Sunday, 31 July 2011

Solomon's Temple, Buxton

Well, after a stressful week at work for both of us, we capped things off with a fabulous weekend.  In case anyone is thinking we are on a 3-year extended vacation, that's not the case.  Things have picked up at work quite a bit and we have plenty of things to do and worry about.  For the most part it's a good stress; the kind that makes you feel like you are contributing and that the company is counting on you.  Of course, sometimes they count on you a little too much and you worry about getting it all done.  It was one of those weeks so we were glad for Friday to come.

We started things off with a visit from a friend from the US who was over on a business trip and a pre-, pre-assignment trip.  We hope to see both of them on their official pre-assignment trip and the whole family soon as well.  We can certainly relate to the frustration of pushing the international assignment/move through.  Good luck!

On Saturday we had a wonderful evening with our neighbors.  Neighbors #1, whom we had over a few weeks ago, returned the favor and also invited neighbors #2 (our first time really conversing with #2).  This was our first meal in an English house.  I can't begin to say how nice is was to sit down and have real conversations for ~5 hrs.  We simply don't get the social aspect at work (that's different here).  The kids got along swimmingly too.  We had a wonderful time and the food/drink was great too.  She really outdid herself (I do okay, but I'm not in her league-- it was fantastic!).  That's as good as traveling any day.  I hope we can do this regularly and we'll have to return the favor.

The weather was picture perfect Saturday (low 70's and sunny) and supposed to be similar for Sunday.  Alas, the rain stayed away (mostly) but it was overcast most of the day.  We did have a few sunny spells (I've never really heard that term until moving here -- it's used frequently in the weather forecast).

Given the good forecast, we couldn't let it pass so we headed back to the Peak district; this time to Buxton.  Buxton is about an hour away as we stretch our radius out farther and farther.  We didn't get to spend much time in the town but we did take a nice walk that circled around and ended up at Solomon's Temple up on a hill with a view of the town.  There's also a nice [Poole's] cavern to explore but we decided to save that for some crummier weather.  Our shorts were generally fine for the walk, but I think we would have been a little chilly underground.

Solomon's Temple was a late 1800's Victorian "New Deal" program.  A rich landowner paid the local unemployed to build it for him.  It sits on a pre-historic mound (1300 feet) with a nice view of the surrounding area.  Unfortunately, it started to drizzle horizontally when we got there so we huddled inside and made haste when it let up.  Still a nice walk though. 

The walk was supposedly about 4 miles but we made it at least 5 with our directionally challenged ways.  The Family Circus Billy walk comes to mind . . . .

With the walk though, we've got the return of the farm animals though!

 this 12-week puppy was a cutie . . . saw him at the beginning of the hike
 Whoopi Goldberg as a horse?  Felt like I was getting the stink eye.
 ooo . . . pigs, that's new
When walking through a horse field this one came up to Kuk pretty quickly.  The horse was a little friendlier than we were expecting!  I think her hat looked like lunch.
 limestone covered hill adjacent to our walk
 Solomon's Temple in the distance
this was an intriguing picture . . . very chalky stream . . . figure it's limestone overflow from the nearby quarry

 obligatory sheep
 cow blockade!  (we took a wide path around)

 getting closer now
 and when we get there?  rain of course (just a little) . . . where did that come from?
 looking back to Buxton (again, the natural lighting didn't help me out here)

Sunday, 24 July 2011


After 11 months, Alex finally finished his 2010-2011 school year last Wednesday.  We took the opportunity for a quick 3-night trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.  The shot above is looking down the Royal Mile in Old Town.  The Royal Mile is actually about 1.2 miles and stretches from the Edinburgh Castle down to the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse.  This part of the of the city is compact and walkable and we found it to be very enjoyable.  As usual, I'll try to tell the story via the photos.

We set off Thursday morning via train (our first).  We took the 9:44 to Edinburgh (platform 1).  The trip was 4.5 hours with numerous stops but without any changes.  The nice thing is that the Derby train station is about 5 minutes from our house and the Edinburgh train station is right in the middle of the city.  It would take about that long to drive and then I'd be stuck with a car in the city.  Flying would be quicker in terms of transit time, but not total travel time (early check in, driving to/from airports that aren't in city center, etc.).  We enjoyed it.

We took taxis to/from both train stations (still a novelty).  Despite Alex's dour look, both kids enjoyed it.  The Edinburgh taxis had a large area where we all 4 could fit (we are facing the kids here).

We decided to walk around after checking into our hotel.  This is St. Giles Cathedral along the Royal Mile.

Some stained glass in St. Giles

more stained glass

Lot's of Scottish Terriers (naturally) running about.  This one was hanging out in the front window display.

We continued on down the Mile and set off to climb Arthur's Seat.  It wasn't the clearest of days, but you never know what the next day might bring.

View of another hill (Calton) from the side of Arthur's Seat.  A few monuments are in view.

The Parliament Building (newly re-done I believe).  Scotland is a separate country but not a separate nation state.  However, their parliament self-governs except for defense, foreign policy, and taxation (since 1999).

 Palace of Holyroodhouse (water, the Firth of Forth, in the distance)

The Edinburgh Castle (under cloudy skies)

 near the top of Arthur's Seat (this is as far as we decided to go)
many interesting street performers along the Royal Mile . . . (not sure what's up with the goat hooves/stilts)

 a view up a close near our hotel looking back at the castle

Next day, we went to the castle (high ground).  Here we are looking north to "New Town".  They drained a lake/swamp to expand the overcrowded city back in the 1700's.

 Scottish National War Memorial inside the Castle grounds

 a reminder of how close we were to the sea

 had to get the bagpipe statue shot

Perhaps a bit touristy (so what), but the kids' favorite highlight was the Camera Obscura.  The headliner for this attraction is an observatory topped with a mirror which reflects images onto a small disc for viewing.  The mirror is revolved 360 degrees giving a view of the entire city.  The kids enjoyed "picking up" people with a card and then dropping them back onto the disc (sorry, difficult to succinctly explain).  In addition, throughout the building there are rooms set up with all kinds of illusions.  It was a big hit.

A very impressive drawing that results in the image of a man (sorry, someone famous) when reflected on a cylinder.

 infinite lights . . .

 infrared cameras (that's us, can't you tell?)

 fun with mirrors, Nicole version

fun with mirrors, Alex version

Giant Alex

Giant Nicole

We stopped for an afternoon break/tea at the Elephant House.  It was here that a poor, single mother on welfare penned some of her early writings while nursing a beverage.  She doesn't have any problems with her finances now (J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame).

On Saturday, we went to the nice National Museum of Scotland

Alex in the stocks

 with a steam engine

On Saturday, we finally got some sun.  Unfortunately, we spent most of the time in the museum and then we took a Historic Vault (underground) tour.  I did snap Calton Hill from a closer viewpoint later in the day with a few rays though.  [It was about 60F most of the time we were there.  Derby hasn't been much warmer.  Beats the high temps the US is currently getting though.]

more Calton Hill

If I may digress, I thought I'd show a few food shots.  We were pleasantly pleased with our dinner dining choice (lucky?).  We do like our food.  Here's a lamb dish from Wiski's along the Royal Mile.  I often order lamb since it's not a big hit in the household.

I found a nice Scottish Ale (Caledonian 80) that was a nice change from the English Ales/Bitters I've been having of late.

on another night, I had the bottled version -- noticed the more descriptive but less legalese way for the pregnant women drinking warnings

 pizza and pasta on another night
Alex got into the mussels on the 3rd night at The Doric Pub.  He's his mother's boy.

ready to board the train after a fun 3 days wearing obligatory souvenir sweatshirts (we did have fun shopping along the Mile)

we were able to snag a choice table (each way actually) -- enjoying movies

All in all, it was a nice, quick trip.  There were plenty of additional activities we would liked to have done, but  we didn't have that luxury for this trip.  This whetted our appetite and we look forward to getting back to Scotland while we are here.  Next time, we'll probably take the car and head up into the Highlands.

Interesting story:  we bumped into a co-worker from Indy.  Kuk actually sat next to him when she started at RR.  We bumped into them 2 more times while there (it is a compact city).  To top it off, we were even on the same train out of town (but they got off in York).