Thursday, October 22, 2009


My brain is a bit full right now.  I find that happening too often, which tells me that I need to be journaling more.  When I take the time to sort out my thoughts enough to make complete sentences, then I feel more ready to act on them or move on, having processed all I need. Putting things on paper seems to make more sense, and as things are resolved I have something to look back on. 
I feel like I need to go backward to be able to catch up and go forward.  That might take a bit.  I'd like to say I'm going to write every day to catch up.  I may not get that done, but I'm going to give it a go anyway.  That means I need to go back to late August when I went to Scotland.  I put some of my pix on facebook, but not nearly all of them.  Thanks to the fact that rearranging them on here isn't always that easy, I'm going to put one of my favorites from each stop I made. Well, even that's not true, because some of them were on the move.  This one will be the longest.  How do you squeeze 10 days of travel into one post? 

Wait.  Before photos, it's necessary to give a bit of background.  In 2007 I went to Liberia to live on a big white hospital ship.  Most that read here know that.  One of my six cabin mates is from Scotland.  After several date changes and not really all that much planning on my part, I headed off to Edinburgh, where Shonagh lives.  That's her right there with the pretty red hair and big dimples. 

I left Detroit Metro on a Friday and got to Edinburgh, via Amsterdam, on Saturday morning.  The first thing on the list was a trip to the grocery then to Shonagh's flat for a wee nap.  Saturday evening we had dinner with Shon's friend Copper Karen (becuase she knows a lot of Karens and this one's a cop) then went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  I didn't know what I was in for, but was VERY pleasantly surprised!  It was a lot of fun.  Exchanging Pounds Sterling to US dollars meant that it was not a really cheap event, but I'm so glad I went.  It was great!  If you're in Edinburgh during the festival, it's a must see.

Sunday we bought a package deal that included entrance to several venues and also a tour bus around town.  Here we are riding around.  I've not see tne movie, but the sports field just beyond the trees is where some of Chariots of Fire was filmed. 

I fell asleep sitting up on the bus.  Jet lag will do that to a girl.  So.....we headed to the Royal Yacht Britannia, but stopped for "refreshment" at Starbuck's first.  It's amazing what coffee and caramel shortbread can do for jet lag.  Mmmm.....perfect.  The RYB is Queen Elizabeth's yacht.  It was retired in 1997 and docked in Edinburgh to be opened for special state events and tours.  It was impressive.  There was no good way to get a view of the whole ship, so I have none.  Instead I took pictures of many rooms, decks, etc. on her.  For whatever reason, this portrait of Princess Anne, Charles' sister, really stood out to me.  I don't now much about her, but she's striking, isn't she?

Below is the one o'clock gun at Edinburgh Castle.  It's a big deal.  All the tourists go.  It's a great way to make one involuntarily go in their pants when they don't intend to.  Man, is it loud! 

Next we strolled down the royal mile, a Scottish mile stretching between the Castle and Holyrood Palace, the home of Mary Queen of Scots.  Photos were not allowed inside the palace, but this one below is Holyrood Abbey ruins.  It's interesting to me that the skeleton of a building can be so beautiful.

Tuesday it was on to the Falkirk Wheel, an "engineering masterpiece!"  That's what Shonagh kept telling me.  It is actually quite impressive.  This big clawed thing turns and lifts boats from the lower canal to an upper one.  It used to take traversing 11 locks and half a day.  Now it takes a matter of minutes.

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing Moira, another friend from Mercy Ships.  She just happens to live in Stirling, only about 30 minutes from Shonagh.  We had a great time at lunch adn then shopping.  This photo does not do either of them justice.  Goofy is as goofy does.  That's why we has so much fun together!

Wednesday morning Shons and I headed out on holiday.  We first drove through Inverness.  This photo is taken on a footbridge crossing the river.  We ate lunch at a lovely little cafe along the river walk, then headed out of town to keep making time as we saw as much of gorgeous Scotland as possible. 

Loch Ness. We've all heard about the monster.  I never really knew that much about it.  I knew the loch is deep, but I had no idea that it would be quite so beautiful.  Or long.  We drove alongside Loch Ness for quite sometime.  I think it was 23 miles long.  We did get to see Nessie.  She had us for tea; baked us a cake.  She really is quite the hostess.

There is no shortage of water in Scotland.  Not only were there lakes, lochs, and rivers everywhere.  There was also an abundance of "liquid sunsine".  Let me tell you, it's drippy, that liquid sunshine.  Below is Neptune's Staircase.  This is a series of 8 locks near our bed and breakfast and behind the hotel where we had dinner.  This was a great little village, not to mention the fact that it was an amazing meal.  If you ever get the chance to sample sticky toffee pudding, do it.  It's not pudding.  It's cake.  With caramel drizzled over, soaking it.  And a dollop of ice cream on the side sure doesn't hurt.

Below is Eilean Donan Castle.  It's on it's own little tiny island.  It was in Made of Honor as well as several other movies.  It's been sitting there for hundreds and hundreds of years.  It was a gray, rainy day.  Eerie, really.  (funny...I just looked up eerie to see if it's spelled correctly.  It's a Scottish word.  Makes sense.  The gray skies, rain, clouds, and endless rolling hills define the word.)  I loved it. 

After Eilean Donan, it was on to Oban to drive onto the ferry and make our way to the Isle of Mull.  We spend the night on the island in Tobermory.  Anyone in the UK has heard of Tobermory because it's the sight of a children's show.  I had never heard of it before making plans to go, but I'm so glad we went.  Tobermory is a picturesque little fishing village on the island.  It's perfect.  Walking the entire main street maybe takes 10 mintues. 

There were other pictures that were prettier, but I like this one.  It just looks cold.  We were chilled to the bone, but hated to go inside the ferry because it's not every day you get to see the sights on the way to the Isle of Mull.  Notice Shonagh did try to ward off the chill with a cup of coffee.

Here it is.  Tobermory.  I tried the panorama view with my camera.  It's a pretty good example, but still does not capture the charm of the village.  In reality, the houses on the left end actually face the houses on the right end.  The harbour is a "u" shaped space that rises and falls quite significantly with the tide.  Ours was the red one near the left end.  It was next to the Tobermory Chocolate Shop, the blue one just to the left.  Nice planning on my Scottish friend's part.

Do I need to explain the picture below any more?

On the passage over we really were not sure how the front end was going to open because we had driven onto the ferry on the stern.  To me, it looked like the ship was opening its mouth to vomit the cars to make room for more.  It was fun riding on the ferry bcause it had many features that were very similar to the ship we lived on in Africa.  Both of us missed the Africa Mercy as we wandered around the ferry.

Below is Duart Castle, one that we saw from the ferry.  It's also in a movie ~ Entrapment. 

This is one sweet lady.  Shonagh's Granny.  After disembarking the ferry, we headed cross country to Dundee to stay with Granny.  She did such a nice job spoiling us.  It was fun getting to know her and hearing more about their family.  It's always nice to walk into someone's home and be treated like family immediately.  What a lovely lady!

Glamis Castle.  Home of the former Queen Mum, Queen Elizabeth II's mother.  We went to a fair here.  It was really like any fair here at home, other than the fact that it had rained for 3 days before.  Sorry, there was liquid sunshine.  At any rate, it was a muddy, mingin' mess.  Most everyone else was in Wellies.  My Chacos just had to trudge along.  It was still great fun.  We went to the fair with Euen, Shonagh's brother, his wife Janet, and their son Ian.  It was a fun day. 

The finale of the trip was the finale of the Edinburgh Festival as well.  Fireworks at the Castle, accompanied by and orchestra and choir performing pieces from Handle's Messiah.  It was overwhelming.  The setting, the beautiful music, the company, the fireworkds timed to the music were nearly perfect.  Shonagh looked over to ask if I was glad I had come.  I was actually welling up just because it was so impressive.  Am I glad?  How could I not be?  The whole trip was a chance of a lifetime!  Sadly, there were some trees in the way, so my photos of the fireworks aren't great, but they still capture the effect to a degree. 

Last, but not least, I came home to my parents to spend time with all of my family, who had gotten together for Labor Day weekend.  This is a wee highland wool dress I got for my favorite little girl.  Don't you think she looks like she's excited to try it on? 

And Seamus, the highland sheep that came across the big ocean for her as well.  You can't forget him.  What a sweet way to top off a great trip!  Great travel and then some cuddle time with my girl. 

Now I have evidence of why I've put off doing this post for so long.  It was fun.  There are so many fun photos.  There's really no way to concisely put it all into one post.  Ah well, it's done now.  I'm sure you're a bit happy about that.