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07/06 Scotland, Ayres to Edinburgh

Today was our driving day. We say Joan and Larry off in the morning. Then we drove up the road a bit, parked the car, and we road out and back on the last half of the route.

It had rained, quite hard, last night, and it was cloudy this morning. But it quickly turned into a cool and partly cloudy day.

The route (that we all followed) was right alongside a loch (we learned from Ann last night that there is only one "lake" in Scotland - all the other bodies of water are "loch's").

Lisa and I had a brisk 25 mile ride, then a nice lunch at a local restaurant in Largs. Lisa window-shopped a bit while I entered some Pocketmail messages, then we picked up Joan and Larry.

We drove to Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburrrh with a Scottish roll of the tongue at the end) and found a B&B. It was another very nice house run by a real friendly young couple.

Claudia is from Brazil. She was in England for a year before coming hear five years ago. She is a homemaker, wife, mother, B&B manager and, on the side, a Portuguese language interpreter. Martin, her husband, is a conservationist. They have a two year old daughter, Gloria and a four year old son, Thomas. Gloria is cute and friendly.

Claudia sent us to a WONDERFUL place to eat called The Sheepsheid (pronounced sheepsheed.) It is a small pub only a few miles away (in Danderhall) that has been in the area since the 14th Century.

I had a delicious salad made with Scottish salmon. A very nice plate.

Larry had a traditional Scottish dish called "Haggis." We all tasted it. (I didn't like it. Lisa says, "it was okay.") Haggis is a Scottish dish made from the ground meat of various Sheep organs, mixed with spices and stuffed into a sheep's stomach-sac (removed from the sheep, of course.) Haggis can be purchased in many stores in just that form. Of course the Haggis is taken out of the stomach before it is eaten.

We had a wonderful, warm chocolate fudge cake dessert with hot fudge sauce and cream. DELICIOUS! (You know, we have to maintain our energy level! :-)

Love to all, David and Lisa

07/07 Edinburgh, Scotland

This morning we had a "typical Scottish breakfast" (yes, it's the same as a typical English breakfast and a typical Irish breakfast) in the front dining room of our B&B. We met Thomas, the precocious four year old. Thomas is a real character -- active, friendly, outgoing, has a big vocabulary, and is very talkative.

We all took a bus into town, just in time to catch an 11 o'clock walking tour of the downtown. We ran into Al and Steve (from La Jolla area) at the start of the tour. They joined us and with one other couple from England we had a nice intimate tour.

The tour started at the Mercat Cross, the historic center of Edinburgh. It was the center of medieval business, also site of government proclamations.

We went into the old Parliament Hall -- now the town's law court. The hall is now used as a meeting place for lawyers, judges and clients. A strange tradition persists. Since one could never know who may be eavesdropping from behind a statue, pairs of lawyers would discuss issues as they paced from one end of the hall to the other. That way, if someone were to try to eavesdrop, they would have to shadow the walking pair and thus be very obvious. It struck us very funny to see these lawyers pacing back and forth.

We visited the home of Deacon Brodie. Deacon Brodie was a cabinet maker. In those early days, if someone wanted a cabinet made, the cabinetmaker gathered the materials, brought them into the house, and custom-built the cabinet on-site, right inside the house.

The key to the front door was always kept on a hook just inside the door. While inside the house making the cabinets, Deacon Brodie would make a wax impression of the key. Then, with his new key, he would go in at night and rob them.

The significance? He and his escapades were the basis for Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde."

We found that there have been many, many historic happenings and people from Scotland. Some of the people were Robert Lewis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, James Boswell, David Hume and Samuel Johnson. Of course we heard a lot about the History of Scotland, since Edinburgh is the capitol of Scotland.

We also heard an interesting story of the origin of the phrase, "It's raining cats and dogs."

In medieval Edinburgh, there were no toilets and no sewers. The protocol was for folks to collect their "nasties" in a bucket during the day. (Remember now, the "living" rooms -- with one family to a room -- were on the 2nd to the 14th floors. And curfew -- the time when everyone was supposed to be off the streets -- was 10:00 p.m. So, after ten, with a shout of, essentially, "look out below" they would empty their buckets, along with the day's garbage, out the windows onto the streets below. (If you were on the street, you would shout, essentially, "Hold your water!" and, hopefully, delay the coming shower.

Well, stray dogs and cats would rummage through the "stuff" in the street looking for something to eat. Of course, most of the "stuff" in the streets was not very good as food. As a result, a lot of those stray cats and dogs would die right in the streets.

Imagine, will you, rotting trash, smelly "nasties" and dead animals laying in the streets. What a mess! And the only way the streets would get cleaned was when it rained. Of course, it would have to rain pretty hard to wash the rotting body of a dead animal down the street and into the river. Thus was born the phrase, "It's raining cats and dogs," to describe a really heavy downpour.

We learned, also, that the guillotine was invented on Scotland. (It was a square-bladed knife attached to a heavy block. The French improved on it by angling the blade for more efficient slicing.) The guillotine was a more "sophisticated" way to execute nobility than the hangman's rope and resultant strangulation.

Scotland had a more humane way then the rest of England of disposing of witches -- they strangled them before burning them at the stake.

After the walking tour, we all got some local fudge to nibble on. Then Lisa and I toured the Edinburgh Castle. First we toured the outside with a group tour guide -- then we toured much the inside with a fully controllable audio guide. It is a beautiful, well kept (primarily because much of it is still in use) castle full of history. We saw the Crown Jewels of Scotland along with their long history. We saw the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to King James IV of England who was also King James I of Scotland. We saw the "Mons Meg," a cannon that fires 18" iron balls. It takes a team of eight horses to move the cannon up to 3 miles a day. We saw and heard about many other things too numerable to detail.

If you ever get to Edinburgh, the castle is a "must see." For us, it is a place we'd like to return to with a little more time.

Finally, we left the castle and walked down the "Royal Mile," so named because of the number of significant Scottish buildings and historic events that are marked along the way. Also so named because it has the Edinburgh Castle at one end and the Queen's summer palace at the other.

We looked in many shops, mostly at various wool and cashmere items of clothing. We found many fine pieces, but at very high prices. Add the shipping and they quickly got beyond what we're willing to pay.

We all met at 6:30 for dinner. We found a vegetarian restaurant that had WONDERFUL vegetarian food -- much of it created from local produce.

We got back to the B&B around 8:30. Thomas greeted us, of course. (Actually, he entertained Larry and Joan until about 11.) We packed our things, then went to bed and read.

Love to all, David and Lisa

07/08 Scotland, Edinburgh to Aberdeen to the Orkneys.

We got up early this morning, had breakfast, and said good-bye to Claudia and Thomas. (Martin was gone -- Gloria wasn't up yet.)

We loaded up and headed for the ferry in Aberdeen. (Yes, Aberdeen is the site of some shipyards famous from W.W.II.) We loaded on the ferry -- no problems. The man in charge of loading allowed us to situate our car such that it can come off at Orkney. That will allow us to tour the area without being tied to a tour group on a bus.

We found that Steve and Al and Dennis and Katie were also on the ferry.

I learned that Dennis and Katie used to live in Los Gatos, but left in September '98 in favor of Tucson, Arizona so they could train for the Odyssey. And Katie had never ridden a bike before!

The ferry crossed an incredibly calm piece of the North Sea. We had clouds and overcast most of the way, with a little rain once in a while. Altogether fine weather for sailing, actually.

I met a couple from Vermont, Gary and Penny. They live in a southwest style house which they had built for them in Vermont. They are on a delayed honeymoon. They were married seven months ago, but, since they are teachers, had to wait for the summer to take their honeymoon. They have spent two weeks in Great Britain. Now they are going to Norway for their last week. They're going on the same ferry as we are, so I'm sure we'll see them often.

We went into Stromness for dinner. Ate in a very charming restaurant in a hotel. The dining room was very "English." I had a baked Orkney Salmon that was very good.

After dinner we drove out to the Skara Brae and saw the remains of ten ancient Neolithic houses. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!

The Skara Brae consists of a village of 10 one-room houses. The village was buried under sand dunes for hundreds of years. Only recently a storm uncovered it. The village dates back to about 3000 BC 5000 years ago!

The houses were made by tunneling into piles of household waste that were left from some EARLIER inhabitants. Each one-room house was first dug out of the pile. Then it was lined with the local rock -- pieces 6-9 inches across, 8-12 inches long and 2-3 inches thick -- to create the walls. The rock was also used to make cabinets, ovens, fish-cleaning basins, closets and beds. Each "house" had an outside entrance, and each was connected to another by a dugout hallway -- so the ten houses created a "chain" of homes.

One of the "buildings" was not a house, but some kind of workshop -- probably communal. It may have been a place to make tools, . . or fishing nets, . . or ???

We headed back to the ferry at 11 p.m. It was just starting to get dark.

Love to all, David and Lisa

07/09 Scotland, Orkney Islands to Shetland Islands

We had breakfast on the ship, saw the others off on their tour, then went out with the car to do some exploring.

We've never seen any place quite like the Orkneys. Beautiful in their own way, you really had the feeling of an isolated island in the middle of the sea, with the same people living there for generations. The fog and mist somehow added to the sense of an old seafaring place. And very few tourists. Too difficult to get there. So it was a very "real" place.

We went to Kirkwall. There we talked to some local folk, visited two very old and quite well preserved small castles (or BIG homes.)

We strolled around the cemetery that surrounded the St. Magnus Cathedral. It was interesting to note (but not surprising) that in the mid to late 1800's, most people died either very young or quite old.

We spent quite awhile in the cathedral. It is really beautiful inside! There are many, many stone markers for many people who were significant in the history of either the St. Magnus Cathedral, the town of Kirkwall, or the Orkney Islands. One was an explorer of the arctic. Another was a missionary in the north islands of Great Britain AND in Africa. He died at 39 from something he caught from the cold, we weather in the north islands.

We visited with some more locals, then headed back to Stromness where the ship was docked. We gave the car to the porter for loading, then we walked around town for a while. We peeked into the few stores that were open on Sunday morning, talked to more locals, picked up a sandwich made from the local Orkney Farm Cheese (it's kind of like Goat Cheese) and some snacks, then boarded the ship.

After a short nap, we had lunch and watched a video on the Shetland Islands (where we're going tonight.) Then Lisa went back to our cabin while I watched the day's movie, "The Life of Audrey Hepburn."

Soon it was time to load the car and head off the ferry. We landed in Lerwick on the Shetlands almost an hour earlier than planned. (The calm waters of the North Sea helped.)

Since it was Sunday, not much was open, but we found a restaurant in the Lerwick Hotel. After dinner we headed for the B&B on Trondra, an island not too far from Lerwick, which is on the mainland.

The B&B was nice, new, and expensive. The owners are new at it and were a bit up tight -- not very customer friendly. For instance, there is a sauna for the guests use (at a price) but 10 o'clock was too late to use it, even though we were the only guests. Also, 10 a.m. was checkout time -- no leeway -- even though they had no bookings for the next night -- because they might get a booking.

But, it had a beautiful setting. Our windows looked out on the North Sea.

Love to all, David and Lisa

07/10 Lerwick Scotland and the North Sea

This morning we had a different breakfast. Pickled Herring as an appetizer. Cereal, yogurt, juice and coffee, then Smoked Mackerel and Shetland Cheese as a main course.

After breakfast Lisa and I went for a run. What a challenge! We went out the door and immediately went up hill into a 35 knot (about 38 mph) wind.

Larry had a need to ride today. He headed out on his bike. Joan went for a walk.

We all returned before 10, checked out, packed, and went for a sightseeing ride to the end of the islands. Then we headed for the ferry to find out about this evenings departure and to meet the tour bus that Joan and Larry are taking at 1.

After dropping Larry and Joan at the tour bus, Lisa and I headed out in the car to do our own touring.

We first stopped at the Lerwick Library and Museum. It was a good find! It was full of artifacts from early "Pict" (pre-Viking) times in the Shetlands, from early ships that were in the area, and from archeological finds in the area.

Then we headed down the island. We stopped at St. Ninians, a small island offshore of the main island. The most interesting thing about St. Ninians is it's unique connection with the main island -- a wide, double-sided beach about a half mile long. The beach was formed by the wave action coming in from the two opposite directions in the water that separated St. Ninians from the main island. At high tide the waves separate the two islands. At low tide they are connected by the two-sided, sandy beach.

Several hundred years ago the island was inhabited by a small colony but was abandoned due to lack of potable water. There are ruins of a church and a few buildings. In 1958 a cache of Pict silver items was discovered on the island. They are on display in the museum.

Leaving St. Ninians, we continued on down the peninsula. We visited Jarlshof. There we saw the ruins of a centuries old house that had been built on top of a many centuries older underground village. Seven distinct civilizations can be traced among these ancient ruins.

The village is laid out similar to the Neolithic village we visited in Orkley, but the construction was more modern. In this one, the homes were basically one central, round room with alcoves for sleeping, cooking, and storage popping out around the perimeter. The construction was, again, stacked flat rocks making up the walls with large pieces of the flat rocks overlapping to form the ceilings of the alcoves. (The large central room was left open for light and air.) These buildings were built on open ground, however, then the walls and ceilings were covered with dirt. That sheltered the homes from the wind and the alcoves from the rain, thus making them more comfortable.

From there we headed down to the head at the southern tip of the island. There we saw some fantastic vistas along the shore and over the water -- and we saw PUFFINS. Pretty little birds that look a cross between a duck and a penguin and has a very colorful bill like a toucan's, but much smaller. Unfortunately, they were all sitting down the edges of the cliffs so we were not able to get any good pictures.

We had to pick up our laundry back in town by 5:30 so we had to head back. We DID stop at a tiny home weaving shop where they had some BEAUTIFUL (and very expensive) wool knit goods. Sweaters, caps, scarves and gloves. All with lovely patterns and varied colors.

We picked up our laundry, then met Larry and Joan at the end of their tour. Larry was intent on getting some more miles in today, so he took off on his bike. Al and Steve and Katie and Dennis were also on the tour. We made plans to meet at 7 for dinner together.

Then Lisa, Joan and I went into town to poke around. We did a lot of "poking" but nothing was open. We did find a restaurant that was open and made reservations for dinner for the seven of us.

At 7 we we're back at the ferry terminal to meet the others. We waited until 7:30. They didn't show. (We found out later that they were waiting in the HOTEL parking lot and we were in the FERRY parking lot across the street.

The three of us had a good dinner and were served by VERY attentive and friendly staff.

Then back to the ferry terminal. (The ferry was scheduled to leave at 10:30 p.m., but we were asked to be there by 9 because sometimes the ferry leaves early.) We got loaded onto the ferry. The ferry left about 10:30 as scheduled.

They gave us an interior cabin with four bunks and about a foot and a half between them. (It's all they had left when we made the reservation weeks ago.) But at least there was a bathroom in our cabin.

By the time we set our gear down and shoved it under the beds, the ship started rocking and rolling. We all felt uneasy. I think it may have been because with no window, we could only react to the movement of the ship, rather than roll with it. Whatever the reason, we all felt queasy and thought it best to go to bed. Unfortunately, the rocking and rolling turned into lurching and banging as the ship pushed through the VERY rough waters of the North Sea.

Everyone in our cabin got sick. Lisa was first. She got up to barf several times. After a while, she got dressed and left the room.

Then Joan got sick. She used a bucket next to her bed all night.

Then Larry got sick. He made several trips to the bathroom during the night.

A ship steward came in during the night and said, "The blonde lady is very sick. She needs fresh air." He gathered her sweater, jacket and shoes and disappeared.

I managed to hold my food. (I think by lying very still and deep breathing in time with the ship's heaving.) When the ship's movement settled a bit, I got up and went looking for Lisa.

After a thorough search of the ship, I found Lisa slumped over a table in the back corner of the cafeteria. She had a half full glass of water and a half full barf box in front of her. She started out with a pitcher of water, but it flew off the table during the storm.

It turns out that, after leaving the cabin, she walked down the corrider and collapsed. Another passenger saw her plight and sent the ship officer to help. (He's the one that came into the cabin during the night to get warmer clothing for Lisa.) He walked with her to get fresh air at the rear of the ship, then he set her up at the rear of the cafeteria near the outside doors. That's where I found her in the morning.

Love to all, David and Lisa

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