Friday, September 20, 2013

Here We Are in Scotland

What’s it like to travel to a place that’s almost home?  What do we do when we get there?  These are reasonable questions and present the thesis for this first post in our Fall 2013 Scotland trip.  
The flights from Portland to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Edinburgh were very pleasant,
A lovely sunrise from about two hours west of Amsterdam.

if you can forget that we paid extra for the sort of upgraded seats (four inches more room) and had to pay $100 a bag for two extra bags.  We arrived on time in Amsterdam, but were clear across the terminal from our departure to Scotland.  We barely had time for a latte and cheese roll 
Amsterdam airport coffee shop.

before we had to board our plane to Edinburgh.  
In Edinburgh we picked up our rental car, a snazzy new Ford Focus that’s getting about 35 mpg.  

We made the drive to Crieff in plenty of time to meet Jacky, our B&B host/sister, 

for lunch at a local hangout called The Lounge.  The afternoon was spent unpacking and getting our golf clubs ready for golf on Friday.
Friday’s golf was a quick nine at St Fillans where we’re members, 
Anne tees off on the 3rd at St Fillans.

then back to the B&B so I could prepare a dressed up pasta dish for a dinner for ten in the evening.  Dinners for 10 or 15 are not unusual for this B&B
Jacky's pialla, cooked in a special pan about 2-1/2 feet wide, fixed for dinner the night before the big dinner.

--at this one were the family of the house (John, Jacky, daughter Ailsa), Booney (the Romanian live-in helper), 

Ailsa on the left and her father, John on the right. 

four ladies from Canada, and us.  

Pork chops, pasta, potatoes (always potatoes), salad, broccoli, and plenty of wine.  A grand time was had by all.
Saturday for us was a touring day.  We did a little shopping at House of Bruar, had hot chocolate and cake in Grandtully,
Scottish Chocolate Centre, Iain Burnett the Highland Chocolatier.

visited both a kirkyard
Logierait Kirkyard: mortsafes used to keep bodies from being dug up by body snatchers.

and a Hieland Coo.  

We had been recommending one of our favorite pubs to the guests we met at the B&B, so we stopped in for a light lunch at the Moulin Inn.
The sign reads, "Moulin Inn, Scottish Pub of the Year, 1696."

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest...and boy did we need it.  We did manage to go out for coffee and some writing time around noon and then drive the six miles out of town to the Innerfeffray Library, the oldest lending library in Scotland.  
Innerpeffray Chapel.

Chapel left and the white Innerpeffray Library on the right.

People visit the library connected to an old Drummond family chapel to research the hundreds of old Scottish books in the library.  

We had a nice visit with a charming curator/librarian who showed us the new books--the ones printed after 1800.
Our agenda for the next few days was golf, golf, golf: two courses we’d played before and one new to us.  We had great fun playing the fine Downfield course in Dundee 

Downfield GC, Dundee.

Step into the hazard, my friend. 
and the Strathmore course at the edge of the Highlands.  
Strathmore GC, near Alyth.

Playing the third day at Piperdam GC near Dundee was work--hard work for a couple of reasons.  First, the course quite hilly for me, the walker (Anne, with an injured foot, got to ride in a buggy).  

Second, we both had great difficulty trying to dissect the design problems of the course.  When I talked to the club pro after the round I asked, “Who designed the course?”  He replied, “That’s the problem, no one designed it, they just sort of put it together around the views.”  

Piperdam Golf and Liesure Centre, Fowlis, Dundee.
While the course is lovely, it has some serious problems as a golf course.  The pro did assure us that plans had been approved to rectify most of the glaring design flaws over the coming winter. 
Good flights, meeting old and new friends, shopping, touring, golf and a little work are a great way to start our Fall 2013 Scotland trip. 
A fall walk to Crieff town centre.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

About Reunions and Tearooms

50th Class Reunion

Anne and I attended the 50th reunion of the South Salem class of 1963.  Since we graduated together neither of us had to be tagged as “The Spouse of...”  We had a good time in a well-planned series of events.  I come away from the weekend with a few impressions.  First, we saw many old friends--who were now old.  Oh well, I guess so are we.  Second, we made some new friends with people we really hadn’t know 50 years ago.  Third, we generally had not much to say to each other.  Conversations went: “Oh, good to see you.  What have you been doing?  That’s nice.  See you around.”  Over and over.  Every once in a while there was some real conversation, but for the most part the Scots would call it “Inconsequential Blether.” Next, our activities were well-planned.  We had an informal gathering with the required name tags with high school yearbook pictures at a local tavern owned by one of our classmates.  Saturday there was a tour of the old alma mater, which Anne and I skipped--we’ve seen enough schools in our careers.  There was also a scramble golf tournament with five teams of four which our team won (cute trophies).  In the evening we gathered for group photo, dinner, and visiting.  The dinner was good and the visiting a little more interesting than the previous evening, but still mostly superficial.  My final impression is that as much fun as was this reunion (it really was enjoyable in a way), we would most likely skip a 60th reunion which would probably be just a morbid gathering to see who was still alive.
We sincerely do appreciate all the work that was put into the events by classmates--they did an outstanding job!


When I visited Trip Advisor looking for eateries in Banchory, Deeside west of Aberdeen, Scotland, three out of the first five in the list were tearooms or coffee shops.  You have to go quite far down the list to get to a pub.  That’s the way things have been changing in Scotland; yesterday’s pub is today’s tearoom.  We have adjusted our writing to fit this new trend.  Our first book, Scotland’s Hidden Gems: Golf Courses and Pubs (no longer available), listed mostly pubs as places to eat.  
Dreel Tavern in Anstruther, a typical Scottish pub.

In the revised edition, Golf in Scotland: The Hidden Gems, tearooms, coffee shops, and restaurants far out number traditional pubs. While we still visit pubs, we are much more likely to spend time in one of Scotland’s fine and interesting tearooms or coffee shops.  How much the Starbuck’s phenomenon has contributed to the change I can’t say, but since all five of our books have been written and edited in our local Canby Starbucks my guess would be Starbucks has had a great influence.  This brings me to the heart of this post:
Anne at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Kinlochewe, a bungalow-type tearoom.

 interesting tearooms and coffee shops we’ve visited in the UK.
A tearoom we’ve visited twice is the Acorn Bank Gardens Tearoom near Penrith, England.  The National Trust garden and tearoom has been a welcome stop on our long drives from Scotland into southern England. 
Hotbed soup for Anne and a sandwich for me at Acorn Bank Gardens.
It was here we had Hotbed Lettuce Soup.  The soup made from lettuce grown in the garden’s hotbeds (thus the name) was a delicious lunch in beautiful surrounding. 

In the nearby Lake District of Cumbria, England (Beatrix Potter country), we have twice stopped at Renoirs Coffee Shop in the tourist village of Windermere. 
Tea in Renoirs in Windermere and listening to a ladies' writing group.

On our last visit we sat next to a group of ladies who were busy discussing their latest writing projects and sharing opinions on self-publishing versus fighting with a publisher.  
In the Cotswolds’ village of Moreton in Marsh we discovered (I guess others had really “discovered” it before us) Mrs. T Potts Tearoom,
Mrs T Pots Tearoom in Moreton in Marsh.

 which advertises “probably the best homemade traditional fayre.”  I don’t know if it’s the best, but it certainly was good and quaint--our first Cotswolds lunch after getting lost on the M6 Motorway around Birmingham. 

 Badger’s Hall in Chipping Campden was another quaint Cotswolds tearoom.  
Come on in, the sweets are delicious.

Not only did we have a fine lunch, but I had fun photographing tourists staring into the tearoom window at all the displayed sweets.
In Scotland we have favored spots.  Our home away from Canby-Starbucks-home is The Red Squirrel Coffee Shop and Gallery in Crieff, the village we call home in Scotland.  The Red Squirrel displays some of my photos and sells my travel stories book, Ten Years of Travel in Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales
Anne visits with John and Jane (Jacky's friend from South Africa) in the Red Squirrel.

Any time we have a free morning or afternoon in Crieff we’ll visit here to catch up on our writing.  One evening there was a birthday being celebrated in the Red Squirrel.  Anne and visited for quite a while with an elderly lady (older than us).  She finally looked hard at us and said, "Are you the Americans who have photos on display here?"  I replied that we were.  "I bought your photo of Comrie, my village, a few weeks ago!" It was nice to meet someone who appreciated my work enough to buy it.   A little north of Crieff, up the A9, the main north-south road in Scotland, is the small village of Blair Atholl, home to the magnificent Blair Castle and the only private standing army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders.  The village is also home to the Watermill Tearoom and Bakery.  

In the working mill they still grind their own flour and use it for baking scrumptious breads and sweets.  It’s hard not to stop at the Watermill for a latte and scone if we're in the area, and then take some fresh baked breads or scones with us.  West from Blair Atholl is the small village of Kinloch Rannoch.  There used to be a nice tearoom in the old post office building, but it closed several years ago.  Now you have to drive about 15 more miles of single track road to get to the hamlet of Rannoch Station which has a small hotel and one of UK’s most isolated rail stations--only one or two trains come through the station daily on the route between Glasgow and Fort William.  Beside a few benches, the only feature of the station is the rustic tearoom which serves homemade soup, sandwiches, and coffee during limited open hours and only during the season.  
Rannoch Station Tearoom is basic, but good.
Get there after the end of September or before the beginning of April and the station is empty.  The road stops at Rannoch Station--beyond is one of the bleakest of the UK’s moors, 
Loch Rannoch on the way to Rannoch Station.

Rannoch Moor, complete with lochans, bogs, quicksand with the nearest civilization to the west 22 miles away.  
There are many other coffee shops or tearooms that we visit when staying in different areas, for example The Old Bakery in Carrbridge when we stay in Aviemore, 
Packhorse Bridge across the road from the Old Bakery Tearoom in Carrbridge.

the Falls of Feugh Tearoom in Banchory where we once watched the river behind the tearoom rapidly rise in a flash flood,  

the Angus Fine Art and Tearoom in Kirriemuir which sadly we think is now closed--we look forward to trying another tearoom in village with the unique name The Surgery Tearoom, 

and Betty’s Bakery and Tearoom when we visit York and where you can wait in line for a table for two hours on a busy Sunday.  

We still have dinners out in restaurants or pubs, but when we can’t find a Starbucks (we’ve visited Starbucks in Elgin, York, Oxford, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Vienna, Bath, Dunfermline, Aberdeen, 
York Starbucks.

and several at Motorway Service areas) we can always find a pleasant tearoom or coffee shop where we can get our latte fix.

Note: All our books, including Ireland’s Small Greens, are available from our website as well as from or Amazon.UK.

Next Post: We leave on 9/11 (what safer day is there to fly when security will be on highest alert?) for our fall visit to Scotland.  We have lots of golf planned as we continue to revise our second Scotland golf guide, Hidden Gems II: Scotland and Wales, and two weeks in Timeshare (Kilconquhar Castle on Fife and Hilton Craggendorrach in the highlands of Cairngorms National Park).  This trip should give me plenty to write about.
Anne is getting prepared for a late fall trip to the Highlands.

Until next time, Slainte!