Saturday, May 30, 2015

Travel Info and Thank-yous - Blog 22

May 30, 2015

As reflect on the last month, I am so grateful for the careful planning that Kathy provided. She made such good choices on where to stay and what to see. We will relive the many good memories as we process through the 2,756 pictures taken.

As I began looking through some of the images, I remembered one that still makes me chuckle. The Scots think of everything! Traveling usually means changes in diet. You never eat like you would at home. The foods are richer and plentiful and your system has to adjust! There are times when that can mean higher gastronomic air pressure than usual. We found that the tourist friendly Scots allow for just such concerns. It was in St Andrews that we came upon a street with the tourist in mind. Look close at the picture below and the street sign just above the vender. The street name is Butts Wynd!

We thank all those who helped us plan our trip:
  1. We began with Rick Steve’s Snapshot Scotland, but he didn’t cover all the places we wanted to see.  We did use him for his walking tour of Edinburgh and colorful descriptions of other sites.  Also used his excellent Pocket London Guide and his Audio Europe app on our phones.
  2. We also had Lonely Planet’s Scotland.  They cover most of Scotland, but I found myself overwhelmed.  I still didn’t know how to plan our route and where were the best places to stay.
  3. I found Secret Scotland: as I was searching for best Scotland itinerary in 14 days.  This is just what I needed to tie the trip together.  They have several itineraries to choose from and give great detail with their directions.  We needed all the help we could get as it took all of our concentration to drive on the left side of the road and figure out what lane to be in as we entered the many roundabouts.  On their recommendation I combined the 10-day Castle Tour with the 4-9 days Scenic Flexi Tour.  They had wonderful recommendation for lodging that we used in Crathie (Royal Deeside), Inverness, Isle of Skye and Oban.  Best of all they are Scots with the inside scoop on their own country.
  4. There were not any guide books for Guernsey so I depended on their excellent website: .  They had some handy walking tours with maps and downloadable podcasts.
  5. Our wonderful Bed and Breakfast hosts.  They helped us navigate their areas in so many ways and gave us wonderful breakfasts:

  • London:  Angela and Oliver near Victoria Station.  Booked through 
  • Edinburgh:  Colin and Trina at Priestville Guest House
  • Kilross, Loch Leven:  Liz and George at Kelson Lodge
  • Crathie, Royal Deeside:  Jan and Mark at Copper Beach Bed and Breakfast
  • Inverness:  Margaret at Glendoune Bed and Breakfast
  • Staffin, Isle of Skye:  Joanna at Bealach Uige Bed and Breakfast
  • Oban:  Jane at Sheep Fank Cottage, Kilmore
  • Balloch at Loch Lomond: Maggie and Kenny at Braeburn Cottage
  • Stirling:  Laura at Castlecroft Bed and Breakfast
We also thank each of you for taking the time to enjoy this trip with us. It enhances our experience each time we review a picture or compose a description. 

Tim and Kathy

Island of Sark and a Walk in the Park - Blog 21

May 30, 2015

We made it home with smooth flights and great landings! I tried to write this post several times, since arriving in Pacific Time Zone, but I keep falling asleep! On the other hand, we are pleased with sleeping in till 5:30 am this morning!

Our last day in Guernsey was spent on the little Island of Sark. A 45 minute inter-island ferry ride provided an alternative to swimming to this beautiful and quiet community. The economy is supported by small farming operations and, like the rest of the islands, tourism.  The only motorized vehicles allowed on the island are tractors, otherwise people use their bikes.  

It looked like there are some beginnings of a wine industry along side the staple of Guernsey cows and hay.
As in other areas we spotted more of the Hedge Veg honesty stalls. This one
was selling tomato plants. We saw several of the plants leaving with other passengers on the ferry. We decided against bringing any home on the plane.

We have been walking a lot the past few days, so a couple rented bikes were a pleasant change. They allowed us to cover a little more territory and the sun was beaming down on our shoulders.
Our other option was to get the full island tour in a Clydesdale powered hay wagon.

We explored a couple delightful churches, one of the oldest Methodist churches in the district and a Church of Scotland Chapel with named pew boxes. Even one set aside for prisoners! 

We learned about the effects of the German occupation on the community. Everything started out fairly congenially with the German officers. Sark is an isolated self-contained island with its own farm produce and milk production. (Those Guernsey cows, you know!) They were able to survive food wise for quite awhile, which helped with the military relationships. By the end of the war, things had turned pretty ugly with everyone scrounging for any food source they could find, while the occupiers stockpiled all they could get their hands on. Liberation Day is still celebrated today!

Early the next morning we took a quick walk in the neighborhood that Kathy's family probably lived. Then off to the airport for flights to Jersey connecting to London.

Hyde Park was close to our last Bed and Breakfast and provided for a nice walk.  Very busy park, people everywhere enjoying the peaceful atmosphere in the middle of the hectic city.

Our last morning started early so we could navigate the tube system to get us to the airport. That trip worked very well and set the tone for the rest of the flights which were right on time if not early all the way home.

Tim and Kathy

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Guernsey Island - Blog 20

May 24, 2015

A few pictures from the last several days.

Several Pictures show high and low tide. There is a 30 foot difference!! Low  tide and the boats are beached!

Saint Peter Port Habor with Castle Cornet

Town Church, Saint Peter Port.  My 2nd Great-grandfather, William Langlois, was baptized here. I talked to a member of the church about where the graveyard was, and he said the old one by the church has buildings built on the site.  I also found out that the Guernsey pronunciation of the name is "Long lay" In Jersey the pronunciation is the French version "Long wah".  The Guernsey language was their own form of French.

Town Church shown next to the tavern.

Saint Peter Port harbor and walkway

Hedge Veg:  Guernsey's honesty stalls

Codiing machine in the German Occupation Museum.  This was used by the Germans to send their messages in code.  Unknown to them, the British were intercepting their messages and deciphering the code.

World War II radio
Guernsey cows on Guernsey Island

The Little Chapel:  Quite an over the top chapel decorated with broken china plates and cups built by a monk almost entirely by himself.  Interesting!

German Underground Hospital.  The German's occupied Guernsey for five years from 1940-1945.  It took them over 3 years to dig out this hospital and ammunition storage area.  They only used it for a total of nine months and only three months as a hospital for the wounded German soldiers from the Normandy invasion.
Castle Cornet:  The castle on the Saint Peter Port pier.

Scenes from ouir six mile hike along the north coast of Guernsey.

Entrance to a prehistoric tomb.

Tim and Kathy

Friday, May 22, 2015

Saint Peter Port - Blog 19

May 22, 2015

I felt right at home today! Walking around cemeteries, talking to cemetery workers, checking out hearses, and talking with church caretakers. The churches I am usually working in are not this old, however. The first record of a church at this location was in 1048. the current Saint Peter Church, called Town Church by the locals, has been through many renovations and changes. The major work was completed in 1475, yet remains a beautiful fully active church community.  The stained glass window above the altar is called the Liberation window, commemorating the islands liberation from German Occupation in 1945.

Kathy's research indicates her ancestors were baptized, married, and assumably attended services in this beautiful building. As a current service to the community, which includes the high volume of tourist coming to the island, they set up an area for tea and invite anyone to come in. We visited with a very helpful man who was preparing the welcome banner. Kathy asked about her family name of Langlois and where her ancestors might be buried. He said it was definitely a Guernsey surname.  As with most old churches, the cemetery is on the church grounds. In this case the church is surrounded by buildings and streets. No cemetery in sight. Our helpful parishioner said that originally there was one on sight, but they are either under the new developments or were moved. He suggested a look at the existing cemeteries and provided directions.

Before trekking to the burial grounds, we used a walking tour we had downloaded to our phones to get an initial look at some of the key historical sites close in to town. It started with the church we were in and included the Candie Cemetery which was on our list to research. We enjoyed the beautiful buildings, gardens and museum. One display provided a timeline for the area from the 500 BC forward. This island community has been through the usual wars, regime changes, in addition to the German occupation during World War II. 

After a quick bite to eat, we headed for a cemetery located further from the harbor. The Foulon Cemetery is another possible burial site for Kathy's ancestors. We wandered extensively and found several headstones with the Langlois name, but Langlois being a common name on Guernsey Island, we are not sure of any relationship. None of the first names matched the family history.  About 4:30 pm we finally caught up with the cemetery caretaker. A very kind and helpful person, but his records did not go back far enough. tomorrow being Saturday and Monday a local holiday, we could not go any further.

Cremation is very common today for the island people. This little cemetery is also the only crematorium on the island. It is housed in a beautiful stone chapel and was in operation while we were there. We also saw a beautiful hearse driving through town. In other areas, I have seen the drivers wearing the classic black top hat. These guys were out of uniform! But the car was fantastic. I noticed on the back that this funeral coach is built on a Jaguar frame! What a beauty!!

Tim and Kathy

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Adventures of Air Travel - Blog 18

May 21, 2015

Today is the day I must part with my little zoom zoom. The Vauxhall Insignia has been a great car for us to navigate the Highlands of Scotland. It gave us access to places it would have been difficult to enjoy otherwise. The fuel mileage was great on this diesel with lots of power to work with. We returned it very dirty, but not a scratch in site!

I am writing this while sitting at the Birmingham airport in England. Our carrier for the domestic hop to Guernsey Island is Flybe. We asked for an early breakfast at the B and B to allow plenty of time at the Edinburgh airport. I'm glad we did. Checking in revealed that our second leg of the flight had been rescheduled by the airlines without leaving enough time to connect. Fortunately, the airline trainee was able to reroute the whole thing and still get us to Guernsey today. It took her an immense amount of time, but it will work.

We also learned  that the cost for baggage in the US is cheap! The fee for checking your luggage was 40 English pounds per bag per leg of the flight. We checked the size of our bags and mine would pass as carry-on but hard as we tried, Kathy's would not. $130 US dollars later we head to the plane. The airline version of a Mini Cooper was waiting on the tarmac. I have not seen the truck in the Mini Cooper, but I think there is clearly more room than what I had for my, now carry-on luggage. Even though my bag fit in the little measuring device at the airport, there was no way it was going into the overhead glove compartment on this airplane. That meant it was destined for the small area designed for my feet!  With my feet on top of the bag the ole knee caps were nearly eye level. The saving grace was the flight was only fifty minutes long. Since I sleep in the fetal position anyway, I took a quick nap!

I am now writing from Guernsey Island! We had a great flight with plenty of room! We took the bus from the airport to downtown and walked along the beach front to the harbor facing St George's Guest House. We even spotted a castle in the harbor area. Should be a fun few days ahead.

Tim and Kathy

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Last Day in Scotland - Blog 17

May 20, 2015

We leave our beautiful farm surrounded in so much green. It reminds us often of the Emerald Valley near Eugene in the spring. Our destination is the city of Sterling with it's old town and, of course a castle or two. 

We try to get as much exercise as we can so a good option is to walk along Loch Katrine. The weather held pretty well on the shoreline walk. The Sir Walter Scott ferry travels these waters in case you wanted to take a tour. Sir Scott penned several poems about this mountain lake which became quite well known. When your work goes viral I guess you get a boat named in your honor! If this blog goes viral we would be lucky to get a life jacket and thrown in! At least we would have a leisurely float around the lake! 

Leaving the lake and not yet ready for the city we enjoyed tea and crumpets in the small town of Callander. After finishing our treat, we realized we would have to exercise again to work it off. So, we found a beautiful trail leading to the Bracklinn waterfall, through an actual forest and back. Through the years they have forested heavily so the stands of fir trees have been planted years ago and will be harvested soon. As we walked out of the woods, we walked into the freshly logged clearing and could see some of the areas being replanted.

Our castle itch returned as we drove into the Castlecroft Bed and Breakfast. The beautifully kept home sits right at the base of the Sterling Castle. We are a brief walk from the old town area giving us a first glance of the castle grounds and place to enjoy supper.

Following our full B and B breakfast, we marched right up to the castle to see how it might compare. Not bad! This one was both ruins as well as areas that have been restored. They provided a great display area with a chronological timeline of all the kings, queens, and royalty of Scotland. It helped to get the big picture. We are standing in front of the statue of King Robert the Bruce who conquered the English at the Battle of Bannockburn nearby in 1314.  There is a large monument to William Wallace (Braveheart) here in Stirling as he was fighting the English in 1297.

An interesting item in the palace was a series of wall sized tapestries using imagery to recount the Christian gospel. The woven images used the unicorn and hunters in hot pursuit to describe Christ's death and his leading us to heaven. The weaving detail is so great, that upon entering the large queen's inner hall we first thought it was simply paintings hung on the wall. The tapestries have been recently finished and are replicas of tapestries from the era of the castle. A well presented display nearby explained the allegory and the weaving process.

We paid a brief visit to The Church of the Holy Rude dating back to 1567.  It is steeped in history as it was originally a Roman Catholic Church that is now Church of Scotland Presbyterian as a result of the reformation.  King James VI was crowned King of Scotland here when he was a baby.  John Knox preached at his coronation. 

Knowing our castle days are coming to an end, we decided to grab one more! The 14th century Doune Castle was just a few minutes drive away. This is one of the best-preserved castles which is great compared to either ruins or partially restored. This is closest to what it was in it's heyday. It's condition also makes it a perfect backdrop for movies such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the more recent mini series, Outlander. We need to have a movie night when we get home so we can point at the TV and say "We were there!!"

Well, this is our last night in Scotland! Tomorrow we fly to the Island of Guernsey. We enjoyed a quiet dinner at a Scottish Austrian restaurant. I had a Caesar salad with crumbled blood pudding as a starter, followed by Weiner schnitzel! Kathy enjoyed a traditional Scottish Broth soup and mushroom risotto. All very good!

Tim and Kathy

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Loch Lomond and Family History - Blog 16

May 18, 2015

Yesterday was a travel day to make our way to Loch Lomond. Before leaving however we dropped in to the Dunstaffnage Castle to have a quick look inside. This stone fortress and several others we are seeing lately, are built on large rock outcroppings. It would have been a formidable obstacle to anyone attempting to gain access to the area.

We drove on to grab a glance at another estate guardian, the Kilchurn castle. This required a bit of a walk out to the ruins, but was set right at waters edge of the Loch Awe. We had the chance to see this one twice, since a glove and dropped in the parking lot and we backtracked about 45 minutes to retrieve it. As cold and wet as it is, we really wanted to find it. I simply drove extra fast to make up the time!

An interesting side trip introduced us to an 18th century site that processed metal ore. At the Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace, charcoal was used to fuel huge kilns to melt down the iron ore that was in great demand. This area was filled with forests and they trimmed off many of the branches every 16 years allowing the tree to regrow for future use. The wood was then burned to form charcoal that was hauled to the smelting area. A long canal was dug from the nearby river to power a water wheel that in turn energized the massive bellows which kept the fires hot. The raw products were poured into the top of the furnace and the processed pig iron was drained out the bottom. Very labour intensive!

It was in the town of Inveraray that we enjoyed a brief afternoon snack and realized the glove had gone missing. We then made it to our new home at the South end of Loch Lomond. We are on a small family farm raising plants for the local markets. Our home includes their 2 teenage children and sits on immaculate landscaped grounds.

Our fellow house guests were a group of three men who are traveling on a photographic adventure and were here for only one night. They were fun to talk with and share a few stories.

Today is my (Kathy) day to pursue some family history.  I know that my 3rd Great-grandfather, James Monach, worked at a company called Dillichip and Milburn.  He left that company in 1837 and emigrated to the United States. These were companies involved in the textile dying and stamping industry situated along the River Leven which flows out of Loch Lomond.  We began our search at the Visit Scotland Visitors Center here in Balloch.  The kind lady directed us to the Dumbarton Library to speak to the historian.  Tim navigated a series or roundabouts skillfully and we arrived at the library...but due to a funeral at the church nearby there was no place to park!  We finally found a nearby shopping center parking lot and found our way back to the library.

The historian and her assistant were very helpful in providing us books, photos and maps of the Dillichip and Milburn Companies.  The textile companies were very successful during the 19th century, dying fabric and finding a process to produce a color called Turkey Red.  The process included the use of a plant called Madder, sheep dung, bulls' blood and rancid olive oil. Lovely! But we had beautiful red fabric!  I found out that American cowboys' bandanas were Turkey Red. 

Leaving the library we made our way to the Dumbarton Castle...and yes, Mary Queen of Scots had been there also when she was a very young child.  She was kept safe there before being sent to France to be raised out of the reaches of the English. 

Dumbarton also has a beautiful bridge over the River Leven and the start of a path that runs along the river from Dumbarton to Balloch.  We drove to Renton to begin our walk closer to the buildings that are still there from the Dillichip Works.  It is a lovely walk along the river and we soon found supports for the railroad trestle that spanned the river enabling the companies to get their product to markets all over the world.  We also found the buildings by sight and by smell as they are now used for the storage of Whisky.  

After walking awhile we finally found a bridge over the river and began to walk back hoping to get closer to the Dillichip buildings and find a toilet!  Walking by an old church, a lady asks if there is something in particular that we are looking for.  I tell her my two quests:  Dillichip and a toilet.  She offers her house which is nearby.  Her name is Jane and she is so sweet and even offers us tea!  Now ready to carry on, we found the buildings, but they are behind locked gates.  Tim gets what photos he can and we make our way back to the car.  (We returned the next morning and press the button outside the gate and ask if we can come in to get some photos, since my great-grandfather worked there in the 1800's, but we were denied!)

For dinner we drove to the Conservation town of Luss on the west side of Loch Lomond.  It is a quaint town with little stone houses and colorful flower gardens.  This is a lovely end to my family research day.  However I got way laid finishing last night as we had a lively conversation with our host and hostess, Maggie and Kenny. It came out that Kenny is a fire fighter and he was quite interested in talking about it once he knew our son was a fire fighter also.  What was interesting is how invasive the media is over here in the UK.  Part of Kenny's job is trying to keep the media away from seeing what the emergency personnel are doing. He explained that the first think they do when arriving at an incident is erect boundary tapes and barriers to keep the media away. Then they go fight the fire!

Tim and Kathy