Friday, December 6, 2013

Anniversary Road Trip and Why Scotland?

To celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary Anne I planned a three-day trip along the Columbia River Gorge and to Pendleton.  The morning we left for Pendleton, suitcases, camera gear, and golf clubs in the car, was pleasant but cool.  We planned stops at several of the falls along the gorge.  First, was Latourell Falls, 

a short 200-yard hike from the parking area to the base of the falls.  At 28 degrees the walk was quite brisk, but the views we got of the falls were worth it--I burned quite a bit of memory at the falls dropping straight down from a basalt cliff to the rocks below.  

Next was a hike (for me, Anne stayed warm in the car) of about 500-yards downhill to the base of Bridal Veil Falls.  The side trails around the base of the falls were very slippery so I played safe and stuck to the main path.  The photos I think are worth the three rest stop climb back to the car park

 The main waterfall on the scenic highway is Multnomah Falls, the highest in Oregon at about 620 feet in two steps.  We were still early enough in the day and late enough in the year to not have to fight too many visitors for our views.  

I am technically pleased with the photos I took, even if they are rather typical.  The last waterfall we stopped at before rejoining the freeway (motorway to our Scottish friends) was Horsetail Falls.  

The falls have an impressive flow even though it is less than a third the height of Multnomah.  
After leaving the falls area it’s a long drive through the Columbia River Gorge to Pendleton.  The scenery is entertaining, but we still needed a coffee break in The Dalles.  By the time we reached Pendleton we were ready to check into our digs for two nights, Wildhorse Resort & Casino about four miles east of Pendleton. 

We had hoped to play golf on the resort’s fine course, but at 35 degrees with a twenty mile an hour wind, the course wasn’t very inviting.  So, what to do?  Let’s go to the casino.  At the end of the two days we were at Wildhorse,

we had spent less than half what we had taken to play with--we consider that a successful casino trip--lots of fun and money left over.
Since the next day was even colder (with a low of 14 degrees) and the wind was even stronger we decided a photo excursion was a better choice than golf. We started the day with breakfast (in fact, we ate there both days) at the Main Street Diner in Pendleton.  
50s decor in the Main Street Diner.

Owner and manager Marilyn Anderson.

A hole-in-the-wall downtown diner with friendly staff and great food.  It’s hard to eat anywhere else when there’s a place this good in town.  Our drive toward John Day was slower than anticipated. 
Abandoned homestead by Pilot Rock, OR.

I had wanted to get more photos of the almost ghost town of Fox, but the icy roads through John Day River canyons and over mountain passes was too slow to make the whole trip.  Instead, we drove off the main road and into the town of Ukiah, population 186.  
Mule deer outside Ukiah.

At 3400 feet in elevation Ukiah’s noted as having recorded the coldest temperature in Oregon at -54°F or -46°C (Feb., 1933).  We grabbed a quick cup of coffee (no pie, pie only on the weekends) at the only place to eat in town, the Thicket  Cafe and Lounge.  
No pie, but good coffee.

Nobody was in the four-table cafe, but the lounge was quite busy.  Back in Pendleton we did a little shopping at the Pendleton Woolen Mills Store

--Anne shopped, I looked.

After another evening leaving money and taking money from the casino machines (more leaving than taking this night) we fought the heavy winds on the freeway toward home.  As we approached Portland we made a final waterfall stop at Multnomah Falls.  

After two days of almost single digit temperatures there was quite a different look to the falls.  Made a good bookend to our anniversary road trip.

Why Scotland?
At our 50th reunion in August we were asked several times why we go to Scotland so much, especially after we mentioned we were getting ready for our 23rd trip since 2000 right after the reunion.  The answer I always give is, “Golf, castles, and Scotch whisky--and not necessarily in that order.”  While that’s true that we go for the great, historic golf in the Home of Golf, 

Anne at Piperdam GC near Dundee.
and we enjoy visiting as many castles and other historic sites (cathedrals, abbeys, stone circles, cairns, battlefields) as we can, 
Curator of the modern section (1850) of Innerpeffray Library.

and we do seek out distilleries to visit and special bottles of single malt whisky to bring home, those aren’t the most important reasons we forgo traveling to other places and return to Scotland primarily, but Wales, England, and Ireland as well.
A Home at Crail harbour. 

Our real motivation to go back to Scotland is that the place gets in your blood--ask almost anyone who’s been there even once.  For Anne it’s her heritage (Scottish, English, Irish) and for me it’s a kindred Celtic heritage (Welsh, English).  We’ve also been adopted by a Scottish family in Crieff (central Scotland, between Perth on the east and Stirling on the west which are between Edinburgh and Glasgow which are between the North Sea and the Atlantic to get technical).  We are now familially obligated to be in Scotland for birthdays (very important to the Scots) and Speech Days (end of the school year celebrations) for our adopted niece and nephew.  
Ballater GC.

We are also obligated by our chosen retirement gig--writing golf travel guides and books of travel stories.  For our next book (or next revision of a previous book) we “have to” play some courses new to us, stay in different B&Bs, and try new restaurants, pubs, and tea rooms.  “Have to.”  In order to keep sales going we need to go back to courses, restaurants, and pubs we’ve previously visited to promote the latest book (which by the way is the current golf in Scotland #1 seller on AmazonUK).  
Lastly, we keep going back to Scotland and the UK because there is a real satisfaction in knowing a place in depth rather than superficially. 

School PE for Highland children.
We’ve been to Germany, Austria, and Hungary on a two-week train excursion and we want to go back...sometime.  But right now it seems more important to be sure we’ve seen all of Scotland (next for us is to get to the Outer Hebrides, particularly the Isles of Harris and Lewis), Wales (our fifth visit is scheduled for our spring 2014 trip), and England (I have yet to get to London, although Anne flew over for girls’ weekend with our Scottish family  a couple of years ago). 
Kellie castle Gardens, Fife.

I guess the need for in depth knowledge was imparted to me by being a debater in high school and college and a speech coach for all those years.  So, going to Scotland for three months a year (in two trips) is for the golf, the castles, and the whisky--and a whole lot more. 
Rabbie Burns in the Birks of Aberfeldy.

Interesting sculpture on a Highland tombstone. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Home Again, Home Again....

Jet Lag.  The longer trip, this fall’s trip was forty days in Scotland, has led to more and deeper jet lag.  Our body clocks are having the devil’s own time of adjusting to PDT time--and now we have to switch to PST.  Because our trip was longer than normal it is taking longer than normal to adjust back--for several days one or both of us would be up at 2, 3, or 4 AM, and both of us were ready for bed by about 8 PM.  I would have thought that after 24 European trips in 13 years I’d be getting more used to the time change, but research actually shows that the affects of jet lag increase with age--the body becomes less able to deal with it as we get older.  At least Anne and I are both more bothered by east to west travel (coming home) than west to east (going)--it would be awful for one to be dragging one way while the other is ready to go.  
Autumn in the Highlands

All this discussion of jet lag is in explanation of why it has taken so long to get this post ready to go.  Blame it on jet lag.  Now, to an End of Trip Summary and an Homage to Food at Merlindale B&B.

End of the Trip Summary:

In forty days in Scotland we drove our rented Ford Focus (from Arnold Clark Rentals ( a little over 2400 miles.  
This is the car we would have liked, except there's no room for our gear.  Our Focus was fine.

At 30 mpg that was 80 gallons @ £1.30 per liter (about $9.36 per gallon).  You do the maths from there.

Aboyne GC, near Aberdeen.

19 18-hole rounds on 17 courses, four of which were new to us.
Downfield GC, near Dundee.

4 9-hole rounds on two courses, one new to us.
St Fillans GC where we're members.

378 holes of golf.
Strathmore GC, near Blairgowrie, near Alyth, near Forfar, not far from Carnoustie.

105 miles walked on golf courses, though Anne did take a buggy a few times because of a            sore back and injured ankle.


More than 50 visited (castles, churches, cathedrals, historic or ancient sites, cultural attractions, gardens, etc.).
Bridge at Spittal of Glenshee.

Kilconquhar Parish Church.

Most were historic/ancient, religious, or picturesque, 15 were new to us.
Sunhoney Stone Circle.
Drummond Castle Gardens, near Crieff, central Scotland.


We visited Restaurants (10),
the Watermill Tea Room and Bookstore, Aberfeldy.

Tea rooms, coffee shops, cafes (18),
Moulin Inn, one of our favorite pubs, near Pitlochry.

Pubs (9), and 13 were new to us.

   Days of rain or weather bad enough to make us change our plans: 2, only 2!
Fourteen miles of single-track road through Glen Lyon.

A fantastic trip, highlighted by the next part of this post.

Homage to Meals at Merlindale B&B

One of the advantages of rooming in a B&B in the UK is that the meals, breakfast and sometimes dinner, are better than you’d get eating out.  This is certainly true at Merlindale B&B in Crieff, our Scottish home.  Since we are family [I think there’s a song in there somewhere.] we not only get the great Scottish B&B breakfasts but we also have some fantastic family dinners--and yes, we do our share of the cooking and the cleaning.  This fall's trip turned out to be exceptional for food.
One night when special guests were expected, Jacky, a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, prepared a seafood and chicken mixed Paella, a Valencian rice dish often referred to as the Spanish national dish.  

The pan, at least three feet across, had to be smuggled from Spain in Jacky’s suitcase, and the grill ring gas unit smuggled in separately.  I often wondered what the Xray security technician thought.  The Paella takes several hours to prepare and not nearly that long to consume.  It turned out that the special guests didn’t arrive until the next day which meant more Paella for the rest of us.
When the ladies from Canada arrived at the B&B a special formal dinner was prepared for them.  Jacky fixed mustard coated pork chops, boiled potatoes, and salad; Anne added steamed broccoli; and I prepared a hot pasta and veg dish.  
A special B&B dinner at Merlindale.
The ten of us made short work of the table full of food.  Anne and I did our share of cooking during the time we spent at Merlindale.  Besides the veggie pasta, one day for breakfast we fixed Tolovana muffins, a broiled toasted English muffin (in Scotland they are simply called “toasting muffins” for obvious anti-English reasons) coated with a deviled ham and cheese spread mixture--the original recipe comes from the Tolovana Inn in Cannon Beach, Oregon..  One day I put together a seafood pasta dish using calamari, salmon, and brown crab claws.   And at the request of Jonathan, John and Jacky’s 23-year-old son who was heading off to Mexico as a tour guide, we made our version of Southern fried chicken and refried bean dip with crisps (taco chips)--it’s Jonathan’s go to meal.
The most special meal during our stay was not cooked by Jacky or ourselves.  Instead, Zoe and Eddie (who is chef at an upscale Chinese restaurant in Llandudno, Wales, took over the kitchen and whipped up
Jacky looks on while Eddie and Zoe cook.

--pans flying, flames shooting, mess everywhere--a lovely Asian repast for ten of us.  On the menu were two preps of chicken wings, fried aubergine (eggplant), pan seared sea bass,
I hate it when dinner stares back at you.
sweet and sour pork, and enough rice to feed Portland’s Chinatown.  
Dinner is served in the B&B kitchen.
Lovely dinner and all we had to do was clean up.
I do have a running food joke with Jacky.  When nobody is looking I draw faces or pictures on several of the eggs which are always left out on the kitchen counter. This brings up the question: why do we always refrigerate our eggs and the Scots never do? Jacky knows who does the “art” but never knows quite what she will find on the breakfast eggs.  

On our last morning before flying home, my breakfast plate came complete with decorated shell. As much as Anne and I relish our meals in the tea rooms, pubs, and restaurants of Scotland, most special are the great feedings at Merlindale B&B, our Scottish home.  
A view of Mt Hood says we're close to home.

We haven't missed the fall colors at our house in Canby.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Week in the Highlands

Our Highlands adventure started on a Saturday with an overnight stop in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen on the North Sea.  Leaving our castle suite in Kilconquhar we crossed the Firth of Tay into Dundee and the suburb village of Broughty Ferry.  In Broughty Ferry we stopped for a visit at Broughty Castle 

which houses an interesting local museum.  Rather than take the main north/south A90, we stuck to the small roads and were rewarded with good photo opportunities 

and a bowl of Smokie Chowder (smoked fish, veg, and just the right spice) at Lunan Farm Shop & Cafe 

in the dunes by Lunan Bay.  Our main objective for the day was Dunnottar Castle just south of Stonehaven.  The castle, one of the most photographed in Scotland, was the setting for Zeffrelli’s Hamlet  (1990).  

It’s a short hike out to see the castle, then a dramatic hike down and back up if you want to visit the castle.  We had been there before and this time just wanted pictures from various vantage points around the castle peninsula.  From the castle it’s only two miles to Stonehaven 

and our B&B (24 Shore Road) on the harbour.  

Dinner was just along the harbour at the Ship Inn (a different Ship Inn than the one in Elie--there are numerous Ship Inns and many are nowhere near the sea).  

I had a delicious dish of Argyll Mussels and Crab Claws (brown crab from the west coast).  

Later we walked back to the Ship Inn from the B&B for an after dinner drink in the bar and some night photos.
Sunday we had scheduled golf at Braemar GC near Balmoral Castle where the Royals take up fall residence--the flag was up on the castle which means the Queen is there.  Before we got to Braemar we stopped at the Falls of Feugh in Banchory 

to watch the salmon leap.  Golf at Braemar was a race to stay ahead of a men’s competition--we completed the 18 holes on Scotland’s highest golf course in two hours forty minutes, 

and finished two holes ahead of the first men’s group.  Surprisingly, we both played fairly well, but had very tired legs that evening.  It was okay to be tired because our timeshare unit at Craigendorrach Hilton in Ballater was a Five Star place to rest--
Our living room at Craigendorrach Hilton.

two bedrooms on the main floor and kitchen, dining room, living room, and deck upstairs.  
Our Monday golf was at the Alford GC in Alford about 45 minutes from Ballater.  This was a working day--revising our second Scotland golf guide and adding more courses--so we took notes, photos, and analyzed the course for writing about later.  

After golf we made one of the “finds” of the trip when we visited the Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve.  We took a short trail to the Burn O‘ Vat: a small waterfall hidden behind a tunnel of rocks. 
The crawl space into the Vat.

The Vat.

The Vat is the area hollowed out by thousands of years water cascading through the gorge.  I tried to get photos, but was never fully satisfied with my efforts and kept returning to try to get better photos.  

Our next golf was probably our best of the trip.  The big courses we play (Crail, Strathmore, Lundin, Scotscraig, Crieff Ferntower) are all great, but the 9-hole Tarland GC was a true hidden gem.  
Anne's bundled up against the cold.  It was about 40° F.

The tree-lined course is lovely as its plays over rolling hills with a local church dominating the views on the 1st and the 9th holes.  The only drawback was the zombie barman/starter who spoke in monotone grunts and seemed not to understand the simplest concepts, like we had a letter from the golf manager which said we were to play for free.  If his ear had fallen off in the middle of a series of grunts I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Thursday was a day of driving.  It was a little more than an hour to get to Fraser Castle and its gardens, but it was worth the effort.  

When we had visited before much of the castle was closed as a wedding venue, so we saw much new to us.  Next was a return look at Loanhead stone circle in Daviot--

an ancient double circle used either for astronomical or religious purposes or both.  It was a serious lot of driving for these two sites, plus one small Pictish carved stone, 
One of numerous tree tunnels we drove through.
but much of the drive was lovely even on a gray day.
Friday, after golf at Aboyne GC, we had lunch at the Falls of Feugh Restaurant and again visited the falls.  The difference in a week with only one day of rain was dramatic.  

The river was quite full, heavy in peat (makes the water's color brown), and the salmon had no chance to make the leap.  
After a little shopping on Saturday in Braemar and a six mile drive out a single track road to see the Linn of Dee 

(a small gorge on the upper River Dee), we played a late round of golf at the Ballater GC.  

We were the last two out on the course and had to walk in the last two holes--it was too dark to see where we hit our balls.  It was a great week of sightseeing and golf in fantastic autumn weather in the Highlands, but it was a hurried drive home to Crieff on Sunday for an afternoon choir concert in the 15th Century Innerpeffray Chapel.