Well, I thought I'd muster more today, but it just never happened and now my brain cells have left the building. When all else fails, a quick troll through "My Pictures" usually turns up something. This is one of the first photos I took on Scottish soil on our trip there (almost two years ago)! I guess Scotland's on my mind after seeing the latest James Bond movie.
It's hard to believe Katie will be attending school there at this time next year. She's so excited, she's doing research and writing a paper for practice -- and loving it and also speaking French. C'est oui. Heh. Soon enough, she'll be writing essays and papers for reals.
The days sure can drag sometimes, but the months are moving right along, and that's all gonna be happening right quick.
More accurately, on Sunday evening, it was a tornado. One minute we're storm-watching on the porch, the next minute -- sensing that it was *time* (pretty much just after we heard a big bang, all the lights went out, and stuff started hitting the windows) -- we're in the basement. We were only there for a moment, and when we came up we could see siding, shingles and insulation littering the yard, in the trees, all over the street. There was significant damage to over 100 homes -- two of them on my street, exactly one block away! I believe it's five homes that will need to be razed, and one of those is only another three-block walk. Power was out all night, finally restored at 6 a.m. There were lots of downed power lines, and many trees were lost. Luckily, there are barely buds yet, much less leaves, on the trees -- that would have made a drastic difference.
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Meanwhile, one last (for now) batch of photos to share from our vacation. This was on Sunday, April 3rd -- Mothering Day! From the first day in London, I'd noticed advertising in shop windows and quickly realized that I'd get to celebrate Mother's Day twice this year!!
We drove from Betws-y-Coed back to London on Sunday, dodging rain and making a few stops along the way.
And we did finally make it to Tintern Abbey, but with only five minutes before closing we weren't allowed entry. All of my photos were taken from this side of the gate. It never even occurred to me that it would be an "admission" sort of place. Too bad, because the weather had improved and the late-day light was just starting to get interesting!
*I* drove back to London -- well, to Wembley where we returned the car, just as departing traffic from a football event at the stadium was at its peak! We wrestled our bags onto the tube one last time to Regent's Park Station on the Bakerloo Line. ("The Bakerloo Line" is one of those things I like to hear -- and say out loud -- repeatedly. Betws-y-Coed, Tal-y-bont, Bryn Celli Ddu are others.) We kissed Katie good-bye at 5 a.m. on Monday morning and loaded bags into a taxi for the trip to Heathrow!
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It's been over a week since our return and I am still on a vacation high -- and absolutely cannot wait for next time! Kate returns this afternoon and has another week's worth of her own adventures to share -- including a day with Maddy before her departure on Saturday for the continent (Brussels until yesterday, Trier as of today; Strasbourg and Frankfurt yet to come) and standing in line for hours in the early morning to score a ticket for Frankenstein!!
Way back in February, I talked about knitting and politics and the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads project which hoped to promote and raise awareness of civility amongst our elected officials. I knit a hat for Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl and, in the spirit of civility, also for Congressman Reid Ribble. I'd hoped to personally hand-deliver the hats and my letter to their respective local offices, but my schedule never meshed with their office hours; however, I did manage to have Alison deliver them!
Upon returning from our vacation, I listened to a delightful message on my answering machine from Marlene at Senator Kohl’s office, telling me that the cap “is absolutely lovely” and that she didn’t know when she’d been “so touched - by your efforts and by the message in your letter.” She looked forward to sending it to Sen. Kohl and “wanted to call and thank you for your kindness. I know he’s going to appreciate it…”
I also had a couple of canned recorded messages from Reid Ribble’s office about his upcoming local appearances -- apparently, they just added my phone number to their database. I’ve had no personal response from him or his office.
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I would like to talk about knitting again sometime, but suppose I actually have to start knitting again in order to do so!
I don't know what I was expecting, but Wales blew me away with its beauty.
Actually, the photos above might still be Scotland, or maybe even England, but the rest in this post are definitely Wales!
We stayed a couple nights at The Lodge Hotel in Tal-y-bont, Conwy. I couldn't come up with it on the GPS -- thought it was actually in Conwy, for one thing. I phoned and the innkeeper gave me turn-by-turn directions through the amazing walled town of Conwy, right to the parking lot where he said he'd meet us out front -- where we found him waiting! The accommodations were as wonderful as the hospitality.
This is Betws-y-Coed, an adorable little village a few miles south of Tal-y-bont, where we stopped for coffee and whatnot on Saturday morning as we made our way to Anglesey. The sign out front of the white unit on the left read, "To Let." Oh, wouldn't that just be the perfect place to spend a summer?
You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one... my girls dream even BIGGER! There was talk of buying and extended visits (and raising sheep)! This makes me happy. If nothing else is certain in the world today, uncertainty definitely is -- we're in the midst (on the brink) of enormous change -- and I'm happy that my girls have hopes and dreams -- and that they are big BIG dreams!
One thing I noticed about Wales was the activity. People DO things in Wales! Perhaps it was because of the weekend, but everywhere we looked there were cyclists, kayakers, hikers, campers, surfers. Let me tell you, to be a road cyclist in Wales -- anywhere in the UK -- takes some pretty serious dedication and absolute fearlessness; there's barely room for two cars on most roadways, not to mention lorries, and being a cyclist in the midst of that? Makes me shiver.
And, of course, there were plenty of sheep dotting the landscape.
One of the many reasons we ended up at a B&B in West Kilbride is because the village is believed to have been named after Saint Brigid.
Alison bore witness to some of my last-minute packing, in particular the decision to pack my St. Brigid sweater, despite its bulk and the taking up of MUCH precious luggage space. (Have I mentioned that I've learned valuable, indelible lessons about packing for an overseas trip?) I justified it, in part, because it did provide some nice padding for the laptop in my carry-on bag.
There was no way we were leaving town without a visit to the beautiful hillside cemetery in West Kilbride and a photo shoot. A far cry from what I pictured in my head (for one thing, I don't think I was wearing 7-day-old jeans in my head), it is what it is... me wearing my St. Brigid sweater and standing by a Celtic cross headstone in a Scottish cemetery in West Kilbride, Scotland!
Or West Kilbrreeedee. ; )
And, yep, sheep -- you can see them in the photos both above and below... little white specs!
I will need to go back someday.
We left there on Friday morning after breakfast. We needed to drive down and pick up Maddy at the train station in Conwy, Wales, by 6:30 that evening.
I'd had to tell Maddy the night before that her precious pup, Mickey, had died. Mickey had escaped the house a couple of days earlier, as sometimes happened in the 7 years she's been in our family, and, no doubt, she followed her nose, as beagles do... and she always did. We'd been much more diligent and this little trick was becoming rare. Usually she'd come back fat and happy; sometimes she'd have a little tummy ache; this time, she must have found something really, really bad. My heart aches for Maddy, and the house is just not the same without Mickey!
When Addy found out about Mickey, he said that she's with Remy, Bompa, and Sharon! Remy was Annie's dog that Addison never even met and Bompa was his grandpa who died when he wasn't even 18 months old! That sweet little boy with a wise old soul... he just feels things and tells it like it is!
Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy, too. Wouldn't you?
I can hear my mother singing that song!
Have I mentioned the sheep? Sheep are E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. in the UK. Everywhere!
Lucky us, in late March, many of those sheep have a lamb or two or three at their side. OMG, the cute. They're skittish little things and it is extremely difficult to photograph a green hillside full of sheep or capture the extreme adorableness of little lambs -- the picture in your mind is likely better than anything on paper (or screen) -- and the real thing is simply indescribable. From the first to the last, we never tired of seeing them.
The additional pay off for trekking to Bryn Celli Ddu in Anglesey, Wales, were the lambs that had snuck under the fence and were running and jumping and playing on and around the mound!
We've stayed most of our time in Scotland at Millstonford House B&B in West Kilbride, North Ayrshire, Scotland. I don't remember exactly how I stumbled upon it, but it just seemed right from the get-go -- all of it, from the farm-fresh eggs at breakfast and availability of bicycles, the proximity to castle ruins and islands and coastline and Highlands, to the Craft Town Scotland designation that appeals to the artists and artisans amongst us and the connection to St. Brigid that appeals to me (knitter of sweater of same name).
While I often refer to "the curse of the internet" -- that it can bring us so close to people whom we may never meet -- I usually only feel that way when a far-away friend really needs a hug, or when it would be just great to join them for knit-night, or pop in for a cuppa and some catching up.
When I mentioned to Yvette where we'd be going, she told me some of the shops in the area that we might check out -- including Old Maiden Aunt Yarns, which I'd never heard of before, located right in West Kilbride! This is completely the opposite of "curse of the internet." This is "what in the world did we do without the internet?" (and, I might add, "...Garmin, too?")
When I read about Lilith's yarn dyeing workshops, it was pretty much a no-brainer.
As you can see, it was a pretty great call. I wish you could have heard the cooing! There was all sorts of yarn love going on, and they are pretty excited about their yarn!!
Many thanks to Lilith for a wonderful time; sincere condolences about the microwave but kudos for pinch-hitting and making it all work! We had a great time.
We've had such a wonderful time in Scotland. I can't wait to come back!
Tomorrow, we head for Wales and meeting up with Maddy for a couple of days before we (most of us) head back home. Kate will spend a few days in London with Maddy before heading to Barcelona, I believe, and before Maddy departs with her group for the "continental tour" portion of their program.
Random scenic view. I pulled over... um... actually, one does not ever just "pull over" to the side of the road in Scotland, or anywhere in the UK that I've driven. The roads are narrow and there is NO shoulder. I meant to turn onto a road, then into a cemetery but missed them both because the signs are right >< there when you need to turn and there's often little or no warning. I turned around, instead, in someone's "driveway" -- it's all so different here -- I don't think she was too happy -- and then scooted off the drive leading to an attraction of some sort. There are frequent "Parking" turn-outs, but they aren't usually where there's something amazing to see or there are trees blocking the view.
That said, I am freakin' driving in the Scottish Highlands, man, and I am NOT complaining! Nor will I ever complain about narrow roads at home. I will complain about rude American drivers, though... it's all so different here. I don't think I've seen a single stop sign, and traffic lights are the exception rather than the rule. I still think roundabouts are kind of a pain, but I also see their benefit(s) and maybe I'll try harder.
Anyway, the rain made the colors POP today and, oh, it's just so beautiful!
These are at Jubilee Point in Argyll Forest Park.
Hi Mom! I'm here and I'm having fun, too!! ; )
These also from Jubiliee Point -- it reminded me a lot of northern Wisconsin (there were even some swimming ducks), except for them thar hills.
We're back at our B&B -- it's an "activity day" tomorrow!
The Highlands. This is near Glencoe. We had a wonderful dinner this evening in Fort William, then had a walk about the village and stopped at a pub for a pint. Southerly, back to our west coast B&B tomorrow!
So far, we've balanced the active days and not-so-active days pretty well. After a long plane ride, we spent a day walking around London; after a day of driving to Scotland, we ferried to an island where we rented bikes and rode the 10-mile isle circuit!
The ferry from Largs to...
...the Isle of Cumbrae. The Isle of Arran was also on the list of possibilities, but we all liked the idea of riding around the entire island. That means I'll have to come back another time to visit Machrie Moor.
The beauty is incredible -- and we are so fortunate to have hit a good patch of weather. It's likely we'll see more clouds and some rain over the next few days.
We ended up in Bishop Auckland last night (Saturday) and the table was set this morning for our cooked breakfast before we headed off for Scotland.
I'm driving! Well, so is Kate... but I'M DRIVING! On A roads and B roads and M roads, on the other side of the road, on roads with many, many roundabouts, on roads where chickens and sheep may also share the road, on roads that are more like a paved wide path! Not only that, I've been driving down those roads on the other side of the car! There is nothing quite like it.
We drove north and north-west through England today and said "Hello" to Scotland!
After a quick dash to the shore and a few minutes to explore, we found ourselves some dinner and then said "Good night" to Scotland, too. Tomorrow's another day!
After two cancelled flights and a last-minute drive to Chicago -- in less than stellar conditions, but improved as we made our way south -- we arrived in London only three hours later than originally scheduled. That does mean that someone is going to have to drive a vehicle back from Chicago upon our return...
We made it and we're glad! It's spring in London and I've been told we've had the best days of the year so far. Daffodils and other flowers are blooming everywhere, and trees are budding. I've walked a million miles, ate some delicious sandwiches, stopped for some lovely coffee, visited and shopped and saw a lot of sites! We met up with our friend Maro this evening (Friday) and went out for fish 'n chips; it was wonderful.
The reports from home are great (always a relief). More to come, though I'm not sure exactly when!
The weather outside is frightful! Our flights have already been rebooked to later departures, so we're spending more time than expected at home than at O'Hare today but will arrive in London only three hours later than originally planned.
There are still weather advisories, watches and warnings, 99.9% of schools in the area are closed today, and it's actually snowing again. It's possible that we'll get bumped back again, but I'm keeping my chin up and hoping for the best -- hanging on to a glittery nugget from Katie who told me that she was in the vicinity of the airport last night (when things were pretty bad) and she saw airplanes coming and going.
We considered having someone drive us to Chicago -- the weather isn't quite as bad there -- or even driving ourselves, but that opens other cans of (unpleasant) worms and we've decided to just go with the flow and the airlines' automatic rebooking... It's all an adventure, right?
So to help keep the thoughts happy and up, let's move forward with a little preview of what we'll be doing.
Leaving our home, dog and cats in capable hands, we'll take a Wednesday evening flight from O'Hare, arriving in London and likely hugging Madeleine by noon-ish (local time) on Thursday. We'll settle in and rest for a short time and then probably hit the streets, meeting up late for coffee with a former neighbor girl (now woman) and classmate of Ali's -- still friend of us all -- Maro, who lives in Greece but will be in London! Katie actually went to Greece and visited Maro on her last trip to Europe.
One or two people might get up VERY early on Friday morning to stand in line and see if tickets might be secured for Frankenstein! If so, we'll likely be SRO on Friday night. (The more delayed we are, though, the less likely this will be; I have consoled myself with the thought that perhaps they will hit Broadway and then I can go to New York again.) (That works for me!) During the day on Friday, we'll see London a la Maddy and Katie.
Sometime on Saturday, Rusty, Kate, Al and I will make our way north a bit and pick up our rental car. It is going to pain me to leave Maddy behind in London, but she is there for school and that's important. This is not the last we'll see of her, though, and so we look forward...
We'll drive (drive!) north in a sort of easterly way, seeing whatever we fancy, finding a place to stay the night, sightseeing our way to and through Edinburgh, over to Glasgow, and then, by Sunday evening, to the west coast where we've secured lodging at a B&B for our entire time in Scotland.
On Monday, I expect to take in the sights, possibly ferry over to the Isle of Arran. Or maybe back to Edinburgh or Glasgow. It's all a bit unstructured, which suits us!
On Tuesday, we'll be driving north into the Highlands. Originally, I wanted to go up to Inverness (actually, the further north I looked, the further north I wanted to go) and drive down the Loch Ness shoreline but, unless we want to spend our entire vacation in the car, it's just too far. I've decided to save that for my next visit. We'll probably go westerly -- I'd love to see Stirling Castle, visit the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond...
...maybe over to Oban, up to Fort William -- I'd be thrilled (for some reason) if we made it all the way out to Mallaig. Truth be told, I wouldn't be opposed to double-booking and staying over up there somewhere -- going with the flow!
Wednesday will be more of the same -- a variation of either Monday or Tuesday -- it all depends!
On Thursday, the girls and are doing something fun and fibery! I am indebted to Yvette, who no longer blogs but is a FB friend, for mentioning a recent trip home to Scotland (from France) which prompted me to ask questions and she told me about some yarn shops close to our location. (And, OMG, this is where I declare my love for the World Wide Web and technology and the amazingly wonderful and connected world in which we live!) There'll be more on this, but all I'm going to say right now is that I am very (squee!) excited about Thursday and can't wait to share!
On Friday, we'll leave Scotland and head south to Wales where we'll meet Maddy -- possibly picking her up in Liverpool or thereabouts. That's all a bit unplanned yet, too. Dumfries, The Lake District, The Pencil Museum... come what may! We'll spend Friday and Saturday nights in Wales, and head back to London on Sunday.
The return flight leaves bright and early on Monday morning! Katie's actually staying on for another 9-10 days; she and Maddy are talking about taking the Chunnel to Paris!