In Bed with an Elephant

 

Reading In Bed with an Elephant: A Journey through Scotland’s Past and Present by Ludovic Kennedy, 1995. This book is from Anne’s library; I recall her telling me years ago that she was reading it with pleasure.

Sir Ludovic was a well-known British broadcaster and a writer regarding miscarriages of justice. As a young child, he believed he was English, and was shocked and delighted to find he was totally Scottish, on both sides of his parentage. He inherited a Baronetcy via his mother following ancestor Sir Patrick Grant, the Scottish Attorney General, some 250 years earlier, agreeing to help subsidize the colony of Nova Scotia.

Ludovic gives a very easy-read interpretation of Scottish history, interspersed with his own life anecdotes. The elephant that Scotland is in bed with is England, as well as insidious anglicization within Scotland.

Wonderful opening paragraph, which explains why Highland hills, Island hills…my land hills, are as they are:

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE ICE. IN PLACES THE ICE WAS TWO MILES HIGH. I’ll say that again: the ice was two miles high. It covered most of the northern hemisphere, it spanned the Atlantic. In America, it stretched as far south as the latitude of Washington DC, and in Britain, as far south as London. All of Scandinavia and of Scotland lay inert beneath it.

Warwick and I had Ancestry DNA done recently for this years birthday. I was surprised at mine, which had a heavy concentration of ancestry over the last few hundred years in Scotland, the Orkneys and Western Hebrides, Ireland, (no English dots!?!), all confirming the known family histories. What was the biggest surprise was the number of dots on Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, no doubt arising from the Scottish migration to those colonies from the late 1770s, again, no doubt related to the Scottish Clearances, after Culloden. For interest, I have found that there are plenty of Halleys in the current Nova Scotia phone book, and also in the Perth, Scotland phonebook. Love the link to Prince Edward Island, since providing the Anne of Green Gables books to Jenny nearly 30 years ago, and feeling kindred spirit with that island myself since….no wonder, fellow genes were calling….

With respect to more ancient genes, Scandinavian origins indicate the Viking inhabitations of the Orkneys, and Hebrides in the more modern gene alignments. There is  a little German coverage (one German great-grandparent). And 2% “European Jewish” confirming the research finding by Keith Halley, written in a letter to Anne forty years ago of the Jewish refugees from Spain to England many years ago. On relating this last fact to a Jewish friend recently, she was very unimpressed, shrugged, and said, everyone has got some!

The National Museum of the Legion of Honour

Hopping off the Batobus at the Musée d’Orsay stop, we had already decided to pop in to look at Le Musée Nationale de la Légion d’Honneur. I had originally wanted to go into Le Musée d’Orsay to see the art within, but it was the last day, was now exhausted, so a quicker look at the smaller gallery was chosen.

What a wonderful museum, not prominently on the Tourist list. Entrée involved a small circus with the Concierge who, conspriring with a wink to W, made a flamboyant comedy of checking Madame’s bags. This finished with his coming around his desk and planting a hug upon me, to which I blushingly said “Oh, Monsieur, L’Amour!?”, to which words, he seemed a little bashful!

The history represented in here was fascinating, the art exquisite, and the medals also exquisite. The medals were beautiful and I would imagine very expensive to the State.

This wonderful sojourn ended all to swiftly, with a guard suddenly announcing early closure. I remarked that the closure time on signage was several hours away, to which he replied “revenir demain!” Sadly we would not be able to do this.

A further encounter with our lovely Concierge recovered my parcel containing some gifts for adult children, he folding the bag with dramatized exaggeration, exactly as it had been presented, “Je retourne ce cadeau pour vos enfants adultes, exactement, Madam….Hon!Hon!Hon! ( a French laugh!)”.

 

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A Whole Batobus Circuit and La Tour Eiffel

The Batobus travels under about 18 of Paris’s 37 bridges. They are no less wondrous from beneath, than from side-on or above.

We opted for climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower, rather than queuing to buy tickets for, and then get on the lift. It was a good decision for us, both for the satisfaction of completeing the climb and descent, to and from the Second Level, in the end, but also, for the close-up views of the incredible geometry and symmetry of La Tour. No wonder Les Parisiens and Les Français could not deconstruct and remove it following the 1889 Exposition Universelle.

W’s nephew told us that one of the feet has needed some bolstering as that area beside the Seine was originally a very boggy area.

 

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Auguste Rodin

In approximately 1967, a preloved Reader’s Digest compilation book containing half a dozen ‘condensed’ novels arrived at 124 Alexandra Rd, and into my ken. The novel which took my eye was “Naked Came I” by David Weiss, written in 1963. I was transported by the descriptions of Auguste Rodin’s powerful sculpting and by the high romance and sexual charge with his muse, confidante and model and lover, Camille Claudel. Never to be forgotten. (Imagine, had I read an unabridged version!)

Taxi to the Musée Rodin, followed by a walk to and along the Seine, finishing with a Batobus ride with turn-around at la Tour Eiffel, first sight up close, and back to the Notre Dame Batobus stop, with a quick walk home to notre Hôtel.

It would be evident by now to all readers that this trip has been my dream…….so, much amour et merci to enabler, happy complier, and great travel companion, W.❤️

  • The Batobus is an eight stop small passenger barge which plies a continuous circuit west up la Rive droite to the Eiffel tower, and east down la Rive gauche, with stops at each of the major national treasures along La Seine, a great way to get around for a brief stay such as ours.

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Twilight walk to Notre Dame

We are in Paris for three nights surrounding two days…….not wasting the first evening, we walk two blocks from our Rive Gauche hotel, Hotel Agora Saint Germaine, 42 rue des Bernadins, 5ième arrondissement, then across the smaller Pont L’Archevêché directly to Notre Dame. It is about 7pm with softly fading sunlight, and a full moon……

 

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Return to Edinburgh…..final moments

A final brief drive back into Edinburgh, an incident free return to Hertz renta-car, pretty much in the centre of the city, no dints on the car to report……so grateful to this iPhone/Siri/Maps, and Vodafone $5 a day. Know we could have had gps in the car, but they are often dodgy writing co-ordinates in, and…. Siri and I know each other…..

How did Mum and Dad do it 40 years ago with small-m maps!

Quick taxi back to our excellent Fraser Suites and Our Last Scottish Supper back around the corner in the Royal Mile.

We were able to have one land trip connecting our around the world ticket…..catching the Virgin East Coast train, from Waverley Station, Edinburgh, which averages 200kph and takes 4 1/2 hours, to London. It was lovely to have a quick comparative snapshot of English countryside. The transit, of a few steps from King’s Cross Station to St Pancras Station, was easy. The English Channel Tunnel was about 15 minutes of black tunnel, with sudden emergence into France, countryside, villages and homes of which, at least in this area seemed similar enough in style to that which we had seen in Britain.

Taxi from Gare du Nord to l’Hôtel was immediately hair-raising with taxi-driver manoeuvring impossibly deftly across a chaotic blocked intersection. I was able to bring out my French and say, “Monsieur, vous êtes brilliant!”, which started a conversation in French which took us all the way to l’Hôtel, the taxi driver explaining he only had school English, moi, only school French, and agreeing en français, that the traffic in Paris was second only to the chaos of traffic in Italy. He asked if my husband spoke any French….Non, zéro! Perhaps a little over-excited by now, I farewelled him with Nous Sommes Paris, Monsieur!”. (I mislead re W’s French…..he was adept at using Bonjour, spoken beautifully, and a version of Merci, which sounded like a southern United States drawl….  “Merr-cy!”. )

Using the French language has been the best fun…….

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Kelpies and Canals

 

It was a very quick trip from Stirling Castle to find The Kelpies, just outside Falkirk. These are jaw-droppingly beautiful tribute monuments to “Heavy Horses”, Scotland’s horse-powered heritage,  placed in the midst of the new canal developments. Again, it was a surprise to see the canals, as, although I had read of them, I had not thought we would come across any canals.

There are four main canal systems in Scotland, but we were by the Forth and Clyde canal. These canals were, in the past, part of the economy of the country, but fell into disuse through the last century. They have been progressively repaired and developed over the last forty years. So! One could have a wonderful holiday now sailing from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde. Also there is a bicycle path all the way adjacent to the canal. If only, in younger days…..

We did not see the wonderful Falkirk Wheel not far away, which LIFTS boats up or down 24 metres, connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Following the Wheel lift, boats need to go another 11 metres in two locks above the wheel, as the Union Canal is still that elevation higher.

Back to the Kelpies…..they sit beside a turning pool and extension. We found them a great tribute, no doubt commensurate with the immense contribution of Clydesdales to Scotland. It was very windy and cold when we were there, there being a large wind coming down from the Arctic!

Internet pics show how lovely they are lit up at night.

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Stirling Castle

When driving through Scotland, there are castles every few minutes; many are in ruins, many are not, some have been highly associated with Scottish Royalty. So when choosing which castles to look at in detail, we chose those which were of most significance to Scottish royalty: Edinburgh Castle, Scone Palace, and Stirling Castle.

With more time it would have been wonderful to investigate Holyrood Palace and Linlithgow Palace, both steeped in Scottish Royal history and residence. Mary Queen of Scots was born at Linlithgow, and had residential apartments at Holyrood. Scottish kings moved to England in 1603, ending most Royal residence (although QE11 stays at Holyrood when in Edinburgh). Bonnie Prince Charlie, the young Pretender, was in residence at Holyrood for 5 weeks in 1745, and visited Linlithgow briefly, (the Duke of Cumberland destroyed much of it a year later for its Stuart and Jacobite associations), and Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to regain Stirling Castle in 1745.

The heyday for Stirling Castle was when it was a Palace, with great expensive embellishments and restorations by James V, initially for his first wife, Madeleine (French), who died only six months after marriage from consumption; then, for his second wife, Mary de Guise.

“he plenished the country with all kind of craftsmen out of other countries, as French-men, Spaniards, Dutch men, and Englishmen, which were all cunning craftsmen, every man for his own hand. Some were gunners, wrights, carvers, painters, masons, smiths, harness-makers (armourers), tapesters, broudsters, taylors, cunning chirugeons, apothecaries, with all other kind of craftsmen to apparel his palaces.”

The interiors are every impressive.

Poor James, having lost his first wife to illness, then lost his first two children with Mary, sons, 1 year old and 8 days old (dying 10 days apart), to illness. He then died of illness while away at battle, when his next born, Mary Queen of Scots was born.

Inspite of being French, Mary de Guise was well regarded by many Scots; she was regent on behalf of her daughter, from 1556-1560 when she died. She tried to keep her daughterr protected, and protect the countries’ Catholicism and Regency for her daughter.

The Castle also houses the Museum of the Argyll and Southerland Highlanders, deeply moving following the history of the regiment through to today.

 

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