Do you know where the Isle of Man is located? Did you know that Douglas is the capital? Did you know that the above photo is their national emblem? Do you know what their world-famous TT is all about? These were all questions I certainly didn't know the answers to when I accepted a 10-day house/pet sitting assignment there starting on September 24th.
|View of Douglas|
First - the Isle of Man is an island located half-way between Ireland and England (Dublin & Liverpool). The island is 221 square miles of rugged coastline, castles, ancient standing stones, rural farmlands with big mountains in the middle. They have a very temperate climate year-round with warm summers and mild winters. But they get more rain per year than Ireland or Great Britain. The people of the island are called Manx and their language is from the Old Irish. And of course, they drive on the wrong side of the road!
The motto of their 3-legged symbol, which is on the Manx flag is "Whithersoever you throw it, it will stand." In today's language, it would read, ' Beware, if you shove us down, we'll get right back up!'
The Isle of Man has had people living on it since 627 AD. It has been conquered by the Vikings, the Norse, the Scots and the English. The Tynwald -
|Tynwald - The Manx House of Parliment|
They also have an official 'fairy bridge' which I saw on my ride in from the airport. I had learned while in Ireland that fairies are not the sweet, little Tinkerbell's Walt Disney wanted us to believe they were. They are mischievous and sometimes down-right mean and are known from playing practical jokes. So whenever you cross over the Fairy Bridge (please note that this is an official bridge with the Manx crest on the sign) you must always say hello to the fairies, thank them for anything good in your life, and wish them a pleasant day. Believe me, I am not making this up. Every single time I crossed the bridge, either with a bus full of locals or in a car with a local, each and every one of them said hello to the fairies and wished them well!
I was house/pet sitting for a lovely woman by the name of Mary Alexandra. Her bungalow was a short distance from downtown Douglas, I had the care of Milo and Crystal, 2 adorable Shih Tzus.
Mary picked me up at the airport upon arrival. I had asked her to make me an appointment with her dentist, which she had done, and then she asked if I needed anything else while she was gone. I said that a good haircut was in order and that's when I found out that that had been her profession for the past 45 years! She very generously gave me a great cut the next day before she and her good friend Brenda flew off for their cruise of the Mediterranean.
Mary also had put me on her insurance for the time I was there which meant once again I had access to a car to drive on the wrong side of the road. I drove the ladies to the airport and was thrilled to see that the roads on the Isle of Man were SO much wider and straighter than those in Ireland. Though it was great to have the car if I needed it, it was really much easier, and less stressful, to hop the bus that stopped at the corner whenever I wanted to go downtown.
I know Mary won't mind when I tell you that she very generously took me to Tesco for a big 'food shop' before she left. But what she forgot to mention, and what I learned from her fabulous neighbors, is that Mary is not a cook. It's something she very rarely does and therefore, her kitchen was minus a few things that make regular cooking easy. There were no sharp knives (paring, carving). There were few pots and pans and no large bowls or food storage containers (Tupperware) with lids or a pitcher. There wasn't even a can opener. Thank you to Sue, Geraldine and Maureen who were kind enough to lend me everything I needed during the week so I could cook!!
Across the street from Mary lived the nicest man by the name of Peter Bull. Upon retirement, Peter took up his hobby of photography and became so good that he is now a professional, doing weddings and special events, has his photos published regularly in the newspaper and the best thing, as far as he's concerned, is he is an official photographer for the TT.
When I told Peter that I too loved photography, he very generously offered his time and we spent 2 days touring all around the island - and he drove!
The first day Peter took me all around the 37-mile TT course. This is the time to tell you just what the TT is, but instead of me rewriting everything about this annual event that brings over 200,000 attendees to this island of normally a population of 80,000, let me just say it is one of the most well-known and popular motorcycle road races in the world. Here is a link to the history of the TT on the Isle of Man where you read all about it.
|Two of Peter's photos from the 2015 TT|
As we drove around the course, which of course, are just regular roads any other time of year except for 2 weeks in June, Peter explained how the island was divided into 4 areas known as The North, South, East, and West. The course runs through all but The South part of the island. Peter detoured off the course whenever he thought I would like to see certain points of interest, villages or castles. There are monuments to Manx riders who perished on the course and funny little lighthouses dotting the coastline, flower-laden seaside gardens and glorious views from the highest point of the course.
Our second day we did The South portion of the island. Again, more beautiful vistas, castles, chapel ruins, a beautifully preserved, historical farming community, stately homes, waterfront battements and weird, 4-horned sheep.
|St. Michael's Chapel|
The back end of a 4-horned Manx Loaghtan
My last day on the island, Peter took me to The Braaid. In a farmer's field they had discovered the complete ruins of a Vikings round and long house, and that evening I took a tour of the completely restored Gaiety Theater, founded in the mid-1800's and today offering a location for major touring shows and local productions.
I had a wonderful time on the Isle of Man. The weather was perfect for my entire stay and the people I met were so welcoming and generous of their time and their household goods! Mary has asked me to return next June for 3 weeks while she explores Canada and I've said - YES!
But now I'm off to catch a ferry to Liverpool and a train to Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, UK for my next house/pet sit!
Until next time....