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What a privilege it was last week to spend a few days on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. We made the 11-hour car trip with our dogs and yes, I got in some driving practice! But Robin had to handle the narrow, precipitous roads on Skye itself.

Skye is a remote place with a rainy, cool climate. I thought: you'd have to be a hardy soul to live here. As elsewhere in Scotland, we found the residents very friendly. I've never had a less-than-delicious meal or drink in this wonderful country either. But Skye's main attraction is constant, overwhelming scenery. It's just beautiful everywhere you go, with a combination of the mountains, sea, and moors.

The above photos are from an area in northern Skye known as the Quiraing. These jagged geologic formations are spectacular and a bit otherworldly. During our walks on Skye, we experienced sun, clouds, wind, rain, and driving hail -- none of which seemed to last more than 5 minutes at a time! But the changing weather does make for wonderful variations in the light and color of what you're beholding.

In the photos below, we're on the southwest corner of Skye looking at the Black Cuillin (COOL-in), a jagged mountain range. This time with the dogs, we hiked up a bit. As in the Quiraing, I would have liked to have gone further; but time, weather, and fitness levels were limiting factors. Still, you don't have to walk very far in Skye to get breathtaking views. Altitude aside, I definitely did feel "high" on Skye.

Click the right or left arrows on the photos below (or scroll) to see a few more with captions.

Finally, I share with you that I love big old castles. Over the years I've seen many mystical photographs of a Scottish one called Eilean Donan, which I've always wanted to visit. I finally got to see it in person on our way to Skye. It was not disappointing.

I'm not sure if our travels will ever take us back to Skye. There are other Scottish Islands we hope to visit, including the Outer Hebrides and the Shetlands. But I am so grateful I got to experience this unique place.

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Updated: Apr 7

Dearest Readers, I know many of you are bridge players and you're wondering about our experiences playing bridge in the UK so far.

Well, I can tell you it's pretty much the same as back home! We always have a great time if there's a bridge game involved. I've now played three times at the Oxford Duplicate Bridge Club; and then on Sunday Robin and I drove into London for a special bridge event: a commemorative Swiss Pairs game + "a sumptuous Afternoon Tea" at the Wimbledon Bridge Club. We found the players at the Wimbledon Club friendly, welcoming, and of varying bridge abilities.

On the way home, Robin educated me on the difference between "High Tea" and "Afternoon Tea." It's the latter that is fancier, and many visitors consider it a special experience while in the UK. "Afternoon Tea" at the Ritz in London costs £72 (~$88)!

I mistakenly believed "High Tea" meant something even more posh, but no - that's a term to indicate a plainer and more hearty meal, what Americans might call supper. Historically, the upper class took Afternoon Tea to tide them over until a late dinner, while the working class would have High Tea as their evening meal, eaten much earlier.

But even a bargain Afternoon Tea is a treat, and the Bridge Club apparently has a chef on staff much beloved by the players. We could see why! We played 36 deals and at the halfway point, each table received a delicious platter of finger sandwiches (egg, cheese, salmon, or chicken - no crusts); currant scones hot from the oven, served with strawberry jam and clotted cream; and a slice of cake. Of course there were many teas to choose from but as a non-tea drinker, I was happy to savor the food.

We haven't enjoyed the Oxford club quite as much. I found a great partner, an American college student here for junior year abroad. But the games have been rushed, with the Director hovering and exhorting people to play faster. In one round of the game I played with Robin, we had just finished Board 3 out of 5, and there was some confusion over how many tricks had been won by Declarer. The four of us were having a cordial discussion to reach agreement on the correct score, when the Director rushed over and harshly told us to stop talking and start playing the next hand. Now really! This Director had never seen Robin or me before - what if we had been novices? We would have left with tears in our eyes never to return. And it's so unnecessary! We ended up finishing our round with 6 or 7 minutes to spare.

There's a delicate balance in competitive bridge between serving the interests of the competition (keeping to the time limits, following the rules); vs. keeping it fun and friendly enough to appeal to players of all levels. A sensitive and sophisticated Director can do both at once. I have more to say on this matter, but will save it for another time.

Meanwhile, there is a bright light at the Oxford Bridge Club named Charlie Bucknell. Twice now he has invited me and my partner to join him and his friends for lunch at the pub and a review of the deals after the Friday morning game. Charlie is a professional player and teacher, and his "audience" enjoyed hearing his wise advice about the difficult hands. Robin and I also enjoyed a special wine-tasting and bridge game organized by Charlie last week. With any luck, I'm going to recruit him to co-teach a class with me online this winter - stay tuned! Meanwhile, we will continue to visit various bridge clubs and tournaments when we're not too busy sight-seeing. Nothing can deter us from the best game in the world!

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There are only some photos from our October garden today, nothing related to my topic! Don't ask me to name any of the flowers, I'm clueless in that department though I enjoy looking at them.

So - I finally started driving in England, but only on quiet roads with Robin coaching me. I am not at all comfortable driving on the left!

When I was in my 30's, I visited my sister who was living in London for awhile. Her friend had a car and we went on a road trip. I asked to try driving, and the friend graciously allowed me, though he seemed a little tense. I remember it being fun! Now 30 years later, I'm pretty nervous. After being here a month, I finally got around to asking Robin for a driving lesson.

With the steering wheel on the right, I can't judge the center or side of the roads (which are frequently super narrow). I'm afraid I'll turn into the wrong lane, or go the wrong way around one of the gazillion "roundabouts." The idea of merging onto the "motorway" is stressful. I've been driving for 45 years and I've driven myself across the US several times. But getting older, at least for me, has taken away some of my fearlessness. Change becomes harder.

I suppose this whole year is about change, and I can't deny there have been moments of anxiety getting our dogs and ourselves safely and comfortably relocated. I countered these concerns with somewhat obsessive planning and plenty of lead time to triple-check every detail! Now we are certainly enjoying each "change of scenery" we are privileged to experience.

Planning won't help with that unexpected truck (or lorry as they are called) barreling towards me around a blind corner on a narrow road. But I can't ask Robin to do ALL the driving for the next 11 months. At the very least, I need to get myself to the grocery store and the vet. Next week, we leave on an 11-hour road trip to the Isle of Skye, and I hope to help with the driving. Clearly, I must get out there and practice.

Coming this month: Bridge Games, London Cocktail Week, The Isle of Skye. No more "philosophy!"

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