Archive for the ‘General’ Category

No Place like Home…..   1 comment

Well I’m finally home, or course, and because of the hectic last day in Scotland,  the trip home and not being able to post that last day, I felt I really needed to added one last posting regarding our trip.

Friday, we checked out early from our lodgings and headed up to Dunfermline.  Dunfermline was Scotland’s capitol until 1603 and there is located the Abbey Church and ruins of the Palace.  Within the Abbey are the tombs of 22 Scottish Kings and Queens, including that of Robert the Bruce.  It was a MUST SEE Historical site for me, so that was our first stop……annnnddd….it was closed……….major bummer!!!  We wandered around the grounds of the Abbey and looked over the fence at the ruins of the Castle but that was as close as we were able to get…..

After that disappointment we headed up to Dunkeld as we made our way toward our ultimate destination–the Enchanted Forest.  Dunkeld is a beautiful little village on the River Tay.  My favorite musician, Dougie Maclean lives nearby–didn’t see him–but it was great to be in his home town and see the places he talks about.   Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos…it was POURING rain when we got there and I didn’t want to take the chance on getting my camera soaked.  So we just heading off walking through town, visiting spots and finally ended up at the Dunkeld Cathedral, went inside and viewed all the items of interest–including the memorial to Neil Gow– one of the most famous Fiddlers ever and one of my favorite musicians.  He is buried on the grounds of the cathedral.  While we were in the Cathedral, the rain stopped and the sun came out–we walked outside and were greeted with some of the most breathtaking scenes of our entire time in Scotland……aaannddd….my camera was in the car clear at the other end of town…  We decided to walk back in hopes of retrieving it and coming back but on the way the clouds closed back in and the rain resumed….bummer again……  Well, it is a memory that I will treasure regardless.

We finally ended up in Pitlochry, where we were to be able to see the Enchanted Forest in the evening.  It was a great little town also and we were able to relax a bit, have a final meal at a local pub and then board the bus that would take us to the Enchanted Forest.

The Enchanted Forest is something that I had heard about a couple of years ago and thought it would be so great to see something like that.  It is located just outside Pitlochry in Faskally Wood, in Perthshire’s Big Tree Country.  It draws over 20,000 visitors each year for it’s approximately 3 week run.  With all the rain that we were getting that day, we were really afraid that it might be canceled but that evening before we were scheduled to attend, the rain ceased and the skies opened up to the most brilliant display of stars above the canopy of the forest.  It made for a cold (37 degrees) but beautiful evening and the lights and music of the displays at the Enchanted Forest were wonderful.  I was able to get some photos and will post these in the slide show at the end of this blog.

We had hoped that the trip home would have been peaceful and uneventful…not the case….it was near as bad as the flight out–I’ll spare you the details, I haven’t got the energy to write about it now.

Being in Scotland was one of the greatest experiences of my life…it’s hard to believe I’m back in the US now–it went by so fast.  We saw so very many things, places and breathtaking scenes, and at the same time missed so many other things that we would have liked to see because of time constraints or lack of daylight….or closed for the season time changes….  MAYBE someday I’ll be able to go back again.  I never thought I’ve ever have the opportunity to go in the first place, yet I did.  That certainly is an encouragement that it could be possible to visit again….hmmm…better get my list of places I want to see started…..

But another thing that really made it special and worthwhile was the fact that I was able to spend this time with my boys and enjoy all of it together.  I will be eternally grateful to my son, Ryan, who made the dream-come-true.  “We’re gonna do it, Dad!!” and we did….Thanks, buddy, I love you!!

Thanks for following along on the blog.  I’m glad I spent the time recording some of our travels and photos–maybe it will encourage you to fulfill some dream that you’ve had of something you’ve always wanted to do or go see.  If so I’m happy for you–it could lead you to one of the greatest experiences of your life as well….

Aye!

Howie

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Almost time to come home…   2 comments

This might be my last post before coming home.  Tomorrow we will be checking out of our lodging and heading up to the Pitlockry area to see the sights and finish up with the Enchanted Forest.  I may try to post something more while I wait around in the airport if WiFi is available–I’m certainly going to have plenty of time on my hands as our flight doesn’t leave until 6 am.  So we’ll see what happens.

Today it was raining steadily and we were rather beat.  So, we just decided to go back to the Royal Mile and do a little more browsing around in the shops to see if there was anything we wanted to get.  We found a used bookstore and I found a treasure that I never expected to find.  Ben and I were both looking for Gaelic Bibles but were unsuccessful.  The bookstore owner went in a back room to double check and came out saying, “No, I could’na find a Gaelic but I do have this..”  It was a New Testament in Scots!!  I couldn’t believe it—I’ve looked for those, even on the internet and could only find one book–the book of Mark–that had been translated.  But here was an entire New Testament, translated from the Greek into Scots!!  HUGE Thrill for me!!!  Scots is the language of the people, the local vernacular, the language that Robert Burns wrote his poems in.  Major find–treasure–for me!!!

Ben found a can of Vegetarian Haggis…debated long and hard whether to get it or not.  In the end decided not to–who wants Fake Haggis, and he sure-as-heck wasn’t about to try the real thing…….(if you don’t know how it’s made, look it up–I don’t want to spoil the surprise….you’ll understand then why it’s served with Whisky… 🙂 )

One of the things I bought today was a box of “Glengoyne, Handmade Single Highland Malt Whisky Fudge”!!  Made with 1% Whisky.  Does that mean if I’ve eaten 20 of these things I’ve had 20% Whisky??  They sure are (were) good!!

We will be in the Perthshire area tomorrow–probably my most favorite area in all of Scotland so I am really looking forward to it.  It is a beautiful forested area and with the Autumn colours I’m sure it will be stunning.  So far the weather looks good for tomorrow.  I’m hoping it will be so for just one more day.  The Highland Perthshire Autumn Festival is going on in the area so there will be plenty to do and see as we wait for our scheduled 7:15 pm ticket time to go see the Enchanted Forest.

Not much else to add for right now, so I think I’ll finish packing and head for bed.  Have missed everyone at home.  Have enjoyed having a chance to keep in touch via this blog and hope you’ve enjoyed it as well.  Never done anything like this but thought it would be fun–it was 🙂

I DO miss family and friends, but at the same time it’s with a feeling of sadness that I will now be leaving Scotland.  I can’t express to you what this has meant to me, or how grateful I am that Ryan wanted to do this for me (brings tears to my eyes thinking about it even now).  With Ben working as a Paramedic in Nebraska and not having seen him since last Christmas, it has been wonderful to have spent all this time with him as well.

It’s been a great time and Scotland has been all I thought it would be and more–much much more!!  It’s been wonderful to have had the chance to come “home”—-it’ll be great to be home.  Looking forward to seeing everyone soon.  God bless you all.

Howie

The Highlands, part 1   8 comments

Well, we’re finally back in Edinburgh now.  We didn’t have internet access where we were yesterday so I’m trying to play catch-up here.  Don’t know how much I’ll write tonight but wanted to post something.  I’ll make this Part 1.

Yesterday morning we took off early and headed up through Scotland to visit Eilean Donan Castle, in Glen Shiel.  The Castle is the stronghold of the Clan Macraes, and having a grandmother that was a Macrae was of particular interest to us.  The castle is one of the most photographed monuments in all of Scotland—and for good reason.  We were once again surprised that it wasn’t as large as we thought it would be, but nonetheless extremely impressive.  Needless to say, we took TONS of photos of this castle from every conceivable angle and lighting conditions.  Ryan and I even went out after dark and took photos at night.  Weather was still bad and we had lots of rain but we did as much as we could under the conditions.

One thing I have to mention is that we have been saying how beautiful the countryside is using words like breathtaking, etc……well on our trip up to the highlands we reached new levels of breathtaking!!!  Once we got to the highlands our vocabulary became limited to words like…WHOA!!!….WOW!!!…AHHH!!!…LOOK AT THAT!!!!….and other grunts and neanderthal-type sounds…..it was BEYOND Breathtaking!!!

Before we got to Eilean Donan, we went through Inverness and then made a stop at Lock Ness and visited Urquhart Castle.  (No, we didn’t see the monster….however I will be carefully checking my photos just in case… 🙂 )  It is a beautiful (duh..) place and the history of the castle is really interesting.  Here is a Panorama I took while there:

After spending a while there we headed off to Eilean Donan.  We got a room at a little hotel there just a stone’s throw away from the castle, and believe it or not turned out to be the ONLY guests at the hotel that night.  Everywhere we go the people are wonderful and make us feel right at home.

One of the things we found interesting was that the further north we got the more we found that the road signs included the place directions in Gaelic as well as English.  Having studied Gaelic, myself, I found this quite enjoyable to see.  We also saw something we don’t usually see in the US—road signs to watch for Sheep!!

The sheep that you see all around in the pastures are quite picturesque and interesting to see but gives me a bitter-sweet sad feeling.  During the heyday of the clan system, tenants paid their land-holding chieftains rent in the form of military service.  However, with the destruction of the clan system after the Battle of Culloden, landowners began to demand a financial rent, which their tenants were unable to afford, and the land was gradually bought up by Lowland and English farmers.  In what became known as “the year of the sheep” (1792), thousands of tenants were evicted, forcibly and brutally, to make way for livestock.  Many emigrated to Australia, America and Canada.  The ruins of their crofts can still be seen in many areas.  It was a very sad and dark period of Scotland’s history.   I have read extensively about this period, so seeing the sheep brought many mixed emotions.  The clearances lasted well into the late 1800s.  The widespread evictions resulting from the Clearances severely affected the Highland population and culture.  To this day the Highland population is sparse and the culture is diluted, and there are many more sheep than people.  Seeing the Highlands and knowing the history as I do brought a sadness to my heart.

OK, sorry, history lesson side-trip over.  Here’s a panorama I took of the Castle before it got dark:

And, of course here is a shot that I took at night, followed by the slide show of a collection of photos taken while we headed up and of the sites we visited.  Next post I’ll try to continue about what we saw and did on our trip to the Highlands.  Hope you are enjoying these.

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The Border Country   2 comments

So glad to have the internet working again.  We had a great time again, yesterday.  We just spent the day touring the Royal Mile and checking out all the shops.  Even stopped in at a pub for dinner.  Of course I had to have some REAL Fish & Chips and was VERY surprised when they brought it out to have the fish portion the whole side of a large fish!!!–but it was terrific!!

Spent some time in St. Giles Cathedral where John Knox used to preach.  VERY impressive.  I was so caught up with taking photos I forgot to take some time to get up in the pulpit to get a feel for what it must have been like—as a minister I always find taking some time to stand where so many others have stood to deliver God’s Word very moving.  I’ll have to remember to do that later.  To stand where John Knox once stood…..

I’ll include photos from yesterday with the slide show collection from today.

Today however…..we decided to get away from the city.  Our first stop was Rosslyn Chapel–made famous by the book and movie, “The Da Vinci Code”.  I’ve known about this place since I was a kid–long before the book ever came out.  The Georges are a sept of the Clan Gunn, and the Gunns have been closely associated with the Sinclairs–who built Rosslyn, so that is why I wanted to see it.  It was extremely interesting–you could spend days studying the carvings.  All so very different and unique.  But the thing that surprised me the most was it’s size.  It was MUCH smaller than I had expected it to be!!

Unfortunately, photography on the inside is not allowed and the outside, with scaffolding and construction items for the preservation work, did not lend itself to attractive photos but I took a couple anyway.

Headed out to tour the Border Abbeys after Rosslyn.  Now I had always heard that the pace of life was a little slower over here but on the way we came across a sign that brought that notion to ridiculous extremes….

REALLY…you’ve got to be kidding….

But then later we saw a sign for a CRAWLING Lane….

The first Abby we visited was the Melrose Abbey.  Built in 1136,  one of the significant things at this Abbey is that this is where the heart of Robert the Bruce is buried.

We next visited Jedburgh Abbey.  Established in 1138 with 9th-century Celtic stonework that survives from an earlier structure.  We tried to get to Dryburgh Abbey, where Sir Walter Scott is buried but we didn’t make it in time–they had just closed.  So we decided to go up to Scott’s View and catch some photos before the sun went down.

If we have time we’d like to come down here again.  The Border Region is breathtakingly beautiful—especially now with the Fall colors.  Sometimes we were so amazed by the beauty that we would forget to take photos……

Ryan and Ben are doing a great job driving, and I’m actually happy for them to drive–I get to see more that way and I don’t want to miss anything.  One thing is for sure—GPS is a MUST!!  Makes traveling SOOOO much nicer.

Well, the guys want on the computer so I’ll add a slide show of photos from the past couple days and turn the laptop over to them….

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Posted October 30, 2010 by Howard George in Abbeys, Border Regions, General, Scotland

Calton Hill   3 comments

Didn’t do a lot today.  Slept in–needed that!  Then around noon we decided to go exploring a little down in Edinburgh.  Ryan was voted in as driver again…once we got into downtown proper, we were glad he was–with his superior experience over Ben and I (1 days worth, that is).  It would have been bad enough had we been driving on the right-side of the road but having to navigate in streets undergoing construction, taxis zipping around in mad-capped fashion, the dreaded round-a-bouts every 3 blocks–it seems like, etc, etc.  The most unnerving things it seems is pedestrians crossing the streets just where-ever they want to and you don’t know whether they are going to walk out in front of you or not.  Added to that, we’ve discovered that you can park on either side of the road facing either direction!!  VERY unnerving—you turn down a street and you don’t know if you’re on a one-way street or not sometimes.  At one point we suddenly had an Ambulance with Blue lights and siren on our tail!!!  We didn’t know which way to pull over, it happened so fast–in the middle of Edinburgh–but somehow we managed to get out of the way.

We’ve discovered that the locals know we’re tourists…..there’s a sticker on the back of our car that says “Arnold Clarke”–our car rental place.  We occasionally get “helpful” warning honks to let us know we’re doing or about to do something wrong….ah….we assume…..

What we decided to do today was to go up to Calton Hill, which overlooks Edinburgh with some spectacular views of the city, New Town, the Port of Leith, the Forth River, Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat, etc.  Took us awhile to figure out, once again, just how to get there—this time WITH the GPS, but we finally made it.

Took some photos and am posting a number of them here for you today—can’t vouch because I’m processing these on my Netbook.  Will have to wait until I can get home and process them properly on my computer.  But here are a few for your viewing:

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Today has just been kind of a take-it-easy day to just recoup from the trip over.  Not sure what we’re doing yet tomorrow.  Better close this post and get to planning that……..

Cheers!!  (new word I learned  🙂 )

Howie

Posted October 28, 2010 by Howard George in Calton Hill, Edinburgh, General, HDR, Scotland

We made it…..sort of…..   6 comments

Well, we finally made it.  We’re in Edinburgh now.   I got up at 2:30 am on Tuesday, the 26th, to finalize things before heading out to the airport and it is now 11:00 pm, the 27th, Edinburgh time…..I’m beat, tired and exhausted.

Valerie dropped Ryan and I off at the San Francisco International Terminal in plenty of time for our “direct flight” to Amsterdam only to discover that our flight had a stop in Minneapolis…therefore not direct, not international and NOT in that terminal…..fortunately we got there early so we had time to walk, take a tram, etc, to finally get where we needed to be to check in.

The flight was uneventful until we got to Minneapolis and hit that huge storm that was going through the Midwest.  They told us that the airport was down to only 1 runway so we had to circle around for awhile until it was our turn to land.  Storm was really bad and winds were gusting up to 50 mph.  Many flights were being delayed in the area.  On the ground we were able to get in touch with Ben.  His flight out of Omaha had been delayed and it turned out that his “direct flight” to Amsterdam was ALSO making a stop in Minneapolis, but that it would be after we had already left.

When it came time to board our flight we ended up having to sit there in the plane at the terminal for about 2 hours.  One of their computers was acting up, they couldn’t fix it and needed a replacement.  Once that was completed we were finally able to taxi out for take off…but they couldn’t find anyone to push our plane out….so we had to wait another half hour for someone to do that.  Eventually we were number 1 in the takeoff spot and ready to go, when the Captain came on the speaker, said their computer was acting up again and that we had to go back to the terminal to get it fixed.  So back we went and there we sat for another hour and a half.  All this while, it was really amazing how this huge plane was being rocked back and forth and buffeted by the winds—while we were still on the ground!!  Pretty soon, the Captain came on again, “Sorry folks we can’t fix the computer, we need to put you on another plane.”  So back into the terminal we went to sit and wait….some more…..

In the meantime, Ben’s delayed flight arrived at Minneapolis and since our plane was only about half full–because of the winds the didn’t want to fill it—we were able to get Delta to transfer him to our flight so we could all be together for the rest of the trip.  THAT was GREAT!!!!

Another hour and a half goes by and finally a new plane pulls up for us to get on.  Woo Hoo!!…..nope….now it turns out that the flight crew had reached their FAA 16 hr limit of on duty time and they had to get us another flight crew.  So we had to wait another hour or so until they could get someone to fly us “across the pond”….

Our flight WAS scheduled to leave at 3:30 pm…..we finally boarded to leave at 11:30 pm……  Then another wonderful surprise….the stewardesses began handing out airsickness bags to everyone.  They said that the first hour and a half was going to be really rough and that they were even going to be strapped in and not allowed out of their seats…….FORTUNATELY that didn’t turn out to be the case.  It was bumpy, but not as bad as what it could have been.

Got to Amsterdam, and of course had to be re-booked because our scheduled flight was long gone.  We were scheduled to have arrived in Edinburgh around 10 am, but arrived after 6 pm.  All week long the weather I was checking on the internet was predicting “Brilliant Sunshine”…..well….it was there….but above the rain clouds…..all we had below those clouds was rain.  No worries, though, we were (are) in Scotland!!!

We got our rental car.  Got printed-out directions to our lodgings and headed out.  Ryan was the “guinea pig” to test out driving on the left side of the road while Ben and I “navigated”……picture being in a strange setting, in the dark, in the rain, disoriented, getting honked at and every couple of miles coming upon these demonic creations called “Round-a-bouts”…….yup, you guessed it….SOMEWHERE we made a wrong turn and got hopelessly lost.  Fortunately we had the “good sense” to get a GPS for the rental car so we decided to pull over, read the directions and try to use that to figure out where we had to go….believe it or not while we were pulled over trying to figure out the GPS unit, someone pulled up next to us to ask for directions!!!!

So why didn’t we use the GPS from the beginning??….ah…well….ah…it’s a “guy thing”—you know the “thrill of the chase”, “we’re not lost–we still got gas”….you know, one of those mysteries of life….

Anyway it turns out that this GPS unit must only take you on the “scenic route”—we were going all through Old Town areas, little neighborhoods, down narrow brick streets barely wide enough for one car.  Finally after a hour or more we suddenly happened upon our place we were going to stay.

It’s been an exhausting couple of days, but quite an adventure.  Plus for me, being in Scotland is literally a dream-come-true.  As far back as I can remember I have been in love with Scotland and have always wished that “some day” I could go visit the place my family came from.  I read everything I can get my hands on about Scotland.  I know it’s history, music and arts as well as I know that of my own country.   Something about it has always drawn me and even though I never really believed I would ever be able to actually GO to Scotland, it still holds this special place in my heart.  Being here is REALLY Big for me, and being able to share it with my boys is even better!!!  I really look forward to seeing all the things I’ve read about, studied and dreamed about.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.  I’m going to savor every moment.

Sorry no pictures yet….hope to have some soon. But right now I’ve got to get to bed…I’m REEAALLYYY Tired……….

Aye,

Howie

Posted October 27, 2010 by Howard George in Edinburgh, General, Scotland

Starting Things with a Bang!   5 comments

Well, here goes…..

I’m starting a new blog where I can stay in touch with friends and family and have a place to share items from my photography.

My sons are taking me to Scotland in October and I was trying to decide on what might be a good way to keep in touch with everyone at home while we’re on our trip.  Not everyone has Facebook and emails can be limiting.  I thought that a blog might be pretty cool.  I could post photos and write about what we’re doing and seeing—-and you could leave comments for us if you like.

So, that is how this came about.  After our trip I’ll probably continue posting things from time to time that are photography related.  We’ll see how it goes.  Anyway, I hope that it will be something that you will enjoy and might even want to share with others.

Howie

Posted September 13, 2010 by Howard George in General

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