Daily Journal: 30 November 2016 (Wednesday)

Got up today and starting to make final preparations for leaving Edinburgh. I’m taking extra care to make sure I leave the flat as I found it. I know that there will be a cleaning crew engaged, but I think it helps to get a good review from the Airbnb hosts – plus it seems like the right thing to do.

After my workout today, I returned to Castle Hill. Mainly to purchase the scarf that I saw yesterday and also to make one last trip up the hill. While there I took one more picture of he entrance to the castle. When here last, the Edinburgh Festival had just completed and the grandstands were being dismantled. A much different look now without the grandstands.

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On the way back, I captured one of Edinburgh’s famous sunsets. I, and others, were taking pictures – it was just that amazing and beautiful. The pictures really don’t do it justice. Thank you Edinburgh!

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Tomorrow: Iceland!

Cheers!

 

 

 

Daily Journal: 29 November 2016 (Tuesday)

On track to leave Edinburgh Thursday. Made reservations for the return trip to Edinburgh and the train from Edinburgh to London. I booked the round trip flight from Edinburgh to Iceland so I could travel by train to London and enjoy the views along the way. The trip to London is about 4:15 hours and takes me to Kings Cross Station. From there I’m on my own to find my lodgings.

I heard back from my Iceland Airbnb hosts who found someone who will provide a personal tour of Iceland and take me to some of the out-of-the-way places most people wouldn’t see on a typical tour. So, all is lining up well for Iceland.

Today, after working out, I went up to the Royal Mile (the road between the Edinburgh Castle, up on the hill, to the Holyrood Palace at the foot of the hill) to visit some of the stores there and just to walk around, since I hadn’t been up there since I first arrived almost 3 months ago.

On the way up, I saw the castle again and today I fully felt a sense of loss that it will be awhile before I’m back in Edinburgh. So I took some pictures of the castle as a reminder of my time here. The pictures below shows how the castle really is part of your daily walks around the central part of he city.

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The picture below shows the lower part of Old Town, above Princes Street Park and below the castle.

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Above is a short-cut up to the Royal Mile from the road below. Quite a hike! And look how worn the steps look.

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Above – one of the churches along the Royal Mile. And below, looking up towards the castle.

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Looking down towards Holyrood Palace and the water beyond.  St. Giles’ Cathedral is on the right.

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And what would a trip to Scotland be without a picture of someone playing the bag pipes.

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A look from the Royal Mile down to the city. Another little ally (also called a ‘close’) that leads back to central Edinburgh.

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Had a chance to meet Hazel. She and her companion where hanging around the front of a heritage shop along the Royal Mile. I was offered the opportunity to hold Hazel and give a donation to Hazel’s keeper’s organization. One of the keepers took a few pictures of me with Hazel.

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And here below are the shoes that I’m retiring. Guess they do look a bit worn. Especially the bottoms.

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Cheers!

Daily Journal: 28 November 2016 (Monday)

Only a few more days before I leave for Iceland.

While in central Edinburgh this afternoon and looking up at the castle, was feeling a little nostalgic about leaving and I haven’t left yet.

Today I got my haircut, a workout, then went for a pedicure. Found a new place for a pedicure that was close, named: Zen. A little more pricey but was an upgrade in quality. Happy Feet now and now properly groomed.

Now home and will fix dinner soon. Maybe even get to bed earlier tonight.

Cheers!

 

Daily Journal: 27 November 2016 (Sunday)

Woke up to a partly sunny sky and no frost. Didn’t freeze at all last night. Think there is a change in the air and it isn’t because I’m moving on to Iceland. Ha!

Met up with my Airbnb host today and got everything settled before I leave. Will be different being somewhere else since I’ve been here from 3 months. Almost like leaving home.

Received an email today from the people who adopted my cat. Looks like he is honing his climbing skills. Good to see a picture of him. So very fortunate to find a couple of people who really love him. We are each having our adventures!

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Went clothes shopping today for some trousers. Found a pair last month at M&S that fit me really well so picked up two more pair of the same brand and size. Below is collection of items that I’m donating to a local charity shop this week before I leave. Out with the old and in with the new. I’ll be sad to see my light-weight walking shoes going away – we did a lot of traveling (and walking) together.

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Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Daily Journal: 26 November 2016 (Saturday)

Another sunny day. Had thought it was going to be cloudy, but the forecast changed. Enjoyed my walk to and from the gym today. Took a picture as I was walking through Stockbridge.

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I’m starting to make a list of the tour companies in Iceland. So many to look through. Have reached out to people who have traveled there recently. In any case, having fun making travel plans.

Other than that, just wrapping up last-minute tasks before leaving. Tomorrow, my hosts are coming by and will make final arrangements with them.

Leftover beef stew tonight! Yum!

Cheers!

 

 

Daily Journal: 25 November 2016 (Friday)

I checked the extended forecast for Edinburgh, looks like it will be either sunny or partly sunny through next week – but up here in Scotland, that can change quickly. Very frosty this morning.

Have been checking out tour options in Iceland – so many to choose from. This will keep me occupied for the next few days.

Very much enjoyed reading all of the Thanksgiving updates from friends and family yesterday on Facebook. What a relief to see real updates from real people that I know. Also the messages of thanksgiving and gratitude were inspiring too. Then I had a thought – or actually a new slogan based on the recent election: “Let’s Make Facebook Great Again”

I had a couple of posts from previous years show up on my Facebook newsfeed and it reminded me that most updates were about what we were doing, visiting family, vacations, graduations, and even when people or pets we loved passed away. Maybe the political or other news items can find a place in another forum? I have been blocking people who consistently post pictures and stories of really awful “news” that may or may not be true – some folks are still blocked  and others have been given one more chance. Which is too bad because I would like to keep in touch via Facebook.

Wouldn’t it be easier to let your friends know what makes you happy, share a new recipe, a picture, a restaurant you liked, visiting grandchildren, and even a cute puppy video? And if there is something inspiring to share – then share that rather than the negative. I’m still mulling how to present on Facebook. I rely on Facebook, being out of the country, to keep in touch with so many people.

Now, back to the positive. Moving on to Iceland next Thursday and I’m so (and I don’t use this word often) stoked about going. Very much looking forward a spa day at the Blue Lagoon. I’m thinking that Iceland is a place where geologists, glaciologists, and volcanologists can really geek out. And think I’ll be with them and celebrate our mutual geekness. So stoked!

Beef stew tonight!

Cheers!

 

Daily Journal: 24 November 2016 (Thursday)

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Edinburgh has a number of fun decorations that have been installed over the past couple of weeks. Found the above lighting display on George Street as I was walking back from last night’s InterNations gathering. Actually walked the whole way back to the flat, though it was very cool and frosty in some places.

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Met a number of interesting people through my involvement with InterNations. I’ll be back to Edinburgh again, later in 2017, and will pick up where we left off. I’ll probably attend events in Budapest and Dublin – two destinations where I’ll be there up to three months.

On the way back from the gym, inquired at a couple of thrift shops about their clothing donation requirements. I have some items to donate that I’ve been carrying with me over the past few months and really haven’t used. (Also to make room in my suitcase for new things that I’ve purchased recently – like new shoes.)

Quiet evening planned. I have so much recorded on Tivo that I haven’t watched yet. I’ll be interested to see what kind of shows I’ll be watching in Iceland. Or maybe I should find a good book to read.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Daily Journal: 23 November 2016 (Wednesday)

Chilly this morning with lots of sunshine. Last night, almost thought we would get to see the northern lights, but they were too far northeast for us in Edinburgh. I have several apps (and a Scottish friend) who help me understand if “tonight’s the night”.

Still making arrangements to leave Edinburgh (for now) to spend a week in Iceland before heading back to London. Did get a fairly good workout in this afternoon – and sure miss the gym when I don’t go.

Making pork loins tonight for dinner with spinach ravioli. Then heading out for the monthly InterNations gathering at 6:30. This will be my last visit with them, but will return again next year.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’ll celebrate with you from over here on this side of the pond.

Cheers!

 

Overnight Trip to Inverness (20 – 21 November, 2016)

Got back to Edinburgh at around 7:00 p.m. last night after a jam-packed two days on a visit to Inverness. This was kind of a last-minute decision, but (as it usually happens) glad I did. Just wanted to get up to the highlands area and do a quick visit before I leave for Iceland next week.

The night before leaving, I attended a ceilidh in Edinburgh, an event arranged by InterNations. Did some Google and YouTube research to find out what goes on at a ceilidh. Took a video to show one of the group dances that were taught during the evening.

Here is another…

In the morning (20 November) I packed and left for the train station. Had time to grab another cup of coffee while waiting for the train. Below is Waverley Train Station.

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The train takes about 3:15 hours to get to Inverness, with a number of stops in between.

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Took a very nice picture through the train window of the Firth of Forth just before it meets the North Sea. Very surprised it turned out as it did. Was a point-and-take kind of picture – no planning at all.

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Along the way, I took more pictures as we traveled through the highlands. We stopped at many small towns along the way, and I’m sure they appreciate having good train service to connect them with their neighbors and the cities.  No labels on the following pictures (taken from Perth to Inverness). Took a picture of one of the train stations – also note the white, snow-covered mountains, in the background. I’d describe the view as serene and vast – so much open land.

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Before checking into my lodgings, went from the train station directly to the nearby shopping mall to get some heavier shoes – my U.S.-purchased Merrell shoes were not standing up to the cold pavement. Just outside of the mall, saw my first reindeer – which, if I heard the gentleman in the red sweater below correctly, these are full-grown reindeer (7 – 8 years old).  Maybe Santa’s reindeer are bigger?

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Then went down to the River Ness, with my new shoes, that runs through Inverness. (Yes, River Ness is that ‘Ness’ as it relates to Loch Ness – about 13 miles away. No, didn’t visit Nessie this trip.)

Many fine looking churches in the area near the river. Several bridges span the river as it passes through Inverness. (A few of the bridges are fairly sturdy foot bridges though wobble a little as you walk over them.)  Since sunset happens a little earlier up here, decided to find my lodgings before it got too much darker.

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Was able to book a room at a local boutique hotel that had a 5 star rating for about £97 per night. It was a 10 minute walk from the center of town with a very fine restaurant on premises. (When I told the guy who sold me the warm shoes where I was staying, he said that he had an excellent dinner there the week before.)

Maybe I should have captured some pictures of my dinner. A set three courses for £35 – which I thought was a very good deal. Started off with a salmon appetizer, then a fish course, and dessert was a sticky toffee pudding. All were beautiful and creative presentations with excellent flavors. And filling too!

Next morning, I decided to visit Fort George, then return for more walking through Inverness, and then catch the 15:55 back to Edinburgh.

The hotel staff researched how to get to Fort George. It involved walking to the bus station and catching a bus. (Easy!) What I didn’t realize is that the bus didn’t quite go all the way to the fort, so had to walk the remaining 1.6 miles – which was great exercise and a way to break in the new boots.

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Fort George was built after the last Jacobite rising (1746) and defense against the French, as well, in the 1800’s. A very large and strategically placed fort (now a garrison) with amazing views of the Moray Firth, which it guards. The picture below I downloaded to show the fort’s overall layout which was difficult to capture from the ground. Currently, a garrison for 1,600 personnel.

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Pictures below show the view from inside the fort and out to the surrounding waters. It was a beautiful day to visit. The fort was very well maintained and worth the visit. Didn’t label the pictures below – just included them to show the views. The first picture shows an empty moat.

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The picture below shows the three-decker pulpit in the chapel. With the minister (top), reader (center), and the precentor (bottom) who leads the singing.

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Throughout the fort were these signs (Warning! Sudden Drop) since there were a number of places, if not watching, someone could easily take a tumble over the edge. The fort isn’t a good place for those who (at whatever age) are not good about looking where they’re going.

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About this time, my feet were aching so I loosened up the boots to better accommodate the insole inserts that I bought with the boots. That seemed to help for a little bit. Then time to board the bus which (thankfully) met us visitors up at the fort.

Once back in Inverness, walked down the River Ness along the east-side of the river, then back up the west-side. I finally had to remove my boot inserts since they were actually causing more ache than comfort. Once removed, I was pain free.

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Map above shows the downtown area of Inverness and at the bottom center in the picture, my lodging, Rocpool Reserve Hotel. A very walkable city with many parks.  Took a couple of pictures during my brief city walk. Included one of some homes I saw along the river.

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I could have walked longer but needed to get to the train. Got the 15:55 and headed back towards Edinburgh. Since it was right at dusk, got a nice picture of the sunset over the highlands from my seat inside the train, about 10 minutes out from the station.

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Was very tired from my travels today. (Walked 22,000 steps.) After arriving back in Edinburgh, stopped by the local Pizza Hut. Got a medium pizza for £5.99. Nice!

Cheers!

 

 

 

Daily Journal: 19 November 2016 (Saturday)

Another sunny and cool day in Edinburgh. Put my thermal underwear on and headed to the store for some groceries – and used my £10 coupon. This is the third £10 coupon I’ve used and have two more on hand that I won’t be able to use since I have enough groceries to last until the end of the month. But I’ve saved almost $40 so far, so I’m happy with that.

Made chicken fried rice for dinner. I suppose everyone has their own way of making, but I chop up some onions and carrots and soften them up in a pan with seseme oil, then add the chicken and garlic (ginger if you have some). After the chicken is cooked, I add rice then a little soy sauce and oyster sauce. Then, after 5 minutes, add some scrambled eggs and frozen peas. Once the peas are cooked – ready to eat.

Now, time to get ready for the ceilidh. Have to plan my bus route accordingly. It will be in a part of town that I’ve not been to. So, a new adventure!  The blue dot, left of center, is my starting point, and the marker, right of center, is my destination.  Think I’ll get to learn how to do a Scottish reel.

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Tomorrow I leave for Inverness.

Cheers!