Monday, 7 April 2008

4 Seasons in One Day

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!

Loch Ewe

Spring break is here! Yippee, Yahoo! We have 2 weeks off from school and are spending the first week off in the NW corner of Scotland in a beach house on Loch Ewe.
We drove up on Saturday winding our way through the highlands. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. Epic. Movie Set un-real. We passed many lochs and villages each with their own flavor and we experienced all four seasons along the drive. We could see the snow capped mountains and the roads wound through the hills and along the rivers. There were sheep everywhere (of course), highland cattle, deer (large ones) and a hawk. We saw castles, sailboats, fishing boats, and B & B's in every town and loch. For much of the drive, we were on single track roads (one lane with passing turn outs) and I was constantly saying, "slow down". Poor Scott. The trip took a little over 6 hours (that's far in Scotland driving time) and we arrived in the sunshine to the tiny fishing village, Aultbea, Mellon Charles on Loch Ewe. The house we've rented is out on the far end of the peninsula in a remote setting on the water.

The house is beautiful and and the setting is unbelievable. We are 100 yards from the water on a private pebble beach looking out at the peninsula across the loch. Loch Ewe is actually a sea loch so the waves are rough and the terrain is rugged. The coast is rocky and dramatic and we've been mesmerized by the view. We have experienced all four seasons since our arrival (hail, snow, sleet, rain, sun, wind) and have taken every opportunity to get outside and play. Everything is closed on Sunday so we had a nice day at the house playing on the rocks, in the yard, and playing board games and Legos when we needed to thaw out.
The pictures will be abundant so I'll try to post a few every day! (That's snow/hail in the rock picture which ahppened while we were outside!)

A Few Evenings Out

Last weekend, I attended the Prep 5 (Ethan's Grade) Mom's Night Out. It was a hoot. 35 women met at this tiny restaurant called the Cabin. The Cabin has apparently been around forever and I'm not really sure how anyone ever found it. It's located in a small neighborhood strip center with flats above and it is barely marked on the outside. Inside, there are tables crammed together to seat a total of 45 people so you can imagine what it was like to have 35 of those seats taken up by women who need to get out more often! The chatter and the laughter was out of control! There is one tiny kitchen and one tiny bathroom (the cabin is an old flat) and approx. 3 people who work there. Once the orders had been taken and the dinners served, this woman started ringing a dinner bell. She introduced herself as the singer and encouraged us all to sing along with her (as that is the Cabin way). She then proceeded to belt out bad show tunes and old songs. Now the story is that the lady that usually sings is gruff, has a terrible voice, knows it, doesn't care, and does not let you get away without joining in. Fun for all and my friends said it is a riot. This woman was so genteel and serious about her singing that she could not get us going and the harder she tried the more the giggles and chatter it produced. I really felt bad for her and for the 10 other people in the restaurant.

She was able to get a few people singing with tunes from the Sound of Music and Joesph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. I really had to laugh when she belted out "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters in her best Glaswegian accent! All in all it was a great night to meet other moms and have a good laugh. My friends kept assuring me that it was much more fun with the gruff lady but I thought it was pretty funny with the genteel one!

Then it was Ethan's turn for a night out. He was invited to a Birthday Party Disco for 3 of his Prep 5 classmates. At first he did not want to go, but when he found out most of his friends were going, he decided it might be fun. All 80 Prep 5 children were invited and I think about 60 attended. The party was at one of the Leisure Centres (gym/country club) and Ethan went with a friend then I went along later to join the other moms for a glass of wine before we picked them up. Again, it was a riot. When I first arrived (about an hour into the party) and had a peek into the disco, the genders were separated and the girls were dancing and the boys were sipping soda (and/or making soda mixtures) and watching the girls. The next time one of the moms went downstairs to check on them (there were other parents at the party), there was slow dancing! Then in the final minutes of the party everyone was dancing and having a great time! Ethan had a blast and was sore the next day from doing "the worm". I wish I had pictures.