Does the picture look familiar?

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Of course it does — same picture as shown on last year’s trip, because it’s Leon’s Custard Drive-In — hands down, the best Custard in the world. We arrived at Milwaukee airport via Amtrak, picked up the rental car & sped off to Leon’s. ūüėć

Visited Barb’s sister & family, as well as Jim’s brother & his wife. As Barb & her sister grow older, it has become important for Barb to see Judy on a more frequent basis.

We had a lovely and relaxing time. Barb’s leg needed some rest. Time to move on!

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Chicago 2018 – 1st day of freedom…

Two +months ago, Barb crashed her bicycle, resulting in 2 fractures in the left leg. Her first thought was, oh crap this really hurts; 2nd thought, if we have to cancel our annual trip, someone is going to suffer (poor Jim). The doc gave her the OK last week and here we are in Chicago, visiting & sightseeing. The “short one” is doing OK, but has bad days — one of them being yesterday. All week, she walked like a trooper – yesterday (the first vacation day), she struggled & then came down hard on the sore leg. Not good. Nevertheless, we plotted on like the two crazy travelers we are. Woke up refreshed; short one is doing much better. Onward to visit friends, family & enjoy life.

2017…LONDON…still a cool city!

Arrived in sunny London on Aug 16th — we had a late arrival in our Airbnb, so all we really did in the evening was eat and relax. The following morning we decided it was definitely time to find an orthopedic pain physician for Barb — her leg has reached the point where it needs fixing of some sorts, either in London or back home. We found a clinic (as part of a huge hospital) and went to the reception area — the man & woman behind the reception desk were dressed to the hilt-the receptionists wore suits and were extremely cordial. We explained our status, being US citizens on a long holiday, they said no problem. It would be self pay for a consultation & treatments as needed. One of each would have cost around $800 to $1,000. We talked about it and decided it was time to return home before spending $1,000. Our future plan is to stay in London, go to Cambridge for the first two weeks of September & then fly home after that.

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The London Eye right before the storm broke

There are some bars in London that carry & sell Victoria Bitter, an Australian beer produced in Melbourne which we absolutely love, but not distributed in the states. We knew, 16 years ago, that Bayswater had an Aussie pub. On a hunch, we decided to give it a visit; alas, 16 years later it was no longer in business. We continued on to Westminster — oh the crowds, oh the rain — storm clouds, thunder/lightening and gallons of rain fell on the throngs in St. James park; we found a dry bench under thick stands of trees under two umbrellas and, believe it or not, stayed quite dry. After the rain, we walked on to Buckingham Palace, and returned via the underground to the neighborhood we were staying in and, in particular, the Morgan Arms, a fun pub for supper/beer.

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8/19 Saturday – a rest day, not much walking. We arranged flights home and planned a trip to Bletchley Park on Monday.

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Hop On – Hop Off

Sunday brought a visit to the Churchill War Rooms — the actual underground bunkers, situated close to the King (at the time) and the Prime Minister — a museum quite nicely done! That evening we went with Matthew, our AirBnB host, out for a couple of drinks. He wanted to talk about politics, specifically US and the “orange head”.

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Monday morning found us on the train to Bletchley Park (about 50 miles from London). Spent the entire day there, learning more details about the 9,000+ people situated/living there and it’s close surrounds and the dedication they had in the job of protecting England in WWII through deciphering the German Enigma machine codes. It was fascinating.

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Sculpture of Alan Turing at Bletchley

8/22 — another rest day for Barb’s knee; made travel arrangements for taking a bus from Cambridge to Gatwick airport and did wash.

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Daily police patrols in the neighborhood

On Wednesday, we visited the Imperial War Museum-a really good WWI & WWII museum, which took most of the day.

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Big guns

8/24 Walked Tower Hamlets Cemetary Park, a cemetary overused in the 1920’s through 40’s, prior to the city’s cemetary burying codes. The entire cemetary was closed several years ago and dedicated as a wildlife sanctuary, thereby giving the dead and their relatives, if any, a memorial. Several times a year they have performances and show movies in the evening. Jim told a walk in the afternoon to a really nice park, returned & then we went out for dinner.

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Tombstones all over — no rhyme nor reason at times.

8/25 Starbucks for breakfast in anticipation of taking a bus to Cambridge-population 123,900, home for the next two weeks. Looking to get highly edjumacatedūü§Ēūü§Ē

Northern Scotland — needed more planning….ended up short, but sweet!

On Aug 11th, we toured downtown Aberdeen and visited the St. Nicolas Kirk(church), Tolbooth Museum (a former prison going back hundreds of years), and the Aberdeen Maritime Museum.  Aberdeen has always been a shipping port and today, in fact, is heavy into oil / gas production from the North Sea.

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After some research and attempting to reserve an Airbnb in Inverness, Scotland, we realized it was a mission impossible.  No room in any inn!  The only reasonable rental was an extremely small trailer, the kind you hook on to the back of a car, for $60 or so (no toilet, shower, etc).

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Glamis Castle

So, we were lucky and rented our current lodging for 2 more days so that we could drive north to see at least some of Scotland’s gorgeous scenery and then return to Aberdeen.

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Stirling Castle (side view only – it was huge)

Barb and I decided to go to Culloden Moor and Barb specifically wanted to drive through the Cairngorems, a National Park on the way to Culloden. We had an interesting trip. Cruising through the park we came upon a sign that said “not recommended for long trucks” and also “weak bridge ahead”. I didn’t have a long truck and our car was very small so I didn’t think that was a problem. As far as the weak bridge, I figured Barb could walk ahead of the car, jump on the bridge and make sure it was safe before I came across. As we were driving along, I noticed the road was getting a bit narrow and eventually the central line paint started fading away. Then we came upon a hill with the sign that said 20% grade. My god, don’t these people know how to do a switch back? A 20% grade? After going up the hill, the road seemed like it was getting narrower and narrower again. Finally, without any center line markings, the rode was about the width of one and a half cars. We were on a one-lane road with 2-way traffic. We had to pull off onto the side with oncoming traffic and with no shoulders, it was interesting to say the least. We did survive in making it through the park. The park was gorgeous, but poor Jim, driving in a new car, on the “wrong” side of an unfamiliar road, and unsure of the road rules (Yes, if you’re wondering, Jim did download and read the official 147 page book on Scottish road signs.) was stressing out big time. We eventually did get to Culloden battlefield alive.¬†https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden?wprov=sfla1

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Cemetary alongside Stirling Castle wall

On Sunday, we had a nice breakfast, did some food & pharmacy shopping and rested for the remainder of the day.  On the 14th, we drove to Perth, Barb had her first scotch whiskey (a Jura single malt), on the rocks, and smiled quite a  bit.  The following day we toured Glamis Castle (favorite home to the Queen Mother). https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glamis_Castle.

On the 15th, we visited Stirling Castle, quite a spectacular castle, relatively close to Glasgow — that took us most of the day.¬† That evening we stopped in Leith (a suburb of Edinburgh) for one night before returning the car to Enterprise the following morning and hopping a train to London.¬† Once we returned the vehicle, Jim finally stopped sighing due to driving frustration.

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Gorgeous flower garden everywhere

Enjoyable train ride, arriving in London mid-afternoon.  See you down the road after London.

Edinburgh, Scotland — medieval, elegant, trendy — it’s just that rain again!

7/27 Took bus to Edinburgh (population 495,000) ¬†— Glasgow & Edinburgh are only 60 miles apart. ¬†Jim’s body has finally succumbed to a cold, so he was feeling nasty; we went to pub for supper, walked around, went to travel center for bus/tram info, bought food for breakfast.

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Just us at Holyrood Palace!

7/28 we purchased onward train tickets to London for mid-August, reserved a car to drive to Northern Scotland after the 2 week-stay in Edinburgh, visited the Scottish National Gallery and since neither of us are art connoisseurs, our stay at the gallery was probably quite short in nature — maybe 20 minutes or so. ¬†We then walked back to our lodging, through the Princess Street Gardens – absolutely gorgeous, with the castle in the background and green grass and flowers in abundance.

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Flowers in the gardens of Princess Street.

The following morning brought Jim an full day in bed — his cold was out of control, we felt it best he stay home and rest. ¬†Barb went browsing stores on Princess Street, the main shopping area, people watching and returned to the AirBnB for a short nap. ¬†We then went out for a Japanese dinner – best Japanese food ever and quite reasonable in price. ¬†Barb took the last of her Prednisone in hopes it had worked well in the long run.

7/30 — we both stayed in later than normal and then went to the Royal Mile, a mile-long stretch of mostly pedestrian walkway from the top at Edinburgh Castle to the bottom at Holyrood Palace (home to the Queen when she is visiting Parliament) ¬†While at the Royal Mile, we visited the Writer’s Museum, dedicated to Robert Burns,¬†¬†Walter Scott & Robert Louis Stevenson, famous Scottish writers — an enjoyable, peaceful visit to an old building distinctly smelling of old books.

The following morning we went out for breakfast, after discovering that the owner of the AirBnB in which we are staying occasionally sleeps in the alleged kitchen area (better known as storage area with a sink) – that was rather creepy. ¬†Onward, we went to the Surgeon’s Hall Museum, dedicated to all types of former and current surgery, including dental surgery – altogether with hundreds of thousands of pathology specimens – quite amazing. ¬†Enjoyed a couple of pints of Guinness while out at an old-fashioned pub-like house – no loud music, screaming, dancing — nothing except beer & talk – both the beer and talk were refreshing.

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Edinburgh Castle in background taken from Princess Street

Over the next several days, we took in Greyfriars Kirkyard (commonly known as an old church and graveyard Рoldest grave 1505); Parliament Building Рparliament was not in session so no tours were offered; and several Fringe Festival shows, the John Pendal comedy show on escapology, The Humus Show, Big Brother Hamlet: A Surveillance Adaption; and a show on feminism; the National Museum of Scotland -specifically for the Jacobite exhibit (the Jacobites were a sect of clannish Scots that fought and died valiantly against the British, but lost}.  The war clashes were fought defending Protestantism versus Catholicism, in the long run.

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One last Fringe show, The Gun Show, was awesome.  It was produced and directed by a Portland Oregon group.  They are now touring the world, hoping for people to start discussing the issue of gun rights, rather than screaming, ranting, raving, shooting and making the whole process a political one, where thousands die.

We left Edinburgh early morning on the 10th of August, for Aberdeen. ¬†Unfortunately, Enterprise Car Rental caused a 4-hour delay — they were playing the game, just like the airlines, over booking seats or in this case, overbooking cars, so when our car was not returned on time, they had none in supply except manual transmissions. ¬†NOTE: ¬†if you have never driven on the wrong side, meaning left, side of the road, you do not want to start with a manual car. ¬†We learned that in Australia many years ago.

Finally arrived in Aberdeen, a delightful small town on the northeast coast of Scotland, facing the North Sea.  We have lucked out and have had 4 consecutive days of sun, with a brief shower yesterday.  Again, see you down the road!!!

As they say here…ta!

Glasgow, Scotland — combo of old & newūüĎć

Hold on tight — the rain is here and doesn’t look like it will leave anytime soon in this green country of Scotland. ¬†We arrived to a sunny day & have experienced 2 or 3 days like that one. ¬† Otherwise, cloudy and rainy on & off.

After a day or so of walking, Barb realized her left leg was “blown out” again, so off we trotted to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, built in 1794, a model of permanence for the Glascowegians. ¬†A 3-hour wait, preceded by triage, a chat with a nurse practitioner/pre-medical doctor, a prescription for Prednisone and a “have a good trip” and we were out of there, all to the tune of zero pounds/zero dollars. ¬†Three cheers for national health care and I’m not even a citizen. The medicine is working — hooray! ¬†Picture below is the hospital — a bit old, don’t you think?

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Onward with sightseeing…we only walk one or two miles a day so that Barb’s leg can heal a bit more. ¬†Glasgow has terrific museums, extremely old architecture mixed with the new. ¬†Population of Glasgow is about 600,000 — with a very weathered population. ¬†Unsure about that comment, but these people are hearty souls, raised on hard work, sort of married to the land. ¬†They are friendly and do not put on airs. ¬†A good share of them love country western music (at least in the very oldest part of the city). ¬†Their favorite soft drink is Irn Bru, a fizzy, orange colored soda tasting like bubble gum. ¬†We have not tried “haggis” yet & don’t forsee it being terribly tasty. Haggis is a savoury (??) pudding containing sheep’s pluck; minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach. ¬†Maybe in the after life!

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Sun!

We’ve visited the Kelgingrove Art¬†Gallery & Museum; ¬†the Glasgow¬†Cathedral (St. Mungo’s Cathedral), St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Provand’s House, Glasgow Necropolis, the River¬†Clyde and walked many streets & parks. ¬†Have enjoyed Glasgow quite a bit. ¬†The artwork on many buildings is tremendous, as you see below.

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Onward to Edinburgh, via bus, on Thursday, July 27th. Cheers, Jim & Barb!

Beautiful Cancun Wedding!

Arrived in Cancun on July 13th, to sun and extreme high humidity, not to our surprise, however.  Arriving at the airport is quite the Mexican experience. Everybody wants you to listen to them, buy their product or help you with the arrival experience.  Luckily, the resort at which we stayed have plans securely in place for all of their arrivals, making the process a bit smoother.

It truly is a first-class resort, although it should be considering the all-inclusive price of the experience. ¬†We swam a bit, bicycled a bit, drank and ate better than normal and thoroughly enjoyed the comraderie of all of Michael & Justin’s friends and family.

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The wedding Saturday evening was gorgeous — simple, yet elegant, fun and definitely the pi√®ce de r√©¬∑sis¬∑tance of the weekend.

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Sunday morning, we went to Chichin Itza with another couple from the wedding entourage on a private charter day trip. ¬†It was quite enjoyable. ¬†The ruins were spectacular to view, we had a “real” Mexican lunch and took a swim in a cenote, a natural formed cave filled with refreshing 76 degree water.

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Monday at noon it was time to check out and return to Toronto for our onward flights to Scotland. We arrived in Glasgow on Wednesday, extremely tired and jet-lagged. Good night all!