Rotterdam was pretty much leveled during World War Two, and has been under reconstruction ever since. Now, it is considered one of the most architecturally diverse and interesting cities in Europe, if not the world. One of the buildings that has gained the most interest is the magnificent Market Hall.
Shaped like a large Quonset hut, it has a complete fresh food market with restaurants inside, and apartments in the structure itself. Some look to the inside, some on the outside. In either case, it is a spectacular place to visit, both from an architectural point of view or just to sample and eat the large variety of foods available.
When we arrived in Holland we found out that Sail Amsterdam was in progress. What is it? Well, it is one of the largest maritime events in the world. It was started in 1975 in celebration of the 700th anniversary of the city of Amsterdam, and was so successful it was repeated every 5 years. So we were invited by family to take in the fun.
You could tell how busy it was when we got to the Utrecht train station. People everywhere, the train was standing room only. But a short 20 minute ride got us to Amsterdam. And then the crowds really started! Not only people, but we were amazed at the number of boats…. and the variety. everything from rowboats to 5 mast sailing vessels, and even a car!
The events takes place in Amsterdam, on the river IJ. It is a big river, and lots of room for moored boats. But the spectacular part was the continual parade of boats, with no seeming logic by what type or where. Each boat was on its own to go upriver, turn around, and come back down river.
Check the pictures….
After leaving Isle of Skye, we headed east. Our first stop was in Fort William. And the road there was spectacular. Yes, a little narrow, yes a little curvy, but spectacular scenery along the many “lochs” (lakes) along the way. And with occasional castles — some restored and operational (like the famous Eilean Donan), others in ruins — there were many stops. An overnight in Fort William was interesting.
Fort William is at the foot of Ben Nevi, the UK’s tallest mountain. It is the home of hiking, climbing, and ice climbing. We did none of these! But we did visit Inverlochy Castle, a 13th century ruin but still original shape. And a visit to Neptune’s Stairsteps, a system of 8 locks that raise/lowers a ship some 65 feet. Opened in 1822, it was an engineering marvel of its time.
From there we traveled into the mountains. Reminded us of the Rockies, but a bit more rounded. But beautiful. We had a light lunch at Glencoe Mountain ski resort. From there only 50 miles to our B&B, but what a miles! Very, very narrow roads (I called them single and a half tracks) that undulated up and down and twisted just to add limited visibility to the driving pleasure. Watch out foe that bus heading the other way!
Our B&B was an old converted manse, right next to the ruins of an old, old church and graveyard. But it was pleasant, and we were back at sea level.
We drove to Portree on the west coast of Skye. There, we took a tour boat to see some wildlife. And we did, even got a glimpse of a Minke whale (a small baleen whale) but the highlight was seeing sea eagles. These magnificent birds have a wingspan of around 9 feet, weigh about 10 pounds, and are very fast.
We were lucky enough to catch 4 at the same time, and they were in some sort of territorial squabble so we had a great view of them in the air. I didn’t have my long telephoto, and they blend in perfectly with the background cliffs, so pictures are a bit fuzzy, but I did my best.
After this we drove back to the east side and experienced 11 miles of serious single track road to get to Niest Point. Essentially, this is a paved one lane road with pullouts to pass oncoming traffic. It was obvious some people had never experienced this before and it got a bit scary, especially since the road has hills, turns, and cliff side.
Niest Point is well known as a particularly scenic part of Skye. Dramatic cliffs, challenging climbs, and lots of people! But it was an amazing area to see.Now only 11 miles of single track back…
Our next destination was the Isle of Skye. Located in the far north west of Scotland, it is renowned for its scenic splendor. And the trip was only 112 miles… but took some 5 hours.
First of all, no highways. Just two lane highways, quite narrow, and very winding. And always with a spectacular view over the Scottish country side. And, thrown in for your amusement, the Scottish “Single track”. This is a two way road, but only one lane wide. Every so often, there is a Passing Area, marked with a small white sign. Here, the person who has the passing area on their side of the road is supposed to pull over and let the other pass. It actually works, but there is no shoulder, so some very interesting moments.
But all went well. We were early for our B&B check in, so we viewed the nearby Dunvegan Castle. This is the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod, chief of the Clan MacLeod. Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the stronghold of the chiefs of the clan for 800 years. Since it is still occupied, no photography was permitted except of the exterior and the beautiful gardens.
Our B&B is really nice. It is a newer house, and right on the edge of the shoreline. So the views of the bays, islands and inlets are superb.
This castle is tho oldest clan
Whew, busy day today (and getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road)
We started at the Culloden Battlefield. Here, in the mid 1700’s, the Jacobites (Catholics under Prince Charles, mostly from the Highlands) fought an epic battle with Government forces (Protestants under General Cumberland). The goal was to wrest control of Scotland back from the British. However, the Jacobites were routed and Scotland stayed in British control. The above is very very shortened, but gives you an idea. I think for the Scotish the Culloden Battle is viewed a bit like we view the battle of Gettysburg.
Then off to Loch Ness. We thought we saw Nessie, but it turned out to be a rock. Oh well, it is a beautiful lake. The Vistor Center had a very comprehensive multimedia presentation on the geographic history, the many rumors surrounding Nessie, and the results of a lot of searching for the lost monster.
Our last stop was at the Glen Ord distillery. Here they make single malt scotch specifically aimed at the Asian market, where it is very popular. Our tour was quite extensive through the whole process, from the very first barley processing through to the final aging in barrels. At the conclusion we were able to try the various brands and could really compare the different tastes developed by the brewing process.
Since 1950, Edinburgh has a Festival in August. Thousands of people jam the streets, pubs and restaurants. There are all kinds of vendors and street entertainers, all hoping to strike it big (some do). Certainly one big party!
But the highlights of the Festival is the nightly Tattoo. Drawing on a world wide source, there are marching bands and precision dancers from around the world. In fact, the Tattoo emphasizes the International aspects, as a means of drawing people together. A list of the performing bands:
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
1st & 2nd Battalions The Gurkha Rifles
The Royal Air Force Pipe Band Association
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Crossed Swords
The Pipers’ Trail
Our friends Bob and Margaret got some spectacular seats, high up at the entrance. Here we could see the acts come marching from inside the castle to the performance area. Coupled with an amazing light show, \it was a visual and auditory delight. If you can make it, it certainly is worth while(but buy tickets early, it sells out fast!).