Alphabet of Travel Snaps: L is for…

Alphabet of Travel Snaps: L is for…

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

I feel it should be a band. Maybe a folk ensemble, one with some jaunty chap on a fiddle and another, beardy bloke banging on a bodhran.

Then again, I’m possibly being swayed by some Celtic vibe, as it’s actually an area of Scotland!

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Not quite the true Highlands, it is still wild, craggy, and undeniably stunning. Winding roads lead through quaint stone villages, overshadowed by atmospheric mountains, unspoiled forests and surrounded by a multitude of lochs.

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Although Loch Ness (plus a few others) may be longer and/or deeper (and have resident monsters!), Loch Lomond is the largest expanse of fresh water in Britain and part of the Trossachs National Park.

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Being only an hour away from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s a perfect base for exploring and revisiting history (Rob Roy’s grave was up the road and Stirling, with the Wallace Monument, is 20 minutes away). But you could easily spend longer and never leave the area.

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We stayed in a cabin* on the shores of neighbouring Lake of Menteith – the only area of water labelled ‘lake’ in Scotland.

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We’re quite lucky to live in a part of the UK that is also not far from rural retreats and green spaces, but the silence when you are truly deep in the countryside is something else.

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Had it not been for the (apparently wild) mallards that literally tapped on the window each day to let us know they had arrived, we could have easily just spent the week sleeping blissfully undisturbed!

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But then we would have missed out on seeing our first ever red squirrel, spectacular scenery and bracing walks. Oh and bracing they were… and extremely wet. But hey, at least we didn’t get bitten by midges!

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*We stayed at Lochend Chalets – see their website here: http://www.lochend-chalets.com


Image Credits: All mine (or taken by Sam), so please be sweet and ask before sharing. 🙂

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A brush with the Fringe

A brush with the Fringe

Ever since visiting for the day, more than 20 years ago, I’ve held a romantic view of the City of Edinburgh. From stepping off the train at Waverley Station, the cobbled streets winding among centuries old architecture, from Medieval to Georgian, captivated me.

And yet I’ve never had, or made, the chance to go back until last week.

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Knowing we were heading to Scotland for a week of walking lochs and glens, I suggested we break up the journey by stopping in the country’s capital for a wander, lunch and to revisit some landmarks I’d stopped by first time around. And maybe take in a bit of the Fringe.

The Fringe Festival, if you are unfamiliar with it, is the world’s largest arts festival, held annually in Edinburgh for almost the entirety of August and showcases anything from comedy, street performances, theatre and caberet to busking, dance and spoken word. Anyone can participate and there are loads of free performances for the public to watch.

This was Sam’s first time in the City, so I was hopeful that he would also fall instantly in love with the place, if I dragged him to various landmarks and throw in some comedy. What I hadn’t realised however, was that August is not only the month of the Fringe but also the month for the famous Military Tattoo.

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So it was busy. Which we admittedly anticipated but not to the level we witnessed. We were like Scottish salmon trying to reach our spawning grounds as we made for the castle, inch by inch, against the torrent of tourists flowing down the Royal Mile.

Eugh…

I made it clear that should I ever suggest spending New Year’s here again (it happens once every couple of years) that someone should slap me with a kipper and bring me to my senses!

And unfortunately, once we reached our destination, it was pretty obvious I was not going to get any of the city views that I had remembered, unless we paid the high price to enter the castle, due to the stadium seating erected to watch bagpipe and kilt parade!

Oh well, let’s go and look for Greyfriar’s Bobby, I said. He’s nearby…

Sam was not versed in who, or what, Bobby was until I brought him up to speed. Which I will kindly do for you now, too! Here’s your crash course: Greyfriar’s Bobby is the story of a Skye terrier, who guarded his master’s grave (purportedly a police nightwatchman) for 14 years until he died himself. Locals looked after him and then had a fountain made to commemorate him, which is now a tourist attraction.

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On my first visit, it took me over an hour to find the statue once I’d located the correct street in the city…only to realise I’d been stood next to it for a very long time. I blame my height and the fact that I don’t generally look up.

So you’d think this time would be easier, wouldn’t you? Yeah…me too!

*Sigh*

I’ve not grown much and as such, when something is surrounded by a throng of people, it’s difficult for me to see what is at the centre. I mean, the large group should have been a clue, but then pretty much every corner in Edinburgh has a large group snapping away with an array of devices.

But once I’d spotted him I was able to take a pic of the wee little doggie and rub his nose for luck. Which Sam found hilarious as he says I was the only non-foreign tourist to do so. Plus, he didn’t really get what all the fuss was about.

We moved on.

Passing, apparently, where JK Rowling penned her first Harry Potter. I felt a little guilty at not knowing this fact but then reminded myself that I was a fan of HP and not JKR…

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So after a Mexican midday snack, we ventured into the Fringe to be entertained. As we knew we only had a few hours in Edinburgh, we opted for the free street shows situated around the Royal Mile.

Hmmm…

Okay, I get that art is subjective and what one person doesn’t understand, another will rave over. But I was expecting some kind of quality. Or humour. Hopefully a smidge of both.

Instead, we got weird. And I doubt very much we got the weirdest!

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Boys walking around in their pants anyone? Cast of Magic Mike, you ask? No. But we do have some pasty, gangly teens who might be about to start a monologue lamenting their lack of chest hair.

Dance: Two performances, one with lots of moody looks and red silk. The other…quite possibly just a bloke from the crowd who thought he’d try to embarrass his kids with some full-on ‘dad dancing’ and a few impromptu lunges and waggles of his tongue.

Then we have the woman singing to Kylie. Everyone loves a singalong and a bit of cheesy pop, right? Wrong. Because what I can’t get out of my head is Kylie’s track of a similar name, sung by a woman on top of a bucket, in a shower cap, pretending to be a seal. (Perhaps there was some ironic twist / reference to another singer she was going for…)

Oh yes, and nobody could hear the track, as it was being played on her headphones. But the beat was unmistakable. La, la, la…

We were saved by a group of A cappella chaps, who weren’t supposed to be performing to the crowd but saw the opportunity of an empty stage and grabbed it. Which I guess is part of what the Fringe is about: spontaneity.

But I have to say I was expecting more – a melting pot of eclectic performers to wow the masses. What we got was more like a bad episode of Britain’s Got Talent in the rain (yes, after months of glorious heatwave, we chose a week of damp and drizzle!) So I doubt we’ll be rushing back, unless we have more time and can plan in some paid shows that we’ve researched.

Edinburgh on the other hand, is still up there for me in a top list of cities I like to mooch around in. So I will return and perhaps stay longer than a few hours. Sometime in the next twenty years, I reckon!

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Have you been to Edinburgh or experienced the Fringe? I’d love to hear what you think of the place if you have. Am I just old? Did I get it wrong?

The Fringe Festival runs until Aug 27th 2018 and the Edinburgh Tattoo until Aug 25th.


IMAGE CREDITS: All my own, so please be sweet and ask before sharing! 🙂

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A SIMple Life

A SIMple Life

The school summer holidays; Forty plus days of no work and having time to catch up on lost sleep, half-read books and to get out exploring.

But despite being in the midst of a storm as I type, which has brought some much needed rain, for weeks the whole of the country has experienced soaring temperatures which has seen me retreat to a darkened room faster than a vampire evading a crispy death!

I don’t do hot.

So I’ve found myself (among other, cooling, lets-not-use-much-energy activities) returning to video games. I’ve always considered myself a gamer – not a proper one, with a multi-platform set-up, a swivel chair and my own Twitch channel. More that I’m someone who likes to dabble in different games, dip a toe in and move on to something else when I can’t conquer a level.

You know, like every other hobby I’ve ever had. 😉

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Wednesday Lensday: CLOTH CAT

Wednesday Lensday: CLOTH CAT

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Wednesday Lensday so thought it was a good time to share some images I took from an exhibition of Children’s TV and toys last month, in honour of the TV shows’ creator, Peter Firmin, who sadly passed away last weekend, aged 89.

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Known for his artwork and puppetry that complemented the imaginative writing of his partner, Oliver Postgate, the pair were responsible for British Children’s TV classics, such as Ivor the Engine, The Clangers (Mum’s favourite, below) and Basil Brush.

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But by far my favourite (although Basil came close), was the saggy old, baggy old cloth cat, known as Bagpuss. His adventures with Professor Yaffle, Madeleine the Ragdoll, Gabriel the Toad and the organ mice, were a delight and are still a pleasure to watch.

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Firmin’s daughter Emily appeared in the opening credits, visiting the lost and found store where the characters lived…and I wanted to BE her! So, it was no surprise that I gave a little squeal at the exhibition in our local art gallery, when I saw not only the original Bagpuss but also her dress from the intro!

The exhibit centred on the creative duo’s work but also included some key toys from the 50s through to the 90s. Seeing your childhood toys in a museum is a sure way to feel incredibly old!

Taking the main image I took of Bagpuss (first photo), I’ve tried to recreate the look of the opening credits, which were always in sepia / black and white, with no colour added until after the toys awoke. Fun fact: Bagpuss was meant to be a ginger cat but the material came back dyed the wrong colour and so the pink, stripey legend was born!

It may have been a small display but was well worth a visit, for the nostalgic memories alone. Thanks Mr. Firmin and and Mr. Postgate for a magical childhood. I’m just sorry that arguably Firmin’s loudest character – Mr. Basil Brush – didn’t put in an appearance. BOOM, BOOM! 😉

P.S. Didn’t even realise the date until I hit schedule but Happy Independence Day to all my US readers! Hope you’re having a blast, however you’re celebrating.


IMAGE CREDITS: My own and YouTube.

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Marmosets are mean!

Marmosets are mean!

Hello and how are we all on this first day of June?

Since posting every day in April (*cough, cough) to accomplish the A-Z challenge, I’ve taken a month off from the blog to catch up on sleep other activities.

‘Where have you been?’ I hear you ask. Well, I’ve been to Africa to feed lions.

Kind of.

Out of the two options, feeding lions probably seems the less likely but that is exactly what I had the marvellous opportunity to do!

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