Scotland Adventure 2019: Day Three


The trip up to Portree on the Isle of Skye was quite a journey and I slept well that night.  It’s a good thing too because we had a fun filled day ahead of us.  We did so much that I cannot fit it all in this post but in the next few postings.  

Portree on the Isle of Skye
The Old Man of Storr

Our first destination of the day was a famous natural rock formation about 6.5 miles north of Portree.  It is called the “Old Man” of Storr, a large rock peak that stands high and separate from the mountain The Storr and part of the Trotternich ridge on Skye.   They say the formation was created by a massive landside that left the colossal rock creation behind.  It’s reportedly one of the most photographed landscapes on Skye if not the world.  

We arrived at the car park where we were lucky to get a good parking spot considering this is a well-known destination.  During the warm months in Scotland many of the mountains would be clear of snow, however because we are in early March the tops of many mountains are still snow covered.  Just my luck a Canadian goes on vacation and can easily find snow wherever I go.  Yet the landscape at the foot of the mountain was clear of snow with lush green scenery.  It was an enjoyable hike up but once we arrived at the snow line the footing got a little trickier.   We all had proper footwear and clothing of the elements but no matter how prepared you are, you still have to be respectful of Mother Nature.  

There was some water runoff and we had to be careful not to slip.  We kept going up and we were about 300 meters from the “Old Man”.  We passed a gate and began climbing a muddy/snowy path. My companions were ahead of me and I began going up, but then I slipped a bit and felt a sharp pain in my ache and said to myself “Ok that’s it.”  I broke both my aches long ago playing hockey and baseball and I did not enjoy both experiences.  The sharp pain was in the same areas and instead of pushing to the point where I would reinjure them I stopped and headed back to the gate area where I knew my companions would return for the climb back down.  

I know when to listen to my body when it says that’s enough, or it sends a sharp pain saying to slow down.  I was not disappointed because I stopped, I simply continued to breath in the clean crisp air and enjoyed the beautiful landscape all around me. My companions eventually returned and they had some wonderful close up images of the formation. 

We made our way back down, carefully, as we revelled in a wonderful experience.  To be honest I had never climbed a mountain before and even though this was more of a medium level of difficulty I did climb up more than half of it.  Our first experience on Skye was a great hit, but this would only be the beginning of a day full of wonderful experiences.   

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Scotland Adventure 2019: Day Two


‘Enjoy the journey of life and not just the endgame.’ Benedict Cumberbatch

After a wonderful night full of new experiences and a day with only about two hours of sleep, I had slept soundly in anticipation for the next full day of adventures we were about to embark.  Yet even on vacation I woke up at my usual early morning start, but well rested. My day was about to begin, however before I could do anything I had to have something I was anticipating from the moment I landed in Scotland; my first traditional Scottish breakfast of the trip.  

A traditional Scottish breakfast

Last year I was pleasantly surprised when I had my first traditional Scottish breakfast.  I have been looking forward to the breakfasts as much as the scenery itself.  Just to wet your whistle; a traditional Scottish breakfast included a fried egg, Scottish bacon (similar to pea meal bacon, only better), sausage, a tattie scone/potato scone (potato pancake), a fried tomato, haggis and black pudding. Black pudding, if you are not aware if it, it is a type of blood sausage that is common to Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland and many parts of Europe. It is made of pork or beef blood and oatmeal and then fried. I grew up eating this in Malta and my mom would make it occasionally. With every bite the memories of last years trip and moments from my childhood came rushing back to me.  I know I was on vacation, but for some reason at that moment all I could feel was, “I’m home.” 

It might sound and looks like a rather large breakfast but what we had planned for the rest of the day, it was just enough to fuel my next little adventure. We would be leaving Glasgow and heading north to the Isle of Skye.  It would be a long journey of about 5 hours but we knew that the scenery would be breath taking.  

I was the second driver on our trip and I had no problem giving the other driver a rest on our long journey.  He drove out of Glasgow and once out of the city we fuelled up and I began a wonderful drive north to Skye.  

Our Ride

I have driven many places in Canada, the United States, Malta and Scotland was as wondrous and majestic a place as any.  I must admit I do enjoy driving and for me the destination has never been the most enjoyable part of the trip, but the journey.  Today was no exception.  I was grateful for the GPS and after about five minutes I felt comfortable driving, ever on the left side.  I took my job as driver seriously and focused on the road, but I stole a few glances at the wonderful scenery that Scotland had to offer.  We had to stop at a few parking areas on the way north to stretch our legs but also to take in Scotland herself.  The only thing I had to truly focus on was the fact that it had snowed the day before and at times it was snowing as we drove through the higher elevations.  Wouldn’t you guess, no matter where I go, snow seems to follow this Canadian.   

About half way to Skye we stopped at Fort William for some lunch yet we found out that the bridge to Skye was closed do to high winds.  We thought, crap we will have to take a detour to make the ferry. But after calling the ferry company they said that there was no more room.  We weren’t sure what to do so we called our Bed & Breakfast (B&B) Breton House.They told us that they don’t close the bridge unless it was severe weather and all we had was some wind and rain. Therefore we continued our journey reassured that our way onto the Isle of Skye would be open.  

I kept driving until we came to a familiar place we visited last year, Eilean Donan Castle.  We just stopped to stretch our legs and take a few pictures, but the place was as magical and memorable as the first time I saw it. I even indulged in collecting a few rocks from the area so I can incorporate them into my miniature Christmas town and train this year, as I did last year.  

We were about 10 km away from the Skye Bridge and we were relieved to see that it was open and we were welcomed to Skye by a rainbow.  So with that warm welcome we made our way onto the Isle of Skye.  For all the snow we had earlier in the trip, Skye was a lush green everywhere you looked.  The landscape reminded me of when i drove in Nova Scotia, which was funny considering Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland”.  

After an hours drive with beautiful views, the sun was beginning to set on our final leg of our journey.  We arrived at the small town of Portree on the north-eastern side of the island at around sunset.  A beautiful town but exploring it would have to wait until tomorrow.  For the moment we needed to settle in at the “Breton House” which was situated on a hill across the bay from Portree.  Right away we were welcomed in typical Scottish fashion and we knew that the long wonderful journey to Skye was over, however the fun and adventure was about to being. 

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.  

Friday Two Cents: Dear Parents, STOP!


Entitlement – noun [mass noun]

  1. The fact of having a right to something
  2. The amount to which a person has a right
  3. The belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment

I have heard this word uttered in many instances by different people. Parents talking about children both young and grown, teachers about students, and the media about every generation from Gen. X, Y, Boomer Echo and Millennials.  Of course the current cohort of students are just the latest generation to be labeled with this sense of entitlement, yet many believe that in their case the label might be accurate.  Many see students acting like they deserve everything in life without working for it.  Or that whatever they want they have the right to get everything they want simply because they want it.  

Examples of these students/children are popping up in schools, playgrounds, malls and in the media showing that this may be the truth for a lot of them.  As an occasional teacher I have observed student behaviour for many years and I have to say that I do agree with this assessment. Yet the bigger question is not why are today’s youth showing a sense of entitlement but where are they learning it? For this, all you have to do is look no further than the parents.  However many, if not a majority of parents would say that they are not to blame, that it’s someone else’s fault.  That it must be something they learnt from school.  Sorry to bust your bubble parents but your child will learn more from you than they will ever from a teacher.  They started learning their behaviour from the moment they were born and looked at their first teacher.  You.  

I want it because I want it.

  I have found it baffling that parents under value their contribution to the education and moulding of their children. Many believe that their child will learn more from a teacher than from them. I have told many parents that my contribution to their child’s learning is a musicale one in the larger scheme of things. Many don’t believe me but then I explain it this way.

  ‘Your child will be in school for about 14 years (elementary, middle and high school). They are with me for one out of those 14 years. It’s not even a full year, 10 months. Furthermore its only five days a week, for about 6 hours a day. That’s assuming they start when they are four years old. Yet for the first four years of their life and the remaining 14 years, who are they with all the time? So I ask you, who do you think has a greater influence in teaching your child, me or you?’ Their stunned silence speaks volumes.

I know that some are listening but I saw a fantastic letter written by a parent to parents about this very subject and I would like to share it with you.  

A letter by Lisa Collum

If one parent can get it and I know it will take some time but hopefully more will read this and wakeup to the fact that their child is the way they are because of them.  Then maybe we will see a difference in how the youth act.  Only time will tell.  

Friday Two Cents: The Measure Of A Person


Upon returning from the spring break I had the opportunity to work in a few kindergarten classrooms where I know the early childhood educator (ECE).  I started my journey in the education field as an ECE and working with some whom I have known for some years is quite rewarding. Yet something this week came to mind as I was working with an exceptional ECE.  

You see, I have the unique perspective of working as an ECE and as a teacher in a kindergarten class.  I have worked both sides and I have seen the good, bad and ugly of both professions. In many kindergarten rooms there are two adults educating the students, a teacher and an ECE.  I can best describe this partnership in this way.  A teacher is like the officer or captain of the unit/classroom they oversee the planning in room and do a lot of the paperwork involved with the job.  They now the rules and regulations and curriculum involved in making the ship run smoothly.  The ECE’s are the NCO’s (non-commissioned officers/sergeants), they oversee the smaller everyday running of things.  They also are the backbone of the unit making sure that the unit runs smoothly according to the captain’s (teacher’s) plan.  Yet they also have a level of experience/knowledge that makes them invaluable to the officers and unit.  They are almost like the glue that keeps things together. 

As in any unit, when both the officers and sergeants are working together, the unit functions like a well-oiled machine.  The same can be said in a kindergarten classroom with the teacher and ECE.  I had the opportunity to work with an ECE who shows her passion for teaching.  Yet in many circles she is looked down upon because she is an ECE.  She is not a teacher with all the degrees and additional qualifications.  Many teachers would only see a support person not an equal. But she works and programs in the classroom as well or better than some teachers I have worked with.  Why is it that we cannot see the wonderful educator she is simply because she does not have the qualifications.  Is it truly a matter of position, of rank or privilege that holds people back in recognizing her contributions? 

I know that there are some ECEs that are not as passionate as the ECE that I worked with, as I would imagine in any profession, but I think that they are in the minority. I think and was told that I preformed as well as this ECE.  I took my experience as an ECE and brought it forward into my teaching career.  There are many ECEs working that would exemplify their teaching skills in their work with the students and they are not teachers.  So why we cannot acknowledge them as being great educators in the system as well as teachers?  

I have felt the sting of discrimination of being an ECE and a teacher. When I worked as an ECE in a classroom I was treated as a support staff and told to do whatever the teacher told me to do. Yet once I received my teaching licence and I was still working as an ECE, until I got onto the supply-teaching list, teachers would treat me different than before.  I was seen as a second teacher in the room, asked for observation notes; or to plan lessons.  Even though the education policy says that the teacher and ECE are seen as equals, many do not put this into practice.   

Perhaps it has to do with human nature and how we measure people.  Do we measure them by their actions or by they status in a society?  All too often I have seen people measure others because they see them as inferior to themselves and they devalue them.  Perhaps we as a society need to treat others, as we would like to be treated. J.K. Rowling once said …

‘If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’ J. K. Rowling

For if a person can treat someone as an equal, even when society sees them as inferior; then maybe we can finally see no difference when it comes to valuing people for whom they truly are. 

Friday Two Cents: A Moment Of Tranquility


‘I’m learning a lot about myself being alone, and doing what I’m doing.’ Chantal Kreviazuk

‘The best part about being alone is that you really don’t have to answer to anybody. You do what you want.’ Justin Timberlake

This week I went to see Captain Marvel in theatres on the first showing of the opening day.  But it’s not the movie that made me stop and think but the fact that I wanted to see it alone without any of my friends.  I enjoy my friends company but for some reason I wanted to see this movie and I did not think of asking anyone.  

At the theatre enjoying a movie

I ordered the ticket two weeks before the opening day.  I have seen movies on my own before so this experience was not new.  As well in the past I went to see other movies on their opening days such as Star Trek, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.  Yet I felt a need to spend some quality time with my favourite person. Me. 

I was reflecting on this because many of my colleagues and friends said they would have liked to go too but wondered why I did not ask someone.  The only thing that came to mind was perhaps my work as an occasional teacher.  I love working with the students and I adore my colleagues but I felt the need to be alone with my thoughts to reflect on anything and everything in my life.  

Some people said that I might be becoming introverted, yet upon reflection I disagree.  Many introverted people feel uncomfortable in group situations yet I look forward to them. I like meeting people and interacting with them.  No, I think there is another explanation.  In the past month I have worked almost every day, in a host of classrooms and in a couple of schools.  A room teacher interacts with their class only, about 25 – 30 students.  I must have interacted with over 500 – 600 students in that span.  I believe taking some time to be alone with my thoughts is simply a case of sensory overload.    

Therefore I fully embraced my time before, during and after the movie.  I went out for a steak dinner, enjoyed the movie and after I went home to write and reflect on the events of the day.  For it felt like all the noise of the day had been wiped away to reveal thoughts of clarity and tranquility that I haven’t experienced in quite some time.  The best way to describe it is like I was on an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos.  

Sometimes we all need that island of tranquility.

‘In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you’. Deepak Chopra

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