Scotland Adventure: Day Eight

Day eight would be our last full day in Scotland and part of it would be spent traveling from the Isle of Arran to Glasgow.  Thankfully the weather cooperated, to a point (cloudy with some showers, a typical Scottish day) and we were able to board the ferry to the mainland. The biggest and most exciting parts of the day would be meeting up with a friend we met last year and some new ones.  

Our first meeting would be with a friend from last year at a local pub for lunch.  We meet with him twice last year and oh the laughs we shared.  This year we will have an extra bonus for he will be bringing his dog.  A beautiful animal that is part white wolf but quite gentle.  We also were able to go to a local beach where we let him run around while we enjoyed our time talking and laughing together.  

Unicorns for my Nieces

After we made our goodbyes, to our friend and his dog, then we continued to Glasgow.  Once at the hotel I was eager to walk around the downtown core.  Both for the local scenery but I also needed to get a couple of gifts for my nieces. My nieces, as many girls of their age, love unicorns. I told them and many of my students that the unicorn is the nation symbol of Scotland and I hinted that Scotland is the land of unicorns.  So I thought what better gift than a unicorn from the land of unicorns.  It took me a couple of hours of looking but I finally found some for them (which they absolutely adored). 

With that out of the way, I was able to relax a bit and look forward to our dinner that evening with more wonderful people.  We met up with friends from the Glasgow area and had a wonderful dinner filled with laughter and great conversation.  Once dinner was over we had to say our goodbyes but after we went for a walk around Glasgow to take in the nightlife.  I remembered Edinburgh was active with a busy nightlife but Glasgow was bustling with activity and people everywhere.  

With the night coming to an end and tomorrow we would traveling back to Toronto, I laid in my bed thinking about this wonderful Scotland Adventure.  I had seen many wonderful places in Scotland, filled with a rich history and tales that will continue to inspire me for years to come.  Yet again the most inspiring thing I found in Scotland were the Scottish people themselves.  They say the land moulds a people; these words were never truer then in Scotland. The rugged Highlands, breathe taking views from Skye and Arran, the streets full of history in both Glasgow and Edinburgh just to name a few things.  Scotland is a wonder not just because of its natural and historic beauty but the people who make this wonderful land shine so bright. I have also made some wonderful friends here, yet I have only scratched the surface of what Scotland has to offer.  This was my second trip to Scotland but I know is won’t be my last.    


Scotland Adventure: Day Six: Part 2

On my trip to Scotland I have seen the natural beauty she has to offer. This day has not been a disappointment. Walking through the forest, along the shoreline, hearing the waves crash on the rocks and taking in the views of the countryside.  With all that behind us we had one last destination for the day.  

Once in our car we traveled north along the western side of the Isle of Arran. It was rather interesting, not because of the scenery but because of the road itself.  It was a typical road seen all over Scotland but it felt more like traveling on a rollercoaster.  Up and down, driving along the edge of the hill.  There were times I was glad I wasn’t driving, though it was still a fun drive.  

At the northern tip of the isle we came to a small village called Lochranza. There we stopped for two unique things. First to see Lochranza Castle.  It is an old castle ruin on an outcropping of land in the local bay.  The second was for a group of wild deer grazing on the side of the road. Amazingly these deer were simply munching on someone’s lawn in the middle of the village.  They looked up at us for a moment or two and then went back to their lunch.  Amazing, they had no fear of us and it looked like the locals thought that this was as normal as a dog sitting on the porch.  

Once we left the deer to their lunch we realized we too were a bit hungry. It was a good thing that we were not that far from our final destination, the Isle of Arran Distillery and Visitor Centre. There we enjoyed a nice light lunch and a couple of flights, though our driver only smelled and did not drink any.  The best way I could describe the two best tasting scotches would be as follows.  The first Arran Malt Amarone Finish had tastes of chocolate, honey and pears, where the second Machrie Moor Cask Strength Single Malt had a smoky, spicy taste to it. 

Yet while we were sitting there enjoying the food, whisky, scenery and conversation with the staff, I paused for a moment and reflected on the scene around me. There I was in that moment with three other friends having a great time, without a care in the world.  Yes Scotland had a lot to offer and I was on vacation but it was the company of the Scottish crew that really made this trip extra special.  I know that if it weren’t for the company, the trip last year and this year would be remarkably different.  These people, who had the same curiosity and wonder as I, made these small moments in Scotland all the more enjoyable and special.  

Henry Ford once said…‘My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.’ These friends have brought out the best in me on many occasions.  At that moment all I can think of to say to them was thank you.  Thank you for all the wonderful experiences and moments like this one.  For moments like this truly add colour to ones tapestry of life.  

Scotland Adventure 2019: Day One

For people in Ontario the second week of March is known as March break or Spring break.  It is a time when people take some time off school and work to go some place warm and sunny.  I for one did not.  This year I revisited a place I had first went to last spring break.  A place of castles, legends and history that will rival anyplace on the planet.  I am talking about Scotland, yes the land of castles, kilts, and dare I say scotch whisky. 

This trip started almost right after last years trip.  Then, I was fortunate to go with some amazing people who have visited Scotland on numerous occasions.  I had so much fun and learned a lot that going back this year was almost a no brainer.  

Our trip lasted 9 days and unlike last year with our trip being delayed because of our flight being cancelled do to technical issues, we fortunately had a smooth and dare I say uneventful trip to Scotland.  Just as last year, to put the entire trip in one post would be impossible because there was so much I saw and yes; we took a lot of pictures. Therefore in the next few weeks I will be posting my trip to Scotland one post for every day we were there. Think of it as a journal entry for each day of my trip. All right let us begin …

Scotland Adventure 2019: Day One

As last year, our trip comprised of four wonderful people including myself. Our flight was pleasant enough and the only grumble I would say was that I could not sleep on the flight over. Ever since I was a child I never could sleep for very long on a flight. Mind you I did sleep for about an hour on our second leg to Glasgow but that is usually all I can do.  I guess I was too excited to sleep just anticipating all the adventures I would have on my trip.  Therefore from Friday night when I left Toronto at 1930 to when I landed in Glasgow at around 1000 I only had 1 hour of sleep, but I was quite excited to be back in Scotland.  

On this trip we thought it best, because of the lack of sleep, to stay around Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh to visit and get reacquainted with the amazing friends we met last year.  As I have stated on many occasions, the one thing I loved about Scotland are the people. We had the good fortune to spend some time with fabulous people that would brighten any day.  

In the afternoon we met up with some fabulous people that we met last year. Once we saw each other it was like no time had passed between us.  The hugs and warm feelings came back and I can tell you that my jet lag instantly disappeared. We met them at a wonderful restaurant called the Robert Burns Cronies Bar and Restaurantin the Golden Lion in Stirling. The venue had a beautiful old world charm that only was enhanced by the company.  We spent hours talking, laughing and soaking up every ounce of the magic that is Scotland.  

Having a wonderful afternoon with amazing friends.

After that wonderful experience and we sadly had to say bye to our friends but their company energized us for the upcoming excitement.  It felt like I had been in Scotland for months not hours.  I was ready for some more adventures and experiences with the all the wonderful people.  We made our way to Edinburgh for an evening meet up with another friend. Our afternoon experience was a delight and the evening was no different.   We meet up with a wonderful couple that helped us experience the Saturday nightlife in Edinburgh.  

Last year we did a lot during the day and many other exciting things at night. However we never had the opportunity to truly experience the nightlife in Edinburgh, particularly the pubs.  I am not talking about drinking but the social interaction people have in there. You see in Toronto people go in with a group of friends and we usually stick together.  But here it was standing room only and people were literally standing shoulder to shoulder, talking, laughing and having fun with their friends but also with others in the pub.  It was fantastic to see people having a great time in such a crowded place. Yet the couple we were with had us in stitches the entire night and everyone around us was just as happy and full of joy as we were to be there.  

This day reminded me of when I went to Québec one summer.  I was amazed and overjoyed by there sense of Joie de vivre.  I think that the people of Scotland have the same sense of Joie de vivre in their lives too.  Mind you I was on vacation, yet I could not help but sense this every where I went in Scotland, both last year and on this first day. All I know is that this trip started off with a bang and I had the Scottish people to thank for it.  

Art Inspiration: Art That Comes Alive As A Tattoo

 I have been asked to create different pieces of art for people on a number of subjects and themes.  Some for professional reasons like a magazine layout or a background for a school play.  For others because they wanted me to show them how something looks like in a drawing like a cartoon character or a student request like drawing a pig.  But nothing is as personal until someone asked me to draw him or her a tattoo.   To be honest I am honoured to be asked to create a tattoo for them.  I created a few other tattoos, mostly for family or family friends yet this person is a colleague and some one whom I respect and consider a friend.   

I have drawn another tattoo for her of her Chinese zodiac animal however this second tattoo was inspired by my resent trip to Scotland with her and others. The land, people and stories so inspired me that I painted and drew many images of this experience.  One such legend or story were about the Kelpies in Scottish lore.  I had the fortune to visit the Kelpies near Falkirk and they were impressive.  They truly are a sight to behold in person. These 30-metre high horse heads rising out of the ground, illuminated in different colours were simply spectacular to behold.  They inspired me to create my version of the legendary creatures.  
This past summer I drew and painted the Kelpies and another Scottish mythical creature, the Unicorn over and over again.  My friend saw the images and asked if I could draw her a tattoo with these legendary creatures.   So I set off drawing and showing her my progress.  We went through several changes and suggestions but they were all worth it.  
The final image has a unicorn rearing on its hind legs with a kelpie in front of it.  The kelpie is modeled after a Thoroughbred horse.  I wanted to show and use a bred of horse that is known for its swiftness. I drew it looking down with a malevolent look, as if looking for it next victim.  The tail is similar to a mermaid but I wanted the look of the tail to have an almost wing like look with ribs along the inside for extra power. 
James IV Coats of Arms
With the unicorn I wanted to show its power and strength.  In Scottish lore it is seen as a powerful creature something a king, nobility or warrior would want.  James IV so wanted to show his strength that he incorporated the unicorn into his coat of arms.  With this in mind I thought of a Scottish warhorse and what better then the famous Clydesdale horses.  They are known for their strength and I love the feathering hair on their legs, which I think is a great touch for a unicorn.   They are also used in British and Scottish Calvary units up into the present. I have him rearing up to show its strength with a tough military look on his face.  I created mains for both creatures to represent flames.  I wanted the creatures to have a swift fiery look about them.  I continued the look into the unicorn’s horn as well.  

Unicorn and Kelpie Tattoo
This was a labour of love for me and when my friend wanted to use is as a tattoo, I cannot tell you how honoured I felt. They remind me of a culture I truly enjoyed and had the good fortune to experience.  Going to Scotland, touching the ground, the plants, the water, breathing in the air inspired me to create. These creatures, this drawing is the culmination of hours of imagining and drawing, trying to bring these noble creatures to life. Having my friend wear them as a tattoo only enhances my love for them even more.  To my friend I say, Thank you.  Thank you, for helping to inspire this and for bringing it to life.   
Inspiration comes to life

Scotland Adventure: Day 7 Scottish People Have No Comparisons


Well we knew this day would come and it did, our last full day in Scotland. The past 6 days were a whirlwind of excitement and seeing new things and people, today was no different.

Our day started with the usual Scottish breakfast because we would be running around Edinburgh doing some last-minute sight-seeing and shopping. Yet when we left the Adria House we were not greeted with some Scottish weather but a taste of Canadian weather. Snow flurries started falling and from what they said on the weather reports we would have them off and on all day. Funny, I fly thousands of kilometres from my home in Canada and the snow had to follow me here too.
Despite the weather we were not going to let a little snow stop us, we are Canadians after all. We decided to walk around the Old town of Edinburgh. We had the morning to do this because we had to make an important lunch meeting in Queensferry, Northwest of Edinburgh to get to. It was a reunion with some friends who visited Canada not 5 months earlier. The location was breathtaking and one of my friends noticed the bridges near the restaurant, The Hawes Inn, where we would be meeting our friends for lunch. The amazing view included three bridges from the inn; the Forth Bridge, the Forth Rd. Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing Bridge. The amazing thing is that the first two bridges look very familiar to the bridges going into Québec. The fact is that they are both cantilever bridges, yet the Forth Bridge was completed in 1889 and has a total length of 2,467 m (metres) with a longest span of 520 m; the Québec Bridge was completed in 1919 with a total length of 987 m but the longest span is 549 m. The Forth Bridge may be longer but the Québec Bridge has the longest span in the world.

However this day may have had some facts and comparisons but the true joy was the continued interaction and pleasure of getting to know the wonderful people of Scotland. From the friends we met at the Hawes Inn to the server there, the Scottish people are a simple joy to behold. We spent hours filled with laughter and friendship that we forgot about the weather outside and even the time. We were surprised at how long we had spent with our lunch companions.   We were saddened that we had to leave but we also had dinner plans with another old friend and other things we needed to do before it.
The night was almost a copy of the lunch. We lost time with our friends at dinner and it was almost like we did not want the night to end. We even went for a drive to see a few more places and talk about anything and everything. But unfortunately we had to make our good-byes as well. Tomorrow we would be returning to Toronto and putting an end to a wonderful vacation.

I have seen many wonderful places in Scotland, filled with a rich history and tales that will inspire me for years to come. Yet the most inspiring thing I found in Scotland were the Scottish themselves. They say the land molds a people; these words were never truer then in Scotland. From the rugged Highlands to the elegant streets of Edinburgh, Scotland is a wonder not just because of its natural and historic beauty but the people who make this wonderful land shine so bright. All I know is that I will be returning one day to experience that Scottish spirit once again.


Friday Two Cents: In My Own Backyard


This week I was fortunate to get re-acquainted with an old friend I have not seen in 10 years.  It was great to see her again and we had a wonderful afternoon talking about old times and what each of us have been doing all this time.  Yet as enjoyable as the get together was, it was enhanced with our stroll through a local park. 

If you are familiar with Toronto, you will be acquainted with a city park called High Park.  It is 161 hectares of urban forest near the core of the city.  I have been going to this park since I was a child and I even played little league baseball there.  However, in resent years I have not really walked through it or enjoyed what the park has to offer. 

My friend and I met at a Starbucks near the park where we talked for some time but then we continued our conversation with a walk or hike through High Park.  I had done this many times before, but I had forgotten how wonderful it is to have a piece of natural beauty in the city.  The plants, trees, swans and even the gardens and the zoo all were a wonderful sight to behold.  Many Inspired me to take pictures. 


Even the people and the children playing in the large playground were enjoyable.  My friend and I would walk and talk and just take in the environment around us.  We even stoped and shared a Poutine near the little league diamonds.  

After traversing the park we ended back at the front entrance were we said our goodbyes, reassuring one another that we will meet again for another adventure in the not so distant future.  Yet this excursion was one I will not forget, meeting and getting to know two old friends in one day.   My friend and colleague I haven’t seen in quit some time and High Park.  A part of my past I had almost forgotten about. 

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