Some time ago we were visiting England and had rented a car for a few days driving around the Cotswalds. The countryside and the villages were spectacular and we had a great time. Our two favorite locations were Broadway and Stow-On-The-Wald. Who wouldn’t want to stay in Stow-On-The-Wald just to be able to say the name. While The Lygon Arms in Broadway was recommended to us it was not to our budgets liking but we’ve been told it is extraordinary.
We spent our time in the Cotswalds staying in B&Bs and the people we met and the meals we shared were delightful. But after a number of days of stumbling around in the middle of the night looking for the bathrooms we were looking forward to getting back to London
We had been staying in Kensington and when we returned we went searching for a hotel in the same area. At that point my wife was really looking to have a room with a private bath. I parked in one of those cul-de-sacs that was completely circled by small hotels and headed off in search of a room. The forth hotel said “yes” they did have a room with a bath. We dropped our bags off in the lobby and went off to return the rental car and get something to eat.
When we returned the hotel said the room was ready and we went upstairs. Opening the door we were confronted with a small room with a bed, a dresser and in one corner a clawfoot tub. That night my wife got her room with a bath but I wouldn’t refer to it as “private”.
My wife has a sequined top that she has worn while traveling a few times. I don’t believe there is anything seriously metallic in the sequins and it has made its way thru a number of metal detectors. On a recent trip all hell seemed to break out over this top.
While we have never paid for pre-clearance we usually get pre-cleared on our boarding passes (not really sure why). Last October while passing thru the TSA Pre check my wife was directed to go thru the scanner. Feet on the marks, hands above your head and wait, something has gone wrong. It seemed the agent scanned her several times and now she is pulled aside for a thorough search. What went wrong? She was wearing that top!
After a little research we have discovered that TSA screening devices have a lot of issues with some types of women’s clothes. That splash of gold print on a T-Shirt can contain enough metal to set off the metal detector. The same with attached beads. Sequins can literally blind a scanner. Since often these things are part of the fabric, passing a wand over you cannot determine if it is the top you’re wearing or something concealed under it. Time for the pat-down.
A comment Submitted by Cindy M found on the TSA blog from Jan 2018 – When the scanners were introduced I believed they were an improvement. Now however, I see that the machines don’t spot real problems. Instead they seem to be confused by a variety of normal things such as sequins, metal, or other sorts of embellishments on clothing.
Why is it I\we have to dress for the TSA?! Actually you don’t but you can expect to be delayed and/or inconvenienced. Especially if you ignore some simple tips that help TSA do their job efficiently. They do post a lot of information online that can help avoid these sort of issues. Unfortunately as of now sequins aren’t one of those tips.
If you are not up the the challenge of climbing six stories of steep stairs – don’t start the tour…
I think that one of those requirements for first-time visitors to Ireland is visit Blarney Castle. It was way up on our list of must see.
When you tour Blarney Castle the first thing you are confronted with is a six story, narrow spiral staircase. Everything is rough stone and there isn’t enough room on the stairs for more than a single file line. Someone getting past another in line would be a serious challenge. In touring the castle and getting up to the rock of eloquence (better known as the Blarney Stone) you must ascend on one staircase and descend on another equally narrow staircase. While on the ascent there are a couple of side rooms attached to the stairwell there is no way out until you climb the full six stories. At the top you walk over to the Blarney Stone and afterwords cross over to the other corner and start down the second staircase.
Before you enter the actual castle itself there is an attendant that clearly explains the issues with the spiral staircase and that if you don’t think you are up to the climb you shouldn’t continue.
On our visit last year as we entered the grounds we became aware of a couple in the group that stood out. He was, it turned out, in his 90’s and walked with a Hurrycane. It’s that foldable walking cane with the hand grip at the top and the four footed base as seen on TV. As we entered the castle the elderly gentleman was ahead of us with about six people between us and him in line. Just ten feet inside we were at the foot of that spiral staircase. At that point we commented to ourselves that we were impressed with his courage if not his judgement.
To his credit he made it up almost three stories before he couldn’t take another step. At that point the people below on the stairs couldn’t do anything to help because we were stuck in a single file. There was a lot of discussion up and down the line and eventually the line above him managed to get into an alcove and one gentlemen came back to him. With his wife behind him and help from the man above they managed to help him crawl up a number of steps to that alcove. After that the line started moving up again – there was no other choice. There was no way we were going to get a line three stories up into the castle to back up. When we got to the top of the castle several people explained to the attendants helping people kiss the stone* about the gentleman’s problem.
Maybe Blarney Castle has experienced this problem before but the logistics of stopping the line, getting help to him and than getting him down three flights of steep, narrow, spiral stairs does seem like a daunting task. That doesn’t even take into consideration the tour buses that are on a schedule and have significant distances to travel.
I’m sure there are a number of morals in this adventure but I’ll leave them to the readers imagination.
*You lay on your back while the attendants hold you as you stick your head through an opening at the top of the castle, six stories above the ground while you kiss the stone protruding from the wall above you – try that on a wet and rainy day. Also there doesn’t seem to be any Purell in use and you start speculating about all those people ahead of you that day?
If you travel a lot, especially if you are a cruise enthusiast, you will on occasion come across ship and boat wrecks either grounded or in shallow water. They seem to garner more attention than wrecked and abandoned cars on land. Maybe there is something more intriguing or romantic about ship wrecks because they seem to recall huge tragedies or great seafaring legends. It’s unlikely you’ll find a story titled The Wreck Of A 66 Oldsmobile, but there are accounts that live on about the Andrea Doria, Rubin James, Titanic, Edmond Fitzgerald and a lot more.
On a recent stop in Montevideo, Uruguay we came across what looked like a ship graveyard, right in the middle of the harbor. Derelict fishing boats, tugs and even larger ships were left in the harbor, making for a very strange sight. Seeing this surprising, large collection of half sunk, rusting, and abandoned boats and ships in the center of this cities working harbor raised a number of questions. Who abandoned them and why? How long have they been here? What is anybody doing about them?
Abandoned boats are not a problem unique to Uruguay and we often encounter ships wrecked along a coast, unable to be moved or salvaged. Even in the U.S. you’ll find abandoned boats usually left on remote and rarely used channels or in out of the way bays. But I don’t think we have every come across such a large number anywhere else before.
After getting home a little research turned up an article dated 17 June 2015 (HERE) estimating the number of derelicts at fifty that were abandoned by their owners because of debts or liens. It indicated that a plan has been developed that will re-float the boats and have them taken away. The Uruguayan National Port Administration will be in charge of the program.
When we were there in January of 2019 and I counted thirty boats so maybe they have made some progress in the last three years but Montevideo still has a long way to go.
Last summer we spent a couple of weeks checking off items on our bucket list in the National Parks of Utah. We rented a car in Salt Lake City, toured the parks and dropped off the car in Los Vegas.
After leaving Capital Reef National Park one afternoon we were headed for our next hotel in the town of Panguitch near Bryce Canyon National Park to the southwest. We came out of Capital Reef on Route 24 and soon hit an intersection with Route 12. At the intersection Rt. 24 headed to the north, which is the way we had been told to go but Rt. 12 went south. Just looking at the map it seemed like 12 was a much shorter route to take.
At this point I need to confess that the older I get the more nervous I am about heights. Already on this trip I had driven a couple of roads that had given me reason to pause. I’m not sure where this fear of heights has come from but when I was much younger I was fearless. lately I find it hard to believe that decades ago that young man that hung one handed off high catwalks and jumped out of helicopters was actually me. At this point I am much more nervous than my wife.
Anyway at that junction we made a snap decision and headed south on Utah Route 12. Some distance along this two lane road, near Boulder Mountain we came across the Anasazi State Park and archaeological site. This was a lucky find and well worth the stop. It was built around the excavation of an ancient Anasazi village and included a nice museum.
Back on the road we headed southwest again and soon came up on one of the scariest bit of road I can remember. Its called the Hogsback (or Hog Back) and it’s a narrow two lane road with, at times, barley any shoulder on either side. It rides along a ridge for about four miles with often sheer drops of over a hundred feet on one side or the other and sometimes both sides at once. Few guard rails and almost no room to pull off. The speed limit was between 25 and 35 mph and with my fear kicking in that seemed way too fast.
The good news was there was almost no traffic and the one car ahead of us seemed really terrified. He crept along at 15 to 20 mph and that was just fine with me. Not only did I feel safer but he gave me an excuse when eventually another car caught up to us.
Watch this YouTube video of a drive along the Hogsback.
Discovering Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Over the past few decades when visiting the Florida Keys we would drive past a dirt road with a locked chain link fence on Windley Key in the upper Keys. A number of years ago the gate, while still locked, displayed a new sign that read “Windley Key Fossil Reef”. Today it is open to the public as a state park. On our recent Keys drive we stopped in and spent a couple of hours visiting the Visitors Center and hiking the park.
If you’re planning a trip to the Florida Keys this often overlooked park is really worthy of a visit. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park provides an interesting exposure of a geological formation known as the Key Largo Limestone. This is a limestone rock fossil quarry; and the material is known locally as “keystone”. The entire quarry is comprised of a Pleistocene fossil reef, estimated between 100-125,000 years old. A majority of the keys are formed on this fossil reef system. The ocean levels rose and fell multiple times after the last Ice Age, and stabilized over the last 5,000 years. The top 25 feet of the old coral reef became exposed, died and laid the foundation to form Windley Key Fossil Reef .
Want to go exploring for fossils? Oddly one place to look is your nearest mall or new hotel or office building. On the floor of many of these places is polished limestone made mostly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the minerals calcite or aragonite, that contain an abundance of fossils or fossil traces. The fossils under your feet may be macroscopic or microscopic. The macroscopic fossils often include crinoid stems, brachiopods, gastropods, and the remains of other hard shelled mollusk. In Florida the main form are the remains of these ancient coral reefs.
So next time you’re in Florida, visit a coral reef without even getting wet.