BACK TO INVERNESS

We headed back to town and by this time I had checked FaceBook at the local internet cafe in the launderette — and learned that my world of work had been turned upside down – but didn’t know quite what had happened. I wouldn’t recommend that you be across the world when things like this take place. So off and on for the rest of the night, I ran down the street and stuck my coin in the computer for a few minutes of online time – but no news.  Again – I wouldn’t recommend this method of getting (or not getting) important news.

FG, DG and I headed downtown to Leakey’s Cafe and Bookshop which was located in an old Gaelic church.  This place was huge with thousands of books. First we had a cup of tea and then we looked around. But to be honest, it was all rather frustrating because I knew I couldn’t fit books in my already-cramped suitcase, so I wasn’t that interested in finding anything – because I didn’t want to find anything I really wanted, but couldn’t buy.  But I would like to be back there with an empty suitcase because so many of the books were books you wouldn’t be able to get here.

Besides, I wanted to check the internet again – so I left the two others at the store and once again headed to the launderette – still no news.

By this time FG and DG were back, so we met up with RM and went off looking for a place to eat. The recommended Early Bird Special restaurants were already full – so we ended up at Riva, an Italian restaurant – and ate outside, overlooking the River Ness, across from the Inverness Castle. Relaxing and unique location.  One of the cool things about this restaurant was the ladies room mirror!

When we finally got our check, we wandered off down the path next to the river.

(SCOTLAND FACT: Restaurants will not bring you your check – forever. They will ask if you want dessert and coffee, but even when you say that you don’t, they won’t bring the check. One time we asked three times before we got it.  Another time we simply waited – and waited – and waited – until finally, after 45 minutes, we asked.)

THE HERMITAGE

Oops! I goofed. This is supposed to go before Pitlochry.  I’m doing the posts ahead and I accidentally posted the other one early.

Just west of the A9, is a wooded area called The Hermitage.  The Duke of Atholl planned this tree garden 250 years ago as part of his property in nearby Dunkeld. A trail runs along the River Braan toward a picturesque bridge and Ossian’s Cave. Another feature of the tree garden is an impressive stand of Douglas firs, said to include some of the tallest trees in Scotland.

AN EVENING IN PITLOCHRY

After walking along the River Braan in the Hermitage woods, we headed to the quaint, victorian village of Pitlochry. Actually it was Queen Victoria herself who enjoyed the area and often vacationed there. (circa 1842)  Since that time the town has been a popular tourist spot.

(SCOTLAND FACT: Hotel lobbies are called “receptions” as in, I’m going to the reception.)

*We stayed at Fishers House and once we got settled in, we went down to the lobby to introduce our buddies. Remember RG (Random Guy) who became my buddy the first night in Edinburgh. Well, we had to find out about each other so we could introduce each other to the group. OK, what are the chances of this? Turns out he wasn’t all that random – his kids grew up in Awana and he was an Awana leader! Truly. We found some other things in common too like his dad knew my dad!

*Me and the Other Three headed down to Victoria’s Cafe. I can’t remember what I had to eat, but I remember it was good. I do remember the desserts, however, because I took pictures. 🙂

(SCOTLAND FACT: Restaurants give you tablespoons to eat with – rather than teaspoons. I think they use teaspoons just for tea.)

(SCOTLAND FACT: Many restaurants have early bird specials (which are often quite crowded) where you choose two or three courses for a set price.)

*After supper, DG and I took a walk down the main street of Pitlochry and up a hill. Truly, a charming town, the type you read about in novels ( and doesn’t Pitlochry sound like a name of a town you’d read about in a novel?)

MAKES YOU SMILE

Back in the 1700s, Sir Henry Raeburn (a Scottish artist) painted a picture of a minister (Robert Walker) skating on Duddingston Loch.

When the architect was designing the Parliament Building, he decided to give each Parliament member a “thinking pod,” shaped like the skating minister.

Thus the building has these strange-looking pods sticking out from the back wall where the country’s leaders can sit and think.

Unfortunately, they’ve discovered that the pods leak and hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent in making the skating-minister thinking pods leak proof.

I know this all sounds kind of crazy, but I’m telling you the absolute truth. Look it up if you don’t believe me 🙂

A STROLL THROUGH EDINBURGH

Monday, June 28th was my wedding anniversary — and our first morning in Scotland.

We ate in the basement of the hotel – fruit, toast and tea and then met the others and walked down to Holyrood Palace – a palace used by the royal family since the 15th century. In front of the palace is a smaller structure that is said to be Mary’s Bath House (as in, Mary Queen of Scots), but no one really knows what it was used for.

The Palace stands at one end of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle is at the other. Anne told us that all the security barriers in front of the palace are a rather new addition – similar to what’s in front of the White House.

We didn’t have time to tour the palace, but wandered over to the Scottish Parliament Building.

One thing I noticed about Scotland – there are a lot of very old, grayish brown buildings. So, it seems when they build a new building they make it ugly in it’s contemporariness. Like they can’t build something in between the very old and the extreme new.

The parliament building fits into the contemporary category. The bamboo attached across the front is a particularly interesting concept. The architect said it was to “merge into the natural background,” but instead it has generated the nickname of “toothpick building.”

Although Scotland and England are united – there are still sensitive areas.  The establishment of the Parliament Building also brought about more independence to Scotland in areas such as health and education. But there are many other areas where Scotland is still under English rule. Many Scots would like to be completely independent – but not happening in the near future.

DOWN TOWARD THE PALACE

Somewhere across the ocean, my son was celebrating his birthday on this day (June 27th)

(SCOTLAND FACT: The sun doesn’t go down until forever. To get a sunset picture, you need to be out between 10:00 and 11:00.)

Yes, even though the time was growing late, you can see by these pictures that the sun was still shining and you felt like it was only about five or six o’clock.

We meandered down the road a little further to the Robert Burns Memorial (the Scottish poet).

And then a little further so we could get a good view of Holyrood Palace. I would’ve enjoyed touring the palace – they are preparing for Queen Elizabeth’s annual visit. (I think she is to arrive this week sometime.) When she’s present, they fly the flag at half mast.

And here is DG posing in a phone booth.

Down the street a little further I saw my first Scottish bird. I am guessing this is a European Magpie. I know I have the magpie correct and since I am in Europe, I’m guessing that part is also correct, but my brother will have to tell me if I really do have the bird correctly identified.

The street scene is looking down Regent Street toward the city centre.

CEMETERY WALK

By the time we visited Calton Hill and then had a leisurely, three-course meal with introductions – it was getting late. We basically hadn’t slept  since Friday night (except for a very few minutes on the plane – since for some reason, they insisted on turning the lights on and off and on again) and now it was Sunday night. (Saturday night totally disappeared).  So, DG and I wandered across Regents Road to the Calton New Cemetery. (I think new means only 600 years old instead of 1200 years old or something because this was one decrepit, junky place.

WE’VE ARRIVED!

We skidded into the Parliament House Hotel (Edinburgh) about an hour before we were to meet our group.  We registered and were directed to our room. RM and I had a good, but small room with two of the three windows painted shut. The third window opened, but wouldn’t stay open. So, I dug around and found a canister full of tea in a drawer and used that to prop it up. (With no AC, you had to do something.) We quickly washed up and headed to the lobby where the 28 tour members were greeting and introducing themselves to each other.  We had an architect, two doctors, some software engineers and TEN teachers. Age range was 21 – 82.

(SCOTLAND FACT: People in EdinBORO get as upset when a visitor says EdinBURG as we do when someone says IllinoiSSSSS or AwanaS.)

We paraded out of the hotel and up Calton Hill which was right across the road (and up about 327 steps).

WHAT IS IT? Calton Hill is in the center of Edinburgh and from the top you have panoramic views of the city, including Arthur’s Seat which is the main peak in Holyrood Park

HOW DO YOU GET THERE? By climbing 143 steep steps (just felt like 327)

WHAT’S THERE? Nelson’s Monument and Edinburgh’s Folly.

Edinburgh’s Folly was constructed (well, partially constructed) back in 1817 to commemorate those who died in the Napoleonic Wars. Unfortunately, they needed 42,000 pounds and quickly ran out of money. The structure (which was supposed to look like the Parthenon in Athens) only has a front. (I thought of you, Karen, and our seven mile walk to the Parthenon in Nashville.)

WORTH IT? Yes, but plan to climb a lot of steps.

We then paraded back down the steps and over to Howie’s Restaurant which is located in a 200 year old building.

After we ate, Anne (the wonderful Scottish tour guide) made a little speech and somehow in her speech, she added, “And the Daisies were the last to arrive.” Forget Me and the Other Three – from there on out, everyone called us The Daisies. And sometimes in identifying ourselves, we would simply say, “I’m one of The Daisies.”

Then she set up the buddy system. This had to be someone you didn’t know anything about. My buddy was a random guy who was sitting down at the end of the table with his wife. (More about that later.) Your job was to make sure your buddy was on the bus each morning and after every stop. That way, people didn’t get left behind.

Each night Anne would post the next day’s itinerary so we would know what was happening. But many of us took a picture of the itinerary so it would help us identify the day’s pictures.