Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I've heard of Big Books, but....

I've heard of Big Books, but maybe not quite THIS big!

Check out this giant mural outside the Duluth, MN, public library.  See anything familiar? <g>  (Click on the photo for a bigger view.  Photo credit: emu82 on Flickr.)


Someone posted a photo of this mural on Diana Gabaldon's Facebook page the other day, and I laughed out loud when I took a close look at it.  Have any of you seen it in person?

Whoever designed this mural must be a fan.  I think it's Very Cool.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The OUTLANDER Olympics

Just for fun, in honor of the 2012 Summer Olympics, here are a few quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books that show the characters engaged in various athletic pursuits.  I hope you enjoy them!


Lord John and Hal, practicing their fencing skills:
Beat, beat, feint, a half skip back as Hal’s point lunged past his face, another, Hal was leaning too far forward--no, he’d caught himself, jumped back in the nick of time as Grey’s blade came up. A lunge in tierce, in tierce again without let, and dust flew up from the stamp of his foot on the boards.

Hal had caught what he was about; he could feel Hal’s thoughts as though they were inside his own head, feel the edge of astonished annoyance change, anger rising, then the jerk as Hal caught himself, forced himself to restraint, to something colder and more cautious.

Grey himself had no such restraint. He was happily off his head, drunk with the lust of fighting. His body felt like oiled rope, tensile and slippery, and he was taking dangerous chances, completely confident that he could elude Hal’s point, regardless.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 10, "Salle des Armes". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
High Jump

Here's Jamie, just after Mary Hawkins has unexpectedly made an appearance at a dinner party the day after she was raped:
Jamie shrugged at me, then glanced around him. I saw his eyes light for a moment on a three-legged table near the wall, holding a tall vase of chrysanthemums. He glanced up, measuring the distance, closed his eyes briefly as though commending his soul to God, then moved with decision.

He sprang from the floor to the table, grasped the banister railing and vaulted over it, onto the stairway, a few feet in advance of the General. It was such an acrobatic feat that one or two ladies gasped, little cries of admiration intermingled with their exclamations of horror.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "Rape in Paris". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Cross-Country Running

Young Ian, running through the woods, pursued by wolves:
The more-distant wolf howled again; the near one answered, so close that the hairs rose up straight on the back of his neck. He heaved a rock in the direction of the call, turned, and ran, the bundle of rocks clutched hard against his belly.

The sky had lightened into dawn. Heart and lungs strained for blood and air, and yet it seemed as though he ran so slowly that he floated over the forest floor, passing like a drifting cloud, unable to go faster. He could see each tree, each separate needle of a spruce he passed, short and thick, soft silver-green in the light.

His breath came hard, his vision blurred and cleared, as tears of effort clouded his eyes, were blinked away, welled back again. A tree branch lashed his face and blinded him, the scent of it sharp in his nose.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Winter Wolves". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 

Jamie and Roger, moving boulders on the Ridge:
"Why?” he asked, eyes on the huge stone he was slowly heaving into place. It was too heavy to lift, the size of a whisky keg. Knotted clumps of grass roots stuck out from under it, ripped out of the earth by the stone’s slow and brutal passage across the ground.

Roger bent to lend his own weight to the task. The lichens on the rock’s surface were rough under his palms, green and scabby with age.

“I’ve a family to protect,” he said. The rock moved grudgingly, sliding a few inches across the uneven ground. Jamie nodded, once, twice; on the silent “three,” they shoved together, with an echoed grunt of effort. The monster half-rose, paused, rose altogether and overbalanced, chunking down into place with a thunk! that quivered through the ground at their feet.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 86, "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
Shooting (Men's)

Even the legendary Daniel Morgan was impressed by Jamie's shooting skills:
"By your leave, ma’am,” he said, and without waiting for my leave, picked up the sack and pulled out a dead chicken. The neck flopped limp, showing the large, bloody hole through its head where an eye--well, two eyes--had once been. His scarred mouth pursed in a soundless whistle and he looked sharply up at Jamie.

“You do that a-purpose?” he asked.

“I always shoot them through the eye,” Jamie replied politely. “Dinna want to spoil the meat."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 61, "No Better Companion Than the Rifle."  Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
Shooting (Women's)

Here's Brianna demonstrating her skill with a musket:
Ears still ringing from the roar of the gun, Roger had heard nothing. Swinging round, though, he caught a flicker of movement; a dark gray squirrel, poised on a pine branch at least thirty feet above the ground.

Without the slightest hesitation, Brianna raised the gun to her shoulder and seemed to fire in the same motion. The branch directly under the squirrel exploded in a shower of wood chips, and the squirrel, blown off its feet, plunged to the ground, bouncing off the springy evergreen branches as it went.

Roger ran across to the foot of the tree, but there was no need to hurry; the squirrel lay dead, limp as a furry rag.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Shooting Lessons". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Jamie, swimming toward the silkies' isle:
He made his way slowly out from the cliff, floundering and choking as the waves broke over his head. No place in Scotland is that far from the sea, but Jamie had been raised inland, his experience of swimming limited to the placid depths of lochs and the pools of trout streams.

Blinded by salt and deafened by the roaring surf, he had fought the waves for what seemed hours, then thrust his head and shoulders free, gasping for breath, only to see the headland looming--not behind, as he had thought, but to his right.

“The tide was goin’ out, and I was goin’ with it,” he said wryly. “I thought, well, that’s it, then, I’m gone, for I knew I could never make my way back. I hadna eaten anything in two days, and hadn’t much strength left.”

He ceased swimming then, and simply spread himself on his back, giving himself to the embrace of the sea. Light-headed from hunger and effort, he had closed his eyes against the light and searched his mind for the words of the old Celtic prayer against drowning.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Buried Treasure". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Can you think of more examples?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 7/27/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books. (By the way, today marks six months since I started this blog feature. I'm really gratified by how much everyone has been enjoying the FFF!)

Click on any of the photos below to enlarge them.

1) This is a hawksbill sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata.  What a beautiful creature!  It's sad to think that they were hunted almost to extinction.
"Ah...is Mrs. Fraser feeling somewhat improved?”

“Verra much,” said Jamie, with feeling.

“She enjoyed the turtle soup?”

“Greatly. I thank ye.” His hands on my head were trembling.

"Did you tell her that I’ve put aside the shell for her? It was a fine hawksbill turtle; a most elegant beast.”

“Aye. Aye, I did.” With an audible gasp, Jamie pulled away and reaching down, lifted me to my feet.

“Good night, Mr. Stern!” he called. He pulled me toward the berth; we struggled four-legged to keep from crashing into tables and chairs as the floor rose and fell beneath us.

(From VOYAGER, chapter 56, "Turtle Soup". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) The photo above (from Wikipedia) shows the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh.  I didn't get to see it on my recent visit to Scotland, unfortunately; the palace was closed because the Queen was in town.

The Great Gallery at Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse Edinburgh Scotland

Here's the Great Gallery at Holyrood, where Charles Stuart entertained guests in the winter of 1745-46. (Photo credit: mbell1975 on Flickr.)
The long, high-ceiled room with its two vast fireplaces and towering windows had been the scene of frequent balls and parties since Charles’s triumphant entry into Edinburgh in September. Now, crowded with the luminaries of Edinburgh’s upper class, all anxious to do honor to their Prince—once it appeared that he might actually win—the room positively glittered.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 37, "Holyrood". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Remember the poem by A.E. Housman that Claire recites to Jamie in VOYAGER?  Here it is in full:

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.

Oh a deal of pains he's taken and a pretty price he's paid
To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;
But they've pulled the beggar's hat off for the world to see and stare,
And they're haling him to justice for the colour of his hair.

Now 'tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet
And the quarry-gang on Portland in the cold and in the heat,
And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare
He can curse the God that made him for the colour of his hair.

I always have to laugh at Jamie's reaction to Claire's teasing in this scene:
"Did ye not tell me ye'd studied for a doctor, Sassenach?" he inquired. "Or was it a poet, after all?"

"Not me," I assured him, coming to straighten his stock. "Those sentiments are by one A.E. Housman."

"Surely one of him is sufficient," Jamie said dryly. "Given the quality of his opinions."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 58, "Masque of the Red Death". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I was surprised to discover that this poem has nothing to do with redheads at all. According to Wikipedia, Housman is referring to Oscar Wilde, who was convicted of sodomy in 1895.
In the poem the prisoner is suffering "for the colour of his hair", a natural, given attribute which, in a clearly coded reference to homosexuality, is reviled as "nameless and abominable" (recalling the legal phrase peccatum horribile, inter christianos non nominandum, "the horrible sin, not to be named amongst Christians").

4) I had never heard of a spurtle (a wooden implement used in Scotland to stir porridge) before I read Diana Gabaldon's books. Here's a scene from ECHO in which Claire has been using one to stir the contents of a kettle over the fire.
"You evidently know my name," I said, striving for coolness. "What's yours, then?"

He smiled again, looking me over with a careful air that struck me as one inch short of insolence, and a short inch, at that.

"My name doesn't matter. Your husband is James Fraser?"

I had a sudden strong urge to dot him one with the spurtle but didn't; it might annoy him but wouldn't get rid of him. I didn't want to admit to Jamie's name and didn't bother asking myself why not. I simply said, "Excuse me," and, taking the camp kettle off the fire, set it on the ground and walked off.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 67, "Greasier Than Grease". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Apparently there is an annual porridge-making contest in Scotland called the Golden Spurtle. <g>

5) This diagram shows what an abdominal aortic aneurysm looks like. Just looking at the picture is a little scary!  It looks like a balloon that's about to pop, doesn't it?  Here's a brief video animation:

It's easy to see why such a condition would be fatal in the 18th century.
"How do you feel?” I asked.

[Grannie Wilson] put a trembling hand to her belly.

“I do feel that wee bit poorly,” she whispered.

I put my own hand on her abdomen, and felt it instantly. A pulse, where no pulse should be. It was irregular, stumbling, and bumping--but most assuredly there.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” I said. I didn’t say it loudly, but Mrs. Crombie gasped, and I saw her apron twitch, as she doubtless made the horns beneath it.

I hadn’t time to bother with apology, but stood and grabbed Roger by the sleeve, pulling him aside.

“She has an aortic aneurysm,” I said to him very softly. “She must have been bleeding internally for some time, enough to make her lose consciousness and seem cold. It’s going to rupture very soon, and then she’ll die for real.” 

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, chapter 39, "I Am the Resurrection". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More OUTLANDER fan art

Here's the latest OUTLANDER fan art by Captivated2 on DeviantArt.com.  (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

I think these are just wonderful!  The more I look at them, the more I like them.  Thanks to Outlander Fan for the link!

Monday, July 23, 2012

What do YOU think?

So, what do YOU think about the idea of a cable-TV series based on OUTLANDER? Are you excited? Cautiously optimistic? Apprehensive? Skeptical? Wishing it would happen RIGHT NOW?

Feel free to share your opinions here! And if you want to get your message to the people in charge of the production, post a comment on Diana Gabaldon's blog or Facebook page. Let's make our voices heard! Thanks.

I am somewhere between "excited" and "cautiously optimistic" myself. It could be really great, IF it's done right. There are still a lot of unknowns. But I'm very happy to see that they're talking about a TV series and not a feature film.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

New FAQ on Diana Gabaldon website

Diana Gabaldon has posted a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on her website that goes into more detail about the possible OUTLANDER TV series.

Look here, and please pass this link on to anyone else you know who may be interested.  Thanks!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Penicuik sketches from the '45

The drawing above is one of the "Penicuik sketches", contemporary drawings by an unknown artist during the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46. I first became aware of these sketches during my recent visit to Culloden. They're featured in the guidebook I bought at Culloden Battlefield, and I thought the rest of you might find them interesting, too.

According to this site:
An unknown artist near Penicuik (just outside Edinburgh) did a series of remarkable sketches of both the Government militia prior to the Jacobite arrival, the Jacobite occupation 1745-6, and the Government troops (particularly the Hessians!) which arrived later. These are the only known contemporary illustrations taken during the ’45 itself, and of the 29 illustrations of Highland troops, 17 are shown carrying broadswords of various descriptions (including two with curved Turkish blades), 10 are with muskets, and 2 with Lochaber Axes.
According to the site where I found these pictures, the man shown above is "identified as 'Glengarry' - presumably Colonel Angus McDonnell, Glengarry's second son who was accidentally shot & killed on 22 January 1746".

This man is identified only as "a Highland sentry". Note the bayonet affixed to his musket.

To see more of these drawings, look here.  These sketches were collected in a book called WITNESS TO REBELLION, published in 1996 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the battle of Culloden.  I have not seen this book myself, but you may still be able to find it in print.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 7/20/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.  This is a special edition focusing on facts related to my recent trip to Scotland.  (Look here for my detailed account of that trip.)

Please note: I didn't take any of these photos myself. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

1) We had a very quick glimpse of some red deer in a field, but I didn't get a chance to take a photo, so I found this photo of a red stag online.  (Photo credit: saxman1597 on Flickr.) Jamie's hair is sometimes described as "the color of a red deer's pelt", and I think you can see that very well from this photo.
"Be still, roy.”  Frowning with concentration, she picked up a comb and teased out the tangles, leaving a smooth, shining mass of auburn, copper, cinnamon, and gold, all gleaming together in the morning sun from the window. Jenny spread it in her hands, shaking her head over it.

“I canna think why the good Lord should waste hair like that on a man,” she remarked. “Like a red-deer’s pelt, in places.”

“It is wonderful isn’t it?” I agreed. “Look, where the sun’s bleached it on top, he’s got those lovely blond streaks.” The object of our admiration glowered up at us.

“If ye both dinna stop it, I shall shave my head."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 31, "Quarter Day". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information about Scotland's red deer, look here.

2) I mentioned in one of my blog posts about my trip to Scotland that the tour included an OUTLANDER trivia contest.  One of the harder questions on that list was, "What are Claire's parents' names?"

Claire's father's name is mentioned a couple of times during the course of the series.  Here's Jamie at the Gathering in THE FIERY CROSS:
"Thig a seo!” he called, putting out his right hand to me. “Thig a seo, a Shorcha, nighean Eanruig, neart mo chridhe.” Come to me, he said. Come to me, Claire, daughter of Henry, strength of my heart. Scarcely feeling my feet or those I stumbled over, I made my way to him, and clasped his hand, his grip cold but strong on my fingers.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 15, "The Flames of Declaration". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
But what about Claire's mother?  She's hardly mentioned in the OUTLANDER books at all, and as far as I know, there's only one reference to her name, in the Beauchamp family tree in the OUTLANDISH COMPANION, page 207, where Claire's parents are listed as Henry Montmorency Beauchamp and Julia Moriston.  [UPDATE 7/20/2012 8:54 am:  thanks to an alert reader of this blog, LydGaff, who pointed out that Claire's parents' names are also mentioned in the discussion of blood types in THE FIERY CROSS.  I'd forgotten all about that.]

(The image above is similar to the Beauchamp coat of arms found on p. 206 of the OC.)

3) This is Castle Leod, the ancestral home of the MacKenzie clan.  I didn't actually get to see it on the tour, as it turned out not to be feasible for someone with limited mobility, but it looks remarkably similar to the sketch of Castle Leoch on page 343 of the OUTLANDISH COMPANION.

I have always been fascinated by Diana's story of how her mental picture of Castle Leoch turned out to bear a strong resemblance to the real Castle Leod, which she didn't even know existed at the time she wrote OUTLANDER.
Among the scenes of Highland beauty and massed MacKenzies, were several photographs of the clan seat--Castle Leod.

“You’re kidding!” I said, seeing this. “You mean there is a place called Leod?”

They were surprised at this, having assumed that I not only knew about Castle Leod, but had seen it, since the description in Outlander matched the reality so well.

“Well, I have seen it,” I said. “But not in a photograph.”

Since the reality had so abruptly popped up in front of me, though, it seemed unnecessary to go on constructing the imaginary version, and so I asked the McKenzies’ permission--graciously granted--to use their photographs of the Real Thing.

(From THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "Lallybroch". Copyright© 1999 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Oban & Fort William Road Sign

4) I was fascinated by the Gaelic-English road signs throughout the Highlands.  (Photo credit: Hagfelsh on Flickr.)  In particular, the Gaelic name for Fort William, "An Gearasdan", seems very close to the English word "garrison".  According to my friend Cathy MacGregor, the locals referred to it simply as "the garrison" because the fort was named after William, Duke of Cumberland, aka "Butcher Billy", and they didn't want to speak his name.  Not that I can blame them!
"They called him 'Butcher Billy.'" Roger gestured at the Duke, stolid in white knee breeches and gold-braided coat. “For excellent reason. Aside from what they did here"--he waved toward the expanse of the spring-green moor outside, dulled by the lowering sky--"Cumberland’s men were responsible for the worst reign of English terror ever seen in the Highlands. They chased the survivors of the battle back into the hills, burning and looting as they went. Women and children were turned out to starve, and the men shot down where they stood--with no effort to find out whether they’d ever fought for Charlie. One of the Duke’s contemporaries said of him, 'He created a desert and called it peace'--and I’m afraid the Duke of Cumberland is still rather noticeably unpopular hereabouts."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Culloden". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) We were in Scotland at the time of the "summer dim". The sun rose before 4:30 am, and didn't set until well after 10 pm.  I never did go outside in the middle of the night to see what the sky looked like <g>, but I do remember waking up once, around 4:30 am, and thinking how strange it was to see light coming in the window at that hour.
"It was summer. Ye'll ken the summer in the Highlands, Sassenach--the summer dim?"

I nodded. The summer dim was the light of the Highland night, early in summer.  So far to the north, the sun barely set on Midsummer's Eve; it would disappear below the horizon, but even at midnight, the sky was pale and milky white, and the air was not dark, but seemed filled with unearthly mist.

The prison governor took advantage of the light, now and then, to work the prisoners into the late hours of the evening.

"We didna mind so much," Jamie said. His eyes were open, but fixed on whatever he was seeing in the summer dim of memory. "It was better to be outside than in. And yet, by the evening, we would be so droukit wi' fatigue that we could barely set one foot before the other. It was like walking in a dream."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 95, "The Summer Dim". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are a couple of photos I found online that illustrate what the "summer dim" in Scotland looks like. 

Another night, another sunset

11 pm in Bunessan, Scotland, June 25, 2006. (Photo credit: Meg Pickard on Flickr)

Edinburgh Summer Night 3

Midnight in Edinburgh, June 25, 2001. (Photo credit: Martin Third on Flickr)

Looking at these photos, it's hard to believe that they were taken so late at night!

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New song from "OUTLANDER: The Musical"

I just saw this video of a new song called "One More Time" from OUTLANDER: The Musical and wanted to pass it on:

According to the OUTLANDER: The Musical website,

"This is a new song, music by Jill Santoriello, lyrics by Jill Santoriello and Mike Gibb, intended as a final number in a stage production of Outlander the Musical. It is sung by Claire at the graveyard in 1968 on discovering that Jamie didn't die at Culloden and she prepares to return to him. It is hoped that the full song will be available as a download soon!"

I think it's very good!  (Please note, I have no comment on the casting of this video.  I'm much more interested in the song than the video that goes along with it.)

If you haven't listened to OUTLANDER: The Musical, I would definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sony Pictures to make an OUTLANDER TV series!

Some very exciting news for OUTLANDER fans today!!
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures TV has closed a deal for the rights to Outlander, Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling fantasy/romance/adventure series of books. Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer Ron Moore will write the series adaptation, with Jim Kohlberg’s Story Mining and Supply Co producing. The project will be taken to cable networks this week.
You can read the full article here.

Diana Gabaldon made the following announcement on Compuserve this afternoon (and similar announcements on Facebook and Twitter):
Dear All--

    Yes, it's true!  While the final contracts aren't yet signed, we do have a deal with SONY Pictures for development of a cable-TV series based on the OUTLANDER novels.  (cable-TV means things like HBO, Showtime, Starz, Netflix, etc.)
In response to someone who asked if this deal was only for the first book in the series, Diana said:
No, options for a series always cover all books in the series; they don't want to make the first one, have a big hit, and then have the writer hold them up for a billion dollars for the second one. <wry g>
I'm sure you're wondering how much influence Diana will have over the production.  Here's what she had to say about that:
Well, IF it actually happens <g>, I'll be a consultant and co-producer.  No power, but they do talk to me. 
Here's a comment from Ronald D. Moore on Twitter:
"Big fan of @Writer_DG’s Outlander books for many years, excited for the opportunity to do a FAITHFUL interpretation!"
Let's hope he really means it.

Please keep in mind that the project is still in the early stages.  We have NO news about casting, NO news about a projected premiere date, NO news about which specific cable or pay-TV channel it might air on.  I promise to keep you all updated if I hear anything further!

This is very exciting!  I have long been skeptical about the idea of an OUTLANDER movie, but a TV series certainly has a lot of potential.  IF it's done right.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

UPDATE 7/22/2012 7:06 pm:  Diana Gabaldon has posted a new FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on her website that goes into more detail about the TV series.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My trip to Scotland, Part 8

Day 8 (Saturday, July 7)

Our luck with the weather finally ran out today, on the very last day of our trip.  A light but steady rain fell all day long, and it was cold, only in the mid-50's F.  Definitely a good day to visit a museum!  My sister had made plans to spend much of the day exploring Edinburgh with two other members of our tour group, so my mom and I took a taxi to the National Museum of Scotland.

We loved the museum.  It's a fascinating place, with lots of wonderful artifacts, going back all the way to the beginning of Scotland's recorded history (Picts, early Christians, etc.).  For someone like me, with a particular interest in the 18th century artifacts, there was a lot to see.  I'll show you a few examples of the items that I thought would be of particular interest to OUTLANDER fans.

Click on any of the photos below to enlarge them.

1) Charles Stuart's gold and sterling silver picnic set (mentioned in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER).  Thanks to Judy Lowstuter for telling me that it was on display in this museum!  (You can get a better look at it here.)

2) Broadswords, dirk, and targe

3) Chocolate pot (with a hole in the top to allow it to be stirred), 1721.  (Photo from the museum's website.)

4) A device for locking a coffin to keep body-snatchers (like John Hunter, perhaps?) from stealing the corpse.

5) 18th century medical instruments.  Bleeding bowl, fleam, lancets, etc.  (The lancets and fleam were smaller than I'd expected.)

6) A medical textbook from 1776.

7) Pistol, dirks, and sgian dubh.

8) Wooden spoons, such as ordinary crofters might have used.

9) Portable writing desk.  I could see Lord John using something like this in the field.

If you have plans to visit Edinburgh any time in the future, I would definitely recommend taking the time to visit the National Museum of Scotland!  It's well worth it, and we saw only a small part of what's available there.

In the museum's gift shop, I found a beautiful Caithness paperweight to add to my collection.  I have six of these now, collected over the last five years or so, all different colors, and I love them!  This one is called "Swirly Whirly Ruby".

After we had lunch at the museum, my mom and I took a taxi to Edinburgh Castle to see the Honours of Scotland, aka the Crown Jewels.  It was still raining pretty steadily.

After we reached the castle, we waited about 20 minutes in a cold rain at the spot pictured above, until a car finally came to take us up to where the Honours of Scotland were on display.  The jewels are impressive, but my mom said the Crown Jewels in London are much more so.

I spent a long time staring at the famous Stone of Scone, remembering the movie "Stone of Destiny", about the four Scottish college students in the 1950's who smuggled the Stone of Scone out of Westminster Abbey and brought it back to Scotland.  (Great movie, by the way.)

My mom and I didn't linger too long at the castle.  We were too wet and cold and tired to sightsee any longer, so we went back to the hotel.  My sister Alice returned a while later.  Here are a couple of her photos from her time in Edinburgh:

This photo makes me laugh. I love the combination of kilt, bagpipes, and modern rain-gear. <g>

The World's End, in Edinburgh.  I didn't get to see it on this trip (there just wasn't time), but my sister took this photo for me.  I love the idea that Jamie and Claire were there!

On Saturday evening, the three of us went out to dinner one last time, and then it was time for my mom and I to pack for an early-morning flight home.  I wish we'd had more time, and better weather, in Edinburgh.  I'm sure there's a lot more to see!

I hope you've enjoyed my little travelogue. <g>  Thanks so much to everyone who's commented on my photos and stories.  We had a GREAT time in Scotland, and I have so many wonderful memories!

Here are the previous blog posts in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My trip to Scotland, Part 7

Day 7 (Friday, July 6)

We left Huntly at 9 am, passing briefly through Aberdeen.  I thought of the scene in VOYAGER where Claire tells Jamie about the death of her patient, Graham Menzies:
"It was Graham who sent me to Scotland,” I said at last, feeling slightly choked. “He asked me to go someday--and say hello to Aberdeen for him.” I glanced up at Jamie suddenly.

“I didn’t! I never did go to Aberdeen.”

“Dinna trouble yourself, Sassenach.” Jamie squeezed my hand. “I’ll take ye there myself--when we go back. Not,” he added practically, “that there’s anything to see there."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 56, "Turtle Soup". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
So as Judy announced that we were coming into Aberdeen, I said a quick "hello" under my breath, on Claire's behalf. <g>  Many of the buildings in Aberdeen are made of granite.

We stopped briefly for photos of Dunnottar Castle.  It was such a quick stop that I opted not to bother to go closer.  (I still had a cold, and was trying to conserve my energy for later in the day.)  Here you can see another example of how valuable my sister Alice was on this trip, in her role as scout and photographer. <g>

Here's what I saw from near the coach.  Note the castle in the distance. (Click on any of the photos to enlarge them.)

And this is a photo my sister took of Dunnottar Castle.

Needless to say, I like her version much better! <g>

Our next stop was in Dundee, to drop off Betsy and her husband at the train station.  (They had to go into Edinburgh so Betsy could replace her lost passport.)  While we waited for the group to return from a "comfort stop", I took these photos of the Discovery, a ship that sailed to Antarctica in 1900, which is moored within sight of the Dundee train station.  It looks to be in remarkably good condition, considering how far it traveled!

Oh, and speaking of "comfort stops", also known as bathroom breaks.  At one point on Friday, we stopped at a place that had won a "Loo of the Year" award.  (No, I'm not making that up!)  It happened to be the only place we saw on this trip that had pay toilets (20 pence), but the attendant let me get in for free.  I didn't think to get a photo of the "Loo of the Year" sign (honestly, it never occurred to me to bring my camera along to use the restroom!), but it was prominently displayed.  The place was certainly very clean, I'll say that for it.  <g>

During the long drive in the morning, Judy gave out prizes for the contests earlier in the week.  (There was an OUTLANDER-themed scavenger hunt, as well as the trivia contest I mentioned in a previous post.)

As she passed out the graded quizzes, Judy said, "The average on these quizzes" -- in all the time she's been doing these OUTLANDER tours, she meant -- "is about 18 out of 50; good is 30 or above; and if you score 45 or more, you're living in the books."

I won the trivia contest with a score of 46 out of 50. <g>  (Well, "living in the books" is maybe just a slight exaggeration, but I certainly can't deny that I've been immersed in All Things Outlander on a daily basis for the last 5 1/2 years!)

The prize was a polished chunk of agate from Perthshire, which Judy got at Castle Leod.

Judy said that Lord John (the Earl of Cromartie, clan chief of the MacKenzies) collects these.  I think it's beautiful, and a wonderful memento of the trip.  The description inside the box says, "Agate Knowe agate, 410 my, Perthshire, Scotland", and there is a tiny label on the back with the date when it was found: "22/11/90" (just one day before my birthday!)  Thanks, Judy!!

We visited Stirling Castle in the afternoon.  Weather was partly sunny but VERY windy!  After my experiences at Urquhart and Fraser castles earlier in the week, I didn't have high expectations for the accessibility of Stirling Castle, but I was delighted by what I found!  They sent a car to bring me and my scooter up to the top of the very steep hill where the castle is situated.  We got there just in time for the start of a tour, and my sister and I went on the tour while my mom took some time to rest.

I was glad that my jacket had a hood.  Did I mention it was windy? And I had a cold? <g>  Never mind; I still enjoyed myself thoroughly on that tour, as you can see from this picture.

The tour turned out to be completely accessible, much to my relief.  The tour guide was excellent (although his accent was difficult to understand at first) and he told us a number of entertaining anecdotes.  One in particular that I remember concerned a man in the 1500's who attempted to fly by covering himself with chicken feathers and jumping out of one of the castle windows.  He somehow survived the fall, and told the king that his mistake was using a flightless bird!  (He said he should have used eagle feathers instead. <g>)

The photo above shows a bit of the "harled", or plastered, stone on the outside of the castle. When you read about Lallybroch's "white-harled stone" in the OUTLANDER books, this is what it looks like, except that Stirling's exterior is yellow, not white.

The symbol on the left in the photo above, resembling an I with a 6, is a bit of a mystery. Historians aren't sure exactly what it means, although I liked the explanation that it could stand for "Iacobus 6" (King James VI). It could also be a CI, though, for Charles I, according to the guidebook I bought.

Here's my mom, with a cannon at the top of Stirling Castle.

After the tour, we went downstairs to the newly renovated rooms inside the castle.  They just completed a renovation about a year ago, so everything we saw was in excellent condition.  We saw the king's bedchamber, the queen's chamber, and a number of other rooms.  They had re-enactors in every room, in period costume, role-playing from 1546, which was fun.

There were very beautiful tapestries and other decorations throughout the castle.  The colors are just magnificent!

Probably the most famous works of art at Stirling are a set of reproductions of the Unicorn Tapestries from the 16th century. 

I kept wondering, "Why unicorns?"  I was surprised by how many there were, throughout the castle.

We stopped for lunch at a small cafe on-site.  At the gift shop, I bought some Scotch tablet (which was good, but so sweet it made my teeth ache!) and a guidebook to Stirling Castle.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Stirling and I had no real difficulty in getting around.

We proceeded to Edinburgh and checked into the Knight Residence, which is a bit like a Residence Inn, with individual apartments, complete with kitchen and laundry facilities.  At this point, the "official" part of the tour was over, and we were free to do whatever we wanted in the time remaining to us in Edinburgh.  My mom and sister and I had dinner at a pub a few blocks away from the hotel, and made plans for some sightseeing the next day.

I'll talk more about our visit to Edinburgh in the next installment.  Here are the previous posts in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 8