Monday, November 20, 2017

Out of the blue…


Literally, as it had to make its’ way across the ocean from one continent to the other
and metaphorically as totally unexpected.

Not many things in life are as good as a letter from a wandering child.
This one was special and will be treasured.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

A great rainy day or


How to entertain one’s self when the weather finally turns gray and one has been accustomed to sun.

 

We have been spoiled this year by a lack of rain and too much sun.  Now before anyone gets upset with my priorities, it must be remembered that one of my reasons for returning to Europe from the sunny California where I grew up was for the seasons. I love the mix and if I sometimes have been known to complain about the “eternal gray” only those of you who have lived a long time in Geneva, Switzerland will be able to empathize. There have been years when it turned gray at the beginning of November and proceeded to only be sunny if one had the odd January day where the cold wind blew: and that until the end of April.

However global warning exists even here in Switzerland (the glaciers are melting at record speed, ski resorts are trying to recycle themselves into summer activities and we now have many, many, more stores and office with air conditioning although it is still hard to get a permit for a private home).

Forgotten is the heat wave of May/June, but even the most adamant followers of the sun have begun to notice the lack of rain.  Lack that is during the week and on Saturdays as for 3 straight Sundays we have had rain.

Faced with yet another Sunday of drizzles, one needed some new ideas and here is what I came up with: take a good friend, meet around 10:00 for coffee in a different place from the usual; proceed into town to a museum (all of the city-owned ones are free except for the special exhibits and there is certainly enough to explore to cover many a rainy day) – this time the Museum of Art and History near the Old Town. An added advantage was the fact that there was street parking near the museum alleviating the necessity to pay for parking.

My favorite Hodler: The Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau

"L'Orage"/ The Storm -Alexandre Calame - 1839

Have a leisurely lunch in Carouge: we chose La Bourse and had delicious steaks with rucola salad and parmesan chips – accompanied of course by a decent red wine: sigh – they were out of the Pont de Soupirs so guess I will just have to return. Split: one to visit a house-bound friend, myself to visit a very good friend and neighbor in the hospital. Back home to check on e-mails, write this blog, watch a bit of TV and enjoy a relaxing evening.

Not only a great rainy Sunday, but simply a very good day as well.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Splitting hairs or


How retirees have fun.

I have a reputation, not always deserved, of being on time.
In fact some of my local friends swear that one can set one’s clock by my
Arrivals – to the point that once when I was a quarter of an hour late one particular
Friend sent a text message to find out if I was o.k.

Yes, simply stuck in traffic.

Today I had lunch programmed with this particular friend (also those of the
“best hamburgers in the world”!) and the lady of the house requested that “exceptionally” I not come until 12:15 as she had some errands to run and did want to be home and prepared
when I showed up.

To this I replied that we could even make it 12:30 as I was not always that rigid.
Loved her answer: o.k. 12:22:30 it is.


I had to finangle a bit to make that work, but I was ringing the doorbell at 12:22 and some seconds.

This is how we-who-no-longer-work-for-money entertain ourselves.

By-the-way the burgers are still every bit as good as touted in my original blog

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Portal, scan and a pat down...


Home, sweet home
Portal, scan and a pat down: bye bye Edinburgh. Thursday and I was going home (some of the English languages best words). I was so tired the night before that I had a hard time going to sleep.

The Castle of Edinburgh as I left the city
The trip by foot down the hill to the bus stop was much easier than I had anticipated; the wait not long (maybe 5 minutes) and the bus fairly empty, the ride fine. At the airport EasyJet has it down to a science: you weigh your own luggage, scan the boarding card whereupon the machine issues a luggage tag, one then rolls one’s luggage to a portal and a real person checks the boarding card and ID. No receipt issued.



Ah, but security more than made up for that ease: I went through the portal, which promptly rang so in turn I got to go through the body scanner – also rang – and led to a pat down. Was it the bar in my arm? No one seemed much concerned – maybe my nails have lead in them.

Made my way to the departure zone, looked at all the stores – now mainly whisky so didn’t buy anything. Went out the East wing as well and finally settled on a Cappucino with an extra shot of espresso and a “Cheddar Cheese Ploughman with Branston Pickle on Malted Bloomer” (read a cheese sandwich on brown bread). Ate half before they announced a delay of almost an hour in the flight’s departure. Good thing that I was going home!

The time did finally roll around but there was a gate change – went there only to find a UA flight. The board posted “gate change awaiting” and although it also posted “go to the Easy Jet App” that wouldn’t load. Is this fun yet? Again though – I was going home so not much could dim my good spirits.

Scottish thistle - the country's "flower"


What a trip, what great travel companions so I'll leave you with the thought lettered on a pub in Inverness:

*Friendship is like Whiskey, the older the better. Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good Whisky is barely enough.*

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Fringe, Hub and Tattoo…


all rolled into one along with what seems like hundreds of thousands of tourists equals Edinburgh on steriods !

Fringe - the world's largest arts festival!

 Slept the sleep of the righteous – or the dead tire and it was actually my alarm clock that woke me up at 7. Had to go find breakfast as none in my arrangement there – sigh. Had gotten used to the wonderful Scottish breakfasts. Actually if the truth were known I was not very happy to be in a big city. Weird that.

I walked in the correct direction stopping for a cappuccino (good) and a scone (not quite so good if not downright not a scone!).  My travel companions texted that they were on their way so I went on down and walked up the hill towards the castle. 

Castle of Edinburgh with stadium seating for Tattoo

It was only when I logged on to the Tattoo wifi that I found out that I needed it to receive WhatsApp messages. We finally did re-connect with each other around 10h00. I had meanwhile done the souvenir store near the castle. When we connected we went back in and spent too much time there as by the time we went back to the castle (which opened at 9h30 and had basically no lines) the line was way too long. We proceeded to head for the Bobby statue down at Greyfrair’s then into the church grounds and cemetery. 

Greyfrair's Bobby

Most of the churches here charge £2.00 for taking pictures – hmmmmm….. We had gone past the Elephant coffee shop where the first Harry Potter book was written and since G wanted to eat there and none of us had had much breakfast we went at 11h30 before the crowds.

The Elephant House

As the sign says...

Afterwards we continued wandering down the Royal Mile dipping into stores until we arrived at Holyrood – the Queen’s residence in July. It was 15h30 so only time to take in the palace itself and gardens. It didn’t take much imagination to see the Abbey ruins as a whole building nor the “palace” as living quarters. I was actually rather awed to be walking where the Queen lives at least a month of the year! Had a Prosecco and a third of a polenta cupcake with lemon icing. My was that delicious in the castle coffee shop. 

More than one interesting sight on the street

The Royal Mile

The castle - a special camera setting

Holyrood Palace

The Abbey

The world's best cupcake


After having walked all the way back up the Royal Mile and finding the store that I wanted to re-visit inaccessible due to the arrival of the Tattoo participants, we
(or rather I) decided that we should look for a restaurant down on Rose Ave. walking down the hill near the Museum. £55.00 got us two great salads (Caeser for G and a “Rosehip” one for me with greens, artichokes, pine nuts, croutons both black and white, and grilled chicken – scrumptious – and Fish and Chips for M who for the first time was so tired that he didn’t finish it). I treated them and gave G her two cards and a book about Mermaids and other stories from Orkney and both of them a wee Orkney desk calendar. Walked back to the Novotel and got some cheddar (ok 4!) on the way in a Sainsbury.

Knew that I had a voucher at the hotel for having them not make up the room so enjoyed a Prosecco down in the bar before yet again tumbling into the last night of hotel or B&B beds. This travel is hard work!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Back to minor snafus...


and some lucky breaks as well.

And back on the road headed for Edinburgh after a normal breakfast. But first we walked back into town, went to St.Mary’s where I took pix of yet another Via Croci (in ceramic this time). Back to House of Fraser for a wee bit then across the bridge to do a couple of souvenir stores as G was looking for a t-shirt for a grand nephew. 

Flowers at the Park Guest House

One of many stone statues at the Park Guest House

St.Mary's in Inverness, the first catholic church to be built when Catholocism was again allowed
Back to the Guest House to pick up the car and go to the Botanical Gardens (floral hall as the owner of the B&B said) as I didn’t really want to walk it.  

On the road and on the way down – saw a sign for other gardens so took off then couldn’t find them but never mind we came across the battle fields of Culledon (Lord Cumberland (English) against a Bonnie Prince Charles Stuart (backed by the French) – the battle between the Jacobites and those loyal to the English. Inadvertantly went in the back way so didn’t pay the £11.00. 
 
Culloden
Walked around a bit then continued on to the Cawdor castle and grounds. Had lunch first – I took the carrot and coriander soup with a cheddar cheese scone. Since they didn’t allow backpacks in the castle, my pockets were full and I had my sweater and scarf around my neck, my purse and camera slung across my chest, and my jacket tied around my waist (originally misspelled that one "waste" in a probably freudian slip) with the black backpack folded and stuffed in it.  The Cawdor castle was very well laid out – even a dungeon and more tapestries than I have seen in a long time. It belonged and still is inhabited by the Cawdor family.
 
Entry to Cawdor Castle

Motto

Great gift shop but not really enough time as M had told their Guest House that they would be there by 17h00.  

Then of course we ran into traffic slow downs on the A9 due to roadwork so they had to call and let him know that they might be late. Turns out that he is leaving. Now one would think that he would have told them that at some point! Oh well. It may mean my having to negotiate getting to my hotel with my luggage on my own later this evening. Time will tell. Also know that my roaming days run out tonight at midnight and that the new ones won’t start until Aug.10 so no more looking up routes, fares and the like unless I want to spend a small fortune.
Will be glad to be going home as am now tired of rushing.

Sevral hours after planned we finally arrived at their B&B and they negotiated getting the key (their phone bill is going to be awful as they have had to use it several times) around 18h30 then we set off to find my hotel. Had decided to do dinner literally whenever we saw something, but most likely after my hotel as I didn’t think there would be anything on the outskirts where we were. Got lucky and saw a grill on the left side as we were traveling so a left-hand turn further down and we went back.  I had a great burger and they split a Caeser salad and a pizza. Our waitress had an accent so I asked where she came from – Hungary. On to the hotel which we had trouble accessing. G had seen it off the freeway, but the GPS showed weird directions and we overroad them – to our sorrow. on the third try we managed to finally arrive at the hotel where they proceeded to offer me the same conditions, if I would go into town. I looked at her and said "but I can't make my friends drive me into town then back out to there place here on the outskirts" to which the receptionist replied, "no, no, we'll order and pay for a cab". She did a good sale’s job so I took it and arrived at the Novotel in the city around 21h30. Getting more and more tired. Room anonymous and of course not really in the center of town – getting to a tram or the Airlink bus tomorrow is going to be a challenge. 

I could go back to the other one for the last night, but that would mean taking my luggage and storing it for the day so am seriously considering simply taking a cab – regardless the costs. After all I haven’t spent what I brought as after the credit card snafu I charged as much as I could instead of using my cash. 

The bed in any case looked beyond blessed, as by then I was truly tired.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Re-entry into a more modern day…


and return to the Mainland
Day 6 of the Scottish adventure

We had agreed to meet at 8 down in the breakfast room, but I was a few minutes late – enjoying the wifi so much! Mick of Bankburn Guest House is so funny, then two other chaps came in so conversation was lively. I had chosen not to face scrambled eggs again as they had yogurts and oats, etc. but as we were talking she mentioned the local bread specialty of “bannock” made with bere flour (apparently only grown on the island of Orkney – a six-headed stalk instead of barley’s two) and cheeses so that is what I had. Ah ambrosia: mature cheddar and another smoked something and they even hauled out the pickles. 

Breakfast at the Bankburn Guest House, St.Margaret's Hope

A great change before heading back to Kirkwall to explore the museum and cathedral before having to take the ferry at 14h00.

Parked in a public car park near the Visitor’s center and started off. Several lovely souvenir stores that we explored then time was flying so headed for the museum where, yet again, we spent too much time. I finally suggested splitting and meeting in front of the cathedral – at noon. 

The Museum is in the Tankerness House

Good thing, because I discovered the Earl’s and Bishop’s palace. Didn’t have my ticket of course but walked around – Watergate – then the cathedral. 

One of the old towers
 
The St.Magnus Cathedral founded in 1137
The St.Magnus Cathedral was originally part of the Archdiocese of Nidaros (Trondheim) in Norway and when Orkney became part of Scotland in 1468, it was given to the people of Kirkwall by the Scots king, James III. More information http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/stmagnus/magcath.htm
One of many headstones, this one to a virtuous woman who died Nov.2, 1694

The town's original stone cross

Shrine to the 833 men and boys lost on the torpedoed HMS Royal Oak in 1939

Tapestry given by the Hordaland council
In Norway upon the commemoration of the 850th anniversary of the foundation of the church: The King of Norwary presented it to her Majesty the Queen Mother on August 19, 1987.

Coming back down I realized that there were shops to the right so did a quick re-con before rushing to the church to at least see the inside. Wow the dates on the tombstones! Took several pictures then it rang noon and out I went to meet my travel partners.

We then went back down my shopping street, enjoyed lunch at the Pomona Café.  We split again as time was very limited. I only had time to “do” the gourmet Orkney store next door. Prosecco kit, cheese biscuits and a cookie for on the ferry. Ran almost back to the meeting place and still didn’t beat them: too much to see, I must return.
 
green hills and lochs, flows, bays, broughs and the like

leaving Orkney

World War II gun emplacements

The wake created by our ferry much ressembles the sky

Settlements along the way to John O'Groat's

The drive was lovely with yet again beautiful scenery. A half hour out of Inverness G absolutely had to go to the bathroom so we pulled off where they thought this great mall had been… nothing. At the end when we were almost back on the freeway we u-turned and went to a – for want of a better description – your typical freeway stop. Not knowing when or where we would find dinner we had it there - not the world’s greatest meal, but truly the only not-quite-stupendous one of the trip. Then continued on to our Park House Guest Hotel and the same rooms that we had had four days earlier for the night. They were going to stay in so I walked to the river and along. “Did” Fraser’s and didn’t find anything, but felt good for having looked.

The "castle" of Inverness
 Is in fact not a castle at all! This one was built in 1836 upon the site of many former castles who's rich history encompasses Mary Queen of Scott's and the Jacobite uprisings. It was destroyed by Bonnie Prince Charles http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Scotland/Highland/Inverness-Castle.html