My life is a musical about mental health and rehabilitation…

So Saturday morning, August 3rd, we decided to walk around Edinburgh. Despite the huge crowds and general hullabaloo, we managed to have a good time. The first time we visited Edinburgh, we visited museums and walked all over the place. We had four nights there, though, so we had plenty of time to take in the sights. I would have liked to have visited The Royal Yacht Britannia, which was the vessel formerly owned by Queen Elizabeth II. We didn’t manage to get there during this trip, although I’m sure we’ll go to Edinburgh again. Next time, I will make a point of visiting… especially now that it is now a “floating hotel”. Hey, maybe that would be better than the Kimpton Charlotte Square!

What we did see was a lot of funny stuff. There were people everywhere… buskers, actors, comedians, artists, and everywhere you looked, there was some kind of performance going on. At one point, while we were walking down The Royal Mile, a young woman asked me if I’d like to see a free musical about mental health and rehabilitation. I responded, “No thanks. That’s basically the story of my life. I don’t need to see it set to music.”

Here’s a gallery of photos I snagged during our day in Edinburgh. We really could have used a week! One thing I noticed was that both Donald Trump and Boris Johnson had at least one farcical musical created in their honors. I really wanted to see the one about Trump, but it was on the other side of town.

One thing I love about Scotland is that the people are warm, funny, and frequently profane. Also, in most of the pubs, you’ll hear excellent music to go with your cask ales. I don’t actually like cask ales that much, believe it or not. I don’t like room temperature beers. But I do enjoy a cozy pub atmosphere and good comfort food. I always find that in Scotland. It also never fails that I’ll hear at least one casual utterance of the f-bomb, which I find very charming. I really enjoy profanity, especially when it’s delivered creatively. The Scots are great for that!

Another thing we really wanted to do while we were in Edinburgh was visit the Edinburgh Art Shop. When we visited in 2012, we visited that shop and discovered quirky Polish artist Matylda Konecka, who grew up near Wroclaw, Poland. I brought home one of Matylda’s prints and had wanted more ever since that last visit. Bill and I visited nearby Bolaslaweic in 2008, when we were celebrating our sixth anniversary, and we discovered that it’s a hotbed of amazing artists like Dariusz Milinski. I once blogged about how Poland is “artist heaven” and mentioned Matylda Konecka. She was kind enough to leave me a comment, so I started following her on Facebook. We bought several more prints by Matylda, which I will hang up at some time later today.

After we bought our art, we stopped by Doctors Belhaven Bar, which was refreshingly uncrowded. This turned out to be a fortuitous stop, for not only was the food delicious, but it was served with a hearty warm welcome. I used to wait tables myself and I appreciate how hard the job can be. The man who welcomed us was very kind, sincere, and interested in seeing that we had a good experience. He was extremely accommodating to everyone– the very antithesis of grumpy. What I would give to have that kind of a personality myself! It would spare me a lot of trouble!

Actually, my husband Bill is naturally the same way as the barman. It turned out that Doctors had a number of tempting choices on its menu. I knew I’d be eating a lot of seafood on Hebridean Princess, so I wanted something I would not be eating on the ship. The cheeseburger looked really good, but I’ve frequently been disappointed by cheeseburgers in Europe. From weird tasting meat to unmelted cheese, it’s rare that I find a burger that lives up to its billing on this side of the pond. I also liked the look of the macaroni and cheese… and the roasted chicken. I finally decided on mac n’ cheese. Bill ordered the cheeseburger. Naturally, the cheeseburger was exceptional…

Bill, being the sweetheart he is, saw how much I liked his burger and split it with me. I don’t know what I did in a prior life to deserve such a delightful husband, but I really am blessed in that regard. The macaroni and cheese was also good. I also loved the buttery, garlicky ciabatta that came with it.

We headed back to Charlotte Square, taking a meandering walk through even more crowds. Bill has a tendency to want to lead, but every once in awhile, he lets me find another way back, which I did. I know it made him nervous, even though I have a crack sense of direction and almost never get lost. I took some more photos as we made our way back to the hotel with our new art.

All told, we walked over five miles on Saturday, which left my back screaming. I don’t spend a lot of time around people these days, so I was kind of ready to hide away by the late afternoon. Bill went out for Five Guys burgers, which we washed down with wine scored at a local market. I ended up watching Eurovision’s choir competition, which was very interesting. I usually like to watch Eurovision when it airs every May, but I haven’t been able to see it since we moved back to Germany in 2014, because we don’t get local TV. I had not heard of the choral competition, which happened to be taking place in Gothenburg, Sweden. We were just there last month, picking up our Volvo!

I ended up picking the winners of the choral competition, which turned out to be Denmark. John Rutter was one of the judges. As a former choir member, I know his work!

They were the best! I agree with John Rutter!

Edinburgh is a fascinating city, but I was definitely ready to move on to Inverness. More on that in the next post!

Hebridean Island Cruises

Cruising Scotland for the fifth time! Hebridean Island Cruises does it again!

We’ve got spirit! Yes, we do!

It’s hard to believe that less than 24 hours ago, I was still aboard Hebridean Princess enjoying the last precious moments of coddling that keeps Bill and me coming back to Scotland again and again. We just spent eight glorious nights aboard the tiny luxury ship. The cruise, which originated in Invergordon and ended in Oban, was fully booked. That means there were 47 other passengers sharing this experience with Bill and me. I like to think of the Princess as the anti-mega ship. I’ve got no use for huge floating cities so popular these days. Give me a little vessel with lots of good food, flowing champagne, superb service, beautiful scenery, and like-minded guests.

Bill and I decided to book our cruise in April of this year. Because Hebridean Princess is an all inclusive luxury experience with matching luxury prices, we usually plan much further in advance. Because we booked just four months out, I got us a “cheap” room on the Hebridean deck, in the “bowels” of the ship. Each stateroom on Hebridean Princess is named after a special place in Scotland. I knew what to expect, since we always book the “cheap” rooms. To date, we’ve stayed in all three of the double sized “cheap” rooms: Loch Torridon (three cruises), Loch Crinan (one cruise), and Loch Harport (one cruise). I’m hoping to upgrade us to a higher deck the next time we cruise, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with the “cheap” rooms. They are very comfortable, even though they lack windows or portholes and require a steep climb up and down stairs. At age 47, I was still among the youngest of the passengers and, at least for now, my knees can take the abuse.

We began our trip on the second of August, flying from Frankfurt to Edinburgh. This was the first time I’ve ever managed to score direct flights to and from Scotland. Although Frankfurt is an incredibly obnoxious airport, living close to it does have its advantages. We could have flown to Inverness, but that would have required a layover. I had never been to Inverness before this trip, but I’d heard it wasn’t all that exciting. I also wanted a “do-over” of Edinburgh, which we last visited in 2012 after our first Hebridean experience– two back to back five night cruises in November, during which we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.

We loved Edinburgh when we visited for four nights in 2012, but our time there was shrouded in sadness. On our last night of the second cruise, we learned that our sweet dog, MacGregor, had collapsed at the dog hotel. Unbeknownst to us, he had a highly aggressive malignant tumor invading his spinal column. Before we left for Scotland, we had been led to believe that he’d had a much less serious condition. We’d had him on prednisone and he was being weaned off, when the tumor suddenly got worse.

The hotel staff took MacGregor to see his vet, who suspected he had a malignant tumor and had recommended euthanasia. We were thousands of miles away and there was nothing we could do but worry. However, the situation was not so dire that we needed to rush back to North Carolina, where we lived at the time. The vet loaded MacGregor up with painkillers and the dog hotel staff took excellent care of him. We finished our vacation, came home, and took MacGregor to North Carolina State University, where he eventually had a MRI that confirmed the vet’s diagnosis. We said goodbye to him on December 18, 2012.

Anyway, because our first visit to Edinburgh was marred by personal tragedy, we decided to go back this year. I’ll go more into detail in the next post, but let me just comment that next time, I’m going to check the calendar more closely before I decide on pre-cruise cities. Edinburgh was teeming with people who had come to to the annual Fringe Festival. It started on the day of our arrival and made the city even crazier than usual! I’m surprised we managed to get a hotel room! I’m glad we were able to experience the festival, but I think I prefer Edinburgh in November, when the city is not so crowded.

We took ScotRail to Inverness on August 4th and spent one night at the lovely Rocpool Reserve Hotel. In retrospect, I wish we’d come directly to Inverness. It’s a very charming city and I would have liked to have spent more time there. If we ever do another cruise out of Invergordon, we’ll suffer the layover required to get to Inverness. It deserves to be explored.

Our cruise began on August fifth and ended yesterday morning. As I finish this post, I realize that it’s still been less than 24 hours! How am I going to get used to life without my daily dose of champagne? Writing helps me prolong the joy. I hope you’ll join me as I digest our latest spectacular trip to Scotland!

Part two