a fast crossing

at 17:00 the business part of my business trip to the US is over. the car service picks me up on the dot and it’s “going home!” now. again, i’m glad that i _don’t_ have to drive: traffic is dense and fast moving, once we cross the [george washington bridge][] to new jersey it’s a mad and utterly beserk rat race, the lines dividing the lanes on the express ways increasingly are there for decorative purposes but not to keep cars in their lanes. we cross back and forth, overtake left, right, and center, and as we reach the [turnpike toll station][] the situation resembles a kindergarten at break time rather than an expressway.

[turnpike toll station]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jersey_Turnpike

it’s, therefore, no surprise that i’m dropped of at terminal B in record time: a mere 1hr 20min since leaving hawthorne. check-in is swift, security is quick (inspite of having to take off shoes and belt) and i’m through and ready to go by 18:40 — as my plane is not yet for another two and a half hours i make use of the business class lounge and sample mineral water, g&t, and assorted nuts and mini-pretzels.

we board at 21:15, and are pushing back at 21:30. the flight timetable has us down for a 7hr 50min flight — the captain, however, has us down for a 6hr 50min one! apparently we have rather strong tail winds (which unfortunately, 🙁 also implies turbulences…). luckily, the seats are of the stretch-out variant and shortly after take-off i just do that and tune out. inspite of it being a choppy flight, i pretty much get to sleep for 5hrs — by which time we are just approaching the english channel! we barely get through breakfast when the plane starts on its descent to zurich!

by the time my flight was to have landed, 11:20, i’m already in the train to zurich main station and on my way home… 🙂 quite a fast crossing: just 8 hours ago i was still on the other side of the atlantic ocean…

[george washington bridge]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_Bridge

rich people don’t read…

when i return to my hotel room it’s quite a bit chilly, mucking around with the controls of the air conditioning system does raise change the target temperature — but leaves the AC system impressively unimpressed. the reception promises to send an engineer to check on the AC system. so, i decide to go for a stroll and visit neighboring _[the westchester][]_, which is, in the words of my [last taxi driver,][last taxi] “very upmarket”…

[last taxi]: http://d2h.net/blog/2006/10/24/a-weird-taxi-ride/
[the westchester]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Westchester

…and it is. it’s an assortment of clothes stores, jewelery stores, clothes stores, shoe stores, and a “food court” — which is a bit of a mismatch: the food quality is not too exciting, nothing really healthy on offer, just the usual junk-food-level, it seems. at one point in time i find a directory of all the shops sorted by category. the only one that i’m interested in is bookshops. there are a couple listed — unfortunately, the ones listed are greeting card shops like hallmark…

seems like rich people don’t read — or, if they do, just greeting cards.

> _p.s. i finally found a [borders bookshop][] across the street from the entrance to the crowne plaza hotel._

[borders bookshop]: http://www.bordersstores.com/stores/store_pg.jsp?storeID=51

a weird taxi ride

it’s 17:50, it’s quite cold, i’m outside the IBM hawthorne lab, waiting for the taxi that i called 20min ago to arrive — “give me 5min and he’ll be there” was the taxi dispatcher line…hmm…the taxi finally arrives, i get in, tell the taxi driver that i need to get to the crowne plaza in white plains, which he acknowledges. he’s a bit on the impatient side it seems, we speed along, or, rather, we swim along: it’s an american car…think: pudding on wheels, well, think: speeding pudding on wheels. _traction_ is not a word that you could accuse this car of…after about 15min we get into downtown white plains and he starts asking me whether it’s trump plaza here or at city center.

original taxi receipt: hawthorne to white plainshuh? something is wrong.

> me: ahm, no, not the trump plaza, the **crowne plaza**
> taxi driver: yeah, yeah, right, the trump plaza.
> me: no, the **crowne plaza hotel**! C-R-O-W-N-E plaza!
> taxi driver: yeah! trump plaza! this one or the one at city center?
> me (getting desperate): no, **not** trump plaza — **crowne plaza hotel**, C-R-O-W-N-E!
> taxi driver (getting it slowly): **crowne plaza???**

he mutters something and then, we are finally in agreement about where i want to go. phew.

the _coup de grâce:_ of course, he doesn’t have any receipt forms left (“forgot to stock up in the morning”), so i get a hand-written receipt on a piece of paper torn from an old envelope…wonder what the accounting department is going to make of that.

getting up “early”

it’s 2:00 in the morning, i’m waking up. my body is still thousands of kilometres away and thinks that now is a really good time to get up and go to work — sigh, my problem is that in contrast to my body i _know_ that it’s _not_ 8:00 but 2:00, and that it won’t do me any good to get up this early. so, i turn around and try to convince my body that, really, we don’t have to get up for a loooong time…

…it seems that my body does not quite belief the story, we repeat this dialog a couple of times until, at 5:00, i give and get up. we spent the next hour reading the _USA Today_ courtesy copy, then kill some time in the bath, and finally dig out the laptop and do some surfing, fixing the blog (somehow the [“made it to the eurostar”](http://d2h.net/blog/2006/09/23/made-it-to-the-eurostar/) blog entry got filed under 23 october instead of 23 september).

finally, at about 7:30 i’m on my way to hawthorne again (taxi ride is US$ 15.00).

in-flight entertainment: the da vinci code…

the inflight entertainment system has among other movies _[the da vinci code][]_ — as i’ve read the book and some secondary literature but have never seen the movie i decide to give it a go. unfortunately, lunch is served concurrently, so i guess i’ve missed a couple of pieces of dialog. all in all it’s an OK movie (nothing i would go to cinema for though). what amused me to no end (yes, sometimes i’m rather easy to entertain) was that they were unearthing various documents containing clues about where to look for the “holy grail”: all written in proper english…

[the da vinci code]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Da_Vinci_Code_%28film%29

a short night, a long flight, american “guinness”…ugh

having come home yesterday night shortly before midnight (that IC train between nürnberg and stuttgart was running 20min late, causing me to miss the connecting CIS in stuttgart with an ensuing 2hr delay 🙁 i got up again at 6:00 in the morning: bloody business trip to the US…

the flight is luckily rather calm (a bit choppy at times but bearable), made even more bearable by that fact that i managed to get an upgrade to business class on miles 🙂 … immigration at new york’s JFK is surprisingly swift and i’m through border control and customs within 20min. the car service chauffeur is already waiting outside and i’m on the way to hawthorne within 30min of arriving — and i arrive in record time (wouldn’t have made it in that time, if i had to drive myself, probably would have gotten lost twice and certainly would have driven much slower…;-) and actually am able to participate in most of the afternoon’s program.

dinner is at an italian place “just across the road” — meaning: 1km up the road — and we start with having a couple of beers: my fancy for guinness leads me to jump onto the availability of guinness on tap: **bad decision**. the brew i get tastes only very remotely like the real stuff, it’s black all right, but that’s about it, it takes like a stale & watered-down version of itself.

it’s 21:00 US east coast time when i hit the bed…

follow the rotary club, action at the castle, some shopping :-)

after a peaceful and quiet night we enjoy a leisurely breakfast at [no 10 b&b][] and then start on our rotary walk around stirling.

[no 10 b&b]: http://www.cameron-10.co.uk/

it takes us down gladstone place to the king’s park which was confiscated by the crown back in the 10th century to serve as a royal hunting ground for the next centuries — today it’s a golf course and a playing field. from king’s park it’s past victoria place and then into the royal gardens to a well (which from afar looks much better than close up), take only “14 of the 22 steps down” and follow a “rough path” (rough turns out to be a rather relative word, probably rough in rotary terms) around the castle with nice views of the landscape surrounding stirling.

unfortunately, the weather turns from providing the occassional light drizzle to a more constant, dense drizzle — rather funny but still of the thoroughly wetting kind 🙁 and we decide that instead of becoming famous and be caught on TV — a TV producer, camera man, and sound man just turn around the corner when we approach the path to stirling visitor centre — that now is a good time to visit the [castle][].

[castle]: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/properties/properties_sites_detail.htm?propertyID=PL_275h

we are a bit early for the guided tour at 12:00 at, after paying for tickets (“no, we won’t be visiting edinburgh castle; no, we don’t need the historic scotland explorer pass; and, no, we don’t need the audio guide nor the booklet; thank you”), we retreat to the unicorn cafe for a cuppa…

…and almost miss the 12:00 deadline, which would have been a shame: our guide is a very lively, energetic scot who obviously had some theatrical training. it’s one of the best guided tours we’ve ever had the pleasure of taking part in! no audio guide nor booklet could have told the story of stirling castle in such an animated and spirited way! excellent stuff!

after the tour (which for my taste is over just too soon) we visit the [weavers][west dean] at the [tapestry studio][] (who are recreating the tapestries that were sold to the metropolitan museum new york in the last century): very fascinating project, very long time frame (_longitudinal_), reminding me of the [clock of the long now][] (which has a slightly longer time frame) and john cage’s _[as slow as possible][]_. quite an impressive counter point to our short term world!

[tapestry studio]: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/properties/specialprojects/stirlingcastleproject/stirling_tapestries.htm
[west dean]: http://www.westdean.org.uk/tapestrystudio/commissions/historicscotland.shtml
[clock of the long now]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock_of_the_Long_Now
[as slow as possible]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_Slow_As_Possible

we finish our sightseeing by visiting the exhibition about the _[argyll and sutherland highlanders regiments][]_ and [argyll’s lodging][] — a 17th century townhouse, really well restored and worth a visit.

[argyll’s lodging]: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/properties_sites_detail?propertyID=PL_276
[argyll and sutherland highlanders regiments]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argyll_and_Sutherland_Highlanders

at [peckam’s] in port street we buy whisky (10yr old talisker, 1992 talisker), some cakes for the train ride tomorrow, & some brown sauce… 🙂

[peckam’s]: http://www.peckhams.co.uk/PS1.htm

dinner is again at the [no 2 pub] — unfortunately we are bit late: around 20:00 they dim down the lights and switch from acceptable music to hard rock… 🙁

[no 2 pub]: http://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/s/19/19730/No_2_Baker_Street/Stirling

> **very entertaining guided tour through stirling castle, nice delicatessen shop** 🙂

dundee, a trip to antarctica (almost), & stirling


the weather this morning is one of brilliant sunshine. we have a quick breakfast (having swapped the walking boots for our normal street shoes yesterday evening the last time on this walk) and then take a taxi out of this car’s paradise (and pedestrian hell) to the station. inside the taxi i’m at first shocked that my clothes seem to smell quite strongly of sweat and appear to permeate the air in the taxi — until i realize that it’s not me but the taxi driver, phew 🙂

at dundee station they “currently” have the left luggage facility closed for security reasons, luckily _[mailboxes etc][]_ in union street (just around the corner) does take left luggage (very reasonable £ 3.50 for four hours for both of our bags) and we are off to explore the city, take a look at the — yep! — walks section in the local TIC (and buy a copy of the highland way and also of the glen way 😉 & have a cup of tea at the twinned cafe, then head for the RRS discovery — which to our surprise takes up the remainder of our time in dundee: a very interesting exhibition; a bit of a time travel taking you into the spirit and the excitement of the time back then about the royal geographic society’s expedition to antarctica. and _it is_ quite amazing how long the group of explorers survived onboard the RRS discovery frozen in at the south pole — surviving two antarctic winters!

dundee side street dundee shops mrs d on board the RRS discovery

[mailboxes etc]: http://www.mbe.com/hpgen/CenterPage.asp?strCenterNum=UK0033
[RRS discovery]: http://www.rrsdiscovery.com/discoverypoint/archive/data/frame01.htm
[royal geographic society]: http://www.rgs.org/HomePage.htm

at 15:00 we leave for mailboxes etc, pick up our bags and head for the station to catch the 15:51 from dundee to stirling. the railway ride takes us from coastal dundee to the feet of the highlands and the landscape is slowly changing with it.

as the weather has been getting more cloudy and as on our journey to stirling it has started raining we take a taxi to our b&b in stirling. the ride is short and cheap: £ 1.94

our b&b, [number 10][], turns out to be a large georgian house in a quiet neighborhood (no wosh-wosh-wosh of the A roads of st michaels or dundee), our landlord is friendly and the room we are shown to is large with two double-sized beds instead of the usual small twins! we feel right at home immediately! i’m particularly looking forward to two good nights sleeps in quiet surroundings after two silicone earplug nights…

[number 10]: http://www.cameron-10.co.uk/

we make our way back into town (which is just a five minutes stroll), do some window shopping (but the shops are closed, so we don’t get any), and have dinner at the [no 2 pub][].

[no 2 pub]: http://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/s/19/19730/No_2_Baker_Street/Stirling

tommorrow we want to do a walk through town and visit the castle.

> **fantastic “trip to the antarctica”, enjoyed the train trip from dundee to stirling! really nice b&b!** 🙂

tea at leuchars church, a fantastic walk through tentsmuir, & the end

having slept not too well (i never do when having to use silicone earplugs) we have an interesting breakfast (my breakfast menu dates back to the birthday party of mr dunbar on the 16th september, mrs d’s breakfast menu is for a wedding — interesting but not really offering any clues as to what might be available this morning), pack our stuff, try to explain to the young woman doing breakfast and reception duty that our luggage should be forwarded to dundee (she finally fetches her boss who has no idea where our bags should go to, but she agrees to call contours to have things sorted) and leave for the coastal path…

our original idea had been to take a bus back to leuchars and to pick up the coastal path there, but it seems we’ve just missed the bus and the next one is not due for another 40min or so. thus, it’s walking along the A road that we’ve come to know so well during the night. interestingly enough we come across a couple of b&bs looking quite nice and one of them even quite some distance away from the road — which makes it all the more puzzling why contours thought that an inn right on top of a busy roundabout at the end of a 20-30min walk along a busy A road would be nice for walkers who enjoy walking the quiet countryside?

the leuchars church vanein leuchars we visit the [very interesting and well maintained church,][leuchars church] have a cup of coffee and a chat at the church tea rooms and then are off for real.

[leuchars church]: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/leuchars/leucharschurch/index.html

well, almost: we end up walking quite a detour because we seem to have missed that crucial FCP sign in leuchars…but appear to be not alone with this: a kind soul has posted a couple of hand written sign directing us back to the coastal path! we pass leuchars RAF airfield and eventually arrive at the eden sanctuary and its fantastic dunes landscape. the weather has become a bit volatile, and we do get a couple of short showers every then and again. around noon when we reach tentsmuir forest we have lunch — accompanied by between ten and twenty RAF fighters returning to base, flying and banking steeply right over our heads! interesting to watch…

dramatic clouds over eden estuary seals in the distance, seen from tents muir ice house tentsmuir point

the walk through tentsmuir forest is quite nice and we make good on what we had “lost” when plodding through the dunes. at the ice house we notice a strange howling coming from the east, from the north sea — remembering that colin allison had told me that they had observed seals around this area on sunday, we investigate — and, sure enough, a colony of seals is having a choir meeting on one of the sandbanks! cool!

west lighthouse tayportwe reach tayport shortly before 15:00, deviate from the coastal path by not following it through tayport but rather sticking to the shoreline until we reach the harbour: which gives us a last chance of walking on the shore and avoiding the dreaded street walking.

once through tayport the coastal path takes us on the track of the dismantled railway line up to the tay road bridge linking fife to dundee: the last section of our walk!

dundee & tay road bridge brown chocolate & white chocolate

the pedestrian walkway takes us under the bridge and then comes up in the middle of it: flanked on both sides by rather fast moving heavy traffice we commence our traversal of the tay road bridge. from the shore it had looked like a short distance, on the bridge itself the pedestrian lane stretches seemingly into infinity. and with all the traffic rushing past us on both sides, it does feel like infinity passes before we finally reach dundee — **and the end of our walk on the fife coastal path!** my GPS unit shows **120km,** wow!

endless, noisy tay road bridge

a last view back to the other side of the bridge and then we make our way to the railway station which is near the tay road bridge to make reservations for the 10:30 train from stirling to london kings cross on friday, and then fetch a taxi to our last contours booked b&b of this walk (after the tay road bit i cannot face another 30min of A road walking).

our b&b, [ash villa][], turns out to be on a busy B road — and this part of dundee appears to have been designed for cars, not pedestrians. after checking in (yes, our bags did make it! hooray!) we make our way to the [taychreggan hotel][] (recommended by our landlady) for a fantastic dinner! (and we find out that the hotel not only does a very good dinner but would also have been a very good choice for staying overnight at a reasonable £ 60.00 per night, oh, well).

[taychreggan hotel]: http://search.visitscotland.com/sitemakescotland.asp?executepage=ProviderInfo/EATproviderpage.asp&providerid=MCLBIQWLDE&templateextension=EAT&sortorder=random#contacts
[ash villa]: http://www.visitscotland.com/listings/City-of-Dundee-BBs-Ashvilla-300496.html

another — and final — silicone earplug night.

> **a nice cup of tea at leuchars church, a great walk through the dunes of eden estuary, fascinating fighter plane maneuvres, & a really enjoyable walk through tentsmuir! and a nice dinner!**

visiting st andrews university, a printer run, a busy roundabout

today takes us to leuchars…well, kind of. at 10:00 i’ve arranged to meet with colin allison from st andrew’s school of computer science, and from 14:00–15:00 i’ve agreed to give a seminar on our mobile computing research projects. after breakfast and having packed our bags again, mrs d and i walk together to the mathematical institute where i make my way to the new school of computer science building and mrs d goes for some more sightseeing followed by a walk along the west sands northwards.

everything goes just well, we have a nice chat and bring each up to date on what we are doing and colin even offers his help in locating a local store to buy a new printer for ms l (hers definitely went west having spent all summer in storage). we check out virtually every shop that might have printers for sale (i’d never have asked at woolworth) and finally get an HP printer from argus. colin drops ms l and me off at her residence — about half an hour later we have the printer up and running! it’s a bit past 13:00 and we rush off to join mrs d for lunch at the _coffee house and tea rooms_ (6A Greyfriars Gardens, St Andrews, KY16 9HG, +44 1334 477122): a very nice and friendly establishment with good food, apparently also popular with the locals.

the seminar goes splendidly, and mrs d and i meet to make our way to leuchars — by (gasp!) bus. yep, as the fife coastal path from st andrews to leuchars pretty much follows the A91 all the way to leuchars (and onwards to st michaels), and as we really don’t fancy two hours of A road walking, we are taking the bus all the way to st michael’s inn, our b&b for tonight. we had hoped that it would be possible to walk the dismantled railway at least as far as guardbridge but that turns out to be impossible (from the bus we can make out that some private properties have taken over parts to the former track and we’d have been trespassing). so, half an hour later we are at [st michael’s inn][]…

[st michael’s inn]: http://www.swallow-hotels.com/hotels/st-michaels-inn

…”oh, dear!”…the inn is 200 years old — and looks like it. it certainly has excellent road connections: three busy A roads and a busy B road all convene at a roundabout right in front of the inn! fantastic if you are a travelling salesman…slightly less fantastic if you are walker who is looking for a quiet, peaceful b&b to have a quiet and peaceful night to have a fresh start into the last day of his walk. i certainly would _not_ have inquired for a room to stay the night here. a couple minutes later we use a temporary lull in the traffic flow to cross the road and enter the inn…

the first impression is: hmm, must have been a busy lunch and they didn’t have time to clear all the tables (at least one table close to the bar with dirty plates, dirty glasses and cups, used paper napkins on the floor, all a bit dried in already). the young man working the bar is also doing duty as receptionist. unfortunately, it seems that he has never heard of contours, though he does find a booking for us — but then wants to have £ 75.00 for the room. LOL. “certainly not!” we explain to him that the room should have been paid already by contours; he looks sceptical but decides to show us to our room…

room with a view...kind of…which is, hmm, _interesting:_. it’s a twin room with en-suite facilities. it’s also facing to the front and, thus, to the busy roundabout, and it has the weirdest window configuration we’ve ever seen: just a couple of small windows up at the ceiling. to look out we have to climb the only chair in the room. “think: cave” comes to mind.

also, to our consternation we do not find our bags! so, i make my way down to the bar area again to root out the young man and inquire after our luggage. he’s not to be found (the lunch table is still as it was half an hour ago, though). eventually he materialises again and i inquire after our stuff: he just shakes his head and insists that our bags have not been delivered, “and i’ve been here all day”…sigh…not to be deterred, i suggest that he checks again and if they are really not here to call the b&b in st andrews (from the b&b in elie we know that each b&b has a list with our b&bs)…he disappears again — and about 10min later appears, sheepishly grinning, with our bags!

back in our room i decide to call contours to have them sort out the payment for our room tonight (eventually i get through even). after which both mrs d and i dig out our ipods and tune in to some loud music to drown out the traffic noise…

dinner is _nolens volens_ in the bar downstairs. the lunch installation seems to have found a buyer as it’s gone when we come down. dinner is OK (we’ve had worse).

it’s a silicone earplug night tonight 🙁

> **good day in st andrews, not so good evening in st michaels.**