Kathy travels to Minneapolis regularly for work – her company is headquartered there. A few weeks ago she went and allowed me to tag along. A group of folks that I support at work are located there, so it gave me an opportunity to meet people that otherwise I would only know by phone and email.
While we were there we took some time to get out and explore. It was my first time there, and my first time to see the Mississippi River from somewhere other than an airplane. Here is a baker’s dozen of my photos from that adventure.
Photos from the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It was a little challenging photographically because, even though we had great seats, there weren’t many different compositions to be made. I had to rely on the changing of performers, lighting and special effects to get interesting photos. But what a background for a very spectacular performance!
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands and artistic performance teams on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle in the capital of Scotland. The event is held each August as part of the Edinburgh Festival.
The term “tattoo” derives from a 17th-century Dutch phrase doe den tap toe (“turn off the tap”) a signal to tavern owners each night, played by a regiment’s Corps of Drums, to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so that the soldiers would retire to their billeted lodgings at a reasonable hour. With the establishment of modern barracks and full military bands later in the 18th century, the term “tattoo” was used to describe the last duty call of the day, as well as a ceremonial form of evening entertainment performed by military musicians.
The first public military tattoo in Edinburgh was entitled “Something About a Soldier” and took place at the Ross Bandstand, Princes Street Gardens, in 1949. The first official Edinburgh Military Tattoo was held in 1950 with eight items in the programme. It drew some 6,000 spectators seated in simple bench and scaffold structures around the north, south, and east sides of the Edinburgh Castle esplanade. In 1952, the capacity of the stands was increased to accommodate a nightly audience of 7,700, allowing 160,000 to watch the multiple live performances.
Since the 1970s on average, just over 217,000 people see the Tattoo live on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle each year, and it has sold out in advance for the last decade. 30% of the audience are from Scotland and 35% from the rest of the United Kingdom. The remaining 35% of the audience consists of 70,000 visitors from overseas.
The temporary grandstands on the castle esplanade, used between 1975 and 2010, had a capacity of 8,600. New £16 million spectator stands and corporate hospitality boxes came into use in 2011. The new temporary stands reduced the time taken to erect and dismantle them from the original two months to one month, allowing the esplanade to host events at other times of the year.
The firing of the One o’clock Gun dates back to 1861 when it allowed ships in the Firth of Forth to set the maritime clocks they needed to navigate the world’s oceans. The idea was brought to Edinburgh from Paris by businessman John Hewitt. The gun is fired at 1pm every day except Sundays, Christmas Day or Good Friday, with crowds gathering to enjoy the spectacle. The first gun was a 64-pounder, but since 2001 a 105mm field gun has been fired from the Mills Mount Battery.
When I took these photos my intention was to turn them into a GIF. It took me a little figuring out in Photoshop but I was able to put 16 frames together into the little video below. Hopefully it isn’t too annoying, which is why I made it loop only 3 times and buried it down in my post to reward those few people who actually read my drivel. 🙂
Kathy & I seem to enjoy planning vacations almost as much as we enjoy going on them. There is something about doing the research and learning about a new place that gets us excited for the journey itself. I know we drive our travel agent crazy (sorry, Robin!) because while she is an expert on all the places we go and has lots of good recommendations, we almost always end up telling her what we want to do instead of relying on her expert advice. What happens is that by the time we have done our research we have ended with our own preferences, so even though her recommendations might be as good as, or probably better than, our own choices, our confirmation bias gets in the way of her good advice. That sort of happened to us with Scotland.
When we decided to visit Scotland, we were torn between taking a group tour or doing the planning and driving ourselves. There were a number of group tours, but our impression was that the big groups were way too big on huge busses, the small groups were really expensive, and that none of them went where we wanted to go. We always prefer to set our own agenda when possible, so none of those sounded like viable options. Some people might suggest that it’s a control thing and I suppose that’s true to a degree, but I think that we just like to do things our way. I guess that’s the same thing, isn’t it? We did learn later on that there were probably some ways to do smaller group tours that might have been more to our liking, but we had already made up our minds and didn’t want to be confused with facts! So we relied on our travel agent to make the air, Edinburgh hotel and rental car arrangements, and we did the rest. I think it turned out to be a good solution for us, even though there were many other solutions that might have been just as suitable.
A lot of the places we visited are places that tours often visit, such as distilleries and castles. A few of the places are not going to be on a tour bus agenda, however. Quite a number of places were along or at the end of a long single track road, certainly not suitable for large busses. We spent a lot of time on those narrow roads and got pretty good at knowing when to stop and wait or to tell when the other guy was waiting. That system worked pretty well over there, but the drivers in Scotland have a lot more patience and courtesy than we see over here! Also, we drove past some beautiful countryside where there simply wasn’t a safe place to stop, regardless of vehicle. So in those cases we just have to picture the scenes in our memories, as we weren’t able to make photographs.
Driving in Scotland wasn’t too hard for me. I’m ambidextrous, and when I thought about it ahead of time, I was pretty sure that driving on the left side of the road in a right-hand drive car would be like “driving in the mirror.” For the most part that was correct. The roundabouts were sometimes tricky, especially at first, and they have a lot of roundabouts in Scotland. The ones with multiple lanes could be especially vexing, and some of the towns could be a little tricky to navigate. But Kathy is a good and experienced navigator, and with the help of Google Maps we drove over 1000 miles and only took a few wrong turns. I will admit that having all of the signs in a language I can read helped a lot, so for any future trips to non-English speaking countries I’m inclined to let someone else drive!
Here is a short summary of our recent Scotland adventure for anyone who may be interested in a synopsis of our trip.
We flew to Edinburgh from Charlotte via Heathrow, then spent 4 nights in Edinburgh, exploring the city and attending the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Tattoo was the main reason we went to Scotland in the first place, and it completely lived up to our expectations. During the time we were in Edinburgh, the International Festival and the Fringe Festival were taking place, which made for a lot of crowds, but some interesting sights and sounds. We did our best to participate! Besides spending lots of time walking around, we did a bus tour of the city, toured the Royal Yacht Britannia and Edinburgh Castle, ate (and drank) in a number of pubs and restaurants, and generally absorbed the atmosphere of the place. It was quite the spectacle!
After our 4 nights in Edinburgh, we rented a car (yes, I drove!) and set off into the countryside in search of sights and experiences. We stayed at inns in Pitlochry, Inverness, Portree and Luss. We visited The Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies, toured 4 distilleries and a cooperage, drank some whisky, drank some beer, toured castles, drove some narrow single-track roads and saw some incredible scenery. A lot of the scenery was in places where it wasn’t safe to stop the car, so I had to make do with making the best photos I could where I was able to stop! We took boat cruises on Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine and visited a couple of lighthouses. Once it was all done we were back in Edinburgh for one last night before returning to Charlotte via New York JFK. Flights were all on time, the trip was comfortable and the airline food was surprisingly good. I must say that 8 hours is a long time to be on an airplane!
I’ll continue to post photos and narratives to detail some of the individual highlights of our trip. Overall it was an incredible vacation, but it was also a lot of work for both of us. Our next vacation, someone else may need to do the driving and navigating!
Kathy & I recently returned from a 2-week adventure to Scotland. Wow, what an adventure it was! I have nearly 3,000 photos to go through and that’s going to take me a while. In the meantime, here are a few early winners to whet your appetite!
An annual event in Waynesville, NC is the Folkmoot Festival that takes place at the end of July. We typically get to Waynesville during the month of July, but for all our trips there we had never made it to the Folkmoot Festival or anything that had to do with it. This year, while planning our July visit I happened to notice that some of the performers would be participating in the annual Street Dance in downtown on Friday night, and that the Parade of Nations on Saturday would be right down Main Street That was too easy to pass up, so we went.
At Friday’s Street Dance, the Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia (Siberia) were featured. They put on a great show with several groups of performers. These photos are from that performance. I also got some photos from the parade the following day, but those will need to wait for another post!