As our modestly-numbered audience responded well to our spring break trip report, I’ll try a similar photo-narrative approach. A different sort of vacation this time; Stace and I joined eight other staff members of the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony on the group’s biennial overseas trip. On the agenda was a whirlwind visit to Scotland and England with 90-ish high-school-aged players, about 30 parents along for the ride, 12 days of touristing and 5 public concerts. Photos I link to here are from the the Canon A95; I took about 250, but will spare you from the bulk of them in this narrative. I’ll reduce the images to a few tens of kB apiece for this page, but email me if you’d like a 5Mpx “original”.
Onto the trip…
Wednesday, 15 June
Our flight out of CLE was scheduled for late afternoon (the ol’ hop to EWR then overnight over the pond); the airport was moderately busy, which we didn’t help by stuffing 90 people into Continental’s international checkin line. I discover why a travelling wind band needs so many staffers as we assign various fifes and drums to students to check and care for, repack percussion cases and discuss the finer points of tuba handling with the desk clerks. Everyone makes it to their appropriate flights (including a number of kids who’ve never flown before). The scene in Newark is reasonable, with a little herding through a tight connection and an unexpected detour by staffer Rachel #2 to replace a student’s lost passport. After attempting to sleep on the cramped 757 overseas, the sun rises somewhere over Iceland and we touch down in Glasgow. Somewhere in there, the day changed, so
Thursday, 16 June
Customs in Glasgow was cakelike; we loaded our luggage and equipment onto 3 50-passenger coaches (they didn’t seem that big – perhaps 50 includes the jump seats, roof rack and lav) and head down the road to the town of Stirling for some stay-awake sightseeing in the town (here’s a photo walking down the street in Stirling). Let’s be more specific: that was a photo taken while I was walking down the street in Stirling. We ate lunch on the Golden Lion, on the right, after taking a tour of Stirling Castle, which resides on a hill overlooking the town. The view to the north from the castle shows a hip graveyard and a recent (19th-century) monument to William Wallace, to whom our tour guides were more than happy to refer as Mel.
I don’t have any photos of Glasgow, where we stayed at a Holiday Inn, walked around town a bit and marveled at the old buildings and European-ness (in retrospect, the buildings were not that old, the city was pretty boring and industrial, and we hadn’t even laid eyes on the Ness yet), and the group walked through a bit of the city to dinner. Dinners were all with the entire 120-ish person group, which was occasionally frustrating but usually fun. Some restaurants know how to do this; some do not. Same goes for checking ten dozen people into a hotel, although we generally split the parents into a different hotel for ease and a little forced separation.
Friday, 17 June
Awoke, checked out and hopped on the omnibuses for our drive into the highlands. The drive was quite nifty; it was a bit cloudy but not raining (and the landscape wouldn’t have looked as cool without a little fog). We saw lots of a sheep, highland cows (no, dear, we’re not allowed to take one back through customs) and old stone farmhouses that have probably looked the same for N hundred years. Much of the highlands looked like this, with the occasional river or loch (we stopped at Lomond and Ness, of course). On the bank of Loch Ness sits Urquhart Castle, which has a bit of a Monty Python aura about it. The loch ness monster surfaced to graze on some low-hanging willows, but I’d left my camera on the bus. I’m sure someone got a photo, though.
From the loch Ness runs the river Ness, and where said river empties into the North Sea is the delta (or “inver”) and the town where we spent the third night, Inverness. Here’s a wide-angle shot of the river flowing through town. We played an outdoor concert in Inverness (next to the train station, but the trains were quiet, so it was OK) with a similar (to ours) honors-band type group containing students from across the highlands. It rained just enough to annoy the bassoonists but no one else. Inverness was worth a few more photos: here’s a street with some Victorian (?) houses. Our hotel is shown just right of center in this photo; our room was under the part with the conical rooftop. It is here that I note that we’re really far north and only a few days from the summer solstice.
Saturday, 18 June
Another driving day; we wander around Inverness a bit more in the morning, enjoying an open-air market with an incredible one-man-band street musician. I took another angle of the river: here’s another angle of the Ness showing a cool suspension foot bridge and a local parish church.
We hit the road toward Edinburgh, stopping along the way in Pitlochry, a nifty (if a bit tourist-infested) town on a river. The river was dammed, but they’d built a salmon ladder around the dam so the fish could effectively swim around the same and keep their spawning pattern. The ladder can be seen on the lower right of this photo, taken from atop the dam.
The bus dropped us at the University of Edinburgh, where the kids (and staff, of course) would stay in the dorms for the next three nights. After checking in and wondering when Case would build a little mountain behind their dorms, we jaunted into the Grassmarket (district? street?) in the city for dinner and short walk. Walks, even shortly so, through cities are a bad idea with that many people; I brough up the rear of the group as to suppress the desire to give parade signals. Then, back to the dorms for the night. Apparently Case does not have a hill because this one (called “Arthur’s Seat”) belongs to the Queen; I suppose Her Majesty is less likely to donate Ohio hills for public use. Anyway, Bill, Dave and I were overcome by the innate masculine need to climb things. I took this photo of the city from the top. The grass on the right is the lower peak of the Arthur’s Seat; the illuminated building in the center is Edinburgh Castle.
Sunday, 19 June
Still energised by last night’s hike, we decided to check out the view in daylight. We met before breakfast and wandered up the lower peak. Here’s what the castle looks like from the hill in the morning (well, several hours post-sunrise) light. The other views were better, too. Here’re the dorms in which we stayed, and here’s the view north over the hill, city and the Firth of Forth. Finally, I balanced the camera on a rock for a photo of Bill, Dave, Jeff and Edinburgh.
After stumbling back down to the dorms for breakfast, we bused down to the docks for a tour of the (former) royal yacht, the H.M.Y. Britannia. I thought she was very cool; lots of photos on display of various heads of state over the past 50 years on board, etc. One popular pose (I think I’d seen Prince Charles in this one) was to stand next to the big compass on deck; I’m not angry here, just trying to look like H.R.H.. Also of note were the various foreign warships docked in the harbor, providing security for the upcoming G8 summit.
After lunch, it was onto a nearby nondescript concert hall for a rehearsal and concert with the local band. The exchange piece they’d sent us beforehand seemed a little slow and boring, but the opposing director mentioned that it’s a band standard in Scotland, and then brought out his bagpipe soloist; the piece was now not slow and boring, it was elite wind-band art! (sarcasm not intended; I really dug the pipes)
Monday, 20 June
On the agenda for Monday was an organized tour of Edinburgh castle followed by a free afternoon of sightseeing; for me (and, by association, Stacey) this means covering as much ground by foot as possible while staring upwards at buildings and wondering about housing costs. Here’s the castle, as viewed from the new city below. We climbed up to and wandered about in the castle, enjoying the opposite view to yesterday morning (that is, Arthur’s Seat from Edinburgh Castle). I enjoyed hanging out in phone booths.
The old town of Edinburgh is very old (um, will have to look that up) and built vertically from a “ditch” that separates it from the new city. The ditch used to be a lake, but is now a super-nice and well-used city park. The new city of Edinburgh is Georgian; the part we wandered through has lots of historic brownstones with “so and so lived here” sorts of histories.
We walked up the old town side of the ditch, then across to the new side; at the end nearest the castle was an old parish church (the name escapes me already) with an excellent graveyard. Here we had a good view of the awesome monument to Sir Walter Scott before walking north for another examination of the grass market area, then down the “royal mile,” which terminates at Holyrood Palace. Princess Anne was in residence, so we weren’t allowed in for a tour.
Tuesday, 21 June
After yesterday’s lengthy walk, we’re ready for another bus day. We check out of the dorms, drag out the oversleepers, and drive south to England. Enroute to our destination, York, we stop at Hadrian’s wall, built at the edge of the Roman frontier against those uncultured peoples to the north. There’s not much to do there now except stand on the wall remains and say hello to the adjacent farmers’ horse and sheep.
On arrival in York, we dropped most people at the hotel to change for our immediate concert, and a few of us went ahead to the York Minster to unload the set up for the band, who would walk up from the hotel. The town of York is very neat, with a mostly pedestrian old city, remaining city walls and gates, and the minster itself, which in context is just enormous. After waiting for an unexpected funeral procession (someone important, since they were using the York minster and the archbishop was wandering around), we moved in and jammed. The acuostics were suprisingly manageable for a big stone building, and the sound was impressive enough to enjoy the concert despite a pricelessly missed timpani cue.
After the concert, we were back to the hotel to check in (swell: the hotel didn’t have enough rooms) and went for a dinner and a wander through the city. In the aforelinked photo, L-R, are Missey and Chris, Bill and Becky, Rachel #2 (in orange), Mrs. and Dr. Ciepluch, Rachel #1, and Dave. We found an excellent pub with tasty local ale, the relevant statutes posted about how much you’re legally allowed to bet on dominoes and cribbage, and a jam/imbibing session in the corner with fiddles, accordians, mandolin and various hand percussion. Here’s another group photo where we (except Becky, of course) enjoy a proper pint of bitter; L-R are Dave, Rachel, Stacey, Bill, Becky, Jeff and Dr. C.
Wednesday, 22 June
Today is open for sightseeing. We take a guided tour of the city and minster in the morning, then wander about on our own in the afternoon, before rejoining for a dinner and a ghost tour. Our gang covered some of the old city wall, providing neat views of many of the old (medieval, and even back to pre-Norman) and new (Victorian) buildings, and of course about 4000 photo ops of the minster, including this one, which illustrates its omnipresence. In this photo, I (on the lower left; Stace is on the right in her hip English hat) test how far I can run during the canon’s shutter timer. We toured a local brewery (very micro) and revisited parts of the city, including the shambles, the river Ouse, and old spooky churches. Some neat old buildings are turned into coffee houses, while others are apparently propped up to retain their medieval charm.
I can’t finish today’s section without more church photos. Here’s the view from low petersgate. We get a nice old vs new perspective with a shot of the church just to the right of the minster (M&S prepared foods are tip-top, btw). Finally, here’s one of the impressive Yorkminster organ.
We packed into the historic William Pub for dinner.
Thursday, 23 June
It’s on to London today, with a lunchtime stop in Cambridge for a souvenier sweatshirt (hah – it must have been in the 90s out) and derogatory comments about “the other place.” We went for a punt along the backs: that is, a liesurely trip down the river Cam in a flat-bottomed boat. Here I am, being liesurely. Everything important can be seen from the river: the original bridge over the Cam, the “building used in the first Harry Potter movie” college, and of course the King’s College chapel, home of the well-known choir.
Concluding our bus trip, we hopped off near big ben and walked across the bridge to the gargantuan ferris wheel known as the london eye. For size reference, 24 people stand in each one of those little pods. We took a trip around, which provided some nicely-orienting views of the city, then herded the whole gaggle of kids onto the underground and back to the hotel for dinner in a nearby pizza oven.
Friday, 24 June
Day two in London began with a trip to see the changing of the guard. We didn’t actually see the guard change (tourists, tourists everywhere!), but we did get to see the new regiment and old regiment arrive with superb style, grace and in-stepness; perhaps this is one of the great drum major gigs left in the world. The bands were followed by someone’s (Queen’s? Prince’s? Duke’s?) cavalry.
After lunch, it was time to head to Basingstoke, home of the Anvil concert hall, for today’s gig. Here’s a shot of the band during rehearsal. Even this little town had probably greater pedestrian area than all of northeast Ohio combined, although the poorly-organized dinner itself wasn’t worth the walk.
Saturday, 25 June
A tube-walk-photo day in the city. We started at the tower of London, where we saw the white tower, dating from Will the Norman, among other things. There’s a legend that England will fall if the ravens ever leave, so the clip their wings and keep these guys to watch over them (actually, that cat was guarding the governor’s house).
We also toured St. Paul’s cathedral. Enormous, yes, although because its sandwiched between downtown buildings it doesn’t appear as impressive as the York or West minsters in context. We did walk up to the top (through winding staircases within the dome walls!) for some nice views of the city. Here’s the roof of the front of st pauls, taken from the dome. No perspective, I know, but it’s way down there.
Next on our list was a walk through covent garden with lunch at a trendy little underground restaurant. Then, onto the British Museum for lots of stolen stuff from Egypt and elsewhere. Where else can you see a statue of a hippopotamus diety or the rosetta stone?
Later in the day, on the way to Trafalgar square to watch people watch Wimbledon on big projection screens, we stumbled across the Church of St. Martin-in-the-fields, which I didn’t even know was in London (the Academy was right next door, too). We listened to a rehearsal of Mozart’s c-minor mass for a bit, then took some more photos and headed back to hotel.
Sunday, 26 June
This morning we headed down to the Thames to see the globe and the Tate modern. I really enjoyed the Tate, lots of big hanging shards of things, good room devoted to short films, a sweetly serene Rothko room and a very cool interior setting. No photos allowed inside, of course, so I’ll instead post one of the cathedral, taken from near the Tate and another shooting upriver at the london bridge and tower bridge.
We played our final concert as part of the evensong service at St. Paul’s. We played for a half-hour or so following a half-hour of organ music. (although the organist concluded with Bach’s P&F#1, one of my favorites, I had trouble staying awake after a day of walking in the sun.) We played right under the dome, a complex acoutic place with a good 6 second (echo? reverb? extension?). Our final dinner together was at the Albert Pub, a favourite of parliament for their holiday gatherings and the only restaurant on the trip that served me a Yorkshire pudding.
Monday, 27 June
All of the kids (and most of their instruments) make it onto the buses to Gatwick, 777 to Jersey and a hop back to CLE. Lots of travel and layover hours, but traveling West makes it easy to fit in one day and get home in time to run the A/C for a while before bed.