Friday, May 1, 2015

An introduction to our group

The tour that Mary and I had booked is hosted by Mike Gulbraa of M&M tours:

Mike's guest photographer for this trip has been Neil Alexander from Manchester.  Both men are professional photographers.  Carol, Mary and I were the three people who made up the tour group.  Carol is a serious photographer.  Mary is also a very nice photographer.  Both of them have nice cameras and several lenses that they can use in various situations.  I am quite content with my snapshots, but I bought a 35 mm camera for the trip and a telephoto lens that I could interchange with the lens that came with it.  I also brought along the camera that I am MUCH more familiar with:  my iPhone.  All of us learned a lot during the trip about photography.  But I am afraid that I will never be as technical as any of the others.  Still I LOVE my photos!

I realize that the blog posts are not organized by day as perfectly as I would have liked.  This is caused by the fact that I worked on some of the posts before I left and the fact that the internet was TERRIBLE or even nonexistent in some of the locations, so I did not do the days in order.  Don't forget that you need to use the "Older Posts" link to get to some of the earliest posts.

Day 9, 10, 11: Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Glasgow, Glasgow

Day 9

This was the first day on our own.  We said goodby to everyone at the end of the evening on Day 8. Mary and I slept in a bit.  Did a bit of organizing in our room.  And set out to spend the day on the Royal Mile shopping and seeing sights.  Ate a nice lunch in a bistro called Circus....I had my hair washed and blown dry across the street from where we ate.  Then we walked to a site that is a guided tour of Mary King's Close which was quite fascinating!  I'll add more about this sight when I have more time.  For now, here is photo taken from the website:

Wikipedia says about the site:

Mary King's Close is an old Edinburgh close under buildings in the Old Town area of Edinburgh, Scotland. It took its name from one Mary King, daughter of advocate Alexander King, who in the 17th century had owned several properties within the close.

We then ducked in and out of several touristy shops as we made our way back to the room.
Dinner was at 9 in Leister.  Leister is about a 10 pound taxi ride from the Royal Mile and was the seaport area of Edinburgh.  I think that it was actually another town but that the population has grown in every direction and now the area between the two towns has become neighborhoods.

Dinner was amazing.  It was in a place called Kitchin.  AMAZING!  Dinner was extraordinary!

Day 10:

This morning started as a repack day to get ready for the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow.  Mary went out for breakfast.  I picked up a quick Starbucks and spent time in the room working on my luggage and blog and getting organized.  We did some shopping on the Royal Mile before our trek to the tour at Edinburgh Gin Distillery.

The below are the actual stills in which the gin is distilled.  Our tour took us right up beside all of the equipment that was not in use during the tour:

The history of gin was very entertaining....or perhaps it was the young man telling the stories who was very entertaining.

It was a lot of fun and ended up with a tasting in a room that looked like the below.

We then had lunch at a nearby hotel and walked just a very small amount on the Royal Mile

I had looked for the Close all day on the first day in which we took Jack's photo on our last trip to Edinburgh.....found it on the way back to the hotel:

Then we gathered up our luggage and rode the train to Glasgow.  ....

Mary had already made reservations for us at the Grand Central Hotel that is actually inside the station.  WOW!  Talk about easy transfer.  Train was fast.....Hotel was convenient....

We actually chose to eat dinner in the Alston Bar and Beef that is also in the train station.  This is a most unusual space that the Bar and Restaurant occupies.  We went down a flight of steps to get to dinner.  Here is a photo from the internet that is somewhat what it looked like:

And here is the bar where we sat to wait on a table:

It isn't clear in these two photos how much the big curved pillars were a part of the space.  A search on the internet

.....down into its basement where there are Victorian platforms and traces of Grahamston Village!

So here is the photo that shows the original pillars:

At least that is my interpretation of what I saw in the restaurant space tonight.

Day 11

Today our plan is to board the hop on/hop off bus to see the sights of Glasgow and to repack to get ready for the flight home tomorrow.

Everything went great.  Below is the photo of the bus (It was too cold to sit outside on the top.  We sat on top in the inside part)

Our favorite site was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum:

The building was magnificent inside:

Some of my favorite things that I viewed were the below photo of a statue of William Wallace with the following explanation about the artist's decision to use his face in his rendition:

Also two paintings that tug at one's heart strings.  One of a group that is the "last of the clan" and is explained as a group of families who have gathered to see their friends and families off as they sail for America.  The ship has just left and they are left behind.....very sad that their loved ones are gone!

and the massacre of Glen Coe:

One other room that we particularly liked was the room that contained armor and weapons:

After a full day of bus and a few stops along the way, we arrived back to our hotel:

The end of our trip to Glasgow tasting review gave Fever Tree tonic top rating.  Mary's book had suggested that the best of the tonic waters are:

Here are the four best tonic waters in the world according to Mary’s book:

fever tree

thomas henry

And best drink of the trip was DEFINITELY hands down at The Kitchin:

Was it the gin? Rock Rose and fever tree tonic and the orange peel formed into a rose.
North Berwick and Fever Tree and slices of blood orange

Monday, April 20, 2015

Day 1: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh

One of Mary's friends made the following suggestions for Edinburgh that I thought very intriguing:

The witchery secret garden, late night in the downstairs bar of the Royal Oak, Stac Polly Scottish restaurant. The Kitchin restaurant..... Dynamic earth, national gallery, modern art gallery .... All in Edinburgh.

So, we went to Stac Polly....not the main one but the small one close to the Royal Mile.  It was scrumptious!  I had the chicken with haggis.....Mary had the lamb....We tried a Spanish Red wine that was labelled old vines....We gave it a 3.0....but it was a great night.

 Finished the night off with a flight of whiskeys at Whiski on Royal Mile (photo of Bar just below taken the next morning).....bartender lots of fun.....we did flight #10 ....all of these whiskeys were from Islay.  Jack and I had always thought that we would someday come back and do a golf and whiskey tour going to places such as Islay where the golf is not "big name" courses and the whiskey is made right there.  Our favorite of the four that we tasted was Laphroaig 10 year old as we both thought it the smoothest and very easy to drink. The Ardbeg 10 year old tasted a bit like manure to me.  This company has been bought by Glenmorangie.  Second favorite was Lagavulin 16 year old which had a bit stronger taste than the Laphroaig.  And the Kilchoman tasted too much like just plain alcohol to us....we didn't finish it.

This morning we walked from the hotel to breakfast.  It is a lovely morning that had a FINE finish:  Our luggage just arrived so we will have a shower and clean underwear to start off our first day with the group.  We are meeting at 1 for a photo shoot along the Royal Mile and up to the Castle.

So here at the end of the day are some of my photos from the walk down the Royal Mile from Castle to Holyrood with our group:

  Below is William Wallace collecting money for Leukemia!  He was great!

We dropped into one of the many Closes along the way to just see what was back there:

It seemed that people lived in the "alley way", but the area was quite ancient.  Notice that the door is quite small by our standards.  This is out tour leader, Mike.

Part way down the Royal Mile.

Bottom of the Royal Mile with Holyrood Castle just beyond

Below:  Break for lunch after trip down Royal Mile and before the hike up Arthur's Seat.

I did not get photos on Arthur's Seat.  I'll try to add a few of Mary's photos here.

After dinner at our hotel, Mike, Neil, Mary and I went for an excursion to take photos in the fog that had come up as we ate.  I had no luck with my new camera, but my iPhone took enough photos to make me happy with the excursion:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Day 8

Day 8 — Skye/Edinburgh
After breakfast, start our journey back to Edinburgh, stopping along the way for lunch and a short hike to photograph the beautiful Falls of the Bruar in Cairngorms National Park. Arrive in Edinburgh in the late afternoon and transfer to the city center or to the airport for your flight home. (B,L)

I am not going to try tonight to list where we stopped.  This was the day that we drove from Skye to Edinburgh.  Mike and Carol had to leave early the next day on a plane, so we needed to be back at a decent hour.  I LOVE my photos from this day.

The one below is taken with my iPhone with pano selection:

I want to add a quick note that the above castle photo was taken in Stirling.  We also ate dinner in Stirling before heading back to Edinburg.  But the area that we traveled through between Glen Coe and Stirling was McGregor "country".....It was quite lovely, but we didn't make stops.  That was not a problem for me since I had done a McGregor tour many years ago and have lots of photos from that trip.  Perhaps I'll add some of them to this blog one of these days.

At the end of the evening, Mary and Neil and I went out looking for a bar in which to taste whiskey.  We couldn't get in the one that Mary and I went to the first night.  So we walked down the street.  I took a photo of the place the next day: