Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page


Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I visited my friend yesterday on the farm, where she’s raising ducks and chickens for sale/eggs. It was very exciting but I think the chickens could smell the city on my shoes – they were very interested in pecking at them.

One chicken – whom we think is a girl – has decided that she is special. She jumps onto my friend’s arm when my friend comes to feed all the chicklets, and likes to be carried around like an accessory dog, and she even likes a little scritchin’ (the chicken, not my friend).

However, there is this one little duck that stole my heart. He came out of the egg with a bent neck, almost a complete 90 degree angle. Looks very uncomfortable. But he’s running around with all the other ducks, and eating and drinking and generally getting into mischief just like everyone else. Neither my friend nor the incubator thought he’d make it through the first night, but there he is.

I’d make a terrible farmer, cuz I’d want to name him Bob and make friends with him.

Covering all the bases

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Watched Stephen Hawking’s lecture – “My life in physics” on TVO last Sunday night. It’s incredibly exciting that he’s here in Waterloo, though I’m not quite over my tantrum in Perimeter’s direction for not having a public lecture where we could see him in person. Cuz half the people in the “invite only audience” were clearly a) not understanding a damn thing he was saying b) bored c) a politician of some sort.

The night started off with a series of speeches from PI dignitaries (Mike, Turok), politicians (Uncle Dalton, Clement), business people (VP from BMO) and the requisite bilingual Mistress of Ceremonies (which sounds kinkier than it is). Mike was good – he emphasized why theory leads to pragmatic benefits and made sure to emphasize how important private funding is to the program (since Uncle Dalton was in the room). Turok was his usual self – unpolished, happy to have his friend Hawking there, and such a breath of fresh air after the Howard Burton era.

Where it got interesting though was in the political speeches. Beside the fact that Tony Clement can’t do public speaking (or French) to save his life, both he and McGuinty were at pains to reference God in the context of physics – i.e. that the pursuit of cosmology and quarks and the like are pursuits within or of the wonders of God.  McGuinty even went so far as to compare Hawking to Sir Thomas More, of all people, via a quote from Man For All Seasons. Now, I was wondering what Hawking would have said at that point if he could fire off a quick comeback without having to peck it out on his voice machine.

Yes – Hawking also mentioned God in his speech. He argued that, back in the day, when the Big Bang was a theory in competition with the solid state theory of the universe, it was objected to because people thought it was appealing to a Genesis view of the birth of the universe. Of course, time, brilliant minds and “luck” have given us more answers about how this might have occurred through the evolution of the universe and more mystery in that we still don’t have all of the answers.

Nonetheless, it felt like a size 10 foot in a size 5 shoe, at least to me. And the only reason I can think of for the references to be so heavy-handed was appeasement. They are politicians, after all, and how dare we spend money on that godless science stuff.

Hawking’s speech itself was both a history of the field’s big names, and a brief walk through the many important areas of discovery that he’s been involved with. Some of the audience got his jokes, but it looked like many of them weren’t even aware when one was being made. I’m sure some were disappointed he didn’t touch on aliens or anything controversial.

New Scientist Review

He did put in a plug for his support of Perimeter at the end – as he should, now that he has his own wing. As he says, just bringing together all these minds from all over the world has got to be a step in the right direction.

Days 6 & 7: Ayr and Culzean Castle

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

For the last leg of our tour, we went to the seaside – West Coast. Ayr is a cute little town that is great if you like to golf and if the weather is nice. Unfortunately for us, neither of us likes to golf and the first day we were there was miserable.

From the train station, we found our B&B after getting turned around a few times and a bird shit on my arm–one thing you should know about Ayr is that they aren’t very imaginative in their urban planning, what with Beresford Street, Beresford Road, Beresford Crescent and Bellevue Lane, Bellevue Street, Bellevue Place and Carrick Road where we stayed had 5 different names, so have a map and don’t get too drunk. Chalmers B&B was lovely and our room was spic and span with crown moldings to die for. It was my turn for the little bed. Even though it was windy as hell and a bit rainy, we headed out to find the Tourist Info and seaside.

Had lunch at a funky place in the downtown area called The Treehouse, and it poured while we were in there. We were the only people except for a crazy dog-walker that ventured on to the promenade in the afternoon and all we got for our troubles was a sand facial. I was envisioning a nice walk on the beach and maybe some lounging but it was not to be.

Ayr Beach

No one but us, the wind, the sand, and a crazy dog-walker

So in the end this day was a bit of a bust and if I had to do it over again, I’m thinking we would have booked elsewhere. Dinner was a pleasant surprise though – quite authentic Italian at a seaside hotel – the Ariabiata sauce was fresh and the olive oil was thick enough to run a luxury car. After dinner we had a yen for dessert and whisky and found the Beresford Wine Bar & Art Gallery which was marvelous in the way that only fabulous gay owners can muster: really interesting art on the walls, gorgeous cufflinks on the owners and sprite of a waiter who had a quick wit and a firm grasp on the nature of whisky and sweets. A real gem.

We caught the local bus the next morning out to Culzean Castle and Park. This was a very different castle experience, in that a) the castle is intact and b) it’s set up as it was in the 18th Century, which is pretty damned recent in castle time. The 500-acre estate includes a deer park, swan pond, walled gardens, walking trails in woods and across fields, as well as a stretch of beach. The castle has been in the Kennedy family since the middle ages (not those Irish Kennedys, one of the guides was quick to point out). But in the time-honoured way, some gambling, some drinking and all around profligacy left the clan in a situation: taxes owed were more than worth of estate. Ergo, now it’s a “national trust treasure”.

Culzean Castle

The castle approach - nice pile

A Kennedy helped Mary Queen of Scots off her husband Lord Darnley in 1567, and it was another one who was arrested for drunk driving and go over 20 mph in the 1920′s.

The castle itself was redesigned and extended in the 18th Century by Robert Adam in the grand neoclassical style and it’s this phase of its life that has been preserved. We couldn’t take pictures inside (again) but the furnishings and design were quite something–gave me additional fodder for my imagination the next time I read some late 18thC parlour lit.

The grounds were gorgeous – we walked many kilometers I’m sure, through the gardens and to the pond and then I also found some crazy path through the woods to the steps down to the sea. The day was gorgeous as well -sunny and mid-20s, so it was quite a nice wander. By the end of the day, however, I think we were feeling it in our feet after a week of “hills go up”.

Castle garden at Culzean

Walking down into the formal garden at the castle

Culzean Beach

The end of the walk down to the beach

For our last dinner in Scotland, we went to the Carrick Inn up the street from our B&B. Dinner was good – and I had Cullen Skink as my appetizer, which is the very Scots version of chowder I guess, with smoked haddock (very good) and potatoes in a cream base. Definitely the kind of thing that would warm your innards on a cold and wet night. When it came time for my whisky though, our waiter, who was all of 16 (and looked 14), was at a loss on recommendations. I asked if they had any Caol Ila so he went off to check with the bartender. Came back and asked me if I meant “Kahlua” to which I replied, “what kind of Scot are you? Kahlua?” In the end, I had to walk over to the bar myself to find a suitable selection. I mean, really.

And that was it, pretty much. Our next morning was a leisurely breakfast before heading off to the airport (where I did find my Caol Ila, and a big bottle of it at that).

All in all, a wonderful week away.

Full photo album for Ayr & Culzean

Day 5: Nutters! (but not so much)

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

I was much anticipating our nutters tour – also known as The Da Vinci Borders Tour. My priorities being a) to see Rosslyn Chapel and b) to make fun of said nutters I was hoping would be on the bus with their tattered copies of the tripe disguised as a novel by Dan Brown, trying to give each other secret handshakes and muttering about Albinos.

If you want to read something interesting with conspiracy and Rosslyn Chapel, do yourself a favour and pick up Foucault’s Pendulum instead. But I digress.

Unfortunately, instead of enjoyable nutters, we got stuck with a touring group from Denver comprised of a gaggle of teens and their cougar escorts who did nothing to dispel the stereotype of American females for those who know them only from episodes of Wives of… and slasher films. The ersatz leader insisted that the tour guide read the oeuvre of Diana Gabaldon because she’s awesome! and her books are awesome! and historically accurate!

The only other people on the bus were a lovely couple from Cornwall who were equally horrified.

Also unfortunately, Rosslyn has been under construction/renos for quite a long time now so the outside was fully obscured by scaffolding, and once inside we weren’t allowed to take photographs AND the barrel ceiling was all covered up.

But back to the beginning. Our tour guide was a bit of a sprite with a nice lilt and the gift of gab, when he wasn’t giving us tmi on the troubles with his cousins on his father’s side.

We drove out into the lowlands and down to the borders first to take in Scott’s View over the Tweed Valley – reported to be one of his favourites. From there, we stopped on some back country road and followed a path through a small wood (trespassing on some poor farmer’s land, I’m sure) to “the original Wallace monument”, which our guide introduced as “Homer Simpson in a skirt and an abomination”. He certainly is a shambles: his kilt’s on backwards and it’s about as short as a Denver cheerleader’s, and he’s got a bit of a paunch.

Scott's View

Reminds me of a little of a lake outside Dublin owned by the Guiness family

Homer Simpson Wallace

Mostly Simpson, but maybe a bit of the Iliad in there as well.

We then headed into Melrose for some time to visit the Abbey there and have lunch. I quite liked Melrose Abbey – known to be the resting place of the heart of Robert the Bruce (only his heart, after it was taken on a grand tour to Spain on a botched pilgrimage to the Holy Land), and also boasts the only known gargoyle of a pig playing the bagpipes. I took a lot of pictures at the abbey, since it had much that I like – ruins in a peaceful setting, a graveyard, some dead knights, and remnants of medieval tile that are to die for.

Melrose Abbey

Open air beauty

Medieval tile at Melrose Abbey

can't get these at the Home Depot

While eating lunch in a little town square, we were visited by some rooks – like a bucolic cousin to the urban pigeon – who were pretty sure they were fooling us about their interest in our dessert.

Keeping with the templar theme of the day, we went to a small templar chapel outside of Rosslyn. In fact, I think it was called the Temple Chapel. Chapel is a ruin, but it was one of the most interesting graveyards I’ve seen in a while – wonderful folk art on the headstones. It was also in this little village where the guide related a story that there was a bell that chimed all of the time, but the villagers stopped it up with a rope once the famous “templar treasure” was found beneath the chapel. Heard later on the way back to the bus, “so they really tied up the bell? who found the treasure?” Sigh.

Temple Chapel headstone

These are his kids (hopefully)

Finally, we made it to Rosslyn. It did not disappoint despite the tarps and scaffolding. I got to see the Apprentice Pillar! And the maize! And the green men! As well as the light spot on the wall where the Da Vinci hollywood types put some well-meaning props. I spent a lot of time reading through the plaques that highlighted some of the many wondrous things in the chapel. They are hard at work removing the grey slurry that was put all over the original golden sandstone in a misguided attempt at preservation – and it will be something to see in the sunlight once the original facade is restored. There is a scrolling picture tour at the official site if you want to see more.

We made it back to Edinburgh early afternoon and later headed over to The Grain Store – a mid-priced restaurant on Victoria Street off of the George IV bridge (which you wouldn’t know was a bridge unless someone told you, since it’s elevated and completely full of buildings – very cool). It specializes in local foods, and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal: awesome scallions with fresh peas and bacon, followed by a lamb ratatouille & potatoes.

On the way home, we stopped at The Malt Shovel–great name for a pub–for some scotch. Excellent thistle stained glass while we were enjoying our whisky.

My conclusion on this day? I could live here. No problem.

Photo album for Nutters Day

Well played, sir, well played

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Went for a walk after work today and went through a walkway to a little park in the neighbourhood where you can see into people’s side yards and backyards. One house had what looked like a duck couple at their coy pond, until I got closer and realized they were the most lifelike garden gnome-duckens that I’ve ever seen.

I can’t figure out if it’s because they like ducks, or if this will keep away other ducks.

In any case, I was coming back around the block and I saw what looked like their gnome-cousin in the form of a squirrel, frozen in a “stand” position. Until I was exactly in front of him and he suddenly sprang forward and scared the living crap out of me.

Day 4: Stonehaven, Dunnottar Castle and the Path of Doom

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

We started off fairly early on the train to get up to Stonehaven which is a few hours up the coast. We got to go over the Firth of Forth (still best name for a body of water, evar), and the Firth of Tay, and then past a whole lot of rapeseed (canola to North Americans) and sea paths and the like.

It’s a quaint harbour town, with a beach that faces the North Sea – though it wasn’t too bad wind or weather-wise when we were there. Apparently, Stonehaven is tagged with being the first place to deep fry a Mars bar, thus further cementing our broad understanding of Scottish cuisine. Also, it should be said that it seems to be requisite that one owns a dog if one lives on the North Sea. I’m not sure we saw anyone without one on the boardwalk.

Stonehaven Harbour

Looking out to sea, Billy

In any case, after a quick tour there and through the marina, we began the path ascent toward Dunnottar Castle. The path started off well enough through some fields and up toward what turned out to be a portal, or a war memorial, if you don’t have an imagination. It was beautifully situated in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the sea and the town below.

Stonehaven War Memorial

Faeries dancing the middle - it could happen

We paused for a few photos and lookout, and then continued another kilometer or so toward Dunnottar Castle, only this part of the path is what I fondly refer to as the “path of doom”. For someone with Meniere’s, vertigo is a problem, especially when you are walking on a path wide enough for one person, with no railings, and only a foot or so of ground between you and a cliff and the North Sea. I approached this challenge by planning how many feet I had to go and then walking straight ahead with no stops and no looking to the side until I reached the next “landing” where the ground afforded a safer, less twirly-in-the-head view of the site. Melle, meanwhile was sauntering and looking out and taking pictures–generally doing things that would have made me nauseous if I could see her, but thankfully she was behind me most of the time.

approaching Dunnottar Castle

Path of Doom, Melle, Castle

Happily I prevailed over the path of doom and made it to the Castle approach, but it was down a cliff and then up a cliff and the handrail was on only one side, so I chose this as a good time to have a zen moment, and sat in a nice patch of grass well back from the precipice while Melle ventured on to the Castle proper.

Dunnottar Castle has a long history. Its origins are in the dark ages, William Wallace won a battle there, and they hid the Scottish Honours here for a while when Cromwell came looking – he eventually tried to burn it out, but some ladies escaped in a boat with the honours and saved them. These days, it’s a little ruined, but the seabirds have settled in quite nicely. You can see from the pictures why it would have been a great place to lay in, in its day. And it’s in the current rotation of Windows 7 screen savers, so natch. Also, it was used by Gibson in his “Wallace” movie (a source of constant amusement to actual Scottish people).

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle - home of guano and a staircase to nowhere

We walked past some rather disinterested cows on the way out toward the car park, intending to take a forest path back to town, but then we realized that if we booted it, we might make the next train instead of waiting for an hour, so we headed back along the main route, partly closed down due to a little mudslide – must have been some wet weather in the Spring.

So there we were, speed-walking through town, round past the grammar school, up past the B&Bs, chugging toward the station and had our toes in the parking lot when we heard the train whistle signalling that it had just left the station. We missed the damn train, literally, by about 2 minutes. So, we had a somewhat cold and windy hour break at the station, not wanting to chance missing the next one.

Got back to Edinburgh with some time, so went over to the Knox House. An authentic house first built in 1490 and then added to over the years. It’s preserved now in its 16th Century incarnation. Even though it’s known as Knox House, they’re not really sure if he ever really stayed there (besides the fact that he was a bit of an arsehole). The most impressive room is the wood room – original panels and engravings and they’ve outlined what would have been vividly painted scenes on the ceiling, including the Tahitian girl…

Tahitian Girl at Knox House

This in a house of pious folks, who knew?

So then it was a bit more shopping before finding a pub over on Rose Street, on the other side of Waverly. In keeping with my native tastes, I had some chicken thing stuffed with haggis. Melle in the meanwhile, was excited to have found the first genuinely free wifi since our arrival, and was lost to the Interwebs with glee.

By this point, we were well walked and tired of things that go up, especially things that we have to walk on, so we were happy to head back to the hotel.

Photo album for Stonehaven & Dunnottar

Scotland Day 3: Edinburgh

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

The train from Glasgow to Edinburgh was straight  forward and our lodgings in the city were in a spectacular location – right by Waverly Station, with Chalmers Close connecting it to the High Street from the back. I totally recommend Jury’s Inn Edinburgh for that reason alone.

View from the Tourist Centre toward our hotel

This time, we couldn’t get an early check-in, but at least we were able to dump our packs there before heading out for some sightseeing. As in Glasgow, we opted for the hop-on/hop-off tour to get us oriented. I must say that Edinburgh runs strong against Dublin, Ireland as one of my favourites. The architecture is sublime, and there are enough bridges, crazy walks, closes and easily walkable districts to keep one content for a long time.

The other cool thing about where our hotel is located is that it was like being in the thick of a personal Ian Rankin what’s where – we were right by the Caledonian, Fleshmarket Close, Mary King’s Close (more on that later), High Street, Princes Street, and so on. Though we didn’t make it to the Ox.

Anyway, we elected to stay on the bus for the whole route, and that worked out well, since we could take in all of the info and spend the afternoon doing our own thing (plus we were on the top deck for a change and didn’t want to give up our seats). At lunch, we got into our room to freshen up, and then it was off to the Castle.

On the way, we did a decent amount of shopping – if you are looking for jewelery, kilts or even kitsch, you’ll find it here. Oh yes, and whisky too.

Edinburgh Castle is a ghastly £13 to get in, but it was worth it. Some awesome-looking guards were out front with great spats. The Castle is built on an extinct volcano, and there are records of there being a fortress there as early as 600 AD. By 1130, some of the buildings that are still there were already built, including Margaret’s Chapel – which I would have loved to have seen the inside of, but it wasn’t open (apparently you can rent it for small weddings – that would be gorgeous).

Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle

Beautiful - and you can see how it's situated on the rock

In the 1300′s the Castle changed hands between Scotland and England several times due to its strategic and symbolic significance. David did some work in the 1400′s and then James IV built the Great Hall in 1511. The “Honours” are also assembled during this timeframe, and we got to see them as well (they spent some time in other castles during various seiges – like at Dunnottar, which we also visited, to keep them away from the filthy hands of Cromwell in the mid-17th Century). James VI was born in the Castle to Mary, Queen of Scots, and of course he went on to become James 1 of England.

The Scottish War Memorial – in the former St Mary’s Church –  is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen of that type. No pictures allowed inside, unfortunately. It was very quiet and respectful in there, though you could hear people turning pages in the books of the dead – just looking at names, or looking for relatives, I suppose.

James’ Great Hall was great. Also rentable for weddings and parties. The hammerbeam roof is original and amazing – puts that new fangled one at Stirling to shame. Though the rest of the room is pretty much a reno from Victoria’s reign.

Original ceiling in the Great Hall

That's some aged wood

Fortuitously, on the way back down to our hotel, we found the Real Mary King’s Close, which is something that was on my “want” list. This is one of the only ways you get to see the “old” streets from 17th Century Edinburgh, preserved underneath the modern construction. Back in the day, the Close was a group of very narrow streets with tenements up to 7 stories shadowing the bottom. The were all oriented from the main street down toward Nor Loch, and that’s where all of the sewage ran to as well – so you can imagine how clean the air was.

On the tour, the in-character guide tells you a lot about the plague and about the ghosts that supposedly haunt the Close. Mary King herself was fairly prosperous – earning a whopping £100/year, though the dentist was earning double that. There was one man still living there in the 19th Century who didn’t want to move out. He also had the only flush toilet, which he positioned in the front room where he could show it off by using it with the front door open. They did eventually get him out, and it was amazing to still see some of the Victorian wallpaper in his old townhouse.

After a bit more shopping, we headed back to the hotel to offload and get ready for dinner. We wandered over the bridge to Rose Street area. As we were crossing a street, there was a young couple with a scrawny baby in the carriage and he was carrying on to high heaven about something. So Dad pulled him out and Mom placed on his head a jaunty tam o’shanter that was bit too big, but it was the magic hat, man. Little guy was giggling and happy to see the world after that. So if you are ever down in the doldrums, put on your jaunty cap and you’ll be fine.

I had a real craving for pizza, and we found a decent Italian restaurant. I had some great crumble for dessert – not so scottish, maybe, but very yummy.

It was amazing that it stays light so late at the northern latitude. We were wondering around close to 10pm with twilight barely setting in.

Photo album for Edinburgh

Scotland Day 2: Trossachs, Loch Lomand, Aberfoyle, Stirling, Glengoyne Distillery

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

We booked a 1-day tour out of Glasgow to give us a taste of the highlands, and of whisky via Rabbie’s Tours. They max out at 16 people, which ensures you get some attention, except for when your group also includes two incredibly loud, rude Portuguese women and a group of Italians who have more interest in smoking than in national trust buildings.

Stirling Castle is much photographed and frequently visited. It’s  the historical navel of the country, so to speak. James VI really spiffed up the place, though his first wife never got to see the final result. Being a good planner, he was sure to situate the mistress quarters well by the King’s and at the far end from the Queen’s.

Find the Mistress' Quarters

Find the Mistress' Quarters

Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned there (though Mary of Guise her mother ruled on her behalf for 17 years). The chapel is pretty intact with original paintings and trompe-l’oeil. There’s also a cool project underway right now to create reproduction tapestries showing a parable of Christ’s life – and as in medieval times, the weavers are using the faces of real people who work at the castle in their work.

My father would well appreciate the ceiling in the banquet hall which has also been restored recently. It’s comprised of about 350 oak trees without any nails. And then there’s Douglas garden, a “peaceful” place so named because a poor fellow named Douglas was chucked out the window after the King murdered him. Good fertilizer and all that, I suppose.

We spent a good few hours at the castle, along with eleventy hundred other people. Wallace is a big hero here – close by Stirling is where is supposedly weakened a bridge, allowing half of the English force to get across before it collapsed, effectively splitting the attack force in half. And Robert the Bruce is also a superhero, and it’s his statue that gazes out over the hills at the entrance to the castle. Bannockburn isn’t that far away.

Aberfoyle, where we stopped for lunch, reminded me a lot of Lunenburg, NS, a town where the houses are quaint and the only business is tourism, thanks to Scott’sThe Lady of the Lake. We had some fish & chips, sadly without newspaper, but it was piping hot and sufficiently salty and vinegary to satisfy the craving. At the tourist center they had sheep-herding demonstrations as well as birds of prey on display – owls are unnerving – heads shouldn’t be able to do that.

From there, our little bus wound around little roads going higher into the hills around Loch Lomand. Our guide Juliette was doing her best at this point to shush/ignore the Portos who were loudly talking on their cell phone for Pete’s Sake. It was hot and sunny, and there were campers at every lookout where we stopped. We also saw some Highland Coos!



By the time we got to Loch Lomand, it was mid-afternoon, and with the sunny weather and tour bus trade, the place was packed. Some foolhardies were even trying to swim, though I imagine the water was still at March temperatures. The loch itself is Scotland’s biggest in size (not volume – that’s Loch Ness), and its many islands contain everything from summer cottages, to wallabies, to a nudist colony. We did a fairly steep hike with the guide up to the top of one of the hills, along with a few others from the group. Very nice view of the loch, and then around the lochfront on the way back to the pub, where Melle drank a pint in about 90 seconds flat before we had to board the bus again.

Loch Lomand

Not the nudist colony

And then we were off to the whisky :) The distillery tour was at Glengoyne, which produces a non-peated whisky. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, since I like my peats, but the 17-year in particular had a nice finish. The distilling process was interesting, and I tried the 10-year, 17-year and 21-year, but no certificate! You’ll have to take my word for it that I’m a certified whisky-taster in 2 countries now.

After I had my fill of tasters, it was back to Glasgow. Dinner was at The Dhabba, an Indian restaurant also in the Merchant District – the hot dishes weren’t so hot by Canadian standards, but the ingredients were genuine and the server was very pleased that we knew the dishes and the fact that it was Northern cuisine.

Photo album for Stirling, Loch Lomand…

Scotland Day 1: Glasgow

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

If you were wondering where the hell I’ve been, I’ve been to Scotland! And in addition to that I’ve been going through the process of interviews and accepting a new job, and then getting back into the swing of things here at home – result being that I’ve not posted in a while.

Things I learned in Scotland:

  1. Hills go up
  2. My scotch cabinet has pretty much the same selection as your average pub in Scotland.
  3. Anything can be made better with a jaunty tam o-shanter.
  4. The length of Wallace’s sword increases each day.
  5. People can spell my name in Scotland.
  6. It’s not “cow”, it’s “coo”.


Before we even got on the plane, we had our first entertainment. Going through security at Pearson, the lady in front of us got stopped for carry-on inspection. The reason became clear when the inspector pulled out the family-size fruit salad in tupperware, the side salad, the can of sprite, and a full bottle of ranch dressing. I’ll go out a limb and guess that she doesn’t get out much. Most surprising of all though, was that she got to keep the salads.

We landed at around 8:30 in the morning Glasgow time and it was pretty easy to find a bus to take us downtown to where our hotel was. Conveniently located not too far from George Square and the train station, so that worked out well. There was a big bed and a little bed in the room, so I took the little bed for this part of the trip. They did well to get us a room that early, and we were much relieved to be able to freshen ourselves up a bit before assaulting the city. Even though we didn’t sleep much on the plane, we like to hit the ground running and go all day to get on schedule as soon as possible.

Weather was already heating up for what would eventually be a 27 degree day – enough to send the natives into paroxysms of glee, rip off most of their clothes to reveal milky white skin and lounge about the commons.

Up at George Square, we got to see Wellington in his Glasgow hat – always some version of a traffic pylon, and currently a sporty orange stripe number with a green base. We speculated if the colour choice was on purpose, since we were there on the actual day of an Orange walk in the city. As far as we can tell, the modern incarnation involves a bunch of buddies getting together and singing defamatory songs, drinking lots, arguing about footie, and then buggering off back home on Sunday. Not a lot of people wearing green that day, in any case.

We caught the hop-on/hop-off tour from George Square as a way of getting around the city. You’d never know that it wasn’t high season yet – it was a struggle to get to the top deck and we had to wait a few times at the stops to get back on the bus. One of our stops was the cathedral, necropolis and infirmary.

The cathedral, also known as St Mungo’s (which, best Saint name evar), was one of the few to survive the dismantling of the reformation. True to form, some belligerent of the faith surrounded the cathedral when the reformists came a calling and threatened to do in kind if they touched a stone. The cathedral has some interesting features, and a whole white chapel in the basement, as well as a “Blackadder” walk. It’s also where I took the megacool shot that ought to be on a book cover.

I was not worthy to lift it

We wondered up into the necropolis, which is still very much in use. Gorgeous place to go for a walk if you don’t mind crypts and headstones. We got accosted by an old amateur historian (who was possibly a history professor from nearby Strathclyde Uni), who told us all about the Deacon/President of Strathclyde who got to meet Queen Victoria twice when she visited.

Sunny day of the dead

The infirmary is famous for being one of the foremost medical training facilities in the UK and beyond.

From there, we caught a bus over to Glasgow Uni – very nice campus, and home to the Macintosh House Museum – they basically packed up the house and moved it into the building. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures inside, so I have one shot of the door and that’s about it. You can see some of the contents at the museum site. The dining room was pure noms.

By this point, our inertia was fading in the sun and we went back to the hotel for a bit of relaxation before heading out for dinner. We ended up at City Merchant in the Merchant District, who specialize in fish. I had Pollach with blood sausage mash. They like to put blood sausage and haggis in everything – mash, meat, breakfast, lunch… It was quite good, and I paired it with a Chilean merlot that worked out quite well. Dessert was Scottishy scots – I went for sticky toffee pudding and a whisky I’ve never had before – Caol Ila. Think a clod of peat dipped in oil, dragged across some Islay dirt and distilled with some mineral water. That’s the stuff, man.

In the end, I grabbed a bottle of it from the duty free on the way home, which was a good choice, since it’s available in very limited locations here in Canada.

By this time it was 9:30 and we were tired and anxious to get our sleeping schedule fixed, so it was back to the hotel.

Photo album for Glasgow