Life Lessons


"Figuring out our gifts in life is part of our journey to becoming enlightened human beings.” – Allison DuBois

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Of Poets & Writers & Kings & Things

 

On our final day in London we spent the morning in Westminster Abbey. Anticipating a warm day here with a 86% humidity we decided to do a few indoor things.  They will not allow photos to be taken in the abbey but they do have their own photos on their website that the public may use which I have done.  

 

Queen Elizabeth I was one of thousands of tombs & memorials - including Isaac Newton, Mary Queen of Scotts, Henry VIII, Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, W. H. Auden, Yeats, C.S. Lewis,  Keats, Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Handel, Sir Laurence Olivier, and so many more....ancient royalty, music gods, literary genius and scientists and nobility. We toured for 1 1/2 hours on our own then took a guided tour for 1 1/2 hours that took us behind the scenes. 


 

Above is the Corenation chair where the Stone of Destiny is placed in the base of the chair for the ceremony however that happens to be in Scotland right now and they are hoping it will be loaned back for future events!  We got to see it in Edinburgh along with the Crown Jewels. 

 

Then we went to the Churchill War Rooms....underground.  Amazing time capsule of where they were working from during WWII.  

 


Mr. B advising Churchill using his Audio Guide & secret codes.  



 


Did you know that Winston Churchill painted to relax?


 


While Mr. B was finishing up in the museum, I walked across the street to Bird Lake in St. James Park and then we headed home for lunch and relaxation and to pack for our return trip home tomorrow.  Yikes. 32 Days on the road.  

Glad to head home and see family & friends.  

Saying of the the Day -   "Not by might or power but by spirit" - Herbert Edward Ryle (epitaph at Westminster Abbey)
 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Royalty, Musicians and Artists

 

I had a game plan for today and Mr. B sorted out the tube details.  First stop Kensington Palace Gardens.  I knew they were having a special White Garden display in honor of Princess Diana. Apparently in her 15 years at the Palace, she enjoyed the gardens and often spoke with the gardeners.



 


I love white flowers against a green background.  I think I got that from my mom who also has that same passion! Thanks Mom! The gardeners here were busy adding fresh white Cosmo plants to the walled garden. 



 

Next stop - Abbey Road and the Zebra crosswalk from their Abbey Road album. So many people here and you had to stop traffic to get your shot.  Some people were way into making traffic stop for minutes while they posed their shot but Mr. B and I just took turns crossing the street. Next door is the Abbey Road Studio - where those blue posts are on the left side. 



 


Third stop for the day was Somerset House and the Courtauld Gallery which you might remember that we tried to get in yesterday but were turned away because they were closed for a private function - so they gave us free tickets. 

 

They were having a special Impressionist Show with some very special paintings.  Vincent Van Gogh's "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear" from 1889 is above.  I am always so amazed when I see paintings live as they have so much more character and color and vibrancy to them. 



 


Above is Edouard Manet's lovely painting of "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" c1881-82. I spent a lot of time enjoying this luscious painting.  He signed his name on the wine bottle in the left corner. The glasswork, the crowd in the background and the barmaids detached look all pulled this painting together - as well as the reflection of the barmaid's reflection speaking to the gentleman in the mirror. 


 

And a lovely little Degas of "Two Dancers on the Stage".  Fun day!


Word of the Day - lift = elevator 


Monday, June 12, 2017

Hopes, Dreams and Goldfish - Part 2

 

Guess what?


 

We are now in London and have been here since Saturday.  I have been a little behind on my posts so I'm going to jump ahead to current time and post some of our fun travels in Edinburgh when I return home. 


 


This morning we saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. There were horses & marching bands & grand uniforms & bear fur hats (yes - bear hats so they can't wear them in the rain)!  It was the perfect weather today for watching all of the pomp & circumstance.


 

Then we walked over to The National Gallery to see the Impressionist Exhibit.  After about an hour of trying to locate the right room, I asked a guard.  It's closed for refurbishing!!!  But there is nothing as cute as little school girls chatting away and going to see a Michelangelo Exhibit. 



 

So we walked and walked and walked towards our next gallery but I was too hungry so we stopped at a little French Bistro and sat outside.  It was delightful.  We noticed a tour guide showing people down this pedestrian alley so after lunch we went to check it out and this is what we found.....


 

Mozart was 8 years old at the time and played for the King! Unfortunately there was now a Starbucks and a Chiptole on the corner!  

 

We have angels guarding our Chipotle at home too!



 


We walked through the theater district to get to our next gallery - the Courtauld in the Somerset House and..........it was closed because there were some VIP's in town.  (Insert Jeanette's sad face here)


We took a cab back to our hotel to rest our tired bones and feet. 

 


Now Mr. B is pouring me a glass of wine in our hotel lobby before we head out for dinner. (Insert Jeanette's smiley face here)!



Phrase of the Day - "Hopes, Dreams & Goldfish" - On the 5 hour train from Edinburgh to London if you found yourself in need of the "powder room" it was located at the back of our car.  You needed a license to operate it but if you were able to push the correct puttons to open the door, insert yourself, figure out how to close the door then push to button to lock it, a woman's voice came overhead on the intercom.  She said "Please do not flush feminine products, nappies, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex's sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet".  Made my day!  What can I say - I'm a sucker for a laugh. 



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hopes, Dreams & Goldfish

 

On Wednesday we drove from Inverness to Stirling with a few stops among the way. One was a Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore.  There were crofts with peat burning fires and an interpreter in period dress. 

* they did some filming of Outlander here



 

Long walk between the various "villages" but a fascinating view of life in the highlands. 



 

Next we headed for the location of the Standing Stones from Outlander.  From my computer at home, it looked like a little half hour detour off the main highway at Kinnloch Rannoch but in reality it was a couple hour side trip - oops!  But we made it to the filming spot, tranquil and just like in the movies I'm loving it but Mr. B is shrugging his shoulders saying "where are the standing stones?"  Double oops - they were just props and I told him that but I guess he forgot......

**ladies - if you don't know about Outlander just Google "Sam Heughan" 
  



 

Onto Drummond gardens and Doune Castle but we were starving and ate at a little French Bistro listening to Johnny Cash music. Amazing!  Drove to our hotel in Stirling and we're welcomed with an elderly tour group from Alabama and a hotel that could be in anywhere USA.  From the outside it looked like a historic Medieval building but inside it looked like Caesar's Palace.  We made the best of it and walked up the street to the Holy Rude Cemetery where Jim found some "Baird's" and we both found some historic gravestones.  Heading back down the hill we went to Nicky Tams Pub where the female bartenders give you a back massage as well as pour you a pint. 



 

It was open mic night so I skeedaddled Mr. B right out of there!

In the morning we headed to Edinburgh with several stops along the way. 

 

The Callendar House where Mary Queen of Scotts marriage agreement was signed.  

 



And Linlithgow which was mostly in ruins but Mary Queen of Scotts was born here



  

Sorry to leave you in suspense but I will explain the title tomorrow!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Scotland & Fifty Shades of Gray

 

Upon leaving the Isle of Skye we came upon Eilean Donan castle. They were flying flags at half mast to honor the victims of the Manchester & London terror attacks. It was a moody day weather wise as well. But the castle was delightful and well presented. A military jet flow low and loud along the waterway doing maneuvers. 


 

It is always kind of fun to try to interpret the Gaelic road signs unless you were in a roundabout and had to read them very fast and try to decided which version was English! Sometimes we went around the circle twice to get the right turnoff. 


 

There is lots of Scotch Broom blooming along the roadside and up on the mountains. In England it seemed to be mostly Rhododendrons. 



 

This is Urquhart castle ruins on Loch Ness.  It's such a tragedy that so many castles and abbeys were destroyed here. They have a relatively new interpretative center & cafe. 


Checked into our hotel which was really an old grand country house. Lovely to meet so many people from many different countries in the lounge there.  We met an older couple, Richard and "Jill-with-a-J" from York who were very sweet & interesting. They met the band -The Who and Freud's grandson Stephan who was "a nut case"......"well they all were really"!  In his retirement Richard tunes organs.  OK...but we find out that he tunes organs for Cambridge and sometimes repairs can take years. 


 


On Tuesday we woke to a downpour but we had brought clothes for all the British weather!  We both wanted to visit Culloden Moor and that whole Scottish battle & tragedy from 1746.  The red flags above are where the English troops were located and the blue were the Highlander's. In a matter of minutes the battle was over. 


 

There were headstones erected at a later date to honor all of the clans who fought there. 


 

The above photo is of Leanoch croft which was used as a military hospital on the field. 

Later we visited Clava Cairns, Fort George & Cawdor Castle.  

Upon returning to our "country home" (where there are real hedgehogs mind you!) we were greeted by a warm fire & drinks in the lounge overlooking the gardens. It was still pouring outside but a fun group of people began pouring in (no pun intended) and as we began sharing our funny-sometimes dangerous- tales about driving on the left, everyone in the room began to share their own experiences.  There were people, from Massachusetts, Berlin, Palo Alto, Switzerland (who spoke Italian), Spain & Aberdeen who had just returned from 7 years in Paris.  



Word of the Day - Haggis, Neeps & Tatties - a menu item found everywhere in the Highlands that consists of a savory pudding containing sheep heart, liver & lungs encased in the stomach lining, turnips & potatoes.  Yum.  I will truly miss this food item when I return home! Sorry mom but you will have to learn to make haggis instead of spaghetti!!!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Long and Winding Road

 

Northern Skye.......the main roads around the island were far better than we thought they would be.  

 

Occasionally there were road hazards.....but cute ones!

 

And occasionally there were road hazards and our road became a single track with few pull outs. But at least here you could see oncoming cars as there were no stone walls nor hedgerows like in South West England!

 

There are also no landscaped gardens around here as it's all about survival. I love the simple beauty here.  

And you can't forget that loaf of bread at the grocery store!

 

But the views were spectacular everywhere we turned.  If you look closely at the above photo you can see hikers along the trail. 


 


 

Kilt Rock behind a waterfall into the sea.  The rock formation is named because it looks like the folds in a kilt. 


 

And it is very windy out here so they need to fasten down their roofs!  We drove out to this point to see Flora MacDonalds grave and a Living Museum nearby but the museum was closed on Sundays.  

Phrase of the Day - "I flashed them first". 


When you drive on a single track road you flash your lights at oncoming cars to let them know you are in a pullout and they can safely move forward and pass you. Except I kept letting Mr. B know that the oncoming car was flashing him so that we could go but he would respond with "I flashed them first" or "I already flashed them - twice" so then it was a contest on a very narrow road as to who would move forward first.  You don't want to get stuck in a bog around here as it might take all day to get rescued!  Oh yeah & no cell service!



Monday, June 5, 2017

Chip Buttie

More about that title later......

 

We were welcomed to the Highlands by a piper playing Amazing Grace as we drove through a pass near Glencoe.  I was teary eyed the rest of the day because it was so overwhelmingly beautiful, reminded me of my dad & grandfather who was a piper for the Black Watch. The countryside is rugged and dramatic and incredible!

 

Mr. B is always looking for trout wherever we go - this is at the base of The Cuillin Mountains. 

 


Sheep are grazing everywhere you look and just look at that mountain range behind them!

 

This big boy is one of the Highland cattle we found lazing by the side of the road. 

 

We found several 16th century knights graves on a small island near Skeabost.  This was an amazing find as I was told that this cemetery couldn't be found anymore but after a few wrong turns, we were able to hike right to the spot.  There is the ruins of an chapel, many other ancient graves and according to stories 28 clan chiefs of the clan Nicholson are buried there. 


 

When we arrived at our hotel in Portree, we enjoyed this stunning view from the hotel garden.  We sat out here listening to bagpipes in the distance until the rains arrived.  

Word of the Day - Chip Buttie = Buttie means sandwich & chip is French fries

People were ordering these near Loch Lomond and they are basically buttered white bread with French fries for filling.  Better order that with a side of ketchup & be ready with the defibrillator!


**I wrote this post several days ago but because of the poor internet connection I was unable to post. I am trying to reduce the size of my photos to see if that helps. Being "unplugged" is both a blessing and frustrating. Everyone is in the moment here. No one whips out their cell phone at the dinner table. People are engaged.  But when you are trying to let your friends & family know that you were not in London during the terrible attack Saturday, it can be frustrating. 





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