Review: The Black Book

The Black Book
The Black Book by Ian Rankin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up because I was in Edinburgh, Scotland and had been on a Literary Walking Tour of the city’s most famous writers and Rankin’s name kept coming up. We passed places he hung out, locations from his books, and heard stories about his life. So when I had the opportunity to grab one of his Rebus thrillers I took it, feeling like it’s a good thing to read local writers. Continue reading “Review: The Black Book”

A note about (bad) hostels…In particular the Belford in Edinburgh

I recently returned from an amazing 9 day trip through Scotland, Ireland and Northern England and in the past, I’ve travelled through most of Europe and quite a bit of the United States. I’ve stayed in a number of hostels and while some experiences have been better than others, I had one on this last trip which ranked so far down the list, I felt the need to actually write a bit about it – and the hosteling experience in general.

To start with the bad… The hostel in question here is The Belford Hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ll get to why they rank so low in a moment but first, a word about what, in my opinion, makes a good hostel and where this one fails (and the one place they succeed).  Continue reading “A note about (bad) hostels…In particular the Belford in Edinburgh”

Spirits of Ireland – Day nine in Dublin

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is where that little surprise comes in. I was all set to call it quits after Liverpool and was resigned to a long train ride back to Edinburgh but Jennifer had other plans. She had done her research (she’s good at that) and discovered we could fly from Liverpool to Dublin, spend the day in Ireland and then fly back to Edinburgh that night with plenty of time to spare to make the 6:30am flight back to Kaunas. All of a sudden our trip became 4 cities, 3 countries, 2 plays and 1 knight! I was beyond stoked! Continue reading “Spirits of Ireland – Day nine in Dublin”

Eight Days a Week – Day eight in Liverpool

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs long as we were in the north of England, I had figured we might as well see Liverpool. When we were planning this trip, all sorts of possibilities were presenting themselves but time, cost and feasibility had narrowed things down to flying in and out of Edinburgh with a trip to Manchester and Liverpool thrown in. This was okay by me. I’d never been to any of these places while Jennifer had been to Liverpool and Edinburgh but it was years ago. Jennifer had also take care of planning the latter half of the trip and so she had booked us on an early morning train to Liverpool, about an hour or so away. The idea being to make the most of our day since odds are, we were going to spend most of monday on a train back to Edinburgh for my 6:30am flight back to Kaunas on Tuesday. Continue reading “Eight Days a Week – Day eight in Liverpool”

The Scottish (cos)Play – Day seven in Manchester

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the day we were waiting for. Today was Macbeth Day. We started the day all special days should be started… by sleeping late.

We had decided that Manchester was really much more about the theatre than any other touristy sites so there was no rush to get up and hit the day running as there was every other day of the trip. So instead, we just languished. We enjoyed the comfort of the hotel room, sleeping until we wanted to wake up. It was glorious. We also took this opportunity to deal with travel details for the next few days. I had received a surprise but that will come in time. Continue reading “The Scottish (cos)Play – Day seven in Manchester”

Man and The Machine – Day six in Manchester

DSC_0131The bus to Manchester left at 5am. This meant we had to be out of the hostel by 4ish and at the train station when it opens at 4:45 or so. That’s early. Even for me with an annoyingly early rising dog. But that’s okay, we’re professional travelers, we got this!

And we did. At the station by about 10 to five and on the bus when it arrived. It was mostly empty that early, so we settled in for smooth sailing down south to the English home of Football. If only it went that way.

Continue reading “Man and The Machine – Day six in Manchester”

Monster Hunting – Day five in Scotland

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThursday was our second tour with Heart of Scotland Tours, this time we were going north to see Loch Ness. To say I was excited about this would bean understatement. When Scotland was first proposed as a vacation destination my first thought was “I want to see Loch Ness.” Now, I know this isn’t anything real, but I don’t care. Just the idea of going there and seeing it for myself was intriguing! Continue reading “Monster Hunting – Day five in Scotland”

The Unfinished Game – Day four in Scotland

2013-07-17 17.24.01Wednesday morning came bright and early. We’d decided to try our hand at getting to the distillery we’d gotten information about from The Whiskey Experience so we headed down to try and find the bus stop for this once an hour transport. We weren’t having much luck. By the time we thought we’d found it and it was supposed to arrive, we’d actually decided on a different plan altogether.

See, today was Jennifer’s dad’s birthday and him being a golfer and us being so close, relatively speaking, to St. Andrews, we figured a trip to the home of golf would be a little more fun. Continue reading “The Unfinished Game – Day four in Scotland”

Reaching the heights of culture – Day three in Scotland

CityscapeOur first full day in Edinburgh started off just fine. We easily walked into town, across the Waverley Bridge and into the Old Town.  A wee bit about Edinburgh history here. Everything started with the Castle, which has been around, in one form or another, for close to 2000 years. It was built on the mound of an extinct volcano and would have been an imposing presence no matter which era you’d seen it. Had there been guidebooks back then, Roman centurions would have found it on their list of “places to avoid.” Continue reading “Reaching the heights of culture – Day three in Scotland”

The Borderlands – Day two in Scotland

James and the Wee Red BusLeaving the hostel early enough to not only make our 9am bus tour, but to find breakfast and the place to meet our bus tour wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Not that leaving was hard, nor getting up in time (I don’t sleep late anyway, thank you, Laika) but just figuring out what to do for food and where the bus stop was accounted for a slight bit of frustration. In the end, we opted for jumping in to a local supermarket (Sainsbury, for those playing UK Location Bingo) and grabbing some eat on the go stuff and then figuring out that our tour pick-up point was actually quite near Calton Hill… and we were a little early so we decided to eat up on the hill with the view of the nearby body of water which is called the “Firth of Forth” (try saying that three times fast!). Firth means estuary and Forth is the bay which leads out to the ocean so that’s what we were looking at before heading back down and joining our group. Continue reading “The Borderlands – Day two in Scotland”

Hop on – Day one in Scotland

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMeeting Jennifer and getting to our hostel wasn’t much of an adventure. It was fairly easy to find the bus to take us into town and then a nice gentleman, who was walking our way anyway, showed us where our hostel was. Where we were staying, the Belford Hostel, is located in an old church (and more on that later). We dropped off our bags and headed back out (It was early, so we couldn’t even check in yet) to explore the city. Jennifer had been here before so she was a font of knowledge as we walked around. Continue reading “Hop on – Day one in Scotland”

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That was a good book. Not a great one, but very very good. It’s a classic Gaiman story; young people, shadowlands, ancient beings, “beating of giant wings”… all the good stuff. I listened to it, read by the author, which at times can be a tricky proposition but Gaiman is a performer and he does a great job with his own words (This is not always the case, mind you) and at just under 6 hours listening time, this isn’t a long piece of fiction. So why isn’t it great? For me, length is actually one of the factors. Continue reading “Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane”

Review: Schooled

Schooled
Schooled by Christa Charter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Generally, I enjoyed Christa Charter’s new series starter (you can tell it’s a new series because the last line completely sets up the sequel) and her double team of detectives – Lexy and her “uncle” Mike – work well together. The mystery itself is fun and while there are no great twists and turns, it’s also not completely obvious from the outset, which is nice. Continue reading “Review: Schooled”

Review: The Bling Ring

Not sure about this latest offering from Sofia Coppola. The story, a “ripped from the headlines” tale of suburban LA kids robbing the homes of the rich and famous in order to get their hands on lingerie and, ostensibly, to have some of the fame rub off on them, is interesting in and of itself, but Coppola’s dramatization of it is a little shallow.

Of course, therein lay my uncertainty. Coppola is a very talented filmmaker and it’s not like her to leave this story unexamined the way she does, but then, maybe that was her point – there really was nothing more to the “villains” than what you see. Maybe “The Bling Ring” really were just a group of spoiled kids, out of touch with reality and obsessed with celebrity culture to the point that they considered the people they saw on the magazines as unreal personifications of their own desires and therefore, whatever the rich and famous had should be shared equally and fairly.  Continue reading “Review: The Bling Ring”