The Castles of Outlander

Outlander is a series of Historical Fiction/ Fantasy novels by Diana Gabaldon, which was introduced to me in 1996 by Sandy Katz, a teacher colleague from Poquoson HS in Virginia. I remember that she gave me the first book on a Friday and on the following Monday morning she had the second book waiting for me because she knew I would need it! I was immediately hooked, and from then on waited eagerly for each new book in the never-ending series. Way before the TV show all we had was the Outlandish Companion and Fan Conventions to sustain us between books. I even bought my first graphic novel and had it autographed by DG at a Fan Convention. I have never cosplayed Outlander like many fans do, but I do own a coat that I consider Outlander style, and I wore it to the standing stones in Sweden

for a bit of fun. So for me the highlight of the Edinburgh trip was the day trip to see several sites used in the filming of the TV show. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and I now aspire to the week-long version all across Scotland someday…

Lallybroch, Culross and Blackness

We were super lucky to see Lallybroch (Midhope) as it is currently filming and was scheduled to be closed to the public. But we were able to see it from the outside. It is the Fraser family home in the TV series.

BLACKNESS CASTLE, lower center: a bathroom fit for royalty. It was heated and well equipped
BLACKNESS CASTLE, Wentworth Prison
“The ship that never sailed” built on the south side of the Firth of Forth in the 15th century, on ruins of a 1440 fortress
Linlithgow’s wall listing rulers of the United Kingdom, with memorials to 2nd Queen Elizabeth
Statue of Mary Queen of Scots born here 1542- The Royal House of Stuart LINLITHGOW PALACE

Lunch break was in Linlithgow and there was no guided tour since it’s under renovation due to falling rock. I had lamb shepherd pie for lunch with root veg soup. Both were delish.

The gardens on this hillside behind the palace were used in the Cranesmuir garden scenes
The hanging gardens of Culross used as Geillis Duncan’s Garden
LEOCH and LALLYBROCH – Bridge over the River Teith

Hard to believe we saw all this in one day! And the rain held off until the very last site. We didn’t get to walk along the river Teith, but the views were stunning even in the rain.


Flag at half-mast for QE2

Another long-weekend adventure with my friend, Stephanie. We headed to Edinburgh in that small window where the crowds have gone but the weather is generally still pretty good. Of course the death of Queen Elizabeth put a twist on our plans so instead the city was fairly crowded, with nearly all the typical tourist sites closed. The road closures didn’t impact us too much since we had booked a tour outside of Edinburgh to see some of the castles and villages. Our guide said she had to make only a small change in the route back into the city so that was fine. It ended up being a fantastic trip, really, once we adjusted our mindsets and made the best of the circumstances. In fact, I’m glad it worked out as it did because we had the chance to be in on an exciting bit of cultural history. And because we missed the usual sites, I can go back again with Bryant and see everything. I think he’s going to love it, and he’s the one with Scottish ancestry. I found this serendipitous book at the library in Lund called “111 places in Edinburgh that you shouldn’t miss” so we will have plenty to do.

We packed in so much during 3 days that I can’t fit it all in one post so here are some highlights from Edinburgh proper… Old Town, New Town, The Royal Mile and the area around our hotel which ended up being amazingly convenient with a bus stop right in front, on a route that took us directly to the center of everything. The people were extremely friendly and helpful, though accents were a bit of a bother and we had some fun trying to communicate. Folks on the bus or street often wanted to chat and that’s how we learned what was going on with the Royal Processions, transportation cancellations, street closures etc. We were a bit slow on the uptake, not realizing what a big deal the Queen’s passing would be for Edinburgh. At one point we were “trapped” in a small area near the procession route, unable to cross in any direction. That’s when we tried haggis, neeps and tatties washed down with a local ale and followed by a leisurely afternoon tea at another restaurant in the closure zone. Not a bad way to pass the time considering that the crowd was so dense that we didn’t stand a chance of actually seeing much.

The Queen’s image was EVERYWHERE

The vibe in Edinburgh was certainly different due to the royal events. It seemed like every shop, and public space had some sort of tribute, some quite elaborate, to the queen. Some shops had signs indicating that the muzak was specially chosen to convey sympathy or otherwise demonstrate respect, solidarity or solemnity. Another strange happening was the seemingly unannounced minute of silence at the airport while we were in the middle of security. An intense Brit literally shushed us!!! While only one guy, as far as I could see, chose not to cooperate. He went boldly on his way without pausing. I felt a tad rebellious about being compelled to honor the queen, but I didn’t have the nerve to do anything different.

Dean Village and the river Leith
Dean Village and the Water of Leith
Armchair books, the national library and University

On the last morning we got up early to catch the sunrise over the Firth of Forth which is a fjord and estuary or “firth” where several rivers meet the North Sea. Our hotel was a 20 minute walk from Portobello Beach. Again we really lucked out on the weather!

View over the Firth of Forth

Because the weather was so perfect, we focused on nearby outdoor attractions such as Calton Hill, Dean Village and the Royal Botanic Garden. We even managed to squeeze in High Tea of salmon dill sandwiches and cream scones. The whiskey tea had a wonderful aroma, being barrel-aged in a whiskey cask.

Cykeläventyr: Tirups Herb Garden

The weather has been so nice lately, and I can only hope that Autumn continues this way! Erin and Melissa rode their bikes from Malmö to Lund, where Carole and I joined them for a cycling adventure! I am still not confident about biking except under the most perfect of conditions, so it was a great time to get out of my comfort zone. We were mostly on dedicated bike paths and there was little traffic for the sections that were on the road. The route took us through picturesque countryside to a garden inspiration center (see previous post of the visit with my American friend, Brandie, who has since moved back to USA) with gift shop, cafe, and creative displays of plants and garden art. It’s quite charming. We enjoyed lunch al fresco followed by leisurely strolls around the grounds to soak up inspiration.

I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home and crashed around 7pm, but still I agree with the group that we should make biking a regular event, at least in fair weather. Next time we’d like to try biking out to the Long Pier and/ or the beach.

Another birthday in Sweden!

Our 14 year old (yikes!) says we need to do something different for her birthday this year to distinguish it from the photos of previous b-days in Sweden. She’s right- it’s hard to tell since she requests the same cake, gets similar gifts in more or less the same setting. So this year we changed a few details and though Bryant had to work the 3 of us headed out on a little adventure to Malmö by bus rather than train. It was easier than train and more pleasant except for the lack of AC on an 80 degree day. I think this was largely due to the kids choice of riding in the upper deck which they deemed more exciting. Luckily we had an abanico (Spanish fan) with us and I tolerated the heat.

I made the Birthday Girl’s favorite breakfast and after hearing about a bunch of cancelled trains due to an accident, we decided on the bus option. The bus stop is out on the highway entrance, which seems odd, but is really quite practical and safe for pedestrians due to thoughtful planning. There are speed bumps, sheltered pedestrian lanes and crosswalks. And of course the round-about keeps traffic flowing but at low speed. Even with all train traffic being diverted to bus, it was on time with plenty of space. Our new place is close to all bus routes and the train so I plan to start using the bus options more often. I think they might be more practical for certain trips.

We strolled though Malmö, stopping at the Saluhall (food court) for picnic lunch and continued on to the King’s Park where the kids played a new card game after our picnic while I took a quick spin through the botanic gardens and castle grounds. This time I noticed a new AnonyMouse installation and some pigeons nesting inside one of the arrow loops in the barbican (Barbican: an exterior defense or small castle defending a gate or approach to a castle).

Then back to Lund for sushi and beloved Dark Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake. The Birthday Girl played a new video game all evening and has already made plans to celebrate her day with a school friend next weekend by doing some “tree walking” at an obstacle course near Lund. Fingers crossed for a continuation of this gorgeous summer weather!

Twin Cities Theater Camp 2022 plus

Now that we are back in Sweden I’m making time to elaborate on the TCTC experience which has been a focal point of our last 5 summers. It’s been a joy to see how much the kids grow in their performance skills, leadership qualities, and so many ways. This year was special because it was the last for lil’s age group and also the world premiere of a new musical for which they will always be part of the Original Cast! Because it’s brand new we couldn’t take photos and recordings of The Logic Pit but here are a few from before and after the show. We’re all very proud and impressed at how hard our kid worked on this production, singing and dancing while wearing a mask all day and making constant improvements, a high energy endeavor! She was willing to take big risks, push herself to find new abilities and build on her strengths! That hard work paid off in a big way. It was another extraordinary production for lil and the entire group. Many of our friends and family were there to support lil and co. and for those who couldn’t be with us we hope we’ll be able to share it soon!

It was awfully hard to say goodbye to camp friends and staff. The cast pool party was a nice way to spend a bit of down time together. There were lots of tears as the graduates said farewell to TCTC with the mix of sadness and excitement that growing up brings. How can it be that our baby is starting high school?

There will be more on The Logic Pit once they give us access to the professional photos and I can post a link to the show when that happens.


Here we are at the Anderson’s new place in SP where they hosted a BBQ. It was very nice to catch up with everyone and the good weather held for most of the evening. We played a fun music trivia game which was well -fought by most of the gang, even the youngsters, and though we didn’t keep score I think everyone would agree that Allison is the reigning Queen of Rock. It was nice having my brother’s family in the neighborhood. They have an awesome location near lots of great places where we have fond memories.

Minnehaha Park

A cooler than usual start to the day inspired a visit to the other side of the river where we hiked around reminiscing about our Minneapolis days and the many good times at Mpls Parks, lakes, and pools.

The self guided audio tour is a new feature, and we learned a lot of fun facts by scanning the code for many park highlights.

What a great morning! I noticed new works of art around the falls, including the statue at the end of the promenade of Gunnar Wennerberg. In Minnesota one is never far from a connection to Sweden. This snippet from Gunnar’s Wikipedia page made me laugh…I might have to see if any recordings exist of his poems set to *music***************

*************wikipedia burn, ouch!

Nice easy stroll down from the waterfall to a shallow wading area of the creek. I’ve never continued on to bridges 3,4 and 5 but that could be fun sometime. The cool morning turned hot & humid and we had to get back up the hill to where we parked. Also had a good look at the development of the old Ford plant on our way back to Cathedral Hill, where I’m living my best life with “scarcely a crumpled rose-leaf” and may we all be so blessed.

20th Anniversary!

For the second time, Bryant and I acknowledged our big day in different time zones. But happily we already made plans to celebrate with a food tour in Italy next April. Not a bad compromise since the timing just didn’t work to do anything big this summer.

The Noicelings are both growing up so quickly that we want to prioritize their educational opportunities and Bryant’s summer vacation time is limited. Too much to get done during those weeks.

Theater Camp is rolling along full speed and the 8th graders seem to be having a blast. We had a relaxing July 4 staycation with SoZo and had the pool to ourselves.

Back in Sweden, someone finally got her braces off!

She’s busy with the summer requirements for the International Baccalaureate program. In Saint Paul, we’ve enjoyed catching up with the cousins and cat sitting for them. Juno and Sugar kept us entertained.

Midsommar 2022

Another strange summer for us, with everyone off on their own adventures. I’m with the youngest in MN so she can enjoy her final year as a camper at Twin Cities Theater Camp. Bryant is in Lund (Berlin, Helsingborg and maybe a few other work trips) until his vacation in July. The two will join us at Laurel Flats mid-July for their MN time. We’ll see the Show and then head to Atlanta for a few days.

At least the projects at our St Paul condo are keeping me so busy I don’t think too much about our eldest’s college scouting trip to the UK with a few friends from Katedralskolan. As they were heading to the airport in Copenhagen I saw an article about the train strike in the UK, followed by a story on a second giant sink hole in London. But the girls were able to ride to and from Oxford by train yesterday and Cambridge today without difficulty.

There are fun moments mixed into the chaos of trying to pack up this condo and deal with daily life here again. Deb got tix to Black Violin which has been on my concert list for awhile. It did not disappoint, though it was a bit too loud for my 50+ ears!

Another school year done

The girls completed their second school year in Sweden! They both had some fun end of year activities, while I passed my level 3 speaking make-up exam this morning – a 15 minute discussion on the topic of Lifestyle. I got stuck a few times but was able to give logical answers and get through it! We’ll have our level 4 results next week. It’s been a crazy week of Studenten (high school graduation) Ceremonies and parties. They party hard from the 7 a.m. champagne breakfast and on through the night, with a long break mid-day to sleep! Each day belongs to a different school and that school gets to parade through town blowing whistles etc and they get the trucks to drive them around town. But it is very organized chaos. Students drink but there are adult chaperones. Systembolaget even donates the champagne, apparently.

And the beach has returned to Central Lund for the summer. Lots to do getting ready for our trip to MN. Picked up new glasses, prescriptions etc. and made time to enjoy the patio at the Grand Hotel with Bryant since he finished work earlier than usual. So we all ended the week on a high note! Noicelings chose Chinese dumplings for a celebratory dinner.

If we can’t be heard it’s Freja’s fault. Worst for test, best for fest.