There are few places that I have seen in my life that I feel can compare with Canada’s west coast for beauty. Normally I try not to compare because they are either entirely different or it just isn’t a fair comparison because I am so biased. However, Killarney Provincial Park makes the list (David Lake, to be specific) and now, thanks to Oban and sunshine, so does Scotland.
My day in Oban was one of my top days of the trip so far. The (surprisingly long) train ride there was awesome. It took me through the highlands and past fields of sheep and flowers and also along the coast. Once I arrived in Oban I walked the 15 minutes along the ocean to the hostel, where upon arriving and checking in, I was informed that I was just in time for the big Football match. (I can’t remember who was playing). I thanked the man a the check in and proceeded on my way, when he caught my attention again and informed that if I did choose to go out, though his tone implied that I would be nuts to do so, I could also listen to the match on the radio. Of course, I’m not a sports fan in any situation, and certainly not when I happen to be lucky enough to have stumbled upon a sunny day on Scotland’s west coast. So I headed out and walked along the water. As I walked, I heard play by plays of the match blaring from passing cars. I found some cool beaches and I did go on an impromptu hike in my flip flops. Of course, when I left the hostel I just wanted to give my feet a break from the hiking boots. I had no idea that I would spot a moss and ivy covered castle ruin on a hilltop. Anyhow, my ankles and toes made it through the ordeal and, despite some hippies wearing shirts on their heads, the old castle was great.
After working up my hunger on my castle walk, I headed back into town and bought some scallops that were prepared fro me in the back of a truck. All sea food should be sold out of the back of trucks. It was the best meal I’ve had in the last 6 weeks. (and to my family: yes, this officially means that I like scallops, not just when wrapped in bacon). After the scallops, I hiked up to the strange Victorian colloseum-like wall that encircles a garden an overlooks the city. There I watched the sun set and learned an important life lesson: the best sunsets happen after your camera battery has died.
From Oban I hopped on a few trains and ended up in Stratford. Stratford-Upon-Avon annoyed me, much in the same way that Stratford, Ontario annoys me. It feels overly manicured and it is impossible to escape the cutesyness that has overtaken the town. However, I took a bus to Warwick for the day and had a fantastic time. It wasn’t that I loved Warwick Castle — I didn’t. It was like the Disneyland version of the castles I saw earlier in my trip, complete with staff dressed as medieval characters and wax figurines acting out the castle life. (Although if I was 8, this would have been the coolest thing EVER.) The trip to Warwick was lovely though. Imagine all of the cliche images of the English countryside that you can think of : rolling hills and fields with flowers and cows grazing (the cows grazing, not the flowers), all enclosed in cute wooden fences. Anyhow, it looked just like the movies. And it was sunny, so life was good. I also visited a brass rubbing center in the big church in Warwick, so I my day even had some craft time. I do love a good craft time.
After I got back into Stratford I wandered a bit around the city, where I confirmed my suspicion that there is nothing in the city that isn’t either Shakespear or tourism themed. However, with all of that said, I did see As You Like It, and loved it. Every time that I see live theater I always kick myself for not making it a more significant part of my life, and this time was no different.
After Stratford I headed up to Liverpool. I’ve been using Liverpool as a base for a few days. I checked out York yesterday and today I’m in Manchester. Tomorrow I’ll be heading down to Bristol for a few more days before I move on to London town. Life is good.