Into the Scottish Mist

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I awoke this morning remembering my teen-age years, sitting by a record player, and listening over and over to the 78 rpm recordings of “Brigadoon.” I was enchanted by the story of two hunters who got lost in the woods and come upon the magical village of Brigadoon. Rising out of the Scottish mist only once every 100 years, and only for one day, Brigadoon is an enchanted place where life is simpler. When Tommy, the main character, falls for beautiful Fiona, he must decide whether to stay or to return to his life.

Maybe I have always been a romantic. Or maybe it’s my wee bit of Scottish heritage from my paternal grandmother, Mary Campbell, who I never knew, but am now intrigued to know more about.

At any rate, we gathered this morning for a trip first to Oban, and then on to the Isle of Mull and Duart Castle.

The coach deposited us in Oban for a bit of time to explore, and after a brief walk about the town, we opted for FOOD, and boy, did we ever hit the jackpot. Our tour guide, Sandra, told us about the freshly caught seafood, which magnetized us and even though it was only 11 am, we couldn’t resist.

First, the freshly caught mussels in wine and garlic sauce. And because those were so good, we HAD to try the oysters!

Honestly, we can’t ever recall enjoying fresher, tastier morsels. When we are asked, “What is the best seafood you’ve ever eaten?” We will answer, “In Oban, Scotland, along the wharf, at the freshest little eatery.”

And then it was on to the Isle of Mull by ferry. It was an easy trip, and the water was calm.

Moments of bright sunlight brought out the sunglasses, albeit for 5 minutes or less, but hey, inScotland,any sunshine is good sunshine. The coach took us toDuart Castle, the historic home of the MacLean clan, and currently occupied by the clan chief and his family, including a wee white Westie.

I had made special arrangements to be met by a kilted guide and told him to look for a bonny lass dressed in clan leggings!

Believe that one and I’ll give you a good price on the Brooklyn Bridge! But I did not ask the pressing question, “What do Scots wear under their kilts?” Actually, I did not want to know, although earlier in the day I discovered the answer to that query!!

The castle itself is a museum as well as home to the clan chief and features a delightful tearoom.

In my opinion, this was the creepiest artifact in the museum. . .a candelabra from three of the horse’s hooves that survived the Charge of the Light Brigade and then lived out its life as a gift to royalty.

The Ladies of the Manor who do NOT do chamber pots!

Winding our way home, Sandra regaled us with stories of Scotland. . .tartans, bagpipes, haggis, and then I drifted into and out of sleep, perhaps clouded by misty water-color memories of Brigadoon. I think I heard something about the “pap of Glencoe,” which she indicated was the mounded outcropping on the hill. . .or did she say that “pap” means “breast” or was I just dreaming. . . .

The Castle on the Hill

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Harry Potter, cashmere, pipers, Outlander, and tartans.. . .Edinburgh for sure. We made a game attempt to hit the highlights today.

Over the past few days we saw signs and had no idea of the meaning.

The Riding of the Marches, an ancient tradition commemorating the times when riders would go out to inspect the borders of Edinburgh, now has a 21st century twist with bands, gymnasts on horseback, and riders from around the world.

Although we happened to be on the Royal Mile to meet our guide for a tour of the castle, we saw the beginning of this spectacle, complete with a brass band and later, pipe bands (which we unfortunately missed).

But onward to the castle where our history-laden guide, Luca,regaled us with stories of kings, queens, clans, brutality, intrigue, guts,and gore. What a country! And just to remind us that we ARE in Scotland, the weather provided mist, showers, RAIN, cold, sun, and warmth. What a country!

St Margaret’s chapel was a sweet and very small highlight.

Built in the 12th century it is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh. Although it didn’t originally have stained glass windows, a few small ones have been added.

As small and as sweet as St. Margaret’s chapel was, right outside was the Mons Meg, the WMD of its time. It weighed 6 tons and could fire a cannonball of 330 lbs up to 2 miles away. It was built by . . . . .hmmm. .. . . .can’t remember exactly who, but our guide Luca chuckled and said that the guy had “trouble with his manhood” and built the cannon to show his might. MEN!!!.

The castle was built as a fortress and has been continually inhabited for 3000 years, even to this day as a military outpost. It’s sturdy, and any embellishments were added by Queen Victoria to make it look like castles of Europe that she visited on holiday. It’s honestly not too fancy. A moat was dug but never used, a gate installed but never used, and cannons decorate the walls but are way historically out of sync.

Returning from the castle, we headed down the Royal Mile, only to discover that the Riding of the Marches was still in progress! By now there were 300 horses of all types, and ceremonies were commemorating horses used in both World Wars.

We will join the Great Rail Journey to the Highlands tomorrow, so we leave Edinburgh with visions of Claire and Jamie from Outlander, stylishly dressed in highland garb. . .

Counting at The Counting House

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We weren’t counting money like the King who did so, and we weren’t eating bread and honey in the parlor like the Queen. But we WERE tango dancing and enjoying a lovely brunch at the Counting House sponsored by the Edinburgh Tango Society.

The venue was beautiful, the people very friendly, the food delicious, and the tango dancing excellent. And. . .we stayed the entire 5 hours and we each danced with multiple partners, repeating with some. . . .both FIRSTS for us. . . .And (drum roll). . . .NO ARGUMENTS! We are making tango history!!

We both had fun and later found our way to the Dagda pub (one of the few remaining free houses in Edinburgh; that is, not owned by a brewery) to decompress, discuss future tango plans, and just simply rest our feet!

A lovely, memorable afternoon in a beautiful venue!

The Witch Hunt

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It isn’t fake news. It was real. We headed toward the Castle, searching out The Witchery where we made dinner reservations some weeks ago.

It was quite beautifully appointed, with exquisite service, a 600 bottle wine list, and a sumptuous menu.

Oh. My. Goodness. Deliciousness from start to finish, including champagne and wine.

But. . .knowing that there’s always some sort of a “story” with us, tonight was no exception. A bubbly couple, Rachel and Ian, sat down beside us and before you knew it, we were chatting away. It was their 11th wedding anniversary and they showed us their wedding video, photos of kids, and we yakked only to be interrupted by things like entrees and desserts. We’re now Facebook friends, and I noticed today that Rachel said they neglected to take any photos of them at The Witchery. So, Rachel, here it is:

But despite celebrating their couple-ness, Ian gave me quite a nice cuddle and kisses!

A fun and memorable evening. This Witch Hunt ended with full tummies and happy hearts!

Hidden Sights and Cosmopolitan Magic

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Air BnB has some fun “experiences” and for today we booked an “off-the-beaten-tourist-path” walking tour of New Edinburgh. Our small group of 5 set off to explore streets and closes unknown to the hoards on the Royal Mile! An old, but rather average looking building revealed a most incredible Bank of Scotland inside!

David, our guide, says it’s “just a neighborhood bank.” Not like mine;oh wait, I don’t have one!

Walking and learning about the whys and wherefores of New and Old Edinburgh, the unsanitary and crowded conditions of the old town centuries ago giving way to a new, planned area, we found ourselves at the Cairngorm Coffee shop just as the rain started. Perfect timing, and then onward to independently-owned shops featuring food of all kinds. . .

A Scandinavian-inspired shop where earrings purchased today will find their way onto my ears tonight. . .

And our most favorite, funky shop in recent memory. . .Joey D’s, creator of garments, kilts, bags, and furniture, all from leftovers of all kinds. . .

The guy is a genius, says he “follows his intuition,” sells only to a few independent shops and once to Bloomingdale’s, so this is his ONLY shop. I couldn’t help but buy a bag, for which he gave me a substantial discount and didn’t seem especially bothered that I only gave him what I thought I owed but was less than agreed upon.

His work area. . .YIKES!!

No sedate Harris Tweed for me! After a short gin we thought we were finished there but, NO. . .we had yet to see his furniture!

Joey told Don that it has become very difficult to procure old furniture throughout Edinburgh because of HIM and the recognition that these old pieces are valuable and can be recreated into sought-after artifacts.

A long, quite long walk up Calton Hill (which we’d heard about but never really thought we’d get to visit ) gave us a brilliant view (well, at least while the sun was out!) all across Edinburgh and beyond.

The canon fired from the Castle at 1 pm, and traditionally from there a ball atop the tower at Calton Hill would drop to alert the dockworkers at Leith to the time. Everyone wants to know why it fires at 1 and not 12, the reason being that they could use less gunpowder by firing the canon only once! Thrifty Scots!

Our four-season day of cold, rain, sun, and damp ended after a hike down a narrow, hidden passageway leading us to the Royal Mile. David told us the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby, presented us each with a postcard of him and a booklet detailing where we’d visited as well as other out-of-the-way sights.

We found our way back to the Wee Castle, had some lunch, and put our feet up for the afternoon.

Edinburgh. . .Whiskey, Tango, Foodie

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“OMG, Don, it’s after 10 am,” and so began our day 1 in Edinburgh. We jumped out of bed, showered, had a shake, and were out the door for our 11:15 tango lesson with Ricardo. Having missed the tango group class the night before because of a delayed flight, we were not about to miss our private.

“Linda. . .belly button back, and extend from THIS part of your leg.” (But it does look like we’re scratching our butts!)

“Don, you might not feel like you are standing straight, but you are. See, Linda, take a photo so he’ll believe me!”

We had a great lesson with Ricardo Oria, enjoying his casual but precise instruction peppered with humor. We felt immediately at ease. An hour later we left St Paul’s church tango-wiser with Don having a sore-ish back from using new muscles, Linda with a new awareness of the subtleties of her hamstring. Also with new uses for brooms and empty shoes, with which we danced for specific movements. Who knew that amongst the bagpipes and tartans we would find outstanding tango!

A return to our Wee CAstle on the Bridge, lunch procured from the Sainsbury’s across the street, and a wee nap, and we were ready for our food tour. But first, a few photos of our Wee Castle.

It’s quite delightful and in a perfect location for walking everywhere or grabbing a taxi.

As per our new found passion, food tours, we booked one for tonight, combining walking, history, and evening meal. We were not disappointed! From haggis to cheese to whiskey to sweets we tasted it all and walked through new and old Edinburgh.

With 840 islands, Scotland has a huge coastline and lots of fish. These smoked salmon were caught in the “Wales’s” River, the one in which Prince Charles fishes. True or not, the salmon was delicious!

What could be better than a restaurant that specializes in mashed potatoes, to which you add your protein. My heart be still!!! And the blood pudding was tasty, probably due to adding oats, which the Scots do to everything!

The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society is a private club, beautifully appointed, with its own stock of one-keg whiskeys chosen by its own board of experts. Top shelf, for sure, but I’d prefer a top shelf wine any day. My palate got a real hot SHOCK. But I did enjoy the haggis and tatties.

Whew! I needed fresh air and a walk after that, and we strolled along the Georgian townhouses in the area, learning of all the poets, physicians, and other notables from Edinburgh. Sometimes I feel so utterly uninformed and wished I had more of a liberal arts background. Should I add that to my lifelong learning aspirations?

An example of Georgian architecture with the three P’s—Pauper, Polished, Plain—from bottom to top illustrating how stones were finished depending on how much you could pay.

Onward for more food, please!!

A former church, now pub, with a lively vibe and a generous spread of cheeses and meats, as well as a very decent glass of cab sav.

The Last Supper? Well, reminiscent, but on the left are Scots and on the right French, depicting their ancient alliance that if a common foe attacked one, they’d come to each other’s defense.

So what about dessert?? Just a few steps away. . . Another former church. . .

A berry and pud concoction, of course including oats, in a chocolate cup. . .oh, delightful.

At this point we found ourselves some distance from our Wee Castle, so enjoyed a leisurely stroll home, noting the street sweeper who also swept sidewalks.

Edinburgh at night is quite lovely. . .

Thanks to my new TRAQ shoes with a built-in chip, they revealed our steps for this afternoon and evening. . .

Oidhche mhath- – – -look it up!

Traveling onward

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All too soon our jaunt to Bristol has come to an end.  Dave ushered us to the airport, where we to learn that our flight to Edinburgh has been delayed.  Oh, well, there goes our tango class tonight.

The RuckSack, now emptied of its surprises, left behind a few items for Dave and Jayne to chuckle over.. .

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Next year the RuckSack will be ready for Dave and Jayne’s trip to the US to celebrate Jayne’s special number birthday.  We’ll be sure to prime her on the difference in our country between the men’s and women’s loos (yes, she went in the men’s and came out to find Don standing at the urinal peeing!!!).  The G&T will be ready, as will the Depends in case we all laugh too hard at our advancing ages.

It’s been a fun, fast three days.

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