Sunday, October 14, 2018

Och Scotland!

My brother, Kim, and I started our adventure in the town of Stirling and then headed to Dollar for two  nights. We spent one day exploring Dollar, its glen and castle. Because I had next to no 
experience driving on the left side of the road we didn't go too far the following day. We spent the
day in Kinross (about 30 minutes from Dollar where Loch Leven castle sits on a tiny island in the loch. This castle,
built around 1300, has ties to Mary Queen of Scots who visited the castle in 1565 and then was imprisoned there until her escape in 1568. 

There are two other homes/castles that look out across the loch but they are behind locked gates - I 
wish now I had climbed over one of them!
What's the worst that could happen?

Kinross Castle cemetery 

Root man

Loch Leven Castle - I have zoomed in; it's not really this close.
 This is the only photo I could get of the house called Kinross House.

My brother, however, was more determined than I and climbed on a bench to snap a
few photos. He said he'd share...

Inscribed into the bench are these words:
"The lairdie frae his muckle hoosie spies the watters whaur his fush wull rise.”
Which translates to - The Lord of  his large house sees the waters where
his fish will rise....
I think! 

This is a beautiful area with gently rolling hills and lots of trees.
In fact, Perthshire is well known for its very tall trees.

The sky changes constantly - it rained several times while we hiked many kms on the trails
surrounding Kinross House. But never for very long at a time.  Just enough to
make my camera lens wet :(

A new sky! 
We spent most of our day here putting a lot of kms on our hiking boots. 
We had an uneventful drive back to our BnB... thankfully. 
I was really glad that I had done a lot of reading about driving in Scotland 
as well as watching a lot of youtube videos. I gradually became more accustomed to the 
roads but struggled with the roundabouts which were pretty complex with up to
half a dozen different roads branching off the roundabouts. If my navigator wasn't quick enough telling me which exit I needed I had to go around twice! 
I'm sure I wasn't the only one.
Once I realized that no one else was following the rules that I had
read about I did much better! 
The most challenging roads were the one lane roads with "passing places." 
(photo below)
If someone was coming toward you you would have to pull over into the nearest passing
place on the left side of the road OR the person coming toward you would pull over
into a passing place on their side. This would sometimes require you to back up
a ways til you could find a passing place. 
The one pictured below is in very good shape - most single lane roads are crumbling into the are the roads which are full of  HUGE potholes. I read a few news articles while I was
there which said the "Beasts from the East" (terrible winter storms last winter) followed by a very hot
spring and summer have turned the roads into a big mess. 
The other challenge is to make sure you don't go an inch too close to the left or right as there
is no verge on either side, just a sheer drop-off into the ditch. 
I'm very thankful that my rental car held together in one piece (I think) after
the terrible jolts it experienced in the many potholes I wasn't able to avoid.
I got used to the left side driving and the very narrow roads to the point where I didn't even
have to think about them anymore. 
But the first week was hell really and truly. My brother thought I did an
amazing job and looking back I'm glad I didn't give up as it did gradually become instinctive. 
As with everything there is a learning curve and I really came to enjoy exploring every little road, especially on the Isle of Skye which had a lot of roads which vehicles over a certain size were prohibited from using. We drove for ages without encountering
another vehicle.
One of the most frustrating things about driving there (as if that wasn't enough!) is there is nowhere to turn around! If you miss your turn you could go for miles and miles before finding a spot to turn around or you could try to make a thousand point turn and hope no one else comes along while you're executing it! 
By the way - the passing place shown below would be for the driver coming towards me as it's on the right not the left! Did you catch that?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wild Weather

It's been awhile... both my brother and I feel like we were away for three years not three and a half weeks! It was kind of cool here in London, ON while we were away and we didn't feel much heat while in Scotland - the warmest days were the last couple we spent in Glasgow when it reached 15c. Now it's +21c in Scotland!!! That's ok, though, I didn't pack any shorts!

However, now that we're back we are getting another blast of summer heat and humidity. I've been out on my bike, the sun has been shining, the temps with humidity taken into account are up into the +30c range again and I've been taking Lily outside to the patio so she can check for mice - so far so good!

But now both Scotland and parts of the U.S. are experiencing some very wild weather with the potential for great damage and loss of life. Fellow blogger McVal let me know about the flooding in Oban, Scotland. We stayed in Oban for six days and while there was some light rain (more like mist) we had moved on by the time the torrential rains, flooding and rockfalls began. 

And now Hurricane Michael is battering the southern states while many people haven't yet recovered from Hurricane Florence! When will it end? 

After spending time in Scotland I now understand (FULLY AND COMPLETELY) how they say a person can experience all four seasons in one day! The fall colours are way ahead there and there's not a single midge to be seen, or felt!, snow can be seen on the peaks of the Munros and far below I can see my breath. Gentle rain can fall several times a day interrupted frequently by warm sunshine which made my rain gear steam and my clothing get soaked by sweat. I was glad we had a car as we had to carry a lot of gear and extra clothing. My boots were waterproof thanks to rubbing wax into them daily - that stuff really works! My gore-tex raincoat was also waterproof (on the outside) but underneath made me sweat profusely - I'm sure the 2.5 lbs I lost while away are directly contributable to sweating so much. Oh the price we pay to lose weight!

Village of Dollar

Our first bnb was in the lovely village of Dollar, not too far from Stirling. After landing at Glasgow airport my brother and I took a train to Stirling where we picked up the rental car. (More on that later - my adventures of driving in Scotland deserves its own post!!)

While in Dollar (seen above) we hiked through Dollar Glen and climbed our way up to Campbell Castle. Our ancestry includes the Campbells so I was excited to see the castle.
Dollar Glen

Campbell Castle

Campbell Castle

Looking out over the Village of Dollar

Dollar Glen
I hope to spend the next few days getting caught up with blog reading and writing. I'm also sorting through my photos and deleting the blurry ones. I took a LOT of photos so need to delete the duplicates and focus on the best ones.

Talk about a winter project!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Humboldt Broncos

Back in April I wrote a post about the road accident that killed most of the Humboldt, Saskatchewan Broncos junior hockey team and coaching staff and injured many more. Today I read about the reformed Broncos team and their upcoming first game - a home opener. I am in no way, shape or form connected to this tragedy other than being one of millions of Canadians who were brokenhearted in the long and painful aftermath of this horrific accident.

In Canada you either play hockey, coach hockey, watch hockey or support your own child, brother, nephew, cousin and friend at 5am practises at the local arena. I guess you could say we all live and breathe hockey. As I jet over the Atlantic my thoughts will be for those remaining Humboldt players who will bravely take to the ice Wed. night. I know they will be playing their hearts out for their lost teammates.

Just by stepping out onto the ice they will be victorious. 

Monday, September 10, 2018


Greetings loved ones :) This may be my last post before heading to Scotland on Wednesday! I've repacked 3 or 4 times already and still things cross my mind as to what to smush into my suitcase/backpack/purse. Each time I repack I take things OUT trying to lighten the load. My suitcase is divided into two sections and thanks to the vacuum bags my clothes fit quite well. The other side of the suitcase is for toiletries, adaptors, socks, undies, hiking boots, extras (extra kleenex, extra bandaids etc) and quite a pile of snacks. The good thing about taking along a lot of trail mix and other assorted protein bars etc is I may not need to buy lunch saving me some money AND when eaten room is created in my suitcase for gifts and souvenirs! There's a method to my eating!

My back pack contains rain gear, hat, gloves, first aid kit, water bottles, maps and printouts of directions to all the places we want to go, a spork, rainproof backpack cover, backup pair of glasses and my small bag of gels/liquids - under 100ml of course. At our first Airbnb I will need to rejig a few things from backpack to suitcase and vice versa as some things - like insect spray - can't be in carryon luggage (my backpack) but have to be in my checked suitcase.
My purse is a small pack and holds my iPad, wallet, journal, pills, Nighty Night teabag as we are taking the aptly named red-eye... arriving in Glasgow at 9:45am.

Then we will be going via train to get our rental car in Stirling so that will lighten the load as well as I can keep my snacks in the car instead of my suitcase as well as a number of other things.

My apprehensions? Well, the obvious one is the weather which can change a dozen times a day. The joke is you can experience all 4 seasons in one day! I have good rain gear and water-proof hiking boots and at least this time around we can retreat to the car if need be. I remember one time in Ireland(?) or was it  northern England (?) when Annie and I ate our soggy sandwiches while sitting on a piece of farm machinery in a steady rain.

All you can do about the weather is be VERY prepared and GRIN AND BEAR IT:)

My other apprehension is driving in the UK. My brother doesn't have a license so I will be doing all of the driving. Yesterday I learned all about driving on a single lane road and the etiquette of "passing places". Youtube is an amazing resource!!

Today I am learning about: Roundabouts! 

Hey...this isn't so bad...HAH!


I just found...a 6 page printout- that shows, with diagrams, every possible scenario of driving through a roundabout - yes...on youtube! I'm all set!

We'll be back Oct. 4th and hopefully the house will still be standing! If we can find wifi that works I'll post on Facebook!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


I just read today that Amazon has become the 2nd trillion dollar business. WOW. It's hard to get my head around that number: $1,000,000,000,000.00. I think I have that right. (Number One is Apple). Is it a coincidence that they both start with the letter A? As in A+++? (That's probably just the "teacher" in me...)

Many negative things have been said about how Amazon treats it employees but so far that hasn't stopped me from using the service. As a customer I have mostly good things to say. I have placed 12 orders in the last 6 months. I'm waiting for two items to be delivered - one is a travel diary specifically for travelling in Scotland and the other is a UK adaptor for my electronics.

There have been a couple of blips over the past few years of ordering (and I have to say convenience is a big factor for me in using Amazon in addition to being able to find just about anything I could possibly want no matter how rare or tiny)...I have twice ordered a silver sim card tray for my fairly new iPhone. The one that came with the phone was silver and broke the first time I tried to take it out of the side of the phone. I found a seller and ordered a new silver tray for just a couple of dollars. Sadly they sent me a blue one. I emailed the seller and explained I wanted silver to match my phone and I received another in the mail the following week...again it was blue. I was never charged for the second WRONG item and have given up for now. (Ironically the tray I am using is from my old iPhone which guessed...BLUE!

Another thing I like about Amazon is my Amazon Prime Membership: for about $7.00/month I can stream a ton of movies and TV series in addition to getting 2 day free delivery for almost everything I order. For someone who also pays $11/monthly just to stream Netflix this is a great deal!

Do you use Amazon? How do you feel about the complaints of poor pay and benefits plus harsh working conditions from their employees?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Packing it in...


I haven't ever tried storage vacuum bags for travel before but yesterday I ordered a bunch and will give them a try. Apparently clothing placed in a vacuum bag takes up only 30% of the usual space in addition to keeping things organized.

I'm always looking for better packing methods and with less than 2 weeks to go until blastoff I'm ready to try anything!

Have you used these sorts of bags before? Did you like them? Did they save you space?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Forgot one...

Oops, forgot about this thrifty little purchase from the Re-Store in Bracebridge. I have a 
"thing" about little bowls. We use a couple with pretty much every meal for
dipping sauces, hot sauce, raw veggies etc.
I picked up this cute pair for $0.25 each and I love them!
They are the perfect size for sliced 
mini-cucumbers and for a half lemon.
Every morning I drink the juice of half a lemon and store the other half in the fridge
 (otherwise I have fruit flies)...
Poifect :) and the price was right!
What do you think that is a picture of...olives?