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Scotland 2010

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S: Scotland 2010

BC: "Caledonia" by Dougie MacLean I don't know if you can see The changes that have come over me In these last few days I've been afraid That I might drift away So I've been telling old stories, singing songs That make me think about where I came from And that's the reason why I seem So far away today Chorus: Oh, but let me tell you that I love you That I think about you all the time Caledonia you're calling me And now I'm going home If I should become a stranger You know that it would make me more than sad Caledonia's been everything I've ever had | Now I have moved and I've kept on moving Proved the points that I needed proving Lost the friends that I needed losing Found others on the way I have kissed the ladies and left them crying Stolen dreams, yes there's no denying I have traveled hard with coattails flying Somewhere in the wind (Chorus) Now I'm sitting here before the fire The empty room, the forest choir The flames that could not get any higher They've withered now they've gone But I'm steady thinking my way is clear And I know what I will do tomorrow When the hands are shaken and the kisses flow Then I will disappear | A big thank you to Dominic and Mom for giving me permission to use their pictures! | Anne played this song for us several times, and it was a beautiful complement to the scenery.

FC: Rick Steves Tour August 2010 | SCOTLAND!

1: Mom and I began our trip in the beautiful city of Edinburgh -- in the country of her father's birth. It was Mom's first trip out of the US, and we were both so excited to be there! Our group met in the hotel lobby, and then our guide, Anne, took us on a "climb" to the top of Calton Hill. It was very refreshing after sitting on planes all the way from California. And the views were spectacular! We then had our first group dinner; and in Scotland, that meant our first taste of haggis. Mom was a fan, but me? Not so much. Anne then took those of us interested on a walk around the city. Mom and I were both exhausted, but we couldn't resist. After that, though, we crashed like the dead until morning. | Sunday, August 1st | Day 1

2: Day 2 Anne led us on a walking tour of Edinburgh's Royal Mile | The new Parliament building has "thinking pods" along an exterior wall. Perhaps our elected officials would think more if we provided pods for them! The architecture in the old city was so interesting, and we loved the "closes". So many of them had gardens; they were like little oases in the middle of the city's crowds.

3: St. Giles Cathedral | The Elephant House where J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter | Streets like this reminded us we were in Europe | We found so many fun signs in Scotland!

4: At the end of the Royal Mile lies the majestic Edinburgh Castle. Anne shared some of the history, then we were on our own for the afternoon to explore the castle and anything else that interested us. | This cannon is shot off every day at 1 pm precisely. The story is that the Scots, with their frugal ways, decided to save ammunition by choosing one round at 1 pm instead of 12 rounds at noon. Non-Scots might call that cheap, but I think it makes perfect "cents"!

5: We had beautiful views of the city from the castle, including this shot looking back towards Calton Hill. The castle dominates the cityscape. It's surreal to be walking on a modern street and look up to see a medieval castle.

6: Mom and I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city. These shots are of the Walter Scott Memorial and the WWI tribute to Scotland from America.

7: We began the day at Culross, a village relatively unchanged since the 17th century. | Day 3 | We toured the home and gardens of George Bruce. The views were gorgeous! | We were fortunate to have Dominic Bonuccelli on our tour in his role as official Rick Steves photographer. It was fun catching him in our pictures for a change of pace!

8: St. Andrews | With our limited time at St. Andrews, we chose to explore the cathedral and fort ruins instead of the golf course. The greens were just as beautiful!

9: As we made our way towards the Highlands, the scenery became more and more beautiful. This walk in the Hermitage was one of my favorite parts of the tour. | Mom snapped this picture just before I jumped out of my skin. I had no idea Dominic had popped in behind me!

10: Pitlochry was home to the BEST fish and chips we ever had! So we decided we better walk it off. | We crossed a swinging bridge to the salmon hatchery and then across the dam back to the hotel.

11: Day 4 We started with an education about Crannogs. Our guide, Rachel, made pre-history come alive for us! These dwellings were amazing, and the ingenuity of the people was very impressive. We were constantly looking for former crannogs for the remainder of the tour -- here's one pictured on the bottom left.

12: Mom and her buddy, Lois | My buddy, Debbie, and me | Rachel demonstrating ancient tools | "Oog, me make fire!"

13: Having Fun Along the Way | Mom and I get our first taste of the popular Scottish soda, Irn Bru. It can best be described as bubble gum flavored soda. | Goofy Dominic vs Goofy Mom!

14: Next up was a working sheep farm, with a dog herding demonstration. We even got to shear a sheep and bottle-feed some lambs. Petting the dogs reminded me of my kitties back home. They were so sweet! | I have to admit, the stern shepherd reminded me of the joke about the Scotsman who loved his wife so much, he almost told her. LOL!

16: We arrived at Inverness that evening. We were finally in the Highlands!

17: Our first stop on Day 5 was the historic battleground of Culloden. It was fascinating and somber, reminding me of Gettysburg. I could have spent all day there, soaking up the history. | Day 5

18: A short drive from Culloden lies the Clava Cairns. These ancient stone structures are full of mystery, but there was a definite feeling of peace in this beautiful spot.

19: Anne and Russell prepared a "wee taste of Scotland" for us, with local treats. Of course Mom and I were already fond of the Irn Bru!

20: Cawder Castle | Since this was the castle in "MacBeth", a few of us had to get silly reciting the witches mantra around the cauldron.

22: Today was Lois's Birthday! So a group of us went to dinner, and then walked a path along and across the River Ness. We watched fisherman not catching salmon, and we laughed at the comical signs along the way. But mostly we just enjoyed the exercise, the company and the beautiful scenery!

24: Day 6 began with a visit to the Loch Ness Monster. | Anne said this was the only way she could guarantee that we'd see the Loch Ness Monster. It was a cheesy tourist spot, but we had lots of fun goofing around. "Dive, Mom, Dive!"

25: I had my camera aimed and ready to capture a picture of Nessy, but to no avail. | Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

26: Here's Mom trying to load the trebuchet. Good luck with that!

27: Our first encounter with the "Heeland Coos" | More fun with signs: did they mean barking? harking? marking? | Anne in her role as crossing guard

28: Another scenic spot!

29: After lunch with our new friends Teddy and Randy in Fort Augustus, we walked over to the Caledonian Canal. We arrived just in time to see it in action.

30: It seemed as though everywhere we went we found beautiful scenery... and fun signs! Is that "foul" or "fowl"?

31: Here's our whole group at Eilean Donan Castle, minus our photographer Dominic Bonuccelli, of course. I didn't have a complete group shot, so he graciously allowed me to use his.

32: Eilean Donan Castle

33: At our hotel on the Isle of Skye, we met for hors d'oeuvres before our group dinner. | Some of us joined Alex in the drawing room for more songs. What a treat! | Then we were treated to a fantastic concert by local musician, Alex MacFie (sp?)

34: We began the day with a tour of the Talisker Distillery. It was interesting to see barrels dating from my childhood, but Mom and I enjoyed the natural sights outside more. | Day 7

35: Our next stop was a picturesque view of the Cuillin Mountains. We all enjoyed watching Dominic set up his next shot. He was certainly entertaining!

37: We travelled around the Isle of Sky, stopping at many beautiful spots. Represented here are the town of Portree, mountain rams, and the Old Man of Storr.

38: Kilt Rock

39: We visited the gravesite of Flora MacDonald, who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after the defeat at Culloden.

40: We had another "wee taste of Scotland", but apparently Lois (top right) didn't like her drink so much. Mom and Nancy discover they are "Life is Good" twins.

41: Mom and I took a walk after dinner and found all sorts of treasures.

42: We took the fairy back to the mainland under beautiful blue sky. We shared our ferry with some classic old cars. We even saw the inspiration for the Scottish flag: the white cross on blue background. | Dominic took this picture of Mom and me. I just love the look of complete joy on Mom's face! The Rick Steves website even used it to advertise the 2011 tours. | Day 8

43: We visited the monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie at Glenfidden. Of course we were very careful crossing the street!

44: Anne M. and I climbed to the top of the momument. | John (Anne's husband) and Mom decided to wait below. | We were joined by Liz, Rachel and Dominic at the top. | This is the aqueduct used in Harry Potter. Unfortunately we missed the steam train because the ferry ran late that morning. Next time!

45: We had lunch in Fort William. Mom and I decided on the Grog & Gruel, and we were soon joined by many of our tourmates. We took over the room and enjoyed yet another amusing sign!

46: Glencoe is a beautiful valley with a tragic history: it was the site of the MacDonald massacre. The name itself means valley of tears, referring to the multiple impromptu waterfalls down the canyon walls. | These two clansman entertained us with their antics. Then one of them gave a "brown betty" demonstration. Talk about a smoking gun!

48: We arrived in Oban to the most adorable room, complete with a teddy bear on the pillow. We were very grateful we packed light as we carried our bags up 2 flights of stairs, although Mom kept calling it 4 since each had a landing (see below right). We definitely had lots of laughs over that one!

49: Six of us decided to boat across the bay to a recommended restaurant, where we had a wonderful fish dinner. | I hope this isn't the boat we're taking! | We ran into more tour friends at the gelato place in town. Yum!

50: Day 9 We rode a ferry to the Isle of Mull, then bussed to the other side of the island. We saw more beautiful Scottish scenery, and we discovered our bus driver Alisdair's father is cousin to our tourmate Alisdair's grandfather. Such a small world!

51: Although the day started out with rain, by the time we took the ferry to Iona, the sun was shining brightly and the water was a crystal clear blue. | Our first stop was the ruins of the nunnery. Dominic took portraits of us, and Lois soaked up the welcome sunshine (above middle).

52: We walked over to the Iona Abbey with its historical significance. Of course, we displayed the proper decorum at all times.

53: Mom and I then walked to the beach where St. Columba landed. We collected pebbles which they call Columba's tears. | With my buddy Debbie. Dominic in front of the camera for a change.

54: Anne found herself on the ferry with Dominic's jacket. He took a later ferry -- hope the weather holds! More pix from the ferry rides, including a seagull who hovered right above us.

55: Day 10 Our first stop on the way back to Edinburgh was at a castle where tourmate Alisdair's mother played. Then the "paparazzi" descended on Anne and Russell! | That night we went to the Skipinnish Celidh House for some traditional Scottish entertainment

56: Loch Lomond

57: "Ye'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road, And I'll be in Scotland afore ye, But me and my true love will never meet again, On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond." | The song above was running in my head the whole time we were there... even while stopping to smell the roses.

58: Stirling Bridge and the William Wallace Memorial | We climbed to the base of the memorial, then climbed the spiral staircase to the top. The sword is 66", so experts assume Wallace was about 6'6". Must be that Viking influence!

59: We spent some time at Brannockburn, where Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II with only 5000 men vs England's 20,000. Lois and I performed a very realistic re-enactment of the battle.

60: Having fun with the "toys" at the Brannockburn Visitor Center

61: Our farewell dinner was bittersweet as we said goodbye to our new friends. The highlight of the evening for me was when Mom won the award for tackiest buddy gift: a coaster of a clansman with his kilt partially revealing his bum. Lois had said she was hoping to find a kilted man to take home, so Mom provided one!

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