Danny, Ann(dy) and Glenn flew Virgin Atlantic to Gatwick and then British Air to Inverness, Scotland. The flights were uneventful, although Danny found the video games on the back of the seat in front of him irresistable and therefore slept not a wink on the overnight flight. As a result, he snored through the 2 hour drive from Inverness, past Loch Ness, to Glenelg, our destination on the west coast of the Highlands. There we met our hosts, the Eccles: Anne, Bob, and their 4 children Charlotte, Isabella, Philippa, and Gordon. Actually, Bob was in Amsterdam and we would meet up with him in a few days (see below).
Glenelg is a small palindromic village of approximately 200 or so people just approximately 40 minutes south by car (5 miles by boat) from Kyle of Lochlash. We stayed in the local Inn. The rooms were large and not horribly expensive, although they were above the pub. Our first night coincided with a birthday party, an event marked by the appearance of bagpiper approximately 5 minutes after we had gone to bed.
During our time in Glenelg, Anndy did a fair amount of hiking in the lush countryside. The scenary is truly breathtaking-- 2000-3000 foot mountains dropping directly into the sea. There were few people on the trails, although there was a fair amount of sheep and evidence of sheep.
While Anndy hiked, Danny and Glenn took a train from Kyle of Lochlash back to Inverness, and then a cab ride to Aberlour where they stayed at the Dowan’s hotel. The hotel itself was architecturally very interesting and was inhabited mostly by people fishing on the Spey at that time of year. Later in the year the hunters arrive. They met up with Bob in the morning and set out on their whisky tasting tour (see post)
Following two days in whisky country, they drove back to Glenelg, where they hooked up with the rest of the families and had a nice dinner at the pub restaurant. We were up early the next day to travel back to Inverness to take the plane to Gatwick/London. The flight to London was uneventful except for the fact that Carol, my cousin, couldn’t be found at the airport. After calling her house, we got her cell phone number and reached just as she was discussing the situation with the BA information agent at Heathrow. Oops. We ended up taking the train to Victoria station where she met us at the platform.
We arrived at Carol and William’s impressive house in Hampstead and then drove/walked over to a local pool so that Anndy, Carol, Rose (10) and her friend Annie could take a swim. Soon afterward cousins Thomas (15) and Charlie (13) and two of their friends came back from Highbury where they had seen Arsenal defeat Manchester United in a charity match (2-1). Danny and boys didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things and by the time they walked home, Danny was recruited as an Arsenal supporter.
Carol and William put Anndy and Glenn up next door in the home of neighbor who was out of town. We went for a nice walk in Hampstead Heath, the largest park in London and then returned for a nice dinner. The next morning, we got up early and the adults headed into town by ourselves while Danny stayed with the boys. We went to the National Gallery where we saw the special Rembrandt by Himself exhibit: Seventy some-odd self-portraits by the master, including one from the Gardner museum. The pictures were quite good, but the explanatory text was just short of helpful. Glenn did pick up a screen saver at the gift shop which basically morphs 8 self-portraits ranging from age 23-63. We also made it to the National Portrait Gallery next door which was a surprisingly interesting place. The portraits are basically arranged chronologically, and it is fascinating to walk through the various galleries and see how the pictures of the famous elicit memories.
The next day, Carol and the boys and all of us went to Shakespeare’s Globe on the southern bank of the Thames near the Southwark bridge. We took a tour guided by a rather pedantic and self-important guide who used the word “we” far too often. Despite him, it is a truly impressive achievement. They have recreated, as best they can given the fact that there are no 100% reliable pictures or diagrams or charts of what the actual Globe looked like, the Globe theater. We considered trying to get tickets for a performance later that week, but we would have have been “groudlings,” and the idea of standing for a couple of hours didn’t really appeal to me.
The Eccleshare’s went home and we walked down to the Tower of London. The line for entry wasn’t all that bad, and after we entered,we were able to glom onto a tour being led by one of the “beefeaters.” He was very entertaining and had some gruesome and fascinating to stories to tell at each of the five stops along the way. Afterwards we went to see the crown jewels, which were somewhat dissappointing. After you’ve seen the first 20 solid gold serving platters, the next 20 don’t make such a big impression. We finished our time there at the White Tower (the first tower), but cut that tour short as we were getting a little tired and bored (Danny especially). We went out that evening to a very nice Greek restaurant nearby and then climbed up to one of the higher points in Hyde park to see the London skyline.
Wednesday we took Charlie, Rose, and Annie to the Zoo while Danny stayed home with the boys. The undeniable highlight of the trip was a live animal demonstration by some of the zoo staff. Particularly memorable was the visit of the kookaburo, which Glenn had never seen before. As the song would suggest, it has a great laugh and also has the ability to snatch food mid-air. At noon, Carol picked us up and we had a picnic in Hyde Park. We returned home, had tea with Carol’s parents (my 2nd cousins once removed) and left to attend The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) playing at the Picadilly Theater. Danny was in his high school’s production, so we were familiar with the play. Seeing it done by profesionals, however, was an enlightening experience. It was a completely zany night at the theater and totally entertaining. After the show, we loaded our bags into Michael’s car (Carol’s brother) and he took us back to his house in Kingston where we would spend the rest of our trip with his wife, Wendy, and their son Alex (Emma, their daughter was away on holiday).
On Friday, we took the tube to Victoria and hopped on a London Tour bus so that Danny could get some perspective on the city. We got off halfway through the trip so that we could walk to the Imperial War Museum. That turned out to be a real treat as none of us had ever been there before. The main hall has loads of tanks, rockets, sections of airplanes, etc. that are fun to see up close (the V2 rocket was quite impressive). In addition, there were spectacular exhibits on WWI and WWII where one could spend hours examining all the arifacts. A special exhibit on the London evacuees was there as well, which was particularly touching as we had just two days before discussed those times with Sybil who was herself an evacuee (albeit relatively briefly) for part of the blitz. There was a wonderfully informative exhibit on the use of espionage of special operations in war and peace. We then took the tube back to Kingston and took everyone out to lovely Turkish restaurant.
The next day, Anndy stayed local and went to visit Kew Gardens. It was an amazing place with an almost unlimited variety of flora on display. Danny and Glenn went into town again, first stopping at Fortnum & Mason’s. If you’ve never been there, it is one of the more impressive food stores we’ve ever had the pleasure of walking through. Danny was particularly impressed by the 12 varieties of hams. Glenn liked the quality (but not the price) of their wine and whisky selections. Danny bought some haggis for some friends and Glenn got some chocolates for Anndy and the lab. They then walked through Green park to Buckingham Palace, and from there walked to the Tate Gallery via Westminster. Once at the Tate, Danny decided to go to a special exhibit of new European art while Glenn went on a tour. The tour spent a fair amount of time in the Turner galleries, and the guide did a nice job of helping Glenn appreciate the different stages of Turner’s career. Danny and Glenn then walked up to the Picadilly circus area in search of a place for dinner. Each turn Glenn made was wrong as they ended up on Bond Street (where all the designers are), Saville Row (where all the tailors are) and a street with nothing but expensive antique stores. After stumbling around for an hour, they finally hit on restaurant row and settled in at a nice Italian place. After dinner we walked to the Haymarket Theater to meet up with the rest of the crowd to see The Importance of Being Ernest. The whole cast was fabulous with Patricia Routledge as a hilariously patrician Lady Bracknell. As it turned out, Michael noticed that morning that the actor playing Algernon, Alan Cox, was a former student of his. When we arrived at the theater, Michael left a note for him with the box office and we were subsequently invited backstage to meet with him after the performance. Alan was very gracious and it made an already fun evening even better.
We left for Gatwick the next morning in a driving rain (the first period of bad weather the entire trip), and departed with profound gratitude to our very generous hosts for a spectacular holiday.