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24
May 17

Northwest, to the coast of Scotland

Our first stop today was a diversion along the way, the Rogie Falls, a walk in the woods, a place to stand on a suspension bridge just in front of them, and a place where, in the late summer, you can watch the salmon jump upstream. I shot a video:

Here’s a place where we walked out on the rocks just above the falls:

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I believed she’s taking this rock as her own personal territory.

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And here we are on the suspension bridge, which sways only a tiny bit:

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Our drive today took us from Inverness to Applecross and then to nearby Shieldaig. This is in the northwestern quadrant of the countryside. Here are some of the views we enjoyed on today’s road trip.

A beach scene we saw along the way:

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And the classic Highland cow:

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On the way to Applecross, we went over the high pass of Bealach na Bà. Below is a Hyperlapse video of a single track road, built like you’re in the Alps, lots of switchbacks. It goes from sea level to 2,054 feet. The views are spectacular — or they are cloudy and treacherous. This is the uphill side, about 45 minutes of riding, squeezing past others and waiting. It was mildly scary. It was terrific.

Bealach na Ba is Gaelic for Pass of the Cattle. Traditionally, this has been a drover’s road. Today, there are cars and motorcycles and I would like to try to ride a bike up it. Apparently there are two local races that use the mountain as part of their course.

I don’t know how to tell you about where we had dinner tonight. It was probably 40 miles from our bed and breakfast in Shieldaig, which is, itself, a lovely, small little village. The restaurant sits in a remote village called Diabaig. The trip there is rocky, rugged, and predicated by the many coastal inlets. It is an inspiring landscape.

Previously, what is now the restaurant was a small school building, a school put there simply to satisfy Scottish mileage laws. Now, Gille Brighde sits down on the water and a Dutchman and his Scottish wife make food brought to them by local farmers and fishermen. The mailman had to tell us which way to go to get there. We were probably there for two hours and four other people were there. I had a lemon hake. The Yankee had locally hand-dived scallops, which she pronounced as the best scallops she has ever enjoyed. It was a lovely meal.

Just outside the school turned restaurant is the local pier, which gets rave reviews :

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That’s down in Lower Diabaig. These selfies are in Upper Diabaig. You can see the pier just on the left margin.

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21
May 17

Where am I? Who am I?

We flew all night. Because red eye flights give one character. We flew on the Dutch airline, which is happy to feed you as long as you are happy to eat. And I watched three movies — The Founder, Reacher and something I’m already a bit foggy about. It was a long night, you understand.

And so we landed safely in Edinburgh, Scotland, which was the plan. We exited the plane onto the tarmac into a slight chill and a light sprinkle, feeling every bit like world weary rock stars in the world’s largest band that requires a plane with an upstairs level which I never checked out.

We shuffled through the U.K.’s Border Force version of customs and then began an approximately 10 minute walk to the car rental desks. Got our car, reminded each other to drive on the left side of the road and off we went, to check in to our AirBnB, where we’ll sleep all of this off in just a bit.

Met the owners, a lovely older couple, and then walked down the street to the Grassmarket, which has been a central part of the city since the late 15th century. Today, of course, it is part of the tourist path.

Just above, the famed Edinburgh Castle:

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The timeline here is incredible. The castle sits above everything, and even today dominates the city’s skyline. There is archeological evidence of people there for perhaps more than two millenia. The castle has been there for at least 800 years, and was actually a royal residence until the 15th century when it became more of a military installation. Today: they give grand tours, I’m sure. In fact, it is Scotland’s most popular paid attraction.

We stayed below it. But, inside, you could see the Stone of Scone, or the Stone of Destiny. Scottish kings, and now the UK’s monarchies, are installed on this stone. The Scottish crown jewels are also on display there. The crown dates to 1540, the scepter to 1494 — it was a gift from Pope Alexander VI.

Mon’s Meg is also on display. This is a canon that could send a 330-pound projectile two miles downrange … in 1457. That’s state-of-the-art. It was used in actual combat for about 90 years.

St. Margaret’s Chapel is up there, too. It was built in the mid-12th century, which makes it so old that its historical origins were forgotten and then re-discovered in the mid-19th century. Otherwise, Wikipedia tells me, not many of the buildings at the castle are older than a 16th century siege. Newbies.

Walked by this:

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At 17 feet by 14 feet, about 20 people can stand in there, they say. Notice, it is Scotland’s smallest, so I guess there is a bar somewhere in England that is more wee than this one.

We saw Boston’s smallest bar in 2005. It closed soon after, because the world needed new condominiums. Sometime later I heard the owner opened a new smallest bar in Boston and it closed, too. More condos. So watch out, Edinburg.

And we saw this. Interesting to see that this debate is ongoing in Scotland:

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When, obviously the answer is Roger Moore.

Anyway, we have our car, got our bearings, had fish and chips and we stayed up until bedtime (which is the key to minimizing jetlag) and are now ready for our big trip. Tomorrow, we go north.


20
May 17

To the airport! And traffic! And the airport! Eventually!

We were going on vacation. Or so we thought. We were due to fly out of JFK, one of the New York airports. I flew in to the other one, Laguardia, last night. That place is a two hour traffic disaster and no amount of renovation is going to help. But they’re trying. Tonight, though, we had a plane to catch at JFK. Or so we thought.

We had dinner with my in-laws, who took us to the airport, all in good time and according to the carefully laid out travel schedule we had established based on gravitational variation reports, precise distance surveys, meteorological data and a consultation with experts at both Caltech and NASCAR.

And then we hit the traffic. It seems everyone had somewhere to go. And they were all in our way. And we were somehow suddenly cutting it close. Delta, you see, suggests you arrive up to three hours early for an international flight. And by the time you’ve read that sentence we were already flirting with that “Get there an hour early” time. And then there was another bridge and more traffic and we discovered that the check-in counter closes an hour before international flights.

So we pulled into the crowded space at JFK and we were exactly 62 minutes before our flight. At this point we still had to navigate the big sweeping curve into the terminal, and then the double-parked people who don’t understand that our trip is perhaps more important than theirs.

“Ready to run?” The Yankee asked. She had a little smile that was borne of panic, but it looked mischievous. I was ready to run, but first we had to hit the desk and check our bags. The skycaps were there, and they were super. We had to rearrange a few bags for weight purposes. KLF, a Delta-partner, apparently, has limits on how heavy your carryon bag can be. Like this giant jet is going to care whether my jeans are in small roller in the cabin or in the storage component below.

With that sorted there was security. Security.

The Yankee said to a TSA agent, “We have 60 minutes to get to our plane. Is there anything you can do to help us?”

The TSA agent heard this: “”We have 16 minutes to get to our plane. Is there anything you can do to help us?”

She did help us, which was our second great break. We cut through two entire lines. We somehow got involved in a power play with an angry woman emboldened by the power of her blue shirt and aluminum badge who had the hefty responsibility of carding passengers. This seemed to take too long. We got through the metal detectors. My bags got checked. That seemed to take too long.

And then, finally deemed safe in the eyes of American security theater, we dashed down the terminal … where our plane was just about to board. We were flying out of the country and we arrived just in time to tell everyone we actually caught the plane and got settled in to take this picture:

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We are going on vacation. We’re flying all night, which means I’ll be watching movies all night and we’ll be jetlagged and vacationing tomorrow. It will be a great trip, and we’ll laugh at this airport business somewhere along the way.


17
May 17

Petal to the metal

Let’s just get it over with. To the puns ‘n’ roses!

Listen, bud, though some might say we haven’t rose to the occasion, we’re going to have to stem the jokes, bouquet?

Those are on the a bush on the side of our house. The ones I put here yesterday are in a bed on the front of the house. Good soil, I suppose. But I was working around the back of the house this evening. I had to install three sets of blinds.

The instructions suggested this would take 30 minutes per set. This would be possible, perhaps, if all of the parts were there. Or if the instructions were any good. But hey, in one box there were two sets of instructions. But, hey, I got to use my circular saw on something. Measure twice, keep your fingers out of the way, cut once and all of that.

I was done in two hours. Even still, the project isn’t truly finished, but there are blinds in windows instead of in boxes.

When you hang blinds, I think, you see the value of curtains.


16
May 17

Thorn to be wild

Well I’m having a lovely week so far. How about you?

I’d like to sleep a bit more, but that’s a problem for another day, it seems. Otherwise, the days are pretty rosy. Take this bush out front, for example:

Rose bush, rosy, get it? (I have another one of these jokes for tomorrow.)

Anyway. There’s the day’s work, of course. And all day long I have felt fairly fatigued. I think it is a lack of good sleep and my ride yesterday. So I took today off from the bike and got some evening shopping in. I picked up a few lights for a photo project and got some groceries and went home for dinner, a bit of house cleaning and to watch the day’s bike race.

That’s the pace of things this week — an easy, one thing at a time, few things a day, one day at a time pace. That’s my pace of things.