Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 29, 2017. An afternoon at the brewery

LOCATION:  Housesitting outside of Cupar, Fife, Scotland

WEATHER:  Grey and foggy in the AM; Rain in the PM.  Highs about 40


The weather forecast proved true.  Since we knew it was not going to be a good day for outdoor activities, we had booked a tour of the brewery outside of St. Andrews for the afternoon.    

In the morning, we played with our two cats that we are caring for...

After lunch, we drove to the brewery.  We have rented this little Vauxhall.  It gets about 55 mph.  It has 6 gears, manual transmission, and of course right-hand drive.  I admire George for being able to shift gears with his left hand.  The only problem is that for some reason, the car stalls out, usually right at the worst time, such as in the middle of a round-about!  

The brewery tour was one of the best we have been on.  It was just another couple, Scottish, and us.  The guide was very down-to-earth.  It is a tiny microbrewery, although their business is expanding. Their beer is quite popular.  They still hand-bottle the beer, two bottles at a time.

They also make gin here. It, too, is bottled two bottles at a time....

The brewery owns a farm and the happy pigs and cows get to eat the spent grains.

After a stop at the supermarket, and a feeding for the chickens, we tucked in for the day.  We made a fire in the fireplace....very cozy.    

DINNER:  Cumberland sausages with potatoes and stir-fry veg.  I don't know what Cumberland sausages are, but they are the most popular ones around here.  I've seen them a lot on menus.


After dinner, we played a round of pool in front of another fireplace.  I lost, of course, to this pool shark.....

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 28, 2017. Checking out villages on Fife's North Sea Coast

LOCATION:  Housesitting outside of Cupar, Fife, Scotland

WEATHER:  We lost our sunshine.  Cloudy.  Much cooler.  Highs in 40s

We drove back to the North Sea coast, about 5 miles, to explore some more fishing villages.  The first village we went to has a fish & chips shop that has won "best in the UK" for several years.  We split a haddock basket.  We are trying to figure out the difference between breaded, crumbed and battered.  Anyone know?  George got some "mushy peas" on the side.  They tasted like baby food to me.    

We walked along the waterfront, and stopped at a pub to warm up (and of course to have a pint)

It was very quaint, with just a few retired fishermen having a pint.
The harbour is very picturesque.  Just a little fishing these days.
From Anstruther, we drove about 3 miles to the next fishing village called Crail.  It is one of the oldest along the coast.  It, too, is very quaint.  We stopped at this tea shop for a coffee.  It used to be a fisherman's cottage.

On our way home, we stopped at "Scotland's Best Kept Secret" --- a huge bunker built in the 1950s to house people in the event of a nuclear war.  It was really eery.  Defense personnel lived and worked there for about 5 years, tracking Soviet missiles.  



I picked up some tourist brochures and was reading through them when I spotted some amazingly terrible spelling/punctuation.  I've noticed that writers tend to leave off apostrophes quite a bit here.  This brochure (about the Queen's holiday castle no less) reads....."This is one of the countries most important habitats......".  AARGH!    Should be "the country's most important habitats! Don't these publishers have proofreaders? ! ?!

Then, in the evening, Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, wrote about the same thing... the appalling grammar and punctuation of these pamphlets. Quite a coincidence.  I'm reading his book "Notes from a Small Island", a book about his travels around Great Britain about 40 years ago.


DINNER:  Leftover mushroom sauce served over sautéed polenta slices.  

March 27, 2017. A day of history

LOCATION:  Housesitting on a farm outside of Cupar, Fife, Scotland

WEATHER:  Another beautiful sunny day. High around 60


The morning flew by working on hotel plans for Italy and France.   We had a hard time finding a place to stay in Milan.  We think our dates coincide, unluckily, with the Gran Prix. We finally found an "albergo" in a suburb.


Then, we were off again.  We are taking advantage of these sunny days while they last.  Today, our destination was Falklands, an official "royal burgh" about 20 miles from here.  It was built in the 1500s and was the holiday house for the Stuart royalty, and especially for Mary Queen of Scots.  They liked this house/castle because of the hunting in the nearby forest.

We learned that the king and queen always traveled with all their furniture.  When they were not here in this palace, the place was empty.  They brought this kind of furniture, that would dissemble, every time they visited.

We had an amazing lunch in an obscure pub.....crab and prawns wrapped up in a filet of smoked salmon. 

Then, we returned to the palace to stroll around the gardens.  Volunteers were busily preparing for summer.

Next to the gardens is the world's oldest tennis court.  The king had it built there for his pleaseure about 500 years ago.
We strolled around the village.  Many of the houses have these marriage lintels above the doors of their houses.  These were placed there when a couple got married and moved into their first house together.  This one has a date of 1771...

And this one has a plaque wishing contentment and great riches. 

The town has escaped modernization and has won awards for its flowers in the spring.

Back home, we sat outside in the sunshine, watching the chickens snack on some vegetable scraps.    

DINNER:  I made a cheesy cream of cauliflower soup. I kind of made it up, and it turned out beautifully.  

Then, we enjoyed another beautiful sunset.  This area is away from city lights, so the night sky is always beautiful.



Monday, March 27, 2017

March 26, 2017. Hiking the Fife Coast Trail

LOCATION:  Housesitting in Cupar, Fife, Scotland.

WEATHER:  Another beautiful day.  Sunny. Highs about 60

A bit about this housesit....   We are about 30 miles north of Edinburgh.  The closest town is Cupar, with a population of about 9000.  Our housesit is about 3 miles outside of Cupar, in the middle of farmland.  
  There is a big house, that used to be the owner of all the property, then 4 small stone cottages where the farm workers used to live  The cottages were built in the early 1800s.  The previous owner of ours combined two of the cottages into one home.  So, there are several small rooms, including a pool room, an office, lounge, and bedrooms.  

On the backside there is a lovely conservatory.  On sunny days, it gets really toasty inside.  

For Mothers' Day today, George picked some daffodils for me.  He knows I would have been angry if he had actually paid cash for flowers!  This is the view inside the conservatory out to the backyard.  
This is the entrance on the backside.  
Our cottage is surrounded on three sides by a farm with cows, baby calves and one sheep. There are baby lambs in many of the nearby fields.  So cute!  

After doing some morning chores and eating a steak and kidney pie for lunch, we set off for the Fife coast.  The little fishing towns on the coast are very picturesque.  They are only about 15 miles away, but it takes awhile to get there, due to the tiny, windy roads.  

We parked in one town and then hiked along the coast trail to another fishing village, about 1.5 miles away.

Between the two towns is a swimming area, a small area walled off the North Sea.  A few people were actually swimming!  I'm sure the water never gets very warm there.  

We ended up in this village, then turned around.  There were a lot of people out, taking advantage of the sunny Mothers' Day.

Back home, we did some computer work, and looked at the weather forecast.  This nice weather is supposed to last another 2-3 days, then the rain will return.  We are going to try to do several hikes while the weather is nice, then will plan to visit a brewery and distillery on the rainy days.  Why not?


DINNER: Smoked Scottish salmon in a creamy papperdelle pasta sauce.  Spot on!    

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March 25, 2017. Day trip to St. Andrews

LOCATION:  Housesitting in rural Fife, Scotland.  Outside of Cupar.  About 1 hour north of Edinburgh.

WEATHER:  Glorious!  Sunny and highs in 60s


After morning chores, caring for the kittens and doing some laundry, we headed to St. Andrews, about 10 miles away.  We took the back roads getting lost only one time.  We foolishing ignored a "road closed" sign and had to do a u-turn on a narrow country lane.  

St. Andrews is a historic town.  It has beautiful old architecture.  One of its most famous buildings is the remnants of the cathedral, built in the 1300s.

We followed the harbour (North Sea) wall, and approached remains of a 1300ish castle.

The daffodils and cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

The prestigious University of St. Andrews, built around the same time as Oxford and Cambridge in the 1400s, dominates the city.  Our homeowners both work here.  These are some of the buildings...

St. Andrews is probably most famous for its golf courses.  The "old course" is where the British Open is often played.  

This is the clubhouse, where only members can enter.  

I was surprised that the links are right in the city.  The course is right on the water.  A row of elegant hotels and restaurants face the links.


After a day there, we returned home.  The weather was so beautiful that we sat outside.  We invited our neighbor John over for a drink.  There are 3 adjoined stone cottages here, that were once the living quarters of the farmers working on this land, owned by the manor house. 

We said "hello" to other neighbors....

The calves are only a few days old.  

DINNER:  A chunky sauce made of sautéed mixed mushrooms, onions, carrot, celery and herbs, reduced in a white wine sauce.  Served over a few cheese tortellini.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 24, 2017. Fun day in Edinburgh

LOCATION:  Rural Scotland.  About an hour northwest of Edinburgh in Fife

WEATHER:  Sunnier.  Highs in 50s


We awoke in Edinburgh with this lovely view of the green from our hotel window.

We walked around the neighborhood and found a delightful deli for a goat's cheese quiche breakfast...

Instead of paying for the hop-on/hop-off tourist bus, we bought an all-day pass on the regular bus line.  We left our luggage at our hotel, and off we went.  We hopped on the first bus that we saw, and it took us to the Queen Terminal, where the Queen's Royal Yacht, the Britannia,  is moored.  We splurged and went on the tour, which was well-done.

Here is Captain George steering the yacht.

Then, First Mate George enjoying a pint in the officers' lounge after a hard day at the helm.

The yacht is beautifully and very tastefully done up.  Lots of famous people have been fed in this  dining room.  

And this is the lounge area with a piano bolted to the floor, so it won't slide around at sea.  I'm sure the tiny house we are  building will look just like this!!!!!
The yacht has now been decommissioned (I think it is due to not being politically correct any more) and is used for special events.

After the tour, we took the bus back to the city center, stopping to look at the Edinburgh Castle.  Then another bus to our hotel to pick up our luggage and for a late lunch.  Then, instead of taking the airport express to the airport to pick up our rental car, we used our all-day pass to take the local bus there.  It took more than an hour!  We really got our money's worth.  


We picked up the rental car which of course is right-hand drive with a manual transmission.  There is no way that I could drive this!  George did quite well, and we only got lost once.    

We arrived at our next housesitting assignment, this one in Cupar, Scotland.  It is in Fife, about an hour north of Edinburgh.  We are only about 10 miles from the famous St. Andrews Golf Course.  The homeowner gave us an orientation about the care of 2 cats and 3 chickens, our charges while we are here.  The couple are French.  She is a professor at the University of St. Andrew.  They are off to Toronto for 10 days. 


DINNER:  Our homeowner made some chicken and French fries.  The 6-year-old wouldn't eat any chicken (due to the recent purchase of their 3 chickens) so had fish fingers.  Cute.  


Friday, March 24, 2017

March 23, 2017. On to Edinburgh

LOCATION:  Edinburgh, Scotland

WEATHER:  Partly sunny.  Highs in 40s

We had the morning free in Glasgow before we were scheduled to travel to Edinburgh.  We visited Glasgow's Art and Design School in a building designed by MacIntosh.  Many tourists travel to Glasgow just to see his works.  

His style reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright.  One of his most famous designs was for a tea house in Glasgow.  We tried to have breakfast there, but it wasn't open yet.

The signs for the loo are really clever.......leaving no doubt about what is behind each door!

The train ride was only an hour between Glasgow and Edinburgh.  We finally found our hotel, appropriately called The Links, on an old golf course in the heart of the city.  It is an obviously old building that has been updated.  It has a fireplace and an 18-feet ceiling.  Very comfortable.

This is the view from the rear.  


Adjacent to the golf links next to our hotel is a large park and green space that goes into the city center.  We walked about a mile on a walking/bike trail through soccer fields, the golf course and lawn bowling fields.   Parched, George thought he might need a "medicinal" remedy, so we stopped at the Doctors' Pub.  :-). 
On our way back, we stopped to warm up at the Old Golf Tavern, built in 1456, next to our hotel.  

We shared a Scottish appetizer that is quite popular, a trio of haggis (sheep stomach stuffed with offal), neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (potatoes) with a whisky sauce.    It was surprisingly good. 

Then, back to our hotel to watch the evening news.  Our hotel has a restaurant, so we decided to eat here, rather than go back out in the cold.   DINNER:  Smoked mackerel fish cake and fish and chips.