Our First Stop on the Continent -Amsterdam

We had enjoyed exploring a bit of Scotland during the first week of our vacation. For the next 3 weeks, our itinerary included several places on the European Continent: The Netherlands, Germany, and Paris. To begin this part of the journey, we boarded a flight in Aberdeen bright and early on Friday, July 26th.

Although Grace and Errin were excited about more adventures, they are not exactly ‘early risers’ so they soon fell back asleep on the airplane as soon as we were in the air. It’s only about an hour and a half flight; they were able to catch a few winks. After we arrived at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and boarded a train to the city center, they were a bit more rested and raring to go.

It was a beautiful warm morning in Amsterdam and already bustling with activity when we first set foot on the square outside of the train station. We stood there taking in the delightful sights and sounds and to let it all just sink in for a few minutes. All of the trams, buses, bicycles, and people were coming and going in a steady stream.

We had booked our nights stay at a hostel called Statsdolen YHA, so our first step was to figure out how to get to it and stow our luggage before exploring this vibrant city. We noticed a Tourist Information Office across the square where we could possibly get an easy-to-read city map and possibly a little help in ascertaining the best way to get to our desired destination.

We were in luck. A very helpful young man at the Visitors’ Center did indeed set us up with a map, told us where to catch the Metro we needed to take, what stop to get off at and which route to follow on foot to get us to our destination. He also sold us an all-day bus ticket that would facilitate our adventures in this beautiful city for the rest of the day.

IMG_9338Armed with the necessary information, we set off navigating our way through new territory. None of us speak Dutch, nor are we regular users of public transportation, so it was an exercise that required our full attention and complete teamwork. Between the three of us, we did indeed manage to find the Metro, get off at the right stop and successfully followed the city streets to our hostel. Yeah!

It was still fairly early so we couldn’t actually check-in to our dorm room, so we stowed our carry-on luggage in a locker and headed back outside to start exploring the fascinating and electric atmosphere.

IMG_9340We were all ready for a bite to eat, so we set off to find a place where we could get a sandwich. We were in luck! Just over the canal and a couple of blocks later, a wonderfully delightful Bakery appeared, called “Bake My Day.” They even made any sandwich they offered with gluten-free bread!  Grace was one happy camper we found something so easily and quickly to meet her dietary needs!  

We happily walked to the nearest canal, sat down along its edge, dangled our feet over the water and enjoyed our freshly made sandwiches while we soaked up the scenery around us.

After replenishing our energy sources we started out on foot once again. Although I have been to Amsterdam before, I had not explored this particular section of town. Grace took the lead and we headed off for more exploration.  Sometimes it is just fun to ‘follow your nose’ and her choices lead us to Dam Square where the Royal Palace, the National Monument, and the New Kerk (church) – built in the year 1408 – is located.

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IMG_9359It was now mid-day and it had become quite warm! In fact, we arrived on the hottest day on record for Amsterdam! 106 degrees Fahrenheit! Phew! I remembered a fountain in the Rijk Museum Garden in the southwest part of the city that I saw the last time I visited. I thought it might bring some relief for us, so we jumped on a bus and headed in that direction.  Sure enough, it was exactly what we needed and we all delighted in standing in the middle of the cool shooting jets surrounding its captives!

The Garden also had some interesting metal sculptures as well!

Who would’ve thought we would be roasting in an unprecedented heatwave in 100-degree temperatures in Amsterdam? When pigs fly, I guess!


Just beyond the garden is the reflecting pool stretched out in the Museumplein Park in front of Rijks Museum. That also afforded us additional opportunities for cooling off! Errin dowsed her head of hair and Grace waded to her delight.  


In order to keep cool, we then decided it would be a great idea to go inside the Rijks Museum where it’s climate-controlled and take a look at the Masterpieces by the famous Dutch artists such as Rembrandt while we were in the neighborhood!

So many wonderful things to see there. Room after room on several floors to admire world-famous masterpieces by Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt, just to name a few!




Bartholomeus van der Helst, Company of Captain Roelof Bicker and Lieutenant Blaeuw, 1643   (Only a small portion of the bigger painting)

One very interesting display was seeing a camera that was totally digitizing Rembrandt’s Masterpiece, The Night Watch; every square inch from top to bottom right before our eyes. Fascinating! Its called “Operation Night Watch.”IMG_9398

Besides famous paintings, there are also innumerable items on display, from fine jewelry to huge boats!

The Cuypers Library is the largest and oldest art history library in the Netherlands. Here visitors, students, and art historians can walk in and delve into the Rijksmuseum’s collection.

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IMG_9405It was so enjoyable viewing these incredible paintings.  My favorite, by far, however, is “The Merry Fiddler” by Gerard Von Honthorst below. So lifelike – as if he is coming right out of the frame inviting us to join him!


Then, of course, there is the three-dimensional crying baby!


The Front Hall is a huge space with inlaid mosaic floors, and walls full of painted scenes and stained glass windows.

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We really enjoyed ourselves. The day was coming to a close and we needed to head to the Central Station to activate our Eurail Passes in preparation for the next day’s travels. Normally, I like to rent a car to get around. This time, I thought it might be interesting to travel by train for the next section of our trip – following the Rhine River through Germany. We got the passes activated and figured out what train we would need to take in the morning to Cologne. Then we started heading back to the hostel to call it a day.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch dinner at the Newmarket right near the hostel and realized that the following day the whole city would be bombarded by the Gay Liberation activities planned for the whole next week! While we were there it was relatively quiet and uncrowded, but I’m sure that all changed dramatically as we headed out of town in the morning! Phew! That was fortuitous! You would have thought we had planned it that way!

We spent the rest of the evening sitting outside of the hostel enjoying the views of the canal and did a little people watching, as the boats floated past and people strolled along the sidewalks or pedaled their varied bicycles in the cooler evening air. It was a wonderful day. IMG_9423

We will return to Amsterdam in about 3 weeks’ time for some more adventures. Next stop and the next blog post will be Cologne and its’ magnificent cathedral…  Until then!




The Majestic and Iconic Dunnottar Castle

IMG_9303Our whirlwind 3-day trip to visit ancestral sites in Dingwall and witnessing the beautiful landscapes along the scenic by-ways of the Highlands was terrific. However, we were quite tired, so we spent the first part of the day on Thursday, July 25th, resting and hanging out with Lindsay at his house in Aberdeen. We also busied ourselves with domestic duties in preparation for embarking on the next leg of our journey to The Netherlands and Germany bright and early the following morning.

We did, however, also managed to squeeze in one more excursion to a nearby historical and breath-taking site in nearby Stonehaven – the majestic and iconic Dunnottar Castle!


Although the sun was shining brightly inland, the sea mist insisted on shrouding the promontory that the castle sits upon promising a bit of magic and mystique to our tour.  The trek down the steep path from the top of the bluff and back up again on the other side to approach the castle’s gates also added a certain amount of intrigue and anticipatory excitement.

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According to the castle’s website: “This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff-top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. Steeped in history, this romantic and haunting ruin is a photographer’s paradise, a history lover’s dream and an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over.”

The castle’s history dates back to the 13th Century with the Picts. From the 14th Century onwards Dunnottar Castle was home to the Keiths, one of the most powerful families in Scotland.

Robert the Bruce

Sir Robert Keith commanded the ‘Keith Cavalry’ at the famous Battle of Bannockburn. Stirling Castle, occupied by the English, was under siege by the Scots. The English king, Edward II, assembled a formidable force to relieve it. This army was defeated in a pitched battle by the smaller army commanded by the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce.


IMG_2420It’s fascinating to learn about a castle’s history while visiting it, especially when it plays such an important in Scottish history. However, it becomes exponentially more interesting when it involves one of your very own ancestors!

Robert Keith is my 19th great-grandfather and therefore, Errin’s 20th, and Grace’s 21st!  How cool is that to visit a castle together that we share DNA with its inhabitants of long ago? Our ancestors played an integral part in the shaping of its history!


“Sir” Robert – Marischal of Scotland DeKeith (1262 – 1332)
19th great-grandfather
Robert DeKeith (1280 – 1346)
Son of “Sir” Robert – Marischal of Scotland DeKeith
William DeKeith (1315 – 1407)
Son of Robert DeKeith
Robert Keith (1363 – 1430)
Son of William DeKeith
William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith (1389 – 1463)
Son of Robert Keith
Gille Egidia Lady Keith (1424 – 1473)
Daughter of William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith
Patrick Forbes (1446 – 1476)
Son of Gille Egidia Lady Keith
David Forbes (1478 – 1509)
Son of Patrick Forbes
Patrick Forbes (1516 – 1554)
Son of David Forbes
Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes (1530 – 1596)
Son of Patrick Forbes
John Forbes (1568 – 1635)
Son of Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes
John Fobes (1608 – 1661)
Son of John Forbes
Lieut William Fobes (1649 – 1712)
Son of John Fobes
Mary Fobes (1689 – 1712)
Daughter of Lieut William Fobes
Fobes Southworth (1710 – 1755)
Son of Mary Fobes
Pvt John Southworth (1743 – 1832)
Son of Fobes Southworth
Hannah Southworth (1796 – 1842)
Daughter of Pvt John Southworth
Hannah Mae Case (1828 – 1898)
Daughter of Hannah Southworth
Daniel A Clapp (1853 – 1913)
Son of Hannah Mae Case
Hannah Elizabeth Clapp (1897 – 1977)
Daughter of Daniel A Clapp
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
Son of Hannah Elizabeth Clapp
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew


Sir Robert Keith staunchly defended Scotland against the English in the time of John Baliol and supported Robert Bruce. He was a principal player in winning the battle of Inverurie and commanded 500 horses in victory at the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn. Sir Robert was awarded for his valuable service – a large tract of lands forfeited by his cousin, The Earl of Buchan. His cousin had supported the English. Sir Robert was confirmed in the office of “Great Marischal of Scotland” by Robert Bruce around 1324. The role of the Marischal was to serve as custodian of the Royal Regalia of Scotland and to protect the king’s person when attending parliament. This duty was fulfilled by the 7th earl during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, who hid them at Dunnottar Castle. Eventually, Sir Robert Keith was killed at the battle of Duplin in 1332.

While exploring the castle, I didn’t think it would be wise to bother the girls with the details of exactly who our ancestors were that are relevant to this castle. I did let them know we were related somehow just the same and left it at that.  At the time, I couldn’t exactly remember the details. I knew it was a bit complicated and challenging to explain, so I let it be at the time. Besides, the interpretive panels scattered throughout the castle could supply plenty of historical facts. The girls would get the general idea of who the people were and why they were significant in Scotland’s historic past.

We had fun wandering about the various ruinous buildings of the castle. I had been there before, so I let the girls take the lead to discover its secrets as they saw fit. Leading the way we began exploring the different levels of various buildings and what their contents had to offer.

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Eventually, we arrived in the bedroom of the 7th Earl Marischal, Sir William Keith. Next door was the bedroom of his wife, Elisabeth Seton – The Countess.  I remembered at that point that we were related to them in particular and let the girls know of their significance in our lineage.

It was difficult for me at the time to remember all of the sorted details of how we are related to the Keith family. I now have the luxury of accessing my family tree in Ancestry while I write this blog post.  I can take the time to piece together the complicated web of puzzle pieces our ancestors left for us to unravel.

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I mentioned above that Sir Robert Keith is my 19th great-grandfather. If you look at how I am related to him through each generation, you’ll notice that his third great-granddaughter, Gille Egidia Lady Keith (1424 – 1473), is in that lineage. Gille had at least one brother named William who was in line to inherit the title of Marischal as well and whose bedroom the girls were standing in the picture above next to the fireplace.

When I looked at William’s profile on Ancestry, I expected him to be listed as a great uncle. He was, after all, the brother of Gille Egidia Lady Keith, who was one of our great-grandmothers. Much to my surprise, instead, he was listed as my 14th great-grandfather! “How can that be?” I wondered. So I clicked on the relationship to discover why and how.

Sir William Keith Marischal (1457 – 1526)
14th great-grandfather
Robert Keith (1483 – 1514)
Son of Sir William Keith Marischal
William Marischal Keith (1506 – 1581)
Son of Robert Keith
Lady Anne Agnes Keith Countess Moray (1530 – 1591)
Daughter of William Marischal Keith
Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “gruamach” Campbell (1575 – 1638)
Son of Lady Anne Agnes Keith Countess Moray
Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll (1606 – 1661)
Son of Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “gruamach” Campbell
Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell (1629 – 1685)
Son of Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll
David Daniel Campbell (1675 – 1753)
Son of Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell
Charles Campbell (1699 – 1767)
Son of David Daniel Campbell
William Campbell (1728 – 1803)
Son of Charles Campbell
Jeanette Campbell (1770 – 1851)
Daughter of William Campbell
John Holliday (1803 – 1872)
Son of Jeanette Campbell
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday (1842 – 1872)
Daughter of John Holliday
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
Daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
Son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
Son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew

On the first lineage chart relating to Sir Robert Keith, it indicates that the lineage goes down to my father, through his maternal line. Robert’s 3rd great-granddaughter, “Gille Egidia Lady Keith” is significant.

The second lineage chart connecting me to her brother, William, ironically, it goes up through my father, as before, but instead goes through his paternal side of the family through my immigrant great-grandfather’s wife’s family. My immigrant great-grandfather, William Rose Frew (from Dingwall) married Nancy Anne Brundage in Dillon, Montana after he immigrated to America. Nancy Anne’s mother, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday, often pops up in the line-up of ancestors whenever I discover how I am related to oh-so-many notable Scottish Ancestors. I have affectionately dubbed her “Princess Lizzy.” 

I knew our ancestral ties to the Keith family was complicated. I didn’t realize just how complicated it was until I started writing this blog and began tracing the roots down through the generations. It just amazed me that a brother and sister in one generation long ago would both be great-grandparents to me through my dad on both his maternal and paternal lines of his family heritage!

Tracing ancestral lineage is a fascinating and engaging process. I have enjoyed the process of building my family tree and discovering my roots. I am also especially grateful for the ability to travel, visit historical sites, such as Dunnottar Castle, learn about its history and connect its account and its inhabitants to myself through my own ancestral ties. It makes it so much more exciting and relevant on so many different levels!

Let’s get back to touring this fascinating castle through pictures, shall we?

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IMG_2443After exploring the Keep, we discovered that we had worked our way all around the castle grounds and found ourselves back at the beginning at the gate where we had started. We left the castle and made our way back to the car, enjoying the views along the way.





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It had been a lot of fun exploring Dunnottar Castle that our ancestors once inhabited. The saga of those ancestors isn’t quite finished, however. We will pick up the threads of that story in regards to various descendants in the lineage once again in future blog posts. Stay tuned! The plot thickens! The complicated web they weave down through history has quite a few stories yet to tell and lots of dots to connect.

When we left Dunnotter, we headed back to Lindsay’s house to finish packing for our flight in the morning. As a final treat for the day, later that evening Lindsay’s son, Steve, invited us over to his house for a barbeque! Yum.  We had the pleasure of also meeting his girlfriend, Penny and her two kids, Tristan, and Nicola who immigrated to Scotland from South Africa a few years ago. We had a delightful time visiting, exchanging stories and getting to know one another. The food was outstanding too! Tristan should be proud of his culinary achievements on the grill!

We fell asleep that night with full stomachs and beautiful images of an iconic romantic castle perched on a cliff-top dancing in our heads. It was mixed with a bit of excitement as well because the next day would provide even more adventures and more sites in more countries across the North Sea on the European Continent.  The first stop will be the fun and exciting city of Amsterdam!

Until the next time… ~ Claudia.




Younger Generations Experience More Ancestral Connections in the Scottish Highlands

On Wednesday, July 24th, we awoke to yet another beautiful, sunshiney day in Dingwall. I enjoyed sharing some of the unique ancestral sites in Dingwall with Errin and Grace the day before. I hoped it would help them connect with their ancestral roots in the Scottish Highlands. Showing them tangible examples that they could touch, see, and feel with their own senses might help them set the experience in their own memories. It certainly helped me when I first visited these same sites many years ago.

Before we left Dingwall to head back to Aberdeen, I still had a couple of more examples of connections to share with them. Perched upon Mitchell Hill above the town of Dingwall is another cemetery where several more members of our family are buried. I took them up there to see their headstones as well.

The first headstone we visited belonged to James MacDonald Frew, who was a brother of William Rose and John Rose Frew. James was the Chemist in Dingwall. His Chemist Shop occupied the building of what is now the Reception Area and entrance to the Dingwall museum we visited yesterday. Notably, after James’ untimely death at the young age of 33, his wife, Willamina, became the first female Chemist in Scotland. She was then able to carry on with the family business they had established together!

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IMG_2198A little further along, we came to Lindsay’s great grandfather’s headstone. John Rose Frew, who served as the Provost of Dingwall, also had a business in town just down the High Street from James’ Chemist shop. IMG_1938John was a jeweler and also made high-quality watches and clocks.

We continued on wandering about the graveyard, pointing out various other headstones of more distant cousins until we reached the headstone for Daisy Frew and her husband, Neil Gunn.


As you may remember from my previous post, we visited the Neil Gunn monument on the hill above Dingwall the day before. I thought it was relevant to show the girls their final resting place as well.

Left to right: Neil’s nephew – Dairmid, Jessie Dallas “Daisy” Frew, Neil Gunn






As we made our way back to the car through the cemetery, we also passed the Mitchell Monument, and the old canon’s on display.

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We piled back in the car and headed back down the hill into town, catching one last glimpse of the clock tower on our descent.


We took one last drive through town to show them a few more sights. We showed them a number of remaining sites: the house John Rose Frew lived in, the only remaining remnant of the Dingwall castle from days long past, the National Hotel, the town’s War Memorial, the Sherriff’s Courthouse (where our ancestor, Thomas MacNaughten I, worked as the Sherriff’s Officer), and the Dingwall Canal where it meets the Cromarty Firth.

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Although we hated to leave Dingwall, it was time to begin our journey back to Aberdeen. I chose a different route back to Aberdeen than the way we had come. I wanted the girls to experience a different part of the beautiful countryside, and therefore, have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of Scottish landscapes.

Our first stop, Inverness was only a short distance about 20 miles away.

Dingwall to Aberdeen through the Cairngorm National Park map

In the center of Inverness is another ancient and historic cemetery dating back to about 1164! (See more interesting historical details on the interpretive panel below.)


IMG_9286Another one of our direct ancestors is buried in Chapel Yard Cemetery. Her name was May Naughten – my 3rd great grandmother.  She was Thomas MacNaughten’s mother.  She died before the invention of photography, so, unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of her, but I always enjoy visiting her gravesite whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

Naturally, being so close to Loch Ness, it was imperative to let the girls see it while we were in the vicinity.


IMG_2225We drove south through Inverness. At the first opportunity to pull over and park, we stopped so the girls could see Loch Ness firsthand. They could touch it’s colorful pink and grey rocks, and of course, dip their tootsies in the cold clear water below.

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Our next stop was about 50 miles southeast of Inverness nestled in the Cairngorm Mountains at the scenic village of Aviemore.

I had hoped we would arrive in time to catch a ride on the old Strathspey Railway Caledonia Steam Locomotive at the train station. Alas, when we arrived, it had just left the station for its last run of the day just minutes before we got there. Drat!

IMG_2253We were hungry by this point, so instead, we walked across the street to the Cairngorm Hotel & Restaurant and enjoyed a delicious bite to eat before traveling on.

We still had about 100 miles to go to get to Aberdeen by nightfall. The route I was following took us over the mountains via “The Lecht Ski Area” on the scenic old military road through the moors. We piled back in the car and continued onward. It was a gorgeous drive, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Where the road over the Lecht ends, near the River Dee back in Aberdeenshire, there is a lovely viewpoint to stop at, and it’s a great spot to take a break.

IMG_9297From the viewpoint, you can see Corgarff Castle off in the distance on the opposite hillside and across the River Don running through the valley below.

Also, there are metal seats you can sit in, out of the wind, where you can enjoy the stunning views.


Our last stop of the day was near the Cairngorm National Park boundary – Glenbuchat Castle. It’s a ruinous castle and is all fenced off for safety reasons. One can’t get any closer to explore than what the pictures portray below. It is, however, a lovely spot to take a break from the car and stretch your legs. It’s a short walk from the car park up to the castle, and it doesn’t cost anything to enter either.

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According to Historic Scotland, “Glenbuchat Castle was built in the late 1500s with a Z-shaped plan for John Gordon of Cairnbarrow to mark his wedding. It shows how sophisticated tower houses had become by this time, with it’s round and square corbelled turrets. Like the castles at Auchindoun and Huntly, Glenbuchat belonged to a branch of the Gordon family. These castles demonstrate the dominance that the Gordons held over north-east Scotland in the late-medieval period.”

That concludes my tales about our jaunt over to Dingwall from Aberdeen and back again and all of the ancestral sights we enjoyed visiting.

The next day we all took it easy in the morning while we rested after our whirlwind of activities. We did some laundry and began packing our bags in preparation for our flight early the following morning from Aberdeen to Amsterdam. We would start the next leg of the journey; exploring Germany’s Rhine River Valley and Bavaria for the next three weeks!  We also encountered a bit of luck!

Errin had called the airport to see if Grace’s luggage had arrived while we had been off galavanting across the countryside the last couple of days. Unfortunately, the woman who answered the phone said that she didn’t know of any unclaimed baggage that fit her description.

Consequently, we were about to go to a few more charity shops to buy Grace some more clothes. However, when we got in the car to go shopping, Errin had a hunch. She suggested we drive out to the airport and have a look for ourselves just to be absolutely sure.

When we arrived, I dropped Errin and Grace off at the front door while I went to park the car. I  barely got the car parked and was walking over to where I had dropped them off when here they came with Grace’s suitcase in tow!  Errin’s hunch had paid off. Sitting right in front of the desk of the woman who she had talked to on the phone earlier, was Grace’s bag sitting all by its’ lonesome! The woman didn’t even look up from her computer terminal when they approached so they just gleefully grabbed her suitcase and walked out!  Tra-la! We were so happy we had heeded Errin’s hunch and investigated for ourselves!

Besides making preparations for starting the next leg of our journey over to The Netherlands and Germany,  we still managed to squeeze in one more visit later that day to a distinctive and breath-taking Scottish historical site – Dunnottar Castle. More on that in my next post!  Stay tuned!


A Trip of a Lifetime – Exploring Europe with My Daughter and Granddaughter

It’s been quite a few months since my last blog post.  (I thank my avid and devoted readers and followers for their patience.)

In my previous blog post, I shared the plans I made for this year’s exciting adventures in Scotland, Holland, Germany, and France.  Usually, I travel solo. Doing so allows me to make time to write as many blog posts as possible as I go from place to place. On this trip, however, I’ve been traveling with my daughter, Errin, and my youngest granddaughter, Grace, since the middle of July.  Doing so created a whole different traveling dynamic so I must first apologize for not posting any stories until now.  Errin and Grace have now returned home after 6 weeks of adventures. I am still in Scotland enjoying the company of my cousin Lindsay for yet another month. But boy-oh-boy do I have some stories to share about what the girls and I have been up to! So let’s get started…

You know what they say about ‘best-laid plans.’ I am here to admit that although I pride myself in planning as much as possible sometimes problems just can’t be foreseen.

Errin, Grace and I had our bags packed, and we were already at the airport in Portland ready to check-in, check our baggage, and board our planes. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to get all of our flights together. I booked mine using my award miles with United but couldn’t get seats for them. I began searching for flights for them on other airlines that would enable us to arrive at the same place at approximately the same time.

I ended up booking their flights through Orbitz and got what I thought was a reasonable price.  Each of us would fly from Portland to Dublin on different airlines, but arriving in Dublin within a couple of hours of one another. We would meet up in Dublin, and then all of us would take the same plane to Aberdeen, Scotland, arriving at our final destination together.

I had arranged for them to board first so I could be sure they were safely on their way after which I would follow on my flight an hour or two later. That was the plan.

In the meantime, a couple of legs of the flights had been changed, which isn’t uncommon. Even with the changes, it appeared to still be quite close to what we had initially planned, so we weren’t concerned. However, we should have been concerned as it turned out.  When we arrived at their check-in desk, the attendant informed us that the flight they were scheduled to board was not scheduled to fly that day!

I immediately got on the phone with Orbitz to try to figure out what was going on. They told me that they were supposed to be on the flight that they were initially scheduled on.  They never informed me of the final changes!  Drat!  The flight that they were actually supposed to be on had already departed minutes before; there wasn’t anything we could do about it.  The attendant at the desk desperately tried to fix things for us, and she also offered us some valuable advice.  She told us to never, ever book your flights through third-parties, like Orbitz. Evidently, they are notorious for screwing things up. The airlines can’t do anything about the mistakes they make and fix the problems like the ones we were experiencing.  The airlines can fix their own errors, but don’t have the authority to fix other’s mistakes. I will definitely remember that piece of advice in the future, and I hope you will benefit from it as well!

At any rate, she assured us that she would get the girls on a different flight to Seattle where they could make the connection to the flight from Seattle to Dublin, and it would work just fine.

Because of all of the time we spent trying to sort it all out, I realized I needed to go and get on my own plane.  The desk attendant assured me it would be all figured out and not to worry, so I proceeded to my boarding gate and climbed aboard my scheduled flight.


Soon afterward I was in the air and leaving Portland but earnestly praying it would all work out for the girls as promised.


To make a long story much shorter, Errin and Grace did get on a flight to Seattle as the attendant had promised.  However, when they went to get their boarding passes in Seattle for the flight from Seattle to Dublin, the airlines wouldn’t issue them boarding passes. Instead, they were informed that the reservation had been automatically canceled because they had not checked into the original flight from Portland to Seattle! Therefore, they didn’t get on the plane after all. OMG!

Luckily, Seattle is not very far from Portland. A friend of Errin’s was able to drive to Seattle to retrieve them from the airport; they returned back home once again late that same night very disappointed!  Although they weren’t allowed to board their flight, their luggage did, and it went on its way to Aberdeen as scheduled (or so we thought).

For the next couple of days, Errin spoke on the phone to numerous people at Orbitz trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Her efforts were ultimately denied and told there was nothing they could do.  Very frustrating indeed and oh-so-disappointing for all of us as well.

Since Orbitz wouldn’t do anything to make up for their mistake, I decided to just book another flight for them on a United flight and get them to Scotland. Yes, it was an additional expense (and quite a large one that I hadn’t budgeted for), but we had 6 weeks of reservations for three people. I wasn’t about to go on the trip by myself after all of our planning and excitement! To complicate matters further, although their baggage was scheduled to arrive in Aberdeen on their original flights where I could retrieve them, they were now lost!  Great!

We contacted the airlines to try to figure out where the luggage had gone. Luckily, they told us that the bags had made it as far as Dublin after all. They also said that the girls would be able to retrieve them from Lost & Found in the Baggage Claim department. However, when they arrived in Dublin on the United flights, the bags were nowhere to be found as promised!

Instead of arriving in Aberdeen on July 18th along with me, Errin and Grace did not get to Aberdeen until three days later on the 21st. Naturally, we had to adjust our itinerary accordingly. The only clothes they had were in their carry-on bags. Their carry-on bags had at least a few days worth of clothing and their toothbrushes.  We weren’t going to let that stifle us.  We began our adventures straight-way with our fingers crossed that the bags would show up eventually; hopefully, before we took off for Amsterdam at the end of the week.

Luckily, Errin’s luggage appeared a couple of days later (via London of all places) but still no sign of Grace’s suitcase yet.  So we visited a couple of Charity shops to get Grace some additional pieces of clothing. We were thinking optimistically, however, that her luggage would also show up as we were making our way to our first destination – Dingwall.

I wanted to show the girls the most essential part of Scotland first. Dingwall is the town where our ancestor, William Rose Frew, left his family and the life he knew to immigrate to America in the 1880s.

Aberdeen to Dingwall driving map

My cousin Lindsay was so gracious to have us all stay at his house while we traveled about Scotland, and he was an integral part of our adventures.  The day after the girls’ arrival, the four of us climbed into our rental car and started making our way to Dingwall, which is about 175 miles from Aberdeen and about a four-hour drive.

The town of Keith is located about halfway along the route we followed. When we needed a stretch break from the driving, I decided to stop at the churchyard in Keith. Lindsay and I have volunteered in the past with the Moray Burial Ground Research Group (MBGRG) to record all of the headstones in the Keith churchyard. We also probed the grounds to locate buried headstones which were hiding beneath layers of sod that has grown over them over time. The girls have heard many stories about our work with MBGRG. I thought it would be an informative spot to share with them and to have the much-needed stretch break out of the car.

As we wandered about the churchyard, Lindsay explained the process of finding buried headstones to Errin and Grace. Also, the three of them were enjoying the process of getting to know one another better. 

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Errin and Grace also enjoyed riding along in the car and seeing first-hand the landscapes pass by that I have often talked about. They were also becoming accustomed to riding along on the other side of the road as well.

Not too long after we got back on the road, we decided to stop again to get a cup of coffee or tea. We stopped at another place that Lindsay and I like called ‘Brodie Countryfare‘ about halfway between Keith and Dingwall near Brodie Castle and the town of Forres. The girls were delighted to find the vast array of delicious-looking food selections offered. Grace was doubly delighted to see so many gluten-free options available for her to eat as well! Sometimes we find it quite challenging to find places that include items she can eat. Come to find out, Scotland has quite a bit available, much more so than what we usually see in the US.


They also enjoyed the creative items for sale in the gift shop. Errin even found a cute little bow tie for her dog, Murphy, that she couldn’t resist buying for him.

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IMG_1928We eventually made it to Dingwall. We quickly found our B&B, The Weaver’s Cottage, and happily settled in for the evening after enjoying a delicious dinner with our friends from the Dingwall Museum, Pat & Ian MacLeod. The meal was delicious, as usual, but Grace especially enjoyed the tea cozy keeping her tea nice & warm! 


IMG_9217In the warm sunshine the following morning, we walked down the High Street from our lodging. Lindsay and I began showing the girls various places where our ancestors had lived once upon a time until we reached the Dingwall museum in the center of town. 


We went inside and started touring the museum and to enjoy its varied and informative displays.

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IMG_9219In the upstairs Council Chamber room, we were able to draw the girls’ attention to the painting of Lindsay’s great grandfather, John Rose Frew, the brother of my great grandfather, William Rose.

John Rose Frew served as the honorable Provost of the Royal Burgh of Dingwall for many years at the beginning of the 20th century.

After touring the museum, the museum Curator, Ian, took us up into the clock tower. Ian let us see the workings of the clock and the bell. He also encouraged us to add our signatures to the clock’s wooden housing as a testament that we had been there!

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IMG_9226After we finished touring every inch of the museum, we headed down Church Street alongside the museum to St. Clements’ Church.


William & John Frew’s parents (my great-great-grandparents) Thomas MacNaughten and Christina Rose Frew are buried in the churchyard around the back of the church.

Thoma Frew and Christina Rose Family Group
From left to right: George Rose Frew, Thomas MacNaughten Frew, Christina Rose Frew, Thomas MacNaughten Frew II, John Rose Frew, and the baby in Christina’s lap in William Rose Frew.


A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of lovingly restoring this headstone. I cleaned it thoroughly and then repainted all of the places where the paint had severely eroded. My good friend, Pat MacLeod, had asked me one day after I completed the restoration, “Where are you going to be buried when you die?”  I told her that I plan on being cremated like my parents and won’t have a headstone.  She replied, “Well, that is interesting! Because you enjoy finding headstones of your ancestors, I’m really surprised by your answer. What if your descendants have the same desire as you to find your headstone many years from now if you don’t have one?” I hadn’t thought of that and she made a good point! After much consideration, this past winter I had my name inscribed at the bottom of the stone along with my ancestors. When I saw it firsthand, I felt so proud to see my name listed with my ancestors on the headstone! Thank you, Pat, for the inspiration!

The girls’ heads were swimming with new information and I figured they needed a bit of a break and time to process all the new data they had been exposed to the last couple of hours. Since we were already halfway across Scotland at this point, I also wanted to take the girls to the west coast of Scotland as this would probably be the only opportunity to do so.  We all piled in the car after lunch, went for a drive and headed for the fishing village of Ullapool only 45 minutes away.

Dingwall to Ullapool map

Along the way, about 15 miles west of Dingwall, we stopped at a favorite fishing spot that our ancestors used to visit many moons ago called Rogie Falls. We were extremely fortunate because while we were there admiring the falls, we also got to see salmon jumping up the falls!  

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IMG_3140After enjoying the falls, we walked back to the car and continued on down the road toward Ullapool enjoying the scenic views along the route such as Loch Glascarnoch and the mountain, Beinn Dearg, in the background below.

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Once we arrived in Ullapool, we enjoyed walking around the town, and the girls enjoyed going in and out of various shops along the waterfront.

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Before leaving town to return to Dingwall, we found a lovely little cafe called the West Coast Delicatessen. Grace particularly enjoyed a bowl of gluten-free homemade soup with a yummy roll! She was one happy camper! 

When we got back to Dingwall late in the afternoon, Lindsay and I had two more stops to share with the girls which sit up on a hill overlooking the town of Dingwall below.



The first place is a Memorial for Scotlands’ beloved author Neil Miller Gunn and his wife, Jessie “Daisy” Frew (one of John Rose Frew’s daughters, and therefore, one of our cousins!).


“This monument was erected, not just to Neil Gunn, the man, and the writer, but also to acknowledge the two great themes running through all of his writings like two golden strands – the pre-eminence of the individual and the significance of the community.”


Neil was born in Caithness in 1891. His father was a crofter and a skipper of a fishing boat.  His mother was related to Hugh Miller, the famous geologist from Cromarty. Neil and his wife, Daisy, moved to Brae Farmhouse down in the Strath to the south of this monument where they lived for twelve years. It is in that house that Neil wrote eleven of his twenty novels including ‘The Silver Darlings,’ ‘The Drinking Well,’ and the ‘The Green Isle of the Great Deep.’

The monument consists of a large central stone of mica schist, like a standing stone of old. The stone was found in a quarry adjacent to Rogie Falls. Around the base are Caithness slabs, every alternate one incised with some of the symbols that appear over and over again in Neil Gunn’s writings, reminding us of our Pictish and Celtic forbears.


IMG_9268The Salmon of Wisdom swims beneath the Hazelnuts of Knowledge;


The strong hand on the Tiller as the fishermen set off on the search for “The Silver Darlings;” (‘Silver Darlings’ refer to the Herring the fishermen caught)





The Harvest scene so movingly described in “The Shadow;”



IMG_9267The Old Man is the wise Elder of the tribe appearing in several novels;






After we enjoyed the monument and reflected upon the relationship that he and our cousin Daisy shared we headed down the hill toward town stopping off at Tulloch Castle along the way,

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and where Grace and Errin were able to experience what it might have felt like being locked up in the stocks in days long gone – thank goodness they weren’t really being punished and forced to stay in that contraption for very long!

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It was the perfect ending to a perfect day of following ancestral trails and sharing them with my daughter and granddaughter!  Their heads were swimming with new information about people, places, and history. They were trying to incorporate all of the latest information they had learned throughout the day into memory as they laid their weary heads on their pillows that night.

That brings me to end of the very first day, July 23rd, of our 6-week adventure together. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our experiences and will return for many more adventures to follow soon.

Until then… ~ Claudia.







The Beginnings of Yet Another Great Adventure

This time of year, as the temperatures cool and the days shorten, I often find myself daydreaming about the wonderful memories I made traveling this past summer in Holland and in my favorite place on this planet – Scotland. I relish the beautiful memories of the places I visited and learned about and I yearn for more.

Now that I’ve finished recording those exquisite travel experiences in my blog from last year, “Claudia’s Travels 2018,” it’s time to turn my thoughts to what I would like to experience and see next summer! Where will my daydreams take me now?

I love to daydream, but some people think daydreaming is a waste of time. I find that it can be quite helpful actually – encouraging and inspiring; a fun and creative endeavor which eventually proves to be quite fruitful for me. Once images of possibilities form in my mind there’s no telling where they might take me. Sometimes, there are so many possibilities I have to stop the creative juices; write the ideas down so I can remember them all, and review them later in a pragmatical manner, evaluating which ones really stand out and particularly resonate with me.

Last year, I dreamed up a wonderfully delightful trip to Holland on a Bike & Barge excursion aboard the Magnifique III & also spent a nice while visiting Scotland for the sixth time following back country roads with my cousin Lindsay to areas we hadn’t traveled to and explored together yet.

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After planning that trip this time last year, I shared my plans with my youngest granddaughter, Grace, showing her my map, the itinerary, and some pictures of places I looked forward to discovering for myself. She seemed quite interested and excited about my trip and shared (somewhat wistfully) that sometime she would love to be able to go along with me somewhere.

“Would you now?” I asked. “If you could go, what is the first place you would want to visit the most?”

Now it was her turn to let her imagination be ignited. Being a creative artistic sort of person as well, she immediately went into her own version of “creative daydream” mode easily. It didn’t take her long to strike up an image in her mind’s eye.

“Germany!” she replied without hesitation.

“Well, then, let’s just do that, ok? Let’s take a trip together! How exciting! I’ve never been to Germany before and I am so pleased that you want to travel with me. I would love to have you along. We could have a great time exploring a new land together! Okay?” I affirmed.

“Really Grandma!?! You’re serious? Wow! That’s so cool! Thank you! You mean it? You really mean it? Mom!!!! Guess what?…” she gratefully replied as she gave me a great big hug and ran off to tell her mother the wonderful news.

Having decided where we wanted to explore, the planning stage ensued; a vital step in making our dreams turn into reality! First, we started doing some research about Germany to decide what part of it we wanted to focus upon. Rick Steve's Germany guidebookI turned to one of my favorite travel experts, Rick Steves, and ordered his guidebook on the subject.

His guidebooks very handy and informative and he’s my kind of traveler – I’ve been learning from the best! I also received other excellent suggestions from various friends, family members, and fellow bloggers.

After doing the initial research on the subject, I started building a “google travel map” made specifically for this trip as I usually do. I really like having a visual representation of the places we will visit, what route we will take, etc., which is all conveniently displayed on a map I can reference over and over again.

It helps me to solidify it in my mind and helps me to stay organized too. If I read about something in particular that we want to be sure and see while we’re there I can create a “placemark” on the map.

To create a placemark: I ‘search’ for the sight I’m interested in. Google finds it and automatically marks the spot on the map with a placemark. If I am satisfied with the results it has provided, I can then choose to “add it to my map” that I have created in order to keep the placemark there permanently.

Once it is added permanently I can edit that placemark, adding information, changing its color and its iconic shape. It’s very handy. I end up creating my own personalized travel guide to make use of while we are actually traveling and it’s all right there on my iPad or iPhone for easy access.  I don’t have to carry around guidebooks we’ve purchased nor a bunch of paperwork where we originally found the information because we extracted the necessary information and then typed it right in the appropriate placemark on the map.

I use yellow “bunk bed” placemarks to denote where we will be lodging, turquoise “exclamation mark” placemarks to denote special towns to visit, blue “crosses” for cathedrals or churches, and blue “splats” to denote points of interest. When we travel we’ll just reference the map each day to refresh our memory about where we’re spending the night and what we want to see while we’re in the vicinity! It works really well.2019 travel map

Grace and I figured out that the part of Germany we wanted to see the most was the area along the Rhine River. Our plane will land in Amsterdam and then we’ll head in a southerly direction toward Switzerland.

rhine river

I started looking for lodging possibilities.  I have a timeshare unit that I can stay at for a 7-day week every two years in Hawaii.  I bought it years ago. Since I’m not as young and active as I used to be, visiting Hawaii doesn’t hold the same appeal it once did. Now, I always “bank” my week instead of using it. Once it is “banked” I can use that week elsewhere at other places worldwide instead.

I had a “banked” week saved up, and when I checked online for availability of places in Germany I got lucky – and was extremely delighted – to find a very nice resort in Bavaria where I could use it at the beginning of August! I love it when things come together like that! I reserved it straightway and now had a solid date to work around.

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Once we knew where the resort was located and when we would be staying there, I created a placemark on the map for it and added all the pertinent details, such as the date of the stay, contact info, etc.

Before we started looking for more lodging between there and Amsterdam, I started looking for airfare.  I had enough air miles saved up for my ticket so I started with my ticket first.  Since award flights can be a bit restrictive and not readily available I checked first to see what was currently available if anything.

I found a great flight leaving the middle of July from Portland to Dublin and then Dublin to Aberdeen, Scotland. Perfect! Then I checked to see if I could buy another ticket for the same flight for my granddaughter, Grace.

“What?!! Wait a minute… Scotland? I thought you said you were going to Germany!” you might be asking. Allow me to explain…

Back to the act of daydreaming and all those possibilities I wrote down that had popped into my head. One of the ideas was that I would love to share my adventure this year with my some of my family instead of traveling by myself as I often do.  When Grace expressed a desire to travel with me I was delighted. Dream come true! Tra-la!  Then, later this summer after I returned from my trip this year, I started daydreaming again about the next trip and my daydreams came up with yet another great idea I couldn’t resist!

I surprised my daughter, Errin, by telling her that since I was already taking her daughter, Grace, I thought it would be really nice to invite her as well so that the three of us could have a grand old time altogether!  Why not?! Errin was absolutely dumbfounded, as you might imagine, and agreed that it was indeed a GREAT idea!

When I looked for available flights that used my award miles for my airfare, I was searching flights that flew into Amsterdam or Frankfurt. I couldn’t find anything, however, that felt right or really met my needs.

Also, since this is the first time Errin and Grace will visit Europe, it might also be the only time they get to visit, so I wanted to make sure they saw and experienced as much as possible that I could afford.

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While looking at the map I realized Paris isn’t very far at all from where we would be in Germany. We could take a fast train there and spend a few days. Then we could take another train north to Amsterdam and spend a couple of days there as well!  It would be a nice loop! That would be fun!

The distance we would be traveling would be equivalent to driving around the perimeter of the state we live in – Oregon – (roughly speaking).  That’s totally doable for us!

The size of most western European countries are much smaller than a lot of the states are here in the US. For instance, if you combined Scotland, England, and Ireland as one country, moved the landmass around a bit, as if it was a piece of clay, it would basically fit in the shape and size of California! Initially, I had envisioned the UK and Ireland to be about the size of the whole western part of America (California, Oregon, & Washington). Instead, Ireland, Scotland, and England combined have about the same amount of landmass as all of California!  That’s a huge difference!


It took me a while to get used to that when I was first traveling there. I had it in my head that it was a lot further than it really was because I had the proportions wrong. Once I was able to compare more accurately, and put it in proper perspective, it made it a lot easier to estimate how far I could travel in a more realistic manner.

map with distances_LI

When I looked at the new map and looked at the distances, I realized I could take Errin & Grace to not only Germany but a bit of France and the Netherlands as well. I decided that would be really great. It was close enough to include that, and since we were soooooo close to Scotland…why not go there as well!

AIMG_2365irfare between Aberdeen and Amsterdam is quite reasonable and is a very short flight as well.  Since I love Scotland so much, and there is oh-so-much of our ancestry there to share with the girls, I couldn’t possibly imagine not stopping to visit our cousin Lindsay when we were oh-so-close!

So…back to the fight searching…

I managed to find 3 airline tickets (1 using award miles and 2 that I purchased) heading to the same place! It’s not exactly the same flight, however. We all leave Portland about the same time, but I fly to Dublin via Chicago and they fly to Dublin via San Francisco where we will meet up again and all fly on the same flight on the final leg to Aberdeen.  This is working out nicely! I wished that I could get them on the same flight as mine, but it was cost prohibitive, so I went with the next best option.

We’ll spend about a week in Scotland; I’ll take them to our ancestral home of Dingwall straightway to experience and see that most important destination, and also visit a castle or two and a lovely garden along the way to and fro from Aberdeen.

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At the end of the week, we’ll fly to Amsterdam and start working our way south to Bavaria along the Rhine, circle around over to Paris and then back up to Amsterdam for about 3 weeks’ time total. We’ll catch a flight back to Aberdeen to spend another glorious 2 weeks unveiling other treasures I’ve discovered in Scotland during my previous visits which I really want to share with them.

One daydream idea which pops up year-after-year is the fact that I want to stay for a really long time, in fact, as long as I possibly can! The three of us will be gone about 6 weeks; 3 on the continent and 3 in Scotland, but when they fly home at the end of August, I’m going to stay on with Lindsay for another month until the end of September! This daydream that has turned into a trip is definitely going to be really great for the three of us and one that I’m sure we’ll long remember.

My next step in planning is to secure the rest of the lodgings we will need.  I have 6 weeks to fill.  The second week we’ll be on the continent is already scheduled at the timeshare resort in Bavaria and the time in Scotland will be spent at Lindsay’s and a couple of B&B’s I know of that I can reserve, but I needed to find lodging for 2 more weeks while we’re in Amsterdam, Cologne, all along the Rhine River, and don’t forget – Paris!

I really enjoy staying at the YHA Youth hostels and the girls want to try it a try as well. You meet the nicest people at them; travelers like yourself from all over the world. It’s quite an experience in itself and I think they are particularly looking forward to that unique aspect of staying in hostels. To find hostels in Germany I went online to Hostelling International and Hostel World, as is my usual practice, and started to search.

The hostels can fill up fast, especially in very desirable locations, like major cities which are quite popular with the younger travelers, so it’s advisable to book them in advance and they reserve them for you for a nominal deposit.

When I looked at the websites’ maps of all the hostels there are in Germany and what I had to choose from, I was astonished how many there are. If my memory serves me correctly, Germany was the country that came up with the idea in the first place. The map view of the hostels looked as though there was one about every 5 miles!

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To my satisfaction, I easily found one every step of the way along my desired route and also had the pleasure of selecting from several choices at each location. After a short while online, I had them all booked and reserved for the first week between Amsterdam and Bavaria.  One of the hostels I found is even an old castle!  How cool is that?  I’m really glad we were able to book that one in particular! Now for Paris!

One of my favorite hostels, Le Village in Montmartre at the foot of Sacre Coeur, was also available like I was hoping it would be.  I think the girls are really going to love that location! It’s the perfect spot to explore Paris from and it’s up on a hill so you can get a great view of the city spread out before you from there.

IMG_9925I also found a room at another great hostel in Amsterdam, one that I stayed at this year right next to Vondelpark – a perfect location! It all worked out just great!

Now that I have all of the lodging and airfare booked I can start filling in details of places to go visit in Scotland, & add sights of interest to our map.  We will keep doing our research adding things to be sure to visit as we find them over the course of the winter. It will be a fun project filling up our summer holiday plans with all kinds of exciting stuff!

An attitude of Gratitude ~ I am ever so thankful to have Errin & Grace to share my next adventure with me. I look forward to sharing all the fantastic treasures in Scotland I’ve discovered on past excursions and then also discovering new places and things together in Germany. Afterall, that’s what it is all about – making lasting memories together!