Archive | February, 2013

Evil, thy name is rhododendron

20 Feb

I swear, it is evil

 

It’s WWOOFing time! After a month of being a tourist and lazing about, I was more than ready to get my hands dirty again. It was pure luck that landed me and Bridget at Craichlaw Estate in Southern Scotland. When it comes to WWOOFing you never really know what you are going to get. Every new host is completely different. Perhaps they are different for the better or perhaps it is for the worst, but you can never truly know what it is going to be like.

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The house, or should I say mansion?

Craichlaw turned out to be a large estate and our hosts were Andrew and Mary who ran the huge operation and graciously welcomed us into their museum status home. Bridget and I were fortunate enough to be given the best possible digs. We had our own apartment complete with separate bedrooms and individual bathrooms: it doesn’t get much better than that!

For the two and a half weeks Bridget and I worked our little tushies off. Our primary task was clearing the surrounding wood of that little rascal rhododendron. If you were to take a quick glance at our work you would think we were merely moving large bushes over about 50 feet, and sure sometimes it felt like that was all we were doing, but at the end of the day we managed to ride the land of a whole lot of nasty, invasive plants.

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Our trees will look like this one day

In addition to plant hacking we helped plant over a thousand trees on top of a hill. It was rough work, but the view of the sunset from atop the hill made it all worth it. The sky was a different color in every direction and where ever you looked you could see for mile upon gorgeous mile.

Most mornings were were lucky enough to get to feed the animals. There were 2 horses, 5 sheep and a whole mass of piglets. Plus, we could coo over the neighbor’s super cute calves (as in cows, not legs).

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Ruby, the 7/8 thoroughbred horse

The pigs were the most entertaining. Whenever you entered the pen the piglets would crowd you and nibble your boots and the HUGE sows would nudge you rather roughly with their massive heads. There were several occasions where I barely escaped falling face first into the puddle of feces and urine that was ever present. Being around animals can have a very calming effect, but I don’t recommend it if you don’t like getting a bit dirty.

During the many wet and rainy days we would sit inside chatting or listening to music while we polished the large collection of old leather bound books. We found one that was printed in 1642! If we weren’t outside or polishing books we helped make bread or uncatalogued furniture. It might sound like we worked a lot (and we did), but it was great fun and it felt amazing to spend so much time out doors in such a beautiful place. We were also spoiled with delicious food and great company.

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An afternoon walk with Daisy

I want to sincerely thank Andrew and Mary for giving us such an amazing experience. I came away with more new knowledge than I ever expected. The whole point of this whole experience is to get out there and experience new things and meet knew people. Sometimes things don’t work out, but in this instance they could not have been better. The bar has been set high.

Next up: Have you ever been in the same room as 2,000 chickens? Well, I have!

**I apologize for all errors, if it annoys you that much, don’t read it!**

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Lazy in London

17 Feb

Hey folks!

A lot has happened since I last wrote about a month a go. It might take a couple posts to catch up, so bear with me. After Paris Bridget and I headed to London. The cheapest was to get from one city to the other ended up being a bus ride. However, if you can, I recommend splurging for a train. We left Paris at noon and got to London at about 10:30 pm. Three of those ten hours were spent sitting in a parking lot waiting to cross the Chunnel.

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At least we had Stella to keep us company

I hate to admit this, but for the sake of honesty: I spent my first week in London sitting around watching TV and eating junk food. To be fair, I had just spent 10 days being a crazy tourist in Paris and I needed some R and R.

Eventually, I did manage to make it out of the house. Since I have already been to London several times and have seen most of the sites already and because I had just spent a week sitting around, I decided to walk around for a whole day. I think I walked up and down the Thames river about a hundred times. I walked all around Parliament, the Globe theater  ST. Paul’s the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Oxford street…just about everywhere you can go (that is just a slight exaggeration). It was a beautiful day, but after 6 hours of traipsing around I was chilled to the bone and the next day I opted for an inside adventure.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral

Before this trip my favorite museum had always been the Met in New York, but now a new and fantastic establishment has moved to position numero uno: The British Museum. I spent four hours there and still wanted more. If anything good has come out of British colonialism, it is the collection at the British Museum. If you are ever in London, you have to visit.

Near the end of my visit the city was hit with a snowstorm (nothing by New England standards, but London came to a standstill). I went for a walk through Regent’s park in the snow; it was incredibly beautiful. The snow muffled the city sounds and covered all the city grime. I felt like I had been transported to a new world. Of course, that uplifting feeling dwindled quickly as I got colder and colder. But, I did discover yet another incredible museum. The Wellcome Collection is the perfect place for those of us who love quirky things  and don’t mind feeling slightly uncomfortable. In addition to Henry Wellcome’s collection of curios including a real live chastity belt and Napoleon’s toothbrush, there was a temporary exhibit called Death. It might sound morbid, but it wasn’t. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was actually a positive experience.

Although I didn’t get up to much and spent lots of time lounging around, I would say that this part of my trip was a success. However, I was excited to be on the road again heading for Scotland and some new territory.

 

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Enjoying the snow

PS: For all those Grammar Nazis out there: I know my punctuation etc. is rarely spot on, but please forgive me, nobody is perfect

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