Notes from Europe 3

Monday,June 15, 2015

Glengarry Castle Hotel, Invergarry, Scotland

Well it’s really a country house, not a castle—but it’s by the ruins of a real castle. Invergarry is on the eastern end of Loch Lochy just west of the western end of Loch Ness. We spent two days in Amsterdam and one day in Edinburgh.

We had spent a week in Amsterdam on a trip several years ago, but the Rijksmuseum was pretty much closed for renovation at the time, so we wanted to see it again, now that it’s been completely redone. It’s very impressive. We also wanted to see the Van Gogh Museum again, to see the new arrangement of the paintings by subject matter rather than chronologically—as it was when we first visited. Think I liked the chronological arrangement better, plus the more famous paintings were in Oslo—you win some (the Monet exhibit in Frankfurt,) you lose some “Sunflowers”, “Starry Night”, and “the Potato Eaters” in Oslo.

We like to rent apartments at intervals in our trips—it’s nice to be able to eat breakfast and sometimes dinner in, instead of at a restaurant. Besides, it’s always interesting to visit supermarkets in different countries—they’re much the same everywhere, but there are definite cultural differences. In Amsterdam you can choose from about 20 different Gouda cheeses. We had rented an apartment when we were in Amsterdam the first time, but somehow we had forgotten about the staircases. In both apartments the stairs were narrow and steep –seemed like they were at about a 45 degree angle. And, we were on the third floor this time. We seem to notice these things more now that we’re both in our eighth decade of life.

We went to an Italian restaurant two of our evenings in Amsterdam—the food was amazing. The chef/owner had come to Amsterdam from Naples, by way of a few years in Switzerland and Germany, twenty-eight years ago. He met his wife/hostess/waitress who was from Surinam, and they now have four children, all going to university in Amsterdam!

We had visited Edinburgh often when we lived in England, but somehow never managed to visit Holyrood castle or the National Gallery, and finally saw them on this trip. Edinburgh is my favorite city.

Today we drove along the length of Loch Lomand, and visited Inverraray Castle—home of the Campbell clan to which my husband claims affinity. We then drove by at least five more lochs and through as many glens, driving half-way around Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak. Ben Nevis’ 4,409 feet above sea level sounds puny compared to our peaks, but when you see it from just east of Fort William, at its base, it is a presence somehow more intense, more immediate, than looking at Mount Whitney from Lone Pine. Tomorrow we’re off to see Sir Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Flookburgh, England

Have not had Wi-Fi connection for a while, so don’t know when I’ll be able to post this. We’ve covered a lot of territory in the last two days. It isn’t that impressive in terms of miles covered, but seems a long way when you’re traveling on secondary British roads. On Tuesday we traveled through more beautiful glens. You may remember learning about the “U” shaped valleys left by the glacial retreat after the last ice-age in your geology class—that “U” shape is very apparent in these Scottish glens. The weather was overcast, yet calm, so the lochs we passed were often smooth as mirrors with wonderful reflections of the surrounding hills. Perhaps my Scottish ancestry clouds my judgment, but I think Scotland is the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen.

We traveled south of Edinburgh to Roslyn Chapel. If you have seen the movie, or read the book, The Da Vinci Code you will have seen or read about this chapel. That connection aside, I found the chapel fascinating, because the medieval stone carvings are close enough to see—unlike in all the gothic cathedrals I’ve seen.

We travelled further south to see Sir Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford, on the Tweed River, near the border with England. The audio guide to the home was entertaining—done in the “voice” of Sir Walter Scott. We traveled further south across the border to the town of Wooler on the edge of the beautiful Cheviot Hills. We stayed in a charming B&B right off the High Street. Had a great meal—we’ve almost always been able to get good food in England, think their reputation otherwise is no longer deserved.

Yesterday we traveled from the east coast to the west coast of England, just south of where Hadrian did the same with his wall built to defend against the barbaric Scots. Before we did so, we toured Alnwick Castle, home of the 12th Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy. Seems the Percy’s have been ruling the roost in Northumbria since their ancestor came over with William the Conqueror. If you watched the 2014 Christmas Special of “Downton Abbey” you will have seen some of this castle’s rooms. We particularly enjoyed the paintings by Titian and Canaletto. The Percy who was in charge during the English Civil War was a crafty politician. He somehow kept on the good side of both Charles I, and Cromwell. Some of the wonderful paintings in the Percy collection were probably part of Charles I’s collections.

Next we visited a reconstructed Roman fort, on the coast south Tyne River in a suburb of Newcastle. We then traveled across England, through picture-book farmland, and the Yorkshire Dales. We took the “scenic” route down the west side of Lake Windermer south to Flookburgh. We hadn’t planned on taking the scenic route, but the navigator (me) made a slight mistake and we turned north on the road we wanted, instead of south—the day was very grey, hard to tell directions, especially when you’re navigating a roundabout. The town of Windermere is quite touristy, but the lake is lovely. Flookburgh is on Morecambe Bay, and we are staying on a farm that borders on the marshes between us and the bay. There are chickens and cows just outside my window. Very peaceful. Finally was able to get the correct password from our farmer-landlord—if you ever watched “All Creature Great and small”, you will know how he speaks—just like the farmers on that program. It’s difficult to understand, especially on the phone.


2 thoughts on “Notes from Europe 3

  1. Rick Bova

    I remember reading a National Geographic article a while back about Hadrian Wall that proposed that it wasn’t use for protection against the barbaric Scots but for charging people money to go through the gate. I don’t remember what facts about the Wall and garrisons that lead them to that conclusion.



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