St Augustine, FL – 2018

Its been a while since I posted.  This has been due to hand surgery that I had earlier in 2018.  I had arthritis of the thumb and it required removing a bone in my hand and a bunch of therapy.  But all is better now and importantly the pain is gone.  Now on about this trip.
Carol flew out from California.  Its been a while since she was able to join me on a trip and we decided to drive over to St Augustine.  Believe it or not, with all the years I have lived in Florida, I had never been to St Augustine.  I have driven by it on the freeway a number of times, just never stopped.
To start our trip, I booked a room at the Victorian House B&B.  

This is a lovely B&B not far from the main part of the old village.  Everything was within walking distance.  The day we arrive was the day of a cold front sliding through, which brought dreary skies and drizzle.  But once we checked in, off we went to see a little bit of the town. They were preparing for the lighting of St Augustine to happen on Saturday. We were going to miss this, but it was nice to see the lights going up.  And of course, Carol likes to photograph the flowers as we walked. Though the breeze was making it difficult as the flowers didn’t stay still.

We walked the alleys to the center of the square outside the cathedral, finding cute things along the way.  The Spanish Military hospital was a short block and a half walk.And then the governor’s house –  The Plaza de la Constitucion, St. Augustine square, and gazebo park square was being setup for the Christmas tree – 

We saw the statue to the St Augustine Foot Soldiers.   This is for those brave souls who marched for the civil rights in the 1960s.  I was unaware of Doctor Martin Luther King’s activities in St Augustine. St. Augustine didn’t have the best reputation during the Civil Rights Movement– it was the only town in the state of Florida where Dr. Martin Luther King was arrested, and has a prominent, and extremely violent Ku Klux Klan presence well beyond the Civil Rights era. In the front of the Wells Fargo bank is a portion of the Woolworth’s lunch counter that refused service.
In July 1963, this movement spread to St. Augustine through the brave action by  four teenagers who decided to participate in a sit-in at the Woolworth and were denied hamburgers directly from the “whites only” lunch counter, where as “blacks” would order at the counter or around back at a side kitchen door and pick up their orders there. These four teenagers,  Audrey Nell Edwards, JoeAnn Anderson Ulmer, Willie Carl Singleton, and Samuel White, eventually became known as the “St. Augustine Four.”

Well it was drizzling and time for us to find a place to eat.  We then headed back to our room where we sat on the balcony safe and dry and watched the clouds blow by and enjoyed the time to relax.  We had gotten our tickets for the trolley and some stops for tomorrow, so now was to stay dry and wait til the storm front passes.

The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast served by Anthony and Marilyn at the Victorian House and off we went on our way.  I being silly, left my jacket in the car as I thought the sun was coming out and it was to get warm.  Yes, but not until noon, so I somehow managed to not freeze on the open air trolley.
First walking to get to the square to get the trolley – some interesting sights – 

 Avila Street – which leads to our B&B.
We rode the whole route, which included going to Ripley’s – formerly a nice house – 9 bedrooms but only 1 bathroom –  though we didn’t go inside there were a couple of things to see outside.  I only photographed the mustang made out of 1950’s and 1960’s car bumpers for the 1987 Denver Bronco’s Superbowl appearance. The Broncos lost but the statue is now part of Ripley’s attractions.  It is 20 ft long and weighs over a ton.  

Along the ride, I spotted the Christmas house –  though I didn’t get back to go inside, it did intrigue me.

We did go to “the Fountain of Youth” park.  And though Carol did not drink of the fountain – she did check it out.   There was a number of different areas there explaining the involvement of the native Americans and their interaction with the Spanish. What surprised me was to see a totem.  From this park you get a good view of the “The Great Cross”.   The plaque at the base of the cross, which is 208 feet high, says that it “marks the approximate site where in 1565 the cross of Christianity was first permanently planted in what is now the United States.” In 1565, a Spanish admiral named Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed along the shoreline where the Great Cross stands today. After sending soldiers to fortify the area, Menendez himself came ashore, planted a wooden cross and celebrated the first actual Thanksgiving on American soil. And it was there he would establish a city, thriving still today, that we call St. Augustine. “The Great Cross” was erected in 1965 to mark the 400th anniversary of that momentous day. It’s built of 70 tons of stainless steel plates, packed with concrete in its lower third to prevent toppling by hurricanes. It’s part of the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, and its height was designed so that everyone near St. Augustine could see it, and be reminded “of the religious beginning of our nation,” according to the plaque.

After leaving there, we rode on to “The Old Jail”. It was built in 1891 and held prisoners until 1953.   and of course they had gallows.  We toured the jail and learned about the hardships of the men and women who found themselves in there. The shackles were not meant for people with large ankles. Here was our jailer explaining how it was going to be for us in the jail.     We then went on to tour the old store – what a collection to be found inside of there.   

and let me not leave out our tour guide –  who was a hoot.

And more to see –    and I saw this on a horse statue – 

And now it was time to get back to our room and find a place to have dinner. And to see some of St Augustine at night. 

Dinner at O.C. Whites – good fish.
 According to our B&B owner – there were fines if you turned your lights on before the night of the official lighting – guess these didn’t care.

And we found Columbia Restaurant.  


The next day after another wonderful breakfast, we did a little walking – and went to get a photo of Flagler College, who was instrumental in the building of St Augustine, bringing trains and goods, opening hotels, etc.  
It was a good trip and 2 nights was just about right.  Yes, there was a lot more we saw, but this is already long enough.  Time to head back across the state to home and give Carol’s feet a rest.

More trips in 2019 – 4 or 5 planned so far, so it will be a busy year.  Stay tuned.


Glasgow – Day 18

We have arrived in Glasgow after 4 PM and once we get our rooms, it will be time to take a short walk around Glasgow before our final dinner with the group.  What a location. What a hotel.  We are staying at the Grand Central Hotel, connected to Grand Central Station, a railroad station in Glasgow. 

with a statue to firefighters right out front. 
My what long hallways you have….

and staircase chandeliers –  from bottom  and top.
Grand Central Station –  and the entrance from the railway station to our hotel. 
Now for some images from the short walk around – Glasgow was very involved with the tobacco industry in the newly formed Americas.
Colonial trade drove the transformation of Glasgow between 1740 and 1775 but, above all, the trade in tobacco made much of the Glasgow.  Glasgow found its niche by directly supplying the American colonies with manufactured goods, linen cloth and iron, without which they could not survive. The ships returned to Britain with colonial goods, mainly tobacco from mainland Maryland and Virginia but also sugar and other exotic products of slavery from the Caribbean islands.  In the 1770s Glasgow controlled over half of all the British trade in tobacco, which made up over one third of Scotland’s imports and over half its exports. This trade was immensely profitable as a consequence of which the tobacco traders soon became some of the richest men in the world. The colonial trade led directly to the development of industry on Scotland’s west coast, e.g. shipyards, rope works, leather works and sugar refineries.  Tobacco merchants set up a number of banks in order to deal with their bills of trading. The Scottish banking system grew as a direct result of the tobacco trade. In 1775 the trade collapsed due to the American Revolution. The former colonies, now free of the obligation to transport goods in British ships, simply by-passed Glasgow and sold directly to the European markets. Whilst this marked the end of the Tobacco Lords era, the emergence of the cotton industries and improvements to the steam engine would see the city grow larger and wealthier as the industrial revolution of the 19th century took Glasgow to greater heights.
Alot of the buildings we saw dated back to the merchant banks and that trade time.   There were a number of nicely painted murals –  This one – tied to what the shop was providing – clever.

The peacock being the most spread Art Nouveau pattern, a great example is the one adorning the Princes Square Shopping Centre building facade on Buchanan Street.
We then walked through this very expensive shopping center.  

There were a number of statues in George Square – I missed the one of Robert Burns the poet, but there was only one of a woman.   Queen Victoria: (1819-1901) succeeded to the throne in 1837 and first visited Glasgow in August 1849. Her great love of Scotland prompted the acquisition of Balmoral Castle as a royal residence, which she had rebuilt in 1856 and visited almost every year until her death. The monument shows the Queen seated side-saddle, holding an imperial scepter raised in her right hand.
 One of the merchant buildings.
 A view of Grand Central Station as we started back towards the hotel.
Back to the hotel for the final dinner and a extremely early wake up for the flight home.

While not the blue police box – aka TARDIS, it was blue, so I had to. So my parting image is not what you would think – but the geek in me had to.  Sorry.  It was a grand trip.  Hope to someday go back and see more of Wales and Scotland, but in a car with a chance to stop and photograph it the right way.
Thanks for following.

Road to Glasgow – Day 18

I thought there would not be any more images since I don’t usually take images from the coach due to the glare, reflections and generally dirty or wet windows.  I did want to try to get one though, since you are missing out on seeing the wonderful landscapes we have traveled.  We are now driving by a number of lochs and what you can see are tons of farmland  with white dots of sheep.  The dark areas are trees which are planted for lumber. We have passed numerous areas where the trees are planted in rows to maximize the area for trees.   Shot from the coach.
We traveled passed Loch Ness again.  We stopped this time at the Urquhart Castle ruins.    Once one of Scotland’s largest castles, Urquhart saw great conflict during its 500 years as a medieval fortress. Control of the castle passed back and forth between the Scots and English during the Wars of Independence. The power struggles continued, as the Lords of the Isles regularly raided both castle and glen up until the 1500s.  The last of the government troops garrisoned here during the Jacobite Risings blew up the castle when they left. Urquhart’s iconic ruins remain, offering glimpses into medieval times and the lives of its noble residents.  We didn’t go down and into the ruins, which was a shame, but so much to see and so little time, it was nice to at least stopping long enough to get a long range shot.

The canal runs some 60 miles from northeast to southwest. Only one third of the entire length is man-made, the rest being formed by Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy. These lochs are located in the Great Glen, on a geological fault in the Earth’s crust. There are 29 locks (including eight at Neptune’s Staircase, Banavie), four aqueducts and 10 bridges in the course of the canal.  The canal was conceived as a way of providing much-needed employment to the Highland region. The area was depressed as a result of the Highland Clearances, which had deprived many of their homes and jobs. Laws had been introduced which sought to eradicate the local culture, including bans on wearing tartan, playing the bagpipes, and speaking Gaelic. Many emigrated to Canada or elsewhere, or moved to the Scottish Lowlands. The canal would also provide a safer passage for wooden sailing ships from the north east of Scotland to the south west, avoiding the route around the north coast via Cape Wrath and the Pentland Firth. The work began on the canals back in 1803.  Because of the remoteness of the location, construction was started at both ends, so that completed sections could be used to bring in the materials for the middle sections.
We stopped in Fort Augustus at one of the swing bridge locks, with perfect timing to see a couple of boats pass through.

While there we looked for Nessie, but I guess we were not early enough (I heard she was an early riser) or she just didn’t want to be photographed.
So I had to make due with her statue –    and a rainbow.
David our program director brought some smoked halibut for everyone to try as we watched the ships pass through a number of locks here.
As we walked back to the coach – 
We drove on to stop at a special spot.  
The Commando Memorial is a  monument in Scotland, dedicated to the men of the original British Commando Forces raised during World War II. Situated around a mile from Spean Bridge village, it overlooks the training areas of the Commando Training Depot established in 1942 at Achnacarry Castle. Unveiled in 1952 by the Queen Mother, it has become one of the United Kingdom’s best-known monuments, both as a war memorial and as a tourist attraction offering views of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mòr.
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles, located in Scotland. Standing at 4,411 ft above sea level, it is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, close to the town of Fort William.
 Our view with a dramatic sky.

After our short visit to this memorial, we drove on to Fort William, for a break and some lunch.  Fort William is the second largest settlement in the Highlands of Scotland with around 10,000 inhabitants – and the largest town: only the city of Inverness larger. Fort William is a major tourist center, with Glen Coe just to the south, Aonach Mòr to the east and Glenfinnanto the west, on the Road to the Isles. It is a center for hillwalking and climbing due to its proximity to Ben Nevis and many other Munro mountains. It is also known for its nearby downhill mountain bike track.

The view just outside of town.  
As we continued our drive to Glasglow, we stopped at Loch Lomond at a park by the Sloy/Awe Hydro-Electric Scheme, a hydro-electric facility situated between Loch Sloy and Inveruglas on the west bank of Loch Lomond.
  The stairs up to a viewing platform.

Next stop – Glasgow.

Inverness – Day 17

We visited Culloden Moor, scene of the last major battle fought on mainland Britain – the Battle of Culloden. The final Jacobite uprising, and their efforts to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne, ended here on April 16, 1746, when Government forces led by the Duke of Cumberland crushed the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.

Queen Anne, the last monarch of the House of Stuart, died in 1714, with no living children. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, she was succeeded by her second cousin George I of the House of Hanover, who was a descendant of the Stuarts through his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth, a daughter of James VI and I. The Hanoverian victory at Culloden halted the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne; Charles Stuart never again tried to challenge Hanoverian power in Great Britain. The conflict was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.

The Jacobites were supported and supplied by the Kingdom of France from Irish and Scots units in French service.  The British Government (Hanoverian loyalist) forces were mostly Protestants – English, along with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders.  The quick and bloody battle on Culloden Moor was over in less than an hour, when after an unsuccessful Highland charge against the government lines, the Jacobites were routed and driven from the field.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded in the brief battle. In contrast, only about 300 government soldiers were killed or wounded.

The red flag marks where the government soldiers front line stood and the blue flag way off in the distance on the left side is where the Jacobites stood.  This is a grave site where you can view the Graves of the Clans, the Well of the Dead, the Memorial Cairn, the Cumberland Stone, and the Field of the English.  The museum contained a number of Jacobites’ artifacts.  There was also a demonstration of how men were “enlisted” by tricking them, by hiding it in the drink.  To  “take the King’s shilling” was to agree to serve as a sailor or soldier in the Royal Navy or the British Army.   

And the soldiers were called Lobsterbacks – because of the color of the jacket and pants. 
And here were the Jacobites shield and sword
And a cottage that was during the time of the battle. 
Here is a sampler done by a young girl – 
We left the battle field and headed to the 16th-century Brodie Castle, the historic seat of Clan Brodie, one of Scotland’s influential families. The castle is today owned by Scotland’s National Trust, and much of the interior is carefully restored and preserved to resemble things as they might have been in the medieval heyday of the clan. Outside the castle walls, a nature trail offers opportunity for a peaceful stroll through the well-manicured landscape.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph inside the Castle.  The family had acquired a large collection of artwork and the furniture is from the family.  We had lunch at the castle and did a little shopping.  I only had time to get the view from the front of the castle towards the pond.  
This was our last day of touring.  Tomorrow morning we leave Inverness for Glasglow and prepare for our last night in the UK.  I am not sure if I will get any more photos from this trip as I seldom photograph from the coach.
This may be the last post.  It has been a great trip and I have seen a lot.  There is so much more to see and to photograph properly.  Thanks for following along on this trip.  I hope I have given you a little bit of a taste of the UK and helped your desire to see it yourself.

Isle of Skye – Day 16

This morning we left Inverness for the Isle of Skye.  For this we were asked if we would be interested in doing part of the trip by train.  Of course, we said yes.  Our driver Paul, dropped us off at the Inverness train station and we headed to Kyle of Lochalsh.  Here are some of the images from our train.  Bear with me, the windows were dirty and it rained on us.
Not our train – but it was cute.

I could not pass this sign.  It was one of the stops on this route.

We were now seeing the sea.
And the Isle of Skye in the distance.

Our train and if you look close through the window you can see the Bridge to the Isle of Skye.

We now joined Paul, our coach driver, who drove up here by himself (probably was a much quieter trip for him) to go over the new bridge to Skye. Here are some views  from the coach.
We made a quick stop to a spot marked as the gateway to the Cuillins.

The Cuillin is a range of rocky mountains. The true Cuillin is also known as the Black Cuillin to distinguish it from the Red Cuillin across Glen Sligachan. The Red Cuillin hills are lower and, being less rocky, have fewer scrambles or climbs. The highest point of the Cuillin, and of the Isle of Skye, is Sgùrr Alasdair in the Black Cuillin at 3,255 ft. The Cuillin is one of 40 National Scenic Areas in Scotland.

We then continued our quick drive around the isle of Skye.  We didn’t have much time here and would need a couple of days to really see this isle.
Here is the most photographed castle in Scotland – Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most recognized castles in Scotland, and probably appears on more shortbread tins and calendars than any other.  Of course it was rainy and clouds were not cooperating at all.

A ship out of water.

And what trip would not include Loch Ness.  Of course, we drove by it, but we should stop here on Saturday on our way to Glasglow.

and one last castle set down the hill – 
It was back to our hotel for dinner.  This was a long day, and not having to look for a restaurant for dinner was a good thing.  One more day in Inverness and then it is on to Glasglow to prepare to head home.

Road to Inverness – Day 15

Today we left Edinburgh and headed to Inverness.  This was the optional extension to the trip.  Our group was now just over 20 people and we obtained a new driver – Paul.  We boarded and started our drive with little bits of sunshine.
Our first quick stop was to see the 3 bridges of Edinburgh.  Of course, now it is raining.

The three Forth Bridges across the Firth of Forth which had the weather been better might have been a great sight but in the rain and lighting, it was just a quick – look at this.  This shows the 3 bridges in one shot with the monument.  

Edinburgh, Scotland – Day 14

Today is our last full day in Edinburgh, and for some it is their last day of the trip.  Barbara and I are staying on to go for the Highlands of Scotland.
But for today, we did the Royal Scotland tour which consisted of a trip out to the HMY Britannia, the Royal Yacht.  It was christened by the Queen in 1953.

And of course, for me (ha ha), they had the find the corgi’s, so you know I had to.

And on to the bridge, which is usually not set up so high on the ship, for defensive measures.  and from the bridge looking down onto the bow.

And docked along side is the racing Yacht Bloodhound.  The classic 1930s ocean-racing yacht Bloodhound, owned by Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip in the 1960s and aboard which Prince Charles and Princess Anne learned to sail. She is usually on display alongside Britannia in Edinburgh as part of the Royal Sailing Exhibition.

one of the lifeboats.

The signal flag closet.

The breakfast area for the Queen (and corgi on cabinet).
This royal yacht also has place to store the Queen’s car. (and corgi in back window of course)

The ships bell and the Royal ER showing Queen Elizabeth and the date of the ship’s commission.

The Queen’s bedroom complete with corgi.

Prince Albert’s room (also with corgi).
The only double bed on the yacht, which was used by Prince Charles and Princess Diana. (they don’t get a stuffed corgi) 
A sitting room where Prince Albert used to paint (another Corgi). 
And now to another deck.

The officer’s area where they could unwind a bit. Notice the wombat in the fan and the monkey hanging off the silver ship in the case.  Oh yeah and the corgi.

Now it was the food preparing and serving areas.

and lots and lots of china, crystal and silver.

State functions are a big deal after all.

The communication desk for the Queen and corgi.

And the “living room” for the royal family complete with a piano that was bolted to the floor for obvious reasons.
This was Prince Albert’s communication room with corgi.

And Here’s Marta dressing with a Royal Seaman’s cap.

and for the crew some place to unwind,

or sleep (bunk comes with a corgi).

Here is the outside of the family area on the ship.

and now it was time for us to pose with our Walk for the Cure shirts – Valencia Lakes Women’s Club event coming up in Nov.

And Marta just wanted to be on the arm of this strapping bronze sailor.
Our trip to HMY Britannia was now over and on to visit Holyrood Palace.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse , commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.  Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies.  This was the official residence of Mary Queen of Scots.
Unfortunately, since this is still a residence, no photography inside the Palace is allowed, so all photos are of outside, the grounds, or the ruins of the Abbey.
 While inside, we did get to see where Mary Queen of Scots bedroom chamber, sitting area, where her secretary was murdered in front of her, some of Mary’s needlework.
 Even Bear managed to get out of my pocket and climbed onto the ruins for a photo op. 

Back to our hotel for some shopping, sleeping, or whatever.  Tonight is Cathy and Marta’s last night as I mentioned before and tonight we will have our Farewell dinner provided by Grand Circle Travel.
Now before we go – since I worked in insurance for xx years.  I thought it was very interesting that our hotel, The Principal, was formerly Caledonian Insurance building.