Sunday, November 27, 2016

Jenny and Squire 2016 Sept 29 Inverness to King's Cross to Heathrow

Ahhh...the trip back. A rainy morning in Inverness, onto the train (hurrah for Virgin 1st class!) and had breakfast as we sailed through the beautiful Cairngorms National Park.

Just managed to catch this rainbow through the window of the train as the weather started to clear.

The winding rivers made me think of the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which we had watched one night in Inverness after a long day of travel.

The Squire was quite happy to alternately nap and surf the web on the Ipad. Virgin trains happily kept the food and later in the day, the red wine coming regularly.

I had to add this photo of a teacup pulled out from my china cupboard when we returned. A lovely lady got on the train and sat with us in the foursome of seats. She was from somewhere near Glasgow but had been having a nice weekend with friends but was headed to London to her son's house. She happened to mention that her son was a documentary film director (My Scientology Movie by Louis Theroux) which was very interesting. It was just being released in the UK a week later and sounds fascinating. For some reason I asked this lovely lady what the name of the town she hailed from near Glasgow. When she said Blairgowrie, I almost fell out of my seat. This teacup is why!

This card has traveled with the teacup since it was given to my mother when she was about one year old. I think the writing is my grandmother's but I am not sure how my grandparents knew the McKays from Blairgowrie. Our new friend assured us that the population of Blairgowrie has never been very high.

A lovely train trip back. We were ready to come home at this point but what a fantastic trip!

Jenny and Squire 2016 Sept 28 Thurso to Inverness

A lot of people think that John O'Groats is the most northerly point of mainland Britain. Well, we did go there too, but first we went to much more remote and more spectacular Dunnet Head. An obvious place for a lighthouse, you can just make out Orkney in the distance in the above photo.

There was a Swiss couple in a Jeep who were on the same route we were and stopped at Dunnet Head at the same time as us. They were trying to get their Jeep to the very end of the road (a form of geocaching I guess) and were considering what looked to me like a very treacherous path when I was taking this photo. We know they made it out as we bumped into them in the gift shop in John O'Groats!

John O'Groats now has a lovely coffee shop (sorry, no photo) where we had a relaxing latte but more importantly, stopped in at the gift shop/information center. After the Swiss couple had bought their postcards and stamps, we asked for directions on how to find Nybster Broch. A good thing we did too, because even with some fairly specific instructions, it still took us a while to find it. For reference, if you find the Caithness Broch Centre in Auckengill, there is a farm and a house across the street. You have to go past the house and turn at the tiny public road, which leads down to a parking area close to the North Sea and this sign above.

The helpful woman at John O'Goats told us that there were three stone monuments (which there were) and that we would find the Broch by the last one. Sure enough, the Victorian monument in the photo called Mervyn's Tower pictured above, was just behind the grass covered Nybster Broch. Built later than Skara Brae (Iron age as opposed to Neolithic) it may have been occupied for as many as 1000 years.

Climbing Mervyn's Tower gives a good view of the broch, but you can also climb right in and around it. And what a view of the sea while clambering around the broch!

Eventually we had to get back on the road to Inverness however as the car had to be returned and the Squire had quite enough of driving on the left side and the ever stalling eco-car!

Had to say hello to this fellow as we left the Nybster car park. Mooooooo!

Jenny and Squire 2016 Sept 27 Orkney to Thurso

So my little hen friends at Hammersmith Bed and Breakfast on Orkney were adorable and trotted below our window. I meant to ask if the eggs at our scrumptious breakfast were provided by these friendly chickens but I'm sure they were.

The northern view from the B&B window doesn't look like much with the grey sky this morning but it was quite spectacular with Northern Lights the night before. I didn't even have to leave the bedroom. I just stood by the window and enjoyed the show. Of course I had to rouse the Squire to see the show. Apparently they had been much more spectacular the night before when we were in Thurso but I didn't check my sources! Oh well. It wasn't strong enough to photograph but lovely to watch.

After our wonderful breakfast we set out in the more typical Scottish weather. Wind and misty rain made for some moody photos.

The Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisoners of war is quite something to see. Unfortunately a busload of pensioners soon chased us away.

To the right of this photo is one of the Churchill Barriers which are causeways joining some of the small islands of south Orkney around Scapa Flow (built by the Italian POWs). There were divers exploring the wrecks which are showing up as small lumps of metal in the water in this photo. Brrrr!

A stop at the Highland Park Distillery, world renowned for its distinctive Orkney peat flavoured Single Malt Whiskey was easy as we drove right past it. It would have been a terrible pity not to stop! We passed on this 40 year bottle but picked up some 12 year which was more in the budget.

The rain didn't bother us at all and we got to watch their short film and have a wee dram, which I enjoyed even though I'm not a Scotch drinker at all. I asked whether it was true that Prince Andrew had a cask put down for him and the answer was YES!

I had promised Gillian that although she wasn't on this trip with me this year, I would bring her back a stone from Orkney, to keep her piece of flint from last summer company. So on the way back to the ferry at Stromness, we stopped at the Stones of Stennes again. You can see how choppy the water is in the Loch of Stennes behind the standing stone.

This photo (an odd selfie of my hand and the stones) was for Gillian. She was REALLY excited to know there was a wee Stone of Stennes coming her way!

Unfortunately the ferry had to leave early due to the inclement weather. The sun had come out by this time but this photo out the ferry window towards Hoy gives you a bit of an idea why some passengers were green on arrival back in Scotland at Scrabster. A note if you are travelling to Orkney, book your ferry rides first and then plan your trip around that. Also, check the ferry website the day before sailing and the day of sailing in case there are last minute changes like we had. It would be terrible to miss your ferry as they only go twice a day most of the year.

Jenny and Squire 2016 Sept 26 Orkney

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day 13- Monday Last Day in London

We started the day in this aptly named second hand book shop called Slightly Foxed Books. We didn't find anything we were looking for so unfortunately couldn't curl up on that couch! Pity.

As it was raining in London today (our first real rain in 2 weeks) the oldest umbrella shop in London, James Smith & Sons on New Oxford Street seemed an appropriate next stop. 

In operation since 1830 and in the same location since 1857, they have all sorts of umbrellas and also walking sticks costing from 30 pounds to thousands for antique or bespoke items. We browsed!

We then went down Charing Cross Road to peruse more book shops. Henry Pordes Books was a wonderful used book shop where we each picked up a hardcover "Popular Rhymes & Nursery Tales of England" book. 

Next door in the Any Amount of Books shop I found an old Enid Blyton book for one pound. And the new and shiny Foyles book store also on Charing Cross kept us busy for a while. It was the next best thing to visiting 84 Charing Cross Rd, which is now a McDonald's restaurant!

After a while I was feeling a bit poorly with the London cold virus (which we both picked up but which I haven't quite gotten over) so we headed back to The Blackbird Pub on Earl's Court Rd. Dorset Lamb pie for both of us with a pint of ale for Gillian and a Shandy for me really hit the spot. 

Packing up now to head home tomorrow. Back to our families and routine. 

Steps today were a pathetic 9,106. Winding down slowly now.

Cheers for the last time!

Day 12- Sunday linger in Bath and back to London

Sunday was a little foggy in Bath to start. This photo was taken of the Parade Gardens by the river Avon as the church bells from both Bath Abbey and St John the Evangelist Catholic Church were ringing. Lovely!

This photo is for our Canadian readers (or anyone who has been to Niagara Falls). It is "The Maid of the Mist" Bath style, just a bit less risky looking going into those rapids under Pulteney Bridge!

We next did a bit of shopping in the shops which line Pulteney Bridge. It just looks like another street here but those shops are on the bridge of the photo above. We headed straight for The Antique Map Shop. Fascinating!

The sun then came out in time for us to see the Holburne Museum, which is situated dramatically at the end of Great Pulteney Street and in front of Sydney Gardens. The museum had some wonderful Georgian and Regency art as well as displays of silver and china, miniatures, and even furniture and jewelry. A small museum just perfect for a quick visit. 

Sydney Gardens behind the Holburne Museum is gorgeous and there is a new modern cafe in the back of the Holburne but we couldn't linger as we were off to London again.

We had dinner in an Italian Restaurant near our London hotel and then watched the latest Downton Abbey episode in our jammies. 

Fewer steps again today...only 11,136


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Day 11- Saturday Rambles in Bath

The day started with a bake sale in Bath Abbey. We were so lucky to be able to wander around this gorgeous cathedral with cake and coffee in a very informal way. We not only bought cakes from this stall, we got some jams to take home with us.

This was the view from where I was sitting in the choir stalls munching and sipping away and marveling at the architecture around me. Somehow the bake sale made the Abbey seem more alive and fun. 

There were children learning how to make bread, which you don't normally see in a cathedral!

Apparently the fan vaulting on the ceiling is quintessentially British according to Gillian who is now an expert after having devoured a book called How to Read Churches.

We also climbed the multiple spiral staircases to the Bath Abbey tower and this was the view of the inside of the clock. 

This is one of the 10 bells in the tower. This one is inscribed "All you of Bathe that heare me sound, Thank Lady Hopton's hundred pound." Apparently although she pledged £100, she only paid £5 and her descendants paid the rest. She still gets credit on the bell however!

We got some wonderful photos from up in the tower including this one of the Roman Baths from above.

I like this shot as it shows the lookout at the top of Beechen Cliff as well as the church beside our hotel Paradise House, which is the tiny tower at the bottom of the trees.

After the Abbey, we went to see the Fashion Museum which is in the basement of the Assembly Rooms. We had lots of fun drooling over the dresses. I won't bore you with too many photos but this close up is fun...

and this one of some shoes which Gillian said her daughter might like to wear today...

And below is one of "yours truly" looking like one of the Cranford ladies out for a stroll. Looks like I need a corset. My dresser Gillian forgot to cinch me in!

Speaking of Cranford, below is a crinoline, one of which is referred to in Cranford as a cage I believe, and was used comically to contain a parrot!

Actually, here are a few more photos. Sorry about the reflections off the glass but I just wanted to add a few more snaps of these gorgeous dresses!

Late Regency/Early Victorian dress from 1838
Late Victorian dress from 1898
Gorgeous mid Victorian with stomacher from 1842
We ended up by seeing the Royal Crescent (below) and back to the Abbey for an organ concert. We then called it an early night by picking up provisions at a M&S food store and enjoying the garden view from the B&B. Finishing off the Colin Firth version of P&P seemed appropriate to Bath.

Fewer steps today at 12,406 (but do we get credit for all the steps up the Abbey tower?)