Eat and Drink

    Chapter Three – Whisky

    Uisge - Gaelic meaning Water of Life


    Because my husband enjoys a good Scotch I too have learned to drink it. The lovely amber liquid is the main reason we traveled to the Highland region of Scotland. To taste. To compare. To learn.

    We have done all that and more.

    But I’ve come away from the experience with another observation. I want to be an educated whisky drinker and not an ignorant one drinking imageonly for prestige.  I want to understand it as much as I enjoy it.  I don’t want to be a snob. An American Scotch snob.

    Okay. I get it. There are wine snobs and beer imagesnobs and even coffee snobs. People like what they like -but snobbery occurs when you are unwilling to acknowledge that beyond what YOU like, there is a vast number of other options.  I want to try all the options.

    When I was first learning to drink Scotch someone I know said she loved Scotch but not whisky. At the time I didn’t know the difference.  But today I do.image

    She really sounded like an American snob because Scotch IS whisky. Did she mean she doesn’t like Irish whiskey or Bourbon?  I don’t know, but her  statement showed her limited experience.

    Another person I know won’t drink a blend. Single Malt or nothing. But here is a juicy piece of information we have learned here in Scotland – even Glenlivet, the largest selling single malt Scotch Whisky in America “blends” it’s brew. By law in Scotland they can call it single malt because the blends all come imagefrom their distillery.  Reality – it’s a blend.

    Just like in the US, legal language, marketing and labeling are powerful tools in this business, and like any product, manipulative practices might surprise the novice drinker who thinks their fav is single malt.

    “Neat or nothing” drinkers of America- If you take the time to study the nuances of good whisky (or whiskey) you will learn how the tiny drop of water or chip of ice “opens” a fine whisky and “blooms” the flavor in a surprising way. A deliciously surprising way. Break away from neat and try it!image

    I’m still a novice but learning more each day. I’ve taken two classes and read article after article. Most importantly I’ve tasted, asked questions  and compared. I encourage you to as well. And if after you do try some new brands, blends and styles you still go back to your tried and true, then fine. At least you won’t be a snob.

    Our experience here in Scotland has taught us it’s imageless about the distiller or the barley or the water and all about the choice of casks and the aging process.  Our tour of the Speyside Cooperage and learning about the traditional casks still being made by hand was a unique and fulfilling experience. The role of the cask in the final product cannot be understated.

    By the way, we found the Irish Whiskey to be just as imagegood. Perhaps just not as well marketed to the American public. So I now plan to go home and educate myself a bit more on American style whiskey and bourbon … and do my best to not be a snob.

    Health, Fitness & Fashion  --  Travel Around the World

    The Loo – Facts of Life

    Chapter 3 - Lavatory, WC, Privy, Ladies, Loo


    First trip to Europe?  You’re in for a surprise!

    When it’s time to “go” you’ll find things a bit different than you are used to in the good ole US of A. But just remember – it’s an adventure!

    Its been 28 years since my first trip to Europe and bathrooms have improved significantly since then. Seriously I still shudder over one experience I had  in Venice Italy – just me and a drain in the middle of the large tiled room…what’s a girl to do?

    A tight spot

    A tight spot

    In some places you might still encounter squat toilets but generally I have found most of Europe has moved on .  Same with TP.  In Asia and Africa you should always carry your own toilet paper, but in Europe you will usually find it available in public toilets.  So far in the UK we have not encountered “pay to pee”.  But depending on where you are traveling you should expect it. Such counties as France, Italy and Germany often will require coins.

    In Asia we encountered toilets that did everything for you – clean your bottom, warm your seat and even offer you a hand washing station on the back of the toilet.  In Europe you won’t see that, it will look familiar with the exception of the flush handle which is usually on the top of the tank.

    Here in the United Kingdom things are much nicer – clean and sanitary but still tiny and awkward.

    Its pretty common to have your knees bumpin up against a cabinet or even your chin when sitting on a toilet in most B&B’s and even some hotels. Teeny

    The common shower control

    The common shower control

    little bathrooms have been literally squeezed into already teeny little rooms over the past few decades to meet the growing demand travelers have for a room with a bath (en suite).

    On my first trip to Europe I don’t remember having a private bath anywhere during our month abroad. The bath was down the hall and shared.   In our current B&B in Scotland we have a private bath, but it’s down the hall.  It appears to have been added on to this old house, so it’s actually a good size.

    Because life has gone on inside the same old

    Plumbing was added to this old building a few decades back

    Plumbing was added to this old building a few decades back

    buildings for many hundreds of years, if you look close you will often see how plumbing has been added to buildings on the “outside”.  At some point in history pipes were added to the outside of buildings when indoor “facilities” became en vogue.  Today some buildings have a newer inside plumbing system but the early outdoor pipe ingenuity is still visible .

    Energy is much more expensive in Europe than

    A tub is more useful as a washer and dryer than for a luxurious soak

    A tub is more useful as a washer and dryer than for a luxurious soak

    what we pay in the US so long luxurious showers and baths are uncommon.  Hot water is limited so filling a tub is nearly impossible. In most B&B’s your shower will operate on a very small individual hot water heater in your room.  Chances are more likely than not that you will run out of hot water before you are done.  Keeping that in mind always makes me move a bit faster.

    But be careful!  You can’t move too fast in a shower smaller than a phone booth when using a hand held shower head and maneuvering your soap and shampoo because there are no shelves to set anything on!

    Clean towels cost energy too.  Towels are changed

    Dont fear the bidet

    Dont fear the bidet

    out only every few days.  Hang them up to dry.  I use a washcloth to wash my face at night, but there are rarely washcloths here. I forgot to pack one this trip, so I’m making do, no big deal.

    That’s what you need to accept – just make do – a fact of life and part of the adventure of traveling abroad.

    Oh and don’t be afraid of the bidet. Just think of it as a shower for you bum. Saves the environment by not using toilet paper, keeps you clean and fresh and – it kinda tickles!!

    There you have it- the facts of life – happy traveler, happy loo!


    Travel Around the World

    Chapter Three – A Walk in the Highlands


    We expected rain. It didn’t come. So we spent our day walking through the Scottish Highlands.

    It’s been a really great day – we are blissfully tired. After a lovely breakfast at our B&B we walked on the trail along the river Spey two and a half miles to the town of Aberlour.

    This old railroad bed trail was flat and beautiful. imageAlong the way the sights included beautiful old bridges, old railroad tunnels, fly fishermen and an ultra marathon- a special treat to cheer these athletes on.image

    On arrival in Aberlour we did a whisky tasting at the Aberlour Distillery and then begin to climb up into the highlands. Our goal was to walk four and a half miles to Dufftown.

    The trail began as a paved road and then became a gravel road and eventually a gravel path and then a barely visible trail tromp through a cow pasture. We climbed up through forests and fields of heather imagebefore the grassy descent into Dufftown. Only once did we lose our way. Backtracking we found the trail again.

    Arriving in Dufftown we walked another half mile to Glenfiddich Distillery where we devoured a delicious late lunch with lots of whisky tastings.image

    Seven and a half miles was enough so we took the bus back to Craigellachie. But then to complete our walk in the highlands we walked another half mile to visit the historic Fiddich Side Inn, a lovely little riverside inn with a teeny little bar about 150 square feet with an ancient owner/bartender who celebrated his 87th imagebirthday yesterday.

    There were only 6 stools in the bar and four of themimage were occupied so we joined the locals for one last dram of the day and wished the proprietor a happy birthday.

    What a wonderful, fully Scottish day. A bonnie day to be sure.

    Travel Around the World

    Chapter Three – Climbing Arthur’s Seat


    Our second day in Edinburgh, Scotland. We have had the most amazing weather but it looks like that is about to change. We spent our time doing all the usual tourist things and enjoyed them all particularly the Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland.

    But in typical Fab Fifty Fashion this afternoon we did something that not many tourists tackle – and as usual I recommend it highly. We climbed to the 900 foot peak of Arthur’s Seat.

    First of all I have no idea why it’s called Arthur’s Seat. Cannot find an explanation for it in the

    Looking up to the peak from the bottom

    Looking up to the peak from the bottom

    guidebooks. Second of all I didn’t think I could do it. I mean look at it. It looks really steep!  Sure a month ago I was riding my bike hundreds of miles. And a month before that I was running and hiking and swimming everyday in Hawaii. BUT for the past eleven days it feels like the only thing I have been doing is sitting in a car!  And drinking beer! So I feel a bit like a slug.

    My husband said it only looked steep because I could see it. His reasoning is that at home in Washington and even in Hawaii I don’t realize the elevation I hike because I can’t see the end from the beginning. This is how engineers think. It’s

    At the top

    At the top


    So off we went and yes it was steep and rocky and parts were slippery but it was also beautiful and exhilarating and a great work out. I needed that.image

    It was a bit hazy today so the pictures aren’t stellar but the view was.

    The moral of the story- always try to do more than you think you can and you will be justly rewarded.

    Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh Scotland. Fabulous.

    And All the Rest

    Charmed, I’m Sure

    Chapter Three - Marking Each Charming Chapter


    I had a brilliant idea in June.  I’ve been known to have a few over the years.

    As we were getting ready to depart on Chapter One of The Grand Adventure I was thinking about things I could buy as souvenirs on our travels that would be small and easy to carry.  And then I had a charming idea.

    Why not start a charm bracelet?

    When I was a little girl I had a charm bracelet, but for only a short time.  In the 1960’s charm bracelets were very popular and I received one as a birthday imagegift one year, maybe when I was about ten.  My

    Mom didn’t let me wear it very often because she was afraid I’d lose it.  It was in her jewelry box, but over the decades somehow she lost it.  So I don’t have it anymore.  It only had a few charms on it anyway, but I do wish I had it. I remember the charms though clearly to this day – a bike, a ballerina and an Irish Setter. Each had a special meaning for me

    My new charm bracelet is a perfect accessory and I wear it everyday now and over the past few months

    Clover L and bike

    Clover L and bike

    I have added several charms , each with a special meaning including a Hawaiian Sea Turtle for Chapter One, a Bicycle for Chapter Two and today I added an Irish Harp – the symbol of Ireland for Chapter Three.

    I also have an “L” for Laureen and a clover “L” for Lund

    I’m noticing now other women wearing charm bracelets. Our flight attendant the other day was wearing one, so full it must have weighed ten pounds. Many memories close to her heart I am sure. By the end of The Grand Adventure, I hope my charm bracelet will be a conversation piece as well as a meaningful memory of all we have seen and done in this Grandest of Adventures!

    Charming idea don’t you think??

    Travel Around the World

    Chapter Three – Green with Envy

    Stunning Scenery of Ireland


    Our time in Ireland has flown by and my senses have been filled with the most evocative sights and sounds, smells and tastes.  Ireland is a perfect little package wrapped in green.  I am so glad we came.

    Day 9 already and we only have one more day in this pleasant little country before we move on to Scotland.  I’ve wanted to blog sooner, but I just don’t know where the time has gone.  But let me now take a few paragraphs to share with you some of the scenic highlights we have enjoyed.

    Although the cities were great, my favorite days were the ones when we were driving the coastal roads, the rolling hills and the mountainous passes.  At each corner and around every bend we found IMG_2030breathtaking views.

    The Ring of Kerry – our day driving the Ring of Kerry was perhaps our favorite – oh wait, no I don’t think I can have a favorite here!  But the Ring of Kerry was everything the guidebooks promised and more.  We took Rick Steve’s advice and did the road clockwise, against the tour bus traffic and found little traffic at all.  Each vista and each stop was sparsely populated.  Ireland is known for its’ green – but the hue of green here is nearly IMG_2007indescribable…and this for a girl coming from Washington – the Evergreen State!  Unexpected finds on the Ring of Kerry were the turquois blue waters and the remnants of castle’s centuries old, farm houses abandoned in the famine and miles and miles of meadows with white grazing sheep.

    Dingle Peninsula – the drive on the DinglIMG_2144e Peninsula is significantly shorter than the Ring of Kerry but you will not be disappointed in anyway.  This windswept and barren peninsula has been farmed for generations and was the site where many lost their lives during the potato famine of 1845-1850.  Today many of the abandoned stone houses are being reclaimed and rebuilt.  My favorite part of the day was a hike we took out the Slea head to view Blasket Island and the smattering of other islands all around.  The weather was excellent on this day and the hike was like something right out of a fairytale.

    The Cliffs of Moher – it took most of a day to drive imagefrom Dingle to Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, but its a must see in Ireland – one of the countries most visited sites.  And it was no different on the day we were there, a disappointedly crowded site, I had to look beyond the thousands of other visitors and be open to the beauty of this jagged, rugged 650 foot high cliffs that plunge with breathless grace in to the Atlantic Ocean far below.  Every year some tourists loose their life here – with stupid mistakes getting too close to the edge for a selfie or a dare.  It’s not worth it and the views are perfectly good from a safe distance.  A huge parking area and a nice visitor center round out the experience, but if you go I recommend arriving either first thing in the morning or right before closing to avoid the throngs of tour busses.image

    Today we planned to go to Giants Causeway, but the drive ended up being a lot longer than we thought so it didn’t happen.  We will get up early tomorrow and see it before heading in to Belfast.  Be sure and check Facebook tomorrow because I’m sure our Fab Fifty Foto of the day will be Giants Causeway. I have high expectations.

    Ireland is about the size of the State of Washington but with about one million fewer people.  The size is very manageable for a driving tour, and all though we took nine days I wish we had a few more. With a few more days I would have taken the boat tour to Blasket Island off the Dingle Peninsula.  I also imagewould have loved to take a boat out to see the Cliffs of Moher from the water. I’m sure that is breathtaking.  And today’s activities definitely needed two days to make it more relaxed.

    You do need to have a bit of a sense of adventure however to drive the small narrow roads, often one lane roads for two lanes of traffic.  Oh and don’t forget – on the wrong side of the road!  But after a few days we really seemed to have gotten the hang of it, and only once or twice a day I freak out when we meet a tour bus on a teeny tiny narrow stretch of road.image

    It’s been a wonderful tour and we have learned so much.  Perhaps we will come back here someday and do the Dingle Way, a 179km walking hike across the Dingle Peninsula.  If I ever come here again, that is how I would best like to experience the enchanting, charming, stunning and hospitable country of Ireland.

    And All the Rest

    Ireland’s Fabulous Floral Display


    We have been so incredibly on-the-go, I haven’t had much time to blog about how fabulous Ireland is. I’ll have a blog in the next few days about the spectacular scenery, but today I just wanted to briefly mention the amazing flowers. Amazing and unexpected.

    At the 52nd parallel, I wasn’t expecting to find so many of the same flowers blooming as we have back in the Pacific Northwest. But even more surprising are the flowers that grow wild and free, along the roadside and in the fields.  Flowers we cultivate tenderly at home. Most astonishing are the miles and miles and miles of fuchsia hedges and the

    Hydrangea with fuschia hedge

    Hydrangea with fuschia hedge

    thousands of acres of bright orange crocosmia. Also abundant are butterfly bush, purple fireweed, yellow rag weed and white Shasta daisy and Ladies Mantle.   Incredibly there are also a variety of palms and  yucca.

    Crocosmia on the side of the road

    Crocosmia on the side of the road

    But by far the most beautiful are the hydrangeas. I have never seen such an abundance of hydrangeas in such incredibly flourescent tones. I have never been able to grow them this full and stunning, and yet here they seem to grow effortlessly.

    Fuschia hedge

    Fuschia hedge

    I am enjoying the show – the splash of brilliant hues against the blue grey sky and emerald fields.

    Fabulous Ireland.