A Travellerspoint blog

October 2021

TO XIII

overcast 18 °C
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Older Person's Discount

Older Person's Discount

In May 1973 when I was working in Toulouse, I took it into my head to go to the (French) Rugby League Championship Final. I was curious.

I had never seen a live game before because on our side of the Channel it was only played in the north of England. The French final was at the Stadium Municipal in Toulouse, so it was a short walk from home in the St Cyprien area. Toulouse Olympique XIII was one of the finalists.

TO XIII won that day.

Fast forward to September 2021 and TO XIII were top of the (English) Championship - the 2nd Division of the English game - and playing their last league game at 10th placed Newcastle Thunder. I decided to go.

Social Distancing

Social Distancing

It turned out to be Men v Boys, and TO XIII hammered Newcastle 82-12. Sometimes such a one sided game can be tedious, but TO XIII produced a great display of power combined with skill and I had to admire it.

Warm Up

Warm Up

After they game they were presented with the league trophy to take home on the plane. Ironically, Dragons Catalans from Perpignan have won the equivalent Super League trophy. Must be a Brexit thing.

It was my first live sporting event since March 2020, so it was a bit of a milestone. The crowd was sparse so health was never a concern.

It was a brief overnight visit for me, and I drove there via Edinburgh and Jedburgh rather than risk 2 hours on a train full of mask-less Covidiots - masks are required on trains in Scotland but not in England and the train operators have washed their hands of any responsibility for their passengers’ safety by declining to enforce the rules.

Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey

It does puzzle me. How can 2 hours on a busy train be safer than 2 hours on a busy plane?

Posted by IainT 14:10 Archived in England Tagged england sport transport newcastle rugby Comments (0)

Moving On

sunny 18 °C
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Cromarty-Nigg Ferry

Cromarty-Nigg Ferry

In the middle of September I had a “proper” holiday at last!

It was not a holiday abroad, but closer to home just had to do for now. I had 3 days of holiday time from work, and because I only work 3 days in the week I could turn it into a week’s holiday.

After a lot of head scratching while weighing up the various factors involved, I booked a self catering studio in Rosemarkie for 3 nights just to kick things off. Rosemarkie is on the Black Isle, about 30 minutes drive east of Inverness.

Crofters' Studio

Crofters' Studio

Some of the factors in my thinking were the state of the pandemic (on the rampage in Scotland), hotspots for over-tourism (also on the rampage in Scotland) and typical Scottish weather in September.

It turned out to be a great short break, with remarkably few negatives to drag it down. The weather was amazingly good. My home-from-home was close to ideal. I found plenty to do over those 4 days, and even had a few things left undone.

I drove there (and back, obviously) and whilst having the car made to travel easier, it could easily have been done by train and bus. On the two full days I was there I only used the car once - to get to Cromarty - and I could have made that trip with a 15 minute bus journey had I chosen to.

Fortrose Cathedral

Fortrose Cathedral

The route between my home and Inverness involves about 2 hours of driving on the A9, and it can be a nightmare during the tourist season. My journey north had its moments, but coming south leaving at 11am on a Thursday it was remarkably easy.

My studio is owned by the people who operate the cafe next door, and having food on my doorstep from 10am until 7pm was a real bonus. The place was busy for most of the day, but when I needed it just after 10am and just before 7pm it was relatively quiet.

The opening hours meant I had no customer noise to disturb me first thing in the morning or in the late evening.

Rosemarkie Dawn

Rosemarkie Dawn

The studio is literally across the street from the sea, so it was an ideal situation for me.

What about the over-tourism issue? Yes, it was a real one in the village. The best viewing place for the Moray Firth dolphins is at Chanonry Point just a mile along the coast, and it attracts plenty visitors. The village is an easy 20 minute drive from Inverness, so on a good weather day the beach attracts day visitors. Finally, the village hosts a caravan/camping site and its patrons all add to the transient population and traffic issues.

Beach Hike

Beach Hike

I overheard two locals talking about streets being closed, one way systems, bollards and double yellow lines being introduced for next year. Home made signs are a common sight. “Do not park here - this is our home”. “Do not sh*t here - there’s a public toilet in the village.” “Please, please, please pick up your dog’s sh*t”.

I picked up on a little too much of the entitled “I’m on holiday so I’ll do whatever I want” attitude from some visitors. The staff in the cafe looked tired and fed up, but were working hard to hide it and praying for some crappy Scottish weather so they could get a quiet day. The cafe had staff vacancies which might have been a consequence of students leaving to go back to their studies, but inevitably would add to the pressures on those remaining.

My holidays activity mostly involved walking and eating. One day I did a 3.5 hour hike along the shore towards Cromarty. On the other I walked the loop between Rosemarkie, Fortrose and Chanonry Point. I did not see the dolphins, but I know that to give yourself a chance you have to close the right tidal conditions and I was not willing to structure my day around being there at 12:32 and 49 seconds.

Rosemarkie Beach

Rosemarkie Beach

I had dinner the the cafe - Crofters - twice and breakfast twice. One dinner was excellent and the other less than that. The staff are excellent, and owner Facundo is a real hands-on guy for getting out there to take care of the customers.

My other dinner was pizza and beer from Sutor Creek in Cromarty. It felt like a real summer holiday thing to be enjoying that outside close to the sea.

Sutor Creek, Cromarty

Sutor Creek, Cromarty

All in all, it was a very successful break. I could easily have stayed another 3 nights. My holiday time has another chapter to it, but more on that later!

Posted by IainT 14:01 Archived in Scotland Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches food scotland transport Comments (0)

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