The road less traveled

Archive for the ‘Travel/Cuisine’ Category

Aside

Returning from Rodrigues

Claudine, the hostess, was serving breakfast that morning and they started chatting

Breakfast display

Breakfast display

about dinner. They asked about lobsters and she said that she could try even if it was a bit at short notice. So, they decided to make a first stop into town, get the supplies they wanted, cancel their booking with Marlin Bleu and then head out for the mountains and then dot he south west coast ending up in St Francois for a dip in the sea.

In town they found parking easily in front of the bank where they had to draw money, then walked to the warehouse of the ‘King of Rodrigues’ where Shameemah bought a slab of Belgian cooking chocolate and then the other ladies went to hunt for Rodrigues sausages while she went up to the 2 Freres to order their picnic pizzas.

Their menu looked interesting, but since the owner was not there it was not open for dinner. She ordered a vegetarian pizza and a pizza de la mer. They went to put the shopping back in their room while the pizzas got ready. Luckily she did not have to go back into town, Shameemah picked up the pizzas on her way up.

And so they started out again. First stop at Valerie’s where they bought loads of local jam, jellies and condiments. Valerie, it seems, had had a bad fall and now cannot see but she is a great person. Still very much interested in what she does and open to suggestions too.

Down in the valley of the bees

Down in the valley of the bees

After Valerie’s they stopped at Quatre Vents for honey and bee-related products. One had to find these places but once they were found, it was a pleasure to just be there – tucked in some remote valley, very green and quiet.

After the bees they headed down towards the south coast where they stopped at Cité

Patate, an end of the world track that leads to the end point of an old, mostly abandoned village. At the end of this track they stopped and had a picnic, being visited only by goats and hens on an otherwise empty piece of a rather rocky coast.

Picnic at Cité Patate

Picnic at Cité Patate

The pizzas were excellent. The ‘sea’ one had locally smoked marlin and pickled limes on it, a great combination. They stayed a while admiring the view and enjoying the quiet. Following a nice coast road they stopped a few times to purchase the local baskets and some more pickles and chillies, and then made it slowly to St Francois beach.

Beach at St Francois

Beach at St Francois

By then the wind had lifted a bit. Adam and Shameemah went for a swim, she went just up to her legs while the others were on the beach enjoying the view of a very empty white beach with a turquoise sea.

Back at the lodge they washed, rested and had tea, took lots of sunset pictures and then later made it to the hostess’s dining room for dinner. It was more convenient for her because there was flambé on the menu and she wanted to use her big kitchen instead of the smallish kitchen of the dining room.

Dinner started with local smoked marlin on a bed of warm potatoes – inspired,  from

Smoked marlin starter

Smoked marlin starter

herring on potatoes and excellent with marlin too. Then, she managed to get us a shell that she calls ‘tourne à gauche’ (translates by ‘turn to the left’) it was just a amuse bouche portion to let us have a taste. This was excellent. Their friends who were there know of this shell but they put it whole in Chinese soups and they say it is usually like rubber but this was nicely prepared and chopped up  – not soft but not rubbery either.

Sauté of local prawns

Sauté of local prawns

Then came the garlic butter prawns with white rice. They managed to wipe out the wok-full that she made. It was very fresh, it tasted like the real thing. Ok, ok, not as nice and big and firm as what she used to get in the DRC but nice for this part of the world. And then came the surprise – lobster flambé. She went into the kitchen to help with that since the hostess asked. It was great fun to work in this huge big kitchen. The lobster was excellent and just enough for all of us. More than that would have been stuffing themselves silly for no reason.

Crème caramel

Crème caramel

Pudding was crème caramel with orange zest. That was excellent too. They chatted to the hostess for a while after the meal and then made it to the room to finish packing, have tea and chat some more.

Breakfast was a jolly affair except that Adam did not want to leave. They stuck candles on

Last breakfast

Last breakfast

the brioche for Shameemah’s birthday. Then they took a little tour of the Domaine de la Paix with Claudine, to see her improvements, her massage room and other extensions. After which they loaded the cars and left with fond farewells of the Claudine.

Birthday brioche

Birthday brioche

At this airport, funnily, they could do some duty free shopping! Yes, it is the same country

Farewell to the Domaine

Farewell to the Domaine

but getting back to Mauritius, duty free shopping is possible. So they did just that and then boarded. Pascal, the host, was getting back that day, they saw him through the terminal window but he did not see them.

Another uneventful flight with a small snack and they landed in the heat of the day. It was a public holiday Tuesday. They picked up the cars in town and went off to the beach where they unpacked slowly, ate some of the pie from Rodrigues and did nothing much for the rest of the day.

 

 

 

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Pathway into the Domaine

 

All in all, the Rodrigues holiday was a real holiday where the being was present and the doing was optional. They did a lot, saw the sights and had a great time together – creating bonds! It was certainly not the same Rodrigues that she saw some 20 years back. She thinks things are better but there had been three weeks of rain, so the whole place also looked better.

 

As much as she thinks Mauritius is paradise lost, Rodrigues is paradise found. That is not to say that there are no snakes in paradise but the place sure has potential – for basic eco tourism, for peace and quiet and serenity. People who know what they want, should go looking for this place.

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Rodrigues ruminations

They opted to keep the next day shorter so that they could come back earlier and enjoy

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St Gabriel church

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Looking towards Petit Gravier

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Port Sud Est

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Port Sud Est in the distance

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Down to Mourouk

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At Mourouk hotel

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Petit Gravier beach on a Sunday

the pool as well as have some rest. This however, was a more intricate trip since in that part of the country there is no coast road. They had to take the various roads down to the coast and come back up. The first stop was at the church of St Gabriel, a church that was on the have-to-see list. Mass was just finished, they had the place to themselves.

All the roads were very scenic. They did get lost into dead ends and the one car had to tow the other out but it was all done with fun. They stopped here and there to visit, take pictures, and

also later to find places to eat. The one place they found in the highlands that also boasted a botanical garden was on appointment only.

So they slowly made their way back after taking in the great views at Port Sud Est and Mourouk hotel. They went all the way down to Petit Gabriel where they

stopped at the beach to have a snack. It was Sunday early afternoon and there were only about 3 groups of people including theirs!

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Panoramic view of the south east coast

Back at the guest house they ate at left-over pie, chocolate cake and other goodies they

Local pie/tart

Local pie/tart

had, made tea, rested and two of them went to the pool. The owner of the place was leaving for Mauritius that afternoon and popped in to say good bye. Dinner was again at Marlin Bleu. It was all-local and tasted of home food – nothing extraordinary but nice.

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Another dinner at Marlin Bleu

They had the idea of crayfish and the restaurant manager said he would have the next day but he was not keen on making them a real simple garlic butter sauce, he insisted that it had to be loaded with cream. With some doubts they booked for the next day and left.

Aside

Running around Rodrigues

 

The first stop was the market. It was going full swing when they arrived. They found parking easily next to the bus

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Breakfast at Domaine de la Paix

terminal and walked there. They were welcomed, but not

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At the market

hounded like in Africa. They were told where was what, so the ladies headed for the pie lady first and ordered pies to take back home to Mauritius. She headed for the chilli sauces and bought what she thought would make nice gifts and for the house too while the cousin was buying salted fish and beans.

They were recommended to a small shop to get the real red bean of Rodrigues. After the market, they headed there: Vivella it was called – a general grocery store with a rather stern aunty with no sense of humour. They bought more beans there – it was cheaper than in the market. The people of Mauritius seem to think that these beans are really special.

Rising tide at Grand Baie

Rising tide at Grand Baie

Then they headed out of town. By the time they reached Grand Baie, some of them needed to visit a loo and there was none to be found. They took some pictures and then headed to the other side of the bay where they thought there were facilities. Well, it was only a small shop. But one of the shoppers offered to take them to his place to use the facilities. It was only at a stone throw, so they went there while Micha went to ask the shopkeeper for eggs. The lady went into her chicken coop and fetched 5 fresh eggs for him.

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Path down to Baladirou beach

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Beach at Baladirou

They found a coast track which they followed up to Baladirou. It was a bumpy ride for a bit, but one gets to see the little development on that piece of cliff as well as someone’s goat pen cut into the cliffs. At Baladirou they walked down 52 steps to a beautiful, peaceful and white beach. There was a tent there but otherwise they were the only ones visiting the beach that morning.

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Cotton bay beach

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View of Cotton bay

There was no traffic as such. Roads in Rodrigues are good but not wide and there are practically no signs indicating where is what. Luckily the tiboussol.com map is great. They followed that down to Cotton Bay, stopping at various sights on the way.

It was closing in to lunch time and they did not bring much in the car, so they were on the lookout for an eatery of

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Chez Madame La Rose for lunch

sorts. They all opted not to eat at the hotel at Cotton Bay – she sojourned there some 20 years back when she came diving in Rodrigues. And this is how they found Madame La Rose’s place. They ordered fish curry and fish stew and she had calamari with garlic butter. This was served with brinjal achar and lentils. It was simple but tasty and copious.

Lunch over, they headed in the direction of St Francois and

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Anse Ali

stopped at Anse Ali, another of these pristine beaches

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The only indication to Anse Ali

with no one. St Francois is a bit more developed but beautifully laid out. The beach was inviting but they had just eaten and they wanted to see Trou d’Argent. So, they walked through a forest of casuarina and eucalyptus trees to this view point. They opted to see Trou d’Argent from the top – there is a trail to the beach.

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Trou d’Argent

This is a

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Overlooking Trou d’Argent

very famous beach that is tucked under a hanging cliff. The sand is while and reflects like silver in full moon – therefore the name! They stayed there to enjoy the view with some other tourists, only very few. Then they started back. Meandering through the middle of the country, they found their way back to their lodgings.

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Birthday party

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Salade de crevettes locales

That day was mother’s birthday and the hostess had promised to make them a dinner of dorado fish and cake for pudding.

 

They showered and rested and then made their way to the bar/dining room where the dinner was served. It was local prawn salad as starter, followed by butter fried fish with rice and chocolate cake and another meringue pudding because in another few days it would be Shameemah’s birthday too. Everything was nice, the prawns were special.

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Roaming Rodrigues

New domestic terminal - Mauritius

New domestic terminal – Mauritius

Aerial view - Rodrigues approach

Aerial view – Rodrigues approach

A small volcanic island to the north east of Mauritius, Rodrigues has been a forgotten piece of world for

View from the plane

View from the plane

(tiboussol.com) quite a long time. Tourism took a while to get up and going there. Even now, in 2013, it is not the Maldives but it is already very popular with Mauritian and

Reunion tourists first, and the rest of the world after. The island seems to have kept its rustic ‘cachet’: no high-rise hotel, no crowded beaches, no savage cement development. She was there some 20 years ago and it only just had a beach hotel then, and that too it was markedly like the ones in Mauritius. And so they decided to go celebrate her mother’s 73rd birthday in Rodrigues. Her brother was moving heaven and earth to get bookings and lodgings and asked her to come. Since he was doing all the effort, she decided she’d go and join them. It is only an hour and forty minutes flight. They woke up early and made it to the newterminal at Plaisance airport on time. At the airport there was more personnel than passengers. It is to be hoped that it is only because it is new and they need additional personnel to guide people at first, that it is not a scam to employ friends and family!
Airport terminal 

The flight was uneventful. They had a small snack breakfast on board. Formalities done and luggage collected, they made for the exit where both the person with the rented cars and the hotel owner were there to greet them. They did not know they were being fetched by the guest house – Domaine de la Paix -and it was very nice to be greeted like that by the host himself. Since they had planned on starting to visit the place as soon as they landed, they left the bulk of the luggage with their host and stepped into the cars and off they went. The first planned visit was to see the tortoises and the caves (Francois Leguat project). Since these tours leave at set times, which their host had given them, they had some time to kill and went all the way up to La Ferme, stopping at a viewpoint

called Above Cascade PistacheCascade

Panoramic view over camp Pintade

Panoramic view over camp Pintade

Pistache. And then they made it down to Camp Pintade where there was a quaint little church Looking out Camp Pintade

Church at Camp Pintade

Church at Camp Pintade

standing on a plain amidst goats and cows, where fishermen sat talking under trees. It was a bit of an offroad trip to get to the church but well worth it. On the way people greeted them and waved, all quite friendly and as if happy to see them come that way. With all this roaming about

Tortoise

Stalactites at the Great Caves

Stalactites at the Great Caves

they nearly did not make it to the tortoises. They got there just on time for the next tour. Their guide, Bertrand, seemed a knowledgeable enough fellow who likes his work. The visit started with the recently hatched tortoises. There were two types, both endangered – land tortoises not turtles (unfortunately). Then they moved to see the older ones and so the trip progressed up to the canyon where their adult tortoises are

Befriending tortoises

Befriending tortoises

living very happily to their old age – which could be anything up to 400 years. The canyon itself is a sight to behold. From there they proceeded to the ‘Great Caves’. A fascinating place with stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes. Often the most uncanny shapes too. It was good exercise because there was a lot of climbing up and down steps and quite a bit of walking. After the tour they were back in

Overlooking the canyon

Overlooking the canyon

La Ferme looking for ‘Chez Meng’, a little snack bar recommended to them by others who had been before. Unfortunately it was closed and the take-away menu was not appealing to them. They bought some water and biscuits and proceeded towards their hotel by way of the north west coast road. The country was beautifully green due to three weeks of steady and sometimes heavy rains just before they arrived. It was a nice road trip. By then they needed to stop at the only filling station on the island, which is at the entrance of Port Ma

turin, the capital of Rodrigues. This town is not very nice. It was clean but the roads are very narrow and it is a little maze with ‘no entry’ signs at the oddest places. After filling up, they proceeded to find their lodgings in the ‘heights’ of Terre Rouge. They located the restaurant where they planned to have dinner and rode up the hill. It was a bit convoluted and not signposted at all but with the help of a stupid policeman (who just said ‘carry on, on this road’) they were there. Beautifully set up, peaceful surroundings and a stunning view is how it can be described. She was sharing a room with her mother on the first floor where the view was even more magnificent. They settled down and rested for the afternoon. The room comes complete with kitchenette and tea corner etc. and the host had put a local tart in each room. They gathered 3 of the tarts and made tea

Tea time at the Domaine

Tea time at the Domaine

that was served on the balcony of their room. It was a very relaxed afternoon. After rest and relax, they left for the Marlin Bleu where they ordered local beef and the famous octopus curry. The beef was tasty but a bit thinly cut for a steak – she is used to South African steaks! The others said the curry was ok, but a bit too pronounced, it nearly obliterated the taste of the octopus. The company was great and they all had a good time. They sat up until late sipping green tea and talking about food, health and other subjects.

Sunset over the Domaine

Sunset over the Domaine

Aside

Highlands Meander

From Braemar they slowly went back to Aberdeen, to the Family History Society. It was drizzling on and off. They passed some beautiful glens, rivers flowing through, fields of green grass, some quaint crofts and a few of these modest ‘piles’ (see previous blog). While Coen was doing his research, U. San and her went in search of a loo which they found in a nearby supermarket where they also had some coffee and pastries.

Highland scenery

Highland croft

Highland bul

And they were off on the roads again. This time they were in search of some distilleries too. In spite of the drizzle, they meandered through the beautiful green Scottish country side. It is on this meander that they fell onto another distillery in the middle of nowhere. The stuff there was rather fiery, at least the ones they tasted. It was an independently owned distillery (Glendronach), actually owned by three partners, two of whom being South Africans! This is where they also made the acquaintance of their first highland bulls.

One of the Chivas tasting rooms

On, on, they went through this lush scenery. And finally made it into THE whiskey district. It was easy to figure that much of all this is still run by a company called the Chivas Brothers. And they do not only make Chivas Regal. Since this is not a dissertation about the whiskey trade in Scotland…

Highland scenery

Road through the forest

Duff town clock tower

A few more stops at distilleries and they started to look for accommodation for the night. In the small towns, everything was fully booked and they ended up in the whiskey capital of the Highlands, Dufftown. This is a quaint town surrounded by famous distilleries, Glenfiddich being one of them. It took some asking around before they got some accommodation with an aunty up the main road.

Glenfiddich Restraurant

That evening they patronised the Glenfiddish restaurant, a rather ‘tapageur’ affair, not in the noise level but the way they advertise the place. The food was excellent and well served, and did not break the bank either. Coen and U. San had Angus beef and she was doing her research on haggis. They spent a nice evening before retiring back at their B&B. The next morning the aunty prepared breakfast before they were on the road again, venturing further into the Highlands and then back south to Edinburgh.

Dinner at the Glenfiddich restaurant

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On the tracks of the Ancestors

On Monday they promptly packed the car and were out of Edinburgh with Uncle San in the back of the car doing his crossword puzzles. The first stop was the Family History Society in Aberdeen where Coen was expecting to get more facts about the McHardy side of his family.

Main road Aberdeen

Traffic was surprisingly easy upon the entrance of the city. The main road was lined by these wonderful feats of architecture on both sides – all in this grey stone. Intricate work, one more interesting to look at than the other but all in grey. The Family History Society was easy to find, so was parking. Soon they were to learn why this was all nice and easy: it was a bank holiday in Scotland that day.

All miffed, Coen decided to hit the forest of Ballochbuie and stay somewhere there for the night before coming back to Aberdeen before going into the heart of the Highlands. So, off they went. The forest was very green and scenic. They

Lochnagar Distillery

passed the various places mentioned in Coen’s research for his ancestors. In the various turnoffs they took they practically fell on their first distillery: Royal Loghnagar. It was tucked down in this small vale. It was nowhere on the map because it was actually quite recently set up. They decided to drop in for a visit. It was quite interesting, not too different to the wine tasting set up on the wine estates in the Cape. After that they moved on and ended up in Braemar. It was early afternoon and they decided to look for lodgings there, relax and visit the place on

Road through Ballochbuie

foot.

At the information centre where they were helped by a lady who was born in Durban, they found the Rucksack where they took a room and San chose to stay in the dorm. It was very comfortable and the heating was on too. That section of the place where they were, they had a kitchen and small dining area. They made tea and had a short nap before going off to the shop to get breakfast and take a few pictures.

Bridge in Braemar

They enquired about places to eat and were told that the Braemar Lodge is where one goes to get local food. It is a

Pile by the roadside

quaint little town that hosts the Highland games on a yearly basis and having Balmoral castle as neighbour. There are a few of those ‘piles’ by the road side in Ballochbuie, in Scotland and in the country as a whole. Few of them have signs to say what they are or who lives there.

Braemar Lodge

That evening, they got a table at the Lodge and made a glorious meal of haggis, angus beef and salmon.

Fine dining in Braemar

Waking up in 9C temperature, they made their breakfast, sat huddled next to the heating in the dining area and then

River Dee

walked up to meet Mr Duff, the local historian who confirmed some of the information Coen had regarding his ancestor. After this meeting, they drove out of Braemar, deeper into the forest for some more sightseeing. 

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St Andrews and regions

Saturday morning, San proposed that they go to the deli market. She was all in for that outing – wanted to see what such a market would look like in Scotland and what produce they would have on offer. It was raining that morning but since she was well equipped, they hopped onto the first bus going in that direction. Soon, the rain was coming down in earnest and they took shelter in the doorway of a hall hoping it would come to a drizzle and they could proceed to the market which was a street away from the bus stop.

Well, it did not get any better. When they had exhausted catching up with news of the family, they walked quickly down to the market. There was practically no buyers at that time but most of stalls had been set up: bread stalls, quite a few with smoked salmon both cold and hot smoked and other fish, buffalo meat, cheese, haggis and a few others. San was mainly after some not smoked salmon and buffalo meat that day. They did look at the bread but it was nothing too special and the prices were verging on the unreasonable.

Under a drizzle they reached home to huddle next to the radiator in the kitchen, have tea and chat. Hakim was leaving for Liverpool that day. So, they visited a bit with him, chatted some more and then made lunch. She made them her classic fish with leeks using the hot smoked salmon and serving it with these excellent potatoes that they had been eating since they got to Scotland.

When Hakim had left, using the same bus ticket of the morning, she left with Pirjo for a good stroll around the town centre. Pirjo took her to the national gallery to see the famous ‘Skating Clergyman’ and then they walked past the old churches, monuments and statues that abound around there. They went to see Grey Friar’s Bobby too. On the way they stopped in numerous wool shops to see if she could find the cardigan she was looking for. She had a specific idea in mind and was confident that she would find it in Scotland.

There were numerous tourists in the city, all equipped for braving the weather. It drizzled and then stopped and then started again. But they had a good visit by the time they headed back. They did not get the cardigan but they had found other stuff that they were looking for or not looking for.

Across River Firth

The next day, with Pirjo, they drove off to St Andrews. San had a booking for some show and stayed behind. They crossed the river via the same bridge as before and then stood on the other bank looking at the city. From where they stopped, they had a great view of the mouth of the river Firth and all its small islands, the water traffic and life on the river in general.

Small town on the way

On the way to St Andrews they passed many small towns with their quaint houses, with flowers on window sills as well as cattle in the meadows and fields of rapeseed flowers. Speed was limited but there was no hurry, the target was St Andrews and back.

Scenery on the way

When they finally reached the town, they went around a bit to look for parking and were rudely cut at the spot where they found a place. Luckily another car was leaving, so after the rude driver had turned in behind their backing car, they parked and walked through the town. The first stop was at the old ruins of the first cathedral in Scotland. It was by the sea and must have been quite a piece of work. It was not well conceived, so the story goes, soon after it was finished its one wall caved in during a storm.

Ruins of Cathedral

Not far from the ruins there is a place marked on the road, of the exact

Ian Smuts

location where some priest was burnt at the stake for defying the church. From there they walked down to the University Museum where they met with Jan Smuts’ bust. He seemed to have been the rector of the place for 3 years. He had done so many things in his life that it made you wonder how and when he ended up there.

Leaving the museum they went in quest of a place to eat. They chose a pub that became popular because it is said that ‘William and Kate’ met there while

Pub

studying at St Andrews. The food was pub food, nice and copious too. The service was a bit ‘limite’ but when you are used to service in restaurants in SA, then out there it is minimal to nearly non existent.

Small streets

After lunch they walked a bit further. Coen had studied with St Andrews University – an online course which he

St Andrews centre

enjoyed greatly. He was looking at getting a memento of the place: a tie or something.

They were directed to the student

Door bell

council shop that was closed, but they found another shop that had jerseys and other apparel. There Coen chose a blue sweater and a dark blue woollen hat. They poked into the small streets and Pirjo found a book for her brother in law and they saw the peculiarities of the the houses of the place.

Driving back was  through the same small town for most part. They were home in good time for a nap. For dinner San had cooked them the buffalo. They did a bit of planning for the start of a three day journey into the Highlands of Scotland and then went to bed.

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