Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Holiday Part 2

After our western Scottish holiday, we managed an equally short but sweet trip to the north of England.  When Enterprise has rental deals cheaper than what you’d pay to own a car for three days and when relatives have traveled over 6000 miles, what else could we do?  Again, thanks to the hospitality of people we’d never met (relatives of relatives), we enjoyed one night in the seaside town of Whitehaven.  The next day we poked around the iconic Lake District and stayed the night in the 18th century Barton House B&B where the caretaker seemed about as old and full of character as the B&B.  Our little jaunt concluded with a scenic drive on the backroads of Northumberland where we met the longest, straightest, hilliest stretch of road any of us (Julian included) had ever seen.  It’s really too bad this blog can’t share the thrills of those hills. They were roller-coaster caliber, the kind that throw your stomach into your throat as you unexpectedly crest one hill and plummet down another.  And, yes, we were safe.

The view from our first night's lodgings. That's the Irish Sea in the background.

At Whitehaven Harbour with Uncle Aldie and Aunt Bev

First stop in the Lake District was Keswick, home of the Cumberland Pencil Museum. Not sure we'll ever use pencils again, chum.

Traffic stopped for several minutes because ol' Bessie and her family tried to cross the road.

Typical scenery in the Lakes...when the sun was out

Our water taxi on the lake called Ullswater. Not 'Ullswater Lake'; just Ullswater.

From the boat

In front of Barton House, our B&B. Looks like Uncle Aldie has assumed the professor's stance. And, it also looks like Julian is a delinquent student.

Lingering over the full English breafast...it wasn't IHOP, but it wasn't bad either

On the journey back to Scotland we passed this 12th century church.

A 14th century castle turned posh hotel with peacocks (!) roaming the grounds. See http://www.langleycastle.com for more.

This hut is not very old, but it stands on the site of a Celtic settlement dating from about 300 AD.

Yep, those hills in Northumberland were a blast.

At the Scottish border looking toward Edinburgh. Looks a bit ominous!

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In mid-May we enjoyed a weekend visit from our friends Wes and Steph up in St. Andrews.  The weather was particularly lovely so we decided to take a little trip down into the Borders for a day hike.   As always, it was wonderfully refreshing to get out of the city and enjoy a bit of nature.

This backpack shot is getting quite popular.

It took Julian a while to get used to this pokey pasture grass, but he eventually came to terms with it.

After our hike and a little drive around the countryside, we stopped in the little Borders town of Peebles for some ice cream cones.  It was a first for Julian who wasn’t sure at first if he liked ice cream and ultimately decided he preferred the cone.  Whose son is he, anyway?!?

The aftermath

We decided to kick off the month of June with a celebratory picnic in a nearby park.  We had enjoyed gorgeous weather all week and decided on Saturday night that a good old-fashioned picnic was in order.  I spent most of the afternoon preparing barbecued chicken, baked beans, tabbouleh, corn on the cob, etc.

About half an hour before we headed off on our excursion, we were a little chagrined to see some rather ominous looking clouds move in from the west.  Not to be put off, however, we ventured forward, wishing the clouds away all the time.  We were encouraged when we got to the park, to find it packed with other picnickers–surely there is strength in numbers, right?  I felt confident that our collective will would be sufficient to hold off the rain, at least until our picnic was over.  My confidence quickly melted as we sat down on our blanket and instantly felt the first large, full drops of rain.  Thankfully, I had thought to throw some umbrellas in our bags and we quickly pulled them out to help us stay dry.  The rain got heavier and heavier.  Apparently we were the only picnickers that evening who had thought to pack umbrellas amongst their picnic items and the park quickly cleared completely.  We were the lone survivors in the field, sitting stubbornly under our umbrellas, determined not to let even the worst rain storm ruin our picnic.

Christopher kindly shared his umbrella with Julian which also meant he had a steady stream of water dripping down his back.

I stayed nice and dry under my umbrella. The trouble is, it's a bit of a challenge to eat picnic food with one hand.

After twenty minutes or so of steady downpour, we finally realized that maybe this wasn’t just a passing cloud and we reluctantly began to pack up our lovely picnic.  We rung out our picnic blanket and packed up our Tupperware containers which had become efficient little rain collectors–our chicken bones were now swimming.  On our walk home, the streets had sprouted veritable rivers and by the time we reached the front door, we were all thoroughly soaked.

Arriving back home, dripping wet.

Julian was determined to enjoy his first corn on the cob, which he gnawed on all the way home.

Our picnic ended with Julian in the bath while Christopher and I finished our salad from the dry comfort of our home, watching the rain continue to pour down.

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On Thursday we said goodbye to Christopher’s mom after a wonderful week-and-a-half long visit.  We had a great time together with lots of site-seeing, talking and “grandma-time”.  Julian was, of course, thrilled to have a real-live grandma (as opposed to a Skype-grandma) to play with him and read to him.

The highlight of her time with us was probably the trip we made up to the Isle of Skye for two nights at a B&B.  Not only was the six hour drive thoroughly enjoyable as we viewed the wild and varied scenery of the Scottish Highlands, but the Isle itself is breathtakingly beautiful.  Here are a few shots of our time there–if only pictures could do it justice!

Neist Point Lighthouse in the background

We saw LOTS of these

Julian at the Neist Point Lighthouse

"Excavating" a 2000 year old dwelling on the northern coast of Skye

Boats at Portree Harbour

After a satisfying dinner of fish and chips

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Around Edinburgh

When visitors are in town we have a good excuse to play tourists in our own town.  Over the last week we’ve enjoyed the company of friends from college who are moving just north of us to St. Andrews for his PhD studies.  So, here are a few pictures of the fun activities that we enjoyed around Edinburgh.

Hiking blustery Arthur's Seat seven months to the day after the previous time, the day before Julian was born.

Hiking blustery Arthur's Seat seven months to the day after the previous time, the day before Julian was born.

Caribbean? Nope--Tyninghame, on the North Sea east of Edinburgh

Caribbean? Nope--Tyninghame, on the North Sea east of Edinburgh

The Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth is a former prison and summer holiday spot.  Today it's a bird sanctuary, and the birds have white-washed the top with their droppings.

The Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth is a former prison and summer holiday spot. Today it's a bird sanctuary, and the birds have white-washed the top with their droppings.

Colourful tidepool at Tyninghame

Colourful tidepool at Tyninghame


Poking around Princes Street Garden on a drizzly afternoon.

Poking around Princes Street Garden on a drizzly afternoon.

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Well, last Saturday morning we said a sad goodbye to Christopher’s parents who had been with us for  two weeks.  We had such a wonderful time enjoying the sights of Edinburgh and the surrounding area, catching up a bit and, not least, taking a week long trip to Paris together to visit some family.  It was refreshing to get away, and ahh…Paris in the Springtime…what could be better?  Here are a few shots of our time together.

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Well, in the three (almost four!) weeks since we last posted we’ve enjoyed a variety of activities.  Most fun was the week long visit with Julian’s Aunt Sharalyn.  One day, after we locked both sets of keys in the flat, we ventured out on the #41 bus to the nearby village of Cramond for an afternoon of exploration and for the refreshment of being out of the city.  We also enjoyed a lot of good chats, long walks around Edinburgh, tasty meals, including our first experience with Bangladeshi food…all told, a lovely time.

Aside from Sharalyn’s visit, these weeks have seen a continued effort to establish a routine life that’s peppered with interest.  One memorable experience was Julian’s first academic encounter, a lecture by the renowned physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne.  The subject was the intersection between science and faith, a fascinating subject well worth our time.  But also fascinating was that of the nearly 100 in attendance, two people slept soundly:  Julian and a fellow that uncannily resembled Dr. Doolittle (as played by Rex Harrison).

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With Blairgowrie as our homebase, we took a day trip up the A93 to the town of Braemar.  The pictures here are of Braemar Castle and Balmoral Castle.

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So, apparently we’ve been a bit tied up lately.  Christopher is studying hard trying to make as much progress as possible in the next two weeks before D-day.  I spend my days defining dictionary words until I go cross-eyed or until I fall asleep at my desk.  It’s really a pretty good deal, considering I can complete all my work while putting in only 5-6 hours, four days a week.  Much better than 40 hour weeks with a commute each way!

Last night we had our first snow that actually stuck.  While most of Great Britain suffered it’s worst winter storm in 17 years last weekend, Edinburgh got only a light dusting of snow that that wouldn’t even stick to the ground.  Last night, however, it began to snow unexpectedly and started accumulating immediately.  It was a lovely treat to wake up to this morning to a good coating of snow on everything.  Granted, it’s not that much–just enough to give everything that enchanted, snowy look.

Two weekends ago we were given the opportunity to have a wee vacation in a little town called Blairgowrie an hour and a half north of Edinburgh.  Some very kind people from our church thought we might enjoy a weekend away together before we welcome another person into our family, so they offered us use of their vacation flat as well as their car to get up there.  Christopher enjoyed the opportunity to drive on the “wrong” side of the road for the first time and, I might add, did a fine job.   The hardest part for him was, I think, either trying to judge the distance to the left curb or figure out how to maneuvre the roundabouts.  With the help of a repetitive mantra that we recited each time he had to turn, he was able to turn into the correct lane each time (i.e., NOT turn into oncoming traffic which was his instinct). All in all, it went just fine.  We even started to enjoy it after a while.

We enjoyed four restful days in the very comfortable, warm flat.  There was a lovely view from the front of a river surrounded by trees and a tall green hill just in the distance.  While we had talked about doing lots of sightseeing since we had the use of a car, once we got there, we hardly wanted to leave.  So, we lounged around a lot reading, talking, cooking delicious food and watching Planet Earth. And, I got to paint with the oil colors C gave me for Christmas.

We did get out some, though.  One day we drove up into the surrounding highlands to the town of Braemar.  It was a beautiful drive, usually green, but we hit a good snow on the way up, so most of the scenery was dusted with white.  We enjoyed hopping the fence and exploring the deserted Braemar castle, which, while officially closed for the winter, nevertheless provided lots of interest.  Christopher nearly scaled the wall, and would no doubt have succeceded, had I not nearly iced over from the chill.  He very chivalrously let us return to the warm car.

We took a little detour just about 5 miles up the road from there to have a peek at Balmoral castle (the holiday residence of the royal family).  Our rarely-indulged touristy inclinations, were not too well satisfied, though, since the castle isn’t actually visible from the driveway.  However, we can enthusiastically vouch for the attractiveness of the sturdy, wrought-iron gate that we enjoyed looking at for several minutes.  Actually, on our drive back toward Braemar, we got a good view through the trees of the top half of the castle, so there–it wasn’t a completely wasted mission!

Another day we drove through the bustling city of Dundee and on up the coast to Arbroath, a town where they have discovered Pictish settlements from about 3500 BC.  We didn’t have a chance to go see the archaeologcial exhibits, but we did enjoy wandering around the ruins of a 12th century abbey and taking a walk along an incrediblely wild and rugged coastal trail.  It was so refreshing to see the ocean (or rather, the North Sea) stretching out further than the eye can see.  There’s something about seeing water like that–so massive and powerful–that makes me feel really small in kind of a comforting way.  In moments like those I feel like any delusions I ever had about having control over my life seem suddenly humourous.  I guess it’s good to be reminded of that from time to time, and even to find that sometimes there is freedom in being powerless. 

Hopefully we’ll have a chance to post some pictures soon!

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And, we’re off!

Just a little update.  Our extended stay in Orlando has finally come to a close.  We’re now sitting at the airport waiting to catch the first flight of our journey, and if all goes according to plan, we’ll be in Edinburgh at this time tomorrow.  Our first great relief of the day is that our bags were successfully checked all the way through, and the lady who helped us at the airline even let us exceed our weight limits by a few pounds.  She kept encouraging us to empty heavy things from our carry-ons into our checked luggage so we’d have less to carry around!  I for one am really grateful that my carry-on bags are now possible for me to lift.  

Many thanks for the kind comments so far!

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