vacation

What’s Stuck In My Head – 31 May

While this song has been a favorite of mine since I first heard it many years ago, it only bubbles up to my conscience now and then. But we heard it several time during our visit to Scotland earlier this month. (We’re ready to go back too!)

It’s not surprising that the song was featured during our trip. The Proclaimers are a set of Scottish twins, they sing in a thick Scottish accent, and the song has been featured and covered by lots of folks, including a Comic Relief 2007: The Big One version for the BBC. It took it’s inclusion on the Johnny Depp movie Benny & June for the song to take off in America. It reached #3 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1993.

Not everybody on our tour knew all the words, in fact I don’t think any of us Americans knew them all, but everybody sang along on the chorus! Almost all of us could sing along when Puff The Magic Dragon came on. Out tour director claims that Puff is actually about Nessie. And while I never thought of that connection, it kinda makes sense!

So, here is I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Enjoy!

Peace,
B

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Scotland 2019 – Day 6

Our view at breakfast

The ever present map

This was another short coach trip day. I’m really happy about that as the cramped seats are starting to get to me.

Stop number one was Glamis Castle. Ian, our braw tour director says this castle always wins the unofficial voice poll of favorite stops. Not for me, I prefer Blair Castle (day 5) simply because of the extensive grounds. But I will say, Glamis does look more like the storybook castle. I blame Disney. Photography was not allowed inside the castle, so this is it.

Next up was St. Andrew’s. The home of golf. My dad and older brother would have enjoyed the old course and other sites in that area. I’m not a duffer so while it was interesting,and i do watch enough golf to recognize the important places, I had other plans.

We were dropped off about the center of town for a free afternoon. After a good meal of fish and chips (I can’t believe that it took me until day 6 to get fish and chips), we headed to the ruins of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

Legend has it that St. Rule brought some of the bones of Andrew, one of the twelve apostles, to the “end of the earth” from the Constantinople. And in the 8th century or so, Scotland was on the western edge of the know world. The cathedral was built around 1158, but there has been a church at this location at least as back as 748 CE. It was abandoned after the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century.

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We ended the night with some (cheesy) planned entertainment The Spirit of Scotland. The best I can say is the piper was excellent.

Edinburgh castle and a free afternoon to explore the city awaits!

Peace,

B

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Scotland 2019 – Day 5

No long coach rides today! Yea!

Are you tired of the map yet?

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. We did quite a bit of walking yesterday and I ended up in the bar later than usual. No real surprise there. Also our braw tour director does Ancestry research and several of us met with him to pick up some research tips.

I have an hour before breakfast so I will hopefully get this posted right away.

The day started off in a shambles. Our coach driver, Neil, was required by law to have the day off. Much like truckers in the USA can only drive for so many hours before they must stop, the same applies here.

The fill-in driver was over 30 minutes late. Poor Ian, our braw tour director, was beside himself. Ian called our two stops and got us rescheduled.

First stop for the day was Blair Castle. This castle was first built in the mid 13th century. And parts of that construction are still in use.

They a have a piper play every hour most afternoons on the grounds.

The castle has 30 rooms that you can visit on your self guided tour. As usual, there are muskets, bayonets and swords everywhere.

There are many red deer on the grounds as well. And it seems they like to mount them!

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The Duke of Atholl is the person in Europe that has a standing private army, the Atholl Highlanders.

But for wifey and I, the best part was walking the grounds. We went first to Diana’s Grove (this is the Greek Goddess, not the late Princess. And no, Princess Diana is not buried here. And yes, someone asked if she was buried in the Grove.)

The best sidetrip was a visit to the ruined St. Bride’s Kirk. St. Bride is better known as Brigid. The Kirk, or church, was built around 1275.

From the castle to the distillery. I was looking forward to this visit as I have never heard of this brand of whisky. And now I now why. The majority of the whisky distilled here is used in blended whiskies. They only bottle 0.03% of the product as single malt, and it’s not exported. Hence, I’ve never heard of Blair Atholl.

Our tour guide, Tom, was very good.

But I will admit that I didn’t care for the whisky.

Random shot to prove the sun does shine on Scotland!

We ended the afternoon with some free time in the little town of Pitlochry.

Wifey was happy she finally got to wear her sunglasses

And that’s a wrap. Up next is Glamis Castle and St. Andrew’s.

Peace,

B

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Scotland 2019 – Day 4

Only two stops today, and a much shorter coach ride.

The reference map.

I will admit that as of tonight, last night’s hotel was the worst. The room was hot. It may been 50°F outside, but the windows would barely open, there was no fan available, and the down filled duvet was so damn thick and heavy that sleeping was next to impossible.

But we are Scots so we put it behind us. Our first stop of the day would be the Culloden Battlefield. I will admit that I had some major trepidations visiting this battlefield. I had the same feelings when I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC some years ago.

I have always read that the Argyll Campbell’s were loyalists to the British crown. According to my sources the Argyleshire men were stationed on the left flank of the army. They’re mission was to pull down a wall and stop the Jacobite cavalry from entering the fray. And history tells us, they were successful. So I expected to find a marker of some sort that backed this up.

To the left of this point stood Cobham Fir Earra Ghaidheal – the Argyleshire Men.

So Campbell of Argyll was here. But what about the other Campbell houses? Argyll may have become the big house, but there are others. Loudon, Cawdor and Breadelbane. We’re they there? And if so, we’re they Jacobite or loyalists?

There were Campbell Jacobites as well. I am strong enough to admit that I was overcome with emotion when I found this memorial. I knelt down and poured a dram of single malt out over the ground to honor the men of the Clan on both sides of this conflict.

I also saw a restoration of part of the wall as well.

It’s a bit hard to see, but what’s left of the wall is just in front of the trees

Culloden has a very nice cairn commerating the battle.

There is also a now restored cottage on the field that was there in 1746.

But the day was not all doom and gloom. Our other stop for the day was at a working sheep farm for a demonstration of border collies. Wifey had been looking forward to this. We have seen sheepdog demonstrations before, but not of this size. This farm has about 3000 sheep on about 11000 acres. The shepard has 18 border collies working with him, and several puppies from 8 months or so, to a new litter only one week old!

Dog momma (wifey) and one of the bigger puppies.

Then it was a quick trip to the Atholl Palace Hotel. A Victorian Era “spa” hotel. We can only hope that tonight is more comfortable.

We are here for two days. Tomorrow is a visit to Blair Castle and the Blair Atholl Distillery. That will be interesting.

Peace,

B

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Aye! We found a piper! In Scotland!

Scotland 2019 – Day 3

We had a long travel day today. Still stopped at some braw locations but we also spent long hours just riding through the Scottish countryside.

The reference map.

The day started as usual with a breakfast buffet. I now now that haggis is a wonderful dish! I do truly enjoy it. Wifey still hasn’t worked up the courage to try it.

Our hotel last night was on beautiful Loch Leven. Since I don’t sleep much anymore, I was up and took this shot of the Loch in the early morning mist.

Then it’s off to the races. Well, as much as a 48 passenger bus can race on narrow country roads. We passed through Fort William, but not slow enough for a picture. Actually, the only thing worth photographing was the ruins of the fort. But we went by it so fast I didn’t see anything to photograph!

An unexpected stop was at the Glenfinnian Viaduct. I’m sure most of you will recognize this from the Harry Potter movies. The train, The Jacobite Express, was not in the area when we stopped. But it didn’t matter to me as I’ve not seen any of the movies anyway.

Also in Glenfinnian is a monument to The Highlander. This monument is near the area where Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) is said to have landed in 1745 to rally the highlanders to his cause to remove George II from the throne. It ended badly for the Jacobite army. I’ll have more on that tomorrow when we visit the Culloden Battlefield.

Monument to the highlanders lost in battle.

Then it was north to Mallaig Harbour to board a ferry to the Isle of Skye.

In Memory Of Those Lost At Sea

Our Ferry, The Lord Of The Isles.

It was one of the smoothest boat rides I have been on. Sadly, our time on the Isle was too short. We had no stops at all. I was really hoping to be able to see The Old Man Of Stor, but we never got close.

As we left the Isle via the bridge, we came upon Eilean Donan Castle. I do believe that the castle was used in the Outlander series, but it may only been a reference not an actual location. I’m sure there’s someone who can set the record straight.

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We did however stop at Loch Ness which was also unexpected.

And yes, we saw Nessie! (Think I need a Scots language pack – autocorrect keeps trying to change all the Scots terms.)

Then we finally made to our hotel in Nairn.

That has some coos adjacent.

And that was the day that was. Tomorrow is Culloden, some sheepdog demonstrations and a two night stay at the Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry.

Peace,

B

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Scotland 2019 -Day 2

Reference Map

Today we left Glasgow and headed north to Loch Lomond and Inverary. The weather exactly what we expected. Chilly (right around 52° F) and damp. We overheard someone that they needed an umbrella because it was “pouring”. It was barely drizzling. Guess this person has ever been out in a #Floriduh summer shower.

First up was a stop and boat ride on Loch Lomond. Loch Lomand is the largest fresh body of water in Britain. The water was very quiet today.

Our boat was the Lomond Queen.

Then just a short trip to the town of Inveraray, a quaint town on the shores of Loch Fyne. We spent about two hours in town shopping and having lunch.

Wifey standing on Main Street in Inveraray. Several shops and restaurants line both sides.

Our lunch source.

After lunch it was time for Inveraray Castle. As I’ve mentioned before, this is not actually a castle, it is a manor house. Why? Because the Duke of Argyll has this as his family home. We were hoping that His Grace would be home, but he wasn’t. He has a batten (Maybe a baton? Our tour guide has a very thick brogue) of office in his role of Master of the Royal Household in Scotland. And it was “missing”. Our guide in the castle ensured us it was not stolen, but His Grace will take it without notice if he needs it in the performance of his duties.

Then the absolute highlight of the day, maybe the year, maybe even of my life occurred. Our tour guide Ian had a bit of surprise in store. You see, the route from Inveraray to our nexr stop, Glen Coe, passes right by a very special place for me.

I’ve mentioned this castle before and I’ve posted some other folks pictures. But today I got see it with my own eyes. We didn’t get to go up to the castle, just see it from a wayside stop. But here is my picture (one of several) of Kilchurn, one of the ancestral homes of Clan Campbell. Oh, and it’s pronounced Kill-kern. Not like it looks, Kill-churn. I’ve been saying it wrong for years sadly. Now I know better. Thank you, Ian for teaching me this.

From there we continued north into the highlands and (drum roll please) Glen Coe. The Campbell’s have a history with this Glen. I won’t go through it here, as it’s very complicated. If you don’t know the story, here is a Wikipedia link.

On the way to our hotel we got to see the Three Sisters of Glen Coe. II took a panoramic shot to get all three of the sisters in the shot. I hope it works for this format.

Finally we made it our hotel. This little place is way much better than the Hilton we stayed in last night.

They even have a small circle of standing stones on the property.

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So that’s it for tonight. As long as the MacDonald ghosts don’t come after this lone Campbell, I will be back with more tomorrow. And when you add that they find Argyll’s batten missing today, AND I’m deep into Glen Coe, I can’t help thinking I’m being set up!

Our itinerary for tomorrow is the Isle of Skye.

Peace,

B

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Oh yeah, I had haggis at breakfast – and I liked it!

What’s Stuck In My Head – 16 May

(A. K. A. What’s Stuck In Wifey’s Head)

This should not be a surprise as we are indeed flying away in just a few hours time.

Peace,
B

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P. S. This is my first test with the Android app.. It sucked! I hope you can see the video!

You Take The High Road..

I’m taking a airplane, and I’ll be in Scotland way afore ye!

We will soon be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean flying to first London, and then on to Glasgow, Scotland. Yes that’s SCOTLAND folks! Home of my ancestors, Wifey’s ancestors. Can the island support yet another Campbell family (even if it’s just for a little while)? Well, we’re gonna find out.

On Saturday we will be visiting Inveraray Castle. Not only was this historic castle featured in the TV show Downton Abbey but it is home to Torquhil Ian Campbell, (born 29 May 1968) Chief of Clan Campbell, the 13th (S) and 6th (UK) Duke of Argyll. This makes him my clan chief. But I wonder, is it appropriate to ask him for a “wee dram” should we cross paths that day? Probably not.

The Duke is only one of five of British peers to hold more than one Dukedom. The Clan Campbell, N.A. web page has much more on His Grace.

Some other highlights we expect to see are Loch Ness, Culloden Battlefield, St. Andrews, The Isle of Skye, and Castle Eilean Donan. I don’t think we stop at Loch Ness, so if we do get a glimpse of “Nessie”, it will be fleeting. If we do get to stop at the loch, I want to bring a whole salmon as bait! “Here Nessie, Nessie!” Eilean Donan is a location used in the filming of Outlander. I’ve not watched any of the show, but Wifey has.

We will be near, but I don’t think we’ll get to see Kilchurn Castle. Kilchurn is considered the ancestoral home of Clan Campbell. At least one branch of the clan. As I’ve posted before, my DNA does not seem to link to any of the distinct branches of Clan Campbell. But that doesn’t mean I don’t claim the name. I very much want to see this ruin, but it may have to wait until the next trip.

As well as The Kelpies. Wifey and I both are eager to see The Kelpie statues. We *may* have a chance to find way to see them on our last night in Scotland.

Any trip to Scotland, or Ireland for that matter, isn’t complete without visiting at least one distillery. Our official stop will be the Blair Atholl distillery in Pitlochry, Perthshire. This is a new distillery for me, and I look forward to tasting a dram or three (wifey doesn’t like whisky, so I get hers too!). Along with all the other brands of scotch (and beer too), we can find along the way. The closest we get to Islay is our stop in Inveraray. So I’m not sure if we will have many chances to sample that style of whisky. Nor will we be near the Speyside area, so we may miss that style as well. I’m sure I will be able to find all the styles at the duty free shop at the airport. I just may need a second mortgage just to pay the taxes!

There will be very little chance to do any genealogy on this trip. Although during our visit to Perthshire we will be in basic area that I can trace my Campbell line to in the mid 1740’s. One day, I will come back to do some research. Or maybe we’ll just move here. That is an option!

I will do my best to post while we are in country. We have a portable Wi-Fi hotspot we’re taking with us. Our tour bus is supposed to Wi-Fi enabled, but I’m not sure how fast that connection will be. Likewise, hotel Wi-Fi can be spotty, and anything but secure.

The biggest problem as far as posting will be that I will only have my Android tablet. It will take some practice using the WordPress app for posting! So I ask forgiveness in adavanced for all the typos.

Here’s to sleepless nights and many “wee drams”! Slàinte!

Peace,
B

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Scotland Or Bust!!

Ah, Scotland! The land of bagpipes, majestic highlands, Nessie, wonderful single malt scotches (the nectar of the Gods), and haggis.  Well, the jury is still out on haggis. I will give it a taste while we’re there, but I’m not really expecting much.

Wifey® and I have booked an 8 day, 7 night bus tour for May 2019. This has been a long drawn out process fraught with perils. We started looking at a Scotland trip several years ago but just could not get the time and funds to match. Seems when we had the money saved up, something came up (like the clutch in my truck blowing up), or when we had time off from work we didn’t have the money.

So fast forward to July of this year. Wifey’s® father had passed away and she and her brothers and finally closed on selling his house. And that would be a whole ‘nother post. What a fiasco that was! We had been vacillating between buying an RV and finally making a trip to Scotland since both of our families are of Scots descent. After several visits to various RV places in and around our home, we were just about set on the RV.  When one Friday evening it all changed. We really didn’t want to spend all the money Wifey® received from her share of the house “all in one place”. So that made the decision much easier.

I immediately contacted the agency we’ve been talking to over that last couple of years to get updated tour dates and prices. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we decided on which tour we wanted.

The agency we were using is Exploring Vacations, based out of Ireland. They have a New Jersey phone number, but I think it routes back to Ireland as everyone we’ve ever talked to has a most beautiful accent.

On July 31st we made our deposit. It’s really happening! This began the process of getting everything together. We had to renew our passports (a surprisingly easy process), start buying all the “little things”, like a power converter, RFID blocking passport wallets, pillows and eye masks for the overnight flight. OH! Wait! We need airline tickets too. That means days and days of watching Priceline, Kayak, Booking, Orbitz etc…

Then on August 28th, we made the decision to pay off the tour completely.  That proved to be a very wise move. Because on September 14th, I received this email;

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Suddenly, we were not sure our trip would happen. Needless to say, my heart just about jumped out of my chest. That RV was looking better and better. I told Wifey® to call the credit card company we used to see if there was anything we needed to do so we wouldn’t lose all of what we paid.  But when she looked at the website for the card, she saw that we didn’t pay Exploring Vacations, we paid directly to the actual tour company, CIE Tours International! A glimmer of hope appeared. And sure enough, when I open the PAID IN FULL invoice, it’s from CIE Tours! CIE is also based out of Ireland, and also has a New Jersey phone number. You know I’m calling as quick as my shaking hands can dial.

While I’m waiting for someone to answer I tweet this;

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A lovely sounding lass “Alli” is the representative I get to talk to (with an amazing accent too!).  I explain the situation to Alli, but she doesn’t know about Exploring Vacations going out of business. Heart rate is starting to go up again. She sends me to a supervisor, Ernesto. Ernesto is either in New Jersey or is from there, he has an entirely different accent than Alli. But right now I really don’t care where I’m calling as long as someone can tell me what’s going on.

Turns out Ernesto is on the ball. He can find our tour and yes, we are PAID IN FULL! Ernesto takes care of the transfers to and from the airport and hotels since that was one step we didn’t get to finish (at no cost!). The only issue he sees it that our tour is reserved under the Exploring Vacations name and not ours. He says that is a minor issue as the receipt has our names.

One thing that amazes me about this entire deal is that Exploring Vacations has been in contact throughout. As much heartburn and stress this situation has caused us, the fact that they emailed me to tell me what’s going on and have answered every email I have sent with questions says that this was a solid company. It also says a lot about corporate America. If this had been an American company we would only find out that they went bankrupt when a letter showed up, or we tried to call and found the phone disconnected.

email2

The email that allowed me to sleep again

We still have lots of stuff to procure for this trip. We need real raincoats (or should I say a “mac”?), more clothes, luggage, and exchange currency.  But we have time.  I’ll post more about the trip as things get settled. The itinerary is not finalized yet but should be by the end of the month.

Tell me your travel horror stories!!

Peace,
B

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P.S. Samhain is getting close!!

Catching Up

So it’s been a while since I posted anything. So let’s catch up, shall we?

The reasons I haven’t posted are several. I had a killer head cold for about 2 weeks, that I couldn’t shake (same one I mentioned in my Celebrate Good Times (Come On)! post).  My work issued laptop died on me, and I’ve been so busy at work that when I get home and I feel like crap due to the cold, I had no desire to sit in front of any PC. When you consider how much computer time I log at work, it’s rather surprising how much I use one at home.

But not everything was bad. I bought a new SiriusXM radio for my aging truck. It’s an external device that plugs in through the aux port on the existing radio. I also stream, mostly the “Classic” (oh, how I hate that term. Can we go back to AOR please?) stations. I like SiriusXM over the local radio because the DJs don’t think they have to be funny so they can get hired and go to a larger market. SiriusXM’s market is North America. Quite a bit bigger than any terrestrial market. Plus these DJs know what they’re talking about.  I also like SiriusXM over most streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc.) because they play the music the way it was recorded. One thing that always pissed me off with the various streaming services is they tend to cut apart songs the segue into each other. A classic example is Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out/Stay”. Streaming radio turns those into two separate songs. It increases the total number of songs in their library, but it totally screws up the listening experience.

My office replaced my very small Micro$oft Surface Book with a beautiful 17″ HP laptop.  This thing is a beast! An i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and this wonderful huge screen! These tired old eyes can see again!

Wifey® and I have planned, and made the deposit on, something that is on both of our bucket lists. A trip to Scotland, the land of our heritage. We’ve both did the Ancestry DNA tests. I’ve posted about this before.  Turns out both of our DNA points directly to Scotland/Ireland/Land of the Vikings. I’d like to try to find the ancestor that made the trip over the pond to settle in America before we go. But that costs money, and right now we’re trying to save, not spend so we can blow the whole wad while in Scotland.  I’m hoping the duty-free shop in the Edinburgh airport has a good selection of native scotches.  I will have a separate post(s) about the trip as things get closer, and when we are in country.

We had a wonderful dinner the other night with my brother and his wife here at my house.  I smoked three whole chickens. Not that I expected we would eat them all that night, I planned on leftovers so we (as in Wifey® and son-the-younger and myself) could make pot pies from the leftover chicken and other veggies we made that day.

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Yup, there are 3 whole chickens in there!

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We ended up with 10 pot pies of varying sizes

I confirmed something I learned the last time I smoked chicken. From now on I’m only buying leg quarters. There were 4 and a half breast quarters left, but only one leg quarter. Seem we prefer the dark meat!

And I’ve read a couple of good books too. I won’t write any reviews.  If you want book reviews, there are plenty of sites that have them (I recommend Once Upon A Spine).

I’ll leave you with a video. Has nothing to do with this post, but the opening line “Been away, haven’t seen you in a while”, fits with the theme. Plus it’s Dave Mason.  I’ve been a fan of his since his days with Traffic.

So what have you been up to?

Peace,
B

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