Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

16
Jan

What we REALLY did on New Year’s Day

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

16 January 2016

Champagne!

Addendum to entry from 1 January 2016

Kyle and the Babes 2015.

After two weeks of anxiously watching Facebook and my text messages, the news finally was released to the public, yesterday. Our dear friends, Christopher Buehlman and Jennifer Schlitz are engaged to be married!

This is excellent news for anyone who knows and loves either one of them, and doubly so for those lucky enough to be friends with them both. And, as our little group of travelers through Britain were fortunate enough to be a part of the proposal process, we’re on Cloud 9 to finally be able to share the news with everyone else. So, here’s our version of the story.

Kyle and MaritaBeth had barely acclimated to the new time zone when we got a message from Chris saying he was looking forward to seeing us in Edinburgh and giving us a “heads up.”  He wrote that he was planning to propose to Jen while in Edinburgh, and that he would really like for us to be there. In fact, he indicated, he might need our help in managing the details which were to include a vocal soloist and a song at a predetermined place and time.We were thrilled to hear the news and honored to be “in the know.” We congratulated him as enthusiastically as possible over electronic messaging, and we helped him narrow down place options based on our experiences in the past, promising that we’d be there, where ever and whenever he chose.

The next days of our holiday trip included Christmas markets and stone circles, castles and castle ruins, pub crawls and charming village inns, and even a toe-dip in the North Sea.  Ten days or so later, we arrived in Edinburgh on the 29th of December, checked in to our Edinburgh home with Erlend and Helene, and eventually met Chris and Jennifer for drinks after dinner. During a ladies’ room run, Chris confirmed plans with those still at the table, that he’d decided on January first as the day, thereby getting the Hogmanay festivities out of the way first, and ultimately starting the New Year with a new and wonderful purpose. Perfect!  He’d picked the ruins of Holyrood Abbey as the place and four o’clock as the time.  The venue was open on the day–he’d checked all that–and that allowed plenty of time for us to get there around 3:30, do a bit of a tour of Holyrood, be in the Abbey by 4, and make eye contact with musicians (not just a soloist but a guitarist and fiddler, as well) to kick off the big moment and be done and out of there before they closed at 4:30. The plan seemed sure and secure.

The next couple of days were full of more pubs and more shopping, the torchlight procession, giant crowds, great music, and fabulous fireworks.  By January first, the city is partied out, and that day is fairly quiet.  Especially with it falling on a Friday, I think, there was even more calm to the day than there would have been on a weekend day, or a day immediately to be followed by a work day. So, our relaxed morning at the house, and a later start than normal seemed just right.  World's EndWe had arranged for the four of us to meet the two of them at 2 p.m. at World’s End Pub, a lovely little pub, often not as busy as most, located about a third of the way down the Royal Mile.  We all enjoyed a round of adult beverages and then donned our jackets and scarves for the walk to Holyrood Palace at the bottom end of the Royal Mile.  We had all discussed that we wanted to do the tour of the place, Kyle and I mentioning that we’d never actually done it before, so we were looking forward to it.

As I recall it, we arrived at 3:29.  Right on “schedule.” The six of us happily entered the welcoming vestibule between Palace entrance and gift shoppe and approached the ticket counter. Chris, no doubt a bit nervous, took the lead and went right up to the counter and informed the woman sitting behind the desk that we were six to tour the Palace and Abbey.  Her response was a very reserved, “We’re done selling tickets.”

Oka-ay … that wasn’t the expected response. So, undaunted, we tried again, this time, I’m not sure if it was Chris or myself who spoke: “We are here to do the tour, and you’re open until 4:30,” politely pointing at the sign behind her head clearly stating such.

“Oh, yes, we’re open ’til 4:30,” she said, “but we’re done selling tickets for today.”

Now, I know it was me who said, “What does that mean?” And she, finally realizing our confusion, explained that they sell the last ticket at 3:15, to allow all guests to make their way through the site by the 4:30 closing time.

“I’m crushed,” was Chris’ response.  I’ll never forget it. “I’m completely crushed.”

Quickly realizing the slinky was horribly kinked, Roxy and Mandi swooped into action–someone asked if we could at least visit the gift shop, they were told yes, of course, and the two of them herded Jennifer and Kyle into the gift shop.  At the same time, Chris was asking the woman behind the counter to come to the side, so he could speak with her privately.  I stood there, hoping there was a way to get around this ridiculous, unpublished curve ball–still feeling strangely confident.  He whispered some things to the woman, and as she raised up from the quiet consultation, I heard her say, “No, I’m sorry, we just can’t. We sell the last tickets at 3:15.”

So, now, Chris is not only crushed, he’s at least a little bit mad. He went outside, phone in hand. Heaven knows he had checked and double-checked times and we’d looked it up, too.  Nowhere had any of us seen anything about the ticket sales closing earlier than the venue. And, if we had known, we’d have simply walked down the street fifteen minutes earlier! It was all so silly it was maddening!  I have no idea how much Chris spent on the amazing romantic touches of music that were to be a part of his proposal, but it was surely not nominal.   Now, he was seeing his carefully laid plans implode, and having to contact those three people who were no doubt already parked and walking toward us, to alert them to the new development, and make some snap decision about a change of venue–on the fly–on a holiday–with only half an hour ’til “go time.”

I followed him outside, and verified that he was able to reach his musicians.  I did my best to calm him and was already hatching a plan in my mind. “Just tell the musicians to hold on for a moment or two. Don’t change anything, yet,” I told him.  He said okay, and I went back inside.

With an undying romantic streak, I decided the woman simply could not have understood the magnitude of the situation. So, I walked right up to her, and leaned really far over her ticket counter. Her eyes got wider and when I knew she was tuned in, I asked her if my friend had fully relayed the situation to her.  She responded by saying he’d said something about musicians and 4 o’clock, but that there was nothing she could do … I stopped her mid-excuse and said something very much like this:  “Of course, I suspected he didn’t make it clear enough. So, here’s the real situation: The six of us are visiting Edinburgh from the United States … Texas, Florida, Colorado … all over. We converged here today, on your beautiful spot, because it’s the spot that wonderful man has chosen to be the backdrop for his proposal to that beautiful girl in there. (pointing in two directions as I spoke.) He has hired musicians to meet us here and make the moment even more spectacular. When he says to you, he’s crushed, he means crushed. As in devastated.  (by this time, I’m a little choked up) I’m not sure what he’s going to do if this plan all falls apart … we didn’t know about the 3:15 deadline, but we knew we’d be all done by 4:30.  We can skip the whole palace and art gallery bit … is there any way you can just let us get into the Abbey and let this beautiful proposal thing happen?  Please?”

She had obviously begun to melt. She blinked and said she really hadn’t understood.  She asked me to wait just a moment while she went to get a supervisor.  Seconds later, she re-emerged from a side door with another young woman in tow.  “Tell her all about it,” she said.  I gave a somewhat briefer version of our story, and the young woman, obviously primed before meeting me, said, “Absolutely!  We can do this!  I’ll take you right on in there, myself!”claire-3_23504993724_o

I’m pretty sure that’s when I breathed out for the first time! I thanked her profusely and asked her to give me a moment to “herd my cats!” I ran outside to tell Chris, we were in! I introduced him to the young woman taking charge, and he made arrangements for the musicians while I went inside the gift shop to perform one more little bit of theatre. I went to where Mandi was apparently, we later learned, blithering on to Jen about lavender and all her supposed experiences with it (making shit up to keep Jen distracted), and told them that my “tourist-fu” was strong today!  I’d talked to the girl at the desk and told her how much I’d been looking forward to coming here and how badly I just wanted to see the Abbey and take a few pictures and how I was here all the way from Texas … and I might have cried a little (that part was true) … and that they were going to let us in to see the Abbey after all, but someone was going to walk us in there and we had to go right now…We gathered ourselves behind the nice young woman and followed her through giant doors, she had to knock and use her power to pass through, across the beautiful Holyrood Palace courtyard, and right on around to the amazing abbey ruins. She left us there, wished us good fortune and refused to allow us to pay anything for either entry or her services.

So, there we were! The place, we’ve already talked about and shared  photos of—although these are the photos we wanted to share!

The vocalist, who’s name, I believe was Claire, was magnificently talented and her voice rang through the sculpted ceiling of the abbey. She sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Chris’ request. And she sang it from the heart.  And she made many people cry with the beauty of it. And, if there were dry eyes as she sang, that likely changed as she finished her song, and Chris dropped to one knee in front of his beloved Jen, and held out the small black velvet box containing a diamond ring.

... marry me?Although she may have thought this moment might happen on their wonderful vacation, Jen seemed to truly have no idea that this was to be that moment.  Her moment.  As she realized it, she drew in a breath, pulled her hands to her face, and although we could not hear the words either of them spoke, the result was him rising, her arms encircling his neck and a beautiful passionate hug and kiss. Then, Chris’ words, let’s go the pub were the cue for the guitar and fiddler to begin to play a lively jig that they continued all the way out of the Abbey, past a gruff-looking guard, and right on up the Royal Mile to the Jolly Judge.Will you ...?

As we processed we enjoyed comments from other guests at the abbey that indicated how magical it was to have been a part of and how their engagements hadn’t been nearly so romantic! At the Jolly Judge there was champagne and cider and beer and photos (the photo at the beginning of this post is of the guitarist, Chris and Jen, and the soloist Claire) and then we went on to our dinner reservation, all carefully pre-planned by that thorough groom-to-be. (Those who received a postcard from us postmarked in Edinburgh: those were mailed during that procession up the hill!)Mail PostCards ... Check!

The drama of the plan taking a sideways turn will forever be one of the most fun stories of the trip.  We were so honored to be there, and so glad to have had a small hand in making things turn out so well.  Our best wishes for a happy forever for our friends Jennifer and Chris.

Slainte!

~MBCongratulations!

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2
Jan

A Scotland-shaped Hole in Our Hearts

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Saturday, 2 January 2015

Our Last View of Edinburgh Castle

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Seventeen.

Saddest. Day. of the Trip. Time to head south.

But, first, we planned to tour Edinburgh Castle.  Kyle and MaritaBeth haven’t done that since 2008 … and Roxy and Mandi had never been there, before … so after breakfast and packing, off we went.

We did get there later than we’d hoped and while the girls went on inside, Kyle and MB opted at the last moment to forego the castle itself and spend more time in town.  So, we walked and shopped and worked our way a couple of blocks down the High Street, had a beer in the Albanach Pub, and then walked back up the hill to rejoin the girls. They seem to have had a good time there, despite it being too short a time.

IMG_1793

Erlend and Helene

We were all packed before we left the house, so the departure was easy … except for the goodbyes, themselves. We have (even Roxy and Mandi) come to absolutely love Erlend and Helene. Our first stay in their home was incredible.  The second stay was ten times more!  If ever our friends and readers find themselves in Edinburgh, we HIGHLY recommend “2 Cambridge Street” as the perfect place to call home.

As we write and post photos tonight, we sit in the lovely little pub at the Swan and Talbot in Wetherby. We are about halfway back to London–we’ll do the rest of the drive tomorrow. Tears were shed as we crossed the border into England. A piece of our hearts remains in Edinburgh … in Scotland. Until the next time.

~MB

 

 

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2
Jan

New Year–New Beginning

   Posted by: MB    in Daily

Friday, 1 January 2016

Goofy Kyle at Holyrood

Kyle and the Babes 2015. Day Sixteen.

Sleeping a little later was the first order of business today … followed immediately by another marvelous breakfast by the Clouston kitchen.

We met Chris and Jennifer on the Royal Mile at The World’s End. From there we visited Holyrood Abbey … a truly beautiful ruin I will elaborate upon later. I still have photos to upload!

The walk to Holyrood was all the way to the bottom of the Royal Mile, and so the walk back up was long and our arrival at our destination was staggered … but we got to the Jolly Judge for a round of drinks and then went back to the Devil’s Advocate for an incredible foodie experience. We enjoyed such dishes as Braised Ox Cheek, Baked Cod, Confit Duck Leg, Lamb Burger, and one of the most lovely Cheese Boards I’ve seen. The drinks there are wonderful, too and the evening was over far too quickly.

Mandi and Chris and Jen attempted to take a Ghost Tour, but, got there to find it sold out, so they joined Kyle and I at the Secret Vodka Arcade Bar, where we had stopped for our nightcap.  We were all very tired and still had packing to do, so we bid one another goodnight and safe journeys and allowed our final night in Edinburgh to come to a close.

Tomorrow, we plan to visit Edinburgh Castle and begin our journey back toward London.  I must steel myself for the heartbreak of leaving Edinburgh.  I am not ready.

~MB

 

 

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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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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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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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6
Jan

Kenilworth in Black & White

   Posted by: krmb    in Daily

6 January 2009
I’m sitting in a hotel room (the Radisson again), having just repacked all of my luggage for the return trip. We had a pleasant dinner of breaded plaice washed down with a good pint of John Smith while watching the unfortunate result of the Tott*ham v Burnley Carling Cup match. All of this on the heels of an otherwise lovely day.
When we got up this morning, it was a very brisk -5 degrees Celsius outside, but sunny. So, we went on up to Kenilworth Castle. Kenilworth, from all reports, is one of the largest set of Castle ruins in all of England. I must say, it was pretty remarkable.
Kenilworth Castle
And, being there on an early January morning gave us the place nearly to ourselves. Almost all of our photos are untainted by the casual tourist. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died early in the visit even though I had charged them the night before. So much for grey-market batteries, eh? So, the first half of our visit is well-documented, the second half…considerably less so (although my wife did take a lot of photos, too).
From Kenilworth, we drove on in to London. I had to make a quick stop at the Cargo facility. After all, even on vacation, duty does call. I met with the guys there for an hour or so, then we continued on to Bath road to secure lodging for the night. We are at the same Radisson Edwardian Hotel in which we started our Hogmanay journey and in a very similar room. We started off in a different room, in a different wing, on a different floor. However, Hotel issues with plumbing (boilers went out) and our issues with smoking rooms, places us in the 3rd room of the night and here we will stay. For tomorrow we must depart and return to the home of our birth if not necessarily the home of our heart.
Thank you everyone for following along with us, for encouraging us and for allowing us to share our journey, our love, our passion for this country with you.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 7 January 2009)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.01 sec (1/100)
Aperture: f/8
Focal Length: 5.8 mm
ISO Speed: 100
Exposure Bias: 0/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

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