Sunday, April 13, 2014


Scotland is gloomy, full of mist and low lying clouds. The buildings are old, some going back to the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The food, for the most part, is pretty basic. A lot of root crops like carrots, parsnips, turnips. Peas on almost all the plates, very much like we have potatoes on our plates at home. It is basically a cool climate so they can grow them all summer. Not like at home. If we don't get our spring crops planted by late March or early April is gets too hot for them.
Our first full day in Scotland needs to be spent preparing for our next seven days so we're off to find a grocery store to stock up.  Off to the town of Perth.  Since we have no food in the house other than some nice treats our hosts have left for us, we decide the first and foremost thing we need to do is find a place to eat.  We find a nice pub and once again I have the fish and chips.  Nice and safe.  Not so for my husband.  He has determined that since he is in Scotland he will have the haggis.  I ask him how he liked it.  His reply, 'well, I didn't like it enough to ever order it again or dislike it enough to wish I hadn't ordered it in the first place.  As for me, it's enough just to watch him eat his.  
Next thing is off to the grocery store.  Oh, what an adventure!  Carrots the likes of which this southern American girl has never seen.  Oh, so sweet and delicious.  Absolutely love the vegetables.   Bought way too many, but that's alright....I couldn't find the parsnips so I asked a sweet young girl who was also shopping if she knew where they were.  She left her cart and came with me to help me find them.  I could not believe how accommodating and helpful these people were.  They would not necessarily start a conversation with you, but if you asked them for assistance in anything, they would go out of their way to help.  Oh yes, I'm liking Scotland.
I was pushing a shopping cart and not watching where I was going. I was looking at the veggies, trying to decide which ones I wanted, and I nearly ran over this man. I apologized and told him I was from America, therefore I didn't know how to drive in Scotland. He laughed at me and said that's because you folks drive on the wrong side of the road. So it seems they have the same viewpoint as we do when it comes to which side of the road is the 'right' side. 
I bought a baking hen and I am going to cook that with an assortment of these wonderful local vegetables... 
We spent quite a bit of time today in Perth walking around in an old cemetery. It was amazing how young most of the people were when they died, many in their twenties or early thirties. And how many children were lost, sometimes several in the same family. A lot of the grave markers were so old you couldn't read the dates, but I did see a few in the seventeen hundreds.
Earl made a picture of some of our food finds today.
All in all, it was a lovely day. And I must say I love the sky and the air and the rivers and the flowers.  Oh yes, Scotland rocks so far.

Off to Scotland and Beyond.

Today is Monday, March 31 and we leave our hotel in Cumbria and head north to Scotland.  We manage to get out early so we're thinking maybe this time we will have time to visit Hadrian's Wall on our way.  We have consulted Google maps and outlined our route this time and decided that last attempt we turned one exit too soon, so this time we do manage to get the right one.  After some maneuvering we end up at the wall.  After parking the car we have a short walk and we are there.  Actually standing on a piece of rock that some Roman legionnaire put in place almost two thousand years ago.  Kind of blows your mind when you think about it, doesn't it.

Ok..we've seen the wall and now we're looking for the road to Scotland.  Problem is all these little roads look just alike.  Once again we're lost.  Big surprise, right!  After traveling up and down some roads more than once we finally meet a lady by the roadside and we stop to ask her just how to get out of here.  She takes one look as us.  "Lost, are you",, she says with a laugh.  I couldn't help but wonder how she knew....(chuckle)
She begins to patiently tell us where we needed to turn.  One of her instructions consist of 'go up the road to where the yellow company trucks are parked and take that road to the right'...I am secretly hoping that by the time we get there somebody won't have moved the trucks.  But we comply and sure enough, when we make the bend in the road, there are the trucks.  At last we're on our way.  Around four o'clock in the afternoon we arrive at Rait, Scotland, eleven miles from the town of Perth.  It is such a neat little seventeenth  century village and the cottage we will we staying in for the next eight days has a history that goes back to the sixteen hundreds.  Unbelievable!
No one is to be seen, but our landlords have graciously left us a note telling us where the key is.  We find it and enter.  How neat..  Just lovely inside.  Right now we are happy.  Happy to have arrived safety and happy with the place we have picked....end of another day in the U.K....more to follow.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Elopement, 1700's style...or off to Greta Green, Scotland...

If you wanted to get married in England in the seventeen hundreds and you were under the age of twenty one, you just could not.  Not even if your parents were in a hurry to get you out of the house.  You had to be of age and be married in the church by a vicar or it was not deemed legal.  But for eager young couples who might or might now have their parents approval, there was always Scotland.  So it is now the end of March and we have been in the U.K. for five entire days.  Our plan today is to travel to Carlisle and from there see Hadrian's Wall and onto Greta Green in Scotland.  Jane Austin, in her most famous book, Pride and Prejudice, had her sister Lydia and Wickham planning on eloping to Greta Green to be married.  Or should I say Lydia was planning on going there.  Wickham never had any such notion.  He took her to London and lived with her for a week or so, thereby bringing disgrace and shame on her entire family and subsequently ruining her changes of ever entering an honorable marriage.  But not to fear.  Mr Darcy came to the rescue and saved the family honor at the last hour.
But enough of Jane Austin.  Most men have had enough of her before they even start, but that's another story.  But once again we make a wrong turn and instead of finding Old Hadrian's Wall, we end up in the town of Carlisle, completely lost and totally turned around.  Somehow or other we come to a stop on a dead end street next to a pretty little stream, with water cascading over some rocks.  A nice site but just not where we want to go....Alas!  Foiled again..
We had parked next to a car with an elderly couple,  a man and his wife.  She must have had dementia, I think, because when he spoke to her she just kind of looked at him with a blank stare.  My thought was he had taken her out for a ride and a snack to some place quite and peaceful.  And here we came along and disturbed his peace.
But he was so kind when I tapped on his window and asked for directions.  He started to tell me turn by turn and then he finally said 'follow me, I will point you in the right direction.'  We tailed his car as he made turn after turn, and then finally when he had gotten us out of town and pointed us in the direction we needed to go, he pulled over and waved to us.  I got out and went around to the drivers side and when he opened the door to talk to me, I reached in and kissed him on his little bald head.  He smiled so sweetly and then got out of the car and came back and talked to Earl.  He had gone so much out of his way to help us.  I told Earl I don't think I have ever met kinder, sweeter people.  They usually will not initiate a conversation with you, but if you ask them for help of any kind they will go out of their way to assist you.
We drove in the direction he had pointed but after a little while just gave us and decided to hit the motorway to Scotland and Greta Green.   This we did find without too much trouble, and had a most informative and enjoyable visit.  The old village smithy with it's anvil is still standing and we toured the museum and then ate lunch in the cafeteria.   Fish and chips!  I have eaten so much of that since I've been here and I must say that is one thing the Brits know how to do well...A most enjoyable day.  We head home with plans to visit Old Hadrian another day.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bolton Castle and Mary Queen of Scots.

Our day in the dales took us next to Bolton Castle.  And the experience made me extremely happy I don't live in one.  By 1500 standards this place was a five star hotel.  My todays standards it was a lean-to that had seen better days.  Cold, dark, wet, and with steep, impossible stairs. One could get totally winded just coming down to breakfast.  Of course, in Mary's case she could have just demanded someone bring it to her in bed.  It even had a nursery for the children and I would have been petrified to leave one of my children there overnight.  We had a very nice lunch in the tea room with a nice hot bowl of cauliflower and blue cheese soup and a very good sandwich.  So all in all, it was a pretty good visit.  At least, very informative.   Mary stayed here for six month, during which time she was pretty much free to do as she pleased.  She had guest in and entertained them.  After all, it would have been easy for her.  She had a staff of fifty one people to do her beck and calling.  And I never realized that in a way she kind of asked for what she got.  My feeling was always that Elizabeth was cruel and heartless for killing her cousin, but Mary would drape her royal flag over the back of her chair while she was entraining  her guests.  This was considered a real a frontal

to Elizabeth.  So the Queen of England may have had real reason to fear her.  I couldn't help thinking if I had been in Mary's position, I would have down played it more, but then Mary had been brought up in the Court of France and pretty much spoiled and used to getting her own way.  She definitely had a sense of entitlement.   I would have just had the party and then let the servants clean up the mess and gone to bed.  Now that is my view of great entertaining.  Anyway, above  are some pictures of the castle.  Do wish I had made one of the tea room, but I was just too busy putting away that wonderful soup. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Day in the Dales

The farmer's in the dale
The farmer's in the dale
Hi Ho the derry oh
The farmer's in the dale

We sang that little song and played that little game at recess in school.  For some reason I've had it going through my head.  Now I understand totally what a dale is.  And there are certainly farms there.  And old stone farm houses and stone fences and pretty creeks and sheep,  lots and lots of sheep.  On lovely green hillsides.
So a dale is quite different from a valley or even a cove.  It lies within the rolling hills and is aplenty with trees and lovely pastures.  The perfect place for  farmer to be and to take his wife and child.

We are off to Yorkshire and the Dales.  We enter the National Park and drive and drive and drive.  It is all so lovely.  This is James Harriott country.
  •  James Herriot was a British veterinary surgeon and writer, who used his many years of experiences as a veterinary surgeon to write a series of books of stories about animals and their owners. He is best known for these semi-autobiographical works, which are often referred to collectively as All Creatures Great and Small, a title used in some editions and in film and television adaptations.
Stories of a Yorkshire vet.   As many sheep as there are here, you would certainly need a vet.
From here we are on to Bolton Castle, famous for the six month imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots

.  We are taking away with us some lovely mental images of this magical place and some great snapshots.  Pictures are above..

Friday, April 4, 2014

Off in search of Wordsworth's Daffodils.

After we left Hilltop House we decided to try and find Dove cottage, the home of William Wordsworth.  It was described as being in the same general area, and believe it or not, we managed to locate it without getting lost once.  Some of these locations have been a search in futility for us.  We've driven down the same road more than once on more than one occasion.  Earl's comment was we were going to wear some of these roads out just driving up and down them so often.  The problem is there are so many little roads that all look the same and very few road markers.  So if you don't know where you are going in the first place it can be a real challenge.
Wordsworth's poem 'The Daffodils' or by it's other title 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' has always fascinated me.  I wanted to see if I could see for myself.  Did daffodils really grow that profusely in the English countryside.  He didn't lie.  They do.  But the funny thing is there really weren't many where he had lived.  They had the Daffodil Hotel and the Daffodil Tearoom and so on, but there was a surprising lack of the actual flowers. 

Oh well, it's now after one in the afternoon and we realize we are both hungry and needing to eat, so we decided to try the tea room.  They have a selection of different things on the menu, but being who we are and liking to play like we really are English, we decided we would just splurge and have 'the tea'.....which consist of an assortment of little sandwiches, a pot of tea for two, scones, and cake. It comes with clotted cream, which I absolutely love, and an assortment of jellies.  The sandwiches were good, just small, and not really enough for two hungry people.  The scone with the clotted cream and strawberry jam was probably the best I've ever eaten.  Didn't touch the cake.  Just boxed it up to take with us.  It didn't take me long to realize I'd made a big mistake.  All that sugar on an empty stomach immediately sent my blood sugar soaring.  When we toured the house it was dark and cramped and way too many people for one tour.  I had to get out of there!  Not really much to see anyway, but we did learn some interesting facts about Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, and his wife Mary.  I hadn't realized how close friends he and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were.

I didn't even try to take any pictures there.  It had so many buildings that had sprung up around the little cottage it was not a good photo op, so I just passed on that one.  But driving back home through the country side we spotted an old stone church with such an array of daffodils in the graveyard the likes of which I have never seen.  We did take pictures of that. 
Today I made sure I packed the map with the instructions on how to get to our hotel, so without much further ado, we arrived home safely before dark.  Another full day.  Another grand adventure.  Pictures of the daffodils in the graveyard will follow..


Off in search of Hilltop House and Peter Rabbit

Thursday after breakfast we head out once again for the lake district, but this time passing Bowness on our way to Ambleside and the ferry that will take us to the other side of the lake.  We are going in search of Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit.  It seems almost as soon as we get started we have arrived at the other side of the lake.  Once again we are turned around, trying to decide which narrow, winding, country road to head down.  We drive for what seems miles until we finally decide we are lost, we have missed the road entirely.  I forgot to mention that the nice lady at the hotel check in had drawn us a nice map with turn by turn directions.  Never mind that.  We are lost.  We finally decide in total frustration to just pull into the next available building's parking place and ask someone for directions.  There is a family getting out of the car next to ours.  "We're looking for Hilltop House", we say.  "Can you help us".  The nice gentleman just smiles at us and says 'you're here'.  We haven't a clue how we did it, but we have arrived.

Just like everything else in life, you have to either enter or exit through the gift shop.  In this case, it's enter and exit.  We spend a lot of time in the garden.  The hillside is so pretty.  So green.  And sheep are everywhere you look.  The garden has fresh vegetables growing.  Leeks and rhubarb.  Some onions and turnips.  I can see where you could imagine Peter getting into Mr. McGregor's garden.   In fact in one of the pictures in the little closed in garden if you look closely you can see a little brown bunny rabbit.  I wonder if Peter was at it again.

Beatrix Potter was born and reared in London.  Her parents were quite well off and they hoped she would marry and settle down with a man of some prominence.  Instead she choose to write and in so doing fell in love with her editor.  Her mother objected, thinking she would be marrying beneath her.  She had made so much money from the sale of her books that she could afford to do as she pleased so she moved to the lake district and bought the farm at Hilltop House.  Before they could marry her fiance died back in London.  Heartbroken, she decided to stay on in the house she had bought for them to live in when they married, even thought her parents tried desperately to get her to come home with them.  Later she married the estate agent who had sold her the farm, but not until she was forty two.  She was indeed a woman of independent means who knew her own mind.   One of the very few women in her day and age who had earned enough money to do as she pleased.

She loved the lake district and didn't want to see it broken up into developed little plots of land with houses on them.  She outbid all the developers, sometimes paying much more than the property was thought to be worth in order to outbid them.  What a wonderful thing

she did, for today this is one of the prettiest spots in England.  Unspoiled and left just like she found it.  Even the house was to be left just like it was when she lived in it.  She knew people would come to see it and she wanted them to see what it was really like.  On her death she left huge amounts of property to the National Trust for all who choose to come and enjoy.   Lovely thing to do.  Lovely woman.  Not only did she give children something for their childhoods they could remember and share with their children but she left for everyone else the wonderful lands in the lake district.

Wednesday after breakfast

We've now finished our breakfast, planned our first entire day in the U.K. and so we are off.  Our goal is the Lake District, so after much negotiating and driving on the left, entering roundabouts, and getting lost more than once, we arrive at Bowness-on Lake Windermere.  It's a pretty day, there are daffodils everywhere, growing on hedgerows, in gardens, in fields, in cemeteries.  They are so beautiful and this is a pretty little town.  It's crowded.  So that means that a lot of other people have had the same idea that we had.  Pretty day so spend it at the lake.  We drive around and around until we finally find a parking place on the street, a good walk away from the main part of town.  We cut through a country lane and head back toward town.  I had neglected to bring my all weather coat because when we left the hotel the weather was mild.  The wind blowing off the lake is quite chilly and I'm shivering, besides which its beginning to mist slightly.  When we reach town we immediately start looking for shops that sell sweaters or jackets.  Hooray!  Found one.  And better still, find a fleece jacket that has been marked down.  Last one they have.  Try it on.  It's a bit snug but oh so warm!  Earl finds a light jacket too, and so we are on our way.
We decide to eat a bite or two so we find a neat restaurant in town and are seated.  This is so different from home.  There is no tipping.  I didn't realized that and all I had was a five pound note so I gave it to the waiter after we had eaten.  There was no place on the tab to leave the tip, so I just handed him the money.  He looked confused but he took it.  We asked the couple at the next table what the customary tip was and they said it wasn't necessary unless you just got exceptional service and then it was usually only ten percent.  I told them I had just given our waiter a thirty percent tip.  They laughed and said then I had probably made him happy.  Anyway, it was nice to know that, and well worth five pounds to find it out.  I played it safe and had the fish and chips.  It was delicious.  Earl ordered something else and was not too happy with it.    
We walk around the town and finally decide to take the lake cruise.  The boat we choose goes to Ambleside and then turns and comes back, about a ninety minute trip.  Are you game?  Yes, I am, says Earl.  So we queue up and off we go.
The lake is lovely and Earl wants to set up on top of the boat, in the open, so we won't miss anything.  I snuggle down in my new fleece jacket and feel so alive with the wind on my face.  It's chilly but exhilarating....and I am happy!
This is Beatrix Potter country. She loved the lake country and she bought several hundred acres to keep them from being developed and then on her death she donated them to the National Trust. It is extremely beautiful country.  Time for picture taking.  Being on the boat affords us a great opportunity to snap up the countryside. 
When we reach Ambleside the boat docks to take on and let off passengers so while it's sitting still we go downstairs to warm a bit and chat a little with other passengers.  I am so enjoying these people.  They will not initiate a conversation but if you speak to them they are more than happy to speak back.   And everyone is so helpful.  If you ask for directions they will go out of their way to help you.  Most of them want to know where you're from, how long you've been in the country, and why did you decided to visit.  They seem genuinely pleased that you picked their part of the world to experience.
Our boat docks back at Bowness and we walk back through the country lane to our car.  On the way we pass an old cemetery so we have to go in and walk around and read headstones.  In the United States we think a hundred years is a long time.  In the U.K. they think a hundred miles is a long way.
One morning when I was talking to the lady from Lockerbie she said when they visited America they noticed that everything was so new and there was so much space.  Compared to here, she's right.  This country is old.  And I must say it looks it.  Well weathered and well built.  These stone houses could stand for hundreds of years, and some of them have.    Some of the tombstones are so old and weathered the information on them is unreadable, but I do spot one going back to the seventeen hundreds...Whoa!!  .
 We are now back in the car and back on these winding, narrow, twisting roads, back to our hotel. The roads are very narrow, lots of hills and dips, absolutely no borders.  On one side you have just barely enough space to avoid the head on traffic and on the other side for much of the way you have stone walls, so close you could reach out and touch them.  It's a wild ride, that's for certain.  I had forgotten to bring the map we had drawn telling us how to get to Grange on the Sands, the town where we're staying, so I end up directing Earl all the way to Barrow...Big mistake.  We are totally turned around.  When we reach Barrow we decide to shop a little since we're there, so we find a really nice store and buy some junk food.  You heard me right!  Junk!  I'm having chocolate withdrawal and I really want a snack.  Back in the car we start out again for our hotel, but there are so many narrow country roads and very few road signs....To say we were turned around and lost would be an understatement.  But somehow or other, without help from me or a map, Earl gets us back to our hotel.  Did I mention he's my hero!