Fending Off Solutions, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:49am


I know I told you my tall old Chinese elm fell over this spring. Not that you needed to remember, of course. It kneeled down as I was looking out the window. No damage to our house, very little damage to anything, but we were suddenly treeless.

That tree had defined the yard, and to an extent, the house. I have so many windows that used to look out on leaves, through which the sun now streams and streams. My garden also depended on the shade. Hydrangeas, ferns, dogwood, phormium, dicentra, myosotis. Lots of plants have burned.

But I am not primarily sad.

At first, yes. The tree was alive, I felt I knew it, that it had a self. I mourned. But I’ve moved on to learning. I am not the Buddha, this is a cognitive practice of fallible humans. Learning what? How not to solve for beauty. How not to jump to conclusions. How to focus on the deepest problem.

By nature, I think visually and rapidly, inferring a whole from barely seen patterns. I let visual and barely processed cues guide me. No patience. I’ve had to sit with an unmet need, no blinking. It feels weird. I’ve made myself live through hot day after hot day. Not very happily. I water by hand so as to pay attention.

I hold up. I tell myself, “Wait. Do not assume you know how to screen the neighbor’s roof or where to move the purple iris. Focus on first understanding whether or not you will plant another tree.  Then save the plants you love. It’ll be beautiful again. Maybe next year.”

The elm fell about five months ago. Since then I’ve installed five olive trees in pots on the patio, to shade our windows. I’ve moved two hydrangeas and a fuchsia out of the direct sun. Fuchsia, meet daphne.

I’ve let another hydrangea die, I’ve weeded, I’ve planted succulents. And I’ve come to the conclusion that we have no choice but to plant another tree, exactly where the elm was. Well, we could put up a shade sail, strung from the house, but that’s not my style. I want to see green grow.

Meanwhile, butterflies, who don’t mind about the tree. A Gulf Fritillary in the side yard.

Where I also let thistles grow, then go to seed and down.

Turns out thistles are the larval food of Painted Lades. Yesterday I had four flapping around my big abelia hedge, at the same time. I suspect I also housed their caterpillars but too many prickers to be certain.

Here’s the new Cecile Brunner rose in my front yard. I put it in a year or so ago, when a large juniper died – the drought has been hard on us all around – it’s grown a lot in its first two years.

Even over the fence into the back. Above the thistle. The benefits of change don’t always announce themselves in advance.

 

Have a good weekend my friends. La vie est sometimes belle.

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Searching For The Rewards Of Patience, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:15am


I know that when reading a blog I generally don’t want to hear about its inner workings. How often people write, their thought process about topics, oof, some part of me needs to suspend disbelief and expect magic.  With that acknowledgement, I’m going to go right ahead and turn on the klieg lights. Imagine a clank and whirr as they illuminate. Greasepaint in evidence. Sorry in advance. Although you guys are probably nicer than I and will forgive.

OK. So. Going forward I’ll be blogging on Saturdays only. That doesn’t mean I will only write the kind of posts Saturdays have most often produced. I’ll keep up the full range of topics – but only once a week.

However, traditionally I do not monetize Saturdays. So, in addition to the calendar change, no more affiliate links in posts.  I’ve got one more shopping piece in the works, about dressing up over 60, but subsequent posts will be non-commercial. I might add the ads back to the sidebar, and keep updating shopping widgets on the About page, but no more “Links may generate commissions” at the bottom of the new posts.

If you are interested in next level of detail and motive, well, thank you. Maybe this degree of deconstruction is useful if you’re also retired, and also sorting out how to make the best of it.

  • I have come to realize that I am wired to need a big project.
  • The blog or a job or both have been my big projects for the past eight and a half years.
  • But I’ve never been willing to push the blog to become as successful, by general blog parameters, as I would have needed to get the full satisfaction of A BIG PROJECT.
    • This is wholly my doing. I have insisted on my slightly quirky perspective. I have insisted on writing about stuff that thrilled me – style was a convenient hook. However, I’m retired now; I’m not the sort to dress dramatically absent drama; therefore I don’t often find clothes thrilling. Fun, just not thrilling.
  • I had thought I’d move to writing short posts about politics. Little did I know just how crazy things were going to get. Little did I know that the best minds and the best writers of our generation would respond. Makes sense, of course, but who am I to opine when Garrison Keillor is out there?
  • So I am going to attempt a piece of long-form writing. I am not at all sure I will finish. I doubt my own capabilities but I’m going to try anyway.
  • Therefore, I need to clear out some space and time.
  • Hence, one post a week.
  • Hence, giving up monetization, which takes a lot to implement and seduces me into checking on how it’s going. And, a detail but important, provides short term pleasure that can distract from long term goals.
  • I am framing the foregone rewards, of your frequent comments and small dollars, as rent I am paying to an internal landlord of imagination.

I hasten to add, I’m all for monetized writing. I love Sue and Grechen and others, as you know. I am so happy Janet has started linking, she’s a talent. And I’m sure other Sue and Leslie could monetize if they wanted to, and I’d applaud them if they did. Although of course I support them if they don’t.

Monetization is just a distraction. For me. And I’m going to need focus.  I always want to jump up, to check off, to cut to the proverbial chase. I’d like to learn patience.

I also hasten to add, I’m not going away and I don’t want to go away. Just trying something that I’d regret if I didn’t.

Have a good weekend. Best of wishes to all in Irma’s path, may she turn in the least damaging direction possible and may all of you stay safe.

 

Looking Heat Square In The Face, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:56am


As you may have heard San Francisco broke heat records yesterday, with temperatures of 106℉. Down here on the Peninsula we went even higher, to 108, but I was still happy to be in my suburban house. At least here we can open the front door (the back door the bedroom doors the windows) and hose down the patio to cool ourselves as black slate steams.

And no, we don’t have air conditioning. Until this year it has never felt necessary. I’ve lived in this house since 1986, in the Bay Area off and on since 1960. While we’d always have 3 days here and there over 90℉, of a summer, this kind of heat is new to us.

Today they’re predicting we’ll be down to 103. Whoa.

So I guess we’ll get up and get out and go places with A/C. I’ve already rewatered the hydrangea I transplanted closer to the lawn. I wanted to consolidate the sprinklered areas of my back yard, but didn’t plan for this heat. Transplants wilt so easily. I’ve doused our new potted olive trees, lined up in front of our back windows to replace an iota of the shade we lost when our big tree fell down. I’ll leave a plate of water out for the butterflies. And off we go to the world of humans in 2017.

I know I’m nostalgic, yearning for the landscape and climate of my childhood, for burnished California hills and summers. And let’s be serious, it’s supposed to return to 75 here at end of the week, while the survivors of Hurricane Harvey have months if not years of struggle ahead. No sympathy required for me.

Better to make a plan. I can at least vow to do nothing going forward that would increase my use of fuels and power. No air conditioning, for example, unless I trade my old Rav4 in for an electric car. Better yet, a bicycle. I read an article recently reporting on California’s progress with sustainable power – excellent – but lack of progress on transportation emissions – problematic.

So maybe no air conditioning even if I do get electric wheels. Nothing like discomfort to gee up our activism.

Have a wonderful weekend. I do think it’s possible to look all this square in the face and still enjoy time with family, the quiet of a Saturday morning, the smell of crushed lavender from the bunches you gathered last year and tied with a raffia ribbon. Looking the other way never disappears anything.

All the best to you and yours.

 

I Kinda Had To, Right?


Along with the new skirt, my birthday loot included a couple of pretty shirts that unfortunately didn’t fit. So I returned them to Nordstrom and came home with this in their stead.

I kind of had to, right? Butterflies, on a cotton/silk blend that is my favorite kind of fabric almost in the whole world. I didn’t think the colors would work, but the lepidoptera is more brown than orange and I squeaked in under my personal yellow-hues percentage. With brown Dickers and an Étoile Isabel Marant jacket? Oh yeah.

And I haven’t actually even had my birthday. Nice work family, thank you very much.

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What To Wear When You Are Over 60 And It’s Too Hot For Jeans


As must be evident, I mostly wear jeans. The thing is, it’s gotten too hot to wear them in summer, at least around here. Long dresses are great, but, what if you just want something to throw on with a t-shirt? And if you’re thinking, wait, it’s fall, not here. In California we often get some of our hottest days in September.

Enter a jersey tube skirt. This is what I asked my sister to give me as a birthday present, lo and behold her success. Some would wear this with a long shirt, on me I think it’s best with an adult crop top, AKA a short tee.

From Eileen Fisher, size S/PS, organic cotton jersey. Worn with my SEA tee, white Gizeh Birkenstocks, an Eric Javits hat from Nordstrom, simple Blue Nile gold ball posts, and Ray-Ban aviators. Matte liquid lipstick from Bare Minerals, color is Juju, a lighter, rosier tone than Boss, my other favorite.

La di da and out the late summer door, no sweat, literally or figuratively. (BTW, this mirror is quite slimming, so trust me when I tell you that I look a little broader than this in the flesh, and trust me when I tell you la di da to that too;)). Being over 60 has its perks.

 

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When Eyelids Behave Badly, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:38am


I had the weirdest illness this week. At least I think it was an illness but I’m not quite sure. One night I was lying on the sofa watching television on my laptop and something flew into my eye. Or so it felt. Not sure what it was, a bug, a feather, or whether indeed it was anything other than a body tantrum.

Next thing I knew my eyelid had swollen dramatically. Stayed that way for a few days. My throat got sore, I got tired. I went to the doctor, she gave me antibiotic eyedrops, they are helping. But I do feel a bit as though I was hit by an invisible man, and am standing on the sidewalk waiting for an transparent finger to poke me again.

Ah, far too dramatic. And by the way that’s just a story to give context to my silence this week.

Today, my son and my daughter and my daughter’s boyfriend are all visiting. So wonderful. Tomorrow we will go up to my father and stepmother’s place, to jointly celebrate August, September and October sibling birthdays. I look forward to a day with much, if not all, of my family.

I hope you all are in good health, and that your summer is winding down peacefully. Thanks as always for your presence.

Humanity, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:58am


This is one of those moments when I don’t think I have an apolitical Saturday post in me.

I could tell you that a Monarch finally visited my milkweed patch. I was thrilled, yes, but given the other events of this week in America I can’t do butterflies this morning.

Let me leave you with a thought. An American I know who is married to a Swede and lives in Sweden told me there Southern Europeans aren’t considered “white.”

What does that tell us? What then is “white?” What does this mean for the idea of “white” in America? Why is there “white?”

You guys are smart. I’m not going to belabor the obvious. Maybe this will surprise you, as it did me, maybe it will clear your eyes as it did mine. Or maybe you already understood.

There is so much difficult work to be done, but on Saturday morning let’s allow ourselves to believe it’ll be easy. Consider the idea of humanity, and what it means to be humane.

Two Weeks In Scotland And England With My Adult Son: Part 2, England


England

Actually let’s finish up Scotland. Because when you and I last spoke, my son and I hadn’t yet departed. Guess what happened when we tried to check in at the Edinburgh airport? Cancelled plane. Minxish conveyances!

We had had tickets to Gatwick, final destination Brighton. Due to “an incident on the Gatwick runway,” and resultant shutdown of afternoon flights, British Airways had rebooked us to Heathrow. It’s only an hour from Gatwick to Brighton but Heathrow meant an hour+ ride into London and then another hour+ down to Brighton. Sigh.

My son did an excellent job of talking me down. As did the Xanax I take to cope with fear of flying. We got where we were going.

Hint: Travel with calming people and substances.

Brighton

Why Brighton, you might ask? Why not Bath, for more Georgian townhouses? Or Stonehenge, for the ultimate standing stones? I’ve got online buddies in Brighton and was dying to meet their children and understand where they lived.

So, Tuesday morning we woke up here, at an airbnb in Brighton’s “Lanes” neighborhood. Alleys, cobblestones, and walled gardens. With palms.

The house was wonderful, and the host a real gem (who even subsequently mailed me the clothes I left there, no fuss no muss). Loud nocturnal seagulls were our only complaint, but, earplugs were provided in a basket next to the bed. Very considerate.

We spent midday with Laura of baby, picture this (I’ve written about her and her photography before), and her beyond cute daughter, picnicking in the Brighton Palace Gardens.

Then my son and I walked down to the sea. I had visited Brighton once as an 11-year old, only to accuse my parents of lying to me by calling the seaside slope of rocks a “beach.” Brighton then was populated by English pensioners, now it reminds me of some Californian coastal towns. The pensioners remain, but they’ve joined forces with London commuters, artists, and flocks of European high-schoolers on summer courses.

Resulting in, for example, a guy dressed in a zebra costume playing the keyboard to throngs of unbothered passers-by.

Hint: Visit your online friends where they live and let them show you the sights.

Time to go back to the flat. We walked through the North Laines district. So good.

Fortuitously, the district is full of small jewelry stores. We bought my son an earring. The one he wore had been giving him trouble, and what with my own metal allergies I was determined to find him something in high-carat gold or platinum. We wandered in and out of small stores until we met a jeweler with loose stones he would set to order. My son chose an oval garnet  to set in white gold, the slight discord of a brown-red stone against the setting perfect for him. One of those moments where you believe that the universe knows and cares.

Hint: Shop in Brighton instead of London, you may find more original goods.

And then we met Laura, and my other friend Cate, and their families, for dinner. While we have a long time online friendship absolutely real in its own way,  there’s no denying that real life meetings deepen connection..

Photo by my accommodating son.

All those cute children. Sigh.

London

Wednesday morning my son and I took a train up to London, botching our our first attempt because in our plane-cancelled fog we’d bought incorrect return tickets. Minxes.

We walked the streets the day we arrived because, London. Some places familiar,

and some new, at least to me. I can’t believe I’d never been to London’s Chinatown before.

But in the end, the real joy of this visit to London was our Museum Thursday.

I confess, I don’t really like museums. I know. I find all that walking and stopping uncomfortable –my sister coined the term “Museum back” – and I’m prone to visual overload. But my son is a huge fan. So I spent Wednesday evening in our hotel reviewing exhibitions and researching places mentioned on social media.

Thursday morning we ate a no-fuss breakfast at the hotel’s club lounge, and set off. On foot. First stop, the Tate Britain.

Tate Britain, Queer British Art 1861-1967

I found it moving, almost painful, to be reminded of how dangerous LBGT life used to be, and not so long ago. My son, I think, experienced the exhibition more immediately, enjoying the journals and sketchbooks, the intimate look at people across a century. Either way, it was a beautiful show and much recommended.

Vernon Lee 1881 John Singer Sargent 1856-1925 Bequeathed by Miss Vernon Lee through Miss Cooper Willis 1935

Mr. Sargent participated.

via The Upcoming

Somerset House, Perfume

My son is a scent hobbyist, not so much in the wearing or the making, but in enjoyment. Fortuitously, again, thank you universe, Somerset House had put on a really well-done interactive exhibition of various scents through history. From a display of classic perfume bottles,

to smell and ponder stations. That little white triangle is full of a perfume – unnamed. You sniff, and look,

then fill out a card like this. Ten stations in all. Fascinating.

via Wallpaper

Sir John Soane’s House/Museum

I remembered that Reggie and Boy Darling had visited Sir John’s place in 2016, and wanted to take a look.

via The Londonist

Sir John actually lived here. Whoa nelly. Curiosities ‘R Us. Perfect in contrast to what came next.

National Gallery

Finally, almost as a matter of course, we headed to the National Gallery. On arrival, we found this tapestry. Designed by Chris Ofili, who happens to be one of my son’s favorite artists, and woven in Edinburgh by a studio my friend Cara knows.

via Time Out

If you’ve got a minute, watch this short video on the process of creation.

But really, the piece needs to be seen in person. It’s enormous; for context, here you see it hanging on a double height wall.

via BBC

Made me want to sing.

Hint: Feel no shame if you decide to dash in and out of the world’s great museums, seeing only what you choose.

And that was that. Back to New York the next morning, this time our Delta flight a Virgin Airlines Upper Class. I will only say that we declined the option to have “my driver” drop us off at a private entrance, taking Uber to the standard entrance instead. The Upper Class lounge is fantastic – again, look for those companion-fly-free-or-half-price business fares, they come with a lot of perks.

The New And The Familiar

I’ve been thinking since we returned.

While we experienced the best of New Place Travel in Scotland – an eyes-wide reaction to the never seen before – our trip to London reminded me there’s joy in the familiar. In new places, we travel broadly, watching new patterns assemble themselves out of raw experience. In the familiar, we travel deeply, instinctually, trenching the details of patterns we knew but not so well.

Lodging and Mealing

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The Real True Circadian Rhythm Of One Retired Middle-Aged Woman, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:11am


Retirement is teaching me about my self, absent structure. Some lessons are grandly philosophical. “Where do I end and the world begin?”

Some not so much. What are my circadian rhythms, for example, when I don’t have to be much of anywhere if I don’t really want to?

  • Very early morning: Wake up. Isn’t life grand? So happy I have white walls. Gee whiz my down pillows are awesome.
  • Early morning: Have breakfast at the kitchen counter and read the Internet. Ah, the tea, toast, and peanut butter + chocolate hazelnut butter I have been looking forward to since last night. There is no reason to ever change this meal.
  • Late early morning: Move to the sofa. Time to write. Type type type type type procrastinate type type type get distracted type type type come on Lisa persevere. If brain refuses to generate quality prose, handle administrative tasks instead. Type type type.
  • Mid-to-late-morning: Cease typing. That’s it, I can’t stand it any more! Burst out of the cocoon of self-discipline and do something physical. Transplant burned hydrangea. Clean the bathroom. Go to yoga. Move.
  • Late morning/midday. Besieged by hunger, eat a big lunch. Feel satiated.
  • Late morning/midday five minutes after finishing lunch. Complete exhaustion. Rest. Stave off rising anxiety with whatever television series I’m currently watching.
  • Early afternoon. Still resting. Why is the world so vast? What means anything? Do I matter at all? And why didn’t I get more done?
  • Mid-afternoon. Oh I guess someone has to make dinner. Lay out ingredients and stare at them. Alternatively, get in the car and go visit my mother. Either way, meaning has been located. Perform the chores of care and support.
  • Late afternoon. More progress on dinner. Alternatively, say goodbye to Mom and go to Whole Foods. Funny, what happened to anxiety? Oh never mind, no time for that now.
  • Very late afternoon. More progress on dinner. Dinner prep is kind of episodic, given that it must begin in the depths of my circadian despair. Just looking at a radish and a carrot lying together on a cutting board cheers me up.
  • Early evening. Husband comes home! Joy restored! Also must hurry to finish making dinner! Chop all the things very quickly!
  • Mid-evening. Eat. Sigh.
  • Later evening. A little more television.
  • Later evening yet. Hooray, burst of energy! Bustle about tidying, preparing! Write a To Do list for tomorrow!
  • Later evening but still not late by any measure. Get into bed. The walls are still white. The pillows still soft. So lucky to be here.

In brief, if you would like any of value from me, send an email at 6am and I will do my best.

Have a wonderful weekend, and may your circadian nadir be short and shallow.

 

Two Weeks In Scotland And England With My Adult Son, Part 1: Scotland


I’ve recently returned from two weeks travel with my adult son in Scotland and England. Having drafted this post and watched it get longer and longer, I’ll publish in two parts. Scotland below, England to follow as soon as I can manage. I’ve bolded each day, like this, because if it’s hard for me to remember and track what we did I can only imagine how confusing it might be for you. Tally-ho!

Traveling in Edinburgh at 60

Edinburgh. You have to stop and stare and breathe a lot. Photo by my son.

Scotland was a revelation. That legendary land of dour people, terrible food, and worse weather? It doesn’t exist. Well, the weather is real. But the people are lovely, warm, funny, personal. The food is incredible – especially all the seafood. Even the rain, at least on our visit, was light and intermittent enough to allow for a lot of walking about.

So. We landed in Glasgow, on a Monday morning. It’s a funny little airport. The floor is covered with some kind of laminate to look like rocks, the walls by a photo mural of trees. Hint: If you have an American Express Platinum card you can find really great deals on business class. Companions fly half price, and then you can both lie down and sleep your way across the seas.

Glasgow feels like a funny little city itself – although, as the residents hasten to explain, in fact it’s pretty big. But the city spreads out, across neighborhoods, and feels sparse. Some of the architecture is beautiful, but a lot is very simple. Fitting for the city’s history of merchant traders.

A modern day merchant.

That first afternoon we walked to the Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace (a quirky and worthwhile greenhouse conservatory), the University, and the West End. All quirky, now that I think about it. Glasgow feels like a place where people are engaged in projects and you are catching glimpses but nothing’s on display.

On Tuesday we took a train out to Stirling, to see the castle. Because, Scotland.

History in stone. My favorite parts were the garden, and a choir singing modern pieces in the Great Hall. Hint: Stirling’s royal structure is WAY less crowded than Edinburgh’s, so if you want to castle in relative quiet, this is it.

When we got back from the castle we walked up to Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. If you like a nice cathedral, with pews ornamented with the coats of arms of leading merchant families, and cemeteries where many of the interred are named Alexander, this is it. Again, quirky. Intimate.

We stayed at the Glasgow Marriott, because, Starwood points. Perfectly nice building, exceptionally nice staff. (I’ve listed all the accommodation and restaurant links at the end of the post).

Wednesday we made our way north to the Isle of Skye, to catch an evening ferry.

However, before we got to island skies and the personalities of granite, we had to rent a car. This was not fun. Confusion between Amex Platinum and Hertz, to say nothing of Hertz giving us an enormous SUV when we had asked for something teeny. The bonny banks of Loch Lomond are nae sae bonny when the effort of gripping a steering wheel blurs your vision.

Scotland’s A82 does not suffer large autos gladly.

Hint: Confirm everything about your rental before you leave, including the degree to which your credit card covers your insurance, and the size of your automobile.

But oh the higher Western Highlands are something. I took no photos, perhaps because that death-avoiding grip froze my hands, but believe me Glen Coe is one of the most beautiful places on this green earth. Also the greenest. Although I know my father’s family’s roots are in the Scottish Lowlands, there’s a river here called the Carnoch, and in my imagination, when the sun shone my ancestors lay on their backs on these hillsides and ignored their hunger for the sky.

We did finally manage to muscle our way to the Isle of Skye, and the Caledonia Mac ferry in the port of Uig. Unfamiliar with the process, I asked the ticket taker when the boat would leave. “The petrol tank needs filling,” he said. I, American, was bewildered. I’d asked a clear question. “But,” I said, “When do you think the boat will leave?” “That I canna tell ye,” he said. Off he walked, turning back to grin as though I were the funniest thing in the world. We left on time.

Hint: Do not hurry through the Highlands.

Mackerel skies and a slate-blue sea delivered us to Lochmaddy, from whence we drove to Langass Lodge, on the west side of North Uist in the outer Hebrides. The hotel is splendid. My room was teeny, and cosy, and beautifully tartaned in tones of heather and bracken. You know how when you travel you suddenly covet furnishings you’ve never wanted before?

The summer sunsets out my window, well, well, well.

And, five minutes walk through the gate and up a path, stand the archeological artifacts known simply as “standing stones.” Surrounded by ferns that grow as tarweed and thistles do in my back yard. Prehistoric mankind, kept company by prehistoric fronds.

We spent the following day, Thursday, with my friend Cara and her family. They live on North Uist, and were the primary reason we decided to travel so far. Although, to be honest, my son and I both love remote. The day began in drizzle, but just as we wandered onto a white sand beach the sun broke through. My son played tag with 7-year old twin girls. Cara and I sat, and talked, and were happy to be friends.

Family photography in the Hebrides

Photo by Cara, of Bird and Bear. I love how she caught this moment like a dance. Hint: Hire her to photograph your family.

That night we had the most amazing seafood dinner ever, at a local pub. Again, a trip to Scotland would be worthwhile if only for the food.

On Friday, my son and I drove around to other landmarks on both North and South Uist. Stones and history. We happened into a local cafe, where as it happened, a group had come from a funeral. Everyone wore black. Two grown brothers shook hands with the guests. A couple who looked to be the mother and father, older, sat sad, at a corner table. We ate chips and drank tea. I felt the privilege of travel keenly.

Time came to take the ferry back to Skye. Chilly evening, wind, marine air, exhilaration.

(Wearing Barbour, Madewell jeans, Aquatalia boots, a new scarf. Because I knew I’d bring mostly black, white, gray, and brown clothes, and would be need both black and brown shoes, I bought two new scarves for the trip to give my neutrals more depth. This one, gray and white bleach print on cotton, on sale at Farfetch.)

The ferry was late. Someone kept me company. Well-scarfed himself.

The whole trip reminded me of when he was a boy playing soccer and I ferried him to and from his games. Time spent looking forward from vehicles, talking, pausing, talking, pausing. Of course I can still see him under the beard.

Since we were arriving late night in Uig, we had booked a hotel room in nearby Portree. The front desk staff at the Rosedale Hotel very kindly stayed up until midnight to let us in, and we awoke on Saturday morning to this harbor view. Hey you, you who chose to paint that house pink, can I be your best friend?

Breakfast – more smoked salmon in my case, oatmeal for my son – and back in the car. We had planned to drive east to Inverness, and then south to Edinburgh, but it became clear to me that I wasn’t up to navigating our galumph of an SUV for a final 3.5 hour leg. So we ditched the car at the Inverness airport Hertz, snagged a lift back to the city, and hopped on a train. The van driver answered our questions, unironically, “Aye.”

Phew.

Hint: Trains are awesome.

Edinburgh

As everyone besides me probably already knew, Edinburgh is gorgeous. The Old Town all cobbles and castles, the New Town (funny use of the term “New”  to a Californian), graceful Georgian townhouses. Lined up in crescents, occasionally. We stayed at an Airbnb flat – my first time using the service. The stripped wood doors and floors like works of art.

As we were in Leith, about 20 minutes walk from the center of the city, walk we did, on the evening of our arrival, to the best gay pub in the city. The Regent Bar. Welcoming as heck, for a young man and his mother. (Hint: 10:30pm is too late to get dinner at most pubs.) Then, as their kitchen was closed by the time we arrived, we walked back through the city to a Chinese take-out and home to the flat.

To wake up and walk all day Sunday.

If you love architecture, and striking views, you have to go to Edinburgh. The place exemplifies design, from simple doors on simple houses, to its Castle, which can be seen from city streets, high on a hill. Striking views that inform your experience at every turn.

For some reason, Edinburgh also has particularly good vintage shops. My son found wonderful stuff.

I didn’t shop. I did test out the premise that one can wear sneakers even in an elegant city. My son took my picture unaware, as I leaned against a wall to check restaurant listings.

Sneaker verdict: Yes, marginally acceptable, as long as one embraces one’s Artsy Cousin. With help from that intentionally neutral color scheme: new brown and black scarf from Uncommon Goods. Truly comfortable shoes from Ecco. Oak NY dress, UNIQLO down jacket, Bottega Veneta messenger bag (black & sage available now), Ray-Ban aviators.

That phone check led us here. The best meal of our trip. I thought of Janet and her blog also named The Gardner’s Cottage. I think she’d like the restaurant. Quirky, intimate, elegant. The Scottish way, it seems.

We did more wandering Monday. In fact we did more than wander; in the morning we hiked up into the park hills for a view of the city and back down through a wide meadow. That afternoon we took a bus to the airport from the train station. On to England.

Goodbye Scotland, I can’t wait to come back. Hint: Next time I’ll sacrifice suitcase space and bring light hiking boots. The scenery both demands and rewards. But I wouldn’t have changed a thing on this trip. Even the mistakes were part of it all.

My Dream Western Scottish Highlands And Islands Vacation, For The Next Trip

I’ve already started noodling a return. Do you do that? This isn’t the thing where you learn from misery, it’s when you’ve loved a place and a trip so much you want to dive deeper.

Based on our experience, and my dreams, it’d go something like this.

  • Land in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a fancy small city, which lends itself to visions of aristocracy. It’d be fun to emerge from one of those glorious Georgian townhouses every morning, and sleep cosseted, albeit jet-lagged, in your first evening. Here, perhaps. But if you really prefer a big hotel and want to be dead center of the action, we peeked into the Balmoral and it was pretty awesome. (Stay 2-3 nights).
  • Take a train to Inverness, pick up your car at the train station (Hertz lets you arrange pickups there although the office is out at the airport), drive through the Highlands, maybe at a lodge, or a castle or a fancy cottage (2 nights). This would be a flexible leg. If you’re dying to see Loch Ness (I am not), stay in Inverness for one night. If you want nothing more than green Highlands, spend both nights in the countryside. And, if you can’t bear the thought of driving on the left-side of the road, and it is hard, take a train and arrange transport to your hotels from the stations.
  • Finish this Highland drive/train journey in the Isle of Skye. If you’re still carless, rent a car in Kyle of Lochalsh, explore the Isle, stay in Portree as we did or up at this amazing-looking place (1 night). BTW, I found driving on small roads easier than on the small highways, where everyone speeds right at you.
  • Take a car ferry to the Outer Hebrides, from Uig. Visit your choice of Outer Hebrides islands. I vote for North Uist, because beaches and few crowds, and Lewis, for these standing stones, because standing stones. Return to the mainland several days later, this time further north, from Stornaway to Ullapool. (2-3 nights at places in North Uist and Lewis).
  • Drop off your rental car back in Lochalsh and hire a driver to take you down to Glen Coe. (This is a fantasy trip. If it becomes real, take a train to Fort William and talk to your hotel about local transport.) Stay near Glencoe simply, or here, fancy, and hike this extraordinarily beautiful area (2-3 nights).
  • Be driven (or take the train via Fort William) down to Glasgow. (Can you tell the road around Loch Lomond scarred me?) Stay in a Glasgow airbnb because it’s a very homey city, where people live and work visibly, and you should live like the locals (1-2 nights). This one seems quite Glaswegian to me.  Fly out next day.

Resources For The Trip We Actually Took

Hotels

  1. Glasgow Marriott in Glasgow
  2. Langass Lodge on North Uist
  3. Rosedale Hotel in Portree on Isle of Skye
  4. Henry’s Flat in Edinburgh (my airbnb referral link. If you use it I think I get some kind of credit?)

Notable Meals and/or Pub Vists

  1. Dinner at Two Fat Ladies in Glasgow
  2. Dinner at The Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow
  3. Lunch at the Glencoe Gathering in Glencoe
  4. Dinner at Westford Inn on North Uist (pub with seafood platter for days)
  5. Dinner at Hamersay House on North Uist
  6. Drinks at Regent Bar in Edinburgh
  7. Dinner at The Gardener’s Cottage in Edinburgh

England post coming up as soon as I can manage;).

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