Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Time to Travel Again

We are off again for a visit to the states to attend a friend's graduation from university.  We leave for London tomorrow morning and then from Heathrow on Thursday, May 1st and will be back, hopefully, on Tuesday, May 20th.  The travel log will then resume. :-)  Until, here are a few this and that photos to help with the withdrawal. :-)

 Beautiful wildflowers along the canal path.
Some might call them weeds but I just think of them as under appreciated wildflowers.

Another very stubborn tree that refuses to give up.  It's hard to tell it here but the bottom of this tree is leaning at almost a 90 degree angle!

Want a dog made of wellies?  Someone at this shop had a little time on their hands.  I love it.  Maybe Mike would let me have this dog on the boat?  What do you think?

British Tradition is Alive

I had a reader ask if the red phone booths and mailboxes are still around or if they have gone the way of all things.  I am glad to say that they are still around, although fewer I think.  We even used one mailbox that was marked for George VI, the father of the queen, and he died in 1952.  Now that is getting value for money.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Edinburgh Pictures

 This stark yet beautiful vista is one of the first you see in Edinburgh.  It is right next door to Holyrood House Palace and the new Scottish Parliament Building.  This awe inspiring part of nature is like having a piece of the highlands plopped down in the middle of the capital city.  It is actually part of the largest park area in Europe.  Here people hike, picnic, contemplate, meditate and enjoy nature.

 Below are the gates to Holyrood House Palace, the home of Mary Queen of Scots as well as the current queen.  One one side is a unicorn symbolizing Scotland and on the other a lion symbolizing England.

Elizabeth II visits Scotland for two weeks each July and gives two large tea parties for the "locals" including not just the aristocracy and rich but also middle class residents on the guest list.

 This is a panoramic view of Holyrood House. It is built in the style of a French chateau and is much more human in style and size than other palaces, in my opinion.

 The land that Holyrood House stands on once had a large monastery on the site.  Now, only the ruins remain.  However, the beginnings of Holyrood House was actually the guest house of the monastery, expanded into a royal residence after the religious reformation.  The palace kept the name of the guest house: Holyrood House or Holy Cross House.

 Scotland has a Parliament separate from the one in London. (They will be voting on the issue of independence from Great Britain this September.)  Below are some pictures of their very modern parliament building which is open to the public.

The parliament building is just across the street from the Holyrood House Palace.

The old and the new next to each other.

 The architect included small thinking pods for each member of parliament so that they could go there and be alone and undisturbed to think about the issues they were being asked to deal with.

A lovely concept.  Thought and consideration of issues.

These pictures are of the church where Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family worship when in Edinburgh.  It was also the scene of Zara Phillips' wedding a few years ago. Zara is Princess Anne's daughter and the Queen's granddaughter.
A much smaller and simpler do than Kate and William's.

Above is a picture of St. Giles Kirk.  The national religion of Scotland is Presbyterian thus the designation of Kirk.  People often call it a cathedral but that would be a misnomer since the Presbyterian church has no bishops. 

St. Giles is the patron saint of Edinburgh.
St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.
St. David is the patron saint of Wales.
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.
St. George is the patron saint of England.
Just in case you were interested. :-)

The middle building above is one of the oldest in Edinburgh.  The arches at the bottom are where the store keeper would run his shop from.  He and his family would live in the floor above.  The other floors would be rented out to other families.  To the far left you can see the narrow stairs that led to the internal spiral staircase (very narrow) that gave access to the upper floors.  This is actually a shorter building in the old part of town since they would eventually be up to 15 stories high.  Space was at a premium so to house the citizens they built up.  Can you imagine walking up all those steps several times a day?  No need for a gym membership!

This pub is named after a dog that I would have loved to take home with me but I cannot since he isn't on Earth any more.

 Greyfriar's Bobby was a terrior dog that lived in Edinburgh over 100 years ago with his master who was a local constable.  When the constable died and was buried, Bobby  took it upon himself to guard his master's grave for 14 years!  He was a local celebrity at the time.  He personified loyalty and love.

 I used to have a miniature of the above statue but one of the times we were robbed in Erie the thief took it with them.  But my heart still loves that dog.

These final pictures are here to show you how Edinburgh has been traditionally built out of the stones uncovered and the sandstone discovered over time.

That is making lemonade out of lemons.

We found Edinburgh to be a lovely city .  Now we are hoping to go back some day and visit the highlads.

PS: This post took FOREVER!  Downloading photos and finding a working connection has been a challenge.
Sorry it took so long.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

HMY Britannia, HRH Victoria, Robert Burns and More

Yesterday Mike and I had coffee and Victoria spongecake on Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia.  Unfortunately, Her Majesty was not on board.

The Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 and is now permanently docked at the port of Leith on the Firth of Forth

.  Tours are available and we took one.  Mike loved the idea of seeing the ship and I liked the idea of seeing how the other half live.  Great Fun!

Did you know Sean Connery delivered milk in Edinburgh before his career took off? True.

The Botanical Gardens here have the largest collection of Chinese plants outside of China.  In fact, when the Chinese government decided to restore some of the gardens destroyed during the cultural revolution they had to obtain a large number of the plants needed from the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.  Now that is irony!

Queen Victoria did not like her view from Holyrood House Palace so she had the outside walls of a fortification built so that she had a better view!  That was a woman who was used to getting what she wanted.

Holyrood Park became a Royal Park way back in the 16th century and is basically unchanged since then.  The park is now surrounded by the city and is used extensively by the people for hiking, picnicking, etc.

The sport of golf began in Scotland.  Originally a round of golf consisted of 22 holes but was later changed to the more familiar 18 holes found on today's courses.

Edinburgh University knocked down a great deal of historic Georgian buildings when it expanded in the mid 20th century.  It was later suggested that they apologize to the citizens of Edinburgh for doing so and for what they erected in its place.  I have to say I agree.

The poet Robert Burns is not only the national poet of Scotland, he is also the national poet of Russia.  Strange.

Edinburgh Castle stands high on a now extinct volcano.  It is now homed to the crown jewels of Scotland.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Edinburgh Soundbites

I promise to do a real post about Edinburgh and all we have been doing and seeing.  But, for now I am too busy being the tourist. :-)

However, here are some "Soundbites" I have discovered as we tour and get to know the city:

  • Edinburgh is built on 7 hills, as is Rome.  My knees can attest to this fact. :-)

  • Our flat is off Easter street.  The name used to be Eastern but some where along the way the "n" got lost.  Easter used to be the eastern edge of the city.

  • Edinburgh has an old city and a new city.  The terms old and new are relative.  The old city is VERY old and the new city is still old having been built in the 1700's.

  • The old city, due to a lack of space, has buildings up to 15 floors high.  That is a lot of steps to take up and down.  No plumbing, no sanitation facilities.

  • At ten o'clock at night, by law, you could open your window and after yelling out a warning, empty your chamber pots out the window onto the street below.  (Ugh!)

  • As expected, diseases ran rampant.  The last outbreak of plague occurred in Edinburgh.

  • Holyrood House Palace, the official residence of the Queen when in Scotland, translates to Holy Cross House Palace.  A monastery was originally on the site and it's ruins are still there to be seen.  

  • After the joining of Scotland and England, when the Stuart kings of Scotland also became rulers of England, steps were taken to "erase" the differences between the two countries.  The clans were outlawed.  You could no longer wear your clan tartan.  The playing of the bagpipes was outlawed.  Scotland became known officially as Northern England.  These restrictions remained in place until 1820 when George IV visited Edinburgh and had a kilt made for himself that he wore during the visit.

  • The new city was designed in the 1700's during the Age of Reason.  Streets were wide, the height of buildings was restricted to three floors, an attic and a basement.  A park was placed at the beginning and end of each of the originally built streets.  One side of the street was for houses and one side for garden space.  The result being a much more open, airier and healthier environment.

  • The Royal Mile runs between Holyrood House and Edinburgh Castle. On Monday we walked up and back down the Royal Mile.

  • Edinburgh has always been a seat of learning.  It was the first to institute mandatory education of children (in the 1400's) and it had five universities at the time that England had only two.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Thinking Outside the Pot

Above is our coffee making "apparatus" in our self catering flat.  They do not have a coffee pot, or a tea pot for that matter.

As DD1 and DD2 can tell you, I need caffeine in the morning and you want me to have it if you are anywhere near me. :-)

Going from left to right:  the electric super fast hot water heater, the big metal bowl that belongs on the kitchen scale, the metal colander, the large saucepan.

First, heat the water in the elerctric pot.
Second, place the ground coffee into the bottom of the saucepan.
Third, pour hot water over the ground coffee and stir.
Fourth, wait about 5 minutes.
Fifth, put colander into large metal bowl.
Sixth, line colander well with paper towel or prepare to chew your coffee. :-)
Eighth, pour mixture in saucepan into colander and let liquid drain into the metal bowl and grounds remain in colander, hopefully.
Ninth, pour coffee into cups.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Have Beef Joint Will Travel

I know it sounds daft but I brought a frozen beef joint with us to Scotland in my suitcase.  We roasted it today with some mushrooms, onions and potatoes for our Easter dinner along with some butter beans.

Prawns with cocktail sauce and Cornish clotted cream ice cream with raspberries rounded out the menu.  It was lovely.

We will be finishing up the leftovers during the week and having a lovely time.

Hope your Easter was lovely, too.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Travel Update

While the boat is being blacked Mike and I are heading to Edinborough, Scotland for a week.

We have rented a small self catering flat just of Prince Street in the heart of the old part of the city.

Our plan is to play tourist and evaluate the local scotch.

Will try to post but we will see about connectivity.  If unable, I will expect all of you to tune in for my travel log and slide show when I return.  :-)

Eggs, Ducklings and Easter

 Naturally colored Easter eggs done by Momma Hen herself in shades of blue, lilac, pink, white, brown and tan.

 And baby ducks, 8 in total, with their proud momma.

What more do you need to usher in spring and the wonder of Easter.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Easter holiday.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blacking the Boat

We have completed the four county ring and are now heading to Fradley Junction, where we have been before, to leave the boat for a week to be blacked.

The hull is blacked to protect the section of the boat that is in the water and just above the water line. The process protects the steel in the hull from rust, pitting, and the unavoidable rubbing that occurs when you enter/exit a lock, come in contact with something submerged in the water, get stuck in the mud, come in contact with the sides of the canal and such. By periodically blacking the boat you can extend the life of the boat.

The boat needs to be taken out of the water for the blacking to be done.  Ours will be floated into a dry dock and the water will then be removed so that the work can be done.

Blacking is a three day process at a minimum.  Where we are having ours done it is a six day process so that complete drying is assured between the three parts of the process.

On day one the Boat will be  pressure washed to remove as much of the old blacking and gunk (a technical term) like weeds, mud, and rust as possible. Doing this prepares the hull for the new blacking to be applied. Day two will be a "rest" day to make sure the boat is completely dry before the re-blacking is done.
The boat is taken out of the water and the hull is pressure washed (this is not our boat, just a picture I found).
On day three the first coat of blacking is applied to the hull.  Painting the coating on is done manually with a small roller, the reason is that the paint goes hard very quickly and has to be applied in small sections.  Day three is a day to make sure everything is dry.

The hull is ready for blacking
On day four you put on a second coat of the blacking.  You also put in place the sacrificial anodes on the hull. Sacrificial anodes are put there to "sacrifice" themselves and protect the hull from corrosion.The boat is then left for 48 hours to dry before it is returned to the water.

The blacking is applied

In two to three years, repeat. :-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Victoria Park and a Soup Kitchen

Yep, here we are in Stafford again.  Don't you like how I have stretched one visit to so many posts?  Victoria Park, the community park, has so many beautiful displays of flowers and a conservatory full of plants to admire.

It also has a bowling pitch.  I have seen people playing this but I don'[t know the rules.  It looks like they roll balls from one side to the other diagonally.  The objective?  Who knows.  But the grass on this pitch is so well maintained even my dad would be proud.

The picture of the metal bridge over the River Sow, which goes through the park, was built in commemoration of the accession of George V (grandson of Victoria) in 1910.  It was completed in 1911 and has been in use for the last 103 years and looks like it will still be around 103 years from now.  Old things are so common in the UK.

Also, as part of the park, is a small aviary with many exotic looking pheasants along with a few budgies, canaries, chickens, etc. to keep them company.
There is a pair of each type so that procreation can take its normal course. :)

And, we even saw where some eggs had been laid.  I wonder what happens to them if momma doesn't want to sit on them or daddy hasn't fertilized them?
Another unanswered question in my life.

 Oh, and for lunch that day Mike took me to the Soup Kitchen.  If that is what British Soup Kitchens are like I hope I eat in many more. :)

A Side Hustle

When you come around a bed in the canal to see a line of boats moored on the off side of the canal, chances are some entrepreneurial farmer is engaging in a side hustle to make some extra cash.

First, he needs to build a section of dock abutting the canal edge of his property.  If a road is possible for easy access, that is even better (and can mean more cash in his pocket).

Room along the dock area to park vehicles is also an added benefit (and more cha ching) so that everything doesn't have to be carried in.  It is also GREAT if you need professional assistance, a la the van in the first pic.

Now, advertise that you have permanent moorings available and set your rates.

Each boat gets a section of the dock to accommodate his/her boat and use as a mini yard.

Over time, the boaters make these small areas an extension of their boats.

Some prefer space to sit outside and dine Al fresco.

Others, are more in need of storage.

 But, for the farmer, a narrow strip of his field abutting the canal, that he could not farm completely anyhow, has become a nice source of added revenue.  Bravo!  Everyone wins.