Monday, June 23, 2014

A Travel with Camera Suggestion

Since this is a Travel and Photography Blog, what better way is there to celebrate summer than to suggest a trip for photos to those of you close enough.  For those too far away it may trigger some ideas of your own, and at the least I hope you find the pictures enjoyable.  
Day Lily
My suggestion is a trip to the Oregon Garden just south of Silverton on Main Street, also known as Cascade Hwy NE.  the Garden is well signed in Silverton.
Metal Sculpture in the Water Garden

The Garden opened in 1999 and consists of more than 20 specialty gardens, including a water garden, conifer garden, wetlands, sensory garden, rose garden, and a market garden.  
Day Lily

Should Have Got the Name

The 80 acre botanical garden run by the non-profit Oregon Garden Foundation is open 365 days a year; May to September 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and October to April 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  A complimentary narrated train or tram runs through the Garden April to October.  
Red Dragon Fly
Besides the Garden itself, the adjacent Gordon House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957 and moved to the Garden in 2002 has tours which can be booked.  The Garden also has a gift shop, cafe, and retail nursery.   Admission to the Garden is $11 for adults, $9 for seniors (60+), $6 for students, $5 for children (5-11), and children 4 and under are free.  Next to the Oregon Garden is the Oregon Garden Resort, a 103 guest room complex with conference rooms, a spa, the Garden View Restaurant, and Fireside Lounge.  
Name? Uh, it's pretty though.

For me, the non-gardener, the Oregon Garden is a two or three time a year trip for photos of all manner of flowers and wildlife.  I may not know what I’m taking pictures of (I really should make more of effort to note the names or flowers I photograph since they are well marked at the Garden), 

but I always can spend an hour or two admiring the natural beauty and trying to take even better pictures than before.  If you’re looking for an outing and are close enough, the Oregon Garden is a photographer’s paradise spring, summer, and fall.  


For more information about the Oregon Garden check out their website  
The Day Lilies Were in Full Bloom.

Note: All the above photos shot on June 19, 2014.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Spring 2014 Scotland Trip Summary

Traditionally I make an end of our trip summary report.  It’s a way for us to put into perspective what we did on this particular trip, what we liked and didn’t like, and make any other special notes.  This trip’s summary will highlight some of our favorites of the trip and lowlights, as well.
As always I start with what ends up being our biggest expense of the trip--our rental car from Arnold Clark Car Rental (a great dealer to rent from in the UK).  This year when we showed up to get our car the attendant said, “We’ve upgraded you to a bigger car.”  To which I replied, “No way!  My Ford Focus-size car is as big as I want.”  What she said next eased my mind, “No, it’s the same size just better.” 
Waiting for the Lochranza Ferry.
She showed me the sleek light blue Mercedes A200 CDI.  After driving it for 2500 miles on small Scottish roads I’d say it’s a great driving car that gets good mileage (45+ mpg and that’s important when petrol is $10.34 a gallon when you consider the exchange rate), but I wouldn’t buy one.  It has smaller interior capacity than a Ford Focus or Vauxhaul Astra, it’s tricky to get in and out of, and the switches aren’t in convenient places, but as a rental I’ll take it anytime they give me one. 

Now, to trip specifics:

GOLF: We played 20 rounds of golf on 15 different courses, two of which were new to us.  The rounds totaled 312 holes and 90 miles of walking on courses.  Out of our 19 matches I won 4, we tied 2, and Anne won 13--in Scotland she's called a bandit!  Our favorites of this trip, besides the 9-hole St Fillans GC where we’re members, were Shiskine, Machrihanish Dunes, and Royal Dornoch.  
Shiskine's fourth green, Drumadoon Head, and the Kilbrannan Sound.
Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club on the Isle of Arran is a 12-hole course  stunningly set on the west coast of the island in the Kilbrannan Sound looking directly across to the Kintyre Peninsula.  The course sits next to Drumadoon Head and not far from King Robert the Bruce’s Cave.  Besides the magnificent setting, the course is fantastic as well, with each hole dramatically different from any others.  It’s a simple, easy to walk course that will bite hard if you miss-club.  Another favorite of the trip is the fairly new Machrihanish Dunes GC near Campbeltown on the Kintyre Peninsula.  

Machrihanish Dunes GC on the Kintyre Peninsula.

Anne and our fore caddy, Dean, at Machrihanish Dunes. 
Built into the high dunes the course plays with 50 harsh bunkers and several blind shots.  The 17th and 18th holes on the course are two of the toughest holes in golf, but the challenges make the course worth seeking (a top 100 in the world course).  Last on our favorites list this time is Royal Dornoch GC in the far north of Scotland.  
Anne tees off at Royal Dornoch GC.

I putt on the 17th at Royal Dornoch.
Probably the best links course in the UK not on the British Open Rota (because it’s so far out of the way and lacks the infrastructure to host a major tournament), Royal Dornoch is constantly ranked in the top twenty in the world.  We played in sun and light winds and enjoyed every minute of our fourth go-round of the course.  
One “not favorite” comes to mind.  We’d played the village course at Aberfoyle near Loch Lomand several years ago and thought it would be fun to play it again.  
Aberfoyle GC is hilly; hilly but beautiful.
We were younger when we played before and didn’t notice the hills the way we did this time.  I look back at my write up in our book where I said the course was “hilly.”  After our second visit I’d change that description to “killer hilly!”

ATTRACTIONS: Of the more than 40 tourist or historical attractions we visited on this trip a few stick in our thoughts.  Our second visit to Machrie Moor and its cairns, stone circles, and standing stones reinforced how special this three-mile walk is.   
One of the stone circles on Machrie Moor on the Isle of Arran.
The first mile or so is a gentle climb on farm track though fields of sheep with spring lambs running, jumping, and bleating the whole way.  

The entire sites has several cairns and stone circles dating to about 1800 BC.  A nice surprise for us was Southend Beach at the tip of  the Kintyre Peninsula.  

Southend Beach, Kintyre Peninsula, Scotland.

Besides St Columba’s Foot Prints (actually carved by a local stone carver in the 1850s to honor the saint) and St Columba’s well, the beach hosted numerous seals or sea lions sunning themselves.  Also a nice surprise, though it shouldn’t have been, was a visit to the Scottish National Museum in Edinburgh.  

A museum selfie.

The main gallery at the Scottish National Museum, Edinburgh.

A museum exhibit of important heads.
We’d visited the two main art galleries in Edinburgh several times before, but had never been to the National Museum.  It will now be an automatic stop for us on future trips.  Interesting exhibits, including Wildlife Photography of the Year, and well designed displays characterize the five story museum.  The one “not our favorite attraction” was the road to the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse.  
The view from the cliffside road on our unsuccessful journey to the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse.
We never got to the lighthouse because the single-track eight mile road was so small, so twisty, so steep that after a half mile trip along the edge of a 2000 foot cliff (with no turnouts, no verge, no guard rails) when we saw the road head straight up a mountain (I mean straight up) where we could see no turnouts or places to turn around, we turned around in the only spot we could find with still four miles to go. Some attractions just aren’t worth the effort.
And finally, EATERIES (TEAROOMS, PUBS, RESTAURANTS): We ate or had tea or coffee in more than 35 different establishments, from simple coffee shops like Starbucks to fancy restaurants like Mussel Inn in Edinburgh.  We enjoyed several new to us tearooms, usually for tea and a sweet.  
Berryhill Tearoom, Abernethy, Fife.

Abernethy Round Tower.
Berryhill Tearoom, located directly across from the Abernethy Round Tower on Fife (one of only two Irish-style round towers in Scotland), had a great assortment of specialty teas and some quality home-made pastries.  The best place for sweets, though, was a nursery tearoom in Inshraich in the Cairngorm National Park. 
The Potting Shed, an appropriate name for a nursery tearoom.
Here they were known for their delicious homemade cakes...and they were delicious.  For a pub for grub we wouldn’t hesitate to go back to the Cross Keys Hotel in Kippen, a small village in the Trossachs National Forest.  

Cross Keys Hotel in Kippen.

Cross Keys interior.
Low ceilings, dark wood, friendly servers, and wonderful not-your-usual-pub food make this a do again spot. 
Anderson's Restaurant in Boat of Garten, Highlands.

Stuffed chicken and chorizo stew.  And Anne.

Anderson’s Restaurant in Boat of Garten in the Highlands was most probably the best meal we had out on this trip--the meals we have in with our adopted family at Merlindale B&B in Crieff are always the best.  We shared a wood pigeon pate starter, then each had stuffed chicken over chorizo stew, and finished with hand-made in-house ice cream.  Yum!
Anne enjoys the sun at Sliddery Beach on the west side of Isle of Arran.
In final summary, this was a great trip!  We had to change golf only once because of rain, we got to most of the places we planned to go, and enjoyed time with family (adopted) and friends.  What could be better.