Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas in Scotland, Day 3

This was our day to tour around Edinburgh.  We had originally planned to take the train in, but when we got to the station we found out that they were running reduced schedules and had just missed our train by 20 minutes or so.  We decided to go ahead and drive the 1 hour in, instead of waiting for the next train.  We only had a little bit of trouble finding a place to park, what with Christmas only 2 days away, but we found our spot.

We first walked up to Edinburgh Castle.  It sits on a pretty big hill and has a commanding view of the city and surrounding countryside.  It is a pretty sprawling fortress - now a barracks for some Royal Scots Dragoons and home to loads of museums.  We took in several of the museums there - it was all pretty fascinating.  I even had a look at the "Royal Honours" of Scotland - their Scottish Crown, Sword, Sceptre, and some jewels.  Their Royal Sword was enormous!

Below is a shot of a street in Edinburgh as we made our way to the castle.

This is probably my favorite shot of Edinburgh - those famous British (heresy to call it "English" in Scotland) red telephone booths.  They were lined up three in a row just for Leah, Ian, and me!

And these were just inside the castle gates, after crossing the "moat".  These phone booths were literally everywhere - including our sleepy little Oldhamstocks!
After the castle it was down to the park to ride the Christmas "train" - which Ian and Leah just adored.  Then it was time to head home.

Next day was the absolute highlight of the trip for me - a swing into the Southern Highlands.  Let me just say that they lived up to the romanticized notion of the Highlands that has been circling in my head for many years!



Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Scotland, Day 2

Our second full day in Scotland was a lazy Monday.  I had read through some literature at the cottage and "discovered" Cove Harbour, pictured below.  It was just Ian and me on this little jaunt, a boy's morning out.  You can see a house in the bottom right of the shot - someone actually lived there!  They have their own private harbor and pretty stunning daily views of the North Sea!  Though I'm not sure how long this villager will be able to drive to and from home - landslides (mud) occur frequently here, and even from this day to our visit on Christmas Day there were some significant changes.  Enough to make me uncomfortable on the stairs leading to the path.
Right before we got to the house pictured above, we went through a Smuggler's Tunnel - where Scots used to smuggle in goods to circumvent English taxes - to get to this secluded harbor.  There were rock pools, arches, keyholes - all sorts of good stuff.  Here I caught Ian looking out to sea with some of the arches in the background.

Later that day we drove to the Glenkinchie distillery and took a mini-tour of the distillery, and tried two different whisky's.  There was a little museum that the kids got a kick out of, with an interactive computer/movie station. In the photo below, I captured the three of them right outside the visitor entrance.

We went to find Roslyn Chapel (from "The DaVinci Code" fame) - and we did find it.  It is just under some serious renovation AND they were charging 10 pounds a person to get a look around.  It was an interesting idea to go see the place - but definitely not something I'm willing to consider at $40 (US) just to look at architecture in a church.  Especially not when there are so many other churches with stunning architecture for free . . . We felt cheap when we first made the decision, but we feel pretty good about it now.

That night we went caroling with the villagers from Oldhamstocks village (where we were staying).  It was great fun!  What was so interesting to us was that the other villagers obviously knew who was living in what house, by name.  But more interesting was that they knew at some houses which carols to sing based on individual preferences.  Some of the recipients shared candy with us, one house passed out Hot Toddies (for the adults) and two others were passing out warm, mulled wine!  They were genuinely happy for the carols, and genuinely happy to share their candy, whisky, and wine with us.

I hope everyone has been enjoying the play by play! Tomorrow I'll cover Edinburgh, our first BIG day!



Sunday, December 28, 2008

We're baaack! Here's Glasgow . . .

Well, we're back from our Christmas holiday in Scotland.  It was a fantastic trip, and we had absolutely lovely weather.  I'm planning on posting a day by day, so expect some decent traffic here in the next few days.  Of course, that depends on how easily I can get to my photos, what with cleaning up here after Christmas and corralling the kids with their new toys : )

Our first day was mostly airport time.  We were delayed by thick fog out of Frankfurt-Hahn by almost two hours, so that got us into Edinburgh at about two or three in the afternoon.  Just enough time for us to get our rental (MUCH easier getting used to driving on the opposite side of the car and road this time, though mistakes were made).  More interesting was learning to shift with my left hand!  Anyways, we didn't have any time to explore Edinburgh as it gets DARK by 4 pm.  So we headed out to our cottage in the countryside of Scotland south and east of Edinburgh along the coast.

The shot here is of the church that sat adjacent to the cottage (literally a one minute walk or less).  It is where we spent Christmas morning for our Christmas service with the other villagers.  You can see the sheep on the hillside just behind the church.

That first day (21st) we decided to drive into Glasgow.  Mostly because we wanted to see the open air market (The Barras).  This turned out to be harder to find than we anticipated it, but we found it.  We didn't spend much time there, other than buying me new gloves, which came in quite handy on this trip.  After that we found some lunch, then made our way to the House for an Art Lover.  They had this great playground that some of the resident Artists must have made, as some of the play equipment had elements of sculptures to them.  Here is Leah enjoying her ride on the swing.

Here is Ian on one of the slides.  It looked like beaten copper or bronze in the shape of a ladybug - Ian only cared that it was fun to slide down.

The last shot here is of Catherine, Ian, and Leah right before we went inside.  It was actually a kid-friendly museum of sorts - with everyone enjoying their shot at playing the piano in one of the rooms.

That's it for this post.  Look for more to come . . .

Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry (Early) Christmas to All!!

Our Christmas Cards are going out today.  Horray!  I was glad we got those done.  The main reason is we leave for Scotland for a week tomorrow.  We will be spending Christmas there & we will have a cottage on the coast SE of Edinburgh.  I'm looking forward to having a few good roaring, fires while we're there.  We will celebrate our family Christmas once we return.
We will probably not have internet or phone while we're there, so we wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas now.  We will post some pictures after we return (or I probably should say Marc will probably post some pictures).

Merry Christmas Everyone!!
Catherine, Marc, Ian & Leah 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strange Winter Weather

We've been having some strange (for us) winter weather. It gets cold here (below freezing anyways), colder than just about anywhere else nearby. There is seriously about a 4-7 degree difference - colder - year round.  So we've been having a lot of fog lately, even when it is 28 degrees (F) outside. We haven't had any snow in about a week or so, but because of this freezing fog it looks like we have had a ton of snow.

I took Ian out in it for a walk yesteray, and he of course found the little bit of remaining snow and started throwing snow balls at me.  For no reason, can you believe that? : )

Anyways, I got in close for this shot so you could see what I'm talking about. The fog forms ice crystals that "grow" in every which direction, which makes it look beautifully like snow, as opposed to just freezing rain and ice.

And this is how it looks from a distance.  Like it has just snowed and there is no wind.  Like I said, it is beautiful. But if you go literally 10-15 minutes in any direction it disappears, except for the tippy-tops of the small mountains around here.

Finally, an extreme close-up.  (I meant for this one to be first - but I just can't be bothered to try to straighten out this blogger, it pretty much puts the photos in the order it wants and makes it too difficult and time consuming to reorder them!).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Love Thy Neighbor

We had a pretty decent snow fall this past week - enough so that I couldn't drive in to work.  Lucky for me it is a short walk!  The Mini Cooper is a great car in the spring/summer/fall . . . but way too much power and just not enough weight when it gets slippery out!

Anyways, my neighbor upstairs and another buddy decided to have some fun and cleared out all the spots next to the Mini (including Catherine's car).  They did a great job of getting ALL the snow off the ground around the other cars, and you can see the result for the Mini.

They had some real nice touches - notice the license plate and antenna still showing - so I could find my little car.  Very funny!

And I'm glad they took care of Catherine's car for me . . . ahhh, Love Thy Neighbor!  : ) 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Marc needs your votes!

Hi everyone, 

I probably should have thought of this sooner, but here it is now.  Marc has entered a Photography Contest Here.  Please go to the site & register to be a member so you can rate his pictures (if you like them) so he can have a chance at winning a $1000 Sony Gift Card!
Once you've registered, go back to the page you started at and click on the tab "View All" next to Highest Rated Photos.  Once you're there you will see a black & white of a train wheel by Rainman.  This is Marc.  Feel free to rate this photo, then click on rainman under the photo.  This will take you to all of the pictures Marc has submitted on the site.  Go to page 2 of his photos and rate his "Memorial" photo.  It is the black & white photo at the bottom of the page.  This was taken at the Murdered Jews of Europe Memorial when we were in Berlin.  We're pretty sure this was the one that is being considered as a finalist since it has 9 ratings.

We're hoping he wins and hope that those of you who are interested in photography stay with the site and check out some of the other photos there (just don't rate any higher than what you rate Marc's :)