Tiger Lilly’s travelogue

Hello, Tiger Lilly here. I know, I know, it’s a big surprise since I’ve been gone a long time from the blogging world, but it really is me. Here are the things I wrote in my journal during our recent trip to England, Italy, Scotland and Ireland. But first…

When we were in Inverness, we went on a ghost tour. This guy who was supposedly a “ghost” took us all around the town center and told ghost stories. His name was Davy. Here’s one that you might enjoy that’s not really a ghost story, but is instead about the Loch Ness monster:

You know about St. Columba right? Well one time he was sent to deliver a message to some person on the other side of a river somewhere in Scotland. (This story is full of details, isn’t it? That would be because I don’t remember them all.) So he went to the river, but there was no boat or bridge. He was just about to swim across it when a village boy came running up and said to him, “If you go swimming in that river, a big nasty beast is gonna come up ‘n eat you.” So St. Columba, being the strong, brave man that he was, summoned a man to go cross the river for him, just to make sure it was safe. But sure enough, when the man got to the middle of the river, a “big, nasty beast” came up and opened its mouth. But just when it was about to eat the man, Columba drew his sword and said, “Go away, you nasty beast,” in a kind of pompous voice. So the beast ran off to Loch Ness, and that’s where Nessie came from.

Now here’s my journal that I’ve been keeping:

Tuesday, May 23, 2006. Italy.
I bought a notebook in a little souvenir shop in Vernazza, Italy, one of the 5 cities of the Cinque Terre. There were thousands of cats roaming around that city.

I found a teeny-weeny conch shell and a bunch of cool rocks on the beach in Vernazza. We have eaten an ice cream like substance every day that we’ve been in Italy. It’s called Gelato. “Gelato, Poppi!” It’s sooo good.

I had a drink in Vernazza called an Italian soda. It was super minty, and so sweet it gave me a headache.

We have been going through Cinque Terre today. It’s really pretty. We only have one more day left in Italy (today) before we go back to England and then to Scotland.

We were staying in a villa near Dicomano that was pretty nice except for the scorpions. Eeeek!!! But now we’re staying in a Bed & Breakfast in Sarzana. The view at the villa is better than the view at the Bed & Breakfast, but I like the house better than the villa, even though I don’t get my own room like I did in the villa. Instead I have to sleep in the same room as the Mall Diva. Horrors!

When we were at the villa, there was a swimming pool that I went swimming in once. I only swam once because I forgot to put on sunscreen on one part of my back, and I got second degree burns. Owee!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006. Italy-London.
Today we are flying out of Italy. :( I wish we didn’t have to go. I love Italy.

Later…
We are driving through England in a Volkswagen. It’s pouring rain. It’s taking sooo long to find our hotel. Dad is in a bad mood. Yes, Marty Andrade, he can be evil sometimes.

Saturday, May 27, 2006.
Scotland is beautiful!

I’m torn between 3 places I want to live in. 1. Minnesota. 2. Italy. 3. Scotland. They’re all so nice!

Later…
I’m sitting in the B&B room. The beds are rather hard. And Mall Diva is about to receive the “Booger Wiener of the Year” award. Her booger wiener-ness is so booger wienerful that I’m not even going to tell you what she’s doing for fear that you would run screaming into the night never to be seen again once you read what she – never mind.

Sunday, May 28, 2006. Scotland.
We went to Loch Ness today, but Nessie was nowhere in sight. Maybe she tried to eat someone and they brandished a sword at her and yelled, “Go away, you nasty beast!” so she fled to Loch Lomond…

I got a pale blue shirt that says Scotland on it. It’s really cute.

Monday, May 29, 2006. Scotland.
We went to Stirling Castle. There were 2 guys on the grounds inside the castle in medeival outfits. One guy was dulling some swords while the other guy was talking to people and answering questions. After a bit a crowd had formed and the guys walked to the middle of the yard.

“All right,” the first guy said. “Welcome, everyone. My name is Elvis Presley, and this is John Lennon.”

“Peace,” ‘John Lennon’ said.

‘Elvis’ started talking about the history of Stirling castle until he finally said, “Ok, I need a volunteer.” So I volunteered. I went under the rope that was surrounding them and walked up to them. Elvis asked me what my name was. I told him, and he said, “Well, Patience, you are about to become a knight of Scotland.” And with that he and John (who, by the way, is reeeally cute) proceeded to put a mail shirt on me. It was pretty heavy.

Then Elvis said, “Patience, you are not only going to be a knight of Scotland, you are going to be THE knight of Scotland. King Robert the Bruce, actually.” I could feel the flush creeping up my face. He then put a chain mail headpiece and a yellow-with-red-lion sash thing on me. Then he put a helmet on me. I could hardly see out of it! Then Elvis said, “Robert was highly skilled with a battle axe.” Then he gave John a huge shield and told me to watch how John blocks the battle axe. Then he started whacking the shield with a battle axe.

“Most importantly, remember to block your head and don’t move your feet,” he said. He gave me the shield. “Try and block us as we come at you. Oh and we will be using swords.”

“O.k., I’m sorry I volunteered for this already!” I said, but I don’t think they heard me. (By now my face was really, really red but you couldn’t see it because it was inside the helmet.) Elvis and John each picked up a sword. I held the shield with both hands. Then they yelled and deliberately missed me as I raised the shield. And I didn’t move my feet! They both congratulated me and helped me take the armor off. I went back to where mom and dad were standing. (My face was flaming.)

John and Elvis did a swordfight. “No back stabbing,” said John. “And no fancy moves,” said Elvis. Elvis won. He and John locked swords, and Elvis kicked John. John fell to the ground and said, “I said no back stabbing!” “Yeah, but you didn’t say anything about kicks.” I like John.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006. Scotland.
I am so sick of driving! Drive, drive, drive! That’s all we do. But at least we don’t have to walk.

Later…

We’ve been in England for about 6 hours now. We had Chinese for dinner. It was so good. Very authentic, like the food I had in China last summer.

Thursday, June 1, 2006. Ireland.
At the B+B that we’re staying at are chicks and kittens! The kittens are so cute, but all they do when I walk up to them is hiss. The dogs at the B+B are always trying to get at them, so when they sniff at the door and try to get into the barn where the kittens are, the mom cat comes and bats at their noses from the other side.

I was able to hold one of the chicks. They are sooo soft and fuzzy and cute. They kind of cheep instead doing the bwuk-bwuk-bwuk thing.

Later…

We went to the beach. It was really fun. I saw a crab that was probably 3 inches long.

Friday, June 2, 2006. Quilty, Ireland.
We went to the beach again today. I was wearing my swimsuit and I went into the freezing cold Atlantic water waist high. The waves actually pushed me a couple of inches. It was really fun.

Later…

We went to a pub tonight. Mall Diva and I played pool with the bartender (whose name was Henry). I lost, Diva won. TTHHPPTT!

Sunday, June 4, 2006.
We’re goin’ home!!!!!

Remember, honesty means never having to say, “Please don’t flush me down the toilet!”

Ciao for now,

Tiger Lilly

Cleaning out the camera

We’ve been back from our trip for almost a week and it’s time to finally close up the travelogue. Below are a collection of previously unpublished photos selected from the 899 that we took over the course of the trip. (Really, it was 899! If I’d realized that it was that number I would have taken one more just to round it off!)

The places you go, the people you meet

I wasn’t just gone to foreign lands the last three weeks; it felt like I was in a different world altogether. In those three weeks I read two newspapers, both of them English tabloids I picked up from chairs in airport waiting areas. Except for two nights in Ireland when the girls watched “X Factor” (an “American Idol” type of competition) we never turned a television on. Occasionally in pubs or restaurants I could see a big screen tv showing sports highlights that looked very ESPN-like, except that the highlights were soccer, rugby or cricket. When I was able to get internet access I spent most of the time uploading posts to my own blog and couldn’t browse around to find out what people were talking about.

And yet somehow the world kept turning, despite my ignorance — and inability to comment. Despite that I did learn that the world can be a pretty friendly place. Aside from our professionally friendly (and always helpful) hosts at the various B&Bs we stayed at, I was regularly approached by others throughout the trip who struck up conversations, including the fellow in Ireland I mentioned earlier who had once lived just a few blocks from my house in South St. Paul.

During our last couple of days on the farm in Tuscany I met Leonhard who arrived with a group of Swedes for a week of sunshine. I met him when he and his wife were touring the grounds and came across me in the laundry cave. In a short time we had exchanged the details of our respective trips, other trips we’d been on and points of interest in the area. Leonhard also seemed very happy to have gotten a rather severe looking sunburn on his chest and face in just one afternoon, and found my trips back and forth the washing machine amusing. At one point he asked me why I didn’t just throw the dirty clothes away and buy new ones. I told him that in America that’s what we always do but when I travel I like to try and live like the common people we visit. He had a large laugh over that one.

Laundry also brought me into contact with some other nice people. It was in Carlisle, near the Scottish border where we were staying at a B&B that was more like a hotel. We had driven all day from the Cotswalds in stop and go traffic to get there and I still needed to find a laundromat or else fashion kilts from bath towels for everyone the next day. The lodge graciously allowed me to use their washing machine and dryer, which was in a little room next to its lounge. It had been a long, frustrating day and I still had a few hours of laundry to do, but this situation was significantly improved by discovering that the lounge had a very fine collection of single malt whiskeys, including a fine Isle of Jura that was more than old enough to be out that late.

After I got the first load of clothes started I treated myself to a wee dram of this golden elixir with just two small icecubes, but first I positioned myself on a comfy couch, plugged my laptop in and got it started, and then, drawing out the suspense, took that first, slow sip, letting it amble warmly over my tongue. I must have even closed my eyes because I was startled when a voice near me said, “I bet you rather enjoyed that.”

Looking up I saw a couple named David and Jan beaming at me from their own comfy chairs. I admitted that, yes indeed, I had enjoyed that very much. They were from Wales and David was on his way to meet with a group of friends to play golf around Scotland, including a tee-time at St. Andrews, but at the New Course (which was just laid down in the 1800s). “Oh yes,” I said, “The New Course. I hear it will be very nice when it finally grows in.”

It was fun to talk to another golf enthusiast, though I told them I didn’t know much about Wales outside of some Max Boyce “Live at Treorchy” rugby songs and the movie “Zulu.” Turns out they also have that album and like that movie, though David can’t abide the song “Men of Harlech” that the Welshmen sing during the movie. Still, it was appropriate for us to caterwaul our way through a short chorus of Boyce’s “The Scottish Trip” (since that’s what we all were on). This was remarkably easy for me to do because the Jura was bestowing magical properties and because David may well be the only Welshman who cannot sing. A couple of days later my family and I bumped into Jan while touring Stirling castle. We were surprised to see each other again, and she commented on it being a small world. “Well, it certainly is a small island, at any rate!” I replied.

The whole family also enjoyed a pleasant evening in the Cotswalds when we had dinner at the Lygon Arms in the town of Chipping Campden. We sat down to eat at about the same time as a family next to us which consisted of husband, wife, daughter and two in-laws. A little ways into our meal the husband struck up a conversation and our families discussed our trips. They were visiting the Cotswalds on their way to a vacation in Portugal, and I said we were on our way to Carlisle and then to Scotland. It turned out that his family was all from the Carlisle area and they gave us some good tips on where to stay. During dessert he asked if he could buy us a drink and we said we’d enjoy a coffee with our dessert, which he happily took care of. When I asked the waitress later for our check she said our entire bill had already been settled by the gentleman at the next table.

We were very surprised and appreciative, but he shrugged it off saying, “It cost a lot less to feed you than my lot, believe me.” I asked if I could know his name and he said it was Edward Stobart. As we were leaving his father-in-law said we’d see that name a lot the next day, especially as we got near Carlisle. “About every third lorrie you see on the motorway will say ‘Eddie Stobart’ on it,” he said. It turns out that Eddie Stobart, LTD is not only the U.K.’s largest independent logistics company, it has its own fan club of people who watch for the distinctively liveried trucks, with each cab named bearing a woman’s name. To us, however, they were just a down-to-earth family that we enjoyed talking to about kids, movies, scenery and traffic. (And I ordered a model of one their trucks from the Stobart web-site as a souvenir.)

I also greatly enjoyed talking to our host in Italy, Francesco; the McDougals – a lovely older couple in Inverness who were right out of Brigadoon; Christopher and Vreni at Bran Mill Cottage B&B in the Cotswalds; and of course John and Maire Daly in Ireland who I mentioned in an earlier post.

All in all I’d have to say that even though I didn’t have much access to the media while we traveled, I was far from being disconnected.

For Cathy (and not for the squeamish)

Cathy in the Wright is always on the lookout for dead things, and likes to post pictures of these carcasses when she finds them. Here, just for her and anyone else with the stomach for it is a photo of something we found washed up on the rocks on the beach in Quilty, Ireland.

It smelled worse than Marmite.

Yes, that’s right, we went to the beach! It was hot!

Peace out!

Euro – peein’

The second-most common phrase I’ve heard from my family in the last three weeks is, “Gelato, Poppi!” The most common phrase, however, is “I have to pee!” Three women. Three bladders. And a dedication to staying properly hydrated.

After this trip I have an even greater understanding of the differences between men and women. I am well aware that men have to pee, too, and that our standards for what is an acceptable place for exercising this prerogative are different as well. What I’ve come to realize is that for myself, the need for relief is measured by something that works like a fuel gauge on a car. At any given time I can assess the “level” and how long it will be before I’m going to need to stop. I can also compare that projection with the distance remaining in the trip, or to the next stop.

Women apparently don’t have this gauge. For them it’s more like a “check engine” light; it’s either on or it’s off, and, like the light, when it comes on something has to be done – now! And yes, it is too much to hope that any random grouping of three bladders might possibly get in sync with one another.

The most important meal of the day

Most of the places we’ve stayed in the last three weeks have been Bed & Breakfasts. As a result, we developed some strong feelings about breakfast as the trip progressed.

The first place we stayed in London offered cold cereal, juice, yogurt, toast, cheese, tea or coffee and a selection of cold lunchmeats. After three days of that we went to Italy where we were on our own for breakfast for the first few days near Dicomano in Tuscany. No problem, we’d just head into the little village to get our morning dose of cappuccino and something to eat. In Italy, however, breakfast is typically small and usually consists of just croissants (often called brioche) or small sweet rolls. This is a nice change, but by the end of the week we were really craving something more substantial; we wanted to sink our teeth into some serious protein and starch.

This desire was soon met when we returned to England and were introduced to the “Full English breakfast”: eggs, back bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms, half a fried tomato, toast and – yum – Marmite. (I can’t imagine anyone liking Marmite, but somebody must because they seem to make an awful lot of it, and awful is the right word.)

This was great for the first week or so. Then we discovered that the “Full Scottish Breakfast” and “Full Irish Breakfast” offered at our later stays were very, very much like the “Full English breakfast.” It was enough to make you logy just thinking about it. At one place in Bo’ Ness, Scotland our hostess made the mistake of asking us the night before what we’d like for breakfast. Immediately the girls piped up:

“Pancakes!”
“French Toast!”
“Anything but bacon and eggs!”

The poor woman had no idea what French Toast was, and seemed dubious at the recipe that was offered, but thought she could handle pancakes. The next morning that was what we got, and they were a refreshing change, especially served with “Lyle’s Golden Syrup.” I don’t know just what this syrup comes from, but it’s not maple trees. Still it was sweet, sticky and tasted good, if a bit fruity.

The breakfasts also usually came with a selection of cold cereals, which is a pretty common way for us to start our day at home. In Ireland, however, my wife and the Mall Diva discovered a new cereal: Wheatabix. They love this and don’t think they’ve ever seen it in the states. They both surreptiously slipped sealed individual packages of these dense, palm-sized wheat bricks into their bags this morning at our last “Full English Breakfast” before departing.

Tomorrow: bagels!

Stella Artois is taking over the world

Everywhere we went in Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland the pubs and taverns had Stella Artois signs on the walls and the beer on tap or in bottles. Other propaganda was also prominent and in one place the waiters even wore Stella shirts.

I know that Keegan’s also flogs this brew regularly and I can’t understand the pervasiveness of what, to me, is a pretty mediocre beer. It’s as if Stella Artois has become the “bleedin’ Watney’s Red Barrel” of our time.

Why is this?

If I could have just one supernatural power…

When I visit an historic site I like to imagine the people who might have occupied the very place I’m occupying, but in a different time. What would that person have seen? If there was supernatural gift I could have I’d love to have the ability to stand in a particular place and have time reverse itself before my eyes like a clock rapidly rewinding so that I could be an invisible visitor watching what took place at that spot hundreds, even thousands of years ago.

Whether I was standing in a room in the Bloody Tower of London, or next to a Neolithic open portal tomb in the Burren of Ireland it would be endlessly fascinating to me to watch things unfold. When we stood in the gateway of the old fortezza above Sarzana, Italy I thought of the people who must have come and gone into the fortification at the time when it was the center of economic and defensive activity for the area; messengers, peddlers, lords and beggars, all coming, going, living and dying. What if I could stand on Stirling Bridge in 1297 and watch William Wallace rout the English, or take in market day in little Dicomano – 500 years ago. Even just walking through a field in the English Cotswalds, watching the shepherds earn their bread and cheese could be interesting, or maybe venturing to the point at Loch Ness where St. Columba reportedly saw the legendary monster and commanded it to return to the depths.

Somehow this seems possible when you’re in Europe, where so much time and history is layered so densely in waves you almost can hear the voices and smell the ghosts around you.


How many walked or rode through this narrow entryway into the Sarzana Fortezza? What business brought them there?

War in the sky

Flying home from London and we haven’t been airborne for 45 minutes and already the guy in front of me has tried to catapult his seat backwards into full recline – and into my lap. Not just ease it back, mind you, but a full-speed, full-length lunge. I long ago in my flying career lost patience with this tactic; on the first assault today I met the onrushing back of his seat firmly with both hands on the back of his seat and my elbows locked. “Pardon me,” I said politely but firmly, “but could I please have a couple more inches of space?” He returned the seat to its appropriate space.

A few minutes ago, just after I had opened the laptop, he tried again, and again with a sudden recline, which was rejected more emphatically, which drew a head turn and stare from my opponent. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Your seat closed my laptop so suddenly I had to react quickly to get my fingers out of the way.” He grunted and moved his seat to a safe distance.

Look, I know air travel is uncomfortable and we need to make allowances. I don’t have a problem with people reclining their seats an inch or three to get more comfortable, and I do the same myself. I always do it slowly, however, not suddenly and try to remember that there’s another human being behind me. Just because I can recline my seat farther, doesn’t mean I have to, or should. To do so is just downright rude, and may be dealt with in-kind. I’ve been on flights before where the seat in front of me comes back so far I couldn’t even keep a paperback book open comfortably, let alone a laptop (and I know that I can’t presume any God-given right to use my laptop on an airplane). Accommodations can and must be made. The fellow in front of me has received his extra space, and I’ve got my keyboard hard up against me and I’m looking at the monitor at a rather steep angle. It will do.

Should the chap in front of me again consider my personal space as the Sudetenland, I will have to resort to guerilla tactics. In the past if someone has insisted on a full recline at my expense he has had to contend with my newspaper overlapping his head as I vigorously turn its pages, sometimes even reading aloud from it to my neighbor if it’s someone in my family. My personal rule is, if I can see the crown on your head, it’s mine to play with. I may try to create intricate hair sculptures with my breath, or muster the juiciest nose-blowing I can manage. Today, however, I have what I believe may be the ultimate weapon.

Tiger Lilly is next to me and has the hacking cough three of us have been passing around the rental car the last week. It comes around about every minute and a half. If the invasion comes, I will switch seats with her, and encourage her to do her best to “get it all out.”

A little bit of Ireland

Friday morning. We flew into Shannon airport from London Wednesday afternoon on Ryanair, which had offered airfare for ?1.90 per person one way. We actually paid more to check our luggage than we did for the whole family’s airfare, and the airport taxes were even higher, but we still managed the round trip for about ?124.

We’re staying at Clonmore Lodge, a Bed & Breakfast and working cattle farm owned by John and Maire Daly. It’s on the Atlantic coast of Ireland outside the small town of Quilty in County Clare. In addition to his farming and hosting, John is a local historian and caretaker of the cemetary on his property. Clonmore has been in his family since 1903, but the first reference to the property in the Annals of Ireland cites it as the place that received the wounded from a nearby battle in 1641. Also on the grounds are the ruins of a Catholic church that was built in 1091.

It’s a friendly place: already my wife has been drooled on and the Mall Diva has been pawed — by the farm’s three dogs. When we arrived Wednesday evening one of the first things that John took the girls on a tour of his barns to see the baby chicks and baby kittens that had been in residence only a little longer than us. Thursday morning began with John taking us on a tour of the church ruins and the cemetary as he described the histories of many of the families buried there, the customs of the time and many other useful details (did you know, for instance, that Guiness is the Protestant stout, while Murphy’s was the Catholic stout?). A lot of the stories described the long history of persecutions and reprisals between Catholic and Protestants that has shaped this area, as well as the entire country. There is generally peaceful co-existence today, offering hope that while sectarian differences may be ever-present, they don’t have to be eternally hateful.

There’s also a little pub near the lodge that used to be the local village general store – and the place where our host’s father was born. The pub doesn’t open until 9:30 p.m. and I dropped in to sample a Guiness in its native habitat. The pub is about the size of my living room, with a snooker table, a couple of small booths and half a dozen bar stools. It was also equipped with a handful of locals, one of whom clearly had a Texas accent. In a room that size you’re not going to be able to sit back and observe things unnoticed, and I was soon involved in conversation with the group. The Texan introduced himself and asked where I was from. I said Minnesota, and he said he was from San Antonio, Texas. I said I was born in Texas. He asked if I, being from Minnesota, knew of the little Twin Cities suburb of South St. Paul. I said I actually lived in South St. Paul. It turns out he used to work for a St. Paul company and lived in South St. Paul, on Dwayne St., just blocks from where I live! He had later met and married a woman from Quilty and moved here, ready to greet me on my arrival.’Tis a small world, indeed.

Thursday was also a “nice” day by Irish standards for the area: sunny and with temperatures well up into the 50’s – Fahrenheit, that is. As a result, a number of people were at the beach, many in swimsuits. The Reverend Mother, however, had on just about every layer of clothing she brought with her, and even commandeered some of mine. We also visited the Cliffs of Moher which are nearby. These are impressive formations, somewhat reminiscent of the Palisades on the Minnesota North Shore, but are much more extensive. Though several hundred feet above the ocean, the updrafts from the cliffs carry sea spray up and into your face when you stand near the edge of the cliffs.

Our trip is nearly over. Today we’ll tour The Burren, a large area of land containing prehistoric artifacts and ruins such as ring-forts and dolmens from the earliest days of Ireland’s history. Tomorrow we’ll tour some more of the countryside before returning to Shannon for our flight back to London, and finally, leave for home on Sunday. I have more stories to tell of our adventures in the Cotswalds, Scotland and travels through England, and more than 600 digital photos to sort through. I’ll try to post some of these shorter remembrances and other photos over the next couple of days.


Home is that-a-way: A sunset look at the Atlantic from our rooms at Clonmore.


Irish farms are a great place to meet chicks.


Our host and tour guide, John Daly, explains the significance of the various symbols on the grave and tomb markers in the cemetary, and how to tell if the deceased was Protestant or Catholic. Many of the stones have scaled or worn badly, but there was one with a date in the 1600’s and another where the deceased had left “this transitory life” in 1777.


The Cliffs of Insanity – I mean, Moher. There’s a paved path and fence that people are supposed to stay on and behind, but just about everyone ignores it. You might see more details in a future edition of “The Darwin Awards”.


A cow’s eye view: the locals always know where to find the best views.