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!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Scotland - St. Andrews

Our 21 day trip to Scotland and Ireland was part do-it-yourself, part day tour and part multi-day tour. This trip was the first time trying out organized bus tours, we did like parts of doing that. The first week though, we discovered Scotland on our own. A very easy country to tour on your own, we totally fell in love with Scotland! In particular the City of Edinburgh (one of my favourites of any country!) St. Andrews and the Highlands.

But first, after arriving in Edinburgh and getting over the time change, we headed out the next morning by train for two days and a night in the golfer's mecca of St. Andrews. Terry was in his element! We stayed in the nicest B&B right near the Old Course. Even besides the golf, what a beautiful town this is.

The first tee and 18th green of the Old Course, St. Andrews. Everyone watches the people teeing off on this historic course. Pressure!

Terry in golfer's paradise.

They have an 18 hole putting green right beside the Old Course which anyone can play for one pound fifty pence! Very popular and a lot of fun, we both played.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, sitting right on the Old Course starting tee.

Terry on the Swilken Bridge. Bucket list item crossed off!

View of St. Andrews and the sea from the Castle Course, one of seven courses in St. Andrews.

A beautiful spot, golf or not.

Cathedral ruins in St. Andrews. Switching religions over the centuries left many cathedrals, churches and abbies in ruins in both Scotland and Ireland. Still incredibly beautiful.

The huge cemetary at the cathedral ruins. Some interesting reading on the grave stones. All of this is near the sea.

University of St. Andrews - one of the oldest in the UK, founded in 1413. Parts of the university are all over the town. Beautiful old buildings! Where Will met Kate of course!

A coffee shop right across the street from the University and where Will and Kate went frequently for coffee. A local told us that while Will was at University in St. Andrews there was an agreement by all in the town to let him "be a boy" and not bother him at all. Now that they are gone though, this small sign is in the window to mark the spot...and for tourists like me to take a picture.

The below are random pictures of a church, houses and a street in St. Andrews, to illustrate how beautiful it is. People here at home think their 30-50 year old houses are old - it's amazing how beautifully fixed up and preserved these centuries-old buildings can be.

Just an "ordinary" church.

Someone's house. All of Scotland was so neat, tidy and clean!

A street in the old town. The chimneys have multiple stacks coming out of them as each and every room in these old houses had a fireplace.

New and old mix without compromise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Goodbye to a True Gentleman

We came back from our 21 day trip to Scotland and Ireland to the news that Mason had a critical problem the day before our return (probably a tumour bleed out). Our dog sitter and my sister managed to keep him going long enough for us to try, unsuccessfully, to nurse him back to a reasonable quality of life. Their efforts did give us a chance to say goodbye to our boy.

Mason has been sick for over six months, with good days and bad. Many tests and bloodwork could not pin down exactly what his problem was, which is really frustrating. In the end, we figured it had to be some type of stomach or bowel cancer. He was up and down but did have many more good days than bad. When he would eat, we would feed him all he wanted. Still, keeping the weight on was a struggle.

Terry and I had discussed that we didn't think Mason would overcome whatever it was he had.

Sometimes there is no satisfaction in being right.

These were the last pictures I took of him, from the back porch, on June 30, 2011, his face and front wet from a long drink of water. We knew he probably wouldn't be with us by the end of the year, as each turn for the worse left him that much more compromised and the bounce back was less each time.

We will really miss our handsome and gentle boy. He lives on through his beautiful children and grandkids - when we open puppy pictures we are sent we so often see Mason's "teddy bear" face in them.

This has been a real roller coaster of a year for us.

It is difficult for me to think that we still have three much loved dogs that are older than Mason. All I can do is hope for their continued good health.

Willow Cove's Prize Patrol - February 1, 1999 to August 16, 2011.

We will miss you so much buddy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Right Time, Right Place

Just a quickie to share some photos and excitement from Edinburgh, Scotland last week!

First - I am a fan of the Monarchy. New and old. So, when we found ourselves in Edinburgh during the time of the Royal Wedding between Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall, and their wedding day was our only free day, it was a no-brainer for us to try to get a glimpse.

While we weren't willing to camp out or anything like that, we did stand behind the barriers for over five hours ... but unlike many, we were hugely rewarded in a few frantic minutes after the service.

This was the scene. The Church was directly across from the building that is half white (top) and half stone (bottom). The buses with the guests went by us, but the Royals, etc. came up from below.

It was really a lot of fun, we all had commemorative flags to wave that were given out to everyone, we got to know our neighbours well and chatted with the police too, everyone was in a festive mood. Our position wasn't great, but I did manage a bit of a shot of Prince Andrew. We didn't actually "see" anyone else before the service. But, we decided to wait until after the hour long service (what's another hour after four already spent) and that paid off in spades! Positioned right behind some paparazzi who were pretty aggressive, none of my shots of the bride worked out - I'm just too short and they were blocking me off. Terry, however, lifted his little camera and got a few fuzzy pictures of the bride (and groom)!!!

Sometimes a fuzzy picture is worth using!!!

Realizing I wasn't going to get a thing going over or through, I dived under, found a little hole between two photographers, prayed no police or others would step in front and block my vantage point. I started to shoot and didn't stop until all were out of the Church. I was rewarded with pictures of the entire Royal Family and more!! The position I was in was painful and I paid for it with sore legs for a couple of days but it was so worth it!!!!

My best shot of HRH Queen Elizabeth II (Prince Phillip beside her). So exciting!!

Prince Charles and Camilla

Will and Kate, with Harry in the shot at the far left.

One of the most unforgettable days of my life! What an experience.

Much more to come later.