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Old Dubrovnik by Moonlight

After an afternoon on Lockrum Island, Jo and I went on a mini-shopping spree, followed by a short rest back at Villa Odak. Then we meande...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Edinburgh on the Quick

Flags of Scotland, UK & for now, the E.U.
Arriving in Edinburgh yesterday afternoon, we had adventures locating and checking into our hotel. Did we stay at the High Haggis Hilton, or the Wee Willie Waldorf? Naw, we stayed at the Holiday Inn. Ach! Now shut yer haggis hole, yee judgmental Jacobite, beggars can't be choosers. We hadn't planned for the better part of 2 days to be in Edinburgh, but every place we went on this trip we were told we HAD to see Edinburgh. How to see a large city in scant 2 days? Well, the 'jump on or off' tour bus of course.
Yay! Red line Tour Bus

Day one we used the bus to get to Princes Street, where all the fashion & electronics shops are. The story of how I got a duplicate of my broken camera is a long one, so I won't tell it. Consider yourself spared.

Below are all bits of the city I mostly shot from atop tour buses.

Can't even say you've been to Scotland if you don't see a bloke piping
Of course you can buy your own bagpipe here, if you like
Love this, but no idea what it is
I love unicorns wherever I find them
Balmoral Hotel
V. adorable wee church. 
Monument to Dr Livingstone, one presumes?
Monument to Sir Walter Scott
We passed by the 12th century Edinburgh Castle which sits on an extinct volcano called Castle Rock. Loads of history happened on top of that hill.
Edinburgh Castle
X marks the spot where rabble rousers historically stand and fuss
Lovely cobbled street... I adore cobbles
A popular shopping street with honest to God red booth thingies!
Scottish Parliament Building
Another view of the Scottish Parliament Building
National Museum of Scotland
My initial impressions. Edinburgh is grand, but twixt you and me - a bit grimy. Really, I wanted to ought to grab a bucket of hot soapy water and a bristly brush and make somebody else scrub the heck out of the entire city. That said, it is a grand old city.
Soot from 18th century coal? Not sure...
The buildings are so old, many have electrical wiring trailing about on their outsides. Really! There are pipes the wires trail through, entering the buildings through windows and such. I'm not totally sure if the wiring is just left over from the turn of the 20th century, or if those wire are still carrying currents. Amazing.

And on the dinginess of the buildings... Didn't notice this sort of thing in Prague, Budapest or Vienna. Buildings there are just as old, but why so much cleaner? Didn't those old cities use coal in past centuries too?

Tour buses are a nice, quick way of getting one's footing in new city. As we didn't really get on and off much, we didn't really experience much of Edinburgh, so I hope in future to visit the city again, and actually walk the castles, sip coffee in the wee shoppe where J.K. Rowling penned her books (!) and pat the wee nose on Grayfriar's Bobby where thousands of his fans patted his wee nose. So there is no choice, I must return Edinburgh! I shall return. I'm looking at you Ms. Judy S.!
Tribute to Greyfriar's Bobby - the little dog that loyally stood guard over his master's grave
For meals, Ila and I ate a lunch in downtown Edinburgh in a cool lounge, and had our dinners at the mall where we caught the tour buses.

Obligatory birdie photo time!
Lovely little Blue Tit

Fat Wood Pigeon
The now becoming 'common' to me, Pied or White Wagtail
Common Ravens, sharing some fast food trash
And tomorrow we're headed home, but not before a stopover -  in Iceland. Whooo hooooo!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tales of Balmoral Castle, a Royal Train and Little Squirrel Nutkin

Balmoral Castle 
Ila looking enjoying a grand start for the day

It's Easter Sunday. It started at Crawford Grange B&B with breakfast in the little breakfast room. As can be expected of me, my inner kiddie was joyful at finding a little foil wrapped milk chocolate Easter bunny alongside my butter knife. Tee hee!

 It's totally coincidental Easter Sunday falls on today's visit to the royal palace at Balmoral. I do enjoy pretending to meself, HRM invited us there for the day.

Thoroughly enjoyed the countryside during the hour drive to Balmoral. There we used the 'car park' then walked on.
At Balmoral grounds you walk across the bridge, over the River Dee 
The grounds look wet as this is Scotland and rain is what it does. The cottage isn't the big gray whateveritis, it's the cute, round roofed bitty building on the left, that has the billboards at the entrance gate. 

Ila in blue, enters the wee gift cottage to the left
Squirrel Nutkin on cam saying 'Cheese' or maybe he said 'Nuts'
The gift shop had tickets and souvenirs but I as interested in the little area to it's left where a cam photographed something I was hoping, nay, praying to see a Red Squirrel. Been dotty for Red Squirrels since reading Beatrix Potter's classic Little Squirrel Nutkin. So believe, I squealed as one such little red nipper bounced about like a rubber ball. Think I am kidding about my squirrel affections? Here's my mini-book The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and Nutkin's celebratory 50 pence coin. Yeah, I know I'm certifiable, but what's it to yee wee bugger?

Dear Wee Mite

To get to the castle we boarded the Royal Tram for a short but pretty ride.

Near to wet meself with fan-girl joy as we passed a site, which I recall from seeing the Helen Miran movie, The Queen.This is the round building used for butchering the royal catch of Red Stag. I was so excited I couldn't get myself together enough to snag a photo. Had to hunt on line for this photo of the antler'd structure.

The tram ride ends where the real fun began, where we picked up our royal audio handsets, and thus wearing our v. own personal guide, we first toured the stables area.

M'lord dummy, dressed and ready for a morning's hunt for Stag or Partridge. The side baskets on the  porter pony carry all the picnic food delicacies, fine china, silver cutlery and such. Alas, the poor souls back then didn't get to dine on KFC.

The Queen's Piper and Balmoral Highlander Uniforms. The gray one, to the right, was designed by HRH Prince Albert. It's said the gray tartan displays the colors seen in the granite rock of Balmoral.

Oh, and here is Prince Albert's main squeeze, HRH Queen Victoria. She is seen here taking exercise on a pony, led by 'Mr Brown', in HRM's later, post-Albert years.

Oh, and please forgive the glass glare.

Oh... am so hoping to run into some Black Capercaillie like these fine taxidermied cocks.

After our leisurely tour of the stable museum, we strolled around the grounds a bit. There was a little Song Thrush, hunting for Easter Eggs its Easter Sunday brunch of worms and bugs.

Song Thrush hunting its Easter brunch
We decided to avail ourselves of the ROYAL snack room and gift shop.
Dining room, with Gift shop in the background

Dear me. I could easily spend a full blog post on the goodies available in this combo cafe/gift shop. I mean... baskets of her majesty's wee Corgie dogs...

I mean... so cute.

Did manage to evade the souvenir shop, but was not so successful sneaking past the dainties of the
bake shop.

This Victoria Sponge was to die for.

When Ila managed to drag me, kicking & screaming from the snack shop, we headed over to the actual Balmoral Castle for a look-see.

A Palace garden
It was lovely to see this old wild boar... stone or otherwise
I aimed my camera at this lovely Chamois and... fumble, slip, cobblestones ahead...
Such dents - boo hoo!

Suddenly my beloved, far off birdie shot taking Nikon Coolpix A900... was no more. It could photograph but all pictures are now fuzzy.  *Insert doleful bagpipe dirge here*

Alas! Woe is me! The cobblestones gave a beating to the extended lens of my wee camera. I wore a long face the rest of the castle visit.

 Thank the heavens for my wee iPhone camera.

The lichens on the stone stairs surprised me
The building at the end holds treasures from Queen Vicky's reign - no photos allowed, damn it.

Ila and I wandered about the grounds for perhaps an hour, then meeting up again we decided to leave Balmoral and head out. We drove several miles, when suddenly I spotted a train and veered off the road. TRAIN! It was unplanned and unexpected but why the heck not go for a pleasure ride?

The engine as espied from the road below
We had a bit of luck, as the next train was leaving the station for a pleasure ride within the hour. By v. happy accident, it seems the train had a special car in which passengers could indulge in a lovely Cream Tea. TEA! IN FREAKIN' SCOTLAND! Sorry... I still get excited thinking on it. We eagerly paid ₤14 and hopped on board.

We took our seats on board and soon the hostess brought our double layered tray of treats and then some. There were icing covered cakes, brownies, light n' lovely meringues, cream scones, hot cross buns, brownies, sugar cookies and yes, Victoria sponge. And tea... lots of lovely, hot tea. My first British tea and all aboard a train. Nom, nom, nom!

Our 'tea'. Be still my heart...
The train is a steam engine and I enjoyed watching the steam roll along our coach. Grand fun as the train chugged along and we chugged our tea. The train didn't go too far - do not know how if the tracks really go from city to city or just out a mile or so. The ride was perhaps 30 minutes and afterwards the coal that powered the train had to be examined.

The engine commemorates a Royal submarine, 'Salmon', that was lost at sea
Following Balmoral, and the steam locomotive ride, we ought to have been done for the day, but nope. By the Dee Railroad station there was a small village of craft shops. We meandered on over for a view.

The houses in the little area must be a b'jillion years old. They were all housed guilds and hosted local crafts classes and sold the crafts made there as well as souvenirs.

After a bit, I settled down near a gorgeous tiny creek, to bird. I was sad I hadn't my super zooming Coolpix to take pictures of the birds that fluttered through - am so very bummed.
Loved sitting by this babbling riverlet

When we finally tore ourselves from the crafts village we drove to Aberdeen by the sea, and walked around on the grounds for Dunnottar Castle.

The ruins of Dunnottar Castle
Never made it all the way doon to tha' castle but Ila was hungry so we stopped by a cute food vendor's booth.
Ila's Battered Haggis and Chips

There Ila paid her ₤ 6.5 for a genuine Battered Haggis with chips. Dear me, but the Scots enjoy deep frying their food. While Ila awaited her treat we enjoyed good nature-ed chatting with the brawny cooks there who entertained us by speaking to us in their native Gaelic tongue. Why didn't it occur to me to record their chattering? UGH!

Ooo, and that was our day's adventures on an Easter Sunday. You look tired. Here - take a short ride on the Royal Deeside Railroad.