Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scottish Festival

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this post is worth 34,000 words.

Last Saturday Matt and I headed to our beloved Scotland for the day. Well, the closest thing we could get to it and still be home in time for dinner. We went to the Queen Mary's Umpteenth Annual Scottish Festival.  Tons of fun- food, games, shopping, drinking- all the good stuff! We got there just in time for the pipe & drum parade. There were over a dozen groups performing (I had no idea there were so many in the area!) The songs were great, the kilts even better.  And I loved how the drummers twirled their sticks!

 The performers were not the only folks dressed to the nines. Most visitors were donning some sort of Scottish trademark, from simple plaid scarves (like me) to full-fledged garb that would make William Wallace himself stand up and shout.  I fell in love with the little touches, like this snazzy combo:

Couldn't quite figure out this man's schtick- He stood on stilts, with tiny baby feet on the ends and shouted at passer-bys in a thick Scottish accent.  Good fun and interesting, from afar...

And there was shopping...several floors of it aboard the ship.   There were shops for kilts, and boots, and jewelry, and books, and pies, and art and musical instruments.... you name it. I wanted a stone cookie press, and Matty convinced me to hold off- I should take one lap around the whole thing and come back to buy it only if I still wanted it later.

Little did I know that the Scotch tasting was about to start, and Matt was heading us both to the boiler room- the big, dark, wonderfully spooky boiler room-

- to sample a dram (or 4) or aged single malt Scottish Whiskey.

The tasting was actually a lot of fun.  The guy in charge knew what he was talking about and we tried whiskeys from 4 different regions: Highlands, Lowlands, Islay and Speyside. Two of them were way too strong for me, but the lighter two were nice.  I can't remember what any of the names are or which regions I preferred... (maybe Matt, aka, Anonymous Nickname, can help me out on this one in the comments below!)

After our tasting, I insisted on browsing around and doing a bit of proper shopping. Not all three floors were only shopping--there was a dart tournament area, and a whole floor dedicated to all of the Scottish heritage groups in the area (different Clans I guess is how they distinguish themselves).  I was interested, but a little chicken to approach any of them and ask them to explain it all to me. Matt says they wouldn't have had me anyway... 'cuz they're the real deal... I'm not Scottish... at all. (yet).

Shopping was wonderful. There was all kinds of fun stuff, like massive weaponry and porcelain tea pots. I stuck to the lovelier things... like flower crowns! (I totally had these when I was young! I might still have one tucked away in a box somewhere at my parent's house.)

And books (nice collection of Robert Burns!)

And Matt did get me my cookie stone, because believe it or not, I still wanted it even after taking the time to think it over! Thanks darlin'! I'll make you some shortbread one of these days! (Those are them in the bottom left hand corner of the picture).

And I tried really hard to convince Matt to get himself a hat. Not this hat. A hat that he would have actually worn, that looked great on him! But he said he would have to wait... think it over. Buying a hat is nothing to rush into!

After we bought one more thing (an awesome tin whistle that is sooooo much fun to play) we headed back outside for more festivities. And lo and behold, there was more piping!

 This is just us in front of the ol' Queen.

The Highland Athletic Competition was going on in the other side of the park, so we headed that way to check out the scene. The weather made it a lot easier to pretend we were in Scotland.

Big blokes were tossing even bigger poles! It did not look easy...

And there was a sheep herding competition. The sheep were basically just chowing on the grass, and someone would bring their highly trained dog up to them and corral them into a little pen. Then, they let the sheep back out and they sat around and waited for the next doggie to come along.  The whole thing was strange, but it was also pretty impressive.  Matt just wanted to steal one of the dogs (he has a soft spot for smart dogs...I kinda like the dummies!)

Then, with a huge thunderous warning, it began to rain. Not little sprinkling rain, not even regular "wow-it's-really-coming-down" rain.  This was a "holy-sh*t- I've-never-seen-rain-like-this-outside-of-the-Amazon" kind of rain. So we ran under the cover of a tent (the bar, actually) and waited it out with the rest of the huddled masses.

We had no umbrellas (as in, I don't think we own any- they have disappeared!) but we weren't totally unprepared.  We wore our rain boots.  Mine even caught the eye of a man who had to be in his 80s. He thought they were pretty spiffy!

When the rain stopped- and it did, completely- we headed back toward the ship

And were greeted with a beautiful rainbow!

We stomped around outside and listened to a bit more...(you guessed it!) pipes and drums, and then headed back onboard to see the Highland Dance competition.

Which was fantastic, for about 5 minutes, and then I wanted out of there. It felt a lot like a dance "recital"-- lots of parents and camcorders and little girls getting their hair pulled back into buns... you know the drill. But I caught this little sailer in a moment of contemplation:

Matty, the man with the schedule, ushered us to the Observation Bar to listen to a musical performance. It was SUPER! The man's name is Alex Beaton and he's been playing his guitar and singing professionally for over 40 years.  He does all kinds of Scottish folk songs (Irish too, it seems) and some classics from these shores as well.  (We were all very emotional when he sang 'Puff the Magic Dragon' for a couple of little girls up front... after yelling at their mother for bringing little girls into a bar  ;)

Then he pulled me on stage and we sang a couple of duets.  OK, that's a lie. I just asked to have my picture with him after he finished up his set. But I did get his CD, so the next time I hear him live I'll be all ready to hop on stage and join him!

We stayed in the Observation Bar listening to music until the festival was over! But before we left, we took the self-guided tour of the Queen Mary.

We were the only ones on the "tour" and it got fookin' scary! This part was alright- I liked the old advertisements and Matt like the engine.

Especially when he could get close enough to play with all the levers and dials. (Which I am not sure we were supposed to do, now that I think of it... but like I said, we were alone in the belly of the ship!)

And I had to get the obligatory "Matt-go-grab-the-wheel-and-pretend-you're-steering" picture!

And since the ship was built in Scotland, it was a most appropriate location for the day's happy festivities.


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