Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Union Canal

A couple weekends ago, I took myself for a walk along the Union Canal. I'd been told the canal was a nice place to walk, and it's only a short 5 minute walk away from my flat. Once I got there, I realized that I am a complete idiot. I could have been going for walks along here since I moved here, almost a year ago.

It was a beautiful day. Fall, my favorite time of year, was in full swing. Folks were out walking their dogs, running, and riding bikes. People smiled when you passed them. I passed a grandpa and grandkid feeding bread to some of the local wildlife. There are lots of ducks. I like ducks.

This morning I went for a run/walk down by the canal. Even though two weeks have passed, it's still beautiful with fall. After about 10 minutes, it started to feel like my soul had just released a long sigh and eased down into a comfy, soft sofa. That's really the only way I can think to describe it. I must, must, must make this part of my routine.

Below are a few more pictures that I particularly liked from my walk a couple weeks ago. The sweet kitty is one that I passed on the way home who let me pet her for a few minutes. Getting to scratch a cat behind his or her ears always makes my day.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Braemar Gathering

Back at the beginning of September, I went with some friends to The Braemar Gathering, a well-known Highland games that takes place every year in the town of Braemar in Aberdeenshire(about 2 1/2 hours north of Edinburgh). This was only my second excursion to parts of Scotland outside of Edinburgh since I moved here. Sad, I know. It was also my first time to ever experience a Highland games, and I was pretty excited. What exactly are Highland games? Kind of like a low-key track meet with foot races and heavy weight events, but also with pipers and dancers and kilts (oh my)!

We got off to a bit of a late start, but the drive up to Braemar was relaxing with pretty scenery and no unplanned detours (we saved those for the drive back). Oh the way, we passed the Forth Bridge, drove through Perth, and saw lots of sheep. The sheep were pretty cute, at least from a distance.

We arrived a little after noon. It was a bit drizzly to start out, but it later cleared up into a lovely day. This is the sign over the gate wishing us a hundred thousand welcomes in Gaelic.

If you actually want to know how to pronounce ceud mille failte (a hundred thousand welcomes), check out this web page.

By the time we arrived, there were already a lot of people there, and the numbers continued to grow throughout the afternoon. This is the best picture I could get of the field. It definitely would have been an advantage to be at least 5 inches taller. (Note to self, next time, splurge for seats in the stands.)

On the very left in the picture above is where they held the weight and hammer throwing events. In the middle is the stage where they held the dance competition. And what you can't see because it's blocked by the people standing in front of me, is the tug-of-war competition.

Definitely need to get a better view of the tug-of-war competition next time.

They also had foot races and caber tosses. For one of the races, they started out on the field and ran up this mountain.
I'm not kidding. See, in the picture on the right, they are running. Up the mountain. Even if I ever get to the point where I'm running regularly again, I don't see myself running up a mountain. Ever. Unfortunately, due to the my stature and the mobs of people, I wasn't able to get a picture of strong men in kilts tossing small telephone poles (i.e., cabers). Sigh. And I wasn't quick enough on the draw to get a picture of the men racing in kilts and ties. Sigh again.

Of course there were lots, and lots of pipers and drummers. Pipe and drum bands from the UK and around the world performed. It's not an exaggeration to say there was piping in the air.
Really, they were everywhere.
But by far one of the best part of the day at the Gathering was the men in kilts. :+) Men of all ages were wearing kilts, from stately older gentlemen to adorable little guys.

Unfortunately, they didn't always stand still long enough for me to get the best picture.

Shortly before we had to head back to our cars, we we lucky enough to be standing in just the right spot by the road to see the Queen when she arrived. Yes, the Queen. See, this is her car. No really, I swear, the Queen is in that car, in the back on the left. I waved to her. I just couldn't manage to take a picture of her.

Right before we left for the drive back to Edinburgh, I took one last picture. The Highlands are beautiful in a very rugged sort of way. I really need to make time to get back there.