Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wrapping It Up


I guess it's time to wrap up this Scotland thing. Of course, I have many, many more photos. For anyone who'd like to see a few that I haven't posted here, just click on a photo and you should be directed to the Going Places folder of my Flickr account.

It's actually been snowing around here for about two days and I really don't mind at all. It keeps the dirt on the roads and out of my eyes, nose, mouth, shoes, and home. But, when I look back at my photos from Scotland, I am continually amazed by the breathtaking vibrance of spring in more temperate latitudes.

Of course, I expected to see lots of windswept trees and rolling, emerald pastures. And there were plenty of those.


And in the rural areas surrounding the coastal cities of Aberdeen and Banff, there were plenty of grazing sheep and highland cattle. Supposedly, this breed of cattle tends to be gentle in spite of the menacing appearance. I stayed on my side of the fence...just in case I misunderstood.


Some of the farms were less traditional, but equally as beautiful.


One thing I didn't expect to see was a ballet!


On our last night, a group of us attended the Scottish Ballet's production of Carmen at His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen.


We weren't allowed to photograph any portion of the performance, but they did give us permission to take pictures of the theatre. And it was lovely. It reminded me very much of the theatre in the movie The Illusionist.


Except that this theatre had room for an orchestra. And they were excellent!


I had almost as much fun admiring the architectural and decorative details of the space as I did the ballet.

I said almost!



Even the ceiling was a work of art!


My trip to Scotland could be loosely categorized as a teacher exchange. However, according to UK immigrationese, "teacher exchange" implies that work is taking place and work is something we were not legally allowed to do during our visit (fancy that!). So, instead of using the word exchange, we had to explain that we were visiting, observing, learning, and
building relationships.

Simple enough, I know, but it definitely took more time and vocabulary.

And, except for the immigration officers, our explanation was invariably met with, "So, it's like a teacher exchange, right?" You see the problem.

My receiving this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was basically a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Or, more accurately, having the right principal at the right time. Thank you, Becky! My principal was a part of the
exchange visit last year and graciously nominated me for the trip. I was hesitant about being away from school for so many days, but I knew that I'd be sorry if I didn't jump at the chance to go.

So, I jumped!

And the whole experience turned out to be as sweet as the Sticky Toffee Pudding we feasted on almost every night.

(Except for the carrying heavy luggage up four flights of stairs part...that wasn't so sweet...but I digress.)


The name says it all, doesn't it? Sticky...toffee...pudding (pudding is the UK word for any sort of dessert)...with ice cream on the side. Yum!

It looks simple and it is--divinely simple.
And well worth another trip across the ocean!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Haggis I'll Eat Anything!


Main Entry: hag·gis
Pronunciation: \ˈha-gəs\
Middle English hagese
15th century
: a traditionally Scottish dish that consists of the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep or a calf minced with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the animal.

Yeah, I'd heard about haggis long before my trip and was secretly dreading the moment when I'd actually be face-to-face, or fork-to-mouth, with the stuff. I shouldn't have been worried. Apparently, a good chef is a major factor in the whole haggis-eating experience and the chef at Musa did not disappoint. Served as an appetizer, this version of the traditional Scottish favorite was served with very tasty potatoes and parsnips.



If the physical structure housing Musa reminds you of a church, there is good reason for that. Back in the 1880's, it was known as a Catholic Apostolic Church. But, get this, in the last thirty or forty years it has been used as a banana-ripening warehouse! The word "musa" is a species name for the banana plant. (check the walls for banana-inspired artwork)

We were seated at a delightful round table in the balcony, directly in front of our own private stained-glass window. The shape of the table made conversation easy.


And our perch in the balcony insured that we wouldn't miss the excellent music in spite of a house full of other diners.


Dig the plaid hosery! She was dressed as beautifully as she played!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Scotland, Bit-by-Bit

My intentions were good, but the timing has been bad for any sort of thoughtful explanation of my trek to Scotland.  

I'm not giving up on the idea.  

It may just have to come in dribs and drabs.  

I do appreciate all the interest expressed through patiently prodding emails from those with some curiosity about the trip.

Here's a snippet, at least...

I was fascinated by this particular view from the ruins of Findlater Castle, not far from the very quaint, northern coastal village of Cullen.

And somehow that seemed completely fitting, even what I'd hoped to find.

Though the exact date of its construction is unclear, this is a depiction of Findlater Castle in its prime sometime around the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

Though only a few of the "bones" remain, there is something awe-inspiring about a structure that, having battled the elements for hundreds of years, continues to stand.  

Wind whispers between the stones...(really)

...sharing secrets with the sea.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Off Slope: Way, way off!

I've been away for almost two weeks and have lots to share.  The plan is to do some sorely needed catch-up blogging over the weekend.  But, until then, I'll give you one guess where I've been.  

I doubt that you'll need more than one!  :)