Category Archives: Travel

Chef Tour in Nassau

Chef Stephen

In my earlier post about the Conch Guy I mentioned that we had taken a tour in Nassau with one of the chefs from our ship.  In addition to the fish market, we visited a roadside vegetable stand, a couple of guys cutting up coconuts for juice and meat, as well as a distillery.  Here are a few more photos from that trip.

Chef Stephen at a roadside fish market

Our guide was Chef Stephen from Jamaica, and he explained a lot about the different things we saw and how they were used in island cooking.  While we or the chef weren’t permitted to bring anything back to the ship due to health regulations and ship policy, Stephen used many of these same ingredients and themes when preparing the meal that we had back on the ship that evening.

Roadside produce stand
Roadside fish market
Roadside produce stand
Roadside produce stand
Roadside produce stand

In a separate post I’ll share photos from our galley tour.  But unfortunately I was too busy enjoying the food to take any photos at dinner!

Sampling fresh coconut and coconut water
Sampling fresh coconut and coconut water
Sampling fresh coconut and coconut water
John Watling’s Distillery
John Watling’s Distillery
John Watling’s Distillery
John Watling’s Distillery

The Conch Guy

The Conch Guy

One of the ports on our recent cruise was Nassau, in the Bahamas.  We did a shore excursion there that involved touring some of the island’s fish and produce markets with one of the chefs from the ship.  One of the stops on our tour was at a roadside fish market where fishermen brought in their fresh catch.  Coolers after coolers with fish of all types – including snapper, grouper, mahi and lobster.

Roadside fish market stand during our Chef’s Market Tour shore excursion in Nassau, Bahamas
Roadside fish market stand during our Chef’s Market Tour shore excursion in Nassau, Bahamas

Also at this stop was a tent where a man was shelling conch for conch salad.  If you aren’t familiar, a conch is a sea creature that grows in those beautiful pink shells that everyone likes to collect.  He used an ax to punch a hole in the shell in just the right spot, then dug the conch out of the shell with a knife.  The conch was then chopped up, marinated and mixed with veggies for a salad.  Delicious!

The Conch Guy
The Conch Guy
The Conch Guy
The Conch Guy

Watching the conch man work the shells was as interesting as eating the conch.  Kathy asked him if he ever cut himself.  He just smiled and said, “sometime, mon, but not in a long time!”

Conch salad!

Oh, There Were People in San Juan, Too!

Trio On A Bench

Cedric commented on my last post about how the lack of people contributed to the “Tranquilidad” of the scenes.  Of course not all of my photos were devoid of people, as the people are a large part of what makes San Juan special.  Here are a few photos “with” people as a counterpoint against those without.

Painting a Fine Line
Afternoon Walk
Three Dimensional
Wrong Way
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Scenery near El Morro Fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Lunch at Barrachina, allegedly the birthplace of the Pina Colada. In San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

An Unexpected Visit to San Juan

This Way!

Kathy & I recently returned from a cruise to the Caribbean.  We’re getting pretty good at the cruise thing – this was our 23rd cruise – but we’re still practicing!

An Address I Could Live With!

This cruise was on Celebrity Summit.  Celebrity has become our favorite cruise line, mostly because they just know how to do good food and good service.  While all of the lines are good, we’ve come to really like Celebrity.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

Summit is one of Celebrity’s older ships, but we chose it because it is one of their smallest, at just 2,000 passengers.  The ship we were on last year was over 4,000 passengers, while we saw a ship this time that was over 6,000!  While I would love to experience one of those ships, that’s just a shipload of too many people!

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

This cruise was supposed to stop at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, but Punta Cana doesn’t have a  dock for the cruise ships so it is one where they need to take passengers ashore using tenders.  The seas were too rough there for tendering, so we ended up in San Juan, PR instead.  While we looked forward to Punta Cana, we love San Juan and were not at all disappointed to end up there.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit
Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

Kathy & I spent our time in port walking around Old San Juan.  We had lunch (and Pina Coladas!) at a nice restaurant that claims to be the birthplace of the drink.  More to come on that, but for now, here are a few random photos from our time walking the streets of the old city.

Random street scenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico during our cruise on Celebrity Summit

Mary From Minnie

Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota

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.

Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota

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.

Random street scene in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Random street scene in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Random street scene in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Random street scene in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Random street scene in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Random street scene in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Former Pillsbury mill building in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis Minnesota
Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis Minnesota
Random street scene in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota

More from Around Edinburgh

Scene from around Edinburgh

I’ve finally finished processing my photos from Scotland and am going back through them for posting.  Here are a few from Edinburgh that I don’t think I’ve shared.  My apologies for any duplicates!

Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Guitarist “Adam Kadabra” performs during the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Guitarist “Adam Kadabra” performs during the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Bagpiper on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh

No, We Didn’t Get Tattoos!

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

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 at Edinburgh Castle

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 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

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 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

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.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

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 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

The temporary grandstands on the castle esplanade, used between 1975 and 2010, had a capacity of 8,600.[2] 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 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

(Text from Wikipedia)

The One O’Clock Gun

The One O’Clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle

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.

The One O’Clock Gun (at 2:30 – see the clock!)

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. 🙂

The One O’Clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle

More from Around Edinburgh

“Giant Wheel” ferris wheel along Princes Street in Edinburgh

Catching up on my photo processing, here are a few more random photos from around Edinburgh.

Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
The World’s End Close or alleyway
The World’s End
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Waverly Train Station in downtown Edinburgh
Greyfriar’s Kirk and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard church and graveyard in Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh

Driving in Scotland

Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry, Scotland

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.

Our visit to The Falkirk Wheel in Falkirk, Scotland
Our visit to The Kelpies at The Helix Park in Falkirk

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.

Urquart Castle from our cruise on Loch Ness about the Jacobite Queen
View along the A87 between Kyle of Localsh and Sligachan, Scotland
Talisker Distillery in Carbost, Isle of Skye, Scotland

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.

The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
Greyfriar’s Kirk and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard church and graveyard in Edinburgh

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!

Our cruise on Loch Katrine aboard the steamship Sir Walter Scott
Our cruise on Loch Lomond aboard the Lomond Princess