Saturday, 14 September 2019

Ireland - July 2019


Dazed in Dublin


It's tempting in this final trip blog post to break the format of my previous posting but I think I'll try and stick to it:

The Guinness

Challenge completed!  I somehow guessed that finding a pint of Guinness back in Dublin, the place I started my challenge back in 2004, would not be too difficult.  My aim was to finish the challenge in the same place it had started, in the Guinness brewery itself, or more accurately, the Guinness Storehouse museum/exhibition directly adjacent to the brewery.  Guinness realised donkey's years ago that the idea of showing people around the brewery itself was not going to be feasible with increasing visitor numbers and built the Guinness Storehouse.  It's been so successful I've heard it quoted as Europe's No1 indoor visitor attraction.  I'm guessing there must be different categories as it would be pushing it to beat the St Peter's Basilica or alike but there's no doubt about it, it is a great success and a nice source of income too for Guinness. 


And there you have it - the final pint of Guinness, 15 years after starting the challenge.

First question I asked myself was should I ask anyone to join me. Of course.  People had been such a big part of this challenge, whether it be people I already knew or people I met throughout Europe.  Next question then, how do I choose who to ask?  Do I know them well enough to ask? etc etc.  Problem solved by the wonders of social media - ask all my FB friends and it will be up to them if they fancy it or not or were left scratching their heads over who the hell I was and how did they become a FB friend.  That just left a group of social media shy people to contact and the plot was fully hatched. 
Quentin pouring me the last Guinness of my European adventure, back where it all began, in the Guinness Storehouse.

The next part of the plan was to work out a suggested itinerary for the long weekend but leave it up to individuals which parts of it they wished to take park in or not.  That too worked out very well - for us at least.  The only bit left to organise was the trip to the Guinness Storehouse.  Fortunately they were very kind to us.  Again, not making a big fuss, they suggested a time for us to visit, a welcome discounted entry price, a nice low key greeting and the rest was up to us. 


Proof that I drank it!  With No1 son. 

So at 10.30am on them morning of July 27th a group 40 odd very bleary-eyed people turned up for a photo opportunity outside the iconic Guinness gate.  I was staggered everybody turned up considering most people's weekend had started on Thursday or Friday and there had been much sampling of Guinness and other beverages already.  But turn up they did and I'm very grateful for the efforts made by people to get there. 



Maybe the trip around the Guinness Storehouse didn't go quite as planned - that's because I had forgotten to create a plan.  We all took it at our own pace, enjoying the various exhibitions and entertainment including traditional music on offer before arriving in the Gravity Bar on the top floor for the complimentary pint of Guinness - the exact same place the challenge had begun in 2004 when Sofia, Bulgaria, was picked out of the hat as my first destination.

With No2 son

I never did get to say a few words of thanks and a few highlights of countries visited.  It was far too noisy for that.  Apologies to those who came along for missing that bit!    It was however a special occasion for me.  To have family and friends from all different parts of my life congregated there. 

Team make-up

I tried to add up how many people came along to the weekend celebrations.  I think it was 52, coincidentally the same number of countries I had visited in the challenge.  Not everyone came to the Guinness brewery, some people we met at other times over the weekend. I purposely won't name people so as to maintain internet anonymity.

Brothers propping up the bar.

Thanks to everyone who made it.  It was the first time we as a family, my wife and two sons, had been together for 18 months.  Hopefully I won't have to visit another 52 European countries to enable that to happen again!  Son No2 kindly bought along ten friends just so as we didn't appear to be a SAGA holiday trip. 


Apparently, not everyone drinks Guinness!  

Just like when I finished my walk around the coast of England and Wales back in 2004, the people gathered represented different stages of my life all the way back to school days, through college days, friends made via work and hobbies and of course family.  I was impressed by the efforts people made to mix and hopefully enjoy themselves. 

Some of the Swansea contingent
And some of the younger contingent.
A special prize to these two -for making it to both my coastal walk completion in 2004 and this one. 

Sightseeing

To add a bit of culture to the trip we paid a visit to the National Gallery to see Caravaggio's 'The Taking of Christ'.  The painting has a family connection, the motivating factor behind the visit.  For many years the painting lay undiscovered in the dining room of  my wife's uncle.  Well, not his personal dining room but the dining room of a Jesuit Community in Leeson St, Dublin, where he was one of the Brothers.  The fact that many of them were probably smokers no doubt added some layers of staining to the picture over the years.  The painting had been thought lost for 200 years, and had been hanging in the house in Leeson Street since the 1930s when it had been gifted to the Brothers by an Irish pediatrician, Marie Lea-Wilson, for the  support they gave her following the shooting of her husband.  It was thought to be a copy of the original painting not the original Caravaggio itself.  The painting is now on permanent loan to the National Gallery


Gathered around Caravaggio's painting

Food and Drink


The food bit seemed to get overlooked once again.  We got so absorbed in meeting people and chatting we forgot to eat sometimes.  On our first night there we made a late night visit to a eastern European eatery to make sure we had something before bedtime!  Friday was more eating on the hoof and by Saturday we needed a meal inside of us so found a steakhouse.

A suitably blurry image from the Stag's Head on the Thursday evening.


The drink on the other hand took centre stage and certainly the Guinness.  After consulting with Margaret's cousin who knew Dublin we assigned three pubs to meet people on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.  Great to catch up with everyone, young and old.  There were people I hadn't seen since we got married, many moons ago.  One of Margaret's second cousins interrupted his 60th birthday celebrations to come along - what a star. 

A guest appearance from the land of song.



Hands up if you are enjoying yourself.  Fitzgeralds on Saturday night. 

 Accommodation

As the university term had ended we were able to pick up some student accommodation near the centre of Dublin, the relatively new and comfortable Destiny New Mill hall.

A picture of student accommodation just wouldn't do - instead have another one from the brewery.  Paris revisited. 

 

Getting there and around

Margaret and I flew from Bristol to Dublin with Ryanair then purchased a Visitor LEAP travel card that gave us 72 hours travel on buses and the DART light railway system.  This enabled us to get into Dublin City centre by bus and then out to Bray and back the following day on the DART.  On the Sunday, we took the DART in the opposite direction up to Howth.

A day trip to Howth


Outside Dublin

Margaret's hometown is Bray, a seaside town on County Wicklow and the town we got married all those years ago.  A trip out to bray on the Friday bought back lots of memories and enabled us to meet up with friends who were not able to make it to the Guinness Storehouse on the Saturday. 

Gathering of friends in Bray



Attempting to recreate our wedding day.


Quirky Moments

 
Recreating a photo taken at the start of the challenge in 2004.  We managed to find the exact same spot outside the Guinness Storehouse where the original picture was taken.
Another recreation - this time inside the Guinness Storehouse.  Suddenly Margaret and I look small. 
I felt I had to include this one more for the sub-plot taking place in the background - Valley's Rivalry!


Lasting Memories


The weekend for me was more about meeting up with friends and family and having a lovely time than it was completing the challenge. For someone who doesn't always like crowds and noise I was surprisingly relaxed, which I think is the atmosphere of Dublin rubbing off on me. There were times when I didn't necessarily hear a lot of the conversations going on but it was a real joy just to watch people enjoying themselves.   It was only in the weeks that followed did I reflect on the trip I had made all over Europe. 

Trinity College Dublin

It wasn't Guinness all the time.  A Swansea reunion.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Bray People newspaper article

And so the final pint of Guinness has been drunk in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin in July 2019 bringing the challenge to a successful conclusion.

I will write up the celebratory weekend soon but here's just a taster, an article from the Bray People, my wife's hometown in Ireland.  The only minor inaccuracy is my age - some of you may have noticed that I am no longer 21.  Link to newspaper article: A pint of plain in every capital city in Europe


It was great to have a group of friends join me for my last Guinness

A pint of plain in every capital city in Europe


Ted's ends 15-year quest to taste Guinness across the continent


Mary Fogarty

July 13 2019 12:00 AM



The husband of a Bray woman has completed his quest to have a pint of Guinness in every European capital city.

Ted Richards (21) from Cardiff has just finished the 15-year task, and is planning his return to Dublin, where it all began, to celebrate the achievement.

Ted is married to Margaret Richards, formerly O'Brien, from Bray. They married there in 1986 and are currently living in Wales. Margaret joined Ted on around 20 of his trips abroad in search of Guinness.

Ted managed the challenge without injury but Margaret fell and broke her arm just an hour before they were due to meet people for the Guinness in Edinburgh. Despite this, she still made the rendezvous and only went to hospital for treatment afterwards.

This particular challenge started in Dublin in 2004 as Ted was nearing the end of his bid to walk 3,500 miles around the coast of England and Wales, a project that had kept him occupied for the previous 20 years. While finishing the walk would be satisfying, he feared that without new goals be destined to a life of DIY and crosswords.
Ted settled on two challenges: climbing the mountains of England and Wales, and drinking a pint of the black stuff in every capital city in Europe.

After much deliberation, he came up with a list of 52 countries and managed to get a pint of Guinness in each one, never once having to resort to drinking the emergency can he took with him.

In most places he tracked down a bar serving Guinness, even in such unlikely places as Baku, Azerbaijan and Minsk, Belarus - but it was touch and go in one or two destinations.
Vatican City was problematic.

'We looked but didn't find any on sale there. We were rescued by a local Irish bar who, under the cover of darkness, brought some Guinness into St Peter's Square and served it up to us with great panache,' said Ted.

In Yerevan, Armenia, Ted's normal pre-trip homework was turning up nothing. Out of desperation he contacted the Irish consul in Yerevan. He replied that he thought Ted would be out of luck but to bring some with him and meet him for a drink.

'When I arrived in Yerevan, the man who picked me up from the airport to take me to my hotel, embraced my challenge, called around a lot of his contacts and that night took him on a tour of bars in Yerevan that might serve Guinness.'

In the last one, they looked in the fridge and found one lone can. Ted did end up meeting the Irish consul and his wife and enjoyed a lovely evening drinking Armenian wine.

Reports of an Irish bar in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, turned out to be fake news but luckily for Ted a member of the Danish Air Force living there had flown some Guinness in for Ted and invited him around to enjoy it.

There were a number of Irish bars advertising Guinness in Skopje, Macedonia, but all had run out. Eventually, Ted found some in a supermarket and took it back to the hostel where he shared some cans with other visitors.

By the time Ted got to Tira, Albania, the Irish bar had closed down and all that remained was an Irish tea towel hanging on the wall. However, on the way back to the apartment, Ted spotted a shop selling Guinness and managed to have that evening's tipple.

There were plenty of other adventures during these trips.

In Borjomi, Georgia, Ted was almost arrested. The President has a summer residence in the city and when Ted walked out of town to have a look, he was jumping up and down to peep over the wall by two armed police. They didn't speak any English nor Ted any Georgian but after ten minutes, they realised their interrogation was getting nowhere and ushered him on.

'In Chisinau, Moldova, the Irish bar was kind enough to not only give me the Guinness free but also gift me a bottle of whiskey,' said Ted. 'It was only afterwards did we realise that we had come with only hand luggage so couldn't take it home.'

As an admirer of the author and comedian Tony Hawks, who wrote the book 'Playing the Moldovans at Tennis' and afterwards set up a charity and children's home in Chisinau, Ted felt compelled to pay it a visit.

'We visited the home and donated them the bottle of whiskey - the most unlikely gift they have ever had,' he said.

The other challenge on Ted's 'to do' list - climbing the mountains of England and Wales - he began in 2004 and completed three years ago.

He still won't be putting his feet up though.

A retired toxicologist, Ted is currently delivering a number of talks about people who have been murdered by poison.

He is also chairman of the Roath Local History Society so spends a lot of his time researching the history of east Cardiff.

He hasn't stopped travelling and a new challenge is no doubt on the horizon.

Bray People

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Iceland - May 2019

Rejoicing in Reykjavik

The Guinness


I was genuinely surprised by the number of pubs in Reykjavík offering Guinness.  There's sometimes the need for hours of internet research and walking the streets before I stumble across the familiar Guinness logo but not here where I was spoilt for choice.  So why choose the Drunk Rabbit? More because of the appealing name I have to admit.  Are there rabbits lurking in Iceland?  It turns out there are and they are a bit like the purple lupines you see around everywhere i.e. not indigenous.  Anyway, I digress. 



On arrival I asked to see the management, not because I was throwing my weight around, but because in an exchange of messages before coming to Iceland they had promised to pour me the perfect pint but unfortunately were not at home.  Nevertheless, we had a warm welcome from the charming Jolanta who seemed somewhat thrown by having the responsibility heaped upon her but coped very well indeed.  

Jolanta concentrating on pouring the Guinness

So there it was, sat settling on the bar, a Guinness in my 52nd European capital city.  Mission achieved - or it would be once I'd drunk it.  Memories of previous visits came flooding back; places I'd visited, people I'd met and adventures I'd had.  There would be plenty of time for me to reminisce but for now it was time to savour the moment with my wife and good friends who had been kind enough to join me on the trip. Cheers.

Team make up


I was joined on this trip by five fellow adventurers.  My wife Margaret, who takes the credit for much of the organising.  As a veteran of some twenty of these Guinness excursions she deserves a hearty congratulations, not only for joining me on those trips but also deserves thanks for putting up with me going on the others.  Paul and Pete were veterans of the Faroe Islands trip all the way back in 2005.  Ian was a more recent convert and on his own challenge of visiting every European country and riding the trains. The sometimes frustrated look on his face at times was explained by the fact that there are no trains in Iceland.  Olwen was on her first trip and fully embraced the cause.    



Sightseeing


We felt we'd hit the jackpot in going on the iconic Golden Circle tour - an excellent day out.  More good homework by my wife had identified many tour operators on the Golden Circle route. Our guide Baldvin Pálsson was exceptional; highly knowledgeable, humorous, a good driver, clearly explained our responsibilities at each stage and even threw in a few extra stops for us for good behavior.   Minibuses are so much more comfortable than they used to be.   

Our excellent guide Baldvin


Food and Drink


Our bravery didn't extend to us trying the Hákarl, fermented and buried rotten shark with high ammonia content. Instead we treated ourselves to a delicious meal at Old Iceland where I had traditional Icelandic lamb tasting of the lush green meadows of Iceland, or was I imagining that bit. 
Another evening we ate in Cafe Babalu, a quirky place with friendly staff and a Star Wars themed toilet.  The vegetarian lasagne tasted just fine.  The local cafe, Emilie and the Cool Kids, near our accommodation is also worth a mention for its tasty savory scones. 

The spectacular Gullfoss waterfalls


Accommodation


I haven't mentioned this yet but Reykjavík is a charming capital city, full of individual colourful houses and independent shops. We were lucky enough to stay very centrally in Heida's Home Guesthouse.  Quiet, clean and processing a certain vintage charm, it was all we could ask for. 

Heida's Home Guesthouse


Getting there and around


One thing I won't miss about completing this challenge is the air travel.  I vow to take more trains.  The flight to Iceland may only be two and a half hours but with everything else added in effectively takes a day each way.  The crack-of-dawn easyJet flights from London Luton in fairness were relatively pain free.  It was just the need to be at the airport at 4am, necessitating overnight accommodation at the airport in a hot room and a rubbish meal in a Dunstable pub that provided the misery.   

Our pre-booked airport bus transfer into Reykjavík was hassle free for us but for one of our party arriving on a later flight proved more problematic. 

Without any Icelandic trains to ride Ian took to the public buses one day with a day-pass and reported everything ran smoothly.




Outside Reykjavík


Margaret and I took a boat over to the small island of Viðey.  It was idyllic.  The weather was warm and sunny and the birdlife plentiful.  The eider ducks and fulmars welcomed us with open wings. The boats to Viðey depart adjacent to where the cruise liners dock but for some reason a four hour stay on this tranquil island doesn't appeal to cruise goers.  It was just us, the birds and a Yoko Ono sculpture, giving peace a chance.

Freddie the Fulmar on Viðey


Quirky Moments


Very early on in this challenge, back in 2005 a group of us went to the Faroe Islands.  It was the closest I came to not having a pint of Guinness.  An Irish pub mentioned on the internet transpired to be fake news.  The hero of the day was Henrik who works for the Danish Royal Air Force and had flown some Guinness in especially. He welcomed us around his house to share the Guinness and pick out my next destination.  By sheer fluke, on the day I was having my final pint of Guinness in Reykjavík, Henrik flew into the nearby airport to refuel. The nearest I will ever come to being honoured by a Royal flypast.



The only train to be seen in was Minør, an old stream train withdrawn from service about a hundred years ago.  To make Ian jealous I clamoured on board to get a photo of me in the cab, shoving two little boys out of the way in the process. There weren't to be deterred.  As soon as they realised I didn't speak Icelandic that switched to perfect English and continued to tell me all bout how the train worked.  I couldn't work out how they were old enough to be allowed out without adults but then again if they were smart enough to learn English at their age I'm sure that were safe.



A sad quirky moment this one.  Many people go on a whale-watching trip whilst in Reykjavík.  In fact our travelling companion Ian did just that and was lucky too see two varieties of whale.  Margaret and I also saw a whale on an evening walk but unfortunately it was a deceased minke whale, washed ashore. 


Lasting memories


We were blessed with great weather and lots of daylight for this trip which combined with the stunning scenery makes for a memorable trip, but of course completing the Guinness challenge must be the highlight.

Hallgrímskirkja church


Saturday, 10 November 2018

Malta - October 2018


Venerating Valletta

The Guinness


Choosing a destination to have my Guinness in Valletta was one of the simplest decisions of the whole challenge.  Google search 'pub', 'Valletta' and 'Guinness' and only one place pops up, and pops up a lot - that's partly because it is actually amusingly called 'The Pub' and also the only bar in the small city selling itself as a British or Irish type watering hole.  The other reason to visit is so that you can share in their claim to fame as being the place where the actor Oliver Reed died after an all day drinking session with British sailors who, so the story goes, goaded him into drinking and arm wrestling competitions.

Enjoying a Guinness at The Pub in Valletta with Bojan picking out my next destination.

 Bojan, the barman, quickly understood my challenge and joined in the fun. I asked him to pick my next destination out of the hat.  This took a bit of explaining as there was only one destination left - Reykjavik in Iceland.  I'm sure it didn't look suspicious at all - offering Bojan a box with a little straw in it.  Luckily, when the bit of paper that was inside the straw was unwound, it did indeed contain Reykjavik in Iceland and not somewhere else. 

The originally named pub 'The Pub'.

The Guinness tasted good but we needed to check its consistency so stayed for a couple more and came back the next two nights just to make sure we hadn't just happened to hit it on a good night.  The Pub is a convivial place, with a mix of Maltese, ex-pats and visitors as customers, a cosy bar with lots of memorabilia, an outside street patio area and one of the weirdest toilets you could imagine.    


Team make up


My travelling companion for this trip was Kay, an old friend from university days, when college pranks and alcoholic hazes were more the order of the day.  Nowadays we wear our sensible heads and tut at any misdemeanors but can still reminisce about the good old days.   . 

Kay ensuring the Guinness quality is up to par.

Sightseeing


Valletta isn't huge but it has lots of charm, sited as it is on a small hilly peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean.  Malta has had a turbulent past with many countries conscious of its potentially advantageous geographical position in the mid-Mediterranean and eyeing it up as a military base.  Everywhere you look there seem to be fortifications built from the manila coloured sandstone.  It made me wonder where all this rock came from.  Is there the mother of all quarries hiding away somewhere in the middle of the island.

Valletta parade puppets 


We took a trip on a small ferry across the harbour to Cospicua, one of what is grandiosely described as 'three cities' nestling on peninsulas across fr
om Valletta.  If ever you go there we've a recommendation - don't just explore the bit around the harbour.  Instead climb the hilly narrow lanes up into the heart of Cospicua and prepare to be wowed by its hidden charm.  Remember - you read it here first.  After that, cross the narrow habour on the footbridge and go up into the next town of Senglea.  You may be getting tired of all the historical stuff by now so head to the western side of the town wall and pop you head over into the dockyard.  Fascinating.    

Cospicua - steps, narrow streets and bags of atmosphere. 



Food and Drink


One thing for sure is I will never make a food blogger - I don't ever remember to take pictures of my food.  That's probably a relief to the restaurant owners and the people travelling with me.  There is a heavy British influence on Maltese life, so in honour of this on the first night we ate in Tuk Tuk, a southern Indian restaurant and I had chicken tika masala.   Looking back I think my other meals were all Italian, a spaghetti dish, a pizza and calzone.  The later looked very tempting when I saw some being made but wasn't the wisest choice on my part.  We were in Is-Suq Tal-Belt, the Valletta Food Market, a food hall in a Victorian building surrounded by many food outlets giving us choices from all around the world.  It was also the night of the big parade in town so the place was heaving.  Here's a hint - when you see a very busy pizzeria, don't order the one item that takes four times as long to cook as a simple pizza.  It was however very nice. 

Siege Bell, Valletta



Accommodation


I didn't spot anywhere in Valletta at reasonable cost using booking.com so instead stayed in a very nice apartment in Msida which was a short bus ride out of the capital.  Fortunately the bus service in Malta is pretty good and I could enjoy an evening out in Valletta before getting a late bus back. The apartment I was staying had three rooms so occasionally I would bump into other guests, though luckily not in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom - it's an age thing.  When I arrived I was warmly welcomed by the efficient owner who made sure I had all the information I required about the apartment and locality and places of interest though I wasn't quite sure why I was being told about nearby schools.  

Centre Point in Msida, Malta.


Kay on the other hand had managed to book through Airbnb and had found a very quirky basement room in the heart of Valletta with a seventeenth century grave headstone embedded in the rook adorned with skull and crossbones, apparently synonymous with the Order of St John.


Getting there and around


A Ryanair flight from Bristol got me to and back from Malta with little hassle.  After that it buses using the five day bus pass that also included a couple of free ferry rides across Valletta harbour and a free day on the hop-on-hop-off tour bus.  there was so much to do and see in Valletta that I didn't us the tour bus option so swapped bus passes with Kay on leaving enabling her to make use of the tour bus.  Unfortunately a pickpocket helped themselves to the bus pass apparently so its left to our imagination if they ever went around the island on the open-topped bus. If they did then I hope it poured with rain and the bus broke down.  

St Domonic's Church, Valletta - the whole city is this colour!

Outside Valletta


We had a day-trip by bus to Mdina, an ancient walled town, once Malta's capital, in the middle of the island with narrow streets.  I got the feeling that visiting this tourist honey pot out of season and in the morning had its advantages as we could still get a prime seat in the rooftop cafe with great vistas and equally good cake. Just as we began to tire of being tourists an idea of tackling a geocache dawned.  It involved collecting clues form locations around the compact town which kept is well enthralled for an hour.  The nearby town of Rabat, a short walk away was equally charming but in a different way. 

A splash of colour in Mdina

 Quirky Moments



I have been uploading my photos of my  Guinness trips onto Flickr in the vague hope that a Guinness executive will spot them and offer me sponsorship.  Somebody did contact me regarding a Malta photo but it wasn't Guinness, it was Superyacht Times.  They had seen a picture I'd taken of a strange stubby-nosed vessel Olivia O in dry dock in Senglea and wanted to use it for an article.  At least I got to find out what the vessel was called which is something I'd been wondering.  Still waiting for the free ride on it though. 
A surprise place to find one of my photos


  Also in the dock having a refit was the enormous Superyacht 'I Dynasty'  measuring over 100 meters in length,   You are left wondering whether you should be appalled by the decadence or admiring of the engineering and craftsmanship.  This was contrasted later in the day when back in Valletta when we witnessed a rusty Maersk container ship Sealand New York, gently being pulled by tugs into the harbour, presumably for a much needed repainting job.    It looked ancient but it was only built in 2000.  Seawater is a corrosive beast.  Best use a good undercoat next time I think.   

Superyacht  'I Dynasty' , a passing cruise liner and Sealand New York


Not everywhere serves Guinness in Valletta

More photos of the trip can be found on Flickr

Thanks for visiting! 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Edinburgh - August 2018


The Guinness


You would have thought that after getting a Guinness in countries such as Moldova, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Armenia then Edinburgh would be a doddle.  Well it wasn't.  All we needed was a pub that served Guinness, oh, and food, and allowed dogs, and was somewhere between the train station and Arthur's Seat.........  After quite a bit of research we found one, told people who were travelling from different places and sat back confidently.  The only problem was that it didn't quite work out.  As we battled our way along the crowded streets of Edinburgh and arrived at the pub we found another dog in residence outside.  It was quickly evident that our dog and the pub dog were not going to see eye to eye so an alternative venue had to be sought.  The stress had definitely begun to build by now.  Oh, and I haven't mentioned yet that my wife fell coming down Arthur's Seat and broke her arm!  Luckily, very close by was McSorleys with Guinness signs everywhere.  No dogs allowed though but fortunately we were able to shoehorn into their street seating area and down a welcome Guinness or two. 

Edinburgh -  my 50th European Capital City.  Only two more to go to complete the challenge.
Dylan doing a great job in picking out my next destination - Valletta, Malta.

Team make up


The highlight of the day for me was being able to catch up with some great friends who I hadn't seen for a while.  As the Guinness began to hit the right spot the stress began to dissipate.  Some of those in attendance were drinking Guinness for the first time and enjoying it.  Two stalwarts of this Guinness challenge, Kevin and Ian, who have traveled with me to various Easter European countries were here and both made epic journeys of their own to be here.  Others may not like their names plastered all over my blog without me checking so shall remain nameless but thanks for being there everyone.  Oh, and our dog Shadow for making this his first Guinness trip.



Sightseeing


We were actually only in Edinburgh for the day so sightseeing was somewhat challenging especially with a canine companion.  Going up the classic Edinburgh Hill Arthur's Seat therefore seemed a natural choice.  What I hadn't imagined was that every other tourist in Edinburgh would do the same.  There was some admirable navigating from one of our party to get us through the heaving streets full of festival goes and to the base of the hill.  For some reason we seemed to be at the steep side.  Not to worry, I'm sure those people using ropes and crampons are only doing it for the fun of it.  Actually, the path was a lot more gentle than it initially looked.  The views from the summit were great and there was a trig point to keep me happy too.

Arthur's Seat - we were not alone

  All we needed o do now was to get down.  I know, let's go down the gentle way.  Gentle it may be but pretty gravelly too and Margaret took a tumble whist being distracted by the dog.  We weaved our way down slowly and the near feinting episode didn't happen till near the bottom. 

The Edinburgh skyline


There's me getting sidetracked.  Edinburgh - what a grand looking city.  Full of fine architecture.  Full of atmosphere too in August with the Festival.  Must come back again to explore it more thoroughly. 

Food and Drink


This is where I normally write about the fine national cuisine I've eaten on the trip.  So what did I eat in Edinburgh?  Nothing!  Not even a boiled sweet.  Our plan to have lunch somewhere was naturally overtaken by events, namely distal fractures of the wrist.  After that, Guinness drinking took priority and before we knew it we had to catch the train.  I lie, I think I did manage a third of a packet of crisps and very nice they were too and Scottish. 

Harvest time in the Borders

Getting there and around


We stayed the week in dog-friendly accommodation near Coldstream in the Scottish Borders, topping in Liverpool on the way up and Coventry on the way back.  What a fine area the Border region is and no doubt often overlooked by people tearing up to the Highlands.  At this time of year the Borders is a busy place with harvesting in full flow.

Stationary dog

Outside Edinburgh


 From our base near Coldstream we got to explore the local rolling countryside, forests as well as the expansive Northumberland coastline and the historical town of Berwick-on-Tweed.  And yes, there was some fine food too, a meal cooked by some goof friends and some good meals out too. 

Our dog Shadow trying to complete the Northumberland coast in a single day


Quirky Moments


"I'll just pop into this pharmacist to see if they have a support bandage for my wrist" said my wife in Berwick, two days after we'd been to Edinburgh.  "It's a bit sore".  Sorry, explained the pharmacist, I think you need to go to the hospital.  Where would that be?  Next to the long-stay car park we were already parked in.  That's lucky!  Thank you EU/NHS.  Margaret  -  born in Ireland, lives in Wales, injured in Scotland, treated in England.  Glad it was this year and not next.


Every NHS treatment in Berwick comes with a free seagull.