Thursday, July 24, 2014


1 June 2014, Chopin Airport, Warsaw, Poland
Computers are supposed to make our lives easier right?  If that’s the case, then why, oh why, was checking in online last night such a nightmare?

I was sitting in my room at the Marriott Courtyard, literally across the street from the airport, selected to make getting to a 6:05 am flight easier.  That worked.  However, six or eight tries to check in a bag online with KLM failed.  “System error” kept coming back.  Since KLM apparently now charges for any checked bags on intra-Europe flights, I wanted to do this online to save; it’s twice as dear at the airport.  I tried two different credit cards in case the original one was causing the problem. Nope.  Finally I gave up and went to dinner with friends.  Thinking the problem might’ve been the hotel’s excruciatingly slow Internet connection, we stopped at my friend Marta’s flat where I often stay and have easy and fast Internet access.  That’s when I learned that I’d somehow checked in without checking a bag.  Marta and I roamed the website and could not find any place to add a suitcase.

The baggage thing niggled at my brain far more than it should’ve and kept me sleepless for a while.  At 3:30 am I arose after about two hours sleep.  Quick shower, re-pack and walk across to the airport, already teeming with people at 4 am.  Frustrating lines to get boarding passes, then to drop and pay for the bag.  Alas, the agent’s computer would not accept payment.  So, I had to go all the way across the departures hall to the KLM office and return with a receipt to have my bag finally added to the conveyor belt.  Security check went more smoothly and quickly than usual.  Whew.

Welcome to #19 Dalblair Rd., Ayr

2 June 2014, Ayr, Scotland
Yesterday I connected easily at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam with friend Bob, who flew in from Kabul, Afghanistan, and we flew together to Glasgow.  We picked up his rental car, and the navigator (read: I) only got us lost three times trying to find the highway from the airport to Ayr.  I have a thing about taking the scenic route and making good use of roundabouts.

En route to Ayr we stopped in Ardrossan to book tickets on the ferry for today.  We’ll do a three-hour Mogabout tour on the Isle of Arran.  More on that once I know what it is; Bob booked it online.

Rain plus the many detours took their toll on our driving time, but Adeline who owns this row house was waiting for us with the red doors open in welcome.  She gave us a tour, showed us how things worked, then departed for her seaside caravan.  Lovely lady with a warm smile.

The house is everything I would want it to be — sunny and warm, cozy and roomy, and friendly and welcoming.  I’m going to have a great month here!

Despite the rain and drizzle, the Mogabout tour was awesome.  A Unimog is a huge truck chassis that Alex, our guide and owner of the company, had re-outfitted into a 16-seat bus.  The passengers sit up quite high for excellent viewing, and the huge tires make easy work of rough terrain in Arran’s national forests and elsewhere.  

Bob & Unibog

Alex, a fire service manager in Glasgow who grew up on the island,  was a terrific guide.  He started the company a few years ago in anticipation of his retirement.  He mixes local stories with details about the natural resources and historic sites we saw.  He’s got a permit to get into parts of the forest that others cannot, hence we got a unique view of the Isle of Arran as well as its neighbor, Holy Island which is now owned by a Buddhist sect that operates a retreat center there as well as a second center to which women retreat for four years!  Day trips are also possible.  Holy Island’s spiritual heritage dates back to the 6th Century.

I’ll post a lot of photos to give you an idea of what we saw.  Without the Unimog, we would never have been able to climb most of the narrow dirt roads we took.  We saw Glenashdale Falls, the Giants’ Graves, a 5000+ year old chambered cairn burial site, and one of many sets of stone circles (ala Stonehenge) on the island.

Ruins of Giants Graves

Remnants of stone circle

Bob and I had admired the beauty of some large flowering shrubs as we walked to meet the tour. Alex told the group they were Quantum Rhododendron, a pretty but invasive species that can no longer be planted on the island because it’s squeezing out other plant life. And we did see a lot of it everywhere, from manicured lawns/gardens to the wilds of the forest.

From an Arran hillside, we watched a herd of cows follow the “head cow” and become a ribbon of lumbering black and white as they trekked in from the field to be milked.  Alex told us that this farm averages two million litres of milk per year, twice the national average, and it’s virtually all used by the local creamery.  The farmer is a fanatic about his cows, their pasturing, grain and silage, milking them three times a day (not the usual two).  He routinely wins milk-quality awards … and the creamery wins cheese-making awards too.

Various interests in the Arran community came together and successfully lobbied for a no-take zone in the waters between the two islands at Lamlash Bay.  They recognized that the maerl coral, fish and seafood were gone and needed time to renew. And the embargo is well policed to ensure compliance.  Established in fall 2008, this is Scotland’s first no-take zone.  The “community coming together” was a frequent theme of Alex’s as he talked of Arran.
"No Take Zone" between Arran
and tiny Holy Island

4 June
For Christmas a couple of years ago my brother Dan gave me a lovely book called “Seven Roundabouts to Heaven.”  After today, Bob might’ve wanted to write one called “A Dozen Roundabouts to Hell.”  

Dorota, husband Jacek and son Franek arrived at Prestwick from Warsaw yesterday, and spent time getting to know Ayr and helping me shop for sustenance.  Dorota was my first Polish teacher during Peace Corps training in 1991.  Today they decided to have an adventure:  They took the train to Edinburgh to see the castle and will return this evening.  So Bob and I decided to drive over to Mom’s hometown, Stevenston, where he could have his picture taken below an “Elderly People” sign. 

The infamous sign
Like me, Bob prefers local roads to highways, and that’s where the trouble arose.  The detailed map I had just wasn’t detailed enough … and the directional signs for towns let me down around Kilwinning.  We did eventually get to Stevenston, but somehow I missed New Street, where my cousin and I had our pictures taken two years ago.  More roundabouts, then my phone rang.  It was Alfreda who was already at the Ayr train station.  I met Alfred when she worked at the USAID mission in Macedonia and I was managing a Booz Allen project there.  She’d flown in from her new post, Senegal, via Amsterdam, then taken the train from Glasgow.  She was going to find a cafe and eat lunch while she waited the 20 or so minutes we’d need to find her.  This time I didn’t get us lost! 

Found Alfreda easily at a cafe across from the train station and drove her to the B&B.  She’s staying in the same one I stayed at last year.  Magdalena, who’s from Poland, was such a great hostess and was able to give Alfreda space for her whole trip.  I brought Magdalena a box of Polish candies, which she loved.

The Tree House in Ayr
Alfreda, Bob and I went to the Tree House restaurant for dinner. On my “cousins and nieces” trip two years ago, we had our first dinner in Ayr here.  The nieces had lobster mac, and much to our surprise, it came with chips (french fries).  Since then, I’ve learned that most everything here comes with chips.  I believe my forebears like their chips almost as much as they like their whisky.  (BTW, do not call it Scotch here.  It’s just plain whisky without the “e.”)  Alfreda and I shared a “sticky toffee pudding sundae,” a deliciously decadent dessert with two inches of freshly whipped cream on top.  We fobbed most of that off to Bob who was having ice cream with chocolate sauce and Bailey’s.

5 July
A very wet yet smiling Dorota and family returned around 9:30 last night.  A deluge hit just as they left the castle.  Since they had off-peak tickets for the train, they had to wait an hour before they could start the journey home.

This morning I got up early and drove to Glasgow airport (GLA) with Bob who was flying out to the US.  I picked up a rental car, practiced driving around for an hour, then parked it while I waited for Jan … almost the last one out.  I was beginning to think she’d missed her flight.  (Jan and I worked together at Women for Women International, my last lengthy overseas job in South Sudan.) 

Wanting to find a shorter route to Ayr, I tested a few more roundabouts, only to get us royally confused as the map appeared to be all wrong … but we finally made it to Ayr.

11 June, Brodick, Isle of Arran
I’ve been so busy having a good time and helping to ensure my friends do too that I haven’t written a word in days.   Weather has alternated between rain, drizzle and sunshine, often doing the former two until late in the afternoon, then the latter until sundown at 11 pm or so.  So, now to play catch up —

In a train station returning from Edinburgh, Jacek had found a brochure about a folk music festival on Arran Island that he wanted to visit, along with the Arran distillery.  So on Friday (6th) he, Dorota, Franiu and I drove to Ardrossan, parked the car and crossed on the ferry. 

Ardrossan-Arran ferry awaits
We sat on ferry’s deck for much of the crossing.  Since the folk festival had a free open mike session starting at noon on the outdoor deck at the Douglas Hotel, Dorota and I bought lunches for everyone at the branch of the Cooperative, a food store we see everywhere, and we ate at a picnic table listening to the music.  The first fellow that we heard sang a bunch of songs that Granny had taught me, like “You Canna Push Your Granny Off the Bus.”  I quietly sang along.

After lunch, we hopped on the island bus toward the distillery … then I realized that I didn’t have my eye glasses, just my sun glasses.  I got off and hiked back to Brodick, arranging to meet the others at the ferry in time to leave.  Returned to the Coop which had four pairs of glasses in its Lost and Found, none mine.  Looked along the sidewalk, checked the picnic table at the Douglas, even asking the current user, went into the hotel bar and down to the restroom.  No luck.  Walking down the steps toward the picnic table, I was resigning myself to my loss when the sun hit a lens … and there they were, sitting in the stones by the picnic table.  Not sure how I missed them before, very glad no one stepped on them.  I enjoyed the sunshine and music while I waited for the others to return.  

On Saturday Dorota and family set off for a rainy day in Glasgow, then returned on Sunday especially to see an art gallery and collection of interest.  
Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery
in Glasgow

I made two airport runs on Saturday, very early in the morning to pick up Kathy, arriving from Atlanta, and in the early evening to pick up Sally, arriving from Athens.  Kathy and I went through our divorces and subsequent dating adventures together back in the mid ‘80s.  Sally is the friend who organized the house in Acapulco where I used to vacation once a year.

Jan, Kathy and Alfreda went to dinner at Saffy’s while I was gone because many (most?) restaurant kitchens close at 8 pm here. 

A favorite eatery
I wasn’t sure I’d return in time … and I didn’t.  British Airways lost Sally’s suitcase, and she was 15th in line to do the paperwork.  She had a few things in her carry on, but I promised to lend her a nightgown and anything else she needed until it arrived.  We were able to get carry-out soup from Saffy’s and had that with some cheese and bread for dinner.  (Sally’s suitcase finally arrived tonight … five days after she did.  Since it arrived before we did, our neighbor took it in.)

Alfreda, Kathy and I walked the seafront route to Alloway, location of the Robert Burns Museum and house where the famous Scottish poet was born, then walked home — all in a driving rain.  Glad I bought rain boots.  Jan had rented a bicycle and was cycling a lot.  She’s done much of the coast path that’s shown on the sign along The Lang Scottish Mile at the seafront.  Rain hasn’t stopped her, and she biked to meet us at Burns’ cottage before heading out again. 

Kathy, Jan and Alfreda had visited Culzean Castle, south of Ayr, already and highly recommended we go.  Jacek said that if they were visiting a castle, it had to rain, and when we four visited Culzean on Monday, it rained pretty heavily much of the time.  Ah, the weather of Scotland.  But it doesn’t deter us.  We are nothing if not an adventurous group.

Jacek photographs
Culzean Castle

Franiu enjoys kids' park

One snipe?

My lady's bathtub

Culzean is located atop a hill along the seafront with awesome views.  It is described in its brochure as a “family friendly place.” The Culzean Country Park has loads of well maintained walking paths, woodlands and wildlife (we saw some deer), a swan pond (we saw lots of ducks and ducklings and two swans), a playground for children (Franiu had a great time despite the wet weather), a walled garden (we walked through to get to the playground) and more.  

Interesting tidbits:
  • The Kennedys were once a powerful Scottish family descended from Robert the Bruce, and Culzean was their home.
  • Culzean is pronounced coo LEAN.  What appears as a “z” was originally a Celtic letter that can’t be duplicated in Roman letters.  A zed was selected to add cache to the name and isn’t pronounced.
  • While parts of the castle existed for centuries, it wasn’t until the mid 18th Century that it became a grand country house. The Scottish architect Robert Adam was brought in design something in keeping with the family’s status and wealth.  The castle is a masterpiece of Adam’s architecture which he never got to see completed (nor did the Kennedy who commissioned him).
  • Taken over by the Scottish National Trust in 1945, the top floor was converted into an apartment for US General Eisenhower who visited on four occasions, including while he was US president.

Early Tuesday morning, I drove Dorota, Jacek and Franiu to Prestwick for their Ryanair flight back to Warsaw, then Kathy, Sally, Jan and I drove to Ardrossan to take the ferry (with the car) across to Arran for my third trip to this not-so-little piece of paradise.  We stayed overnight at Drimla Cottage, a lovely house owned by Dave and Patty, friends of Kathy’s who graciously gave her the keys and directions.  Dave’s from Arran. 

Sally, Kathy, Jan outside
Drimla Cottage on Arran
For two days, we explored, walked, toured the distillery, ate well and generally had a relaxing time.  Jan did most of the driving, which was great for me (and I suspect for everyone else’s nerves.  I still have a habit of driving too far to the left, despite my best efforts).

14 June, Ayr
The house feels empty today.  This morning I drove Kathy and Sally to the airport.  Kathy’s flight on Virgin to Orlando left at 10, and Sally was staying over at the airport Holiday Inn to catch an 
early BA flight tomorrow.  While I had the house to myself on Thursday while Kathy, Sally and Jan went to Edinburgh, that was different.  I knew two of the three were returning; Jan was going to a hotel so she could catch an early Friday flight.  Today is different — I feel a bit lonely.  The cousins arrive on Monday, so I have time to change beds, clean bathrooms, do some laundry.  The work will do me good.

Yesterday Kathy suggested a journey to Dumphries House and Crossraguel Abbey.  So right after lunch at home, she, Sally and I hopped in the car and off we went to the countryside.  My left-side driving is improving a lot.  I don’t get rattled by the fast moving buses and lorries in the other lane as I did two years ago en route to St. Andrew’s.

Dumphries House only does guided tours, and we were in time for a “house tour,” as opposed to an “art tour” or “grand tour.”  The was designed and built by the Adam brothers, Robert, John and James, in the mid 18th Century for the 5th Earl of Dumphries.  The earl, a widower, spared no expense in trying to create a “honey trap” to attract a new wife.  The house is Palladian style, a very balanced design, and all of the furnishings are original to the house. These furnishings were among the earliest commissions for one of the leading Scottish cabinet makers, Thomas Chippendale.

Interesting tidbits:  
  • Dumphries House was saved from public auction by the intervention of HRH Prince Charles in 2007 when he headed a consortium of charities and heritage organizations to buy the house, its contents and the estate.
  • It was the second house in the country to be wired for electricity.
  • 10 percent of all remaining original Chippendales are in Dumphries House.
  • One Chippendale cabinet alone has been valued at 20 million pounds.
  • Many of the rooms have carpets topped with runners for visitors to use because the carpets are all originals.  The runners match the patterns of the underlaying carpet.
  • The earl didn’t get the bride he built the house for.

While I’m not a fan of guided tours, this one was interesting, informative and generally kept moving (except for one gabby woman at one point).  Before visiting the house, we’d crossed the Adam Bridge into a relatively new arboretum.  Kathy told us that the tall evergreens were called Wellingtons, so I had to get a photo.  We couldn’t get into the walled garden as it won’t be open until July; it’s being rehabbed. 

Chapel at Crossraguel Abbey
After leaving Dumphries, we headed over to Crossraguel Abbey, a Benedictine abbey that was built on an ancient holy site and is now in ruins.  Much of the ruins we saw were built in the 14th and 15th Centuries.   Originally built in the mid 13th Century, the abbey was sacked during the Wars of Independence from England.  When the Reformation ended monastic life, the remaining monks could finish life there but no new ones were added.

15 June, Ayr
What a way to start the day and week.  Poor Sally only got sicker and called the doctor yesterday … and me this morning.  She could not get on her BA flight today and needed help to cancel and re-book.  Ah, BA, the airline that lost her luggage for four days and couldn’t seem to communicate effectively beyond “retrieval process initiated.”  Thankfully Sally had sent me a paper copy of her itinerary where I found the emergency number for her travel agent.  Although it took almost 90 minutes (thank you, Skype Out), Tequan and I managed to get Sally cancelled for today and re-booked for Tuesday. Hooray.

Important words for travelers, especially international travelers.  It is extremely difficult to change anything if you’ve already checked in (as I learned a few years ago in South Sudan) or if it’s within a couple of hours of the flight (like today).  In those cases, changes have to be handled at the gate … and getting to a gate agent is not easy.

I called Sally to report on her flights, which I had also double checked on the BA web site.  She’s all set and will walk across to GLA tomorrow to pay for the ticket.  I’ll call her house sitter in Minneapolis to report the change and check on Sally later.  Now for some coffee!

Talked to Sally just after dinner tonight, and she sounds (and says she feels) better.  I had thought I’d ask my cousin Tooz to check on her when Tooz et al. arrive tomorrow morning … but now they don’t arrive until Tuesday morning.  Their USAir flight was cancelled.  That seems to have been happening a lot lately.  An outgoing USAir flight from GLA was cancelled on Thursday.

Got some exercise today.  Once Sally was sorted this morning, I headed next door to the Mercure Hotel pool for 40 minutes of swimming laps and water exercise.  After a delicious “sticky Mexican chicken” special for lunch at Saffy’s, I walked the Auld Lang Scot’s Mile and then some, taking photos along the way.  It was a gorgeous sunny, breezy, warm but not hot day.  The seafront was well populated with folks of every age and stripe, from infants in arms to elders in wheelchairs, from gray hairs to pink hairs to no hairs.  A surprising number of people were actually in the water, which can’t be that warm.  Felt great to be outdoors breathing fresh sea air.

16 June
Just talked to Sally who sounds 100 percent better.  And BA isn’t charging her for the change.  

Because the wi fi wasn’t working this morning, I had to call our landlady, Adeline … must’ve been a loose connection as she suggested because once I pushed them all in, it’s working.  I am going to take a bus over to her caravan park at Heads of Ayr for a bit of outdoor air and sun.  In the meantime, I’ve finished making beds, laundering towels, shopping and eating lunch.  Oh, and I started a photo album of this trip.  Kathy’s wonderful photo album on Shutterfly inspired me.  Will have to figure out how to post.

Took a bus to/from Heads of Ayr where Adeline lives in a new caravan.  It’s one bedroom and quite cozy, and the park is well kept, orderly and has a pub and restaurant too.  The flowers I brought her (per my Polish manners) actually matched the decor.  We had a lovely visit and a wee walk down to the seashore.  While we were sitting on boulders by the sea, two 20-something young men came by and asked about continuing along the shoreline to Ayr.  Adeline wasn’t sure if that was possible.  They took the path up the hill and were going to walk the hard road.  At a bus stop on the way home, they climbed on and I chided them about not hiking it.  They were busing because they were already late to watch a World Cup game.

17 June
Cousins finally arrived! 
Daniel, Mag/Kathy, Dan
Daniel, my cousin’s son, arrived late last night from Greece, where his wife is completing her first overseas State Department posting.  Daniel drove to the airport to get his parents, Dan and Mag, and Aunt Tooz (Melanie) first thing this morning.  After fish and chips at Wellington’s, they are off on their first adventure — the Robert Burns house and museum and Culzean Castle.

Yesterday not only did I finish a photo album AND post it on Facebook, but I went to the pool and swam and did water ex for almost 40 minutes.  Because i went to the pool late, I was starving; my blood sugar was way down.  So I didn’t even try to do an hour.  Came home and made a big salad with all the left over veggies and the last piece of some cooked salmon I’d bought.  Treated myself to a piece of carrot cake.  Not sure it was worth the calories, but I ate it anyway.

When I returned from Adeline’s yesterday, the wi-fi wouldn’t connect with my laptop.  Tried off and on all evening.  The British Telephone wi-fi kept coming up, but even though I paid for it, that would not connect either.  I’m canceling the charges.

This morning I re-booted the wi-fi system, and now it’s working.  I had thought it was my laptop since the wi-fi was connected on my iPhone.  But Daniel couldn’t get his iPhone or laptop to connect, I decided to take more drastic action as Adeline had suggested.  That’s what it took.

And after one funny attempt, I posted my Scotland album on Facebook.  My first try posted only the photo of the two cows at Crossraguel Abbey, which at least added some humor, right?  

19 June
What a great day.  Melanie, Mag and I took a bus to Turnberry while Dan and Daniel played golf at the old course in Prestwick. 

Mag/Kathy and Melanie/Tooz
on bus to Turnberry
We were in search of a High Tea experience.  I googled high tea in Ayrshire and found a handful of places that looked reachable by foot and/or bus and a place that would provide a memorable experience for Melanie and Mag who have never had High Tea.  When I talked to the Tourist Info rep, she recommended Turnberry Resort, just 45 minutes away on the bus.

The resort receptionist asked if we’d like to have a “wee nosey” while we waited for our tea time (we were more than an hour early.  Buses only run once an hour, and we didn’t want to be late).  And off we went to explore the resort … the history corridor with pictures of famous guests and golfers (Princes Andrew and Edward, pro golfers Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman were recognizable), the luxurious spa (day passes are only 20 pounds !!!), the sunny “1906” breakfast room, gift shop (where we shopped), beautiful grounds that overlook two golf courses on the seafront.

Tea was everything I remembered from my London High Tea a few years ago.  A tea trolley was rolled to the table and individual pots of tea made.  A small rack with three hour glasses was left to tell us when our tea had steeped.  Ours had black sand for our black tea.  Once we tasted the tea, Melanie asked for hotter water; the tea was tepid.

Two tiers on the serving pieces had crustless tea sandwiches — cucumber, and egg with water cress, plus half of a very mini bagel with lox, a whole mini bagel with ham, cheese and tomato chutney, a diagonal cut of French baguette with coronation (curried) chicken salad.  The top layer was desserts — tiny fruit tarts, pistachio-walnut cake, a mini glass of orange cheesecake, blueberry macaroons with amaretto infusers.  Once we’d polished all of this, and we basically had, plates with lemon cake, fruit cake and two kinds of scones were brought, along with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  We were stuffed and happy as we hustled down the hill to the bus stop. 

I got off the bus on Miller Road to see if Sabrina and Mark and their son Christopher had arrived from St. Paul. 
Sabrina & Christopher

Mark relaxes in our yard

Christopher loved the park

Sabrina and I were in the same Peace Corps group; Mark was the one following us.  Christopher is one of my five “adopted” grandchildren.  I’d left them a note before we went to Turnberry.  Apparently they arrived just a few minutes after I had been there.  They came over to the house and met the cousins, then while Sabrina stayed to enjoy the back garden, Mark took Christopher to the playground.  Afterwards, we all went next door to Smiths for dinner.  Christopher who hadn’t slept on the plane nor since fell asleep in his chair waiting for his pizza.  He reminded me of a photo I have of my late son Peter about the same age doing the same thing — just too exhausted to stay awake.

20 June

A day tramping in cemeteries. 
Auld Kirk cemetery in Stevenston
After breakfast, we drove two cars to Stevenston, Mom’s home town, in search of great grandparents’ graves.  Mark found the headstone that Margaret Biggam placed for her father and mother (our great-great grandparents).  As on previous trips, found lots of familiar surnames likely with familial connections, but no John and Margaret Barrowman Fisher or William and Jane Lindsay Vallance.  We even scoured the newer, large cemetery on the road into town and the dilapidated one by the Auld Kirk.  Lunch in the garden as Pop In, in memory of Pop (my Hungarian-American dad) … and because we had few choices. 

As we prepared to leave, I realized that we’d been on New Street but seen no “Elderly People” signs.

21 June
The cousins were up at dawn, getting ready to leave for Glasgow and their day trip into the lower western Highlands.  Reminded me of Mom’s leavings from her visits to wherever I lived, always very early morning.  But as then, I was up to give them a proper “thank you and so long” send off.  They drove their car to the airport Holiday Inn where they’ll all stay.  Daniel has a crack-of-dawn flight back to Athens tomorrow.  Dan, Mag and Tooz will take the bus into Glasgow and see the town on Sunday, then leave early Monday.  

Sabrina, Mark and Christopher came over, and we visited for a while, then went to Sainsbury’s so they could stock up for the long trip to Ullapool.  I picked up a couple of things for my final week, then cheated and took a bus home.  I had planned to walk.

I spent the rest of the day getting ready for Jane and for my own leaving — stripped linens from all the beds, ensured all the used towels were dry and made neat piles of each for Adeline, re-made a bed for Jane, ran the vacuum cleaner, which ate one of my favorite socks.  I cannot figure out how to open the canister to retrieve it.  Also found a white sock of Daniel’s that I’ll add to Adeline’s rag bag.  Guess I’ll leave her my black knee-high as she’ll eventually have to open the canister to change filters.

Late in the afternoon I did about 45 minutes in the swimming pool.  Boy, did I need that!

25 June
Took the bus to Prestwick on Sunday to meet Jane and arrived way early, so I had one of those Starbuck’s frozen coffee drinks and read while I waited.  Her flight on Ryan Air from Dublin was right on time.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing — she’d had a lot of travel from US to Dublin and around the international flower show there, then here.  After dinner at Smith’s, we enjoyed the Irish coffees Jane made with ingredients she bought at the Jamieson’s distillery.

Monday, after a leisurely morning, we did a long walk around town, stopping for lunch at a cafe-gallery that I’ve been wanting to try.  As we passed the Ayr Bowling Club, Jane tried peaking over the stone fence while I tried the door, which opened.  Two women bowlers were leaving and invited us to to watch a tournament yesterday afternoon.  So, again after a leisurely morning, we had lunch (this time at Saffy’s), then went to the bowling club where we watched bowling on the green.  The only other “spectator” was a man who kindly helped us understand what we were seeing.  I think he was the club manager. 

Jane learns about
lawn bowling balls
Bowling on the green is more like Italian bocce than US bowling, but interesting to watch.  All of the women wore some shade of gray trousers and white blouses/shirts, so we couldn’t tell Ayr from the away team, Troon.

After the bowling, we walked over to the High Street and Rabbie’s Drams for a bit of shopping for souvenirs for family and friends.  And I did it again.  Got home and could not find my eyeglasses which had been atop my head.  Retraced my steps with no luck and had given into finally losing them.  Then this morning saw them upside down on the kitchen floor near the table.  Cannot believe we didn’t see … or worse, step on … them.  My charitable deductions will definitely be increased this year!

Oh, part of our leisurely morning was less than leisurely as we navigated the car rental sites.  After a few phone calls, we finally got a Fiat 500 rented for two days.  We’ll drive to Greenock one day and do a South Ayrshire day tour the other.

The evening saw us enjoying Irish coffee …

Now we’re off to Glasgow. …

Walked my legs off today,but it was worthwhile.  Had a wonderful day in Glasgow despite crappy weather.  After taking the train to Glasgow, Jane and I walked virtually the rest of the day.  She mapped our paths to the places we wanted to see and off we went down Argyle Street from the Central Train Station.  We had lunch at a lovely cafeteria with an interesting array of salads that we sampled.  Then we walked to the Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery under cloudy skies.  We passed a lawn bowling tournament that was underway.  It was raining when we walked to the Charles Mackintosh house near the University of Glasgow.  We passed the lawn bowlers who continued to bowl.  The Mackintosh house in part of the university’s gallery and only open to tours and none was available to us.  The rain finally stopped after we left the Botanic Garden and stopped for a glass of wine before heading back. 
Part of "Killer Plants" exhibit

Me in the botanical garden
On the way we stopped at a pub for fish and chips, then continued toward the train station … until a taxi conveniently dropped someone near us.  For five pounds we rode to the train and caught the next one to Ayr.  Too pooped to write more.  I’ll show you this day in photos.

Interesting tidbits:
  • Residents of Glasgow are called Glaswegians.
  • Glasgow will be the site of the Commonwealth Games, a kind of Olympics for nations in the British Commonwealth.  Lots of preparations going on all over the city to help players, fans, visitors find their way.
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum was built in the late 19th century and opened in 1902 as the Palace of Fine Arts.  
  • The building’s main entrance faces Kelvingrove Park at the back of the museum, not Argyle Street.  It’s an urban myth that the architect jumped from one of the towers when he realized his mistake.  He always intended the entrance to be from the park.
  • The museum has many interactive displays for the enjoyment and education of children, and artworks generally include some commentary about the works.
  • Admission to Kelvingrove is free, as it is at all Glasgow museums.
  • The Kelvingrove organ is the original from the museum’s opening.  A recital on this magnificent instrument was taking place when we arrived.
  • A splendid display of work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh includes furniture, ceramics, decorative panels, reconstruction of the famous Ladies Luncheon Room.
  • The Glasgow Boys were a loose-knit group of about 20 artists who put Glasgow on the cultural map.  The Boys are considered to be the most significant in Great Britain at the end of the 19th century.  Some of their best work is at the Kelvingrove.
Lovesick woman
"Old Suit" helps young engineers
understand older folks

26 June, Prestwick, Scotland
Picked up a lime green Vauxhall Corsa instead of a Fiat 500.  Boo hoo. The Budget/Avis guy said they haven’t had any available for some time.  Now we’re off to see the southern parts of Ayrshire — Alloway, Culzean Castle etc.  Photo opps.

Dunure Castle ruins south of Ayr

Grave of Robert Burns' father
in Alloway
Walled garden at Culzean 

27 June
There is a God and she loves me.  After a day of driving up the coast to Greenock with stops in Largs for lunch at Scotland’s most famous cafe, restaurant and ice cream parlor, Nardini’s, and assorted other places for photo opps, we headed back toward Ayr mostly on country roads or the coast road.  Finally we decided to drive the last bit on the highway, and I turned onto a roundabout toward, I thought, the highway entrance … but no signs to tell me where to go … then we meet a car coming head on toward us.  She quickly changed lanes, honked and gestured while I, realizing my error, quickly drove onto a big grassy berm, turned around and went the correct way.  Other than a stopped car, no traffic was in the round about.  And I was so tired that I automatically made a right turn, not a left.  

Pictures will tell the story of this fun day visiting Greenock, going round about and up narrow lanes, walking to catch a photo.

28 June, final day in Scotland 
Jane and I were both up with the sun and drinking coffee and before 6 am, eating the croissants we bought at Nardini’s yesterday.  We’d both pretty much finished our packing last night after dinner at Smith’s.  We both had the salmon.

While Jane did her few final packings and checkings, I tossed the last of the towels in the washing machine and cleaned up the kitchen.  Then we were off to the car, still parked where we’d left it, and to Prestwick for Jane’s 8 am flight and to return the car.  It had been such a wonderful week, relaxing, time to catch up, time to visit places I hadn’t seen before and show Jane a few I had and see them a new perspective.  Jane is an avid gardner and her enjoyment of the many gardens, large and small, formal and not, was catching.

After seeing Jane off and catching a bus back to Ayr, I did a few final things in the house, sent Adeline a text message to say I was leaving early and walked to the bus station.  X77 to Glasgow’s Buchanan Street station, then the 500 to the airport.  

Later, Warsaw, Poland
The day was very uneventful until I arrived in Warsaw and switched SIM cards in my phone. A message from Ewa, my friend that I had planned to visit in Puławy.  Her mother had a stroke today and is hospitalized.  So I’ll stay in Warsaw until Monday morning, then catch a bus to Sandomierz for the week.

30 June, Sandomierz, Poland
Last night I was sous chef for cake making so I knew I was back at Hala’s.  Tomorrow is her Name Day, and she needed to make two cakes for the office. Here Name Days are more important to celebrate than birthdays.  They are the Saint’s Day for the saint for whom you’re named.  I will eat as little cake as possible tomorrow … I know I’ll be back to detox when I return to Minneapolis.  My “wheat belly” is huge!

A huge thank you to everyone who joined me in Scotland and made my early 69th birthday celebration such a rousing success.  I posted many photos to Shutterfly as an easier way to share them. You shouldn’t need to sign up to see them.  Here are the links:

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