Saturday, 28 December 2013

A look back at 2013

This was a very busy and enjoyable year for us.

January - we spent a month in Uganda during which time we attended our Ugandan daughter, Doreen's, graduation from Makerere University with a degree in business. Her graduation party was held at the 5 star Serena Hotel in Kampala. She deserved it!

We also visited many of the dear friends we made while we lived in Uganda. 

Uganda photo album is here.

Doreen and her 'original' mum

Murchison Falls safari

Feb - We spent a week at the home of our friends', Micky and Nicole, who live in the Rhone-Alpes region of France. We took the trip with our friends Mick and Susanna.

Almost every meal was created by either Nicole and/or Micky and all were superb!!

It was unusually cold when we were there but that didn't stop us from wandering around the beautiful medieval villages in the area.  Both Nicole and I celebrated our birthdays during that week.

Photo album of France is here.

View from the top of Crest Prison

Friend Micky who lives in France

Friends Susanna and Mick

Guess who?

May - Doreen began volunteering at the Iona Community on the Isle of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. She loved it and we often visited while she was there. Doreen spent a total of 4 weeks visiting us at our home during this time, and was also able to meet both my sister and brother who had come for a visit. She returned home to Uganda in November but will be returning in late January as a staff member for at least 9 months. 

June/July - visited my family in Michigan for 4 weeks. We visited various places in Michigan and also celebrated the 8th grade graduation of niece, Grace. 

Photos are here.

Granddaughter Allyson

Granddaughter Haylee

Danny and Jesse play 'real' football

Brother's family - Christie, Grace, Ben

Sept/Oct - My sister, Cathy, came to visit for 4 weeks.  Soon after her arrival we travelled to Donegal in Ireland and stayed for a week.  

Our brother, Larry, came during her second two weeks here and we toured Scotland. 

Photos for these trips are here.

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Kilmartin - Templewood stone circle and pit


Danny's Brewery


We also visited adorable grandson, Mason, who lives in Inverness with Danny's daughter, Kathleen and her husband Riaan. 

As usual we took lots of local trips and several overnight and day trips to Glasgow.  

Upcoming trip in Jan 2014 is to Thailand for the wedding of Danny's niece, Laura, who lives in Australia. We'll be staying for two weeks after the wedding as well with some of the family, including Danny's two brothers and their wives. 

In July we will meet my youngest brother and his wife and daughter in Bruges, Belgium for a few days. In spring or autumn we will take Doreen back to London for a visit as well as a visit to Enfield to visit our friends. 

Aug/Sept we will go the US for a long visit. Possible out of state trips are still being decided.

Other trips possible but haven't decided.  2015 is expected to be very busy travel-wise!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Doreen got her visa!

We are thrilled that Doreen got her work visa to return to the Isle of Iona for a staff job. She'll be there for 9+ months next year.

She will, of course, have some holidays to take off and we plan to take her on a return trip to London as she enjoyed it so much in 2010.

Her arrival here will coincide with our holiday in Thailand, but we'll see her a couple of weeks after she begins her new job.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Family visit to Ireland and Scotland

During Sept/Oct my sister, Cathy, came to visit for four weeks and our brother joined us during the second two weeks.

I have uploaded all my photos and some of my sisters. You will find them here:

Photos Photos Photos


My sister, Danny and I went to Ireland for one week and stayed in Fintra Bay, Killybegs. We did not have a view of Fintra Beach from the holiday house we rented but were just a very short walk from this lovely beach. This was Cathy's first trip to Ireland and my first trip to this area of Ireland.

The first two days of our visit there were very high winds and pounding rain, but fortunately it cleared up later in the week.

Some of the places we visited in County Donegal.
Slieve League - highest sea cliffs in Europe

Donegal Castle

Donegal coast
Also did daytrips to:
Glenveagh National Park
Glencolmcille Folk Village
...and a few small town/villages

Co Sligo tourism
Visits in Sligo included Sligo Abbey and the guided tour was very interesting and surprising.  On the way into Sligo we stopped to see the grave of poet William Butler Yeats, and also did few detours to see some of the beautiful beaches.

On the way to catch our ferry at Larne in Northern Ireland we took a detour to see the Giants Causeway.  The weather was pleasant that day and we enjoyed our walk on the stones. I have wanted to see the causeway for a long time but it didn't seem to be a convenient detour on any previous trips I'd taken to Ireland.

Two weeks after my sister arrived, our brother, Larry, came to stay for two weeks and tour Scotland. He enjoyed his first trip to Scotland and like me, took many photos.


Our first destinations were in our county - Argyll. First stop was Kilmartin Glen, an area with over 800 monuments, cairns, standing stones, stone circles and rock art over 5,000 years old.

Kilmartin standing stone

After Kilmartin we spent the night on Seil Island so that we could do this boat trip.  We were impressed by the Garvellachs.  As a bonus we had a dry, mild day for scampering along the rocks and up hills.

Kilmartin Church

Larry on Garvellachs
The following week we spent two nights in Edinburgh which included a trip to the castle and the National Museum of Scotland. On the way back home we stopped at Rosslyn Chapel.

Edinburgh from castle

Another stop was Linlithgow Palace. It was home to the Stewarts and is where Mary Queen of Scots was born.

Linlithgow Palace

On a trip to Glasgow we visited the Burrell Collection, and the Glasgow Riverside Transport Museum. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the Glasgow University Anatomy Museum which disappointed Cathy greatly.

We spent a day visiting Stirling Castle and the National Wallace Monument (Braveheart). Our final day was spent in Inveraray. The siblings enjoyed a tour of the castle while Danny walked the grounds.  We finished the day with a stop at Fyne Ales followed by a delicious dinner at the Whistlefield.

Stirling Castle

I have done a few reviews on Tripadvisor for this trip:

Mhor Bread Tearoom - Callander, Stirling

Garragh Mhor B & B - Ellenabeich, Isle of Seil

Wetherspoons pub & restaurant - Playfair, Edinburgh

Saturday, 27 July 2013


We spent one month in Michigan visiting my family, returning on July 10th. It was very enjoyable seeing all the family and the weather was pleasant for the most part.

Some family photos

Granddaughter Haylee, 8

Granddaughter Allyson, nearly 3

There has been a long spell of warm/hot weather in the UK, including where we live. Not at all typical of our summers, we've had many days of temps in the 20'sC/ 70'sF and even up to 80F. It's been drier than normal as well.

Doreen is doing extremely well with her volunteering stint in the Iona Community. She's made many friends and meets people from all over the world. There are different guests every week.

We spent 3 nights/4 days on the island after we came home from the US.

Isle of Iona photos

Doreen will finish her volunteering on August 28th and will visit with us for two weeks before going home to Uganda.

Mid-September my sister will come to visit for a month.  Halfway through her visit, one of my brothers will arrive for a visit.  Plans include a visit to Donegal and Sligo with my sister who has never been to Ireland. This will be my brother's first visit to Scotland so we have many plans for showing him some of the country, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Kilmartin, Seil Island, the Garvellachs.

Except for local trips we'll be staying home after this until our next trip in January - to Thailand for niece's wedding.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Doreen in Scotland

We met Doreen in Uganda in 2008 and helped sponsor her for university which she completed in 2012. We tell everyone she is our daughter, though technically she is not. But she quickly became like a daughter to us and is part of our family. Her mother does not mind at all being a 'co-mother' to her.  And Danny, of course, is a dad to her and the only one she's known since hers died when she was a baby. 

When she visited us in 2010 she went on a retreat for a week here: Iona Community  She loved it and late last year she applied to be a volunteer there. She was accepted and based on the fact that she had already visited the UK and returned to Uganda, was granted a visa to volunteer on Iona.  She will be there for 14 weeks. Her visa allows her to be in the UK as a visitor for two weeks prior and two weeks after her stint on Iona.  

Her flights on May 1st and 2nd went well and even getting through UK immigration was easy this time.  

We went for a walk in Benmore Botanic Gardens Saturday:

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Still around!

Been a bit lax on my blog.  So a few updates.

15 April - will be the 13th anniversary of my arriving in Scotland to live. Two days later is our wedding anniversary.

Grandson in Inverness will have his 1st birthday this month and we will be making a visit there soon.

Our Ugandan daughter, Doreen, arrives in May and will be volunteering for more than 3 months at the Iona Christian Community.  She will have two weeks prior and two weeks after her stint to visit with us. 

Our upcoming trips are Michigan this summer, Ireland with sister in Sept. and around Scotland with the brother who has never been to Scotland. 

In January we will go to Thailand for a wedding - our niece who lives in Australia - and we'll make a nice holiday out of the trip. It'll be good to trade Scottish winters for warm sunshine. 

On Facebook I started a page to feature my photos:

We've had a very long run of sunny, dry days here, but the temps are still on the low side.  Love the sunshine but the flowers and plants are getting very thirsty. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

A week in France

Danny and I and our friends, Mick and Susanna, spent a week at the home of our friends, Micky and Nicole, in a small medieval village in the Drome departement in the Rhone-Alpes region of France.

Rhone-Alpes region

More info on Rhone-Alpes

Drome Departement

Guide to Drome

Drome is in southern Rhone-Alpes region which borders on Switzerland and Italy.

According to our host the weather was unusually cold during the week we were there.  When the wind blew, as it did in several areas, the effect was like a blast from the Arctic. Winter is very short in this part of France as it has a Mediterranean climate. It did finally begin to warm up just before we left and reached nearly 10C/50F.  It was sunny most days with just a couple of cloudy ones.  It never rained but we did have light snow flurries once or twice.

In spite of the cold we had a fabulous week! During the week both Nicole and I celebrated our birthdays.

Nicole and Micky are fantastic cooks and some of the foods included:  lots of fresh French breads, cheeses, nougat which is made in the town of Montelimar.  We also had large lunches and dinners and both included wines, salads, cheeses, breads.  Other very delicieux foods we were served:  paella, prawns, mussels, clams, chicken, guinea fowl, ham, sausage, scallops.  Also had crepes, a chocolate whisky cake, pain au chocolat (croissant with bits of chocolate), nougat, chocolates, etc.

The area is well-known for the many medieval villages (communes). Most of the houses are built with river stones which I found to be the most attractive buildings.  I enjoyed the brightly coloured shutters and doors as well, and the narrow alleyways.

Flickr photo collection of our trip

Day trips we took (with links for each):


Montelimar is a moderate-sized town in the area and is the Nougat capital.  Delicieux!! We wandered through the markets but didn't stay long as it was a very cold and windy day. We did stop for coffee and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) made with thick, delicious chocolate.  Mmmm....


We visited this village on market day and purchased some beautiful pottery, then wandered the streets/alleys.  In the summer this village is heaving with European tourists.

La Laupie

From the above website which translated it from French (with errors):

"The Laupie
Perched on a strategic height in the middle of the plain, the old village of La Laupie gradually abandoned in the early twentieth century, was the final blow in the battle of Montelimar (late August 1944) with a barrage of 650 rounds fired by German armies américaine.Non far from the village of Bonlieu became a buffer zone between the opponents.
This heap of ruins, new owners have revived the houses one by one from the years 1962-1963.
Scattered on the ground, stones, architectural details, lintel or transom-eye beef, have gradually found their way into the facades.
A big concern for authenticity oversaw the restoration, giving it a particularly homogeneous.
 The castle, heir to a first building built in 1000 and remodeled many times over the centuries, is again crowned the hanging garden that makes it unique.
 To enjoy this architectural ensemble better through the streets on foot. They can park in a parking area near the cemetery.
The visitor will not fail to return from stop to admire the Saint-Michel chapel built on a promontory.
Revised several times, the building began in the same time as the old village, it has elements inside of the twelfth century."

I simply loved these buildings and the view!!  

We roamed the streets and alleys and visited Chateau de Grignan.

"As you approach Crest, from far away you will see the 'trademark' monument of the town - the Crest Tower. Dating from the 11th century, the tower was once part of a castle and is the highest medieval keep still standing in France (with a height of a little over 50 metres). The rest of the castle was destroyed under the orders of Louis XIII in the 17th century.
At this time the tower became a prison."

It was a steep hike up to visit the former prison but the views and sites were well worth it. 

Charming medieval village!

Saint Gervais sur Rubion

Our friends village. It was established in about 1100.  Population within the village itself is about 400, with another 300 on the outskirts.

Other villages we visited or took a drive through were Cleon d'Andran, Marsanne, Sauzet, and Saint-Marcel-les-Sauzet.  Likely a few more as well.....


I'd love to return to the area in summer when the lavendar, poppies, and sunflowers are in bloom!

Although I'd been to France before, I had never experienced the triple-cheek-kissing (4 times in Paris).  Quite like the custom!

My French is limited but I did enjoy using what little I know.  I'm inspired to restart using my French language programme and would love to visit and be able to hold a conversation.

In the village where our friends live there is a small cafe/pub which we visited several times, consuming large quantities of beer and sometimes wine.

Micky and Nicole's home is about 350 years old and utterly charming with a unique layout on several levels.  The house was basically a shell when they bought it decades ago.  Micky has done a massive amount of work on it over the years and enhanced the character of the house so that it has the atmosphere of a historic house while also having modern conveniences.

Our departure from Lyon Airport was less than pleasant.  Some of the people at security were impatient and short-tempered.  I had to take out my camera and all the lenses, my Kindle, phone...  I was yelled at because Danny had gone through the metal scanner before being interviewed by the man in charge of the 'personal trays'.  The interviewer kept reverting to French even after I'd told him I didn't speak French.  C'est la vie.

I look forward to going back, hoping next trip it to Plum Village near Bergerac in the Dordogne Region.

Except for local trips, we have no plans to travel until June when we visit the US for a month.