Eilan Donan Castle

Scotland – On the Trail of Clan Mackenzie

Ever since I found out that my paternal lineage goes back to the 12th century Clan Mackenzie, I dreamed of following their trail from Eilean Donan Castle on the west coast across the Scottish Highlands and the Kintail mountains to Castle Leod on the eastern shores. The tale of the rise and fall of Clan Mackenzie, filled with the supernatural, cunning power, and vicious clan battles, makes a great story. Diane Gabaldon’s historical time travel book series, inspiring the popular …

Visiting Cambridge Makes Me Feel Smarter

I went to Cambridge, the prestigious medieval university, only as a tourist, but boy did I get educated. Though my former students have attended these hallowed grounds, I felt like a dunce when I realized Cambridge was not one central institution, but actually 31 different colleges under the administrative umbrella of the University. The colleges, established between the 11th and 15th centuries, have unique, individual histories. In 1209, after a dispute with the townspeople, scholars from Oxford University left and …

Punting in Cambridge To Celebrate Special Occasions

When my son’s British fiancé told us we were celebrating their engagement by going punting in Cambridge, I imagined kicking the pigskin around a ballpark. But the English don’t play American football. Then I thought it must have something to do with rugby, as her brother-in-law is an avid rugby man. Well, what a surprise! Punting has nothing to do with playing ball on a pitch (field), but instead involves a boat on a river. Imagine skimming across the water …

Staying at England’s Historic White Hart Coaching Inn

Staying at the historic White Hart in Ampthill, once one of England’s 18th century coaching inns, made me feel like I slipped back in time to the Wild West days à la European. Before train systems developed, coaching inns served as a key part of the travel infrastructure in Europe. On overnight stops, stagecoaches stopped there to “refuel.” Weary travelers rested and ate and drank at the pub, while their horses were fed and watered in the stables. On the …

Fine Art of Tidying Up for the Disorganized Brain

Propensity for organization is an inherited gene, which I lack. Tidying up will never come naturally, but I thought reading Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing would spur me into action. That clever little Japanese lady created a brand name consultancy agency and reality TV show based on her KonMari Method to eliminate clutter. Combining philosophical wisdom, Japanese cultural traditions, and practical advice, she makes staying organized sound easy. “The act …