Well, that’s not entirely true. While we are staying home as much as possible, we do have a family to feed. So that means trips to the grocery store every few days. I would prefer not to have to go as often as we are, but the lack of goods on the shelves, and the fact that we are not hoarders, requires multiple trips. Our local grocer has absolutely no paper goods for the last week. No paper towels, napkins, nor toilet paper. I know this is, sadly, becoming very common. The meat counter has been rather empty as well. But we will survive.
Just in case you missed this post, the reason we are self-isolating is we did go on a cruise about 10 days ago. It was just a short three day to the Bahamas and back. The ship is set for 4000 guests. I doubt there were 1400 people aboard. My high school had more people. Hell, my graduating class was almost 1000 people!
We almost didn’t get far on the cruise. They were discussing making the ship dock in Miami and everyone would have had to get off. In the end they let all the ships that left that day go anyway. They did announce that we would be the last cruise for a month. The major cruise lines all canceled scheduled cruises until about 15 April.
The main reason we took the cruise was to take the girls to another country. It was their spring break, which made it a great time to go. But then this virus hit. We did take a gamble, but it seems to be fine. I have been taking everyone’s temperature twice a day since we returned. No fevers, no (unusual) coughing or sneezing. I also have not heard of any of the ship’s crew testing positive either. But I did call and postpone all doctor appointments and such.
The cruise itself was very nice. The girls made friends with other kids. They did not want to do any of the kid’s activities that were offered. They had much more fun just hanging at the pools and snacking just about all day. I have to say they were very cognizant of washing their hands and using the hand sanitizer stations. I don’t think they passed a hand sanitizer without using it. I was very happy.
Here’s a video that may actually be relevant for once!
Here I am just two months or so removed from a wonderful ten-day ICU stay (you can read about that here) and what are we doing? Taking Son-The-Younger and his two girls on a short cruise! Just what the hell am I thinking??? COVID-19 is running rampant across the globe and I’m just waltzing right in. Plus, we now have a confirmed case of the virus locally.
It may seem that the virus is targeting cruise ships. But I think it’s more of a “captive audience” type of thing. Let’s face it, you have thousands of folks miles from land all stuck together like sardines. It’s a petri dish blissfully floating out on the water.
Now, this is a short three-day cruise. Just out to the Bahamas and back. Nothing spectacular. Since it is a short cruise I don’t think it will attract the “jet set” travelers. I just don’t see anyone that’s been in any of the hot zones around the world joining us on this little adventure. My main concern is the crew. This will be Wifey and my fifth cruise (the first for the kids) and we love the international flavor of the crews. But that does pose a greater risk of having someone that has been in a hot zone being on board.
We must trust that the cruise line (Royal Caribbean in this case) will live up to their promises of greater sanitation for most areas on the ship, more hand sanitation stations, and better screening of crew and passengers prior to boarding. They have also stated that the fees for medical screening/care of anyone complaining of most “flu like” symptoms will be waived for the duration of the trip. They appear to have an expanded quarantine area ready, just in case.
Naturally the CDC has called for the elderly and those with compromised respiratory systems (and I fit at least one of those categories, maybe both depending on who you ask), to avoid travel “especially cruises”. Yeah… right. I never was one to listen to authority. There is a chance that I could be denied boarding. If I have a fever (which I haven’t since that hospital stay), or if my constant coughing is deemed to be a problem.
We are leaving on that most auspicious of days, Friday the 13th! So what could go wrong? It is spring break for the girls as well.
They say the virus can be killed with a greater than 60% alcohol solution. I’m sure one of the bars on board will have something that’s 120 proof or higher. Plus, we can use this as a warm-up for “Amateur Drinking Day #2” St. Patrick’s Day.
So, watch this space. Wifey may be handling a post soon while I’m in quarantine, or worse. I’m confident that all will turn out well and I will have pictures to post next week. Now please excuse me, as I must prepare for this trip. By which I mean the single malt is calling my name!
I have to apologize to ya’ll. We took our Campbell Christmas Vacation as planned, leaving here on December 26th. While the vacation was a joy, I became very ill, and was hospitalized on our return. That will be the subject of my next post, as I am still sorting out details of the whole vacation/illness. So this will be a quick post with some pictures of the vacation aspect.
The plan was to leave here on the morning of the 26th, and we actually made it work. We piled Wifey, Son-The-Younger, both granddaughters and myself into the car and headed north. Our destination was Maggie Valley, NC. We rented a larger cabin than the one Wifey and I rented two years ago for a five night stay. The weather was good, and for once, traffic not an issue at all. We all got our suitcases unpacked and stuff put away in our rooms and away we went!
Friday was Son-The-Younger’s birthday and we promised him we would take him the Sierra Nevada Brewery just outside of Asheville, NC. Wifey and I visited the brewery and took the tour two years ago. Son-The-Younger was looking forward to this trip. We took the Blue Ridge Parkway over the mountains to Asheville. We stopped at many of the scenic overlooks and the girls took many pictures.
We arrived at the Brewery just in time for our scheduled tour (you have to make reservations), and Wifey and the girls went to “The Back Porch”, an open area that has food, a garden and even – get this – beer! Although there wasn’t any live music that day, they do have an outdoor stage, as well as an indoor area in case of bad weather. And is very dog friendly.
We drove home and had a great BBQ dinner, which was another “requirement” for this trip.
Saturday was a planned “quiet” day. In the morning we took the girls to do some “gem” mining. Then Son-The-Younger and I visited Elevated Mountain Distillery, while Wifey took the girls to a little store we enjoyed on our last visit.
It was a good thing that we didn’t have much planned for Saturday. I woke up about 3AM with fever and chills. So after the short morning excursions, I went back to bed for the afternoon. I think I sweated through my clothes twice that afternoon. The rest of the family went tubing (man made snow, sadly) while I basically sweated every ounce of liquid out of my body. Son-The-Younger tried to get a fire going in one of the outside fire pits, but it was rained out.
I awoke Sunday morning feeling better, but not great. I knew I was still fighting whatever bug I had picked up, I just didn’t realize how badly I was losing that fight.
But not giving up, we again went over the mountains, but this time from Cherokee, NC to Gatlinburg, TN. We went right through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and we hadn’t even gone half a mile into the park when we came across a herd of Elk. The girls were so happy.
We made it to Gatlinburg with no issues. We even found a Mexican restaurant that Wifey and I had tried almost 20 years ago! And it was right next to the Ripley’s Aquarium which was our first scheduled stop (after tacos of course). Then the real fun began.
The plan all along was to get me a wheelchair while at the aquarium. My legs were still heavily impacted by the back injury, so I figured I would not be able to walk the entire distance required. Turns out I couldn’t even make it into the aquarium!
Going up the steps to get to the wheelchair I passed out. I was so lucky that there was a guy right behind me who saw it coming, probably before I realized what was happening. He was a strong enough guy that he grabbed me and set me down so I only ended up with was a scrape on one knee where it hit the pillar I has holding on to. Luckily it passed somewhat quickly and by the time the kids met us with the wheelchair I was coherent, and some of my strength returned. It was nice have everyone push my wheelchair so I could see the major parts of the aquarium, and there were plenty of places that I could be parked while everyone else went to see something that would have been a tight fit. We got in a few other attractions that afternoon, then head back to our cabin in Maggie Valley.
I will leave the health issues for the next post. I knew I was sick, but I really didn’t feel any worse or better for the rest of the trip.
Monday found us in Cherokee, NC. I really didn’t expect the girls to enjoy the museum as much as they did. They were asking questions about the displays and had good comments when their questions were answered. it’s really nice to see them getting inquisitive about things that aren’t covered very well in school. The Cherokee people have an absolutely beautiful creation story. Personally, I find it every bit as relevant as any other creation story. It is no more, nor any less credible the one most of us have been force feed all these years.
Every time I visit a museum of this sort, I am saddened beyond words how native peoples have been treated by we white people. On every continent we have hurt if not straight out destroyed entire cultures. They had a veteran’s display in the museum. It told of a Cherokee medical doctor that was on a landing craft on D-Day. I didn’t know they had any doctors on the landing craft. But it makes me wonder were there any “white” doctors on any other landing craft? Then there was a display of Cherokee Medal of Honor Recipient. I’m sorry I don’t have names for these, and the other Cherokee’s enshrined in this part of the museum. I was so overcome, and still am, with emotion I had to leave the area and just sit down in the lobby. Knowing that chances are that these gentlemen had already been forcibly removed from their ancestral homes to the squalid desperation of a reservation, but still answered the call to serve this nation (not the Cherokee Nation, but the “white man nation”) amazes me. Sadly, most of the town of Cherokee was closed for the season, so shopping was limited.
However, Son-The-Younger conquered the elements and got the fire pit going. I am told the s’mores were wonderful!
The next morning we loaded everything back up in the car and headed home. We only stopped long enough to visit with Lil-Big-Sis at lunch. There are so many more stories to tell of this trip, but I just don’t have the energy to keep this going, nor a voice to dictate to Wifey, so dear reader this will have to suffice.
But I leave you with What’s Stuck In Wifey’s Head this morning. Enjoy!
I’m sure you know by now that I live in Floriduh. We don’t really have seasons here. At least not like the rest of the world.
We do get winter. It lasts about 2 days, usually in February. We have lived where there were all four seasons. North Carolina has all four seasons, the Army saw fit to send us there twice. It didn’t snow all that much during those two tours, but we did get some. Alaska on the other hand, was lots of snow. It did hit 95 F once, for about 90 minutes during the very brief summer. I think it was a Tuesday that we had summer that year. And we did get 24 hours daylight during this time, not quite 24 hours of dark. We were not quite north enough for that. The least sunlight we received would be about 15 minutes. The sun would come up, move over about a half an inch then drop back down. And it was so very cold.
The Autumn equinox is coming up; Monday, 23 September actually. I can see the subtle differences outside. When I leave for work in the morning, before the sun comes up, the humidity is much lower. Not that it’s gone, it’s just that the dew point occurs after I leave, so my windshield is dry. That won’t last long of course. By mid-December, I’ll be dealing with it all over again. Plus those few days where the dew turns to a very light frost on the windshield. All it takes to clear it is about 3 minutes of the defroster on high. No need to scrape.
This is my favorite time of year. Not only is the weather a little marginally cooler, my two favorite holidays are coming up. Samhain (Halloween for some) and Thanksgiving.
Last year we took the wee bonnie lasses to a “Fall Festival” as we try to do every year. But last year we almost got heat stroke while in the corn maze! It was extremely hot and muggy. And no beer! Only water and sports drinks, although the coffee and hot chocolate were selling briskly. Go figure.
I do hope that wherever you are you get whichever seasons you enjoy the most. Maybe you’re like me and want to just move around to enjoy the variety of all the seasons. Personally, I do not enjoy snow all that much. I don’t mind the cold temperatures, I just don’t care for the white stuff. Having said that, we are taking the wee bonnie lasses to the mountains of Western North Carolina just after Christmas this year. They have been asking to see snow for several years. Hopefully, that will happen. But you never know, the weather is a fickle bitch.
It took me sometime to decide which video to use (and there’s always a video isn’t there?). I was thinking ofSummer by War, or Summertime by Janis Joplin. Instead, I went with this one. Enjoy!
Full disclosure: We are now home safe and sound. The reason for the late post will be explained in a day or two. Let’s just say that British Airways and I are not on friendly terms right now.
No map today, you should know where we are by now! Day 7 was a no travel day. We took a nice city bus tour of the city of Edinburgh. Then it was up to the castle.
The castle is very imposing. It sits atop a rock that is eons old. There has been a royal castle at this location since the reign of David I in the 12th century. Archeological finds have dated human occupation on Castle Rock to the Iron Age in the second century BCE.
The view from the castle is quite spectacular.
Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, they would fire a canon everyday at 1300 (1 PM) so that folks could set their timepieces, but more importantly, so the ships could set navigation.
Alas, were not allowed to take photographs of the crown jewels nor the Stone of Scone. But it was amazing to view them.
After our visit to the castle, we had a free day to explore Edinburgh. Before we headed off to the Royal Mile to shop, we had to stop at the grass market area for lunch. The grass market was exactly what the name implies. It served as the city common area. Everything was done here centuries ago, the market, offical announcements, and even the hangings of those sentenced to die. Today, there is no longer a grass area, it’s been paved and it’s lined with shops and pubs.
After a very nice lunch (and local beer) we headed to Greyfriars Kirk. The church was originally started in 1602. We didn’t go into the building, but instead walked among the old cemetery.
I was looking for a particular tomb. This is said to be haunted! I’ll leave it to you to read about Bloody MacKenzie.
And no visit to Greyfriars is complete with a vist to the statue of “Greyfriars Bobby“.
I have to admit that as beautiful as the Royal Mile is, it has become a tourist trap. The majority of shops that claim “Authentic Highland Tartans” have the same mass produced crap. It took some doing to find a shop with quality product without having to go over to the “expensive” street. So I didn’t take any pictures of the buildings. Besides all you’d be able to see were the tourists anyway!
But I did find this:
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. As so we had to say goobye to Bonnie Scotland. Day 8 was an early morning cab ride to the airport and some interesting flights home. That will the subject of another post.
The traditional highland goodbye is “Hasten ye back!” And that we shall.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!