Adventures in the Motherland(s): Isle of Man, Days 4 & 5
Thursday of our trip, it rained. All. Day. Well, almost all day. It was the sort of rain that was soothing to listen to, and encourages you to sleep in and then take another nap after breakfast because it's steady enough that you know you're not going anywhere but to the couch to read your book. It's usually a bit of a bummer to have a vacation day taken out by rain, but I think we were all ok with the short break. Plus, the "conservatory" of our house (sun room) was a great place to listen to the rain and relax. Also with us was our friend Manannan.
Once the rain finally let up, we decided to take a quick drive to nearby Laxey Beach. It was coooooold, but we were all amused by the perfectly rounded, tumbled rocks, and trying to find the coolest among them to shove into our pockets. I'm fairly certain we all came home with about 5 extra pounds of rocks. For our rock collections. Of course. Actually, we have a terrarium that I can't get anything to grow in, so that's where our rocks now live.
Once Friday came, it was down to business again, since we'd lost a day to rain and still had vacation plans to accomplish. We went to Peel Castle, which was mostly ruins, but really cool to check out. There was an audio tour which I only somewhat paid attention to. It was narrated by what sounded like Sean Connery and had many sound effects of oceans, seagulls, and battle in the background. Here's where I give the excuse that I'm not a good auditory learner, so I spent a lot of time taking pictures.
As promised, here's me acting as a solider on the battlement. It was fairly comfy, actually, with nice views. I was using the audio guide as a firearm, naturally.
From Peel Castle, we wandered to the House of Manannan. It sounded like it should have been cooler than it was—I think we were all hoping for more insight into Manx fairytales and folklore, but...it was mostly mannequins dressed up to look like they were occupants of various points in Manx history, with audio recordings to back them up. In other words—meh. There was a fake boat control room, and I had to laugh because immediately Scott gravitated toward the one video-game-like exhibit.
We finally had another really clear weather day on our hands, so we rushed back to Laxey to catch the last train of the day to Snaefel, which is the highest point on the island with amazing views. The electric train cars run several times every day—amazing given the fact that they were built in 1835. And felt every bit that old and rickety.
I read somewhere that the Isle of Man electric trains had a hand in inspiring Thomas the Tank Engine and company. Sadly, Ringo Starr was not our conductor.
Believe it or not, I was not purposely making this face for the photo. Scott's stepdad, Chuck, was behind me taking a picture that was perilously close to the back of my head, except I wasn't totally sure what he was doing (picking a hornet out of my hair?) I guess it's good to know this is my "What the crap?" face. I can't not laugh at myself.
As the train started to move up the mountain, the views were incredible. A few times, we had to stop for sheep in the tracks! Move along, little lambie. Scott was not happy about being on this ancient train. In fact, I'm pretty sure he mostly hated the train portion of it. You could see the wordwork of the train frame moving along with the jumps and starts of the train tracks. Apparently, that's all part of the "engineering."
For riding a train that's nearly 180 years old, we reached the top of Snaefel very quickly. We had about ten minutes to take in the views before the train was heading back down the mountain.
I may have mentioned this before, but on clear days (and at night) you can see England, Scotland and Ireland from the Isle of Man, depending on which side you're on (or if you're on Snaefel, you can see it all).
The views were amazing and it was cold and crazy windy at the top of the mountain. You could pretty much see the entire island from here. This is probably where I would have put my castle. Who needs easy access to goods from the port? Put me where the views are! Of course, there's no castle here now. Just a cell phone tower and a bar for people who are unnerved by riding the ancient train up the mountain.
As evidenced by the twenty gajillion photos in this post, we made up for on the sunny day what we missed out on during the rainy day. Later that night, we went outside to check out the stars. The Isle of Man is supposed to have some really great night sky viewing since it's remote. We ended up laying, literally, in the middle of the road to see the stars (like I said, remote). It took a while for our eyes to adjust, and there were some clouds and light from nearby Ramsey, but we could see a fair bit. The more we stayed out there, the more we saw. Yes, we even saw a shooting star (or meteor, depending on how technical you want to be. Is Neil DeGrasse Tyson reading this? I'd better get it right just in case).
If you missed part of our vacation recap and want to catch up: