Sunday, December 30, 2012

Edinburgh, St. Andrews, and dog friendly stays.

"With us, it wouldn't happen any other way."
~Stephen Schneider~

For the holidays, Steve and I decided to take a vacation since we wouldn't be visiting family back in the U.S. We first went to Edinburgh, Scotland. Unfortunately, almost everything was closed! We stayed at the B+B Edinburgh. It was very nice, pet friendly, was in a nice location, and the staff were very friendly. We will definitely stay there again! Our only fuss was that we were on the 4th floor, and the elevator was pretty small and slow so we often took the stairs. It was so small that to get the crate upstairs, one of us had to go upstairs while the other sent it up in the elevator! Stair numbers here start with "G" and then the next floor up is the first floor. Now we were on the 4th, and that's a lot of stairs! Angel seemed to enjoy it. Frog had to take the elevator. He made it up a few times, but he's just too old and too top heavy for that many stairs! You can check out the room and where we ate for dinner on the previous post.

View from our window. That park was private access for the area and so nice since we had the dogs!

Edinburgh Castle is so intimidating. I would have never tried to attack it...
 Christmas Day

What a sight to wake up to on Christmas morning. If it can't be my sisters opening gifts... then it needed to be pretty good. It was:

The colors in this picture were not modified by the way. :o)
 Breakfast at the B+B was good. We had Scottish square sausage. Yep, square.

We also learned a BIG lesson in a very hard way. It seems that going out for Christmas lunch and dinner is a big tradition here in Scotland. Every place we went was either closed or completely booked. So this was our Christmas lunch:

We at least got to get out and see some of the city. The castle was closed but we still got some great views around it!

Yes.. I do, but you are closed.

When we got back to the room, we started calling all restaurants down the list on TripAdvisor. After an hour and a half, we found one that was open and not fully booked. It was called Leven's and is a Thai restaurant. We were only 1 of 2 tables full. They were so nice, and the food was fantastic. They even gave us crackers. I remember when I first saw these in stores. They were all wrapped in pretty Christmas paper, and the sign said, "Buy crackers for your family this holiday season!" I thought, "Why the heck would I buy crackers for my family for Christmas? That's odd." haha. Here it's a tradition, and it's not "crackers" the food, it's a gift. One person pulls each side, and it pops into two pieces. The winner gets the stuff inside, which is usually some jokes and small gifts.

Me with our crackers

Mmmm.. duck.

Steve with his desert. Oh, paper crowns at dinner are tradition also.

Me in my crown.

Steve's dinner. Salmon.

We had a wonderful time! The next morning we got up to drive to St. Andrews. What a neat city! We stayed at The New Inn. The people were really friendly, but you had to crack the shell a bit. The room we had was on the bottom floor. We were happy because we didn't have to climb so many stairs with the dogs, but not so happy because the New Inn is not just a family-run inn; it's also a family run pub. This means that the bottom floor is very noisy! However, it is another pet friendly place, and although it wasn't 5 stars, it's still cute and comfortable. The bed was decent. Oh, you might want to note that they typically only allow one dog. They made a special exception for us since our dogs were small, and the website (Expedia) wasn't clear about it. They just charged us an extra £10 per night to cover the additional pet. They were really friendly with our dogs, left them treats, and even let us (well, everybody) bring them into the bar.

Map of the city
For dinner, we ate at the cafe/pub. I had fish and chips. It was pretty good. We spent the rest of the night relaxing. The dogs hung out by the heat!
The pub got pretty loud so we went next door to see what was going on. They had a live singer. He was really good. He even sang some Johnny Cash songs... well. We were so tired that we only stayed for a bit to listen, but we ended up listening until 1 AM. It was loud from where we were staying, and we could hear him pretty well! Luckily, we are night owls and enjoyed the music, but somebody else may have wanted more sleep.

Yes, he's wearing a kilt.

The next day, we ate breakfast at the inn (free), and then took off to explore. We went to the St. Andrew's Cathedral ruins. It was built in the 1300s! We walked all along the church wall and read about the pieces they had preserved or found over time. We went into the visitor's center and bought tickets to see the pieces inside. There were gravestones for people who had died in 1076! Can you believe that? I was looking around at all the rubble when a thought hit me. I told Steve, "When we die, this is all that's left here. Things we gain on earth don't matter. They remain, in pieces, and maybe one day they end up in a museum where people thousands of years from now wonder about who we were."

One part that was of particular interest for me was the tower that was estimated to have been built sometime between the 4th and 9th century. I got to climb up in it and stand on top! I was tickled pink. On the way up those winding stairs we kept passing little windows that let the wind blowing across the North Sea pierce its way through. I yelled, "Steve! Why would they put so many windows in a cold stone tower that is right next to the cold North Sea?" We were REALLY cold, especially at the top, but it was worth it! From up there (108 ft) you could see the entire city! It was amazing. The £4.50 per person was well spent.

The castle. We'll visit that next time!

It was such a great experience! I highly recommend visiting. Anyway, after some coffee to warm us up, we did a little shopping in town. It's a cute little town.

While shopping, we ran into the Blackfriar's Chapel. It was a chapel built by Dominican priests, and part of it is still standing in the city! I bet people walk by it everyday without a second thought. I thought it was very cool. I had read about it and got so excited when we walked out of a store, and it was right across the street!

Anyway, we headed back to the inn to take the dogs for a walk along the coast. I wish we could have walked further, but both Steve and Frog were freezing. To be fair, Steve also wasn't feeling that great, and Frog's legs were shaking. Poor guys. We got to walk a little bit though, and I was happy for that.

For dinner we went to a place called The Dolls House. The food was really good. This is another place I recommend if you visit St. Andrews.

All in all, the trip was pretty good. We had some setbacks with things being closed, lots of stairs, some noise, etc., but it's Steve and I, and as Steve so eloquently put it, "With us, it wouldn't happen any other way."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Edinburgh for the Holidays

We have made it safely to our holiday! We are in Edinburgh, Scotland. It took us about 2.5 hours to get here. The scenery was amazing! Rolling hills that disappeared into low clouds. Farms tucked away into valleys. Slopes cleared and filled with little white puffs everywhere... sheep. Mills tucked into crevices of hillsides. It was neat.

Where are we going???

Steve getting directions ready!
Crossing over to Edinburgh!

Forth Road Bridge is a big bridge. "The bridge, opened in 1964, spans the Firth of Forth"

Anyway, we finally found the the Bed and Breakfast. Our room here at the B&B is very cozy. The dogs are doing great as well! Angel really likes to run up the stairs!

View of the castle from our window. Sorry that it's blurry. I was using my phone, and it's a foggy, misty night.

 We ate at La Piazza for dinner. It was GREAT. I had tortellini with truffles and sausage in a red wine sauce. Yum!

It was so strange eating out on Christmas Eve, but so many other people were doing it. One family next to us had a little boy who laughed just like Randy, Ralphie's little brother on A Christmas Story. Steve quoted the movie, "Who's Mommy's little piggy?" The kid started giggling at that exact moment just like Randy in the movie. It was so funny!

After dinner, we took the dogs to the lounge with us, and we had a couple of cocktails. We met and talked to a couple from South Africa while the dogs napped on the floor. They were really nice. Then, we went upstairs to our room to watch The Santa Clause. We have A Christmas Story downloading on iTunes to watch tomorrow. It's my favorite Christmas movie! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Natural solutions for migraines, Cullen Skink, and Christmas via Skype

Last night I tried a new recipe. I made Cullen Skink. Cullen is a fishing port in Scotland, and "skink" means "essence" or "soup". So, it's a potato and fish soup. Pretty good, although next time I think I will add more water for the fish broth and peel and also cut the potatoes a bit smaller so that it's creamier.
I learned tonight that this is called a "bouquet garni" and can be made with many herbs, but it is usually thyme, parsley, and bay leaves. Hmf. Learn something new every day.

Cooking the potatoes in fish broth. Haddock is cooling off to the side.

Cullen Skink! Yum!

Yesterday was pretty uneventful because I was still not feeling that great. We finally were able to sit down and order Christmas presents for family. With all the illness and the stolen credit card, that was delayed for a while. The most eventful thing that happened was our fence blowing down! The winds were so strong that it just destroyed it! I woke up to something that sounded like the garbage truck dumping a trash can. I remember thinking, "That's weird. They shouldn't be coming on a Saturday. Did I miss something?" I was too tired and my head was hurting too bad to overcome my curiosity. I went back to sleep, but when I let the dogs out later, I found out that it was NOT the garbage truck that I heard.

Today it stopped raining for a little while so Steve and I took advantage of the break and took the dogs walking. It was so nice to get out of the house. My headaches started again, but this time I decided against the Ibuprofen. I read that migraines can be caused by fluorescent lights and also by deficiencies in vitamins D and B. I tried to use only light from our windows today, and I took a B-Complex and a vitamin D supplement. I receive some vitamin D from my calcium supplements, but I decided that since I've been sick and the sun hasn't been out in over 2 weeks, I could add some more. After that, some pressure point therapy (push out the cheek bones from inside the mouth, and then, push on the roof of he mouth), and a 30 minute nap, I was right again. Natural solutions saved the day!

When I woke up from my nap, I got to see the Christmas carolers! So fun! I heard the smooth, slow singing in my sleep. I awoke and thought, "They're here!" I pulled on my trousers, and the doorbell rang as I was running down the stairs. I ran into the living room where I found Steve looking for his keys. "Hurry! It's the carolers!"

He said, "Do you have money to donate?"

"Yes! Just go open the door before they leave!"

He kept fumbling through his keys as the doorbell rang a second time. Anxiously I yelled, "Steve! Quick, they are going to move on, and I want to hear them sing!"

We opened the door and found a small, chubby-cheeked boy with a plastic bucket. "Umm. We are singing to raise money for the Children's Trust." Could they have picked a cuter salesman?

Their singing made me want to cry. It was beautiful.

Later I put on my Christmas t-shirt and got ready for Christmas at Grandma's. No, I didn't get to go, but I got the next best thing. Here's the deal: I've been very blessed with such a great family. My Dad's side passed around the telephone during their Christmas party so that I could talk to everybody. I got to hear them yelling "Merry Christmas" and having a wonderful time. It was great! My Mom's side Skyped me into Christmas. My mom took her iPad, and when that was a bit slow, my sister used her iPhone to Skype me in. I got to talk with everybody and watch them open presents! We even had my mom hold the iPad with Steve and I on it to take a family picture. hehe. We thought it would be funny. :o)  I'll post it when they send it to me. I am very blessed to have such a great family that tries to include us even when we are an ocean apart. I love you guys!

Steve and the dogs sat in the background watching too. My Grandad said, "Is that all you do? Play with the dogs?"

"Yeah. It's what I get paid to do. It's why I'm here."

Silly boys.

I know the picture is a bit blurry, but it was the best one! Aren't they adorable?