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Isle of Man

Arriving on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin into the Isle of Man’s Ronaldsway Airport, we quickly were bused to the terminal where Immigration was our first stop. Being neither UK nor EU, I was one of three to queue up for the sole agent handling us. I breezed through, although I had to think about some of my answers. (How long was I in Ireland? How long would I be in the UK? When had I last been in the UK?) Not much luggage at the carousel, but it came slowly enough that I’d miss the first bus. Customs, however, was merely cursory, a wave through.

Advised that the bus from the airport to the capital city of Douglas was out the door and to the left, I joined several others and boarded a #11 bus for £2.75 (the sign in the airport said £17!) We traveled the 16 kilometers past the Fairy Bridge to the Promenade, where it started getting crowded. Maybe half way along the waterfront, I exited and pushed my bags to Broadway and up a hill to The Devonian.

Up the stairs to a locked door with a keypad, for a code I was supposed to have received via email. Once again, Expedia failed. Fortunately, staff was there to let me in, and then Kevin was kind enough to change my room from three flights up to only one. Room #2 didn’t have a lot of space or desk surface, but I had a second bed which I used for the roller. With my experiences with needing a taller glass, I secured a pint glass for use in the room.

Asking about dining options, I was directed back down the Promenade towards the port, to “The Strand.” I headed out in drizzle and came to a fork, and opted to walk Castle Street, which turned out to be The Strand. A Tuesday night, and “after season”, there weren’t many options for better dining. I went into The Fig and Olive. Starting with a small glass of the house white, a Trebbiano, I had Stilton and broccoli soup. Switching to the house red, a Sangiovese, my main was seafood Giouvetsi: orzo pasta with fresh monkfish, king prawns, fresh salmon, roasted cherry tomato, fresh chilis, baby spinach, garlic and garden herbs. Journal has no comments, but there are photos.

Day 1

Unusual for me, I slept past 9! After ablutions and dressing, I pulled stuff to mail back to the States. Heading out into the spurts of showers, I stopped at the post office to determine rules and sizes, and then walked to the ferry terminal.

I booked my crossing for Friday at £60, getting a paper ticket. Back to the PO where I purchased a box, which I took back to my room and filled with whisky/whiskey glasses, chocolate, flyers and pamphlets. Back at the PO, it was 2.2kg and cost £50 to send to Florida.

Next on my list was a haircut. It had been 7 weeks and I was looking beyond shaggy. While there seem to be barber shops on every block, they are all by appointment, not accepting walk ins. Fortunately, when I approached Executive Barbers, they had a no-show and were willing to cut my locks. I got a nice cut from Ella, albeit (in retrospect) a bit shorter than I planned, but I was starting my Movember beard, so it all looked okay.

The sun had arrived, so I headed to the seafront and looked out at the castle on the small island in the port, as well as the whole curve of the Promenade. A clock, a garden, the statues of the Bee Gees (brothers who were born on the Isle of Man), the waterfront, a wet street. Just some shots.

Then up to the Manx Museum. Leaving, I had a Greek bowl salad with garlic and rosemary ciabatta at Restaurant 1886 about 3. And I stopped taking pictures and didn’t write anything further in my journal until dinner.

Dinner was several doors down the street at Flavours, an Indian place. Drinking an Ochagaira sauvignon blanc from Chile, I ordered chicken tikka and a curry: yougurt, Kashmiri chili, garlic, chicken, garam marsala. With garlic naan. While rice would have been a better choice for the curry, the bread was good.

At a neighboring table, the only other patron downstairs was finishing his meal. We struck up a chat, and I learned that Johnnie was a network technician, and he was heading down the Promenade to watch footie at a bar – he suggested I join him for a drink. Probably a half hour later, I wandered down the waterfront, found Jaks and went in. Grabbing an O’Kells bitters, I surveyed without spotting my dinner companion, but stayed to watch Man City beat Copenhagen.

Back at the room, after my usual chores, I found that my reader was continuing to freeze and restart. I decided to uninstall and reinstall the Amazon Kindle app, which caused me to lose all the manually installed books and necessitating redownloading my library from Amazon. I’m going to have to figure out a better way to manage my collection of ebooks.

Day 2

Up ahead of my alarm, I was downstairs on the steps at 5 before 9 when Jane exited from her parked car across the street. A ToursByLocals guide, she and I had been communicating over six months regarding an exploration of the Isle of Man, including visits to the three cathedral sites I wanted to see, all in Peel on the west side of the island. Recently, she had advised that one, the former pro-cathedral Bishopcourt Chapel was under serious construction and not approachable. Part of a private compound which had been allowed to degenerate, a new owner was investing huge sums to restore the property with the eventual aim to be a resort destination. It had been the acting cathedral from 1895 until 1975.

Crossing the Isle is about 17km from the capital Douglas to the seaside town of Peel. Based on what I’d learned the day prior at the Manx Museum, I was curious to visit Tynwald Hill and the Chapel Royal of St John the Baptist. Site of an open-air meeting of the parliament of this self-governing crown dependency, the gray skies failed to deter my appreciation for the well-kept grounds and historic importance.

We entered the church first, a single spire over the entrance of a tan stone building. Sculpted heads, and the three-leg emblem of the Manx adorn the exterior. Inside, off white plastered walls rise up to a wooden vault painted a robin’s egg blue, with a red carpeted aisle through the dark wood pews. Reaching the crossing, seats set perpendicular facing across the aisle are marked for their designated House of Keys and Legislative Council members. A pipe organ fills the north transept, and the stained-glass windows looked late nineteenth century.

Walking out the main door, a gravel and dirt pathway leads west past empty flagpoles on a berm and the National War Memorial, a re-creation of a Norse Osruth’s Cross, to the four-stepped Tynwald Hill with the Manx flag flying from a white pole. Set to the north of the chapel is the Millennium of Tynwald Monument, a large boulder on a plinth. The fifth of July is the date for these festivities, after the Isle of Man TT Races (motorcycle) of May and June conclude.

Cathedral Church of St German, Peel

Back into the car, we continued west to Peel, arriving at the Cathedral Church of St German. [Cathedral for the Church of England Diocese of Sodor and Man.] Built with a dark reddish stone as a parish church in the late nineteenth century, the steep roof is slate and a square clock tower stands at the entrance. It became the cathedral in 1980 after the pro-cathedral building was sold in 1976. As with many Anglican churches, there were many evidences of ecumenicism throughout the nave and narthex.

A docent advised that a capital fund had started with a goal to renovate the interior: to replace the heating piping along the aisles and above the elaborate tiling. The apse sanctuary was stunning, with saints portrayed in shallow alcoves below three triple-paneled stain-glass windows. A small display of treasury items was interesting.

Out in the garden, sculpture seemed randomly cited amoungst the mature trees and flower beds. Modern representations of various Celtic crosses cropped up here and there, brilliantly depicting fantastical weavings. Keills had been constructed, one left without the slate and grass roof, unmortar’d walls flashing back to both western Ireland and Provence structures.

Back in the car, Jane then began maneuvering around the streets of Peel, stymied by construction on her way to Peel Castle in the port. After setting a dial on a parking permit (something locals have which earns free parking for a short duration), we climbed to enter the castle grounds. Again, Jane was greeted by the staff, as she had been earlier – I guess with an island population of 85K, a guide eventually encounters everyone. Situated on St Patrick’s Island and now connected via a causeway, the castle was originally Viking, the ruins of the former Cathedral of St German were my first interest.

Cathedral of St German, Peel

Near to a round tower, the walls still stood, giving a clear idea of its footprint.

There was even a view of the clock tower on the “new” cathedral. As we moved around the grounds, cannon defenses and overlooks of the harbor eventually drew us down to the museum and statues enacting early Manx life.

Departing from the island, we briefly stopped at the site of the old St Peter’s parish church, which was torn down (except for the bell and clock tower) and is now a park. After passing by the location of the Knockaloe Internment Camp, we reached the beach at Niarbyl, on the bay with views of the Calf of Man (the small island to the southwest). The rocky formations made the tectonic plate collisions visible, giving an appreciation of the geology of the island.

As we continued to ride the southern ring road, after passing Ronaldsway Airport where I’d arrived, we stopped at Rushen Abbey in Ballasalla. A cote, or pigeon tower, and the church tower were two of the notable structures that had been preserved. With a small stream passing through the grounds, there is a strong sense of calmness and peace while walking the pathways.

Heading into the town of Castletown, we saw the old House of Keys (Parliament House) as well as monuments and markers, and Castle Rushen. Entering into the castle, we climbed the tower to see dioramas inside and views outside. I took particular delight in spotting the mythical creatures on a lavish aqua tapestry on one wall.

Backtracking south into Cregneish, we came to a “history town” where the Loghtan sheep are raised. A unique native breed, the males have two pairs of horns (relatively straight from the top of the skull, and curving around the ears out to the snout.) Several thatched-roof houses are maintained for visitors. The rest of the herd are kept on the Calf with the seals. Heading to the point, I was able to find seals basking on the rocky beach. Nearby was the Thousla Cross.

Since I have no further pictures, I’m presuming that Jane returned me to The Devonian before she headed home. While we didn’t get to the north, a next visit to include the second largest city of Ramsey is considered. Back in the room, I initiated an online claim with my “wind insurance” for the Hurricane Ian damage to the roof back in Florida. Off to find dinner, I headed away from the port along the Promenade. Finding mainly hotel-based dining, I tried climbing the hill inland, and wound up at the Welbeck Hotel Bar. With an O’Kells bitters, I tucked into a bowl of seafood chowder, followed by the curry of the day (chicken).

My nightcap was a snort of Talisker’s 10 year old whisky. I headed back, packed up the roller and headed to bed a tad early, as I had an early day coming.

Day 3

The alarm rang at 7 and I was up, cleaned and dressed, and out on the street in 25 minutes. It was lightly sprinkling, so I figured I would be able to walk to the port. Wrong. By the time I reached the second corner, it was pouring. Fortunately, I soon got to the covered walkway portion of the Promenade, and continued until I was in front of a hotel. Leaving my bags outside, I requested that they call me a taxi, and I was soon heading south. Arriving about 30 minutes after leaving the hotel, I checked my large bag and went to get coffee and a muffin. Entertainment was provided by watching a group of about 40 or so younger teenagers toting gym bags full of taekwondo gear.

Once boarding commenced, I slowly began my stroll to the ship. Turned out to be a lengthy walk, including stairs both up and down, before walking on the ship and having yet another couple of flights to reach a very crowded lounge.

The first 90 minutes to 2 hours were rough seas, but the last 90 minutes were better, with the skies clearing. We docked at Heysham and the English leg began.

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