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Saturday
Aug082009

Royal Mile

After we visited Edinburgh Castle, we took a short walk down the Royal Mile.  We probably walked a "Royal 1/4 Mile"  The Royal Mile was the street from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood House.  We made it to Parliment Square, St. Giles Church and Deacon Brodie's Pub. 

Who, you might ask, is Deacon Brodie.  He was a fine upstanding cabinet maker and locksmith by day, a member of the burgh council, and a deacon of the Wrights and Masons Guild.   At night, however, he had two mistresses, five children and a gambling habit.  He used his daytime skills as a locksmith to break into houses to support his nighttime activities.  He was caught and hanged and inspired the story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


We were able to go inside Parliment Hall.  The Scottish justice system is a bit different than ours.  Advocates represent clients and the state instead of attorneys.  We got to see several Advocates, complete with wigs, collars, and robes. Women also wear the wigs, which looked a little odd.  Recently, there was a vote to see if court dress should be changed and they opted for keeping the traditional dress code.  Opposing advocates pace the length of Parliment Hall to discuss their cases.  We actually saw two advocates and a third man in the middle striding up and down the hall deep in discussion.

St. Giles Church was the next stop.  It dates back to about 1130 and King David I.  As you can imagine, its been through many changes.  The Reformation was started by a sermon preached by John Knox in this church.  The stained glass in the church was beautiful.  In 1911, a chapel was added for the The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle.  These are 16 Scottish Knights personally appointed by The Crown.  Each Knight has a beautifully carved stall and it is decorated with his Coat of Arms and the Coats of Arms from previous Knights.   The stall for The Crown was a little bigger and a little more ornate that the stalls for the Kinghts.  In 1992, a massive organ with 4,000 pipes was donated to the church.

It was time to get out of town before the traffic got bad and we had a ways to go to get to Pitlochery again for the night.   We had dinner at a pub near our Bed and Breakfast.  David, Mike, and Margie all tried the haggis.  I couldn't or wouldn't depending on your point of view, but I did manage to get down the strawberries and ice cream for dessert.    

Tuesday
Aug042009

Edinburgh Castle

Our second day in Scotland was spent in Edinburgh.   The first order of business was to pick up Mike and Margie from the airport.  Fortunately, they arrived on schedule. 

Once that was accomplished, it was off to the castle.  This was a fortress castle, not like the other castles we saw.  There were big gates, high walls, and narrow passages.  I had the feeling that if I wasn't welcome, it wouldn't be easy to get in. 

We saw the cannon Mons Meg which was a gift to King James II in 1457.  The cannon balls weighed 400 pounds each and it could only be fired 8 times per day because of the heat generated by firing.  It is a really big cannon.

 

The castle was built around 1130 by King David I and includes St. Margaret's Chapel, which is still standing.  The St. Margaret's Chapel Guild (all members are named Margaret) has been keeping fresh flowers in the chapel since 1942.  It was kind of cool to think of a guild where everyone was named Margaret.

 

 

Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to  King James VI in the residential quarters of the castle.   As castles go, this was not a very comfortable castle.  But, it was a safe castle.  The rooms seemed pretty big to me, but I supposed it was quite cold and dreary without electric lights and gas heat.  The fireplaces were quite massive.

The Stone of Destiny is now kept in the castle.  This stone , originally located in Scone, has been used in the coronations of kings since 1057.  King Edward took it to England 1296 and they kept it and have been using it ever since.  It was returned to Scotland in 1996 with the agreement that England will be able to use it in all future coronations.  The Royal Sceptre, Crown, and Sword of Scotland are also kept in the castle.  The Sceptre was given to James IV in 1494. 

As with most castles, this one has dungeons.  They were creepy and dark, and probably smelled a lot.  The interesting thing about this dungeon was that prisoners captured during the American War for Independence were brought here.  I never really thought about what happened to the American prisoners, but I guess the British had to do something with them. 

Tuesday
Jul282009

I Did It

I had to, I couldn't help myself.  I wasn't sleeping well.  I have 40 more pounds of blueberries.  Here they are, waiting to be washed, dried, and frozen.  

 

In case you are wondering just what I put in my breakfast smoothie that causes me to need so many berries, here is what I do:

In a blender add

1 banana, peeled

1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

1 bubble of Pom  pomegranate juice  (about 8 ounces, I think)

some orange juice  (I know that's a little vague, probably somewhere in the 8 ounce range)

ice cubes

Put the lid on the blender and blend until smooth.  If you want it thicker, add more ice, thinner, add more orange juice.  Don't like blueberries, use raspberries or mango or whatever you like.    I also add about 1/8 teaspoons of spirulina powder, but only with the blueberries.  It is quite green and doesn't look so appetizing mixed with the mango.  This makes 2 smoothies.  Unless I am sharing with someone, I drink one and freeze one.  I take it out of the freezer as soon as I get up and by the time I'm ready for breakfast, it has thawed out enough to eat.  Happy Blending!!!

Monday
Jul272009

Better Planning

I should have thought about this before I went to Scotland, not after I got home.  I would have taken more pictures because a blog without pictures is kind of boring.  Just words, you know.  Oh well, I didn't have the  idea to start a blog until after we got home and I don't have a lot of pictures.  And some of the pictures I do have are not really that good.  I usually buy postcards for the photo albums.  Those guys take great pictures.  Hopefully you will bear with me for a while. 

So, David and I arrived in Scotland.  We met up with our guide, Kathy, and we were off.  We decided on an easy day outside of Edinburgh so that Mike and Margie wouldn't miss too much.  After about the third traffic circle going around the other way, I was really glad that someone else was doing the driving.  Our first stop was the Bridge across the Firth of Forth.  It was the first steel bridge built in Britain and is kind of like the Eiffel Tower of Scotland.  I have a picture, but there is a finger in it so you can click here and see a really good picture of the bridge.

Across the street from the bridge is the Hawes Inn.  If you are a reader, you may remember it from "Kidnapped" by Robert Louis Stevenson.  This picture had telephone poles in it and somehow, that just doesn't seem right.  We piled in the car and headed out for the charming village of Dunkeld.  On the way, I saw my first Scottish Highland Cow.  Now, these are very cute cows with their long shaggy hair.  They also have very long horns.  The fields were lush and green and every once in a while I could catch a whiff of barley. This barley will be turned into whiskey later in the season. 

The village of Dunkeld is ancient, first established around the year 720.  The River Tay runs along the edge of the town and there is a stone bridge crossing the river.  I thought it was really awesome, not knowing that lots of the bridges in Scotland are stone.  Here is a picture of the bridge.

 

 

Next, we walked to the town center and made a stop at the Ell House.  What, you might wonder, is an ell?  It is the unit of measure in weaving from the shoulder to the wrist.  The exact length was a little sketchy until it was standardized.  In England, it is about 45 inches, Scotland, 37 inches and Flemish, 27 inches.  As you might imagine, the ell mounted on the Ell House is 37 inches long.   Today, the Ell house is a gift shop for The National Trust for Scotland. 

Then we ventured to the Cathedral.  I thought I had pictures, but I guess I really didn't.  You can see someone else's pictures here.  It was a very quiet, peaceful place.  When you read the history of the town, its amazing that there is anything left standing at all.  The choir has been restored and has a magnificant organ.  The Wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart, was buried here after he died in 1405 and his tomb can still be seen.  

We were getting tired and so we headed to Pitlochery, our little home for two nights.  We stayed the Craigroyston House, a lovely bed and breakfast . 

 

 

A little dinner, a little stroll around the town, and then it was off to bed for us.  

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul212009

Slow Start

We were off to Scotland with Mike and Margie for a much deserved vacation.  The first hint of trouble was a phone call.   "We're not on the plane yet, but they assure us there's plenty of time."  The second call caused a little nag.  "We're still not on the plane, but there's plenty of time."  The third call was making me nervous.  "We're on the plane, but we're not taking off."  David and I left for the airport.  The last call was "We're taking off, but it's gonna be tight". 

David and I got to the airport.  We whisked through check-in and security.  We got to the gate.  We checked the arrivals board.  The flight from Richmond landed after the flight to Scotland took off.  We paced, we read, we watched the weather channel.  We checked the arrival board again.  They were gaining time, now they were landing before the Scotland flight took off.  It was almost time to board and they had 20 minutes to get from Terminal A to Terminal C at Newark Airport.  Remotely possible if there wasn't another soul in the airport.  Maybe they could hit the teleporter and be at the correct gate instantly.   Oh yeah, that only works in Star Trek.  Perhaps they would fly faster and gain a few more minutes.  Maybe it would be enough.

Boarding started, and David and I got on the plane.  We tried to dawdle.  We asked the flight attendant if she could check on them for us.  She couldn't.  We wondered if they would, perhaps, hold the plane.  They wouldn't.  Boarding continued.  We fidgeted.  The door closed and we took off.  Finally, the Fasten Seatbelt sign went off.  David got up and walked through the plane.  He didn't see them anywhere and then he spied it.   The two empty seats where Mike and Margie were supposed to be sitting.  He stood over them in silence for a couple of minutes.  It was sad. 

We talked to them when we landed.  They had run, as fast as they could, but it just wasn't enough.  They even saw the plane backing away from the gate.  At least they were on the next flight out and they would catch up with us shortly.  Oh well, the luggage never would have made it.