Edinburgh Castle at the New Year Friday, Jan 2 2009 

1 January 2009
The year begins with my wife and I on extended holiday. We arrived in London on Christmas Day and wound our way North so as to be in Edinburgh for the 4-day Hogmanay Celebration. Today, the first day of 2009 is the final day of the Hogmanay Celebration and incorporates a new festival into the Hogmanay fold. "Feet First" is the celebration and is an immersive, interactive two-block stretch of Performance Art and frolickry. Since it is brand new, absolutely no one knew what to expect and we were all amused and bemused by the entire thing.
We started our day by walking Castle Terrace around the castle and up to the High Street followed by a slow amble down High Street onto the Royal Mile and all the way to Holyrood Palace. Across from Holyrood Palace stands the new Scottish Parliament building which caused no small amount of controversy upon it’s erecting. An offhand, somewhat derisory, comment to our host at the B&B we’ve been staying at was met with patient explantion as to how & why it is what it is. I sit corrected & educated for which I am grateful.
We walked back up the Royal Mile looking for a place to sate our appetite for it was nearing on 1500. Eventually we did find a place that not only was willing to cook, but still had food to cook. So, we ate and drank at the Tass there on the Royal Mile. From there, we did a bit more shopping on our way back to the Castle. Once at the Castle, we strode the Esplanade and took a number of photographs as we waited for "Feet First" to start.
Edinburgh Castle by Night
Just before 1900, we started back down to the enclosed area for "Feet First" where we had a grand time for the next two hours. As I stated at the beginning of this blather, it was a series of interactive performance art and installations. It gradually swung from cool, to surreal to downright strange and then back again. The weather being benign (not rainy and above freezing), the crowd was large, energetic & friendly. But, after four days we’d had enough. We grabbed a Scottish burger and some chips at a trailer and strolled back to the B&B. We had packing to do after all. It was the end of a glorious four-day adventure the likes of which I may never experience again and the memories of which I hope never fade. Thank you for letting me share.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 2 January 2009)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 1 sec (1)
Aperture: f/5
Focal Length: 18.6 mm
ISO Speed: 400
Exposure Bias: 0/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

Hogmanay Fireworks Thursday, Jan 1 2009 

Midnight Fireworks

31 December 2008

Hogmanay!

It’s been a little bit strange to think about how different this year is right now, from the last sixteen New Year’s Eves. For ten years, on the 31st of December, we hosted one of the few Hogmanay parties in the U.S.  Before that, we hosted a New Year’s Eve Party with a theme. One year it was a pajama party.  Another year it was a hat party.  One year was “black and white.”  It was the year that the theme was “plaid” that we took the turn toward the recurring Scottish theme, did the research and began what we grew into a multi-tiered, annual, tradition and helped make “Hogmanay” a little more worldwide!

This year, instead of scurrying around the house, lighting candles, hanging lights, filling ice chests, and making wassail in preparation for forty or so guests, we are in Edinburgh Scotland making our dreams come true. We are here for the “real” Hogmanay—at the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve Celebration.  From the moment we first learned about this event, we’ve wanted to be here, and now, here we are!

Kyle has already written a beautiful post to the KRuMB about our day, and I truly have nothing to add to his heartfelt and artful essay. He is right when he writes that words cannot describe the raw emotions of the day. I only know that we can check another item off our life’s “must do” list. And that the only thing that would have made today any better, is if we could have had all of our friends and loved ones here with us! How we would love to have shared this evening with all of you!

So, I give to you (one of many) a photo of tonight’s fireworks.  It was one of the most amazing fireworks displays I’ve ever seen.  Afterwards, It was a full ten minutes before the smoke cleared enough that we could once again see the castle on the hill above us. 

Happy Hogmanay!  Happy New Year!

Torches Pass the Balmoral Tuesday, Dec 30 2008 

29 December 2008
We left the Oaks Hotel in Alnwick (the castle of which, I am told, had substantial Harry Potter scenes shot here) and headed coastward on the A1. The drive from Alnwick to Edinburgh takes you through some truly superb landscape; it’s no real wonder that early man settled this area. Plenty of arid land for agricultural endeavours and easy access to both winding burns and creeks and the North Sea. It’s very definitely a windswept area and I was glad of the constant “Sidewind” warning signs along the road. We stopped once to fill up with Diesel at .99p per litre (somewhere near $7.00 per gallon if I did my numbers right), once more when we drove near enough the coast that we could see Bamburgh Castle and one last time at the First & Last pub on the Scotland/England border (on the Scottish side). We had promised our B&B hosts a 1500 arrival and after fighting horrible Edinburgh traffic (between visitors arriving for Hogmanay and the roadworks all over the place as Edinburgh puts in a city-wide tram system, how could it not be horrible?) we pulled into a slot in front of #2 Cambridge Street and gave the door a few hard knocks. Our fascinating host, Erlend, greeted us warmly calling us by name and invited us in. The road in front of his absolutely fabulous flat is private so after unloading quickly, I drove the car across the street to the carpark. We enjoyed a quick spot of tea with Erlend and Helene then walked on up to the Royal Mile (Erlend headed to the library, so accompanied us part of the way). The Hogmanay torchlight procession is held two nights before Hogmanay each year. The Council sells torches for charity and invites all torch-bearers to march from the City Chambers on High Street to Calton Hill via the Mound, Princes Street and Waterloo street. Marita Beth and I chose not to march in, but instead to marvel at the magnificent procession. We started on High Street with all the marchers, but we took a different path to Princes street. By the time we got to Princes Street (approximately midway along the processional route) the Vikings that headed the parade had already begun the assent of Calton Hill. Looking back South and West, we could see the Mound and the steady stream of torches still coming down it. It was truly a sight to behold. We stood on Princes Street and goggled at the sheer number of people bearing torches. For a full 20 minutes we watched; the Vikings crested Calton Hill and still there were people marching down the mound. This lasted long enough that Marita Beth and I wended our way back up North Bridge, up High Street to Bank Street where we roosted to watch the remainder. The last torches were just exiting Princes street onto Calton Hill as we settled in. We did miss the end on Calton Hill where they burn a Viking ship in effigy as it was on the far side of the hill; but even from our vantage point a great ways away we could see the massive bonfire and we did have a most excellent view of the fireworks display. Balmoral Hotel & Torchlight Procession (The photo is of the tochlight procession as it passes the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street – this is not where we are staying; we are staying somewhere much better) After the incredible display, we returned to the B&B where Erlend offered to escort us to a free park zone some ways away. Since we had long ago decided we wouldn’t need a car while in Edinburgh, this was eagerly agreed to (the price for parking at the Castle carpark is £18.00 per day) and off we went. It’s a ways away, but in a safe zone near a police HQ. We returned to the B&B in Erlend’s care and visited with them briefly while MB showed off some of the photos from the torchlight procession. Then, it was off to bed. Exhausted, and very, very happy. (I’m sure I’ve left stuff out, if I remember bits, I’ll update) Cheers. ~KR (Written on 30 December 2008 )

Woman on a Red Couch Friday, Dec 26 2008 

25 December 2008
Merry Christmas, if Christmas is your thing. My Christmas present to my wife and to myself this year is this trip we are on. And, the first official post of the trip from me is not of a pub nor a pub sign. Not of a beer or a beer logo. Not of a building or some architectural detail. No, there will be plenty of all the above in the days to come. My first photo of this journey is a photo of my wife on a Red Velvet couch in the dimly lit Polo Lounge.
Woman on a Red Velvet Couch
The Polo Lounge is the bar of the Radisson Edwardian Hotel (one of two in London – this one is near the airport). Our first trip to the lounge was pleasant and was a wonderful welcome to London for us. The next trip was decidedly less enjoyable as apparently there is no age limit in here. We were absolutely overrun by families and their extraordinarily unruly – and very loud – children. We tried, we really did, but still a little jet-lagged, we were mostly interested in winding down before heading to bed. Instead we were simply wound up by the poor manners of the many children and the complete lack of caring by the inattentive parents.
Marita Beth is drinking a Magners Cider while I am having a Guinness. When the pubs open tomorrow, the drink menu will be different.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 26 December 2008 )

Watching:
Setanta Sports game recap in the Polo Lounge of the Radisson Edwardian Hotel in London

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.5 sec (1/2)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5.8 mm
ISO Speed: 320
Exposure Bias: 0/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire

Destination: Edinburgh Monday, Sep 1 2008 

31 August 2008
For the past 15 years (or so), Marita Beth and I have hosted an ever-growing Scottish Hogmanay party at our house for New Year’s Eve. Many years ago, we started planning to be in Scotland and attend the Hogmanay in Edinburgh some year. The 15th anniversary seemed likely and appropriate, so we chose this year. There were concerns with the weakening US economy and the skyrocketing gas prices and the spectre of potential layoffs at my company. However, it seems that with the gas prices dropping, and my job security seemingly ok, we are moving forward with those plans. So, come late December, I will be in my favourite big city in the world, Edinburgh
Edinburgh
If you’re in Edinburgh for the ring-in of the New Year, come join us.
Hogmanay, here we come.
Cheers.

~KR (Written on 1 September 2008 )

Listening to:
Old Red Eyes Is Back by Beautiful South
Carry On Up the Charts

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.1 sec (1/10)
Aperture: f/5.5
Focal Length: 23.2 mm
ISO Speed: 80
Exposure Bias: 0/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire