Adventures in the Motherland(s): Isle of Man, Days 6 & 7

With only two days left of our overseas vacation, it was time to see everything else we wanted to see on the Isle of Man before having to get back on the plane and head home. Luckily, it's a small island and we'd done a whole lot of sightseeing in the days prior. Saturday morning, we went to the Laxey Woolen Mills, where they weave Manx tartan: blue for the sea, green for the hills, yellow for the gorse (a flower that grows all over the island), purple for the heather and white for the cottages. We didn't buy any Manx tartan, but I did try on this bunny hat, because why not:

More hand-painted sign goodness.

We were way too cozy at the woolen mills, so we decided to head to Port Cornaa—a hidden gem of a beach that the owner of our cottage recommended we check out. I'd love to see this place when it's sunny and warm! It was beautiful, of course, but the wind was kicking and it was cold. 

Scott examines the unique geological structures.

Everything was so GREEN. I liked how these rocks sort of looked like miniature mountains:

And for reference, this is what I looked like taking the above picture. I'm not kidding when I said it was cold. It was cold enough for me to wear a hood and mess my hair up all day. First world female problems.

Once we had each collected a few pounds more of rocks and driftwood for our budding rock collections, we decided to go to Maughold to see the church and collection of ancient Celtic crosses. Maughold was once the site of a Celtic monastery (around 600 AD) and now houses a collection of ancient crosses from the Island. I had high hopes for this visit: I carried a bunch of art supplied across the ocean with me so that I could make charcoal rubbings of these crosses and potentially turn it into really awesome (free) artwork.

Ancient Celtic cross from Maughold.

Ancient Celtic cross from Maughold.

Ancient Celtic cross from Maughold.

Ancient Celtic cross from Maughold.

So unfortunately, the charcoal rubbings...didn't quite work as I had planned. What with the crosses being, you know, thousands of years old and on less-than-even surfaces, my rubbings mostly looked like they were of a driveway in suburbia. I also gave the rubbings a shot with some colored pencils, which worked slightly better, but only slightly. Someday I'll scan them and see if I can clean them up in Photoshop, but for now, these pictures are pretty cool. The whole scene was really beautiful. 

Not to mention quaint. Gents!

Yep, I'm the American who took a picture of the bathroom signage.

By this time it was raining and my gloveless, charcoal-covered hands were half frozen, not to mention there was a wedding party gathering at the church, so we decided it was time to go get lunch. We headed back to Ramsey and ate fish and chips (OF COURSE, I had to at least once) at the Royal George. We also had cider that was really strong, but didn't taste like it. In other words, the best kind of cider. 


"Well, I mean..." our official motto of gluttony.

"Mushy peas" were a side dish often served in the Isle of Man. Though they look disgusting, they weren't actually bad. Just odd. It was peas served in a pea puree. There's a reason why the UK isn't known for its food. Side note: does anyone else remember that song "Fish and chips and vinegar, vinegar, vinegar" from their childhood? I thought it was from Looney Tunes, but apparently it's a scout song. Huh. Anyway, this was stuck in my head for several days of our trip.

After our boozy lunch, we drove (ok, most of us boozy-napped and one person drove) to the northernmost part of the Island, the Point of Ayre. Continuing on with the theme of the day: cold, windy, pretty. Not necessarily in that order.

The beach was never-ending and full of perfectly smooth rocks. We searched for sea glass, to no avail. 

But we did find this rock with a cracked-out face on it:

After several excursions to chilly beaches (I'm still trying to imagine people on holiday in the Isle of Man, trying to get comfortable on a beach blanket thrown over some rocks) it was time to head into town to reverse the effects of our drinking lunch with a quick stop for coffee and wifi. Scott's mom caught the electric railway home, so we decided to get a ride in the car to her stop and walk with her the rest of the way to the cottage—about a mile or so. A few minutes in to walking, I began feeling like I really wanted to run. Insert pangs of urgency to cross off running bucket list ideas like "take a run in every country you visit" here. Nevermind I wasn't properly attired to run (*cough* *no sports bra* *cough*). I decided it would be like my own Runner's World Rave Run photoshoot and I'd just go for it. The views were worth it, and I was hardly winded (amazing, given my recent lack of running).

View from my run in the Isle of Man.

View from my run in the Isle of Man.

After that I refueled with wine and crisps. AKA potato chips. What? It's vacation. 

The following day was our last in the Isle of Man (sad panda). It was sort of a weird day, because we had to be out of our cottage rental and return the car by a specific time. Not to be hurried, we had an early lunch in Douglas where we desperately tried to spend the rest of our Manx money. I may have mentioned this before, but the Isle of Man has its own currency, and it's pretty difficult to get it exchanged to dollars back in the United States—not to mention it was a bank holiday in the Isle of Man, so we couldn't exchange it there, either. After lunch, we took one last stop to Tynwald.

What would the Manx equivalent to "Dolla dolla billz, yall" be? "Poundy poundy poundz, mate"?

Tynwald is where (supposedly) the ancient parliament of the Isle of Man would meet. It's said to include dirt from all 17 of the island's parishes and has been around since the late 1300s, where several Lords of Mann were inaugurated. Apparently, the ceremony of "making public proclamations from mounds" is a Norse practice (thank you, Wikipedia). These days, parliament meets there once a year, on July 5th, for Tynwald Day. This is a long introduction to some pictures of sculpted earth!

Tynwald Hill on the Isle of Man.

Insert joke here about Scott legislating from the hill.

And that, friends, concludes our tour of the Isle of Man. Thanks for sticking with the blog recaps as they spread out over, uh, six weeks. I may write one more post for advice on traveling to Ireland and the Isle of Man and also on what the hell to pack, as I would have found suggestions for that very helpful (and Google failed me as I pondered my empty suitcase). 

But before I go, one last photo. Sad selfie on the plane, with Scott's mom photobombing. I had to force myself to stop laughing and make a sad face. 

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. 

Ahoy from Laxey beach.

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. 

Ruins of Peel Castle.

Scott does his best modern day impression of a medieval monk.

Audio guide = one too many electronic items to handle

Unimpressed! Not really.

Mr. Seagull Sentry.

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. 

File this under things I probably shouldn't post on the internet.

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, 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.

Scottie: I'm giving her all she's got, captain! (Sorry, I couldn't resist)

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.

Lots of hand-painted signs all over the island.

Take the last train to Laxey and I'll meet you at the station.

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. 

Not bad for being 179 YEARS OLD.

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. 

On top of Snaefel, looking toward England and Scotland. Those crazy people on the right are hang gliders.

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).

Looking toward Ireland.

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.

Mama Quayle and baby Quayle at home on the Isle of Man.

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:

Isle of Man Day 3

Isle of Man Day 2

Isle of Man Day 1

Dublin Day 2

Dublin Day 1