Scotland and England
Luigi and Manly, 1998

NOTE: Pictures offered through this account can be viewed only on line; as various websites may decompose, some pictures will cease to be available.

On Thursday, June 25 we took a United Airlines overnight flight from O'Hare to London Heathrow.
Friday, June 26. Arriving tired, we took the new 10 Pound train service to Paddington Station, a subway to King's Cross (it also made me cross) station, and another train to Edinburgh. I had gotten a reservation at the Balmoral Hotel in this city because it is virtually on top of the railroad station, and I knew I wouldn't want to carry luggage any farther than absolutely necessary. We did not have to carry it far horizontally, but it turned out that there were several flights of stairs to climb. On reaching the hotel, we were advised by the doorman that many people take a taxi from the station to avoid all those stairs. Picture of Balmoral Hotel.

An attractive young Australian desk clerk who resembled Amanda Horne checked us in and led us to our room on the fourth floor. It has a view of Edinburgh Castle and various other sights in the downtown area. Edinburgh Castle 1. On one wall of our room hung a replica of "After the Hunt" by Landseer, showing a large rowboat carrying a horse bearing a dead stag in the center; the rest of the boat is full of children, women, bagpiper, gentleman, and two oarsmen; a dog carrying dead bird swims alongside. The original is one of a series of which engraved copies were in my grandfather Russell Whitman's law office and of which I have two.

Saturday, June 27. We were offered a full Scottish breakfast -- black pudding, Scotch bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, sausages, as well as juice and the usual stuff that goes with a continental breakfast. Our first endeavour was to take a tour of the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, a museum next to Edinburgh Castle, followed by a tasting in the museum's tasting room. . A ceiling beam bore the legend: "If a body could just find oot the exac proper portion o' the quantity that ought to be drank every day, and keep to that, I verily trow that he micht leeve for ever, without dying at a: and that doctors and kirkyards would go out of fashion" James Hogg, 1770-1835. At another part of the museum I was permitted to purchase a 35 centiliter bottle of Highland Park Whisky -- one of the two made in the Orkneys. The other is Scapa. Although Luigi and I generally share a flask of Bourbon on our trips (other than wine trips), I did not feel right about drinking this in Scotland -- it would be like drinking Scotch in Kentucky.

I used my Visa card to get 100 Pounds from a Clydesdale Bank cash machine and was surprised to find that the promise to pay on the face of each note was by Clydesdale Bank. It seemed unlikely that an ATM machine would double as a printing press, but I did wonder. Scotland has its own currency; it is interchangeable with that emanating from the Bank of England.

Dinner was at the New Club, founded February 1, 1787. The Old Club is not much in evidence. The New Club has reciprocal arrangements with the University Club of Chicago, and has occupied various sites in its history, having moved into its present location in 1837. It was demolished and reconstructed in a redevelopment in 1967, and it leases the ground floor to shops. This enabled the Club to finance its present quarters in 1969. The entrance is an unprepossessing door in a recess in a wall of storefronts. After pushing a button I was asked who I was via an intercom and was then buzzed in to a modest, nondescript hallway. A lift took us up to elaborate club rooms with a porter's desk opposite the lift door. We were shown into the bar room where we got leather bound menus and a blue form on which to write my name and order. On turning this in we were asked to wait in the reading room until advised that our table was ready. This room provided a splendid view of the Castle and other parts of Old Edinburgh. The dining room was oak paneled with full length oil portraits on the walls, including Queen Victoria's. Dinner was served on elaborate gilt-edged china on varnished tables with place mats, no tablecloths. It included onion soup, roast guinea fowl, fresh bread, summer pudding with soft berries and cream for me, mango sorbet for Luigi. Also a carafe of house claret that was good and went well with the meal. I paid 42 Pounds ($70) by credit card. Ten other tables were occupied, four or five not.

Sunday, June 28. We walked down the Royal Mile (that starts at Edinborough Castle) to the entrance of Holyroodhouse Palace and then back up via Holyrood Road. Both of us were feeling ill but were revived by lunch in hotel bar -- asparagus soup for Luigi and crab and avocado sandwich for me and ale for both. After naps Luigi took a taxi to Pollock Hall at University of Edinburgh and the International Conference of Architectural Museums: and I went on a picture-taking walk, mostly up and down the Royal Mile.

My dinner was at Stac Polly at 29-33 Dublin Street. It is in a basement with rough stone walls and a large basket of used corks at the bottom of the stairs. Quiet, with operatic music soft in the background, this restaurant has a pleasant and attractive staff. Puree of leek and potato soup was very good. The house red is good claret and was served in a fairly large glass well filled. The saddle of roe deer on red cabbage with potatoes, carrots, peas in pod etc. was delicious and cost me 25 Pounds ($42) with tip. The restaurant filled up before 8:00 so it is wise to make reservations.

Monday, June 29. This day began my trip to the Orkney Islands.

In preparation I had read Orkneyinga Saga, a history of the earls of Orkney from the ninth to the thirteenth century written around 1200 A.D. and translated from the Icelandic. Most of the characters indulged in wars against each other and in Viking raids south into Scotland and England and Ireland when their farming duties permitted. I had not read a bloodier book since the Illiad.

The Orkneys, the first group of islands north of Scotland, are justly reputed to be misty, foggy, rainy, windy, and cool. I was very glad that I had brought a raincoat with hood. Except for trees deliberately planted in the last 150 years, the islands are treeless. Some suggest that trees can't grow without help in the constant wind; I suspect that the islands were wooded when people moved there, but that the people cut all the trees for shelter and firewood. Something similar happened on Easter Island -- about as far as you can get from the Orkneys. My suspicion is supported by stories from the Orkneyinga Saga of various Vikings who ruled the Orkneys and who, to murder each other, burned one another's houses down. Such houses would not have burned if built of materials other than wood. Also, at Burroughston Broch, the description of the use of one part of the ruin refers to smelting ore -- unlikely in the absence of wood for charcoal but a good partial explanation for the elimination of forests.

I took a 10:15 plane to Aberdeen and lunch at the airport cafe. The 3:55 plane to Kirkwall on Orkney was late, reaching that town a little after 5:00. I was able to get a taxi to take me a mile or two to the ferry that left at 5:30 for its last run of the day to Shapinsay.

Catherine Zawadski met me at the ferry landing in a well-used red Ford van and drove me to Balfour Castle past a field fenced by a hewn stone wall. About two miles of such walls were made by men brought from Cornwall by Lord Balfour. Catherine carried in my small bag and her daughter Patricia the duffel. We stopped on first floor where we met Catherine's daughter Mary and saw the Balfour portrait gallery that also contains sculptures and Victorian and later treasures such as deer heads with light bulbs at the antler tips. The library is on the same floor as the portrait gallery and is where guests meet for drinks at 7:00 before the 7:30 dinner. Guests pour their own and write what they took on piece of paper.

In my room I found a large plasticized folder reading, in part:


Meals are served in the kitchen (actually, I suspect, the former servants dining room). From the bedrooms walk down two flights, right down a long hallway, right again past the snooker room and left before you reach the chapel at the end of the hall. The vast quantities of antique furniture and other items made me feel that I was living in a museum.

During cocktails and at dinner I met Tommy and Sarah, who were married here the day before yesterday, and Alan and Pamela - he is involved in community radio and she was an advisor in obstetrics and gynecology to the RAF.

Tuesday, June 30. After breakfast I walked about a mile to a blind (called "hide" by the British) overlooking the Millbank, a marshy pond where many birds gather. The blind had three windows, each about three feet wide and nine inches high, through which I could observe the gulls, terns, oyster catchers, ducks, lapwings, swans, moor hens, etc and one lone heron. The blind is the property of RSPB (the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). I was joined by six women and a male naturalist guide for 45 minutes. Then by a male backpacker for half an hour.

Lunch was at the Smithy, one of few buildings in the village over one story. A small museum and gift shop are on the ground floor, a simple soup and sandwich shop above.

Wednesday, July 1. Catherine drove me past an old Orkney farmhouse of stone, with a low attachment at the rear for cattle. Originally the attachment was open to the living quarters so that the heat from the animals would help warm the house.

We went to a point on northeast peninsula whence I walked about ten minutes to the Broch of Burroughston on the coast. This archaeological site, on a cliff over a beach of slate rocks, was excavated in the 1860s. It was built around a well three meters deep, in concentric circles of stone walls; dwellings were between the circles. The initial construction was about 2000 B.C. and it was renovated around 1500 BC. At the entrance a bin holds 9" X 12" paddles containing text telling what to look for and how the site was used. The tower was 25 meters high and, eventually, fell on the dwellings. Catherine said that originally there was a tunnel to the cliff in which the residents kept a long boat for escape if attacked by too strong a force.

Seals were basking on rocks in the rain 50 yards off shore. I saw a bunch of wild pinks; also buttercups, wild iris and tiny wild orchids, all same shade of yellow, along path to site.

Catherine picked me up after 1:00 and left me at the Smithy. This is a few doors from the Thomas Sinclair one-room store locally called "Harrod's" because you can get anything there from penpoints to a tractor.

There were seven people at dinner, including Richard Zawadski and Callie Khouri, author of Thelma and Louise, with her son David and assistant Steven.

Thursday, July 2. I ascertained that my pint plastic flask fits in the fanny pack in which I usually carry my palmtop computer. Juice, porridge (with butter and whisky), fried egg, Scotch bacon, toast, local baker's cheese, Orkney honey (that has the consistency and appearance of bacon grease but the taste of honey), marmalade and tea made up my breakfast.

Catherine Zawadski drove Ernie and Glinda Beasley to the trail head for Burroughston Broch and me to the trail head for the Ouze on the north side of the island. It was a 35 minute walk to a dyke separating the sea from a tidal marsh. I walked along the stony beach to a headland where a bank of pinks bloomed. Then I walked back all the way across island, about three miles, to the village for lunch at the Smithy. There was no rain and today's minute of sunshine lighted the walk.

The only other guest at dinner was Ann Walker, raised in Kenilworth, Illinois. She is a wine and spirits writer and was a friend of the late Dick Graff, founder of the Chalone Winery. She now lives in Connecticut with her husband.

Friday, July 3. The Zawadski family was going to Kirkwall, mostly in the red van; Mary took me in her car to the landing, where she expertly backed the car onto ferry. On arrival at Kirkwall, she drove off the ferry and left me at the bus station. As I just missed the 11:00 bus, I had time to visit St. Magnus Cathedral. Built of red and white stone, the outside shows evidence of centuries of exposure to strong and permanent wind. The bus, for 2 Pounds 20 Pence ($3.67) took me past several miles of rolling green dairy country to Stromness, a few feet from Stromness Hotel.

I bought two bottles Scapa 12 yr old whisky at the local grocery. The bottles from which we poured our drinks in the Balfour Castle library included both this and Highland Park; I found that I preferred the former as it is a little smoother. As I suspected, the price at the grocery turned out to be less than it would have been at the duty-free shop at Heathrow

At the Stromness Hotel the same plump woman was a waitress in the bar at lunch, the head waitress in the main dining room at breakfast and the receptionist when I checked out. My room was OK with a nice view of a garden in which crows congregated and cawed whenever it was not dark. Darkness was very brief. Rain fell most of the time I was in Stromness.

Saturday, July 4. The alarm function of my palmtop computer (which I have programmed to play reveille) went off at 6:15 AM and I managed to get good buffet breakfast, to check out and to carry my luggage across the street and 200 yards to a large P&O Ferry before 8:30. This vessel took me and others across Pentland Firth to Scrabster where a bus took me to Thurso in plenty of time for the 12:13 train to Inverness. Although I got a forward facing seat on boarding, the two-car train connected with another shortly after getting underway and then I was facing backward for the rest of the journey, believing that if I switched seats the train would do another about face. Often the tracks were closely paralleled by a road. At one point a little red car kept pace opposite me and the pretty blonde driver kept looking at the train. I waved, she smiled and waved back and then sped away.

The train reached Inverness around 4:00. I waited and had a sandwich until the 6:30 train to Edinburgh. On board I was interviewed by a man from Scottish Railways who asked me to rate various aspects of my trip and of the Inverness Station. He entered my responses into hand held device that was connected by wire to a larger device strapped to his left forearm.

There are an awful lot of sheep between Thurso and Edinburgh. Mostly damp rolling grassland. The train reached Edinburgh a little past 10:00. On entering the Balmoral Hotel, I mentioned my name to the bellman and to the desk clerk, both of whom cheerfully reported that my wife had just checked in.

Sunday, July 5. My alarm again went off at 6:15 because I forgot to unset it. We both went back to sleep until Luigi's watch alarm sounded 8:00. At breakfast we saw a waiter put a pitcher part way on a shelf over the buffet table; it fell off onto the table, drenching the platter of ham and sausage to which we had hoped to help ourselves, but he took the platter away.

We walked east along Princes Street, Waterloo Place, and Regent Road, stopping at Calton Cemetery where stands a statue of Abraham Lincoln as part of a memorial to Scottish Soldiers who died in American Civil War; two were from Illinois regiments, one each from Michigan and New York regiments. Most graves were of people who died in the 19th century, including many children. One family included seven children, the longest survivor dying at 12.

After lunch we returned to the hotel whence Luigi went off to visit the Scottish National Museum while I napped. Dinner was at Stac Polly, where I had dined the preceding Sunday evening. Both of us had parsley crusted Scottish salmon - very good indeed. For starters Luigi had tomato and orange soup and I had bits of haggis in filo dough. Made of scraps of sheep liver and heart and oatmeal and spices the haggis was not nearly so disgusting as I had been led to expect; perhaps the traditional cooking in a sheep's stomach would have enhanced the effect.

Monday, July 6. After stopping at the railroad station to see if the cap I'd left on the train from Inverness Saturday evening had been turned in (it hadn't), Luigi and I took a walk into the area northwest of our hotel. We stopped first at the Edinburgh Woollen Mill store on Princes Street for a sweater for me and found many of satisfactory color, size and design on sale for 19.99 Pounds ($33.35), so I bought one of forest green.

We proceeded to the end of Princes Street, then along Queens Ferry Street and across the Dean Bridge over the Water of Lieth that flows in a very deep gully. The parapet walls of this bridge were raised and topped with spikes in 1912 to inhibit suicides. We went on into a nice residential area with large row houses and parks. Twice as we were consulting our maps people who were passing by offered to help us find our way. Edinburgh is a hilly city, and the hills seem to go up much more than they go down.

On the way back we looked at restaurants in hope of getting a modest lunch, but they all seemed to specialize in three-course business luncheons until we came to a basement pub called Champagne Charlie's on the northwest corner of North Castle Street and George Street. They had no more tables available but invited us to eat on a "ledge" along one wall. Bar stools provided appropriate seating, and we had some tasty yellow split pea soup and Madras Chicken sandwiches with a pint of Caledonian draught ale apiece for a total of 15 Pounds ($25) including tip. This was one place where we heard no American or other non-Scottish accents.

During my naptime Luigi looked inside the Registry Building across the street; it has a spectacular luminous dome. Then she went toJenner's department store -- contemporary with the Carson, Pirie, Scott Building in Chicago, it has a baroque red stone exterior and is built around a light well. The balusters are in a thistle shape.

Tuesday, July 7. We took the 9:40 AM train to Inverness, arriving a little after 1:00 and in time for a tasty lunch served in the lobby of the Station Hotel, adjacent to the railroad station. A firmly Victorian hotel, it has been modernized but not abusively so. Our room had a heated towel rack, and many gulls crying outside our window. Dinner was at the Cottage Tandoori Restaurant, 57 Academy St. - mulligatawney soup and whole Tandoori chicken, red with red and white sauces on the side. All very good.

Wednesday, July 8. We took the train to Kyle of Lockalsh and back through the spectacular countryside, with fog, mist, and sometimes rain. Rectangular patterns of stone might have been cottages before the Clearances in the 18th century drove many peasants from the Highlands into other countries. We saw deer, rabbits, rhododendron (some still blooming), delphiniums, cliffs, and several rocky streams. Many many sheep came into view, some still unshorn.

On arriving at Kyle, we walked about in very little rain, and got a nice view of the Isle of Skye and the new bridge to it. Lunch at The Seafood Restaurant in the Kyle of Lockalsh railroad station was a splendid seafood chowder with smoked salmon in it, flavoring the whole. Fresh fruit Pavlova -- meringue with raspberries, strawberries and heavy cream -- was delicious.

Back in Inverness, dinner in the hotel dining room included venison cutlets that were tough and gristly, and was accompanied by a slow, pleasant ambience.

Thursday, July 9. We managed to get breakfast in time to catch the 7:55 train to London. As we left the Highlands the land grew more nearly flat and the climate drier. We even saw a little sunshine and lots more sheep.

The Gloucester Hotel, where we stayed, is now called the Millennium Gloucester. It is near the Gloucester Road Underground Station in a neighborhood where we have previously taken a flat for a week at a time. The hotel is owned by a group from Singapore, who gave the decorators too big a budget and too little direction. We dined in the Bugis Street Brasserie, a Singaporean - Chinese restaurant attached to the hotel. The "Taste of Singapore" dinner selection included excellent seafood soup called "Singapore Laksa" plus other tasty dishes of tofu and pork, fish (possibly eel), curry chicken and rice.

I stopped at a neighborhood telephone booth and picket up one of the illustrated cards posted to advertise the services of an exotic Asian massage practitioner. On the back I wrote to my nephew Mason Soule that the problem with the au-pair girl in Massachusetts may have kept him from hiring an English girl to take care of his sons, but there are many young women in London who were well used to handling boys. I recently got an e-mail message from him saying that while he and his sons might like the idea, he thought his wife Catherine might object.

Friday, July 10. First thing was the Chagall show at the Royal Academy. The courtyard was populated by a score of life size cast nudes of a dark gray material in various positions. Inside we had the choice of a glass staircase or a glass enclosed elevator. Briefly believing that the show was only one story up, we took the staircase up three or four flights. Located in three rooms, most of the Chagall paintings were from St. Petersburg and Moscow, including private collections as well as state museums. Both of us enjoyed this opportunity to see works that we otherwise would never have seen. We took the elevator down upon leaving, and were glad we came relatively early as the show was crowded when we left and three times as many people got off the elevator as got on.

Shortly before noon we walked over to Savile Row and then around the corner to Denman and Goddard, my tailor on New Burlington Street. I had thought to pick up the new topcoat I'd ordered, but I got a fitting instead; for this I was thankful, not wanting to add the coat to my luggage that was already heavier than I liked.

At the suggestion of one of the tailors, we had lunch at La Locanda Italian restaurant around corner and down an alley. Valerio Beer from Milan was OK but only 330 ml instead of more common 440 or 500 that we had been drinking. I had a squid the size of my hand in chilli pepper sauce plus salad; spaghetti with tuna, olives and garlic was Luigi's choice.

For dinner we took the Underground to Green Park Station and then walked to the Carlton Club (which also has reciprocal arrangements with the University Club of Chicago) at 69 St. James Street. Unlike most other streets with which I am familiar, the buildings on St. James are numbered consecutively up from Picadilly on one side of the street and then at the far end the numbering continues consecutively up on the other side returning to Picadilly, so that the highest and lowest numbers are directly opposite each other. At dinner, rabbit for me and cold poached salmon for Luigi were well accompanied by the Club's house red claret, Chateau L'Etoile 1986 Graves.

Saturday, July 11. No hot water would flow in our bathroom when we got up, but after breakfast it did. Luigi and I walked over to Sainsbury's supermarket for rhubarb ginger marmalade. On the way back we stopped Kensington Communications, 130A Cromwell Road, London SW7 4ET, England, phone (0)171/373 4888, fax (0)171/373 8444, to see about renting a cellular telephone for some future trip to London. We were advised to call a couple of days before reaching London to reserve a phone number with a rental phone. The flat we have taken in this neighborhood imposes a substantial deposit for a telephone, and we have left too early in the day to it back, so we may rent a cellular phone next time. Lunch was at the Rat and Parrot, 25 Gloucester Road, a proper pub where people bring their squalling children. It has a brass rail at the dark wood bar and high and low tables. I had beef and Stilton pie, Luigi had Texas Chilli, and each had a pint of bitter -- 15.58 Pounds ($26) with tip. It rained all afternoon and we just lay on the bed and read books.

We had a delicious dinner at Bombay Brasserie, 2 doors away from our hotel. 63.85 Pounds ($114) including tip and beer and dessert. Achar Gosht (lamb) and Chicken Korma Rizala - both marinated and served in yoghurt based sauces.

Sunday, July 12. We took the Underground to Victoria Station, then the 9:32 train to Brighton where Charles and Anne Gilson met us at the station. Charles and I were close friends in the Boy Scouts, but had not seen each other since 1942. When I saw a man about my age with a pretty blonde woman who appeared to be waiting for someone, I waved and they waved back and thus we identified each other. They took us in their car to their home in Hove, adjacent to Brighton, and then to the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Originally built for George IV's lecherous weekends, this building is a glorious reminder of days of great luxury with large rooms elaborately decorated and furnished. In the huge dining room appeared many large serving dishes that I suspect were sterling silver with fired-on gold. (This is not made any more because the process destroys the sight of the craftsmen.) Queen Victoria also had an apartment in the Pavilion, and we saw her bedroom. I was impressed by the stack of half a dozen mattresses, and wondered if anyone ever put a pea under one to see if she noticed.

Back at the Gilsons' home we had a splendid lunch of Thai chicken, rice and salad accompanied by Australian Cabernet Sauvignon and preceded by Amontillado Sherry. Dessert was a delicious dish that included fresh berries. The Gilsons live in Hove, adjacent to Brighton, in one-story house on a hill with attractive front and back gardens. We had a very welcome conversation about what each had been doing in last 56 years. Charles is now a great grandfather and is no longer known as Chuck or Charley. After World War II (when he flew bombers over Japan) Charles finished college in Shanghai where his parents had gone as missionaries. After the Communist takeover he returned to the U.S. and got a job with American Express. As he was the only one in his class of recruits who would accept a post in the far East, they originally assigned him to the Okinawa office. Since then he managed various offices over the world, including a couple of years in Moscow, and ended up in London. He is now retired.

It rained all day until we were taken back to station for the 5:52 express to London. Back at the hotel, we got a couple salads and beers from a local grocery and consumed them in our room while watching television. France and Brazil were playing the final game for the World Cup in European football, and we watched that in part, but mostly we watched a re-released version of "My Fair Lady."

Monday, July 13. We took the airport bus to Heathrow and the 11:00 AM United flight to Chicago.