2023 – Year in Review (and what a year it was!)

2022 – Blea Tarn, Great and LIttle Langdale Valleys
We started the New Year in Switzerland! It was a wonderful trip. Lots of beautiful scenery – really, that trip alone was the trip of a lifetime.

From there, it was back to Nazarene Theological College in Manchester. We enjoyed our year there; especially making many great friends at the college, where we lived and volunteered, and at Longsight Community Church of the Nazarene, where we worshipped.

We took full advantage of the travel opportunities available to us, with visits to Ireland, the Netherlands, Scotland, and the great attractions local to Manchester.

In June we said farewell to our friends in the UK and returned to Houston for an entirely different sort of Adventure. After looking at serval houses we settled on one – but with a bit of concern about various projects that would need doing fairly soon.

The next day, a different listing became available. One look at this house and we felt it was “the one!” A bit of negotiating and we signed on the dotted line – after years of fulltime RVing and then a year in England we had a “stix and brix” place of our own.

As I said, “what a year it was!”

While we are happy with our new house we still have the itch to do some traveling. Our New Year will start with a Carribean cruise and there are a few other things on the horizon.

We know we are blessed in every way. Thanks for following along.

2023 – Around Didsbury, Manchester, UK

Our year volunteering at Nazarene Theological College, Manchester passed quickly. We very much enjoyed our neighborhood, Didsbury. There are many nice restaurants and shops in “the Village.” The area also has several beautiful parks. We loved the beautiful colors of autumn and spring. As you might guess we took many photos!

2023 – London views

London is a terrific tourist city with several world class attractions and also interesting architecture at every turn. We spent our last day there just looking around. We took the ferry out to Greenwich and back, and then just looked around the city.

As any of our friends know, no, we didn’t ride the London Eye. Jackie was perfectly happy to see it from the ground. I could have ridden it by myself, but what’s the fun in that! We did, though, check it out and got several interesting photos of it. Anyway, as you can see we had fun in London!

2023 – London Ferry on the River Thames and visit to Greenwich

London is divided by the River Thames which winds its way past many iconic sights. A relaxing way to get an overview of the city, then, is by traveling by boat on the River. There are river sightseeing tours and even thrilling, high speed adventures. There is also a system of working ferries that are part of the London transport system. We bought “river rover” tickets that let us get on and off the ferries as we wished. There was no tour guide commentary, but the views are just the same as one would see from a tour boat. We passed by Big Ben, the London Eye, HMS Belfast, the Tower of London, and under Tower Bridge as we made our way to and from Greenwich. Once there, we walked past the tea clipper, Cutty Sark, through Greenwich market, and then up the big hill to the Royal Observatory โ€“ the location of the Prime Meridian which divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the planet. That big hill provides wonderful views of London, off in the near distance.

Our tip of the day is when leaving Greenwich, depart on out and away from London to the next stop, which is the end of the line. Then, on a nearly empty ferry you will have your pick of seats. We thought we might want to sit in the small outside area at the rear of the ferry. However, it was loud and smelled of diesel. We opted to move back inside, to two seats at the very front, to one side. Although there were some parts of the boat that obscured our views, we had a pretty good view to the front and side.

2023 – London Transport Museum

During our visit to London we traveled by train, tube (subway), bus, and ferry. Because of the good public transportation system, London is easy to navigate. The London Transport Museum celebrates the long history of public transport in the city. As early as 1829 the London Omnibus was in operation. The museum is filled with antique vehicles and tube carriages from across the years.

A bit of a bonus is nearby Covenant Garden Piazza with many shops and restaurants. We heard a talented string quintet entertaining diners there. There’s a lot to see and do in London, but if you like old vehicles and such, you will enjoy this museum.

2023 – London, Changing of Guard, Royal Mews

Several years ago we visited London, seeing most of the famous spots. This trip was shorter and we wanted to take an easier pace and see a few things we missed before. Honestly, our “easier pace” turned out to be something other than “easy” but we did finish our days earlier than we would have otherwise.

On our previous trip we watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This trip we went to St. James Palace to watch the beginning of that ceremony. While there were a lot of people there to watch, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it is at Buckingham. We listened to the band and enjoyed the pageantry. The troops marched right in front of us on their way to Buckingham. If you’ve never seen the changing of the guard I recommend Buckingham. However, if you want to see just a bit of it without quite so much hassle, Friary court at St. James is a good place to go.

It’s about a 15 minute walk from there to the Royal Mews. This is the working stable/museum where several of the royal coaches are stored. Our main purpose in going there was to see both The Gold State Coach and Diamond Jubilee State Coach. These were King Charles’s coronation carriages. Having seen them in the news made seeing them in person even more interesting.

We finished our sightseeing for the day taking a double decker bus across the heart of the city back to our hotel. You can get a bus tour of London, but we’ve found that just riding the local buses is a good, and inexpensive, way to see things.

2023 – Kelpies, Falkirk, Scotland

Since their creation about 10 years ago the Kelpies have become a major Falkirk, Scotland attraction. These works of art stand nearly 100 feet tall. “Kelpies” are a part of Scottish folk lore, mythical water spirits that often appear on land in the form of horses. An additional symbolism has to do with the horses that towed the canal boats throughout the region. In fact, a canal and locks are located right between the two giant horses allowing canal boaters to cruise right between these giants. However one wants to think about the Kelpies, they are impressive and well-worth a visit.

2023 – Falkirk Wheel, Scotland

During the 18th and 19th centuries over 2000 miles of canals were dug across the UK. These canals were the “motorways” of that day, providing a relatively “fast” way to move goods. This “Golden Age of British Canals” ended as rail became king. The canals, with their many locks, were neglected and, sometimes, simply abandoned.

Then, an interesting thing happened: people began using the canals for recreation. Individuals bought, or constructed, so-called “narrow boats” and used them as a sort of RV to explore the countryside. The government took up the project of restoring the canals and lock system for the purpose of recreation. Travel by narrowboat is slow (about 4 mph) and takes the boater through picturesque rural landscapes and small villages. It is even possible to travel by canal to major cities across the UK.

That brings us to the Falkirk Wheel. Two different canals meet in Falkirk, which is about midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. However, the topography in the area is quite hilly, meaning one canal is high above the other. At one time a series of 11 locks joined the two, but these locks were removed in the 1930’s. The Falkirk Wheel replaced all 11 locks in a marvelous feat of engineering. Really, it is a modern solution to an old problem!

Excursion boat rides are available, giving the rider an experience that can’t be had anywhere else in the world. We loved our ride on the Falkirk Wheel and recommend it to all.

2023 – Tour of Isle of Skye, Scotland

Our tour from Inverness continued from Eilean Donan Castle across the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Skye is the largest of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides islands, around 50 miles north to south. It is known for its rugged landscapes and steep cliffs. Hikers and bikers love Skye and the bed and breakfasts are always booked well ahead of time. We just happened to tour on a day with perfect weather โ€“ something that, we’re told, is no way promised. We saw the Old Man of Storr, a famous rock formation. Supposedly, it looks like a man lying on his back looking to the stars. Neither one of us could quite spot that, but it is an impressive formation. Our lunch stop was in the largest town on the island, Portree. There were tourists everywhere and the restaurants were all full. We ended up with soup and bread at a local bakery, sharing an outside picnic table with some friendly Australians on holiday. Honesty, there is no way our photos can capture the vast landscapes of Skye.

2023 – Tour of Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

We made Inverness, known as the “capital of the Highlands,” our hub for exploring Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, and the Isle of Skye. This region is known for its breathtaking scenery with majestic mountains encircling the deep lakes. Loch Ness, a remarkably deep lake, has a dark blue hue and boasts the largest reserve of freshwater in the entire UK. The highway winds its way along the lake and one stunning view after another comes into sight. Sorry to say, the elusive Nessie, the legendary monster, was nowhere to be found, yet the amazing landscapes compensated for its absence.

Continuing westward from Loch Ness, we ascended through a mountain pass, pausing frequently to capture photos and take in the magnificent panoramas. Eilean Donan Castle, originally erected in the 1200s, served as a formidable defense against Viking invasions and later became a stronghold for the Mackenzie clan. Although the fortress was destroyed in the 1700s, it was painstakingly reconstructed after nearly two centuries, eventually becoming a national trust property. We toured the castle, getting a firsthand view of what life there would have been like.

Our tour continued to the Isle of Skye and I’ll write about it in my next post.