Scottish Highlands and beyond

Scottish Highlands and beyond

23 beds in 35 days

After sleeping in 23 beds in 35 days, we are ready to go home.

There is just one problem: We sold our home and the bed with it.

We will have to make do, for now, with a rented condo in Ashland, Oregon. It will be home for the next three months and we are looking forward to staying in one place for awhile.

The trekking part of the journey took us to magical lands in the Highlands of Scotland. By car, we visited great friends in Scotland and England. By plane, we dropped in on our Camino buddies who showed us Denmark from the city to the country to the beachside resort.

We hope we get a chance to return our friends’ hospitality.

For now, we fly “home” with treasured memories.

 

We enjoyed a great breakfast at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and cream tea (note the glob of clotted cream) at Glamis Castle in Scotland. The locals were welcoming and some, like these Danish guys, wanted a spot in the photo album.

Sometimes the trail led to seemingly endless Scottish wilderness. We traveled 1,400 miles in our Vauxhall rental, a GM car.

 

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Glamping in Denmark

Saturday we left the city life behind to spend several days a short drive north of Copenhagen. Gitta had promised us a very different Danish experience at the home her family has summered in since 1935. We knew it was a special place because when she talked about it her eyes lit up and she couldn't keep a smile off her face. We also knew the cabin remained (mostly) true to the era in which it was built. Reg and I weren't too clear about whether we'd have electricity, a hot shower or even a flush toilet…but travel is about experiencing life, so we packed a small bag and put our trust in our friends.

The main house has two bunk rooms, a living/eating area, a kitchen with cold running water and (we were happy to find) a flush toilet room. There are also two outbuildings that serve as bunk rooms, so the property can host quite a crowd. The shower house is the only source of hot water, but boy is it hot! It is there that James, the official dish washer, (he likes the job and one has to be quick to beat him to it!) washed dishes and we all took turns showering.

The main cabin sits in the center of a a grassy expanse. The shower room sits along the perimeter. Reg guards the BBQ and we enjoy an all American meal of burgers and fries. A combination eating/reading/sleeping nook inside the main cabin.

Gray skies and rain showers drifted away Monday, leaving us beautifully warm weather. The endless blue of the skies and water pulled us away from the green, woodsy feel of the cabin for a morning wander down by the harbor. Today is the end of a three-day holiday weekend in Denmark and families were out in force, on foot and bicycle, enjoying the last bit of surf, sand and sun.

Families hunt for crabs through cutout spots on the boardwalk. Gitta finds a peaceful meditation spot. A rocky pathway leads to the shoreline.

 

 

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Copenhagen streets go wild: It’s Distortion 2014

This was the stage next the building where we stay in Copenhagen.

Our hosts James and Gitta join the street fun while a Danish guy shows off his muscle Chevy. Two in a booth pose for Sue.

We walked out the front door Thursday night into the biggest street party of the year in Copenhagen. Along with hosts James and Gitta, we waded through massive crowds, part of the five-day Distortion 2014 covering many blocks. Dozens of stages offering live and recorded music attracted tens of thousands of mostly young people in fun-loving, admittedly intoxicated states. The atmosphere was friendly and peaceful. James says the streets are clean by 7 a.m. the next day. Then the party moves to another part of the city for more music and fun.

Sue joins James and Gitta for beer, wine and a Tempt Quick and Dirty drink that Gitta is holding. Sue thought it tasted like NyQuil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christiania: A unique blend of life in Copenhagen

Vehicles and art come in many forms within Christiania.

Our friend James said we were entering another nation today on our tour of Copenhagen, but it felt like another world. Christiania has nearly 900 residents and is sometimes called a commune, set on more than 80 acres in the capital of Denmark.

The area has a military history dating to the early 17th century. The people live in many homemade houses. The community collects rent and makes money from restaurants, stores and things made by the residents.

Visitors are prohibited from taking photos in the Green Light District, which has funky eateries as well as stands selling marijuana cigars, hashish and other associated goodies. Related aromas fill the air. The drugs are illegal in Denmark, but within Christiania are openly consumed and sold. Rival outside groups have wrested control of the drug trade.

We also refrained from photographing the residential areas. The homes come in many styles, sizes and degrees of completion. Gardens and courtyards are common and residents span several generations.

Christiania: You have to take your senses there to believe it.

James and Sue check out the Christiania bikes, sold to make money for the community.

 

 

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Outings in Oxfordshire

 

In Great Britain, the only thing easier to find than a walking path is a cafe.

 

Reg conquered the motorways of England, delivering us safely to the home of our friends Ian and Marion, who live just outside Oxford.

The next day, anxious to stretch our legs and explore, we opted for the short four-mile stroll through the countryside into the city.

Once there, we stopped for coffee and a toastie at a little cafe tucked into an upstairs corner of a bicycle shop.

 

 

 

 

 

Oxford is a fascinating blend of past and present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped in at the Rhodes House, home of the prestigious Rhodes scholarships and the Rhodes Trust, to have a look around.

The facility is used for educational lectures, seminars, conferences and more. The gardens are beautifully kept and have been tended to by the same gardener for the last seven years.

We popped in at the historical Turf Tavern for a cold drink. The foundations date back to the 13th century and the front bar to the 17th. The tavern claims many famous patrons, including Rhodes Scholar, President Bill Clinton. It was here, the story goes, that he famously “smoked but did not inhale.” Truth or fiction??? You decide!

We enjoyed a peaceful walk along the River Thames on day two.

 

 

 

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A puzzling surprise

 

Rolling green hills rise up, providing a backdrop for the quintessential English village of Grasmere in the Lake District. A paradise for walkers, it's a magical place where tea shops, cafés and boutiques line the streets.

We stumbled upon Barney's Newsbox while strolling through town. The jigsaw puzzles in the window caught our eye and curiosity got the better of us. Our daughter-in-law, Leah, is an avid puzzler, so we are always on the lookout for something that might stump her…or at least take her several days to complete!

We wandered inside and gazed about in wonder. Floor to ceiling jigsaw puzzles lined the walls and filled a front room. Upstairs we found more of the same…stacks and stacks of puzzles…thousands of boxes…hundreds of designs.

Choosing just one jigsaw puzzle could take hours!

 

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Scotland engineers two enthralling attractions

The Kelpies almost literally bring two huge Clydesdale horse sculptures to life.

Our good friend Trish guided us to Falkirk Friday to see a pair of Scottish engineering marvels.

The Kelpies is a new exhibit that depicts two lake spirits as metal Clydesdale horse heads that have to be seen up close to be fully appreciated. Andy Scott of Glasgow created two 30-meter sculptures that provide nearby M9 motorway drivers with a major distraction. Kelpies come in many forms and represent spirits (Nessie!) inhabiting the waters of Scotland.

The Kelpie sculptures are the tallest horse structures in the world.

Then we ventured a few miles away to the Falkirk Wheel, a one-of-a-kind water wheel designed to connect two canals that link the waters west and east of Scotland. It hoists boats 79 feet to an aqueduct. The wheel does this with the power used to boil eight or less kettles of water. The displaced water in the upper and lower chambers is made the same, so the electric motor has to just nudge the wheel and then it turns on its own power to raise and lower the two water chambers in which the long boats float.

On our way down, a touring boat joined us for the ride.

In upper left photo, the boat below will be raised by the wheel 79 feet to the upper aqueduct. In upper right photo, our boat is slowly rising as the one above rotates down. The bottom photo shows the view as our boat returns to the wheel from the aqueduct to be lowered 79 feet to its original level in the canal.

 

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Exploring a hidden gem

We drove deep into the glen along a single lane track. Heading back to the main road, the scenery seemed to get even more spectacular.

 

There has been a place of worship in Glen Prosen for 400 years. The current church was built in 1802. As we left the glen, the scenery was breathtaking. Reg thought he might be happy here if he could live in this house.

 

 

We discovered the beauty of the Scottish glens years ago when our friends Barbara and Malcolm took our family to Glen Clova for the day. Our boys were young and Malcolm taught them how to roll downhill the heather-covered hillside. It made for some great video!

During our last visit, Reg and I explored Glen Esk and loved what we found; very different scenery from Glen Clova.

We had a day to ourselves and headed north to explore another of the Angus Glens – Glen Prosen.

 

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Friendships weather the years and miles

Carole and Beaton brought a cake showing our trekking route.

 

 

 

 

We have had a most enjoyable week in Scotland after our walk, mainly because of the great times visiting with friends we made while living here in 1997-98.

We have enjoyed many laughs, trips down memory lane and tasty meals in our times together. The Scottish weather, as it always does, treated us to a variety of experiences as we have sometimes literally soaked up what the country offers.

To our home-away-from-home and to our friends here: We will return!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy, Trish, Colina and John joined us for a meal in our wee cottage.

 

Malcolm and Barbara took our family for our first walk in Scotland in 1997. We braved the rain for another trek through St. Andrews, this time in less favorable weather.

 

 

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St. Andrews’ best kept secret

Who wouldn't want to claim that they've played golf in St. Andrews, the birthplace of the game? Not us! We discovered the Himalayas course back in 1997/98 when we lived here. It was great family fun and still is the best deal around for just £2.00/person (or about $3.40). We grabbed our good friend Trish and set off for an afternoon of friendly competition.

Unlike any “miniature” golf course I've seen, it offers 18 holes of fun, frustration and good memories; much like any golf game, I guess. Positioned alongside the famous Old Course, the Himalayas course is a challenging layout of humps, bumps and dips where skill helps but luck can play a larger part. It also offers the chance (for those of us not yet qualified for the real thing) to be photographed playing golf with the famous clubhouse in the background.

Trish and I were astounded when Reg started out with a hole-in-one. Trish helps me celebrate my hole-in-two of which I was very proud! We pose for a quick photo before heading to the clubhouse for a well deserved cup of coffee.

 

 

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