Be Delighted

"Oh my my my my, what an eager little mind!"

Auntie Mame

Friday, August 2, 2019

The All in One Edinburgh Tour.

Ahoy mateys! More of Edinburgh! We got a great package bus tour deal: three big sites in two days, from the top of Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Place to the Royal yacht Brittania at the Firth of Forth docks. All aboard.

                  Captain Glenn Hill at your service. (there are also stuffed corgis all over the ship)

 The official yacht of the British royal family from 1953 until it was decommissioned in the late Nineties. It sailed the royal family all over the world in its heyday, and even Charles and Diana spent their honeymoon on it in the Eighties, although all the beds were tiny doubles with chenille bedspreads, and given the height of both of them I'm willing to bet their feet hung over the end of the bed.
All in all a very basic, functional ship and just a smaller version of the ocean liners I sailed on as a child, not like the monster water hotels that are the current cruise ships.


                                         Suggestion:  Don't serve soup on the high seas.

A don't miss visit to the Holyrood Palace. Home of Scottish royalty, including Mary Queen of Scots.
Photos were not allowed inside many of the interiors. Lots of Stuart history inside, (Bonny Prince Charlie, you tried), and the British royal family still holds official functions here. Also: secret panels in walls!

                                                     The ruined abbey on the grounds

And the grounds were beautiful

 I really wanted to climb Arthur's Seat in the background for the full view of Edinburgh but our legs were so tired from all the walking that we couldn't quite muster.

And of course, Edinburgh Castle stands over the city at the top of the Royal Mile. More uphill walking. Thighs of steel.

                                        It was a beautiful day, and a busy day for tourists.

Here is one of the notes I made in my little travel diary while at Edinburgh Castle: "Spending half the trip waiting in long lines for the loo. Men are in and out in a flash. Grrrrrr...."

                           Once again, Glenn was on duty, proudly wearing his tartan wool scarf.
                                                                         The cannon.

                                       The lookout, with the Firth of Forth in the distance.

We ate a lot of fish on our travels. This one a sole baked in parchment, with a nice beaujolais, at a lovely place called The Wee Restaurant.

            And so farewell, Edinburgh, and on to Durham to see the next batch of relatives.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


I was prepared to love England on our trip this summer, but I had also insisted we go to Scotland, specifically Edinburgh. It's been the setting of numerous books I have read and so I had a romantic notion about it, complete with a castle on a hill and misty views of the Firth of Forth.
                                             A 19th century painting by James Douglas.

Ok, there was a bit of rain, mostly sun, but no mist, and I still loved the city. And the people. Everyone was bright, polite, and cheery, probably using up all their good emotions before the long, cold, wet winter.

We had booked all our travel lodgings online to use travel miles we had saved up, so we couldn't resist making a booking at The Royal Scots Club. And we were not disappointed. Here is our room. There were 10 pillows on the bed. :-D


The club was originally founded for returning soldiers from WWI, and even walking up the front steps there were memorials of fallen officers beneath our feet, and memorabilia in glass cases in the hallway. Also, portraits of Princess Anne everywhere. She seemed to be the official royal patron of the establishment. It was an elegant and somewhat formal place, and even our rooms had old fashioned keys and locks, not swipe cards. Each day as we left, we would leave our key with the lady at the front desk.

The city was hilly and yet very walkable, and parts of it reminded me both of Montreal, Canada, and San Francisco.

 It is also a city of authors, including the most famous, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, (their memorials below) not to mention, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attended medical school here. (these two images are stock footage as I didn't get decent photos of them)

We did the tour bus thing first off just to get the general lay of the city. I found all our tour guides in Great Britain to be both humorous and informative, and our Scots guide did not disappoint when he elaborated on this statue of George IV upon his visit to Scotland in 1822, the first British monarch to visit in over two centuries.

 Despite appearances to the contrary, we were informed by our cheery guide that George was short and round and was known to have horribly bad breath, which at that time was an indication of wealth, because the rich ate such rich, sweet food that rotted their teeth. George learned that Scotsmen wear kilts so he showed up in bright pink tights and a kilt that barely covered his crown jewels. (I'm sure that sight could not be unseen) He also insisted that 457 of the prettiest local girls greet him on arrival at his ball so he could kiss them one by one (ugh, some things never change). Apparently, his breath was so foul that one of the poor young women fainted dead away. Hence the nursery rhyme "Georgie Porgie, puddin' and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry. When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away".

More statues: the economist Adam Smith, and the great Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, the youngest British PM in history (at age 24), who with the influence of his friend, William Wilberforce, helped to end the slave trade in England. (as seen in the movie, Amazing Grace).

This seagull apparently likes Pitt as well.

And of course, there was also local colour, including this chatty, ax wielding Pict, ready to share some medieval Scottish history.

I also had to sample haggis, at least once, just to say that I did, so we went to this busy place and I ordered up. Basically it tasted like a Shepherd's Pie made with sausage. And with those basic steamed veggies it was like a dish from a cafeteria, really. I can check that off the bucket list.

Next up: a palace, a ship, and a castle.

Sunday, July 7, 2019


Onward across the Mersey River to Liverpool. A port city that faces west to Ireland, and current home of my cousin, Brian. Brian is the only one of my British relatives that I knew as a child. This is us in Long Eaton in 1954.

And this is us in June 2019. We haven't changed a bit.

Glenn and I met with Brian and his partner, Isobel, and all took a walk downtown then on to the Albert dock, now gentrified with shops and restaurants.

The Royal Liver Building is the most famous landmark of downtown. It's pronounced Lye-ver, after the two Liver bird sculptures on top of the building. Brian says the story is that the female bird faces out to sea and the male bird faces to land to see if the pubs are open.

Down at the docks.

Of course, we had to go here.

Then we went down to the seashore where we saw this sculpture installation by Anthony Gormley. There are 100 of these figures, cast by the artist from his own body, and placed all along the waterfront, then left to the mercy of the elements.

The less glamorous side of travel: dirty clothes. We had to hire an Uber to take us and our laundry off to the closest laundromat and sit through a few cycles. I also managed to mail some postcards home.
(Lye-ver Laundrette. No organ washing)

It was great reconnecting again. And now on to Edinburgh.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


Part of the pleasure of our trip to England and Scotland was meeting up with cousins, those I previously knew, and those I was meeting for the first time, but thanks to Facebook, had already established a relationship with.

While in Chester we had our first meet up, with second cousin Stephen Salmon, his wife, Lorna, and two children. They were driving over from High Peak, Derbyshire, which in Texas terms is "just down the road". Derbyshire is right in the middle (see Derby and Trent River) and Chester is northwest from there just below Liverpool. (there will be a geography quiz later.)

Background: Here is my mother Joyce, and her two older sisters, Gladys and Nell, in the early 1940's Gladys (center) had two children, Janet and Gay, so Stephen (plus his brother, Chris, and half brother, Matt), are all grandchildren of Gladys, through my cousin, Gay. (The South Africa contingent of our family are all children and grandchildren of Janet.) Nell, on the right, had one child, Brian, who we meet next in Liverpool.

Glenn and I met with Stephen and family for lunch in Chester at the All Bar One, and all got to know each other.

                             You can see part of the old city wall in the background here.
  We took a walk along the River Dee. Every city we visited had a river. It was so nice to stroll along each one.

                                                 And here's the charming old Dee Bridge.

There are also old Roman ruins here, and this helpful centurion was explaining what we were looking at. The past and present all jumbled together.

We only had one full day in Chester but I'm glad we paid it a visit. From here it was only a short 30 minute train ride to Liverpool, to meet with Brian, and his partner, Isobel. And of course, we all know what Liverpool is famous for.