Thursday, July 14, 2011

Welcome to Scotland!

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

After a lot of worry over the weight of our luggage…it was all for nothing.  We flew from London to Edinburgh on BMI and the weight allowances for each of us is 20 kg in addition to one carry on.  I know many people have had issues with discounted airlines but things went smoothly for us on British Midland. 

The flight went well until we were about to land - and I mean we were waiting for the wheels to touch the ground - when all of a sudden the pilot gunned the engines & put the aircraft into a steep climb!  It seems the aircraft ahead of us hit a bird and protocol is that the airport personnel check the runway for remnants….so we circled and got a nice tour of Edinburgh before landing smoothly.

We rented our car with Auto Europe (prepaid) and were upgraded to a Ford Titanium…. the challenge – driving on the left side of the road and shifting a standard with your left hand!  

And so it began, the nail biting and dashboard clutching - I think it is even more difficult being a passenger at times like this.  I don’t believe there is anyone I would trust more than Dan to drive me around in a foreign country, but I needed a little time to have faith in him – especially in the roundabouts!  All I could think of was “keep left!”  After a while we did settle in to the rhythm of the driving but camera guy still had a problem with his perspective on the passenger side of the car.  We were always on the very edge of the road – awfully close to parked cars or the ditch.  I know he was trying to maintain room in the middle of the road but really….

After being told to please stop screaming every time he got close to the edge, I developed this technique that we agreed on (actually I am not really sure Dan agreed, but he seemed to be ok with it and even got a laugh once in a while).  I would say “Beep!”  when he moved towards the edge and “BEEP BEEP BEEP”  at a slightly higher frequency when getting dangerously over – remember there are no shoulders on these roads.  Or very few. 

After a spectacular two hour drive north, we settled in at Polmaily, our bed and breakfast for the next four nights, outside the town of Drumnadrochit- pronounced Droom-na-drock-it.  This is right at Loch Ness and no we didn’t see Nessie- I tried talking to her and begging her to come out but she didn’t co-operate….

 Tomorrow – The Isle of Skye!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mind The Gap – Getting around in London

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The past two days have been spent poking about London.
I have already told you that the Heathrow Express is really the best way to get from Heathrow to Central London (Paddington Station).  It is easy and fast (takes about 20 minutes) and you can buy your tickets easily at the station.

We took a cab back to Paddington to catch the Heathrow Express back to the airport.

Getting around London is not difficult by the Tube .
There are so many trains in so many directions with maps of the routes everywhere.  You can also pick up a pocket map to keep handy.
The question that you’re faced with is what kind of ticket or pass do you buy?

London Oyster cards can be used on all buses, trams, Tube and more. 

Oyster is an electronic smartcard ticket. Simply touch your card on the yellow reader to get through the Tube gates or board other London public transport services. Oyster pay-as-you-go cards are charged with an amount of credit of your choice.
If you make lots of journeys, the Oyster card will automatically cap the day's charges at the price of an equivalent 1-Day Travelcard.  The aim is to ensure that Oyster always charges the lowest fare. Where it doesn't, you can get a refund. 
Then there is a London Travelcard – we bought this one.  Each day we bought one and we thought it was very convenient as it allowed us unlimited trips in one day.  We weren’t as familiar with the Oyster Card but it would have worked out to the same amount.  It would have saved us having to purchase a Travelcard each day, but that wasn’t really an issue.

There are also the very popular Barclay Bikes similar to the rental bikes we now have in Toronto and Montreal. We considered these, then thought better of the idea. We were having a difficult enough time knowing which way to look when we crossed the street.

 We discovered London….

Trafalgar Square was covered with Harry Potter fans – celebrating the next and last movie of the Potter series coming out shortly.

Pret a Manger, a chain of “take-away” stores which prides itself on fresh sandwiches with quality ingredients, provided us with a nice lunch for a picnic at Tower Hill and a view of the Tower Bridge.

 Queens Horse Guards...

 A quick call ….

 A stop at the Parliament Buildings at Westminster.....

 And of course Big Ben.

 And a walk over to Westminster Abbey….

Canary Wharf was quiet.  It looks like it has potential with pubs and restaurants around the water (like Harbourfront in Toronto)  but it was quite lifeless…

It seems many of the local pubs have been taken over by the same corporation. We had been in 5 different pubs with the exact same menu…served often by people who weren’t familiar with the local beers at all….a little disappointing. Camera Guy ordered lager and got cider - ugh, he didn’t fancy it.

 Tomorrow we leave for Scotland! The pipes, the pipes are calling.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Magical, Mystical Stonehenge

Monday, July 4, 2011

If Stonehenge is on your Bucket list, then this is absolutely the way to do it.  It was tough getting up at two in the morning in order to meet the tour bus at three, but totally worth it. 
I have heard from people about mediocre Stonehenge experiences. They talk about how they didn’t get to go close up, about large crowds, long waits, etc. etc.
David, our tour guide, was as excited as we were.  He said typically they would give his group a number which gave them a turn walking around the outer circle…but not today…our small group was the only one there. We were shocked with the temperature when we got off the bus. It was freezing!  

We stood there as the sun rose, shining its light in between and on the stones.  We were right in the middle …we touched the stones…I even kissed one!
I cannot explain how it took my breath away. Camera Guy was in his glory as well, excited about the perfect conditions and the magic light.

It was a spiritual experience and we couldn’t have asked for a better morning – first the mist (you could hear the sounds of the sheep through the mist) then the sun…rising…wow!

We went from there to Salisbury where we toured the beautiful cathedral.  It was built over the junctions of several rivers and they constantly check that the water level remains constant through a hole in the floor.  They actually dip a stick in this hole-like checking oil! A cool thing about this building is that the dimensions of the tennis court were based on the stained glass windows on the east side of the building.  Just imagine that at this point in the day it was about 7:00 am!

We then had a short visit to Bath, where I ran back up to the Bertinet cooking school to buy an apron. We had lunch in Lacock, a small village where the filming of Harry Potter took place.  We actually had lunch in a pub that was built in 1361 – so the place was serving lager over 100 years before Columbus landed in America!!!

By the time we arrived back in London it was mid afternoon and we were beat. We rested a bit then went out for a great Italian dinner at Da Mario’s, a restaurant that Princess Diana frequented.
Tomorrow…touring a little more of London....good-night…

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011 Back to London!

After Simone’s generous breakfast, we headed back to the train station for our trip back into London.  We had an open ticket and were advised that because it was Sunday, we didn’t have to worry about reserving a seat, as it would be quiet – WRONG!

We barely fit our bags into the train and definitely didn’t have a seat.  We hung out with about 10 other people “in between” the cars for the whole trip back into London.  When we finally arrived in Paddington station, Dan reached through the window to open the door and basically toppled out of the car because we were so stuffed in there.

Our hotel, The Crown Plaza, was nice and really well situated just down the street from Gloucester station. We settled in, took a long walk and dropped by the food hall at Harrods  (the best part) – and relaxed with a pint at a pub. Camera Guy keeps telling me “It’s beer o’clock!”
After a dinner of fish and chips at our local pub, we are turning in early.  After all, we have to wake up at 2:00 AM to meet up with our bus for a Stonehenge tour at 3:00 AM.  We are going on a private tour where we will get to go into the inner circle of Stonehenge and watch the sunrise…
We better get to sleep!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dancing with Dough – the Richard Bertinet way…

July 2, 2011 

After a very warm welcome, master bread maker Richard Bertinet began to teach us about bread.  I read his first book, "Dough" and tried to use his technique but was not very successful...and that is really saying it mildly.

He works with a very wet dough and cringes at the word "kneading", he doesn't believe in it, and instead works the dough by incorporating air into the dough by lifting and slapping it down etc.  ... He corrected my stance and coached me to use my whole body – not just my arms - and truly get a feeling for the dough.  He asked me not to look at it and instead made me look in his eyes….hmmm…I must say he isn’t bad to look at ….

Richard started off the day by reminding us how bad the sliced bread in plastic bags sold in the grocery stores is for us. He then described bread bores and I realized I, in fact, was one. When conversation moves to the bread at the table, I use any opportunity to yak non-stop about bread...and every aspect of it. I want to apologize to my friends and family, but especially to those strangers who find themselves innocently sitting beside me at a company lunch or dinner. I just can't help myself – I am so passionate about it.

We learned how to work a simple white dough, which can be used for a "tin" loaf, a fougasse, breadsticks and focaccia.   We made them all, prepared the beautiful bread baskets when they were ready and sat down for a wonderful lunch.

I find myself right now wanting to go on …and on…about my class, but I will stop and simply say that I had an absolutely amazing day.   If anyone is interested in a class with Richard Bertinet, I highly recommend it!  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

While I was in class, Camera Guy (Dan) wandered around Bath taking some fantastic pictures.  

Thanks Dan for encouraging me to do this! 

And thank you Richard Bertinet for teaching me how to dance with dough!

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 2, 2011 Pretty...

What a view! This morning we woke up to an amazing view of Bath - not only is Bath so pretty, but there were hot air balloons in the sky! Our B&B is perched on a hill over Bath - just a 10 minute walk to the city centre, down the path, turn right at the canal, turn left down the next path, past the cricket club, and you're problem.

Today is my baking class and I am sooooo excited. Richard Bertinet, author of the book "Dough" will be my teacher. I have unsuccessfully tried over and over again to make breads using his technique of slapping wet dough on the counter (avoiding the addition of flour).
Will I be able to learn this? I really have tried! Flinging the wet dough has resulted in my hands, arms, etc as well as the walls in my kitchen, being covered in globs of dough...I am actually a little nervous...but first we have an English breakfast awaiting us...we are coming Simone!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 1, 2011 London to Bath

Transatlantic flights are never easy. There should be an etiquette training session that you have take before getting on the flight. The two people in front of us needed that training- no jumping on the seats, punching each other, flicking the lights on and off - no it is not good...people get upset and flight attendants get upset when they are called numerous times by mistake...UGHHHHHHH.
Enough of that...

After landing in Heathrow we queued up for the border entry line which took about an hour. At least we didn't have to wait for our luggage :) We bought Heathrow Express tickets online but honestly they were selling them at every turn so it really wasn't necessary. It was easy moving with our luggage onto the Heathrow Express which took us from Heathrow to Paddington station in about 20 minutes! By the way, there is no need to buy a first class ticket on this train as it comes is comes so frequently and is such a quick transfer.

From Paddington, we headed over to the train ticket office (on the same level) where we purchased 2 return tickets to Bath leaving at 10:00 am. Watching the board, you need to look for the last stop on your train route (ours was Paignton) to determine which platform you need to hurry over to. It shows up about 10 minutes before the train leaves the station.

The train ride was about 1.5 hours and we hailed a taxi to our B&B. Bath is so picturesque. Every corner you turn there is a pretty setting. We walked to the middle of town (about 10 minutes) after meeting Simone who gave us a key and some friendly tips. This is when you desperately try to stay awake so you can adapt to your new time zone. There was one point when Dan was taking pictures of the incredible stained glass windows in the Bath Abbey.  All I wanted to do was lay down on a bench and sleep...

Fish and chips at a local pub accompanied by a Bellringer beer for me and a Hobgoblin lager for Dan!

Finally we crawled into our cozy excited for tomorrow and my class with Richard Bertinet. I feel like it is my first day of school!
We will catch you later
Penny and Dan

Thursday, June 30, 2011


We sold our house....we bought a new house...and now we are off to Scotland. First we will spend some time in Bath, then London and off to Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeenshire, Stirling and of course Kilmarnock where Dan's dad was born.
We will be staying in B&Bs most of the time but yes...We will be staying in a castle too! We can't wait!

I will blog when I can...but first here is the video I made of our new house. Dan is moving his office into the house so we needed more space. We are very excited because not only do we love the house, but we love the fact that we will be in the Beach area. I keep driving by it and they must think I am stalking them! I took this video just walking around during the home inspection, so it was not really intended to be an actual video, but more for me to remember things as we don't get to go back into it often before we move (2 times). The video is a little crazy and you may get sea sick watching it, but I am new at this. I think Dan is being kind when he said it was good :).

Enough it here.
On the road again


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