Archive for December, 2015

31
Dec

Hogmanay Joy

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Thursday, 31 December 2015. Hogmanay. New Year’s Eve.

Fireworks

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Fifteen.

What an incredible day!  Another beautiful breakfast by Erlend and Helene started our morning.  Then, a lovely walk through the nearby St. Cuthbert’s Cemetery, appreciating architecture and stone carving and trees and … life.  We took some photos along the way and eventually got to the Edinburgh Christmas Market. On Princes Street Roxy had decided she really wanted to visit the National Gallery, so she left us there and we enjoyed shopping, tried most of the drinks (especially the warm ones) that they had to offer, and at about three or three-thirty we made our way to the Guildford Arms.

The Guildford Arms is an absolutely beautiful Victorian pub in a style I’ve seen referred to as a “gin lounge.”  It is fairly large and very impressive, as is its beer selection.  They have a small restaurant on the second floor.  We love it on New Year’s Eve day, because we have found it’s just far enough off the beaten path that it’s not as busy as most, and if we get there early enough, we can get a table and pretty much take up residence until we are ready to venture into the fray. Today was no exception. Roxy met us there and we enjoyed some beer and cider and chips, and I wrote post cards and we relaxed, until it was time for the Street Party.

We were really hungry by then, so our first objective was food.  MaritaBeth was determined to have her Angus Burger, so we headed that way, met Chris and Jen at the Christmas Market and got the food we needed to get us through the night.  We enjoyed the general ambiance of the Street Party for a while, watching the crowd continue to build.  Chris and Jen had Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee; means big musical party with set dancing) tickets, so we said farewell to them and we headed to the stage where we knew we wanted to spend most of our time.  Ru-Ran was already playing and was a very pleasant new treat.  Mandi and Roxy went off to have their own adventures, while we stayed put.  We had a great time listening to Peatbog Fairies and Shooglenifty–two bands we’re very fond of, after seeing them for the first time at the Milwaukee Irish Fest.  We made our way (that was interesting in the crowd of thousands) to meet Roxy and Mandi at the appointed place just before midnight, and we were all together for the AMAZING fireworks to welcome the New Year. My bonus (and my favorite) photo of the day is of Roxy and Mandi and Kyle during those fabulous fireworks. Hogmanay Joy I was enjoying them myself, and happened to turn around and see all of them looking up with childlike faces full of joy–it was too precious not to capture. We sang Auld Lang Syne, smooched, and then waited a bit for the throngs to disperse a bit.  We went back to the stage for a few minutes, but the cold won out and we didn’t last long.

Number 2 Cambridge Street was a welcome sight after all evening on our feet. We got comfy, opened a couple of bottles to share, and were visiting in the library when Helene and Erlend came home from their NYE event and joined us for a little while.

We are rather pleased to see 2015 end.  2016 holds promise and excitement.

To all our friends and family we wish you a joy-filled new year!

Happy Hogmanay!

~MB

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31
Dec

Christmas Lights and Torchlights

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas Tree in an Edinburgh Close

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Fourteen

I can hardly believe it’s been two weeks since we got here.  The time is flying by so quickly, it’s completely incredible to me.

We slept a little later than usual this morning, and got up in time for a delicious breakfast created by our hosts.  Kyle and I had a fabulous omelette topped with salmon and creme freche. Breakfasts here are truly beautiful.  Served in the library, the coffee and tea, sugar and cream are all in gorgeous silver.  Salt and pepper are in tiny cellars with tiny spoons. The china is blue and white, Delft-style, and the table linens are spotless and perfectly white. And, when the candles get lit, the whole scene sparkles.

Roxy awoke not feeling well this morning, and so missed breakfast and bowed out of the first outing of the day. But, she was already hungry before we left the house, so we are sure she’ll be back on track, soon.

Our first destination today was the Brew Dog Pub on Cowgate.  And, in making that plan official, I realized that my favorite little hat shop–Fabhatrix–was right along the way.  So, we stopped there first…Mandi and Kyle waited for me and offered their opinions when I asked, and then I encouraged them to go on ahead without me, while I made my final decision. I ended up adopting a fabulous little burgundy wool hat that is charmingly asymmetrical; I added some wonderful little tartan embellishments, and I love it!

I joined them at the pub and helped finish a beer or two, and then we went in search of the Italian restaurant that one of Mandi’s friends had very highly recommended–Ecco Vino. We each had a delightful meal and were thus fortified for come what may! We went next to Deacon Brodie’s–a very popular pub on the Royal Mile.  It was like pretty much everyplace we saw–crowded.  But, we knew that the longer into the evening we wandered about, the more crowded everyplace would get, so we went on in, ordered pints, and waited for our chance to snag a table.  That chance came when a random older gentleman who had gone for another pint, returned to his seat and instead of sitting, he offered the chair to MaritaBeth.  After the usual “where are ye from?” conversation, the man told MaritaBeth she had “style” … and that’s why she had a chair!  There was much laughter. Those folks left soon thereafter, and Mandi and Kyle took seats.  We were hoping Chris and Jen would join us, but we kept missing each other and soon it was time for them to line up for the procession–yep, they decided to buy torches and do the two-mile walk.  So, we made plans to meet later in the evening.

When the procession started, we finished up in the pub and walked along with it for a while … taking a few photos and stopping to marvel at the spectacle and just the incredible number of people with torches!  We had magical memories of our first Hogmanay in Edinburgh in 2008, and how the lit torches wind through town and create what looks like a river of fire.  And, again tonight–magic! There is no way that photographs (especially mine) can ever do it justice.  We walked all the way to Princes Street and nearly half way to the foot of Calton Hill.  The torch bearers, of course, go all the way behind and then up onto the hill.  There were so many people walking this year that an announcement was made that Calton Hill had reached capacity and that torch bearers should stop moving up the hill. As the street filled and compacted with light, we made our way back off Princes Street and onto the North Bridge where we knew we’d have a good view of the fireworks.  When the last torches had moved far enough up the street, the fireworks show started.  We watched it, and then headed back to the High Street and eventually made our way to a restaurant to meet Chris and Jen.  (They had walked the whole procession all the way to the top of Calton Hill, extinguished their torches and walked all the way to the High Street to find that some folks were still waiting to start the walk!)

Dinner was very good, except for a few missing oysters (ask Chris sometime about his almost oyster-less Beef and Oyster Pie.) After dinner, we were of course, not really ready for the evening to fully wind down, so we all headed to the World’s End Pub, so named because it sits on the site of the original city wall and as such, was quite literally the end of the world for many people for centuries.

We had a couple of rounds there, and then walked up the street a ways together, finally allowing the night to end with hugs and promises for tomorrow. Tomorrow is the big Hogmanay Street Party! Tonight we sleep!

My photo today, incidentally, is actually from yesterday… I was too busy living today to remember to use my camera!

~MB

 

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29
Dec

2 Cambridge Street

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Our Host, Erlend

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Thirteen.

We’re home .. or so it feels!  Edinburgh has long since been our favorite large city on the planet.  And tonight, we sleep within her walls.

My photo is of our charming host, Erlend Clouston, who with his lovely wife Helene, owns Number Two Cambridge Street, here, in the shadow of the Castle and Castle Rock. We stayed here in 2008, the first time we came to Edinburgh for Hogmanay.  In 2012, Erlend referred us to another wonderful B&B because his house was not going to be taking guests for that season. We did get to have a lovely afternoon tea with Erlend and Helene on that visit, and we knew it wouldn’t be our last.  So, when we started earnestly planning this trip I reached out to them, not really expecting it to work out due to our need for two rooms.  But, the nearly immediate response was a resounding  “yes!”  They would absolutely book two rooms for us on our four days in Edinburgh.

Our drive down from Dundee was absolutely lovely. The Kingdom of Fife, as it is called, is an area where we have never spent time, and we were quite impressed with its beauty.  Lots of rolling hills, farmland, and sheep, like much of the country; and the little towns we saw were all lovely. We took one small detour into the town of Falkland to see the historic Tudor era Falkland Palace. Although closed to tourists at this time of year, we took a few photos and logged it in our memories as a place to visit again during the open season.

On down the road, we had a luncheon date planned with friends of Roxy’s … so we made our way to a retail park in Dumfermline and located a Marstons’ restaurant with potential called The Sweet Chestnut.  Moments later, we were introduced to a lovely family who even brought us presents of cute little stuffed British critters (mine is a hedgehog named Hamish who will most certainly take up his Texas residence upon the dashboard of my truck). We enjoyed our lunch, took pictures of the bunny outside our window, and began the last leg of the day’s drive–across the newly re-opened Firth of Forth Bridge and into the City of Edinburgh.Bunny

After arriving at 2 Cambridge Street, and having a delightful “spot of tea” in the library while catching up a bit with Erlend and discussing plans for our time in Edinburgh, we ventured out and up!  Out to the Grassmarket area (which is actually down)…where we popped in and out of some of our favorite pubs: The Beehive Inn, The Last Drop, Biddy Mulligan’s, and then up the hill to The Bow Bar. All of the pubs were very busy and in the last spot we never were able to even score a table.  So, we headed on up to the Royal Mile and began to look to our food options.  Roxy and Mandi ended up choosing an Indian restaurant, and Kyle and I found a new spot that impressed us a lot–Whiskey Dram.  It is a narrow doorway on the High Street leading to a flight of stairs down to another door.  Inside that door, is a very small, beautifully decorated restaurant of perhaps twelve tables, with a bar at one end. We were very quickly greeted and upon learning that we did not have an advance booking, the young man said he’d check on table availability.  He returned momentarily and told us he had one table for us, but only for an hour and fifteen minutes.  Since we really had less than an hour until another arranged meeting time, we said that was perfect and followed him to the last table in the back corner.  He took our order for starters and drinks–Kyle had venison haggis and I opted for smoked trout–and we were both delighted with the service and the food that came. We were able to finish quickly enough to be only a minute or two late to our next spot: The Devil’s Advocate.

Another place that is new since our last trip here, this establishment is a fun mix of old and new. It’s down the wide steps of the Advocate’s Close and housed in one of the High Street’s centuries-old buildings.  But, inside, it is dark and spot-lit in modern fashion.  The tables are old wood, but hand-crafted recently … the bar and bar back are shiny and black and glass.  The stairs up and the terrace outside were industrial metalwork, and the tables there were modern fabricated metal. The bartenders were amazing and although the place was packed to the gills (we sat outside in order to sit at all), they were polite and kept their act classy.

We might have discovered it on our own, of course, but we were there because we were meeting our friends Chris and Jen, there, and Chris had chosen the spot.  They’ve been on holiday about as long as we have this month, but they have spent their time until now in Paris, Bruges, and Prague.  They arrived here in Edinburgh yesterday, as we did, and the plan is for the six of us to pal around together while we’re here. Making great memories is what it’s all about!

Outdoor liquor licensing here is additional to the regular bar licensing, so we were moved indoors at 10 p.m.  We finished our drinks and thought we’d move on to another pub, but, between the day’s travels and the large crowds, we didn’t find a place that beckoned to us.  We walked up the hill a-ways, and ultimately hugged our goodnights with plans to meet again tomorrow. Our little foursome did stop one more time as we had to walk by it anyway, at The Castle Arms for one last round, before going down, over, and up again, to our little home away from home.

Tired and happy, now–first sleep in Edinburgh.

~MB

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28
Dec

The Farthest North Ever!

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Monday, 28 December 2015

The North SeaFishing Boats

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Twelve.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … A Lifetime First …the opportunity to go farther north than either of us had ever been before!  Parts of Alaska are farther south than we were, today!

We left the lovely Newburgh Inn and headed truly due north.  Kyle battled extreme winds all day as he drove and was amazing behind the wheel. Our first milestone stop was in Fraserburgh. If you look at a map of Britain and notice that there are two bulges on the northeast side … the top one is a summer time-only trip, and we hope to do that someday.  The second one is where we were today!  Aberdeenshire, the county in that corner of the world, is wilder and rougher than most parts of Scotland we’ve seen.  With the wind we dealt with today, it even seemed more exposed and untamed than the parts of the Highlands we’ve visited in the past.  No big hills or mountains … just fields and crags … and at the end of the road north: The North Sea.  The town of Fraserburgh seems to be mostly a world of boats and fishing.  I think we saw every type imaginable of businesses having to with boats. And so many boats in relatively small spaces that it must be like a game of Tetris at the end of the fishing season, to get them all safely situated like what we saw today.  But, the highlight of the adventure was the Kinnaird Head Castle Lighthouse.  Built in the 16th century for the Fraser family, the lighthouse was added to the castle in 1787. Unfortunately, the information we had found online was incorrect, and the place was not open for tours today, after all.  But, we enjoyed a self-tour of the outside and the grounds … which included a fairly up-close and personal look at the cold North Sea.

Without traveling far to the west, there is no farther north we could go, so we turned and headed back south, but this time along the coast, instead of up the center of Aberdeenshire.  That meant a slightly smaller road and the ability to take a detour for milestone number two: a dip in the North Sea!  Not our whole bodies, of course; I looked it up and that water was 9 degrees centigrade, today.  But, despite the temperature and the wind factor, we found ourselves a lovely little beach in a tiny town called Cruden Bay and I put my fingers in it!  Mandalyn was even braver–she was hell-bent on putting her foot in it and dunk that foot, she did!  Another bucket list item checked!

After that we attempted a visit to the ruin of Slains Castle, but realized after a long and lovely, if not windy walk, that we were not even halfway there!  And, the second half of the walk was going to be across a wide-open, wind-swept field of tall grass …did I mention it was cold and windy? There was some photo-taking from afar and the satisfaction of achieving at least some of our goals for the day. We walked back to our car and quickly found a lovely little hotel pub that was open (today was the banking holiday for Christmas and the last of a four-day weekend for many Brits) for a drink and a snack before continuing south to our overnight stop in Dundee.

Dundee proves to be a big enough city that finding a quaint little hotel like we prefer was nigh to impossible without more expertise on the area. So, we found a lovely Doubletree by Hilton that incorporates a beautiful old manor house as its bar, restaurant and administration offices. Dundee has a history of being one of the top producers of jute in the world and in the mid-nineteenth century when that industry was in its heyday, one wealthy mill owner built this place for his bride.  It became a hotel in the 1930s and though it has seen many changes over the decades, it’s beauty is respected and maintained.

We took a brief trip into the little suburb of Invergowrie and visited a couple of spots, one for dinner where I had a nearly perfect plate of haddock and chips, and the other just for a pint.

Tomorrow, we’re headed in to our favorite big city in the world:  Edinburgh. It feels like going home.

~MB

 

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27
Dec

Stirling Castle and the Dog Tap

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Queen's Chamber

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Eleven.

We began our day with a lovely breakfast at the Royal Inn and Ivy in Bridge of Allan. Then, we loaded up the car and headed back to Stirling for what is arguably the best castle visit in Scotland. Stirling Castle was new to both Kyle and I when we were here on our honeymoon in 1995; neither of us had ever been there before. But, now, we can hardly imagine a trip without a visit there.  Stirling has done such an exemplary job of presenting the property in ways that are both fun and classy.  The educational exhibits are beautifully well thought out and executed. Visitors of all ages can be equally entertained at almost every turn.  Costumed guides within the perfectly renovated Royal apartments add a touch of realism and enthusiasm that cannot come from reading signs or listening to the audio tour, however wonderful both might be.  The fabulous Great Hall, painted in “the king’s gold,” and the way it practically glows on the top of that hill.  The whole place– with all its crazy wonderful history, is just amazing. We do not know if there are further renovations in the works, but we have seen some amazing transformations in the twenty years since our first visit.

Among the more remarkable projects undertaken at Stirling Castle was the recreation of the Unicorn tapestries.  Over the course of the last decade all seven of the tapestries have been completed, and are now hanging in the Queen’s Bedchamber of the castle.  This is the first of our visits when we didn’t have talented weavers to watch and to talk with while they worked.  Instead of the onsite workspace, now one finds a lovely exhibit outlining both the tapestries and their meanings, and the processes involved with recreating them with painstaking detail. A lovely addition to the castle experience.

It was with great difficulty that we pulled ourselves away from Stirling this afternoon to make the drive we had planned.  But, daylight is short this close after solstice and we had miles to cover.  So, we piled back into the car leaving a couple of sights unseen … until the next trip.

In the meantime, we had a bucket list item to attend to!  We love to visit breweries … our readers of the KRuMB will have long since figured that out.  And, today, we made it to the brewery responsible for Kyle’s favorite beer:  Brew Dog (Punk IPA, for those keeping track of such things). We had hoped to do this on our last trip, but the brewery was in the process of moving their production site, so they were not open to visitors.  This time, we had a green light to go and the time to do it at this point in the trip.  We don’t have an advance booking anywhere until the 29th, so the Aberdeen area for tonight was as good a plan as any.  In fact, Kyle and I have never been up in this little corner of the island, so we’re quite pleased to be seeing a new part of Scotland.

The drive went smoothly, although the second half of it was after nightfall.  We stopped in Forfar (the little city where Kyle had his first kilt made) for a late lunch right around sundown.  We were looking for simple pub grub, but what we found instead was a Sunday Carvery where we had our choice of turkey, ham, or beef (or any combination thereof), veggies, potatoes and desserts!  A tasty meal and plenty to provide us a base for our next stop.

The Brew Dog Brewery is actually located a little bit north of Aberdeen in a town called Ellon.  We found it easily and popped in for a pint …or two. The tap room is actually a very nice bar in its own right … the Dog Tap. We ordered a round and Mandalyn, who had been emailing them about tours, chatted up one of the girls and the next thing we knew she was bringing us safety goggles and vests and we were headed into a staff only zone.  We literally passed through an airlock system of two doors to enter the place where the magic happens.  Normally, I would say if you’ve seen one brewery, you’ve pretty much seen them all.  But, even though all the common elements were there, this one was different.  It’s really big, for one thing.  And it’s really super clean, for another.  And, there is awesome art everywhere you look!  It was a delight for all five senses, and we were thrilled to be there.

The tap room was closing at nine, so we finished our last pint at about 8:30 and headed to the hotel Kyle had found for us online:  Newburgh Inn.  We’re sleeping in the most comfortable bed we’ve seen in over a week. The shower was great, too!  And breakfast isn’t until nine in the morning, so the fact that we stayed up until way past midnight watching the fabulous U2 concert from Paris shouldn’t affect our tomorrow too much!

~MB

 

 

 

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26
Dec

Peebles to Bridge of Allan … Perfection

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

26 December 2015

Boxing Day

allanwater-brewery_23364455724_o

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Ten.

Snow!  We awoke today to snow–as if our beautiful little town needed a facelift!

Kyle and I got dressed and packed quickly, and walked the very short couple of blocks to the High Street.  I had learned that the Peebles Old Parish Church offers a ten-minute worship service every single day of the week at ten a.m.  I was determined to go. So, Kyle went with me, and I enjoyed a short call to worship, a call and response type prayer, the singing of the quintessentially British “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” and the Lord’s Prayer in closing. It was charming and I was made to feel totally welcome by the other folks (a grand total of three). I will add a photo or two of the interior of the church when I have my camera within range of my computer.

After church, we continued our walk to the Co-op, bought zippy bags so we could pack the leftover food, and then got back to the house in time for breakfast. Before noon, we were all fed and all packed up to leave Peebles.  We had three stops to make before really getting on the road: The Cross Kirk (a beautiful ruined church from the thirteenth century located just moments from the house), Netherhorseburgh (a scenic tower house ruin on the outskirts of town), and Neidpath Castle ( a castle still being used as a residence that is connected to Kyle’s mom’s side of the family).  We  got to all three, and took copious amounts of photos … Summertime will be a better time for all of them—so much mud and wet … and cold … and Neidpath is only open during tourist season.

On out of town, then, pointed toward Stirling.  The first part of the journey was through countryside where the snow covered every hillside and the road was frequently partially covered in water.  Eventually, the snow zone was behind us and soon we were skirting the edge of Glasgow and on the motorway.  We drove straight to Stirling Castle and found it closed for Boxing Day.  We determined we were unwilling to miss it, so we would do it in the morning.  We checked into our hotel a short distance up the road in Bridge of Allan, dropped our luggage and went to the Birds and Bees for a late lunch.  After that, there remained only one goal: The Allanwater Brewhouse, formerly known as the Bridge of Allan Brewery.

There may actually not be words adequate enough to describe how much Kyle and I love this little place or how much joy an evening spent there brings us.  The Brewmaster and owner, Doug, manages to remember us each time we visit (this was visit number four) and he makes us feel at home.  We enjoyed amazing beer, good conversation and even kindled ideas for business plans that could actually help us realize our immigration dreams someday. They say “dream big”…right?

Tiredness, I’m afraid is winning over the desire to write more words … Happy Boxing Day to all!  Good night.

~MB

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25
Dec

Christmas in Peebles

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas Lights

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Nine.  Christmas Day.

Today was just exactly what we needed.  A day to relax and enjoy life and each other.

Santa dropped off some little presents for us to open this morning and Roxy and Mandi fixed delicious eggs and such for breakfast. As the day wore on, there was plenty of food and drink, including a visit to the wonderful Bridge Inn.  There was cheese and avocado and wine and cider. There was silly comedy, fabulous music and of course Her Majesty’s annual Christmas address on the telly.  And, there was a wonderful drive around town, up and down many of the back streets of Peebles, as we attempted to gather more information about the lay of the land and the personality of this little town we love so much.

This photo today, although shot in such low light that it’s not as good as I’d have wished, was taken in the neighboring small town of Traquair. The charming display of Christmas spirit included not only a giant Christmas tree, but, Santa and his reindeer and their respective stalls, a “building” representing Santa’s workshop, and even Olaf with some penguin buddies. I was charmed and shot a few pics, never successfully figuring out the identity of the building in the background.

I don’t think it will be a late night, as tomorrow we have a full day planned with an eye on Stirling for overnight.

From Kyle and MaritaBeth (and Roxanna and Mandalyn)–a very happy Christmas to all!

 

 

 

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24
Dec

We Made it to Scotland!

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Lochmaben Castle Ruins on Castle Loch

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Eight

Our day of driving from Nottingham to the North, was made a bit more challenging by some rain and a lot of very high wind. The winds of winter storm Eva, as they whipped across the moorlands and dales of Northern Yorkshire were so strong they buffeted the car about the highway and prevented good photography. We got pretty good shots of the sign welcoming us to Scotland, though!  And, we did the happy dance in our seats.  The wind died down and the rain and flooding took over as the main attraction as we made our way to our destination town of Peebles. Less than twenty miles from town our proposed route was closed due to flooding and we did two legs of the triangle instead of only one.  But, we finally made it, checked into our little rented house, and went to the grocery store.

Grocery store trips here are rather like safaris…you know what you want to see, but you have no idea if it will be there, or exactly what it will look like if it is. (I call my fabric shopping trips “safaris,” too, for the same reasons.) We knew we needed to find food and drink to get us through this evening (Christmas Eve) and all of Christmas Day, as well as the morning of the 26th.  On this island, they take Christmas very seriously, and we’ve learned on previous trips that we cannot count on ANYthing being open on the 25th or 26th.  This is a bigger problem in England than in Scotland, (even the trains and undergrounds and buses don’t run in London on Christmas!), but we figured better safe than sorry!    The house came with the basics, like coffee and tea and sugar and cereal.  And we have stocked up on amazing local cheeses at various places. So, we bought some meat and veggies to prepare for dinner tomorrow. We bought milk and eggs and orange juice and avocados … you know the staples one cannot live without. 😉  And, we bought wine and beer and gin and tonic … you know, the staples one cannot live without.  😉 😉 I also succumbed to a salesperson offering samples of an amazing Irish Creme-like liqueur with a “salted caramel” flavoring!  We should be able to get through the day, watch the queen address her people on TV, and never run out of yummy things.

Our one real distraction from our day’s goal, was also the highlight of the day. As we found ourselves on familiar roads passing familiar places, I voiced a wish, and my husband granted it.  We made the last minute detour to share one of our very favorite places with Roxy and Mandalyn–Lochmaben Castle. Lochmaben is a sweet little burgh near Dumfries and right down the road from Lockerbie, which many folks know of for its unhappy involvement in a 1988 plane crash. Lochmaben Castle is nothing but a ruin of a medieval castle believed to have been the childhood home of Robert the Bruce.  Kyle’s family, the Caruthers, are in Scottish terms, a sept of the Clan Bruce.  So, we have an historical connection to the place.  And, since the very first time we ever happened across it (on our honeymoon) it was so completely by accident and without proper signage, that almost anyone would have to agree that we were simply meant to find it, we also have a very deep emotional connection to it. It sits on the shores of a small lake known as Castle Loch, completely hidden, especially when the trees are in leaf.  It is sadly, greatly diminished even in the twenty years since we first found it, with areas we’ve climbed all over, now fenced off due to unsafe masonry and being allowed to be engulfed by ivy and weeds. But, it is truly beautiful, nonetheless, and will continue to be on our travel plans any time we are near. We walked around for a short bit as the daylight faded, shot some great pictures, and logged this sacred place once again into our memories.

The little detour didn’t prevent us from getting to the house in time, grocery shopping before the stores closed, or even getting to our favorite local for dinner and a pint before retiring back to the house.  And almost immediately upon settling in, we found ourselves enthralled in first a trivia show all about Tudor times (!) and then a lovely little BBC film called The Scandalous Lady W. starring Natalie Dormer.  We recommend it!

The clock tells me it’s after midnight, so I’d better get to bed or Santa will be put out with me!  Happy Christmas to All … and to all A Good Night!

~MB

 

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23
Dec

Nottingham: Mischief Managed

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Nottingham

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Seven.

The first thing on today’s agenda actually began last night:  get some sleep!  We’d been running a pretty fast pace, with fairly early mornings and (at least for me) crazy late nights since we arrived.  This morning, I think we all actually started the day out fully recharged and ready for running amok.

We had knocked three pubs off the ten-pub list, last night.  So, today, the goal was to see and experience as much of Nottingham as we could, by finding each of the other highly recommended places on the list.  We sallied forth with enthusiasm, and were successful in our task.  And, we even fit in a Christmas Market and some good shopping, as well as a delightful lunch. Along the way, I took a few photos of architecture and Christmas lights and such.  This beautiful building above most effectively stole my heart.  All my people out there who know or have read about my obsession with the Galveston News building, will understand and not be surprised.  This one is much bigger, of course, and has the added appeal of the Tudor half-timbering on top … but it *feels* similar to me.

Tomorrow we once again travel north, and by sundown we’ll be in the country of our hearts: Scotland.

~MB

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22
Dec

Happy Yule!

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Tuesday, 22 December 2015. Yule.

Arbor Low 10

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Six.

Our day started very early with an alarm set for 6:15 a.m. The plan was to be in the car on the way to Arbor Low by 7 o’clock. We wanted to have an hour or so so enjoy the site before the 8:19 a.m. sunrise, and there were ten or so winding miles between the Charles Cotton Hotel and the farmland containing the stone circle.

We all did great at getting up and out…and the drive was easy and traffic-free. So, we got there early enough to sit and relax for a few minutes before we started to see light in the sky and MaritaBeth got antsy.  About an hour in advance, we bundled up in our furriest, warmest hats and layered jackets and scarf and gloves and began the muddy trek up to the site itself.  We paid our 1£ near the farmhouse and turned on our pocket torches (flashlights). Today’s specific challenge also included extremely strong winds and a light rain. The next few minutes consisted of avoiding puddles and poo as we passed between cattle barn and hay storage, passing through a gate, and then trying desperately to remember which direction to walk uphill.  It’s amazing how much one forgets in three years’ time. We finally figured it out, crossed another fence line and climbed the berm that surrounds the ancient circle. The moment of cresting that hill and catching the first glimpse of the circle itself, never ceases to cause my breath to catch and my soul to fill.

There are no words to adequately describe the next hour.  We each took our own path, sometimes coming together as duos or trios, once or twice as the foursome we were.  But, most of our time there was solitary.  Just one small person and the wind, connecting with the earth, the stones, the history, the mystery.  The entire time we were there, we shared the site with no more than twelve other people.  The wind and rain must have kept many people away, but even so, there were offerings of flowers and symbols and candles left upon the most central of the stones.

Now, as might be expected from mention of wind and rain … there were clouds.  Nothing but clouds, really, and the sunrise itself … the actual fiery ball in the sky … never showed his face.  We watched the sky brighten, certainly, but, there was really no prayer of actually seeing the sun. The sun rises each morn, whether we can see it or not, though.  So, we were undaunted. I read aloud the Susan Cooper passage that I shared on Facebook last night, and my chosen family members all embraced in a group hug. And we stood there soaking up the magic.

We arrived back at the Charles Cotton just in time to get breakfast before it was too late.  Then, the Cheese Shop and post office, and on the road again! The first destination was the little town of Castleton which we’d only just learned about from some fellow travelers in the breakfast room at the Giffard House Hotel. It seems that there is a semi-precious stone, completely unique to this one area of England, called “Blue John” and it is mined in Castleton.  We were planning to tour one of the caves from which it is mined, but the weather didn’t quite cooperate.  What we did do was to purchase some beautiful little rocks (that we’re hoping Miss Allyson can make into pretty jewelry for us), have lunch in a great little pub called The Bull’s Head (which came highly recommended), and stop to take photos in a perfectly beautiful church cemetary in the neighboring town of Hope.

The rest of the day’s drive was done mostly after dark … it was the shortest day, after all … and despite some frustrating one way roads the GPS didn’t foresee, we arrived at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub in Nottingham, ready to carry on with Solstice celebrating. We then secured a place to stay (we’re at the St. James Hotel) and began the honorable job of visiting the pubs on the list we were given by our fireman friends the night before. We managed to mark three off the list of who knows how many, and came back to the St. James for a nightcap.

The last of the other three has just gone to bed, leaving me to finish my last few paragraphs.  Tomorrow, we finally face a day with no deadlines and the plan is to sleep until we wake!  Woo hoo!

Happy Solstice, my friends.  Happy Yule!

~MB

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