Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trip: St. Andrews

I had meant to post last night but as I was finished and just trying to format the finishing touches, I somehow erased everything and blogger suddenly auto-saved it and I lost it. I was beyond frustrated so I decided to hold off until today.

Tuesday we started the day off again in Edinburgh. We jumped back on the tour bus and got off at the stop that allowed us to walk up “The Royal Mile,” the street leading up to the castle. This was the oldest part of the city. It is hard to imagine the life these people had in such a place and in such conditions. We have so much to be grateful for! The beginnings of the castle started near 1100 A.D. Its built at the top of the hill as you can see from the previous post. There are outcroppings of rock that the castle is built around and into.

We toured around the site for a solid hour and a half. We checked out the royal chambers which held the Scottish Crown Jewels. These were a part of the coronation ceremony for several hundred years starting in the 1500's. They were lost or hidden for nearly 150 years until Sir Walter Scot found them again.

There was one part of the castle that was built in the 1950's as a monument to the fallen Scottish soldiers of wars past. It was a large building that fit right into the whole castle motif. You would have thought it was just another part of it. Inside, there were books filled with thousands of names lining the walls of the monument. One room caught my attention. An alter was built in the center of the room on an outcropping of rock. On top of the alter was a box 18 inch square box guarded by a Cherub at each corner. The inscriptions on the walls were dedications to those who had lost their lives in valiant defense. I was overcome. I suddenly felt the love, admiration, and gratitude that the builders of this monument had for these soldiers. It was a sobering feeling.

After the tour of the castle and the bus ride back to the hotel be jumped on a train, rode about an hour, and ended up in St. Andrews, the mecca of golf. We arrived at the Rusacks Hotel only to find our rooms overlooked the Old Course. The 1st and 18th holes were in our view and we watched golfers come in as the day went on.

The top left window on the building on the right is my room. Not a bad room if you ask me.

St Andrews is a college town of sorts. There are a couple of small (as in maybe a few hundred students each) universities in town and students all around. I have seen a fair share of foreign babes. Its not just the accent either. These women have black hair and blue eyes and its a combination I seem to enjoy.

Golf. The Old Course. This is where it all began, literally. The first golfers teed off here in the early 1400's. That is why its called The Old Course. It is also the home of this year's British Open. There is a lot of history here and it all catches up to you as you tee off at the first hole. My heart was pounding! I really didn't expect that. So with no warm up besides some putts and a few practice swings, I take my driver, which I had never hit with before, heart trying to beat out of my chest, I made a swing.

Worms. Dead ones. Flames from worms burning could be seen as I scorched a tumbling 150 yard drive down the left side of the fairway. Not what I had imagined...I think my caddy, David, groaned a little after seeing what he thought he was in for. I made bogie on the first hole and then rattled off 3 consecutive birdies...birdies that were actually pars but they felt like birdies to me. Total redemption. I got my swing back and we were in business.

I limped along and made several shots that I am quite proud of. One of which was out of a pot bunker. I barely squeaked it out with only a few inches to spare. This is not that bunker. Its called Hell Bunker. 50 yards across and 12 feet deep.

My ankle hurt but with 4 Aleve and 4 Advil in me the pain eased and I walked and walked and walked. We came to the historic 18th tee. I lined up my shot, some wind at my back and unleashed a drive that would make Miss Daisy proud. With my dad we crossed the old bridge that had been there 300 years longer than America had. As we walked the final fairway, I waved at the imaginary people who, if they were real and saw my drive, would be applauding hysterically. 327 yards later and 12 yards from the green I chip a ball up onto the green. I sunk my 2nd putt to par the final hole. What an experience! Overall I was satisfied with the way I played. I shot an 88 only to be out done by my gracious host and father who scored a very respectable 83.

After the nap...because I was totally knackered, we walked to a pub around the corner and I ordered the fish n chips. Very tasty! We went back to the hotel to watch the Champions League Semi-Final match between Inter Milan and Barcelona. That was when I was writing my blog and it got erased.

Today, we met up with the same couple and caddies we played with yesterday and too up to attack the New Course. “New” because in 1895 when they built was the first course that had been built in 500 YEARS! This course was a little tighter, a little harder, but far less intimidating. I had my run ins with it and shot a 92. Not really my best day but when I tell people I went to St Andrews they aren't going to ask what I scored on the New Course.

Out time here is winding down. In the morning we fly to Madrid. Scotland has been kind. The weather, cool, windy at times, partly cloudy but enough sun to kiss my cheeks, kept us dry and its more than most people get when they come and play here. This is truly a trip I won't soon forget!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Trip: Edinburgh

Kensington Chub here!

I know I said 'see you Wednesday' at the close of the last post but after getting here I thought this city needed a post of its own. To say the least, I am impressed with Edinburgh. It has all the classic looks and feel of the filial society with old buildings, tiny roads and classic ‘old world style.

When we arrived today by train from Birmingham, we went to get a cab and told him where we were headed. He promptly kicked us out of his cab. Apparently al we needed to do was walk up the stairs. Our hotel was literally next door to the train station. What we didn’t know was that is about 4 flights of stairs…and for me, with 2 heavy suitcases, my arms were burning!

We checked into the hotel which is the same chain as the first hotel we stayed in.

I have been collecting bars of soap from hotels I have stayed at. I have collected maybe 10 or so bars over the past year and was hoping to add to my collection on this trip. Today was supposed to be #3 but since it’s the same hotel chain it is the same soap brand as well…

We got on another “city tour” bus and took a journey around the old town. I am all about it. There are too many words to describe it, so may that I can’t think of them all…any. I think I will have to let the pictures do the talking. Besides, the pictures were the reason I was posting again so soon. I want you to see what I saw.

We toured on the bus saw the town, decided on the places we wanted to visit tomorrow and then walked some of the streets. Just down the road from our hotel there is a large tower...

...that was erected in maybe 1866 to the memory of Sir Walter Scott, 287 steps and 200 feet to the top. He wrote some poems and books and got King George to come visit Scotland, the first monarch in 200 years to do so.

For some reason as I stood there looked up at this monument, it called my name. “Caleb, climb up here and check it out.” I listened. Dad elected not to venture to the top. Once i had ascended to the top the scenery was spectacular.
I snapped a few photos and invariably did this landscape a grave injustice.

This is a picture of a few of those stairs. At the very top I had to turn sideways because it got so narrow.

This is the local castle. Dandylions...which is pronounced daffodils, in bloom and everything!

On a funny note, out here in Britain when an apartment or office has space available, the signs all say, To Let. My dad pointed out that with a can of spray paint a juvenile mind as my own could turn every sign into ToiLet.
I mean, there is a space there to insert the “I” already! I can imagine a night of mayhem and newspaper headlines talking about the ‘Toilet Tagger” running amuck amongst the Britons.

That is all for now.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trip: England

I arrived on time Friday morning with out a wink of sleep. Compound that with 2 previous nights of lackluster sleep made for a nice bout with exhaustion. Either way, I made it, AND they let me into the country! Found the guy that had my name on a sign and we got into the Audi A8L and made our way from Gatwick Airport to downtown London.

I have had days of driving crazy but this guy took it to another level. I kept my cool because I was buckled in and it wasn’t my car. There were several times I thought we would for sure clip someone or some other car but we made it unscathed to the Brown’s Hotel.

Upon arrival I met up with my dad and we ate breakfast at the hotel. I ate something called a bacon bap. It’s basically a roll with some thick slices of ham. I have since learned that the Britons do not seem to have the same understanding of what bacon is.

I won’t bore you with too many details but a nap ensued. After the nap which left me more tired than I started we got our walk on into the city. Without a plan we wandered aimlessly through the streets of London and eventually made it into St. James’s Park; where like Japan, the cherry trees were in blossom.

Thai for dinner, an ambient and I woke up the next morning. This time we had a plan: The Big Bus Tour. I did this tour last time but it was a lot of fun and this time we stopped by Trafalgar Square at the National Museum where we took in Picasso, Cezzane, and some other guy who was famous, van Gouh…you may have heard of him.

Lunch at a pub to watch the Tottenham vs Man United game and then it was off to the Emirates for Arsenal versus Manchester City. Arriving to find our seats only 6 rows from the field we took it all in. The game, a little dull and ending in a 0-0 draw, was often made brighter by the fans. They chant and cheer and sing in unison. Sometimes they were in the act of praising their players, sometimes deriding the other team. It is truly a site to behold.We came across this little gem outside the Highbury Underground station and I felt it deserved a spot in my blog. Upon arriving back at the hotel we found out that the Man City coach came to our hotel and ate dinner there after the game. We saw his Rolls Royce Phantom. Dinner at an Italian place down the street and I was finished.

Another terrible night’s sleep. Jumped on a train to Birmingham. Got to the hotel, dropped off the bags and a quick ride to Villa Park for our next match. This was a game between 2 local teams, so it was a bit more heated. Our seats weren’t exactly on the field, more like the top corner but even more exciting than yesterday’s game. Much more heated, louder, passionate fans. It came to a climax when Birmingham was called for a penalty and then converted to a goal from the penalty spot. The crowd went INSANE and I loved it.

An added bonus was when a guy 2 seats down got crapped on by a pigeon. I've had that happen and its ALWAYS funny when it doesn't happen to you.

We got rained on as we searched for a cab after the match. We got back to the hotel and got our walk on up the street and ate lunch at an African chicken place called Nondo’s. It happened to be right next to a movie theater and it worked out the How to Train Your Dragon was showing at exactly the right time. We caught that flick and now we are back at the hotel on the 22nd floor. It has been a grand times so far. Tomorrow we are off to Edinburgh and then to St. Andrews on Tuesday. I’ll catch you up after we golf on Wednesday.

Friday, April 23, 2010


At the moment we are flying off the south east coast of Nova Scotia at 605 mph ground speed, its -72* F outside at an altitude of just over 33000 feet. I write this 4 hours and 49 minutes from my eventual destination, Gatwick Airport in London England. I guess that means it is actually 2am 'local time.' I should be asleep trying to get acclimated to the new schedule I will be on for the next 2 weeks. But as I am a side sleeper and this chair doesn't lay flat it is going to be a long night.

As I was lying there trying to get comfortable in a first class seat, with a fully interactive map, movies, TV shows, a 5 course meal in my belly that consisted of steak and shrimp and cheesecake, a blanket, pillow, and an eye mask to block out the light, I felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude and fortunate. It hit me and I felt that instead of trying to sleep I should start this trip off with the acknowledgment and express that I feel I am truly blessed.

As I look back over the years of my life I can't believe how much I have been blessed over the years. It is a tremendous feeling. I am quite sure I do not deserve to be entreated with so much. There is a true feeling of humility that has come over me. I am thankful. I am full of thanks. These opportunities that have been provided to me, not speaking of just this trip alone, but for parents that have more love for me that I know what to do with, for 4 sisters that have been shining examples in my life of love and motherhood, and womanhood, for friends that give me rides to the airport or who are even willing to do it, for a church that has given me faith and answers to questions that would otherwise left me alone in this world of confusion, for a roof, an income, for work, for play, for a volcano that let up and allowed me to make this flight, and for a myriad of things that I could list that range from a solid upbringing to material possessions that make my life simpler, connected and easier.

So on this trip as I write about the many great experiences I hope to have, please know that it all is taken with an understanding that I am more than grateful for the chance to be here and to take part in such a dream as this. My recent tweets and possible future rants about how awesome it is to live this type of life are all measured with a ruler of perspective. I know I am fortunate. I do not know why I have been so blessed but I realize it and do not take it for granted. I will bask in the sun while it shines upon my brow for I do not know how long it will shine.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pre: parations and Tre: pedations

I'm getting listo'ed for my big upcoming trip. Currently, my dad and two of my sisters, Kara and Krista, are roaming the countryside of Japan. When their trip wraps up at the end of the week, Pops will make a stop in China before meeting up with me in London.

We will spend the next 2 weeks jotting around England, Scotland and Spain catching 4 soccer matches, sight seeing, and golfing at St. Andrews. It should prove to be most excellent.

I am doing what I can to prepare. I started physical therapy today and will have 5 treatments in the next 8 days to hopefully give me some much needed strength and endurance in an ankle that is equal to post Haiti earthquake devastation.

I worry because I am going to have to walk more than I may be capable. I have to prepare myself mentally for the pain that will without doubt be overwhelming. Advil and Aleve don't do the a long shot. Prescription Meds have little effect. Pain, something I am very tolerant of; pain that would cripple most people, will be ever present. I will do my best and I won't let it get me down. I will grit my teeth and bear it.

So with some fear and trepidation I am preparing the best I can for trip that will be epic and matter what.