Isle of Hoy: Home of UK’s Tallest Seastack

As promised in my previous post, the Island of Hoy was our next quest! Our intrepid companions did us the favor of planning the day trip to this gem of an island. Hoy is one of the Orkney Islands; there are no direct links from mainland Scotland so you have to take a ferry to the island of ‘Mainland’ where the towns of Kirkwall and Stromness are, and then hop over to Hoy on a 35 minute ferry. As we were staying in near Stromness, it was easy to get to the Hoy ferry terminal in Houton.

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Aboard the ferry crossing Scapa Flow to Hoy

The weather was sheer perfection as we caught a morning ferry from Houton and landed at Lyness. We only had about 6 hours to explore the island before our scheduled return ferry so we had to ‘beat cheeks’ as it were. We wanted to explore one of the more remote parts of the island to find the most famous seastack of them all: the Old Man of Hoy. 

So off we went along the spectacular single track road, catching a glimpse of turquoise inlets.

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So many colors! The road from Lyness to Linksness

We made our way to Rackwick for the hike to the Old Man. Such a place- I tell you!! It was a remote sheltered inlet of untold beauty and little sheep ambling about too.

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The hour and a half hike to the Old Man is easy enough after climbing up the to level of the cliff tops and skirting along the coast… dsc_0986

Finally reaching the cliff next to the Old Man,, it is a GIANT of a stack!!

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450 Feet tall (137 m)

And to think people climb this thing! We hung out and had lunch in what is undoubtably the best lunch spot in the world!

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The best lunch spot in the world!

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St. John’s Head

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After a spell of being spellbound by the sheer awesomeness of this spot, we made our way back to the car park at Rackwick.

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The Northlink Ferry off the coast to the left

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Rackwick resident dining out

After our return to Lyness to catch the ferry, we took in the Scapa Flow Museum located next to the ferry.  This humble warehouse (free entry) and cafe highlights the rich military history of the Orkneys during WW1 and WW2, especially the sheltered bay ‘Scapa Flow’ where the British Naval Fleet was based. At one point there were many German ships scuttled in the harbor but only one or two remain there now. img_1501

And we caught our ferry back to the ‘Mainland’ Orkney in time for a good pub dinner in Stromness.  A perfect ending to a great day of island hopping!

 

Way up in Orkney: Those Islands off the Northcoast.

I didn’t have a huge hankerin’ to go to the Orkneys but friends really wanted to go, so we though we’d give it a whirl. We were glad we did..

There was the nice drive up the coast from Inverness to John O’Groats.. yes thats the name of the town on the northern most tip of mainland Scotland that you can easily walk to and get a great tourist photo: see exhibit A

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Then the ferry ride over to Orkney from Gills Bay on Pentland Ferries

And an hour and a half later we were on Orkney! Its a group of several islands and we landed on the biggest one called ‘Mainland‘.. so creative! This is where we booked an AirBnb house for three nights (which is how long you need to not just have one day on the island and to make paying for the ferry and drive worth it!)

Here are some highlights from our 2 days

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Standing Stones of Stenness, c. 4000BC

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Ring of Brognar  c.4000BC

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If you like old ancient things, this is the place for you! Ancient stone circles, still relatively untouched, and no fences like at Stonehenge! They have been left alone because of sheer remoteness and stand ready, no pun intended, to wow you.

But we hadn’t seen Skara Brae yet! This was an almost complete Neolithic village left intact and buried in the dunes that was revealed after a monster storm swept over in 1850.

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A typical home with hearth, beds, storage shelves….ready for a cozy retreat!

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Then we took a turn on the way back from Skara Brae and ended up wandering down a coastal trail that led to this!

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Yeansby ‘Castle’: a seastack with two feet!

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And more dramatic cliffs

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And a sea stack with a bridge which we did not cross!

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Island of Hoy in the distance

From here we could see our next day’s adventure…. the Island of Hoy! It was spectacular…….stay tuned!

The Details:

Pentland Ferries: £38  per car one-way, then add £16 per adult one-way. Departs from  Gill’s Bay near John O’Groats, landing at St. Margaret’s Hope. (Yes it cost our car with 4 adults £204!) Journey takes about 1.5 hours each way. You can cross without a car as there are public busses on Mainland Island.

AirBnb House: at this link

Skara BraeAdmission and Hours

Both stone circles, Brognar and Stenness,  above are free and open 24/7 with free parking.

More Cow Bell: Hiking in Switzerland

We came to Switzerland to hike. We are not super fit, but we have boots and lots of good ideas so it was going to epic, right? Well actually, yes, it was epic. That is the kind of place Switzerland is. The Swiss have, for centuries, been making the Alps accessible to normal people– and we are very normal. So our second stop on our Swiss adventure was the village of Kandersteg where we stayed at the International Scouting Center which rents out spare rooms in the dorms.

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This was a fairly affordable option if you don’t mind being around teenagers. I mean they are so quiet in large groups. We had a private room with a shared bath and ate a basic breakfast in the mess hall.  One benefit of staying here was discount gondola tickets! Gondolas are essential for ‘normal’ people to get up the Alps to a point where you can start hiking without miles of straight up before you get above the tree line and can see stuff. (stuff being ranges of mountain peaks) We chose the Gemmi Pass hike as our first Alpine assault.

For us, this started at the Sunnbuel Gondola a short walk from the Scout Center.

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Upon arriving at the top of said gondola, we noticed a wee bit or dampness. img_1141

Actually it was bucketing. But we persevered! We wanted to get at least as far as the Hotel Schwarenbach, a isolated hotel in the middle of the pass. img_1147-2They had to have hot tea and a muffin at least!

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The Hotel Schwarenbach looked quite intriguing. And while we stopped for a wee cup of tea, the rain stopped!  We were feeling energized so we thought we would press on.

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We came upon Daubensee Lake, a minty green glacial expanse.

 

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At the end of the lake we finally came to the drop into Leukerbad. The clouds were misty and wafting up from the valley creating an eerie and isolated feel. There is the Wildstrubel Hotel here as well as a gondola station descending to Leukerbad which is quite a steep descent.

At this point we turned around, and the sun came out so it was like a completely different place on the return journey. Of course no hike in Switzerland would be complete without passing cows grazing peacefully in the high meadows, there bells gently clanging in song.

 

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More Cow Bell!

The sound of cheese being made in a high alpine meadow is enough to make one weep with joy!

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Very Cute Cheese Factory with baby cow bell

Then we came upon a magical pond off a side trail that looked like it belonged in Narnia.

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Arveseeli – worth while detour!

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The sun was so wonderful as we walked through this paradise and we eventually came back to the Sunnbuel gondola station marking the end of our day’s epic alpine adventure.

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Details:

Gemmi Pass hike: Plan on six hours round trip from the top of Sunnbuel gondola station to Leukerbad gondola station at the other end of the pass. (We dawdled a good bit!

Kandersteg Scout Camp stay: 35chf per adult per night. (plus 7chf/pp for breakfast) for a private double room with bath between 2 rooms. (rate: 1chf =+/- $1)

Gondola- Sunnbuel: 23chf adult return. (with camp discount)

BEST hiking website I found about Switzerland: Here

 

 

 

Chasing the Yellow Jersey: the Tour de France in Switzerland

The timing of our Switzerland trip worked out so that we could see  Stage 17 of the Tour de France as it was taking a ‘de-tour’ through Switzerland! Amazingly I found cheap lodging near the route so our scheming began.

Every Tour stage has 2 parts: the caravan and the actual race. The caravan parade consists of floats or vans with the sponsor’s crazy attention getting design. Little treats are tossed from the floats to the people along the route to catch as a souvenir of the day. Then there is the actual race. We were going to watch Stage 17-Bern to Finhaut/Emosson- as it passed through the village of Aigle.img_1010

We decided to watch the parade in Bex close to our lodging and were next to a roundabout so the parade had to slow down there.

 

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The sun was blazing while we waited but eventually the trickle of official Tour cars began to speed by.

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And then here came the floats! img_20160720_135601 img_1020

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I got a pretty good stash!

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Now we had to wait about 2 hours for the actual riders to arrive… and for complicated reasons we had to watch it in Aigle. So we hopped on the next train for a short ride to Aigle which involved some waiting and unfortunately we almost missed the actual tour riders as they passed through town! As we were walking the short distance from the train to the route, I heard cheering so I started running! And by the time I got there had missed the breakaway! (The breakaway is the lead group or rider who is attempting to get way ahead of the pack or peloton) Dang it!  Ah well. The peloton was still about 12 minutes behind so we got a good spot to watch on a curving narrow part of the route. And here came the peloton! Cool!!!!

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They sped by- not sure if Chris Froome, the yellow jersey wearer, was in the mix or not but it was very cool anyway.  Once all the trailing riders and support vehicles went past, we walked through Aigle, a beautiful town and saw how you really watch the Tour!

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You get a beer and watch it on the big screen in the town square before and after they pass your town!

So here are a few Tour pointers:  1. Check the town website where you will be watching the Tour.  Aigle  had a schedule for when the parade would be passing and then when the actual riders would pass. And this website had the best information overall.

2. Try to position yourself on a uphill, flat section or near a corner or roundabout. On the downhill the riders will fly by super fast (not just regular fast.)

3. Roads will be closed probably half the day of the race to don’t plan on driving or riding the bus last minute to watch it unless you’ve done your research.  Buses will have restricted schedules too so don’t depend on them.  There were lots of spectators that had biked to the site which is a great idea if you are able to do that.

4. I would recommend trying to watch at least 2 stages  of the Tour.  This was our first time seeing it live, so I was obsessed with taking pictures and I couldn’t really watch it.

What’s your Tour experience? Got any good tips?

 

 

Switzerland: Steep tiny villages with cheese.

Our Swiss adventure began in July. This was my first time in the Alps and I was SO excited to glimpse them from the plane!  When we landed in Geneva, we grabbed a train to Bex, just south of Aigle. As we passed along Lake Geneva through Lausanne and Montreux, I was astonished at the beauty. Towering mountains, clear turquoise waters with swimmers and paddle boarders, vineyards for miles, chateaus and French villas! I wanted to stop there and skip the rest of the trip… I mean, it couldn’t get any better right?

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Stop the train! I want to be those people!

But we continued on to Bex where we would catch a small local train up the mountain to the village of Gryon where I had booked a dirt cheap flea-bag chalet on AirBnb that was still available for the day the Tour de France was coming through the valley!!! Score!!!

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Waiting on the train to Gryon, we made a friend- Le Chat du Gare

Well not so fast. First we had to find it. ‘Joe’ did not give very good directions, actually he gave no directions. Just an address. But how hard could it be to find a house in a tiny village on the side of a mountain in the Alps? You know the answer to this question. Another tidbit of information is that google street view has not mapped a lot of the streets in the Alps so all I knew was take the first left after the train station and follow that street to the end. Ok. But there was no street sign! There was no street sign anywhere! And our phones had no signal so we can’t call ‘Joe’ either.

We asked the lady at the cafe du gare. She lived here and had never heard or our street! Great. She lets us use her map app on her phone. We thought we knew where we were going. So off we went. Uphill. With our luggage.

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Returning to the station after our first attempt

The street divided more than expected. We chose poorly and when we reached the end of the that street 1 kilometer later and approached the house… it was occupied! Turn around and walk 1 kilometer back to the train station with our luggage. And all along the way, never seeing any street signs at all.  But at some point I fling my suitcase on the ground open it in someone’s driveway and completely unpack everything to find my phone charger parts which I did not pack together. (Mr. Hubs rolls on the ground laughing at this juncture and I’m pretty sure we did not have an argument then.)

At the station I take a picture of the map (Duh- you didn’t think of this before?!) posted on the wall of the station. This is mildly helpful. However our phones are almost dead as are we from exhaustion that we have dinner at the cafe du gare to regain some strength and rehydrate since we didn’t plan for this long of a day and our water is gone. We drag our little suitcases out on the balcony of the empty cafe trying unsuccessfully to not look TOO touristy.

After a tasty meal involving cheese, we set out again. Hubs is pretty sure of which wrong turn we made. So this time we choose the high road (note: they are all high) and come almost to the end of the street and approach the house with the correct number and it is occupied too!! (sacre bleu!) But a lady on the balcony says ‘AirBnb?’ and we say ‘Oui!!’ And she points across the street. So ‘Joe’ had given us the wrong house number in addition to no help finding it! We see the lock box and get the key and VOILA! It opens the door! Merci beau coup Jesus!

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View from flea-bag chalet not too shabby!

We tumble into the house and quickly open as many windows and doors as it is quite hot inside.  After taking cold showers and donning fresh wrinkly clothes we sat on the deck and had tea. And there was silence. And there before us were the huge mountains staring us in the face just sitting there like they have done for millennia. Awe….. Stillness…..Not even a breeze. Just air hanging between us and the mountains like it has done since Hannibal crossed the Alps with elephants 2000 years ago. Timeless giants waiting on the next human to see them and be stunned.

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Found it!

The next morning we planned our day around ‘The Tour’ and it was a bit tricky……

next post!

 

 

Reading Brothers Karamozov in Scotland

 

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I began reading ‘Brother’s K’ in July of last year. About 450 pages and 8 months later, the plot finally took off in a discernible direction. The only thing that kept me going all the way to the end on page 1054, was my desire to prove to myself that I could read serious literature (Russian!) of substantial length without a English course grade hanging in the balance.  It also helped that I did not know anything about the book other than it is, according to some, ‘the best novel ever written’. Others consider it their favorite book they’ve ever read.  So I found myself thinking ‘what exactly about this book is so incredibly compelling?’

From the start I kept a ‘Who’s who card’ in the book so I could keep track of all the characters with their Russian names like ‘Dmitry Fyodorovich Karamozov’ who has the nickname ‘Mitya’. These are alphabet-long names that stretch the absorptive capacity of my brain similar to how ‘idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura’ did in nursing school.

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Hubs helped me to understand some of the texture of the book- that the three sons are three aspects of Russian culture and history that were in tension around that time in the  1880’s.  Alexi the youngest is the apprentice monk who obviously represented the rich Christian Orthodox traditions. Dimitry, the worldly impulsive sensualist who is (spoiler alert!) framed for his father’s murder. And Ivan, the intellectual achiever who sneers at God and embraces the new humanism of the era and whose soliloquy  dominates the novel’s most famous chapter ‘The Grand Inquisitor’.

Hubs offered that a lot of the narrative is written as if in a dream-like state. I suppose. Some of the characters have monologues that go on and on and on for pages and pages. And most of the main characters except Alexi all have a dated persona… like meeting the townsfolk of another time. All a bit too dramatic, a bit too emotional, a bit too long- winded,  speaking in a dialect that places them far away in another century.  But this is why we read the old books that have withstood the test of time isn’t it?

I must admit I fell for Alexi as my favorite character which is what Dostoyevski intended I imagine. The even-tempered and devoted young man who is the touchstone of almost every other member of the family and community.  The book’s ending did not feel satisfying, leaving several threads dangling but that always leaves the reader wanting more.

My next read with be a little more manageable and local: ‘The Kingdom by the Sea’ by Paul Theroux, a travelogue of his walk around the coastline of Britain.

What are you reading this summer?

 

 

 

 

Hotel 101: 10 things I’ve learned in the ‘front of house’.

I’ve had this gig working at a hotel reception desk for over a year now… here are some things I’ve learned.

#1 Knock before entering your new room

After check-in, you find the door to your room.  Then you knock a few times. Why? Sometimes there are glitches in the hotel computer, sometimes there are communication snafu’s between housekeeping and reception. It happens. So before you open the door to find a stranger who is very surprised to see you, Knock.

#2 Lock your door

Following number 1, someone unintentionally could walk in on you! So use that little swing latch thingy that looks useless to stop a criminal but would work wonders in keeping out the person in #1.

#3 If you accidentally leave an item in your room

and call back a week or two (or three) later expecting us to have it, remember who it was who forgot it in the first place: YOU. Although we go to great lengths to keep track of your phone charger, underwear, pajamas, wedding ring, wallet, iPod … and have returned many, many, many of these things to previous guests, sometimes its just not there.  And like Matt Damon says, its not my fault.

#4 I don’t know where your taxi is.

If you suffer from poor time management, that is not my problem. Or if you did not realize a city the size of Aberdeen could have a rush hour, also not my problem.

#5 Our airport shuttle is not yours to have at your disposal the moment you decide you need it.

It might help when you are staying at a hotel to notice that your are not the only guest and that maybe, just maybe, you might have to share or put in a request ahead of time.

#6 Our 2 story hotel does not have a elevator (lift).

This comes as a shock to pretty much everyone. Welcome to the old country. You complain that Scotland has McDonald’s and Starbucks and you want to experience the ‘real’ Scotland, well here is your chance to get some exercise the old-fashioned way.

#7 Every hotel has ‘last let’ rooms.

These are the rooms that are what you might call ‘sucky’. Whether its poorly located with a heat pump, dumpster, or brick wall outside the window or perhaps there is no window or maybe its next to reception desk or bar or pool, every hotel has them. So if you like rooms that are perhaps rarely used, ask for these. They will be less trammeled and have less worn fixtures in all likelihood. But it will come with the above caveat. You think that sometimes we put people in these rooms intentionally. Wrong. We don’t like listening to complaining, so why would we put someone in a room that they will complain about? Only if we are full will we put you in these rooms. And then you can complain all you want on Trip Advisor.

#8 Check-in times 

I used to think that you couldn’t check in before the ‘3pm’ or ‘4pm’ check-in times advertised. Wrong. I have people showing up at 7am, 8am and all through the day trying to check in. The nice ones are apologetic and say “not sure if its possible to check in now, I know its very early”. These are the people who get the rooms. The ones who just show up at 9am and say, “I’m here to check in”. I drag my feet and act like I’m being interrupted (which I am- you should see our task list not to mention doing 50, 60, 80 check outs ). Then say ‘let me see if there are any rooms available’ then search for a while in the system to make them wait a bit.

#9 If you ask for stuff really nicely, you will probably get what you ask for in most cases.

Like maybe some extra slippers or maybe we can activate your key to the special lounge where club members get snacks. Or an upgraded room. Being nice to people making minimum wage goes a long way. Being mean to them just means you are a jerk or are trying to get your entire bill cancelled even though you ate all the terrible food on your plate and slept well in your bed that you hated. But of course I have never, ever seen this happen.

#9 is true unless you are just being really needy or high-maintenance.

Like if you gave us your silk blouse to send to the dry cleaners and it comes back with a button missing and you demand that we sew the replacement button back on even though your room has a little sewing kit. And then I and a housekeeping staff person have to literally sew your button back on this blouse that isn’t really your color anyway. And the last time I sewed anything was like 20 years ago so your button is gonna look woppyjaw. So there.

#10 But actually, most people are lovely and easy going

Like most public-facing jobs, there is always a mixed bag of apples, some rotten.. some sweet.  I now know what its like on the the front lines of the hospitality industry -as if 20 years of hospital work didn’t tell me already- what people are really like.

Spiritual Tourist: Two-stop Weekend in Northumbria

During our tenure here in Scotland, we’ve wanted to take in more than just the cliches  of Scottish and English culture like bagpipes, pubs and castles.  We also wanted to enter into the spiritual landscape both present and past. Recently we undertook a pilgrimage -on wheels- to one of the island’s more obviously named sites,  ‘Holy Island’ or Lindesfarne. This is the terminus of St. Cuthbert’s Way, a path that crosses from Melrose Abbey to the island and takes about a week to walk. IMG_0317

The path ends rather dramatically by requiring one of cross a tidal causeway which disappears at high tide! You can choose to cross on the road or for the brave, the mudflats guided by poles sticking out of the mud. Hubs did the entire St. Cuthbert’s way several years ago with his Dad and did the mudflat crossing. He claims that it was not as fun as it sounds.

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Causeway at low tide to Lindesfarne

The island has a very cute village with the old priory -in ruin- which stands on the site of St. Aiden and St. Cuthbert’s monastery founded in 635 AD.

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The ruin of priory church built c 1150.

Lindesfarne Castle, with its striking profile alone on the windswept point, was built on a volcanic mound in 1570 with some stones from the destroyed Priory. DSC_0305

We stayed at the lovely Crown and Anchor Inn in a simple room. And found good shelter from the rain at Pilgrim’s Coffee taking a break from being photographer…

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Upsidedown boat houses!! Sheds really….

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Our second stop on our spiritual tour was the Northumbrian Celtic Community This is a retreat center of sorts offering various courses and quiet getaways. This weekend was a quiet time of solitude or community depending on your preference.  We were greeted warmly by our hosts and shown around the grounds and to our room on the cloister courtyard. We participated in several of the group liturgical times during the weekend (morning, midday, evening prayer, compline)

The meals were eaten in community around a large table and we met folks from all around the country.  The highlight of the weekend was Saturday evening compline held in a rustic chapel in the woods with a roaring fire in the stove and candles flickering in the night. A delightful quiet worshipful time. Everything about the weekend was very simple and slow. And with little cell service, a much needed break from technology of the internet sort.

The community is situated on a working farm with beautiful scenery all around..

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….including some of the scents and aromas that come with farm life!

The northumbrian coastline is a mostly quiet place as its a bit far for the southern England crowd and overlooked by the Scots to the north. Lots to explore so we will be back someday soon!

Lonely Stones of the North

One thing about ancient civilizations is that the people that made things out of stone get remembered a lot better than the people that used only wood or earth fixtures. The people that lived in Scotland 2000-3000 years ago were believers in stone as is evidenced by the hundreds and hundreds of stone sites that remain. This feature of Scotland’s landscape was complete news to me when we moved here. Yes I had heard of Stonehenge of course, but did you know that there are hundreds of other stone circles scattered throughout the island? Me neither.

Aberdeenshire is literally thick with these things, just take a look at this Megalithic map. We have gone hunting for these things for fun (we are easily entertained) and here are some of our ‘finds’ from last fall. But we are amateurs compared to this guy, The Northern Antiquarian , who I follow with envy.

Cullerlie Stone Circle

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This was probably the best ‘presented’ circle we visited, having been well kept at least of late. The center circles were burial cists where ashes were deposited. The outer ring possibly aligning with seasonal moon or sun activity.

Then there are the sites where one must use one’s imagination! Like this one:

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Campstone Hill ring #1 (2,3,4 not pictured)

Campstone Hill Ring Cairns

We set out on a not well marked hike to find Roman ruins, ring cairns and a standing stone-all in one hike! And we did! A bit of bush-wacking and muddy sheep pasture later we found a Roman trench thought to be the site of a Roman versus Caledonian battle around  86AD!!! Crazy!

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Roman trench (also the home of enormous rabbit warren!)

Then on the the final leg of our hike we found these friends, who I shared my apple with. IMG_20151010_164049

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly, going on a bit further,  the Auquhollie Standing Stone

Auquhollie Stone with more recent turbines and towers

Auquhollie Stone with more recent turbines and towers

Cut marks in edge are the ancient Irish language of Ogham

Cut marks in edge are the ancient Irish language of Ogham

It may look innocent enough but the marks on the side are an ancient Irish language, Ogham. I know, crazy! Never had heard of it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More tromping about to come on the ancient stone hunt!

What’s the oldest ancient site you’ve ever visited?

Heathrow Happens

We were bemoaning the gradual decline in international airline quality as we transited through Heathrow airport this week as so many thousands have. As our plane taxied for seemingly miles, we caught a glimpse out the window of the ‘old’ terminal. This was Terminal 1,  which closed in June 2015, whose hallways looked like brown oval space ship tunnels. Upon seeing them I remembered them from trips to Africa in the 1990’s.

I of course had forgotten about these funky passageways as airports are inherently forgettable. But even as they are objects of disdain, don’t we love to drop their names in conversation: “that long layover at Schipol” or “when my flight got cancelled out of JFK’  and lest we forget; Gatwick, Charles de Gaulle, O’Hare and the dreaded Luton. For some reason, these are the airports we know by name and not so much by city. Being from DC, we always say ‘Dulles’ or ‘National’, (‘Reagan’ if you are younger or new to town).

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Terminal 5 going up

I ponder to guess as airport terminals get ever larger and more spectacular and airplanes get more crowded with fewer perks, if the money isn’t going into the wrong thing. Heathrow Terminal 5 is like a humongous glass cathedral with shopping and food options galore not to mention its 2 ‘mini-me’ terminals- 5B and 5C- nearby.

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The thrill of Terminal 5 at Heathrow is palpable 

Some of us can remember crossing the Atlantic in near empty planes with an entire 4-seat row to ourselves on which to lounge and catch a nap. This was especially helpful because back then there were no individual video screens to keep one entertained through a sleepless night. Then there were the hot hand towels before the first meal, the little goodie bags with footies, eye covers, toothbrush, ear plugs, headphones, and this was in regular coach class! The meals included real silverware and were better quality and then there was the alcohol. On our flight this week on American Airlines from O’Hare to Heathrow, the only free alcohol was Budweiser in a can or red or white wine poured out of a big bottle into a plastic cup. Classy.

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Oh the humanity!

And of course gone are the 2 free checked bags which could be of considerable size! However, one obvious improvement has been the banning of smoking on flights. I can remember the back of the plane where the smoking section was and the billowing fumes near the restrooms as smokers congregated. There were always empty seats back there to be sure, so if you didn’t mind ‘inhaling’ you could spread out a bit.

So do you have any fond memories of the way air travel used to be? Or heroic Heathrow transfers or layovers?