Thursday, September 05, 2019

London & Scotland

We took the train from London to Edinburgh, leaving at 2 PM - we got into
 Edinburgh at 1:15 AM after a hellish day - the hottest one on record in
 Great Britain. The line was too long to get pictures at the Harry Potter
 Hogwart's Express entrance, unfortunately.
Here's our "stop" for hours with lots of train service personnel
They did pass out free water. Finally, they evacuated the other
train's passengers to our train (already full).

Our adorable granddaughters Maya and Shira.
Our oldest son Joshua's family moved to London last summer. They came to visit us twice since then, so this was our turn. We spent a week with them in London and a week up in Scotland. The train trip up to Edinburgh was unexpected. It was the hottest day on record ever and the train tracks couldn't cope. We spent hours sitting on the track, unable to leave the train. There was no airconditioning working. People were taken off the train with heat exhaustion. We ended up on 3 trains and happily did make it to Edinburgh - at 1:15 in the morning! Our 5 grandchildren were amazing - never complained - just read books and played games (board games, not computer). We spent 3 nights there and then rented a 9 passenger van to take us around the Highlands.
Everyone loved Edinburgh. We saw the Castle, the new Parliament Building, the Dungeon Show and walked all over. From there we drove up along Loch Lomond to our first hotel. But not the usual way. We got to a traffic circle at the bottom of the lake and were stopped by a policeman. The road was closed, he informed us. But on learning we were headed for the hotel, he let us through.
We stopped in Luss to tour the small charming town and the beach. But once out of there, we were stopped again by the police and this time, weren't allowed to proceed. It was late and our hotel, the Lodge on Loch Lomond. was just beyond, but a fatal car/motorcycle accident up ahead had closed the road. Here's where Scott's navigation skills and my driving chutzpa saved the day. Let me tell you - it's hard enough to drive on Scotland's narrow (in many cases, only 1 lane for both directions) roads - but to do it with a huge 9 passenger van, is much harder.  Scott found a series of tiny roads that finally did end up at our hotel an hour later. It was a huge relief.
The Inn at Loch Lomond was very nice. We had three rooms, two in the main building and a "suite" in the beach house. Josh was only with us on the weekends so we were down to 8 people. The next day we drove north through Glencoe and spent several hours at the Visitor's Center. We learned about the history of this area and the highlands in general. The views were amazing the whole way. Hiking paths lined the road on both sides up in the hills. We wished we had time to do some long hikes. But our afternoon allowed a lovely one, although shorter. We took the gondola at the Nevis Range resort just past Ft. William.
The next two nights were spent at the Holly Tree Hotel where they had an indoor swimming pool - very popular with our grandchildren (and ourselves). The meals there were excellent as well. The food is great in Scotland. My favorites were Cullen Skink (smoked haddock chowder) and salmon. Scott really got into blood pudding and haggis (served every morning at breakfast). The last two times I was in Scotland, I sampled a lot of Scotch - but not this time.
Once we settled in at our beautiful Airbnb apartment at
150 The Royal Mile, all was fantastic. We had 5 bedrooms
and 2 bathrooms on two floors. The windows overlooked
the entertainment at night! The only drawback was the long
hike up the 4 floors to our apartment. 
We had a great kitchen and ate our dinners there each night.
That's my beautiful daughter-in-law Michal.
Looking the other direction (towards the castle) from our
windows, we could enjoy the entertainment each day!

Here's all 9 of us - Heather, Shira, Michal, Daniel, Josh, Maya
Ariella and Scott

The beautiful new Parliament building

The next day we headed up to Loch Ness. Tickets to the "Beastie Boat" tour were difficult to get at the last moment. We should have bought them way in advance. But we were able to get 5 of them - Scott and all of the kids, except Ariella, who volunteered to go with Michal on the regular boat tour. I enjoyed a quiet lunch at the hotel next to the Tour dock. Everyone loved the boat rides.
On the way back we watched boats work their way through the Caledonian Canal locks.
Next day we drove to Oban, a harbor town on the west coast. It was fun walking along the promenade and we managed to get on the docks and meet some sailors. An upscale coffee & chocolate shop made for an excellent break. That afternoon we drove along Loch Awe (A85) back to A82.
On the way, we stopped at St. Conan's Kirk - a gorgeous church built in 1883.
From there we headed south to Glasgow, where we spent one night at the Hilton Hotel - not Scott and my usual choice for sure but everyone loves having a pool.
In Glasgow, we took a bus tour of the city
A rest stop on the way down humping our
luggage
Outside the Parliament building, we struck a pose
Scott and our beautiful Ariella, also known as Cookie
Heather at the back of our big van. Luckily
we had full insurance because we swiped
the wall in the two underground garages
we visited - narrow, narrow passages!!!
Table set for dinner with one of the two
living rooms in the distance.
The beautiful town of Luss - one flower-bedecked cottage
after another.
as we had to leave the next day to return the van in Edinburgh and take the train back to London from there. It looks like a lovely city and worth more time on another visit.
Happily, the train back was uneventful and on time.
In London again we spent most of our time just visiting with our family. Our son Josh flew back from Dallas and we celebrated Shabbat with several great meals and met some of their friends.
But we did take one day to visit the new soccer stadium for the Tottenham Spurs. Our youngest son and husband are big fans. The brand new huge store there had every item possible with their logos. After purchasing quite a few, we headed down to the Thames and walked the Thames path, where we had a good lunch at the Oyster Shed.
We had one other special non family event. An overnight with dinner & breakfast with our cruiser friends Dic & Lizzie Clubb. Their sailboat "Indian Summer" is at Tortugal Marina with "Scott Free". We've enjoyed many great times with them in Guatemala and Belize. It was fun to see their beautiful home and garden - they were gracious hosts.
Here's 5 of our grandchildren with our daughter-in-law: Maya, Daniel, Shira, Jonathan, Ariella and Michal

The Falls of Falloch near Glencoe. We stopped at the Glencoe visitor center to learn about the history and had a snack.

The Gondola at the Nevis Range resort
near Ft. William brought us up to a great hike and a viewpoint.

The view from the Hollytree Hotel on Loch Linnhe where
we stayed two nights

Picturesque Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness from the boat.
Scotland is so scenic. You can just point your camera anywhere. Here's a view from the boat trip on Loch Ness. 
We bought tickets for the Beastie Boys fast boat on Loch Ness but
 could only get 5 of them. Michal & Ariella took
 the regular Jacobite boat and I enjoyed s quiet lunch.

Next, we watched the boats navigate the Caledonian Canal

The canal is lined with charming cottages with beautiful
gardens

Here's a map of the Canal

The next day we drove to the seafront town of Oban past Dunstaffnege Castle - gorgeous!

Michal and I enjoyed a cappuccino on the waterfront in Oban.

Scott loved being back on the ocean. We managed to get onto
the locked docks and talk to some of the cruisers.

The interior of St. Conan's Kirk. 
There was an inviting tea room set up on the
lawn here, but it was full.
One of the lovely squares in Glasgow. We were lucky to miss
the torrential rain which hit the highlands everywhere we
 weren't at the time. We saw electronic signs in many places
warning us of severe weather. 
Buddleia or Butterfly bushes were common everywhere,
along with the, in the States anyway, invasive purple
loosestrife. 
The Hanseatic Walk along the Thames from
London Bridge down to Southwark Bridge.

The Tower Bridge and river traffic

Dic & Lizzie Clubb in their beautiful garden

And at breakfast in the sunny kitchen.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Summer Activities

Julie and Peter Gowan came for a visit in
early June. We've been friends now since we
cruised together in the Bahamas. 
Uli & Thomas "Toriba" visited us in June. We've known them
 for years cruising Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico.
Here - having lunch at Mountain Top Inn.

On the top of Killington Mountain

We're on the porch of W.E.Pierce General Store in
Shrewsbury. Heather runs the store several times a week as
a volunteer. It's a Coop.

Tom, Uli, Will & Sean. After visiting us they went to Boston
and stayed with our son and son-in-law before flying
home to Germany.

Scott, his brother Brent, cousins Lisa & Eric Aronson at
Lisa's daughter Marlena's baby shower in Amherst

We visited our daughter Zoe and her family out in Palo Alto,
CA in June as well. Here we are about to take a hike - Scott,
Heather, oldest grandson Nick, George and Zoe in their
backyard.
Younger grandson Tommy at the lake where Nick is
teaching sailing.

Scott had to watch Kolya pretty carefully
during our Fourth of July week! He turned
one August 1st.
Our daughter-in-law Morgen with our
youngest grandson Kolya.
Molly & Patrick in front of Molly's fantastic
Artichoke tarts. Their wedding was just after
our Fourth of July event in Portland, ME
Our son James and Kolya enjoying the sprinkler on the lawn.
Julie led yoga classes out on the lawn.
Kolya, Morgen, James, Julie, Heather, Molly, Patrick, Will, Russ, Debby and Sean at the Lake. Marty, Jenny, Larry, Luke, and Doug didn't get in this photo.  At our first Fourth of July get-togethers, James and Jenny were just babies and the others were yet to arrive!! 
That's Heather's new painting of our Tortugal Marina
in Guatemala where "Scott Free" spends her summers.
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra performed at the
Mountain Top Inn just after the Fourth of July. 
Marty, Molly & Russ Wolf coming down the
aisle to the lovely wedding site near
Portland, ME. It was a fantastic three-day
event!!
We walked all around Portland during the weekend. Here we
met up with David & Leslie Silverstein
Sean enjoyed lots of time with his new nephew
Kolya. We rented a house downtown Portland
from Airbnb that was great for ourselves,
Sean & Will and James, Morgen & Kolya.
Judy, Debbie, Scott, Heather and Paula pose
out on the deck.
My sister Paula came for 2 weeks from Maryland. We also
had Scott's brother Brent for a week during that time - and
briefer visits from Scott's cousin Lisa and Yosi, and my
first cousin Judy with her daughter Debbie and her new
dog.
The annual Haystack Dinner & Dance was as fun as usual -
it was a beautiful night but the bonfires were wonderful
after the sun went down. This benefits our all-volunteer
Shrewsbury Library.
We are so lucky to have such a variety of entertainment options
 here in Vermont. We attend the chamber music concerts:
Marlboro Festival, the Yellow Barn, Killington Festival and
the Lake Champlain Music Festival. This year we saw the
Fantasticks, Always Patsy Cline and Oklahoma at the Weston
and Private Lives and Dig at the Dorset Playhouse. This
photo is at Marlboro - their closing concert. 
We celebrated Pierce's stores 10th anniversary (as a Coop)
with a wonderful BBQ.
Sean & Will's new house in Dorchester. They are in the
process of selling their condo.
Flavia and Joey coming down the aisle
after their beautiful wedding. Flavia and her
family are great friends of our's from
Venezuela.
No this isn't our dining room! It's the Downton Abbey set
which we saw at the Downton Abbey exhibit in Boston.
We loved seeing the original costumes - here several of the
bridal outfits.
And of course the downstairs kitchen!