Alimay left for Scotland to spend some time with her sisters in Scotland almost two weeks before Robin flew out to London.
When I (Alimay) left Victoria on March 27th for Glasgow everyone was complaining of the unseasonably cold weather so I was somewhat prepared for cool weather and had packed accordingly. Even so I was not anticipating winter with boots, mufflers and several layers of woollies, much in evidence.
Maida had put in a huge amount of time and imagination in organizing at least one treat a day for my delectation. On Thursday we hit the ground running, hosting a tea for M’s book group, whom I had met on a previous visit. These women are eclectic readers and we ended up with a wonderful book list of personal picks. Friday saw us at John Lewis with an appointment with our personal shopper. As ever she came up trumps and I have new additions to my wardrobe. In the evening Maggie, M’s best friend, hosted a dinner party for all the golf girls, at which I was able to wear one of my new acquisitions. The last time I was there for dinner was 38 years ago so we go back a long way. We had such good conversations and lots of laughs each time. Saturday we drove to Rhu to visit a garden, open as part of the open Gardens Scheme. It featured lots of plants, especially rhododendrons, which had been brought back by the early Scottish plant hunters. Sunday was a visit to the Necropolis, which afforded a history of all the influential Glaswegians and a glorious view over Glasgow.
On Monday, cousin Liz, visited from the Lake District, and Tuesday saw us at “A Play, a Pie and a Pint” – excellent Glasgow content – followed by the Rennie Mackintosh exhibition, which showcased Glasgow as such a vibrant centre of the Arts, that it rivalled London and Paris. Liz left for Edinburgh that evening and next day I took the ferry to Arran to visit sister Trish and David, her partner. There I encountered the very worst weather of my trip, wind, sleet and snow. The following day, however, it was totally different and so mild we could have a walk and a picnic on the beach. It was just a flying visit and I was back in Glasgow that evening. On Friday we had lunch with Fiona, M’s sister in law, and her husband, John. They had had a trip to the US last summer occasioned by their son’s wedding in Vegas. I was agog to hear all about it . That evening saw probably the high spot of my trip, a Royal Scottish Ballet production of “Highland Fling,” described as Les Sylphides meets Trainspotting. It was excellent, edgy and very thought provoking. Saturday was spent visiting David, M’s younger son, in Scotstoun to see his 40th birthday present, a painting by one of the city’s up and coming artists. We ended the day with a family tradition, dinner at the Wee Lochan.
Interspersed with all the activities were lots of long walks with Bella, M’s now model chocolate lab. All in all it was a truly wonderful couple of weeks.
We stayed at our “usual” accommodation in London in Bloomsbury on Cartwright Crescent where we get a very small room, but which includes cooking facilities. We were there for 4 nights during which it was cloudy, misty and cool nothing above 10 degrees! There was , however, very little rain and with our Oyster cards and the tube map we covered quite a lot of ground. The first day we took trains (including London Overground, which was new to us) to Kew Gardens. They advertised a free guided tour and we joined a group of about 10 for an excellent walk through the gardens. The UK has had a cool damp spring, so the plants were at least two weeks later than normal and somewhat behind what we had left on BC. There was, however, lots of interest and we enjoyed revisiting the gardens.
The next day we ventured out to the RHS Gardens at Wisley which is very easy to get to by car, but not well served by public transport. Tubes and a train took us to Woking from where it was a £15 taxi ride to the gardens. Again, there was a free tour advertised and we were wondering if they would do it as there were only 4 of us waiting. However, 3 guides showed up and had an argument over who was NOT going to get one of the couples. Thus, we had an excellent 2 hour personal guided tour. We had not been here before and were very much impressed with what we saw. The gardens have been going for over 100 years and there are many plans for the future including a very large new structure to house the visitor centre, offices and laboratories. The only drawback was the temperature, so after lunch we decided that we were in danger of getting chilled and made our way home.
For our last full day we opted to go to Windsor Castle, which neither of us had visited previously. Again a combination of tubes and trains delivered us to the door in about an hour. We toured the State Rooms, including the very impressive renovations done after the major fire there a few years ago. The St. George chapel where the Royal Wedding will be next month is part of the castle and tour although, surprisingly, there was no mention of the big event on the audio guide or any evidence of preparation. Because it is still the English school Easter holidays, everywhere we have been has been extraordinarily busy considering the weather.
On Friday (13th) after packing and checking out, we tried to visit the Churchill War Rooms, but discovered that there was a 2-hour wait to get in (solution, book on line in advance!) so opted instead to tour Westminster Abbey which we hadn’t been in for 30+ years! With the bigger suitcases we then took the Heathrow Express train to catch our flight to Morocco. This was uneventful though over an hour late, so it was close to midnight before we were delivered to our hotel in the middle of a downpour! Today, (Saturday) is much brighter and warmer.