Monday 30 June 2008

A Long Week For Me...

The first time Kenny and I saw this advert, we both sat there, quite bemusedly, trying to figure out what exactly was being advertised: an electric or gas provider? an environmentalist group? sellers of electrical gadgets? And then... oh how we guffawed. Classic. Did you 'see' it coming? Get it? SEE it? Ha ha. I kill me. ;)

Anyway, my eyesight IS that bad, so I didn't make any mistake: I made an appointment at SpecSavers. A week ago, I went in for my check-up. It was fine-- but they had failed to inform me that you have to make a separate appointment for contact fitting (even though when I had originally made the appointment I specifically said it was for new contacts). So I had to make another appointment, for as soon as possible. The lady said there was one open the next day, so I said 'Yes, please!' She wrote me out an appointment card, which I tucked into my folded-up copy of my glasses prescription, and I toodled on home. The next day, I showed up for my appointment... for the receptionist to tell me I wasn't in the books. Impossible, I thought. 'But I have the card!', I said. And pulled it out, to look at it for the first time. And, of course, noticed then that the date written on it was for Wednesday... and this was Tuesday. Oh, I was so embarrassed, and annoyed! I had just remembered what the lady had told me and never thought to actually look at the card. Sheesh. Lucky for me, the same doctor I had seen the day before (a young, cute one, as luck would have it) was standing in the doorway, chuckling at the whole situation. He very kindly offered to see me then, as he was free, unless I just wanted to come back tomorrow. I graciously accepted.

This doctor was really nice. He seems really young to me, which makes me think I must be getting old, ha. I am used to being treated here like I am wasting the doctors' time, that I am a burden and a bore. This guy, he started out kind of distant and disgruntled, but y'all know me. I can't help myself. So by the time I left, we were on pretty chatty terms, cracking jokes and all. It was nice. Which may be why he worked me in on Tuesday... a little friendliness goes a long way, that's all I have to say. And a good rapport with your doctor always makes it easier to both take the 'bad news' and follow his (or her) instructions. Even if I wasn't very happy about it.

So the fitting appointment is only supposed to take ten to fifteen minutes, but the doctor wanted to re-check a few things. He took the measurements, and all that stuff. But then, again, we did the stain test (which tickles me, when everything goes all yellow for a bit)... and that's where things got a little hinky. Apparently, my doctor informed me, my eyes are really dry. They don't seem really dry to me, except in the mornings when they are really goopy and sticky, and sometimes at night after a long day. But if he says so, it must be. And he tells me that because of this dryness (which is probably due to long days, every days in my contacts, as well as wearing them when reading and writing-- because you blink less when you are focusing on something. Who knew?!) I have loads of little, bitty scratches all over my eyes. It's the kind of thing that isn't bad now, but can't be let to go on... it could cause big problems if left unchecked. Sheesh! And I had no idea.

What, you may ask, is to be done? Well, this is where things got bad for me. Not so bad at first... he gave me some fancy-schmancy contacts that don't dry your eyes out like others (and, of course, are more expensive) to try on. They felt great, and wearing them allowed the doctor to tweak my prescription to perfection. And then I had to take them out, and throw 'em away. Boo-hoo! What a waste. That's when I got the bad news... but thankfully, because I am on friendly terms with this doctor, we got to negotiate a little. He told me he didn't want me to wear my contacts for a while. A while?! What do you mean, a while?! I wear them all the time. I don't go out without them. I hate wearing my glasses-- it is in part thanks to my poor scarred psyche from being the only kid with glasses in elementary school, and having, as many of us did, really bad frames, and in part it's the annoyance of how they fog up, or slip down... not to mention having to squint in the sunshine. So the good doctor and I came to an agreement-- I would not wear my contacts for one whole week. And I would get this stuff from the chemist to put in them every night before I went to bed-- thick, vaseline-like stuff to lubricate them. And then I would come back in a week. IF my eyes were better, if the lube and the rest had worked at all, then I would get my one-month trial pair of contacts. Still, there will be more to negotiate: how many days I'm allowed to wear them, how many hours each day, stuff like that. And then, hopefully, I'll go back once more before I come home, for one more check of the contacts, and to see if my eyes are holding up and-- even better-- healing up.

If I have to give up wearing contacts, I swear... I'll be going into debt to get laser correction surgery. I can't go back to wearing just glasses. I just can't! And I won't. No sirree. Not even if they are this kind, which would solve at least one of the issues I have with wearing them:

Sunday 29 June 2008

Gotta Love Good Adverts

In my continuing effort to bring you quality adverts, here are a few more that I've been lovin' lately.

I grew up on Sesame Street, and I miss the good old days with the classic songs and sketches. I could not believe it when I heard this on the tv... I didn't even care what it was an advert for. Hope it takes you back, too....

These next three are all in a series, for the same product. I first saw them in cinemas, and they just cracked me up. Makes me miss having mates like this here....

I guess that's all for today. I hope they made you smile a little! ;)

Saturday 28 June 2008

Big Reading

"The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed."

I love these kinds of lists. I love reading, and I love lists-- so reading lists are really my cuppa. As a kid, I would read as many Newberry winners as I could (still need to finish that list; it keeps growing!). I read several (more than required) off my AP English summer reading list in high school. And even now, I love working through lists like this. I'm not very systematic in my approach, and a lot of these I would read even if they weren't on any list (I'm a big fan of the 'classics', if only for the sake of them being classics). The ones in italics here are ones that I would read anyway... the ones not in italics are new to me, thanks to this list, and I will add them to my very lengthy to-read list.

I just love to read. And I love to talk books, so I'd be very interested to see your list... and to discuss any of 'em-- or all of 'em! So if you are interested, here is what you do:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE. (I can't figure out how to underline on here, so I'm gonna **)
4) Reprint this list in your own blog.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen**
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien**
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte**
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling**
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee**
6 The Bible**
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell**
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott**
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien**
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald**
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams**
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll**
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis**
34 Emma - Jane Austen**
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis**
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne**
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery**
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley**
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold**
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding**
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett**
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens**
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White**
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams**
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare**
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

If you have suggestions for me to add to my reading lists, books you would suggest, that you have loved or learned from or been glad you read for one reason or another, please let me know!

Oh, and PS-- I stole this from my friend Maggie over at LiveJournal. Thanks, Mags! ;)

Wait, PPS-- I find it funny that, for instance, they have 'The Chronicles of Narnia'-- which is the whole seven book collection-- just a few numbers before they have one of those individual books. The same with 'The Complete Works of Shakespeare' and later 'Hamlet'. I mean, sheesh! They could have gotten two more books on that list. Silly people. =D

Friday 27 June 2008

Summer Holiday, The Finale

I don't really want to talk about the house, or the trampoline we bought, or how hard we had to work, or the driving around we did, or the walking to the ice cream shop, or the town they live in, or the nearby drive in... no. I only want to talk about the bubbee. Because he was the main reason I decided to go home, after all.

I have been so broke ever since then, but it was totally worth it! Bubbee is just so much fun, and spending five weeks with him was wonderful. He had just started walking when I got there, and he just never stopped!
He is a thrill-seeking little guy, and in short order was not only walking, but running, climbing, and jumping off everything. One of his favourite games rather quickly became getting one of us (most often me, ha) to spin him, either by his arms or in our arms... he loved it so much! Once was just not enough, and he developed a way to let us know he wanted to go again: if we were swinging him by his arms, he would pick one leg up cocked at the knee, as if to say 'both legs up again, please!' If we were spinning him in our arms, he would throw his weight around to the side, effectively saying 'around again, please!' I would always say 'one... two... three... go!' so that it got to where, before I'd even hit three, he was laughing and clinging on, ready to whiz around as fast as I could go! He's got the greatest laugh... it's totally infectious. And he's always smiling....
Speaking of smiling, he's not only always smiling, but he keeps us laughing a lot, as well. Some of the things he does are just priceless... like whacking his mom on the top of her head whenever he is on her shoulders. Now, Jen probably doesn't find it so funny, and I suppose it probably hurts a tad. It cracks me up, though! (Sorry, sis!)
He also started doing these very intense poses while I was there... I'm not sure where he picked it up, or why, but he would just clench his fists and his jaw, with his eyes wide open, and then just laugh and laugh... we laughed with him, of course. We called it his Hulk Hogan expression.
When he was a baby, he would sleep with his arms up alongside his head. Someone joking called it his 'Pentecostal Pose', so whenever he would throw his arms up in the air (which he quickly learned would make my sister laugh) Jen would say, 'Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!' or similar. While I was there, he began (when he felt like it, of course) to throw his arms up in the air whenever someone said 'Hallelujah!' One of the funniest times was in church, during a visit to my grandmother: his juice cup had squawked loudly (not the bubbee's fault, poor thing) during the high note in the soloist's rendition of 'The Lord's Prayer', and Jen and I were struggling to keep from bursting out laughing. So a little while later, Jen whispers in his ear, *Hallelujah!*, to which he joyfully throws his arms up in the air! It was awesome... I thought I was going to die of suppressed laughter. Of course, he only does it when he feels like it, the stubborn boy...
He also just has so much personality. He's very charming, and has never met a stranger.
He loves to play and laugh, and *talks* up a storm, even though we couldn't understand a word of it, ha! He is a very laid back little dude...
and lets us do silly (and by silly, I mean 'mean') things to him, like curl his hair
and stick stuff to him
and goad him into playing at the table.
But not only is he sweet and wonderful and fun when he's awake, but he's just adorable when he's asleep, as well. Somewhere along the way, we left his 'wookee' (my sister's messed up attempt at naming his blanket after the Mister Mom reference)... so I let him borrow my bear to sleep with. Bubbs and Noah seemed to get along just fine....
As great as he is when he is asleep, getting him to slow down enough to fall asleep for his nap is often challenging. The Funkee Unkee has a golden voice, however, and could lull the boy into sleep... as well as keep him entertained while awake (so Jen and I could paint the sitting room and his bedroom).
Ah, my bubbee. I love being Cool Auntie Amie, and spoiling him as much as possible. I wish I could spoil him with even more time and attention, but he already gets as much of that as I can give. I didn't even see my parents when I went home this time-- only bubbee (and his parents, of course)! I love my bubbee.
I should also mention that I got to see a few other people while I was home, and it was lovely to see them. We went down to visit my grandmother and great aunt one weekend, which was good. I have flown in and out of my grandmother's city several times to and from Scotland, but it had been a year since I'd seen her. Obviously, the 'unkee' came up to visit us, where he was deemed by my sister the *Funkee Unkee*. It was good to have him, not just because it was good for me to see him after a year, but also because of how well he fit in with the rest of us. The bubbee seemed to enjoy him, and even Jen liked him! *shock* =D I also got to see Jason, but you already know that if you've been reading along. Finally, and perhaps the biggest treat for me, was getting to spend the weekend with my *Aberdeen Asbury* family, who have all deserted me for the greener pastures of Michigan (go figure). It was really hard on me, losing all my 'family' in a manner of months, and rather unexpectedly in some cases. So to get to see them, and spend the weekend playing darts with Nathanael, and frisbee on the grass, and generally just hanging out with Tom and Sarah, Rich and Lorie, Nathanael and Autumn... it was awesome. I miss y'all! I guess I'll have to consider moving to Michigan next... espeically now that Brian and Nicole are going to be there, too! ;)

It was so hard for me to leave my bubbs and come back home. He grows and changes so fast, and now it's been nearly a year since I've seen him. AND I have a brand new niece to meet... I can't wait to get home, and write more of these posts about just about my favourite subject: being Cool Auntie Amie! Jen, hug the bubbs and duckee for me, and tell them I'll be there soon! =D

Thursday 26 June 2008

Summer Holiday, Part V

I know y'all are dying to hear what happened next... so I won't keep you in suspense any longer.

I went home.

It came about pretty last-minute, actually. I hadn't planned to come home again until I was finished with my degree (which, incidentally, has taken longer than I expected at that time), but my sister and brother-in-law needed a hand moving 3/4 of the way across the country, and a friend here told me about a really cheap way to fly back and forth (from here to Canada). I ended up finding tickets that worked, and for a very nice price... and the thought of spending time with my nephew, who turned one year old in July, made up my mind. I bought the tickets, and off I went! It turns out, I needed the time at home more than I thought... it was a good thing, to take a break and get out of Scotland for a while. I love it here, but seeing the bubbee for five weeks was just what the doctor ordered!
I left Aberdeen on the morning of 25 July, to catch a bus to Glasgow, where I flew out direct to Vancouver. That was nice, a direct flight for a change! I arrived in Vancouver, where the family drove up to get me... eventually. Apparently the crossing into Canada took forever. Getting back out took a while, as well, but only because Jen couldn't leave without finding this certain brand of chocolate chip cookies... we wandered around the Vancouver area for a while, but we finally found them. It was really late when we finally arrived back in Seattle, and we all stayed in a motel, since the movers had cleaned out the apartment already. We spent the next few days finishing up the packing and cleaning the place, with a few fun things in between. The very next day after I arrived, I got 14" cut off my hair to donate to Locks of Love. It turned out to be a good thing I did it so early, since the temps driving across country were in the hundreds several days! We also spent time hanging out with Jen and bubbee's friends at the park.
and after

Finally on Saturday night, after much time spent cleaning and trying to pack all the things they hadn't packed before into two small cars (it didn't work so well, ha!)... we were off! Two cars, three adults, three cats, one bubbee, and a ton of stuff!

We had to be in Indiana by the following Friday, for the house closing. So we drove, and drove, and drove. Many days we didn't stop for a hotel until late into the night, or early in the morning, depending on your point of view. We went through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Whew! It was crazy! The only places we stopped to sight-see were in South Dakota-- Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and the Corn Palace. If you haven't seen the first and last, I highly recommend them. Wall Drug is fine if you need to stop, but it's pretty much a tourist trap with loads of shopping. The homemade ice cream was tasty, though! Rushmore was fantastic. I hadn't seen it before, and it was impressive. The Corn Palace in Mitchell is worth seeing, too-- though it is a bit, um, corny. Ha! It's decorated with murals, a different theme each year, made entirely of corn. Pretty neat, if you ask me. We also drove through lots of natural beauty-- mountains and plains, rivers and trees, sunsets and flowers. Gorgeous! Sadly, because I was driving Emeralda the majority of the time (my sister's green Firebird), I had to take most of my pictures out of the window of a moving car... luckily, many turned out just fine, and I didn't crash!

Me at Rushmore
In Deadwood... we saw tons of motorcycles, because the Stugis rally was coming up
Random rock formations
The Corn Palace, obviously
The only way I saw all the gorgeous sunsets

We did make it by the day of the closing, but because of their weird agreement it was another week before we could move in. So after more than a week of living in hotels already, we spent yet another week in one. Aaargh! It was crazy. Saum actually started work while we were living at the La Quinta, and Jen, bubbee and I spent our days by the pool and watching the Disney Channel (mostly Hannah Montana, it seemed). Also during that week, I got to go to Cedar Point (the roller coaster capital of the world) in Sandusky, Ohio. I went with my friend Jason, who for the past couple of years I have gone thrill riding each summer. I had only been to Cedar Point once before (also with Jason), but hadn't gotten to ride one of their most awesome new rides, the Top Thrill Dragster. This time, however, I got to ride it (finally) and it was amazing! We rode that on Wednesday night, to make sure we got to ride. It was a darn good thing, too, as we didn't get to ride much on Thursday because it poured down almost all day long! We got soaked to the bone, but it eventually cleared up and we got to ride a few more things. I love that park! If you like coasters, and you haven't been... you should totally go! Anyway, I spent two exciting days there, and then came back to help move into the new house on Friday, 10 August. And the time in the house is a story in it's own right....

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Summer Holiday, Part IV

You might think my summer would have been winding down, but you'd be wrong! Even after so much activity, there was still a lot going on in Aberdeen.

After we got back from the West, we only had four days until Barb deserted me. We pretty much just spend out time hanging out in town. We decided to have our *Last Supper* at Pizza Hut, which is definitely 'Barb-kosher' (she's kind of a picky eater, unless it includes pickles). It turned out that only Barb, Kristianna, and I could go-- and we had a great time! Barb forced me into sticking my toes into the North Sea with her, for her 'toes in different bodies of water' series... and it was freezing! Thank goodness the day was warm....

Barb, Kristianna, and meMy frozen toes in the North sea
Barb and me at the beach

Barb's leaving was actually very hard on me. We had gotten to be really good friends, and had been hanging out a lot since Easter. Even though I knew she would be leaving, as she was only here for a term, it was still hard. It feels like all my friends here end up leaving me... okay, they don't leave ME so much as they just leave, but it still isn't very pleasant to be the one left behind. *sigh* It also was bad timing for Barb leaving, as well, since she was my one big Harry Potter fan friend-- and July was Harry Potter month! She left on 11 July, and on 12 July I went to see movie five-- The Order of the Phoenix. I was expecting very little from the film, as I have learned that the films always disappoint me. Still, I went to the opening day show. Even with as little as I was expecting from it, I was still disappointed. Michael Gambon has got to be the worst Dumbledore there could possibly be... has he ever read the books to know who he is portraying? Have the writers?! It sure doesn't seem that way, judging from some things such as the big fight between Dumbledore and Voldemort... but nevermind. I had bigger and better Harry Potter excitement to look forward to, because a week later at midnight on 20 July...

I stood in line, dressed in my Hogwarts finest, to collect my copy of the final installment: The Deathly Hallows. I have been following this series since book four came out, when my sister and dad sent copies of 1-4 to me. I had anxiously awaited the releases of each book since then, and this one was no exception. I arrived at Waterstone's on Union Street around 21.30 to take up my place in line, only a block or so from the entrance to the store. Funny enough, I was in almost the exact same spot I had been two years before for the release of The Half-Blood Prince, even though I arrived two hours earlier this time. The line eventually stretched all the way down the street, around the next street, and wrapped around to the next! Thank goodness I got there when I did! It was pretty chilly, so I ended up being glad I had worn my sweater, and wishing I had my Gryffindor scarf, as well! There were roving minstrels, musicians and stuff, but none stopped near me. By about 23.45, I was freezing-- hands frozen, cheeks beyond rosy, toes numb. Thankfully, the store was nice enough to let those of us who had been outside the longest inside to wait for the final few mintues. I was set to pick up my book from the Quidditch Pitch, but ended up having to wait quite a while... one of their three registers went down! But eventually I got my book, and giddily headed upstairs to get a caramel latte from Costa and to start reading. Just as I was about to start, my dad called from Tennessee to see if I had my book yet-- he had a few more hours to wait, but had his number. We chatted briefly, and then I dove in! I read for about half an hour, and then headed back to my flat-- where I read straight through until about 7.00 (the last time I remember looking at the clock, anway), with only two short breaks: one to try and call Barb, and one to call my sister. I must have fallen asleep reading, because I woke up I woke up on the sofa, with my book carefully marked and laid on the table, and me covered with a throw (both courtesy of my brilliant flatmate). It was then about noon-- I got something quick to eat and then went back to it, and read straight through. It was fantastic! I cried-- a lot-- because good things happened, and sad things happened, and at the last it was ended well. I loved it, and was only disappointed we didn't get more in the 'epilogue'. Overall, though, I thought it was a good way to end the series, and to wrap up all the little details we'd been dying to know. I'm not going to talk about the plot here, in case some of you haven't read it (you should!)-- but if you have/when you do, I'll be more than happy to talk! ;)
Me, in my Hogwarts uniform, with my book

My spot in line, looking up towards the store

The rest of July was set to be pretty uneventful, until... well, you'll see. =D

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Summer Holiday, Part III


July started off with a bang, although here in Scotland there were no Independence Day fireworks (sadly). Instead, Barb, Laurie and I piled into Laurie's little Ka to head out west (sounds pretty All-American when I say it that way, ha!). Barb and I caught the bus out to Banchory and met Laurie at her church, and loaded up to head out. Our plan was to get over to Tobermory (on the Isle of Mull) that first day... but things rarely go according to plan, of course. We got stuck because of a car accident on a small mountain road, so we had to go back and then around by a longer route-- we missed the last ferry out of Oban by ten minutes. Bummer! Luckily we could transfer our hostel booking from Tobermory to Oban (with SYHA), and spent the evening there on the coast. We hiked up to the big Colosseum-like park on the top of the hill overlooking the town and the coast. It was pretty cool, and nice to be there at sunset.

(I must say, I can't remember for sure exactly what we did on each day, so Barb or Laurie, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong! And I don't have any photos handy from this first day, so... sorry.)

The next morning, we had to catch the first ferry out to Mull. It was cold, windy, and a bit wet... but by the time we got to Tobermory at least it had stopped raining. Tobermory is a very picturesque fishing village, with a colourful waterfront. Sadly, we were there so early that nothing was open. We just walked along the harbour, then walked back and drove away again. We headed straight across to catch the ferry over to Iona... and left Mull behind the same day we got there. Going to Iona was Laurie's big part of the trip, and Barb and I were glad to be along for the ride... literally, since she was driving, ha! Well, not driving to Iona, because you can't actually drive there unless you live on the tiny island. So we left our car and most of our stuff on Mull and backpacked it across on the ferry. We went to the abbey there, which is the cradle of Scottish Christianity-- Saint Columba came over from Ireland, and from Iona went on to evangelise Scotland. It also was the first place that the iconic 'celtic cross' showed up... and funnily enough, it was out of architectural necessity and not theological design-- the crosspieces were too heavy for the post! And yet from that we have one of the most beautiful and meaningful symbols. Nice. The abbey was very cool, as was the graveyard (where many Scottish kings are buried) and the ruins of the nunnery.

The abbey
An example of a celtic cross

Barb and I mainly just wandered around by ourselves for a while, getting soaked in a downpour before it finally let up, and then headed out to the hostel, which was a good mile and a half away. On the way, Barb made a friend:
We got out to the hostel and made some dinner, and then headed out to the sea to watch the sunset. It was gorgeous, and I took as many pictures of the light on the water as anything else, I think.
Me, out at the coast. Notice the wet cuffs? They never seemed to dry.

The sunset off Iona

After all that walking (which might not sound like it, but sure was a lot!), we went back to the hostel for a relaxing evening and early night. It turns out we needed it... the next morning we were getting up early to catch the ferry back, and book it back over to the mainland and Glenfinnan viaduct.
The view from the ferry

One of the big things Barb and I wanted to do was to see the steam train on the Glenfinnan viaduct, which is perhaps better know to most people as the arched bridge the Hogwarts Express steams over in the first two Harry Potter films. We had to hurry a bit to get there, but we ended up being there in plenty of time. Barb and I hiked up to the overlook, and staked our spot. Laurie hiked off somewhere else, as the HP stuff wasn't so much her thing, but Barb and I waited half an hour for the train. We were joined by loads of folks, and we all tried to get good shots. It was so cool, and even cooler to be there with a fellow HP fan!
Actually, from there I get a little fuzzy, but I think from there we headed on over to the aisle of Skye, where we spent the last three nights. We stayed in three different places-- Carbost (home of the Talisker distillery, and on the lower western side), Uig (up around the tip), and Portree (right round the bottom again). The Old Inn in Carbost was great-- wonderful views of the loch and really nice folks. The SYHA hostel in Uig was pretty run down, and the *hosts* were far from hospitable. Portree was pretty average-- neither exceptional nor horrible. Anyway, between the three, we saw most of the island-- small B roads, plenty of Munroes (how our tallest hills are categorised), sheep, water large and small, lighthouses (to which we hiked miles and miles... uphill... both ways!), gardens, and my favourite-- the Faerie Glen! This is supposed to be the castle of the faerie queen, and we hiked all over it.
I hiked up this... and back down... to get to the lighthouse and our picnic lunch
The Faerie Glen
A very usual sight... even though they quite often were ON the road.

On the sixth day we drove back over to the mainland via the Skye bridge, which is a nice big ole bridge. We stopped on the way briefly, to take pictures of the most photographed castle in Scotland, which you might recognise from the recent film Made of Honour: Eilean Donan. It was cloudy and rainy for most of the trip, and the hills never *came out*, as the saying goes. But still, the clouds make for great atmosphere:

We also stopped off at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, because Laurie had never been there. I love that place, but I had been there before and didn't want to pay to go back in. I waited in the carpark while they went in, but I got some good shots anyway.
After that, Laurie drove us back home. It was great fun, but exhausting. And we learned that Barb and I travel well together... and having a friend who was willing to drive and go with us was great (thanks, Laurie!). Barb stayed with me overnight, and then moved out the next day to stay with the friend who would take her to the airport a couple of days later.

And this is just the first week of July! More to come....

Monday 23 June 2008

Summer Holiday, Part II

First off, I need to say that many of the photos I use here, especially if they have me in them, came from Barb. She takes lots of photos, and good photos. If I ever graduate, or get married, or do anything else photo-worthy, I hope she'll be my photographer! Thanks, Barb, for letting me steal your photos!

Once it was play time, we didn't waste any time! I mainly did things with Barb, fitting in all we could in her last few weeks. We did some of the typical Aberdeen stuff-- the Marischal College museum, the Art Museum, wandering downtown. We went out to Torry Battery (a fortification on the harbour from 1860) to try and see the dolphins playing in the harbour... but they were only teasing us. We saw a few fins, but no frolicking. Silly dolphins! We spent time in several of the local parks (Union Terrace, Seaton, and Duthie), and climbed down to see the Brig o' Balgownie (purported to be from the time of Robert the Bruce). We even saw a few films (the thirds of both Shrek and Pirates). Most of our days were... interesting... outside, in the wind and rain and sun and clouds-- all in the same day, quite often!
Me outside Torry Battery
The Brig o' Balgownie
A very windy day
Union Terrace Gardens, looking up at His Majesty's Theatre
Looking back towards Aberdeen, at the harbour entrance

The best day out for me (though not necessarily for Barb-- she sprained her ankle) was the one we spent hiking to Slains Castle from the Bullers of Buchan. It was awesome! We caught the bus up to Buchan and walked out to see the Bullers, which used to be a sea cave, but the roof fell through. Now this is what you get:

From there, we hiked around the cliffs to wind up at Slains. It's a ruin, and not owned by any of the preservation groups (at least it wasn't, at the time), so we were free to just wander around. I loved it! It is right out on the cliffs, surrounded by fields and sea... I would love to live there. But I'd have to put a roof on, first, and then run electricity and water, of course! It's one of my favourite places so far, and we took loads of photos. I'll just include a few here, but if you want to see more, let me know and I'll post 'em. Gladly. =D We had the whole range of weather that day, too... from being so warm we took off our jackets, to being drenched by the rain, to the sun out and beautiful again. The weather is so funny here, but at least you can see it coming....
Barb hiking through the jungle. Or the weeds on the cliffside.
Slains, from the sea side.
Weather coming in, looking towards Slains and the sea.
Me, with the changing weather behind me...

Next up, our West Coast trip... me and Barb and Laurie, six days in a car, a different bed each night, three islands plus the mainland-- what a trip!