The weather continued to be wonderful this weekend and so we were able to get out and cycle. Scott left early Saturday morning to meet a friend from work to ride some mountain bike trails just 30 minutes from home. He had a great ride and was glad to be on his bike. Christopher went with a friend and his father to a park on the southside of Glasgow to "ride the trails". Christopher had been with Scott before to this specific park but had stayed on the green trails. This time, he tried the red ones and has not stopped talking about them since!
We we picked up Christopher in the afternoon and Scott had a chance to meet this dad (whom I'd met previously at a few birthday parties), they immediately hit it off and planned a road ride for the next morning. They left early Sunday morning and rode from Glasgow to Ayr (about 40 miles) on the small farm roads admiring the views. Scott said it was fantastic!
I then had a chance Sunday evening to ride the Forth and Clyde Canal (which we'd tried with the boys) and therefore was able to not feel left out!
Most importantly, I am excited because Scott has been able to meet these friends and to find some guys to ride with. I take it for granted that it is easier for me to meet friends at school with the boys.
This weekend, Ethan is off to a birthday party bike trip around Loch Katrine just north of here! Scott is going as well to "help out" and meet the other dads.
We're lovin it!
Sunday, 27 April 2008
We had a great 8 days with my parents exploring Glasgow and showing them around. The boys loved showing off our house, their school, and all of the things that we do on a regular basis. We had no rain (which caused them to question our complaints of bad weather) and we took advantage by being outside.
Some of the highlights included:
The Botanic Gardens
Double Decker Bus City Sightseeing Tour
Lunch at the Stables
Kelvingrove Art Gallery
Burrell Collection at Pollok Park
Walking the local parks
Drive through the countryside home
More park time
Visits to the grocery store, cheesemonger, wine shop, Mexican Deli, and Roots and Fruits
Swimming at the Gym
And the #1 HIGHLIGHT: Having your grandparents around to play!
They were such good sports and especially at the end of a fast paced, long spring break! It was a busy, fantastic week and they are off to cruise through Holland and to recuperate!
Monday, 14 April 2008
Well, it is really going to be hard to beat the week that we've just finished at the beach. We had such a wonderful stay in the NW of Scotland. So many memories and so many fun adventures.
I'll share a few of the highlights from the rest of our week then will post the pictures.
Thursday we took a short bike ride through the hills in Poolewe. The trail (a paved one, not one with knee high mud) was along a river and sheep were spotting the landscape. Then we spent some time walking through the Inverewe Gardens. There are 54 acres of plants from all over the world that wind through the craggy hillside. (it is similar to the arboretum or botanic gardens) The weather was magnificent so we just enjoyed being outside. You'll notice the boys meditating in the Japenese Garden mocking my attempt to calm and quiet them! We also spent the morning and evening climbing on the rocks by the house and playing on the beach.
Friday we drove to Red Point just south of Loch Ewe were we found a gorgeous sandy beach with views of the island of Skye. There was a huge dune which the boys loved to climb and run down and a tidal pool which provided hours of entertainment. I hiked over the rocks you see in the picture for an unobstructed view of the whole island of Skye. Really amazing scenery. We then enjoyed one last dinner at this wonderful beach house , an evening on the rocks, and a sunset that even had Christopher and Ethan mesmerized.
We drove home Saturday and took a different route than our way up. We drove through Inverness and down along Loch Ness (looking for Nessie the whole way). At the bottom of the Loch is a town called Fort Augustus and the Caledonian Canal runs through the middle. It just happens that 5 minutes after we arrived, we were able to see a swing bridge in operation and 3 boats come from the loch into the canal. We watched as they opened and closed the canal locks to move the boats through. It was super interesting and a treat to see. One more pub lunch and then we were off to Glasgow.
What a week we had. Thank goodness Mims and Gramps (my parents) are coming tomorrow or we would be having a hard time facing reality at home!
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
What a fantastic day! We went out with Ian McWhinney on his fishing boat for a very educational, fun morning. Ian is a local fisherman that supplies shellfish to local buyers as well as the suppliers for major restaurants in London and on the continent. He and his wife also run a B & B and self catering cottages on Dry Island, a small privately owned island in Badachro Bay. Ian's family has been fishing these waters for generations.
We hopped on his boat and headed out to check the creels. He has approx. 900 in the loch and catches brown crab, velvet crab, prawns and many other sea creatures. Ian shared some of the history of the loch with us while in route and then we pulled up 2 sets of creels. In the first group, we found brown crab, velvet crab (devil crab), spiny starfish, cushion starfish, pipe fish, and a spider crab. In the second group we found langoustines, flounder and more starfish and crab. Ian was quick to point out the differences between each creature and showed us how he measures the shellfish to determine if they are keepers. He threw many back and said from a fisherman's perspective, he did not have a "good catch"; but for the Nicol family, we had a "brilliant" catch!
The boys loved being on the boat and asked Ian many questions. They loved picking up all the leftover bits of shell and shellfish on the boat to see what they'd found. Charlie really liked looking into the crates of live crab to check on them and see what they were doing. After Ian taught us about his fishing business, he toured a little more of the loch to tell us more history and then to search for seals. To our delight, he found a group soaking up the sun!
We could not have asked for a better way to spend a couple of hours on a holiday morning! Ian shared some of the catch with us so that we could have a feast tonight telling us how long to boil each crab and langoustine. Let me tell you, what a feast it was! The boys helped to prepare the boil and Ethan said it was a meal he would never forget. (even up there with his Uncle Chris' crawfish boils!)
Of course we had to sample the local fare on the way home so we had lunch in the bay at the Badachro Inn. Superb.
I knew Wednesday was looking up!
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
You know that book by David Wiesner, Tuesday? It's a brilliant book about frogs flying on lily pads and the adventures they have along the way. He uses illustrations to tell the story and when I read it to the boys, there seem to be great moments of pause as they take in the story and make it their own.
Well, today felt much like we were a family flying on lily pads floating through the hours of our Tuesday. We'd decided to drive around to the town of Poolewe and then up the coast of that peninsula to check things out. Scott loaded his bike along with Ethan and Christopher's, in hopes of finding a trail to try. One trail on the map looked interesting but we wanted to see it a little closer. Along the way, we ran into a rural Scottish traffic jam straight off a picture post card. We stopped to let the sheep pass (and the shepherd and dog) and then kept heading towards the tip of the peninsula.
When we arrived, there was really not much to see so we decided to drive back down and around the other side to see the lighthouse. (there is no road across the tip of the peninsula so you drive making a U)
And here is where our Tuesday changed course. Scott decided that he could meet us at the lighthouse if he rode his bike across this land that had no road. It also had no trail for that matter. We both had a cell signal and so off he went with his bike and the boys and I in the car. About an hour and a half later, I reached the last town before the lighthouse on the other side of the peninsula and we started up the lighthouse road. The lighthouse is currently a hostel with a few rooms and there were many signs that said the road and parking were just for those guests. I ignored these thinking Scott would be pretty tired and would like to get in the car and so off I went on this very skinny single track road. At many points along the way, I thought my car was going to straddle the road it was so small and the bridges were so scary that I held my breath when we crossed.
Many miles later we reached the lighthouse and sat in the car trying to reach Scott by phone. Since we were now so remote, I had no signal. I wouldn't let the boys get out of the car because the cliffs were so close, I didn't know if we were supposed to be there and frankly, I was really worried about Scott and too distracted to keep these little energetic boys away from the danger zones.
By now, I've studied the map over and over and decided there was no way Scott could reach us by cycle and that he would be better turning back the way he came. So, we turned around to drive this lovely wee road the opposite direction in hopes of a signal and word that Scott was okay.
Once I reached him, we discovered that he'd been carrying his bike and trekking through the mud. Therefore, he decided to turn around. We would then start to head back around the peninsula to meet him. The boys and I had seen this beautiful sandy beach on this side of the peninsula, and we were very tired of being in the car; so we stopped to stretch our legs knowing that Scott would be awhile.
We played in the surf (the boys waist high in the freezing water) and climbed on the rocks. The weather has been mild today (a blessing in hindsight) and it was so nice to be out in the fresh air. Check out the star fish we saw in the tidal pool. When we reached the main town on this side of the peninsula and were able to reach Scott by phone again, he said he had at least another hour and that he was still walking, his legs we're locking up, but that he was okay. Meanwhile, I'm thinking it's been 3 1/2 hours, he has one bottle of water, no food, it's 40 degrees out max and I am trying not to panic. He told me to take the boys to get something to eat and then to touch base.
So I did. The boys had chocolate cake and hot chocolate for lunch at a little cafe and then off we went to where I thought his current trail would lead him. Finally, after 5 hours of pause and prayer, he came flying around this curvy road on his bike. He was in one piece, he'd been riding for 100 yards, (after walking 9 miles sometimes in mud to his knees carrying his bike) he was thirsty, and tired.
We're back at the house, boys in the yard playing, Scott by the fire and I am thankful to be filling in the words of our Tuesday with Scott safe and sound.
Wednesday's looking better.
Monday, 7 April 2008
Well, it seems that you may be sick of hearing me say this by the end of this week! It's hard to describe if you haven't experienced it first hand but it really makes you smile and scream in frustration at the same time!
We've had a wonderful day here in Wester Ross. We had a slow start and by the time we headed outside, it was positively miserable Scottish weather. We decided that it would be a day to explore the town of Ullapool, just north of here as there were a few things we wanted to check out in that area.
First, I had to dial the local Scallop Diver to see if she had any fresh ones. Denied. not big enough yet. She said she have some in a few months. Then called the Hydroponicum as we'd heard that you could tour and learn how they were growing "gorgeous" produce without soil. Denied. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they were no longer open to the public for tour. Okay, surely the day was going to look up. Even our children were doubting us at this time.
Nevertheless, we hit the road for Ullapool. At least a warm pub meal was a given. The coastal scenery along the was again, epic. Unbelievable. Mountains, rocks, pebble beaches, sandy beaches, twists and turns, huge goats; something to see out each window. As we began to cross the peninsula and head away from the coast, we gained elevation and the rain quickly turned to snow. Again, I will say, breathtaking. Vast open vistas with nothing in sight but hills covered in snow. I'd read in the guidebook about the Corrieshalloch Gorge and so we stopped along the way. It was a perfect place to play in the snow and to get soaking wet since we did not pack an extra pair of clothes for anyone! (remember, we were just hopeful for a good pub lunch, not outdoor play)
The gorge as described by Fodor's, " a river draining the high moors plunges 150 feet into a 200-foot-deep, thickly wooded gorge." There was a suspension bridge above the gorge which we crossed but did not linger on as it really gave me a fright and I'm not usually scared of heights. Something about looking that far, straight down, holding your three year old's hand, makes you a little edgy! We built snowmen on the way back to the car and had a great trek. The gorge is an absolute must see for anyone coming to this area.
On we went to Ullapool for fish and chips. It's a nice little fishing village and we enjoyed our lunch and our stroll around. The sun was out and no snow in sight except far away peaks by now-and we were only 10 miles from the snowmen!
On our drive home, the sun continued to shine and the snow had melted quite a bit through the mountains. We saw no less than 50 deer along the way and of course the sheep and goats too.
We spotted a sandy beach to go back to and made it home in time to play on the pebbles here. What a fantastic day in this land of 4 seasons in a day!