Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tablet


I just have to quickly post, that Scottish tablet is my new addiction. It is a fudge-like substance, only (as the tablet expert in Barra told me) it is cooled much faster than fudge giving it a more pleasant texture, making it less liable to give you sticky fingers, and it only comes in one flavour: tablet. It is sugary, buttery, and just downright delicious. The picture is the delicious hebridean tablet that I am really trying to save until I get home so Mom and Dad can have a piece (one piece, they can split it however they want *wink*). Which means in the interim, I will have to find another supplier!

... And back to Glasgow


I took the train back from Glasgow on Saturday, so I would be back in time to go out and experience Glasgow's famous night life. The train trip was very nice, I couldn't completely crush my anticipation of taking a "Harry Potter" trip. I mean, even though it is not that *particular* route that appears in the films, the impression of highland hills and glens and rivers and the like is generally the same.

I am taking the bus to either Aberdeen or Inverness tomorrow morning. I have a place to stay for free in Aberdeen (Jennifer and Susan's friend Aislie's flat), and will probably stay in a hostel in Inverness if I can find a bunk. I have been thinking of buying a one-way ticket up by bus, and then splurging on the train on the way back. The Inverness-Glasgow route IS the one filmed for the Harry Potter films. Would it be appropriate to *wink* at this point?

Anyway, on the way back from Mull, I saw two gorgeous rainbows. The pictures aren't very good, because the scenery changes so quickly I didn't have time to get the best view or the rainbow at its brightest. There is also some glare from the train window. It was such a sight, though, coming around a bend to see a broad valley full of patchwork fields, and a full rainbow arching across. I mean, I actually saw where the rainbow met the ground. Probably missed out on a mean pot of gold, too.

Tiree



I caught the Thursday ferry to Tiree, getting in about 6 pm. Jennifer's family own a home on Tiree's west coast. The view from the living room looks over a small bay full of ducks and seagulls, with the islands of Eigg, Rum, and Muck in the distance. It's a beautiful location, and a really beautiful island. I must have biked nearly 25 miles on Friday, but unlike Barra, was none the worse for wear. That is because Tiree, known as the "Land Below the Waves" is generally very flat (think Sable Island, only with rocks), full of white sand beaches, machair, and cattle.

I was intrigued to discover in one of the books on Tiree they had in the house, that most of the islands inhabitants became Baptists during a series of revivals following the Free Church split. So I biked off in search of the loch where generations of Baptist Tiree-ans were "dunked" (as we like to say in my family). I know I've already said it, but its a really lovely island, I can see why Jennifer's family has a home there (it's also known as the sunniest place in Scotland), as I wouldn't mind spending a lot more time there myself.

I'm pretty sure one of the sheep in this picture is sitting on the Ringing Stone, another one of those significant bronze or iron age sites that those animals have so little awe of. The first picture is one of Tiree's many wind-swept beaches. It was unfortunately cloudy while I was there, but that did not dampen my enjoyment.

Barra (pt. 2)


There isn't really much else for me to say about Barra in "part two," but here is a picture of Castlebay, far in the distance, from the road to Vatersay.

I visited Kisimul Castle Thursday morning. It is situated on a rock in the middle of Castlebay (hence the name). It was rebuilt in the 60's by one of those "back to roots" Americans, but it is a really neat place to visit. Unlike Duart castle, the family (they're MacNeils on Barra, hence the family singing group "The Barra MacNeils," how original) only lived in one building within the castle walls. The rest has been rebuilt, but left empty, leaving the entire castle open to the interpretations of imagination (or historical fact, whichever you see fit to employ). I liked it a lot.

Barra


I took the ferry to Barra on Tuesday afternoon. Lord of the Isles (fantastic name for a ferry, also an old position originating in the period of Norse control) put in at South Uist that day as well, so the ferry did not pull in to Castlebay until nearly eleven o'clock pm! Fortunately, buildings on the isles are hardly ever locked, and the hostel owners had left the lodge open for us. It was such a clean, fresh, comfortable room, and I woke up Wednesday morning to the sight of two sheep staring at my window.

I was a bit ambitious, I'll admit, and thought I might bike around Barra in a day. I might have actually accomplished it (the West coast is more machair than rock, which means its a bit less hilly), but I decided to go to Vatersay first, and the first HUGE hill rather killed me. So I fell asleep on one of Vatersay's nice beaches for an hour, visited a bronze-age wheelhouse ruin, and watched the sheep. Then that evening I went for a walk over to the west coast (lets face it, I'm a walker, not a biker), saw the machair and visited another beach. It was great on that beach, I saw the sun start to set. There were only a handfull of human footprints on that beach, but plenty of cow prints! Whoever said cows can't appreciate a sunny day on the beach? It is open grazing on most of the islands, so animals were on the road or beaches almost as often as they were behind fences.

In the highlands you can pretty much camp wherever you like, so wherever I walked I'd see little tents set up in the most beautiful little hollows near the beaches, sometimes with highland cows were peering curiously over the fences at people getting supper. I really, really, *really* have to come back here with a motorcycle and a tent. It seems like the most fantastic way to discover Scotland.

The sheep in the picture is rambling over the ancient wheelhouse - those creatures have no respect for pre-historic sites. The other is a picture taken on the west coast of Barra.

Oban and Mull



It's been just over a week since I was last able to post, so I guess I will try to get through it all very quickly. I may have to refer to my journal for information!

Oban, the "Gateway to the Isles" is a very nice town on the west coast of Scotland. It has a big coliseum-type arched "memorial" at the top of the hill it sits on, from where I took this picture. It was another one of those ambitious-but-abandoned monuments from the Victorian age. Oh, Those Victorians.

I got into Oban on Sunday afternoon, and Monday morning decided to visit just the leetlest bit of Mull, Duart Castle, seat of the MacLeans for many many years. I could give you more historical background, but the castle itself was rebuilt and "restored" in the early 20th century, so naturally there is very little left to remind one of the castle's actual usefulness. Pictures weren't allowed in the castle, but if you would like to know what it looks like inside, I can direct you to the rollocking thief pic Entrapment, starring Sir Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Duart was Connery's home in the film.

I spent an hour on the rocks by the water, writing in my journal and enjoying the sun.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

First sight of the highlands


The road trip to Lochgilphead was fantastic, so beautiful and not very long. The highway followed along Loch Lomond for a bit, and then down Loch Fyne, and the hills were just fantastic. I honestly didn't think Scotland looked like this - I thought it was all a tourism ploy. But no, as I hope my pictures attest, it exists! The first is a picture of Rest and Be Thankful, which is currently a tourist stop off the highway, but used to be an actual place for travellers to rest and be thankful, since they had just trekked up that magnificent hill. The second was taken by Susan, Jennifer's sister, of me and a "highland coo" at Inverary Castle, the seat of the Duke of Argyll.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Picture that Wouldn't Post


Darn picture still won't load, so here it is, as its own post. Huffy little clutter of digital information, isn't it? That little mound just left of centre is actually Edinburgh Castle. And its a big castle. So now you know how high up I am. And far away. Oh, it's impressive, I assure you.

Back in Glasgow

I had an uneventful last half-day in Edinburgh and caught the 3:30 pm bus back to Glasgow. I did go in one or two tourist shops, but their souvenirs are all the same, a bit of a let-down really. I also went to the Writers Museum (free, of course) and looked at some Scott and Burns artifacts.

I have to say I'm having trouble parting with money. I calculated how much I could spend before I went away, and I'm nervous that if I spent this much on so little this week, my next two weeks, staying in hostels and buying bus and ferry tickets and the like, is going to break the bank. But I'm on vacation, I hope you are saying. Yes, but once the money is gone, there isn't any left! *sigh* But I only live once and I'm only in Scotland for the first time once...

And so you see it goes on and on.

I didn't take many pictures with my digital while I was in Edinburgh since I was working off the back-up battery for my camera, but I will just have to give in and buy some AAs and hope they last for more than ten pictures at a time. The above picture is the view from Arthur's Seat, before the flying ants got too bad, but also before the haze cleared up. The picture doesn't do the view justice. Below is a picture of the Greyfriars Bobby statue, a cute little dog who did vigil over his dead owner's grave for far too long (eg til death). Behind him is the bar where he took his daily bowl of ale (kidding, he ate oatmeal) (kidding again, he ate only haggis off a golden bowl). I think LM Montgomery got her idea for Jem's dog in Rilla of Ingleside during her honeymoon visit to Scotland. The stories are very similar, I'll have to read her journals again to confirm. Anyway, without further ado:



Tomorrow I believe Jennifer, her sister Susan and I are going to Lochgilphead. From there, Oban, and then, the world! Tell you the truth, I don't know just what islands I will be visiting yet, so I can assure you we are all waiting with baited breath to find out (that means me too).

PS: Can't get the first picture to load, I'll have to try again later.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Evil Hills

I really thought my legs would eventually get used to the constant activity demanded of them by this vacation, but alas, they continue to ache and the hills of Edinburgh aren't helping. I certainly didn't help my plight today by climbing up to Arthur's Seat, and the Scottish unwillingness to post maps of paths at the start of parks certainly didn't shave any distance off the route I took up that blasted "extinct volcano". As I climbed, I came to realize that "volcano" still had a tremendous ability to cause havoc and mayhem, and nicknamed it, inbetween gasps of breath, the "Mountain of Death."

But I made it to the top, only to find NO breeze and SWARMS of flying ants that kept pinging me in the face and attaching themselves to my clothes. Nasty. Really ruined my time up there, and I only got a few hazy pictures, but hey, I did it! And that means I saved 19 quid (quid, hee hee) by not going to either Holyrood Palace or Edinburgh Castle. Tomorrow morning, I search for cheezy tourist souvenirs, and I have to tell you, there are _so many_ silly tourist shops to choose from.

I think my hostel bed has fleas. That or midges can bite through clothes, which I don't believe is possible. Voracious they may be, but they are *leetle*.

Oh, and I also visited another graveyard. Naturally. But it was quite nice. Tomorrow, back to Glasgow! To do a load of clothes, blow dry my hair, and pack for my week in the islands! Packing for three days to Edinburgh really made me realize - I should have gone for the 50 litre pack. *sigh*. I'll try and make do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Edinburgh

Amazingly enough, I was half an hour early for my bus this morning, and made it to Edinburgh in speedy but drowsy time. The city is beautiful, old, hilly, all stone, with little wynds and closes off the Royal Mile... none of which I have explored yet, because I've been in a miserable mood, homesick and lonely and unable to recharge my digital batteries. Oh yes, its that bad.

I bought a filling meal at a grocery store and engaged in some hostel patter with the other current tenents, though, so I'm on the mend. Also bought Cold Comfort Farm to read, which is handy since it has started to rain so I'm not going to bother going out for the rest of the night.

Cheers, ma peeps.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Old and Dead, What Fun!


Today I visited Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis, a huge old rich person's graveyard on a hill overlooking the city. There is something very eerie about the Necropolis, and it isn't just the name. These graves mark the cream of Glasgow society, in the height of its affluence. Each tomb is a testimony to a family's riches and status, and yet... there are so many. So many, in fact, that the impressive graves become anonymous pillars and obelisks and mausoleums, each blending into the next. The spookiest part of the graveyard, however, is walking amongst the terraced portions, and a piece of ivy moves in the breeze and you realize the entire terrace is covered with graves hidden by years and years worth of ivy. There was an especially creepy moment when I glimpsed two sisters side by side, buried I am sure in their virginal Victorian finery, their peaches and cream sking long turned to dust.

As you can tell, an already introspective person travelling alone can become a bit morbid when they spend a few hours in an old cemetary, with only themselves to talk to.

On a lighter note, here's a picture of Glasgow Cathedral (the ordinary person's half, not the plush choral section beyond that far wall), a fantastic old church dedicated to Saint Mungo. I also went to the Lord Provost house, the oldest House in Glasgow, where I had an interesting conversation about knife crimes, the powers of the Scottish Parliament, and the recent tourist pitches developed by the Scottish government, with a museum attendant.

Monday, August 14, 2006

After the sleep



I slept from 8:30 pm last night until 10:30 am this morning. Not bad given the 32 hours previous, but I still felt like I slept away the morning. Nevertheless, I did manage a creditable day of sightseeing, walking to the University of Glasgow, Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, and hopping on the city bus tour to sight places I may want to visit tomorrow (Glasgow Cathedral, the oldest building in the city, and St Mungo's Museum of Religious Art and Medicine). The art gallery was free and it felt so bizarre walking through the main doors and not being prompted to put down £8 or 9 to walk through a throng of screaming kids and harried parents to see an eccletic collection of art, archaeological artefacts, natural history, and old weaponry.

The bus tour was nice, very low-key, with none of those ribbiting tour guides that you get so often in Halifax. Glasgow itself is not an old city by European standards, but to my North American eyes, its ancient! Here's a detail of a building down by the Clyde waterfront.

I'll probably write again tomorrow. Right now, my chicken burger is cooling.

The flight


Well I made it, safe and sound, with no delays to complain of. I almost didn't make it on the plane, however. Half an hour to boarding, and my name gets called over the PA system. Now there should be no reason whatsover to call me over, so I get a silly little smile on my face, to be met by a silly little smile on the face of the Zoom employee. She tells me that there is a chair that has become inoperable on the plane (vomit? urine? broken buckle?) and rather than separate the family registered there, she decided to call all the singles on the flight and ask them to wait until tomorrow's flight. We singles are so beset upon (this happened to my friend Kristen once in LA). My instinctual guilt nature set in, and I really didn't want to wait a day. Then I realized I had no way of getting in touch with Jennifer to let her know I was delayed, so I shame-facedly told the woman I could not.

Back at my seat, I hung my head, hoping all the other fliers didn't know what a Selfish Single I was. Later on the plane, there was a woman standing near my seat looking cranky. The attendant told her it would be another minute. The repair men left (before the plane was finished boarding, there was really no reason to be so peeved), the woman sat down in a huff. Little did she realize she almost missed the flight! People often aren't aware when they should be thankful rather than irritated. And so I didn't mind the relatively short (20 min) trip through customs, even though I got one of bland officers and the friendly one was right next to me.

Today I'm going to the Kelvingrove and probably doing a bus tour. Thanks for reading! Sarah.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Departure Day

It's been a strange day, packing up and waiting around. I've eaten three shortbread cookies and had a cup of tea and that's it. Believe it or not, I finished packing with two and a half hours to spare. I've had time to tidy the house up, take out the garbage and composting, empty the kitter litter, the usual list. I've felt this combination of nervousness and excitement before, but it is hitting me more than ever that I am travelling across the ocean to wander across a beautiful country alone, with just my thoughts for company. Of course, I hope to meet lots of nifty people, and Jennifer will be there at the airport. I wouldn't want to be too adventurous too soon.

Well, here are some pictures of my last day in Porters Lake for a while. The oddest thing happened while I was packing, a Cedar Waxwing (which I haven't seen in the yard since the firethorn died) came up to the kitchen window and hovered there for about 15 seconds, just looking at me (or perhaps the spider that had built its web across the window, mmm, tasty). The weather this afternoon has also been strange, lots of sun showers and little thunderstorms when the sun is still shining. What an odd day to leave on a trip! Everything is supposed to be normal, to continue on without me - but I think Nova Scotia is going to miss me.

And if that's the case, Scotland is going to love me! (Or I'll love it).


Strange weather,
nasturtiums in the garden

Friday, August 11, 2006

Making the Rounds

I visited Chris and Jen yesterday. It was wonderful seeing Kohl and Kamron. Kohl loves to solve puzzles (and loves having people watch him solve puzzles, the little performer), and Kam is so cute and smiles when you talk to him. He loves mobiles, too, which is how I got this smile out of him. It will be a month before I get to see them again, and while that is generally how often I see them anyways, it's different when there is an ocean between you. I just love having nephews, and a sister-in-law, and a brother. I just love the whole world!


Kohl showing me his fireman raincoat.


Kam smiling!

Well it's nice to see my excitement is being channelled into positive emotions. I'd hate to be crabby and stressed the day before I leave. But crabby with who? I'm all alone! I heard a loud bouncing noise coming from my parents' room last night. Couldn't find the cause, so I slept with scissors under my pillow. Even though the security system was armed the whole time I was away yesterday! There is no reasoning away my innate fear of prowlers...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Airing my Laundry


No worries, it's clean! I'm pretty pleased with myself for accomplishing this task 4 days before I leave! That shows some real personal growth. As you all probably know, I'm normally running around the night or day before I leave, throwing clothes into a suitcase with no apparent order whatsoever. Fear not, my dutiful doubters, I am sure I have some last-minute headless-chicken-running moments stored away yet: my list of things to do and buy is long enough to leave me stressed and panicked sometime between now and Saturday night...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Metro Race Week

Natal Day Weekend (August long weekend to those of you outside Nova Scotia/the Maritimes) is also Halifax Race Week in the Big Harbour. I missed Friday's race (it was in the rain, I'm not too upset), Saturday's (working), but I made it to today's! It was *hot* and there was very little wind to work with. Enough to keep us busy, of course, so I don't have any pics from during the race - but here is a picture of Windseeker after the race, docked at the Bedford Basin Yacht Club. Janet had just shown up with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. It seems she make a sailor out of him yet. Remind me to wipe off that winch handle before we use it next, though. *wink*

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Going, Going, Gone.

Mom and Dad left on their five-week excursion/adventure today, in the big yellow taxi. That is to say, the X-Terra, although if you need a lift to Victoria, you may be able to work a deal. They left Porters Lake with about 200 cds, so about 1000 hours of music listening. I wonder how many they'll actually get through? Ah well, it's nice to have some variety.

Good luck, my chickens! I shall see you in September. I hope you have a wonderful vacation, get to explore some of your old haunts etc. etc. At least this time there will be no camping under picnic tables or working on the pipe line. Unless you *really* want to, for old times sake.

New haircut, Oh The Vanity!


Yep, new haircut. A pretty big event in my life, really. Certainly a big expense. Yeesh!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Olivia


Another ridiculous pet-lover, touting images of her cat around. But wait, this one is *cute*! It's nigh on impossible to get a good shot of Livy, she's always too interested in making love to the camera. That is to say, she won't leave it alone. If I get nose-prints on my lense one more time...

The Crew


Here is Windseeker's 2006 crew. The event: getting our team t-shirts. Naturally a photo shoot must follow. Missing are Janelle and Jim. Jim does appear in another picture, but my hair is terrible in that shot and you don't have to see it. Back row: Andrew (skipper/captain), myself, Brian. Front row: Janet, Daniel, mom, Jeff.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mourning Doves



I like this picture because it is so simple. I also like it because although you cannot see it, high above the two mourning doves, two osprey were circling, enjoying the updrafts (and perhaps dove-hunting?). You wouldn't know it without me telling you, but it kind of changes the perception of the photo, doesn't it?