Saturday, March 08, 2008

Castles, Cathedrals, and Abbeys, oh my!

Well we officially had a wonderful visit with mom and dad during the last week and a half. They got here last Thursday and handled the jet lag amazingly well. They even went to an evening Bible study and managed to stay awake through the entire meeting! Ian and I were very impressed.

We crammed tons of stuff into the few days that we had together, so this has great potential to be a really long post. But, once again, it should be fun! We started out with several full day trips because Ian and I have free Fridays and Mondays. Friday we piled into the car – yes the car! Dad rented a car for the week so we got to enjoy the luxury of traveling AND avoiding public transportation… It’s a beautiful thing.

We went to Stirling and made our first stop – the Wallace monument.

It is a beautiful monument to William Wallace. It was incredibly windy and raining, so we couldn’t go all the way to the top because the workers were afraid we’d get blown away, but we got to go up through almost all the levels. There are openings all the way up the stairwell, so we got wet and wind blown even though we were inside.

On the first level we were greeted with William Wallace himself – or at least a hologram version of him – to tell us his story. Slightly creepy, but it gets the job done

We also saw his sword, which is humungous! It is at least as tall as I am.

Most people think that Wallace was a large man based on the size of his sword – at least 6 feet 6 inches, which was quite enormous at that time. On the outside of the monument is one of the MANY statues of Wallace around the world, and there was a great view of the city, which might have been greater on a sunny day, but it was still nice nonetheless.

We asked one of the workers at the monument to suggest a place for us to eat lunch (not only did we get to ride in a car all week, but we got to go out to eat several times!!). He suggested the River House, which we found out is one in the chain of the ‘House’ restaurants (we have 3 more in St Andrews).

The food was AMAZING!! No exaggeration.. It was sooo good. Ian and I ordered cream of broccoli soup for a starter. It was delectable and I don’t even like cream of broccoli soup.

This was Ian’s lunch and it was so pretty I had to take a picture. :)

Dad decided the only thing you could do after flying to Scotland the day before, and then eating a lunch that good, was take a nap.

Which, he actually did. He went out to the car while we waited for the bill to catch one of his famous five-minute snoozes before we continued on to Stirling Castle.

The castle was impressive, but I think it would have been amazing had we gone in the summer time. There were some really beautiful gardens that were just starting to show off that I bet are wonderful in full bloom.

A view of the city from the castle.

This is a hall that was built by one of the kings (can’t remember which one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his name was James) upon the birth of his son.

This is the fam inside the hall, taken by my camera set on timer – yesssss! I love when I know how to use things!

Another really fun part of the castle was the Banquet Hall. It was really large with 5 fireplaces and curtains hung all over the walls. The ceiling was based on the ceiling in the banquet hall at Edinburgh castle. The best part about the hall was that the special seats for the king and queen were just waiting to be warmed by our tooshies. So, we seized the opportunity and..

we were momentarily royalty. (Ian was even holy royalty as you can see)

The castle has a very cool exhibit about the kitchens with mannequins and fake animals galore. I got a picture and noticed one of the mannequins looked slightly funny…

Ian thought the bread-baker seemed awfully lifelike as well..

After we toured the castle, we decided to head over to Anstruther for the famous fish and chips. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner, as well as some ice cream, and headed home. We learned as the week went on that in Scotland, it is very important that you know where you’re going because the road signs won’t offer you much help. We had some great adventures turning around and repeatedly asking for directions, and while dad was an excellent driver and handled the roundabouts (not to mention 3 navigators and at least 2 back seat drivers) really well, he did have some blunders. We got a little off course and ended up at a golf course in the dark. While we enjoyed an incredible view of the stars, on our way out dad definitely went around a roundabout backwards. Fortunately, we were the only ones back there :) Then as we were getting close to St Andrews, we heard, “Was that a roundabout?? It was so little I ran over it!” Good times…

The next day we decided to head up to the Inverness area to see Urquhart castle. It just so happens that Urquhart is situation on Loch Ness, so we got to see the famed loch. On our way, we even got to see snow capped mountains! Hooray for snow!

Our first view of Loch Ness

We stopped for gas and got a good laugh out of this sign

Beware of those crazy disabled people driving buggies! They’ll getcha! (how that person got their wheelchair into that cart is beyond me)

We really enjoyed visiting Urquhart castle. It is a beautiful ruin and having the Loch right there sets an amazing scene. Oh, and we definitely saw Nessie – no doubt about it!

The first thing we saw in the castle was the corn drier..

So, naturally we had to climb into it and pretend we were corn.

As we were walking around we talked about what we had learned about the castle from the visitors’ center. In all seriousness, Ian was heard saying, “ The reason why they call this one of the bigger castles… (thoughtful pause) is probably because the others are smaller.” It was classic and we all ended up in tears from laughing.

I took far too many pictures of Urquhart, so you’ll have to check out the slideshow if you want to see all of them but here are a few nice ones.

After Urquhart, we decided to head over to Fort George since it wasn’t too far away and we got there with hardly any time left to spare before it closed. So, we turned it into an adventure and took a partial jogging tour of the fort. :) We did get to see quite a lot though, and it is a very cool fort – still used by the military today.

(dad made me the official ‘Vanna White’ for the week)

(we are very mature visitors)

These flags are from the 1700s and they were worn so thin you could see right through them. They were used by different regiments of the military and are now in safe keeping inside the chapel at Fort George.

They had set ups of what the barracks would have been like… Made me thankful I was not the wife of a military man. Only one in one hundred men were allowed to bring their wives with them and they had to sleep in the same room as all the other guys, they just got to hang a sheet over their bed for privacy.. So romantic.

We were all pretty tired heading home and had had a long day of turning around and trying to figure out where we were going, so we just grabbed the easiest thing we could find for dinner – Pizza Hut. I wouldn’t ever opt to go there in the states, but it was soo yummy!! :)

Sunday my parents got to experience our church which was really fun and during the afternoon we walked out to the Old Course so dad could scout it out and get the low down on how he could get himself in the line up to play at some point during the week.

Monday was another free day, so we decided to head to Edinburgh and get a full day there. We stopped in again to St Giles’ cathedral on our way to the castle. We grabbed lunch at the castle in the Red Coat CafĂ© and got to hear the gun that is fired every day at 1pm. It made everyone jump even though we were all staring right at it :) Mom and dad really enjoyed the castle and getting to see the Honours of Scotland.

After the castle we headed back down the Royal Mile to see Holyrood Palace. We got there just in the nick of time as we had exactly one hour to see it, and that was exactly how long the tour lasted – Hooray! The palace was beautiful, but we couldn’t take any pictures of the inside. It is still used as the Queen’s residence when she comes to stay in Edinburgh every year.

I did get some pictures of the outside as well as pictures of the ruins of Holyrood Abbey for you to enjoy.

The gardens of the palace – the Queen throws parties in the garden every summer.

As we were leaving the castle grounds I was thinking about what it must have been like to live in the castle and said, “Can you image what it’s like to live like this? With all this pomp… and circumstance?” Apparently the many years of playing in the band at graduations is still affecting me :)

We ended our time in Edinburgh eating a shockingly expensive dinner (not that it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t THAT good, and the portions were really small) and heading home to enjoy some Bugs Bunny cartoons that Ian found on Youtube – they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore. As we were leaving the parking lot, dad was trying to figure out how to get out onto the road and came up perpendicular to a sidewalk. He could see that just beyond the sidewalk was where he wanted to be and his response to this predicament was, “Can I drive over that?” To which mom said, “Well you can, but I don’t think you’re supposed to.”

Tuesday morning dad decided to try his hand at the Old Course and golfed with two Englishmen. He really enjoyed it and got a much better score than anticipated after the walk-around we did on Sunday. He even birdied the 18th hole! He was so proud, and all of us only wished we could’ve been there for that wonderful moment :)

We decided to dine at the Doll’s House that evening which was SO good. I mean, it was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. Ian and I ate the same meal: cream of celeriac soup with bread, and an angus rump steak in a tomato-y marinade with mashed taters and broccoli. It was SO yummy to eat juicy red meat! And, we might have heard, “Did I mention that I birdied the 18th hole?” a few times during the meal. :)

Dad also managed to pick up on some of the lingo here. His favorites were ‘auch!’ and ‘ta!’ and he really liked using them in repeated sequence.

Wednesday was our last full day of activity. We started with yummy scones at the North Point and then I took mom and dad around to the cathedral and castle while Ian was in class. We went into a display of old tombs at the cathedral that I had never gone into before and it was really interesting to learn about the symbolism on the tombs and see some parts of the cathedral I hadn’t seen before.

Then at the castle, I was pleasantly surprised to find some nice bird poses…

(this guy was perched outside a really dirty window, but he was so picturesque I couldn’t resist)

In the afternoon we drove up to Arbroath to visit Arbroath Abbey, which is a really nice place to visit! The visitors’ center is done really well and it’s a beautiful ruin.

Arbroath Abbey is actually based on St Andrews Cathedral in its layout, and there was a lot of crossover history between the two sites, so it was very providential that we had just visited the sites in St Andrews earlier that day!

This is the grave of William the Lion, who served as king of Scotland from 1165 to 1214 when he died. It was crazy to actually see a king’s grave!

And this is a letter that was sent from the Abbey to the Pope (this is a replica, the real thing is still in existence though) regarding the recognition of Scotland's independence.

On our way home, dad came up to a large, obvious roundabout in Dundee and said, “Is this a roundabout?” I know he sounds dangerous, but he was such a good driver and God was so good to keep us safe throughout the week :)

Thursday was our last day together, and unfortunately, Thursdays are our busiest days. But, we still had a good time.. Dad decided to go play golf at the Balcomie course in Crail and said it was really beautiful – the course is along the coast. Mom and I worked on making snacks for Bible study while Ian was at class and in the afternoon mom, Ian and I went to the aquarium while dad was golfing and checking out the British Golf Museum. It was really fun to see the exhibits, and my favorite part by far was visiting Laurel and Hardy – the two seals. I only got a picture of Hardy because Laurel was very shy, but we decided we are definitely going to have to visit again in the summer to see the seals perform :)

We enjoyed our last night together, and mom and dad even surprised us with some early Easter candy. They left in the wee hours of the morning on Friday and so ended our visit – a wave goodbye and one last ‘Ta!’ from dad as they drove away. We were so thankful that the Lord brought them safely to us and took them safely home. It was very encouraging to visit with them and enjoy some good family time after such a hiatus!

1 comment:

  1. ok so im so glad that you had a wonderful time with your family...and that picture of the handicapped person in the horse-drawn buggy made me laugh far more than was reasonable in a room of crowded people. it was so hilarious.