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Archive for August, 2013

My cousin Doreen just spent four days with us in Lincoln. She lives with her husband Malcolm in Brighton. Doreen just celebrated her 70th birthday, but we were in Scotland and had to miss her birthday party, so she decided to come to visit us.

Doreen at Newport Arch in the Bailgate

Doreen at Newport Arch in the Bailgate

We strolled along the streets in the Bailgate, window shopping at the unique little boutique shops, admiring the quaint cafes dotted throughout the historic area, with their friendly servers offering a nice variety of meals, some even for vegetarians!

One Castle Hill Patisserie

On the Phone, Telling Friends About Lincoln

We went to one of my favorite cafes, One Castle Hill Patisserie, located at the top of Steep Hill in Castle Square.

Stoke's Coffee, Served in Lincoln's Finest Cafes

Stoke’s Coffee, Served in Lincoln’s Finest Cafes

We sat and relaxed at silver bistro tables and chairs facing the Visitor’s Information Centre – a half timbered Tudor building – with the Lincoln Cathedral to our right and Lincoln Castle to our left – we were surrounded by history.

The Office of Tourism

The Office of Tourism

View of the Exchequer Gate and Lincoln Cathedral from Castle Square

View of the Exchequer Gate and Lincoln Cathedral from Castle Square

My friend Valerie met us for lunch at the Sanctuary Café, new to the Bailgate. On the way we passed Janak Chauhan, an artist originally from India who does designs on the pavement using sand that he sifts through his hands.  Val had mentioned that it was her birthday and he made a special design for her.

Birthday Wishes Handcrafted from Sand

Birthday Wishes Handcrafted from Sand

Doreen and I continued on to the Lincoln Cathedral to meet my friend Dorothy as we visited the Wren Library in the cathedral, where Dorothy and I each volunteer as stewards of the library.

Leading to the Wren Library

Leading to the Wren Library

View from the Cloisters

View from the Cloisters

View

What a View!

The weather was almost perfect for Doreen’s entire visit, although a bit of a sprinkle caught us by surprise without brollies. It was not a problem for the ever-resourceful Doreen.

The Rain Wasn't Going to Put a Damper on Anyone's Spirits

The Rain Wasn’t Going to Put a Damper on Anyone’s Spirits

When Doreen was planning her trip to visit us, she asked us if we would take her to Sheffield to visit the Jewish Cemetery where most of my mum’s and Doreen’s relatives that are no longer with us are buried. It is a Jewish custom to visit the cemetery before the Jewish Holidays and we are just a few weeks away from Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), so the timing was just right for all of us.

It was very meaningful to share this experience with each other. Steve & I visit this cemetery a few times a year and know where all of our relatives are, so we were able to take Doreen to each and every one of them, in a row by row order, making sure not to miss anyone. We shared a little thought or memory about each of them and then I placed a stone on each gravestone to show that we had visited them (another Jewish custom). It was a moving afternoon that the three of us will remember always.

Of course we also wanted to visit some of our living relatives in Sheffield. Doreen had spoken with Jackie and arranged for us to have a cup of tea at her house, and meet up with her son Warren (our cousin) and his kids for dinner.  We sat around and looked through some of her family photo albums. There were a few old photos that we’ve seen before but had no idea who were in the photos. Jackie was able to help us “fill-in-the-blanks.” There are just a few of our relatives remaining that can still tell us this very important information. Our generation wants to be able to pass it down to our children and grandchildren. If we wait too long the faces will remain nameless forever.

Maxine, Jackie and Doreen

Maxine, Jackie and Doreen

And Warren's Son, Ben

And Warren’s Son, Ben

Steve and Warren

Steve and Warren

Warren and Me

Warren and Me

I found a few photos of my mum when she was young and Doreen found a few of her grandparents when they were young. You can imagine the conversation that went on and the stories that came from it.

My Mum is the Young Girl, 3rd from the Left

My Mum is the Young Girl, On the Left

After all of the excitement over the photos and the stories, we worked up an appetite and headed to the restaurant where we enjoyed another conversation filled with stories and shared memories as the laughter continued into the evening. The conversation continued in the car all the way back to Lincoln. We had a lovely day.

Steve and I so enjoyed having Doreen visit us.

Cousins in Front of Lincoln Cathdral

Cousins in Front of Lincoln Cathedral

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I had a relaxing day today as I walked down into city centre to do a few errands. The first stop was the bank to make a deposit. Did you know that you do not even have to sign the back of the cheque to endorse it here in England as you have to do in the USA. All you have to do is fill in a deposit slip and place them both in the ATM machine, and you get a receipt with a copy of the check on it for your records.

Looking Down from the Top of Steep Hill

Looking Down from Castle Square at the Top of Steep Hill

Then off to Marks & Spencer, a well known department store that has been around for over 125 years, to shop for some new clothes. In fact, my mum shopped there when she was growing up in England and still mentions shopping there to this day, even though she has been an American citizen for over 60 years (and very proud of it!).

A quick look into a few more shops – just window shopping, really! – then a tough walk back up Steep Hill to enjoy a cappuccino at one of my favourite cafes, One Castle Hill Patisserie. It is situated on a corner of the town square located between Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral. Castle square hosts a monthly outdoor market as well as many other events throughout the year. Being a lovely summer day in Lincoln, with warm weather and loads of sunshine, I chose a table outside of the café facing the castle.

The Magna Carta Pub in Castle Square

The Magna Carta Pub in Castle Square

Fans of Downton Abbey may recognise Castle Square. Part of one of the episodes was filmed here. Don’t remember which one? Let me know and I’ll help you find it.

One Castle Hill Tea Shop Serves a Great Capucino

The One Castle Hill Patisserie Serves a Great Cappuccino

As I was enjoying my cappuccino and watching all of the tourists walk by – many with an ice cream in hand and shopping bags from the unique shops that line the streets surrounding the square, the lady at the table next to me had two little doggies – dachshunds. One looked just like our little long-haired dachshund Sofia Maria, who is no longer with us. They came over to be petted, and I started a conversation with the lady taking care of the dogs.

She heard my American accent  and was excited to know that I am from Southern California. She told me that her daughter (who later joined us) had been to Orange County, California to visit some friends that live there. I introduced myself and learned that her name is Rita, and that she is retired. She and her family all lived in London until her daughter’s husband’s job transferred them up to Lincoln. Both of her daughters and their husbands asked her to also move with them. She reluctantly agreed as she was used to life in London, which is very different from life in Lincoln, especially 16 years ago.

All she could do was tell me how much she missed London even though she did finally settle down in Lincoln with her family. I asked her if she had ever visited the USA and she said no, even though her daughter invited her to go with them to California, Las Vegas and New York.

I put on my “American Hat” which gave me the excuse to give her some unsolicited inspiration. I suggested that she was still young enough to enjoy travelling and to see the world. She instantly agreed and told her daughter who just arrived at the table after a bit of shopping, that she would be joining her on her next trip to the States.

Rita and her daughter gathered up the little doggies and began to leave. I gave them my business card and said that they should call me next time they want to meet for coffee in the Castle Square.

Even though an hour ago we were complete strangers, we became friends and Rita bent over and hugged and kissed me and told me that I had got her so excited about the USA, that I inspired her to go with her daughter on her next visit there, and that she realised that she wasn’t too old after all to travel and enjoy herself again.

I believe that people are brought into our lives for a reason and mine was to wake up her spirit and remind her that there is a world out there for her to discover and to live her life to the fullest now.

It made my day. One of my passions and missions in life is to encourage people to live their life to the fullest and do what that want to do and travel where they want to go NOW, not to wait. There is an urgency here as time waits for no one and it seems to fly by so quickly. Say yes to the opportunities that come your way today (and everyday) as no one is promised tomorrow.

What do you want to do? Where do you want to travel to? So as Nike says “Just Do It”.

This Post is Dedicated to the Memory of Sophia Maria

This Post is Dedicated to the Memory of Sophia Maria

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Edinburgh in Bloom

Scotland in Bloom

After a good night’s sleep in Edinburgh, we got up early, even though it was Sunday, to have a relaxing breakfast and pack our suitcases, ready for our three-hour drive to Lossiemouth, Scotland. We were looking forward to our first trip through the Scottish Highlands.

Welcome to Lossiemouth

We’re Here!

As promised, the drive to Lossiemouth was filled with beautiful countryside villages and open fields with sheep, cows and farms along the way.  Three hours seemed to fly by and we soon arrived at our Hotel, the Skerry Brae, which appeared to be a cross between a hotel and a B&B. We were greeted with a warm welcome by Rosie and Ian, the owners.

The Skerry Brae Couldn't Be Much Closer to the Beach

The Skerry Brae Couldn’t Be Much Closer to the Beach

When I originally called to make reservations and I told Rosie that we were staying for the week, she reserved the largest room with the best view for us. When we entered the room, the first thing we saw  was a view of the sea through our picture window.

Room with a View

Room with a View

It was all we needed to make our stay the best ever. The sea is my favourite place to be, near the calming waters, walking on the beach collecting rocks and seashells (my favourite beach activity). Their hospitality did not end there, as they included a full breakfast every morning for a great start to the day.

Rocks, Stones and Pebbles of Every Colour

Rocks, Stones and Pebbles of Every Colour

It was just the atmosphere we both needed to relax, recharge and remember to live in ‘The Moment’ again. Each morning after breakfast we would visit a neighbouring village and have lunch before Steve had to go to work on the base.

Lunch at The Old Pantry

Lunch at The Old Pantry

We particularly liked the village of Aberlour, which had a number of quaint shops, including the original store – still operating to this day – from which the Walkers internationally-known shortbread originated. Of course we stopped in and bought a variety of beautiful tins filled with their famous biscuits for ourselves as well as presents.

Walker Brothers Original Shop

Walkers Original Shop

In the evening when Steve returned we would have a relaxing dinner and then head for the beach and walk until it got dark (around 10:30 pm),

Sunset at the Beach

Sunset at the Beach

talking and gazing at the sea as the sun set on the horizon, watching the birds as they effortlessly flew over the water and onto the beach. The tide went out in the evening so we could walk far out into the sand as the receding water revealed lots of rocks, shells and small sea creatures.

Seagulls in Flight

Seagulls in Flight

One evening we walked all the way to the lighthouse (a good four miles round trip) giving Steve and I plenty of time to let our minds relax and our thoughts run free with some creative conversation along the way.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

The village of Lossiemouth is situated on the north tip of the eastern half of Scotland. It is on a peninsula, which gives it the unique ability to have both an east and west-facing beach.

Where to Buy Ice Cream in Lossiemouth

Where to Buy Ice Cream in Lossiemouth

Where to Eat Ice Cream in Lossiemouth (East Beach)

Where to Eat Ice Cream in Lossiemouth (East Beach)

Where Not to Park an RV in Lossiemouth

Where to Park Your Car (and not anything else!)

The West Beach is less developed, whilst the East Beach is closer to most of the seafront restaurants and shops – the harbour is between East Beach and West Beach,

Cafes at the Harbour

Our Favourite Cafe at the Harbour

The Skerry Brae overlooks the West Beach and the golf course, making the view even that much more tranquil.

The Flight Path Directly Overheead

The Flight Path Was Directly Overhead

The Skerry Brae was in a prime location for viewing all things flying.

What a Poser!

What a Poser!

Loads of various seagulls and other birds that live near the sea during the day, and equally diverse military aircraft in the evening, as they returned to the RAF base at the end of their day. We had our own personal airshow every evening.

The Sentinel

The Sentinel

One day, while watching the planes come in, one of the jets looked very familiar – it was one of Steve’s jets. Seeing it approach the RAF base a bit earlier than expected, Steve hopped in the car and drove in to work. As the Skerry Brae is less than a mile from the base, Steve was able to get there just after the plane landed, but before the engines had been turned off.

RAF Lossiemouth

RAF Lossiemouth

Steve and I went to the Benromach Whisky distillery in the town of Forres. We took the tour through the distillery and learned about whisky and the differences in tastes due to the different kinds of barrels that they are aged in.

The Benromach Distillery

The Benromach Distillery

Benromach uses a variety of barrels, including oak barrels from the USA for one of their whiskys, and port and bourbon barrels as well. The type of barrel that they use and the length of time that it is aged (3 -60 years) is what creates the different flavours.

We also learned about the distilling process from the start to the finished product and now understand why a 40, 50 and 60 year old Single Scotch Whisky is so expensive. As the tour guide explained, the “Angels” who watch over the barrels during the aging process seem to take some whisky along the way (really it is a natural part of the process, as the vapours escape from the barrels). Some lose more that others and only when it has reached maturity do they know how much is left in the barrel.

Elgin Cathedral

The Ruins of the Elgin Cathedral

We visited Elgin Cathedral, known as the ‘Lantern of the North’. From the time of its construction in the 13th century, through to the time of its demise at the Reformation in the 16th, this monumental building dominated the flat and fertile Laich of Moray.

Elgin Cathedral

The Ruins of the Elgin Cathedral

What is left are the remnants of this ancient Cathedral, a historic ruin as you see by the pictures above. It was amazing to see what is left of it as we walked around the grounds taking pictures of it from many angles to try and capture it’s beauty.

Art in the Sand

Art in the Sand

All of the neighbouring villages that we visited were quaint with beautiful stone houses and cottages with streets lined with specialty shops and cafes and small parks and common areas filled with a variety of colourful flowers all in bloom this time of the year.

A Relaxed Atmosphere

A Relaxed Atmosphere

It was like a ‘Blast from the Past’ in the sense  that things cost less in the shops and at the cafes – there was real value for money like it used to be. It was a slower pace of living where people were not rushing anywhere for anything – just enjoying the warm weather and visiting with family and friends. You can see an example from the picture below of the ‘Filling Station’  like in the 50’s – referred to as petrol stations today.

The Filling Station

The Filling Station

As our week in Lossiemouth came to an end, we both felt ready to return to our home in Lincoln relaxed, recharged and ready to enjoy our life in England again.

Refreshed and Ready for Living

Refreshed and Ready for Living

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Having just returned from Southern California a week ago (much more about that later…), and here we are on our way to Scotland. Steve has work to do at RAF Lossiemouth for the week. After a very stressful and emotional three weeks in California taking care of my parents and having some quality time with them, this week away couldn’t have come at a better time.

Scotland Here We come!

Scotland Here We come!

We decided to break up the drive to Lossiemouth – an eight hour drive which is really ten hours with stops – by stopping for the night in Edinburgh, one of our favourite places in the UK. We left Lincoln a day early to allow for the stopover. We have learned to ‘stop and smell the roses’ on driving trips since we moved to England. There are so much to see in the beautiful countryside filled with lovely villages along the way.

Princes Street and Beyond

Princes Street and Beyond

We had a gift voucher for a complimentary night stay at a Marriott and chose the Edinburgh Marriott. We have stayed there before, and being a gold member we get the ‘Royal’ treatment, including an executive room with a view and access to the Executive Lounge, where you can go anytime for complimentary drinks and snacks as well as breakfast each morning. I find that these extra perks just add that much more excitement to the stay – after all I am a ‘Kid at Heart’.

Majestic Buildings

Majestic Buildings

We arrived mid-afternoon, checked into our room, freshened up, and set off for city centre, about four miles from the hotel. We went for a nice walk around our favourite streets – we have not been here in two years and it was so nice to be back.

The Streets pf Edinburgh are at Different Levels

The Streets of Edinburgh are at Different Levels

We popped into The Dome, a restaurant that we always go to when in Edinburgh, to make reservations for that evening. We made our way back to our hotel for a quick rest and to change our clothes for dinner.

Window Shopping - Honest!

Window Shopping – Honest!

All dolled-up, we drove back to city centre for dinner. Edinburgh is not one of those cities that is easily mastered when it comes to finding your way around in a car. On top of that, they have been building a tram network around town, creating havoc with the roads. There are countless restrictions on turning left or right, unless you are a bus or taxi. The Sat-Nav (GPS) was just as bewildered as we were. We managed to get to Queen Street, which borders the shopping and restaurant area. In spite of it all, we ended up with a great parking place on Queen Street, and since it was after 6 pm, it was free!

On the Ground, In Front of The Dome

On the Ground, In Front of The Dome

We walked a couple of  blocks over to The Dome, and then up the red-carpeted stairs to the main hall, arriving just at the time of our reservation. The former bank building, built in the days when money was no object, has two main restaurants, the Grill Room is under the building’s famous dome, and has an incredible circular bar at the centre.

The Famous Bar

The Famous Bar

The Club Room is more of a private club atmosphere, with dark wood decor. We were not able to get reservations for the Grill Room at this late date, but were perfectly happy to be in the Club Room. The two rooms share many of the same menu items.

The Reception Hall at The Dome

The Reception Hall at The Dome

After an elegant and delicious dinner, we took a slow walk back to the car. The weather was fabulous – warm with a slight breeze – rare for Edinburgh.  It stayed light until 11 pm due to the fact that we are so far north and it is early summer.

Delicious Dessert

Delicious Dessert

After a good night sleep we got up early, even though it was Sunday, to have a relaxing breakfast and pack our suitcases, ready for our three hour-drive to Lossiemouth, Scotland.

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