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

Adventures in the Motherland(s): Isle of Man, Day 3

On the third day of vacation, my true love gave to me: three Manx seals, two dishes of Queenies and a walking stick made for Gandalf! OK, none of that makes any sense to you now, but let me explain...

Another (less sunny) view of Niarbyl.

This particular day, we decided to revisit Niarbyl and then headed to the Calf of Man, which is at the southern tip of the island. It was cloudy and Niarbyl felt much different than it did the night before, when we were sunset-watching. By different, I mostly mean freezing cold and blustery.

We grabbed lunch at the Calf of Man cafeteria (yay alliteration) which was sort of like a rest stop, but it was set up as a semi-circle with all glass walls so you could take in the views. It was much fancier than any rest stop in the U.S., because who's clamoring for a view of the New Jersey Turnpike? We ordered Queenies, or queen scallops, which is a local Manx specialty, along with jacket potatoes topped with Manx cheddar. Jacket potatoes=baked potato. The cheese was glorious, of course. 

Please excuse the poor (tried to remedy through cropping) composition of this photo. I could have done something more artful, but I was hungry, so I didn't.

When we finished stuffing ourselves with the local delicacies, we went out to explore the Calf. Pretty soon, we spotted some seals nearby. The longer we watched, the more they showed off for us. They'd swim upstream (not really "upstream" since it's the ocean, but ahead of the current) and then they would ride it by us like it was a lazy river and pop their heads up. We were guessing that they must be used to getting treats from tourists, which is why they were so attentive.  

The views at the Calf were amazing, and the rock formations were really cool, and not so crazy high that we couldn't climb on them.

The Calf of Man.

I married a Scottie goat.

Since Scott is part billy goat, he of course did lots of climbing up, down, and all around. At one point, he found a large piece of driftwood that I referred to at his Gandalf walking stick. Of course, then I made him do his best Gandalf pose for this picture.

Flora and fauna on the Isle of Man.

Naturally, there were high fields overlooking the ocean that were full of lambs. It was some farmer's property, but also a public footpath, so we were able to get sort of close to the lambs. No, in case you were wondering, watching the baby lambs never really got old. 

From the Calf, we wandered into Castletown to check out Castle Rushen, where we arrived 45 minutes before closing yes, we were rushin'. (Yeah, I know, that was a particularly horrible pun.) Though we didn't have time to thoroughly go through the castle, we did have time to check out the stockade and some other cool medieval castle features.

Of COURSE we had to make time for this photo.

One of which was an OUBLIETTE! You guys! I was so excited. I was also excited that I could identify the murder holes and parapets. I have a whole list of medieval words from reading Game of Thrones that I may never illustrate for Visual Vocabulary, (because it would be a whole year of hauberks, mangonels, and kirtles) but it was exciting to see them in action. Yes, big dork over here. I think I was more thrilled than Scott, which is a little sad seeing as how he's the fantasy nerd in our marriage.

Visual Vocabulary knowledge in ACTION!!!!!!

Next time we get to an even cooler castle (Peel Castle) and me doing my best soldier-on-a-battlement impression. Yeah, it's something special.

You know nothing, Scott Davis! Except you do know an awful of lot medieval vocabulary words, I'll give you that. 

If you missed part of our vacation recap and want to catch up:

Isle of Man Day 2

Isle of Man Day 1

Dublin Day 2

Dublin Day 1