Posted by: vikingsinspace | May 14, 2012

A Move

For the few of you reading this, I have decided to pick up this blog and move it to a new domain.  The purpose behind this is primarily because I wanted to expand on what I write about, rather than just the bucket list thing (although that will still be the primary focus), but also I came up with a better name for the site.

So, I have already started re-posting my blog posts here at the new site: www.modernswashbuckler.com.  Feel free to go there as I continue to re-post the blog-posts you find on this site, and within a month or two, I shall resume new posts.

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Posted by: vikingsinspace | May 7, 2012

VI.20.01.07. Read Stuart Britain: A Very Short Introduction

Date Accomplished: 28 Jan. 2012

VSI Stuart Britain

I found this VSI title for British History a little hard to get into and enjoy.  The break down of the chapters was done thematically, rather than chronologically, which can work and is probably best for this time period which saw so much change in different areas of English life.  However, I find I can follow things easier if done chronologically (call it the historian in me).  There was plenty of information that was interesting in here, but the presentation just didn’t grip my attention as most other books do.  Perhaps I’ve been distracted lately.  That is always a possibility.

Posted by: vikingsinspace | April 30, 2012

I.4.01.3.05. Visit the Isle of Iona

Date Accomplished: 28 June 2011

The Medieval Road leading to Iona Abbey

I don’t believe Iona is a place that many American tourists visit.  My interest in the isle comes from the fact that this was essentially where Christianity began in Scotland, and it was through here that it spread into the North of England in the early Middle Ages.  St. Columba brought Christianity over from Ireland in 563 and established a monastery on the Isle.

Nothing remains of the Columban monastery.  What is still there today is primarily a thirteenth century building.  The monks of Iona were attacked by vikings in the ninth century, and the island had remained relatively vacant until the abbey was refounded in the thirteenth century.  Even still, there are many wonderful stone crosses and coffin lids from this time period that are still in Iona.  A few stand outside in the churchyard, but the vast majority of the medieval stone works are inside the abbey museum and the cloisters.

Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa

Our day on Iona actually began with a visit to Staffa to try some bird watching (my sister wanted to see puffins) and to have a look at the basalt formations of Fingal’s Cave.  We actually had gorgeous weather heading out to Staffa and a fantastic boat ride from Fionnphort (pronounced ‘Fin-a-fert’) on the Isle of Mull.  We weren’t able to find any puffins on the island, but on our way out, the boat took us by where some had been searching for food in the water.

Medieval Iona Gravestones

Staffa was a little rushed because we had to catch the boat back to Iona, but once on Iona we were able to take our time touring.  While I knew the abbey that was still there was not the early medieval one of Columba, I was still amazed at how many medieval stone carvings were still there – particularly the crosses.  While the remnants of two crossed had been brought into the abbey museum for protection, one still remained in the churchyard, and another, the McLean Cross, along the road to the abbey.

The McLean Cross

We were a bit surprised by the presence of the McLean cross and of other McLeans on the isle.  My brother-in-law is a McLean (although that is not how he spells his surname), so part of the reason we had visited the Isle of Mull and were even here was to discover some of his family history.  Aside from the cross, the notable finds on Iona were the gravestones of Anna McLean, Prioress of the Iona nunnery in the 16th Century, and another McLean gravestone in the museum that we didn’t even realize was a McLean until we had visited Duart Castle on Mull (the seat of the McLean clan).  The McLean history was a pleasant surprise to what was already a beautiful place to visit, and was of historical importance to me.

Posted by: vikingsinspace | April 23, 2012

VI.20.01.06. Read The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction

Date Accomplished: 22 June 2011

The Tudors VSI

I found this to be an entertaining and very simple overview of Tudor Britain.  I had never really realized how complicated the Tudor dynasty was, nor gave much thought at just what a strange situation the English Monarchy was in (As it states at one point in the book – and I am paraphrasing here – England was ruled successively by an able business man, a boaster who couldn’t pick a wife, a boy, a Spaniard, and a woman).  I did get somewhat confused at times as to who all the people involved were, as it seems by this point the courtiers played just as important a role in English history as the King/Queen him/herself did – and there were numerous courtiers.  I think I should like to know more about this time period, but I may have to wait for that as I have plenty of other things I need to get to first.

Posted by: vikingsinspace | April 16, 2012

VII.22. Go to an Aquarium

Date Accomplished: 30 October 2011

Jellyfish

I went up to Boston for a weekend to visit my girlfriend.  The weather didn’t promise to be anything nice, so we looked for something indoors to do, and decided today would be a good day to do the Aquarium (since I had never been to one before).

So did everyone else in Boston.

I do tend to complain about crowds in big cities though – considering it was a weekend with lousy weather, I suppose it wasn’t too bad.  After getting through the long ticket entry line (outside… in the rain…) we immediately came into a room with a petting tank containing sting rays and some small sharks.  The sharks didn’t really come out (these were apparently nocturnal), but there were a good number of sting rays floating about.  Downstairs from there was a small room with several tanks containing jellyfish of all shapes and colors.

African Penguins

The highlight (for me at least) was the large central room which contained a couple of big pools with rocks, and Penguins!  There were three different types of Penguins, all of the smaller variety, but it wasn’t a very big aquarium, so that shouldn’t be surprising.  Penguins are by far my favorite animal (long before they became popular with the whole ‘march of the penguins’ thing, which I still haven’t seen…), so I enjoyed getting to see several different varieties all in one place.  Even better, in one of the pools they had a light that you could shine into the pool which the penguins would chase – much like a cat with a laser-pointer.

Seahorse

There were plenty of other tanks and fish to be seen.  Some of the highlights were a blue lobster, an electric eel (with a device above the tank indicating when it was producing electricity and how much), an Axolotl (fish with legs), and a giant central fish tanks with numerous varieties of small and large fish, plus a couple of sharks.

The Boston Aquarium is a good aquarium, but it was a little small (and on this day crowded).  For the price they charge, I’d say it’s not worth it unless you can get a discounted coupon (The price was $22 a person – we were able to get tickets for $8 which is much more reasonable).  Still, it was my first trip to an aquarium, and I quite enjoyed it.

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