Monday, August 31, 2009

That's Entertainment!

I’ve been seeing lots of advertisements here for the E! Show Chelsea Lately. Of all the American shows that they could be promoting here, I was puzzled that this was the one that was getting the treatment. But then at second glance, it fits right in. If you haven’t seen Chelsea Lately, it’s Chelsea Handler and a panel of other comedians (?) going through a list celebrities or celebrity happenings that everyone has a chance to make fun of. It’s actually just like some of the game shows on UK telly.

When we were on vacation we watched some programs in the evening that we normally wouldn’t watch and one of them was one of these game show/panel shows. It’s a game show in the very loosest interpretation. There are always two teams who you think are competing against each other, there might be a non-celebrity with celebrity regulars and a witty host but the only point seems to be either making fun of each of the participants or whatever the subject matter may be. So it’s actually like a stand-up comedy routine for comedians who don’t have enough material for an entire routine, but instead just enough for a quip or two. It’s an extremely popular format here. Once in awhile it’s fine but I like my snark in small doses.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Birthday A!

Reading Festival

I’ve always heard about the infamous Reading Festival, and couldn’t leave the UK without experiencing it. Some might say I still haven’t experienced it since I didn’t buy a weekend pass to camp and attend all weekend, but to my critics, I am too old and too fond of indoor plumbing to be down with that.
I bought day passes for A and me back in March. She was very excited, especially since it was her 14th birthday yesterday. We were very lucky to have beautiful weather with just a few sprinkles. I know people regularly go to the festivals and wade through the mud if that’s the weather, but I can’t imagine what that would be like. The beautiful weather meant that people were all over the place just laying out in the sun instead of just crammed in the tents.
We had a great day, seeing a lot of bands including several American bands like Jack’s Mannequin, Fall Out Boy and Kings of Leon. I could have spent the whole day just people watching. The festival fashion was interesting, with wellies being a requirement.
It’s interesting that a country that is so into health and safety would sell firewood at a festival so the campers could build bonfires right outside of their tents in very cramped quarters. That with all of the alcohol being wheeled into the campsite seems like a recipe for disaster. Our feet were killing us as we started the long walk home along the Thames River to our car and A, looking at the tents said if she had to spend the weekend in one she’d probably cry. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


No, I didn’t try them. I made another choice which was not so good. We stopped at this little bakery one afternoon to have some coffee and it was packed with tourists. Something tells me these are probably prettier than they would be tasty but I liked the picture. Note, the cupcakes are topped with a piece of a candy bar called Cadbury Flake. I’ve seen this candy bar in Canada but not in the U.S.

Salmon Factory

We should have planned better. We were really hoping to fish while we were up in Scotland but for a few reasons it didn’t happen. We will have to plan another visit there with that as the main activity. We did visit a smoked salmon factory and picked up a sample. A could care less about how salmon was smoked so she just stood at the end of the exhibit next to this statue of the local ghost. I made her take a picture next to it and I don’t know what was more chilling, her look at me as I was taking it, or the ghost.
I believe I have mentioned before that one of my favourite on-the-go sandwiches they sell at Marks & Spencer is the Scottish Smoked Salmon sandwich so I was able to make my own for the road trip home. If only I would have had oatmeal bread it would have been perfect!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tea Room

As you can imagine, if there is one place to get a drink on the whole island, on a busy tourist day, it will be packed with people so we had to sit inside. We stopped on our way back to the ferry. It had a real hippy feel to it that had me imagining (wildly at times, anyone seen the original version of the film The Wicker Man?) what kind of life the folks who lived here had. As A sat their glum, probably wishing she was an orphan, the guy that lived their passed her with a baby on his hip and said to her, “Cheer up, it could be raining”. I had to laugh, which would have angered her that a perfect stranger was moved to comment on the look on her face. H and I ordered some coffee and the special, a slice of lemon cheesecake. The cheesecake also had a hippy feel to it, with very little sugar in it, but there was something odd about it that I liked.

What would it be like living on an almost empty island? On such a beautiful day it seemed like heaven but in the middle of winter with the wind, it might just be something else.

Kerrera Eggs

How cute is this! One of the only houses on the island was selling eggs from their chickens on the honor system. Each carton was graced with a picture of the chicken who had laid them. Should’ve picked some up as we were leaving.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Location, Location

Gylen Castle ruins are located on Kerrera and what a beautiful location.

My Favorite Part of the Trip

We took a very short ferry ride to the island of Kerrera. It was a beautiful day and our only plan was to walk around the island, see some castle ruins and just enjoy the scenery. Our whole time on the island we saw two houses, a tea room and some sheep. It was so peaceful. Not long into our hike A’s iPod ran out of juice and I swear this was the basis for her mood because when she realized our only plan was to JUST WALK AROUND WITH NO PURPOSE she lost her cool. I laughed and said to H that at least her anger at us having to walk all the way back to the ferry fuelled her to walk very fast in front of us instead of falling behind. When H tried to talk to her about enjoying the view and the experience, her only response was, “OKAY!!!” in that high pitched whine that only a teenage girl can pull off.

Oban Distillery

Yes, everyone knows that Scotland is known for whisky (they leave out the ‘e’) but I had no idea the number of distilleries! We toured the local distillery, which was interesting but didn’t have the folksy flavor that the Jack Daniels Distillery has, which is the only thing I can compare it to. Now what it did have that of course the JD tour didn’t was that you could taste the goods. We tasted some 13 year old Whisky right from the cask which was like paint thinner. Then at the end we got a “wee dram” of 14 year old whisky, the final product. I couldn’t finish it.

Interesting fact, they age their whisky in barrels that they get from the U.S. that were used first to age bourbon.

Seal Colony

We took a boat tour out to a seal colony. They camouflaged so well into the rocks that I don’t think I would have even noticed them if people hadn’t been flocking to one side of the boat to take pictures.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Urquhart Castle

This castle ruin is located on the banks of the Loch Ness and is really what you should pay admission to do in the area and skip the Loch Ness Monster stuff. We arrived about 15 minutes before it was to close so we took pictures from a distance and then headed home.

The Loch Ness Experience

Okay, Loch Ness is huge and the scenery is beautiful but just like the tour books say, it isn’t the most beautiful loch in the area. There are two Loch Ness Monster exhibits, one is the original and one is updated. We ended up at what I believe is the updated exhibit, and as you can see, it wasn’t cheap! The National Geographic Channel has been running an hour long documentary about the Loch Ness Monster and it is far superior than what we experienced at the exhibit. We all know the whole thing is bogus so could they at least make it fun and over the top instead of trying to make it serious? They do use that famous image liberally as you can see.

Travelling to Loch Ness

Even though the tour books say that Loch Ness is not the prettiest loch in the area, I couldn’t help but feel the need to visit. It was a long drive to and from but I’m glad we did it.

On the way we stopped to take pictures of Castle Stalker and a War Remembrance monument. The monument was in a beautiful setting and the wind was overwhelming. Lots of tourists!

Dunstaffnage Castle

There are castle ruins a-plenty in Scotland. This one was closest to where we were staying. You can see, contrary to the usual rain, it was beautiful while we were there.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Their Interpretation of the Message

My favourite part of visiting the Sanctuary was an exhibit of some local school children’s artwork. I assume they must have visited on a field trip and were told about sharks being poached. Aren’t these great?

The Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary

Yes, a bit touristy but it is located on the short of a loch and I got to touch a starfish. Funny, the stars of the Sanctuary are North American otters. I guess they like the Scottish scenery too.