Monday, November 7, 2011

On cake and light shows.

So, I realize it has been over a month since my last post. The reason for this...well, there are many reasons for this spanning from numerous assignments due to sheer laziness. It is true, over my supposed 'break' from the 24th to the 28th, I had to write and edit 2 essays and prepare a presentation, but for the past week or so I haven't done much. I thought that I should probably post a blog before I get into the heavy assignments of the next couple of weeks. So, here it is. My very tardy, very full blog post.

Now, I have to think a bit hard for this. I have a tendency to focus on the day-to-day when doing many things at once, so I've forgotten a bit of the past. I'm thinking for the sake of time we'll focus on the best part - the 'break'.

University of Stirling, and most schools over here I guess, have this lovely little 'break' in the middle of the fall. It's been pointed out to me that 'break' is actually a misnomer - it's a reading week. It's a week in which our professors, tutors, and the like tell us to enjoy our lack of classes but get on with the major assignments we have due. Naturally, I rebelled and forced my friend Laura to rebel with me, so we decided to take a little 3 day trip up to Pitlochry and Blair Atholl for the Enchanted Forest and other sight-seeing adventures.
Cake of joy.

On Friday, the 21st, we boarded a train from Bridge of Allan to Pitlochry, where we had to kill about 5 hours before our check in with the youth hostel. My natural inclination at any point when I need to kill time is to eat something, so we took a cue from the back of our Enchanted Forest tickets and popped into Hettie's Tea Room to eat some lunch...and some cake! Some delicious...delicious cake.

See, looks safe, right?
We took a bit of time to explore the main street of Pitlochry with all of its nifty little shops, and we ended up walking towards the dam and fish ladder, across a nice suspension bridge. I'm a fan of suspension bridges. They seem to mix stability and instability in a way that makes you feel safe and nervous at the same time.  Laura isn't comfortable with heights, so I had to resist the urge to bounce around.

That night, Laura and I had a couple of tickets to see Enchanted Forest and enjoy a spectacular light show. I'm not exaggerating on the spectacular. I'm still waiting for a response about a possible CD of the music they use. The show was entitled "Transitions" and made liberal use of color changes in time with certain instruments and changes to emphasize the switch in music. They also have what the call a 'light harp'. The light harp is a circle of posts with lights that are motion activated to change color and play a harp tone when you wave your hand over them. You can imagine how interesting this phenomena is when there are several children furiously waving their hands over the lights all at once. Unfortunately, photos don't do much justice to the show, but I definitely suggest a visit to the website linked ^up there^. If you're ever in Pitlochry around the mid to end of October, I would highly recommend a visit. Here's a few of my attempts to catch the show on camera. Pardon the grainy quality. Never trust the 'AUTO' selection on your camera.
One of my better shots

The building was a lookout point where you could view the whole show. 

Widescreen, but not HD.

From the lookout, with the gazebo in the corner.

The duck, upon realization of Laura's lack of food,
turns to me for offerings.
The next day brought more exploration with a trip to Blair Castle in Blair Atholl. Touring the castle and grounds took the entire day, and we weren't allowed to take photos of anything but the great hall in the castle. Which, I kid you not, was probably 20 yards long. I don't know how to convert that to metric, sorry. The castle sits on a very large bit of land, with the 9-acres of Hercules gardens, St. Bride's Kirk, and a wooded area named after Diana (the goddess) with very, very tall trees. Hercules Garden was lined with inset statues (not labeled) and has inter-locking ponds in the middle. With little huts for the water fowl. While exploring the gardens, one duck thought we might have some food and proceeded to follow us. He refused to listen to our protestations and was soon joined in pursuit by the rest of his duck friends. We were stalked for quite a distance before the duck gave up. I admire his persistence. There are too many pictures to put up here, but I promise to attach a link to my Picasa web album at some point and upload them to Facebook.

The mill from the outside
After Blair Castle, we waited out the train in a nearby coffee house attached to a working watermill. Blair Atholl Watermill & Tea Rooms accepted our voucher for a buy one get one free hot chocolate and provided us with a free exploration of a working watermill. The lower levels (and upper levels, to a lesser extent) were cold enough to show me my own breath, but the mill machinery was fascinating to look at. The mill is still in use, and they sell the products whole or in bread. I was impressed. When we returned to Pitlochry for the night, we once again visited the cafe/restaurant treasure we found (which I can't remember the name of, now) for dinner, then went on a small ghost tour around Pitlochry. Pitlochry is a small place, but the tour guides did a great job of telling good stories and passing us off to each other with funny exchanges between their characters. There were only four of us, but the tour was worth the time.

We headed back home the next day and went to see Arriety, a Miyazaki film about borrowers, before going home to work on essays the rest of the week. Since then, my time has been split between class and assignments, talking to people back home, revisiting Jane Austen novels, and considering a new blog about books. It's a little over a month until I am home for Christmas, and I am pretty anxious to board the plane. The semester hasn't been easy, they definitely make you work for your masters, so a little bit of a vacation is extremely welcome. Classes and assignments are, thankfully, all finished by December 7th, and my cousin Misty is making her way back from her travels in Europe to come stay with me until we depart on the 20th. There may be a little bit of traveling for a couple of weeks. We'll see. For now, it's back to the books.

Until next time.

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