Thursday, 20 June 2019

23 Great King Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

On Monday I didn’t do much. Just worked out and then made beef stew for dinner. I started to watch Bodyguard on Netflix – think I’m hooked. No wonder the six episode series was so popular. It was recently a BBC program then Netflix picked it up.

Tuesday I left early via Uber to Waverley Station and from there traveled up to Perth. My destination was Scone Palace. The palace is located just outside of Perth and it’s where the ancient Scottish kings were once crowned.

I decided to call for an Uber this morning to take me to Waverley Station. I didn’t feel like walking the whole way. I wanted to make sure that I arrived at the station early enough so I wasn’t rushed.

Nice ride up to Perth. I had to transfer to another train in Stirling, but the trains were on time and didn’t have a problem getting into Perth. At Perth I took a taxi to Scone Palace. A bus would have been cheaper, but it would have taken almost an hour to get there. Besides, I always enjoy talking with the taxi drivers, who seem to offer helpful, if not interesting, information.

The Scone Palace was built as a family country home in the early 1600s. It has no real connection to the coronation of Scottish kings. Edward I, and later mobs, ruined the abbey where the coronations took place and there is now nothing left except for a replica of the coronation stone.

I had a nice lunch in the palace cafe before touring the home. The present owners (9th Earl of Mansfield, William David Murray) lives with his family nearby. The home is now used for special occasions and opened for visiting guests. Otherwise, it is like a home museum.

The palace is kept up very well and there are guides assigned to every room to answer guest’s questions. Also each room had a written guide available in many languages. No audio guides here, which was fine with me. I can read faster than someone can talk.

Nothing really historical about the home, except Victoria and Albert visited in 1842. One of the guides said that the long hall just off the main entrance is the longest in the U.K. Indeed, it was very long. After going through the house I walked around the grounds before calling a taxi to return me to the train station.

I had a window seat on return trip to Edinburgh. It was getting to be late in the afternoon and I enjoyed looking out at the clouds. It could be my imagination, but Scotland’s landscape and clouds are very majestic and beautiful. Almost looks like a painting. Though I’ve heard this from others so there must be some truth to it.

I walked from Waverley Station to my flat. When I got back I was ready for a nap. Thankfully I had some beef stew in the fridge and ate that later then watched TV.

Today I worked out again and ate more of the meatloaf that I had in the freezer. I still have another chuck of meatloaf in the freezer. Meatloaf does last a long time and inexpensive to make. I still have enough ground beef and ground pork to make another batch but think I’ll do that later in July.

In the early evening Donna and Adrien stopped by to change the sheets and give me fresh bath towels. Next week I move to one of their other flats where I’ll stay a week then move to my favorite place on Glencairn Crescent where I’ll stay until 31 July.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

23 Great King Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

I’ve really been lazy for the past few days. Though have been going to the gym to do my workouts. At least I’m doing that. Very surprising how you can fill up a day without being productive.

I have been watching some of the press on the 2020 candidates. Mostly Pete Buttigieg who is getting most of my attention. I hear a lot of good ideas but I’m looking for a leader who sees a bigger picture. Still too early to make any firm decisions.

On Friday I was contacted by a recruiter from Dublin. She was interested in my experience and wants to talk to me later this next week. I’m mainly interested to learn how willing they would be to take me on long term and sponsor a work visa. I’d like to keep my options open.

Tomorrow is Scone Castle just outside of Perth. More stories about this place after I visit it.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

23 Great King Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

It has been mostly cloudy over the past few days with rain here and there. Hope it stays that way so I can continue to enjoy the cooler weather. The folks back in Oregon were very hot over the last couple of days. I’d rather have it be a little chilly than hot any day.

I’ve been to Bannatyne Health Club for the last three days with no adverse effect afterward. My only limitation is doing planks in the push up position. Otherwise, I can do all of my stretching, aerobic, and weight exercises. The only change is to my aerobic workout by dividing the time between the rowing machine, bike and treadmill. Generally I do it all on the rowing machine, but that might put too much stress on my back.

After my workout today I went to see my dentist. I made an appointment on Monday and they got me into to see him today. I’m most concerned about the part of a tooth that fell out back in March while I was in Italy. I was hoping for the best and all he did was to patch up the missing piece of my tooth and I was on my way. No root canal or crown. I’ll return in a few weeks to have my teeth cleaned.

I managed to reach Cousin Donna today. I’ve been trying off and on over the past few days and finally spoke to her this evening. She was in the hospital for the past month recovering from more hip surgery and has a nurse staying with her as she fully recovers. She will be 85 soon and it takes longer for her to heal. But she sounded great and we had a good time catching up. She didn’t have all good news for me. Her sister Mary Kay is under hospice care and isn’t expected to live much longer. She has the final stages of Alzheimer’s but is able to stay at home with full time care from nurses and her son.

I’m finding more castles to visit while I’m here in Scotland. Now I have three on my list. Surprisingly I’m doing research on each castle before I arrange my visit. So much history in this part of the Great Britain island.

Tomorrow I may not go to the gym for a workout. I should take a day off and will go again on Saturday and Sunday. Tonight I’m making my chicken stir-fry. Earlier this week I made a meatloaf using the ground pork I bought by mistake. It turned out well but after a few meals I put the remainder in the freezer and will take out next week and finish it off.

I continue to work on my travel plans. Fun to find new places to visit, though when I start looking at one place another place looks interesting to visit as well. We will see how it all comes together over the next few weeks.

Monday, 10 June 2019

23 Great King Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

I woke to sun and blue sky this morning. Today I need to get out of the flat and run some errands. I’m feeling much better and think I’ve rested enough. I feel like I’m in good enough shape to start working out again.

The last few days I have been sleeping off and on throughout the day. You would think sleeping so much I would have a hard time getting to sleep at night. Not the case here. I still wake up a few times during the night but I can fall right back to sleep.

Yesterday Donna and Adrien stopped by to change the towels and sheets. They also brought along Emily who just turned one last month. They just returned from a wedding in Paris and we got caught up since I last saw them in December. I’ll see them quite a bit over the next month or so since I move from here in a few weeks, stay at another flat they own and then will be at their Glencairn flat for most of July.

I’ve been working on travel plans for the rest of this year. Nothing solid yet, but hopefully in the next week or so I can start booking travel. So many unknowns at this time. I know everything will come together as it always does.

Today, after I showered, shaved and dressed, I walked to Bannatyne Health Club and renewed my membership. I also made a dentist appointment, visited the post office at Waverley Station then stopped by the local Tesco market to pick up a few things for dinner.

Tonight I made a chicken and cabbage stir fry that I make every so often. Tomorrow I’m making a meatloaf from the ground pork that I bought by mistake last week.

I’m enjoying the BBC programming and found a couple of series that I’m following. Of course when I can’t find something on cable I can always go into the BBC iPlayer and find a historical documentary to watch. I saw a program on Scone Palace, located just outside of Perth, Scotland. I’ll make plans perhaps next week to visit.

Tomorrow will be my first day back working out. I’ll take it slow and try to go most every day to get back in shape.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

23 Great King Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

My cold seems to have gone away and now I’m not blowing my nose as much. Though I’m sleeping off and on throughout the day. At first I was thinking I should be more productive, but then remembered that I’m here to rest up.

My to-do list is getting longer but it can wait. Nothing I need to do for the next few days. I have so many small projects on my list, but if I feel like resting then that is what I’ll do.

Today I pulled myself together enough to make beef stew. I had forgotten how firm the carrots can be in Scotland and how long they take to cook before they soften up. After an hour on low heat they were still firm and after two hours they were just starting to soften up. After another 30 minutes I couldn’t wait any longer and spooned out a bowl to eat while I watched TV. Then I enjoyed another bowl.

I discovered today that Edinburgh has a problem with foxes in the city. I thought I saw a fox sniffing around in a neighbor’s yard early this morning. Then Googled “foxes in Edinburgh” and learned that under consideration by local government is how to thin out the population. I hope their solution is trapping them and relocating the foxes to the wilderness.

Tomorrow I must get a haircut. The weather is supposed to be partly sunny and in the 60s. Will be a good day for a walk. I’m getting “cabin fever” by staying indoors so much.

Monday, 3 June 2019

23 Great King Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

On Saturday, June 1, I was out the door of my hotel room a little past 9:00 a.m. I don’t want to miss my 10:30 train leaving from Kings Cross. Though I doubt if it will be much more than 30 minutes to arrive at the station. When I approached the hotel reception desk, from the elevators, with suitcase in tow and room card key in hand, I was asked if I was checking out. This happens about 50% of the time. I guess I wasn’t in the right mood and made a comment that I certainly wasn’t checking in. This just shows I’m due for a rest.

As it turned out I made it to Kings Cross in about 35 minutes. Though the two underground stations I passed through (Shepherd’s Bush and Victoria) did not have full underground step-free access, but thankfully Kings Cross did. Guess I must have needed the exercise. While I was waiting for the train’s platform to be announced I bought a sandwich to enjoy on my four and a half hour journey to Edinburgh.

About an hour into the trip I gained a seat companion who reserved the window seat. I generally reserve an aisle seat since I like to move around a few times while traveling. She had just come from visiting her grandchildren who live near Oxford. We had great conversation before she departed at Newcastle. It really helps to pass the time when you have someone sitting next to you who enjoys a good conversation.

Before long the train was pulling into Eginburgh Waverley and from there I boarded a taxi at the station’s taxi rank. I was met by my host’s parents at the entrance to 23 Great King Street. (My host, her husband and one year old were in Paris.) I had met them before and we chatted for a bit before I entered the building and carried my luggage up two flights of stairs. It was good to return to a flat where it feels like home. This is the third time I’ve stayed here.

Before I got too comfortable I left to find food for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. I checked the cupboards and refrigerator before leaving to see what I additional items I’ll need to buy. Donna, my host, is good about having a few items waiting for me. I can count on biscuits (cookies), oatcakes with a small jar of jam, milk, fresh fruit, tea and ground coffee.

Tonight I’ll fix fried chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, and green peas. My humble dinner that I have quite often. I’ll buy more groceries tomorrow from a larger store about a half mile from the flat.

I napped, ate dinner, watched a bit of TV then went to bed early. Nice to be in a familiar bed for the next few weeks. The stock pot left with my hosts was waiting for me when I entered the flat.

Sunday afternoon I went to the larger store a bought enough groceries to fill two large shopping bags. Tonight I’ll make Cottage Pie. Though while putting away what I’d bought I discovered that I bought ground pork rather than ground beef. A quick trip to the local smaller market corrected that error but what do I do with a kilo of ground pork?

Though somewhat simple, making Cottage Pie takes a bit of time to prepare and cook. Browning the meat (20 minutes), then cooking the vegetables (20 minutes), adding the remaining ingredients, adding back the browned meat and cooking for another 45 minutes. Then making the mashed potatoes. Then putting the meat mixture in smaller oven dishes, adding the mash to the top and then cooking for another 20 – 30 minutes. I only refer to a recipe to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything.

I’ve figured out how to broadcast programming from my phone to the TV. Most every flat now has some form of “smart” TV. If not, I can use the HDMI cable that attaches the TV to my laptop. Having both BBC and ITV iPlayer options, now I’m in the U.K. gives me an almost unlimited amount of programs to watch.

I’m having a difficult time shaking my cold. I’ve been blowing my nose all day, a slight cough, and feeling tired. It was another early night for me. I’d like visit the gym tomorrow but I might stay in to take care of my cold. And enjoy more of the Cottage Pie.

On Monday I did stay in all day. I had plenty to eat and took several naps throughout the day. Well, this is why I’m staying in Edinburgh. Resting up for continued travel starting in August. I have an outline of places I’d like to visit thought the rest of the year and into 2020, but first I need to think about where to meet up with Ori and Molly. Also, waiting to hear back from Paula to see where we will meet in August. Travel planning is my job now, but having a few days, or even a week, away from it helps me regain my perspective.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll feel a bit better and finish getting settled in Edinburgh.

Friday, 30 May 2019

Hilton Kensington (London, England)

On Thursday the 29th my only activities for the day was to buy new socks and to watch the movie Rocketman. It was a long day yesterday and I needed to rest for at least one day.

I was looking forward to eating at my favorite Chinese restaurant in the Westfield mall (also where the movie will be shown), but when I got there the restaurant was closed. From what I could tell it looked like it was going to be permanent. It being near lunch many places had long lines. I opted for lunch at Byron, a popular burger restaurant. Though I had to eat my burger fairly quickly since the movie was to start in 20 minutes.

For a few pounds more I upgraded my seat for the movie. Nice to have the extra leg room. While watching the previews I saw a couple of movies that I’d like to watch, but I was here to watch Rocketman, the film about Elton John. I enjoyed the movie very much, and as I’ve mentioned before, I can tell if I enjoy a movie by how often I check the time while the movie is playing. I didn’t check the time once. And that is my review.

After buying new socks, taking a nap, eating dinner, and writing blog updates, it was almost time for bed. Tomorrow I will leave somewhat early for Oxford.

Today (Friday) I was out of the hotel by 11:00 and on my way to Paddington for my one hour train trip to Oxford. While on the train I decided I should go on a walking tour rather than try understand Oxford (town and the school). Having a world-renowned higher educational school in an ancient town would not be easy to understand without someone pulling it all together for you.

I met the guide and the tour group (of 8) and off we went to visit the first nearby school, Balliol. I took a number of pictures within the school’s chapel. We visited another nearby college as well. There are 38 colleges and six PPH (Permanent Private Halls of religious foundation) within Oxford but administratively connected. The very large bookstore (Blackwell’s) and library next door were of great interest as well as the old hall that was the first lecture hall. Of course we were told which buildings were used in the making of the Harry Potter movies.

One of our final stops was the Radcliffe Camera that was built to house the Radcliffe Science Library. The building is one of the most visited in the university due to its age and octagonal shape. It some cases the building is used to represent Oxford University.

Once our tour was finished we went our separate ways. I walked toward the Oxford station and bought a ticket for the return to London. By this time I had walked over 15,000 steps. Once I returned to my hotel room I was exhausted. I took a nap because I wanted to be somewhat rested to meet up with my friend Ken at 9:00.

Ken and I met Christmas before last but haven’t met up since then. We both have a background in IT and we shared a number of stories. We promised to do a better job of keeping in contact.

Again I was exhausted when I returned to my hotel. What a long day! And tomorrow I leave (finally) for my two month rest in Edinburgh. I’d like to leave the hotel by 9:00 tomorrow to ensure I’m at Kings Cross for the 10:30 departure of my train.