Thursday, November 11, 2010

A to Z Year : September 24th - October 21st : letters T and U

Sooooo - seeing as it starts with a T and all, we thought we would give the A-Z thing a bit of a twist this month.

Instead of the first two weeks being dedicated to T and the second fortnight to the letter U, we mixed it up a little and did T and U stuff together throughout the 4 week period.

Cheating? Nah :) It was just that we had the opportunity to visit some great U places in T fortnight that we couldn’t rearrange. I promise we will go back into strict alphabetical order for the rest of the year!

I launched T fortnight by making a tracking device, no, not a real one, although it would be interesting to attach one to Sanrio’s tail and find out where she goes when she goes out on her wanders…. nope, this one was a prop for a pal’s best man’s speech.

Then for our first T weekend, we went travelling through time!

We had a geocaching weekend, and concentrated on caches that took us to historically interesting locations. Over the course of two days we ticked off the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, 17th Century and Cold War eras. It was a lot of fun :)

Highlights were the Uffington white horse, and – our ultimate cache to date – an underground nuclear bunker (yes, I did go down the ladder)

The following weekend, we were lucky enough to escape the kids (love you really boys!), and took a trip with our pals Tracy and Michelle to Belfast, Ulster (I’d usually say Northern Ireland, but that doesn’t begin with T or U lol).

The main reason for our visit was to see the Boston Bruins NHL hockey team making a very rare appearance on European soil (well, ice :)  ). But while we were there we also took the opportunity to act like proper tourists.

On the first day we went geocaching along the Lagan Towpath (during which we dropped off a troll travel bug), saw the ship yards (at a distance) where they built the Titanic,

and bought lots of packets of Tayto crisps to take home for Connor (his favourites, only available in Ireland).

Oh, and Tracy and Michelle got to meet the team after the hockey game. Total puck bunnies that they are :)

Then on the Sunday, we took a Taxi Tour around some of the more politically sensitive areas of the city (that's our driver, Norman, up there with M&T). These tours were originally set up when the Troubles were still in full swing, as it simply wasn’t safe in those days to walk unescorted around the Shankill Estate or up the Falls Road – and one of those open-topped bus tours they have in other cities would have lasted about 5 minutes. So people would hire a black cab and ask the driver to take them for a little tour around, not stopping, so they could see the political murals, etc. Now in more peaceful times the taxi tours continue, but are somewhat more open about what they are doing, and you are free to get out and wander around the locations that are so familiar from years of news reports.

Tracy tried to get a till receipt in the little shop in the middle of the Shankill Estate, as a souvenir (they don’t exactly sell postcards :) ) – but the shop had run out of till roll, typical! But we did get to see the famous trompe l’oeil mural of the gunman – known as Belfast’s Mona Lisa, as wherever you stand on the estate, he seems to be pointing his gun directly at you. Spooky.

The next week, we had a nice long weekend with Friday off to celebrate Jay’s birthday. On his big day, we did a couple of T related activities (despite the fact by then we were technically in U, still mixing it up….). Firstly, we went to Rodborough Church near Stroud specifically to see the Thomas the Tank Engine stained glass window.

Isn’t it fab? The Rev W Awdry who wrote the books, was the vicar at this church for many years, so on his passing they dedicated a window to him, and Thomas is in the bottom corner of that window.

Then in the evening we went Ten Pin Bowling with Tracy, Michelle and all the kids, it was a ton of fun. And for his birthday pressie I bought Jay the Tampa Bay Lightning third jersey (which has been a big hit on Twitter!).

On the Saturday, Connor was at his dad’s, so the remaining three of us went out caching and exploring in the Cotswolds for the day. First we went to Bibury where we found a surprisingly un-difficult 4.5 star cache. The description said that it had been rated so high for difficulty as it was a tricky area for GPS signal, but it didn’t seem that much worse than any other area of dense tree cover to me. Still, not complaining! It fills in another spot on our Difficulty/Terrain grid :)

After we found that first cache we had lunch at the local trout farm – I’ve never tried trout before, let alone in a toastie, it was very tasty!

Then we went on to find another cache in the fog, over undulating hills, and were trailed all the way back to our car by an unusually friendly wild bird.

On Sunday, it was the 10th October 2010, so we went to a Ten-Ten-Ten geocaching event in Stow On The Wold, this was a Flash Mob event, which of course started at 10 am and ran for 10 minutes :)

For such a short party it was a lot of fun, and we met a few new fellow cachers, and a trackable dog called Flo.

On our way back home we took a slight detour to find a cache called “UPPER cache, proud history” in Upper Rissington. We only really went there for the letter U, but I’m glad we visited, as it was an interesting location – an old RAF town with many disused buildings, including the huge Officers’ Mess. Sad to see it in such a state of disrepair, what a waste.

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon in Bourton on the Water, where we visited lots of toy shops, and saw some toy trains. (We did lots of other stuff there too but nothing beginning with T or U unfortunately)

On the last weekend of this month, we watched a very uninspired Swindon Wildcats lose to Milton Keynes Lightning, and then on the Sunday we went underground! We went to West Wycombe to visit the excellent Hellfire Caves – a huge network of subterranean caverns used for nefarious purposes in the past by Lord Dashwood and his rich and non-conformist buddies. Perfect for the run up to Halloween!

After exploring the caves and village, and a lovely lunch at the local garden centre, we set off for home, taking a slight detour just like the day before to pick up a U-themed cache.

This was called “An Unusual Parking Job” and the cache was hidden on the body of an abandoned pick up truck in the middle of the woods! We all loved this cache, it was definitely, as the title promised, unusual.

On our way home we drove right past Blenheim Palace – which is a UNESCO world heritage site. We didn’t have time to go in and do it justice :( , but when I got home I sent off to Tesco for tickets so that we can visit another day.

And that’s pretty much it for this mixed up month – apart from the fact that I received two Postcrossing postcards from the USA in the 4 week timespan, and sent one to Taiwan and one to the UK (to a fellow geocacher no less)

V and W next (consecutively, no more cheating :)  )

I’m sad that our A-Z year is approaching the end – we’ve enjoyed it so much.


Eddie said...

Loved following you along on your caching adventures...

PS your Canucks beat Ottawa tonight 6-2

Eddie AKA tjguy98
"we are all Canucks"

PS2 Check on Trackfiles TV, one of my videos made it on there

Sarah said...

Go Canucks Go!

I checked the result as soon as I woke up, Ed - when I went to bed last night it was the end of the first and the score was 1-1 - it could have gone either way. I was so excited when I read the final score this morning :) :) :)

Will check out your vid when I get home (blocked here at work)

Unknown said...

I like to geocache too, but I am not the best at spotting the little things....The grandkids and I do it together when I have them. Olivia is really good at it.....
Trout and toast....mmmmmmmm, I have never had it together, but it looks interesting.,