England & Scotland 2018

Between September 27th and October 28th, 2018, Carol and I took a trip to the UK to visit friends and relatives, and to see where our family came from. It was a wonderful trip and we want to go back again, soon. This is a review of the trip, sharing our experiences with you.

Arriving in England

We left Canada at about 22:00h on September 27th, 2018 on a redeye to London Gatwick, arriving at about 10:00h on the 28th. My cousin, Lesley, picked us up at the airport after a slightly delayed, though largely uneventful, trip through immigration.

Our drive back from Gatwick was a pleasant introduction to England with rolling hills and pleasant, though narrow, lanes. The hedges along the verge provided a unique experience that let us know we were in new territory; a simple change that confirmed we were on vacation; a trip we had anticipated for a long time.


We spent much of our first day resting and adjusting to the new time-zone. However, there are beautiful paths and fields nearby where we hiked that day. We could see the rolling hills of the English countryside and the London skyline in the distance.


On the 29th, after a leisurely breakfast and a walk with the lads (Teddy and Huddy), the three of us headed off into London for a walk along the Thames and a show at a theatre just off Piccadilly Circus.  The show was a presentation of Strictly Ballroom that was superb.


On Sunday, the 30th, we went to Hever Castle, the family home of Anne Boleyn. It was interesting to see how royalty lived; not so bad even then. The architecture and art were beautiful, as was the drive there from Chaldon.


October 1st found Carol and me in London, sightseeing on our own. We took a hop-on-hop-off tour around the city to see as much as possible. This included a water tour down the Thames. Unfortunately, traffic was such that we didn’t get around much and didn’t get to hop-off. Nevertheless, it was a great day and we did see quite a few sights. After leaving the bus in a traffic jam, we walked to Buckingham Palace and took the Thames tour. Here are some of the pictures we were able to get.


We travelled to York on October 2nd, following recommendations from family and friends, to see the old parts of the city and York Minster. We stayed at a lovely B&B just outside the walled city and spend much of that day, as well as the 3rd, exploring the area. A great deal of the time was spent touring the Minster, including a climb to the top of the tower to see the city from above. The climb comprised 275 narrow, winding stone steps. The view was worth the exercise.

We also spent time wandering the Shambles, a medieval portion of the city with narrow streets and a large number of shops. The sights were sufficient to take up all the time we had in York and we intend to go back in the future.


October 4th saw us heading to Edinburgh for our Scottish adventure. We enjoyed the train trip up the coast, seeing the northern English and Scottish countryside along the way and getting our first views of the North Sea. We rented a flat in Leith, the harbour area of Edinburgh. We rented a car at Waverley station with the intent of driving to some of the areas we wanted to visit, and to provide us with increased mobility during our stay. We were told that there was a lot of free street parking near the flat. That was true, but we found that all of that parking was full, all the time. Parking appears to be a problem throughout Edinburgh. Discovering this situation, we kept the car for the first day to take us to Troon and Loch Lomond, then returned it early. The public transit system in the city is excellent, so we were not inconvenienced in any way.

We were also able to visit with our friend Paul, another teacher I met while in Abu Dhabi and who hails from Edinburgh. We benefited from his knowledge of the city and were able to see a number of sights we might otherwise have missed.

We took a day trip on the 5th to Troon on the West coast of the country where my father was born, and Loch Lomond, one of the places Carol most wanted to visit. This was the day after we arrived in Scotland. Back in Edinburgh after the trip, we returned the car to the rental agency. Driving in Scotland is an interesting experience, not because of driving on the left side of the road and from the right side of the car (that is a simple adjustment), but because of the narrow roads accompanied by hard stone curbs right up against the pavement.

Here are some pictures from North Berwick, a small coastal town we drove to on our first day while we waited for a parking space to open up in the evening in Leith:


On October 5th, we drove to Troon, where the paternal side of my family originated, and Loch Lomond. Here are some images:


We stayed in Edinburgh on the 6th, using public transit to find our way to the Royal Mile. We found it very busy and, after asking a police officer, found that there was to be a significant SNP protest that day. We spent the day surveying the city, working our way around the crowds. Below are some images:


The 7th was quieter on the Royal Mile and we were able to spend more time investigating the sights; visiting Edinburgh Castle and other places. We covered the road from top to bottom.


On the 8th, we left Edinburgh for our four-day tour to Islay, my paternal grandmother’s home island. It was largely a distillery tour, but our amazing tour guide, Ewen Kenneth MacLeod, upon finding out about my family origins, made sure we were able to find out all we could. We spent the first day travelling to Islay, stopping at various highland sights along the way. The final day, returning to Edinburgh was similar, though by a different route, changed at the last minute because of landslides on the highway down the west side of Loch Lomond.

This tour experience was one of the highlights of our visit.

October 8th: the highlands

October 9th and 10th, Islay

October 11th, back to Edinburgh


We returned to London on the 12th, but first had a chance to spend a few more hours in Edinburgh. I also had the opportunity to experience a local variant of Eggs Benedict, one of my favourite dishes. It was Eggs Balmoral, with haggis replacing the ham. It was a great experience.


Arriving back at Chaldon, where my cousin Lesley had graciously allowed us to make our home base, we decided that we were simply too tired to go far for the last couple of days. We took a walk to her local pub for a delightful lunch (I do love pub food) and relaxed.


On Sunday, the 14th, we decided to go to a small church just a short way from the house. It was a lovely old building with a small, friendly congregation. One of the portions of a wall bore an inscription dated 1538 a.d.

On the 15th, we began the day with a trip to Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home. It was wonderful to experience a place where so much of our recent history began.

Later in the day, we were surprised by a lovely dinner party put on by my other cousin, Valerie, at a pub in a small town where one of her sons lives. We were able to meet a number of relatives I had not met before. The food was remarkable and the company a delight. It was a wonderful way to end our holiday.


We arrived home on the 16th tired, but fully satisfied. This was an unforgettable holiday and one we intend to repeat.

What is depression like?

For those of you who have ever wondered what depression is really like, have a look at these.
I have no idea where I obtained these images. If anyone knows, I’d be happy to acknowledge the source.

Ever wondered about evil?

In case you have ever wondered about the nature of evil in a world created by a perfect God, here is an excerpt from a book by Augustine of Hippo:

What is Called Evil in the Universe is But the Absence of Good.

And in the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its own place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil. For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? In the bodies of animals, disease and wounds mean nothing but the absence of health; for when a cure is effected, that does not mean that the evils which were present—namely, the diseases and wounds—go away from the body and dwell elsewhere: they altogether cease to exist; for the wound or disease is not a substance, but a defect in the fleshly substance,—the flesh itself being a substance, and therefore something good, of which those evils—that is, privations of the good which we call health—are accidents. Just in the same way, what are called vices in the soul are nothing but privations of natural good. And when they are cured, they are not transferred elsewhere: when they cease to exist in the healthy soul, they cannot exist anywhere else.

Augustine. “What is Called Evil in the Universe is But the Absence of Good.”. Enchridion. Retrieved 2017-05-01 from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf103.iv.ii.xiii.html.

Volunteer

Volunteer week is over for this year.  Remember, however, that the need continues throughout the year.

Your life and assets have their greatest value when used for the benefit of others.

Politics

Since our latest election, Trudeau, elected on a series of major promises and a hatred of the Conservatives, has been nothing but a major disappointment.  He has proven himself to be nothing more than a typical lying politician.  Checking on the TrudeauMeter, it’s easy to see that most of the promises he has kept have been fairly trivial while those broken have been much more important.  Consider his most public actions recently.  We are shortly to become a country making the consumption of marijuana legal.  While I can’t feel that this is a good thing, I don’t have enough information to have a real opinion.  Whether that is good or bad is not really the issue here, it is that our government is making such a big deal about something that is, in relative terms, superficial.  Contrast this decision with that to dump his main electoral promise, the one that contributed so much to his win, electoral reform.  This fundamental change to our country, one that is needed so much, is one he made and had absolutely no intention of ever keeping.  Consider its implementation from the outset.  Upon election, he assigned the portfolio responsible for electoral reform to a complete novice; someone who, while a very nice person, has never had a real job before.  This assignment happened at a time when he had, among those upon whom he could call, a premier political scientist responsible for a large number of publications on electoral reform.  Such a decision could only have indicated a clear lack of commitment to that cause.  I suspect we have little to look forward for the next few years but politically typical lies and governmental mediocrity.

Well, at least he’s not Trump.

Hilton Head After the Hurricane

We’ve just returned from a nice, relaxing week in Hilton Head.  It was interesting seeing how the town coped with Hurricane Matthew.  As we travelled around, there were trees down everywhere.  I’m sure it will be a long time before everything is cleaned up.

Below is a collection of photographs we took of some of the more prominent problems we encountered.

Driving the Dragon & Other Holiday Adventures

We left home very early Saturday morning for our October trip south to Hilton Head.  Saturday was a fairly uneventful trip southward (927 km) to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Our first real adventure took place on Sunday when we went through the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina.  Along the southwestern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a section of US129 known as the Dragon (or Dragon’s Tail or Tail of the Dragon).  It is known as a motorcycle and sports car enthusiast’s delight with 318 curves over 11 miles.  Driving this was one of my goals and Carol agreed to indulge me.

Carol agreed to take some video of us as we drove the road.  It has several breaks as we stopped occasionally to wait for motorcycles, who were slowing us down, to get ahead.  The last video section stopped abruptly as we faced a medical emergency where the videographer suffered a conflict between breakfast and motion.  In any event, she did a great job and you can get a flavour for the drive from this video.

After driving this stretch, there still remained a very beautiful couple of hours along slightly winding roads, up and down through the mountains. Here are some pictures that Carol took of that part of the trip.

The Trip West

It’s February 6th and we’ve finally arrived in Mountain View.  The trip was largely uneventful, having driven through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. We drove I-20 from end to end, 1,539 miles.  We were surprised at the vast expanses of nothingness, as well as a greenness of the vegetation in California.  We’ve not been here in the spring before and it is very beautiful.

We will be spending the next two nights with Colin and Andrea then moving into our place in Santa Cruz on Monday. We drove past the house on our way here and it looks quite lovely.   The weather looks great for next week so it should be a good time.

Savannah, Myrtle Beach & Charleston

We went to Savannah earlier this week to walk around the historic area of town we enjoyed so much a couple of years ago.  The drive from Hilton Head to Savannah is very pleasant, along roads overhung with Spanish moss and along the many salt marshes.  We walked along the waterfront and down the streets of the old city through most of the many squares that make that part unique.

On Thursday, we left Hilton Head and drove to Myrtle Beach to spend some time with Brian and Susan Fraser in a condo they’ve rented there.  It has been a relaxing time.  Today, the four of us drove to Charleston, S.C. which we had heard was even a better place to visit than Savannah.  It was, indeed, very lovely with old houses lining the waterfront, narrow streets, and architecture from the Civil War.  We saw a very interesting little house for sale near the ocean but, upon discovering its asking price of $3,495,000, decided that perhaps living there was not for us after all.

Tomorrow we leave Hilton Head for the run to California.  We expect to reach somewhere near Tuscaloosa, Alabama by tomorrow night.  We expect the trip to Mountain View to take five or six days

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