Take a Virtual Walk … wherever!

Ever since I added a fresh new look to my blog and improved its appearance a couple of days ago, a plethora of new topic ideas have emerged. They come bubbling up to the surface of my imagination one after another vying for my attention.

(Thank you for all the wonderful, supportive and encouraging feedback by the way!  It is very much appreciated!)

One idea that popped up was ‘how to take a walk in the virtual world of computers.’

It seems like each day there is something new to discover, an amazing technological tool I can utilize and have available at my fingertips. I’d like to share with you one such discovery.

If you’ve read very many of my blog entries you know I love making Google maps for my trips. Last year after planning my itinerary for a trip to Scotland, England and Ireland for 3 months, I stumbled across something I hadn’t noticed before in Google Maps – “Street-view.”

I knew it existed; I had seen streetview images appear when I googled a business for example, and my search would pull up a streetview of it; but I hadn’t ‘played around’ with it, nor realized I could!

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It was just a few days before I was scheduled to leave for my trip last spring to Scotland, England and Ireland. Since I would be in an airplane overnight and probably be suffering from a bit of jet lag once I arrived in London, I decided it might be prove helpful to study the road map and review the route I planned to take with the rental car to my first stop, Cambridge. I also wanted to become a bit more familiar with the layout of the town itself as well. I had booked one night’s lodging at the Cambridge Youth Hostel.
After I studied the map thoroughly and took some notes for later reference, I zoomed in on my google map to see a close up view of the area immediately surrounding the hostel. I thought it might be helpful to locate the nearest parking garage available in case the hostel didn’t offer on-site parking. As I zoomed in to get a closer look, much to my surprise a little yellow “person shaped” icon appeared on the side of the screen!  “Hmm, I wonder what that is!” I mused, and proceeded to click on it.
I discovered I could pick the little person up by clicking and holding it with my cursor and then proceed to place it anywhere on the map where blue lines appeared, indicating where Google has recorded the view.
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So I placed him at the hostel. Again, much to my surprise, the road map transformed from a road map to a satellite image before my eyes and automatically went into ‘streetview’ format at ground level. All of the sudden I found myself looking at the hostel as if I were standing right in front of it on the sidewalk outside!


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As I ‘stood’ there in amazement, I also noticed that if I clicked and held the screen and moved the cursor in either direction; turning my head as it were to look up the street and then down in the opposite direction. Pretty cool!

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Then, I noticed directional arrows appearing on the screen pointing down the street. I tried clicking on those as well. Immediately, the map view moved to the next location and another and before I knew it I was at the end of the street deciding which way to turn.
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“Well, now, isn’t that interesting!” I mused, it appears I can explore the neighborhood.
That’s when another idea bubbled up.
“It appears I can walk around town! I can go for a ‘virtual’ walk and familiarize myself with the locale before I ever actually set foot in the place!”
I had only booked one night at the hostel. I figured I’d be arriving mid to late afternoon.   I wouldn’t have much time for exploring before it got dark. The following morning I planned on getting an early start for the next leg of my journey. I particularly wanted to at least see King’s College while I was in Cambridge if nothing else.
“Perhaps I could find a nice walking route to follow by trying it out here first.”
I spent the next 2 or 3 hours exploring; walking around the town ‘virtually.’ I became so familiar with Cambridge’s street layout, the landmarks and the location of all of the sites I wanted to visit. I tried a variety of possible routes; I opted for the most scenic.
When I was in Cambridge I was so glad I had stumbled across ‘Streetview.’ I felt as if I had been there before. I was totally familiar with it. I knew where I was going, what to expect, which way to turn and easily reached my desired destination, all the while enjoying the scenery!
After having so much fun virtually walking all over Cambridge, I ended repeating the same process for the next two scheduled stops on my way north. Again, places I had never been to before: York, and my first stop in Scotland – Stirling.
The main attraction I wanted to see in Stirling was its Castle, especially because I had ancestors associated with it – none other than an ancient King Stewart who built it!
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Like Cambridge, I was only staying for one night and would arrive mid afternoon once again. I wondered how far the castle was from the youth hostel. Would I need to drive to it or would it be within walking distance?  I zoomed in and dropped the little yellow man into the hostel and discovered the castle was just a couple of doors uphill from where I was staying!  Sweet!
While I was virtually walking around the castle grounds, I noticed an alternative route I could take on my return trip back to the hostel. ‘Back Walk’ footpath ran through a wooded, park like area instead of following the street. It began up on the hill at the castle and dropped down into and wound through the grave yard below.  Be still my heart!  Yet another opportunity to explore ancient and interesting headstones of ancestors! Brilliant!
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After I visited Stirling Castle, I had such a great time following and strolling along ‘Back Walk’. I worked my way down the path and through the gardens.  Little did I know but a surprise was literally just around the corner.
As I entered the lower level of the graveyard and reached the intersection of the main drive running through its center, who should I spy driving down the lane toward me?  None other than The Google car equipped with its 360 degree camera atop!  I was stunned.
I couldn’t resist.  After he turned around at the dead end near where I was standing, I coaxed him to stop.
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“Can I help you with something?” he asked.
“Thank you for stopping,” I began, “I just wanted to personally say thank you for what you do; express my gratitude for taking pictures as you drive along enjoying the scenery. I want your job!”
I went on to explain to him how I had recently discovered streetview and how much fun I had virtually walking around the places I would soon visit. I also explained to him that this location in particular had provided quite a gem of a walk I could take to and from the castle.  He got a big kick out of my story and told me about his job, the territory he was currently driving around in Scotland and how much he enjoys doing it. He did not, however, supply any details about job opportunities!
Was running into the Google Car while I was taking a walk discovered through Streetview a coincidence?  I think not.
As I write this post, a thought occurred to me.  “I wonder…. its been almost a year since I met up with the Google Car in Stirling …. have they uploaded the new data collected that day?”  So I went into Streetview, dropped the little yellow guy in the location I ‘coincidentally’ met up with the Google Car…
Oh my gosh! I think that’s me walking down the center of the drive way ahead!
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Let’s zoom in and have a closer look.
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I’m pretty sure it is!
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Yep, pretty darn sure….
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Most definitely!  Caught in the act of enjoying the walk I discovered on Streetview! Priceless!
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What town and neighborhood would YOU like take a walk in today?  Give it a try!

Click on the link below.  (If it doesn’t open a new tab and take you to Streetview, copy & paste into your address bar.)  It should open up to this view of the front entrance of Stirling Castle.


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Practice navigating around.  You can walk through the castles’ courtyards and check out the views from the ramparts!  You can’t go inside the buildings; have to pay for that privilege when you actually  visit.  However, I have seen sights that take you inside. Probably because they have free entry!
After you practice here at Stirling, type in a new destination you would like to visit in the ‘search’ bar on the upper left of the screen.  Also, look at the bottom of this picture.  On the far left it shows the little yellow guy standing in the location of the current picture.  You can click anywhere on the map he’s standing and the view will switch to wherever you clicked.  Come on – try it!  It’s fun to explore – even virtually!
You never know what you might discover –  you might even discover yourself!
Happy Walking….

(P.S. I apologize for the lack of spaces between many paragraphs in this post.  I’ve been experiencing ‘technical difficulties.’ while editing.  Although the spaces appear in my ‘edit’ version; they aren’t there in ‘view post’ mode.  Hmm…  perhaps the ‘Editor Fairy’ will remedy the situation and tomorrow all will be well!)

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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