Friday, December 14, 2012

So much to be thankful for...

We have now been in Scotland for just over 4 months. We have visited so many interesting places, both countries and other sites nearby that most locals don’t get to because they’re too busy living their everyday lives. The kids are both happy enough at their schools and with their friends that they are interested in staying here after our exchange is over (even though that’s not a choice)!

Our Thanksgiving snuck up on me this year. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving, and I was shopping with the kids at Tesco (a grocery store). Walking down the frozen foods aisle, Carter asked if I was getting a turkey, and I kinda acted like he was crazy to suggest I buy a turkey that far ahead of time. Just two days later, Sunday, it suddenly hit me that in only 4 days it would be Thanksgiving, and I DIDN’T HAVE A TURKEY!! (You know how long they take to defrost if you follow directions) I also realized I owed Carter an apologyJ

Cara was our decorator, and started making pilgrim hats several days ahead of time. They looked lovely on our table. The day before Thanksgiving I was busy making a sweet potato pie. I don’t actually love sweet potato pie, but since pumpkin is hard to find here in Scotland, it would have to do. I felt quite accomplished baking the potatoes and making what turned out to be a tasty sweet potato pie from scratch. I also made Jim’s favorite, and apple crumb pie, as well as my Norwegian family tradition, lefse! On Thursday, I helped in the first grade class at Cara’s school in the morning, and then came home early to get the turkey in the oven. We added mashed potatoes and gravy and corn on the cob to our meal and were ready to eat.

Before Thanksgiving was even celebrated, the kids started to ask about a Christmas tree. Our family tradition the last several years has been to go to the mountains in Boone and get a fresh cut Christmas tree from a tree farm. Since I knew that this was more than we wanted to handle this year (buying lights, ornaments, needles all over, etc.), I was a little perplexed until one day Cara decided to make a paper chain. I suddenly thought that it might work to make multiple paper chains and hang them from a light fixture/chandelier in the living room. The kids got to work making paper chains, and finally, a week after Thanksgiving, it was assembled and in place. (I’m really not dreading the undecorating this year!!)

Since then, we’ve had multiple predictions of snow or snow/rain. After a day of really cold rain and some ice, it finally snowed a little. Since then we’ve had about 3 other days with some snowflakes, but the most at one time, was about an inch of snow. Let me tell you, once it rains on top of snow, it gets REALLY ICY and slippery. Not so much fun to walk to school in, but the road are pretty well taken care of around here, so Jim hasn’t complained about the driving conditions.

The Scottish Teacher’s Exchange Club arranged a wonderful day in Edinburgh, mainly to see a Panto. A Panto, is short for Pantomime, but there is no miming involved. We went to the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh to see a production of Mother Goose. It involved singing, dancing, acting (the main character, which is often a female part, is acted by a male). It involved a good bit of audience participation, like booing the bad guy or shouting a certain phrase. The kids really enjoyed it, but I think their favorite part is when a certain musical number was sung to “Gangnam Style”!

Another thing I’m really thankful for this year is a lesson in how much STUFF is not necessary. We came over here with one suitcase apiece, and although I LOVE shopping, to help with our budget & keeping in mind that we’ll need to pack anything we want to bring back, I have consciously tried not to get a lot of STUFF.  This has required some imagination and thought with the Christmas gift-giving season approaching. Jim and I are both happy with spending our gift money on travel and events we’d like to attend. The kids are still getting presents, even toys, but we’re trying to keep the size & number small. After cleaning out our house in July to prepare for this exchange, and the sheer number of items we took to consignment or Goodwill, I’d like to try to keep this lesson learned!!

We are missing family and friends from back home, but know that you are all one more thing to be thankful for! We are also excitedly counting down the days until Bob & Virginia (Jim’s parents) arrive to visit with us for several weeks – only 2 days left!

Friday, November 30, 2012

What it was was football

One of the things about going to live in Scotland for a year was that I would get the chance to be fully immersed in a football (soccer) culture.  If you know me, you know that I have a huge passion for the beautiful game, having played it, watched it, and coached it for over 35 years.  Football rules here in Scotland; it is the lead story on any media that revolves around sport and it is the topic of discussion when you put more than two males together.  As I drive to school, I listen to TalkSport which is a radio station that does essentially what the name implies, yet 80% of the talk is football.  On TV, I have Sky Sports News (the ESPN News equivalent) and again the coverage on it is overwhelmingly football.

I am also greatly enjoying the opportunity to play on a regular basis and Friday is my football day.  Every Friday, I play during my 50 minute lunch period.  A group of 5 to 10 staff members will play in the gymnasium for about 20-25 minutes, followed by a quick shower, and finish the teaching day.  Twenty-five minutes does not sound like much, but with small sided games indoors, the pace is very quick and everyone gets winded quickly.  It is quite fun and I have enjoyed the time getting to know other staff members besides the members of the Maths department.   

Also on Friday, I play with a group of men that my exchange partner Graeme Cromb used to play with.  They usually gather at Queen Anne’s high school (sometimes other places depending on the number of participants) on a turf field.  Each week, Craig (the organizer) sends out texts to see who is going to play, people reply, and then the teams get set.  We usually play 8 v8, but the sides have been larger and smaller.  The ages of players range from the early 20’s to mid 50’s but that is just a guess.  The talent level is quite good with most of the players’ touches on the ball and moves being better than mine.  I am able to compensate some with my hustle and my “box to box” mentality, but playing here has definitely reminded me that my skills on the ball are lacking.  Some games I leave the pitch feeling like I am this stupid American that just picked up the game and other times I feel like I have contributed extremely well, but I would not trade the fun playing at all.  By the time I return to the house after the Friday evening game I am knackered (very tired), but I continue to do it every chance I get.

Last night, I went to left the house to play and the weather was typically Scottish for winter.  There was a light rain and the temperature was around 34°.  As we played, the temperature dropped some and it started snowing but it did not accumulate and we just played on.  I was a little cold at first but once I got running around, I hardly noticed the cold even though I was wearing a long underwear top with a t-shirt over that as well as playing in shorts.  It probably helped that I played quite well last night, scoring a couple of goals and getting a couple of assists.

All in all, I love being immersed in a football culture and for me personally, it is one of the highlights of the year abroad.

Monday, November 26, 2012


This Saturday was fun! On Saturday, we went on a hike up in Blairgowrie, Scotland. It was a six kilometer (about four mile) hike. Good thing I walk three miles every day, because I would've never walked that in America!

For the first third of the hike, we walked along a river that joins up with the river Tay. There were some cool parts to that river like a waterfall,
a cool overlook , and a bridge with cool ice crystals on it.

For the second part of the walk, we walked along a gravel farm road and saw some sheep.

Apparently, the noises we were making to get the sheep to come towards us sounded like wolf noises to them. Then a woman with puppies came along and the puppies jumped on me. Cara and I had fun jumping on frozen puddles on the ground and also picking the ice up, throwing it, and breaking it. I actually found a piece of ice that was a lowercase Y! Then we walked another mile through town.

We had lunch at a cafe called 31. I had some good Mac and Chips there. I hope we can go to Blairgowrie again soon because I had fun there!

Friday, November 16, 2012


On Halloween, first we greeted a bunch trick-or-treaters (dad was at school and Carter was out with his friends) then mom and I watched TV.  Soon Carter and his friends came to our house.  They came in and had hot chocolate and pizza. Next they went upstairs to his room to play.  After a while his friends left and dad came back.  Finally I got dressed and we left.  This year I was a witch.
People really liked my poem (in Scotland we have to tell jokes and stuff to get treats).  If we don’t we get tricks.  One guy even gave me two for my poem.  We went to like seven or eight houses then went back home (it was because it was really late and dark).  We even trick-or-treated at our house because Carter got more candy than me. Candy in Scotland is called sweeties, my favorites were a Cadbury variety, I also got some coins. Then we greeted a couple more trick-or-treaters.  Next I went to bed.
Here is the poem I wrote:
A blood-curdling, frightening witch riding on her broom
a vicious, spooky ghost bringing people doom,
3 angry pumpkins rolling down a hill,
a hairy, drooling werewolf giving me a chill,
lots of happy children walking down the street,
I walked up to a house and asked for a treat.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rugby game

We went to a rugby game this weekend with Scotland playing against New Zealand, the All Blacks. Rugby is kind of like American football, except that you don't have to stop play every 5 seconds. It is very rough, because you don't have many (if any) pads or a helmet on. To score points, you have to score a tri, worth 5 points. After that, you get an extra kick, worth 2 points. This is different from football because in football, you kick from straight on from the goalposts, while in rugby you kick from about the same distance, but from the sideline! You can also kick from the sidelines another time (I don't know when or why) and score 3 points, kind of like a field goal. Another thing different about rugby is that you can only pass the ball backwards to a player. The only way you can get the ball forward is to kick it forward to a teammate or on a throw in (yes, they have throw ins).

The people that we went with were a PE coach and some kids from Dad's school. I admit that I didn't really look out the window at the Edinburgh sights that much because I was listening to my iPod. Then again, you get pretty bored if you're stuck in traffic for half an hour and you're looking at the same thing for a while. When we got there, we found our seats and then went looking for some food. We found some, but we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes (yes, fish and chips are that popular here) and then went back to our seats and waited for the game to start. Before the game, since it was Remembrance Sunday for WWI, we had a moment of silence to remember those who had died serving their countries in combat. It started and ended with a cannon shot. That was kind of cool because you could see the cannon shot before you heard it.

Then the game started with New Zealand scoring first with the score 0-3. A few minutes later, Scotland came back and scored a tri and an extra kick leaving the score 7-3 the rest of the half was a blur with New Zealand scoring a bunch of tri's, extra kicks, and field goals. Scotland scored one more field goal in the first half, but that didn't make up for much. The score at half-time was something like 24-10.

During half time, there were team GB Olympians out walking around the field. I got to hi-5 almost all of them, even Chris Hoy, Britain's all time olympic gold medalist! The second half was pretty much the same with Scotland scoring 2 tri's and a few field goals. The only thing that could have been a little better was if the action was spread out more because in the first half, New Zealand dominated and in the second half, Scotland (kind of) dominated and we were on the other end of the field from the action.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scotland - weeks 12-14

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been so long since we wrote a blog post! Carter has the next 2 days off school and Cara has one day off (teacher workdays), so I’m hoping to encourage them to write a little (maybe they’ll tell GG about Halloween!)
So, to catch you up, on Sunday, October 28th, we were going on a drive along the coast toward Anstruther, which has an award winning Fish and Chips Shop. As we were driving we told the kids what the plans were, and they asked if we couldn’t head to the town of Dundee and visit the science center instead. Being fantastic parents, we said why not & didn’t take the turn toward Anstruther, but went north to Dundee. We arrived without a picnic lunch, since we had intended to eat fish and chips, so instead we hunted down a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) because we’ve been wondering what it tastes like over here. Since I know you’re dying to find out, it tastes quite good, isn’t quite the same flavor as in the States, and you cannot get biscuits, HOWEVER the chips (fries) were some of the best we’ve had so far.
Carter's Manga morph from Sci Centre

Since I hadn’t planned on going to the science center, I was a little apprehensive that it might not be that great, but it turned out to be based on the 5 senses and quite nice. It kept us busy on a somewhat drizzly Scotland day & we really enjoyed it!
Cara's Manga morph

October 30th Cara had a Halloween Disco at her school, sponsored by the parent council. She got dressed up in her colorful witch costume, we dropped her off at her school for an hour & she had a great time dancing with her friends. The next day, of course, was Halloween, which is celebrated, but a little different in Scotland.
our little witch

The following weekend we went to Loch Lomond which is about an hour west of us. In Scotland, a loch is a lake (it’s also pronounced with a German CH at the end of loch). I had wanted to go to the Scottish Wool Centre since another Fulbright teacher shared her experience. I knew that they were supposed to do sheep shearing in the summertime, and we would miss that, but we had been told that there were sheepdogs rounding up the sheep a couple times a day.
feeding the ponies apple slices

Unfortunately, we found out after arriving that that too had stopped the previous month (a little disappointing). Instead, we headed into the shop & browsed their sweaters, tweed, and food items. Jim ended up getting a Harris Tweed flat cap while Cara convinced us to get some shortbread sheep that were quite tasty!
Jim in a flat cap (just in case you wondered what that was)

We then headed to the town of Balloch, which is on the southern tip of Loch Lomond. We took a walk around the edge of the loch & enjoyed the views of water and fall colors. You won't see any pics of this, because I forgot all our cameras and was stuck with my ipod for pics which isn't that great:-)

at the Anstruther harbour

On Sunday, Nov 4th, we headed toward the coast to Anstruther and Crail, little fishing villages. The weather was much nicer, and we enjoyed a delicious fish and chips lunch at Anstruther Fish and Chips shop (with even tastier chips/fries).
award winning fish n chips!
We walked around the harbor area and then headed to the very tip of the Firth of Forth (river mouth) to the town of Crail. There is an extensive walking trail (Fife Coastal Path – 82 mi), which connects a lot of the seaside towns and has amazing views.

We started out at a coastal playground for the kids and then walked to the harbor. Carter & I loved the sign of the car falling into the harbor!

The very next day, Monday, was Guy Fawkes day. In the UK, this is often celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. Here in Dunfermline, we walked to the local park, The Glen, and watched a lovely fireworks display set to music. It was only about 20 minutes long, but had a ton of fireworks and some unusual ones we hadn’t ever seen before.

This last weekend, we headed to St. Andrews. On the way, we stopped at the Scottish Deer Centre. The centre has several fields with about 14 different kinds of deer, some native to the UK and some from other countries. There were reindeer, wolves, birds of prey and sheep.

We enjoyed a ranger walk & talk, bought deer feed & got dirty, slobbery hands in return, and took some great pics. My ultimate moment was when I was bent down near a fence & trying to be helpful by flicking feed that had fallen outside the fence, which the deer were struggling to reach. In return, one of the deer (quite a big one) licked my hair – Ugh! Fortunately Jim had brought a hand towel, so I was able to get mostly clean!

After the deer centre, we headed on to St. Andrews, ate lunch at a pub, visited the Castle, and ran into a couple other exchange teachers from Canada, whom we had already met. It was nice getting to visit with others with the same experiences.

So far we have really enjoyed our time in Scotland. I have absolutely LOVED having a year off from work. You would think that I would be bored & have nothing to do, but this hasn’t been the case yet. My typical day starts by awaking sometime in the 6 am hour, catching up on news from home on Yahoo & Facebook, and then eating breakfast & helping the kids get ready for school. They both have become quite independent & usually fix their own lunches to take to school! After walking Cara to school (Carter has been walking himself the 1.5 miles one way for about 2 months or so), I usually come home, do 2-3 loads of laundry, wash dishes, and clean. For fun, I plan our next trip(s), finding good rates at hotels & transport.

Wednesdays I usually bake a loaf of French bread and breakfast rolls. For the last month, I have been volunteering at the kids schools. One day a week, I go to Carter’s school & help out in the library for most of the day, and another day I go to Cara’s school and help out in a first grade classroom. It’s going to be quite a transition coming back to NC & getting into a regular work schedule, but I am missing my coworkers & students & have loved being at the kids’ schools & interacting with kids again!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Arthur's Seat & the Pars

View from Arthur's Seat

After our big fall holiday throughout the British Isles, we decided to do things a little closer to home this weekend.   Saturday morning, we drove into Edinburgh and climbed up on top of Arthur’s Seat, which the main peak of a group of hills just to the east of Edinburgh.  Some people might call it a mountain because it does rise rather dramatically above the city, but it is really only a little over 800 feet high. 

It was rather cool but the skies were nice and clear.  We took a loop road around the back side of the hill and parked the car near a pond.  The hike up was steep, but relatively short. 
on top of Arthur's Seat

On top of Arthur’s Seat, the winds were really blowing and the wind chill had to be below freezing.  I know I had trouble talking as it felt like my lips & face were numb.  However, the views from on top were outstanding.  We could see all of Edinburgh spread out below us, with great views of Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace (Queen’s home while in Scotland), Calton Hill, and Easter Road (football stadium were Hibernian or “Hibs” play).  Carter and Cara had great fun playing with the sheets of ice that had formed in the frozen puddles at the top of the hill.  We enjoyed being on top and look forward to going back in the future and exploring Salisbury Crags which is a lower hill even closer to the city center.
Salisbury Crags - our next destination hike

We returned to our home in Dunfermline and in the afternoon went to our first Dunfermline Athletic Football Club match.  The team is known by the nickname of the Pars and they play at East End Park which is about ¾ of a mile walk from our house.  Dunfermline is playing in the Scottish First Division, which is the 2nd tier of football in Scotland, and with this win it put them at the top of the table.  Carter brought a friend form school with him and the rest of the family went along as well.  We sat in the end behind the goal and watched Dunfermline beat Cowdenbeath 3-0. Dunfermline dominated the match and did a very good job of passing and running off of the ball.  I think we all had a good time, but we agreed that the next match we attended, we would be better prepared for the colder weather.  Stacy, Cara, and I had two jackets, but our legs got a little cold as well as our hands.  Carter and his friend very much enjoyed the match and hope next time to get to touch the ball as it goes out the end of the pitch and into the stands.
Pars Stadium

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn Holidays – Days 11-13

Our next day in Wales found us going to Conwy Castle which is another of Edward I castles that were built in the late 1200s to control the Welsh people and countryside.  Conwy Castle is smaller than Caernarfon Castle and in not as great shape but it is still extremely interesting to wander around.  While many of the castles in Wales were never fully completed, Conwy Castle was built to its full plans in 4 years.   The castle sits on a rocky piece of land jutting into the Conwy River and is the anchor to the walled city of Conwy.

We arrived in Conwy on Wednesday morning and immediately walked toward the castle by passing through a gate of the walled city.  We discovered that we could walk on the wall as our route for getting to the castle. 

Once inside the castle, Carter had fun exploring every crevice and passageway and his shadow, Cara, was not far behind.  After our experiences of walking up and down all of the turrets of Caernarfon Castle, we created a new strategy of walking the ramparts and then taking small trips up to the turrets.  Once this was completed, we then toured the lower portions of the castle.  The views from the turrets were outstanding, with great views in every direction.  We could easily see the entire walled city of Conwy as well as its harbor and the surrounding countryside.  We found it interesting that the railway system went right past the castle and its bridge structure was incorporated into the look of the castle structure.

After touring the castle, it was time for lunch, so we took our baguette, Welsh butter, cheese, and meat (PB and nutella for Cara) down to the harbor for a picnic by the river.  The sun was shining and the water looked great so we sat on a bench ate our lunch.  Stacy and I really like the fresh bread with the Welsh butter.  Carter was on bird patrol, keeping the seagulls and other birds of “lunch” prey away from our bench.  I think he walked more during lunch than on our castle tour but he did do a great job of keeping the birds at bay. 

After lunch, we walked a bit on the city wall, stopping to play at a playground, and then continued our walk around the city. 

Leaving Conwy, we tried to go to the Orme, which was a big rock mountain jutting into the sea at Llandudno, but the road was closed going around it.  We then tried to go to an ice cream shop that Stacy had found in a guidebook, but it was also closed.  Undeterred, we stopped at a store called Sweets and Treats and Carter and Cara got candy sticks, called rocks in the UK.  We then headed back to our hotel in Caernarfon, looking again at another rainbow.  Amazingly, we saw more rainbows in Wales than we did in Ireland.  I bet we saw one or two in Ireland, while we saw 10 or more in Wales. 

Since Stacy and I enjoyed it so much, our dinner for this evening was back to the Blue Boy Inn.  I got to sit in a pub, watch England vs. Poland, have a cask ale, and eat dinner.  What could be better than that?

I also thought it interesting to note that most people in the pub were excited when Poland scored but it makes sense.  The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and N. Ireland, with England being the dominant partner.  The other three countries tend to feel that England is the overbearing older sibling and there is often a sporting mentality of anybody but England.  I definitely noticed that in the pub while watching the game.

Leaving Wales and heading to York

Our next day had us packing up to leave Wales and head to the English city of York.  Along the way we stopped at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in the town of Llangollen in Wales.  The aqueduct is a raised 11 foot wide canal bridge that rises 128 ft over the River Dee and is 1000 ft long.  Over 200 years ago, much of this area of Wales used water to transport goods and the canal was built to facilitate that transport.  Now it appears that the canals are used for private transport, with people having long narrow house boats to travel the canal system.  The bridge from a distance looks impressive, but it is truly amazing to realize that it is really a water bridge.  We were able to see a boat crossing the bridge, to walk across the bridge, and to walk under the bridge.

Leaving Llangollen, we headed to York.  After dealing with a few traffic issues we arrived at our hotel and went to the National Railway Museum in York.  We got there around 3 in the afternoon and started in looking at the trains.  Carter, Cara, and I got to ride a miniature train around for about 5 minutes.  Inside the Great Hall, we saw many old trains and got to climb on a few.  We saw the flying Scotsman, the Hogwarts Express and even a Japanese bullet train.  We felt that the museum was lacking in some of its exhibits (closed or tired exhibits), probably due to lack of funding since it was not a fee museum.  Also contributing to our feelings was the fact that we got there late in the day and also late in our holiday tour.  I think we would really enjoy the museum a great deal more if we attended it another time and I would recommend going to the National Railway Museum to anyone.

We had dinner at a Pizza Express, which sounds like fast food but is really a somewhat fancy sit down pizza restaurant.  The pizza was good and the kids enjoyed the doughballs and dessert.  After dinner, we took a short walk into the center of York.  It is another walled city and it has a very gorgeous cathedral in its center.  We got to it just as an Evensong service was concluding and the Cathedral was closing for the evening.  Both Stacy and I decided that York is a place that we would like to come back and explore.  The center of the city looked very intriguing inside walls and the Cathedral looked very much like a place to explore.  Also, apparently the city is known for Chocolate since there are several chocolate tours of the city (no samples though :-).

Last Day – Hadrian’s Wall and the drive home.

On our last day of our holiday tour, we headed to Hadrian’s Wall, in particular the Housesteads Roman Fort.  The drive took us about an hour longer than anticipated due the fog and accidents on the motorway but we made it nonetheless. 

Hadrian’s Wall was built back in 122 AD, most likely as a border to keep barbarians out of the Roman colonized areas of Briton.  The place we visited was called Housesteads, which was the location of a Roman fort along the wall.  There were forts scattered along the mile approximately 5 to 10 miles apart and the troops in the forts patrolled sections of the wall to keep out the barbarians.  The basic foundations of the fort are still in place, so we were able to walk around on the old rocks and bricks of the fort.  The fort probably held around 1000 soldiers so the area enclosed was quite large.  It was fascinating to see and read about the intricate details of the fort like a latrine with running water, bath/steam houses for officers, or even an elevated grain house to keep out pests.  I also thought it was quite amazing that the fort was most likely built by the actual soldiers since I incorrectly assumed that the forts were built by slave labor.  The kids had fun climbing around and reading the information plaques since mom was going to give them a quiz later as we were traveling.

On our way home, we stopped at the border of Scotland and England, and it felt quite nice to get back to our adopted country.  I did not realize how attached I had become to Scotland but it felt good to be home even though at that point we still had at least an hour to travel (actually 2 since the traffic around Edinburgh was hectic even at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon) .

In regards to our entire autumn holiday, there are a few things that we might do differently if we were ever to do it again, but the entire experience was wonderful (even traveling in a small car for 13 days with Carter & Cara being squirrelly).  The break has been nice and believe it or not, I am not dreading going back to school.  I really wish the school system in NC could have something like a fall break, where families (and teachers) can get away for a while and go to places during an off peak time.

Our official mileage for our autumn holiday was 1,653 miles!! (Thanks for driving it all, Jim)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Autumn Holidays - days 9 & 10

Day 9 –
Today we left Dublin and took the car ferry to Holyhead, Wales. I really like travelling by ferry, because once you park your car, you walk up a few stairs & have one or more decks to relax, shop, walk on the outside deck, eat at a restaurant, coffee or snack bar, etc.

Lighthouse at sunrise Dublin Harbour

Our ferry departed at 8:20 am, and arrived in Wales at 11:45. We drove from Holyhead and made our way toward Caernarfon. Along the way, we stopped at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, because it is the longest place name for a village in Europe.
Longest town name

After arriving in Caernarfon (cuh-nar-von), we went to the Caernarfon Castle. This is the castle where Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969. Some of it is ruins or was never completed, but you can still walk up several of the towers and around the walls.
Carter on the ramparts at Caernarfon Castle
inside the castle walls
the town of Caernarfon has old walls around it to keep it safe

We also walked around the town of Caernarfon trying to get oriented and find a place to eat dinner. After checking into our hotel, we headed back to the Black Boy/Black Buoy Inn. The pub was old with dark wood beams and a nice, toasty coal fire. Our dinner was one of the best of our trip, and the cask ales were right up Jim’s alley!

getting toasty by the fire

Day 10 –
Today we woke to a drizzly morning of rain; however we headed out to explore parts of Snowdonia National Park. We were headed to the town of Betws Y Coed for a hike, but since it was still raining, we headed a little north to a woolen mill and museum. We were hoping to see several of the manufacturing processes; however they were replacing a part, so we didn’t see a lot of action.

Fairy Falls in Trefriw

After leaving the mill, the sun was starting to shine, so we went on a short hike to Fairy Falls and then back to Betws Y Coed for a picnic lunch by the river and a walk along the river. Our walk took us through a couple of sheep field and the kids had fun pointing out all the “sheep beans” and working hard to avoid walking in them!
Avoiding sheep beans!
Can you believe a brother would do THIS?!

Driving back through Snowdonia and up over a mountain pass, we loved the stunning beauty of the rocky landscape dotted with small waterfalls cascading from the heights and sheep dotting the mountainsides.
How many sheep do YOU see?
views in Snowdonia
view of the slate mine

We stopped at the National Slate Museum for a free tour, of which Cara was excited about the kid’s playground and Carter was not-so-excited about any of it, but it turned out better than expected. We toured a little portion of the old slate mine headquarters and then took in a slate splitting demonstration. The gentleman giving the demonstration picked Carter out of the group and said that at about the age of 11 or 12, boys would usually start in slate mining, and so he was asked if he would like to split some slate. He has given some instruction and hit his finger a bit with the hammer, but ended up with a nicely split piece of slate (to take home, no less!!).
Carter working at splitting slate

A little later, since Cara was the only other child there, our demonstrator made her a lovely slate heart ornament, to demonstrate how they can shape pieces. What lucky kids!!
Cara receiving her ornament

We ended another lovely day with a takeout dinner of fish and chips (and PB&N for Cara) – yum! Carter rated the fish better than Alari’s (our local in Dunfermline, so that’s pretty good)!