2013 - Year in Review (Page 5)

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Fettercarn Distillery, Scotland, with Mike and Nancy Gamso
We toured together, we traveled together, we ate together. We look forward to hearing about their new travel plans to Belgium.

Europe with Mike & Nancy Gamso

London, England

London was the same really as when we lived there in 2008 & 2009. We did the same things, the main tourist things that never go away for hundreds and sometimes over a thousand years. The top spots for our brief stay with Nancy and Mike who hadn’t visited before was British Museum, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, our 2008 / 2009 neighborhood. We visited with Peter and Julie Bowen in Cambridge while Nancy and Mike explored Sherlock Holmes’ fictional street which is a real street that has created a Sherlock Holmes’ museum where the fictional character lived. Talk about life imitating art – that kind of defines it doesn’t it?

Linda: One of the very neat things about Cambridge, besides seeing our good friends, Peter and Julie, was sitting in the very same place that Crick and Watson announced their discovery of DNA. (It was a pub!) They said then they have discovered the secret of life. Ya know, there was a woman involved in that discovery that did not get her due. That kind of thing annoys me and I like to point out to whoever is listening, reading, watching, that misogynist behavior is ugly.
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Gary: While London was cool and rainy, we made the best of conditions. Each morning, I raised before the sun & walked to the peak of Primrose Hill (near Regent's Park). There, I shared the sunrise with a few dog walkers and runners, with a beautiful view of down town London.

We toured Buckingham Palace (it's only open in August & September when the Queen's away in Scotland). Even in September, the Palace was full of memorabilia celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Queen's coronation, from 3 months earlier.

We attended Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral after having tea with an old British Telecom (BT) colleague, Judith Harding. During Evensong, we sat in the area shared by the choir and their family with front-row seats for the service.

We departed London-to-Paris from King’s Cross where Harry Potter went to Hogwarts from Platform 9 3/4 to go to Paris. We each tried to get through the wall onto the platform & failed.
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From Tea Room on 5th Floor of MuseĢe D'Orsay, Paris with a view to Basilica of Sacre Coeur (Montmartre).

Europe continued...

Paris, France

Linda: Mike came prepared with two locks so that both couples could secure their wish by putting a lock on a bridge, with a wish written on it, and then throwing the key in the Seine. With our locks, we visited the the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor bridge, linking the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre Museum.

Our wish: Long Life; Quick Death. Long version, ‘Long, healthy, happy life; quick, painless, timely death.’ Following Dad’s death, Gary and I toasted each other regularly with “Here’s to our good health”, now, we say: “Here’s to our good health, long life and quick death.” It's become our mission statement at this point in our life.

Besides the "
love lock" bridge, we visited the Musee d’Orsay which is my favorite museum that I know enough to talk about. Their top two floors of impressionist art has all the masters – all the most famous pieces of really beautiful art. We bought coasters with these pictures on them and I love how they decorate the table.

We walked by
The Louvre on a raining day so we didn’t wait in line to go below the glass triangle. We saw the Eiffel Tower at night after a very long walk where we kept checking the map to see we were on track. That was the night we came from Montmartre where we had dinner. We saw Notre Dame Cathedral and I recall Gary couldn’t stop talking even though there were signs everywhere that said “Silence”. We kind of split apart in there as Nancy and I sat inside enjoying the serenity of the cathedral and Gary and Mike had gone outside thinking we were there. They finally came back to find us but you can hear the conversation yourself now that I’ve set up the encounter when we found each other.

We had nice café lunches both days in Paris. We stopped for coffee in the afternoon. We took advantage of the Marriott Concierge Room where they serve wine/beer/appetizers every night. We played cards. We enjoyed our stay in Paris.

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Gary: We visited Paris years ago with the boys. Returning includes a mix of repeating what we know we'll enjoy, plus new discoveries. In 2008 we've stayed on the west side of the River Seine. During this trip, we were deep in the East Bank, in an area called Reve Gauche.

We experienced our first use of the Paris subway, since we've become so dependent on the Tube in London. Aside from all the signage in French, most subways operate the same.

There was only one occasion where we rushed down a platform to catch a train. I jumped onto the train & the doors closed behind me, leaving Linda, Mike and Nancy on the platform with wide-eyes and that "uh-oh" look. Without hesitation, I got off at the first stop and caught the train back to their platform with minimal confusion to find them waiting patiently.

One of my favorite places to return to with each visit is the Basilica du Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. We took a few subways and used the Funicular to the top of the hill, then visited the church and had a great dinner in a small french cafe.
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Tintagel Castle, Cornish Coast, England on a pleasant, though balmy fall morning. We walked from the town of Tintagel along the Cornish Coastal Walkway for ~1 mile.

Europe continued...

Cornwall, England

Linda: Nancy and Mike stood at an ancient alter holding hands and smiling for the camera. It felt like a religious moment, when significant vows are made. I wanted to go to Cornwall because Peter said it was a very nice place. Prince Charles owns major portions of Cornwall that he leases to the farmers there. That’s probably what keeps it so rural, yet pristine, the Prince insists on well kept fields and he sets the rates to let the rentiers keep everything up nicely.

We stayed in comfortable, warm, small hotel. The husband/wife team who owned the place had distributed responsibilities. She kept the books, managed the Cleaning staff and held down the front desk. He, bar tended, took dinner orders, managed the Kitchen staff and kept his guests entertained. They barely crossed paths. He was a former professional footbal player before they bought the place 30 years before. He was handsome, friendly, and told a good story. I gave him a good story to tell to his future guests, here it is.

“You wouldn’t believe this American woman, comes in here with her husband and she drinks pretty good, ya know? I fixed her martinis and she drank Benedictine and Brandy I mixed for her. Anyway, there’s this couple I’ve know for 30 years come to the place sitting at the bar with this American woman and her husband. I told the American one she has a silver tongue when she said to the woman of my 30 years acquaintance that she has beautiful eyes and genuine smile. She does, but nobody’s told her that in a long time, especially not her husband a retired military / defense very important person in his day.

“Anyway, the 30-year husband makes a comment the American woman didn’t like so she gets out of her chair and walks around to stand right next to the Defense man. She slaps him twice because she didn’t like what he said, something about having girlfriends in front of his wife. Never seen anything like it.”
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Gary: I organized a few driving day-trips around the Cornish Coast, first the western shore, then the eastern coastal towns.

On the western coast, we visited Tintagel on a pleasant, though balmy fall morning. We toured 13th Century Tintagel Castle, built by Richard Earl of Cornwall, to link him with King Arthur's many legends. There, Michael and Nancy paused at an ancient alter (above) for a moment of marital reflection.

Later we visited the western coast towns Boscastle, Port Isaac and Polzeath. At Port Isaac, below, you see Nancy pointing to Doc. Martin's home, featured in ITV's film series. We walked the town, paused for Cream Tea in a nice old Inn with a view of the harbor.

Our days in Cornwall were lazy, drive-a-while, walk-a-while wandering throughout the countryside. The area is small enough to drive 45 minutes to any of the small towns, then, spend hours there just relaxing.
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Outside the Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry, Scotland.
They sold us a limited edition Scotch that was "Natural Cask Strength" or 110 proof.

Europe continued...

Stirling, Scotland

We toured the Queen Mum’s family home where she grew up. She was, of course, the daughter of a Duke (or Earl – not sure) and they had a grand home. It seemed she had a very good upbringing in Scotland, but they made a point to tell us that she was an Englishwoman. We saw a fabulous photograph of the Queen Mum with her two daughters, Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret. They looked like mother and daughters. Quite nice.

We traveled the well maintained, two lane roads of Scotland for many hours. Our furthest peak was … where we saw the beautiful shore of the North Sea with the sun and water in gorgeous display. We visited the home of golf, St. Andrews Golf Club where we photographed the 1st and 18th tee box and green, respectively. It was a dull, overcast, damp day, slightly cool so we didn’t hang out too long. Besides, Nancy was in the car.

We went for drinks and late night snack at a bar and night club that was converted from a church. I’ve always wondered what they would do with all of the unused churches and cathedrals and now I have seen a bar and a Visitor Center to Barcelona created from them.

Our Scotch whiskey tour was just us and possibly an owner or, high level manager for the owner. She knew her stuff, she knew what we wanted and she was gracious and charming even though she’s done it hundreds of times. One of my favorite foursome photo was taken at that Scotch Whiskey place.

Scotland had gleaming fields of hay glistening in the sun field after field after field. The stay slowed us down and helped us appreciate the beauty of the landscape and kindness of the people who sang Karaoke in a pub one night.

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Above and below, we visit St. Andrews, home of the Royal and Ancient (golf's rules keepers). Mike and I couldn't build the courage to jump the fence & sit on the Members Only bench.

Below, the 18th hole during practice rounds for the Dunhill Classic Tournament @ St. Andrews. With practice rounds, they were very casual about photos and crowd control (we could walk right up to the green side). The players also hung around following play for photos, autographs and golf stories in the shadows of golf history. I think they were enjoying their moment, before the competition started. The St. Andrews clubhouse was small, so all players bypassed it & walked to their hotels or cars. It had a very small town look and feel.

We walked to the St. Andrews castle ruins from the course & studied very old Scottish history.
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Our travel companions, outside 17th Century Moulin Inn, Pitlochry, Scotland.

The Moulin Brewery tour had ended 5-minutes before we arrived, so the brewer just gave us free-samples. We drink feee beer, looked around the brewery & moved on. Just what you'd expect from Americans - "eat & run".
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During a long walk in
Pitlochry, Scotland, Linda had to pose with a piece of sculpture integrate with the environment of flowers. Below, the countryside as we drove across the breadth of Scotland.
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