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Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

Our last full day in Edinburgh was sunny and relatively warm. It would turn out to be the nicest day of our entire trip and a wonderful way to end our time in Scotland. Wendy and I got up and, while Wendy showered, I walked up Victoria Street to the La Barantine Patisserie for an Americano. We got ready for the day and grabbed the bus to the Royal Botanic Gardens, which was the same route we’d taken the day before to Taylor’s flat, but just a few stops before.

Wendy and I walked down Arboritum Road toward the entrance to the gardens and enjoyed the sunshine. It felt absolutely wonderful as we walked. It was about 4-5 blocks to the main entrance of the Gardens and we entered the visitor’s center to find Taylor browsing through the gift shop.

We entered the gardens and immediately walked to Inverleith House, an old mansion in the middle of the gardens which contains a contemporary art gallery. Taylor had done an internship there this year, helping them investigate opportunities to build patron support. There was a show by Nicholas Party in the galleries called “Boys and Pastel” which Taylor had helped install. Not only did it have the artist’s works, but the artist had chosen colors and designs for the walls of each room, which Taylor had helped paint. We walked through the exhibit and took pictures. The gallery was nice with big airy rooms and a lot of gorgeous sunlight.

We then began a tour of the grounds. The Botanic Gardens were wonderful and it was such a lovely day. The flowers, the smells, and the landscape were breathtaking and we took our time leisurely walking about. After a while Wendy plopped down on a stretch of grass, stretched out her arms, and basked in the sunlight. Taylor and I joined her and we began a trend as several more visitors eventually joined us nearby. We lay on the lawn, took in the sun, and enjoyed conversation together. I think we all could have sat there all day, but there were other things on our agenda.

Taylor wanted to take us to a small outdoor market that was a hike of several blocks from the Botanic Gardens. During her year in Edinburgh, Taylor has worked two days a week at Steampunk Coffee, a coffee roaster and coffee bar in North Berwick. Steampunk has a mobile coffee stand housed out of a VW van that is a regular at this particular outdoor market. We enjoyed walking through the market and seeing all of the vendors. I especially liked the vendor who makes different sauces with Scotch whiskey.  We bought some Scottish made chocolate and a chocolate fudge muffin before heading for the bus stop.

Taylor had planned a girls date of high tea with Wendy. They got off the bus near the shop, Eteaket, where they had a 2:00 reservation. It is on a lower level with a small outdoor patio where they had tea in the sunshine. Wendy had a fabulous “girls” time with Taylor and she marveled at the huge selections of teas from which she could choose.

Meanwhile, I rode the bus a few more stops. Taylor had told me to get off when I saw the Royal Mile, but I realized that we were passing St. John’s Church on the opposite side of Edinburgh Castle. A quick check of the bus route told me that this was as close as I was going to get since the Royal Mile starts at the castle, so I hopped off and began a long trek up castle hill to the Royal Mile.

As mentioned in yesterday’s entry, I had wanted to do a Scotch Whiskey tasting while in Scotland and knew that neither of the ladies would have any interest. By luck, Jon De Haan and Gabe Spencer had arrived the previous night and when I mentioned doing a tasting they both eagerly agreed to join me. We met at Rabbie Burns Pub on the Royal Mile which had been recommended by a friend of Taylor’s.  Jon and Gabe had just arrived and were looking at the menu as I walked in the pub and we switched to a larger table. We figured we wouldn’t want to do a whiskey tasting on an empty stomache, so we ordered lunch. I had a burger and an ale called Caldonia Best. The boys each joined me in the Caldonia Best, but ordered bangers and mash.

There were three different levels of whiskey tasting that each included four different types of Scotch. Jon and I both chose the same one (the lower priced flight), but Gabe went for broke and ordered the highest price. He was, however, happy to share so we each got to try eight different types of Scotch. It was a lot of fun and I was amazed at the differences in color, aroma, and flavor. There were a couple of varieties that were similar, but for the most part each was quite distinctive. It was fun to have a couple of other guys to share the experience and I enjoyed Jon and Gabe’s company immensely as we chatted away and compared our impressions of the whiskey. I preferred the smokey, peat tinged whiskeys from Islay myself.

Before all of the Scotch was consumed, Taylor and Wendy arrived and joined us. There followed an hour or so of pleasant conversation. Jon and Wendy got into a spirited debate centered on Harry Potter, and whether it was Harry’s mother or father who first appeared out of his wand at the end of the fourth book. The answer would prove whether Rowling had made a mistake or not in the logic of the book. It was fun to watch them spar. Eventually, they put their argument aside. We decided it was time to go. Hugs all around and both of the lads agreed to come visit Vander Well Pub next time they were in Pella.

Wendy had to grab a requested scarf for our friend, Becky, before we left the Royal Mile. We left Taylor to hang with her friends while we hit a few more shops. Wendy and I then headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

Taylor joined us about an hour later after escorting Jon and Gabe to The Elephant House. We left the hotel and trekked to Central Methodist Hall which is now home to Central Church where Taylor has worshipped this year. Wendy and I really enjoyed experiencing worship with her and meeting her friends there. I thought it the perfect way to end our week. Wendy and I loved the mostly younger crowd who gathered there and the Spirited worship. The pastor, Carl, gave a great message on Revelation 5 and then the congregation split into various prayer stations for prayer and meditation.

We left a little early before the service concluded and were greeted at the exit by Pastor Carl, who seemed a nice gentleman. Taylor led us to a restaurant, Nando’s, which she had been telling us about all week. It’s a Portugese chicken restaurant and we had our last meal together in Scotland before walking back to the hotel.

Taylor hung out with us for a few minutes as she had a wee bit of a wait for her next bus home. We hugged and said our good-byes, which was certainly bittersweet. It had been so good to see her after eight months, but we took solace in the fact that she will be home with us in seven weeks. After Taylor left, Wendy and I began the process of packing for our trip home as we watched “Bridesmaids” on the telly. I pulled up the Cubs vs. Nationals game on my iPad and as we climbed into bed we watched the Cubs take the four game series 3-1 with a 6-3 victory. It would be a short night before our long journey home.

The flight out of Edinburgh went without a hitch and we arrived at Chicago-O’hare a few minutes early about 12:40 on Monday afternoon. Our 5:30 flight to Des Moines, however, was cancelled and we scrambled to get rebooked on the 7:10 flight. That flight was also delayed. Wendy and I ended up hanging out at the airport and watching the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup from the Berghof in Concourse B. Our flight eventually took off for Des Moines at 11:45 p.m. and we landed in Des Moines at 12:40 a.m. Tuesday morning. After our drive back to Pella it was about 2:15 a.m. when we finally got to bed. We’d been up for 26 hours straight. The second 24+ hour day we’d had in 8 days.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

The Thunder of His Voice on the Horizon

source: andyrs via Flickr
source: andyrs via Flickr

“At this my heart pounds
    and leaps from its place.
Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice,
    to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven
    and sends it to the ends of the earth.
After that comes the sound of his roar;
    he thunders with his majestic voice.
When his voice resounds,
    he holds nothing back.”
Job 37:1-4 (NIV)

While I was in college I had a friend whose family owned a cabin on the southeastern shores of Lake Michigan. One evening we were visiting their cabin and parked along some cliffs that afforded an expansive view of the western horizon, the Great Lake, and the Chicago skyline in the distance. It was a gorgeous, calm evening but behind the skyscrapers of Chicago we saw black clouds rising. Over the next couple of hours we watched a massive midwestern thunderstorm develop before our eyes. The dark clouds rose like mighty pillars and giant tentacles of lighting spread out like a breath-taking fireworks display across the evening sky. As the storm enveloped the city and began to cross the lake, the wind rose and giant white caps began to break against the shore beneath us. The thunder was deafening.

God says that His eternal nature is evident in creation, in what He has made. That night looking out over Lake Michigan I remember thinking that we were witnessing a tour de force of God’s might. I’ve never forgotten that experience, and as I read the opening lines of Elihu’s conclusion in this morning’s chapter, my mind took me right back to that night.

Elihu’s final words regarding the thunder of God’s voice foreshadows the final chapters of Job’s epic poem. After 37 chapters of silence in response to Job’s questions and the long debate with his friends, God is about to open His mouth to speak.

As I write this post it is the morning of New Year’s Eve day. I look back on a strange and somewhat difficult year in 2014. I stand on the precipice of 2015 with more questions than answers. It’s perhaps apropos that the year had ended with a journey through Job’s epic poem, with questions, and with struggle. It is equally appropriate that the current year ends waiting to hear from the Almighty, and that the new year will begin with God’s voice. Whether God’s voice arrives in the thunder of a  midwest storm or the whisper of a still, small voice, I’m anxious to hear what God has to say. I’m looking forward to what the new year will bring.

Wendy’s Birthday Present Weekend

Lyric Opera House

Wendy’s birthday was back in December, but she will tell you that I feel a lot of pressure that time of year. Wendy’s birthday, Christmas, and our wedding anniversary fall within ten days of each other. So, I’ve got to come up with a lot of gifts in a short period of time.

Last year I picked up on something Wendy said during a normal evening conversation. She’d never been to the opera. That started the wheels spinning. The other thing I know about Wendy is that she loves to spend time with her friends. So, the conspiracy began to plan a trip to the opera with our friends, the Vande Lunes.

The only problem in the plan was that the best time to get to the opera was March. So, Wendy got the tickets on her birthday, but this past weekend was the actual experience.

We headed to the Windy City on St. Patrick’s Day, arriving in time to have a pint o’ Guinness at an Irish pub up the street from our hotel. Friday night we dressed to the nines for our dinner at the Opera House followed by a performance of Bizet‘s Carmen.

The ladies, of course, wanted to shop with some of our free time. We also enjoyed some great food, some well earned naps, and a fun night at the piano bar up the street. Our weekend was perfectly capped off with a trip to the House of Blues for their Gospel Brunch. We couldn’t be more thankful to the Vande Lunes for sharing the experience with us.

Happy Birthday, my love!

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