Sunday, March 29, 2009

Scotland the ?

Brave? Foolhardy? Wild? Cold? Visually stunning? Friendly? Try them all on for size.

Now, if I were to put the following together, where would I be?
Dali, Matisse, Titan, Bellini, Boticelli, Monet, Vuillard, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Coubert.

Well, I would be in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow of course! We had decided to go today because there is a Doctor Who Exhibition on. Sadly for us, when we get there we find that it is fully booked out for the weekend. Michael however placated himself with the Spitfire LA198 (Griffin powered Spitfire Mark 21 - Michael is so insistent that I get it right) that is hanging above the main foyer area (and later with the small but exquiste Ancient Egypt collection). And the art collection is just magnificent and so well laid out. Dali's Christ of St John on the Cross hangs at the end of an open corridor that is at least 100 yards long - and it dominates without overpowering this entire length. Absolutely stunning.

A quote on the wall in the French Art Gallery especially appealed:
"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing" - Camille Pissaro. I thought it particularly pertinent in such a place full of beauty in the everyday.

There was a fascinating display of swords that combined the old in a new setting with steel styalised figures representing those who would have once used the sword in question - well done - it was a fresh take on an item not normally displayed with such vigour. We could have spent the whole day and then some in this place where there are very few items that bear the notice Please do not touch. There were fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, families with lots of little ones, and then there was us. Every room is a discovery wonder where you are encouraged to inspect closely (and sometimes even touch or hold) and in each gallery there were demonstrations pertinent to that collection as well as a free-to-use library and study centre. No wonder it is full and lively with such diverse groups of people.
But we are travelling to Oban, so depart the museum just after 2:00 pm to join a four mile crawl of traffic banked back as they do weekend resealing on the main motorway to the north! From Glasgow, we travel along the length of Loch Lomond, through the Trossach National Park and around the foothills of the Arrochar Alps then around the top of Loch Fyne to Inveraray before turning to the north again to get to Oban through Ardanaiseig and Loch Awe.

Sitting on a small island in the middle of Loch Awe is the ruin of the 14th century Kilchurn Castle - something you really don't expect to see when you round the corner. And I had better not ever hear Michael complain of my Alps photos again. Wherever there is a snow covered peak, he reaches for the camera! Says that it is different when you see them in person - but would he believe me before - no way. I know we keep saying the scenery is magnificent and it is. Every day we spend, every corner we turn brings a new vista to store in the camera of our memory banks. We strike rain as we get closer to Oban and our first view of the town is through a haze of watery mist hugging the shore of an almost perfect horseshoe bay.
Blair Villa where we are booked in to stay the night is a small B&B that is up a narrow steep road and set amidst other stone built victorian cottages. Alec makes us welcome and shows us to our room on the first floor that adjoins a beautiful sitting room complete with baby grand piano and the most amazing views across the bay from large picture windows.
On Alec's recommendation, we go down to the Waterfront Restaurant (as aptly named as situated). We were met at the door by the vivacious Joyce (who had just taken a mouthful of food!) From the minute we walked in, her main job for the night was to make us welcome and share a laugh or three. What an asset to the enterprise. And while we order and then eat, we watch the Mull Island Ferry being made fast - right outside the window where we sit.

And the food. Well - it was terribl-y good! Being on the coast we decided to go with the seafood - as you do!!
Seared local Scallops with Pancetta, white beans & roasted pepper dressing (Michael)
Isle of Skye classic and roast Smoked Salmon with chive cream cheese & granary toast (Maria)
Fish and Chips (Sole) with Homemade chips, tartar sauce & lemon (both)
Home made Vanilla Pannacotta with Raspberry Compote (shared)
Selection of Scottish Cheeses with Oatcakes (shared) - the blue cheese and the apple smoked Mull Island cheeses were especially noteworthy. Charlie, one of the chefs told us that we could not buy the cheese - it is a special order for them - bugger - would have gladly bought some to travel with.

Coffee was sublime. I of course had an Oban Malt Whisky coffee whilst Michael had to settle for a double espresso. And that coffee had followed a dram of Dalwhinnie Malt Whisky - soooo smooth and mellow. Yes, a grand night! Now, I am so full I hurt.

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