Quick post here about the YES! campaign… For those who don’t know, this past September, 18th 2014 Scotland had a vote on whether they would declare independence from England. All while I was there during the month of August, the campaign on both sides was going on. YES! stickers, posters, banners, flags, etc, etc were everywhere! Much less “No Thanks” paraphernalia were seen, but as we now know, the “No Thanks” vote won. While my friends in Edinburgh were for the “No Thanks” vote, Anna and just about every Glaswegian I met while there were for the YES! vote. So while I was there, of course I had to help campaign:)
Literally this just meant sticking YES! stickers on a variety of places, and especially over any “No” stickers that were found, lol!! Though personally I don’t have and didn’t have an opinion on which way the vote went (since it’s not my country nor business to have an opinion) it was fun to support my friend’s opinion while there.
I will say it was interesting that the silent majority were the ones to win… There was very little “No” campaigning going on, while the YES! campaigns were literally everywhere and in every town/city I had gone to! Interesting indeed…
Goodness, there are lots of things to say here… !! First I will start with what I have been told about Glasgow long before I ever got there from several people in the States: Beware Glasgow!! Seriously I had one friend tell me that Scotland in general was quite dangerous and that I should keep my head down, don’t speak to anyone and I should be fine. Statistically there is some validity in that because apparently Scotland is the #1 producer of heroine. And where there are the super hard drugs, there is a higher volume of potential for danger and violence. But as we all know, danger and violence exist everywhere. So I wasn’t going to let anyone try to scare me out of visiting Scotland!! And honestly I never ran into any violence or danger in Scotland at all! There were a few bar fights and a fight with a convenience store clerk, but I promise I didn’t use any violence in any of those situations!!
When it comes to Glasgow specifically, yes, even the Glaswegians (Weegie’s for short) have fear of certain areas and of certain people… Beware the Bams and Neds!! There was actually a third category of people, but I can’t recall what they were called… If memory serves correctly Bams are more dangerous than Neds. Bams are easily recognizable… They are usually always spotted in two or more, they always have shaved or near shaved heads, and they have at least one if not several scars on their faces from knife fights. These people are best avoided altogether because even my friend from Glasgow says that if you get in a tangle with one of them, there is no way to escape not being stabbed. And it doesn’t take any provocation from the individual either! As I’ve been told by locals (and my friend) you could simply be standing around minding your business. If a Bam spots you though and for whatever reason doesn’t like the look of you, they come over to pick fights with you. Joy!! Again though, while I saw several Bams about, I never saw any violence or was never harassed myself. Bams are also generally younger guys. I guess you could compare them to street thugs with nothing better to do than start trouble… Neds on the other hand are “grown-up” Bams… They are just an older generation who are calmer and less likely to start violence, but are still thugs in their own way. I guess you could say Neds and Bams are like pit vipers… Pit viper babies immediately bite and inject overdoses of venom in any little thing that strikes them as being a threat whereas adult pit vipers pick and choose what is really a threat and only deals out enough venom to subdue the threat… Hmmm…
Moving along… the East End is also known to be dodgy by locals… When I was working in Key West, I had a couple of younger kids visit from Scotland (aside from my friends from Edinburgh whom I met there) who knew Glasgow very well and I asked them to write down places to go or avoid in Glasgow… the East End made that list! Along with other areas including Drumchapel, Priesthill, Nitshill and England, LOL!! Places to go in Glasgow included Byres road for pubs (did that for sure!) and Lochlomond (to be talked about later).
Now that you have a little bit of an interesting introduction to Glasgow, I’m going to back up a tiny bit to getting there… I arrived via train at the rear-crack of the morning (aka 9am) from Oban to Queen’s Station. And I was met just outside the station from my very good friend Anna! Anna is a local born and bred Glaswegian who one day will have a book and or movie made about her life, because seriously she’s traveled over 80 countries and had some of the most amazing/crazy stuff happen to her!! I met Anna while living in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. We were neighbors, became good friends, kept in touch and when I was going to Scotland, since she just happened to be there as well, of course I had to go to see her!
Now you know why I went to Glasgow:) Because honestly, if it wasn’t for her being there, I don’t know that I would have had any other reason to go on my own. Glasgow is an industry town. It’s not necessarily very pretty nor is there really a whole lot to do there from the tourist perspective. But since I was lucky enough to have a local perspective (via Anna) I had an absolute grand time there! Of course most the time we were intoxicated, but only had one day of a real hangover!! So all in all, I think we did pretty well;)
In the interest of not rambling on for decades, I’m going to break down the activities once again to links so I don’t drone on too long in a single post:) Oh, and if you are looking for Glasgow pictures… I didn’t really take any:( I’m terrible at taking pictures in places where I’m living more than visiting… And with having a friend there, it felt like the former… But, I did take pictures at Loch Lomond and Lochgoilhead:) So skip to those sections if you are looking for pictures of surrounding areas.
After yet another long and exhausting day on a bus (you’d think by now I would have just caved in and sought alternate transportation between cities!! Then again I would have missed really seeing the countryside…) I arrived in Bogota. If I thought Medellin was large, well it was quite small compared to Bogota!! I had to take a 20 minute cab ride to an area of town that was somewhat central and more well known for having hostels in the area.
No, I once again didn’t book any hostel in advance, but rather was dropped off and walked around until I found something. At least this time there was still light in the day left! Anyway, I wandered up and down several streets in what was kinda the chic area of town it seemed, and settled on one hostel (Hostel Platypus if memory serves…) for the night.
“Funny” story here, my roommate for the night was an older woman, probably in her 40’s to 50’s who was from England, yet had apparently been living in Ecuador for the past 11 years… She was at the time just traveling around (I believe Venezuela was her next stop) but what I found particularly funny… Or rather quite disturbing really, is that she didn’t speak a lick of Spanish!!! Not two words!! AND she would even say “Hola” pronouncing the H!!!!! She was also in a strange way oddly proud that she didn’t speak the language even though she lived in a Latin American Country!!! I found this honestly quite disgusting, really. In my opinion if you are going to live in another country that isn’t your original country, the least you can do is show some sort of respect to the new country by learning their language and something about their culture! This applies to visitors too in my book, though I know it’s not so easy to try and pick up a language during a 2 week vacation…
Needless to say, knowing she was going to be staying in that same hostel for several nights, I checked out the next day and found somewhere new to sleep as I couldn’t tolerate such blatant ignorance and disrespect to another culture!!
I found a lovely hostel just a few blocks away called Hostal Casu. Located above a restaurant on the corner of Carrera 3 and Calle 15A, Hostal Casu became my home for the next week. I had a private room with a shared bathroom and negotiated a good price for each night since I was going to be staying for the week. Again, the reason I had come to Bogota was to see my brother who happened to also be there around the same time. Traveling down to see him however, with the changes in the weather and the bank account slowly draining, I made the decision to go back to the States so I could get a solid job, refill the coffers and head out again to travel. So staying in Bogota a week really served 2 purposes. First it gave me a week to see my brother and second I was flying out of Bogota back to Houston, and my flight was simply in a week.
The area of town that I was in I really liked. It was nestled at the foothills of basically a national park, at the top of which was a lovely church. The area had a young hip, artsy vibe to it that I really liked as well. I felt safe there and have no complaints of the area… Except the weather!! I know I keep saying this, and I know I’m a total wimp, but to me it was soooo cold day after day there!!! Bogota is 8,660 feet(2,640 meters) above sea level so you would think I would have realized it would be cold, but again, since I rarely researched anything about where I was going and just preferred to figure things out once I got there, this aspect of Bogota was a shock to me. And once again it was uninspiring!! Though I did get out daily to walk for several hours to get in my exercise and to eat, that was about the extent of my drive to do anything!
Even going to see my brother turned out to be a total bust as he was apparently tied up with work things day after day of my being there, and we were only able to get together for an afternoon the night before he left the country himself. We were to meet at the very opposite of Bogota from where I was, basically due North from where I was so as usual I opted to walk there, and after about 40 minutes and 70 or so blocks later with my little map in tow I found him at the eatery that we planned to meet at and we spent the evening wandering the area with one of his coworkers in tow. We ate a lovely meal at one of the local restaurants and then parted ways. I opted on the way back to take a cab as I was a wee bit too intoxicated by this point to try and walk my way back! Plus, it was starting to get dark and it just wouldn’t have been a sound choice to try and walk back.
So all in all, my time in Bogota wasn’t terribly eventful, but it was quite relaxing and a nice place to try and transition going back to the States. Before making the decision to go back to the States, I did wrestle with the idea of going back to the Caribbean coast of Columbia, like the Cartagena area, but the thought of traveling there by bus just jangled my bones in thinking of it! And the flight would have been a bit out of my price range. So I opted to stick with my plans of going back to the States.
Part of me is bummed that I didn’t go to Cartagena and even to Armenia since after all I was in the country already! And honestly had I known that I would have only had an afternoon to get to see my brother, I would have gone to Cartagena first, then perhaps made my way to the Bogota area instead of rushing to Bogota to try and see him, but as they say everything happens for a reason and as it should. And as I’ve already mentioned before, I plan on going back to Columbia to explore more of the country and less of the cities! Though the actual physical riding in the bus from place to place was quite hard on the body (due to road conditions) the sights were unbeatable and absolutely beautiful!! I loved the nature of the countryside’s and can’t wait to be able to see more!
Early the next morning, it was “on the road again” for me. I was picked up at the tour office and shuttled from La Fortuna to Lake Arenal, across the lake in a little boat and met on the other side by another shuttle that took us to Monteverde.
Ok, technically we were taken to Santa Elena which is right next door to Monteverde. Locals insist you use the proper name of Santa Elena, but tour groups and tourists call the whole area Monteverde.
When I arrived in Santa Elena I was dropped off at a place that some people recommended to me. If memory serves correctly it was called El Toucan. The reception staff however were not very helpful as when I asked how much the rooms were (private with a private bathroom if possible) they asked how much I wanted to pay instead of telling me the price. Red flag alert! I stated no more than $10 per night and they jumped on it! Red flag alert #2… I asked to see the room first (always a good idea for any traveler) and they seemed nice enough but I did notice that the place was practically empty and the “private room” I was to stay in had 3 other beds. So I decided to move along and see what else there was.
As I hiked up a teeny hill I spotted the tour van passing me, and the tour driver spotted me giving me a look of “what is that crazy tourist doing now?!?!” as I had just left where I was dropped off and was heading in the same direction he was driving! In any event, I noticed many people being dropped off at the Monteverde Backpackers so I decided to check it out. It was $16 a night and I don’t believe there were any private rooms left, so I opted to keep going. I was told there was another hotel/hostel just down the road so I went to check it out…
Enter Cabinas Eddy… I literally get chills thinking of this place and the kind hospitality and beautiful accommodations that I was provided during my stay here. I can’t say enough good things about the place and the people!!! Cabinas Eddy is run and owned by 2 generations of “Eddy’s”, the father and his wife and his son (Eddy) and his wife and child. For $8 a night, I was offered a beautiful and cozy private room with a private bathroom and HOT water!!! I almost passed out when I found out the price for it and scrambled furiously to get money out to pay before someone else came by to snatch it up!!! Well in all reality I first had to excuse myself politely to furiously get money that was stored in my bra out to pay, as I never travel with cash easily available but rather always store it in less likely places…
After signing in and settling in, I signed up for some tours. One jungle night walk for later that evening, and after making sure the place was a good one that took care of its horses, I signed up for a horseback ride.
Monteverde/Santa Elena truly is a magnificent place! Nestled in the cloud forest of Costa Rica the biodiversity is rich and the land literally reminded me of the hills of Ireland!! Rich, lush and rolling, this area really was a beautifully magnificent sight to behold!! Now, I should mention here that I have never been to Ireland, but the land is what I would imagine Ireland to look like. Since being there I have met several people from Ireland whom have also visited Monteverde and have asked if it reminded them of home, and they have said absolutely yes! So I really don’t mind so much making that comparison even though I haven’t actually been to Ireland…
Anyway once again I’m getting off topic! I spent only 2 nights in Monteverde, which really unless you plan to do a bunch of tours is about the right amount of time. They are also quite famous in that area for zip lining and for sky walks as they are in the cloud forest. The weather while I was there was quite nice as it was sunny and warm in the day and got chilly at night! The winds even picked up for the second night I was there, which locals said was very unusual for this time of year (normal for December time). The cool mountain air at night was so refreshing and nice and made you want to bundle up making for some of the best night sleep I had had in a while. The food was fantastic as I was once again indulging in casados, and the people all very friendly! None as friendly as the Eddy family though as on my second day there they offered me a homemade tamales! It was so darn scrumptious!!
I of course did find time to do a little fiesta-ing in the town too and on my way back from one bar ran into some people whom I had noticed around town in La Fortuna. They were staying at the backpackers place which is where I ended up going and meeting a ton of other travelers. I stayed up till quite early in the morning talking and drinking and playing cards with my fellow travelers and the hostel manager. I know I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it really does still amaze me how many travelers are on the same path. There are so many who have just had enough of where they were and what they were doing and decided to simply pack it up and move on. One such case was of a guy from England I believe who was an architect there. He once loved that occupation but then just got burned out and decided to pursue his true passion: photography of primates! He has since been traveling the world in pursuit of every variety of primate! There were and are of course just your regular garden variety travelers on vacation or on a sabbatical, but quite surprisingly to me even more who left everything from their previous life behind to just travel and try something new.
The morning of leaving Monteverde I ended up on the same bus as the people I had seen in La Fortuna and in chatting some more with them realized that we were once again going to the same place: Manuel Antonio.