Day 831 of Traveling the World, Retrospective: Douglas, Isle of Man, UK. May 12, 2020.

Where in the world were Mike and Jan three years ago today?!? Right smack in the middle of the Irish Sea, on the island of Manx, according to the residents….the Isle of Man, to you. Continuing with retrospectives of some of our past travel destinations, this is from a 104-day trip through Ireland and the UK. The island’s famous tailless cat is the Manx, and their ancient language is Manx Gaelic.

In the first photos you can see typical views of the sea from the long pedestrian walkway around the half-moon-shaped bay. We stayed at the Empress Hotel right on the beach, as it was one of the few that advertised a “fitness center,” and we do like to work out every day. The first morning, Mike went into the alleged fitness center. There was just one weight machine, which was obviously not functional, and one stationary bike, which looked like it might be functional. Mike could hear some of the cleaning staff having a conversation in an adjacent room. He sat down on the bike, which looked highly degraded and didn’t seem to have any way to adjust tension, but it was the only game in town. When he started pedaling, sound was produced like a cat might make if its tail were caught in a meat grinder. The staff in the adjacent room went quiet immediately. Several maids from that room peeked into the fitness center, and seeing that Mike was trying to use the ancient equipment, broke out into uproarious laughter. Apparently no one had attempted to use it for many years. Mike gave up and quickly became aware that he was not going to be exercising while on the Isle of Man. He had to admit though, as advertised, the Empress Hotel did indeed have a fitness center with exercise equipment.

After the photo of the hotel is a poster advertising the island, looking as though it had been produced many years before, as it probably had. Everything was a little old fashioned and out of date. But in the middle of the lettering, the word “of” sits atop the symbol of the island, a triskalion, or three-legged disk. It is on their flag and is everywhere you look.

Following that are two photos of the Tower of Refuge, a strange mini-castle built out in the harbor. The person who had it built was worried about other ships getting bashed on the rocks after it happened while he was on the island. So it acts as a lighthouse of sorts. The first is how it looks during the daytime, like an island surrounded by the sea. But the second shows it late in the afternoon, when the tide recedes…and it isn’t an island at all! It was very cute!!! 

Next up are the billboards for the electric railway…again, sort of old fashioned. We found, in general, that the island seemed stuck in the 1930s or so. The buildings had a lot of mold and distress, and while it was Britain’s playground early in the 20th century, its popularity had clearly faded. One building on a corner and facing the beach was newly painted, and looked so unusual and clean compared to its neighbors, that we commented on it. When we turned the corner, though, the whole side of the building not facing the beach had been left unpainted and decrepit. We suppose there just isn’t enough profit these days to keep up the buildings in a tourist spot when there are few tourists to fund the upkeep.

We took the electric railway to the top of Man’s highest mountain, Snaefell. The railroad and cars were built in 1895!!!! Going strong for over 120 years!!!! It was amazing.  It was a little cloudy at the top, but normally you can see Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England. It was quite cold and windy up there, also. In the very foggy photo after the photo with the sheep, you can make out some of the mountain roads on which the annual Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) motorcycle race is held in May/June. It is considered one of the most dangerous race events in the world, and is about the only time of year that hotel rooms are maxed out. The first race was held in 1907 and is held on public roads throughout the island, including the winding, tight-corner roads in the mountains. Billed as “38 miles of terror” by Sports Illustrated in 2003, any small mistake can be fatal. This course has seen 150 deaths since its inception, but when combined with other courses on the island, a total of 258 have lost their lives in motorcycle competition….just a few less than have died climbing Mt. Everest! You can see small memorials next to the roads for many of those racers, in the locations where they met their ends.

The next photos are the town at night, with lights on all along the main street, in May. We attended a Broadway-quality production of The Producers at the Gaiety Theater, an old opera house. It was gorgeous inside….lots of gingerbread architecture. The two photos of the interior didn’t come out very well, but they give you an idea of its age and beauty.

The last two photos….yes, don’t ask, as we don’t know….a plastic “banana protector” and rental of cake tins???? Some of the funny things we found!