Upon leaving Wallace’s Monument we started walking towards the centre of Stirling. We ducked down a lane way and Kim got to meet a small dog going for a walk. The lady walking the dog told us the best place to catch the bus so we headed for that stop. No sooner had we got there and the bus arrived. That was good timing.
The town of Stirling is on a bit of a hill. When we got off the bus we were at the base of the hill, the castle was at the top. We were hungry so we had a look around for somewhere to eat. The only problem was we really didn’t have that much time to spare. We wandered through the shopping centre and found a historical sight in the shopping centre that David had mentioned. We got a photo of me down there as proof. We never did get anything to eat. We tried a few more shoe stores to see if they had any shoes in my size and of course they didn’t. We left the shopping centre and started our long walk up the hill to the castle. It was a slow walk up the hill. We passed a few things that we might have looked at if we had more time, but we just kept on walking. At one point Kim thought the Canon G10 wasn’t working properly. I had a play with it and it started to work again.
We got all the way up to the castle and through the gates. The ticket office was closed. We had Heritage passes so we thought it would be a case of scanning the pass and going in. We were wrong. We had to go back down a portion of the hill to another shop and get them validated and then we could go in. Before we found that out Kim took a toilet break and I waited outside. I heard over the radio that some kid had lost a shoe down the well and they wanted to know if anyone could help. That isn’t something you hear everyday.
Finally we got into the castle to have a look. We explored the place and took plenty of photos. We had made it across the courtyard to one of the inner walls when the Canon G10 started playing up again. This time I wasn’t able to fix it. It was broken! We figure it was damaged in New York when that stupid bag check kid dropped Kim’s bag from 6 feet. Anyway, Kim wasn’t happy and fair enough too. I managed to get Kim taking photos without using the other features the camera has to offer. Basically it became a prime lens camera. I know it isn’t the same but at least she was still taking some photos.
It was getting late and the castle was going to close soon so we headed off towards the train station. It was going to be a long and slow walk as the footpaths and roads were rough and Kim was having trouble with her ankles. As we walked along a group of Indians (from India) flagged down a bus that was leaving the castle grounds. There were no passengers aboard. They climbed on and we thought that it would be a good idea for us to use the bus as well. It didn’t cost much but apparently what little it cost was too much for the group of Indians because they jumped off as soon as we got on and paid. The trip back down the hill in the bus was great as it took next to no time to get near the train station. It was a short walk from the bus to the station and it was on the flat and quite easy going. We got our tickets back to Alloa and caught the very next train. The whole trip from the castle to a seat on the train didn’t take very long at all.
We were returning to the Alloa station near the ASDA. As soon as we got off the train I had my phone in hand dialling Avril and David, Kim did the talking. I didn’t want to spend any more time there than I had to. David turned up and we again quickly jumped into the car.
Saturday 16th, October. Today we were heading for Stirling for the day. David dropped us off at Wallace’s Monument, so we didn’t have to worry about catching a train in the morning. We had driven past it a few days ago, but today we were going to walk to the top of it. There was a courtesy bus that could take you up the hill to the entrance but we chose to walk it. The hill was a little steep but it wasn’t a bad walk. The path was a little rough in places but it could have been worse. We took a breather once we got up the hill before we headed inside. Obviously we took some photos here. We could see Stirling Castle from here, we would be going there later on.
When we went inside to buy our tickets we also got the audio companion for the tour. It was just a audio player that hung around our necks which gave us information when we typed in the numbers around the monument. The first stage of the monument goes up quite quickly and begins to narrow soon after. Eventually you start climbing the small spiral staircase up the side of the building. On each level we stopped to catch our breath before continuing on. The rooms were a little warm for me but the stairway was cool as it is open to the outside via the small windows in the stone work. Each level was a little different in its displays. At one point on the way up we ran into some people going down and I was forced to move to my right which was the narrowest portion of the stairs. I only just managed to make it past them without slipping.
We finally made it to the top of the monument and could see for miles around. On a good day you can see Edinburgh, but it wasn’t the clearest of days. The tower has a crown spire. It is open and looks like a crown. There are a few towers like that in Scotland and the UK. It was windy up there and Kim had a great windswept look going.
The way down was easier on the lungs but it still wasn’t without some danger. The staircase was narrow and going down it meant I had to go sideways with my feet. We thankfully didn’t run into anyone coming up until we were nearly at the bottom. Some kid was about to try and rush up the stairs we were coming down, but his parent stopped him to let us go by. We had just climbed 256 steps to the top of the monument and back again. We made it back down the hill easily and stopped to buy some more souvenirs from the gift shop. We had stopped at the shop in the monument as well and got certificates stating we had walked all 256 steps to the top. Kids get them for free, we had to pay. It was worth it!
We headed towards the train station after the kilt shop and came across another mall type area. I think it was here that we started the useless pursuit of finding me another pair of shoes. Little did we realise just how fruitless and futile this would be. None of the stores had anything in my size.
We also saw a store with heaps of old sewing machines lining the store windows. I thought it must be a big sewing machine store, but it was actually a clothing store. We also went into a craft store and as Kim left she set off the alarm. I was beginning to need a toilet at that stage. Kim kept walking through the sensors till the store security were sure she wasn’t stealing something. It turned out that the barcode thing in her Kathmandu jumper was setting it off.
As my camera settings were wrong earlier in the day I took the opportunity of being in George Square again. Kim decided she had walked enough so I headed through the square taking photos again. I don’t think they were as good as they would have been from earlier in the morning, but at least I have photos of the place.
As we entered the train station again we were both needing the toilet. I was worst off at the point so I took the coins we had and paid my 30p to pee. In doing so we didn’t have the correct change for Kim. She went to the coffee store next to the toilets and bought some things and made sure she got some change. It’s quite a rip off having to pay to pee!
There are only so many tracks leading into a station so many trains end up being on the same start line. There was a long line up of trains on the track we were supposed to be getting on. We walked down the line and got onto the train we thought was ours, but it turned out that our train was a couple cars further up the line. We got on our train without any further incident but we very nearly caught the wrong train.
The train pulled in at the Alloa station and we alighted the train. This is where the train was supposed to leave from that morning but there was something stopping it then. That problem had been rectified in the afternoon. We followed the instructions Avril had given us for getting back to there place. It required us to call for a taxi on the courtesy phone in the store.
We wanted to get Avril and David something for putting us up and showing us around so before we called the taxi we did some quick shopping. Kim liked the look of a coat but there were no mirrors so I took a photo and showed her that. We didn’t get the coat.
The time came and I rang for a taxi. We could see others being picked up just outside the store entrance and this is where we waited. We looked rather out of place compared to the locals. We were seriously the most attractive people in that area and by far the best dressed. We stood there waiting and waiting as other people got their taxis in what seemed to be a much faster time than us. Eventually about 45 minutes had passed and I got Kim to call Avril and see if she could pick us up because I think both of us had had enough of this part of town. When we saw Avril pulling up in the car park we literally ran to her and jumped inside the car. We were so glad to be out of there, it wasn’t funny!
Friday 15th, October. This morning we were getting ourselves organised to go to Glasgow for the day. Once again it was overcast, but otherwise fine. Avril drove us to the station in Alloa but we found that the train wasn’t stopping here today. Thankfully she hadn’t left yet as she was going to do some shopping at the ASDA. She was good enough to drive us to the Stirling train station. When we got to the Stirling station we were running a bit late for the train we wanted. Kim wasn’t feeling the best, similar to what I was going through at St Andrews, so we took our time and caught the next train. We sat in the small waiting room till the train arrived then we headed out to the platform.
Glasgow station was pretty big. The first thing both of us wanted to do when we got there was go to the toilet. We headed towards them only to find you had to pay to use them. 30p to pee! We didn’t have any coins on us so we did the next best thing, we left the station and went to a pub. I went in first and then Kim. We had to buy drinks but at least we got something for our money. We sat there drinking with bloody Neighbours playing on the TV behind us!
We left New York late on the 11th of October as a storm rolled through the city. We were waiting on the runway for about an hour, but then we were in the air heading towards the UK. We had a good six hour flight to Edinburgh. We both watched movies for the entire flight. I got through two movies and well into a third before we landed. We thought that more Americans or people from the UK should do this flight of a weekend, as it isn’t that long and you could be in either the greatest city in the world (New York), or amongst the history and culture of the UK.
I mentioned in the Toronto chapter that I was worried that Kim’s Aunt and Uncle, Avril and David, might be like Marion and Andrew. I think Kim knew what I was thinking and told me in Toronto that they are nothing like Marion and Andrew. I was pleased to hear that, and it was absolutely true! I don’t think they could be any more different from each other.
Tuesday 12th, October. The weather was fine but a little overcast in Edinburgh, which was fairly normal for the UK. We were met at the airport by Avril and David. It was good of them to meet us there as it was quite early when we landed and they had to drive some distance to the airport. Anyway it was all hugs for Kim and a handshake for me from David. I had thought that there was a chance that when we got to Scotland we would be going up to St Andrews on the first day. Thankfully Avril and David had planned things a little differently. We spent the day at their place taking it easy and relaxing. It was the first day we had off in the entire trip and it was nice.
Avril is a wonderful cook and we didn’t go hungry at all during our stay. The first day we were introduced to her Cappuccino Cake which would soon become Colin’s Cappuccino Cake. David had to go out for something on that first day and Kim and I went and had a nap. Kim woke up before me feeling like a tractor had run over her. She sat down stairs with Avril watching TV. Hann, the dog, kept Kim company on the couch as they watched TV. They did some washing that day which was much needed after our visit to New York. I continued to sleep which was such a nice thing to do.
That night Garry, Sam and Lila were meant to be coming around for dinner, but they were a no show. It was getting late and they still weren’t there and they hadn’t called to tell Avril and David that they would be late. However, Avril and David thought that they would still turn up just as dinner was being served and that is what happened. They came, they ate and they left. We had an early night that night.