Friday, June 27, 2008

Let's Fly Away

Yesterday afternoon Trey and I took the boys down to the beach to try out the new kite we had gotten online. With the perpetual North Sea wind and fond memories of my own childhood kite flying adventures, I had high hopes for a successful attempt. The kite we had purchased was small and perfect for little children to handle. Even Davis gave it a go. We couldn't have hand-picked a nicer day at the beach and we got so absorbed in the fun that we completely lost track of time.

Davis trying the kite.

Flying the kite on the beach.

Addison loved it.


We took a lot of video which I've compiled to the strains of Sinatra. The rest of the photos from our beautiful afternoon are in the Kite album.

Wining and Dining

The Windows Restaurant on the 8th floor of the Carlton George Hotel was aptly named for, indeed, it had many windows. One might even say it provided a window to the skyline of Glasgow and its many cranes.

The restaurant appeared closed to the public while we sampled their "Sex and the City Pre-Theatre Menu" complete with complimentary Cosmopolitan. Evidently, not even Glasgow's friendly elderly eat this early.

We got the distinct impression that the wait staff were slightly amused at our early presence and a bit befuddled about who we were what with all the photo taking every time a new glass or dish was presented.

The orchid centerpiece was an elegant touch to our table.

Amazingly, the water actually came with ice cubes.

Chilled vine tomato soup, peas, asparagus, and goat's cheese. The soup was a trifle acidic, which even the creamy dollop of goat's cheese couldn't mitigate. However, kudos for the effort and presentation, and the asparagus was perfectly cooked.

Salad of cured salmon, horseradish, orange, and beetroot. The perfect marriage of flavors, spicy, sweet, and salty. My only complaint was the miserly portion. Of course, it was only a starter and this is Scotland after all.

Shoulder of Scottish lamb, garden pea cream, crispy bacon, and mint sauce. The lamb was cooked to perfection. The plate was arranged beautifully and as a hidden bonus a few potatoes were nestled in. Poor lamb, happy diners.

House red.

Vanilla milkshake, raspberry compote, and chocolate shortbread.

The vanilla milkshake had a bit of raspberry coulis drizzled on the bottom for an added sweet surprise. Again portions were middling, almost a tease.

The raspberry compote tasted divine and uncannily resembled an apple.

The chocolate shortbread was delicate and crumbly with the slightest hint of cocoa dusted with powdered sugar.

And thus concluded our drizzly day in Scotland's most dangerous and yet friendliest of cities.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Buzz Cuts

You already know the story about Davis's buzz, a haircut born of necessity. Well, Trey and I have been talking about giving Addison one too. He was hesitant. I was all for it (big surprise). Nothing says summer to me more than a cute little burr on a boy, and with the cold summers we get here, you do whatever you can to make it feel summery.The result? His eyes look even bigger. Sometimes I look at those incredible blue saucers and they just take my breath away. I fear many hearts may be broken in the future. *oh dear*

Bon Voyage

Last night Sarah left us to visit the Shetland Islands. She took the ferry that docks in Aberdeen Harbor and traveled the 12-hour overnight journey north. It was a drenching day and so our send-off was slightly altered. We had hoped to go with her down to the harbor and wave our hankies (ok, not really) as the ship pulled away. Instead, however, we went into town for pizza, and I dodged puddles with her from there down to the ferry. It was hardly a ferry. More like a massive ship.

We did hear from her this morning via email that she had arrived safely and was taking lots of pictures. I can hardly wait to see them when she returns tomorrow.

Coloring with Auntie Sarah at Pizza Hut.

Sarah's boat.

The Friendly City

The day dawned brilliant and clear in Aberdeen, but our little excursis to Glasgow confirmed what we have been told about the two cities. They do not get the same weather. By the time we reached the Friendly City, the sky was seriously overcast if not altogether ominous. However, it didn't stop us one bit. Nor did the bomb incident. It would take more than that to dampen our spirits.

Our first order of business was finding the Burrell Collection on the outskirts of the city center. After a few inquiries and one missed bus, we finally headed in the proper direction. By the time we reached our destination, we had encountered our first episode with the famed Glaswegian friendliness. Every person on that bus was going to make sure we got to the Burrell Collection. And it wasn't just us. There was another tourist on the bus that everyone was looking out for. I have never before encountered such overwhelming kindness from so many random strangers. Oh, and to top it off, one of the guys on the bus had a Glasgow smile. It felt like being in a scripted movie.

The Burrell Collection located in Pollok Country Park is a very drab, unassuming building from the outside. They obviously saved all their design acumen for the interior, which is beautiful and peaceful. Floor to ceiling to roof windows allow in the natural light from outside, and the site location on the edge of the woods creates an idyllic, almost other-worldly atmosphere for observing this magnificent collection of art, ranging from ancient Egyptian busts to Uzbek tapestries, religious stained glass, and massive stone archways. All 9000 artifacts were bequeathed to the city of Glasgow by shipping magnate and philanthropist Sir William Burrell in 1944 with the stipulation that the museum be situated in a rural setting. Amazingly, the museum is large enough only to display a portion of the entire collection.

Maddona and child.

The stained glass room, which was truly breathtaking.

After the Burrell Collection and a leisurely walk through Pollok Country Park (where we spotted some hairy coos), we hopped a bus back into town to visit Glasgow Cathedral or the High Church of St. Mungo. It is an enormous and imposing house of worship built on a slope, therefore enabling an entire chapel below its main choir which also houses the tomb of St. Mungo. A church has been on this site since 1136, and miraculously it survived the sometimes destructive zeal of the Reformation to which so many other Scottish churches succumbed.

The stained glass windows were gorgeous.

I was amazed at how well-lit the interior was, owing no doubt to the endless daylight we get this time of year.

The sign says it all.

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the oldest house in Scotland (1471). In some respects it possessed many of the same quirky features of Crathes, mismatched floor levels, uneven winding stairs, low doorways. It is hard to imagine that this house remains intact from a time long before our country was ever even discovered by European explorers.

The treacherous stairwell with its curved, uneven steps.

We did visit the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art before seeing this house but didn't stay long because we were running out of time. I'm not exactly sure how I felt about the museum, which reportedly has engendered some controversy for its equal portrayals of all the major religious systems. It contained some beautiful art and interesting facts, but rung a bit hollow with its superficial observations and analysis. Regardless, it's definitely worth another and more thorough visit.

After a whirlwind of sightseeing, we were ready for some dinner. More on that to follow a la a proper restaurant review complete with photos. The rest of the Glasgow photos are in its new album.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Footprints in the Sand

Saturday Sarah and I took the boys to the beach for a picnic. We spread a huge sheet out on the damp sand, ate sandwiches and salad while the boys played with rocks and sand toys. It was Davis's first time walking on the sand, and you can see the rapt awe on his sweet little face. It makes me pause and re-examine the pleasures that so delight our children and that for some reason we take for granted, burdened by the clutter and chaos of our seemingly mundane lives. Oh to re-discover the funny feel of sand between our toes.


Baby toes.


Davis's first sand walk.

Bomb Scare

Wouldn't you know it. Sarah and I arrived at the Glasgow Bus Station just before noon yesterday, and as we walked the few blocks to where the next bus would take us to the famed Burrell Collection, police officers stood watch outside a Pizza Hut in the busy pedestrian shopping area on Sauchiehall Street. Within minutes of us passing by they had roped off a two block area with police caution tape and the word spread along the street like wildfire. A bomb scare. We didn't stick around long enough to find out the result since we had sightseeing to do, but when we got home I found this article with all the details. Apparently it was just a hoax, a backpack left at the restaurant containing a pipe and some wires. In light of last year's attack on the Glasgow Airport you can hardly blame the Weegies for being so vigilent if not a bit skittish. Certainly added to the experience of visiting a "real" city in Scotland, and in true tourist fashion I made Sarah take some photos of the scene with her spiffy new camera.

More on our day to come, including tales of Glasgow smile sightings and the reknowned Glasgow friendliness.

Caught in the act. This officer is NOT working. He's working it. Shameless.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Crathes Castle

Wednesday Sarah and I took the boys to Crathes Castle, the 16th century home of the Burnett of Leys family in greater Aberdeenshire near Banchory. We took the bus out and then hiked from the road up to the castle. The day was stunningly beautiful, especially early in the afternoon when we wandered around the castle gardens which were in full bloom.

The castle itself was a quirky hodge podge of mismatched floor levels, low hanging doorways to slow down would-be intruders, and narrow, windy stairs of varying heights to trip up the same. Clearly protection from the outside was a serious concern for this clan. The back stairwell had a large rope slipped down the center as a handrail, something akin to the pole in a firehouse. There was also a tiny little hole in the wall of the stairs to the outside just big enough for a rifle barrel to be stuck through for shooting invaders. In one of the rooms over the fireplace hung a hunting horn that Robert the Bruce had given the family and which ever since was their symbol. They vacated the premises in the '50s when they gifted the castle to the National Trust for Scotland. Sadly, photography was not permitted inside, but we captured many beautiful pictures on the grounds.

Here are a few highlights from our time there.

A small cemetery in the woods surrounding the castle.

One of many irises in the garden.

One tuckered out little boy.

The greenhouse had grape vines growing along the wall.

Lupines everywhere.

Double trouble.

A slideshow of all the photos, which can also be seen in their new album.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Wee Dram

I took quite a bit of video at the Aberdeen Highland Games and have strung it all together into one, and as a bonus, the PA announcer has a very good Aberdeen accent. Now I don't need to find a "clean" video on YouTube. It starts with piping, leading to the light hammer toss, Highland dancing, and tug of war. Note the Glenfiddich banner around the cage during the hammer toss. Who else would sponsor such an event but a single malt scotch company?


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Aberdeen Highland Games

Sunday afternoon Sarah and I went to the annual Highland Games at Hazelhead Park. We had a magnificent time with much closer views than at the Braemar Gathering, affording some great video, which I will be posting soon. Here are some of my favorite pictures that both she and I took. The rest are in the Aberdeen Highland Games album. Enjoy!

Highland dancing.

Tug of war team.

Tug of war in action.

Just some of the fare available for the eating.

Mid caber toss.

Lots o' piping.