Wednesday, February 29, 2012


If London was something of an overwhelming, busy, toddler unfriendly bit of madness Edinburgh was the complete opposite. Sure, it was an ancient, busy city full of beautiful architecture but the locals were decidely friendly to both travelers and toddlers alike. At every restaurant, pub and museum we were made to feel welcome and Kitty's antics were not met with disapproving profanity filled censure (as in London) but instead were greeted with understanding, sympathy and good humor.

We arrived by train in Haymarket Station were we were greeted on the platform by Mark's sister Gillian, her husband Robert and their son Laurie. They helped us schlep our luggage to our hotel- The Lairg on Coates Garden. The staff at the Lairg were very friendly and showed us to our remarkably large and comfortable room. So the owner of the hotel might have sounded like a former KGB officer and the room decor might have been done in an over the top post-communist bit of Slavic decadence but it had an amazing shower. Something that can only be appreciated after traveling to the United Kingdom and experiencing the fun that is electric showers which drip the tiniest bit of spray on you and sinks with a choice of 2 separate taps- icy cold or scalding hot. The Brits like to give you choices...

 After we settled into our room, we ventured out to a hotel across the road which welcomed non-residents  to their lounge. We were the only folks there and were entertained by Nicola the bartender as Kitty had the run of the place. The bartender never once seemed offput by Kitty's continually climbing up on a bar stool and saying " Hi! What you doing?" over and over and over. A couple of pints of McEwan's and good company made for a good night.

While London felt like a bit of a wallet shakedown, we found Edinburgh to offer excellent value to tight wad travelers such as ourselves. Our visit to Edinburgh Castle at 14 pounds a person seemed a good value with an informative tour given by our tour guide ( another woman named Sid!) and access to the Scottish War museum which was not at all butch and boring despite the theme. We visited the National museum- free! and the National Portrait gallery- free! and had a great time visiting the old haunts of Mark's university days.

Somehow, my photos from these first 2 days disappeared into the ether. BOO! Never mind, you can google it.

After 2 days in Edinburgh, we headed to Leven to get Kitty acquainted with her Granny. Kitty took to her right away and after coffee and biscuits, we settled into our room at the Lundin Links hotel- meh. The room was adequate, if shabby and just a little bit Fawlty Towersish.. After dinner at the Largo hotel and a brief tour of St. Monan's at night, we went to sleep to rest up for a trip to the Highlands with Mark's mom.

Kitty was delighted to find her Granny's Paddington Bear
Especially when she realized she could wear Paddington's boots, hat and coat... advantages to being a wee girl

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Postcards from London....

A few last snaps of London before we head to Scotland...

Disco dancing on the Thames

Best value in London- 7 pounds for 7 days bike hire Brilliant!

Royale w/ Cheese Report- Dicken's Inn London, England

It was the best of pubs, it was the worst of pubs. Sorry, I had to do that.

We popped into the Dicken's for lunch/dinner. Its a lovely, traditional looking 3 story plaster and timber pub absolutely covered in blooming flower boxes. Situated right on the St. Katharine's dock we walked across the creaking wooden floor boards to a large wooden table under a big window which offered a lovely view of the boats in harbor. The place was fairly busy with young families and locals and the 2 bartenders were doing a brisk business.

Ambiance score- 10. You are on the Thames, in the shadow of London Bride, in a hidden marina in an old pub. It doesn't get any better than that,

Here's where things start to head downward. I was wrangling a very active Kitty so I didn't manage to get a good photo of the burger I ordered. That is okay because it wasn't a very good burger. Okay, calling it not very good is being kind. I am not an unadventurous eater (I've had haggis- ew and black pudding- not so bad to name a few). I do not want everything to be as it is in the US (if I did why would I leave the US?) but what this pub managed to do to the burger in question is an offense to the memory of the cow which gave his life for that burger.

I am not certain how it came to be in a country that has the most spectacular butcher shops, that a beef patty was manged to be stripped of all flavor, fat and texture so much so that it tasted more like a damp sponge than a piece of meat. The chef tried to get creative and spread some sort of horrible tomato and sugar relish all over it so that when you bit into the burger you had the strange sensation of eating parmesan cheese that has been mixed with syrup- sickly sweet with a strange occasional vomit like after taste.

The sweetness of the burger (ew) could have been balanced by the addition of some briny pickles and sharp red onion. Instead they placed  flavorless pickles on the burger and a red onion the size of a quarter- not enough to counteract the awful sweetness.

The bun itself was some sort of soft roll that did not hold up to the mystery tomato concoction so as you held the burger, the bread disintegrated.

Burger Score- 3 (it wasn't burned and it was recognizable as a burger upon visual inspection

The side dish score is a little more difficult to come up with. The Brits as a whole have raised chip making to an art form. No really, they are better than waht we have in the US- usually. The Dicken's chips were not bad, not good just average and cooked from frozen which lowers their score to a 4 BUT they did serve me a perfectly pulled Guinness and yes, the Guinness here is better than we get in the US so they would get an 8 for that so we'll combine and average the score to give them a respectable total of-
Side Dish- 6

Dicken's Inn Total- 19 Go there for certain and enjoy a pint and the view but eat before you get there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

London again

We are at the mercy of a toddler so that has slowed our roll quite a bit which actually suits me fine. Kitty's favorite thing are the trains- give her a ride on the Underground and she thinks its a trip to Disney World. We didn't try to cram in too much and decided to take it easy. Our priority was wandering about the city just soaking it all in rather than trying to tick off a list of must sees. I have to say my favorite part of our time in London was just wandering about but that is pretty much my favorite thing to do where ever I go.

 We did manage to visit the Tower of London. I am completely underwhelmed. I'm a pretty big history buff and was really looking forward to visiting. Meh. The lines to get in were not too big as it is February but the young lady working the ticket booth did not want us to miss out on the fun that is standing in queue in London so she managed to keep us in line for 30 minutes even though there were only 5 parties ahead of us.

 The only thing you could do in this line was purchase tickets so I'm not quite certain why it took so darned long. Must have been the people protesting the ticket charges, as Mark did. When you finally get to the ticket seller, she drones in a monotone voice as she swipes your card-"That's 19 pounds 80 with the voluntary donation per ticket.". Wait a minute. Mark's Scottish brain registered the words 'voluntary donation'. When he questioned the girl she replied in an annoyed voice that the entry fee was 18 pounds, the additional 1 pound 80 was a voluntary donation. Mark asked to have that waived and of course that entailed a return form to be filled out, the card to be re-swiped to have the funds re-credited and then another transaction for the tickets. I think we have found the reason for the length of time in line. Some English guy in line behind us started telling Mark to stop complaining and just pay up. Mark gave him "the look" and that shut him up. We wouldn't have minded paying 20 pounds or whatever they decided was a fair price but we thought it was pretty sneaky to figure out their cost of business and to then tack on a voluntary donation without giving you the option of paying it or not. Oh and its not as if we are stiffing a home for orphans, the Tower is owned by the Queen and while I am sure its not cheap to keep her in hats and handbags I'm pretty certain that based on the crowds its definitely operating in the black.

After waiting in line for tickets, we got to wait in line to have our bags searched. Once inside we were free to learn all about the Tower of London and its history. Except, not so much actual learning took place. Most of the towers and rooms inside were empty and apparently they aren't really sure what happened where so when in doubt, they made it up. 'This MIGHT have been where the Princes were murdered in brutal fashion'. "This might have been where another famous brutal murder took place'.'Here are mock ups of the various ways in which people were brutally tortured'. I suppose that they blood and sex sells but  you can't have it both ways. In what can only be described as a bit of historical white washing, after plaque after plaque telling you how brutal and bloody the history of the tower is they then state that 'only 40 people were tortured'. Ha. My recommendation would be to walk around the tower but skip the interior and spend your money and time at Westminster instead.
Best thing at the Tower- Beefeater playing fetch with a dog. Could have seen THAT for free.
We wandered by the Thames and the St. Katherine's docks and decided that we needed to find out about transient slips there. St. Katharine's would be an excellent place to berth the boat for a week or so.
Had lunch/dinner at the most charming Dickens Inn at the St. Katharine's docks. It was fantastic ambiance and the weirdest cheeseburger I have ever eaten. (more on that later) Back to the hotel for a good nights sleep before we board a train from King's Cross to head North....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Late night in London.

Our first night in London and jet lag has left Kitty asleep during the afternoon only to awaken at midnight full of pep and energy. Nothing to do for it but to take her for a walk around London.

We left our hotel and wandered past the Old Vic Theater. Down past Waterloo Station and on to the Thames.

Kitty was entranced by the trees and the London Eye all light up on blue and danced around the trees. She was as happy to just enjoy the lights and the reflections on the Thames. There were steps to climb and lights to ooh and ahh over and room to run. She thought it was perfect.

Big Ben chimed to let us know we should head back and try to get a few hours sleep. We walked back to the hotel in the cold. The city seemed to be quiet except for the odd drunken college student here and there.

As we came up Black Friars, a thin orange fox made his way slowly and cautiously across the road. Mark spotted him first and pointed him out to me. As I turned to watch the fox make his way across the road, he turned and looked at me as if to say "good night" and he was gone.

We crept back into our warm hotel, shook off the cold and fell asleep.

Friday, February 17, 2012

London calling...

We decided that is was high time for us to get little Kitty over to her Granny in Scotland.  Kitty’s 2 year old birthday is quickly approaching and sometime between 2 and 3, babies miraculously become little kids and I didn’t want Granny to never get to experience Baby Kitty. We booked the trip in February when everything is dirt cheap because who the heck wants to vacation in the North Atlantic in February? Unfortunately, Maura had to stay behind because she has chosen to go to public school and they are very persnickety about students not taking time off unless they are dying. I suppose it’s a good life lesson- choosing one option will preclude other options but that doesn’t have to be bad thing. So we waved goodbye to Maura and promised to call my parents who are ‘house sitting’ for us because Maura is far too old and worldly to need a baby sitter. ;) Fortunately. Maura owns neither any Bob Seger albums of white tube socks so we should be ok. Toddler in tow we were off….

I have suffered horrible flying anxiety for years. I’ve flown quite a bit and it has just gotten worse with every trip. It is so bad that in order to satisfy my wanderlust and avoid flying whenever possible, I bought a boat. Yeah. It really is that bad. I’ve tried self help courses, facing my fears by flying in ultralights, self hypnosis, hypnosis, visualization, breathing, mantras etc. Nothing has worked. I’ve still flown because I do not want my life to be limited by fear but every flight has been a terrifying experience for me. Not this time. This time I opted to get a prescription from my doc for Xanax. Apparently .50mg was all that was standing  between me and having a normal travel experience. I know, I know its masking my fear and not allowing me to deal with it but I have dealt with it and it has sucked. I am not a martyr, I will never fly without it. I was almost like a normal person.

Kitty was fantastic on the flight. Just happy as can be other than a 5 minute crying episode when she was over tired and having a hard time getting to sleep and then another 2-3 minute complaint as we descended and her ears started hurting her. Other wise, she was just a delightful , friendly little person. Telling everyone “hi” on the plane and asking the flight crew “what you doing?” with such a sweet inquistive smile they could not help but be charmed. Thanks Kitty, we owe you one.

We shook off our jet lag in a Starbuck's in Waterloo Station - that's a sign of civility right there. They even accepted my US Starbuck's card. No money exchanged yet, no problem!

Checked into our hotel and opted for a nap as Kitty was quickly approaching critical mass. She's still working on the jet lag and its definitely effecting what we can do but we are rolling with it.

You would think any hotel in London would have great wifi. WRONG! We have absolutely craptacular wifi here so the photos will have to wait a few days until we are in Edinburgh and hopefully we have decent wifi there. Until then, just keep an eyeball on this post as someday photos will magically appear. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


All of the upgrade/project wiring is now complete. There is no longer any need for hours to be spent on schematics, wiring looms and installation because all of it is finito! To be sure, there is still a bit of straight forward rewiring to be done such as wiring in the nav lights etc, but all of the new additions are complete.

 Mark thought it would be a good idea to post his schematics in case there are other  Captain Perfecto's lurking about and I don't think that is a bad idea at all I just need to figure out how to post a PDF to blogger....I suppose if there is someone out there desperate to have a finished wiring schematic in hand sooner than later (we're doing a bit of traveling it will be a few weeks) just drop us an email and we'll send it on to you. Ceol underscore Mor at yahoo but it IS a boat wiring schematic and will not have appeal to anyone unless they are up to their eye balls in boat wiring.

Mark asked my which winch I felt was a better choice for us- Andersen or Lewmar. I hadn't done any research and don't have enough practical experience to have an opinion but I was pretty excited that Mark was now thinking about deck hardware. We are now discussing blocks and winches and cleats. I find this all terribly exciting because it means we are moving forward and getting just a wee bit closer...