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: Day One


For many people in Canada, particularly in Ontario, it is the first week back to the regular routine after March or Spring Break. Many are trying to get back into the groove after a weeklong break where many people went away to get some much-needed rest and relaxation. A lot of people would have headed south to some warm destination to work on their tan, I on the other hand did not. This year I had the fortunate pleasure to visit a country I had only read about and seen in movies and pictures and only dreamed of going; a place known as Scotland.  

This trip all started last year when a colleague of mine mentioned that she was going to Scotland for the break. I said I would love to see Scotland and she then said ‘You want to come along?’ I said sure I’d love to and then another teacher overheard us and asked if she could too. We said yes and from that our trip was underway. My friend has been to Scotland on numerous occasions and she said that she would organize the trip and where we would be going. I gave her complete control because I knew she had seen most of the country and I wanted to experience a new and wonderful adventure exploring it with my colleagues.
Our trip was supposed to be 9 days but unfortunately our flight was canceled because of technical issues on the plane, yet we were able to fly out the next day. 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 entire for each day of my trip. Alright let us begin …

Scotland Trip: Day One

Our trip comprised four people; my friends A, B, C and me. Like I said we lost a day because of technical issues with the plane the night before but we arrived at the airport the following night ready to begin our adventure. The flight was pleasant enough, but after our lost day we were anxious to land in Scotland as soon as possible. We landed at Glasgow airport around 1000 hours where we rented a car and then made our way to our first destination, Stirling Castle.   A and B had already been to Stirling castle and thought it would be a nice place for C and I to visit while they do some shopping for Sim cards and other things we may need.

Entering Stirling Castle

Stirling castle is my first medieval castle of either English or Scottish design. It is located in Stirling on top of Castle Hill that over looks the entire area. It is situated in the most strategic position to help defend the River Forth crossing. This crossing is the only way to cross the river safely up until the 1890s.
For hundreds of years the only way to the north (The Highlands) was to go past Stirling. Most of the main buildings date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, very few buildings remain from the 14th century and the outer wall defences date to the early 18th century. There have been many sieges at the castle, at least 8, which include the Wars of Scottish Independence. You may have heard of two paramount characters Robert the Bruce and William Wallace who fought for Stirling Castle during this time.
Before the unification of Scotland and England, Stirling castle was one of the most used of the royal residences as it also doubled as a palace as well as a fortress. Many Scottish Kings and Queens were crowned there including Mary, Queen of Scots in 1542.
Once inside the sheer grandeur of the place was impressive. We were fortunate to arrive just in time for a tour where she took us all over the main buildings of the castle. As we walked around the grounds and buildings and you could feel the history coming to life there as we explored this magnificent castle. The one impressive part of the castle was the Great Hall where the king would entertain his guests or hold court. A large hall with ceilings that stretched up at least 3 stories and kept in place with massive oak beams. Yet as impressive as this was, it was nothing compared to the royal residences.
We were not allowed into the private royal bed chambers but we did explore the private chambers of the king and queen. They and the Presence Chambers (waiting rooms) were decorated with tapestries, paintings and sculptures including the ceiling. I took a panoramic picture of the ceiling in the King’s Presence Camber that was decorated with large sculptures of historical figures both real and mythical. The tapestry in the Queen’s Chambers was equally impressive with depictions of the royal coat of arms.
The one thing I noticed was that there were unicorns everywhere you looked. The tour guide mentioned that King James IV coat of arms has the unicorn very prevalent on either side. The legend says that the unicorn is a magical and powerful creature. The king wanted to show that he was strong and powerful so he had the unicorn in his coat of arms but it is wearing a crown around its neck meaning that the king tamed it. What better way for James IV to show his importance then through taming a powerful creature in Scottish myth and placing it in his coat of arms.
The rest of the castle was equally impressive and after several hours exploring it we had to say good-bye to Stirling Castle and make our way north to the Highlands in Aviemore inside Cairngorms National Park. There our second day would begin.

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Friday Two Cents: A Week Full Of Excitement


 

This past week has bee been interesting and exciting, yet it is only the beginning. It began when I supplied at a new school I have never been before. The students and staff are all wonderful and on the third day I was there they asked me to play in the teacher vs. students ball hockey game. I was a bit surprised since I was only at the school for three days but I thought is a nice gesture to invite me.   I have played in a teacher vs. student’s floor hockey game at a school I have worked in for several years. Yet those students were grade 4 and 5 these students range from grade 5 to grade 8.   Some of the students where my height but thought why not have some fun.

The students got out to an early lead but then the teachers came back to tie 2 – 2. Then I came on and I played a bit aggressively and parked my self near the net. With a minute I get a pass and redirected it in the net. But I wasn’t finished there. On several occasions I continued to move the ball into the opposing zone and kept shooting at the net. My persistence paid off with a second goal. I got of and the by then the score was 5 – 3 teachers. By the time I got back on it was 6 – 4 but I continued to press and got my third goal, a hat-trick. In the end the teachers were too much for the students and we won 11 – 6.

Advance figure drawing

As good as that game and the feeling of camaraderie, that night I also had my advance figure drawing class, a class I truly enjoy. I have never been drawing for many years but I never took a figure drawing class. If you do not know this type of class has a live model from which we get to draw and paint. They are usually in the nude but it is not about the nudity but feeling the creativity from within you and creating and capturing the life and emotion you see.   This class I felt that I was learning so much and that my technic was improving. The final pose is usually about and hour or two in comparison to the series of 3 – 5 minute poses we draw to warm up. I was able to create a charcoal drawing of the model and as I was drawing the teacher came by and noted that he has seen a vast improvement in my technic. I had felt that I have improved but it was nice to hear it from the teacher too. I think, just when I was playing music the more I practiced the better I became. The same can be said for my drawing too.
But this not the truly exciting part; on Friday I get to top off this week off by embarking on an adventure/vacation. On Friday I am leaving with two other teacher colleagues on an adventure to discover Scotland. This is my first trip during March break overseas and I have always wanted to see the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland. I am very lucky that one of the teachers I am going with has been there several times and is playing tour guide. We plan to drive around the highlands and see many amazing things I have only read about. The driving, an activity I also enjoy, is an added bonus as we drive around this beautiful landscape that will hopefully inspire me even more.

The Wallace Monument

This week has been very exciting but the next is looking like it might top it. Here’s to adventure just as Amelia Earhart once said …

‘Adventure is worthwhile in itself.’ Amelia Earhart

 

The exciting part of an adventure is sometimes the adventure itself.   Scotland here I come.  

 

Friday Two Cents: A New Year With A New Experience


 

With the New Year I begin a new adventure.   I have been fortunate to been given the chance to be the teacher in a grade 1 class. It is a tremendous opportunity to teach a full grade one class and to put my years of education and experience into practice. I was lucky to teach in a kindergarten class at the end of last year’s school year and yet now I get another chance to teach many of the same students again in grade 1. I have been with them for the first week and it has been tiring but very enjoyable and enlightening.

The interesting thing is that I worked with a grade five class for about a week and a half before the Christmas break and now I go from a class of 10/11 year olds to one of 6/7 year olds. To say they are very different grades would be stating the obvious but they all have their own rewards. These little people in grade one are so full of wonder and excitement to learn that it has become a bit infectious. They have been eager to learn and I in turn am eager to teach the lessons with these students.
We work on subjects that I enjoy such as art but their enthusiasm for the core subjects like math and literacy is amazing. One literacy activity we did is a “Roll and Read” sight word game. Each student gets to roll the dice and whatever number it lands on they must say the words under that number as quickly as they can. I introduced it on Monday and everyday since they are eager to play the game.

Roll and Read Sight Game

Another activity I introduced is a subitizing activity. Subitizing is the ability to recognize the number of a group of items at a glance and without counting. I used bingo dabbers to make dots on a card and we practice this just before the math lessons. The real nice thing is that I noticed the students practicing on one-another during their indoor recess time.

Subtilizing Card game

It is only the bringing and I have no idea how long I will be in this class, but one thing is for sure, I am going to enjoy this experience with the students. Already I have noticed that they are learning new things but on the other side so am I.  

Friday Two Cents: Quotes For The New Year That Inspire


 

twoCentsOldNew

Many people make resolutions to try to improve themselves and what better time to do so then the New Year.   The New Year began this week and many people took the opportunity to make a fresh start. I for one don’t make resolutions, yet I do take the opportunity to clear my mind and look at this new year as a chance for some personal growth and the beginning of a series of adventures for the year.

To help me I sometimes look to inspirational quotes to give me that extra boost. Therefore to set the tone I am posting some quotes that help inspire me.

inspiration_sign

‘Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.’ Benjamin Franklin

 

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ Aesop

 

‘Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.’ Lao Tzu

 

‘Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.’ Desmond Tutu

 

‘Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.’ Prince

 

‘Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness.’ Livy

 

‘The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.’ Oprah Winfrey

 

‘Adventure is worthwhile in itself.’ Amelia Earhart

 

Just a few quotes for the New Year, that inspires and puts me on a path for new and wonderful experiences. Maybe they can inspire you too.

Friday Two Cents: Continued – Answering The Call


twoCentsOldNew

I finally answered that call from the road. I was thinking about were to go all Saturday and I decided on the Niagara region. I have been to the Niagara region almost every year since I was a child and it seemed like the perfect place to go to just get away from the city and enjoy the beautiful weather and landscape.

Stratus Winery

Stratus Winery

I started by visiting one of the many wineries in the area. I have been to a few in the Niagara region but there are still some that I have not visited. Stratus was on the way so I dropped by to see what they had to offer. I have heard about their wines but never tried any and boy, am I glad I did. I had a wine tasting of four of their premier wines; a white and red blend, a Merlot and a Riesling. All were fantastic and I had to get them, for some special occasions. The good thing about these wines is that the longer you let them sit the better they taste. Just remember to store them in a dark cool place.
After the winery I made my way to Niagara-on-the-lake. A charming little town with many wonderful distractions for anyone to enjoy. After purchasing a scone, I indulged my artistic talents by sketching different scenes about the town. I then was able to go for a walk about the town where I discovered a wonderful bit of history. Within the public golf course I found Fort Mississauga built-in the 1850s after the War of 1812 to help defend Canada from the Americans. The fort was interesting and I wouldn’t have found it if a stray golf ball nearly missed me and I stopped by a sign to pick up the ball (it was on public property and no one came of it). The sign had information about the fort and I had to see it for myself.

Fort Mississauga

Fort Mississauga

This historical journey wetted my appetite and once I was on my way to Niagara Falls, I made a stop at the Brock Monument. I visited this site before with some boy scouts years earlier, but I just had the need to visit it again. I read about the battles about the War of 1812 and the Battle of Queenstown Heights is one that fills me with pride. At this battle General Brock personally lead the counter attack against the American invades at the cost of his own life. He may have fallen but in the end the Canadians and British prevailed and repulsed the invaders. It seemed appropriate to visit this monument and remember.

The Brock Monument

The Brock Monument

To finish off the day I made it to Niagara Falls were I simply took a walk along the cliff edge and took in all the splendour. The great natural wonder and the sheer number of people who came to the Falls was breath as always. I would imagine the weather and long weekend brought them out too. The day was topped off with a nice meal at the Fallsview Casino’s Grand Buffet. A wonderful end to a day full of new tastes and delights as I enjoyed the view of the Falls.
In the end it was just a short adventure to a place where I have been many times before, yet even though I have been there before, I enjoyed a few new adventures. Discovering the new tastes at the Stratus winery and a bit of history at Fort Mississauga and the Brock Monument made the excursion one to remember.

 

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