Monday, September 15, 2014

At Home in Edinburgh

We arrived in Edinburgh to see Mark's family. It's not just the the fact that family is in Edinburgh that makes me feel so happy and at home here, its the city itself. There are many cities and towns and little villages I have been to that I have really enjoyed and some I have even fallen in love but Edinburgh is the one place that I instantly felt right at home. I just love this place. It has an energy unlike any other. It has every cultural amenity a big city should have, plus tons of tourists and historical sites and shops and even some of the spiciest Indian food anywhere (big plus in my book) and I could happily live here forever. Alas, our first stop this trip before we headed out West to scout out some marinas was only 3 days.

Our first night after taking the chunnel back from Paris to London, then hopping on a train to Edinburgh was spent talking around a table full of ridiculously spicy Indian take away with Mark's sister Gillian, her husband Robert and our nephew Laurie.

The next morning we awoke to brilliant blue skies and after lots of hand made espresso's courtesy of Robert, we went for a hike for the afternoon.

Out the door...

Through the neighborhood to Holyrood Park...
Laurie gamely carried Kitty about on his shoulders. He chased her, pushed her on the swing and encouraged her to try some more ziplining....

She declined to do any ziplining but was game for everything else.

Up the path to a little loch in the shadow of Arthur's Seat to feed the swans...

Around Arthur's Seat all the way down to the Innocent Railway.

A long rambling amble down the path, with Kitty plucking more berries off the prickly vines and gorging on them. It was at this time that I became acquainted with stinging nettle. Oh what wonders you discover when you travel...

Into Duddingston and through  Dr. Neil's garden...

And then we retired to what is purported to be the oldest pub in Scotland, The Sheep Heid Inn. The pub might be old but the food and beer were fresh.

After a late tea, we walked back home through Duddingston Village with Kitty stopping to admire the village's communal chickens.

Once home, we sat up to the wee hours with more fancy pants espressos and a whisky or two chatting until we were all ready for sleep.

It was without a doubt one of the best days ever. Loved wasting time, getting to see a more natural, and beautiful part of Edinburgh right within the city. What I loved even more was wasting time with family
Yes. I could stay here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Perfect Day in Paris

We spent our last full day in Paris just going slow and taking it all in. We took the Metro to Ile de la Cite' with the plan of getting a good look at Notre Dame which was on my very short must see list. In fact, my must see list was ONLY Notre Dame and Versailles, everything else was a planned wander around and go with the flow experience.

Notre Dame did not disappoint. It was breathtakingly beautiful. It was also chock full of people willing to wait in line over an hour to get inside. With fanny packs and cell phone cameras flashing.  I was not one of those people and was content to marvel at what the stone masons were able to create on the outside of the building.

When you stop and consider when Notre Dame was built and what tools were at the masons disposal, well it's just too much to fathom. Makes me feel badly for whining about the effort Ceol Mor is requiring. I would have been a crap cathedral builder. Mark on the other hand would have been fabulous so long as they were content for him to work on just one item for his entire life. But I digress...

The most beautiful view of the cathedral is actually the back of it. It also benefits from a lovely little garden at the foot of the cathedral.

Just to the side of the garden is a small play area. Kitty of course, quickly made friends with the locals and had a fun time spinning to the point of dizziness. As we left, she waved and said "Au revoir friends". It sounded more like "ova friends" but I think they did not mind her twangy pronunciation and they waved us on our way.

We headed to Luxembourg Gardens, stopping at a crepe stand on the way. Crepes are the way fast food should be done. I might never master French cooking but you had better believe I am going to work on my crepe technique. (one of the challenges of cruising is baking bread on board. Forget the bread, we are are going to be a crepe boat!)

The Luxembourg Gardens are an absolute MUST SEE if you are doing Paris with kids. Whiling away the hours in what is probably the loveliest park in Paris, listening to kids playing happily is absolutely the best way to spend your time in Paris. There is nothing in the Louvre that can compare with sunshine, laughter and time to just kick back and enjoy.

We spent 3 Euros to let Kitty sail a little wooden boat in the fountains. This might be a cliche' thing to do in Paris but there was no way we were skipping it. Little wooden boats to push about and watch as they catch the wind and take off? Count us in. We might have a future racer on our hands. Kitty was pretty competitive and was not pleased when other boats drifted into the path of her boat. Never mind Kit, rubbing is racing...


When I say we were kicking back and taking it easy, I really mean Mark was kicking back and taking it easy. He was hanging like a local. Namely, lying in the sun just being still. Kitty had at this point in time become obsessed with "dead people under stones" (thanks to walks past churchyards and cemeteries) and was being kind enough to give Mark a proper burial as he chilled.

There is a great play park at the back of Luxembourg Gardens. For a small entry fee, its climbing and spinning and zip lining to your hearts content.

Kitty and I LOVE carousels and when I found out that Luxembourg Gardens is home to the oldest surviving carousel in Paris, well you can bet we made a bee line. It was a wonderfully old school carousel. The kids were even armed with tiny wooden swords to practice jousting for golden rings held by the operator in a little wooden box. Kitty did not manage to score any rings but she had a grand time all the same. Any time someone is willing to arm her she gets pretty excited. Most of the rings were scored by a little local boy of about 6 who obviously is well practiced. I suppose that is what they mean when the say "putting in a ringer".

This was the end of our time in Paris. I have to say, Paris is a fantastic city for little kids. There are so many parks and gardens to play in. The locals are very welcoming to little people and even a 4 year old can appreciate the sheer beauty of the city. I think we were wise to skip the museums and to just let her enjoy Paris for itself. If you ask her what she thinks, she will pipe up with an enthusiastic " I LOVE Paris" and she does.