After a few days in Edinburgh, Lex, Andrea and I rented a car and headed north into the Highlands. We stopped in the village of Kirkcaldy where some of Andrea’s ancestors were born. It was fun getting to see another place tied to someone’s history. Being the bookworms that we are, we of course stopped in the only bookstore in town where Lex bought herself a book. The ride continued, as did the conversations. We passed an adorable little town and decided to stop. It ended up being Birnam, where Beatrix Potter used to spend summer holidays. There was a small museum dedicated to her and her books, which we enjoyed very much. Eventually we made it to Inverness where we would be staying for a few nights.
The next day was my birthday! We spent the day driving through the Highlands, playing a mix of the Harry Potter and Outlander soundtracks. First we made our way down the beautiful Loch Ness and on to Loch Claunie, stopping on occasion to take in the views. At one such stop on Loch Claunie we found an amazing collection of cairns, stacks of stones, left by other travelers. It was magical, and we decided to build our own to leave behind. Next was a stop at a castle! This lovely structure named Eilean Donan, was built in the 13th century on an island situated where three lochs meet, making it a strategic stronghold. We took a self guided tour. No photography is allowed inside the building, so I couldn’t capture the amazing dinning hall with it’s high stone walls, wood beam ceiling, imposing fire place and mounted deer heads. It was so cool, we all loved getting to walk through the beautiful castle rooms. After leaving the castle we continued on to the Isle of Skye, where the mountains got higher and more wild. We went as far as the Fairy Pools, where we got out and hiked for a bit. During that time a cloud front moved in swiftly, let loose a hail storm on us for about 5 minutes, and then cleared up. We laughed and continued on, talking non-stop as usual. Then it was time to head back to Inverness. We stopped at a little restaurant for a nice birthday dinner, where I also had the local whisky: smokey and delicious.
We stayed around Inverness the next day. First visiting the standing stone circles of Clava Cairn. There are three circular structures there dating from the Bronze Age. With our love of the Outlander series we were completely enthralled with the ancient stones. The wind was particularly eerie in the trees over the circles and created a mystical atmosphere. We couldn’t help ourselves, and we of course took Outlander-esque photos of each other. Sticking with the Outlander theme, we visited the Culloden Battlefield next. This is the location of the bloody final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, which ended the rebellion and saw the English impose an end to the Highland clan structure. We spent the night eating incredibly good Indian food and then drinking some Scotch at a local pub.
Another day trip was up next. First we drove down Loch Ness again and continued all the way to Fort William. From there we went to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a beautiful railway viaduct that runs through the wild countryside, and also happens to be a filming location for the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter. We were equally enchanted with the surrounding wilderness and hiked up the hills beside the viaduct. As we were coming back down we realized that there were a lot of people just standing looking out over the viaduct, as if they were waiting for something. We joined in and to our delight not too long after the Highland Express came by, complete with steam pouring out of the engine. Lex, Andrea and I hummed Hedwig’s theme the whole time, it was super geeky and wonderful. Moving on we drove through Glencoe, another wilderness area south of Fort William. The mountains were so high and the clouds were ever moving through their peaks. We kept pulling over to get out and take photos and soak in the stunning views. Dinner was in Fort William at a local pub where a group of elderly men befriended us.
The last day and a half was spent in the Cairngorms National Park. We did more hiking, and even more talking. Perhaps the two best meals were then as well. There was the dinner at an amazing savory pie place with wonderful Scotch whiskies. Then the last day we had breakfast at the amazing Mountain Cafe, with decadent scones, clotted cream, pancakes and fruit. After that the time came to part ways and say goodbye. Lex and Andrea headed back to Edinburgh to make their way back to the states, and I stayed behind in the Highlands. I’m so happy that they were able to visit, it was a magical vacation.
Finally I got to Scotland! Here I would be spending the next 2 months and, most importantly, celebrating my 30th birthday with two of my closest friends, Lex and Andrea.
I was the first to arrive in Edinburgh and got to settle into our beautiful Airbnb. Lex and Andrea arrived together in the evening on a train from London and it was just the best to see them. They are the kind of friends where it doesn’t matter how long it’s been, we pick up right where we left off. We went out for dinner at the pub across the street and to talk the night away. Until their jet lag kicked in a little and we headed to bed.
Both Lex and Andrea had been to Edinburgh before, but it was my first time. This city is just enchanting. I was completely in love with it from the time I stepped off the bus. The feel of the old climbing streets and the castle sitting on top of the hill. We took our time with the city. Enjoying it as much as each other’s company. Our meandering pace let us take everything in and share the experience even more. We relished our food and delighted in all the little details.
The first morning we started with scones and hot chocolate for me, coffee for the other two. We made our way toward the old town stopping at a craft and food market on the way. Lex went to the art museum while Andrea and I met up with my friend Dan. He was at the end of his trip, having visited London, Amsterdam, Berlin (again), Spain, and Scotland since we last saw each other in Norway. It was nice to get to catch up with him. We had some amazing cocktails at a speakeasy, who’s entrance was hidden behind a bookcase at the bottom of some stairs. My delicious whiskey cocktail arrived surrounded by wood smoke under a glass hood, which then had a very dramatic reveal by the waiter.
After saying goodbye to Dan Andrea and I met back up with Lex and wandered through old town, making our way down the street thought to have inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. All three of us love Harry Potter and we really enjoyed geeking out, which we would continue to do the whole trip. That night I tried haggis, which I really enjoyed. I even got both Lex and Andrea to give it a try, and everyone agreed it was a nice surprise.
Our second full day we continued on our Harry Potter pilgrimage. First stop was Edinburgh Cathedral, most likely the inspiration for the Great Hall, which had a ceiling that was “bewitched to look like the night sky.” The cathedral’s ceiling is painted a beautiful bold blue, with stars in the corners. It was easy to imagine JK Rowling walking through the church and dropping a little bit of magic into her view of it. We spent time playing in the light falling through the stained glass windows. Around the corner from the cathedral we found our afternoon snack, at the Elephant House. It is none other than the cafe where JK Rowling finished writing the first Harry Potter book after moving to Edinburgh with the first three chapters. It was totally worth the wait. I had an amazing boozy milkshake and we shared some Scottish shortbread. Then I had to visit the bathroom, with my camera, of course. Because every inch of the bathroom walls in the Elephant House are covered with Harry Potter graffiti. Potterheads from all over the world have come to pay their respects to the birthplace of our beloved world. The last Potter stop was the cemetery where you can see the graves of a McGonagall, and Thomas Riddle. From there we spent the evening climbing to the top of King Arthur’s seat for a stunning view of the city before ending the night with fish and chips.
The next day we would continue our trip leaving Edinburgh and going into the Highlands.
Each of the English cities I chose to visit on my way up to Scotland had a familial connection. With my genealogy research I have been seeking out locations where my ancestors have lived. I was able to track down and visit a whole bunch of spots. It has been quite the experience to see where my family has come from, and stand in their footsteps. Here is an overview of what I’ve been able to trace so far in England.
1851 - Patrick and Bridget Walsh - Islington, Liverpool
Patrick and Bridget were my 3rd great grandparents, both of whom were born in Ireland and moved to England sometime in the 1840s. The street they lived on in Liverpool is now a park.
1861 - The Markeys - 18 St albans Road, Liscard
In 1861 my 3rd great grandparents Hugh and Jane Markey, and their daughter (my 2nd great grandma) Anna Markey lived at 18 St. Alban's Road in Liscard, England right across the river from Liverpool. I'm pretty certain the buildings that are currently there are more recent, but the address still exists. I also believe that the church at the end of the road was likely their parish.
1861 - The Walshes - High St, Crewe, England
By 1861 Patrick and Bridget Walsh had moved to Crewe, England and had John Walsh, my 2nd great grandfather. Both Patrick and Bridget would live the rest of their lives here, and I was able to find their headstone in the local cemetery.
1849 - Richard Peach - 3 Violet St, Hulme, Manchester
At the time of his marriage in 1849, Richard Peach my 3rd great grandfather, was living in the Hulme neighborhood of Manchester. The location of his old street is now a highway and part of the Manchester Metropolitan University.
April 9, 1849 - Richard Peach and Alice DeRome
My 3rd great grandparents Richard and Alice were married at the Manchester Cathedral, also known as the Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George.
Oct 16, 1826 - Alice Derome - Kendal, England
Alice DeRome, my 3rd great grandmother, was born in Kendal on October, 16, 1826, and baptized in the Catholic chapel in town on October 20.
June 22, 1817 - Thomas & Mary Derome - Kendal, England
My 4th great grandparents were married in the Catholic chapel in Kendal, England. The Catholic Church that stands in that same location today was opened in 1837.
Sept 22, 1768 - Thomas Derome Sr - Stramongate, Kendal
When my 6th great grandparents Mathai and Elenor DeRome had my 5th great grandfather, Thomas DeRome Sr in 1768 they were living in the Catholic community on Stramongate.
After visiting Bristol I spent a long weekend in Cardiff, Wales at the city’s first animation film festival. My close friend Alexis and her husband Scott had their first collaborative stop motion short accepted to the festival. I was in the country, so I just had to go! I got a pass to the festival and spent 3 solid days watching animation. I met some amazing people and got inspired by some amazing art. I didn’t take a single photo and it was great.
I traveled back to England after my weekend in Wales. My end goal was Edinburgh, Scotland, to meet up with two friends for my birthday, but on the way I was stopping in a few cities to explore more of England.
First stop was Liverpool and my Beatles pilgrimage. My hostel was down the street from the Cavern Club. This is where the Beatles played 292 gigs from 1961 up until August 1963 when they were pulling bigger crowds than the club could manage. I didn’t go into the Cavern Club, which is now just a reconstruction of the original, but I liked walking up and down the street knowing this is where the band had so often walked. I took a bus to the neighborhood where John Lennon grew up, and to my delight and surprise went down Penny Lane on the way. We also passed “the shelter in the middle of the roundabout.” I hadn’t realized we were going to pass it, so I didn’t snap a photo, but I recognized it immediately. So I had Penny Lane playing in my head as I got off the bus and walked up to Strawberry Field gate. The orphanage the gate used to lead to is no longer there, but the distinctive red gate has been left for it’s role in music history. It made me so happy to stand there and take it in. Next was John Lennon’s childhood home where he lived with his Aunt Mimi. No one lives there now and you can take tours of it, though I did not. It stands pretty unassuming in the middle of a suburban neighborhood on a mildly busy road. Lastly I walked to the church of St Peter, the grounds of which is where John and Paul first met and where the grave of Elinor Rigby stands. So concluded my little Beatles pilgrimage. I left with a huge smile on my face and lots of music in my heart.
One of the nights I was in Liverpool there was a Champions League semi-final match on home turf against Roma. My brother-in-law Matt has supported Liverpool since he was a kid, and I always enjoy watching sporting events where people are really invested in them. So naturally I scoped out a pub and went to watch the home Liverpool match. I was befriended by a group of middle-aged Irishmen, and English supporters, who were all mildly befuddled and impressed that an American girl would come to watch the game by herself and drink a Guinness. They explained some of the playoff rules and were really good fun. As it turns out that was definitely the game to watch, as Liverpool won 5-2, and there was much excitement and celebration.
I made a quick stop in Crewe, England for an afternoon before moving on to Manchester, where I was just there for a day. I spent the evening finishing up editing some images for a company back in the states, and the next day just walking around the city. I would have happily spent more time there, but I was really looking forward to what came next.
Last stop was Kendal, the gateway to the Lake District. It’s a lovely little English market town with castle ruins on a hill overlooking it. I got a ride to my hostel from a kind woman I had been talking to on the train. She said she had daughters around my age and she hoped that someone would do the same for them. The hostel was right on the main road, Highgate, and I could easily walk the entire town from there. I ate at an old pub, complete with locals and a dog, where I had a really delicious curry, and finished every last drop. I spent my time in Kendal wandering the streets and taking pictures. I visited the castle ruins, and the beautiful old cathedral. It was a nice little break from city bustle, and got me ready to meet up with my friends next in Edinburgh.
I was visiting Bristol during the middle of April, soon after the US lead coalition strikes on suspected chemical weapons plants in Syria. A protest was organized for one of the days I was there. Word got to Patri via friends and we also saw the details spray painted in a tunnel filled with street art. It had been months since I’d intentionally gone to a protest, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I spent last year photographing the resistance in DC and I loved documenting individuals in protests and the energy of people standing up for something they are passionate about. It was a little weird attending one in a different country and in a city I didn’t know, but it felt very much the same. Here are my images from that day.
During my freshman year of high school my family hosted a foreign exchange student from Spain. Her name was Patri. We were only a year apart, but at the time we were very different. I was a geeky bookworm, and Patri was bit of a wild child. It may not have always been easy living together, but after she left Patri and my family have never lost touch. Ten years ago when I studied abroad I went to visit Patri and her family in Valencia, Spain. Since then she has lived in New Zealand, and a couple years ago moved to Bristol, England. I knew I had to try to see her again on this trip, and she welcomed me to stay with her for a week.
As adults we have a lot more in common now and we had the best time reconnecting and hanging out on my visit. We are both yoga-lovers. Patri did her teacher training in India a few years ago and currently teaches at a few studios around Bristol. We have both become more in to politics and we enjoyed debating current topics. While on my trip I have loved getting to talk to people and hear international views on different topics. Patri and I bonded over food as well, with each of us being interested in more sustainable and responsible food production and consumer choices. We both also enjoy street art, and Bristol was a perfect place to be to appreciate some great pieces.
One day Patri lead me on a walking tour of Bristol and it’s different neighborhoods, with a specific eye out for street art and good food. It was great getting to see a different English city. I have visited London on several different occasions but up until then had never been to other points in England. Bristol is vastly smaller city which is very walkable. With two universities in town there is a large student and young professional population. It has an alternative vibe, with a lot of arts and activism. The animation studio Aardman, where Wallace and Gromit is made is in the city, which was neat to know as I have friends who work in stop motion.
The street art scene is huge, and Bristol plays host to several Banksy’s. The city has a yearly street art festival, with artists from all over the world converging on Bristol for a week of creativity. Together Patri and I had a great time seeking out some wonderful works of art. I also got the chance to take 2 yoga classes from Patri while I was there. It was the first time I'd taken a class since starting my trip and it was ever so nice. We also took some photos of Patri for her yoga website, and had a lot of fun doing it. I’m very happy to have visited Bristol, see the city, and most importantly, get to reconnect with Patri.
After London I was going to visit an old exchange student who now lives in Bristol. I realized that Stonehenge was roughly en route and therefore could not pass up the opportunity to go and see it.
On the bus out of London I listened to all my London related music: There She Goes, which was what played in The Parent Trap when she arrives in London, and the soundtrack from Bend It Like Beckham. Urban sprawl slowly turned into the English countryside, and eventually I made it the Stonehenge visitor’s center.
Since I was in transit I had all of my stuff with me: a camera equipment backpack, and a small carry-on sized wheeled bag. Easy to manage, but still a bit of a strange sight. Luckily there was no prohibition on bags on the grounds, but there was no place to store them and I had to have them with me at all times. So I was the slightly hilarious person who walked with her luggage around Stonehenge.
There is a historical exhibit at the visitor’s center which gives you context and a good base of what we know about Stonehenge and the surrounding earthworks. The site had many phases of construction which ranged from about 3000 BCE to 2000 BCE. It's believed to be a ritual or ceremonial site, and is surrounded by different burial mounds and earthworks. The stones also line up with the summer solstice sunrise, and the winter solstice sunset.
I had heard so often from people that the stones weren't really that big and you couldn't get that close, and that really it was often a let down experience. So I went in with pretty low expectations and the mindset of getting to see some really interesting history. I was really pleasantly surprised then, because I found the stones pretty impressive, and at the end of the loop around the circle I felt like I still got to be quite close to the stones. It was really cool, and I was quite happy I had made the trek, even with all my stuff in tow.
I flew into the UK on April 11th to stay with my former DC roommate Sarah who now attends the London School of Economics. It was fantastic getting to see her again and catch up. When we lived together we bonded over Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and feminism and nothing has changed. We both gushed over the Harry Potter connections in London and soaked in all the wonderful Britishness of her new home. Sarah was in the midst of writing some major papers, so during the days I was on my own wandering the streets.
London is such a great city for street photography. The architecture, the traffic, the street art, but most importantly, the people. They’re everywhere and is such an awesome cross section of society. I loved people-watching and practicing my street shooting. Unsurprisingly I took a ton of photos, chasing the right timing, the right framing, the right focus, the right look from a stranger. So many things have to line up to get a good street photo, and I relished getting to practice.
I also used my time in London to seek out photography exhibits to both study them and seek inspiration. I found galleries, and museums to visit. There was a show on American documentary photographers and the difference between the 1930s style and the style that emerged in the 60s and 70s. I got to see a print of one of my Mom's favorite photographs, the one that got her into photography in the first place, Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. Comparing the work of depression era photographers to the quirky, offbeat captures of the hippie era was really fascinating. I liked aspects of both styles. Another show looked at the history of gender presentation, cross dressing and the transgender community since the beginning of photography. One exhibit followed Monsanto, the agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company, and it's impact on farming, especially small farmers. That is a topic I am really interested in, and I liked seeing how Mathieu Asselin, the photographer approached the subject. He used photography along with mixed media to tell his story. There were television clips, seeds framed and hung on the wall, and farming documents.
I visited the National Portrait Gallery as well. They had a section on the development of different photographic techniques with stunning examples. Seeing that there were examples of women photographers who helped push the artistic use of photography for portraiture was really great. The collection included some early color photography techniques which were lovely and etherial. I also soaked in the all the paintings throughout the gallery. For my sister I went and visited Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Lastly there was the exhibit dedicated to the centennial of women winning the right to vote. All my visits to the museums and exhibits were motivating both artistically and personally.
Keeping on the theme of taking in the arts, I spent one night at the theater. The play I saw was called “The Ferryman” and was set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It was so, so good. I laughed, I cried and it stayed with me after I left.
I also spent a lot of time seeking out street art mainly in and around Shoreditch. It was fun to go and appreciate it as art, and to try to incorporate pieces into my street photography. From Shoreditch I took a double decker to Borough Market. I got the best seat right in the front row on the top deck, it's my favorite way to see the city. After strolling the market I made my way to Tower Bridge, walked along the Thames and back over Millennium Bridge. This lets out right at the Tate Modern, and seeing as it's free I had to go in. I love being able to enjoy and take advantage of museums.
My last night in London I went out with Sarah, and one of our other former DC roommates Jessica, who now also lives and works in London. We had a great time getting a few drinks and talking the night away.
Even though it was a fairly quick trip to London, it was so much fun. And I took an impressive amount of photos, even for me.
After a lovely time in the French countryside, Albine and I headed to her second home of Nantes. Her apartment is above a café in a cute neighborhood on a hill. From there we were easily able to walk to the city center.
We spent our days meandering the French streets, with me stopping often for photos, and Albine finding this very amusing. She started taking pictures of me taking pictures, and I would love to see this collection.
Albine was an excellent guide, always thinking of where to go next and what to see. I just let her lead me as we talked the day away. We walked around the grounds of the Château des ducs de Bretagne, a castle in the middle of the city. Albine told me the story of Anne of Brittany who was Duchess of Brittany in the late 1400s. She is celebrated even today as a guardian of Brittany, who defended it's sovereignty from France even, or perhaps because of, being the queen consort of France. Albine said it depends on who you ask and where that person is from if they think Nantes is part of Brittany. It is on the cusp, and apparently is a popular topic to dispute.
We saw the Nantes Cathedral and walked around the Île de Nantes. Everything was lovely and I enjoyed just being in the city with my friend.
Knowing me well, Albine took us to the coolest place to eat in the city, a brasserie called Le Cigale originally established in 1895. It is an ornately decorated building, with an interior so opulent it was like being in a painting. I had hot chocolate and a decadent chocolate caramel tart. The whole experience felt luxurious and indulgent, it was such a treat.
On my last day we made sure to go to a crêpe restaurant. I had both savory and sweet with a drink of cider, which I learned was the traditional accompaniment for crêpes. My savory crêpe was ham and cheese with a mushroom cream sauce, and the sweet was the simple and classic butter and sugar. They were delicious.
The whole trip flew by, but it was such a delight to spend time with such a wonderful friend in her beautiful home country.
When I moved to DC I met Albine at a Meetup and we quickly became friends. She is a fun, intelligent person and we can talk for hours. When she graduated with her masters though, she moved back to France. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to see her again in April this year and have a local host in her beautiful country.
Albine splits her time between Niort and Nantes for work. We started my visit in Niort, a lovely old town, and Albine's hometown. The first few days we actually took some day trips to surrounding towns. Day one we went to the coastal town of La Rochelle, one of Albine’s favorite places. She says it always feels like a vacation, and she was absolutely right. It's gorgeous and the smell of the saltwater adds a relaxing atmosphere to the already laid back French vibes.
That night we were discussing the genealogy research I had been doing. Albine wanted to know if I had any French ancestry and I remembered finding someone very far back. I went to look at my research and found on my paternal grandmother’s side, an 8th great-grandfather named Nicolaus de la Peine who was born in Bressuire, France in 1635. I tried very poorly to pronounce Bressuire, and once Albine finally figured out what I was saying she got super excited. Bressuire was only an hour away! We are going, she decided, and I happily obliged. So day two was spent visiting Bressuire, which happened to have a lovely palace. On the way back to Niort we also visited the village of Marais Poitevin, which is built around canals. It was a lovely day of wandering old streets and lively conversation.
We spent a few days in Niort, wandering the streets, eating at cafés and hanging out with her friends. It was a wonderful time.
The only other time I had been to France was when I was 16. It was so nice getting to go back as an adult, and to have a local friend show me around, (and order for me in French.) This time I was completely enchanted with France. It is so beautiful! I took so many pictures, even for me, haha. There were so many sparks of inspiration. And there was more to come. When the weekend came we headed to Albine's second home, in Nantes. Stay tuned for that in my next post!
kaitlin k walsh
Adventurer armed with a camera.