Love it or Louvre it, or where to find a moment of silence in Paris

I’ve been to Paris twice now. The first time, back in 2001, I was there for a week and a half just hanging out, drinking pastis in basement jazz bars, running through the cobbled streets in the rain, practicing my french on bored Parisian check out girls. I was a proper backpacker, staying in a hostel and making friends with fellow indie travellers until I felt it time to leave. One guy I met, a Canadian, had another friend who was house sitting in the Marais in a flat as beautiful as the one in Taken. Another, an English dude, was in Paris to spend time with his daughter. Me, I was there to wander the streets and see the sights.

And because I wanted to see everything in Europe in three months (bless) I had to be judicious about which sights to pay for. So I picked one of the big ones and said, “next time” to the rest. Versailles won.

So next time came well over ten years later, and this time the Louvre was our must-see. So, what did I learn about the Louvre that I can pass on to you?

I think this calls for a list!

  1. Don’t stand in the queue. Buy your tickets in advance!
  2. Arrive at your alloted time and sail by the line people in your very special lane.
  3. Get one of their brochure mappy things. You’ll need it because there are over half a million things to look at from art to objects to cities. Literally.
  4. No matter what anyone says: see the Mona Lisa. It IS that impressive. It IS mobbed with people. And who cares? It’s the most famous work of art in the world. Ignoring it is just lame. It’s like going to New York and not going to Times Square. Has to be done at least once.
  5. Pick a part of the museum far from the great ML and head there for some solitude.

After fulfilling #1 on the list above by purchasing our tickets at the billetterie spectacles at FNAC in Forum des Halles…

… we had just enough time to grab some lunch before our timed visit to the House of the Mona Lisa. The walk back to the Musée revealed more of Paris’ rich history.

The Fountaine des Innocents is the oldest monumental fountain in Paris. It’s kind of a big deal, having Pierre Lescot’s name attached to it. Did you know he was the architect in charge of a little museum called the Louvre?

What a coincidence!

And speaking of, we’re heading there right now. Follow me!

Item #2 on the love it or Louvre it list, the special advance ticket line was VIP only. There may as well have been a red carpet. We strolled in the pyramid and down the escalator, snapping pics along the way.

As you can see, I prefer to look up. Less people up there. How may of us take photographs of the underside of escalators?

I’m not going to lie. It’s busy in the atrium under the Pyramid, known as Hall Napoléon. And somehow I managed to get a fun shot, even caught one girl’s attention. Check out the red-haired lass looking directly at me.

Spooky.

That photograph was taken whilst fulfilling #3 on the list, grabbing a mappy thing. You’re gonna need it to find the ML and the VdM (Venus de Milo to those not on a first name basis). Besides the sheer volume of artifacts contained in this horseshoe shaped museum, there are four floors. Without some sort of map… good luck!

We set off on a wander, letting the crowds go their own way. I’m not even going to pretend we knew where we were going, so just enjoy these photos and note how the crowds thin as we go (#5).

We found ourselves in the Coptic Egypt Art Gallery and the Bawit Room beyond enjoying the rebuilt Byzantine Monastery Church with one of Egypt’s greatest icons…

In complete solitude. (see above, #5)

How about a painting on wood from the Bawit Monastery, circa 8th century?

We sat alone across the room Christ and Abbot Mena from for almost ten minutes, knowing it couldn’t last forever but hoping it would.

Our secret was out. As the tourists started walking in our cozy monastery hide-out, it was time for us to leave and find the big guns. Lots and lots of  photos to come.

Melpomene, artist unknown
Apollo
Winged Victory of Samothrace, front
Winged Victory of Samothrace, back
Aphrodite (Venus de Milo)
Aphrodite, Ramses, and another dude
Left
Right
Centre
Outside Galerie d’Apollon
Slightly distorted Galerie d’Apollon

That’s only just a few of the ridiculously famous artworks you’ll stumble across in the Louvre. Even the building is art. Ceiling panels, anyone?

 

I keep my cupid above the door, too.

Ornate angel cornice? Yes, please.

Okay, no more messing around. It’s time to find the famous lady herself. If we don’t get lost (#3 again).

Maybe past these sitting Egyptian dudes?

Or perhaps through the hallway of many sphinxes?

Past this sphinx?

Okay, maybe this one…

The Great Sphinx of Tanis

Is it around this moat?

Don’t be distracted by the modern art selfies…

Oh hai!

Maybe it’s this way. After all, where there are crowds…

You’ll find Mona. (Finally, #4)

Here’s a little advice on getting your photograph of the most famous painting in the world. Treat it like a mosh pit. Everyone is jostling for their place in front of the velvet rope so you can’t be shy, though try and be nice. If the museum were smart, they could charge even more money to queue up and get your pic of this piece. Instead it’s every man, woman and child for his, her or little oneself.

  • So just walk in, say excuse me, scusami, pardone mi, pardóname, entschuldigung, sorry, whatever gets you to the front of the crush.
  • Then don’t mess around.
  • Take your photo on the highest possible setting, not JPG, but RAW, so that later you can zoom in and crop to your heart’s content.
  • Have this setting programmed before you walk up.
  • With an iphone, just take the wide shot because the zoom function blows. I relied on Instagram to make her sweet smile come to life.
  • Be polite and get yourself out of everyone else’s way as soon as possible. Believe me, they are happier to watch you leave. But don’t hang about. Want to stare at her to figure out DaVinci’s hidden messages? That’s what the internet is for.
  • Oh, and turn around:
The Wedding Feast of Cana

You’ll barely have anyone in your way to view the massive and classic Wedding Feast of Cana. You’ll probably recognize this beauty from such classes as Art 101 and Art History.

So there you go, your beginner’s guide to the Louvre. Don’t worry about trying to fit everything in. Just wander, sit every once in a while, and enjoy the view!

Oh, I forgot to add something to the list.

6.  Wear comfortable shoes. There’s no way you’re going to see it all in one day, so save something for next time!

Au revoir!

 

And so Paris…

When good Americans die, they go to Paris -Oscar Wilde

If you’ve missed me, it’s because I’m preparing some of my more recent travels for the blog. But I seem to be caught in indecision city. Australia? Seattle? Maybe that weekend in Waikiki? The confusion of what to write here has echoed in the planning for my next trip, a certain birthday coming up in a few months. Brisbane? Indonesia? A bucket list trip to Kathmandu? I want it all.

The very act of going through photographs from past trips feels almost like caffeine coursing through my veins, a heightened sense of smell, of sight allowing me anticipate the next. It’s equal parts torture and nostalgia. Perhaps that’s all travel is for me, going out into the world to execute my plan, looking back fondly later.

Who am I kidding, I love the travel part, too.

So whilst I agonize over Tijuana, Prague or Zeeland, here is the first of a few posts, snaps and snippets from two nights in Paris, which is what I shall call my book of short travel stories some day. (All rights reserved, natch.)

cropped-p8092926.jpg

Not everyone in England is lucky to live near an international airport, though most airports in England are. It’s on an island, after all, the North Sea separating it from the continent. And as an American expat, I was always so amazed at how easy and inexpensive it was to fly internationally, the travel time on a flight to Belgium taking less than rush hour traffic through Downtown LA on a Tuesday to Pasadena.

For real.

So being in Leicestershire, we have the delightful East Midlands Airport just thirty some odd minutes from our front door. It’s a small facility that used to be an RAF base, Castle Donington to be exact. It does the requisite European short-haul flights and recently even added some long haul to the mix, though I don’t think that will ever stretch to direct flights to LAX. Long of the short of it is if you’re happy for a quick hop to Spain or Paris, you’re in luck.

We chose to do a mid-week trip, thinking the crowds in the French capital may be a little more forgiving in the height of August’s peak season and knowing the locals have mostly skipped town for their summer holidays. We were partially correct, the locals had definitely split town, but the tourists were abundant.

And the nostalgia… The last time I was in Paris I stayed on the right bank in a youth hostel by the Anvers Metro, just in the foothills of romantic Montmartre and the stunning Sacré-Coeur. It was September 2001, just a three days after the 11th. It was an interesting time, with a quiet city going about its business under the watchful eye of soldiers with automatic weapons on high alert. Since then, not much has changed on that respect, though the city was far more vibrant on this visit.

Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant. -Honoré de Balzac

So true, Honoré, and that’s why we stayed at the delightful Hotel le Bellechasse just across the Seine on the left bank. Le Bellechasse is a boutique hotel using its Christian Lacroix designer pedigree to make it stand out in a city full of beautiful design hotels. What made this hotel stand out for us was its location only a few short steps from the Musée D’Orsay, du Louvre and the outdoor cafés of Saint-Germain des Prés. For a two-day trip we didn’t want to travel far to our tourist destinations.

We arrived late on the first night, checking in after ten PM and realizing our desire for dinner was going to go unanswered. That meant early morning hunt for un café et deux croissants. We wandered south toward Rue de Bac Metro in search of caffeine and popped into a little brasserie that served the purpose.

I’d heard somewhere that most of these little cafés and bistros, like pubs in the UK, are chains. That didn’t ruin the charm of standing at the bar with our breakfast cafe au lait. Saying à bientôt, we marched into the nearby Eric Kayser Artisan Boulanger to stock up on our continental breakfast. We had a big day ahead of us.

But first… one of my favorite things to do in a city is strolling to find a place to picnic, wandering to a local lunch spot, picking up provisions and dining al fresco. With our fresh croissants in hand, we were on a mission.

The walk from our hotel was gorgeous, bright sun and blue skies with nary a tourist in sight. The Seine shimmered its hello.

Our plan was to check out the queue at the Louvre, so what better place to plan a picnic than at Jardin des Tuileries, Louvre-side?

Flaky pastries consumed, we found where all the tourists were hiding.

Why yes, that is a queue of people snaking around the side of the pyramid, the entrance to the Louvre. Without tickets.

What are they thinking?

I’m not one to judge. The boy and I have a habit of heading to a destination without pre-booking tickets. Maybe it’s the lure of our younger years as seat of the pants travellers. It’s definitely how we’ve managed to miss out on some of the world’s greatest attractions. Like that time we went to New York just after the Statue of Liberty opened and we couldn’t get tickets to the top. Too bad. And the time we went to Paris and didn’t get our Tour Eiffel tix either.

Oh, you mean this trip?

So we weren’t going to miss out on the Louvre. Our hotel concierge gave us a tip of purchasing tickets from the counter in FNAC, a shop that sells electronics slash cultural products (yep, that’s the description, and kind of what it looks like on the inside). We did a little research and discovered the Forum des Halles was the place to go. We designed a further wander through the streets of Paris to the mostly underground des Halles, determined to find something new.

Like a different view of the Louvre.

Or a look down one of the covered arcades of le Palais-Royal, a grand palace that used to be Cardinal Richelieu’s house and was later absorbed by the crown after his death. Now it’s the home of the Ministry of Culture,  the National Library and the Constitutional Council. We chose to wander through the arcade adjacent rue de Richelieu alongside the Comedie-Française, one of France’s state-run theatres.

I feel like its worth mentioning at this point that we’d only walked a mere 3 minutes from the entrance to the Louvre. It’s impossible to visit Paris without marvelling at the history literally everywhere.

A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life. -Thomas Jefferson

C’est incroyable.

We kept walking up rue de Richelieu to rue des Petits-Champs, a street originally opened in 1634. That’s where we stumbled upon Galerie Vivienne (Metro: Bourse).

As you can see, Galerie Vivienne is one of Paris’ many covered passages with a purpose. Built in 1823, it’s now filled with boutiques and cafés fit for luxury city centre living. One might say this could be the inspiration for modern-day malls.

If only our malls looked like this.

Upon leaving Galerie Vivienne, we soon stumbled across another Notre-Dame:

Basilica Notre-Dame des Victoires, to be exact.

This little church began its life as part of a convent in 1619. King Louis XIII himself laid the cornerstone. How’s that for pedigree?

Leaving le petit Notre-Dame we made our way toward Forum des Halles via the picturesque back streets…

… past cafés that would not have looked out of place in Amsterdam or Brussels…

… to the under construction entrance to the Forum des Halles.

I took absolutely no photographs in this mainly underground expanse of shopping, cinemas and passageways to the Metro and nearby residences. It’s something out of a science fiction film, so futuristic in its retro design that I knew my sad camera phone would not do it justice, my micro 4/3rds Olympus Pen even worse.

Besides, we had a FNAC to visit and my high school french to exercise.

Bonjour, je voudrais deux billet s’il vous plait, le Louvre. -this girl

And so we walked back.

Did you know that you don’t have to wander through Paris streets to buy tickets and avoid the queue? Just head to the Carrousel du Louvre, another underground shopping mall, literally across the pavement right next door.  It even connects to the Louvre by another clever underground passage. Just head downstairs and there are museum passes ready for purchase.

Secrets travel fast in Paris. -Napoleon Bonaparte

Yes, Napoleon, but fast is not the way to see Paris. Stroll, take in, taste. That’s how you experience this city.

Next time I’ll show you there are places in the Louvre where you may actually find yourself blissfully alone.

à bientôt!

Relaxing Lochside in the central Highlands (with whisky, of course!)

A few weeks back I published a post on whisky tasting on the Isle of Skye. And in that post I mentioned the Scottish distilleries’ penchant for being the most this or the only that. Well today I introduce to you, dear reader, Scotland’s smallest distillery, Edradour.

When we left the Isle of Skye on the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry we were heading for the central Highlands to a holiday let we’d booked on Airbnb on the banks of Loch Tay.

Loch Tay is a freshwater loch between Scotland’s two largest national parks, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and Cairgorms. It’s a long, narrow loch which lies alongside the A821.

We chose Loch Tay because of this:

And this:

Our holiday let itself was pretty sweet. It had 3 small double bedrooms, all of which had seriously tiny beds. We ended up using one of the bedrooms as a dressing room which worked out nicely. It also came with an archaic heating system we couldn’t figure out until the second night. But it had an only slightly leaky conservatory (view from above) and the kitchen was really nice…

… and there were views for days. Overcast, cloud filled views:

Raining in the distance views:

Even holy heck that’s quite a storm views:

Well, whatever the view, we weren’t going to just sit in our little house all day.

We had some whisky to taste!

The 45 minute drive to Edradour in Pitlochry took us through Kenmore, a quaint 16th century village at the foot of Loch Tay, just outside the Taymouth Castle Estate which is currently being converted into a luxury hotel, spa, and golf course with exclusive residences. Very fancy. When driving past it you can just about make out the castle in the distance. And since it wasn’t open for visitors when we were there, I turn to wikipedia once again:

On your way to Pitlochry from Loch Tay you’ll also find yourself driving through the small market town of Aberfeldy. This is where we did all of our shopping and stocking up. There’s a great little shop in town called Aberfeldy Farmfresh which has some yummy local finds. However, you’ll want to make a visit to the Co-operative a few doors down for your self-catering holiday basics.

Just outside the little town centre is a pretty big name in whisky: Dewars. Aberfeldy whisky is the main ingredient in Dewar’s blends, and I admit I was a little surprised to see a big sign which read: Dewar’s World of Whisky (yes, that’s what they call it). The name kind of makes it feel like it might be the Disneyland of distilleries (don’t you think?). But since we like our distilleries small, it was onward to Edradour!

Pitlochry is a small town far more geared to tourists than its nearby sister, Aberfeldy. We paid a visit to the delightful Auld Smiddy Inn after a quick wander around the quaint high street. Lovely pint at the Smiddy. Recommended.

And of course, there was plenty on offer in the way of Scottish wares, should you be interested, in Pitlochry.

The Scottish Shop next to Scotch Corner

But let’s not forget the reason for our visit. A delightful (and don’t they know it) distillery on the Edradour Burn.

The Edradour Burn runs right through the property

I recommend doing the whole enchilada: tour, tasting and a visit to the shop. You won’t be disappointed. Our tour guide was equal parts knowledgable and entertaining and kept a room of whisky novices and enthusiasts completely hooked.

After the tasting, of which we all got to go home with our own commemorative whisky glasses, he took us on a tour of the property, stopping to allow us to take photographs of its rich history, almost none of it I remember. I suppose that’s what its website is for.

And this blog? It’s for pictures. Hence the name.

Now, the reason that Edradour is the smallest distillery in Scotland goes way back in time to when Highlanders would make their own whisky in small, homemade stills. And when that became illegal, making your own booze at home, they decided to keep making whisky in the smallest legal stills allowed.

And although they may be the smallest, they make 25 blends of their own and have quite the storage facility. Loads of other distilleries store their barrels at Edradour as well as use Edradour in their blends.

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the still itself, however if you check out their website they have some videos you can watch.

Once your tour is over, they invite you to visit their newly renovated tasting room as well as the shop. The tasting room is fantastic. I wish I took more photographs of the space, but I was too busy trying out their wares.

Personally I found the Edradour whiskies to be too sweet, and the tasting room bartender equated their 10 year to Christmas Cake. I couldn’t find that flavor anywhere on the tasting wheel.

Your last stop at Edradour should be the shop.

If you are flying back to the states, each person over 21 can carry up to 1 liter of alcohol. And by carry I mean carefully pack the bottles in your checked baggage and hope that the airline baggage crew don’t break your precious cargo. Our 10 year got home safe and sound.

Even though we really wish we’d been able to take this little guy with us, too.

Alas, no expensive Islay whisky for us. That’s saved for our next trip. Islay here we come!

But first, to round out the end of our scorching summer road trip in Scotland… finally, some rain. Rain so thick you can’t even see the loch in the distance. One shopkeeper mused that it was the biggest storm they’d seen in years.

I bet they say that about all the storms.

The next morning we awoke to beautiful blue skies with fluffy clouds, the banks of Loch Tay reflected in its mirror like surface…

… Perfect conditions for a drive back to bonnie Leicestershire.

And although we’d originally planned on a couple of nights in Edinburgh, the call of a comfortable bed and warm meal at home was too strong.

As was a pasty at our nearest motorway services! Cheese and bacon, if you please. Nom nom.

The blue skies continued, following us all the way down the M74, M6 and then across Derbyshire.

Seven hours later we arrived in Gaddesby, ready for a deserving glass of wine in the garden, already planning our next trip before parking the car. Though nothing we choose could top a road trip around the Isle of Skye, surely.

What about Paris? There’s a cheap flight out of East Midlands on Tuesday…

Ferry Ride! or How I learned the ferry was faster than driving to the Isle of Skye

It was officially time for us to leave Skye, one of the most beautifully stunning islands on the planet, likely never to return despite our hopes otherwise. And since we drove on to the island, it seemed fitting for us to drive off as well…

… and onto a ferry boat.

Since we were staying close to the Armadale ferry terminal, it was super easy for us to check out early and be the first car in the queue for the morning ferry from Armadale to Mallaig.

Also, plenty of time for photos from the pier.

We sorted out our passage from the ticket office and explored the shops around the terminal.  You have to check in your car at least 20 minutes before sailing, so you’ll have time.

One way tickets for the ferry cost £9.40 for your car, £2.80 each for driver and passenger. Children are less, so check the Caledonian MacBrayne website (opens in a new tab) for more price info.

We also had loads of time to document the arrival of the first ferry from Mallaig.

Can I let you in on a secret? I think that I, like most people, consider oneself to be pretty well put together. I love travel, a really good meal, writing (of course), and I work in media which means I get to work in really fancy offices with exposed beams and glass walls, wearing high heels and being collaborative with creative people. It’s pretty cool. Some might even say that I am pretty cool.

Except when it comes to a few things. Airplanes. What is it about airplanes? I kind of geek out a bit whenever I drive down Vista Del Mar along Dockweiler Beach and the planes taking off from LAX scream overhead. Don’t even get me started about space shuttles. One day I may share my Endeavor photos with you. And aquariums. I turn into an 11 year old girl when faced with penguins and tropical fishtank lined hallways.

It seems I have a new thing to squee over. Ferry boats.

In my attempt to document our trip on the Caledonian MacBrayne Armadale to Mallaig Ferry, I took some pics and even a little video.

Lucky you!

I know many readers may not find this as fun as I do. But I currently live in Los Angeles. Sure, we have a lot of cars. Many, many lanes on the freeway. But one thing we don’t have are a lot of islands to take our cars on ferries to. And I must say there is something kind of satisfying about driving onto a boat. Or rather, being the passenger documenting driving onto a boat.

But first, the door.

Yep. It’s big, it’s green and it makes a lot of noise. I tried to get some video but it wasn’t very good. And by this point we’d given up on our time lapse camera. It worked once, so why jinx it?

So you drive in. You stop. You stay in your vehicles until they tell you to get out. It’s pretty simple.

Like all good ferry boat riders we went upstairs to see what we could see and watch the world go by, leaving our little hired motor keeping an eye on the green door.

Even though our last night on the Isle of Skye may have lacked a certain joie de vivre (i.e. sleep) I was really sad to see the shores of Sleat growing smaller by the minute.

Past the early morning calm waters of the loch you could see the Isle of Eigg, one of the Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides.

Eigg generates 100% of its own electricity, did you know that? I didn’t. It’s had quite the checkered history, that little island, with clan feuds, massacres and revenge, the perfect subject for a movie plot. Now it serves as a delightful stop on the CalMac Small Isles ferry route.

The ferry ride takes 30 minutes from Armadale to Mallaig, just enough time for a cup of tea whilst watching the sea birds fly by. Before you know it you’re back downstairs with your car, waiting for the door to come down.

And, maybe if you’re lucky, you have somewhere else in Scotland to be that afternoon.

Where would you go, if you had nowhere to be but here?

Sleat, Ardvasar and a secret hike

And so we finish the last day of our Isle of Skye adventure on the Sleat Peninsula. Sleat is well regarded as “the garden of Skye,” a badge they wear with pride. To this visitor, it was just as beautiful as the rest of the island. Just with more trees. I approve.

Shortly after arriving at our bed and breakfast, the host told us of a hike down to a secret cove where we might spot some otters. Otters, you say? I cannot say no to cute wildlife sightings. So off we went.

We were told to take a short stroll up the single track road, past farms and other vestiges of rural island life.

Then at a little sort of bridge, instead of crossing it, take the path just before it on the left.

Little bridge

It didn’t look like much at the start being heavily overgrown, however we followed it down and found the path into the leafy canyon below.

It was then we heard a waterfall, so I kept my eye out for the little otters that were known to frequent the stream.

The otters were behaving elusively, if one could behave as such, so we continued down the narrow path toward the secret cove.

A brief aside whilst we are walking down this Sleat garden path to the shores below. Upon arrival at our B&B we were quite excited. At this point in 2013, Homeleigh B&B was a small bungalow with two bed and breakfast rooms, and it turned out to our good fortune that the double bedded room was available. At the time of our visit, the proprietors were a lovely couple who were about to sell on. We didn’t think too much of it at the time as our heads were filled with notions of secret hikes to secret rocky beaches and secret otter sightings.

I bet they told that to all the guests.

Anyway, the path continued along the brooke and broke through the canopy to give us a sneak peek of our destination, complete with a view to the landscape across the loch.

And more path…

… revealed better views.

And as we peeked into the cascading waters, we thought we heard something. An exploring otter, perhaps?

Alas, scuppered again. One last look up over the ferns to the stream brought nothing but otter disappointment. (Get it? Go on, read those last two words again.)

Reaching the rocky beach was a treat. And really, that’s the best descriptor for it. It wasn’t a huge challenge considering the hike was all downhill (not looking forward to going back up) and very short. It wasn’t the most beautiful of evenings, the sky being lightly overcast which gave my photos an interesting glow around the rocks. But it couldn’t match the dramatic blue skies over Ullinish.

Yes, the beach was a treat. And it definitely looked like it was a popular hang out for the area youth.

In the town I grew up in we had a pond. And that pond had access roads we’d walk along, creating our own paths to the pond’s edge until we found the best place for our debaucherous pastimes of sitting by a bonfire drinking cheap beer and skipping stones. One summer we put up a rope swing, and henceforth that’s what the little campsite became known as: The Rope Swing.

It felt like we had a place of our own that no one knew about. Of course everybody knew about it, and on occasion the police would come to break up our revelry. As you do.

But that summer we felt invincible, as the kids who hang out on the secret cove of Ardvasar probably felt as they skipped stones and drank cheap beer amongst the rocky shore.

My partner scoped the beach for some excellent skipping stones whilst I scoped for ideal desktop background images.

And how excited was I to stumble upon proof of our otter friends.

Dinner, perhaps?

Speaking of, the evening was getting on and we spied a pub on our way in. Time to wrap up our nostalgic secret hike with the real reason why we are here:

Time to skip some stones!

 

Six! Well done. Off to the pub.

The Ardvasar Hotel is the only game in town. It’s the closest hotel to the ferry, about 15 minutes walk, easy for those who are not laden with hire car like we are. Part of me wishes I’d booked this little inn, seeing as we were having dinner and drinks there, it would have been ideal to just wander up to our room and say goodnight.

But instead we just took in the view, dining al fresco watching the skies clear to blue and the tide go out.

And of course, a little bit of Instagramming.

The cows came out at low tide, dining on some pretty tasty grasses as we dined on sausage and mash.

And finally! Some wildlife. The fierce pub cat we shall call Stan.

Saying goodnight to Stan, we walked back up the short hill to our bed and breakfast. I’d like to say that it was a relaxing evening in our comfortable en suite room, however, upon returning to the Homeleigh, our hosts informed us that we were not allowed to use the ceiling fan, nor the pedestal fan. You see, her sick mother (bless) was in the room below and she couldn’t sleep through the noise of the fans.

Now I can’t sleep without the noise of fans, and it was hot as balls (excuse my French) so we were at a moral standoff. The customer, they once said, is always right. So if we just put the fan on, would anyone really be the wiser? But we couldn’t be those people. You know, those people who can’t follow the rules. So wanting to be respectful for the ill mother in the room below us we did as asked.

We even tried to get some respite from heat by opening the window. Alas, it was broken and could not open! The cold showers helped, though.

Not to malign a small business, but it was miserable, and turned out to be the last time I stayed in a B&B. The experience was so terrible that I’m not really over it almost three years later.

At least I was still awake at the wee hours to take this photo out the broken window of the sun trying to set, the moon keeping me company in the illusion of night blue sky. Glass half full.

In the spirit of friendship, I have good news. The Homeleigh was indeed sold and has been taken over by another lovely couple. Recent tripadvisor research shows that the new owners are far more accomodating and have three rooms to let. No mothers to be seen. I would even consider staying again as long as I’m able to use one of the fans.

Now, who wants to take a ride on a ferry boat??

 

Driving around the Isle of Skye, or Yay! Our time lapse camera finally worked

 

Where was I? Oh yes.

In our last Isle of Skye adventure, we were having a picnic lunch on the hill overlooking the quaint fishing harbour of Elgol. The midges left us pretty much alone. They were probably more interested in our nearby dining friends.

Now back to the Road to Elgol. From Broadford it really isn’t that far, and you’ll be rewarded with some pretty stunning scenery. As well as some vestiges of normal, every day island life.

Oh hai.

We couldn’t help but notice that leaving Elgol gave even better views than driving to Elgol. So, you know, a few stops were warranted. As you do.

Like these, the Beinn na Caillich, or as the locals call them, The Beinn. They’re also known as the Hills of the Old Woman and also Red Hills to us mere non-Gaelic speaking mortals. You can definitely see why.

And below, here’s what The Beinn gets to look at every day. She sits right above Loch Slapin, the village of Torrin on its banks. You can click on this pic for the full effect.

Beinn na Caillich over Loch Slapin

This little bend in the Road to Elgol contains a double whammy. Not only are The Beinn on one side, but the other? The majestic Bla Bheinn, aka Blavin. These guys are not messing around.

(Below is another panorama – click and enjoy)

Loch Slapin with the overlooking Bla Bheinn
Loch Slapin with the Bla Bheinn holding court above

Now once you’ve filled up your memory card or received that annoying iPhone storage is full warning, go ahead and do what you need to do to make space because there’s some ruins in a few miles that need your camera’s full attention.

Cill Chriosd, or Christ’s Church, sits just past the eponymous Loch. The ruins are difficult to find on google maps, but you can’t miss it while driving. It kind of stands out.

Legend says that there has been some form of worship taking place here since the 7th century. The current ruins were probably originally constructed in the 16th century to replace a medieval church. Now it serves as a graveyard and snacking location for the local lawnmowers, as my photographs and video below show.

I’ve always been a fan of graveyards. They make excellent subjects for photographers and every stone is different, tells a story of the person or people buried below. The story this church’s yard told me were that there were quite a lot of MacLeods and MacKinnons laid to rest here.

There were also quite a few who had died abroad in wars or after emigrating, like Charles who moved to Australia. I’d like to think they finally found their way home.


Now back to the ruins.


Obviously these little guys are used to folk like me and my partner interrupting their grazing. They barely even gave me the light of day.

After all, they had some ruins to keep neat and tidy!

You’ve been such a great sport waiting around for me to finally deliver on my promise of a time lapse drive around the Isle of Skye. Before I embed my wee vid, let me explain a little of what you see.

We turned on the time lapse function on our little Canon point and shoot in Broadford after the drive down from Portree. The spot takes you down the Road to Elgol, then back and around south to the Sleat Peninsula and finishing at our little B&B in Ardvasar.

Now you may recall that so far in our five-day strong trip this little venture had not worked even once. Not in Loch Lommond & The Trossachs. Not in the gorgeous beyond words man-I-wish-we-recorded-every-single-second-of-the-Highlands. And not even when we passed over the Skye Bridge. So we weren’t very hopeful.

And when it finally worked, it only took about three years for me to get off my arse and put it to some inspiring kick-butt music for you to view.

Enjoy!

 

You may now pass.