Friday, January 1, 2016

Stories and People

     This first post of 2016 goes back to some travel stories and photos of interesting people we've met in our travels.  As always comments are very welcome.  Have a Great New Year!
Portland Highland Games

Portland Highland Games

Blackford Highland Games, Perthshire, Scotland
Bachelor Party at Deacon Brodie's in Edinburgh.

If It’s For Sale, Don’t Go

It was early in October when we had a couple of nice days on the Isle of Skye in the northwest of Scotland.  This day we had already driven up to the Quiraing which in Old Norse means “Round Fold.” It’s a series of tables, pinnacles, spires, and escarpments that are part of Meall na Suiramach, the highest mountain in this area of Skye. We’d also visited Flora MacDonald’s grave; she is famous for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie (the Young Pretender) escape from the British after the Jacobean defeat at Culloden. We were definitely looking forward to having lunch in Uig on Skye after fighting 80-100 mile an hour winds at Castle Duntulm, a much ruined McLeod castle on the point of the Trotternish peninsula. The ferry terminal village of Uig (ferries to the Outer Hebrides) faces Uig Bay and has a pottery shop, a brewery with gift shop, a pub, a restaurant, and a couple of tea rooms.  I talked Anne into going to the Tea House because we only wanted a quick sandwich or soup.  Bad choice!
Tea Room Conversation, Kirriemuir, Scotland

The Tea House advertised itself as a tea room and B&B.  The insides it could have been described as quaint, but really a better description would be tattered and sparse. Only one other couple was in the tea room and they were just getting ready to leave—it was a clue we missed. We had to wait quite a while to get any service—that was another missed clue.  We ordered a ham and tomato toastie to share and a coke each.  The cokes came in their cans with no glasses or ice and the sandwich came shortly after.  The sandwich was barely toasted bread with two ultra thin slices of tomato (one in each half) and a similarly thin slice of rubbery, tasteless processed ham--no condiments or sauces.  Anne described it as an ”ugly sandwich.”  We each drank our cokes, nibbled on our sandwich halves, and left the Tea House as soon as we could.
School work bored him to death!
     It was on the way out we noticed the For Sale sign on the property’s fence.  Damn, I couldn’t even review the Tea House on Trip Advisor.  I made up for my poor lunch choice by taking Anne to dinner at the Harbour View Seafood Restaurant in Portree (one of the best in town).  From now on I look closely for those For Sale signs.

TV actress in a feature filming at Stirling Castle.

Bar keep pours a round for a tasting at Famous Grouse in Crieff.

Piper busking at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Study in Red and Black in Oxford.

Beware the Mead

On our trips to Ireland we kept seeing ads for Medieval Castle Experiences at Bunratty Castle, Knappague Castle, and Dunquaire Castle.  Finally, we decided to give in to the ads and take in a show—unusual for us because we generally steer clear of things that seem too touristy.  We visited Dunguaire Castle in Kinvarra Village (near Galway) in Co. Clare just outside the Burren (interesting geological area).  We toured the 16th century tower house castle, named for King Guaire, a legendary king of Connacht, and then purchased tickets to that evening’s dinner show.  
In the evening we drove about a half hour from our B&B in Galway to the castle.  The evening’s entertainment consisted of a medieval dinner (soup, chicken, potatoes of course since we were in Ireland,veg, and pie), music, songs, storytelling, and poetry (Yeats, Shaw, O’Casey, Synge).  
Anne, with the pitcher of mead right in front of her, she couldn't resist.

     The star of the show, at least for Anne, was the mead (a fermented honey and fruit or herb drink) that was served before and during dinner.  I had a small taste, but since I was driving I stuck mostly to water.  Anne, on the other hand, had her before dinner cup of mead and mine and more at dinner—she thought it was very tasty.  It was strong as well—mightily strong!  Anne fell asleep in the car on the way home to the B&B and it was lucky the directions back were simple—with my lack of sense of direction we could have ended up in Limerick instead of Galway.  The next day was a slight fog for Anne; she ate lightly at breakfast and can’t recall too many details of the golf we played later that day.  So be warned: Beware the Mead!    

One of Edinburgh's more colorful characters.

Street performer in Edinburgh.  Bet nobody messes with him.

In a small pub in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire, we visited with a gentleman who had played many of the same courses we had.

This is so wrong for many reasons! (Rockcliffe in southern Scotland)

Free Is a Good Price, But You Have to Wait for It

Recently when we have an early morning flight, we’ll stay the night before at a Red Lion Hotel near the Portland airport (the Best Airport in America) which offers a park’n’Fly program—stay the night and leave your car for free for up to ten days (avoiding airport parking charges). On one trip, after checking in at the hotel, we drove to a nearby mall to eat at Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Q.  The meals at Dave’s aren't gourmet, but they usually are tasty, plentiful, and reasonably priced.  On this occasion the place was quite crowded.  We were given a beeper and told the wait would be about 15 minutes.  The bar had room for us to have a drink while we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  After about 35 minutes I asked the manager to check on a table for us.  He came back and told us that we weren’t checked-in.  I showed him the beeper.  Sputtering now, he said he’d check again.  We got a table in about a minute with the manager’s apologies for “losing us.”  After we ordered, the manager said that our dinners were on the house with more profound apologies.  We had to wait for it, but a free dinner was a great way to start a week of vacation in Las Vegas.

The Master of the Tables in the dining hall in Oxford.

Jim Craig, famous Scottish footballer (soccer player). visiting at Merlindale B&B.

Oregon Poet William Stafford at a conference on the Oregon coast in the early 80s.

Just your average visitor to Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands.