COPING WITH CORONA, PART 6…….A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN INVERNESS, SCOTLAND

Cabin fever continues. Wanderlust waits for no one. Coping with voluntary self-isolation with more armchair travel……….travel soothes the soul and gives one something to look forward to some day soon…..

Today I am visiting Scotland again in my mind. I am thinking of spring green grass, enduring castles, vibrant yellow daffodils in the spring, warm tea and scones, and visiting dear friends.

Starting in Inverness at the small airport, we rented a car to find the Loch Ness Monster last spring. Or rather, we went to visit the Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands and JOKED about finding the Loch Ness Monster. The weather was cool but pleasant this time of year last year.  Daily high temperatures are approximately 49°F, rarely falling below 39°F or exceeding 56°F. Daily low temperatures are usually around 36°F, rarely falling below 25°F or exceeding 43°F. Next to the Loch Ness we found two visitor centers that were small but gave our drive there a purpose.

Town Center in Inverness, Scotland, across the River Ness

Accommodations at the Best Western Palace and Spa in Inverness were stylish, clean, updated and charming, and they handed us a good ol’ fashioned key to our room. Our “River View Family Room” was in a mansion built in the 1800’s and was facing the River Ness, in front of Inverness Castle, which was built in 1836. The River View Room was worth the extra cost, as the ceilings were high, and there was a breathtaking picture window, too. The gray tones in the room’s decor and the chandelier gave the room a sense of quiet elegance and tranquility. There are no elevators to the second floor of the building that that we stayed in, which was right beside the main building, however. This hotel was one of the few in Inverness that had a large heated pool, which provided a welcome break from the cool weather outside. “Teen Traveler”, my daughter, swam there for hours catching up with her Scottish friend that we had come to visit. The hotel is just across the bridge from the town center with lots of shops, pubs, and even a major shopping mall (Eastgate).

Our room key at the Best Western Palace and Spa, Inverness
River View Room at Best Western Palace and Spa, Inverness, with a view of Inverness Castle

This is the official website of the Best Western Palace and Spa in Inverness, Scotland:

https://www.invernesspalacehotel.co.uk/

Inverness Castle, along the River Ness, dotted with spring daffodils

Inverness Castle was rebuilt at the site of the original castle in Inverness, which was built in 1057 and destroyed. Legend has it that King Malcolm III of Scotland built the first Inverness Castle in 1057 to replace an earlier castle close by, which he destroyed, and in which Macbeth is said to have murdered Duncan I. Such history. Such culture. The present day Inverness castle houses offices, mostly court offices, and has limited public access inside.

A visit to a local kilt making shop in Inverness provided to be an unexpectedly interesting stop. The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre and The Highland House of Frasier, located about a five minute walk from our hotel, showed a small movie about the cultural heritage of the kilt in Scotland. In one section of the Visitor Centre there were many mannequins wearing assorted kilts from years ago, too. What was particularly amazing, though, was to watch the present-day kiltmakers make kilts before our very eyes. These kilts are hand-sewn with ten stitches to the inch and are made from about eight yards of fabric. After seeing the intricate handwork that takes about two days per kilt, it is easy to see why these kilts are so expensive. They produce quality work and will ship all over the world. This place is definitely worth a visit if you have time.

Still making kilts by hand at the Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre in Inverness

Driving west of Inverness, we traveled by car to Urquhart Castle, which is a ruin of one of the largest castles in Scotland. Sitting along side the Loch Ness, it is about thirteen miles south-west of Inverness and about a mile and a quarter east of the village of Drumnadrochit. Kids seem to love seeing the trebuchet there. The movie, “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (1970), was filmed here. It is also said to have inspired the writers of Disney Pixar when they visited Scotland to get ideas for the movie “Brave”.

Urquhart Castle, said to have provided some inspiration for the Disney Pixar Movie “Brave”

On place in Scotland that I dream of visiting some day, but we didn’t have time to visit, is Fingal’s Cave, on the island of Staffa in the inner Hebrides. This sea cave is formed by a volcanic eruption and is made entirely of hexagonally jointed basalt, almost like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Some say the cave was connected to the Giant’s Causeway at one time. It is also said by some that Mendelssohn visited the cave and was inspired to write one of his overtures (“The Hebrides”). Fingal’s Cave was known by the Celts as “The Cave of Melody” because of its natural acoustics. Guests can visit the cave by boat ride from one of the nearby islands (from Fionnphort, Ulva Ferry, Iona, Tobermory, Oban and Kilchoan). There is a walkway that visitors can use to go inside the cave, but boats only travel here and land in calm weather. The footing can be slippery and not for everyone, though.

Two useful websites that describe visiting Fingal’s Cave are the following:

https://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/unique-experiences-map/seeing-a-unique-cave/

https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/staffa

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and is known for its lush green landscapes dotted with castles, kilts, bagpipes, and whiskey. This is definitely a beautiful and charming place to visit if you can.

“…………See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light and
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth….
After the flood all the colors came out

It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Beautiful day.”

-“Beautiful Day” by Bono

Go out and have a “beautiful day” for yourself. You can still get into the car to drive to watch a breathtaking sunset over a field, lake, or somewhere special while still maintaining “social distance or self-isolation.” Maybe you can even fly a kite with a spirit of whimsy near your home if you have the need to do something that you haven’t done in a while. While every day may not be beautiful, there is beauty in every day.

Life is good; enjoy the day. Carpe diem, friends………….

COPING WITH CORONA, PART 3 OR “FOR EVERY DROP OF RAIN THAT FALLS A FLOWER GROWS”….

Keukenhof Gardens, the largest flower garden in the world, located in Lisse, Netherlands (South Holland)

As I transition from “social distancing” to self-isolation in our home, I am reminded of an old song that says, “For every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.” I am reminded of all the good things that are happening in the world right now, despite our current precarious world situation, that are still positive.

The smile of a stranger at the market from an appropriate social distance combined with eyes that meet and show a shared understanding (before I self-isolated), the sense of community in my neighborhood where people are looking out for each other and some folks have offered to get groceries and supplies for the elderly or at-risk neighbors, the gift of extra time together with my family, sharing a laugh as we remember to have fun while we prepare for this coronavirus to come knocking at our door. Having the luxury of extra time with board games while “Teen Traveler” is home from school and watching any pandemic movie we can will be fun memories to reflect upon years from now. Today we will find a remote stretch of beach where there are no visitors so we can feel the sand between our toes and the wind in our hair. This situation is serious, but we still can live while we are living with the situation.

There are many other other things that are that that “flower growing” despite the “rain” in this health crisis. Dolphins have returned to the canals in Venice because the water is cleaner and clearer right now with less traffic. The air is cleaner as emissions have fallen as China’s coal use drops. Many companies are changing policies and procedures to make working from home a possibility, which can help families who are normally juggling the needs of their children while needing to work. Supply chains are working overtime to help meet the needs of the country. We have begun to investigate what self-reliance means personally and as a country, giving some thought to how we can manage on many levels when things go awry. We all have developed an “attitude of gratitude” when we find a supply of toilet paper, any toilet paper, any brand, in the market.

I am reminded of the beauty of Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands while I think “for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.” The garden will not open tomorrow as planned, yet I can’t help think of all the beautiful flowers that continue to grow, despite our global turmoil. I had always wanted to see the tulips growing in fields as a bucket list item, so last year we traveled there. Another bucket list item crossed off my list.

Tulip farm near Keukenhof

Keukenhof Gardens normally is open in the spring for the about eight weeks from mid-March to mid-May. Originally the gardens were part of Countess Jacoba van Beieren’ s (Jacqueline of Bavaria, 1401-1436) kitchen gardens at Teylingen Castle. In 1949, plans were made by some prominent bulb growers to use that space to grow bulbs, and in 1950 the gardens were opened to the public.

At Keukenhoff, one can take a forty-five minute quiet electric boat ride through the region where you can learn a little bit more of the area. Unfortunately this boat is NOT wheel-chair accessible. Fees range from 4.50- 9. Euros (about $4.82 USD for children -$9.63 USD for adults) at the time of this writing. Children under three are free of charge. The park does, however, offer complimentary electric wheelchairs to guest to enjoy the gardens, though.

Keukenhoff is NORMALLY open from 8:00 AM to 7:30 PM but is temporarily closed now because of Covid-19. There are multiple places to eat within the park, and the park allows dogs on leashes.

A pop of color in a box
Breathtakingly sturdy and enduring windmill on the property reminds me of our resolute human will while battling cornona
Daffodils mingle among tulips and hyacinths in harmony
Wish for quick resolution of the Coronavirus and its effects
Hyacinths and crocuses
These tulips were not dyed but grow this color
Breathtaking displays of exhibition tulips grow everywhere

Coping with the Corona situation is difficult for everyone, but taking a moment in your heart and mind to visit other places where beauty endures and life goes on might be just what you need. Armchair travel is always good for the soul, as it gives us something for which to look forward some day. The flower bulbs remind us that life goes on, year after year, even after a period in which everything appears to have stopped and is dormant.

I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray someone will come
To show the way
I believe, I believeI believe above a storm the smallest prayer
Can still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every wordEvery time I hear a new born baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why I believeEvery time I hear a new born baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why I believe”

-Written by Roger Whittaker and sung by Mahalia Jackson

TODAY is a good day to have a good day. Spring has sprung. Go out and live; carpe diem, friends…………..