Hebridean Island Cruises

Tasting whisky at Ardnamurchan Distillery, hitting the wall at Tobermory, and wanting to hit a guide…

Monday morning, we visited Ardnamurch Distillery, Scotland’s westernmost distiller located on the Glenmore River. This distillery was founded in 2012, so like many of the others on this cruise, it’s very new. I have to admit that by the time we reached this distillery, I was a bit whiskyed out. I didn’t even drink a lot of it on the ship. However, I am glad I visited this distillery if only because it’s located in such a beautiful place. We took the tenders to a floating pier, where we were met by a man with a thick Scottish brogue who came up from Glasgow because he liked the island life. Can’t say I blame him.

Here are some pictures from Ardnamurch Distillery, whose parent company is Adelphi Distillery. I found it very interesting when the guide told us the casks from Jack Daniels in Tennessee were “rubbish”. This distillery gets them from Woodford Reserve instead. I noticed Jack Daniels casks at other distilleries. He told us that the focus was on perfection, since they are not able to produce as much whisky as the really big distillers.

After our tour, we went back to the ship for lunch, then sailed to Tobermory, Isle of Mull. Lunch on Sunday was the cold ham buffet, which also has always happened on every Hebridean cruise I’ve ever taken. It’s basically a buffet with the beautifully carved ham, oysters, smoked salmon, and lots of fresh vegetables.

I confess, although Tobermory looked like a very charming town and the Tobermory Distillery was very close to the ship, it was raining horizontally and I didn’t feel like going out in it. Bill visited Tobermory Distillery, which turned out to be just a tasting… the man doing the tasting was a former police officer turned whisky hawker. He was also a singer-songwriter and he performed a few songs. Dammit… I missed another musical experience. Oh well. I came home inspired to make my own music!

It was just as well that I missed the tasting, since I caught rainbows. I’d been waiting for them all week. Scotland and Ireland have never not delivered on rainbows. Here are a few photos.

Monday night was also the evening of our farewell gala. This is where, unfortunately, things went a little south. I apologize to anyone reading this and thinking I shouldn’t mention it. I like to be truthful as much as possible and, I have to admit, we were let down in a big way on the last night. We had a wonderful dinner after the last champagne reception. I wore a somewhat less matronly purple velvet dress… I know, weird in August, but it was chilly and beat the alternative. Bill wore his kilt again. Right before dinner, a passenger commented on Bill’s tendency to sit with his legs slightly apart. He’s a guy, after all, and doesn’t often wear skirts. But, bucking the tradition of not wearing underwear under the kilt, he did wear thigh length underwear. It was kind of embarrassing that someone commented on the way he was sitting, but he shrugged it off. Practice makes perfect.

We had our haggis, neeps, and tatties. I had turbot filet and Bill had lamb. After we ate, we visited the galley and thanked the kitchen staff. Some readers might remember that I didn’t visit them in 2017 because in 2016, I was a bit traumatized by a fellow passenger who barged in as I was talking to the staff. I had suddenly felt really intrusive, even though I knew I wasn’t being intrusive. I just happen to be very sensitive to certain things and I noticed annoyance on the faces of some of the staff, though it probably wasn’t necessarily because of me. In fact, one kitchen staffer in 2016 remembered me from 2012.

Anyway, this time, we did go in and thank the staff and the same dude who remembered me in 2016 said it was nice to see me aboard again. That really delighted me, so I was in a great mood when we went to the Tiree lounge. We were at the bar enjoying our last evening on the ship. Bill and I were in fine spirits. At that point, one of the guides came up to Bill and started talking about his kilt. I didn’t immediately notice it at the time, but the guide seemed like he might have been a wee bit drunk. Or, at least that’s how he appeared to me. It’s the only way I can explain his behavior.

He leaned over and whispered to Bill about his tendency to sit with his legs apart. That was embarrassing enough, but would have been easy to shrug off. But then the guide seemed more emboldened, and suddenly went off on a strange tirade about how he didn’t want to see anyone’s “knickers” or “balls”. He wasn’t whispering, and I could tell that Bill was humiliated by his comments, especially since he’d already gotten the point and Bill was wearing knit boxers that reached to his mid thighs. I can assure everyone that no one saw anything private. Bill is a sensitive man, and he’s easily embarrassed, yet much too polite to tell anyone who deserves it to go take a flying leap. Besides, the guide’s very nice wife was sitting nearby and Bill would never swear in front of a lady. I’m no lady; I’m his wife, so he does swear in front of me.

I told the guide that he was doing his best to ensure that Bill never wore his kilt again, which would be a real shame. I worked hard to get him in that kilt, and he looks gorgeous in it. Or, at least I think so… and my opinion is the only one, besides Bill’s, that really matters. In retrospect, maybe I should have snarled at the guy… but then, too many people already seem to think I’m a bitch when I stand up for myself.

Bill was visibly upset when the guide finally went away. I was also a bit pissed… both in terms of annoyance and drunkenness, since my bartender friend Louis had kept me in Armagnac and Calvados. I was trying to talk Bill down, reminding him that the guy had seemed pretty intoxicated to me (which he may not have been). I have a feeling one of the staffers heard me and clued in the excellent purser, who did ask Bill if he was alright the next morning. There wasn’t time to really address the issue. I’m wondering if maybe they should get one of my trademark letters… but maybe it’s best to just let the incident go.

We did end the night on a good note, though. The Danish guy came to the bar and we had a nice chat. At the Danish guy’s suggestion, I ended up singing to Bill, which may not have been as beautiful as it could have been, since I’d been drinking. He does love it when I sing to him, though.

Last post is up next.


Colmar, Part 2

So, we got to the hotel, Le Relais du Ried, at about 4:00.  It had a very small parking lot with narrow spaces.  We checked in and dropped our bags off in our tiny room.  It had most of what we needed.  The bed was fairly comfortable, though we would have liked one more pillow each.  Free wifi was included and there was a TV, though we didn’t turn it on.  The bathroom was surprisingly large compared to the room.  The shower had just a curtain around it and was very much a no frills affair.  Supposedly, the hotel has a spa and a hammam, but they weren’t mentioned when we checked in and we didn’t have time to go looking for them.

After we unloaded everything, we headed into Colmar, which is only about ten minutes away.  As we were backing out of the tiny lot, Bill bumped into a step and put a small dent in my bumper.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but he was upset.

Bedroom in our hotel room…

The area outside of Colmar is very rural, with cornfields everywhere and lots of cute little neighborhoods.  Even though we were maybe twenty or thirty minutes into France, it was definitely different than Germany.  It always amazes me how things change at borders.  The landscapes are the same, but the languages and signage changes.  We entered France near Marckolsheim, which has the distinction of being the one French town my mother-in-law got to see last time we lived here.  I got Bill to go over the border so we could have lunch on our way back from Oberstaufen (on that trip, we saw five countries in a single day and actually got trapped in Italy).

Colmar scene…

We parked the car in a garage near a Monoprix.  I was immediately nervous because the garage was going to close at 9:00 and I thought we might want to stay later.  The city was also very crowded, though quaint and cute, too.  We walked around a bit and I took photos, surprised by just how many people were in Colmar.  After just 30 minutes or so, everything sort of closed up.  It was very sudden.  One minute, the stores were open and there were street musicians and people milling around.  The next, things were closing.  We passed a sax player peddling his wares near Colmar’s huge cathedral.  He was playing a lot of cheesy 80s hits.  I noticed that the French seemed to enjoy 80s music, but this guy was egregiously cheesy.  He was playing songs like “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and “Without You” by Nilsson.  He was a good player; it was just his arrangements that were a little sappy.  I probably should have bought a CD anyway.

I told Bill we needed to move the car before we found dinner because I was afraid the car would get locked in the garage.  So we ended up finding a large parking lot with free parking near a movie theater.  That was another thing I noticed in France.  More free parking there than in Germany!  Sadly, my car got dive bombed by a bunch of pigeons.  No wonder they were so frequently listed on the menus in Colmar restaurants.

There was a restaurant here that I bet would have been nice, though it was rather expensive.  Building is historic.

Many of the nicer looking restaurants were full, so Bill and I, along with a number of other people, were hunting for a place to eat dinner.  We went into one place called La Taverne.  It was totally empty at 7:00pm.  We sat down and were presented English menus with some rather funny translations in them.  There was a young guy who was a waiter and an older woman.  Neither spoke English, though the guy’s skills were better than the woman’s were.  As we were waiting for them to come talk to us, we could hear them in the kitchen clucking like chickens and having what sounded like a good time.

I ended up ordering a rib steak with mustard sauce.  Bill had salmon with sauerkraut, which also came with some kind of sauce.  And we had a bottle of Bordeaux.  As I was about to take a sip, the waiter and waitress both came over to me and seemed rather concerned.  The man pantomimed pregnancy and questioned “Baby?”  I was immediately horrified, though I later realized they weren’t trying to be rude.  It turns out they were concerned that I had ordered steak, though I asked them to cook it to medium.  Apparently, in France and Belgium, pregnant women don’t eat beef rare, though they don’t necessarily eschew alcohol.  I got it rare anyway and was too flummoxed to send it back.  It was also swimming in sauce.  I ate about half of it and gave up, though we did have dessert.  I had chocolate cake with custard creme and Bill had coconut sorbet.  Both were good.

As more people were filing in for dinner, I watched the waiter turn one group out rather rudely.  Another group appeared to be Swiss or Dutch (I thought they were Dutch but heard them say Switzerland).  They asked for menus in English, so they were probably from The Netherlands.

The food at La Taverne wasn’t that great and the service definitely could have been better.  But as time went on, the place filled up.  It was almost full by the time we left at about 9:00.  Good thing we moved the car out of the garage!

Bill checks out the English menu advertising a “slab” of salmon…

Not impressed.

When we got back to the hotel, it was packed because a lot of people were eating at the restaurant.  We ended up having to park the car down the street, which annoyed me, since we were also staying in the hotel.  By the time we walked to the hotel, a spot closer was open, so Bill went back and moved the car.  Then I had trouble sleeping because I was perturbed about the guy asking me if I was expecting a baby… even though I realized that at least I must still look young enough to conceive.

Ah well.  At least I got some nice photos in the city.  It was a bit too hectic for me on that particular day, but it really is a pretty town.  If we go back, we will have to make reservations at a nicer restaurant in Colmar.  A lot of the places were serving foie gras, though.  Not my favorite thing.

Little Venice…

Guess I’ll never fly Samoan Air

According to an article on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Web site, Samoan Air has a “pay as you weigh” scheme, which means that overweight people will end up paying more.  Samoan Air uses little “puddle jumper” airplanes, so I guess it makes sense to know how much people weigh so you can distribute the weight properly and the planes can take off and land.  But I sure as hell don’t want to be weighed in public!  I don’t even let the doctor tell me how much I weigh.

Apparently, obesity is a big problem in the South Pacific.  Samoan Air’s chief executive Chris Langton says this policy might get people thinking more about their weight.  I think about my weight all the time.  I don’t think having to pay extra for the same tiny seat is going to help that.

It’s funny that this article came out on April 2, though…  Otherwise, a lot of people would think it was an April Fool’s joke!  It’s 100% legit, though.  I’m staying the fuck out of Samoa, that’s for sure!