Sunday, May 31, 2009
We are off to the second destination... please keep in mind, we are still in 1893. Viaggiatore and I heard of a marvelous creation that we absolutely must go see. What is it?
1. Ecologically the best idea still, to get over around or through the hill
2. Two to a bench, and charged, fifteen before she died
3. With bells and whistles for a comfortable ride
Best of luck!
Friday, May 29, 2009
Viaggiatore and I have decided to begin wandering again. We are going to wander through the world in and after the year 1893... the year of the Chicago Worlds Fair; The World's Columbian Exposition.
We're going to make a game of it... please play along and try to figure out where we are, who we are visiting or what we've found!
We'll be wandering for several weeks, making many stops. We'll leave 3 clues at each destination for you to figure out. So there will be plenty of opportunities to play!
The blogger that has offered the most correct answers will win our Wanderer's Treasure Bag at the end of the journey!
The Wanderer's Treasure Bag contains the following:
1. One Compass - for use in finding your way
2. Around the World in 80 Days - Jackie Chan movie, for good laughs & world wide adventure
3. One World Map - new or antique, your choice
4. One travel mug for refreshment along the journey
5. One travel bag in which to carry it all
Have fun and GOOD LUCK!!!
I will offer hints, if you get stuck in a rut along the way...
Viaggiatore and I have gone to visit a friend... in 1893... whom have we gone to see?
1. "Do not waste your days by trying to prolong them, but rather, use your time!"
2. A razzle dazzle oyster pirate who sealed his fate with Sophie
3. A Dawson digger, mining the mind, his golden words so far from kind
Okay! Let's see who can figure this first one out...
Friday, May 22, 2009
The purpose of the trip was to trace my family's history and heritage back as far as I could, to photograph and document the lands and places that they existed in, to reach back through time and history and make a connection that all my living family and our children's children could keep; so that our past will never be lost again. It's important to know where we came from.
Paris was en route, and it was so lovely... it was a beautiful dream. Scotland was an entirely different world.
We arrived late in the night and traveled by bus from the airport into the dark city. We might have been in a time traveling vehicle, as it seemed to be an anachronism; the only thing from this century that we could see in the world around us. Old stone walls and buildings, dim street lamps, narrow lanes and round-abouts, a winding twisting ride that eventually brought us to the center of the city, at the feet of an enormous fortress that loomed over us and glowed like a beacon in the blackness; Edinburgh Castle.
Morning's light found us in our bed and breakfast; a large old stone house, kept by a very kind couple. The city morphed into a slightly more modern machine during the day. We were served (every morning for the duration of the trip), a "Full Scottish Breakfast" which consists of sausage, an enormous slab of ham, eggs, cut tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, red beans, cereal/porridge, fruit, toast (more toast?), and haggis & black pudding (if we were so inclined, and we were not), with coffee, juice, and tea. It is delicious, it is monstrously huge, it is serious protein, and a heart attack on a plate. We loved it!
We got our car after breakfast... the steering wheel is on the right side (passenger side in the states) of the car. It was a standard transmission; 5 speed, so fifth gear and reverse are next to the drivers left knee. I did all the driving. It was a bit
Our goals in focus, maps and plans at the ready, we took off to delve back hundreds and hundreds of years into the history of my forebears.
Our first priority was Scone Palace, where a special tribute to the Royal Stewart family was being performed. I must take a moment to thank Miss Pamela Lawrence from Scone Palace, without whose invaluable aide, we'd have had a much more difficult time. She has earned a sainthood from us for her kindness and extremely helpful advice.
Scone Palace is where the Kings of Scotland were crowned, at a little stone seat (the Stone of Destiny) in front of a tiny chapel. The chapel and the Stone of Destiny (or rather, a replica of it), are still there.
I sat on the stone, in the place where four of my great-grandfathers were crowned Kings of Scotland, and it was a humbling, reverent experience. I gazed out over the castle grounds and at the walls of the castle; where they looked, where they walked, where they stayed briefly. My feet rested on the ground that they stood on. Time began to fade then, and with every breath the shadows clouding the centuries between us evaporated like the Scottish fog burning off in the light of day.
The air in Scotland is cool and damp, and strange as it may seem, it is invigorating. We were both filled with an excited energy that ignited a love in us for this country and its people that will never fade. The fog and rain come and go as do the tides that wash up on the shores there. The sun plays hide and seek, and just when you think it's gone, it dances out gloriously scintillating and colors the air with rainbows.
I felt the thickness of time around me; like it hadn't gone anywhere at all, it just kept happening and filling space around the land, without end. Every place that we went and every step that I took felt like walking through ages where there was no barrier to separate them from each other and from me as I made my way in and through those moments.
We visited some new friends in Peebles and had a wonderful, albeit much too brief, time with them. They showed us Melrose Abbey, where the heart of King Robert the Bruce is buried. He told his men when he died, to carry his heart to the holy land as they joined the crusades and to bury it there in the holy temple, but the quest failed and his men brought his heart back to Scotland and there it lies now, in the quiet green ground under the towering ruins of Melrose Abbey. I knelt at the monument over my great-grandfathers heart, and 18 generations & 680 years fell away like leaves in the fall. My hands on the monument, I thought of the heart that lay beneath it, and of the man to whom it belongs. My heart pushes his blood through my body. I exist because he did. I breathed in the air around me as well as the endless moment, suspended as it was, in time.
Melrose Abbey is amazing, it is beautiful, and it is enormous; I tried to imagine what it looked like before it was destroyed by humanity and the ages. It is sacred to me for the simple reason that it holds such a precious part of my ancestry.
From Melrose, we went on to Flodden Field. Our friends told us, Scarlett, it is but a field... in the middle of nowhere... really, it's just a field. I know, I said with a smile, but I have to go, it's part of the journey. Another of my great-grandfathers died in battle there; Duncan Campbell. I must go. And we went.
Flodden Field is in England. Crossing the Scottish and English border is much like crossing a state line in the US. There's a small sign, and by small I mean maybe 3 feet by 4 feet. 'You are now entering England'. Flodden Field, site of the Battle of Flodden, is tucked away down an old winding country dirt road, one that twists and bends past farms and meadows and the odd fence. There is a tiny old country church at the base of the hill. At the top of the hill is a concrete Celtic cross, probably about 6 feet tall, maybe a little more. We parked and walked through a narrow wooden gate to the stairs that lead up to the top of the hill.
It is a field, and then it is absolutely not at all. Standing there in the clean, quiet country breeze, we could see all the world around us, and the dirt and grass at our feet. We could feel the peace that is there now, blanketing the sounds of battle that seem to echo just out of reach... the shouts of men, the clang of armour and weapons, the cries of desperation... how much blood spilled into that soil? The blood of 12,000 men; one of them another reason that I am alive and was standing where he had fallen. I wondered what he might have thought on his last day, marching across that land, wondering if he would live or die. How powerful that must have been... every sense heightened, every emotion racing through every fiber of his being at it's utmost capacity... and then it was lost, all of it, and he was gone.
The loss of life there and the ensuing peace is tangible. It can be felt through the body, mind, and soul, it can be sensed in the air and on the wind. I will never, ever forget what it felt like to be there.
We visited Stirling Castle, which is now a tourist stop overlooking Bannockburn Field, where a larger war was fought by my great-grandfather King Robert the Bruce, and where, just on the other side of the field, the Wallace monument looks on the castle. Stirling is a fortress, just like Edinburgh Castle. High on a hill, almost impenetrable... they really knew how to build them back then. It is the jewel of the city, rising above it all. It is very well kept up, and has seen changes over the centuries since my grandfathers walked through its halls.
Edinburgh Castle is much the same as Stirling; so very old a structure but one that is updated and hosts throngs of sightseers every day. There are hints and remnants of my family's history here and there; emblems of their coats of arms color the glass in the windows, and paintings of those arms adorn some of the walls. It is incredible to walk past the heavily guarded display of the crown, the kings sword, and the (possibly) real Stone of Destiny that are safely secured under glass and watchful eye. They are stunning, breathtaking in their strength, size, and grandeur. These are pretty artifacts in my mind, not a soul binding connection to the men that used them, and that connection is what I was after on this sojourn.
I found the most significant connection at Dunfermline Abbey. King Robert the Bruce's heart is buried in Melrose, but his body is buried at Dunfermline. It is also the place where my favorite great-grandfather, King James I of Scotland was born. Again I knelt, this time at the foot of my great-grandfather's tomb. It is a beautiful tomb made of red marble background, inlaid with his image in shining gold. There is a little plaque there, requesting... 'please do not touch'. I did so much more than touch. Just as it was at Melrose, every shroud between us vanished, and there we were, the two of us; he and I... seeming to regard each other in this space without walls, without boundaries or confines or laws of time and place. It was surreal, it was breathtaking and inexplicable.
Mr. Black and I visited many places in Edinburgh, including The Elephant House where JK Rowling began Harry Potter's life, and the Balmoral Hotel where she ended the tale. We had a fantastic time dancing at the coolest club I've ever been in, Frankenstein's, next door to The Elephant House. We were dumbfounded that we could not seem to find a Scottish restaurant for dinner anywhere in the country! They are big on foreign food; we had Chinese two nights, Mexican one night, Indian one night, and a delicious version of chic American one night. We filled up on the full Scottish breakfast every morning though, so it kind of worked out.
We spent one night at our new favorite bed & breakfast, just up the coast in Stonehaven, because I wanted to sleep by the sea. We were about 10 feet from the sand and waves, I couldn't have been closer unless I'd been in a boat. This was a perfect place to stay, our hosts there were absolutely delightful and so sweet that we didn't want to leave at all. We loved the little seaside town, with its cobblestone streets and old stone buildings. The ocean mist on our skin and the salt of the sea on our lips was delicious. We stood on our patio in the dark of night with a blanket wrapped around us for warmth against the storm that was tossing the sea into a tempest, and watched the swelling waves crash into the rocks and shore for a long while. I spoke Edgar Allen Poe's poem, Annabel Lee, and I'd have stayed the entire night out in the misty fog, hypnotized by the pulsating tide, if Mr. Black hadn't gently urged me back into our room.
When our plane lifted off from Edinburgh airport and flew over the lands end where the Atlantic Ocean washes its shores, I wept. Mr. Black and I both wanted nothing more than to stay there in that lovely country filled with the very kindest souls, daffodils as far as the eye could see, cool misty air, old castles and ages upon ages of history... but reality insisted that we come back here, where we can dream about that other world when we sleep, and find ourselves back in the arms and heart of that country again.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The stories remain to be told, like secret jewels tucked away in safe pockets that I pull out a few at a time, to hold in my hand, to touch softly and turn over and over, re-examining every aspect of them... and I will share some of these lovely gems with you.
Mr. Black and I saw and did just about everything in Paris. Almost everything I didn't do the last time I saw Paris... I am still wandering through these memories every single day, so lovely are they, and so absolutely treasured.
We walked through Montmartre and climbed the steps to Sacre Coeur. When we reached the top, we watched the sun setting and I made that photo of the Eiffel Tower in the pink light of days end. We wandered through the basilica, looking at every detail and immersing ourselves in its beauty. We ate in a little bistro just a block away from the basilica, and the musicians there indulged my request for "La Vie En Rose"... in French, which I've never heard before. When we left, we stopped to watch the Eiffel Tower shimmering and sparkling like a diamond at the top of the hour.
A violin player (you'll see him in the Paris post) was very sweet and played "Con Te Partiro (time to say goodbye)" by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman for us, when I stopped to photograph him. We rode carousels, made new friends, walked in awe and reverence through St. Chappelle (which is my favorite chapel in the world), and through the halls of Notre Dame. We had lunch at a little outdoor cafe in the Latin Quarter and suffered a truly snobby Parisian waiter, we walked along the Seine in the early afternoon light, past the pyramid at the Louvre, through the Tuileries, and barely escaped the traffic around the Concorde with our meager lives. We made wishes in countless fountains and admired the grandeur and loveliness of Paris. Two hours in line at the Eiffel Tower was no sacrifice at all for the moment that we stepped out onto the top level and watched the sun set over Paris from that breathtaking vantage point.
Mr. Black and I wandered through the Musee D'Orsay and marveled at the works there, and then I introduced him to Mona Lisa and a few corners of the Louvre. We wandered the city of lights in the evenings, up and down the Champs Elysees and throughout so many neighborhoods.
We left footprints in the gardens and hall of the Palace of Versailles, looking, laughing, enraptured, taking it all with us as we walked away. There was a very special dinner cruise down the Seine in a glass boat, and we saw the city all over again in a whole new light, and it was completely different and utterly amazing. We stood in wonderment and gazed at the glory of the Palais Garnier; the old opera house, when it is flooded with light at night, which is nothing short of stunning... and then we walked all the way around it, to see it from every angle.
Paris captured our hearts and held us spellbound with its beauty, mystery and treasures. We didn't want to leave at all, but on the way out of the city, she gave us one last sweet gift. I'd been on a quest to hear someone play "La Vie En Rose" on an accordion (both trips, hadn't happened), when lo and behold, our train was almost at the airport when I looked at Mr. Black and said, "That was almost perfect. Just one thing... where's my musician to walk through the train car and play this song for me on his accordion?" ...and not a minute later, a man walked into our train car with an accordion and played my song for me.
"...hold me close and hold me fast, the magic spell you cast, this is la vie en rose... when you kiss me, heaven sighs, and though I close my eyes, I see la vie en rose... when you press me to your heart, I'm in a world apart, a world where roses bloom... and when you speak, angels sing from above, every day words seem to turn into love songs... give your heart and soul to me, and life will always be la vie en rose..."
We'll walk in centuries old footsteps through Scotland soon...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Sir Walter Scott memorial in downtown Edinburgh
Stained glass window looking over the tomb of King Robert the Bruce
Dunfermline Abby was the birthplace of my 15th (and favorite!) Great-Grandfather, King James I of Scotland.
The tomb of my 18th Great-Grandfather, King Robert the Bruce, at Dunfermline Abby
Stonehaven is taking proposals for speed limits on their highway... so, what do you think? I think 100 is fine!
Viaggiatore meets a Scottish lion, guarding the grounds at Edinburgh Castle
Statue of King Robert the Bruce at Edinburgh Castle
Stirling Castle and a memorial to King Robert the Bruce
The Jetson mobile parked at Stirling Castle (yes it only has 1 door and 3 tires)
Path to Stirling Castle
Springtime in Scotland
Park anywhere you like, any way you like.
A beautiful Scottish sunset on the road back to Edinburgh
Flodden Field in England, where the Battle of Flodden took place, and where one of my Great-Grandfathers, Duncan Campbell, died in battle on 9 Sep, 1513, along with 10,000 others.
A river bridge between Melrose Abbey and Flodden Field
Melrose Abbey where the heart of King Robert the Bruce, my 18th Great-Grandfather, is buried.
I wanted a rainbow in Scotland and I got one! Welcome to Peebles!
"A noble heart may have no peace if freedom fail" inscripted on the memorial over the resting place of the heart of King Robert the Bruce, my 18th Great-Grandfather
Melrose Abby, where the heart of King Robert the Bruce rests
Bridge to Scone Palace
Scone Palace, crowning site of Scottish Kings
There is a garden star shaped maze at Scone Palace; this fountain is at its center
An albino peacock in the gardens at Scone Palace
The Stone of Destiny in front of the chapel at Scone Palace, where four of my Great-Grandfathers were crowned Kings of Scotland
The ocean in Stonehaven on a stormy rainy morning
Mr. Black in New York
The Empire State Building
My friend Jackie asked me to bring her back a Scottish gent...
Friday, May 15, 2009
Round and round we go...
Mr. Black and I made friends! Please meet Louis
Viaggiatore made lots of new friends, too!
Where the light is pink in Paris...
The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles
Viaggiatore met this new friend at the Louvre
Sunlight through stained glass at Notre Dame
A bridge over calm waters
Guarding the bridge... Viaggiatore loved meeting all the Parisian Lions!
Standing at attention on the Seine
The Sacred Heart
The only sphinx in the Louvre with an intact nose
Saint Michel defeating the devil
A close look at the Eiffel Tower
Ways to get from here to there
Con Te Partiro... just for us!
Aphrodite of Milos
She was made between 130-100 BC! She looks mahvelous!
The lions at Versailles were small but very friendly!