A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: danielcatherine

Scotland Day 10: Over the Sea

40 °F

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We took the shuttle to the airport early in the morning for our flight. We stopped for a mince pie and an apricot pastry before our flight.
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Some views from our flight to Dublin. Our plane was called St. Eithne. When we got to Dublin we were able to do our Global Entry interview, meaning that we now have Global Entry and TSA pre-check.
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We had lunch at a place in the Dublin airport called Whiskey Bread, which is a partnership with Teeling's Distillery in Dublin. Catherine had a whiskey and tonic (a surprising combination that was actually good) and Daniel had a Guinness. After that we boarded our flight.
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On our flight back to San Francisco on the St. Carthage. We passed the flight by reading and watching episodes of The Office, and then Daniel's parents picked us up. It has been a wonderful trip!

Posted by danielcatherine 19:58 Archived in Ireland Tagged home flight pastries teeling's aer_lingus mince_pie Comments (1)

Scotland Day 9: Dark Culloden's Field of Gore

(Today's title is taken from the song "Sound the Pibroch.")

sunny 44 °F

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A beautiful morning at the castle on our last full day in Scotland. We had a breakfast of porridge and toast instead of the very large and filling full breakfast. It was also very good.
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Catherine's first time driving on the other side of the road. She only drove in the parking lot, then Daniel drove the rest of the way back to Edinburgh.
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Culloden Moor, where the Battle of Culloden took place in 1746. This was the final decisive battle of the Jacobite rising, where the forces supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie were defeated. It's a very sad and melancholy place to visit. The people who run the battle site placed red flags where the government army lines were, and blue flags where the Jacobite lines were. It was a somewhat overwhelming place to see: its remarkable to think that the quiet field we see today was once a place where people fought and died. Some of the plaques at the visitor center are from descendants of people who fought there: many who live in Scotland and England and many who live in the United States. This battle was a major turning point in history: it ended the realistic chances of the Jacobite cause and established the Hanoverians in power.
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There are several memorials to the various clans that are buried here in mass graves. It's remarkable that people still place flowers and crosses on the stones.
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Catherine had been hoping to see highland cattle, and she got her chance here. They have them here to eat the vegetation (they appear to mostly eat trees) and keep the natural landscape looking similar to how it looked at the time of the battle.
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We stopped at the Culloden Moor Inn for a quick lunch: a baked potato and chicken korma.
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After lunch, we started our drive down to Edinburgh. We saw some beautiful scenery, and went through a little town called Aviemore which seems to be a skiing destination (although there wasn't a lot of snow in the mountains for skiing yet). We got past Dalwhinnie before sunset, which was nice because it meant that we got the chance to see the southern part of the drive in the daylight on Saturday and the northern part in the daylight today.
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We arrived in Edinburgh and checked into our airport hotel. Unfortunately a number of issues came up, causing us to go first to an occupied room (thankfully our keys didn't work), then a room that needed repairs, and then finally to our room. We went over and dropped off our rental car, then got a taxi into Old Town for a last dinner there.
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We had dinner at Vittoria on the Bridge, which was a wonderful meal.
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We could see McEwan Hall in the distance and had a beautiful last night in the Old Town area before taking a taxi back to the airport hotel. We have loved our time here and are very happy that we had the chance to come to Scotland for this graduation.

Posted by danielcatherine 19:55 Archived in Scotland Tagged dinner castle battle war highland cattle culloden porridge mcewan_hall jacobite Comments (0)

Scotland Day 8: A Fresno Girl Perhaps?

sunny 47 °F

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We started our day by splitting the "full Scottish breakfast" at Kincraig Castle, where we were staying. It included scrambled eggs, a tomato, black pudding, haggis, a "tattie scone" (very much like a pancake), and a mushroom. It was not bad.
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Some pictures around the castle in the morning. After breakfast we drove into Inverness to attend the Ordinariate mass: groups of Anglicans who converted to Catholicism were allowed to use a modified form of the Anglican church service. Their liturgy is very interesting and it was a nice opportunity to attend one in Inverness.
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The drive to Inverness.
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The chapel where the Ordinariate mass is held. According to the priest the chapel was built as an ecumenical chapel originally at the hospital, with three separate front areas for Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Catholics. The ordinariate mass uses the Catholic section.

During the after-mass conversation, the very small group of members came over and talked to us. Catherine said that we were from California, and one of the people said "a Fresno girl perhaps?" and then refused to say how he had known that. Catherine admitted to having been born and raised in Fresno, but the person who asked would not reveal how he knew that. Catherine thinks he somehow guessed, but Daniel thinks that we must have met this man in passing somewhere in our lives and forgotten about it.

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Some views of the River Ness. Catherine very much wanted to find Nessie, and it was here on the river (and not the loch) that St. Columba is said to have first seen the "water creature" that may have given rise to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.
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After that we drove to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.
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Some pictures around the castle showing the defensive structures. St. Columba came here to baptize a Pictish chieftain, and the castle was part of a variety of wars that occurred, as well as constant raids by the MacDonald clan, eventually being blown up by its own holders during the Jacobite wars.
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Looking for Nessie.
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Some more pictures around the castle.
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A strange object in the water. Probably not Nessie.
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Some more pictures of the castle.
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Daniel in a window, and a random person in the door.
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A bird's nest in a corner of the castle.
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The trebuchet.

After exploring the castle, and hearing a very fascinating talk about the defensive structures of the ditch and the windows, we headed into the village to buy some souvenirs and then to Inverness for dinner.
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We went to a Turkish restaurant which was delicious. We ordered the two-person meal, which included appetizers and a main meal for each of us. The appetizers were delicious and filling. We got the chicken kebab and the vegetarian moussaka, which were both delicious.
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There was a pub across the street from the Turkish restaurant that was having a "trad session," so we walked over and listened to some music. It was a wonderful end to our night before returning to the castle.
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Sitting by the fire at the castle after our day of exploring the loch.

Posted by danielcatherine 19:54 Archived in Scotland Tagged church river music castle fire mass inverness loch_ness urquhart fresno nessie ordinariate trad_session Comments (0)

Scotland Day 7: In the Highlands

rain 56 °F

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Goodbye, Edinburgh!
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We got a taxi to the airport rental car section and picked up our car. It's a Toyota hybrid, just like our Prius (and like the car we had when we were in Ireland), and so it's very familiar.
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Crossing the bridge over the Firth of Forth.
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Our first stop was Dunfermline, where Dunfermline Abbey was formerly located. There is currently a church there where King Robert the Bruce is buried (as evidenced by the huge tower with "King Robert the Bruce" written all the way around it). This was once the capital of Scotland, where some of the earlier kings ruled.
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St. Margaret of Scotland was also buried here, but her body was moved during the Reformation for safekeeping by Mary of Guise, and its current whereabouts seem to be unknown. Anyway, this is where she was buried. She was the daughter of Edward the Aetheling, and married to King Malcolm III of Scotland (who is the real-life version of Malcolm in Shakespeare's Macbeth. She founded the abbey here and was later made a saint, and the chapel atop Edinburgh Castle was dedicated to her.
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Some pictures in and around the ruined abbey.
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We stopped at a little village called Dalwhinnie and had a delicious lunch at a small cafe there. We had sausage rolls, crisps, and a caramel shortbread for dessert. It was very cold, windy, and rainy outside but the cafe was exremely cozy with a nice fire burning.
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The options for fillings on a baked potato here are very different from what you would get in America, and don't really seem that appetizing from an American perspective. They seem to be very popular here though: there are several dedicated baked potato bars in Edinburgh and many places outside of the city seem to have them on the menu as well.
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After lunch we went up to the Dalwhinney Distillery, which claims to be the highest and coldest distillery in Scotland. It definitely felt cold and windy as we got out of the car.
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A quilt made by students at the local school (which we later learned was shut down...Dalwhinnie appears to have somewhat faded away as a village. That is sad, but it is easy to see why with modern transportation technology a person might not want to live in such a cold and windy place.)
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The process of distillation is fascinating. Catherine has a great interest in invention and how an inventor's mind works. After the tour she said "if you had barley, water, and yeast in front of you, would you honestly come up with all of that?" It is an interesting thing to think about how people came up with the whole process.
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There is a tasting at the end of the tour. At the beginning of the tasting the tour guide asked who was driving, and gave each of the drivers three small bottles in which to pour the samples. It was really a nice solution to the problem of tastings when you have to drive. Catherine tried the samples and liked them, especially the first two. We ended up buying a bottle of that first whisky.
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The beautiful castle where we are staying. There is a cozy fire and a beautiful lounge.
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Dinner in the castle. Delicious bread pudding for dessert.
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A dram of whisky by the fire after dinner.
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The castle is beautifully decorated for Christmas.

We had a wonderful day, and we had a beautiful drive from Edinburgh to the highlands!

Posted by danielcatherine 23:58 Archived in Scotland Tagged christmas castle highlands bread distillery pudding inverness dunfermline dalwhinnie st._margaret Comments (1)

Scotland Day 6: Graduation!

semi-overcast 44 °F

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We got up fairly early and got ready for the graduation ceremony. Then we walked over to McEwan Hall, where graduations are usually held for the University of Edinburgh.
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Once Daniel had his gown and hood gathered for the ceremony we had the chance to take some pictures in the square in front of McEwan Hall.
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Us in front of McEwan Hall as it shines in the morning sunlight.
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In front of one of the side doors to the Hall.

Daniel got his picture taken by the photographers and then was able to enter the hall. A bagpiper and drummer were playing as the graduates walked in, and then they led a procession of university officials into the hall. It was a beautiful start to the ceremony.

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Some pictures that Catherine took inside the Hall. Daniel was not able to take pictures because he was seated with the other graduates. Two of his fellow Ancient Worlds program graduates were here, also from the United States, and so he was able to meet them in person and talk about how much "fun" they all had writing their dissertations.

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Catherine had a very good seat for watching the officials and the graduates as they moved across the stage.
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Graduates walk across the stage, their names are read, and they get bopped on the head with a hat. The hat is called the "Geneva Bonnet" and is rumored to have been made out of John Knox's breeches. This is an odd story, especially given that Knox in fact wore a Geneva bonnet. It seems more likely that if it has any connection with him that it is his hat, and not a hat made from his pants. However, it seems even more likely that it is just a hat.
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Daniel getting bopped on the head with the Geneva bonnet as he walks across the stage to collect his degree.
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A choir sang some beautiful songs and there was a short speech encouraging the graduates to continue to learn (we have yet to hear a graduation speech that exhorts the listeners to quit now while you're ahead and not try to learn anything new), and then the officials processed out, followed by the graduates.
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After we reunited outside the hall we were able to take some pictures. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful ceremony. The bagpipe, drum, and organ music, as well as the choir, made it all feel especially emotional. Two years of work, stress, and writing were beautifully rewarded with this ceremony.

Unfortunately, due to a strike among some of the professors and lecturers the reception afterwards was cancelled. It was a bit odd that it got cancelled, and when we talked to a professor later she was surprised that the strike had interfered in any way. It may have been cancelled out of "an abundance of caution" despite no real risk of any problems.
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Not going to the reception allowed us to take a nice walk and go to a little Italian restaurant for lunch.

After lunch, we went and met with Daniel's dissertation advisor. We went to a cafe for tea and scones, and talked about cats and classics and the ceremony. Then she took us on a wonderful tour of the department's offices and its small library. It is located in the former medical school, which is a beautiful old building. It was a wonderful afternoon.

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After this we went on a very different kind of tour. It was about the various dark and bizarre stories that haunt Edinburgh's history. We were hoping it would be more historical, and it was a little bit "trying to creep people out" for our tastes. However, we did get to see some interesting things and learn some stories from Edinburgh's past.
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We got the chance to tour the vaults under one of the bridges, which was interesting. These vaults were originally used by the businesses above, but were abandoned because of the lack of natural light, which necessitated the use of fish-oil candles, which made the vaults smell horrible. They may (the tour guide insisted they had) become home to a literal criminal underworld, with brothels, opium dens, and illegal taverns frequented by grave-robbers.
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After we left the vaults we were led to the graveyard in Canongate, which is outside the technical old boundaries of the city. Several interesting people were buried here, including Adam Smith and Robert Fergusson. It is also thought to be the location of the grave of Ebenezer Scroggie, who according to legend was listed on his grave as "a meal man" due to his career as a grain merchant. Charles Dickens is said to have seen the grave and misread it as "a mean man" and then written A Christmas Carol as a speculative story to explain how someone could have earned such an epitaph. However, there does not seem to be any evidence of this and the gravestone is lost.
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Toasting to Daniel's graduation with a dram of whisky, then a dinner of cullen skink (fish chowder), potato and leek soup, and then cranachan and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. It was a wonderful graduation day that we will always remember!

Posted by danielcatherine 08:03 Archived in Scotland Tagged edinburgh tea graveyard lunch graduation advisor strike dissertation vaults classics mcewan_hall cullen_skink cranachan adam_smith Comments (1)

Scotland Day 5: Giving Thanks in Scots and Spanish

rain 43 °F

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Today we had a somewhat relaxed day. We slept in a bit and then walked to the university to do the self-guided tour. The walk to the university took us through Greyfriars Kirkyard, which is an interesting place. It feels exactly like the stereotypical "spooky graveyard." Tom Riddle is buried here, as well as other people whose names were used by J.K. Rowling for characters in the Harry Potter books.
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While we were walking through the graveyard we saw a girl gathering sticks. We weren't sure why she was doing it, but it seemed like she was intent on creating a significant pile of sticks in her arms. Then as we passed the church associated with the kirkyard, we saw her add her pile of sticks to this pile that already existed in front of the gravestone of Greyfriars Bobby, the dog who sat faithfully on his master's grave. Later on in the day we saw a plaque stating that a local pub owner had trained Bobby to come to his pub at one o'clock (at the sound of the one o'clock gun) and get a meat pie. It seems that the community here loved Bobby when he was alive and still loves him now that he is gone.
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At the university. The weather was drizzly and cold but not raining too hard when we set out, but it started to rain more as we kept exploring.
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Daniel at the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology.
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Us in front of George Square. Many of the university's buildings surround this square.
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A lot of famous people once lived in these houses, including Eric Liddell (a University of Edinburgh alumnus and the inspiration for and main character in Chariots of Fire), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (also an alumnus), and Sir Walter Scott (also an alumnus).
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It was raining pretty heavily so we went into a Chinese restaurant across from the university for lunch.

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We went back to our room for a bit, then went out again as it was getting dark to see if we could buy a gown and hood for the graduation at Ede and Ravenscroft. We had hired a gown and hood, but would prefer to have one to keep from the original ceremony. Ultimately, we were able to buy a gown but not a hood. We will have to order the hood later. The Ede and Ravenscroft salesperson was very helpful, and explained to us also that the royal family uses their services for their ceremonies. The Edinburgh shop is not especially involved in the upcoming coronation, but the London shop is. It was a beautiful walk down to the shop in "New Town" Edinburgh.
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The university's "new college" which is near the castle. Historically it exists because of a schism within the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Now it is part of the university and appears to be mostly used by the School of Divinity.
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Some kind of carnival in New Town.
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A dark and ominous-looking staircase that is actually a part of a system of staircases that constitute a shortcut between where we are staying and the castle.
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Our Thanksgiving dinner was tapas from a Spanish restaurant nearby. They were delicious and, although different from the traditional American Thanksgiving, had a similar feeling due to the wide variety of foods available.
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A view of our walk home. It was a wonderful and relaxed day, and we can't wait for graduation tomorrow!

Posted by danielcatherine 00:14 Archived in Scotland Tagged churches university spanish gravestones thanksgiving graves tapas hoods gowns scots greyfriars_bobby Comments (2)

Scotland Day 4: South of the Border

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Today we got up somewhat early for a coach tour to Hadrian's Wall. The tour left at eight, and the short days here at this time of year meant that there was hardly any light at that time of day. We walked down to the place where the tour starts, and then met our driver, whose name was Jeff. There was only one other couple on our tour, so the four of us had a sixteen-seat van to ourselves. They were from Texas and come to the UK frequently, and had even done this same tour before.
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Some pictures taken from the bus as we headed to Jedburgh, which is near the border with England and home to a famous ruined Augustinian abbey.
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The ruined abbey. It was raining and very cold, and when we went to the museum/ entrance area we were told that there isn't much access to the abbey right now, and that the artefacts in the museum are out for cleaning. We decided against going in and just looked at it from afar.
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More sights in and around Jedburgh. We went into the cafe (which was warm and cozy) and got coffee and scones.
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At the border! This was Catherine's first time in England (Daniel had been to London before, but never to rural England).
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The landscapes of northern England look very much like southern Scotland This is a fascinating place historically as home to the Border Reivers and the general border culture that was so influential in English, Scottish, Irish, and American history.
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Some views of Hadrian's Wall! The wall was built in 122 AD as a defense against Caledonian tribes. As Jeff pointed out, there are multiple possible purposes for the wall: it gave soldiers something to do while stationed up north, and prevented any soldiers from rebelling. It created a psychological impact on the local tribesmen with its straightness and orderly nature. It proved to the local people how powerful Rome was, while also satisfying people back in Rome and other provinces that the borders of the Empire were secure.
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The ruins of Vindolanda, which was a Roman fortress south of the wall which actually predates the building of the wall. It seems likely that at least some of the Roman soldiers who built the wall were stationed here. There are the obvious ruins of the rectangular fortress, as well as the ruins of a village that grew up around it. Jeff made the argument that the Romans must not have been all bad if the natives were willing to live near the fortress. We wondered about what advantages the Romans might have brought. Vindolanda had running water, sanitation, and under-floor heating two thousand years ago, while Edinburgh did not have those things one thousand years ago. It's possible that for some, the Romans brought great benefits. On the other hand, the existence of forts and a later wall strongly imply that not everyone was happy with the Romans.
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A reconstructed temple to the Nymphs and a few other views around the museum. The museum is in a former house of a classicist whose family lived here and who excavated much of the fortress. The "war memorial" monument to the Roman soldiers was touching. It is very much in the style of British war memorials, but with Roman styling (a Roman eagle instead of a lion or unicorn, and of course the "S.P.Q.R.") It is important to remember that these were real people who lived actual whole lives. It's easy to recognize soldiers who fought in or died in the World Wars or more recent wars as people, but when we think about ancient times it is easy to forget how normal the people actually were.
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A lunch at the cafe: a sausage roll, a cheese-and-onion pasty, and a "stottie" with bacon, brie, and cranberry. The museum was also interesting, but we didn't have a lot of time to wander around in it. The fortress was inhabited for centuries, and appears to have remained an inhabited place for a while after the Roman legions departed.
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The wall included a number of fortresses, including milecastles every mile, main fortresses, and small look-out towers in between the milecastles. These could accommodate six men if necessary, but usually only had two stationed there. There was a road behind the wall for access between the fortresses, although you could walk all the way along the wall if you needed to do so.
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Standing on what's left of the wall.

The drive back to Scotland was very sleepy. It was already dark and it was hard to stay awake after touring all day. The other couple wanted to listen to The Corries, so the driver put on a lot of their songs. We had never listened to them but knew a decent number of their songs already from other groups.
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We had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant, and then went to a pub near where we're staying. It was a very nice evening after an extremely fun and eventful day. Italian food seemed especially appropriate for the day we went to the Roman wall.
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Edinburgh at night.

Posted by danielcatherine 10:28 Archived in England Tagged borders empire romans hadrian hadrian's_wall borderlands Comments (4)

Scotland Day 3: A Glimpse of France

semi-overcast 46 °F

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We started our day with a small breakfast of tea and some pastries that we got from a bakery across the street.
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Then we set off on a walk towards the university. On our way we saw a sword store and an Irish pub.
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And then some statues closer to the university.
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We arrived at the Old College at the University of Edinburgh. Despite having completed a Master's degree at the University, this was Daniel's first time on the campus!
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We stopped at "Elephants and Bagels" which was a fun place to stop.
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Catherine got a university tartan scarf at the gift shop. We took these pictures by McEwan Hall, where the graduation will be held on Friday.
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The statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog that faithfully sat by his master's grave for years
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A narrow building by Greyfriars Bobby.
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St. Giles Cathedral, and some other buildings, statues, and memorials.
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Some views from our tour of Edinburgh Castle. The castle is an amazing place to tour, and our tour guide was excellent. One thing she mentioned was that she used to believe there are no stupid questions, until a guest, pointing north across the Firth of Forth, asked "is that France?" Later on in the tour, the guide mentioned that the British authorities were worried in the late 18th century about French and American ideas of republican government spreading to Britain. Catherine said "I mean, France is right over there..." which cracked the tour guide up. (Her later comment, to a docent who had done her Masters and PhD on the Jacobite wars, that she would just learn about all of that by watching Outlander, horrified the docent until Catherine unjoked her.)
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This statue of Douglas Haig is apparently somewhat controversial. It now sits in front of the hospital area, but formerly was outside the walls until there were concerns about it getting vandalized. The tour guide said that in the UK, they don't tear down statues, they move them. She pointed out that you can't un-destroy a statue if you regret destroying it, but you can move it around.
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Views from the lookout by the hospital. It's amazing to see the city, especially since we came in when it was already dark.
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Us at the castle.
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Some more views in and around the castle. The castle is built on an extinct volcano called Castle Rock, which our tour guide says causes every child growing up in Edinburgh to become concerned about volcanic eruptions at around the age of seven. Also, most of the tour guides seem to think that Scotland is especially literal in its naming of things, but given that we live in a large, central valley in California called "The Central Valley" right next to a snowy mountain range called (in Spanish) "The Snowy Mountain Range" we are unsure that such literalism it is unique to Scotland.
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St. Margaret's Chapel, which is the oldest building at the castle. It was spared during the First War for Scottish Independence, which led to the pope at the time recognizing Robert the Bruce as a legitimate king of Scotland. The chapel is small but very interesting. Also on the top of the hill is a large war memorial, mostly based on World War I, and the royal palace where Mary, Queen of Scots lived and where King James VI and I was born. In the palace you can also see the Honours of Scotland, as well as the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny, on which British monarchs are still coronated. It will be going to London for the coronation of King Charles III next year, but presumably returning to Edinburgh afterwards. This stone has a great deal in common with the lia fáil at Tara in Ireland.
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Some underground sites at the castle. They weren't very well marked, and parts were blocked off. Catherine captioned this scene "a little kid...killing someone."
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Inside the Great Hall.
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The English Lion and the Scottish Unicorn in front of the war memorial.
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Mons Meg, a giant old cannon.
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Inside St. Margaret's Chapel. St. Margaret was the wife of King Malcolm (the son of Duncan who appears in the play Macbeth.36CF0077-D7AD-4F1C-9A67-C006090FB79C.jpeg97320FF9-EEDF-425A-92F4-EDD7CE5D7AEB.jpeg
The Royal Mile from the castle.
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We went for a quick and late lunch at an Indian restaurant called Treacle. It was delicious. We got some samosa chaat (samosas with chickpeas and sauce) as well as some noodles.
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Our next tour was a whisky tasting and folklore experience in the Waverly Bar.
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We tried these four whiskies. Probably our mutual favorite was the Old Pulteney. Catherine liked the Glengoyne and Daniel liked the Balvenie and the Bowmore. The songs and stories that accompanied the tasting were also wonderful. It was a great experience.
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We got fish and chips for dinner at a place near our AirBnb. We also tried a "chip butty," basically a sandwich with butter and chips/ fries.
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After that we went to an Irish pub called Finnegan's Wake. They had live music, a mix of Irish music, rock, and country. They also had a number of GAA jerseys on the wall, but unfortunately no Mayo jersey. It was a wonderful first day in Scotland!

Posted by danielcatherine 01:07 Archived in Scotland Tagged whisky france volcano folklore breakfast university castle cafe tasting chapel edinburgh_castle st._margaret Comments (3)

Scotland Day 1-2: On Our Way

all seasons in one day

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We are on our way to Scotland for Daniel's graduation with his Master's degree from the University of Edinburgh! He did an online program in "Ancient Worlds" (Classics and Archaeology), starting in September 2020 and finishing in August of 2022. His graduation is the day after Thanksgiving, and so he has the week off from work and we are able to go to the graduation! Daniel's parents drove us to the airport.
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The first of many airport meals over the course of the day: vegetable rolls and chicken curry at the San Francisco airport.
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On the plane to Dublin.
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Goodbye San Francisco!
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Hello Ireland! (but for all too short a time...even being in the Dublin airport made us miss Ireland.)
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All of Aer Lingus's planes are named for Irish saints. The one we took to Dublin was named for St. Sillan. Later on, the one we took to Edinburgh was called St. Colgan.
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Another airport meal: Colcannon and sausage, and some fries.
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Two very Irish drinks (Smithwick's beer and a fruit juice called Fruice) and a less characteristically Irish beverage (a Very Cherry for Catherine).
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A look at the food court in the Dublin Airport, decorated for Christmas. And, one of the stands had pasteis de nata (they called them "Portuguese Tarts.") They were very good.
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First glimpse of Scotland through the clouds. Once we landed we quickly got our bags and got a taxi to where we're staying.
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A view of the city.

We are tired but happy to be here and ready to get some rest so we can explore tomorrow!

Posted by danielcatherine 19:32 Archived in Scotland Tagged edinburgh ireland dublin san_francisco graduation airplanes airbnb aer_lingus Comments (5)

Utah Again, Day 6: This is...Wow...

sunny 102 °F

Today had a bit of chaotic start. Due to the weather and the tiredness of the new arrivals yesterday, we had planned that we would reserve the Angel's Landing hike for Friday or skip it altogether. We were sleeping in when we got a call that several people were planning on going to Angel's Landing. Daniel wanted to do the hike but Catherine did not, so for today we will have separate entries that detail the day we each had.
Daniel
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I drove with Fr. Michael and Justin to Zion National Park. The other group, consisting of Joe, Jason, Nicole, and Sean, had gone the "scenic route" to the east entrance of the park, which involved driving through the famous tunnel. We decided to go the same way, and stop at Apple Annie's first to get some water.
Angel's Landing is a large rock formation that is one of the most famous and difficult hikes in Zion National Park. Anthony and I hiked part of it last year, although the estimate that we were twenty minute from the top was not exactly accurate. Today we intended to go all the way to the top, which involves some hiking with chains to prevent falling from the drop-offs.
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Some pictures as we went up the mountain. One advantage that we had is that the elevation where we were staying at Brian Head was about 9,600 feet, while the elevation at the top of Angel's Landing is only 5,800 feet. Thus, we were already acclimated to a higher elevation, and the hike was not as grueling as it would have been were we staying at a lower elevation. However, the weather was hot (about 102 degrees) and the hike up is almost entirely uphill, which is difficult.
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We went up very fast, and reached the Owl Canyon/ Refrigerator Canyon area in about twenty minutes, as opposed to the hour and a half it took last year. We had to stop for water breaks fairly regularly.
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This pictures shows the way up the West Rim trail, on the way to Refrigerator Canyon.
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After Refrigerator Canyon we came to the famous Walter's Wiggles. These were named after Walter Ruesch, the first superintendent of Zion National Park. They are 21 switchbacks that rapidly go up the side of Angel's Landing. Because they start when you are almost two miles into the hike already, they are very grueling and slow.
Once we reached the top of Walter's Wiggles, there is a place called Scout's Lookout. It has bathrooms and a lot of room to sit and rest. We regrouped there and planned the rest of our journey. After Scout's Lookout the chain system begins: it is not much of a system, really: it is just chains that you can hold on to so you don't fall off the mountain. Although it looks dangerous in pictures it didn't feel all that dangerous.
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These pictures show some of the steepness of the chain section, and how narrow the path is. The one nice thing is that once you get to this section, it is easier in many ways than the areas before: it is more likely to be flat or stair-like than it is to be an uphill walk. However, the drop-offs are psychologically difficult: Fr. Michael provided the title of today's entry when he said "this is...wow..." as he looked down while taking a step (he also suggested "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" but that was too long for Travellerspoint to use).
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This picture shows the drop-off on both sides at one point during the chain section.
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Taking a step.
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Hiking along the edge.
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Some pictures as we got closer to the end of the section section.
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Fr. Michael, Joe, Jason, me, and Justin near the top. Nicole and Sean had stayed back a bit, but they did reach the top later on.
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We had some snacks at the top of the mountain and rested for a bit.
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Condors! We could see a California Condor drifting from the mountaintop. The pictures don't really do it justice: it was hard to get a decent picture of a moving bird.
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Steep drop-offs along the path on the way down. Fr. Michael and I decided to go down, while the other group waited for Nicole and Sean so that they could take a group picture at the top.
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To me, the way down felt a lot easier.
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The green and red contrast is beautiful.
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These pictures, which highlight the darkness in Refrigerator Canyon against the light shining on the other mountains, seem like they could be an advertisement for the National Parks.
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The lower part of the trail in the afternoon, which was much cooler and more pleasant than the way up. I wore my St. Michael's shirt because of the name of the hike.
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There were a lot of chipmunks on the trail on the way down. They seemed to be showing off how fast and capable they were of rushing down the mountain. They had little fear of humans and would stay about two feet ahead of us, keeping just that distance before skittering off between the switchbacks.
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Some of the pictures I took near the bottom of the hike.
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Can you believe we were all the way up there?

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We waited for a while at the bottom of the trail, at the shuttle stop. Once the rest of the group came down, we got on the shuttle to the visitor's center. Once we were all together, we decided to try going to the brewery, which is right outside the park in easy walking distance. It was crowded, so we tried the Zion Pizza and Noodle Company. That also had a long wait, so we went all the way to Cedar City before having dinner. We went to Centro Woodfired Pizza, which had Rogue Hazelnut beer, a delicious arugula salad, and some delicious pizzas, including a fennel sausage pizza and a pizza margherita. It was a wonderful dinner after the long day of hiking. It started raining heavily during dinner, which made us glad that we weren't caught in the rain on the hike. We then drove back to Brian Head to rest for tomorrow, when we go on our mountain bike expedition.

Catherine
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I went on a hike with my parents, Nick, Crystalynne, Calista, Cecilia, and Gabriel at the Sunset trail at Cedar Breaks, even though we did it during the day. It was a beautiful trail, but very windy. It was the kids' first time getting out on the trail and seeing Cedar Breaks, and they were very enthusiastic about it. They loved the wildflowers.

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After that we went back to the resort. We got in our swimsuits to go swimming, but stopped at the Activity Center to make some slime. After the slime activity we went swimming with Ryan, Kristina, Evelyn, and Noah. It was very fun. After that we all went to dinner at the resort restaurant, which was fun. We had a wonderful day around the resort and at Cedar Breaks!

Both
It was late when Daniel got back from the Angel's Landing hike, and he had a bike ride to do the next day. We were both very tired and went to bed fairly early.

Posted by danielcatherine 07:01 Archived in USA Tagged beer utah hike pizza zion chain condors chipmunks owls angels_landing refrigerator_canyon walter's_wiggles switchback Comments (1)

Utah Again, Day 5: Sunrise is Just a Word

rain 71 °F

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The weather was somewhat rainy today. It made it difficult to plan for hikes or other activities. However, we had lunch with Catherine's parents and decided that the weather would allow for a drive and possibly would clear enough for a hike. We drove to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is a beautiful route through a prairie/ high desert landscape.
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We arrived in Bryce Canyon National Park, which is a very interesting location. It is similar in some ways to Cedar Breaks, and somewhat different from Zion. It feels more temperate and less desert-like than Zion, and is much cooler. They also appear to have bat boxes.
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We decided to go to Sunrise Point, which caused a bit of a discussion. Anthony pointed out that "sunrise is just a word" when someone suggested that we might go to Sunset Peak instead. He was trying to point out that Sunrise Peak was beautiful even in the afternoon, and was not only suitable for viewing at sunrise. However, this lead to a lot of other statements, like "a hike is just a state of mind" and "Brian Head is just in your head." Eventually we got to the parking area but had a bit of trouble finding the trailhead. Catherine was actually the one who found it: she is apparently now an expert in geography and navigation.
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Some of the trails have interesting, fairytale-like names.
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We went to Sunrise Point and found that it is in fact a very real place and not merely a word. It would be beautiful at sunrise, but it was beautiful in the afternoon as well.
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Catherine suggested that Anthony and Daniel could do the Queen's Garden trail, which involved a hike down into the amphitheater and then back up. She and Katie waited at the point.
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There were amazing views from the hike down into Queen's Garden. It seems almost prehistoric, like a setting where you would expect to see dinosaurs and pterosaurs.
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Daniel and Anthony during the Queen's Garden hike.

We left Bryce in time to get back to Brian Head and get on the road to St. George. Catherine's brother, Fr. Michael, had been at a conference in Kansas City and was flying in to St. George to join the group. Since we tend to stay up a bit later and his plane was coming in at 9:00PM, we were the ones who went over to get him. We got back to Brian Head and then left in time to have dinner and pick Fr. Michael up at the airport.

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We had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant called Viva Chicken. Catherine got a chicken sandwich and Daniel got a rice bowl, and we also had some plantains. We seem to have eaten a surprising amount of South American food on this trip, which isn't exactly what we expected in Utah. We also tried Inca Kola, which we had heard of before and seen people drinking but never tried. It isn't really much like cola at all: it tastes more like a cream soda.

We then drove to the Saint George Airport, which was very small. Fr. Michael's plane landed and he was at our car within fifteen minutes. We then drove all the way back to Brian Head. When we turned to go up the mountain he felt like we were going to the middle of nowhere, which is somewhat accurate. Catherine's parents came over to visit for a bit. We will probably have a restful day tomorrow, especially because it might be rainy and stormy again. There are a lot of beautiful drives and fun things to do indoors as well, however, so if hikes or mountain biking aren't options we will find something else to do!

Posted by danielcatherine 05:20 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Utah Again, Day 4: Vote for Pedro

Pronounced "Peedro"

overcast 72 °F

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Today was a somewhat less eventful day. We slept in a bit and then decided to drive to Parowan to buy some groceries. Catherine texted everyone to see what they were doing, but no one really responded. It seems that most of them were outside of phone service at the time. Luckily, Kristina messaged back after a bit, so she came with us. We decided first to go see the Parowan Petroglyphs. We've written about them before: they are fascinating images and well worth seeing. Inside the Parowan Gap it is easy to imagine how it would have looked in ancient times when people stopped here and carved art into the walls for whatever reason they had.
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(This picture was added in an edit on 6/23/21. Catherine and Kristina had insisted on Daniel posing like the guy on the Hamburger Patty's sign).
After that we went to Hamburger Patty's, a restaurant we had visited last year. Daniel got the "Indian Taco," which is served on frybread and was very good. We also had frybread with honey butter for dessert. We enjoyed it and Kristina did too. After that we went to the Parowan Market to get some supplies for our dinner tonight. It was really nice to catch up with Kristina after not having seen her in person for over a year.

Catherine's parents came over for dinner, and so did Nick and Crystalynne and their kids. We had the bierocks that we had picked up in Tehachapi on our way here: the kids had pepperoni pizza bierocks and the adults had the traditional beef, onion, and cabbage. They were very good. We also had a cherry pie that we had bought at the Parowan Market for dessert. Side note: the cherry pie was difficult to slice so Catherine served it as a cherry compote. Cecilia gobbled it up and said "thank you for the cherry compost, Auntie."

After dinner we went over to Catherine's Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary's condo to play games for a little. We played "Just One," a game where you try to give one-word clues to get someone to guess another word. As always, we had a lot of laughs.

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Daniel brought his telescope on this trip so that we could have an astronomy night. Cedar Breaks National Monument is a dark sky site. Unfortunately, it was somewhat cloudy. We set up the telescope at the resort instead of going into the National Monument for the dark skies, since it was unlikely that we would have been able to see much anyway. We were able to look at the moon as well as a few stars. It might be possible to look at some other things later on during the trip. Catherine's parents, her Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary and Justin, and Ryan and Kristina came down to look through the telescope. After that, we asked Ryan and Kristina if they would teach us to play Pedro.
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Pedro is a card game, and it is pronounced Peedro. It is very popular in San Benito County, California, where Catherine's dad's family is from. It is a trick-taking game, which Catherine (having tried to learn it as a young child) described as "the most bizarre game in the world." When we learned it, it wasn't actually all that bizarre. Catherine has sometimes referred to some of her family members as having a "Pedro Brain," and tonight she began to suspect she might just have a Pedro brain after all. It was similar in some ways to 500, the game we play with Daniel's family. We are hoping to teach 500 to Ryan and Kristina later on during the trip.

Posted by danielcatherine 07:17 Archived in USA Tagged market dinner games pedro petroglyphs astronomy parowan hamburger_patty's bierocks frybread indian_taco just_one Comments (1)

Utah Again, Day 3: The Emerald Pools

sunny 103 °F

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Today we went to Zion National Park with Nick and Crystalynne, Joe and Mary, Ryan, and Justin. Above you can see another picture of the Ringtail Cat sculptured that reminded Catherine of Flora so much last year. For comparison, we have included a picture of Flora. They do have somewhat similar tails.
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The rest of the group wanted to hike The Narrows, which follows the Virgin River back past the paved trail. You walk in the river, and most people rent equipment to do it. We decided to do the Kayenta Trail, which starts at a place called The Grotto and ascends to the three Emerald Pools: Upper, Middle, and Lower.
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There weren't very many people on the trail as we were hiking up. We encountered a few people on their way down, but the information they gave us about the top of the trail was somewhat vague. Our hope was to reach the pools and then hike down the other way, on the Emerald Pools Trail back to Zion Lodge.
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We kept going towards the pools.
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Eventually we reached the Middle Pool. There was a short secondary trail to the Upper Pool, but we wanted to figure out our path to make sure we were on track to get to the Lodge and to meet up with the group on time, so we headed down to the lower pool. The lower pool is, understandably, below the upper pool. There is a waterfall that you walk behind, and there is the interesting phenomenon of small plants growing on the well-watered ledge behind the waterfall.
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The path from the lower pool to the Lodge was much easier than the Kayenta Trail from the Grotto. We were able to finish it much more quickly than the trail up. It also provided some beautiful views, but the way up was unmatched for quiet serenity.
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We arrived at the Lodge, where we were able to see deer and wild turkeys. Most of it had been closed last year, but this year the gift shop in the lodge was open so we looked around there a bit before taking the shuttle back to the visitors' center.
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At the visitors' center we were able to get some nice pictures of the moon as it came up over the rocks. We waited there for the rest of our group: phone service wasn't good, so we waited for some time and got a text that the rest of our group was getting on the shuttle at about the same time they arrived. They had had fun on the Narrows trail, but we still felt happy with our choice of hiking Kayenta Trail.
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We went to a cafe in Springdale called Oscar's, which mostly serves Mexican food but also has burgers and other sandwiches. Catherine got chili verde tamales and Daniel got enchiladas. It was a very good meal (note, the building in the picture is not Oscar's, but a building across the street. The picture was taken from Oscar's and shows the moon over the rocks).

Posted by danielcatherine 06:25 Archived in USA Tagged lodge hike quiet flora grotto zion narrows emerald_pool ringtail oscar's kayenta Comments (1)

Utah Again, Day 2: Dead Duck

semi-overcast 76 °F

Note: No ducks die nor are any found dead in the course of this entry.
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We went with Catherine's parents, her Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe, and her cousin Justin on a hike at Cedar Breaks National Monument. This was one we didn't do last year, which went to a place called Spectra Point.
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Some pictures along our hike. The contrast between the forest and the amphitheaters is really incredible.
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A historical building, and some more views.
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We got to Spectra Point which was incredibly beautiful. It was amazing for the people who hadn't yet been to Brian Head to see how close this is to our resort.
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After the hike, Joe and Mary hosted a barbecue at the barbecue area at the resort. After dinner we made s'mores, and Ryan and Kristina's son Noah wanted to play "Dead Duck." When we agreed to play Dead Duck, dead duck had a great deal in common with Duck Duck Goose. In fact, it was indistinguishable, except for having fewer and less consistent rules. It quickly devolved into chasing, similar to a game that Daniel's sister Hilary created as a child called "Roll Hot Potato."

We then went to the bar at the resort and talked about going to Zion National Park tomorrow!

Posted by danielcatherine 05:15 Archived in USA Tagged bar duck zion barbecue spectra cedar_breaks historical_house dead_duck roll_hot_potato Comments (0)

Utah Again, Day 1: Venezuela

sunny 120 °F

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Flora was, as always, very helpful in our packing process.

This year, we are going to Brian Head, Utah again with more of Catherine's family: her parents, her brother Nick and his wife Crystalynne and their kids, and her Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary's family. Her brother Fr. Michael will also be joining us for part of the trip. It is exciting to be back with a larger group!

We picked up some pastries in Tehachapi at a German bakery, and also got some bierocks to have as our group dinner.

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In Las Vegas it was extremely hot and extremely crowded. We tried for some time to find parking, which was difficult. We wanted to go to Cornish Pasty Co., but there was no parking to be found anywhere nearby. Instead, we found a place called Viva Las Arepas, which is Venezuelan food. They had empanadas (which are of course very similar to pasties) and arepas, which seem more like a sandwich. It was very good, and we will probably go back another time when we are on our way through Las Vegas.

By the time we finished dinner it was dark, and we journeyed through Nevada, the northwestern-most tip of Arizona, and southern Utah in the darkness, reaching our destination at 12:30. We had to check in with the security guard, and we were exhausted. We're very excited about the upcoming trip!

Posted by danielcatherine 19:33 Archived in USA Tagged las_vegas arizona cat utah flora venezuela nevada empanadas selma arepas pasties bierocks tehachapi Comments (1)

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