First of all on this Monday morning, Happy Birthday to my co-writer, good friend and sister, Suzanne! Like a good wine, you’re getting better with age, Sis.
Now that I’m not paying 95 cents/minute to access WiF, I decided to extend Suzanne’s writing vacation another week with what I believe are some of our more interesting photos from the trip – hope you think so too. I might add that I’m thankful that the trip ended when it did, I was on my last belt notch!
The itinerary: The cruise embarked from Hamburg, Germany and we got off in Edinburgh prior to the ship returning to Hamburg.
A rare moment in Bergen, Norway when all six of us were upright on our Segways.
That one sunny day in Norway when the ship’s pools were use.
While cruising out of Reykjavik to Akureyri, Iceland through the Arctic Circle this photograph was taken at sunset. What makes it so unusual is that it was a little past midnight!
About 4 hours after that beautiful sunset was this beautiful sunrise
Double rainbow coming down hole #18 at the Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland
That’s me having a glass of wine and smoking a Cuban cigar in the backyard at our VRBO in St. Andrews with all my friends. Yes, that’s a bunker – there were plastic golf balls and sand wedges available to practice how frustrating it is to get out of a St. Andrews sand trap.
The last supper together with all 10 in our group. A pleasure to travel once again with John & Mary Bellham and to meet their friends Steen and Sue, and a really special thank you to Jack & JJ and John & Judy for being such GREAT travel partners.
Thank you to all our blog readers for joining us and hope you’re looking forward to the next adventure, wherever that takes us.
With two days remaining on our cruise, blindfolded and with hands tied behind our backs, we were forced to walk the plank once our ship had pulled into harbor at Edinburgh. Actually it didn’t pull in, as there is not a deep water port, so with our luggage and golf clubs in hand we were summarily marched onto the ‘tender boat’ and into the port of New Haven two days before the end of our cruise, to spend the next four days at the home of golf, St. Andrews, Scotland.
JJ had secured a great VRBO just two blocks from the Old Course and as I mentioned, Linda and my ballot was selected to play the Old Course at 4:30 on Friday, the day we arrived. John and Judy decided to wait around the first tee to see if anyone didn’t show up for their tee time and sure enough they got on at 4:00. Jack and JJ, who had played the course a few years earlier, decided to be available when the owner of the VRBO was coming in to show them the house and give them the keys.
Six on the Bridge
Rain was in the forecast for St. Andrews everyday we looked for the last several weeks, but the golf gods were smiling on us this day as it was beautiful, a few clouds and a slight breeze – unbelievable!
We had a young man as our caddy, Matt, who was born and raised in St. Andrews and a very good golfer himself, so he was most helpful in getting us around this historic course. We did get some threatening clouds about mid-way through the second nine and I was actually excited to feel a slight rain begin. I mean what is St. Andrews without a bit of wind and rain? It only lasted a short while and when the sun came out again, there was a magnificent double rainbow arching over the entire course as we walked up 18 (to thundering applause in my mind!)
We finished around 9:00 p.m., still amazed at how long it stays light in this part of the world.
Rainbow coming up 18
Our Canadian traveling companions, John & Mary, Steen & Sue also departed the cruise early and were spending the next four days in and around Edinburgh. Jack, JJ, John, Judy, Linda and I moved our stuff into our new home for the next four days and found a great little place to grab a bite and a beer, Ziggy’s. The owner, Ziggy, came over to our table and entertained us and treated us to a gin-raspberry liqueur. She also suggested a ‘Crackin’ Rum, for my rum and coke – very good!
Exhausted after a rather full and fulfilling day, we walked back to our new digs and crashed.
Relegated to the Bench
My round at the Old Course on Friday was hampered by the reoccurrence of some sciatica I’d been fighting over the last few weeks, had I been anywhere else I would have stop playing, but it’s the Old Course! Unfortunately playing through that pain cost me playing any more golf for the rest of the trip. The Budds and VanBoxmeers played the ‘New Course’ (‘New’ is a relative term, it was built in 1895) on Saturday and then again on Sunday, joined by Linda, as tee times were most available there. I walked with them on Sunday wondering how and when I pissed off the golf gods. The weather was incredible – slight breeze, mostly sunny with only a few minutes of light rain.
The town of St. Andrews would be a place worth seeing even if there wasn’t a famous golf course there. It holds Scotland’s oldest university, has a picturesque coastline, lots of shops (not just golf stores), restaurants (especially if you love fish and chips) and plenty of pubs. I even liked the haggis! Most of all, I must say that the Scottish peopleare among the most gracious and friendly that I’ve found anywhere in all my travels.
Heading for home on Tuesday; it’s been a great trip, thank you all for joining us and a special thank you to those who made comments along the way, it’s always good to hear from you – especially you, Maggie Ryan, my dear Scottish friend!
As we circle northeast around the top of Iceland through the Arctic Circle, there is an ‘Honorary Viking’ ceremony on board where one can be baptized with the waters from the Arctic Circle. Since I hadn’t been a Viking fan since the days of scrambling quarterback, Fran Tarkington, I decided to sleep in. As we headed to the Orkney Islands we were reminded once again that they are not part of Hawaiian Island chain, as the day was dark and gray with a slight sprinkle for good measure.
There are about 70 Orkney islands, of which 20 are inhabited and they belong to Scotland. It is mostly farmland for sheep and cattle where both trees and sunny days are a rarity, but they do have hairy pigs and all the school children are taught to play the fiddle. This is stuff you won’t find even in an Einstein edition of a trivia game.
The tour meandered through the gentle rolling landscape into the Neolithic Heartland of Orkney, stopping at the ‘Standing Stones of Stenness’ and the ‘Ring of Brodgar’ a huge ceremonial circle of stone dating back almost 5,000 years, Stonehenge-like structures built before Stonehenge, and oh yeah . . .
At Skara Brae there are dwellings half in and half out of the ground that were made of stone and inhabited between the years 3180 and 2500 B.C.!! That’s older than the pyramids! It was discovered that these ground dwellings had furniture of stone which was placed in the exact same place in every dwelling. (I’m sure Linda would have changed the furniture out several times had she been living there), and oh yeah . . .
Amazing historical venues, great picture-taking opportunities, and oh yeah . . .
Stones of Stenness
We didn’t take that tour; we took the tour to the Highland Park Distillery! While Scotch whiskey does have an interesting and storied past here, I think we got on the wrong bus. As a result, I may not know much about the Neolithic period of this part of the world, but if you need to know anything about barley, peat or the whiskey aging process, I’m your man!
We were lucky to get back on the right ship before it sailed!
Inverness, Northern Scotland
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
We did get on the right bus this time and headed to see Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. Our guide had confessed to seeing Nessie on several occasions and all but guaranteed that we would see her today. We drove through some beautiful countryside and some quaint little villages on the way Loch Ness. The trip was amplified by beautiful weather and trees, something we’d seen neither of for days. The Scottish Highlands were gorgeous on this day! At Loch Ness, we not only caught our glimpse of Nessie, but got to learn a good deal about Scottish history (we learned that both Braveheart and Macbeth took liberties with the historical facts). We spent a good deal of time exploring the grounds of Urquhart Castle, which is on Loch Ness, very interesting.
The Scottish people were extremely gracious, had a good sense of humor and didn’t talk so strangely that we couldn’t understand them. Loved Scotland!
Linda and I got a bit of good news as we were leaving Inverness, our name had been pulled for the lottery, which meant we have a tee time at St. Andrews for tomorrow!
I love golf. I think it is the greatest game ever invented. It requires both unique mental and physical skills, it combines camaraderie and competition and it’s one of the only sports you can play while smoking a cigar and drinking a beer. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of playing some magnificent courses from Kapalua, Hawaii to Kiawah, South Carolina.
I hate golf. It is exasperating, demeaning and expensive. It brings out the worst in us, it impugns our self-worth and facilitates, no encourages, cheating. Personally, my first bad experience with golf was when my high school golf coach said after a round, “The best two balls you hit all day were on #7 when you stepped on a rake.”
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
If you play the game, you know exactly what I’m talking about; if you don’t, there’s no way to explain the fascination of hitting and chasing a little white sphere around a cow pasture. To try to put it in perspective for both camps, I would say that golf can be defined as 4½ hours of a series of calamities interrupted by an occasional miracle, or as John Feinstein put it, ‘a good walk spoiled’.
The subject probably needs a little fuller vetting, so let’s tee it up.
Scots skipping work to play golf
Golf had an ignominious beginning, (what a surprise) dating as far back as 1261, when the Dutch cursed while they played a game with a ball and a club. But the modern game of golf is considered a Scottish invention where the first documented mention of golf was in Edinburgh in 1457 when King James II banned golf in an attempt to encourage archery practice, which was being neglected. So even back then, men were sneaking out of work to play golf.
Some say it was named golf because all the other four-letter words were taken, but the word for ‘club’ ‘striking’ or ‘cuffing’ – lord knows I’ve ‘cuffed’ the ball many a time, has an interesting etymology. The word started out spelled as ‘gowfe’ which led to ‘gouff’, which led to ‘gowf’, which led to golf, which led to club throwing, sandbagging, and in the 70s, white men dressing like black pimps. Personally, I think the word will ultimately evolve into ‘goof’. And it’s probably not a coincidence that golf spelled backwards is flog. Some say the name golf came from initials that meant Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden, but that is just an ugly rumor probably started by a man whose wife could beat him at the game.
And why, you ask is golf made up of 18 holes, not 10 or 20 or an even dozen? The story goes something like this:
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
During a discussion among the club’s membership board at St. Andrews, Scotland in 1858, one of the members pointed out that it takes exactly 18 shots to polish off a fifth of Scotch. By limiting himself to only one shot of Scotch per hole, the Scot figured a round of golf was finished when the Scotch ran out.
A great story, but unfortunately not true. Early courses were 5-7 holes, played two or three times. It wasn’t until 1764 that golfers at St. Andrews decided to combine the first four short holes into two to produce a round of 18 holes, although it was still a 10-hole course with 8 holes being played twice. However, it would be over 100 years before 18 holes became the standard for golf frustration.
In my opinion the best explanation of the origin of, and exasperation with, the game of golf comes from the late, great Robin Williams; even if you’ve seen this before or not a fan of golf, I think you’ll enjoy this short video. Spoiler Alert: there are a few f-bombs in the video, OK quite a few, so get the children out of the room before listening.
They say that golf is a game you can play for a lifetime, but what they don’t say is that you’re going to get worse every year until you finally can’t straighten up after you make your last putt.