Exploring the North Coast 500 Part One: Planning Your Adventure 0 (0)

Castle Varrich

This is the first in what will be a long series of posts about Scotland’s North Coast 500 — an epic and memorable road trip (though I’d better write about it before I forget about it!) This post consists of an introduction and some tips and resources for trip planning. Future posts will comprise stops along the route and some other places in Scotland.

Marie Antoinette. Peasant. 0 (0)

House with Waterwheel on Marie Antoinette's Farm

On the grounds of Versailles, away from the palace, and away from her house on the grounds, Marie Antoinette had a rustic village and farm constructed where she could get away from palace life and pretend to be a peasant.

Here’s more about this interesting area of Versailles, that I actually enjoyed visiting more than the Hall of Mirrors.

Traveling the World…Virtually 0 (0)

best vr travel experiences and online virtual tours

When you’re stuck at home one way to possibly assuage your travel lust is to go on some virtual tours.

Plenty are available on your laptop or desktop and, if you’re lucky enough to be staying home with a VR headset, you can heighten the escapism with plenty of 360 degree videos and adventures.

Here are some of my favorites.

Walking the Philosopher’s Path…Plus 0 (0)

Path of Phlosophy Route Kyoto

The Path of Philosophy is a classic Kyoto walk — especially in Spring as the path is lined with cherry trees.

This is an extended route (with accompanying routemap) that takes you not only on the Tetsugaku no Michi itself, but also through many nearby temples.

The Cutest Little Cream Puffs in Tokyo 0 (0)

Shirohige Cream Puff Factory Totoro Cafe Totoro Cream Puffs

Toyko (and much of Japan, for that matter) is a great place to find kawaii (cute) desserts! If you’re a Studio Ghibli fan visiting Toyko, you might find these cream puffs a little too cute to eat! Here’s more about visiting Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory.

Best Hiking Trails in Mount Rainier National Park 0 (0)

Guest author Mark Bennet discusses the best hiking trails at Mount Rainier National Park from the skyline trail at Paradise to the Summerland Trail.

Six Hand-Drawn Travel Books That Just Might Make You Want to Put Down the Camera and Pick Up a Pencil 0 (0)

Hand Drawn Travel Books A Fine Romance by Susan Branch

If you’re like me, sometimes when you travel you’re tempted to spend part of your trip behind the lens of a camera or snapping photos on your phone to share later. But putting down the gadgets and picking up a pencil can help us to slow down and have a more “mindful” journey. Here are six hand-drawn books I’ve recently enjoyed about travel or places that just might inspire me to put down the camera (only for a bit) and pick up a pencil.

Things to Do and See at York Minster Cathedral 0 (0)

Visiting York Minster Cathedral

I usually hate the words “simply must,” in a blog post. But if you go to York you simply must visit York Minster Cathedral. Here are some things to do and see at this wonderful medieval gem that is my personal favorite of the cathedrals I’ve had an opportunity to visit.

Snickelways and Walls: Walking York’s Passages 0 (0)

When I was a kid, in the days when kids spent bored Summer days playing outside, I spent some time lurking in neighborhood alleyways. Inventing clubs, playing hide-and-seek, and sometimes being up to no good made long Summer days with nothing to do pass quickly. When I visited York, I imagined all of the mischief I could have managed there with York’s many snickelways as my stomping grounds.

What is a Snickelway?

What’s a snickelway? York’s medieval city layout means that many narrow passageways between the buildings exist. These became known as the Snickelways of York.

“Snickelway” sounds like it could be a charming Old English word or something from Harry Potter. And some of the Snickelways have names that tickle my muggle sense of humor (Nether Hornpot Lane, for one.) Therefore, I was a little disappointed to find that (at least according to the venerable Wikipedia,) author Mark W. Jones coined the word. And not in The Year of Our Lord 1600 but 1983 CE.

Nether Hornpot Lane is one of York's Snickelways

Jones’ book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York   (which seems to be out of print but is usually readily available on Amazon), is the definitive guide to “snickeling.” Jones explains that snickelways is a portmanteau word combining snicket (any relation to Lemony?), ginnel, and alleyway, all terms used to describe different types of passageways.

Jones’ book gives a walkthrough of the snickelways, which also turns out to be a great way to self-tour York.

A Snickelways Journey

When you walk York’s Snickelways, you might find your 3.5-mile walk turning into a daylong adventure. There’s plenty to get distracted by along the way. I gave up trying to record my walk and attempted to recreate the route later (see the map below.)

The map is a close approximation to the way described in the book, and the path I walked. However, a few shortcuts (like the in and outs in the Shambles,) were difficult to map.

If you want to walk all of the snickelways, your best bet is just to get the book. It’s the best available reference and includes handwritten print and delightful black and white sketches. It’s a keeper and, somehow, one I’ll keep looking through from time to time even if I never get back to York.

Image of a York Snickelways Route Map

Above is an image of a route map of the Snickelways. You can click here or on the map to get to the page with the interactive version.

Your Snickelways journey starts at the hole in the wall just past Bootham Bar (in York, the gates are bars, and the streets end with -gate.) It takes you past many (but not all) of the places I’ve listed in the Things to do in York post, including the ever-popular Shambles.

Above: Sketches from The Snickelways of York by Mark W. Jones match the view walking to York Minster from Precentor’s Court.

Walking York’s Walls

York's Walls

Walking York’s Walls

The Snickelways of York book   suggests that York’s biggest snickelways are its walls.

Other medieval cities like London, had walls, of course, but only fragments remain in most. In York, large sections of the medieval walls remain and are very walkable.

Walking York’s walls was my favorite way of getting around the city during my stay. My AirBNB in York, located near Mickelgate bar, was near a wall entrance, and I frequently walked the wall on my way into the central part of town.

York’s Wall Routes

York’s walls end in some places. Despite the signs around the route with handy QR codes, I got confused in spots and had to search for the next walkable portion of the wall. For the best experience, you might want to bring a guidebook. The Friends of York Walls website has maps and a handy guide for a thorough wall walk.

There’s also a written Walking Guide to York City Walls   available on Kindle or as a paperback.

Some parts of the wall have a safety fence on one side, and a few sections have a drop off with no barrier. Where I live, there would be fences and signs all around to prevent lawsuits injuries. But it seems York (fortunately) trusts in the common-sense of the visitor.

Walking the walls also made me feel a bit like a kid again — or a nosy neighbor. Some sections of wall adjoined homes and gave glimpses into some beautiful backyards. 

Have you walked York’s snickelways? Leave a comment!

Gifts for the Traveler Who Has Nothing 0 (0)

Chester suitcase with vignette starter travel gifts carry on luggage what to put in your carry on

“Gifts for the traveler who has everything,” comes to mind when thinking about holiday gift lists to create. But what about gifts for the traveler who has…nothing? When my daughter asked me to borrow my carry-on I, instead, put together a holiday package that would serve her for the many years of travel she has ahead of her. Hint: these are also good basic things to put in your carry on bag in general.

Three Western Washington Ghost Tours To Haunt You 0 (0)

Port Gamble Ghost Tours Walker Ames Mansion with Bleach Bypass

Are you a believer? It’s OK if you’re not. Ghost tours are fun, especially in October when the days are growing shorter and the leaves are falling. And good ones are also a bit of an (entertaining) history lesson. Here are three Haunted Tours in and (relatively) near Seattle to take this Autumn: Seattle, Port Gamble, and Port Townsend

Visiting the Paris Catacombs: A Labyrinth of Death Beneath the City of Light 0 (0)

Visiting the Paris Catacombs Skulls at the Paris Catacombs

Are the Paris Catacombs worth visiting? It depends on what you like. If you’re not somebody who enjoys visiting cemeteries when you travel, it might not be the place for you. But there aren’t too many other places quite like it and it has an interesting history.

Here’s a bit of the history of the Paris Catacombs, a few interesting facts and some tips for before you go and how to get there.

Here’s more about the catacombs, with some tips for visiting.

Why Take a Ghost Tour? 0 (0)

Why take a ghost tour creepy haunted house phot

Why would a skeptic love ghost tours? There are a few good reasons why the unbeliever or undecided would enjoy taking a ghost tour. The post includes a poll you can answer about your experience with ghost tours.

Famous Seattle Graves (and Where to Find Them) 4 (1)

Jimi Hendrix gravesite Jimi hendrix face purple

If celebrity burials are your thing, the number of Seattle’s famous dead denizens does come close to rivaling many larger, and older, cities. But we do have a few here, and they’re worth visiting if you like cemeteries. Here’s more about where to find the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee, Jimi Hendrix, and Chief Sealth (Seattle), along with a listing of a few others with a more local claim to fame.

Amidst Old Tombstones at Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery 0 (0)

Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery Doorway Monument Top Detail Medieval tombstones Scottish Highland Cemeteries

The Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery in the Scottish highlands has done some serious restoration work, bringing old medieval tombstones into a restored church building for preservation and display. The stones outside, as well as the small mausoleum, are also worth a visit if you like old cemeteries — its just a bit off the main itinerary for your North Coast 500 road trip.

Otaku Kyoto 0 (0)

Otaku Kyoto Geeky Kyoto Pop Culture Kyoto Kyoto Pikachu Kyoto Pokemon Center

Tokyo, of course, is known for its Anime, Manga, pop culture — but what about Kyoto? When I toted my Anime-loving daughter along to Kyoto, I was worried that she would simply hang out at the AirBNB which, largely, she did. But we did find some loosely “Otaku” things to do in Kyoto (my daughter’s objection to the term duly noted).

A Day in Arashiyama 5 (1)

Arashiyama Kyoto Rilakkuma Bamboo Forest

When you think of the Arashiyama area of Kyoto, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Sagano Bamboo Forest. But there’s so much more to do in this beautiful area of Kyoto. Plan to spend at least a day here — here are some of the many things to do to make the most of your day in the area.

Ten Zen: Temples in Kyoto 0 (0)

Zen Temples Kyoto Kinkakuji

While I was visiting a temple in Kyoto, I heard someone repeating “this is the heart of Zen.” Kyoto is, at least, the center of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism and there were far more temples than I could visit during my time there. Here are ten that I visited from the highly touristed to the more remote.

Going Ghibli: Visiting the Ghibli Museum 0 (0)

How to Buy Tickets to Ghibli Museum

Visiting the whimsical Ghibli Museum is a must-do in Tokyo if you’re a fan of the animation of Hayao Miyazaki. But getting tickets can be a bit challenging and confusing for foreign visitors. Here’s what you need to know about the museum, including getting tickets and getting there.

The Magical House of MinaLima Harry Potter Gallery in London 0 (0)

House of MinaLima a Harry Potter gallery in London

Budding wizards (or muggle Harry Potter fans) probably already know about this London gallery. But if not, read on. MinaLima designed all the graphics for the Wizarding World of JK Rowling films. The gallery is an amazing collection of art, and Harry Potter ephemera.

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