Monthly Archives: May 2006

Day 32 – Sunday, 21st May, 2006

Well, this morning it is, once again, cold, wet and miserable – the usual weather for London at this time of the year, I believe. We finished the laundry and got back in time to pick up Mum and Dad and catch the tube to Hammersmith. Janelle was already there to meet us and we discussed where to go for lunch, mindful of the effect smoke has on Dad and his emphysema.

Janelle said there was a little restaurant where we could eat out of the weather if the pub should prove unsuitable. So we set out to look at the pub first. We walked a couple of blocks to get there, and then it had not opened. We stood under the eaves waiting for 12 noon, and the guy snuck up on me to undo the bolts of the door and frightened about five years of my life away. He apologised, but considered the event to be very amusing – so did the rest of them, cheeky devils!

The young guy told us that there was a no smoking section of the hotel, and as we were the first customers for the day, he allowed us to sit around the corner and right at the back of the restaurant. We blew out all the candles surrounding our table and told them we would light them again before we left.

The roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was interesting, but not anything to write home about. The service was friendly and cheerful which was the main thing.

All too soon it was time to get back to the station and let Janelle go home for her sleep before the night shift. We continued on back to Earl’s Court, collected the money and deposit from our Oyster Cards before we left the station, and then walked backed to the Barkston Gardens Hotel.

Russ and I read for a while, and then went out to the Italian Restaurant just across the street for Spaghetti Marinara for dinner – yeah, Vik, we thought of you – and it was done in a wine and garlic sauce without the cream, and was very tasty.

We repacked our suitcases and got everything ready to catch the train the next morning. Janelle has told us that she will be waiting for us at the station to see us off as it is on her way home from work. She and Kerry head off for Rome and 5 weeks in Europe on Wednesday. Shortly after that she will be wending her way home, also.

Day 31 – Saturday, 20th May, 2006

Happy Birthday, Blade! He is 5 years old today.

The day has dawned – cold, wet and blustery. Russ and I grabbed our breakfast and then he phoned Virgin Trains to reserve our seats on Monday. We have to do this before we go to pick the ticket up, as we get all these records when we print them out.

We figure we can get this all done in pretty quick time – which we did. Then (Ha Ha) I got to listen to Collingwood thrash the pants off Geelong. However, I must remember that next week is another match and not to crow! Speaking of which, Simon, you have my sympathies, although from the score line it sounds like it would have been a good game. But, I did not expect Richmond to beat Adelaide.

We have gone for a walk to spot where we would like to eat tonight, and I have spent time getting this diary up to date. Tomorrow we are to get our laundry done first thing in the morning, and then we are to go to Hammersmith to meet Janelle for lunch. She has to work tomorrow night, and will need to catch a nap in the afternoon before she commences.

In the meanwhile, the next time either Russ or I complain about the contents of Australian television, we only need to remember the offerings of British TV to change our minds. It is the most pathetic drivel imaginable!

Day 30 – Friday, 19th May, 2006

Today we are having a day of rest. We will do Euston tomorrow when Janelle is at work all day. Mum and Dad are going for a walk, but Russ and I are going back to sleep.

Janelle joined us just after lunch time, with Mum and Dad, and we spent a lovely afternoon talking and drinking cups of tea in our room. We all headed to the pub on the corner for a tea of steak and kidney pie, and that plan lasted until we got inside the pub and started to cough from all the smoke in the air. They do not have a ‘No Smoking” policy in pubs here as yet, although it does apply in Scotland.

We ended up at the Chinese Restaurant where Russ and I had take-away the other night. I should mention here that the whole time we were in Canada and the US last time, all I wanted to experience was taking home Chinese in boxes. Needless to say, I was still waiting when we finally left those countries, as the Chinese food had been served in plastic containers.

So, here I am in England, and the Chinese food was served in white boxes. It is sometimes incredible what you get excited about.

Anyway, we had a delightful meal together and then Janelle went home to get some sleep before her 12 hour shift tomorrow. We have made no plans to do anything together until Sunday.

Day 29 – Thursday, 18th May, 2006

The weather was overcast (as usual in London) when Russ and I followed Janelle’s instructions for the tube. She had not steered us wrong, and shortly we found ourselves entering this famous establishment.

I had expected that this would be a room where the wax dummies were lined up one by one and you walked along inspecting the different offerings. How wrong could I have been!

You enter a lift which takes you upstairs and when the doors open you find all these flashings lights winking at you, and waves of sound beating against your ear-drums.  You then realise that you are supposed to be the star arriving at a gala do, and the noise and flashes are the paparazzi lined up behind rope lines and trying to get your attention. As usual, nothing much fazes Russ so he immediately doffed his akubra and murmured, “Thank you, thank you,” as he moved along to the doorway.

Then you enter an area of bright lights and wend your way amongst the crowd with much pushing and shoving. Russ had his camera ready and began to take the first of many photos. I decided to stand to the side and wait for him to finish, and then realised that the person I was standing next to was one of the dummy exhibits.

It continued like this through room after room. The public rushes to stand beside this figure, then dashes off to have their photo taken standing beside another figure. It was mayhem!

Most of the dummies exhibited are extremely good representations of the people they are supposed to be. I was a bit disappointed with Mel Gibson, and there were others whose faces I could not recognise, but overall it was very impressive.

Russ had me stand beside a few of them – John Wayne, for instance, to get a better perspective of the relevant height. He also had me taking a few photos of him with some of the exhibits – such as Will and Harry, Jean Luc Pickard aka Patrick Stewart.

We finished the tour of the place with a ride through the history of London from the Great Fire. It was very well done, and a great way to finish the show.

We then met Mum and Dad and Janelle at Green Park Station (they were a bit late as Janelle had got caught up on one of the buses whilst on her way to pick them up at Earl’s Court), and then caught the tube to Leicester Square. We went down to the Ticket place and got tickets at a reasonable price for the Lion King later this evening.

Whilst in the neighbourhood Janelle took us to Fortnum and Masons. This is the shop that sells to Royalty, and where there is no such thing as a common sale. Here they have Reduction Periods! Russ seems to have picked up a bug, and this cut our visit short. The day has also become very blustery and there is a lot of pollen in the air. We are all complaining about the itchy eyes, and dry throats that go with it.

We therefore went back to the Barkston Gardens and grabbed some afternoon tea. Hopefully Russ will have time to get better before we have to leave. Mum has some capsules with her from the chemist for upset stomachs, and he has taken two of them.

The rest of us grabbed something to eat and then changed into our glad rags. Russ insisted that he was fine, so we retraced our steps. The show is appearing at the Lyceum Theatre and we need to be there before it begins at 7:30pm.

When we arrived Janelle checked our tickets and found out they were actually for the Grand Circle. This is a different entrance to the rest of the theatre, so we made out way over to that door. The doorman informed us that we had to climb 82 steps to get up there, and then asked Mum if she would like to take the lift up instead. She rapidly said ‘yes, please’ on all our behalf, and he took us around to the side door and organised it for us.

We had the third row back from the front of the grand circle, and a really great look at the stage from well up in the heights of the theatre. However, I was very disappointed with it. I could not understand the words being sung (when in English, that is) and the music itself was very loud, but the harmony was well done. Although impressed with the techniques used in the construction of the animal representations, the story was lame. Probably when seen as the movie it would be quite moving, but the theatre made it a very choppy storyline. The dancing was pretty good.

I sat next to a lady who told her partner that she could not understand what everyone raved about when talking about the show. I tend to agree with her.

We left Janelle in the tube and got off at Earl’s Court. Russ was much improved, and he had enjoyed the show a lot. However, he was now also very hungry so we stopped off at KFC on the way back, and he got some chicken to eat.

The plan next day is for Russ and I to travel to Euston Station to collect our paid tickets to Glasgow for Monday, and to find out what we need to do for our luggage. Mum and Dad will rest in the morning, and then Janelle will join us for the afternoon.

Day 28 – Wednesday, 17th May, 2006

We had an early breakfast – continental, and part of our room deal – and then went back upstairs to collect our gear before descending to the lounge room to await Janelle’s arrival. Mum and Dad took the opportunity to see if they could change their traveller’s cheques at the bank on the corner. They returned to say they had not done so because the bank would have charged them commission on the transaction.

As it turned out, they still had to pay commission at the Bureau of Change when they finally got that done later in the morning. Janelle had explained that we would be best served to buy ourselves an ‘Oyster” ticket and put money on it. This works for the transport system much as a phone card does. The entrance machines at the tube use a reader as you go through, and deduct credit from your card each time, up to the value of £4 per day. After this caps out you travel free. Most of our touring will be done in Zone 1.

So, when we got to the Underground – just around the corner and a short walk down the road – that is exactly what we did. The ‘Oyster’ Card costs £3, and we put £17 credit on each card. When we are finished with them on Sunday afternoon we can take them back to the ticket box and get a refund on the amount still on the card, and also get our £3 back when we hand the card in.

The Underground is a very effective means of transport, and can work well because of the number of people who use the system. It is also very claustrophobic if you are inclined that way.

Anyway, we set off with Janelle – they use very long and deep escalators (no wonder they sheltered in the underground during the bomb raids in the Second World War) to get to and from the platforms, but there are still stairs that must be climbed and descended. Our muscles are getting a really great workout.

The weather was overcast and rain was forecast for the afternoon, so we set out for the London Eye first thing. We lined up to get our tickets, and they had a deal offered for reduced cost if you buy a ticket to Madame Tussauds at the same time. Russ and I took advantage of this as we intend to see the waxworks. Mum, Dad and Janelle have already seen the place and none of them wished to make a return visit.

We made it onto the Eye before all the hordes of school children lining up for their turn. It is a magnificent view, and we probably did well with the overcast conditions. Even if the sun had been shining, there would have been a haze on the horizon, but at least the air conditioning had a chance to keep the temperature reasonable.

Janelle and I spotted this contraption on the rooftop just below us. It is similar to the kind of belt and harness used by Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider where the cords are somehow elasticised and the trampoline sits at your feet. It looked terrific, but Mum talked me out of trying it because of my back. I will still think of it with fond memories, but it would not be a good idea to try it just before another 15 days in a coach. Maybe if I ever see one in Australia I will get to try it there.

We had passed a café that featured hot waffles with ice-cream on our way to the Eye, – the smell wafted after us – and came back here for an early lunch. Delicious!

After the Eye we walked to Westminster Abbey but it had been closed to the public whilst a private event took place. It was due to be opened at 2:00pm this afternoon. From here we journeyed along and decided to drop Dad off at the Natural History Museum, Russ at the Science Museum, and Janelle took Mum and I off to see Harrods.

When I wandered past tins of talcum powder that cost £145 I realised that much of my interest had waned. However, Janelle directed us to the souvenir section and I was able to overcome my hesitation. I bought a lovely bag to update my collection. Of course, it has cats on it. I also got a few more souvenirs whilst there.

We took a seat at a little café when we got back to the meeting place, as we were very early. Janelle and I had a latte, Mum abstained. We then wandered back to the corner. Dad was not very long off and he told us he had a wonderful time, and could have spent more hours there. Russ joined us shortly afterwards and raved about the things he had seen. Both these displays take up several floors of room, and entry is free. Janelle explained that she and Kerry had spent many a cold, wintry Sunday afternoon looking at the various museum displays.

By the time we then caught the tube back to Earl’s Court we were very tired. Janelle saw us through Marks and Spencer before heading for home, herself. Russ and I were to go to Madame Tussauds the next morning and then meet them all at Green Park Station. We were then going to Leicester Square to see what shows were on special.

Day 27 – Tuesday, 16th May, 2006

We had a lovely lie in this morning until the very last minute and then went down to breakfast. Apparently everyone else on the coach had the same idea. It was like we hadn’t seen each other for several days instead of just the afternoon before.

We returned to our room and packed our things together. About 11:30am we took our luggage down stairs and checked out. The concierge went outside and nabbed a taxi to take us to Barkston Gardens. By golly those cabs can pack a load.

It was expected to take about 30 minutes and cost about £20. Instead we were there in 15 minutes and it only cost £10 and that included a tip.

It was refreshing to see that the arrangement made by Finola during the tour came as no surprise to the Receptionist when we arrived. She patiently explained that she would give us our rooms, and we would not have to change tomorrow for the start of our original stay at the hotel, but that we would have to settle up for the nights stay the next morning. Mum and I were only too happy to agree with her suggestions.

The Barkston Gardens Hotel is a moderate place. We were a trifle concerned about the size of the rooms we would be spending the next five days in, but we had a very pleasant surprise. Russ and I have a double (standard size) and Mum and Dad have a Queen size bed. However, their room is slightly smaller than ours, but ours also has a single bed in it. We both have balconies with bay windows, and our bathroom is very large. The hotel is fairly old, but has been well kept. The staff is very friendly.

Once we had been shown to our rooms, after a short wait in the lounge area, we unpacked our cases, took out the laundry and went forward to do the washing. There are no laundry facilities here in the hotel, but there are two Laundromats just down each end of the roadway.

As expected, it is fairly pricey, but heaps cheaper than using the hotel services, where laundering a pair of trousers costs £5.50. We took our PDAs with us and were able to read while we waited for the cycles to be completed. The seats could have been more comfortable, but it was better than having to stand all that time.

When we arrived back at our room with clean and dry clothes, we went down to Mum and Dad’s room where Janelle was already, and had a cuppa with them. We have a Marks and Spencer Store across the road so getting fresh milk and bottled water will be a breeze.

The afternoon was spent catching up on all the news at home we had missed whilst on the tour. We also made arrangements to meet tomorrow and go see some of the sights of London. Janelle had made a list of places she thought we might like to see, and she had organised them so that we could do this systematically whilst in one area at a time.

She had made arrangement to meet with her room-mate, Kerry, to watch the footy at the local pub that night, so she made her farewells and left us to grab a bite to eat. Russ and I visited the local Chinese Restaurant around the corner and I had Canton Duck. I just love this dish and can rarely get it in Australia. Russ had lemon chicken, and we ordered special fried rice. It was very yummy.

Day 26 – Monday, 15th May, 2006

Today is a fairly long journey on the motorway with few stops in between. Russ and I took heaps more photos of the Ramada York, in particular, the public areas of the old manor section. It really has been kept as close to the original as could be done whilst bringing it up to modern standards.

We made a morning stop at Belvoir Castle (beautiful view) although the English have cannibalised it to Beaver Castle so they don’t have to use French. This is the home (still today) of the Duke of Rutland and his family. He lives there with his wife and five children – three girls and two boys – but has opened the more historic sections of it to the public. They also leave lots of photos of the current family displayed, just like you would in your own home on the mantelpiece etc.

The heir to the duke is 8 year old Charlie whose title is the Marquis of Granby. Apparently the retainers tell the story that if you were to meet him and say, “Good morning, Marquis” as would be proper, the young lad replies, “Oh no, my name’s Charlie!”

His 2 year old brother is Lord Hugh, and his sisters are 13, 11, and 9 years old. They are lovely looking children, and the photos of them are quick snaps, not posed photos. The family seems to be happy. The previous four dukes also had five children each, but in those generations the number of boys was three, and the number of girls was two.

We were allowed to take photos both inside and outside the castle. Although the rooms were roped off in parts, it is understood that on days when the castle is in use by the family with guests, these areas are still used for their original purposes. Mind you, we only saw a small section of the castle, but it was well worth the visit.

Once back on the coach we journeyed to Stamford where we stopped for a lunch break. Russ and I paid £4.75 each for a ham sandwich – about $12 Australian. Then Mum told us she and Dad had found a small place with a huge bowl of soup and crusty bread for just £2.50 each. The weather was a soup day, but we had not been able to find any such place. The others, once back on the coach, had stories of mixed success also.

Once back on the motorway we continued on towards London. It is true that the M1 becomes a parking space as you approach peak hour towards the city. Whilst Mark had hoped to deliver us to the Ramada Hyde Park by 3:30 pm, we did not get there until 4:10 pm. Some of the group had chosen to do an evening coach tour of London, and had to be ready to leave by 5:00 pm. Others were attending the Phantom of the Opera with a dinner that began at 6:00 pm, and at a cost of £135 each.

When we got back into the Ramada we discovered that we did not have a room allocation. Apparently our names had not been added to the original tour group after our last minute addition. However, they assigned us a room each and we made our way upstairs to unload our luggage.

We went for a quick walk down the street to the ATM, and to get some rolls for tea as dinner is not included in the tour tonight, but breakfast is tomorrow. Once we made it back to our rooms we all decided to vegetate until we got hungry in the morning.

We do not have to check out until 12 noon, so will then move across to the Barkston Gardens, where Finola had organised for an extra night added to our original booking of 5 nights.

We have spoken with Janelle who will meet us there about 1:00 pm. From there we can catch up with all the news and decide on our itinerary whilst in London with her. She does not have to work again until Saturday. It has become a priority to find a Laundromat so that we can wash our clothes. The price is prohibitive to use the laundry services of the hotels, and they do not have laundry facilities available for the use of guests.

Day 25 – Sunday, 14th May, 2006

This morning we leave Edinburgh for York. It is very, very cold. The temperature yesterday reached a maximum of 9 degrees with the sun shining. It was expected that the temperature this morning would be about 4 degrees in the morning. Rain is also indicated so I have made sure the yellow peril is ready for duty.

Today is Mother’s Day in Australia, Canada and America, but not in the United Kingdom. Here they celebrate Mother’s Day on the last Sunday in March. Russ and I made sure Mum got her hugs from Lyn and Trevor, and Russ was asked by one of the Mum’s to be a surrogate hugger. Finola then decided that Russ could provide all the Mums with a present before the end of the day amongst great hilarity on the bus.

We took some time to stop at Wordsworth’s home – a castle called Abbottsford – where we enjoyed a guided tour of the place (over 7000 books in his library and this does not include the 200 plus which made up his reference section) and were actually allowed to take photos both inside and outside.

Whilst pulling into the coach parking zone I received a phone call from Brett wishing Nan and I a very Happy Mother’s Day. He also took the opportunity to furnish us with the last of the game results in footy.

Brett, just for you, Dad has taken some fabulous pics of the armoury and suits of armour in Wordworth’s collection. There is also a great photo of the four of us standing in the Oriental Room where the wall paper had been hand painted – a truly massive undertaking.

We then had a five minute stop to take photos of Melrose Abbey, which is now being restored, but was defaced by order of Henry VII during the Reformation and was then abandoned by the Cistercian monks shortly thereafter. Across from this site is also the first and last shop in Scotland, depending on whether you are entering or leaving the country.

After this we took a slight detour to view some of the remains of Hadrian’s Wall. This wall was 73 miles long and started about Newcastle on Tyne and went east/west across the country to Solway. It was started by the Romans in 156 AD and finished in 161 AD, built 20 feet high and ten feet wide with the idea of keeping the Scottish barbarians out of Roman civilisation. It also had a moat ten feet wide and thirty feet deep on the English side of the wall as an added precaution.

Once the Romans left in the 4th Century AD, the common people used the wall as a quarry and took the brick to build their houses. There is now little left of this once mighty structure other than small pockets dotted across the landscape. Some of these in the more isolated places are in better condition than others near populated areas.

After this stop we skirted Newcastle on Tyne on the M1 motorway and stopped at a service area for a quick lunch. Russ took this opportunity to buy two bunches of fake roses, pink and yellow ones. He presented his Mum with a bunch of the yellow, and gave all the other ladies on the coach their pick of a pink or yellow rose – great hilarity once again.

We finally reached our destination of York about 3:00 pm.

Finola had Mark drop us off just before the ABC – York Minster – and then gave us a brief history of the area as we walked along the Shambles. This is a street in York which used to be the butcher’s area. The houses are all built out over the road as they go up each storey. The overhang at the bottom was used to hang the pieces of meat for sale.

The Minster, not a Cathedral now because the Bishop is no longer housed in the town, costs £8 per adult to get in and see it. However, it was also being used for a funeral so we did not bother too much, other than to take some photos of the outside, which is very impressive. Fancy having a funeral on a Sunday!

Mum has bought a beautiful hat pin. It is common knowledge on the coach that she collects them. As she was about to enter the store one of the Canadians saw her and yelled, “Caught you!” Needless to say she bargained well and has a lovely hat pin from York to add to her collection.

Now I simply have to wax eloquent about our hotel for the night. We caught up with Mark at 5:30 pm in the designated area and he transported us to the Ramada Hotel just outside of York. This place is much more like it!!!!!

It is a converted manor house and I am thrilled to be staying here. It has the atmosphere and architecture that I thought should be a talking point if undertaking this type of tour.

I even have photos of our rooms – yes, plural. We have a withdrawing room, a bathroom you could hold a party in, and a bedroom that contains a four poster bed – WITH curtains!!!! The floors squeak when you walk on them, and the stairs meander around the place in little nooks and crannies. It is fabulous!

We have a TV in the withdrawing room, and a TV in the bedroom – not that we watch much – as well as picture windows in each of them. Mum and Dad’s is similar to our, but their bathroom is not anywhere near as big, but their withdrawing room is much larger. Their floor squeaks as well.

It was interesting to compare notes with our fellow dinner guests tonight. We had at our table – Susan, Kathryn, John and Marie, Jerry and Sue, Valerie and Jacqueline. Most were Americans, but John and Marie are Canadian.

Some have a single room plus small bathroom, others a small sitting area and bedroom, whilst still others have a Jacuzzi in their bathroom and they have invited everyone to join them after the meal.

The hotel has been overbooked and so Mark and Finola (plus other tour guides) have had to stay on the other side of York at the Novitel Hotel. They will be back to pick us up tomorrow morning for our final leg back to London.

This is the first time we have shared a double room. The rest of our stays have been in twin share rooms. There are a few of the others in the same situation due to the hotel being overbooked.

We will spend tomorrow night back at the Ramada Hyde Park, and then shift to the Barkston Gardens on Tuesday morning for the rest of our six days in London.

We have spoken with Janelle this evening and she is looking forward to spending time with us again. She has decided that she can check out last minute tickets for shows whilst we are with her. So far she has mentioned the Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Mama Mia. Time will tell.

Day 24 – Saturday, 13th May

Kelly and Erica sat next to Mum and Dad last night, and told us this morning that they are ‘precious’. I think the obvious enjoyment shown by Mum and Dad last night heightened their own experience.

Russ and I are having a lazy day in Edinburgh today because we get to do all this again next tour. We plan to update the website with new photos and the next part of this diary, and just plain take it easy.

Once Russ had finished naming the photos he posted the new ones ready for transfer to the website, and I had the next diary entry ready. We had to take a walk to the Ramada Hotel on Princes Mall in order to connect to the Wi-Fi service for the Internet. We enjoyed a café latte whilst we updated the website, checked the emails and the footy results, and then went back to the hotel – the Edinburgh Thistle – to dump the computer before wandering to find somewhere to eat dinner for the evening.

It is really amazing that in both London and Edinburgh, both big cities, that the shops close at 5:30 pm. This includes places like KFC and McDonalds. We finally grabbed some KFC just before it closed and then went back to the hotel and watched X-Men. All the news over here this evening is about Gretna Green being beaten in the Scottish Soccer Final, and Liverpool winning in the English League Final.

Today is also the middle day of our journey. Up to this point in time we have saved 2012 photos, and I am uncertain as to how many we have already deleted before this number.

It is an interesting fact that I love the Scots brogue, and the two people who have served me in shops in Edinburgh have been Australian!

Day 23 – Friday, 12th May 2006

This morning we had our bags outside the door at 6:45 am, and had headed off to Chester by 7:45 am. Finola took us into the town centre (called the Rows because of the shopping stores in storey layers – probably the first shopping mall in history) and showed us where to go to see the places of interest. The Rows is an amazing sight with all its old buildings.

During the building of the main road through Chester they came across a Roman Amphitheatre. They are still in the process of excavating some of it, but will never be able to uncover the rest as it is underneath a National Heritage listed Georgian building. However, the road does take a wide curve so that it could be excavated for study.

The remains of the old town wall meanders through Chester, and you can climb the stairs near to the original tower clock from Queen Victoria times and walk along its length between the buildings until you come to the river.

Once back on the coach we headed off for Scotland. We went through the Lakes district where Beatrix Potter used to vacation as a child, and to Grassmere where she bought two farms with the money she made from her Peter Rabbit books, and retired. She left her properties (working sheep farms) to the National Trust, and they still work them today. However, the house she lived in has been opened to the public.

Our driver, Mark, is very good at his job. He drives smoothly through torturous narrow roads and laneways with nary a trace of hesitation. We are talking about a large unwieldy coach, but no-one has yet complained about travel sickness. We won’t discuss vertigo.

As we approached Gretna Green it started to get a bit cloudy. Time will tell. Gretna Green is where young English couples could hurriedly travel to if they wished to elope and marry without their parents’ consent. The village blacksmith was, by Scottish law, able to wed two willing people without the benefit of a license, or the necessity of the banns being read for four consecutive weeks in the church.

Russ actually found here the Millar shield. This is his Mum’s family name and they are a branch of the McFarlane clan. He also found the Ferguson shield, and has decided to purchase them the next trip round. This day is the only day we repeat in the next tour.

We then travelled on to Edinburgh through the rain. It was bitterly cold when we arrived at the Thistle Hotel in Edinburgh, but it had stopped raining. This hotel is another square box in the heart of the city, and not far from the Royal Mile.

We have now met the two young girls from Arkansas and Colorado – Erica and Kelly – and Julia and Ralph from Canada. Also Mary and Clare from near Lake Eyrie, Kathy and her mum, Fran, also from this area, and Shaun and Kathleen from Canada. I am not sure where Gail, comes from.

This is the hotel that features the Jamie’s Scottish Evening. We headed down to the second floor and waited for Finola to assemble our group. We then were shown to our tables in the dining/entertainment hall. Our dinner was very nice, and we were given a selection of foods (Scottish dishes) to choose from.

Then the entertainment began with a duet by Jamie and Margaret. There was a piano player, violinist, piano accordion and drummer. We also heard from the Pipe Major. There were two female dancers and a male dancer – from Japan, and he was really great (I won’t try to write or pronounce his name).

After the introduction and welcoming of the different nationalities we were presented with a short program before the Haggis Ceremony. (This is where Russ and I left for the evening as my vertigo was not being pleasant.) However, there was more music and community singing after we left, and all had a good time.