but we felt rested and ready all the same. Breaky in, water bladders full, and packs on we headed out the door to start our walk – there may have even been some high 5s! We headed to the start of the trail which is marked with a really cool map of Arran on this big stone slab thing – I am not doing it justice with that description haha! The day started with a walk along the path, boardwalk and across the beach around the Brodick Harbour. Easy walking makes for such nice start to the day – lots of good conversation and a good way to get the muscles warmed up.From there we progressed from beach to forested path. Now we are talking! This is the kind of walking I love – in the trees, shaded from the sun, lots of up and down and stepping over roots and across little streams. We were still feeling amazing! Once through the forested section, we arrived in Corrie & Sannox a string of small villages along the coast. This had us walking on the road for a few kms and gave us a chance to stop for a wee spot of tea and some cookies! From there we were off for a bit more road walking and then refreshingly back to coast line. About an hour or so later we stopped for a sea side picnic, boots off to give the toes a break and some air, some more sunscreen and we were off again. The afternoon was much tougher that the morning but wow was it amazing. We were back on the coast but now this was a rough coastline with loads of scrambling or bouldering – the views were amazing and the terrain fun to walk but this is the type of trail that’s hard on the body and oh I love it. But wow those random moments of flat terrain were such a welcome break for the tired ankles!Wow – after 10 hours of hiking, a total of 53,640 steps and 4,939 calories we finally arrived in the cutest little coastal town of Lochranza. This town could not have come sooner – we were tired! Some of us switched from boots to shoes to give the feet a break and all of us enjoyed a few Haribo chewy candies (coke bottles, fried eggs and such) for a boost for the last couple of kms. Mmm Once in Lochranza, we headed straight to the Lochranza Hotel. The only place you can get food in town and only until 830pm (and it was already 7pm). The gulp of that cold pint was a dream! Oh like you have no idea – too good. We had a yummy dinner out on the hotel lawn at a picnic table with with views of the old Lochranza Castle across the harbour. You could tell we were tired, loads of giggles and laughing till we cry moments! Best finish ever to an awesome day!BrandePS for the Outlander fans out there … despite multiple attempts, Rosa has not yet heard the buzzing of bees. No worries though, our scientific endeavour to find Jamie Fraser will continue!

Goat Creek to Goat Fell

Yahoo lassies!

On Monday the crew of us heading to Scotland to complete the Arran Coast Way in July had our one and only chance to train all together and it was awesome!

Shar selected the Goat Creek Trail for us seeing it would mimic much of our path in Scotland. I sure hope so too because the trail was great and I could do that for a week for sure!

The trail starts at the Goat Creek trail head just outside of Canmore and ends 19km later at the Banff Springs outside of Banff (the trail tail / trail butt as Rosa and Shar joked).

The path was undulating for the most part, up away from Goat Creek and then back down again as we left Canmore further behind and gained on approaching Banff. Just a few slogs up overall really – what a treat!!

At the head of the trail there was a big ole sign warning of wolves and grizzly bears in the area. Always a nice ‘welcome to the trail you hikers who may also double dinner’. Ha! Usually I see these signs when I am alone hiking and they freak me out – which 4 of us hiking though it was way less intimidating. Ok maybe not way less but at least a bit less.

Best way to curb the ‘gonna get eaten’ fear is to launch into full ‘don’t eat me’ mode. This includes being generally loud on the trail – holding conversations, hollering out a word or two every 50 feet or when approaching a bend in the path or a creek, and staying together if you have a hiking tribe.

Really you are just hoping to scare any wildlife away before there is any chance of you startling them into eating you. We also did a quick run down of what to do if we do see a bear, cougar or wolf so we were all on the same page. We did this loudly of course as part of our ‘be heard and be seen’ wildlife strategy. (I like to call things strategies so they sound all planned and awesome – even though this this was more of a ‘holy crap, what if’ scenario discussion.)

We had a lot of fun with the calling out a word every 50 feet or so strategy; turning it into a game of sorts. This keeps the bears away, is fun, and seems to eat up the miles quickly! We did the classic name that country sound off starting with A thru to Z, then a round for celebrities and one for names of songs. This last one may have include some short bursts of singing which may have been the best thing for keeping those pack hunting wolves at bay. At least when I was belting out the ole Toy Soldier by Martika! Remember that one?

During our walk we focused on a two things – the beauty of the trail and our gear. Lots of gear talk. Mostly gear talk. We were out there on Monday to test gear. Everything from socks to hats, and from undies to backpacks to see what will make the cut for Scotland.

I discovered my penchant for being cheap has resulted in wearing decade old SmartWools that don’t keep their shape any longer resulting in under the heel blister potential, and that my new hiking capris from Eddie Bauer are great but they are not the replacement for my long standing favourite Nike capris that need to make one final trip me thinks. I also confirmed that after logging probably 1000s of kilometers in my Asolo Backpacking boots across the globe I may need to splurge for some new insoles. I better get on that quick so I can train the next 6 weeks in them before we depart.

Rosa tried the switch from boots to shoes technique to see how that worked for her dogs – a strategy I deploy on 20km+ days with great success especially when it includes compression socks! Cheryl discovered that the pants she thought would be perfect were not and will not be making the cut for the trip’s packing list. Shar confirmed her hiking shorts are perfect for the trip and that the wax from Baby Bel Cheese can be used to prevent sunburns on your the nose if there is ever a shortage of sunscreen.

Overall the trail of 19km took us just over 4 hours at a very easy pace with lots of wee stops to check and test that gear and some snacks mid way too. The weather was overcast with some small breaks of sun – perfect for hiking! Not too hot or cold. Oh and

A little extra time was added to the trip for an extra special reason! We had to make one special pit stop for Rosa to see if Jamie Fraser of Outlander was perhaps at this standing stone – nope, she did not hear bees. Doh! We will try every standing stone in Scotland for you Rosa until we find him.

Oh and we had to stop for Shar and Cheryl to knock off a few yoga moves for those tight ham-dogs and hip-flexors too.

We rolled into Banff arriving at the trail butt by the Banff Springs Hotel of amazingness. But us classy gals didn’t stop there for a cool, fancy drink. No way! We made our way down to Buffalo Bills for a cold pint and some meat!

Then we headed up Banff Main Street to catch the Roam bus for $6bucks back to Canmore where our vehicles were waiting! Lots of peeps bike the trail we walked so there were even some bins strapped to the front or the back of the bus to bead back to Canmore.

Am awesome trial and trail day for all of us! We all loved the trail and each of us figured out something a little more than we knew before about our gear for Scotland.

Eeeek the trip is coming fast!

Brande

Announcing a New Adventure

I am super excited to announce my next adventure …

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I will be heading back to do some more hiking (hill walking as they  like to call it) in Scotland this summer. A celebration of a milestone birthday. I cheered my 30th in Scotland so what a great way to bring in my 40th. Hmm maybe this trend will continue for my 50th in another decade!

The hike I will be celebrating with is the Arran Coastal Path, about a 108+km path that goes all the way around the Isle of Arran off the west coast of Scotland. An area I have never explored and an island that boasts it is a mini-Scotland.

I will be joined in my merriment with a trio of three amazing women…

My sister Shar, who I have done many hikes with including the Great Glen Way in Scotland back in 2013. Which we both loved and have been trying to get back on the long distance path together since! Shar brings the planning, go-get-em-ra-ra cheerleading, and excited clapping to our band.

My sister-in-scrapbooking Cheryl, who I have not hiked with before but have had the awesome pleasure of spending loads of deep thinking and laugh till you cry time with so it should be awesome. Cheryl brings the deep conversations, conventional and unconventional wisdom and get-it-done-in-colour to the troupe.

My sister-in-as-good-as-law Rosa, who I have not hiked with per se but we have put on a tonne of miles together walking and stair climbing during far off family vacations. Rosa brings the perseverance, logic, competition and hilariously heckling sense of humour to the team.

We are just 19weeks out and already having a wonderful time just in the planning. Over the coming weeks I will share our training plans, details of our itinerary and all the other preparation bits and bobs. Then of course a day by day, play by play here on the blog while we are on our adventure.

Brande

Leon Lives Up to Burgos!

Well Leon had what it takes to compete with the beautifulness (is that a word?) of Burgos! While not quite as movie set / Disneyland Main Street in its perfection, the sights of central Leon are definitely something to see.

We started our day of Leon with another one of those amazing 7euros breakfast deals and then a quick taxi down to the centre.

Right from the taxi ride it was fun. Our driver was going down little side streets and alleys that we were sure no car was meant to be on or anyone but the locals knew about. Then ‘bam’ there we were right in from of the cathedral. I felt like we were on a special making of the next Italian Job movie.

The cathedral of Leon is awe inspiring. It has the most stain glass of any cathedral in Spain and I feel like I read maybe even in Europe. There is in fact more glass ‘wall’ than stone wall in the place – might explain a few collapses 100s of years ago. Just saying. But I am no architect.

Here is the outside of this amazing cathedral:

Amazing right!? And that’s only some of my way too many photos which I will clearly need to pare down before scrap booking when I get home. Well now check out the inside:

For 5euros you have almost the run of the place. You can sit in the pews, take photos, get the audio little things and listen to the cathedral’s history, and really take your time absorbing the place. And wow are your first steps inside impressive – the initial first view may or may not have resulted in one of us uttering holy ‘poop’ in a church! Oops and yikes!

After our tour of the cathedral, we set out to walk about and take in the rest of the old central part of Leon – the palace, other churches, Gaudi’s works and more. Here are just some of the highlights:

Shortly after asking this rather unhelpful guy for directions …

We decided to check out the eat and drink highlights of Leon. A pint at El Topo first, a quaint restaurant outside the cathedral that we just loved the look and feel of. We later returned to this very place for a coffee. They had wifi and every time you ordered a drink (alcoholic or coffee or whatever) you got some tapas. That was our lunch! Deal!

Around 6pm, we finally toasted to a great time in Leon with a final Amstel Radler pint (cervaza con limon) at a place called Ginger. Because well we also loved the look of this pub and the tables and chairs were siting right in the sun which we love too.

By 7pm we were back at the hotel packing up and getting ready for our 5am train this morning which will take us over to Sarria in 4hours where we begin to walk again, a 22km jaunt today.

But first we had dinner … a red from the Rioja region (thanks Lana for the intro to this amazing Spanish wine region) opened with a cheap plastic hotel corkscrew, salad out of a bag, meat we opened with our first-aid kit scissors, all served on a city map of Leon as our placemat / cutting board / plate.

All in all, Leon was a total hit!

Brande

Bye Bye Burgos, Hello Leon

Well sadly all good things must come to an end … and our time in beautiful Burgos did just that yesterday afternoon.

We had a 15:25 train from Burgos to our next sight seeing / break from walking day in Leon this time. We were primed to make the best of our amazing treat hotel and city though for the morning before departing.

To kick things off, we enjoyed quite thoroughly a breakfast for kings! The breaky buffet at the hotel was 7euros and check out our feast below. Crazy to think this is what we can get for 7euros in one place, but only get a piece of toast with jam and coffee or juice in another place for 5euros. We will be keeping our eyes open for deals like this from here on! Big breaky means skip lunch means save money!

After we stuffed ourselves quite completely. We put our packs in the left luggage room and ventured the old city again.

We headed in the direction of the massive chapel and came upon some stone stairs heading up to a hill above the city with a sign marked Castillo (castle) – ok! Slowly, being mindful this was a tourist day not a hump it up hills day, we made it up and up to a birds eye view of the city streets we had walked the night before. Here are a few of the pics up to and from the castle heights:

From up here for the first time we heard the Sunday bells from the massive chapel – wow is about all I can say to describe them. They are rung for 15mins every hour on Sundays and are just amazing. Like give you goose bumps amazing. From up high they sounded so smooth and combined but then from close to the cathedral you could pick out each individual bell. Depending where you stood in the plaza they sounded different again. The echo of the bells off the high buildings and stone was making a few dogs in town a little crazy. One poor pouch was going in circles barking trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. Hilarious. I posted a video recording of the bells on my Instagram @brandedavison if you want to hear them.

We could not resist a few more pics of the cathedral and plaza in the morning light as we walked around the area enjoying the bells:

Finally we enjoyed our last Burgos cafe con leche (coffee with milk) outside of our amazing hotel:

We made our way by bus #25 from Plaza de Espana over to the train station and then by train for 2 hours over to Leon. We had a bit of a wait so got some sunshine naps in first!

Before departing we had our final Burgos entertainment … a guy who was a bit sketch and carrying 2 backpacks was told by security to exit the train station as he did not have a ticket. Well wouldn’t you know it as soon as our train pulled in, the sketch guy dropped one bag and went barreling for the nearest open train door – knocking the poor ole security guard down and almost between the train and the platform in the process. Sketch guy hid somewhere in the train and they could not find him. So he did end up getting the free ride to Leon he was looking for in the first place. Gong show!

Any who, the train trip itself was a really nice way to see the landscape change from green Burgos to dry Leon. We left the chilly wind, humidity, high of 21C in Burgos and stepped of the train into the dry heat of 34C of Leon. We were happy to leave that oppressive, soggy humidity behind.

We are super excited to explore Leon today. Will it stand up to Burgos? The bar is set pretty high!! Stay tuned to find out …

Brande

101, 22, 21, 13, 7 and 15

Another beautiful day on the Camino complete here in Spain yesterday!

And nope the title of this blog post is not lottery numbers (well I guess they could be if you were so inclined). Rather they are the # of pilgrims passed on the route yesterday, the # of kilometres walked and the temp yesterday, the # of locals passed on the route and the # of snails who crossed my path yesterday, and the # of big bites I have that we are still trying to find the source of.

All in all, I am just glad none of those snails passed ME! Oh goodness that reminds me of Lana joking on the first day (the brutal uphill trial by Camino fire) that she was slow up the hills and some slug was like ‘hey passing on the left’ as it “sped” past her. Ha ha! A laugh we needed so bad at that exact moment.

Any who, the route yesterday was from Puenta La Reina to Estella, 22kms or 42,137 Fitbit steps and it was meant to be an easy no incline / no decline stroll from the elevation map. That was not exactly true. There were some serious hump it up and up and up spots in my mind. Granted my legs are feeling these 20+km days so I may just be fatigued and those hills were but mere speed bumps to the average pilgrim.

The day started with this amazing view of Puenta La Reina (Lana took this amazing pic):

And continued with the amazing beauty this path offers! Some highlights of the route were:

Making it to Estella for 1pm made for an awesome afternoon and evening. Lana and I hit up a pub in a busy plaza (the classic European square) for a Spanish spin on Radler Beer and some raciones (like tapas but not called tapas here in this region). Cheese ball things, baked bacon of sorts and some kind of cheeseburger slider thingy. Mmmm

Then headed up (another darn hill!) to our albergue to chill and do some laundry. With only one maybe two of everything like shirts and such you do as much laundry as walking it seems! Once the laundry was done, we did a freshen up and headed back down to town for some groceries.

After a grocery shop, a pharmacy stop for some cream for my bug bites (?), we accidentally also got a pizza for dinner … we ordered a delicious soft goat cheese with tomatoes and arugula pizza and a ceasar salad but ended up with a ceasar pizza of sorts. Looks like I should have practiced my Spanish a bit more. It worked out though. While scary in concept the pizza was actually amazing in taste!

Full and happy, I loaded up on allergy pills and allergy cream to try and get these bug bites or hives or something at bay so I could get some sleep. So itchy and sore! What a sleep it was, we had our own little twin bed room again and it was awesome! Snore galore!

Today we are up and at em heading for a tourist day in Burgos. But first a bus to Pamplona then a train to get there. Yahoo a no walking day – our feet are thankful!

Brande