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Perthshire, Scotland
My Scotland, My Perthshire
Photos by Authors

Blair Castle, Perthshire

ged 75, I have spent more of my life in the United States than my native Scotland but that land was my home for my first 28 years. For me it's still as wondrous a place as it might be for any tourists coming to find the land of their ancestors. Every time I visit this craggy country perched on England's shoulders like a hat (or like England's brain as I would tease my English college friends) I feel the years roll by and I'm a child again. I once spent three years in Texas and when I left that dry, sprawling reddish-brown state to go home for the first time and looked down from the plane as we flew over the neat almost manicured fields of my homeland it came to me that both the Irish and the Scots are said to have 54 different names for the shades of green -- and I thought I might choke.

Like any emigrant to North America I miss my memories.

shopping items, ScotlandI miss my former country folk. I miss their irreverence, their tolerance for hardship---they take it in their stride. Over the centuries they've had to, like most agricultural nations in the old days. Winters were harsh and the soil in the Highlands was so rocky it could not support large families on the farm. As some historian said, "The fertility of Scottish women was greater than the fertility of the soil hence the great Scottish immigrations across the globe." Which means, I guess, there are people all over the world talking with thick accents none of the locals understand.

I miss the Scots' simplicity, their common sense, their frugality. They see North America as a throwaway society; if something doesn't work it gets thrown out. My favorite aunt used to ask me when I visited her, "How are the grandchildren?" I didn't have any then but she had explained all this before: the Old World (Europe) was the grandparent and the United States will all its albeit well meaning blunders was the grandchild, making all the mistakes a child could make.

village mailbox, Scotland

In my youth, children didn't make many mistakes. Life was simple. There wasn't a great deal of "stuff" going on. Born during the Depression then raised in wartime Britain we learned to amuse ourselves with simple things. We would explore river banks, scramble over heather in gorgeous bloom, surely the original Color Purple, hike everywhere, anywhere, to find panoramic views of the countryside or ancient battlefields or ancient monuments, wandering over sprawling estates whose owners had only one demand, "Close the gates after you."

I miss Scotland for its legends, its mystique, its romantic history.

I miss the Scots' dry, self-mocking sense of humor. Their best stories ---whether around the fireplace or behind the bar counter in a pub---always made fun of themselves. The Scots don't take themselves too seriously. I miss that in many of my American friends and suspect others might agree humorless persons can be hard to deal with. An old Scottish doctor friend once told me one of his patients retired, got bored and took a job as the janitor in a city park. Said my friend, this patient came in one day with a minor problem. I asked how the job was going. He replied: "Oh doctor, times are so different. People come into the toilets for all sorts of terrible reasons. When someone comes in for an honest to goodness crap it's like a breath of fresh air!"

Joking apart I miss Scotland's fresh air. I miss the fresh water running down from the hills hurrying in shallow streams over the river bed gravel that gives the purity, the basis of the velvet Scotch. I miss the evening light that lasts in summer almost to midnight even though it made it hard for my kids to fall asleep when they were on vacation with us. I miss the strange luminosity in the day when the sun comes out---if only for a moment---until the next burst of rain, though I curse the weather when I have to drive alternating sunglasses and windshield wipers every few minutes.

Yes Scotland can be wet and cold. Visitors need to know they're not coming for the sun, although Scotland on a beautiful day in May or September can be the envy of Europe and, in the 30 or so trips I've made since 1960, I've often had great weather by avoiding Scotland's temperamental summer.

One day in late April, for example, I was walking along a road enjoying the most glorious Scottish spring we'd had in many a year when I came up on an old lady. "Can you remember a spring like this?" I asked in passing. She called after me, "I cannae rrrememberrr a summerrr like this."

But come not for Scotland's weather but for its scenery: Undulating green hills in the Borders area southern lowlands not unlike Vermont's; craggy granite peaks in the north like the foothills of our Rockies; sleepy fishing villages like the Maritime provinces; magnificent baronial homes like Connecticut's---you'll see how New England got its name.

And come for quiet times and the simple life. Come to the county where I grew up -- Perthshire, in the very heart of Scotland. Located in the geographical center of the country the area has played an important role in this nation's long and turbulent history. Just as every place in Colonial America brags "George Washington slept here" so Perthshire can claim it has hosted Macbeth, Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria and Robert Burns among many others. It has always been a very stable community. The population didn't change for 150 years: it was 126,000 in 1801 and 128,000 in 1951. Crieff, my hometown, had similar statistics. It had 6,000 of a population 200 years ago and when I was going to school it had the same number. I once heard an explanation in a pub: "In Crieff, every time a girl has a baby a boy leaves town."

Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
Holyroodhouse

The population numbers have changed now as a result of tourism. Visitors come to fish its streams and golf its historic courses. They come to walk hills and climb mountains, to explore villages and find castles and to follow distilleries on the Whisky Trail.

And to meet its people

You find Scottish folk when you stop at a street corner, pull out a map, and they come up to ask if they can help. You encounter them when you stick your head into a store and ask for directions and a customer pulls out his keys and says, "It's too complicated. Follow my car and I'll show you. It's easier." You discover them when you stop at a pub in the evening and they hear your accent and, with gratitude even after 60 years, come up and say, because they don't differentiate among the people from the United States, "Hey, Yank. Have a beer on Britain. This one's for Ike's army!"

Other armies have visited Scotland. When the Old World formed the European Union in 1993, the northern Highlands region of Scotland found itself described as "Europe's last remote frontier." Indeed. The words carved into the granite slab at the Queen's View across Loch Tummel above the vacation village of Pitlochry are more specific: "Only traders, adventurers, writers and armies visited the Highlands before the 19th Century."

medieval grave
Medieval grave

For sure! The savage battle of Killicrankie took place three miles away in 1689 when 2500 Catholic Highlanders attacked a force of 4000 English Protestants and killed half of them in less than an hour. The breast plate of the Highland leader "Bonnie Dundee" with the hole from the ball that killed him hangs on display at my favorite castle, Blair, a ten-minute drive just up the road. Amongst the eclectic array on display at Blair Castle is an original antique book dated 1673 showing the travels of Edward Brown, MD, the king's favorite physician.

It's hard not to have favorites when you've spent your childhood in this land of the bagpipes and the kilt. One is always Scotland's capital the city where I went to college, Edinburgh. But I have two favorite towns. First, Pitlochry in the north part of Perthshire with its main street peppered with quality restaurants, interesting souvenir shops and expensive places where tailors can outfit you in tartan outfits that your kids might use later for Trick or Treat. Pitlochry has a nationally famous Summer Festival with a summer theater. It has great fly fishing and great golf and has every kind of outdoor activity. I have a soft spot for this so-named "holiday town" because my mother was born 10 miles away in Moulin, a village whose church dates from 1180 though it was restored more recently - in 1613. The pub in town dates from 1695. Pitlochry is fun.

Rob Roy's grave
Rob Roy's Grave

My other favorite town is my birthplace, Crieff, at the other end of Perthshire half an hour to the south. Its attractions include Innerpeffray, founded about 1680, the oldest free lending library in the country -- its unique exhibits include the Holinshed Chronicles published in 1577. They were the basis for some of Shakespeare's plays.

But Perthshire also offers Scone Palace where the kings of Scotland were crowned for 500 years. It has the gardens of Drummond Castle that were shown to advantage in the movie Rob Roy; and the actual grave of Rob Roy lies beside the little village church in Balquhidder. Scotland's oldest distillery is three miles outside Crieff at Glenturret and Scotland's smallest is at Edradour in Pitlochry. History is spanned near Crieff at Ardoch in Braco where a Roman camp dates back to the 2nd century and at Huntingtower Castle, a 15th-century castellated mansion, where the future King James VI was imprisoned for a year. The Crieff area has old churches, too: St. Bean's, a 13th-century church in Fowlis Wester with a leper squint -- a small window through which lepers could watch the service from the garden and then there's St. Serf's, a 13th-century church in Dunning near a monument to Poor Maggie Wells who, in 1657, was the last witch to be burned at the stake in Scotland.

Wallace monument
Wallace Monument

A half-hour drive away towers the Wallace Monument, a Victorian monument 220 feet high built 572 years after the historic Battle of Stirling Bridge of 1297 that gave Scotland respite from the English crown. Unbelievably, Wallace's broadsword was saved and is on display. Mel Gibson played Wallace in the movie Braveheart and a statue showing the actor in that role has now appeared near the monument erected, perhaps, by Scottish tourism.

Tourism is big business in Perthshire. Yet Johnny Cunningham, the comic founder of Silly Wizard, a Scottish folk music group, used to kid "Scotland is not for the squeamish." He claimed he found that phrase scrawled on a toilet wall in the very shaky handwriting of what he suspected was a tourist. But Johnny was fiddling around to the singing of brother Phil and Andy Stewart in the 70s and 80s and even then he was only teasing.

Today's tourists don't have shaky handwriting, but they do sport steady smiles. Perthshire offers more than 3,000 events for visitors every year, including village galas, country games, Scottish dancing, Highland nights, folk music, craft fairs, nature walks, mountain climbs, garden festivals, water sports, motor tours and golf championships. Perthshire has now 40 golf courses and five scenic nine-hole courses. The Gleneagles Hotel has four courses including the renowned King's course and the equally famous Queen's ((although the hotel is getting to be a bit pleased with itself and it's very expensive especially if you're traveling with children).

Children will enjoy Edinburgh. Its castle is the second most visited historical attraction in Britain after the Tower of London. Statues of William Wallace and his successor, Robert the Bruce, grace the castle's entrance and, below the end of the cobbled street of the Royal Mile, sits Holyrood House with its 500 years of history including a famous assassination.

Edinburgh is a convenient, even romantic, place to end a Scottish vacation.

You are surrounded by historical museums, proud culture, beautiful gardens, one-of-kind hotels and something new (in a country where part of the joke is "Hell is a place where the cooks are British"): superb restaurants. Favorites include the North Bridge brasserie, great food in a fun atmosphere in a fascinating hotel, the Scotsman. The hotel, one of The Leading Hotels of the World, was converted in 2001 from the headquarters of Scotland's famous newspaper. And just round the corner on Princess Street sits the Balmoral a member of the luxury Rocco Forte group and winner of the 2004 Scottish Thistle Award - "Customer Care, Hotel of the Year," with, arguably, the ultimate, perfect dining experience in Scotland, the number one restaurant.

Why Go?

Dr. Micheil MacDonald, a Scottish anthropologist friend, tells me why so many North Americans visit his country: "First," he says. "There's a sense of history. Where else can you round a bend and find families who've been living in the same village for 200 years? This land of the Scot resembles a time capsule but, unlike the world of Disney, it's for real. Second," says MacDonald, "North Americans come home to trace their roots. Everyone seems to have a Scottish granny."

Scotland has produced a remarkable crop from its rocky infertile soil: Baird, who invented television and Bell the telephone; Carnegie, the gentlest rich man in history and Burns, the poorest great poet in literature; Hunter, the dean of surgical anatomy and Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin; Simpson, who saw a use for chloroform and Watt, who understood the value of steam; MacMillan, the blacksmith who built the bicycle and Napier, the mathematician who created logarithms; Mackintosh, who made rainmacs and Macadam, who made tarmac. Scotland is remembered for its bridge builders, its authors and its explorers. Scotland discovered much of Canada, produced the founder of the United States Navy and the Russian Navy. It had its hand in chemical oil refining, artificial ice manufacturing and even the first adhesive postage stamp. Appropriately for a canny country it had Adam Smith, the first world economist. Even the founder of the Bank of England was a Scotsman. As the world remarks: "The Scots interfere with everything!"

East Haugh House Hotel and view of Edinburgh

Where to Stay

Pitlochry has some terrific lodgings, my favorite being East Haugh House (011 44 1796 473121 www.easthaugh.co.uk/ ) a 17th century turreted stone country house, now a 4-Star 13-roomed hotel run by Neil and Lesley McGown who bought the house in 1989. The river flooded the area some years ago giving the McGowns the chance to redo the whole house. With free parking, interesting architecture, comfortable beds, a great cook, a terrific restaurant, a cozy bar, a really friendly staff and knowledgeable, agreeable hosts, what more could a visitor want? Rates through May tend to run about £99 pp (per person) for dinner, room and a hearty breakfast.

Crieff has a lot of enthusiastic B & B inns and small hotels. The top dog hotel is the Crieff Hydro 011 44 1764 655555 http://www.crieffhydro.com/ which opened in 1868 at the height of that century's fascination with hydropathic hotels and their apparent cures for what ails you. The Victorians wouldn't recognize its resort now. It sprawls over 900 acres with a golf course and riding stables. Rates would be about the same as East Haugh House but the Hydro has more than 200 different types of room including traditional and contemporary -- all the 200 or so ensuite rooms meet 4-Star standards.

Edinburgh Castle Museum displaysIn Edinburgh I like Channings 011 44 131 274 7401 http://www.channings.co.uk/ another 4-Star hotel. It emerged as a 46-room boutique hotel in 1990 from several Edwardian town houses. (Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer, once lived at number 14; it's now the hotels' library and living room.) It's a ten minute walk to the West End of Princess Street. The hotel has a quiet location on a cobbled back street but the last time I was there the street parking was not exactly generous. You should call the hotel for directions. Rates are about the same as the previously mentioned hotels.

Getting Around

The common sense rules for those who've never driven in Britain (on the left hand side of the road) are to check into a hotel near the airport the first night to get over jet lag before tackling Britain's roads, to have a companion who keeps chanting, "Left, left, left" as you drive especially at those rotaries the British call "round-a-bouts," to plan not to drive too far each day the first few days, to rent an automatic to reduce the challenges of what's so different from driving in North America and to go for as small a car as baggage allows because you are going to be shuddering at the price of gas.

Finding your way around the UK can be difficult. Christopher Ward, a writer and director of Redwood, Europe's largest publishing agency, explains tongue in cheek, "During the Second World War Britain removed all signposts to confuse the enemy in the event of an invasion. The process of replacing those signs is now well under way and due to be completed sometime next century."

Visit Britain finds it necessary to point out Ward's just joking especially when it comes to Scotland where a ground swell of tourist interest has followed movies like Braveheart and Rob Roy. A film critic described the latter, despite all its swashbuckling Errol Flynn-like action as a "love story" and followed up with, "Scotland is so romantic, Victoria's Secret will soon be carrying the kilt."

Stretching the Dollar

Britain has always been expensive, even before North America currency started its slide against the Euro and the pound. The Scots are frugal. They're aware lunches are less expensive in department cafeterias and pubs -- and, in restaurants, drinks are cheaper in the bar than at a table. They know expected gratuities are less in Scotland so don't over-tip. Hotels seem to charge three times what you'd pay over here, restaurants about twice and everything else is dollar for pound. By that I mean if 4 Canadian dollars roughly is equal to 2 British pounds and you can buy something in Canada for 4 dollars, in the UK a similar item should have a price tag of 2 pounds, but no, it often is priced at 4 pounds. This is why British visitors love North America: they get such bargains.

So how can we stretch the dollar?

Avoid peak season travel. April and September can be great months in Scotland, kids are in school, the roads are not so busy with vacationers, and hotels and air may cost be less. Choose flights that leave midweek. If with a group consider renting an apartment; you can save more by eating there sometimes. Hotels outside the major cities or on the outskirts may be less expensive. Local newspapers may have coupons to attractions.

In Europe busses are cheaper than trains especially in the UK which has Europe's most expensive rail system. Banks have better rates than currency booths at airports but credit cards and ATMs may offer better deals than banks. If you are leaving Scotland for a subsequent trip to London get Bank of England pound notes in your dollar exchanges as some English establishments won't accept Bank of Scotland banknotes.

Check out prices of European goods in local discount stores before you leave North America: their prices may be less than some items in Britain. Similarly don't be too impressed by duty-free shops in airports. What may be a good buy in Scotland? Tartan (plaid) clothing, woolens, cashmere, tweeds, sheepskin-lined jackets, leather goods, linen tablecloths, silverware, staghorn items, Celtic jewelry, glass paperweights, golf knickknacks, and, of course, Scotch whisky.


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In the meantime, here are some of the feedback we have already received:


Hey Eric and Nancy! As a fellow Traveling Boy journalist, and as a confirmed WW2 aficionado, just wanted you to know how much I loved your story on Arnhem. Really great stuff, and truly brilliant riveting writing.

I’ve been there twice and covered it on my KNX radio show when I was on LA radio, and your story and evocative photos brought back a ton of wonderful and poignant memories. This could have been an amazingly brilliant military operation – as you both know – that might well have ended the War in Europe maybe a year earlier. However, allied misreading -- and in my view disregarding certain aspects of the situation in Holland -- plus the fact that they dropped the paras over 3 days and not in one huge assault at night (and not in the day as they did) doomed the mission to failure.

Your clever words and great photos brought all this graphically to life, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in any aspect of WW2, and certainly should be read by today’s teenagers. Again Bravo and well done!!!!

John Clayton
Travel with A Difference

We just couldn't leave your website before saying that we genuinely enjoyed the high quality information you offer for your visitors... Would be back frequently to check up on new stuff you post!

Raanana

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What a fantastic write-up!

I could almost copy and paste most of your narrative verbatim as it reflects our fantastic experience with Fantasy Cruises almost to a tee. It was truly one of the greatest vacations my girlfriend and I have ever experienced.

Cheers!
Mike Richard, Editor, Vagabondish.com

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One of my dreams is to go to Alaska by way of cruise. This article very much intensifies the longing for that dream to come to fruition. I simply cannot wait much longer. And I will never again be able to think of a waterfall without picturing myself "nosing up" to it. Thank you for this intriguing, virtual journey.

Sandra Mines, Seattle, WA

Thank you for writing, Sandra. Alaska really is a wondrous place. Re "Nosing up" to a waterfall: we have a different article up at Physician's Money Digest on the same cruise (Small Ship Cruising: Alaska by the Back Door). The third last set of images there shows a crew member filling a jug of ice water from a waterfall while standing in the bow of the ship! Best wishes. Get there! To Alaska one day.

Eric & Nancy

Loved your photos from Alaska! Because I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for Westmark Hotels, I am up in AK and the Yukon quite often to visit our hotels and staff! But your pictures were so enjoyable-love to see the "real" Alaskans!

Heidi Howeiler, Seattle, WA

Hi Ms. Howeiler, That was kind of you to write and yes, you do see real people in Alaska, don't you? Alaskans always remind us off rural Texans or Australians in the isolated Red Centre of their country: hard working, sensible, rolled-up-sleeves people with no affectations. We love your Westmark hotels and we take our hats off to the person who started your company, Chuck West. What a great guy!

Eric & Nancy

Enjoyed your realistic and practical comments on Provence. Always wanted to go there ever since reading Peter Mayle's 2 books on Provence. But the two times I went to France, time was always short, so we spent our days in Paris. And now you say, it is losing its unique charm to tourism. (Sigh). It's always a choice between sharing beauty, and keeping it hidden. The world lurches on. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dette, Iligan City, Philippines

Hi Dette, (Would love to see all your waterfalls), Thank you for writing. Provence is busy in the tourist season but it hasn't lost all its charm or the quirkiness Mayle talks about in his book Provence A to Z. It's still a place to visit. Appreciate hearing from you. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

What a great article, especially regarding Louis XIV. I was not aware there was a contemporary account of his execution. It was fascinating. Thank you!

Celtic fan, Nashua, MA

Dear Celtic fan, Thanks for writing. I didn't know about the account of his execution either till I stumbled upon it. Sad to think that the French revolutionaries thought they could be both judge and jury. We are lucky to have a more elegant system today. Thanks for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nancy and Eric,

Enjoyed reading your article on Santa Fe, NM. I was in AZ travel nursing in 2008 and 2009 and made it to Santa Fe. Took a lot of pics and really loved walking around the old town while I was there. Hope to be able to take the wife there in the future.

Brett Eidson, Soso, MS

Hi dude! Nice to see your site. It's beautiful. My congratulations.

New York

Hi New York, Thank you for writing. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

Hi www.travelingboy.com! Your web-site is very interesting and I want to tell www.travelingboy.com G'night.

New York

Dear New York,

Thank you for writing. Glad you find the site interesting. We are here for you. Keep visiting.

Eric & Nancy

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This is all genuine. I will return to scan.

Keflavik

Hi Keflavik, Thank you for writing. We are happy you will return.

Eric & Nancy

Good article.

On Behalf Of Diane, Port Ludlow, WA

Thanks for writing from Port Ludlow. We hear that's a beautiful place. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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When I was hurt in a boat accident my life would be changed totally. I really don't post much but thanks for the good times I have here. Love this place. Long time lurker, thought I would say hello!

Miami

Dear Miami, Thanks for writing. It's nice to hear from you. Hope you are getting better. Glad you get some good times at Traveling boy. Good luck.

Eric & Nancy

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Dear friends,

My name is Adelina. I am a 22 years girl from Italy. I was looking for a free translation software and I found one. Program's name is Babel Fish and it supports 75 languages. I installed it but I could not understand how to use it. I am not a computer expert. Can someone help me please on how to run this.The link is here :http://access.im/3/babelfish. I thank you very much for your help.

Adelina, Celaya

Adelina, I didn't want to download it but I saw examples online. It seemed easy. You select the page you want translated, copy it and paste it into the box. You then click on the button to translate. You may have to do one page at a time. You can also use Google to translate a page; that's what I do because I don't want to load too much software.

Eric & Nancy

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Amiable brief and this mail helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thanks you seeking your information.

WordPress Themes, Gray Mountain

We are glad to have been of help. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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What's up everyone? Great forum. Lots of lovely people. Just what I need. Hopefully this is just what i'm looking for. Looks like I have a lot to read.

Spanish John, Benidrom

Encouraging to get your feedback. Glad to hear from you. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nice dispatch (http://www.travelingboy.com/travel-eric.html) - and this enter helped me a lot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

Gray Mountain

Hi Gray Mountain,

Thank you for your comment. Your email reminds us all at TravelingBoy how important it is to be accurate in what we write. Good luck with your studies and have a great life.

Eric & Nancy

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Hello people, I just signed up on this splendid community forum and wanted to say hey there! Have a wonderful day!

Jacksonville

Hi Jacksonville, We are pleased to hear from new readers at TravelingBoy. Your feedback encourages us all to do better. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

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What a fascinating bit of Russian history you wrote about! How sad to learn that 100,000 churches were reduced to create skating rinks and such during the revolution, after seeing the photo of the interior of a magnificent church filled with art! War is so devastating on so many levels! The art of their culture is so beautiful as is shown in the image of the painted box! Thank you,

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Dear Yoka,

Thank you for writing. Nancy is originally Lutheran and Eric is a dour Scot, more used to the frequently cold and often cheerless churches of his native land so we were both overwhelmed to see the beauty of Russian churches. It was kind of you to write, Yoka.

Thank you,
Eric & Nancy

Interesting observations.... Very informative and thought provoking. Questions.... What would be the best way to get from Moscow Airport DME to boat dock? taxi? prearranged limo? prepaid Viking Tours transfer? Any idea on cost and travel time for taxi or limo or Viking Cruise pickup from airport to boat? We shall be flying to Moscow on our own. Do you happen to have an address for the river boat dock that Viking Cruises uses in Moscow? I would be nice to Google map the situation. Thanks,

Robert Hopwood, Ottawa, Canada

Hi Bob,

Excuse the delay; we were on a trip. I do understand your question and will try and get you an answer. The Viking river dock in Moscow was for us in the north part of the city but once we were on the boat it was an easy ten minute walk to the Metro station that had us downtown within 30 minutes. I'm a lot more relaxed at the end of a trip than at the beginning and therefore I always feel taking the cruise-line sponsored trip from the airport to the dock makes sense: What starts right usually ends right.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Hi Bob,

I’m back with more information. The river port’s address is Northern River Boat Station Leningradsky Prospekt, Khimki. If you Google that you will see it is about 15 minutes’ walk from two Metro stations. http://www.aptouring.com.au/files/documents/17/29022_Moscow2.pdf .

I spoke to Nancy at customer relations at Viking Cruises at the new LNR Warner Center in 5700 Canoga Avenue, Woodland Hills, Calif.

She was very helpful and advises you to take the Viking transportation service. She is biased, of course, but she’s right. Moscow DME airport is 40 miles away on the opposite side of the city, at least two hours driving time. The airport has no Metro station; you’d have to take the Aeroexpress train to Paveletsky station then change to the Metro and go to Rechnoy Vokzal station then take a cab to the port. A cab all the way from DME would cost at least 2000 rubles (more than $70). That’s less than the $60 each that Viking would charge…but…I think you’d be ill-advised to do it on your own. Why start the trip where the potential to screw up is so likely? Moscow taxi drivers are as dishonest as most tourist city cab drivers and probably yours won’t speak English. I think the address in Russian is

BUT...

I strongly discourage you from economizing on this and doing it on your own. Buy the transfer and save money somewhere else.

We have other Viking Volga web articles up at http://travelingboy.com/archive-travel-eric-russia.html and at http://www.ericandersonsworld.com/story.php?id=6LvDg.

Good luck. Great show Canada’s putting on for the Olympics!

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Reseller Hosting, London

Hi, Is it Britni Freeman?

Thank you, we think... We suspect your comments are valid. In fact we think all of us writing for TravelingBoy are starting to get into the swing of things and do a better job -- and your encouragement spurs us to do even better. Thank you for writing. Have a good 2010,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Dear Nancy and Eric

Thank you so much for the wonderful article on statues in Europe. Statues are my favorite art form and your descriptions were delightful to read - knowledge and fun together. I do still wonder about that foot in Rome...

Peggy - Pasadena, CA

Hi Peggy,

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments. We used to be critical of people who can't identify the persons on statues in foreign cities -- until one day a tourist stopped us in our own San Diego and asked us, in vain, for details on a statue we'd never noticed before! We wonder about that Roman foot too. If Eric had stood any closer he'd be in his typical foot-in-mouth position.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

I live in Santa Fe and see and delight in it every day, but your writing makes it sparkle even more. How nice to see Santa Fe through your eyes. Great photos!

Cynthia Whitney-Ward - Santa Fe, NM

Dear Dr. Anderson:

I have followed your writing career for as long as I can remember, and I think the thing I enjoy the most about your travel writing is the sense of joy and discovery that leads the reader to anticipate ever corner you turn in your travels.What a delightful traveling companion you are, and I know have always been, with that wonderfully eternally youthful joie de vivre...I wonder:do you feel that East, West, home is best? And where IS that place you have never been, but want to go most of all,yet? Bring we, your devoted readers ever along!

CAT -- San Diego (Scrips Ranch), CA

Dear CAT,

Thank for taking the time to write to TravelingBoy.com. You are very kind. We don't know that travel writers make the best companions; we suspect they may be obsessed with getting the best photograph or may monopolize the guide with questions so that others don't get to ask what interests them. What place is best? Well, it may be fun to sit in a rickshaw in Beijing or try to master the Metro in Moscow, but -- as you imply -- it is good to get home after trips.

Home is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes and home for many of us fortunately contains family.

We've never been to Easter Island and may have missed the boat (no pun intended) there. The island is losing its innocence; we've seen that happen at Machu Picchu or, closer to home, at Lake Powell in Arizona. So maybe the best travel advice is: Go when you are fit and healthy, before rising prices make a destination inaccessible -- and before hordes of tourists ruin any destination's mystique.

With best Holiday Wishes from Traveling Boy,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

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What a fantastic primer on New York City. I think you have really captured its essence with this exciting overview of its offerings. Well done!

Gillian Abramson - New York

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You describe a city on wheels - er, wings - and an absolutely perfect way to travel. SHOWERS & FLOWERS! Amazing! I love that your passion for all-things-aviation comes through in this story about an almost unbelievable airplane. Thanks for breaking the news in such an engaging way!

Richard Frisbie - Saugerties, New York

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Enjoyed your blog on Romania. Noticed you called Bucharest "The Paris of the East." I wonder, is there any city not called "The Paris of something." I've read San Francisco is 'the Paris of the West,' Buenos Aires 'The Paris of South America,' and even Tromso, Norway 'The Paris of the Arctic.'

Terry Cowan - Fresno

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Hi Terry,

Thanks for writing to TravelingBoy. And thanks for educating me; I didn't know that about Tromso, didn't even know there was a Tromso. I heard Bangkok called the Venice of the East when I was there and, in two weeks, I'm heading for the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg, Russia.

It does become a bit silly, doesn't it? But we are originally an immigrant nation that was Eurocentric. Maybe it gave our forefathers confidence even courage when they took old names, old ideas to the New World with them. I know I feel nostalgic if I drive around Ontario, Canada and see all the British place names.

I appreciate your email. Thank you for writing.

Eric

Eric -

Enjoyed your article on Madrid. I noticed that you find it superior to Rome. Most of the Spanish folks that I meet seem to prefer Barcelona. How would you rate that city?

Samuel K
Seattle

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Hi Samuel,

We loved Barcelona although driving around the city was surprisingly complicated as our maps were inadequate. The cathedral had scaffolding around it so I couldn't get the pictures I wanted but we found the architecture fascinating and the Picasso museum rewarding. We were anxious to get on the road to Costa Brava and didn't have more than a couple of days in Barcelona.

Thanks for writing.
Eric


Great article on Madrid. I've heard there is a rivalry between the people of Madrid and Barcelona. In which city are the people friendlier? How about for hipness? I noticed you were Scottish. I felt a similar thing in Scotland, with a Glasgow v. Edinburgh vibe.

Gary
Santa Monica

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Thank you for writing to TravelingBoy, Gary. We found Barcelona friendlier.

Maybe that's because it's not the capital and it's not so busy either. Maybe it's because the Gaudi architectural influence is pervasive and -- to both its citizens and tourists -- comforting. Maybe it's because Barcelona is the gateway to the work of artist Salvatore Dali, and his spirit catches us. (I don't know much about art but I've seen a lot of Dali's work enough to think he never took himself too seriously and often painted tongue in cheek. Maybe fun people spring for fun places?) Hipness? Madrid is more formal and dressy but Barcelona, I believe, is more hip maybe, again, because it's more fun.

Your points about Scotland are valid. It's more than a joke. The Glaswegians are more down to earth. I think we see it here in the belief that if you had a flat tire in Middle America passers-by would be more inclined to stop and help than perhaps New Englanders.

- Eric

Dear Eric,

I liked the article. As I read it, I was wondering how you as a physician were influenced by Hippocrates. What influence did this historical figure have on the practice of medicine beyond the obvious 'oath.' Why is Hippocrates considered to be such a paragon of medicine? DWA - San Pedro, CA

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Dear David,

Thank you for writing to Travelingboy.com.

Hippocrates is revered because he believed his duty was to the individual patient, not to the community at large. This is a very important premise. The Romans, whose empire followed that of the Greeks, achieved much in health matters by emphasizing clean drinking water and personal hygiene, and created great national works like aquaducts and public baths but wealthy Romans apparently preferred Greek doctors as their personal physicians.

Hippocrates is also respected because he brought intellectual thought to diagnosis. He taught his students to use their five senses in assessing patients and was openly critical of the junk science of his day as practiced by the priest-physicians who preyed on the fear and ignorance of the ill persons who came to them.

It is true that not all medical chools today require graduating doctors to take the Hippocratic Oath but most conscientious physicians base their lifetime commitment to the practice of medicine on the life and teachings of that one man.

Or so I think. Perhaps if we knew more about our heroes they would seem less heroic. But in Hippocrates' case he did leave a record of his thoughts and some of his principles are today as strong as ever.

Thank you for writing, it is appreciated.

Eric

Stay tuned.


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