Wonderful Wednesday Personal Blog
Thursday began early, but we had a long day ahead and much to accomplish. So we bade a reluctant farewell to Edinburgh and set off northward on our next adventure.
The scenery was stunning, and kept me glued to the bus window. Our ride was filled with lots of songs from the region as we traveled through Fife and Angus on our way to Aberdeen where we'd catch the ferry to Orkney.
We took a wee break at the wonderfully quirky Cairn O' Mohr Winery for tea, a scone, and samples of some Scottish fruit wines. (Please say the winery name aloud)
After we left the winery, we were met a short time later by Jim Malcolm's lovely mum who shared Forfar Bridies with us. Yummy and just what we needed!
A couple of hours later, we arrived at Dunnottar Castle. It's difficult to describe the magnificence of this medieval castle. Perched atop an enormous rock in the North Sea and attached to the mainland only by a narrow strip of land, it appears completely formidable, yet it was captured three times in its history. The first was in the 9th century when Vikings attacked Dunnottar Castle, killing King Donald II. They then destroyed the castle. By 1276, the castle had been rebuilt and a new church erected where St. Ninian's chapel, the original structure built in the 4th century, once stood.
Dunnottar Castle then bounced from Scottish to English control, and in 1297, William Wallace burned out English soldiers who took refuge in the church--then destroyed the castle.
In the early 14th century, the castle became home to the Keiths, one of the most powerful families in Scotland. They built most of what remains today, including the tower and curtain wall. In 1645, a Royalist Army commanded by the marquess of Montrose marched on Dunnottar Castle, demanding a treaty with the Earl. Failing to receive an answer, Montrose destroyed the entire area surrounding the castle, burning homes, fields, the boats in the harbor, and the nearby town of Stonehaven.
Oliver Cromwell's army besieged Dunnottar Castle in 1651, and the castle was surrendered 8 months later.
In 1715, the castle was seized by the Crown after the 10th and final Earl Marishal was convicted of treason for his part in the Jacobite uprising. The castle was sold to York Mining Company in 1717 and stripped of anything of value. In 1925, Lady Cowdry purchased the castle and began its restoration.
As you glance through the photos below, take a moment and imagine the crash of waves far below, the cries of gulls, the tang of sea spray, and the damp wind on your face. Dunnottar Castle once was filled with the sound of voices, the whinnies of horses, the ring of steel. This day, it was full of the passage of time and the ghosts of those who once trod the cobbled paths.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Dunnottar Castle. The path leading to the castle was long and I stopped counting the steps at 200 (I've discovered there are 272 total). But being inside the castle and the views from it were completely worth the journey.
As you can tell from all the photos, I totally fell in love with this castle.
Our first full day in Edinburgh began with a morning jaunt to Rosslyn Chapel (see yesterday's post), and we returned to Edinburgh for lunch at Deacon Brodie's Fish House.
We traipsed up and down the Royal Mile, taking in the sights, smells, and shops of Edinburgh, and working off a bit of the fabulous fish and chips Deacon Brodies is known for.
I've been taking fiddle lessons for about 4 years, and sometime before the actual trip to Scotland, realized the country is full of fiddlers and I might be able to find time for a lesson.
After a few emails with the ever-so-kind Susie Malcolm, I settled on a lesson from a brilliant fiddler named Rachel on Wednesday afternoon. My day was beginning to look rather full.
The upside was, the Edinburgh shop for Sheila Fleet Jewelry https://sheilafleet.com/ was just up the road from St. Vincent's Chapel where I'd take my fiddle lesson. I haven't mentioned yet, but this trip included my mom and two cousins, all of whom are huge Sheila Fleet fans. So, my fiddle lesson was eagerly anticipated by me, and by the women who would have the taxi drop them off for an hour of shopping for some truly exquisite jewelry.
The trip went rather wrong at this point.
After always seeing taxis outside the hotel, there were, of course, none when I needed it. I'd given myself 30 minutes to make the 15 minute drive, and spent 30 seconds convincing the concierge I needed a taxi quickly.
Ten minutes later, our chariot arrived. With a nod, the driver zoomed off through Edinburgh traffic and eventually came to a stop at the bottom of a cobbled street.
Next to a pub. I'd already gotten out since I saw two likely structures with lovely spires, but when I asked which was St. Vincent's Chapel, the driver merely shrugged.
After checking road intersections and the directions I'd been given, I felt a bit reassured I was in the right place, and chose the closest church--but didn't find the distinctive red door I'd been told to enter through. Nor did I see one at the other church.
By this time, the taxi was a mere smudge in the distance, and I was at the bottom of a very steep hill with no other churches in sight. As luck would have it, a lady with two small children rounded the corner, and I politely stopped them and asked if they could tell me where St. Vincent's Chapel was. The lady said she didn't know, but the older of the two little girls said, oh yes, it was just up the hill, to the busy traffic, then turn left.
Seriously? The little girl assured me she was right, and who was I to argue? Did I mention the hill was steep? I was going to be late.
I started up the hill, not having kind thoughts about taxi drivers (please forgive me--every other driver I've met has been perfectly wonderful), and made it halfway up the hill before I decided I was going the wrong direction. I found another young lady who also said she didn't know where the chapel was (this was beginning to sound ominous), but helped me ask a third young woman (apparently my American accent was quite bewildering to these helpful Scots), and finally got a definitive answer. The chapel was at the bottom of the hill, and she pointed out which building.
Back I go, charging down the hill. I pulled out my phone and called Rachel--and got voice mail. My message went something like, "Um, Rachel, hi, this is Cathy. I'm wandering St. Vincent's Street, looking for the chapel--would you mind calling me back or maybe stick your head out the door and give me a wave?"
I got back to the chapel and proceeded to walk around, determined to find the red door. It was tucked in a nook of a small garden, and it was locked. As it was only a minute or two after 4, I didn't think she'd given up on me and left. After a quick knock, she opened the door, and we laughed at my misadventure.
The lesson? Pure gold. Lots of comments on technique which were hugely helpful, and I learned a lovely melody called Maggie West's Waltz. You can hear a YouTube version of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVowiz9FIDs
The journey from St. Vincent's Chapel to the Sheila Fleet store was largely uneventful, and the rain mostly held off until we were all safely back in a taxi and headed to our hotel. Dinner was fun at Canon's Gait Pub with a concert by Susie and Jim's daughter, Beth, who is quite an accomplished musician. What an evening!
Wednesday began our first full day in Scotland. As you'll see from the photos, the day was a bit dreicht, but the rain was rather misty, and only intermittent.
I did, however, learn my brown shoes are not waterproof.
We had several choices on how to spend our day, and 5 of us chose to grab a taxi and head to Roslin and visit the chapel.
I couldn't have made a better choice. Not only is the stonework utterly amazing, but I learned that everything--EVERYTHING--has a meaning.
If you go, be sure to listen to the information talks from the guides, which occur every hour or so during the day.
Rosslyn Chapel sits in the town of Roslin, Scotland, and no one seems to know why the spellings don't match.
Building began in 1446 by Sir William St. Clair, and was intended to be a much larger chapel. It took 40 years to create the building we see today, and if I had photos of the interior (which aren't allowed), perhaps you'd see why it took so long to build. If you'd like to see a few, click here: https://www.rosslynchapel.com/visit/things-to-do/explore-the-carvings/)
When Sir William died, progress on the chapel ceased, and with the Reformation, the building fell into disuse and disrepair and was heavily damaged in 1592. Restoration began in 1861. The foundation walls indicate the chapel, had Sir William's heirs chosen to continue his project, would have rivaled the size of a small cathedral.
So, what's so intriguing about the interior of Rosslyn Chapel?
To begin with, the carvings are exquisite. Even if you look no further, you'll see carvings that seem to defy the era in which they were created. The profusion of carvings is almost overwhelming, and most remain in good repair.
But if you dig deeper...
To whet your appetite, here are 4 things you will see inside Rosslyn Chapel. The photos aren't mine, and I've given credit as I found it.
1. The Apprentice Pillar. Of all the beautiful columns in Rosslyn Chapel, this is the only one with carving on the post itself. It sits in a spot of honor at the front of the chapel, and legend says this was the last pillar carved, reserved for the craft of the master stone mason himself. The master set out to gain inspiration for this task, touring Italy and other places. Whilst he was away, an apprentice claimed he received a vision for the pillar, and began carving the stone. He created quite a masterpiece, far beyond what his experience would credit, and the masons placed the pillar in its place of honor and awaited the master's return. The master was hugely impressed, however, rage and jealousy overtook him, and he struck the apprentice, killing him instantly. If you glance behind you as you gaze at this amazing carved pillar, you'll see the carving of a young man's head with what appears to be an injury at its temple. Next to him is the carving of a woman's head, grieving for the death of the apprentice (rumored to be his mother). On the opposite corner is the carving of a man's head--the master who paid for the crime of killing the apprentice with his own death. His carving is placed so that he will view the apprentice's pillar throughout eternity.
2. Carved musical cubes. There are angels playing musical instruments in one part of the chapel, along with 213 cubes with puzzling carvings etched in them. A musician and his son who was an ex-code breaker, spent 27 years looking for the meaning of these cubes. They discovered the patterns on the cubes correspond to the patterns created on water or sand when a specific note is played. This is called the Chladni pitch, which is a phenomenon discovered (re-discovered?) about 200 years after these cubes were carved.
3. The Nativity. On this single hanging boss is the 8-point Star of Bethlehem, the Virgin Mary and child, the manger, the three wise men, and three shepherds.
4. Carvings of Maize or Indian Corn surrounding a window. These carvings look exactly like cobs of corn, however, the carvings predate Christopher Columbus' journey to America, and corn is indigenous to the Americas. If the carving truly is maize, it may support the idea that Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, sailed to Greenland and the Americas almost a hundred years before Columbus.
5. No photo of this one, but worth mentioning. A carving of the seven Heavenly Virtues, with a carving of the seven Deadly Sins on the reverse. Interestingly enough, we find Greed depicted among the virtues, and Charity among the sins. Did the stone mason make a mistake? Or was this intentional to show that evil can be found among goodness, and goodness can be found among evil?
I hope you've enjoyed exploring Rosslyn Chapel with me. Rest assured, there are numerous aspects of this chapel I haven't touched on which you simply have to see and experience for yourself. Don't pass up an opportunity to visit.
I just returned from a fantastic tour of Scotland with the two best tour guides in the country, Jim and Susie Malcolm.
If you're a fan of Celtic music, you may have encountered Jim on one of his tours of the US (and you'll be excited to learn Susie--and perhaps his brother, Scott--will be touring with him in the future!). Their Scotland tours are full of history and charm, music, and a wee dram or two.
If you're interested in how I spent the tour, read on and check back for new episodes, as I couldn't possibly put everything into one blog post. You'll find photos of the places we visited, notes about the tour, and maybe a giggle or two.
Let's get started! Enjoy!
Day 1: Edinburgh
After a fairly uneventful flight, we all stowed our luggage at our hotel, and set out to take in the sights. We had an hour or so until lunch at a delightful pub across from the hotel, where we all met for the first time. This tour was rooted in music, and our first concert was the best accompaniment for our meal. Afterward, we jumped on the bus and took a tour of Edinburgh, stopping at Holyrood Palace. It was such a beautiful place to begin our tour!
Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the palace, but you can view a few photos here: https://www.rct.uk/visit/palace-of-holyroodhouse
Holyroodhouse, built in 1128 by David I as an Augustinian Monastery, was stunning. It's difficult to comprehend the architecture without seeing it firsthand, but take a peek at the photos and see for yourself.
Holyroodhouse soon became the Scottish kings' preferred residence, as Edinburgh Castle was a bit austere and sat high atop the hill overlooking Edinburgh. Holyroodhouse, by comparison, was comfortably situated at the end of High Street and surrounded by lush parkland. In 1501, James IV began transforming Holyroodhouse into a palace, and the structure has seen many additions and modifications since, even as late as in the twentieth century when King George V and Queen Mary added bathrooms, electricity, and lifts. Holyrood Palace is still the official royal residence when the Queen is in Edinburgh.
How could the tour of Holyrood Palace and Abbey be better? By visiting the Palace Gardens, of course! Every curve in the path, every shift of sunlight, was better than the last. The rhododendron were in full bloom, and the hostas were huge, though I somehow failed to get a photo. Enjoy the garden tour.
Join me tomorrow for a visit to Rosslyn Chapel.
We had two dogs. Why did we need another?
I didn't have time for a puppy.
I was still grieving the loss of my corgis who had been with me for nearly 14 years.
I couldn't be tempted.
Until I met Rezso.
He didn't get along with Freki and Gunnar. He wanted to be in charge. It would have been laughable, but the big dogs were adamant they didn't want an interloper in their world.
But he somehow managed to win our hearts--and most of the toys.
He was such a beautiful puppy!
And he loved to cuddle! (Still does, actually)
He demanded to sleep with us. Not going to happen, I said. After the first week, he slept with us every night.
Housebreaking-- made it eventually.
Chewing-- still does, and we have the chewed baseboards and window sill to prove it.
Training-- he has earned his Canine Good Citizen award, and a Novice Trick Dog title. But his biggest challenge lies ahead. But more on that later.
If you follow Rezso on Instagram (#adventureswithRezso) or even on my facebook page (Cathy MacRae Author), you'll have seen Rezso grow through his training classes at our local(ish) dog training center. (An hour and a half drive, but worth it)
Rezso's heritage is working dogs. His pedigree is thick with Schutzhund titles, agility, tracking and herding certifications. I thought agility work would be fun, and we still might pursue that route.
But we've been sidetracked.
In December of last year my husband and I made the decision to train Rezso as a service dog. Without going into the 'whys', I'll just state that as time passes, he is becoming more valuable to me in his new role.
(Isn't he adorable in his harness? He's 5 months old here, and it appears he's going to need a bigger harness now)
When I contacted a service dog trainer about furthering Rezso's training, she cautioned me about protective German Shepherds. I have to say that's the only down side about placing Rezso in this role. He IS protective, though he is also thoughtful (which is a word his breeder used to describe him, and very accurate) and doesn't just dive into situations, for which I'm very thankful.
We now meet with the SD trainer twice a month and she helps me teach him new tasks. He's doing so well--I'm afraid I'm his limiting factor. It's humbling to admit the dog may be smarter :-)
Rezso has gotten to be too big to ride in the front seat. He often rides in his crate, but if it's a short hop to the store, I let him grab a seat. This is what I see.
In this photo, we were at one of his favorite places - Sonic. I don't advocate ice cream for pets, but he gets a treat from time to time, and no matter if it's been a month or more since the last one, he remembers the place, and waits eagerly for the carhop to bring him his prize.
He turned 9 months old this week, and though we haven't weighed him lately, he was 70 lbs at 7 months, and he's grown quite a bit since then. We're guessing he's close to 90 lbs.
He's really too big to ride in the front seat, but with the sunroof open, and ice cream on the way, he opted to sit up front for a bit.
He hasn't figured out the sun roof, but he sure knows where the AC vents are!
As you can see, he's wearing a training vest. My goal is to post a bit about our journey together. But bear with me. We're in the middle of prepping a house to move and writing time is at a premium.
Have you ever tried to prep a house with 3 dogs underfoot?
Wow! Can you believe he's already 6 months old?
He arrived at our house at 8 weeks old, and fit fairly seamlessly into the family.
Rezso still has a lot of growing to do, and he's working hard at it! He downs 2.5 cups of food twice a day, plus training treats and other goodies in his bowl.
He loves the water--I've never had a dog so happy to take a bath! Of course, after playing in the kiddie pool and rolling in the dirt, he needs a bath often.
He started obedience classes at 10 weeks old, and has been the youngest in his class ever since. In level 2, the trainer mentioned he might not be old enough to do the off-leash recall, and the lady sitting beside me--who had been in Rezso's level 1 class with her dog--leaned over and whispered, "She doesn't know Rezso, does she?" Rezso loves to 'work'.
He's got some big work ahead of him. I'll keep you posted!
After graduating Basic Obedience Level I, we've moved on to Level 2! This is prep work for Rezso's Canine Good Citizenship certification. He's working hard on accepting new situations, and is already a hit at Lowe's and PetCo, and he's even a seasoned traveler with a weekend stay in a hotel.
Not to mention, he's a whiz at his lessons and loves to help with the laundry. (That's his story, and he's sticking to it.) But, seriously, he is learning to pick up things I drop and carry them for me. But more on that on another post.
We also enrolled Freki in a class. She has a difficult time accepting other/strange dogs and we'd all but given up on being able to take her places with us where we knew there were other dogs.. Thanks to a wonderful trainer who took time to work with her and assured us it was a lack of confidence, not aggression, that fueled her bad behavior, we got up the courage to ask the trainers at Canine Sports Academy if we could give class a try.
They were welcoming and helpful, and it has been wonderful to see Freki slowly losing her preoccupation with the other dogs in her class and focusing more on what dad is asking her to do.
Attempting to stand on wobbly discs, rubber 'peanuts' (see the red ball in the background?) or any of the other activities in this class puts her in a somewhat vulnerable position (to her mind). Not to mention there are other dogs happily going about the same stunts only a few feet away. It's a bit noisy and challenging with Rezso just outside the ring shouting encouragement. But Freki is surpassing our expectations!
Way to go, Freki! Can't wait to see where you go from here!
Isn't he a handsome boy?
Rezso is now 4 months old and completed basic 1 obedience class Monday night. He's such a super puppy!
At graduation, each dog was required to do a trick not taught in class. There was a poodle with a faux fur ruff that jumped through a hula hoop decorated with felt 'flames', a terrier that stood on increasingly smaller (or would that be 'decreasingly'?) pads, until his feet touched-- another 'circus' dog!
Lots of other really cool tricks that showed how dedicated the owners were to having wonderful, well-behaved dogs that enjoyed being part of their family.
Our planned trick was 4-fold. Hi-five, turn around, lay down, and roll over. Pretty cute. And required Rezso to focus beyond a single trick and reward. And, let me tell you, he's all about the reward.
But last night, a little girl walked in, fell in love with Rezso, and decided he would learn to jump through a hoop for his trick. She was quite serious.
So, after Rezso did his trick for me, I let him do a trick for his new friend. He's such a trooper!
Here are a few photos from previous classes. Look how much he's grown!!
"Rezso" is a Teutonic name meaning "legendary wolf".
Here he is at 9 weeks old.
(Sorry it took a while to get his post up. We're all a bit sleep deprived around here.)
I'll just say we're completely in love with his smart, confident personality. He's also a cuddler! He sees absolutely no reason for him to be away from us and it has taken us nearly 2 weeks to convince him he needs to sleep in his crate at night. (I shudder to imagine the chewed chair legs--and anything the cat decides to knock off a counter or table top, midnight dashes to chase said cat, and endless potty spots to clean if he wasn't in a crate)
Freki likes him some of the time. He's fearless and charges right back into the fray if he gets knocked down, and she probably admires his tenacity. I have to remind her frequently that he is still a baby. One with very sharp teeth and a tough as nails attitude, but a baby nonetheless.
He's already learned to sit, shake hands, down and walk on leash. He started obedience class Monday night, and he was the youngest in the class. Perhaps a bit overwhelming at first with the sounds and bigger dogs, but he took measure of things, squared his shoulders as if to say "I've got this" and seemed to have a great time.
We'll need a 'trick' for graduation. Suggestions, anyone?
Follow #adventureswithRezso on Instagram for more fun photos!
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