Sunday, October 2, 2011

Scotland - Golf for T, Zoo for Me

One final free day in Edinburgh (outskirts) before flying to Dublin for the Ireland portion of our trip. Since we were to be staying at the Marriott Dalmahoy which is surrounded by their two gorgeous golf courses, Terry planned to play a round of golf that last day in Scotland and I planned to spend the day at the Edinburgh Zoo.

The back of the Marriott Dalmahoy. The hotel purchased a beautiful old estate and turned the mansion into the hotel and the grounds into two 18 hole golf courses. Turn around on the spot and this is what you see:

One of the courses at the Marriott Dalmahoy. Terry was anxious to get out there! Unfortunately for us both, the weather was not the best, rainy. It got better later.

I started out indoors at the zoo. Edinburgh Zoo has a very good reputation, they have a big research program. They have a lot of monkeys, many of which had young babies. I had my camera all ready with the big lens on. Unfortunately, some time early in the day, I changed the setting on the camera without realizing it, as I was taking it in and out from under my coat to protect it from the rain. I learned a valuable lesson, as I don't tend to look at the LCD display as often as I should, so I didn't realize that the camera had been changed to "manual" (with no settings!) until MUCH later. Most of my pictures were ruined - some of which I could tell would have been really good. I had spent quite a bit of time at an outdoor monkey enclosure with great access, lots happening and lots of babies - all of those pictures were useless. Oh well! Could have been much worse, could have happened for the Royal Wedding!!

I did get a few decent pictures though.

Barbary Macaque mother and baby.

Barbary Macaques again, could be a little sharper but I really love the expression on the baby's face. So cute and so human.

My favourite shot. A Victoria Crowned Pigeon. They are big, the size of a female turkey, and really beautiful.

Lilac-breasted Roller.

Green-winged Dove

Chimpanzee contemplating life.

Contemplation over.

Next, the final Scotland post: Scotland - The Dogs!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Scotland - More Royal Wedding!!

Our one free day in Edinburgh, the most beautiful day weather-wise of our whole vacation also happened to be the day of the Royal Wedding of Zara Phillips, the Queen's granddaughter. Walkable from our hotel...of course we had to go! Forever grateful to Terry for being a sport and standing with me for the day. It was fun!! Original quick post and different pictures can be seen here.

We kept seeing news of the Royal Wedding on TV, but they never mentioned the time. We asked at the front desk of our hotel - you can imagine the glances between themselves - these tourists think they're going to come to the U.K. and see the Queen!! Right! And we really didn't think we would see much, but we wanted to take in the atmosphere anyways. And a super atmosphere it was, people happy and chatting, the police talking to people and everyone in a good mood.

The Church (Canongate Kirk) is behind the trees on the left. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is down the street and around the corner, the Royal family came from that direction. The flags were given out to everyone in the crowd by some tabloid and said "Congratulations Zara and Mike".

The "regular" wedding guests arrived from the opposite direction from the Palace, past us, in Mercedes Benz coaches.

Lots of waiting, but when things happened, they happened quickly! We waited for four hours before the wedding and didn't see a lot and got just a couple of far-away pictures of a few people. Once they were all in the Church, Terry asked if I wanted to leave, but I figured why not wait another hour for the ceremony to finish - probably some of the crowd would go and we could get a better position. Bingo!

After the coaches the next-important guests arrived in black or white Jaguars, also past us.

And more waiting. What did we notice about the police that was different from North American police? None of them were armed (that's a small billy club, not a gun).

Apparently these sniper types with binoculars on the balconies were armed - but I didn't see any guns, and I took some close ups.

My best "pre" wedding picture - the father of the bride, Captain Mark Phillips, ex-husband of Princess Anne. The bride was with him but being on the other side of the car I couldn't see her at all. The Royals arrived in Bentleys from below, coming from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This girl in the green t-shirt was a champion leaner-over-the-barriers and ruined more than one picture for me! People did leave after everyone was in the Church and that gave us the opportunity to get a much better spot. I totally lucked out diving under people's legs and in a crouched position got pictures of the entire Royal family! I even got elbowed and yelled at by paparazzi. I was praying that no police would step in front and cover the hole I had found for my camera lens, and again, I was lucky.

The Best Man (Iain Balshaw) and Maid of Honour (Dolly Maude).

Flower Girls

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The man holding the door open looks so reverent.

The Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He looks so good for being over 90 years old.

Mother of the bride, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. She's the only female that got in the far side of the car, giving me a better chance at a picture.

Prince Harry, Will and Kate. I really think those hats are at least partially to protect them from photographers!! I was definitely on the wrong side for the angle of the hats.

Camilla and Prince Charles.

Camilla. Notice how every one of these women are wearing the same nude coloured shoes, with the heel varying depending on their age.

Prince Andrew, Princesses Beatrice (blue) and Eugenie (beige/brown).

The Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, with his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex. I think she looked so attractive, great outfit and super high heels, I love this shot.

Canongate Kirk (kirk means church like loch means lake), where the Wedding took place. When we came back to Edinburgh at the end of our time in Scotland, we were able to visit the Church. It had been closed because of the impending wedding prior to that. The flowers over the front door were leftover from the wedding.

Inside Canongate Kirk facing the altar. I was really surprised how simple and unpretentious this Church was, and also the light blue colour was a surprise. Canongate Kirk is the official kirk of the Palace of Holyroodhouse and of Edinburgh Castle.

This the Royal Pew, in the front to the left of the altar. The sign says "The Royal Pew" and there is a wooden crown on a stand attached to the back of the pew. The pew is closed off on the sides by a velvet rope at both ends.

The pew opposite the Royal pew, to the right of the altar. From left to right, written around the crests is: "Keeper of Holyrood House", "Lord High Constable", "Great Master of the Household", "Lord Lyon King of Arms", "Royal Banner Bearer", "Captain General of the Bodyguard" and "Governor of the Castle".

Looking towards the back of the Church and at the organ above. There were 400 people at the wedding, the Church didn't seem big enough. Cozy and quaint.

It was a super day, one I will never forget!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Scotland - The Borders and Edinburgh

Our second day tour from Edinburgh was "Rosslyn and the Roman Border" which took us through the border country of Scotland and just across the border of Scotland into England to see Hadrian's Wall.

Rosslyn Chapel - built in the 15th century and widely known now because of the Da Vinci Code. ("Rose line"). Part of the movie was filmed here as well. Really beautiful and ornate (and old!).

The border of Scotland and England. A big rock with Scotland written on one side and England on the other. Scotland does have more markings and flags up as well. There was also a bagpiper here!

Town of Melrose, Scottish borders. Very typical Scottish town - stunningly beautiful and neat as a pin.

Hadrian's Wall. A 73 mile long, 8 foot wide, 10 foot tall wall spanning the width of the country, built by the Romans in AD 122. It took them just SIX years to build this! Stones have been removed from the wall over time. We climbed (and it was a CLIMB) up to the wall at the site of Houseteads fort. Bless our guide who walked up there with us. I would only ever do it once!

The view from the top of the wall.

The HUGE organ just inside the entrance to the museum in Glasgow. We didn't take too many pictures in Glasgow - because there really isn't much to see there. We were so very glad St. Andrews is closer to Edinburgh, which was key to our decision to base ourselves in Edinburgh and so spend a lot of time there. At the end of our stay in Scotland we went on a four day tour that started in Glasgow. We were only in Glasgow one afternoon and night. It's skipable! All museums and art galleries in Scotland (Ireland too for that matter) are FREE so we did take advantage of that. What a great idea to make them free to the public. People really do use them, they were all busy. We were lucky to visit the Glasgow museum when this organ was being played - spectacular!

Ah, Edinburgh. We both agreed that it's our favourite city in the world so far. So much history, so beautiful, so much to do and see. This is Edinburgh Castle - right in the middle of everything (but WAY up), you can see it from everywhere. We had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the castle and this was the view from my seat at our table.

The view over the city from inside the castle grounds. You can easily spend more than one day at the castle.

This is the present day boy's school in Edinburgh that was the inspiration for J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The Royal Mile, which runs between the Palace of Holyroodhouse at one end to Edinburgh Castle at the other.

Typical shops, etc. on the Royal Mile, this was close to the church where the Royal Wedding took place on July 30, 2011.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's offical residence in Scotland. We didn't have a chance to see inside it as the Queen was there for the Royal Wedding. The Royal Yacht Britannia is also docked in Edinburgh and is also normally open to the public but was unavailable due to the wedding. We'll have to see them both on our next visit!

The view over Edinburgh from Holyrood Park. Edinburgh Castle is in the centre.

St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile.

Inside St. Giles Cathedral.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Scotland - The Highlands

From our base in Edinburgh we took a couple of day trips, one being to the Highlands (Loch Ness). On our four day bus tour, we also spent two days in the Highlands. Only one stop was the same on the two trips though, which was our favourite little town of Pitlochry so that was fine with us! The Highlands are breathtakingly beautiful!

Little house in the Highlands. The mist on the mountains is typical.

The view where we stopped for lunch in Onich, on Loch Leven.

Me on our boat tour of Loch Ness. It was cold and windy that day but I didn't mind. A bucket list item for me.

The shore of Loch Ness. The Loch is big enough and deep enough to support a Nessie or two. Just huge.

Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness.

A bagpiper at Urquhart Castle. I love bagpipes!!

A farm in the Highlands, sheep in the foreground. Note the waterfall in the mountains behind.

Typical fields with animals (mostly sheep) grazing. Sometimes the fields they are grazing in are almost vertical.

A ram with horns that look like they'd be a bit of a hassle, both for him and anyone having to deal with him. Sheep are everywhere and are left out as there are no predators. There are also cattle and some horses, but mostly sheep. We noticed that the livestock in Scotland all look super healthy and very content. The purple in the picture is thistle.

One of our favourite hotels of the 10 different ones we stayed at on our trip. The Newton Hotel in Nairn. Nairn is close to Inverness.

The shore of the North Sea, a very short walk from our hotel above in Nairn. Too small in the picture to tell, but the dog on the beach is a Springer Spaniel with a full tail. LOTS of purebred dogs in Scotland.

Highland cattle are shaggy beasts with impressive horns, but seem quite gentle. This one and a few others were on the grounds of the Newton Hotel in Nairn.

Had to take a picture of this street sign in Nairn. We wondered what she's doing with her arm...pushing him into traffic??...or?

Houses along the street in Pitlochry, a beautiful little town. I realized I didn't get enough pictures of the Highland towns or of the beautiful Scottish houses, all of which seem to have very impressive gardens. Guess I'll have to go back!

Scottish thistle. Looks better there than in my yard!