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I’m excited to contemplate six whole weeks this Spring to spend in Europe! \240My plan for the first two weeks in Holland is fleshing out thanks to the instigations of my friends and relations.

I’ve subscribed but don’t know whether my children are able to read my entries. \240I’d like to share as I go; might be fun!

My garden today, Palm Sunday.

I took Lilly to Pen Park the last two days. \240On the first day, we chanced upon a birding photographer intent on something in the vines. \240I asked, “What is it you spy?” To which he replied, “There’s a hermit thrush! \240Pretty rare these days.” \240So Lilly and I continued on our walk to the river.

When we returned up the hill, a bird was giving full-throated song to the early morning with the most ethereal, enchanting melodies. \240I peered, and yes, a brown thrush was singing. \240Then his paramour answered him in even more glorious notes! I have never heard birds sing more beautifully! \240This was a gift to me from heaven. \240I stayed and listened for quite some time. \240I still can’t believe how ravishing this song was!

Later, I looked up the Hermit Thrush in my Audubon book. \240It is true that many consider her song the most beautiful in all of North America! \240I will never forget this undeserved blessing straight from heaven!

Easter Day was such a joy! \240Singing those fantastic anthems in church, and then getting treated to an Easter feast in Tom & Steph’s beautiful new home on T Street. \240Good to see the girls, and happy they’ve found a wonderful, more spacious pied-a-terre. \240I miss Lilly a lot, though; she’ll have to get used to being a family dog for awhile!

1164 Rose Arbor Ct

My Easter Garden

Easter Feast at Tom & Steph’s new home


All packed, house super clean for Valentina, my grad student who’s gonna pet-sit for Anastasia & Felipe, at least for the first half of my long-awaited trip! \240I want to teach her how to fly Felipe tomorrow, so she’s coming early with her boyfriend, who’s agreed to drop me at the bus stop to Dulles. \240It’s gonna be a very long day tomorrow, but I’m so ready! \240Always have had that wanderlust—-

First leg of my journey! \240Leaving Charlottesville on the Megabus headed for Dulles. \240Very few on the bus, but we make 5 stops, according to the bus driver, who announced that “masks are optional”with great glee. \240I’m prepared to wear mine. \240A black KN95 looks good with my outfit.

The airport’s pretty empty today, don’t know why. \240I shared lunch with a nice Frenchman who is heading to the Paris suburbs because his 83-yr old father is ailing. \240We discussed all the world’s problems, and I gave him my card, just in case he, or someone he knows, needs a harpist. \240We had ridden on the bus together; he is in the soapstone fireplace business, and his partner (who used to teach music at UVA!) lives in Charlottesville. \240I found a nice veggie melt, and got the hostess to rustle me up a fresh pot of coffee, YUM

Copenhagen Airport

Scandinavian Airlines does a good job of keeping us well-fed and occupied. \240Certainly the most comfortable trans-Atlantic flight I remember. \240Losing 6 hours is the tough part. \240It’s already 7 am here but at home it’s one in the morning!

It’s a 5-hr layover here in Copenhagen. \240The coffee is good! \240I read the story about the Flying Trunk by hometown hero Hans Christian Andersen. \240I never knew that the King gave Andersen a “travel pass,” and he adored travel, considering it “life.” \240Hans Christian Andersen spent 15 years of his life abroad, but died peacefully at home in Denmark. \240Got a nice Copenhagen stamp in my passport. \240I’m tempted to lie down on one of the platforms they have here; one woman was sleeping on one. \240But I doubt I could relax in plain view on the side of a corridor.

Well, I set my pride aside, donned my eye mask, and “took twenty” on the leather platform. \240Somewhat refreshing….

This made for a delicious gin & tonic on board. \240A splurge: the tonic was from East Africa.

I enjoy the modernity present in the architecture here in a somewhat old airport. \240

This is as close as I’ll get to this special mermaid! \240After reading a few more signs, I learned that this was the “first draft” of the famous mermaid in the harbor. \240By Edvard Eriksen.

My plane was like this one

I discovered later that I was hanging out in the old airport. \240This part had beautiful wood floors and the leather clad platforms to stretch out on! \240When my flight’s gate was declared, THEN I had to hasten a long way to the very busy, modern part of the airport. \240Good thinking, good design!

A Lego King. \240Apparently the Lego Store’s nearby

Beukenlaan 15, 3762 AE Soest, Netherlands

My airBnB host was kind enough to pick me up at the cafe near the train station in Baarn, which was as far as I got because my suitcase is heavy and I didn’t quite know how to get up to the proper track in time to catch the train to Soest.

It’s so nice to be back in Holland! \240Everyone bicycling everywhere, so many beautiful tiny gardens. \240They give me hope that even with my pipsqueaks fore and aft at home, I could make a design that would be lovely, no matter how small.

I walked over to the grocery store for some essentials, and discovered a wonderful fish store and bakery en route, so I availed myself of them as well.

I rested well last night, as the bed here is very comfortable. \240I think I’m going to go rent a bicycle. \240My cousin, Allart, and I couldn’t quite get it together for a coffee today. \240He seems to be very busy, and had engagements on either end, no time to pick me up, and wanted me to rent a car. \240I’m not interested in the stress or the responsibility of a car. \240So, I’d better get a move on to rent that bike. \240The morning disappears!

View from my room. \240My hostess planted some cute primroses!

I like the picture of the sheep on the wall

You know you’re in Holland when people travel with bikes all folded up

Wow! \240Nothing green, but how delicious was this smoked eel and fresh herring on bread from the Turkish bakery—with onions!

Here is the little house I’d like….

Or this one!

Outside the high school!

Some exquisite and a rare type of tulip near my lodging.

While returning on my bike this afternoon, I passed a beautiful horse and rider who were on the other side on the “hoefslag,” which is to say, the bridle path. \240They were performing piaffer and passage, some of the most advanced movements of dressage, and very well, I might add! \240Only in Holland!

Beukenlaan 15, 3762 AE Soest, Netherlands

My hosts have chickens, thus gifting me with 2 excellent fresh eggs! \240Here you have a perfect Dutch “ontbijt.”

I’d bought these pink and white tulips for my visit to Cousin Allart and his wife, Liesbeth. \240However, because he wanted me to rent a car to come over yesterday, and I also had only an hour’s warning, he with commitments on either end of our visit, it couldn’t happen. \240So, I get to keep the tulips, and placed them here in the kitchen window. \240They’re so pretty! \240As I consider what is going on with him, it occurred to me that perhaps he’s more infirm than I know. \240Perhaps he no longer drives, and is dependent on others. I found it a bit weird, though, when he told me they had moved 3 years ago from Blaricum to Laren. He knows that I send Christmas cards each year. \240Perhaps it’s an assisted living?

It’s so nice to be in Holland in early Spring! \240Many flowers are in bloom, and the smell of lilacs is in the air. This morning I went shopping again, so as to have a nice dinner this evening: the identical fish from yesterday (because I love it so much!), but I will also cook a few small potatoes and some spinach. \240I don’t want to appear at Mieke’s with dirty laundry, so I bought a very small amount of laundry detergent. \240I seem to be more tired than yesterday: perhaps all that bicycle riding is responsible? \240But I’m heading out again, and the weather is beautiful, if breezy.

Here is my very wonderful rental bike! \240I dropped it once yesterday when stopping for a red bike lane light I thought would turn green in time, which caused the alignment of the handlebars and front wheel to go awry. \240Fortunately, my host knew just how to fix it! \240Today I rode much farther, and enjoyed this tremendously. \240Beautiful weather! \240I’d hoped to make it to Hilversum, but realized that would be too far (12 km=24 back and forth), so I contented myself with exploring more of the Soest, Soestdijk, and Baarn areas, also I tried to see the Kasteel Hoge Vuursche, taking the path through the woods, but I never saw it. \240Perhaps this was only for the walkers.

First off, I stopped at the “National Horse Camp,” located in Soest, where 120 very old retired horses live out their days. \240I was pleased to see how well-kept these oldsters are, bedded on fresh and clean straw, each in 10’x8’ stalls. \240They’re happy and healthy, if ungroomed and quite itchy.

This is where they get their teeth floated, very important in old age!

There was a large sand ring for activity in winter, as I read. \240I do hope the horses get the exercise cited in the signage, as they were all in their stalls when I came.

Selfie! \240Two retirees!

Kids would get up on these hobby horses. \240There were plenty of visitors, no charge to visit, although they encouraged donations.

Someone carved a bear into this dead tree trunk outside an apartment building I passed on my bike.

In the Centrum Baarn.

Pauluskerk in the middle of Baarn.

List of pastors since 1595!

Annahof, an old cemetery which I found architecturally noteworthy.

Fragrances abound! \240The lovely wisteria is blooming!

“Pampelmousse” is the Dutch word for grapefruit. \240I had “een halve pampelmousse” for breakfast, and a cup of the nice drinkable yogurt featured here. Koffie is spelled this way, and thee. Een boterham met kaas (a slice of bread with cheese), and yes, I bought some sliced Beemster, aged 48+ months: zalig! \240(Which means really, really delicious!). Yes, the food here is just so much better and more wholesome than at home. \240The use of preservatives and chemicals in food is pretty much nonexistent. \240And the butter! \240How yummy the unsalted butter is. \240Of course, I have some hagelslag, too!

I notice there are many birds around, even though I have only seen one Tesla. \240So many people are on bikes, and there are so many “roundabouts,” that traffic doesn’t seem to be able to get too crazy. \240People are very conscious about pedestrians and bicyclists. \240There are many woodland areas adjoining the bike paths, as well as bridle paths. \240The Dutch may live “cheek by jowl,” but the landscape can support many sweet-singing birds. \240I’m listening to one now. \240There are a great many dogs being walked everywhere, and there are signs along the pathways that say: “let it out here.”(!)

I’m waiting for Evert, who should be along shortly. \240He’s taking us to the Engelandvaardersmuseum in Noordwijk. \240Should be very interesting, I think. \240I hope we’ll have a good time.

Passing one of the many tulip fields.

This is my cousin, Evert Constandse, in front of the museum, which is built into a (German) bunker.

Here my father is featured in the list of Engelandvaarders, which you can call up by name on a touch screen.

Imagine using this apparatus to keep in clandestine communication with the British and French!

A boat coming through!

And a typical old windmill. \240There are many huge modern windmills turning, and it was windy in Noordwijk! \240In Holland one can face a headwind both going and coming back!

Dit is mijn kleine huisje op de Beukenlaan. \240Leuk, eh?

So I had to take the bike back to the shop—in the rain. \240I’m waiting on Harro & Ellen, who are taking us to Madurodam today: in typical Dutch weather. \240

I’m just a bit disappointed in these Brooks walking shoes. \240They’re a perfect fit, and super for the task: I bought them new on eBay for a song. \240However, as you can see the thin leather (yes, they are leather-my poor feet need to “breathe”) around the toes has, with only a bit of wear, torn, and they look ragged. \240Ah well, at least they have good cushioning! It’s only a cosmetic flaw.

Here are my old friends, Ellen & Harro Goudsmit, as we arrive at Madurodam today. \240See the boy up on the left with his finger stuck in the dike?

Harro & I admire the “Peace Palace”

The Peace Palace is ocated in Den Haag. \240Of course, at Madurodam, everything is in miniature.

I probably won’t see the real Muiderslot Castle this time, but it made a big impression on me as a child, especially the awful torture chambers! \240It was built in 1298.

Replica of the largest steam engine ever built, which pushes the water away. \240It was quite a set up, with children enjoying turning all of these steering wheels!

Kortenhoefsedijk 85B, 1241 LS Kortenhoef, Netherlands

My last day in Soest. \240Shortly, Mieke will be along to pick me up and we’ll go to her place in Kortenhoef. \240They still keep plenty of farm animals, she told me. \240My Dutch will definitely get a workout, because she & Dick speak but a few words in English.

I never thought I’d ever see the de-horning of some 2-yr old Limousine cows, but here you have it. \240They had to be drugged, and the vet sawed them off with a wire wrapped around them, heavy work back and forth. \240The cows are sold, and the new owner didn’t want them with horns.

Five cows: ten horns.

This is the view from Dick & Mieke’s living room. See the sheep?

Dick painted this fine horse painting years ago.

This is my friend, Mieke, with her granddaughter, Lisa. \240Lisa spent much of the afternoon with us, and like Ellie, drew picture after picture, mostly flowers. \240Lisa is 6. She drew two pictures for me.

I took a walk in back of their property, which is extensive, bordered by canals. \240I saw a mama and papa duck with 12 newborn ducklings! \240Very wary of me they were. Mieke told me there are so many predators, they hardly ever survive, alas. But, there’s always hope.

Listening to the birds in the reeds.

We had to help herd the cows from their pasture into a transport cart, and once back at the farm, into stalls.

Five of Dick’s French Limousine cows had to be herded into a cart. \240Without Mieke and me helping, they’d have never gotten in!

Dick driving them from the field to stalls at his place. \240He owns a lot of land!

Pretty ducks and geese are around the house.

Their ducks are really beautiful, and they live the “life of Riley” here!

As the day dies in the West, I’m in an enormous, clean and comfortable bed in an enormous room. \240I opened the skylight! \240This reminds me of our skylight on N Pollard Street, a fine feature in a bedroom to be sure. \240It’s great to be visiting in a Christian household, in the bosom of the home of an old friend. \240Tomorrow is Koningsdag, a day when everyone is off from work, and everyone wears orange and celebrates King Willem Alexander. \240It is the day when farmers let their cows out into the fields, so it’s also known as koeiendansen (cow dance) day. \240

I said before that Dutch people live cheek but jowl. \240Not so with Dick & Mieke, who have vast acreage, large trees, and many animals. \240They even have a very large aquarium as you come into their living/dining room, all open, a very large house, all expensively tiled. \240The fish in the aquarium are very colorful and interesting to watch!

Kortenhoefsedijk 85B, 1241 LS Kortenhoef, Netherlands

Today is “Koningsdag” here in Nederland. \240After two years of no festival, people were very glad to celebrate! \240But here in Kortenhoef, it was a beautiful, crisp morning.

By the time I went back for my camera, the goats and sheep had moved.

Here are some fruit trees and bee hives.

The vegetable garden is maintained by a friend of Mieke’s daughter-in-law.

Instead of the ducklings today I saw a pair of swans.

The scene op de Kortenhoefsedijk. \240It’s really a little paradise along this sloot/gracht/canal. Of course on “King’s Day” the celebration of the House of Orange looks great alongside the red, white, and blue of the Dutch flag. King Willem Alexander and His wife no longer live at the palace in Soestdijk. \240Alas, it’s been sold for apartments.

After lunch, Dick and I went to Lage Vuursche op de fiets! \240Mieke had a UTI, so she came in the car. \240Wow! \240Was this lots of fun!

I got to ride Mieke’s new 6000 euro “Gazelle” electric bike. \240It rode beautifully!

There were lots of vendors and entertainment. \240Here you see the old restaurant, one I believe I went to with my grandpa decades ago.

Here were a group of older men singing with an accordion accompanying them.

Dick took us mostly through the Gooische Natuur gebiet. \240On the left is the fiets pad, on the right, the wandel pad. \240We also saw two piebald horses being ridden.

I stopped on the way home to snap a photo of this cute pony cart. \240They asked me “where in America are you from?” \240Dick is quite deaf, so I had to hurry to catch up to him. \240It was a great day!

Sunset from my skylight! \240Good night.

Kortenhoefsedijk 85B, 1241 LS Kortenhoef, Netherlands

This was my early morning visitor today. \240She flew up on my balcony. \240I thought just maybe she knew how much I love birds of all kinds, but probably, Mieke said, she was looking for a nesting place. \240In the past, this balcony’s been a great place for a nest. “No foxes,” says Dick. Isn’t she pretty?

This evening marked my third dinner with Dick & Mieke. \240Tomorrow I’ll spend from noon on with Harro & Ellen at their new home in Dronte, and then the following day Richard picks me up. \240And so was it planned, but I will miss these evenings with them. \240They are “gelovige mensen,” believing people, and precede meals always with silent prayer, following the meal also. \240After dinner Mieke reads a text from the Bible and from a book discussing the passage. \240It’s a beautiful thing they have together, and I’m so glad I can share in it.

My Dutch is much improved after three days of near-total immersion! \240I’m thinking and even speaking to myself in Dutch. \240How does this happen? \240I love walking far back on their property observing nature. \240There’s a fine bird in the reeds back there that sings such beautiful songs morning and evening. \240Probably what Mieke calls “een rietzanger.” \240And I like to see the wild ducks with their 12 ducklings, and all the other animals here: the two old border collies, the now-hornless cows, the swans and the very tame ducks, the numerous fish in the aquarium, and I like seeing their son, Dirk-Johan, tall, strapping fellow build his new house on the property, and his wife Carlotte and their sweet 6-year old, Lisa. \240Lotte is due with their second in 8 weeks, the house is behind-schedule. \240They have outgrown the very old house that used to belong to the parents.

The great building where Dick used to build yachts and furniture is all parceled and rented out to artists and musicians for their studios. \240Also a tee-shirt designer and a couple who head up a group of model train aficionados. \240I was quite amazed, last night, to have seen their enormous model set of an exact town in the Alps of Switzerland! \240The train isn’t working yet, but the man explained that, in Switzerland, they have two sizes for the tracks; the thinner one can curve around and through the mountains in sharper turns. \240The rocks looked so real! \240Everything in tiny miniature, even small trees and people.

Apparently there is a very old house in the far back that needs a lot of work. \240You can only get to it now with rubber boots on. \240If Trump gets back in office, I told them, I’d like to live there and I’ll fix it up! \240I’m serious. \240I won’t live in the US through a change from a weakened democracy into an authoritarian state.

I love the sound of Dick’s voice, often with a gentle upturn at each phrase’s ending. \240I had so much fun bicycling with him. \240Their home is filled with all kinds of art, and of course, the house he designed and built himself. \240Every gate and fence is crafted and forged. \240I only don’t like all of Mieke’s silk flowers, but she simply can’t keep up with all the work necessary to keep this place running, and Dick’s becoming very forgetful. \240After every meal, he lies on the blue leather wraparound sofa and immediately falls into a nap. \240It’s amazing to have this facility, Mieke & I agree! \240He is quite demanding of Mieke, and it’s true, the Dutch housewife has 5 small meals to prepare each day, although breakfast is pretty much self-serve. Then comes mid-morning coffee, lunch, mid-afternoon tea, then dinner, and again tea before bed! \240(so 6 actually). \240Sometimes he pitches in, but usually not. \240I was glad to help a lot, particularly with clean up. \240They have a good dishwasher, and the shower was nice, but difficult to get adjusted from really really hot. \240Finally I succeeded, but at first it was far too hot to wash my hair.

But the highlight of today was our amazing visit to the Keukenhof, known as the most beautiful flower garden in the world. \2407 million tulips of every color, shape, and size imaginable. \240I’m glad we got there early, because it got very crowded. \240Enjoy the photos!

A friend whose wife is too sick to do much of anything came with us. \240He also has an autistic son who is very handicapped, but his daughter is happily married. \240Mieke keeps hoping he will believe in God, but he’s a holdout.

Dick en zijn vrouw.

This old-fashioned “Draai-Orgel” was playing a few nice songs. \240I used to belong to its Facebook group.

I just love these pink parrot tulips! \240I wrote down the name of an exporter.

There was also a huge greenhouse with millions of orchids.

And a working mill, but it had a balcony for visitors, who came from all over, I could hear by their accents.

One could take a boat ride through the canals. \240Perhaps Richard will take me. \240Yes, I’m double-booked at De Keukenhof, but I certainly don’t mind! \240I’d never been there before, and I’ll never be back, plus we couldn’t possibly see everything today.

My treasure from my walk this evening through the back fields. \240Just look at the details of this creation, and tell me that God, or The Creator, isn’t great.

Kortenhoefsedijk 85B, 1241 LS Kortenhoef, Netherlands

It seems to get colder day by day in Holland, but it’s far too dry for Spring. \240They are spraying the tulip fields with water.

Mieke and I went into town to pick up a few things. \240She bought some “tompoes” which is an absolutely delicious pastry, which we three ate with coffee as soon as we returned. \240I can feel the pounds packing on, but no matter, I can take care of them once I get home. \240While I’m here, I’m going to “Eet Smakelijk!”

Dick & Mieke’s ducks are always around, flying here and there, waiting for food, laying eggs, and just quacking.

Just look at what the bakery here has to offer! \240The tompoes are the pink ones on the lower left side. \240Yum!

Harro & Ellen with Dick & Mieke in front of their house when they came at noon to pick me up. \240Ellen is always so stylish and slim. \240She wore such nice lily-of-the-valley slacks. \240My Mom’s favorite flower.

We stopped in Elburg, which is a fortified city from the 1300’s.

It has a harbor in the middle. \240There were many boats, old and new.

The entry into Elburg. \240What a beautiful place, with very narrow pathways. \240It is a “vesting,” which has no translation.

Elburg was established with flat ground and walls built around it in 1392. \240A good port city.

Harro & Ellen Goudsmit-van der Putten.

We went to the largest sand art museum in the world. \240It was totally amazing. \240Artists from all over the world came here to create amazing scenes, many from the Bible. \240This was one rendition of Adam & Eve.

All the scenes were life size or larger.

Adam & Eve interpreted differently.

After we spent at least one hour gazing in wonder at 3 huge rooms of sand sculptures, we went to Dronte and had tea at their very modern apartment. \240Harro showed me everything there, and of course, many of the pictures were of horses. \240They both continue keeping a busy schedule of judging horse shows. \240Their place, on the first floor, looks out over a wonderfully interesting “dierenpark,” where all sorts of small animals are for children and others to visit: goats, ducks, deer, alpaca, chickens, geese. \240Of course the animals are grazing and otherwise busy, so it’s fun to watch. \240They have a nice balcony with a grill, and it’s just very modern and well-planned. \240Streamlined to an extreme, I’d say. \240But they had to wait 3 years until it was built. \240It was built on a polder reclaimed from the sea, and there’s a lot of land from these new polders. \240We saw beautiful fields of tulips as we drove there, incredible swaths of color blazing across fields.

I must say I was a bit disappointed not to see the oil painting I did from a photo of them riding which I gave them as a wedding present. \240Is my painting that bad?

Then, they took me out for a delicious dinner at a sort of hunter’s inn where we had various game as appetizers, all apparently shot nearby (deer, wild pig, goose), with our main entree of salmon and white asparagus with hollandaise sauce, potatoes and salad. \240Although we shared a celebratory glass of Prosecco at first, Harro drank only water thereafter, as he was the driver and we were 45 minutes from Kortenhoef. \240Ellen & I had a glass of Sauvignon blanc.

Harro & I as we left the restaurant. \240They really spoiled me today! \240They plan to come over in mid-October to Virginia, so hopefully I’ll see them then.


My last morning in Kortenhoef. \240I am loathe to depart from this house which has shown me such loving kindness. \240We had a great time together, and I realize how much I love my hosts.

But today, my cousin Richard will come at 11 to pick me up, and more Dutch adventures will begin. \240Harro & Ellen and I stayed mostly speaking Dutch yesterday, although I know I missed a lot, Harro does ramble on about times gone by with horses. \240He’s gotten pretty fat around the middle! \240At one point, people thought we’d make a good match, but at that time he still smoked (after his heart attack, no more thankfully). \240Although he’s very wealthy and takes Ellen all over the world, I wouldn’t want to be his partner. I’m better off alone. \240However, I really would like to live in Holland again, truly. \240The lifestyle and the food, their values, cleanliness, and politeness, all point to a better life to be had here than in the States. \240We shall see what happens. \240Of course, I would miss my family too much, but one never can foresee the future.

Dick & Mieke are the only people I know whose toilet seat warms up when you sit on it! \240Mieke showed me, also, that when you push some buttons, it functions as a bidet. \240I still don’t think it can be 100% sanitary, though. \240Witness her current UTI. \240I think a bidet would need to be separate. \240I did try it out, though.

View of my room, early morning. \240That pretty purple two-piece dress Mieke very much wanted me to have. Twice she showed me her closet, telling me that she keeps her clothes for such a very long time. This would be a valuable gift, I realize, because she is fond of her clothes while being ashamed to own so many (not by American standards, she doesn’t!). But I tried it on last night, and it has shoulder pads. \240I know from experience that, even if I removed these old-fashioned things, her shoulders are much broader than mine. \240It just doesn’t fit me.

Phew! \240I tested negative this morning for Covid. \240I haven’t been masking much at all. \240This puts me at ease to meet my elderly cousins. \240We’ll also be meeting Richard’s brother, Ralph, and his wife, Lous, today at their castle. \240I’ve only met Ralph when I was very young and visiting Aunt Iteka. \240She sat me down with a pile of comic books because she only enjoyed playing chess, and as my parents forbade my reading of comics, I was delighted!

Here we look through the aquarium into the spacious living room. \240Richard emailed me that he’s coming a bit later, so I decided to ask if I could ride into town on Mieke’s bike, which was fine. \240I posted my cards and was glad it didn’t start to rain.

This morning I still walked far into the back and listened to the wonderful songs of the rietzanger. \240Het is wel zijn gebiet daarachter.

Pretty impressive bathroom in Cousin Ralph’s castle home, Babberich. \240Got a moat and formerly a drawbridge, too! \240I would have liked to take more photos inside, but was instead grateful for the experience of sharing a few hours with the cousin I know least.

Ina, Lous, Richard, & Ralph with their wonderfully friendly Bearnaise after our lunch. \240It was really quite formal, with a cocktail beforehand and canapés in the library, followed by a sumptuous meal of white asparagus with hollandaise sauce, pieces of rundvlees, and a lovely white wine. \240For dessert, fresh strawberries with ice and whipped creams.

The dovecote is being remodeled as a “honeymoon suite.”

Halsaf is currently functioning as a B&B. \240The story, however, is full of “hals affen,” which means heads chopped off. \240I heard a couple of different stories already, maybe three.

Richard & Ina before Halsaf. \240The painter starts with the shingles, and once he’s painted everything, it’s time to start over, takes about a year.

The entrance to Halsaf. \240I learned the next day that the biggest castle, in Limburg, we cannot go see because Richard’s daughter and her new beau are occupying it at the moment. \240It’s pretty far away, too, or so I gather.

Original window in the attic? \240I sort of doubt it. \240Ralph’s daughter, Eylene, works on the property with her brother, organizing the guest lists, the kitchen, mowing the grass, and etc., but she lives there with her baby and 2-yr old.

Finally I’m situated in my cozy little room high up in the attic op de Zonnebloemlaan te Aerdenhout. \240I’m trying to air out my room because, right after Richard explained that he smokes one cigar only per day, after breakfast, just as soon as we got here, around 5:30 pm, he lit one up. \240Oh, what an awful smell this is! \240I sure hope I can more deftly keep doors closed so as not to allow that awful smoke to enter in!

But looking out of my open window, see the lovebirds together? \240They are typically Dutch: very large pigeons, necking. \240I miss Felipe.

Zonnebloemlaan 3, 2111 ZD Aerdenhout, Netherlands

I slept well, but my little room at the very top of the house was freezing when I woke up! \240I couldn’t seem to adjust the radiator, but no matter, I quickly dressed. \240A very different atmosphere here, with very old, large portraits of ancestors on many walls. \240Ina is obviously a big reader, and handed me a book to read yesterday. \240However, I’m still reading “Hamnet,” although I must say, it started out strong, but has become a rather silly novel, and the characters are not well-drawn. \240I’ll finish it, but I can’t recommend it. \240Maybe the author will surprise me still.

It’s amazing that poor Richard got my heavy suitcase up these stairs to my room! \240They only have purchase for half your foot! It feels basically as if you’re climbing up a ladder.

Ah, I’ve taken the liberty of making myself a cup of tea in the kitchen. \240He told me not to come downstairs before 8:30 or an alarm would go off! \240I can’t really understand why they’d have an alarm from above. \240Perhaps they think someone would enter through a window with a ladder, as someone once did to Tommy’s apartment on O Street. \240Fortunately, a neighbor saw him and found it suspicious that someone who claimed to be fixing air conditioning wouldn’t just enter by the front door. \240I just asked Ina why they’d have such an alarm, but it’s for movement of a person through any doors or windows.

Yesterday, I didn’t want to be rude, so I didn’t take pictures indoors while in the castle of Ralph, but it was quite amazing, really. \240Huge coats of arms carved into walls and heavy iron metalwork everywhere, and very thick wooden walls and floors with huge locks on them. \240Just a real castle!

Just got word that Lous and Ralph will not be joining us for the rijsttafel this evening, but here, if something is two hours away, people think it’s much too far.

You can’t really see it, but this is a brothel, located almost directly across from Richard’s old workplace.

Here he is, letting us in. \240He worked at the oldest life insurance company in the world, dating from 1719 and still going strong, as his main career.

Here is the meeting room, and there was also a large garden outside, albeit somewhat neglected.

Here is one of the latest lists of insurers. \240I couldn’t really understand it all, but apparently the Dutch have very expensive funerals. \240You see Richard’s name written third from the bottom on the right.

A view of the St Bavo Church. \240In this area of Haarlem, there was a lot of back and forth between the Catholics and the Protestants. \240This remains “an issue” even today.

We took a look into a museum that we didn’t visit, just to see this elaborate entryway.

Typical scene in Haarlem. \240Richard was setting me straight on the different terminology regarding types of waterways. \240They’re not all canals! Some are vaarten, and there are others.

This car parks very easily!

In Haarlem.

This is the Frans Hals Museum. \240No photography was allowed inside, in order to sell more postcards, I think, but it was a mind-blowing experience to see all those very early portraits of Hals and his contemporaries. \240Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals were the most famous artists of the Golden Age. \240Many of the portraits seemed caricaturistic (?) and could really make you cheer up. \240There was one picture by a woman, Judith Leyster. \240They invented a typography in her honor which is free to download until this exhibit ends. \\\judithleyster. It’s really nice.

We returned for lunch at Richard & Ina’s. \240The day had gotten sunny and warm, so we sat outside first and had coffee. \240In the right rear of their garden, you can just see the “Roomba” that tends the grass! \240Richard demonstrated it for me. \240Further in the back, you see the vaart, and they used to keep a boat back there.

I feel a bit badly that Ina will absolutely not allow me to lift a finger here. \240She insists on serving me, so I bought some flowers for her. \240She arranged the white roses and varied carnations in a lovely way in a glass vase. \240Ina didn’t come with us at all, as she told me she has trouble walking too far. \240When I look at Ina and Lous, I can see what I might look like in 8-10 years, and I can imagine why my Dutch grandmother never wanted to get too old. \240You become a relic.

At the lunch yesterday at Babberich, it was mentioned what an extraordinarily beautiful woman my mother was, just breathtakingly so. \240And it’s true!

Scenes of Haarlem.

Zonnebloemlaan 1, 2111 ZD Aerdenhout, Netherlands

We had such a lovely time last night. \240Three cousins and their wives and I all had a rijsttafel at “de lachende Savaan,” or laughing javanese. \240The food was good, but there weren’t enough servers, so that left a bit to be desired.

It was awful that almost as soon as our meal began, Allart lost his lower dental plate, which he fortunately found in his seat, but he couldn’t eat at all. \240Terrible! \240On top of this, he’d said he wasn’t that hungry and ordered something a la carte, but when it arrived, it was an enormous portion, on a larger plate, much more food than what anyone else had who shared the many smaller dishes of the rijsttafel! At least he could enjoy his “dame blanche” for dessert, three scoops of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream on top. \240The rest of us had the baked banana that should have come with the meal. \240The servers had our order a bit mixed up.

(These flower photos are supposed to go at the end of this entry, but I can’t figure out how to move them, and already deleted the whole day once, so I don’t want that to recur.) Richard and I enjoyed a splendid day at the Keukenhof. \240I was pleased to be able to visit again!

I like this photo Richard took of me with the orange tulips!

This portrait is the prettiest here op de Zonnebloemlaan. \240She hangs at the foot of my steep staircase.

Before we left for dinner, Evert, Vivienne, Allart, Liesbeth, Ina, Richard, & I all shared a “borrel” in the gracious living room and we had a crackling fire. \240Til today, it’s just been so cold and cloudy. \240Today, however, it’s just a gorgeous day, perfect for a second visit to de Keukenhof.

I didn’t notice much at all about Allart’s alleged forgetfulness last night, but I was surprised and shocked to see, as we headed to the parking area after our dinner, how crippled he has become. \240One of his knees can barely support him, and he forgot his cane, which apparently he only got last week.

We had a lively conversation about American and world politics, considered aspects of immigration and the refugee crisis, and I was glad to find at least one person who isn’t anti-Muslim in Holland. \240He listened intently to my fears about where the US is headed.

Nevertheless, he refused my offer of a hand or an arm while we were walking back to the cars. \240Richard says he’s very stubborn, and I remember my father being the same way, refusing to obtain the shoe inserts recommended by his physician when his arches began to get so high in old age, and as a result, landing in a wheelchair much too soon. \240Alas and alack!

Richard & Ina’s gracious living room this morning. \240I set off the alarm because I descended the staircase 3 minutes too early (8:27 am). \240Embarrassing! \240Even at Dick & Mieke’s, getting up at 7:30 or 8 is pretty late for me, but here, it’s really late. \240

Ina never lets me lift a finger, so I feel bad to always be “served.” \240Yet what can I do about it? \240Not much, as she absolutely will not have me interfering in the kitchen in any way.

So Richard & I headed to de Keukenhof, and we had a splendid time. \240We were to be there at 1-1:30, but we left earlier so he could drive me around the tulip fields, which I greatly enjoyed. \240I saw lots of different vistas and flowers than last Thursday.

Imagine looking out of your house window and seeing this color!

We caught a bride & groom in the middle here. \240Weddings on a Monday, we agreed, probably the cheapest day to wed.

Ruin of an old castle.

This was in an area about flowers and home decorating.

My cousin’s profile as we head home. \240We stopped at a restaurant and I got my wish: patat frites met pinda saus. \240It wasn’t that easy to find. \240Perhaps it has gone more out of style since I lived here.

This is the famous “girl with three breasts.” \240How sad that she was portrayed in this way! \240What a way to be remembered for centuries later.

Zonnebloemlaan 3, 2111 ZD Aerdenhout, Netherlands

My final day in Aerdenhout, and again it’s cloudy and cool. \240It’s good we had yesterday to venture forth to de Keukenhof. \240AGAIN I set off that damn alarm, even though I waited until 8:40 to descend the stairs. \240I just am cold up in the attic, and although

I exercised, and am all ready for the day ahead, I find it difficult to wait until after 9 for a cup of tea!

Last night, Ina made such a wonderful dinner for us. \240Because I’d mentioned in passing that I love smoked eel, she’d gone out and bought some for the “borrel,” and although she told me Richard doesn’t like fish (how can a Dutchman not like fish?), she made us Haake, a perfectly delicious, and extraordinarily good-for-you white fish that doesn’t exist in the US. \240Also mushrooms and greens, and potatoes. \240Richard got some meat. \240We drank considerable wine and talked long into the night over coffee, after a dessert of fresh strawberries and cream. \240I feel as though everyone really wants to feed me all the time, but I’m enjoying it, and don’t really feel fat as yet. \240In any case, once I’m trekking throughout Iceland and Scotland, footing the bill myself, I will definitely not indulge in 3 meals a day, which of course, here in Holland, is many more, small meals and snacks throughout the day.

During our conversation, it came to light that really, they aren’t very close with their children (Jenneke, Caroline, & Frederik), and that that’s not really expected. \240Ina never discusses private matters with her daughters and really doesn’t want that. \240But I do think when you’re married a long time and depend on each other, it’s a completely different dynamic than when one parent is alone.

These are the flowers my other cousins brought when we went to the rijsttafel.

So today we went to The Hague. \240First, we visited the Panorama Mesdag museum. \240I had never heard of Hendrik Willem Mesdag, nor of his wife, Sientje Mesdag-van Houten with whom he painted, but they lived and breathed the North Sea in the late 19th, early 20th century, and painted a lot of enormous paintings of the sea, ships, and the dunes. \240It was an amazing exhibition of great feeling and beauty, especially the panorama, which was who knows how many canvases painted by him and his wife, put together, and then you go up into a sort of crows nest and the painting, probably 4 meters high, is a 360 experience! \240Fabulous. \240Ina bought me a magnet, here it is:

In the photo above here we were taking coffee at

Bodega de Posthoorn. Of this very old, vintage cafe, Theo van Gogh said, “In den Haag, there is no other cafe.” \240It’s located right off a large open area right near Parliament, where, in the 12th century, jousting took place. \240That is Ina on the left. \240She had a bit of trouble walking, as her legs are somewhat knock-kneed. \240She turned 80 last year, and Richard will be 80 very soon himself.

Ina & Richard before the Parliament buildings in The Hague. \240They are currently all under restoration, which will take 5 more years to complete.

Het Mauritshuis. \240Everything was newly painted in honor of its 200th anniversary.

An unusual duck with her ducklings.

The front of the Mauritshuis was adorned with hundreds of fresh flowers!

Just look at this lovely bower.

Inside the Parliament area.

Yes, it’s real!

See the tram?

There was another exhibit going on, in addition to the permanent collection, called “In Full Bloom.” \240Many women artists were involved in the drawing and categorizing of flowers and insects in the 17th and 18th centuries. \240I didn’t take any photos of the permanent collection. \240It is breathtaking, and it’s beauty brought me to tears. \240I bought two postcards of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and marveled at Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson, and many, many other world-famous paintings. \240Although I could have photographed them, it felt like an insult to do so. \240You readers will just have to pay a visit there yourselves. I think Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring is far more beautiful and captivating than the Mona Lisa.

This painting was by a female artist. \240Notice how the flowers look just-picked, and aren’t arranged, just strewn across the basket and the platter.

De Riddershal, or Hall of Knights, dating back to the 12th century.

In the gift shop, I bought a tulip vase of Delft for Ina & Richard. \240She had admired such a vase somewhere else we’ve been, but put it down saying, “it’s too expensive.” \240Here in het Mauritshuis, it wasn’t too costly, and I will feel good to give them something she will appreciate after all the care and kindness they’ve shown me.

The wind whips here at de Noord Zee.

At Restaurant Plazand, where we enjoyed our last dinner together near their home, on the sea in Zandvoort. \240All these years I’ve thought that Richard lived near The Hague. \240He doesn’t; they live near Haarlem and are 45 minutes from The Hague.

Sun setting on Zandvoort. \240What a wonderful day!

Familie de Brauw

It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Richard & Ina. \240She packaged a silver spoon or two for me, telling me not to tell Richard, and I was so happy to tell her how much they’ll mean to me because my sister got all the little theelepeltjes from Baarn. \240Here you can see some of the lovely little silver animals they collect, as well as an elegant candlelabrum.

So Richard brought me to Naarden and Emilie invited us to have some coffee together. \240It was very nice as Emilie realized who my cousin is, and we spoke about the different branches of the de Nerees, etc. \240A friend came by to go for a walk with Emilie’s husband, Harry, who is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. \240I’m glad I’m not staying longer because within 2 weeks he will be having to move because a place opened up for him in a nearby facility where he can be well-cared for. \240After such a long and happy marriage, it will be such a different life for each of them. \240I have much sympathy for them, but I think it’s the right time. \240I could tell easily, by the way he repeated himself during our otherwise very coherent conversations.

First, Emilie kindly took me to Bussum in order to figure out how to mail the portrait of Grandma riding sidesaddle. \240We had to do this online at home, but I paid, so we should be able to bring it back to the shop and they’ll print out a label and get it mailed to me.

Emilie took me for a visit to beautiful Naarden-vesting, a very old fortified city built in the shape of a star.

We had a very nice time wandering around enjoying a splendid Spring day, and asked a lady to take our picture.

Me & Emilie in het dorpje. \240We went on and Emilie treated us both to an ice cream cone. \240Mine was “after eight,” and it tasted SO good! \240Emilie is the daughter of my father’s very best friend while he was growing up.

Some scenes from Naarden-vesting. \240Emilie told me, although it isn’t top of the list now, eventually she’ll sell their big house on the Rembrandtlaan, with its lovely garden, and she’d like to take an apartment here, near the family home, but a simpler lifestyle. \240Harry & Emilie have 3 children: Stephanie, Lodi, and Julie. \240Julie has always been disabled, so Harry & Emilie formed a group home for her and others not far away, where she has a good, relatively independent lifestyle. \240Stephanie is happily married, and I think Lodi is going through divorce.

Unfortunately this huge church was locked. \240Emilie told me it has wonderful stained glass, and she & Harry took in Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion there recently.

Typical old Dutch homes in Naarden-Vesting.

I especially loved this scene in front of a house. \240In Holland you can often just look in a window and see Dutch people going about their business inside. \240There’s no emphasis particularly on privacy.

Today is Dodenherkeningsdag in Nederland. \240Flags must fly at half-mast, and Emilie & I fussed with the ropes quite a bit in order to get their large flag to hang perfectly without touching the ground. \240It’s a beautiful flag, de Nederlandse vlag.

We watched the very moving spectacle on TV in the evening. \240Here are Emilie & Harry watching the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Dam monument in Amsterdam, where many people spoke and laid wreaths, including the King and Queen. \240I thought the current mayor of Amsterdam resembles Elizabeth Taylor. \240She’s a really gorgeous gal.

Emilie have Harry an English Springer Spaniel named Dapper she gave him for his birthday (before his diagnosis). \240She’s only 1-year old, but very obedient for a pup, and has a very loud bark when she suspects something is awry.

We observed the 2 minutes of silence in remembrance of all war dead at 8 pm with all of Holland. \240We must never forget. \240Emilie lost her young uncle, Uncle Emiel’s brother, to the war when he was only 18. \240This somber ceremony brought us to tears. \240Many grandchildren who accompanied their parents and grandparents to the wreath-laying podium spoke eloquently. \240I sometimes wish we had a more serious national spirit in the US concerning wars. Two minutes of silence over the entire country I doubt we could manage.

I’m again “op solder,” in the attic where their son, Lodi, used to live. \240This is the scene from my window. \240It’s very cozy way up here. \240Harry insisted on schlepping my suitcase all the way up two very steep staircases. \240Ik kon daar niets aan doen. \240Again, I wasn’t permitted to lift a finger.

Familie de Brauw

My last day in Holland, a little bittersweet, but it’s time for me to move on to the rest of my European adventures. \240Over breakfast, Emilie brought down a lot of letters between her father and mine, all carefully kept in a box. \240The first one I read was so funny, about a fake hundred dollar bill Uncle Emil had apparently sent to Dad while he and Mom lived briefly in Stone Mountain, GA, that it just had me laughing uproariously. \240There was no one like my Dad, always joking and making fun.

Here is a beautiful statue very near Emilie & Harry’s with wreaths and flowers strewn from yesterday’s Dodenherkeningsdag. \240Today, however, it is Bevrijdingsdag, or Liberation Day, and all of Holland is flying their flags on high!

I imagine my father was 17 or 18, here with Co Vink.

Some kind of magic trick!

An invitation given from “the 4 Musketeers,” Dad, Uncle Emile (Emilie’s father), Co Vink, and Bodenhausen, to be held at the home of my grandparents, music provided by The Hurricanes, led by none other than Jaap Mesdag, probably the grandson of the painter? \240It’s so interesting, I never knew that my Grandparents’ home in Baarn was called the “Beukenhof,” (Beech Court), and the first place I was in Holland this time was op de Beukenlaan….Beech Lane. \240There certainly are many beech trees here.

Yes, that’s my Dad!

Here are the beautiful parrot tulips I brought for Emilie & Harry when I came. \240This is the portrait of tante Marga, her mother, from 1944. \240When I came to Holland 11 years ago, I was joined by Tom, and we stayed with tante Marga op de Konijnenlaan, in her really elegant home. \240Alas, after her death some years later, the new owner razed it in order to build a new house. \240These days, in many cases, it’s less expensive than remodeling the old house.

I’d really wanted to visit Muiderslot Castle, an original castle dating from 1295, built by Count Floris, so I was absolutely thrilled to be able to visit, as it was fairly close to Naarden (all distances being relative in Holland!). \240I’d been there when I was 5 with my Grandpa (I think). \240At the time, the torture chamber impressed me so much, and it still does! Emilie and I climbed all the way to the top on those narrow winding stairs. I revisited some history that one rarely considers today, when flaming arrows and jousting spears were part of weaponry.

These are actual armor from the 16th century. \240A coat of mail is very heavy! \240Only the rich also put armor on their horses.

See how the Dutch are so cognizant of children who will get bored by just looking and not doing. \240In this room, they can work with castle legos.

There was an audio tour for us about the castle, but there was also a concurrent tour about old types of flowers. \240This magnificent “tulip vase” was full of gorgeous tulips! \240I bought a small ceramic green vase for Emilie & Harry in the museum shop as a parting gift. It appeared to have a dogwood blossom on it; there are just a few dogwood trees here in Holland.

Emilie & Harry in the Courtyard as we awaited our “tosties” after our tour. \240Harry didn’t come with us, but preferred staying sitting in the courtyard while we toured. \240He loves talking with people he meets. \240This will stand him in good stead when he enters the home for Alzheimer’s patients he’s going to live within two weeks time. \240I can see that Emilie’s had her hands too full over the past few years caring for him, and I’m glad they’re making this important, very difficult decision. \240Harry keeps saying, “I married Emilie so that we could always be together.” \240 \240I don’t think much can improve the taste of this bitter pill he needs to swallow. \240Of course, I know nothing about how it is to live with Alzheimer’s except that we never lose our songs. \240

During my travels in Holland, Mieke turned the radio on from time to time, mostly Christian music, and Richard blasted pop music in his car. \240I couldn’t believe that he only likes rock, no classical or folk at all. \240For the rest, completely silent in the house, and no pianos.

Once we got back, Emilie & I had a lovely walk “op de heide” with Dapper, who raced around like crazy all over, playing with the other dogs. \240It’s so nice that these trails through the sandy heather are protected all over Holland. \240The brilliant yellow wildflower bushes called “brem” are in full bloom. \240We don’t have this shrub in America, I think.

I went with Emilie to Dapper’s weekly dog training class. \240She is very obedient by and large.

Bevrijdingsdag, 5 mei 2022.

I’ve just had a wondrous time here. \240I could easily live again in Holland, I think. \240I love the country and its people. \240I love so much about it.

But tomorrow: ay yi yi—Emilie’s driving me to the airport at 3 am because I have to be there at 3:30. \240Terrible!

SpΓ­talastΓ­gur 8

Heading to Reykjavik!

I’m sitting next to two women traveling from Holland to spend 5 nights (just like me!) in Iceland. \240However, they’re with a group of 15, and the one next to me said how much she liked “not to have to think about anything,” as their itinerary is set. \240I told her that I prefer to “follow my nose.” Finally I got a cup of coffee, served on board, but Transavia’s pretty cheap: I had to pay for it, with its awful powdered “creamer.” (Later on, as I was purchasing a bus ticket into the city, I saw this same woman lying on the ground with a cluster of people around her because she had fainted. \240Terrible to arrive on a vacation and have something like this happen to you! \240As she was in good hands, but really “bewusteloos,” I carried on.)

A first glimpse of Iceland. \240There’s still plenty of ice upon those mountains! \240In fact, I see snow in the forecast today. \240I hope I have enough warm clothing.

A harbor scene as I approached the city of Reykjavik via the bus. \240The first thing you notice about Iceland is that there are almost no trees. \240The trees that exist seem cultivated intentionally, with the exception of some small fir trees. \240I have learned that the Mountain Angelica is the Queen of herbs here.

This church dominates the downtown area and is situated on a promontory. \240Alas, it was locked. \240I’ll have to look at the website, and see if I can attend services on Sunday.

The Hallgrimskirkja dominates the Reykjavik skyline.

A statue of Leif Ericcson stands before the Hallgrimskirkja. \240Remember him?

Scene from down the street.

Looking at the architecture here…

I think this is a theater. \240It sure is cold here. \240I stopped first to buy a few postcards and a bottle of water. \240I got up this morning at 2:20 am in Holland, so it’s 3 hours earlier here. \240I can’t enter my airBnB yet, so I stopped for some cheese & eggs with toast and a beer at a local pub. \240The vibe here is ever so cool. \240Listening to rap in Icelandic on the bus. \240A neon sign inside: “Don’t go bacon my heart” at the Grey Cat pub, which was recommended to me by the fellow in the skincare CBD business, but so few tables there, there was no room for me so I had to keep going. \240I didn’t buy his serum because it was far too expensive. The shopkeeper was very nice, explaining to me that rosacea is very common in Iceland, so there are many shops with extensive skincare products. \240He explained further that, in Iceland, workers are very well taken care of, and the social systems are very strong. \240This is what drives prices up, but he told me he wouldn’t like to live in my country because of this very reason. \240Everyone speaks English, and even Dutch, which is nice. \240Ah, the sun is reappearing, after a little snow and rain.

From within the pub (founded in 1951 like me!), we see the Eeyore group of students who are yelling as they proceed on what looks like a scavenger hunt. \240They are having a great time, many with bottles of spirits in hand. \240I really cannot imagine what this is all about, but they’re so happy and make people around them happy!

The Pooh bears. \240One thing about Holland, and from speaking with shop owners and baristas here is that the hate we have in the US is absent. \240I think this could be because they have umpteen political parties, but it is also about having a much more mature outlook on life. \240

And those all-time favorites, the Care Bears.

I kept walking despite rain and snow(!) and I do have a windbreaker, but think I may have to bundle up just a bit more if I’m going to enjoy myself fully while here.

I liked this one!

My airBnB is on the Spitalastigur. \240Say it 3 times, fast!

Just look at that vista across the harbor!

My cute little room, with Icelandic Flora poster.

The back yard here. \240My window is pretty drafty.

SpΓ­talastΓ­gur 8, 101 ReykjavΓ­k, Iceland

It’s looking like a beautiful day today, and as I noticed the forecast is for rain over the next two days, I booked my tour of “The Golden Circle” for today. \240This will include a 6-hr bus tour of various waterfalls, glaciers, and a geyser that shoots 60-90’ into the air every 5 minutes! \240I don’t think I’ll see the Northern Lights, alas. \240They are reportedly most likely to be seen during winter, and the lights in Reykjavik are too bright to be able to see them from here. \240I am going to Hvolsvollur on Monday, though, which is 45 miles east of here, so perhaps I’ll stay up and see if I’m lucky!

I’m having to get used to black coffee, because there simply isn’t any milk. \240I may try and find some today as there’s a fridge. \240The water is sulphuric, and doesn’t taste all that good. \240However, my room was so toasty and I loved the comfortable woolen blanket, which is so lightweight! \240If you look at you can see the many types of Icelandic wool. \240It’s amazing!

So glad I tested negative this morning!

Is this my lucky day, or what??

I’m having “LAX” and eggs at the oldest restaurant in Reykjavik, Kaffivagninn, or “The Cofee Wagon,” founded in 1935 as a food truck and slowly morphed into an inauspicious , affordable place. \240I’m glad I found it, as it’s off the beaten path, and filled with lots of old fisherman. \240I’m right on the wharf.

You can see the Hallgrimskirkja in the distance.

The “LAX” were so much better than what we have, but that’s to be expected.

Some murals in Reykjavik…

The Icelandic flag is very beautiful.

Typical architecture.

I bought this hat to keep warm. \240It’s so stylish!

Heading out to the Golden Circle, I caught this bird in mid-flight.

Such majestic vistas abound in Iceland.

Our tour guide told us about the elves and the trolls. \240The trolls only come out at night, and if they aren’t back home by dawn, they’re changed into stone! \240I wondered what all those stone figures were as we took the bus from the airport to Reykjavik. \240Our guide was quite funny, and very informative. \240He told us also about the history of how Iceland became Christian, but reminded us that there are still some pagans who have never converted.

This is a geothermal farm. \240All energy (except for combustion engines on cars) in Iceland is fully sustainable in that it comes either from geothermal or hydrothermal.

On the bus, I sat next to a German woman who’d come here to stay at a horseback riding stable, of which there are many. \240I considered riding, but decided not to. \240I haven’t ridden a horse in decades, so probably not a good idea.

Many people keep tiny salmon fishing houses near the streams. \240Some retirees live in them year round. \240Some are very, very tiny, like a large box stall, but our tour guide assured us that they contain every amenity.

The steaming countryside. \240Our tour guide was excellent and told us how people who have this warm land dig a hole and bake rye bread in it, as well as meat.


Strokkur is the geyser that blows every 5 minutes or so. \240What power!

Geysir only erupts about once a month now. \240Volcanic eruptions occur regularly all over Iceland.

The smell of sulphur was omnipresent.

The color of the water here is so unusual, also in the harbor. \240Just a different shade of green-blue, maybe teal?

I met an engineer on the bus from McLean (!) Virginia who was here on business. \240He snapped this photo.

According to my poster, this must be the Nootka lupine. \240I treasured it due to the beautiful captured balls of dew.

This woman saved Gullfoss from some entrepreneurs who wanted to make it into a hydrothermal power station. \240She fought a good fight and has become a national symbol for environmental justice. \240Gullfoss is an incredible waterfall. Her name was Sigrud Tomasdottir.

Gullfoss means “Gold Waterfall.”

This used to be a school, but now it’s a hostel. \240School and college is free in Iceland, but taxes are of course high.

Now we began to approach where the huge eastern and western tectonic plates of the world converge. \240It’s magnificent and astonishing to see.

This is at Thingvellir National Park.

Crevasses along the fault lines.

The Icelandic flag outside the National Park visitor center.

A long and exciting day ending on a rainbow walkway in Reykjavik.

SpΓ­talastΓ­gur 8, 101 ReykjavΓ­k, Iceland

After much research, I’ve come to the conclusion that, due to the facts that I really want to take that wild swim today, and it would require a taxi at the end of the bus line, and it’s Sunday with a reduced schedule, AND I need to get to the airport ON TIME for my flight Wednesday to Edinburgh, I’m going to have to rent a car. \240That way, when tomorrow I head to Hvolsvollur, I will have freedom to get to areas in that countryside. \240So this morning, I’m going to go back to Kaffivagninn, I think, because although they used to be open late, alas, now they close at 5, and today being Sunday, at 4. \240Perhaps tomorrow before I head to Hvolsvollur I can snag their fish stew or fish & chips.

Not much can grow in the ground in Iceland, (potatoes can), but there is a proliferation of greenhouses. \240Most meals are served with tomatoes and cucumbers, which taste very good! \240But fruit is a rarity, except for imported berries.

Something high tech for fires?

I simply love Icelandic design! \240It’s sleek as well as practical. I really love the geothermal heat radiation in Iceland, and it’s wonderful to get such hot water so quickly from the tap! \240Amazing that all of this natural energy, both geo and hydrothermal, is completely green and sustainable.

The key to my room. \240Haven’t used a key like this is quite some time. \240The Old Bicycle Shop, as this quiet, centrally-located guesthouse is called, has several large and amazing libraries. \240Most of the books are in English. \240I picked up, “Our Man in Havana,” by Graham Greene. \240The man of the house’s name, Fergus, was inscribed, and various pencil notations are indicated. \240I wonder if he studied English somewhere, as his library contains all the classical literature. \240Yesterday, on the bus, a young Icelandic man was reading, of all things, an illustrated paperback of Alice in Wonderland. This surprised me!

I have learned that that letter that looks like it could be a p or a b is actually “th” as in THOR.

More wall art.

View from central Reykjavik towards the harbor.

For my last day in Reykjavik, some scenes…

I wanted to go to worship today, but was put off due to not being able to understand one word of Icelandic. \240My laziness.

One reason being a solo traveler on foot is so wonderful is that occasionally you’ll be surprised to come across a sculpture garden. \240The first one I saw was of a harpist!

The story of how the Icelandic people got converted to Christianity is an interesting one.

This one’s called “Fate.”

This lovely group of Icelandic ponies is running right near the main bus depot. \240One sees these strong but diminutive ponies throughout the landscape. \240My hike was my big effort. \240I am glad I didn’t subject my right ankle to the pressure of a stirrup.

I got a brand new Mazda that is so modern I had to ask for help—twice—to get it in gear. \240Sure made me nervous to drive this. \240The roads here are often gravelly, and this car lets you know so you can take your foot off the pedal. \240Driving to the hot springs today was through huge, majestic territory. \240But instead of guard rails (there are none!), there were two completely crashed vehicles set up high on steel beams with a cross on the way back. \240It would be easy to run off the road gawking for sure!

I wandered through this neighborhood looking for Hverageroi. \240Such an avant-garde church.

Beginning my hike towards a completely different hot spring, Reykjadalur, which means “Smokey mountains.” \240I never located Hverageroi, despite asking for its whereabouts from locals numerous times.

It went on and on and on. \240The brochures say “45 minute hike,” but they’re wrong! \240It was twice that long at least, and anyway I saw several people turn around because it wasn’t an “easy to moderate” hike. No! \240It was a steep and very long hike!! \240I’m proud of my artificial ankle for going the distance. \240I was by far the eldest person hiking today. One young man carrying his son on his shoulders said to his wife, when they rounded yet another corner up the mountain, “Ik kan hem niet halen.”

Only a very few sweet wildflowers. \240Very few birds, but a high-flying gull-like large bird, and a shrike-like red-billed bird were occasional visitors.

At last! \240Finally nearing the spot where we can disrobe and get in! \240The water really was a perfect temperature, just as relaxing as they say, therapeutic. \240Did wonders for my ankle so I could hike back down in comfort. \240But boy, am I tired tonight!!

I took this photo of everyone bathing. \240I asked one woman to take a few photos of me, but she was German, I think. \240She’ll send them to my email if she could understand me correctly. \240So many nationalities at this place! \240French, Russian, German, Dutch, American, English, and mostly Icelandic natives. The only language I haven’t heard during this trip has been Spanish. So, when I left the stream, I bid all those rough Russian men goodbye with, “Adios, Amigos!” And I think they’d never heard this before.

What a day! \240Mother’s Day 2022 I will always remember as an exceptional adventure in Iceland!!


I asked a woman from Poland to take these!

Mountain Queen Angelica


A few parting shots as I prepare to leave Reykjavik to travel about 2 hours southeast of here to Hvolsvollur. \240Because I can’t check in until 3 pm, I think I’ll visit the famous Skogafoss waterfall first, which is very nearby my next habitation.

In traveling as an older person solo, I’ve found it’s good not to rush in the morning, so that your “necessaries” are all complete before you push on. \240Another good thing is that I took my red Theraband with me that Jacki at the Y gave us all in that class where I achieved even less than my optimal weight. \240(Will have to work on this when I get home, but definitely eating less here because it’s quite expensive.). Another really great exercise is just finding a good chair to rise and sit, rise and sit, even better with a weight in your hands extended. \240In this way some stiffness can abate. \240My ankle had its fill yesterday, so I’m grateful I have the car today and won’t have to schlep my heavy suitcase hither and yon catching different buses.

A few parting shots from the remodeled Old Bicycle Shop:

This is only about 1/8 of the fabulous library of Fergus Livingstone, the husband of Gudrun ??dottir. \240Goes to show what a graduate of Eton College read.

A beautiful Icelandic poster from a show by a woman artist. \240Iceland is the first country in the world to elect a woman as President. Do you think the war in Ukraine would be going on if a Svetlana or an Olga were in charge?

Some folks left some eggs behind, but because the host had said, “no kitchen use, only coffee and tea,” I chose to abide by these rules.

Get a load of that range hood! \240Icelandic design.

“Kids Don’t Float” title of wall art in Reykjavik.

Massive Hallgrimskirkja, truly the central heart of Reykjavik.

Headed over to the harbor for one last meal at the Kaffivagninn.

A rosette of LAX!

I purchased somethings here as souvenirs for Ellie & Josie:: all proceeds go to charity.

I was fortunate enough to find the doors of the Hallgrimskirkja open on a Monday. \240As I prepared to leave Reykjavik, I’d parked there because it is free.

Magnificent organ!

The baptismal font resembles a glacier.

And after breakfast, I decided to head out to see Skogafoss before checking in at Hvolsvollur. \240There were numerous smaller waterfalls along the way such as this one.

The terrain is just breathtaking in Iceland: so powerful and majestic!

Skogafoss is so big and powerful, I couldn’t get enough of the exhilaration around her. \240I climbed the long staircase to the top, and walked along the rapids leading to the falls for more than an hour. \240I felt God’s presence so strongly alongside Skogafoss that I sang, “Spirit of the Living God,” and I sounded good up there amidst all the beauty.

Such a beautiful rainbow appeared! \240The thunderous sound of so much water falling so fast! \240When the wind changed, I and many others got very wet!

Selfie before Skogafoss.

Driving to Hvolsvollur took just over 2 hours. \240It rained a lot along the way, but then suddenly the sun would peek through. \240Many black clouds I passed beneath.

At the top of Skogafoss there is a platform.

I loved feeling the chilly air on my body. \240I asked a man to snap a photo, and he was Dutch. \240“Graag gedaan,” he said. The entire experience of Skogafoss was one of awe.

These are other falls leading downward to Skogafoss.

See the beautiful blue color of the pool on the left. \240I swear the water in Iceland has a different hue than elsewhere.

See the spray above Skogafoss at the end?

Dandelions here are especially vigorous. \240Whereas greenhouses are everywhere growing tomatoes and cucumbers, I wonder whether Icelanders eat dandelion greens. \240There really isn’t much here in the way of fruits or vegetables, or at least so it seems.

I wanted some milk for my coffee tomorrow, so I traveled to the nearest grocery store. \240There were a few small markets along the way which still had their “open” signs hanging, but which obviously had closed, maybe due to the pandemic. \240I finally got to a store on the outskirts of Vik, 20 miles from Hvolsvollur.

Such a pretty church up on a high hill.

This church is the symbol and emblem of the town of Vik.

First sight of the famed black beaches of Vik.

4 different types of salt for sale at the supermarket: lava, birch smoked, licorice, and flugosalt. \240I never asked just why, nor did I try them: next time!

The view behind my airBnB. \240Coneys and geese are flying busily in and out of these spaces, which reminded me of the birds zooming through the water spray at Skogafoss. \240I couldn’t get the lockbox to open, so I was outside looking around for about an hour until Timea, the wife of the owner, came to let me in. \240She has a 2-yr old girl and a 6-month old baby boy. \240We chatted about motherly subjects, and she nursed and played with her sweet little boy, obviously her great delight. \240A new au pair was minding Margret, Timea’s daughter. \240I was cold and tired, though, and after she discussed quite a bit about farm life with lots of cows and sheep, I retired to my room.

This is the massive rock at the entrance to Mountain Queen Angelica. \240I was surprised that one other AirBnB traveler had said “the place was hard to find.” \240Wha??

I’m staying in the central house with the blue roof. \240My room is cozy.

At the foot of the mountain are quite a few troll houses (?) and semi-overgrown grottoes.

I later learned that these are some original Icelandic turf houses. \240These people are tough.

A hand-embroidered duvet upon my comfortable and huge bed.

The Icelandic saga is over the headboard. See all those volcanoes? \240Every volcano and glacier has a name, and each has certain characteristics.

This is the kind of bird that is swooping and flying all over the craggy rocks here. \240Coneys, right?

At nearly 9 pm, it’s stil light out. \240This is Drangshelio.

Such an incredibly amazing day!

Mountain Queen Angelica

I’m really starting to enjoy Icelandic rap and pop music! \240For some reason, my Mazda CX-30 always has the radio on when you turn on the car. \240It’s all push button, and it feels very weird not to need the key. \240Here in Iceland, naturally, there’s a lot of very slippery gravel on the roads, and this car alerts me immediately so I can get off the accelerator. \240I realize why the speed limits are so low and why people obey them for the most part.

Timea fixed me and Margret Soley (Margaret of the Sun), aged 2, a very great breakfast of her home-baked bread, fresh scrambled eggs, milk fresh from their cows (delicious!), her own farm-smoked lamb, cucumber, and coffee. \240Her little baby boy, 6 months, is a happy child and was just playing with his activity toys overhead while we were eating. \240Then, Timea put him on her lap so he could “play” the piano. \240He banged on that thing and seemed to be singing, or as close to singing, as a babe can. \240I heard Timea singing yesterday. \240She is a lovely woman and mother, and shared so much of her life and times with me. \240I feel so privileged. Her father-in-law, Oli, showed me the cow barn he’s converted into two swell apartments “for tourists.” \240It’s pretty big business here nowadays. \240It amazes me that, prior to 1944, Icelandic people lived in turf huts. \240The first \240nation republic was only created that year, thus, a very young nation. \240There was an aspect of fatefulness in her expressions,, talking about how it goes with childbearing and also about calving. \240She was so happy as wife, mother, cook, baker, hostess, farmer, and housekeeper. The day I arrived, an au pair also arrived. \240Timea let me know the following day that the au pair was doing a good job with the kids, explaining that she couldn’t really sow the potatoes with Margret Soley, who would have the attention span for one or two, but then would go on to something else!

Oli greeted me earlier this morning and we went together up the hill to gather the eggs. \240The chickens have a nice large house, completely protected from predators, well-fenced. \240The proud rooster and his harem. \240The hens were very beautiful, with all kinds of funny colorful feathers atop their heads. “Icelandic chickens,” Oli told me. I went back later to take a photo, but the chickens all went inside, the rooster crowed loudly once they were all in, and then he joined them! \240As there is a padlock on the henhouse, there was no recourse!

His great-grandfather, Gunnar, wasn’t supposed to go on this boat (there is no harbor here, which makes the sea very dangerous), but he did, and they never returned. \240In Iceland, one needn’t name a child for 6 months, Timea explained, and so they didn’t. \240The baby’s name means “Remember the Sea,” and it’s to protect him. After the naming of a child, s/he is baptized.

Oli said he is going to also convert the grass silo into a place for tourists. \240I marveled at this, but his English, I knew, wouldn’t be enough to explain this to me. \240I’m embarrassed that I don’t know a word of Icelandic, but I asked Oli how to say thank you, and it’s “dtak.”

View of Mountain Queen Angelica, Thorarinn & Timea’s guest house.

The rooster crows and away he goes!

Turf huts in the mountain here. \240There was one very deep cave dug underneath the mountain, looked like a Stone Age dwelling, but the exterior was fairly modern.

This is a UNESCO site. \240The visitor center in Vik is housed in the earliest building here, quite charming. \240

Beautiful downtown Vik. \240When I got to Keflavík airport, the passport checking woman told me that Vik is her most favorite place in the world. \240I told her my parents called me Vick, so I thought I’d better visit Vik!

One of those tiny houses. \240Possibly for elves?

The black sand path towards the beach. \240Watch out for falling rocks!

One of Oli’s turf huts.

Black sand beach at Vik.

Weathered basalt.

Black sand beach at Vik.

My little cairn. \240Making one can bring you good luck!

A greater cairn.

Swimming is absolutely forbidden here because there are “stealer waves” that come up above the regular waves. \240


This church has become the symbol for Vik.

One of the oldest hotels here.

Then I traveled to an even more spectacular beach, Reynisfjara. \240The woman at the visitor center warned me that it would be more crowded, but I tell you, nothing here is what I’d call crowded.

So pretty I had to stop. \240And what beautiful weather I had all day long!

Stacks at Reynisfjara.

Here you see the striated basalt. \240My old love of earth science and geology returns.

I’ve never seen waves this huge and mighty. \240People drown here regularly. The last was a 40-yr old tourist from China who stood with his back to the sea, and it swept him away. \240This happened in 2016.

A tiny house.

The glaciers give off a very bright light above the lower snow covering.

See the glacier? \240These all have names, as do the various types of basalt and lava.

This pony followed me when I decided to visit the Vik beach one last time. \240I saw a pony & rider doing the tolt by the sea.

And here I came upon a wedding ceremony for the second time this trip!

As the sun begins to set, I bid a fond farewell to this awesome country, Iceland.

How fortunate I am to have been able to experience her!

hjΓ‘ hΓΆllu keflavik airport

It’s snowing heavily in Iceland as I depart.

Can’t help but think my guardian angel is providing. \240I stopped en route to the airport to snap one last photo, of a sylvan waterfall flowing like a lady’s tresses down-floating the mountainside.

Heathrow. \240I sat during the flight next to a lovely businessman from London who used to ride and foxhunt. \240He had much to say about Blair, who outlawed it. \240Evert had given me my grandmother’s lovely cloth-bound edition of “Black Beauty,” and I was reading it on the plane. \240This reminded me of when I read it first, and it brought me to tears at the cruelties of man.

Finally in Scotland!

I finally found the bus sort of where I needed to find my airBnB. \240It’s very central, near Edinburgh Castle, and close to the National Museum.

The monument to Sir Walter Scott.

Church of Saint Paul and Saint George. \240Never saw them paired before…

The Conan Doyle Pub. \240I knew I was getting close as the bus driver directed me here.

Final I located my room on Annandale Street. \240It’s a very Type A personality who runs this place. \240Confortable enough for the weary traveler, and that’s all I really need.

I managed to phone Maureen, so we will be seeing each other soon!

I tried to find my favorite Icelandic pop song on YouTube. \240I like it sooo much, and it plays frequently on the fm radio in Iceland. \240Alas, I tried numerous tacks, all to no avail. \240The song comforts me.

After 15 \240hours traveling (the flight out of Heathrow was delayed an hour), good night!

Edinburgh Waverley, Princes St, Edinburgh EH1 1BB, UK

There was no place to stash my suitcase during my tour of the National Museum of Scotland, and my suitcase is heavy, plus I’m carrying a bag of things like my raincoat, in case I need hat, scarf, etc. \240Also 4 fresh eggs from Timea’s farm in Iceland. \240I made a wager with myself to eat them when I have a kitchen. \240We shall see. \240Here are just a few of the absolutely fantastic things in the Museum.

A great sperm whale washed ashore.

A giant deer from days gone by. \240Jameson was the first to be able to declare an animal extinct, sadly this was one.

The Queen Mary harp, Circa 1500, 29 strings, metal.

St Andrew with his cross. \240He said he wasn’t worthy to bear the cross of Christ. \240This is the saltire and seen on the flag of Scotland.

A virginal plucked the strings.

The Lamont harp, circa 1500, 32 metal strings. \240These two beautifully ornate Celtic harps are the oldest in the world.

Necklace of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Display of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s things. \240The costume is a facsimile, but the sword and tabard (?) were given to him.

There was an interesting exhibit about the typewriter and its evolution. \240This is a working typewriter made out of LEGO’s! \240The last two or three typewriters in the history display were typewriters I used as a secretary! \240I hadn’t realized how much the development of the typewriter had on women’s liberation and suffrage. \240I found that it enables me to do work that suited me. \240But some of the early typewriters were so weird! \240And my father always typed on a Royal typewriter, which had a strong connection to Holland.

I traveled to Oban after lugging my suitcase around a museum which had no storage unit for it. \240I’m tired. \240I’m at a backpackers hostel, and it’s very cold in the room.

And at Glasgow Station, I went outside to look at George Square. \240Lo and behold, yet a third bride in evidence!

Oban Backpackers

I arrived in the pouring rain last night in Oban, and am staying at the backpackers hostel, which has been quite cozy once I learned how to turn on the heat!

I enjoyed the train ride up from Glasgow. \240It was wonderful to view the little towns with ancient churches, the large estates around the lochs, the proliferation of wild rhododendrons in bloom or getting ready to, as well as that bright yellow “brem” I saw all over the dunes in Holland which doesn’t grow in the US to my knowledge. \240

Scene in George Square, Glasgow, with monument to the war dead.

The taxis in Glasgow are so cute and old-fashioned!

A pianist advertising pianos in the train station! \240He was lovely to listen to, indeed, playing Chopin. \240My ears immediately perked up to the sounds of live music from my position in an adjacent waiting lounge..

Old church in the background, from train, and beginning to rain.

This purple flower was also everywhere: May is such a gorgeous month!

The loch.

How’d you like to live there?

Arriving at the harbor in Oban.

Looking out the window from my hostel, the rain started in earnest. \240This morning the winds outside I can hear are very blustery. \240I’ve booked the ferry to Iona and back three days later. \240Alas, the forecast is for rain every day this week with the exception of today.

“The Scottish Episcopal Church welcomes you.”

Look! \240Mr. Whippy’s franchise in Scotland: Mr. Mac Whippy!

My ferry on the Caledonian MacBrayne line.

Traveling to Mull on the ferry, watching the waves. I was impressed with the cleanliness of the harbor at Oban. \240I saw only fat gulls, and healthy-looking, abundant seaweed. \240This gives me hope for the future.


I wanted to be up at the Abbey at dawn, and I was alone. \240A cloudy day, but brightness portends a nicer day than all the rains of yesterday.

I ran my ankle ragged yesterday, what with dragging my heavy suitcase the entire length of Iona to the former hostel and then back. \240I did take breaks, but I’m also carrying a satchel with a few other items. \240It sort of balances me out. \240Then there’s my purse, which is a great one, but it’s loaded with everything I need, plus my jewelry to keep it ultra-safe. \240I may decide to mail some things home. \240I felt that I really had no choice when I finally located, with help from shopkeepers, a B&B called Martyrs Bay. \240The heater didn’t work, but Gillian, the owner or manager, brought me a good space heater.

I lit three votives: for Cousin Ric, who has cancer, for my niece, Jessica, recovering from stem cell treatment due to MS, and Jim Plews-Ogan, suffering with a diagnosis of ALS.

It’s quite a nice view from my window, with the Celtic cross. \240The hostel I stayed at last time, at the farthest northern end of the island, has all been converted into apartments, and of course, they’re all rented out. At least, when the hostess, Meghan, saw me outside, she invited me in to the great living room, and I remember it fondly. \240It was so convivial at the time, meeting all sorts of pilgrims from all over the world and breaking bread with them. \240Now that I’m old, it’s much harder to connect with the younger generation, I find in general, although I had a very interesting conversation over breakfast with the Chinese volunteer at Backpackers Hostel before I left. \240She just graduated from university, but can’t return to her homeland because Covid is raging there. \240I discussed my prior Chinese piano students who were so diligent with their practice, children of visiting professors at UVA, and she told me that’s how Chinese children are raised. \240I sang my favorite Icelandic pop song to her, and she said it gave her goosebumps! \240I love that song, and I sing it with gusto! \240I told her how I, as an American, am leery about visiting China (although I have an open invitation from the professor of astrophysics) because of the cameras and facial recognition everywhere. \240But I hadn’t really considered her response: that it’s done “to keep you safe.” \240Then we talked about China’s ever-changing birth policy. \240Now it’s up to 3!

These are photos I took from the top deck of the tour bus from Craignure to Fionnphort (pronounced “Finnefer). It began to rain hard…the hourlong bus ride was free.

The lochs and bens. \240Tops of bens hidden in the cloudy mists.

Coming up on a 500-yr old narrow bridge. \240The entire way was one-lane road, with passing areas. \240Our driver was constantly irate at tourists always taking the wrong side. \240Sometimes we, and others, just had to back up. \240Other times, and I recall this from my last visit, he’d have to beep the horn to get the sheep out of the road.

Continuing on toward Fionnphort through tiny little towns like Pennygheal. \240There still exist those red telephone booths, but I don’t know if they work.

A standing stone.

About 130 people live on Iona year-round, and 17 are elementary school-aged children. \240The older children must take the ferry to Oban for their high school education.

Part of the nunnery.

Rev George MacLeod and his wife, Lorna, were here a long time, and were benefactors of Iona, and founders of the Iona Community, which carries on today.

So beautiful, the symmetry of the Celtic cross.

What, me worry?

The pretty bluebells.

St Martin’s cross, the actual original in its original location.

This cross honors the dead from WWI.

These precious wildflowers, called “sea thrift,” grow among the rocks and seaweed at the beach.

One picturesque trail through town.

Beautiful sentiments of Dr Johnson.

St Oban’s Chapel, where pilgrims would stop and pray en route to visiting the shrine (burial place here in the abbey) of St Colomba.

Mendelssohn was here.

A shelag-na-gig, supposed to ward off evil spirits. \240She is an ancient Irish shape of a woman, meaning “woman with breasts,” but her legs are open wide, in a very sexual pose.

It’s really quite amazing that a spirit of love among us here prevails. \240It’s possible that some arrive only wanting to see history, but the vast majority want to touch and feel God here. \240I attended the 9 pm service just now, which they hold in the old Abbey every night but Fridays. \240The ancient gothic sanctuary was totally candlelit, and the old bell was tolled. \240A flutist played the prelude and postlude, and the text was Jesus and the children. \240I went up with my new friend here, Sandra, and we also picked up her friend, Elizabeth, en route. \240Elizabeth reminded me greatly of Martha. \240Strangers become friends, one of the church’s many blessings!

This morning, though, I took the boat trip out to Staffa. \240I’d decided before I came that this I really wanted to see, along with Fingal’s cave. \240Absolutely stupendous! \240Wonders of the world! \240And I saw many puffins flying, but none close up. \240There’s still time.

This little bird atop the antenna was singing a hark! to the morning.

My newfound friend, Nicky, took this photo of me in the Staffa Tour boat. \240This was a great adventure!

Lots of seals were lounging, and one swam around swiftly, nervous at our approach.

First view of Staffa.

It looks like teeth!

The color of the water is such a deep green-blue, very beautiful.

An amazing tidal wave pours through this shaft.

Starting the walk to Fingal’s Cave. \240Thank heavens for the good handrail, maintained by the National Historic Trust.

Fingal’s Cave!

Here is Nicky inside the cave. \240I liked visiting, but definitely was afraid to fall as the rocks were wet and slippery.

Such interesting geology, often hexagonal stonework.

Some of the lichen were green and even gold-colored.

Primroses grow wild everywhere here, so dainty.

The rookery is a very noisy place just outside the Iona Heritage Center. \240The woman there told me the ravens (crows?) have had this home of many nests for over 40 years. \240Every spring they return to spruce up their nests for the season.

She showed me on the map where we were and how I could hike to the Coracle Bay, where they think Colomba may have washed ashore after being kicked out of Ireland.

I never located Coracle Bay, though. \240Instead, I hiked through the “machair,” which is all bogs and tufts. \240I tried following pathways, but I ended up getting quite lost, and facing sheer cliffs rather than an easy way down to the sea, I had to retrace all my steps. \240At last, after a very long time completely on my own, I saw a fence and then a house. \240I knew I was not a good candidate for being lost somewhere in the machair. \240But even though my shoes became a complete mess, it was a memorable experience. \240I’d been hiking for 4+ hours. \240What a day !!!

Oban Backpackers

I got up early so as to take one more walk to the North Beach. \240I liked this carved wooden bench so much, I just had to photograph it.

I had to mind my steps because hundreds of these snails were busy feeding everywhere. \240I asked about them later, and Gillian told me there are more this year than ever.

This is the beautiful North Beach, where I’ve collected round stones of granite and quartz. \240I always imagine that this was the beach St Colomba charmed the seals from.

Rod Grinneff of Australia had breakfast with me both mornings at Martyrs Bay rooms. \240He was a very interesting, never-married, footloose and fancy-free man traveling the world with no house or car anymore anywhere. \240We really hit it off. \240I hope he’ll come my way someday. \240He knew Civil War history far better than I. \240A great reader, he convinced me to get Adomnan of Iona’s “Life of St Colomba.”

We worshiped together this morning. \240It was a communion service in the old Abbey.

Heading on the bus from Fionnphort to Craignure.

Farewell to Mull.

Back at the hostel in Oban. \240It’s not a bad place. \240My feet did a ton of walking today, and while it’s only 8:30, I simply must put them up. \240My feet and toes need to rest.

Here are a few more photos from Iona that I like:

Oban - Station Square, Oban PA34 4LN, UK

Goodbye to Oban, heading to Inverness on the bus, raining ( of course), looking forward to seeing Maureen again!

Hard to take a decent photo from the bus, but the scenery is gorgeous!

I am struck by the huge numbers of Scots who still smoke. \240I know they’re famous for loving their tobacco, but people smoke everywhere, young and old, \240rolling their own, pipes, etc.

Another, nicer thing though, is that because the wild rhododendrons are all purple, people plant all sorts of rare colored rhodos in their own gardens, including brilliant orange!

The hillsides are all covered with the bright yellow brem, but it’s such a dark and drizzly day, a photo wouldn’t do it justice. \240Last night, a Swiss girl named Leia showed me her prize-winning puffin photos that she took, albeit with a very fancy camera, on Staffa. \240Makes me feel bad that we had so many people with dogs that I couldn’t get a good view, much less a photo, of any. \240I keep hoping my compatriots will send the photos to me they promised; I even gave them my last business cards so they couldn’t mix up my contact info. \240Maybe later….

There are countless B&Bs along this bus route from Fort William to Inverness, and all of them say “No Vacancy.” It’s so great to have most businesses back and thriving.

The Great Loch of Ness.

The brem. Maureen told me that here, it’s known as “the broom.” \240I should have known from my Scottish harp song, “Broom of the Cowdenknowes.” \240It’s just so pretty in the spring landscape.

It was pouring rain, and I stopped into a convenience store and asked the man where Clachnaharry Road was. \240I’d never have found it, but he got into his car, Mr Mohammed Bart, he said his name was, and took me right here. \240I hardly recognized Maureen, nor she, me. \240It has been too long. \240But she’d prepared a wonderful mince dish with peas and carrots and “tatties,” mashed potatoes. \240It was so great to have a nice home cooked meal again! \240Maureen has a nice flat. \240I’m ever so grateful to the shopkeeper, who apparently also delivers newspapers to several residents here. \240Like my place, I think it’s a 55+ community.

Here is the Ladies Bridge over the River Ness in Inverness. \240We’re going to go for a walk here tomorrow, weather permitting.

Maureen’s the one in yellow, here at her daughter’s wedding. \240The men look dashing in their kilts, don’t you agree?

11 Clachnaharry Rd

The doors are all so heavy in Europe, but especially in Scotland. \240Great and ponderous, heavy wooden doors to get through. \240It’s nice, but sometimes difficult, compared with our flimsy ones in the states.

People in Europe always want fresh air streaming in, no matter how cold and damp it is outside. \240“Let’s open the window,” they all seem to think, but so often it’s just cold and damp everywhere. \240I’ve found myself wearing socks and robe to bed on more than a few occasions!

It’s a great discovery to find that I can write in my Journo without the benefit of the internet! \240Maureen has none, of course. But it’s a bit of a hindrance for making my next plans….

Maureen is off to her Exercise for Balance class, and after our extensive walk this morning, I’m glad for a time to rest. \240She lives quite close to downtown Inverness, so we got to see lots of beauty along the River Ness, and we even went to the Cathedral where we first worshiped together, 11 years ago. \240I signed in the guestbook for both of us, and there were lots of tourists. \240The man taking the L1 fee told me that just two weeks ago the pews were removed in favor of so many portable chairs. \240This was done so as to accommodate musical events and others requiring different spaces. \240These events will bring in much-needed money for ongoing upkeep and refurbishment of the cathedral. \240But during worship, last time, I never took photos of course. \240This time I did.

A view of the Ladies Bridge across the Ness, with a very old Jacobite church on the left.

Maureen’s daughter’s wedding, Maureen is in yellow.

Maureen at the breakfast table.

The bouquet I found immediately at Tesco was just the perfect gift. \240Maureen so seldom receives flowers, she hadn’t a vase, only a glass mug that said, “To the best granddad” on it.

She pointed out the guesthouse I stayed at last time, which I didn’t at first recognize.

Beautiful old stonework on these homes near Maureen’s Clachnaharry Road flat.

I liked these gables.

My friend, Maureen. \240I’m sorry that her vision is so impaired, and that she walks with such a heavy forecart, but according to her, it’s enabled her to make far longer walks than possible with her cane. Luckily, Maureen’s hearing is excellent. \240But I’m not going to pursue getting her a tablet when she has 10 Covid tests she hadn’t the slightest idea how to use. \240This afternoon when she returns, I will help her with it. \240The directions and procedure are different from the US version. \240I just wonder how many seniors are in a similar situation: loads of tests, no idea how to use.

It’s also quite tragic, in my opinion, just how forgetful Maureen is. She must have aphasia, because in every other sentence, she can’t find a word. \240She can’t remember from one moment to the next what she’s doing, such that if she’s cooking, for example, I should better not distract her by talking. \240I think her condition is borderline dangerous. \240But I think she realizes it. \240I also find it sad that neither her daughter nor her grandson, Alasdair, take good care of Maureen. \240She’s just on her own with a few church friends for support. \240Even if I bought her a tablet, I don’t think anyone in her family’d help her set it up, and I believe that, now, she’s become too forgetful to retain what she’d learn. \240It would probably become an additional source of frustration for her, rather than a boon. \240I hope this isn’t just rationalization on my part.

We were blessed with an absolutely wonderful day of sun! \240While cool, it was lovely weather.

Typical streetside scene in Inverness.

St Andrew’s Cathedral.

I consider this the most beautiful baptismal font in the world. \240When we worshiped there together 11 years ago (!), two baby girls were baptized. \240Isn’t the angel heavenly?

The reredos. \240The chairs are somewhat alarming, but all for the sake of supporting the ongoing work of the Cathedral.

Two wolves guarding the Town Hall (town house, as it’s called here).

The Town House was recently cleaned to show off the lovely original color of its sandstone.

I’m on the Ladies Bridge on our way back after having a delicious “Highland melt” at the Castle Restaurant, courtesy of Maureen. \240It was a haggis panini with soup and tiny salad.

Maureen with her children: Emma, and the ill-fated Angus. \240He died, age 45, of a sudden, unexpected heart attack. \240Forever loved and mourned.

11 Clachnaharry Rd

Maureen will be 80 in September. \240She confessed to me last night that it isn’t only aphasia that’s afflicting her memory, she’s been diagnosed with dementia. What a terrible future to face. I feel so sorry about this situation, and pray I will be spared such dreadfulness. \240She has an EKG on Friday to see if her heart can stand up to certain medications they’d like her to take. She’s had mini strokes in the past, you see. \240Again I recognize, health is wealth.

Today we’re going to visit Brodie Castle, a place I visited last time that I’m looking greatly forward to seeing again. \240Maureen’s been there a number of times, too. \240I’m going to try and make this a wonderful day. \240

But first, I’m so glad someone is coming this morning to fix the infernal smoke alarm outside my room which has been chirping every 10 seconds since I got here. \240I tried fixing it, thinking it needed a battery, but it wouldn’t budge. \240Last Friday, an entirely new electrical system was installed here, and that’s when it started, Maureen said. But here it is, the following Wednesday, and only now could she get someone to come. \240As to all the electrical controls, they are all too high for her, being rather short, to reach. She has a step stool, but why did they do this?

I’m up early today. \240Time for prayer and then exercise. \240Glad I brought my theraband along!

We had to stop and wait while the road was turned to allow 5 sailboats to pass through the canal. \240I’d never seen anything like it! \240

The old church.


The fields of gold!

Tall trees as we entered the grounds at Brodie Castle.

There were yet just a few copses of the famous 400 varieties of daffodils propagated by the Laird.

Such a lovely rose sand color is Brodie Castle, and I feel a sense of pride that my grandmother, Margaret Croll, was a Brodie.

There were no photos permitted inside, and the gift shops weren’t really geared to the castle personally. \240But we saw an original parchment vellum letter written by Robert the Bruce warning Brodie that if he didn’t clean the mill, there would be trouble.

Maureen with her “trolley.” \240I’m glad I’ve come to see her now. \240Any later would have been too late. \240What a difficult future for her to face. We were waiting for the person to come fix the smoke alarm chirping, finally phoned, and it turned out she was coming the next day, so I get to hear it the entire time…Maureen has been so kind and accommodating, but she can’t remember anything, and her meds are a case in point. \240I urged her to get help with them.

This was an enormous rhododendron of a beautiful deep fuchsia color!

We had lunch while waiting for our 3 o’clock tour, and here were two cute Scottish boys enjoying their ice cream. \240I just had to take their picture.

Expansive grounds at Brodie. \240We walked in from the bus through a garden path, no need to see cars at all.

Brodie Castle was only attacked once. \240There were places for arrows and guns, as well as cannons, up on top. \240The tour guide showed how the castle changed through its many remodeling phases with successive Brodie generations. \240There were many Dutch masters paintings from the Golden Age, which demonstrated to me a strong connection between Brodie of Scotland and Holland, uncanny how this unfolded in my paternal heritage. \240The original library was most interesting. \240In fact, everything in the Castle was original. \240We even clambered up a steep spiral staircase with the aid of a strong rope. \240It was dark in the castle so as to preserve its valuable contents. \240This made it especially difficult for Maureen to navigate with her poor vision. She kept holding on to all the ancient tables and chairs, but after I pointed this out to her once, I gave up. \240She probably should have sat downstairs, but I couldn’t suggest this to her.

Here you can see an azalea in full bloom midst other flowers afar off, yellow poppies in the foreground.

We enjoyed the most spectacular Spring weather all day!

Brodie coat of arms. \240Motto: UNITE!

Look how wonderfully the ancient cobblestones were set 800 years ago.

View of Nairn, which we passed through on our way back to Inverness on the bus.

A real unicorn to show my granddaughters!

View from the Ladies Bridge of the River Ness. \240And so concludes my lovely visit to Inverness to see my old friend, Maureen MacLeod. \240I’m off to Kirkwall in the morning.


Leaving Inverness, I noticed that the main library is (conveniently) located at the bus station. \240It was difficult to say goodbye to Maureen, as we both knew, it was a last one. \240I will continue to pray for her. \240She is such a sensitive soul, brought to tears at our parting. I hope she’ll get down to this library and ask a librarian to help her with getting on the internet. But I don’t know if she’s capable.

It’s wonderful to hear Gaelic spoken. \240But it’s certainly too hard for me to make out a single word!

This is the oldest building in Inverness, Abertarff House.

Starting out on the bus to Scrabster.

We passed through towns such as Dornoch, Thrumster, Caithness, Thurso, Lebster, Wick. The bus ran full out, then stopped for long periods at various towns. I like viewing the countryside so much as we pass by, and that’s why I so much enjoy trains and buses. \240In Iceland, it was sometimes dangerous when I drove a car and the magnificent views arrested my attention.

Passing by fields in between the little towns, I noticed so many gorgeous rhododendrons in bloom, the “Bonnie, Bonnie broom” in bright yellow (as the song goes), and I also saw pairs of brilliant wild pheasants picking along the newly-plowed furrows, the hen behind the cock. \240Most birds here, I’ve noticed, are larger birds.

Here were two of the old red telephone booths next to the post office. \240Post offices are still very much operational in Scotland.

Just look at the late afternoon light on those cliff sides!

Leaving Scrabster after a long afternoon on the bus on the ferry.

It’s a great brew!

My host, Malcolm, kindly picked me up at the ferry and very quickly drove me to his place, Eastbank House. \240 It’s comfortable enough, and I’m grateful.

First view of Kirkwall, which Malcolm said wasn’t at all as nice as Stromness, \240

View out my window at Eastbank House. \240I’m happy to come to rest, but also a bit kerflummoxed because the ferry doesn’t run to Lerwick tomorrow. \240I had to cancel my booking at Glenorchy House. Furthermore, the next ferry to Lerwick runs at 11:45 pm on Saturday. \240I booked it, what else?

St Magnus centre, Kirkwall KW15 1PA, UK

Malcolm, host of the Eastend Guesthouse, met me at the ferry last night and took me to his place. \240Very accommodating! \240It’s a very quirky place, a converted hospital, he told me over breakfast this morning. \240I’ll be in Kirkwall a bit longer than anticipated because the ferry to Shetland doesn’t run at all today. \240Malcolm doesn’t have a room for me tonight, but he’s going to see if he can find a room for me elsewhere, even offering to pay for my flight to Lerwick. \240He says money means nothing to him (!)

But I’m sitting in the churchyard of St Magnus Cathedral. \240It’s just an incredible place! \240It is also a rookery, wiith loads of crows cawing everywhere. \240Very “cemetery” indeed!

Look at these high, ancient walls.

More views of the St Magnus Cathedral. \240

The bluebells are in full bloom now. Malcolm wants to drive out to a forest with a carpet of bluebells today with me and Monica, his guesthouse manager, whom I later learned came here with her boyfriend from Poland to work in salmon processing, but who then ditched Peter for Malcolm and does all the cleaning and internet booking here. \240Malcolm doesn’t use a cell phone, but occasionally plies his laptop. \240Monica’s English is pretty good. \240She said working at the salmon place didn’t allow her any opportunity to learn, and the work was cold and hard.

As I look at all the ancient headstones, it’s apparent that many people died very young then, as most of the stones read, “Died 27 years (or 17, etc.)”. How fortunate I am to have (had) such a long and fulfilling life!

I spied this pretty kitty while walking through the alleyway.

Eastend Guesthouse., I’m up on the second floor.

One imposing doorway into the Cathedral.

One of two baptismal fonts at St Magnus. \240I really love it because of the different beautiful polished stones inlaid around it.

Choir stalls.

How gothic can you get?

Just look at the ornate wood carving!

The Norse ran this cathedral originally.

Dolls house for one of the Prime Minister’s children, in the free Orkney Museum.

An Orkney Chair.

The microscope of William Layman Cowan, who discovered phosphorescence in the sea.

Spiral staircase at my guest house.

1591 letter “Feu of New Wark” temporary exhibit in Kirkwall.

I found it interesting that recent discoveries of skeletons included whelk shells on every joint!

I thought I’d have to spend the night here, but Malcolm told me his beloved, Monica, wil let me stay in her room (as she stays in his! A 74-yr old Brit with a 31-yr old, pretty Polish girl!)

Malcolm drove me around the countryside he loves. \240I’m so lucky to get a personal tour of some lesser-known sights on Orkney.

We had to crawl through this one. \240Amazing! \240The workmanship of something so old, Neolithic! \240Believe me, it was a very tight squeeze while keeping your head down. \240Before the Bronze Age, people only buried the bones. \240Only when money started to be used, did entire bodies (with valuables) get buried. \240Malcolm thinks money is the root of all evil, but I point out, the LOVE of money is. \240We all, regrettably, need money to live.

The stones of Stenness weren’t yet discovered when I was here last. \240Malcolm has all kinds of theories about these ancient stones, how they came to be, how they were moved and set up. \240He told me about watching the light on the winter solstice from Maes Howe, which aligned with these stones, and is the oldest burial cairn ever discovered. \240These Stone Age ruins are the oldest ever discovered, and still being unearthed. \240They are far older than Stone Henge, even. \240Malcolm is from the north of England, but just adores this place. \240I’m so glad he’s choosing to share it with me!

I love the shape of these standing stones. \240Malcolm has a theory about them being moved on beds of seaweed.

This was (probably) an altar, and you see Maes Howe in the distance.

This also, older village than ever before thought.

And a ram. \240I’m glad I got to spend an extra day on Orkney. \240I saw so much more than last time, and got a chance to enjoy the island. \240Monica cooked us a wonderful seafood paella with saffron, very special, and I contributed a bottle of Sauvignon blanc. \240 Then we jammed a bit on Malcolm’s keyboard, and their guitars. \240We sang. \240His favorite is Jock O’Hazeldean. \240I’d better shower now, long day ahead with the ferry at 11:45 pm! \240Malcolm told me tomorrow we’ll visit the bluebell forest and he’ll take me, at low tide, to see the puffins. \240I can’t wait! \240He provides a good full breakfast here, also with plenty of fruit. \240You really appreciate fruit and vegetables in a place where they hardly grow. \240Currants and other berries apparently grow well, though.

Eastbank House

Malcolm said he bought this property 18 years ago for L 32,000! \240Amazing to buy a 200-yr old stone hospital for that amount, but it was owned by the National Trust of Scotland, and they’re very interested in people converting these ancient places into going concerns. \240It’s frankly amazing how he singlehandedly added a simple shower, sink, and potty to each of 11 rooms.

I again wandered around town this morning, revisited the majestic cathedral, didn’t happen on any worship services in time to attend. \240Decided to buy some fresh flowers to adorn the dining room table. It’s the least I can do to thank Malcolm for the free, unexpected night.

That realistic, very beautiful painting is by David Pierce. \240We stopped by his studio today (closed on Sunday), and admired his work through the window.

Malcolm took me and Monica for a long drive all over. \240It was lovely seeing all the lambs and calves cavorting up and down the hillsides. \240

First, we stopped at the bluebell forest, Woodwick, I think it was called. \240It was truly a fairytale of extreme beauty, cascades of water rushing down, flanked by ferns, and loads of bluebells!

There was a dovecote there from 1648.

Here is the interior of the ancient dovecote. \240The ivy trails inside and out. \240In the dove stalls, you could see remains of candles. \240What a place!

Just a Springtime bit of heaven! \240I felt that I was in a holy place, renewed my baptismal vows with the water briefly.

Then, we headed for the Brough of Birsay, hoping to see puffins.

Unfortunately, the tide was too high, and the puffins were out fishing. \240However, we had an exhilarating walk in the wind.

Here you can see the causeway crossing which becomes walkable at low tide. \240Guests were expected today at 4, so we couldn’t be out later.

Then we went up to the high area where there’s a monument to Kitchener.

Here was our one puffin sighting. \240She looked a bit lonely, all right. \240I hope I’ll see some in Shetland, where I’m heading tonight on the ferry. \240I’m beginning to get a little homesick.

We saw hundreds of razorbills, seagulls, oyster catchers, wild swans, and a few great eider ducks. \240How I love all birds!

The monument to Kitchener. \240Looking in the other direction, Malcolm pointed out the Old Man of Hoy for me, but he was so far distant, I didn’t snap a picture.

On our return, we passed by the Ring of Brognar and the Stones of Stenness. \240It started raining, and now I’m waiting in the very cold dining room for tonight. \240Malcolm very kindly offered to take me to the ferry, which leaves at 11:45 pm. \240Another traveler will be coming, Linda, from Germany. \240I’m so cold! \240All the doors are always kept open here. \240Even when we left on our drive.

Walking around saying goodbye to Kirkwall this evening, I spied this nice cat in a doorway.

And through a heavy iron gate, this lovely pathway beckoned, but it ended on private property, so I had to turn back.

Another David Pierce, this in the foyer of the guesthouse.

In less than an hour, Malcolm will take us to the ferry. \240Here is a book he illustrated:

Malcolm is a totally amazing, sort of Renaissance man.

This is the Scottish Elk, extinct. \240What a work is man, that he should be so bent on destruction. \240

I believe this raven is also carved by David Pierce, as I saw another in his studio. \240I love the spiral staircases in so many of these old stone houses. \240But man, they can be cold!

A true likeness of Monica, Malcolm’s girlfriend, drawn by her sister.

Unst Baltasound

In the guesthouse library, I came across what looks to be a very interesting book, “Full Tilt: Dunkirk to Delhi by Bicycle,” by Dervla Murphy, an intrepid Irishwoman. \240Her frontispiece offers this quote from Robert Louis Stevenson (whose father built the lighthouse here at Unst):

“For my part I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. \240I travel for travel’s sake. \240The great affair is to move, to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly, to come down off the feather-bed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.” \240Wow!

I am so fortunate to have been picked up at the ferry from Kirkwall this morning by birdwatching friends of my hosts, Jill & Rob. \240It was a long drive and it rained, although it’s clearing now. \240I’m very tired because I couldn’t sleep very much at all in the reclining chair on board the ferry. \240It got in at 7:30 am, and I’m making myself at home in this lovely cottage, all to myself. \240The hosts have left on holiday, and their niece will be around. \240I met one other young woman, Astrid. \240Jill and Rob stopped at a grocery store so I stocked up on just a few items, so I had some curry ramen with good country loaf + butter, cheese, for lunch. \240I’ve just got to catch my breath. \240I’ve figured out how to get it warmed up in here. \240Every place I’ve been has a separate switch for each and every light and appliance. \240I’m sure this really saves electricity. \240This cottage has a gas fireplace and gas stove. \240It’s very comfortable.

But what a faraway place I’ve come to for my final week abroad! \240Here are some first impressions:

First glimpse of Shetland from the ferry. \240One brawny fellow working on the ferry wore a kilt!

Here is Lerwick, capital city.

Voe. Or “a voe,” can’t remember, was tired as we traversed.

A beautiful vista.

So here’s a feisty grackle-type looking at me. \240This is a birdwatchers’ paradise. \240Hermaness National Nature Reserve is 6.1 km away. \240That’s where Jill & Rob were headed, and I was invited along, but I was simply too tired. \240This is one view from out a kitchen window. \240The entire time I stayed at Ordaal House, Mr & Mrs Grackle were out there on that stone wall, gathering straws for their nest, mating, peering curiously at me, fending off an interloper….it was fun to interact with them!

And from the other window, you look out on the Baltasound. \240The peace here is indescribable. \240I’m sure I’ll make it to Hermaness one way or another. \240But I would like to locate the one local store here, so I’ll take a walk soon.

It’s amazing how so many folks like Malcolm come from elsewhere to take over and refurbish old stone houses on these islands. \240The Scottish government deems them either “A”—of National interest; “B”—of local interest; or “C”—with the least amount of governmental regulations surrounding what you can and cannot do with it. \240Jill & Rob have great plans for turning their new place (they just moved here from Norfolk) into a guesthouse. \240People can make good income doing this, but one can also take over a derelict croft, and the Scottish government will give you a certain amount of money for each sheep you keep! \240Obviously my hosts, Catriona & Rob, make good income renting out this cottage, which adjoins their main house. \240Jill, her husband, Rob, & Catriona were discussing and comparing all of these things with each other as we had a nice cup of tea together. \240Catriona’s husband, Rob, wasn’t in evidence. \240But the very sad thing to my mind is that Jill’s Rob recently had a very serious, disabling car accident followed by a serious heart attack! \240He really can’t even stand very long, much less do all of the proposed work on their new ancient stone house! \240They showed me an album of photos (Covid ruined their photography business, which is what made them decide to move to Shetland.) He is only 54. \240And again, I am faced with the fact that health is wealth.

I saw numerous Shetland ponies, and many lambs, oyster catchers, razorbills, and Arctic terns on the way here.

After a short rest, I went outside for a walk in the backyard. \240I saw two of these pretty butterflies right away. \240They are called “Painted Ladies.”

My hosts have a duck pen/pond from which I imagine they gather eggs. \240There are also two pigeons in there. \240The netting above doesn’t allow them to fly away.

View of the guesthouse from the Baltasound.

The seaweed was healthy and vigorous. \240The air was pure and sweet.

But horror of horrors, I immediately came upon this poor dead gannet. \240It’s such a fabulously beautiful bird—in life. \240It had not been dead for very long. \240I commended its spirit to heaven. \240What else could I do? \240I felt so terribly sad.

Another view of Ordaal House.

I’ve never really gotten to experience sheep life as close up as I did today. \240It appears many sheep hereabouts aren’t shorn regularly, and so they leave gobs of wool everywhere, and rub themselves vigorously against fences—they’re itchy! \240A collection of wool such as this lies everywhere alongside the road. \240It’s incredibly soft wool, and makes your hand feel smooth after you feel it with its lanolin. \240Such a wonderful, natural thing!

I simply love watching all the newborn lambs scampering everywhere all over the fields! \240I love watching them suckling their dams, tails happily wagging back and forth!

These are my closest neighbors. \240I think she’s just beautiful, and so are her two lambs: one black, one brown. \240They seem to be alone in a field by themselves and she’s not too shy. \240Perhaps she’ll come up to me if I keep passing her. \240I had decided to try and find a grocery store to augment what I bought this morning.

Now here’s a derelict Croft for you to take on!

The sheep on the right is hauling all her woolen coat up against a wire fence. \240The others also are quite overgrown.

This is the main bus stop here! \240Next to it was a replica castle made from wood with a sign that eggs, baked goods, and other things were inside. \240I took a look…..

I was so lucky, an elderly couple, Tony & Irene, picked me up and drove me to the store, which was quite far away. \240They shopped there, then went on, and as I was walking back heavy-laden, they gave me a good lift on the way back, too! \240I asked if they’d been here long, and they told me, “we belong here.” \240Tony has been in almost every US port, and has pennants from them. \240He has one from Norfolk, Virginia. \240He must have been in the Scottish Navy. \240They even invited me over for tea! \240I hope I will be able to share a cup with these nice, helpful people.

Walking back to the guesthouse, it grew suddenly very cold and windy.

This is a print of the beauty of the gannets in the kitchen here. \240They’re spectacular. \240Irene opined that there’s an avian sickness going around presently.

And so I put L 3 into the unlocked cash box inside the castle! \240For homemade millionaire’s shortbread is surely worth more than that! \240Total ambrosia. \240Never had homemade, and only one piece (it is SO rich!) at the Robert Burns Center in Ayrshire when I visited Scotland 11 years ago.

I close this day with my friends, the pair of grackles (?) outside my kitchen window.

I love this little gas “faux-stove.” \240It heats the living room nicely, and sits right in front of the old wood stove in this 300-yr old stone hearth.

Unst Baltasound

Here I am, in the attic again, quite comfortable up here since I learned how to adjust the radiator.

Downstairs, the living room is comfortably heated by a “faux wood stove.” \240But it does a good job, sits in front of the ancient wood stove in the old stone hearth.

It’s really soothing to sit by this gas firelight after my full day walking about 9 km! \240I had gotten chilled walking so far…

A morning visitor. \240I’m sure I’d receive some eggs were my hosts here, but they’ve gone on vacation to meet their daughters in Edinburgh. \240Other guests commenting in the Guestbook remarked on how good the eggs were.

A beautiful antique Singer in the sunroom reminds me that my Singer Featherweight was made in Scotland!

I love how the eggs sold here have feathers still on them. \240Their shells are very hard, the sizes vary, and their yolks are a much deeper yellow than ours.

Every electrical appliance in Europe is connected to one of these in/off switches. \240Why don’t we have this in America? \240There is no ghost-wasting of electricity here. \240Just turning the switch is so easy.

I like this frontispiece quotation, found inside a book I’m enjoying reading:

I decided to walk to the Unst Heritage Centre today. \240Along the roadways, you often see outdated farm equipment just rusting away. \240Jill told me yesterday that Shetland has a problem with stuff like this. \240On their new property there’s lots of trash like this. \240She tries to recycle what she can, but has to burn a lot of it, she told me.

Just before here, I’d greeted a man at his house, Jim, who told me he was “born just over there,” and had lived here mostly “except for his working life.” \240He was jolly and friendly, and also offered to drive me places. \240I was ready to walk, though. \240He told me he’d never been to Hermaness, the nature reserve I really want to go and experience. \240I hope I will be able to see puffins and Edmonston’s chickweed, only found here. \240I picked up a brochure about the local wildflowers: they’re just so lovely, very different from ours back home.

When I told Jim about the dead gannet I’d discovered, he told me that gannets only come to land to die, and he thinks it was just its time.

I posted the last of my cards here at “Britain’s most northerly post office.”

I love Shetland ponies! \240They’re so hardy and friendly. \240Just look at this sweetie.

I love it that throughout Europe, laundry is dried on clothes lines. \240In every place I’ve stayed, I’ve enjoyed nice, crisp, fresh, air-dried towels. \240I’m going to have to figure out a line when I get home. \240It’s ridiculous to use electricity to dry clothes, completely wasteful!

Only by walking would you notice that baby birds are in nests within these stone walls! \240I could hear them peeping every few yards.

A small wind farm near the large convenience store, called “Final Checkout.”

What does this sign mean?

Ponies along the way….

Intricate carving fore and aft on this replica Viking longboat. \240I have much to learn about this place, but my feet were starting to complain, so I didn’t wander over for a closer look.

This, I thought, was a very sweet old stone house. \240I’d love to rescue a derelict property. \240It’s wonderful to rehabilitate an old house, especially as it’s encouraged by the government and made as affordable as possible.

Around the corner from that house was, at last, the Unst Heritage Centre. \240There were many interesting exhibits, and I liked this one about the ponies.I hadn’t realized so many Shetland ponies are imported by Holland.

Lesson #66 in an old grammar book, “The King’s English.” \240Read the lesson—you’ll like it!

Here is first prize in last year’s All-Britain handcrafts competition, an original lace stole by a local woman. \240Shetland is well-known for its intricate wool lace designs, and there were many shawls, blankets, etc. in lace on display, and kits with instructions as well.

There was a meeting of knitters going on when I visited the Heritage Center today, and I marveled at the beauty of their wool sweaters. \240I hope I find one on my travels that I really like, that fits, and is reasonable in cost.

A better view of “Bobby’s Bus Shelter” with the egg and sweets house next to it. \240It’s truly a local wonder, and even has its own Facebook page.

I was very fortunate that I met a couple, Greg & Jenny, at this site, where they got some homebakes. \240A raspberry cream scone, I believe, he replied, when I spoke highly of the millionaire’s shortbread I bought on the honor system! \240They picked me up twice in their van and gave me lifts. \240I really don’t know how much worse my feet and toes would have felt without their help. \240The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I must be a bit careful; my shoes are pretty worn now, having carried me all day every day since I began, and the soles aren’t as supportive as they were. \240Every so often I sense my left arch straining a bit too much. \240I must recognize my limitations, after all.