Wednesday, December 07, 2016

My Home Away From Home, Tokyo

 The apartment, is very central, between Shinjuku and Shibuya and is a lovely place to be. It is extremely large by Japanese standards, more expat than local I am sure. The kitchen is larger than my little space at home!

My bedroom

A balcony with lots of sunshine and a garden view.  

The entrance and the garden are lovely , but carrying my suitcase through wasn't much fun.

Monday, January 04, 2016

New Year's Day Portobello Style

 On most mornings Portobello beach looks a little like this, although usually there are a number of dog walkers and other brave souls. On the weekends, particularly on a "nice" day there are lots of people strolling along the promenade enjoying the views and the VERY fresh air.

But on New Years day there was an air of expectancy as many lined up at the food stands and grabbed a hot coffee before heading down the promenade, camers or phone in hand to watch the spectacle of the day.

There were lots more spectators and phones, cameras and tablets all focused on the line up of, sometimes oddly dressed, people waiting for the 1 o'clock count down before they headed for the water. It was cold enough standing watching and waiting, I can't even imagine what the water was like - although I have swum in Antarctica, so I guess I am just as crazy.

Happy New Year everyone.

Deja Vu

There is something about Edinburgh that sings to me. 

Since my visit all those years ago, it has been a place that I have always wanted to return to, and this visit has just made the feeling all that much stronger. There are many cities I have visited and enjoyed, but none have had the same effect as this city.

I just love the Old Town. The buildings with their crooked walls and narrow winding staircases. Buildings narrow and tall and not quite straight, or wide with layer upon layer of floors all slightly different, some jutting out over the Royal Mile. All so different and charming in their own way - though I don't think I would  enjoy running up and down those staircases on a daily basis now! I love the rough cobblestones, so hard to walk on and noisy under traffic and the closes and wynds that run between the buildings and the various levels of the city.

I am enchanted by the skyline of chimney pots, turrets, gargoyles, cupolas and carvings, the varied colours of the stonework. Edinburgh has the feeling of a city so old, with so much history that it just oozes charm and mystery. 

I am sure that I have had a previous life here - maybe as a gutter urchin, who knows?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


 Greyfriars is on of Edinburgh's most famous churches and was opened for worship in 1620, and in 1638 the National Covenant was signed here, which affirmed the independence of the Scottish Church.

Many of the headstones form part of the rear walls of adjoining properties, and the remains of the Flodden wall can be found here also. This is one of the few remaining fragments of the old city wall built in the early 16th century as protection against a feared British invasion.

 Many famous Scots are buried within the kirkyard, but probably the most notorious is Greyfriars Bobby, a wee Skye terrier, who from 1858 to 1872, maintained vigil over the grave of his master, an Edinburgh police officer. His story was later told in a novel by Eleanor Atkinson and a statue can be found outside the church yard, although his grave is just inside the entrance.

Edinburgh's Closes and Wynds

 Branching off from the Royal Mile are numerous alleyways, known as "closes" or "wynds". The narrow alleyways lead north and south from the mile and are narrow passageway between the high tenements and are a remnant from medieval days when the whole city was a mass of confusing alleyways.

A close provided entry to a tenement, and sometimes access  to the rear of the building. There was often a gate across the entrance that could be locked at night to "close" the alleyway.

One of the most famous of Edinburgh's closes, now a popular tourist attraction, Mary King's Close, was notable for a particularly gruesome event n the 17th century. In 1645 many residents of the close fell victim to the plague, and so in order to try and contain the disease, city officials bricked up the entranceway to the alley, leaving the residents within to slowly perish. It was never re-opened and eventually built over but the guided tours now take you down through the various layers of the tenements to the steeply sloping close. They are lead by guides in period costume who tell the stories of the various layers of life and society. Unfortunately no photos are allowed as the building overhead is a Government one!

 A wynd is a thoroughfare, open at both ends often between the various levels of the old town, usually very steep and filled with steps. Going down is fine, but I usually find an easier way of heading up. The arch over many of the alleys is known as a pend and adds to the charm.

Now many closes are much more open, often at both ends, although there are still quite a number gated and leading to residences.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Stirling Unicorn Tapestries

 These magnificent hand woven tapestries hanging in the Queen's Inner Hall have taken 14 years to weave with the final tapestry completed just last year.

There are seven tapestries in all and they tell the story of a unicorn hunted and killed by a group of huntsmen and dogs, and are based on a set of Renaissance tapestries woven around 1500 and held at the Cloisters Museum in New York.

The Unicorn was an important  mythical beast believed to be both powerful and pure, and could only be tamed by a maiden, In the late medieval period the unicorn was adopted as a supporter of the Scottish royal coat of arms and it was known that JamesV owned several sets of tapestries depicting unicorns.
These tapestries have been woven by hand over the 14 years, using traditional techniques dating back to the 1400s and are absolutely beautiful.

Stirling Castle

 It was bucketing rain as I got off the train in Stirling, and the Castle holds a high, imposing position overlooking the surrounding area, so taxi it was to the top. What an amazing place it is.
Historic Scotland has been restoring the place to how it may have looked in 1540 , when it was occupied by  Mary of Guise, the widow of James V, and their infant daughter. Mary Queens of Scots. There is so much to see from the renovation and restoration of the royal apartments to the tapestries and the story of their creation  - another post for those. The colours are vibrant and the building springs to life  creating quite a different castle experience. Thank goodness the rain did finally clear, so I did get to see a little of the exterior and of the town of Stirling. The exterior of the castle is very imposing with it's hundreds of statues and carvings adorning the walks and walls. The restoration brings history to life.

The drama was to unfold when I left and checked my phone. A friend had offered to come and take Millie out for a walk and to spend time with her, but all the recent renovation works , had caused the inner door handle of the house to malfunction and she wasn't able to get in, and Millie was locked inside. My train trip back from Stirling was spent phoning the builder - on holidays - and arranging for someone to meet us at the house and get ius inside and Millie out. Needless to say she was desperate. Thank goodness it happened then when I was out with my phone, or we could have all been in trouble, as often I take her walking with just keys and no phone.

Friday, December 18, 2015

John Knox House

The oldest surviving tenement in Edinburgh, parts dating back to 1470, it seems unbelievable to me that it is still standing and in operation. We who have such a short history, the age of the buildings in Old Town is just amazing.
It stretches over 3 floors, with walls 1 metre thick, a stoneturnpike winding staircase, huge tiled fireplaces, and on the 3rd floor, a painted ceiling,  oak paneling and massive floor boards.

The original residents were the family of James Mossman, a jeweler and goldsmith and keeper of the Royal Mint for the Stuart kings and queens, who joined the wrong side after Queen Mary was forced to abdicate and was part of the revolt that seized Edinburgh Castle for in Mary's name. After 3 years they were removed from the castle and executed.

It is the connection with John Knox that has saved to house through attempts to demolish it and widen the street. Although he was only connected with the house for a very short time, but it is believed he died there.
John Know was a famous religious reformerof the time, a powerful speaker with great influence over the common people and a powerful figure after the Reformation in Scotland