Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Perth - no we are NOT back in Oz!

Peter and I shared some of the last bottle of the 2006 Les Tours de Cantinot red last night and I opened the Laphroig Cheddar with Whisky that I have been carting for the last week (its OK guys, it was waxed!). OMG - is that cheese delectable. The oatcakes that I had bought with it are very mild in flavour, allowing the cheese to shine. And you can distinctly taste the Laphroig Whisky in the cheddar. As it has been mixed with the cheese, this is a much softer cheddar - very creamy on the palate. I can't send any home to you as cheese is one of the no-nos through customs. But we might work on importing some if the deli thing progresses!! By the time Michael has some when he comes down from the parlour later, there is none left.

With the car off the road today, we took to the busses and shanks pony. Like many cities in the United Kingdom, Perth is quite compact and therefore easy to discover on foot. The bus service from the guest house is great - stops across the road and outside, runs every 10 minutes and takes about 6 minutes in! Can't ask for much better than that!! We begin in the centre of the city, stopping at the VIC for a map and some info.

We are in High Street in the centre of the pedestrainised area. The sun is out but there are clouds and while not cold, the wind still has a bit of a chill to it. As it is school holidays this week there are loads of mums and kids everywhere, while the older population sits, warming their bones and watching all the young ones. The mall is nicely laid out with a good mix of department stores and speciality shops. And the Woolworths store still bears its badging despite being closed with a rather poignant "Goodbye and thanks for the memories - from all the staff at Perth Woollies" stuck on the front window.

We are doing the City Walk and so move through the Mall, stopping to take a photo of some local buskers in front of one of the many statues that is the public art in Perth. Funny, those kids were singing better until their mates arrived at which point they quickly became quite tongue-tied. Its a pity - they were good, and the sculpture is quirky. Just at the end of the mall is the Mercat Cross that marks where goods were bought for the various weekly markets.

And just down the road is the Old Shipp Inn - the oldest pub in Perth, dating back to 1655. Then its just a short stroll to St Johns Kirk which also happens to be Perth's oldest building being mentioned in city records as far back as 1126. Most of what exists today dates back to 1440. While we get some great shots of the exterior, it is not open for inspection until May.

From here it is only logical to walk through the Vennels (gosh, what an old word! Means a passage way between the gables of two buildings - and is often found near cathedrals!) through to the Greyfriars Burial Ground - the main cemetery for Perth from 1580 until 1849 and is one the site of a Fransiscan friary from 1460. One of the finest collections of 17th and 18th century headstones we have seen to date. The gardens are just coming in to bloom and make a beautiful picture.

Along the Tay River, down Watergate and Skinnergate (aren't the names wonderful!) to the Perth Museum and Art Gallery where we are greeted by a stunning original statue of a wing-capped Paris, sitting on a stump and fending off a wolf. What has drawn us to this museum in particular is that they have another couple of Pict stones on display. The main one is the St Madoes Pict Stone, but it is more worn than the ones we took photos of yesterday and so it is a little of an anticlimax. The other one is almost hidden in a crowded display of social history and is lying on its long edge - a pity as it is quite nice.

The museum has some fantastic displays on glass-making and in particular millefiori and decorative glass and on silversmithing. Both were significant industries in the city in past times, Stuart, Monart and Vasart Glass. Some of the ecclesiastical silver pieces date back to the 1500s! And the glass and crystal - well, if you know me, you know that these are pieces that I love to collect! They also have an impressive natural history collection of local fauna and geology - very interesting. But it is their art collections that are probably the most interesting. At the moment they have one collection The Spirit of Burns that focuses on Robbie Burns with much of it reflective work by Jim Douglas. I particularly took a fancy to his poetic song 'The New Teacher'! You need to read it allow to get the best out of it - and hearing this accent all around us is all the more special.

There is a sea themed gallery display with works by John Duncan and Samuel Proust and in the French Collection Gallery we see works by William MacGeorge (The Blacksmiths Shop), Henry Coeylas (The Dye Shop) and Louis Agricl Montagne (Douce Viellesse). They also have the most beautiful art deco skylight in the foyer.

It is now 2:45 pm and time to phone the mechanic about collecting the car. YEGADS, we can't get it until Friday - his mother has passed away today and they are closing the shop tomorrow. Bugger, but there is nothing to be done other than to go collect a loaner from them, beg Peter for another night's accommodation and continue having a look around the area for another day. While we were planning to move down to Edinburgh tomorrow, thankfully we had not confirmed our booking yet.

Dinner had better be good - we went without lunch. Think we might try The Bothy - has a good name and is supposed to do a mean steak!
Just back from The Bothy now. Was all good up until a disappointing dessert.
Salad of Smoked Chicken, Walnut and Chicory dressed with a Lavender and Apple dressing (Michael)
Chef's Soup of the Day (Broccoli) served with Crusty Bread (Maria)
Baked Aubergine stuffed with Roasted Peppers, Couscous and Manchego Cheese (Michael)
Light Pastry case filled with Poached Salmon bound in a Dill Cream Sauce with Deep Fried Leek (Maria)
Lemon Syllabub with Fresh Raspberries (Michael)
Traditional Scotch Trifle flavoured with famous Grouse Whisky (Maria) without any cake or whisky - so really, canned fruit with custard and cream!

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