Pikes Peak with Claudia and Scott

Have you met Claudia at The Bookwright? No? Pop over to have a look, I’ll wait…

Claudia and her husband, Scott, live near Denver and very kindly offered to pick us up and take us to Pikes Peak for the day. Colorado has 54 “Fourteeners” and at 14,115 feet Pikes Peak is only the 31st highest! But don’t worry, there’s a road all the way up (or a cog railway) so no climbing was involved. Not only that, you can eat donuts at the top – it’s amazing that they cook at such high altitudes.

It was, as you might expect, a tad chilly – but as you can see below, we all look very happy to be there.

Not far from Pikes Peak is Garden of the Gods, a park with magnificent red sandstone rock formations, many of which are over 300 million years old. We stopped off there on the way back to Denver.

We must have behaved ourselves, because next day Claudia and Scott offered to take us out again! This time, we visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The gems and minerals section was particularly impressive.

As was the Sky Terrace with its views over City Park towards the Rocky Mountains.

What an amazing two days! This was the fourth time that we have met up with fellow bloggers, and all have turned out to be lovely people. Many thanks to the wonderful Claudia and Scott for giving so generously of their time to show us around.

That’s almost it for our Summer 2016 road trip – we flew home the next day. However, we didn’t have to be at the airport until early evening so there was plenty of time for one last visit – Denver Botanic Gardens. Coming up next!

A walk around Denver

Colorado State Capitol and Civic Center Park

We found Denver to be a compact and walkable city. As our guidebook included a walking route which ended up at the State Capitol, very close to our B&B, we set off to do it in reverse.

The Capitol (1890s) wasn’t looking its very best with a bit of scaffolding round about, but we could still admire the ornate golden dome (1908) – 200 ounces of gold leaf went into that to celebrate the Colorado Gold Rush. Denver is also known as Mile High City and the 13th step up to the Capitol marks the exact point where that becomes true.

Across the road Is Civic Center Park. I liked the idea of using part of it to grow produce for food-banks.

Two Old West sculptures sit in the park, both by Alexander Phimister Proctor: Bronco Buster (1920) and On the War Trail (1922). Apparently, the model for the cowboy was arrested for murder before the statue was finished, but Proctor insisted that he should be allowed to continue posing for as long as he needed him.

To one side of the park are the public library and Denver Art Museum (DAM), both interesting buildings. The latter has one of the largest Native American art collections in the USA, which I can easily believe as we spent hours in there (including having lunch in their very fine restaurant, Palettes). Unfortunately, even though I still have the floor plan, I have not been able to caption much in the gallery below. I remember being fascinated by the video about creating the woman sitting with several infants between her legs, and could have told you its significance at the time, but now? No idea! That will teach me to leave things six months before writing them up.

Back on the street, we found plenty more art including this  40-foot-tall blue bear peeking through the window of the Convention Center (I See What You Mean by Lawrence Argent) and Jonathan Borofsky’s Dancers, two giant white figures prancing towards the Performing Arts Complex.

Our next stop was the Tattered Cover Book Store where we took the weight off our feet over a coffee. Friends had told us about this place: it was huge when they visited, but competition from Amazon and the like has reduced it to one floor. The little scene on the stairs commemorates Charlie Shugarts (1918-2007), Friend of Tattered Cover.

Our route then took us down Cherry Creek to the South Platte River. Here, in Commons Park, we found the sculptures below. I think, checking online, that these were temporary, part of an exhibition of nine sculptures by Jorge Marín called Wings of the City. I also realise I should have stood between the giant wings before John took the photo. Well, he knows I’m an angel anyway 😉

Just beyond Commons Park is the dramatic Millennium Bridge which marks the beginning of the walking tour – or, in our case, the end. We were tired after being on our feet all day and decided, rather than going back to the B&B to come out again for dinner, we would eat earlier than normal so that we could go home to relax.

This also meant we could re-admire by night some of the buildings we had walked past earlier in the day, such as this one – the Daniels and Fisher Tower. Modelled after St Mark’s Bell Tower in Venice, it originally formed part of a department store, long since demolished. Since the 1980s it has been residential and office space. Wow, I’d love to live there!

Our vacation was rapidly drawing to a close – but the next day was a highlight: a meeting with a fellow blogger. Who could that be? More soon!

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2017

In March, we gallivanted as far away as Budapest! More, much more, to come on that in due course.

So what else has been going on?

Aye Write!

Aye Write! is Glasgow’s book festival. For a couple of years I volunteered at it, but last year and this year we missed most of it by being on holiday. However, we attended a couple of sessions on the last weekend of this year’s festival.

Elaine C Smith is a Scottish actress, comedian and activist. Outside Scotland – and I’m not even sure how far this travels – she’s probably best known as Mary Doll from Rab C Nesbitt. In discussion with novelist Alan Bissett, Elaine considered The books that made me – six titles that had a defining effect on her life. She’s maybe a year younger than I am so it was intriguing to match experiences: for example, we were both entranced by The lion, the witch and the wardrobe when a teacher read it aloud to our class of seven-year olds (and we both checked our Mum’s wardrobe in case Narnia was lurking there). I’m not sure if there was meant to be time for questions – there usually is – but the conversation flowed on and on. It was great!

The other session was more formal, an excellent talk by Anne Galastro based on the current exhibition in Edinburgh Joan Eardley: a sense of place, which we saw at the end of last year, and her book of the same title. I’m not sure how many of you will have heard of Eardley (1921-1963) because she died tragically young just as she was becoming well-known outside Scotland. She had two main subjects – the area around her studio in Townhead, Glasgow, where she befriended and painted the local children, and the fishing village of Catterline in North East Scotland where she had a (very primitive) cottage. If you’re anywhere near Edinburgh I recommend going to the exhibition before it closes on May 21st. Follow the link above for details and some highlights.

Women’s History Month

Maryhill WHM Editathon

March was Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we had a Wikipedia Editathon at Maryhill where we looked for articles to update with information about women’s history and wrote some new ones.

International Women’s Day (8th March) fell while we were in Budapest, as did the European Day of the Righteous on the 6th which honours those who have resisted crimes against humanity and totalitarianism. Jane Haining brings both these commemorations and Budapest together: She was a Church of Scotland missionary working in the city when she was arrested by the Nazis in 1944. She died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz later that year, and is the only Scot to be officially honoured for giving her life to help Jews in the Holocaust. We found her name on a memorial in the synagogue that we visited, and on a road called after her.

Wedding anniversary

On 21st March John and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. We do have some more formal photographs in the loft somewhere, but finding them would involve climbing a ladder. This one comes from some old slides of Mum’s that I’ve been scanning, and shows the less than picturesque car park at the back of the church. As you can see, we didn’t go for the big white wedding – we were keen on being married, but not so keen on parties, so we kept it very small. We look so young!

Glen Finglas and Loch Ardinning

I thought I was going to have to report zero country walks, but the last weekend in March was absolutely glorious. Luckily, for the first time in weeks, we had nothing else planned so out we went.

Glen Finglas

Thanks to Elaine at I used to be indecisive whose post Glen Finglas Reservoir inspired us to take this walk on the Saturday. Our circular route climbed above the reservoir then dropped to the dam, and the site of Ruskin’s painting by Millais, before taking in the Byre Inn (excellent late lunch / early dinner) on our way back to the car.

Loch Ardinning

On Sunday, we went back to a walk that I’ve written about before – Loch Ardinning – so I’m just including a couple of shots here.

The last bit

Instead of offering you a Scottish word to enrich your vocabulary this month, I’m offering you a phrase. You might have wondered about the title of Glasgow’s book festival, as mentioned above, Aye Write! I’m not sure exactly what the organisers intend, but I see several levels of pun. Yes, write! and I write! are probably obvious, but non-Scots might not know that Aye, right! is a Glaswegian expression of some scepticism, a double positive resulting in a negative meaning, i.e. I don’t believe it! or Not likely! (Anabel: I don’t eat out much, I prefer to watch my waistline. You: Aye, right! Your observation would be quite correct.)

So that was my March. How was yours?

Rocky Mountain to Denver

Lily Lake

On our way out of Rocky Mountain National Park we stopped for a walk round the delightful Lily Lake. Our stay had been all too short.

From here we drove to Nederland where we had a coffee on the balcony of Happy Trails and people-watched for a while.

Our guidebook described Nederland as a lively, ramshackle mountain-town magnet for hippies – and we had to agree, even though we were there at the wrong time of year for either Nedfest or Frozen Dead Guy Days. Yes, really. The term Ned has other connotations for us anyway – in Scotland it’s a derogatory term meaning a non-educated delinquent!

After a stroll round town and down the creek to the reservoir, we returned to our car which was parked opposite the library. That looked the best building in the place to me – how wonderful to have a reading area on a balcony over a stream! Unfortunately, it was closed or I’d have dragged John in for a visit.

Our final stop was Boulder, somewhere which would repay a much longer visit. We had a picnic lunch in Chautauqua Park near the Flatirons before stopping off in town where we particularly admired the Court House.

After that it was straight on to Denver and the beautiful Capitol Hill Mansion B&B. The Bluebell Room was gorgeous ….

…. we even had a sun-porch which gave us our own private entrance to the house ….

…. the exterior of which was equally spectacular ….

…. and to cap it all, there was a delightful garden in which to have breakfast.

So this was our luxury home for the next four nights! Only three more posts and then I will finally have finished blogging about our Summer 2016 road trip.

Deer Mountain

View from Deer Mountain
View from Deer Mountain

Rocky Mountain is a very busy park! By the time we got ourselves out in the morning, and that wasn’t very late, the signs for the car parks at the popular Bear Lake Trailhead were already indicating full. We headed for the Deer Mountain Trailhead instead.

Climbing Deer Mountain is a 6 mile round trip and you end up at over 10,000 feet. Before you get too impressed, I’ll confess that you actually start around 8,900 – but some of it is very steep, especially at the end. My knees didn’t like that section one little bit.

Here are some views from the way up.

Just before the summit we stopped to get our (well, my) breath back and I made the acquaintance of this little guy. I think he was begging, but I didn’t give him anything. Too many titbits is probably what made him so bold, and animals should not be encouraged to become dependent on humans for food. But he was cute.

On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain On Deer Mountain

Pressing on to the summit, we could see right back down to our hotel on the edge of Estes Park.

Then it was time to retrace our steps, stopping for a quick picnic on the way.

In the afternoon, we took the one-way gravel Old Fall River Road which winds uphill for 11 miles and 3000 feet to Fall River Pass. The short trail at Chasm Falls made a pleasant stop on the way.

At the pass, we had a very welcome hot coffee at the Alpine Visitor Centre – it was cold up there and still had pockets of snow. Information boards told us more about the road which opened in 1920, and until 1932 was the only motor route across the park. Then it was replaced by Trail Ridge Road, our route back down.

The views from Trail Ridge were stunning.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

We were really sorry to have only one full day in Rocky Mountain, but the next day we were off to Denver  – and we were really excited about that.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks where this week she takes us on a stroll around Lucca.

Red Lodge to Estes Park

Smith Mine Disaster, Montana

Smith Mine
Smith Mine
Not long after leaving Red Lodge, we spotted a ghost mine on a hillside. The Smith Mine is the site of the worst underground coal mine disaster in Montana where 74 men were lost in February 1943. Some died as a result of a violent explosion, but most fell victim to the methane released by the blast. It’s a very poignant site. The information board quotes a note left by Walter and Johnny as they waited for the gas to catch up with them: “Good-bye wives and daughters. We died an easy death. Love from us both. Be good.” The mine finally closed in 1953 and has been left as a memorial.

Cody, Wyoming

Our next stop was back over the border in Wyoming: Cody, founded in 1895 by William F “Buffalo Bill” Cody. I must admit to being rather disappointed – it didn’t look that different to many of the other western towns we passed through, just more touristy. We admired the Irma Hotel (opened and named after Bill’s daughter in 1902), had a quick coffee and left.

Thermopolis, Wyoming

After coffee, we pressed on to Thermopolis. The statue is From this soil come the riches of the world by Carl Jensen (1999) and depicts a cowboy sifting dirt through his hands in 1897 when Thermopolis was founded. The Black Bear Café provided a good lunch, then it was back on the road again.

Hell’s Half Acre, Wyoming

Hell's Half Acre
Hell’s Half Acre
Our last stop of the day was Hell’s Half Acre, a sort of mini Bryce Canyon which, despite the name, covered about 320 acres. It was fenced off, so you couldn’t get down amongst the hoodoos, but there was a good view from above.

This was close to Casper, our overnight stop. It looked an interesting place to stay with lots of pioneer history to explore. I wish I could tell you about it – but we’d been on the road for two weeks and still had another week to go. Reader, rather than sight-see I’m afraid we took advantage of a hotel with a laundry to wash out our smalls.

Estes Park, Colorado

Alpine Trail Ridge Inn
Alpine Trail Ridge Inn
The next day was all about reaching Rocky Mountain National Park. We only made one stop, in Laramie, the very first destination on our road trip which I’ve already written about (here) way back in October. Estes Park is the main town on the edge of Rocky Mountain and we agreed with our Lonely Planet Guide that “there’s no small irony in the fact that the proximity to one of the most pristine outdoor escapes in the USA has made Estes Park the kind of place you’ll need to escape from”. As we crawled through it bumper-to-bumper our hearts sank. Fortunately, however, my planning had been good. Our hotel, the excellent Alpine Trail Ridge Inn, was on the far side of town near the park entrance and had its own restaurant next door.  When we left in two days time we could take a different road which meant we would never need to go back into Estes Park. Not only that, we had something of a room with a view (see above). Result!

Next time: we climb Deer Mountain.

Destination Red Lodge

Red Lodge, MT
Red Lodge, Montana

At the Montana end of the Beartooth Highway is the charming historic mining town of Red Lodge. We stayed two nights at the Red Lodge Inn, a simple but comfortable motel, and enjoyed wandering the main street, Broadway, with its many attractive buildings.

The first night, we popped into the Red Lodge Pizza Co. I can’t remember now if the building used to be a post office, but I do remember all the pizzas had names like First Class or Parcel Post, so I suspect it must have been. Mind you, who cares what they were called? They were delicious! That’s it on the left below. To the right is Ox Pasture, just a few doors down. As we inspected the menu, a friendly staff member came out to encourage us in. Sorry, too full of pizza – but she was so enthusiastic that we booked for the next evening. This was a real find – a gourmet restaurant, using local produce, that would not be out of place in the grandest of cities. Easily the most spectacular meal in the whole of our three-week vacation.

Well, we had to work all that food off somehow so we took the Basin Lake Trail, a pretty walk although some of it was still scarred from wildfires in 2008.

On the way back, we stopped at the Red Box Car, a century old railroad car which allegedly serves the best fast food in the whole of the Yellowstone Region. This was just before our gourmet dinner, so we made do with coffee. The location doesn’t look much below, but it was right next to the creek which runs through town so it was relaxing to sit on the deck and listen to the water flowing.

The next day it was Goodbye Montana – our visit was short but sweet – as we set off to recross Wyoming on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2017

 The Citizen’s Theatre

Citizen's Theatre

After Celtic Connections finished I had withdrawal symptoms and got on the internet straightaway to book tickets for something else to go to! As a result, we had a lovely evening at “The Citz” which first opened as a theatre in 1878 when it was known as the Royal Princess’s Theatre. The Citizens company was founded in 1943, and moved to this site in 1945. Since then it has been extended, as you can see in the photograph above, but the foyer retains reminders of the old days with a stained glass window from the Royal Princess and a collection of statues which used to adorn the façade.

The play we saw was Cuttin’ a Rug by John Byrne, set at the staff dance of a 1950s carpet factory – hence the punning title (to cut a rug is to dance really well). It was funny and had a great 50s soundtrack.

Of course, going to the theatre requires a pre-theatre meal and that, added to various dinners and lunches with friends, means that February has been almost as unkind to the waistline as January. Did we get a chance to walk it off? Not really…

Finlaystone

Clyde view from Finlaystone
Clyde view from Finlaystone

A combination of weather, socialising, both being struck down by horrible colds, and John having a trip to China meant we only had time for one country excursion. We went to Finlaystone Estate, about half an hour down the Clyde from home. The view from the highest point of the forest walk was magnificent – but you would never know from the photo above that both the busy A8 and the railway run between the estate and the river, so you never quite get away from the noise of traffic. However, the snowdrops were blooming and John got to play on the children’s boat when no-one was looking. Some people never grow up!

Woman on the Shelf

Woman on the Shelf
Woman on the Shelf

I’ve written before about my connection with Glasgow Women’s Library where I’ve been volunteering since I retired over four years ago. As a charity, it has a constant need to raise money and one way is the Women on the Shelf scheme. A single book, a shelf, or a whole section can be sponsored in honour of your chosen woman. I’m so grateful to my lovely Mum who sponsored a shelf in my name because she wanted to support the organisation where I am so happy working. Sponsored shelves are marked with a wooden block and I was excited to find mine had been delivered last week with the latest batch.

The inscription says –

To my book-worm daughter Anabel, a dedicated librarian who loves libraries and has found a niche in GWL

Thanks Mum!

I’ll be taking Mum into the library to see the block in place very soon, so watch this space.

The last bit

Last month, I introduced you to the word bawbag. Not long afterwards, #presidentbawbag trended on Twitter – nothing to do with me of course, but thanks to West Wing actor Richard Schiff. He’s just a tad more influential than I am, but I hope you were suitably grateful that I had given you advance warning of what it meant 😉

I thought I’d offer you another Scottish word this month, wabbit – partly because I’ve been feeling a bit wabbit myself, but also because it too has turned up in the news. Scientists at Edinburgh University have produced a paper arguing that people who claim to be feeling tired all the time might be doing so because of their genes. It’s probably the only scientific paper ever published to start with a definition of wabbit:

The Scots word wabbit encompasses both peripheral fatigue, the muscle weakness after a long walk, and central fatigue, the reduced ability to initiate and/or sustain mental and physical activity, such as we might experience while having flu.

So there you have it! I hope none of you are feeling wabbit, but if you are you have a new word to describe it.

How has your February been?

The Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway panorama
Beartooth Highway panorama

A candidate for the most scenic highway in America? I think so. When planning our 2016 Yellowstone vacation we hadn’t originally intended to continue north into Montana, but when I read this claim in Lonely Planet I knew we had to travel the Beartooth Highway. 64 miles of mountain pass from Cooke City to Red Lodge – what’s not to love?

Cooke City

Northeast Yellowstone
Northeast Yellowstone

We still had a large and beautiful chunk of Yellowstone to drive through before reaching the Northeast Entrance Gate, so by the time we got to Cooke City we were ready for an early lunch and a wander. It’s not exactly what I would call a city, but just look at those vistas!

We discovered that the town had a lovely little museum dedicated to the early miners in the area, Cooke City being the major camp for prospectors from 1869, so we looked at that too before heading back onto the highway to continue the adventure.

Clay Butte

Pilot and Index Peaks
Pilot and Index Peaks

After Cooke City, the road dipped back into Wyoming. These two peaks beguiled us all the way and we paused in several places to photograph them. Our next major stop was Clay Butte Tower which involved a three-mile drive on a gravel road. The tower used to be a fire lookout but now functions as a visitor centre.

Top of the World

Back on the main highway, we made slow progress because there were just so many beautiful places to stop, for example Beartooth Lake followed by a welcome visit to Top of the World Store for coffee.

After this, the road began a serious climb, until we reached Beartooth Pass, the highest point on the road at 10947 feet. It was blowy!

Summit to Red Lodge

Then it was all downhill with another couple of stops at Gardner Lake and our second Montana State Line of the day. This one claims to be the highest state welcome sign in the US.

At the end of the day we arrived in Red Lodge, another charming old town, which was to be our base for the next couple of nights. More about it next time!

Happy International Book Giving Day!

You might already have been wished Happy Valentines Day, but maybe I am the first to wish you a Happy International Book Giving Day! This takes place on 14th February each year and aims to get books into the hands of as many children as possible. If you’d like to help celebrate you could give a book to a friend or family member, leave a book in a waiting room for children to read, or donate a used book, in good condition, to a local library, hospital or shelter. If you don’t have a suitable book to hand, there are many charities such as Book Aid International which would welcome your support.

I’ve also just found out today about a Crowdfunder to set up an international Directory of Independent Publishers. The founders want to make it possible for readers to discover exciting new titles, for writers to discover publishers that align with their interests, and for publishers to reach them.

I’ve enjoyed the gift of reading all my life and I want to pass it on. These two initiatives are a great way to do that.