The 2015 Cancer Can Suck It Tour, Day 21

Sunday . . .

If I used the word cameragasmic to describe Friday, then I am at a loss as to how to describe today.  We got a fairly early start to the day, and drove over to the west coast to see Kilmartin.  Kilmartin is a small town, where there is a church (which was closed), a graveyard with some very very old stones, and standing stones on the way (like a small stone circle).  The views were spectacular.  We had reflective views on Friday, but the sky was gray and washed out, so they weren’t nearly as striking as they were today with the blue clouds. 

There were five of us that went today, so that was double the laughter!  The two men sat in the front.  Kamy acted like it was such a relief not to be the only guy, but I secretly think he is tickled with all of the ribbing and good-natured joking.  Mac and he have been friends for some years; they talked, while the gals sat in the back seat.  We visited, enjoyed the scenery, laughed, and at times outright cackled.   What a great group to spend the day with.

I had my first really difficult moment of the trip.  We stopped be a lake to take some photos; the path going down was steep and slippery, and there was really nothing to hold onto to prevent me from going down on my keester.  I decided I just couldn’t risk it.  Two years ago, before my diagnosis, surgeries, and chemo, I wouldn’t have hesitated.  But now, my balance and strength just aren’t what they should be.  I knew that if I fell and hurt myself it would be very bad, as the chemo slows down the healing process in the body to a crawl.  So, instead of going down to water’s edge with my friends, I stood up on the side of the road and shed a few tears.  I hate not being able to do something because of my health.  I have been very blessed, as there has been very little that I just haven’t been able to do.  After a brief pity party, I started to focus on gratitude and the many many things that I have to be grateful for, and that always helps.

After exploring the church and graveyard for a bit, we stopped in a pub and had a round of drinks.  Well, I had my water, lol.  I dont’ drink much to start with, and now with the chemo, even less.  I did manage to wash down one of my chemo pills with some good hard cider on the trip, so it’s not a total loss.  We stopped in a few other places and I got some great photos, so all was (almost) forgotten by day’s end.

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Some of the scenery on the way.

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Standing stones in a field of sheep.

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Some of the grave slabs here are over 1,000 years old.

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Liquid refreshments . . .

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Inverary Castle from the road.  We went here last year and toured, it is very interesting; this castle serves as the seat/home of the Campbell Clan.

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We stopped for a bathroom break near a small harbor on the way home; these boats were anchored there.

The 2015 Cancer Can Suck It Tour, Day 21

Saturday . . .

Dunfermline Abbey, just north of Edinburgh, is yet another abbey with good bones.  We explored the part of the church that was open, and took some photos.  We decided not to pay to go into the abbey, as we could see most of it from the outside.  One of the main figures in Scottish history is Robert the Bruce.  Together with William Wallace, in the early 1300’s, he fought for and gained Scottish independence from England.  He served as king of Scotland until his death.  At his request, upon his death, his heart was removed from his body and enterred at Melrose Abbey, whilst his body was buried here at Dunfermline. 

From here, we went to Falkirk again, this time to Callendar House.  It is an older house, now open to the public as a museum dedicated to the history of the industrialization of Scotland; Falkirk was the cradle of this movement.  One of the most interesting things were the history panels.  We didn’t have time to read them all, so I took pics with my phone and read them later, lol.

I had offered to take family photos of Kamy, his daughter and her mother; her mom was sick, but we went to her grandmother’s house and got photos there.  Ayesha is SUCH a natural in front of the camera!  She was working it like a model, posing, changing body position, I just had to laugh.  It was a very enjoyable experience.  I love that kid!

Saturday was also Halloween, as well as the Rugby World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand.  We stocked up at Tesco (a large supermarket chain) and we headed home to enjoy the rest of the evening.  I was nominated to hand out candy to trick or treaters, and I was excited!  The excitement faded as time went on; not one costumed cherub showed up at the door.  We mentioned it, and Kamy sheepishly said he “might” have a wee bit of a reputation, lol!

New Zealand won; food, snacks and drink were consumed; Cards Against Humanity provided laughter and groans, and fun was had by all.

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They are building a new bridge into Edinburgh; when it is done it will be one of three. This is one of the three towers that will hold the suspension lines.

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At the church and abbey they were selling crosses for the poppy campaign; we bought a couple for a donation and placed them here.

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The church at Dumfermline.

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This is the tower that was built to mark the spot of Robert the Bruce’s grave.  There is a fourth side that says Robert; I totally spaced out and forgot to get a pic of it.

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I loved this cross with the thistle design on it.

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Another view of the church.   There has been a church on this site since the 1000’s; the abbey was founded in 1128.

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One of the lovely stained glass panels from inside.

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Callendar House.  The house dates back to the 1300’s, and plays a rich part in history.  Historical figures associated with the house include Mary, Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the house was owned at one time by Malcolm Forbes.

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They have a newly opened John Muir Trail at the house.

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A ceiling fresco in the house

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One of the pieces of silver on display.

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At the top of the ridge, in that little open space, lots a section of Antonine’s Wall.  It was constructed over a 12 year period beginning in 142 AD, and is 39 miles long.  Marking the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire, it stretched across Scotland from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth, and was intended to replace Hadrian’s Wall.

The Cancer Can Suck It 2015 Tour, Day 20

If I had to use one word to describe today, I would invent the word “cameragasmic”!   Wow wow wow, what a feast for the eyes!  My camera was smiling, quivering, and happy happy happy!

We started out going south to Dryburgh Abbey, another abandoned abbey with good bones.  I know that it would be beautiful here in spring and summer, which I highly prefer over fall and winter.  I wouldn’t mind fall so much, I might actually even enjoy it, if it weren’t for the fact that I see fall as Mother Nature’s way of apologizing in advance for what she is about to do to us.  Having said that, The abbey was beautiful with all of the fall colors.  There was a small graveyard outside, and there were so many beech leaves on the ground from one tree, it was like walking on plush padded carpeting.

One of the things that will stick in my mind from this particular abbey are the trees.  They have so many large, old growth trees it just boggles the mind.  There is one tree, a Yew tree, that they believe is from the founding of the abbey in the 1000’s, almost 1000 years old!  (See photo below)  There was a tower that you could climb up to, and after Kelly went up and came down shaking, I decided I had to try it anyway.  NOPE!  About half way up, the stairs went from barely wide enough for my big boxy feet to about half the size of my feet.  I have had minor balance issues from all of my surgeries and treatment, so I decided to go back down.  Backwards.  An inch at a time.  Luckily Kamy was behind me to make sure I didn’t fall.

We left the abbey and headed west.  One of the top ten things (according to my favorite guide book series “DK Top Ten”) to do in all of Scotland is visit Culzean (prounouced Cull-ane) Castle; it didn’t work out for us to be able to see it last year, so I am glad we were able to fit it in this year.  Kamy decided to take scenic back roads to get there, it was about three hours away.  When I talk about Scotland, I frequently say that everywhere you look is a postcard view.  Today was that kind of day.

We went through mountainy passes and valleys, called “glens” here.  Some were very high, and at the very top were little puffs that looked like dandelions, ready for their final hurrah with the next strong breeze.  It is amazing how high sheep will climb for food.  I kept rolling down the window and gasping at the beauty; Kamy finally started to slow down every time he heard my window go down to help me be able to take the photo.

We finally arrived at Culzean, a little later than planned because of all of the photo taking.  We thought the Castle was open until 5:30 (information I got from their website) but it turns out they were only open until 4:30, so we had less than an hour.  It is the quickest that I have ever toured a house like that.  It is built on the Atlantic coast, with ocean views out many of the windows.  The first room you walk in is a weapons room.  They have the largest collection of flintlock revolvers that have been fired in the world.  It was VERY impressive, and nicely displayed.  They said that the queen has more flintlocks, but many of them have never been fired.  The current structure was built in the 1700’s, and gifted to Scotland in 1970.  The grounds became the first country public park in Scotland in 1969.

We put in over 300 miles today, and got home the latest since we have been here.  What a beautiful wonderful day!

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Some of the bones of the abbey.

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I thought this cross with the sword superimposed on top of it was really interesting!

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What used to be the main entrance to the church.

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A peek of fall color through the window.

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The 1000 year old Yew tree.

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This was a tree that had been cut down; I put my camera on it to show how big it was!

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Scenes from the window . . .

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Out of nowhere, suddenly, a waterfall

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Culzean Castle

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Some of the flint lock pistols

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There are 120 blades that make up this star, and it is a fraction of the arsenal that they have there.

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I love this staircase!

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Views from one of the bedroom windows.

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One of the cannons on display outide, and the cannonball that it would have fired.  I have big hands; you can imagine the damage that this would have done when it hit something, whether it landed where it was intended or not.

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Many of the hydrangeas are still in bloom; this is the walkway leading to the gate out of the castle area.

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Looking back, the castle outlined in the sunset.  Yes, palm trees grow here, thanks to the el niño weather pattern off of the Atlantic.

The 2015 Cancer Can Suck It Tour, Day 19

When we were in Edinburgh last year, we visited St. Giles Cathedral.  However, we were rushed, and we missed the Thistle Chapel.  It is a small part of the cathedral, but one of the most beautiful.  They currently have it closed due to problems with theft, and you can only go in with a guided tour.  According to the website, they offer them daily, on the half hour, from 10:30 to 4:00, but with the caveat that it is based on the availability of volunteer guides.

We decided that Thursday would be our Edinburgh day this year, and though there were only a couple of things we really wanted to do, we put the cathedral at the top of the list.  St Giles was built in the 1100’s, and then rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 1300’s.  Though originally built for the Catholic faith, and still called a cathedral, it was the home of John Knox and the Presbyterian Reformation in 1560 Scotland.

We couldn’t have timed our visit better.  When we went in, there was a sign that said there would be no tours of the Thistle Chapel that day.  The very nice lady at the information desk told us that someone had just gone in there, and if we hurried, we might be able to get in.  We did, and we were.  Wow.  Just wow.  It is such a beautiful little chapel, hidden off in a far corner of the cathedral.  The chapel serves as a worship and meeting place  for the 16 Knights and Ladies of the order of the Thistle; the Queen of England is the head of the order.

We spent a good hour in the cathedral, exploring and photographing (well, in all honesty, I did.  Kelly explores more quickly than I, and then sits patiently and waits for me to finish).  We walked around a bit, and then met our friend Mac for tea, and a really really good panini!  Kamy came back in town to pick us up, and it was home for dinner.  I finally had the chance to make a meal.  I made some really good salmon, and Kelly made a killer salad.  It was nice to take care of our host instead of vice versa for a change!

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This is the statue in memory of the Greyfriers Bobby; he is a dog that is famous in Scotland for having stood guard over his deceased master’s grave for 14 years before he himself died.  There are places named for him, books written about him, and monuments built in honor of him.  You can see that the nose is worn down from people touching it over the years.

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The cafe where Harry Potter was born (J. K. Rowling famously began to write the novel on napkins in a cafe while living in Edinburgh) proudly displays this sign.

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The ceiling of the Thistle Chapel

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Details of the walls in the chapel.

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In a chapel on the right side of the church lies the memorial to James Graham, Marquess of Montrose; he was executed by his archenemy Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, in 1650.

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In a chapel on the left side of the cathedral lies the memorial to Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, who in turn was executed in 1661.  We heard part of his story when we visited Inverary Castle (the home of the Campbell Clan) last year on our trip.

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Samples of stained glass; all of the stained glass is “modern”, having been created and installed in the 19th and 20th centuries.  It is bright, vibrant, and one of the best features inside of the cathedral.

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I love it when I can catch the light just right in a cathedral and get the refraction of the light through the window on interior features.  This is the aisle that contains the heraldic banners of of the order of the thistle; it was originally built to house the arm bone of St. Giles, which was subsequently lost during the reformation.

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One of the best tips I can give to travel photographers is to look at postcards.  Sometimes you see a new way to photograph something that you never would have seen yourself.  I am always looking for reflections, but I had missed this one until I saw a postcard and it gave me the idea.

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There is a veterans group that conducts a poppy campaign every year in the UK.  It is geared to commemorating the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  They are out now, and we came across this custom painted motorcycle that served as a mobile collection point.  It is manned by current military personnel, and the organization works to honor and never forget those who have given all.

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The Cancer Can Suck It 2015 Tour: Days 17 – 18

So, once again I have been victim to the blog gremlins.  I had the blog all finished last night and was proof-reading it; it went back to the saved page, and all content, hard work, photos, etc were gone.  Aaaargh!  However, not one to give up, I am back at it again, sitting in the back seat of the car on our way to Dryburgh Abbey.  I have a blanket around my legs, a pillow on my lap, and have instructed our “chauffeur” to not hit any bumps.  Onward we go!

We have settled into a nice routine.  It is nice to be able to stay in the same place every night.  We each have our own bed, which is nice because I snore, and it is never as comfortable trying to sleep in the same bed as it is sleeping on one’s own.  We have no set schedule, and are just enjoying our time here.  France and Paris were awesome, but they seem like so long ago, almost like it was another trip.  Every day we had to wake up early, and go go go (by choice) if we wanted to have enough time to see and do everything on the list.

Having said all of that, we do have certain things that we want to see and do here, so we have a plan that we put in place Wednesday night; we now have our Scottish itinerary in place, lol.

Tuesday we had plans to meet with our friend Ronnie, to do some catching up and visiting.  We headed up to Cameron House, past Glasgow and on Loch Lomond (Loch is Scottish for lake).  Cameron House is a high end resort, an upscale manor-house type hotel with lodges, activities, fitness center, etc.  There are several restaurants and bars inside, so we headed up to one of the bars, for tea and coffee (we really like to live life on the edge, you know), and had a great visit catching up.  There is a sea plane docked at the hotel, so we went out to take some photos before ending our visit.

It was back to Penicuik to pick up our host’s daughter from school; Tuesday is his day to have her.   We headed to a small Halloween party at a friend’s house.  It was fun to watch the kids being silly and having fun.  On Monday in Melrose we had picked up a meat pie in one of the bakery shops. It was made with venison and wild boar – we were feeling adventurous.  It had made its way to our friends house, and she heated it up and we had dinner.  I was thrilled with our choice!  I had a slight worry that it might have been gamey, but it was tasty, tender, and just right! 

We went home early, and enjoyed spending time with Ayesha, she is such a wonderful little girl!

Wednesday we headed over to Glasgow.  On the way, we stopped in Falkirk to see The Kelpies.  They are an art installation of giant sculpted horse heads, set on a platform surrounded by water.  They are a new attraction, being opened in early 2014.  They stand roughly 100 feet above ground, and there is more than that below water.  If you pay for the guided tour (which we didn’t), you are able to go inside of one of the sculptures.  If you go at night they put on a light show; from the photos I have seen online, it looks spectacular!

From there, we continued on to Glasgow.  Our destination was the necropolis behind the Glasgow Cathedral.  This is a large cemetery; the rich and the famous, the movers and the shakers were buried there from the early-mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s.  Last year, we were there, but I was in no shape to climb up the hill to get up there. I sent Kelly up with the camera, and I sat down in the square and outwitted a pickpocket.  This year, though I am by no means 100%, I was able to climb the hill without even taking a break.   It’s a small victory, but I’ll take it!  One of my favorite representations of the cross is the Celtic cross, which is the Latin cross with a circle around the cross part.  According to some sources, it was introduced by Saint Patrick.  The circle is said to represent the sun.  There were so many Celtic crosses up there I could not stop taking photos! 

We met Kamy (our host) back in the parking lot, and headed into Edinburgh for dinner.  Another friend had invited us over for pasta carbonara.  We have made such a wonderful group of friends here; they are taking such good care of us on this trip, and I look forward to returning the favor someday when they are able to travel to the states. 

It is hard to believe that we only have four more full days here (I am writing this on Friday evening, I fly home early early Wednesday morning).  We fully intend to make the most of them, enjoy them, and make memories.

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The sea plane that was docked at the Loch.

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Cameron House

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Wild boar and venison pie with veggies

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Duke, on the left, and Baron, on the right.  Each weighs 300 tons.

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Glasgow Cathedral from the back.

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I thought it was interesting that the person who has worked in service to the family for 50 years was buried with the family.

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Some of the levels from about midway up the hill.

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Some of the Celtic crosses, you can see some of the detail and intricate carving work on many of them.

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Pasta carbonara, cucumber mint water, and a baguette.  MMMmmmmmm!