Arran is everywhere…

We had good weather yesterday, so Bill and I decided to go to Wiesbaden for lunch. I had a few places in mind where I’d like to go, but they were all pretty crowded. We ended up at Scotch N’ Soda, which is an Irish pub that is popular with the American community in Wiesbaden. In retrospect, I realize there’s another Irish pub near there that we have never visited. Maybe we should have gone there… but we were destined to go to the place we knew from prior visits.

One reason we like Scotch N’ Soda, besides the fact that they have a lot of scotches, is that they don’t take a midday pause. We have a tendency to get started late on the weekends, especially on Saturdays. But as it turned out, we were well within the bounds of the lunch hours when we arrived. A lot of people were sitting outside, because it was relatively warm and sunny. We went inside, where there were several tables available.

Bill ordered us a round of beers, and I looked up and noticed a reminder of Arran… We have twice been to the distillery that makes Arran Malt whisky, and it’s a good product. We didn’t have any yesterday, but it was a reminder that our dog, Arran, will always be popping up in unexpected places.

Arran’s memory lingers.

Lots of people were watching rugby on the televisions while Bill and I enjoyed comfort food. He had cottage pie, and I had fish ‘n chips with mushy peas. I actually got the small portion (one piece of fish)– they also offer medium and large. I couldn’t finish it. In fact, we didn’t even eat dinner last night. Say what you want about British and Irish food, it does stick to the ribs!

Before we got to Scotch N’ Soda, we walked around Wiesbaden a bit. I noticed something I’d never seen before. There’s a really cool city model near the main drag. Four years, we’ve been living here, and we never saw it before yesterday.

This was constructed in 2010 and even has Braille translation. I’m always struck by how pretty the city of Wiesbaden is. It’s so graceful and genteel, compared to Stuttgart.

And no visit to Wiesbaden would be complete without a photo of the Evangelical Market Church in downtown Wiesbaden. It is such an imposing and beautiful structure. Every time I see it, it takes my breath away.

To see this huge, majestic church in person is an experience. It always makes me feel small and insignificant. Maybe that’s the point… to remind Christians of the vastness of God. I’m not particularly religious, but I can appreciate that sentiment.

Well, it’s our first weekend without Arran… and we do miss him. This is the first time since 2002 that we haven’t had a beagle in the family. Noyzi is a wonderful dog and we love him very much, but he’s definitely different on many levels. It’s hard to get used to not having a warm doggy body on the bed with us. Noyzi probably would oblige, but he’s really too big to share the bed, even though it’s a king.

On the other hand, there are some things about Arran I won’t miss… like the fact that he was never 100 percent housetrained. He was good about 90 percent of the time, but we had to watch him, especially at night or in the early morning. Sometimes he had a habit of relieving himself on my rugs, rather than telling us he needed to go outside.

On Friday morning, Arran actually DID alert me, even though he could barely walk, and he did his business outside. But as recently as a couple of weeks ago, I found a big wet spot in his favorite place. Noyzi, on the other hand, almost never goes potty in the house. He’s always been like that, even when we first got him. It’s a definite plus!

I don’t know if or when we’ll get another beagle. We do love them… but they can be rascals, and they require a lot of diligence to make sure they don’t get into trouble. On the other hand, they’re cute, snuggly, friendly, and hilarious. And they’re also not quite as common in Germany as they are in the southern United States. I have noticed they’re much more popular here now than they used to be, though.

I suspect our next dog could be another Eastern European or Balkan immigrant… and smaller than Noyzi is. We shall see. For now, I think we’re going to enjoy having a little more freedom. It’s time to start planning a vacation. I definitely need one, and this blog needs some fresh material. So stay tuned for that.

whisky distilleries

Whisky distilleries I have known, part two…

In October 2017, when I still had a lot of people reading my travel blog, I wrote a post entitled Whisky distilleries I have known. In that post, I wrote about the eight different distilleries Bill and I had visited on our multiple trips to Scotland since 2012. Prior to August of this year, we had only been to Lowland, Island, and Campbeltown distilleries. But then we took our second Scotch whisky cruise on Hebridean Princess and visited seven more distilleries, several of which were on the other side of Scotland.

Upon looking up the distilleries we visited, a couple of which still had whiskies in development, I’m not exactly sure what region some of them are considered to be from. We visited Old Pulteney, in Wick, Scotland, which is definitely a Highland whisky, but we also visited some smaller distilleries on islands. Thinking about it, I guess most of them would be considered Island whiskies, although they aren’t located in the same part of Scotland as are the distilleries we previously visited. And then there’s Glengoyne, which we visited in 2017, which is considered a Highland whisky, but has part of its operation in the area known as the Lowlands. In fact, the guide pointed out that we literally crossed into the Highlands when we crossed the street to go to the visitor’s center.

Anyway, I thought I’d make a sequel to my original post about whiskies, since writing in my blog prevents me from shopping on Black Friday. Just for the record, in my first post I included discussion on the following distilleries:

  • Springbank
  • Arran
  • Laphroaig
  • Glengoyne
  • Bruichladdich
  • Oban
  • Jura
  • Kilchoman

I have updated that post so that it’s much more readable. A lot of my older posts are harder to read since I transferred my old blog on Blogger to my new WordPress blog and the formatting was all messed up. It’s a tedious process to update the posts, especially since there are over a thousand of them, so I’m doing it as I have time and inclination. That one looks good again, so if you’re interested in any of the whiskies listed above, please have a look. This post will include a brief rundown on the distilleries we saw in August.

Here goes:

1. Old Pulteney Distillery Wick, Scotland

Old Pulteney Distillery is located in Wick, a town in northeastern Scotland. We happened to visit during its “silent season” in August, which is when the distillery’s production shuts down so that workers can have a break and equipment can be repaired. The silent season happens every year, so if you want to visit this distillery when whisky is being produced, be sure to look at the calendar first. Also, since tours are provided on a space available basis and at specific times, you’ll want to book ahead if you’re not with a group, as we were. A basic tour runs 10 GBP, while a tour with extra tastings is 25 GBP.

Old Pulteney’s whiskies are Highland single malts. They also offer a whisky based liqueur called Stroma that many of the ladies on our ship loved and quickly consumed. I didn’t find Wick to be a terribly beautiful or exciting place, but there is an interesting museum there that is worth a visit. Wick also has a lot of history to explore regarding World War II. If you’re a history buff, as well as a whisky drinker, it may be worth your time to visit Old Pulteney’s distillery.

2. Highland Park Distillery Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland

Highland Park is located in Kirkwall, on the of Orkney Island Mainland in Scotland. Orkney has the distinction of once being part of Norway. Of the distilleries we visited on our last whisky cruise, I think Highland Park’s history was the most interesting. We had excellent guides to tell us all about how the distillery got its beginnings, all the way back in 1798. The buildings at the distillery show the signs of age– blackened by the centuries of angels’ shares wafting overhead.

Highland Park Distillery is one of Kirkwall’s most popular tourist attractions and has the distinction of being Scotland’s northernmost whisky distillery. Indeed, the morning of our visit, we were joined by a Silversea ship, as well as Oceania. The tour bus from Silversea arrived as we were leaving. Highland Park was also having its “silent season” during our visit, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying a few drams and taking home some souvenirs from their very nice shop. As Highland Park is a pretty major distillery, they have several tours available ranging in price and intensity from 10 GBP to 250 GBP a person. Of course, if you spring for the most expensive tour, your group size will be limited to six people, you’ll get three hours to visit, and you’ll taste some amazing spirits from the 60s and 70s!

3. Scapa Distillery Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland

Like Highland Park, Scapa Distillery is located in Kirkwall, but it’s on the on the shore of Scapa Flow, giving it a beautiful natural setting right by the water. Scapa, located a half mile south of Highland Park, is Scotland’s second northernmost distillery. Scapa is currently owned by the Pernod Ricard, though it was founded in 1885 by Macfarlane & Townsend, and was later acquired by Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd (now part of Pernod Ricard). In 1994, Scapa was “mothballed” and it remained so until 2004, when there was talk of closing the distillery for good. The decision was instead made to resume production, so the first whisky since 1994 began production in November of 2004.

Scapa Distillery offers three different tours ranging in price from 12 GBP to 45 GBP and running between 45 minutes and one hour. Pre-booking is highly recommended.

4. Harris Distillery Tarbert, Harris, Scotland

Located on the Isle of Harris, Harris Distillery is currently making a name for itself by producing gin in beautifully designed etched bottles. Indeed, Bill and I were introduced to Harris Gin on our first Hebridean whisky cruise, the Spirit of Scotland, in March 2016. Harris is a new distillery and, by law, whisky cannot be called whisky until it’s been aged 3 years. Harris Distillery’s whisky is just at the point at which it can be legally considered whisky, so for now, the emphasis is more on the gin. Still, I think this distillery is worth visiting because it’s visitor center is so beautiful with its fireplace (around all that alcohol, no less!) and it’s right next door to the Harris Tweed store. Visits costs 10 GBP and include gin and whisky tastings. Children between the ages of five and 18 may take the tour for 5 GBP, without tastings. Children under five are not allowed on the tour.

5. Raasay Distillery Kyle, Isle of Raasay, Scotland

Raasay Distillery, like Harris Distillery, is a new business and is still developing its whisky. Gin is being produced for now, and there’s also a single malt available called While We Wait, which was made by blending two expressions from one distillery– one peated, and one unpeated. Raasay’s whisky will make its debut in 2020. Raasay Distillery also offers accommodations which overlook the beautiful grounds. Tours can be booked for 10 to 15 GBP and run for about an hour.

I think this may have been my second favorite stop on our whisky cruise. I enjoyed the staff at this distillery and the strong sense of community they shared as they spoke of revitalizing the economy in stunning Raasay. I also really enjoyed their gin. I wish I’d bought a bottle. Right next door to the distillery is Raasay House, a historic hotel which offers accommodations that may be somewhat less fancy than those at the distillery.

6. Torabhaig Distillery Armadale, Isle of Skye, Scotland

This was another interesting stop on our cruise. I enjoyed hearing about Torabhaig’s fascinating story– basically, it was a partnership between investors and whisky makers who spent four years turning a historic property into a new business venture. Our guide, Hans, was a great speaker. Originally from the Netherlands, Hans is fluent in several languages and conducted himself like a college professor. This tour edged out Raasay just slightly, in part because I ended up bonding with a really kind taxi driver during our visit. I forgot to collect my sweater after our tour and he was kind enough to take me back to the distillery to pick it up. We had an interesting talk about religion and politics.

This distillery, like Harris and Raasay, is also just now developing its spirits. However, while the spirits are being aged, Mossburn Whisky is available– these are whiskies that were made before the distillers had a home in Torabhaig Distillery. Because the brand’s whiskies were made at different locations, they have different types available, since as Islay and Speyside varieties. This distillery also has a gorgeous gift shop selling lots of Harris Tweed items. I bought a beautiful bag there.

Tours can be booked between 10am and 4pm Monday through Friday. The distillery doesn’t offer tours on weekends. Children under 12 are not allowed, and the tours run 45 minutes and cost 10 GBP.

7. Ardnamurchan Distillery Glenbeg, Scotland

Beautiful Ardnamurch Distillery is Scotland’s westernmost distillery, located on the Glenmore River. This distillery was founded in 2012, so its whiskies are still developing. Still, the distillery is located in a beautiful area, and I quite enjoyed our guide, who told us he’d moved from Glasgow because he liked the island life. Having looked around at Scotland’s stunning islands, I can’t blame him in the least! If I weren’t so old and crotchety, I might consider getting a job at a distillery myself, so I can enjoy the beautiful scenery and good nature of the Scots. Although this is a new distillery, it might be worth visiting just to stay in one of the many beautiful, historic hotels nearby.

Tours at Ardnamurchan Distillery can be booked in advance, range in price from 8 GBP to 40 GBP, and run from 45 to 90 minutes. I can attest the visitor center is rustic and charming, if you like looking at deer heads mounted on the walls.

8. Tobermory Distillery Tobermory, Isle of Mull

I must confess that I wimped out on visiting this distillery, which was the last on our whisky cruise. Bill went on the tour while I hung out on the ship, mainly because there was horizontal rain that day and I was simply “whiskyed out” at that point. It turned out the tour was more of a tasting anyway. The guide was a retired police officer and singer-songwriter who took a job at the distillery and offered stories and songs over a wee dram or two. When Bill told me about his visit, I wished I had sucked it up and gone with him. Tobermory also looks like an adorable town and is probably even more so when there’s no rain. The distillery is open every day from 10am til 4pm. Call them for more information.

So… that makes a grand total of 16 distilleries we’ve seen courtesy of cruising on Hebridean Princess. Personally, I think whisky cruises are an ideal way to visit distilleries. You don’t have to worry about driving anywhere and a lot of times, the ship arranges more in depth tours than you might otherwise get. But I can also see the appeal of arranging these tours on your own, taking your time, and getting to know the delightful locals. And even though there are a bunch of new distilleries on this list, they’re still worth a look. A lot of them make wonderful gin and may soon make a whisky you can’t live without. Scotland is one of my favorite places on earth, even though I seem to have bad luck when I go there. But that’s a rant for another day.

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.

Hebridean Island Cruises

Harris Gin, Harris Tweed, and the promise of a new economy…

Although I had mostly recovered from Thursday morning’s seasickness, I woke up Friday with terrible back pain again. I’m not exactly sure what causes this pain, which strikes occasionally and makes standing in one place torture. I just know it hurts. It helps when Bill steps on my back, but as we were in a tiny cabin, it wasn’t really possible for him to do that. Consequently, I started the morning with ibuprofen before breakfast. It helped somewhat before we visited Harris Distillery, a new player in Scotland’s whisky market. Harris Distillery currently sells gin, and we first tried it during our Spirit of Scotland cruise in March 2016. At that time, we were told that they were making whisky, but it would not be ready for three years. In Scotland, whisky must be aged for at least three years before it can legally be called whisky. Harris Distillery’s earliest whisky is now barely old enough to be marketed as whisky and they are focusing on quality. So, for now, there’s still just gin. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, we had to have breakfast.

Incidentally, our steward, Sergej, from Latvia, was outstanding. He joined our cruise a couple of days in. Prior to his arrival, his Latvian colleague, Piotjr took care of us. I had seen Piotjr before. He’s hard to miss, because he’s probably about 6’5″ and he’s a total pro at what he does. Actually, almost everyone on the ship is a total pro… with only a couple of exceptions, which I’ll get to later. For now, I want to focus on the positive as much as possible.

Sergej and Piotjr quickly learned our likes and dislikes. For instance, I don’t remember ever specifically telling Sergej how much I hate mushrooms, but somehow he knew. He also knew I prefer sparkling water and, at breakfast, I drink hot tea instead of coffee. Actually, I rarely drink hot tea off the ship, unless I’m in the United Kingdom. I really only drink tea on the ship because they use French presses and sometimes grounds escape into the cup. I have a very sensitive gag reflex and coffee grounds accidentally swallowed have a habit of making me vomit. Since I’m already drinking booze on occasionally rough seas, I figure it’s better to avoid coffee grounds. Also, the Brits just do an excellent job with their teas. I can have good coffee anywhere, but it’s a treat to have tea in Britain.

We docked in Tarbert, very close to Harris Distillery and Harris Tweed, which allowed us to walk to our destinations. Harris Distillery had a very inviting interior, with a fireplace as its centerpiece. The fireplace is an unusual sight at a distillery, since alcohol is so highly flammable. But the founder of the distillery wanted it that way… just as he wanted to create jobs for people on the Isle of Harris. This was not the only new distillery we encountered during our tour. It seems a lot of people want to bring more business to Scotland’s majestic islands so more young people might stay and keep the population going.

Our guide, Kate, was a trained chef who, I think, came from South Africa. She liked the Isle of Harris and stayed, where she pitches Harris Gin. When the whisky is available, I suspect she’ll pitch that, too. I thought her presentation was very professional. After a few distillery tours, you start to compare guides. Kate was one of the best, if only because I could easily hear and understand her. She was confident, friendly, and competent. She sold us a bottle of gin, along with sea kelp botanicals, hand soap, balm, and hand cream.

Harris Gin has limited availability at this time. I can get it in Germany, but I have to order it from one of the few distributors in Germany. It’s not something one can find in just any liquor store at this point. Kate was quick to tell us that Queen Elizabeth II regularly orders Harris Gin for her private collection. She likes her gin and tonics.

Really, though Harris will eventually have its own whisky, this was a gin tasting… Here are some photos.

My back was really hurting during our Harris Distillery tour, so I decided to walk back to the ship. Bill attended the Harris Tweed weaving demonstration, and did a little shopping. He picked up some Harris Tweed cufflinks and little booties for his new granddaughter, Clara, who was born July 4th.

For lunch, we opted for sandwiches, which are offered every day for those who don’t want three courses.

As we left Tarbert, the seas got a bit rough again. I was glad to have food in my stomach this time, as I took more seasickness pills. We cruised the Minch, but I was napping the whole time. Bill opted to listen to whisky expert Jim Allan give his talk called “Islay– Queen of the Hebrides”. Bill said it was a very good talk, even as he fought off drowsiness from the meds.

Jim Allan was a last minute addition to the cruise. We were supposed to have Charles MacLean aboard. He was on our Spirit of Scotland cruise in March 2016 and is considered one of the world’s foremost whisky experts. To be honest, though, I wasn’t all that impressed with Charles MacLean. I found him pompous and snooty. I wasn’t at all sad that he wasn’t on our cruise this time, even though I know at least one other passenger who had also been on our first whisky cruise was sad that Mr. MacLean hadn’t joined us.

I didn’t actually attend any of Mr. Allan’s talks, since they were given in the afternoons instead of during cocktail time as MacLean’s talks were. The fact that Allan gave his talks during the afternoon immediately made me like him a lot more. That, and he and his wife just seemed like much nicer and more approachable people. They were down to earth and relatable, rather than cliquish. I managed to get some pretty photos during our cruise through the Minch.

After dinner, we hung out in the Tiree Lounge, where I got rather friendly with the bartenders, John and Louis. They had very different styles, but both were equally charming. John hails from Glasgow and has a thick Glaswegian accent. He has sort of a cuddly quality to him, like a big teddy bear. He’s very friendly and kind and I really enjoyed getting to know him.

Louis is also friendly, but has his own unique charm. He’s originally from southwestern France, but was raised in Scotland. If I hadn’t noticed his lapel pin that had the French and Scottish flags on it, I wouldn’t have known. He has a Scottish accent, but is yet very, very French. Like the rest of the staff, he quickly learned my likes and dislikes and he surprised me by knowing my name almost immediately after we boarded. I must admit, it was a thrill having a dashing young Frenchman with a Scottish brogue bringing me my favorite champagne on demand. He also introduced me to the wonders of Janneau Armagnac. Just what I need! Another brandy to add to my favorites!

If you like to try different alcohols, Hebridean Island Cruises is a great place for taste testing. I sampled several different gins, as well as brandy and Calvados. I’ve had Calvados before, but Louis kind of reacquainted me with it.

Next up, Isle of Raasay.

Hebridean Island Cruises

Highland Park Distillery and Scapa Distillery…

On Wednesday, August 7th, we landed in Kirkwall, Orkney, with visits planned for two distilleries. Alternatively, guests could choose to visit the Italian Chapel and the Churchill Barriers. I would have liked to have seen the Italian Chapel, which was a Catholic church built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II. However, since we booked the cruise for whisky and Bill wanted to visit Scapa Distillery, I opted to go with him. Besides the fact that there was whisky being offered, the visit to the distillery also involved a shorter bus ride, which I preferred. I don’t really like riding in coaches, even when they are attached to luxury cruise ships.

Highland Park Distillery was first on the itinerary. Those who didn’t want to go to the distillery could explore Kirkwall independently. Kirkwall appeared to be a pretty cool little town. It even has a Wireless Museum, which didn’t interest me, but intrigued at least one person on the ship. Actually, reading up on it today, I think I might have found it interesting if we’d stopped in.

Highland Park Distillery has an interesting history that dates back over 200 years. We had two guides, Harry and William– no relation to the princes– who gave us the scoop on how the distillery came to be, back when Orkney was still part of Norway. Naturally, the tour included a few drams of Highland Park’s whiskys, as well as souvenir glasses. They have a nice shop, where I picked up a t-shirt and a book about whisky. They packed my goodies in a cotton bag, which was a nice touch. It will make a handy shopping tote. Here are some photos from our tour. Silversea was also in port, as was Oceania, and we ran into Silversea cruisers on our way back to the bus. Silversea is also a luxury cruise line, but has much bigger ships. Like Old Pulteney, Highland Park was also having its “silent season”, which means no whisky was produced during our visit.

After we visited Highland Park, we visited St. Magnus Cathedral, which is a magnificent church in the center of town. It was founded in 1137 and is considered a fine example of Romanesque architecture. Today, it’s part of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and is, therefore, technically no longer a cathedral.

We went back to the ship for lunch, had a brief rest, then made our way to Scapa Distillery. This was the first place we got a look at actual equipment used to make whisky. That wasn’t a huge deal to me, since I’ve seen a lot of it before, and truth be told, I’m less interested in the whisky making process than the end result. Still, Scapa Distillery has an interesting history. For eleven years, it was owned by Highland Park and was effectively shuttered. It’s now owned by Chivas Regal. Our guide, Ilona, did a good job teaching us all about how Scapa is made… and where it got its name. Believe it or not, the name Scapa originates from Cockney folks, who had come to Orkney for military service.

We left Kirkwall at 5:30pm. Little did I know, the next morning would be hellish… More on that in the next post.


Yet another Scottish whisky cruise…

Well, we finally did it.  We booked another proper vacation, the first one we’ve had since September 2017, when we visited Scotland the last time and cruised to Northern Ireland.  A lot has happened since that cruise occurred, although there have been a few things that are still the same.  For instance, we now live in Wiesbaden instead of Unterjettingen… but lingering issues that actually occurred right around the last time we were on the Hebridean Princess conspire to keep us connected to our old stomping grounds near Stuttgart.  That, and we kept our dentist down there.

Anyway, lately I’ve been feeling a bit crabby about life in general.  I will be the first to admit that everything that troubles me is, for the most part, a first world problem.  I still need a break sometimes.  So does Bill.  So in the past few days, we decided to book our vacation for 2019.  We gave some thought to going on a French barge cruise, which I’ve been wanting to do for ages.  But when we called about the specific one we were considering, we were told it was fully booked for when Bill had time off work.

I also want to go to Armenia… but Armenia in August is not the best idea, even though it looks like they are now embracing air conditioning.  It’s really hot there in the summer.  I’d rather go in late September or October.

So that led us to Hebridean Island Cruises again.  Although I’ve had a mishap every time we’ve been on that ship, it still remains my favorite of the ships I’ve tried so far.  It costs a mint to get onboard, but once you’ve paid, you’ve paid.  On four previous cruises, we’ve never had a bill at the end of the voyage.  And the voyage we booked is one that will take us to parts of Scotland we haven’t yet seen.  It will start in Inverness, when the coach picks us up and takes us to Invergordon.  Then, we’ll sail to Wick, through the Orkney Islands, and over the top of Scotland back to Oban eight nights later.

The cruise departs on August 5, 2019, so we had to pay for the whole thing yesterday.  It was a bit of an oucher… but they gave us a good discount.  We’ll be visiting eight distilleries.  Hopefully, this time, I won’t get norovirus like I did at the end of our first Scottish whisky cruise in 2016 (which, by the way, I think I picked up at a tasting off the ship).

This may be our last Scottish cruise for awhile, because I am really wanting to see some other parts of Europe.  We’ve been here for several years now, but the first time we lived in Germany, we made an effort to see more of the continent.  This time, we’ve stayed pretty close to Germany, with trips to Italy, France, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, and the Netherlands.  I’d like to visit Spain, Scandinavia, and more parts of eastern Europe.  I’ve been trying to do a real trip to Croatia for years.

Here’s a video about this awesome ship that started out as a car ferry in 1964, and for the past 30 years, has been the ultimate luxury experience.  Queen Elizabeth II and her family have sailed twice!

Prayers that this time, nothing bad will happen… I will come home healthy.  Bill will be healthy.  The dogs will be healthy.  And we won’t be too broke or inconvenienced!


Whisky tasting at Best Whisky in Stuttgart…

My friend, Rick, has just accepted a new job in Rota, Spain.  He will be leaving soon, so he decided to host a whisky tasting at Best Whisky in Stuttgart.  I’m not sure if Rick has hosted these gatherings before.  I get the feeling he’s been a regular at this little whisky shop near the Schwabstrasse metro stop.  All I know is that he invited me and Bill to attend, and we’re almost always game for a tasting.  That is, unless it’s snowing, which it did all day yesterday in Unterjettingen.

To be honest, Bill and I did think briefly about whether or not we really wanted to go out in the weather.  But then I realized that I almost never regret attending social activities, even if I can be slow to get dressed most days, especially when the weather sucks.  Winter weather can especially make me want to hole up in a cave and hibernate.  I think what settled the decision in favor of attending was that we were out of whisky.  Thanks to last night’s festivities, we are now flush with the stuff… along with a new bottle of rum from Barbados.

First thing’s first.  Remember that whisky, with no “e” in the name, comes from Scotland.  Whiskey with an “e” comes from Ireland or elsewhere.  What we had last night were whiskys from Scotland and, boy, were they “heavenly”– if you like scotch, that is, which I do…  Speaking of heaven, our whisky expert also talked about the “angel’s share”, which is the part of the whisky that evaporates as it ages.  The whiskys we tried last night were all aged.

We paid 55 euros at the door for six whiskys plus an seventh of our choosing up to five euros.  That covered most of the whiskys in the shop, with the exception of a few.  Our host explained that if we wanted to try one that was more than five euros, we would have to pay a surcharge.

The cover charge we paid also included light food and all the water we needed, as well as use of the WC.  I should mention there’s also a public WC right across the street from the shop.  We’ve passed it many times on the way into and out of Stuttgart Mitte.  I’ve always been morbidly curious about it and now I can go to my grave with my curiosity about that particular public toilet satisfied.

Because of the obvious dangers of driving after a whisky tasting, Bill and I took the train from Herrenberg to Schwabstrasse.  In the course of getting to the event, I also learned that Herrenberg has a public WC– one that I hope to never need to use again.  Still, it’s good to know that they have one and that it’s even free of charge to use.

Below are some pictures from our event.  There were twelve of us in attendance.  Rick said he’d needed at least ten people, so I’m especially glad we didn’t bail.

The outside of the shop, right on the main drag as you come into downtown Stuttgart from A81.  It’s probably best to take public transportation there, especially if you plan to do any tasting.  The Schwabstrasse metro stop is about a ten minute walk.

The inside of the shop.  We were seated in an area obviously set up for tastings, with tables and a large bar full of open bottles of whisky.

Bill enjoys the first dram, Glen Garoich 16 years Renaissance Chapter 2.  This was a Highland whisky at 51.4% ABV and normally retails for 99 euros.  We were given a 10 percent discount last night, so it was offered for 89,10 euros.  This shop also accepts the VAT form, which we used for our purchases last night.

Some snacks.  It was light fare, but appetizing and tasty… and basically healthy.

Another shot of the whisky tasting room.  I really should have taken a picture of the table with snacks, which included butter pretzels, smoked salmon wraps, small Greek salads, curry chicken sandwiches, and some type of pork/bread thing that I couldn’t identify (but did nevertheless enjoy).  The snacks helped absorb the whisky, which is always a good thing.

Bill checks out the color on another dram we tried.  I will name them all at the bottom of this post.  They were all interesting and unusual whiskys we hadn’t had before.

The bar with all of the whiskys available for tasting.

The man of the hour, teaching us about what we were trying in his shop.  I found him to be very knowledgable, engaging, interesting, and even funny…  And I probably would have felt that way even if I weren’t drinking whisky.  Bill said more than once that we’ll have to go back.

Hanging on to the last shred of sobriety…  


Actually, I’m kidding.  The evening was paced in such a way that most of us were still standing straight and tall as we called it a night.  Bill and I left at 8:30pm.  Since the event started at 5:00pm, we enjoyed a very substantial night’s entertainment.

Best Whisky specializes in whisky, but they do also have a few other bottles there.  As I mentioned before, we bought a bottle of rum from Barbados.  I also noticed gin for sale, which makes sense since at least one of the whisky distilleries whose wares are sold at that shop also makes gin.

One thing I noticed and liked about last night’s festivities was that I got to meet people I’d never met before.  When the event first started, most folks talked to the people they knew.  In our case, it was Rick.  But alcohol has a way of loosening tongues and lowering inhibitions (not that mine need much lowering).  Before we knew it, we were chatting with new people, all of whom were interesting and pleasant company.  It was just the right sized group for mingling, too.  I even got to talk up the whisky cruise we took in 2016 on Hebridean Princess.

Here’s a picture of last night’s program…  One of the whiskys we tried was 45 years old and absolutely heavenly.

I wish I could remember the two whiskys we tried that were our choice.  I told Bill to pick them and by the time he did, my attention span was wandering a bit.

We really had a good time at Best Whisky last night.  Special thanks to Rick for arranging it and to all of the other participants who made it such a good time!  I’ll be adding Best Whisky to my list of go to places for good spirits in Stuttgart!


Whisky distilleries I have known…

Although Bill and I usually make a point of going places on the weekends, he had to leave for Africa this morning.  Fortunately, I happened to be inspired to write today’s post thanks to a thread in one of the local Facebook groups.  A woman wrote that her husband loves scotch whisky and was interested in visiting some in Scotland while they are living in Germany.

Bill and I have so far been to eight whisky distilleries, entirely thanks to our sailings on Hebridean Island Cruises‘ Hebridean Princess.  Since Hebridean Princess mostly sails around Scotland and only occasionally ventures to other lands, there is a heavy emphasis on Scotland’s national drink on that ship.  Each of our four voyages on Hebridean Princess has included at least one stop at a whisky distillery.  We have even been to two of them twice.

Last year, Bill and I signed up for “The Spirit of Scotland” trip Hebridean was doing.  It was a whisky themed cruise, which meant we would be visiting different distilleries every day.  Last month, we cruised to Northern Ireland and Ireland and that trip also included a stop at a distillery in Scotland.  Although I don’t expect my readers to visit whisky distilleries via cruise ship, I thought today’s post could be a “one stop shop” for a look at the ones Bill and I have seen.

One thing you will learn if you come to Scotland intent on tasting whisky, is that there are several different styles of scotch whisky: Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown, and Islay.  Bill and I visited Edinburgh at the end of our first Scotland trip in November 2012.  Although we had already been to a couple of distilleries, it was at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh that we got a really good introduction to the different styles of scotches out there, as well as the many different whiskeys made around the world.  If your trip involves a stop in Edinburgh, I would highly recommend going there first and visiting the Scotch Whisky Experience for a primer on the different types of Scottish spirits you will encounter.  You’ll also get to see a very impressive collection of scotches and even try a few.


Just some of the huge collection at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh.


The world’s largest bottle of Single Malt Scotch Whisky is at the Scotch Whisky Experience.


Here goes…

1.  Isle of Arran Distillery

The Isle of Arran Distillery is, naturally, located on the Isle of Arran in Lochranza, at the northern end of the island.  The area around the distillery is absolutely beautiful and remote.  Arran is the first whisky distillery Bill and I ever visited and we have since been there twice.  Founded in 1995, the Isle of Arran Distillery has a very nice visitor’s center with a gift shop and a cafe.  Although you can drop in and take a tour, it is recommended that you book in advance, particularly during the summer.  Arran whiskies are excellent, but I am especially fond of Arran Gold, which is kind of like Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Tours are conducted all day and cost 8 GBP each.


The first casks of whisky made at Isle of Arran Distillery.  It was in 1998 when the first casks were opened, since it takes three years to make whisky.


Sorry my finger got caught by the camera.  This is the facade of the distillery.  We have toured it twice; both times, our guides were kilted gentlemen with delightful Scottish brogues who introduced us to their product.  When we visited last, in March 2016, the flags were at half mast because the founder, Harold Currie, had just died.  Harold Currie was the former director of Chivas.  

2.  Springbank Distillery

Springbank Distillery makes some of my favorite whiskies.  It’s also the other distillery Bill and I have visited twice.  I always enjoy visiting Springbank, because it’s one of just a few distilleries left in Campbeltown, Scotland.  There was a time when Campbeltown was home to many distilleries, but many of them closed at the start of the 20th century.  Today, Campbeltown is host to Springbank, Glen Scotia, and Glengyle.

Springbank is a very old style distillery and uses a lot of old fashioned equipment to create its spirits.  It’s also the only distillery in Scotland that performs every step of the whisky making process, from malting the barley to bottling the spirit.  For that reason alone, I think it’s worth a stop.  An added benefit is that there’s a great whisky shop just steps away from the distillery.  Tours are offered several times a day Monday through Friday and twice daily on Saturdays.  They have several different levels of tours available, too– everything from a basic trip through to distillery (7 GBP) to one that includes a personal tour with whisky legend Frank McHardy and lunch (100 GBP).


A fewshots of the Springbank Distillery.  The picture of the barrels was from our 2012 visit.  Last year, they did not show us the warehouse.


3. Glengoyne Distillery

We got a pretty special deal when we visited the Glengoyne Distillery in Dumgoyne, just north of Glasgow.  The ship had arranged for us to be able to blend our own whisky.  A simple tour is 9.50 GBP, but apparently we were all booked on the Malt Master Tour (65 GBP).  We all sat around a table and took whiskys from five different cask to make our own individual blends.  Bill and I still have our own blends.  We did taste them a couple of months ago, but haven’t had the heart to finish them yet.  Glengoyne is also notable because the distillery is located just north of the line that distinguishes Highland and Lowland whiskys.  Glengoyne’s stills are located in the Highland region; while just across the street, the maturing casks rest in the Lowlands.  This is another place well worth a visit if you’re into scotch.


I was standing in the Lowlands taking a picture of fellow passengers in the Highlands.


A shot of our “malt master” class.  It was pretty cool!


Different types of oaks used for the barrels.


And the resulting whisky…  Notice the bottles on the bottom have less in them.  This is known as the “angel’s share”, and it’s part of the process of evaporation that occurs when whisky is made.


4.  Laphroaig Distillery

Laphroaig Distillery is located on the Isle of Islay, an island every scotch drinker must visit.  Islay is home to a whole bunch of whisky distilleries.   It’s also a very beautiful place.  The Laphroaig Distillery and brand is currently owned by Beam Suntory, which is a subsidiary of the Japan’s Suntory.  Of all of the distilleries I’ve visited so far, I think Laphroaig’s visitor center is among the most impressive.  They have a really interesting exhibit you can look at while you wait for your tour to start.  They allow visitors to try the wort, too, which I recommend doing just once.  Just make sure they offer it to you in a disposable cup.  Trust me on this.  You should get a cup of your own at this distillery.

At the end of our tour, I distinctly remember they gifted us with souvenir whisky glasses.  A basic tour costs 10 GBP, though they have more detailed tours available at correspondingly higher prices.  You can even try your hand at cutting peat if you want to.


Barley being malted.  You will also see this at Springbank and Kilchoman Distilleries.


The Laphroaig Distillery also offers a great view of Port Ellen.


5.  Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman is one of the newest distilleries.  It opened in 2005 and is situated on a beautiful farm in a rural part of Islay.  It has the distinction of being the first distillery to be built on Islay in 124 years and, until recently, it was the westernmost distillery in Scotland.  That honor is now claimed by Abhainn Dearg Distillery on the Isle of Lewis.  Kilchoman also does its own malting and is one of only six distilleries in Scotland doing traditional floor maltings.  I really enjoyed touring Kilchoman, which also offers a liqueur as well as several different whiskys.  A basic tour at Kilchoman costs 7 GBP, while a premium tour runs 30 GBP and includes a tutored tasting.

One thing I do want to mention about this tour is that we were offered a taste of the wort there.  They passed around a communal container and, I’m pretty sure, that is where I picked up norovirus.  I got very sick with diarrhea and vomiting.  Fortunately, it happened in the wee hours of our very last night on the ship, so it didn’t devastate our cruise.  Still, it was a really stupid mistake on my part and one I hope to spare others from making.  It’s especially important to be mindful of hygiene when you’re on a cruise.

Floor malting.


Our guide pours drams for us to try.  I remember enjoying a very fresh scone on the way back to the ship.  The distillery has a nice cafe where one can have lunch.


6. Jura Distillery

Jura Distillery is located on the Isle of Jura, a tiny community that has only one road, one pub, and one distillery.  Only 200 people live on the Isle of Jura, which makes it a very interesting place to visit.  I remember our guide explaining to us that at Jura, it’s especially possible to see the effects whisky distilleries have on trees.  All of the trees near Jura Distillery were black.  Apparently, in the United Kingdom, the authorities can tell how much whisky is being distilled simply by looking at the trees.  Although I was getting a little fatigued of distilleries when we visited, I do remember thinking Jura’s history was especially interesting.  Tours cost 6 GBP.  Afterwards, you can visit the one pub on the island.


Jura’s Distillery.  I’m not sure they have a grocery store on Jura, but they sure do have whisky.

7. Oban Distillery


Oban Distillery was the last one we visited on our “scotch whisky” tour.  It’s a very compact place because it was built next to a cliff.  Originally established in 1794, Oban Distillery is actually older than the town of Oban itself.  I distinctly remember our guide telling us about Oban Distillery’s 14 year old malt, which is very well-regarded.  Three years ago, they also started selling a non age statement whisky called Little Bay.  Oban is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, mainly because when they were excavating the cliff behind the distillery, they found human remains.  Also, people started building on top of the cliff, which made expansion in its current location very difficult.


Oban Distillery also has a very informative exhibit available to peruse while you wait for your tour.

8. Bruichladdich

Finally, we have Bruichladdich, another Islay distillery located in Port Charlotte on the Isle of Islay.  Bill and I visited Bruichladdich last month while we were on our Northern Ireland cruise.  We were originally supposed to visit Bowmore, but that got cancelled.  Then we were going to visit Lagavulin, but then our itinerary got switched around.  So that’s how we ended up at Bruichladdich, which also makes The Botanist gins.  This distillery is another one I think is well worth seeing if only because of the very cool old equipment they still use.  One of the mashtuns is from the Victorian era and is one of only a few still in existence and the only one on the island.  They also use a still from 1881, which was when the distillery was founded.  And they have a still called Ugly Betty that is used for making gin.  This distillery also has a very colorful and interesting history best told by someone who sounds like a Scot.

We found the distillery to be very liberal about allowing tastings.  Our guide told us that if there was anything under 200 GBP we wanted to try, just let her know.  They have a really nice shop, too.  I brought home a beautiful wool blanket from there.


Very old equipment… this is from the Victorian era.


The two pictures above show the different ages of the washbacks.


Ugly Betty




If this post inspires you to visit any distilleries, I encourage you to bring a designated driver or hire a cab.  You don’t want to be driving drunk, especially in a place like Islay, which has a lot of narrow roads with tons of potholes.  Also, presuming that most of my readers are not used to driving on the left, it would be especially risky to drive after tasting whisky at the distilleries.

I think the way Bill and I visited these distilleries was pretty much ideal.  We had a coach that took us to them, so we were free to enjoy as much as we wanted.  On our whisky tour, we enjoyed the services of John Harbour, a professional tour guide.   Mr. Harbour was engaged by Hebridean Island Cruises for us and was with us the whole week, but you can also book him privately.  I would highly recommend him because he’s very knowledgable and will handle the driving.  Here’s a link to his Facebook page.

Although I’m not sure if Hebridean Island Cruises is going to be offering the Scotch Whisky tour again, I would recommend looking to them if your budget allows.  It’s a marvelous way to see Scotland, albeit not kid friendly and very expensive.  We did have a blast, though, and I don’t think I will ever forget how scotch whisky is made after seeing all of those distilleries!


Click here for a sequel to this post— eight more whisky distilleries I have known.

Hebridean Island Cruises

Scotland and Northern Ireland 2017, Part four…

By the time we got back to Glasgow, it was late afternoon.  It was still kind of cold and wet outside, so we went back to the hotel and got cleaned up.  Later, we ventured into the “Executive Lounge”, a privilege granted to us because we booked a “Club Room“.  Every time we stay at the Carlton George, I upgrade our room.

The first time, we stayed in their “Superior Room“, which is their most basic model.  It’s a pretty comfortable place to stay, complete with a free mini bar which includes decanters of vodka, scotch, and whisky, but you don’t get to use the lounge with that room.  You are also pretty much bound to have a view of an elevator shaft or something like it.

Last year, we visited in March and I got us an “Executive Room“, which is a larger room with a free mini bar and access to the lounge.  But again, you’re likely to have a view of the elevator shaft.

There is only one category higher than the Club Room and that’s the Club Room with a balcony.  Given the weather in Glasgow during our stay, it was probably good that I didn’t go that far.  Maybe next time I’ll pull the trigger.  Here are a few pictures of our Club Room.

The all important free booze.  I think I tried the whisky, which naturally was decent quality.


Nice coffee set up.

The ever important bed.

And the bathroom.  Once again, I was tickled by the need for instructions on the wall for using the shower.  The Holiday Inn at the Glasgow Airport needs to take a memo.  More on that later.


We decided to have a drink in the lounge, then got really lazy and had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, Windows.  We had not eaten there on previous visits, so it was good to try it.  Now that I’ve tried it, I don’t know that I’ll try it again.  That’s not because the food was bad; it’s more because Glasgow has a lot of great restaurants and Windows, while not bad, is not among the best there are in Glasgow.  In any case, here are a few pictures of our Sunday night repast at the hotel.  One of the nicest aspects of a dinner in Windows Restaurant is that you do, indeed, get a nice view of the city… which is a great thing when the skies are clear.  We did experience that at breakfast.

A nice bottle of red to go with dinner.

Bill went with a sirloin steak, which was served with tomatoes on the vine, chips, and a mushroom.  He said the steak was cooked very well.  As many readers may know, mushrooms give me the creeps.  

I went with seabass, which was served in parchment paper.  It came with a slice of white bread and lots of vegetables on the side… 

It was also stuffed with lots of fresh vegetables and was very healthy.  Looking at my figure lately, I realize I probably should eat more fish.  If you like fish, Scotland is a great place to be.  


Unfortunately, my disdain for mushrooms got the better of me when the lady sitting at the table behind Bill ordered a vegetarian dish that smelled like it was loaded with mushrooms or truffles.  The aroma was overwhelming to me.  People who love the smell of truffles, like Bill, would have been enchanted by it.  As for me, you would have thought I was pregnant or something.  I had to beat it.

After a good second night’s rest, Bill and I awoke Monday morning with big plans.  We were going to get Bill fitted for a kilt!  I am very excited to get this done, since I have been nagging Bill to get a kilt for years now.  Granted, he’s more of an Irishman than a Scot, but there are only so many years a man can get away with wearing the Army Service Uniform post retirement… especially a man who enjoys food and booze as much as Bill and I do.  Aside from that, I think kilts are pretty damned sexy, especially when they are worn “properly”.

Bill was originally going to visit a kilt maker called MacGregor & MacDuff.  He chose it because it carried the Donegal tartan, which is the Irish county where Bill’s people come from as evidenced by our surname, Crossen.  MacGregor also happens to be the name of our very sweet dearly departed “bagel”, whom we lost to canine cancer a few weeks after our first Hebridean Princess cruise.  I ended up talking him out of MacGregor & MacDuff because it appeared to be a large operation.  Instead, we visited the much smaller James Robertson, Kiltmaker.  I am so glad we did.  We spent a couple of hours there with the delightful proprietor.

He has a tiny little “hole in the wall shop” next to a tattoo parlor!

Bill gathers his gumption for the fitting.

We settled on the Donegal pattern displayed above.  There was another Donegal pattern that was mostly oranges, greens, and reds, but the blue, green, and red seemed to suit Bill better.  I could wear tartans for a few Scottish clans myself due to my heavy ancestry, but if I ever get a stole, I’ll probably get one to match Bill’s new kilt.

The tartan Bill is wearing is not the one we’re getting, just to be clear.  However, I was impressed by how well it matched his shirt!

Bill ordered the whole “kit”, which set us back about $1200.  However, it includes everything but a tuxedo shirt and the kilt will be handmade.  Aside from that, the jacket comes from County Donegal. 😉

I get excited just thinking about it.

Bill tries on shoes.  The proprietor even asked me to film him showing how to tie the laces.  See below.


This is how you do it, guys.

Bill checks out the rest of his accessories.

First time I’ll ever get him to wear a purse…  😉

Settling the bill…  We noticed a bottle of whisky sitting by the desk.  I have a feeling if it had been later in the day, we might have shared a wee dram with the kiltmaker.

On the way out…


Edited to add:  This was the finished product.  It got to us in time for Christmas!

The kiltmaker advised us to visit The Pot Still, a very cool pub that serves food, beer, and, most of all, lots of whisky.  Apparently, it has one of the best selections of whiskies in Glasgow with over 700 varieties.  And though it wasn’t quite noon, we decided to stop in to try a few.

A rather unassuming looking place, isn’t it?

We started with a Longrow from Campbeltown’s Springbank Distillery, a place we’ve visited twice, thanks to our Hebridean cruises.

A look at the loot.

We tried a couple of others, included blends we had not heard of prior to our visit.  The proprietor looked to be about my age and was busy with inventory, but he was very friendly.  We shared a moment when he started whistling a tune and I quickly identified it as “Can You Feel It” by The Jacksons.  Every time I come to Scotland, I’m reminded of just how strong the musical vibe is there.

A look at the dining room.  I was tempted to stay for lunch, but it was still a little early.  We decided to walk around a bit more.

At around noon, my nose caught a whiff of something delicious.  We happened to be standing in front of Iberica, a Spanish restaurant chain in the United Kingdom.  Since we knew we’d be eating a lot of Scottish food on the boat, we decided to stop in for a Spanish repast.  It was a good decision.  We split a couple of tapas and paella for two, then had lovely desserts.

Bill checks out the menu…

While I check out the bar…  Our waitress was beautiful.  She looked like a young Rachel Hunter circa 1990 or so…  She recommended we order a couple of tapas to hold us over while the paella was being prepared.  It takes awhile.

Bill picked the sausage and cheese tapas which came with bread and fig jelly.

I had the crispy chicken, which was absolutely delicious.  I could have enjoyed a whole lunch of this.

Seafood paella.  It was very good, although I liked my chicken tapas even more.

This was just the beginning of our week eating seafood…

For dessert, I had churros, which were so good… but man, my ass didn’t need that present!

Bill was a bit more sensible and had something lighter.  Looks like it involved apricots.  I remember the waitress told us about a dessert that involved Parmesan cheese and strawberries.  I wrinkled my nose at first, but then realized it was a pairing of sweet and salty.  And given the time of the month, that was kind of appealing.  I’m glad I went with churros instead, though.


Schnitzel, song, and sunshine on the Schönbuch ridge…

I had thoughts that maybe Bill and I should venture to Stuttgart for some fun today, but then I decided to do laundry.  As anyone who lives in these parts knows, laundry can be an all day affair, even if you use the short cycles.  I wasn’t finished washing the bed linens until about 1:30pm, which seemed kind of late to be heading out to Stuttgart, especially since we wanted to have lunch.  We decided to go to Herrenberg instead.

As we headed into town, I noticed the ads for the Whisky Messe that is going on right now.  Tickets were being sold at the Alte Brennerei, an excellent place to buy all manner of exotic spirits and wines.  I told Bill I wanted to stop in there today, since we’re out of whisky.  But first, I wanted to have lunch.  I remembered from last year, when we took our dogs, Zane and Arran, on a walk through nature trails on the Schönbuch ridge overlooking the outskirts of Herrenberg.  Right across the street from the nature park, there is a restaurant/biergarten that looked inviting.  We didn’t try it last year, but decided to stop in today, sans dogs.

Lots of trails and a nice little self-service restaurant for your hunger, big or small.

The biergarten at the was full of people when we arrived at the Naturfreundehaus am Schönbuch.  They were serving a few specials along with the usual schnitzels and such.  It’s a self-service place that appears to be quite popular among locals.  In fact, when we walked inside, there was a group of people in a closed off room having a group singalong of some sort.  I was grateful that they were on key, because they sang the same song several times.  I had it stuck in my head the whole time we were dining.

My first impression… it seemed a bit “church fellowship hall” like.

Bill and I both decided to have small schnitzels with fries, washed down with hefeweizens.  I sat down while Bill ordered.

The lady took his order and gave him a ticket with a number on it.  He sat with me to wait.

You can’t go wrong with a local weizen.

Bill laughs as I snark on the singers in the next room.  They were actually entertaining.  I wouldn’t have minded joining in on the singalong.

Finally, our number was called.  We were 122.  Bill picked up our lunches and we commenced eating.

They had large and small schnitzels.  We both got the small size, which was plenty.  I didn’t finish the fries.  I noticed they had a number of nice looking cakes.  I wouldn’t have minded trying out the Black Forest Cake they had, but I refrained for the sake of my behind.

Nice napkins that tell you where you are.

Once you’re finished eating, you take your dirty dishes to the window.  Put bottles and glasses on the counter where you give your order.


This was a pretty typical schnitzel and pommes lunch, but I noticed some of the other options looked pretty good.  Prices are also very reasonable.  It’s a nice, no frills place to stop in after your hike in the woods.  I probably would have enjoyed sitting outside in the sun, but I’m glad we caught the German singing group.

They have handy maps for people who want to walk.

A view of the Biergarten.

Across this highway are more trails.


After lunch, we went back to Herrenberg, parked the car, and walked to the Alte Brennerei.  I have written about this awesome wine and liquor store more than a couple of times.  Today was our first visit back since Christmas.  Let me warn you… they are experts at upselling!

Interesting sight by the parking garage.


We were originally attracted to their Springbank whiskys, but the one I really had my eye on was priced at about 200 euros.  So we turned our attention to Kilchoman, which was one of the distilleries we visited last year during our Scottish whisky cruise.  I picked up a bottle that was intriguing.  Bill picked out another bottle he liked.  We put them up on the counter.  The saleslady, who spoke some English, invited us to try a couple of whiskys.  We were happy to do it.  Of course, we loved the other two she brought out for us and ended up buying four bottles of scotch.  It may be time for me to start a Facebook whisky lovers group…

Good stuff.  I hope it holds us for awhile.

Bill assesses the damage.  But they softened the blow with a gift of Italian tartufos.


I think tomorrow, we will try to go to Stuttgart for a bit… and do some harmless sightseeing rather than shopping!  At least lunch was cheap.  It was a mere 23 euros, plus parking was free of charge.  Edited to add, the Nature House is apparently affiliated with the Friends of Nature, which is an international group dedicated to making nature more accessible.  This particular restaurant is open from 11am-6pm.