November 26, 2007
We've been here for a year and it's finally feeling like this is home. We signed a lease for two more years in our home so it'll be home for a little while longer! We have made some great friends and seen some amazing places. Carson is going to be in the nativity play at our local 14th century church and practice for the pantomime has started again. This year she gets to speak in addition to singing and dancing.
Last month we went to Venice, Verona, and Cornwall, and this month Nicholas and I went to Athens for Thanksgiving. Every place we go seems more beautiful than the last. To see the Parthenon at night is breath taking. To stand where Paul preached to the Greeks...... To search Loch Ness for the monster... We are truly blessed to have been able to see the things that we have.
I thought that we'd be done traveling for the winter, but this morning I booked tickets and a hotel in Rome for March! In April I am going to a Girl Scout Conference in Germany, then Rich and I are spending a week in Paris for our 15th anniversary. At the end of April we are going camping in Normandy with the Cub Scouts! Busy two months, but we aren't sure yet if we are going to stay in Europe for one more tour so I feel the need to see as much as I can now! I'm planning a huge European vacation for our last summer in England--- 10 countries in 14 days! That should make everyone crazy!
August 3, 2007
We just returned from a week in the highlands. Definitely one of the most beautiful places that we've ever been. It looks so different from anywhere else that we've gone. In the UK hotel rooms are sold per person per night. So each of us would have to pay separately, and it's generally at least 40 pounds ($80)! For our family of of six that would be over $500 a night by the time that the extras were all added in! And the rooms are less than half of the size of a typical US hotel room! So...we have to rent cottages when we want to travel. It works out well, most have 3-4 bedrooms so we have plenty of room. There's also a kitchen so that we can cook all of our crazy foods! In Scotland, we rented a 200 year old cottage on a working sheep farm about 10 miles from Loch Ness. It was beautiful!
The day after we arrived Carson and I took a day trip to the Orkney Islands. The landscape of Northern Scotland is so different. About two hours north of Loch Ness along the North Sea, there are very few trees. Huge bens (mountains) that are very green, but not trees. The Orkney Islands are the same. We learned that it's because the wind that blows in from the ocean in the winter is so laden with salt that sapplings can't take hold. The Orkney Islands were my favorite part of the trip. There is so much prehistoric and viking history there that the common saying is 'if you scratch the surface of Orkney, it bleeds archaeology'. The tour guide there made a point to say that they are NOT Scottish, they just happen to be under Scottish rule. They are Norwegian. The earls of Orkney had always been Norwegian. But in the 1500's when the king of Denmark couldn't pay his daughter's dowery to the king of Scotland, he gave him the Orkneys. We saw St Magnus's Cathedral, Scara Brae, Maes Howe, The Ring of Brogdar, and the Standing Stones of Stennes. All amazing.
We had a great time hiking all of the forest trails and seeing fabulous waterfalls . We searched Loch Ness for the monster (we didn't see it!). We went to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK. We took a glass bottom boat trip around the Hebrides, and saw jelly fish and seals. We missed the puffins by two weeks. We spent a day at a beach on the North Sea. It was rather cold, between 55-60 most days, but that's really about as hot as it gets way up there. I love to go to the beach on cold windy days. We spent the day in turtleneck sweaters and wellington boots searching the tide pools and watching the seals. Rich and Nicholas golfed. The little boys and I went to Culloden battlefield, and visited some bronze age cemetaries while Carson, Nicholas, and Richard spent an afternoon at a Borders that actually had parking! Right in front of the store! We thought for a second that we were back in the states!
It was a truely great vacation, and we feel blessed to have been able to go. We are heading to Cornwall for a week in October. I'll update the pictures after we get back!
June 3, 2007
It's so beautiful here. Everything is so lush and green, and the people here seem much more connected to the land. Most people seem to have gardens, and there are farmers markets in most of the villages on most days of the week. A lot of people keep animals: horses, goats, chickens. Our neighbor keeps three horses in the paddocks behind our house. We get local produce and farm eggs delivered to our door every Friday. There are public foothpaths everywhere you look, and they are a protected public right. Every year, the British Walking Club goes out and walks every inch of the footpaths in Britian so that they remain well trodden. They cross private property, yet anyone can walk them as long as you stay on the path. We have been enjoying the ones that are just outside our door.
We are starting to get used to the lack of conveniences and the tiny roads. We have made some great friends, and are looking forward to traveling more. We're spending a week this July in the Scottish Highlands. We've rented a big cottage on a working farm with long haired cattle. We get to go and gather our own eggs for breakfast! The kids are signed up for day camp at Loch Ness-- how cool is that? Apparently, when we are there it will never get completely dark. The sunset turns into sunrise without ever getting dark. Right now it's getting light at 3:15 am! and it doesn't get dark until almost 11:00. The kids are not sleeping well! We have 'room-darkening curtains' but it still doesn't help. Then, in October we have rented a 17th century cottage in a little fishing village in Cornwall. It's right on the beach. We are looking forward to seeing Tintagel and the other Arthurian sites. We've all been enjoying reading more British history books, and learning Celtic Mythology. They are truly great stories. But my favorite is still Norse mythology. They are so fierce, especially when compared with the the greek myths. We have a long list of places to visit, at the top of which are Lindisfarne, Hadrians wall, and Stamford Bridge. Someone told Rich that Hadrian's Wall was 'just a brick wall', and he is still shocked! Hopefully we'll have pictures to add again soon. We miss you all!