Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes

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Travel anywhere in Scotland and you are sure to hear the country’s signature sound…the wail of bagpipes. Pipers stand on street corners, playing for tourists. In Edinburgh, a piper always strategically occupies the corner near Princes Street Gardens and the train station.

On the Royal Mile in Old Town, pipers perform every few blocks. And if you visit gorgeous Glen Coe, in the Highlands, there’s usually a lone piper playing.

Military tattoos, weddings, funerals, celebrations and parties all feature the magical sound of bagpipes. Whether you love the sound or not, bagpipes and Scotland go together.

Check out these fun facts about Scottish bagpipes and learn something new about them.

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Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes

The bagpipe looks simple, in design, and yet what a complex instrument to play. And its rich history goes back centuries. Check out these fun facts.

Original Bagpipes Made of Skin

Early bagpipes were literally made from skin bags. Crafters cleaned small animal carcasses…such as goats or sheep…and turned them inside out. Pipes made from bamboo or hollow stalks were sewn into the places where the neck and limbs once existed.

Today bagpipes are fashioned from synthetic leather, plastics and metals.

March to War

The practice of piping during war began in the 1746 Battle of Culloden in Scotland, during the Jacobite uprising. Thereafter, every battle included a line of pipers that led soldiers into the fray.

During the first and second world wars, Scottish soldiers marched to the sound of bagpipes. The practice was suspended after 3000 pipers fell by German machinegun fire.

The Sound that Carries

There’s no volume control when piping. Because of that, the music from bagpipes carries for approximately ten miles. The Scots hoped to instill fear in their enemies, by playing the bagpipes.

It’s a extraordinary and moving experience to hear the lone piper playing in Glen Coe, in the Highlands. The music echoes down the long rugged valley, sending shivers down the spine. My eyes filled with tears.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes lone piper
Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes – lone piper in Glen Coe, in the Highlands

Scotland the Brave

The most popular bagpipe song in Scotland is “Scotland the Brave”, the unofficial Scottish anthem. Listen for the song at military celebrations, graduation parties and special events.

Other Countries Have Bagpipes Too

Scotland isn’t the only country that enjoys bagpipe music. You can find pipers in England, Ireland, Northwestern Spain, Bulgaria, the US, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand.

The bagpipes are commonly used in police ceremonies and funerals with Amazing Grace most often played.

Queen Elizabeth Loves the Bagpipe

The Queen supposedly loves the sound of bagpipes. She prefers to wake up every morning at 9:30 to the sound of bagpipes, rather than a traditional alarm clock. A piper plays beneath her bedroom window, for about 15 minutes. Her husband, Prince Philip, didn’t appreciate the bagpipes as much.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes london piper
Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes – piper in London, England

Bagpipes Outlawed Twice

The British government banned piping and wearing a kilt after the 1560 Reformation in Scotland.

And after the Jacobite Uprising, bagpipes were considered war instruments. Pipers ran the risk of hanging for owning or playing bagpipes.

Bagpipes are Aerophones

Each bagpipe possesses at least one drone pipe. Once playing starts, air flows constantly through the drones, resulting in continuous notes. There are no breaks between notes. The notes between songs are called grace notes.

The piper keeps the bag full of air by blowing into with a tube or pumping it with bellows. To create music, he or she presses the bag so that the air flows through the chanter. Each drone pipe plays a different note.

Bagpipes Have a Melody Pipe

The melody pipe on a bagpipe is called the chanter. It only produces nine notes, from G to A, with no sharps or flats.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes drone and chanter pipes
Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes – drone and chanter pipes

National Bagpipe Day is March 10

March 10 is International Bagpipe Day and it’s the perfect time to celebrate this amazing instrument. Pipers gather around the world to play in concerts, perform in schools and entertain on street corners.

Nero Piped

A skilled piper, the tyrant Nero played often. And since fiddles didn’t exist yet when Rome burned, perhaps Nero piped instead.

Romans possibly introduced bagpipes into Scotland.

There Are 130 Kinds of Bagpipes

Around the world, 130 varieties of bagpipes exist. The Great Highland Bagpipe of Scotland sounds distinctly different from the Irish Uillean Pipe.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes - blond piper
Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes – piper on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Yea or Nay for Bagpipes?

Personally, I love the sound of bagpipes. The haunting music calls to something deep in my soul. My heart beats faster when I hear bagpipes and I feel a strong connection to that noble country. I own many CDs of bagpipe music, including several by the popular band, Red Hot Chili Pipers.

What about you? Do you enjoy bagpipe music? What’s your favorite song?

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes group photo


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You Don’t Succulent

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It’s time for another Adventure Challenge from the Solo Edition. I’m loving using this book as a guide during my Year of Adventure.

Once or twice a month, I select an activity from book…there are 50 of them…scratch off the covering over my choice, and do that challenge. It’s a fun way to try new adventures while pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.

I chose Adventure #47 for my activity this week: You Don’t Succulent.

You Don't Succulent title meme

Adventure #47: You Don’t Succulent

The adventure challenge: Go to your local hardware store or plant store and buy a little succulent. Pick wisely for this succulent isn’t just a plant, it’s about to become a friend.

Name your plant, give him or her a backstory filled with drama, love and agony. After you’ve come up with your backstory, give it to a friend you think will appreciate it.

Challenge accepted! I love plants and already own several succulents. And I knew exactly which friend to gift the succulent to, once I named her and created a backstory.

You Don't Succulent lowes
You Don’t Succulent – a trip to Lowe’s Garden Center

Finding the Right Succulent

I drove to Lowe’s Garden Center with a mission: find the right succulent for this adventure.

The garden center offers a wide assortment of succulents. I didn’t yet know what I wanted however I trusted the right succulent would make itself known to me.

And it did…she did. As I looked over the selection of succulents, one stood out. In fact, she seemed to have a hand raised in the air, to get my attention. “Choose me!”

It worked. I walked out of Lowe’s with a succulent and the beginning of a story to go with her.

You Don't Succulent stand out
You Don’t Succulent – “choose me”

Alma the Succulent

My succulent is in the echeveria family, notable for their striking rosettes. She prefers bright sunlight, direct or indirect, and water every two to three weeks, when her soil dries out.

I selected the name Alma for her. Alma is a Celtic name with Latin roots. The name means “kind, loving, soulful”. With her “choose me” personality and beautiful appearance, a backstory unfolded rather quickly in my mind.

You Don't Succulent alma
You Don’t Succulent – Alma

Alma’s Backstory

Alma left the nursery with her many brothers and sisters, excited about the next part of her journey. The group of tiny, thriving succulents arrived at a garden center, eager for someone to take them to new homes.

Alma watched with delight, at first, as one by one, her siblings left for new adventures in new places. As days and weeks passed, her delight turned to despair. “What is wrong with me?” she wondered. “Am I too small? Not beautiful enough? What do I lack?”

Her constant worry and comparisons with the other plants caused Alma’s appearance to shift. Her once plump leaves shriveled a bit and some leaves grew more quickly than others. The gardener put her in an extra sunny location and then eventually moved her to the back of the display.

There Alma’s thoughts turned inward. “Would she ever find a new home? Who would want her?” Finally one day, Alma decided that the only way to grow, was to let go of her fears and focus on being herself.

Time to Grow

She stopped comparing herself to her few remaining siblings and the other succulents. Instead, Alma got to know herself, from her sturdy roots to the tips of her pointy leaves. She savored the sunlight and felt grateful for it, soaked up her infrequent drinks of water and allowed herself to feel love for the first time…love for her unique beauty, her strength and endurance. To her surprise, she felt herself becoming more…growing into the succulent she was meant to be.

The garden keeper stopped in surprise one day, as he passed the succulent display. “Well look at you,” he exclaimed to Alma. “You grew a flower stalk. You are blooming.” He moved Alma back to the front of the display.

That same day, a woman arrived in the garden center. She carefully looked over the succulents. Alma held very still, confident in who she was, although her flower stalk bobbled just a teensy bit. The woman smiled at Alma. “You caught my attention, little succulent. You are the only one with a flower stalk. It’s as if you are raising your hand. I choose you.”

Alma felt waves of positive energy radiating from the woman. She sent waves of energy back. Together they left the store.

You Don't Succulent adventure challenge
You Don’t Succulent – challenge accepted

Completing the Challenge

I love having Alma in my home. However, the challenge isn’t over. Now it’s time to give Alma to a friend who will love her as I do.

I know just the friend. I spoke to her on the phone this evening and I’ll meet her this weekend, to give her this beautiful succulent and share Alma’s backstory.

The last two years challenged my friend. She’s experiencing health issues and yet she continues to send kindness, compassion and positivity into the world. My friend loves plants too and I know she will care for Alma and nurture the little succulent as she continues to grow. Alma will send waves of energy to my friend as she continues to heal.

Using my Instax Camera, I snapped a selfie with Alma. It goes into the Adventure Challenge book as a memory.

You Don't Succulent snapshot
Succulent selfie.

Want to Try These Adventures?

The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition is proving a fun way to enjoy new experiences. It’s perfect for me and for this year.

The company includes Adventure Challenge books for couples and families as well as the solo edition. If you’d enjoy these fun challenges, pick up your book HERE. Use my code GOINGBEYOND to save 10% off of your order at checkout. The company offers kits that include an Instax camera for documenting the experience. Or you can purchase one at Amazon. Use this LINK.

Watch for another adventure challenge soon! What will I do? I don’t know…and it’s so fun not knowing. Where will adventure take you today?

You Don't Succulent adventure 47


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Non Touristy Things to Do in London

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I love the exciting energy in London, England. It’s a beautiful and fascinating city to explore whether you are visiting for the first time…or tenth. For all the fun places to visit on a first visit, check out this POST.

If you are looking for things more off the beaten path, these non touristy things to do in London are perfect. Enjoy adding one of these places…or all of them…to your next London itinerary.

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Non Touristy Things to Do in London

London is a sprawling city containing 32 boroughs and home to more than 9 million people. There is always something going on in the city. When you want to get away from the crowds for a time, these places offer a peek into other beautiful or unique parts of London.

Explore Brick Lane

Brick Lane, in the borough of Tower Hamlets East London, was formerly known as Whitechapel Lane. Its current name comes from the brick and tile manufacturing that began there in the 15th century. The area drew immigrants from various countries over the centuries. Today it is the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community in addition to offering vibrant street art, galleries, fashion and night clubs.

Enjoy the art, music, trendy shops and social life on Brick Lane. And check out the Backyard Market there. Open only on Saturdays, the market is a bustling place filled with various stalls offering vintage clothing, handmade jewelry, street food and more.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Brick Lane
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Brick Lane *photo by Robert Bye, Unsplash

View London from One New Change Rooftop

Want to appreciate gorgeous views of London, without paying a hefty fee to do so? Check out One New Change, a dining and shopping spot with a free rooftop deck.

Take the elevator to the top to enjoy those amazing views and the London skyline while capturing unforgettable photos.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London One New Change
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – One New Change *photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo, Unsplash

Walk Along Regent’s Canal

Regent’s Canal stretches from one end of London to the other. Walk along this beautiful hidden gem to escape the busyness of the city. Slip away from the noise. Stroll past fun locations such as Little Venice and Camden Market. Sit and people watch as joggers and walkers go by. Or enjoy a boat ride.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Regents Canal
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – walk along Regent’s Canal *photo by Daniil Korbut, Unsplash

Dine at Leadenhall Market

This covered market on Gracechurch Street dates back to the 14th century. Leadenhall sells fresh foods, flowers and many other wares.

A variety of shops occupy the impressive structure. Find a treasure or eat lunch here, where filming took place for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Due to its cobblestone floors and gorgeous, ornate ceilings, Leadenhall Market provided the backdrop for scenes near The Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley in the film.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Leadenhall Market
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Leadenhall Market *photo by Kayla Koss, Unsplash

Explore The Hill Garden and Pergola

This is a fairytale place, built in the early 1900s, with views over nearby Hampstead Heath. Wander along the gorgeous terrace and enjoy the old Georgian arbor. There’s a faded beauty to this hidden treasure, with its overgrown plants and exotic flowers. Some even find Hill Garden and Pergola mysterious and a bit eerie, with its grandeur from the past. See how the energy there feels to you!

Non Touristy Things to Do in London The Hill Garden
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – The Garden Hill and Pergola *photo by Evgeny Klimenchenko, Unslash

Take a Dip at Hampstead Heath Park and Ponds

After The Hill Garden and Pergola, stop by Hampstead Health, with its park and bathing ponds. High up on a sandy ridge, the park provides a magical place to picnic while enjoying stunning views of London. Walk through the surrounding natural wonderland.

And if you feel like a dip, indulge in one of three ponds. There are three murky ponds to choose from: one for women, one for men and one for both. The park and ponds are favorites of local Londoners. Join them for a unique, authentic experience.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Hampstead Heath
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Hampstead Heath *photo by Amadeusz Misiak, Unsplash

Paddleboat at Battersea Park

Located in the borough of Wandsworth, 200 acre Battersea Park sits on the south side of the Thames River. This 150 year old park contains hidden gems such as a temple, an art gallery, a circular road perfect for walking or biking, a pagoda, fountains, beautiful trees and a picturesque lake. It’s the perfect place to unwind for a few hours. You can even ride on a swan paddleboat in the lake.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Battersea Park
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Battersea Park *photo by Ziqian Chai, Unsplash

Wander Through the Sherlock Holmes Museum

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, visit this museum. The fictitious sleuth is so connected to London that the city made the address 221B  Baker Street real. The building there duplicates Sherlock’s home with small artifact filled rooms and a narrow set of stairs.

The ground floor contains a lobby and gift shop. On the second floor is the room where Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes spent many hours together, solving crimes. And on the top floor are rooms that display crime scenes.

Check out the museum’s website for more info.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Sherlock Holmes Museum
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Sherlock Holmes Museum

Watch the Deer at Richmond Park

Richmond Park is a Royal Park and home to protected deer. There are acres of park to wander in, through grasslands and gardens and near waterways. Bring a picnic lunch or simply relax in nature. And while there, note the view of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. That unobstructed view is protected by law!

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Richmond Park
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Richmond Park *photo by Edson Rosas, Unsplash

Creep Along in Highgate Cemetery

While cemeteries may not be a typical place to visit, many contain fascinating architecture and nature paths to explore.

Highgate Cemetery in North London originally opened in 1839. The city needed more space to bury its dead. Due to its Victorian gothic architecture and elevated position overlooking the city, the cemetery became a desirable resting place for the wealthy upper class. After WWI, the cemetery fell into disrepair. The area became known for ghost stories and mysteries.

Today a group of charities oversee the upkeep of Highgate. It’s still atmospheric, if somewhat less creepy. Author Douglas Adams is buried here, along with Karl Marx. It’s a wonderful place to explore architectural features and narrow, overgrown paths through graves.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Highgate Cemetery
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Highgate Cemetery

Favorite Non Touristy Spot in London

Did you find a new place to explore in London? Which place would you visit first?

I look forward to another trip to London. I’ve seen many of the major tourist attractions. I look forward to getting to know the city at a deeper level by exploring more of her hidden treasures.

Click on the symbol below to order a map of London’s streets and boroughs.


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Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy

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Venice, the City of Canals and the capital of Italy’s Veneto region, covers more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriactic Sea. With its Grand Canal lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces and hidden piazzas, Venice is the most magical city that I’ve yet explored.

Looking to make the most of a visit to this beautiful place? Check out these fun experiences in Venice, Italy.

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A Bit About Venice

This historically significant city is perhaps the most unique in the world. The 117 islands connect by way of 400 bridges built over 150 canals. During the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance powerful Venice served as a military and financial center. Its art made it a cultural center as well.

Today this floating city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Currently, Italy is open to travelers who provide proof of COVID vaccinations or a recent negative test result. Check out the latest updates on travel to Venice HERE.

Venice does not have roads, relying instead on water transportation. It’s a very walkable city with water taxis and vaporettes (water buses) available for travel between islands and to and from the mainland.

During your visit, try a couple or all of these fun experiences in Venice, Italy.

Explore St Mark’s Square

Also called Piazza San Marco, this huge public square is the heart of Venice. It’s named for the city’s patron saint, Saint Mark the Evangelist, and it’s the perfect starting point for exploring Venice.

Many famous landmarks are found in the square including Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica, the Clock Tower, the Campanile and the Winged Lion high on its tall granite column.

Ornate buildings surround the square, with cafés on the north end offering the perfect spot to sip a drink and people watch. In the evenings the square is full of people enjoying live music and dancing.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy st marks square
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – St Mark’s Square

Tour the Doge’s Palace and Bridge of Sighs

The Republic of Venice existed from the 8th century until the late 18th century. During that time The Doge, a magistrate elected for life, ruled over the republic. The magnificent Doge Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, housed The Doge.

Today the white stone palace is a popular museum and landmark. Tours lead visitors through ornately decorated rooms full of gorgeous furniture and artwork.

While touring the palace, take a moment to pass over the Bridge of Sighs. It’s the only way to walk through the bridge. Otherwise, view the exterior of the famous structure from one of the nearby bridges over the canal.

The Bridge of Sighs connects the inquisitors’ offices in the palace to the prison. The name arose because prisoners stopped on the bridge and sighed at their last glimpse of beautiful Venice before entering confinement. The damp, cold, challenging conditions of the small cells often resulted in the deaths of the prisoners.

Peering out through the stone lattice windows, those escaping sighs surely carried regret, fear and grief.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy doges palace
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – Doges Palace
Fun Experiences in Venice Italy sighs
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – Bridge of Sighs

Visit St Mark’s Basilica

Also located in the square, St Mark’s Basilica is an impressive structure built in 1092 and embellished over the centuries. The gorgeous building features sculptures and artwork on the front facade and beautiful painted frescoes and Byzantine art on the inside of the domed ceiling.

Visit the small museum inside along with the outdoor terrace with views of the square below.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy st marks basilica
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – St Mark’s Basilica

Ride in a Gondola

Gondolas are iconic symbols of Venice and her canals. Imagine gliding through the canals of the city, propelled by a gondolier who may or may not sing to you. It’s a charming way to appreciate Venice’s amazing architecture, from the water. And some gondolas even float beneath the spectacular Bridge of Sighs.

Think a gondola ride is only for romantic couples? It doesn’t have to be. If romance isn’t what you seek, consider a gondola a tour through the city.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy gondola
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – gondola ride

Look for Venetian Lions

According to early traditions, each of the evangelists who authored a gospel in the Bible is represented by a winged creature. The winged lion represents Mark. Many of the Venetian lions scattered throughout the city, therefore, display wings and hold an open book beneath a paw. Sometimes the head is wreathed in a halo.

The winged lion that presides over the square and the city is a symbol of strength. The flag of Venice carries the image and a golden lion is given as the prize at the yearly Venice International Film Festival.

Lions adorn buildings, arches and towers all over Venice. The more you look for them, the more you find. Make it a game, to see how many lions of Venice you can find. Read Lions of Venice, for additional clues about locations.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy lions
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – find lions

Go On a Ghost Tour

One of my favorite ways to learn more about a city is through ghost tours and spooky stories. Typically, a great deal of history accompanies those macabre tales. Wander through darkened alleyways and past centuries old buildings, learning about bizarre and tragic ends to Venetian citizens and local hauntings.

Check out tours HERE and read my Ghost Stories from Venice, for an introduction to Venice’s dark side.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy ghost tour
Fun Experience in Venice, Italy – ghost tour

Watch a Glass Making Demo

One of Venice’s oldest specialties is glassware. Most of the city’s glasshouses moved across the lagoon to the island of Murano in 1291, where they remain. Take a water taxi or vaporetta to that island to watch a glass making demonstration or there are still studios in Venice where you can watch a master craftsman at work.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy glass
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – glass making demo

Take a Day Trip to Burano

Burano is an island in the Venice Lagoon, about 45 minutes away by boat. Often called one of the most colorful towns in the world, Burano is well worth exploring as a day trip…or even half a day…from Venice.

The island is known for its charming canals lined with colorful houses and shops. Legend says that the houses were originally painted in bright colors so that fishermen could find their way home on foggy nights. The fishermen could also easily tell which house was theirs, as each house features a different color.

Plus, Burano is famous for lace making. From lace tablecloths to collars to umbrellas to shawls and scarves, there is a vast variety of Burano lace available for purchase. Visit any of the shops in the square or along the narrow streets to find a lace souvenir to take home or to watch a traditional lace making demonstration.

Check out more things to do in Burano HERE.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy burano
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – day trip to Burano

Take a Selfie Over the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal runs in a reversed S shape through the city. Remarkable buildings and palaces line the canal and boats of all kinds continually move up and down the wide waterway.

Four large bridges span the Grand Canal, including the famous Ponte de Rialto Bridge. What began as a pontoon bridge in the 12th century underwent multiple transformations to become the beautiful structure it is today.

Take a selfie while standing on the Rialto or any of the other three bridges spanning the Grand Canal. Even better, catch a sunset from there as well.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy selfie
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – take a selfie over the Grand Canal

Get a Little Lost Wandering in Venice

My favorite activity in any city that I visit is to get a little lost as I wander and explore. This is especially easy to do in Venice!

The city contains six historic districts. There are many narrow alleys, hidden piazzas and bridges over canals to explore. Pick a direction and start walking. Don’t worry. With its winding passageways, canals and bridges, you will get lost. However, it’s a small city…built on islands. You can’t get too lost.

Take time to pop into the tiny shops lining the streets. Snap photos of the small squares you happen upon, with their central basilicas. Sit at a table in an outdoor café and enjoy a drink or meal. Savor a cold and creamy gelato. Cross over any bridge you discover.

My daughter, grandson and I crossed over the Grand Canal and wandered for quite some time in the neighborhoods on the other side. We occasionally walked back to the canal to get our bearings. At last, we used our phones to guide us back to our accommodations near St Mark’s Square. It was a delightful time of getting acquainted with Venice.

Have you visited this marvelous city? What is your favorite fun experience to enjoy in Venice?

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy canal
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – get a little lost


Map of Venice Italy
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Venice Italy t shirt
Click photo to order Venice T shirt

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Being the Ricardos

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I grew up watching the wildly popular sitcom, “I Love Lucy”. If you are a child of the 50s or 60s, you are familiar with the half hour comedy that originally aired from 1951 until 1957. Although the series ran before my birth, it continued on in syndication for many, many years.

I Love Lucy captured the hearts of Americans, ranking as the most popular show on television for four of its six seasons. The series won five Emmy Awards including Best Situation Comedy and Best Actress for Lucille Ball.

Honestly, over the top comedy is not my favorite genre. And make no mistake…I Love Lucy was over the top, physical, slap stick style comedy. However, I watched it anyway, falling in love with Ricky from Cuba and his unpredictable wife, Lucy, who always seemed to land in a spot of trouble.

When I saw the previews for Being the Ricardos, I was instantly intrigued. Here is my movie review.

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Being the Ricardos Cast

Being the Ricardos stars Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Madelyn Pugh and Jake Lacy. Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay and directed the biographical drama. This Amazon Studios film carries an R rating, for mild profanity, alcohol use and smoking, and has a run time of 2 hours and 11 minutes.

Oscar nominations were announced this morning. Being the Ricardos picked up three nominations: Best Actor for Javier Bardem, Best Actress for Nicole Kidman and Best Supporting Actor for JK Simmons.

Being the Ricardos at home
Being the Ricardos – early in their marriage

A Week with the Ricardos

The film unfolds in 1953, during a week in the lives of Desi Arnaz (Bardem) and Lucille Ball (Kidman). The successful couple faces challenges that could upend their careers and their marriage.

Lucy a Communist?

During the week time line in the film, the Los Angeles Herald-Express runs the shocking headline, “Lucille Ball was RED in 1936”. The story poses a real threat to Lucy’s career and Desi’s as well, through his association with her.

Lucy and Desi meet with the show’s producers and network executives, in an attempt to control the potential damage. Lucy did register to vote in 1936 and listed an affiliation with the Communist Party, primarily to appease her socialist grandfather. She supposedly never achieved active member status. And she appeared before the House’s Un-American Activities Committee and was cleared. That doesn’t stop the newspaper from releasing the article.

Desi first wants Lucy to state that she simply checked the wrong box. When she’s uncomfortable with that fib, Desi decides to meet the accusation head on, with the backing of the network. The tension mounts all week, as the cast and crew head toward the taping of the episode “Fred and Ethel Fight” before a live audience. The response of the audience likely foretells the response of the rest of the country and decides the fate of the show.

Being the Ricardos lucy
Being the Ricardos – Lucy’s voting registration threatens her career

Lucy Is Pregnant

While smoothing over Lucy’s Red Scare, the Ricardos surprise the executives and writers with an announcement: Lucy is expecting a baby. The couple already parent a young daughter, Lucie. The news of this second pregnancy is not welcomed by the executives or the story writers, Jess (Hale), Alia (Pugh) and Bob (Lacy).

In the 1950s the word “pregnancy” cannot even be spoken on a television show. The show writers scramble to come up with ways to hide Lucy’s pregnancy behind props and carefully planned camera shots. To their dismay, Desi proposes a different idea…make the pregnancy part of the show.

Desi and Lucy stand united in making their personal story Lucy and Ricky’s story as well. And Desi is willing to take his demands to the top studio executives.

Being the Ricardos on set
Being the Ricardos – fighting to make Lucy’s pregnancy part of the show

Is Desi Cheating?

During a week already fraught with challenges arises one that does more than threaten careers or the television show. A tabloid photo of Desi with another woman threatens the couple’s marriage.

Although it turns out that the photo is an old one, taken at an event with both Lucy and Desi in attendance, old insecurities trouble America’s favorite red head. Desi often comes home late, after performing with his band. Or he does not come home at all. Desi and Lucy rarely spend time together, other than on set or at the Desilu Productions Company they co-own.

Lucy turns to her co-stars, William Frawley (Simmons), who plays grouchy Fred in the series and Vivian Vance (Arianda), who portrays Ethel. Although Frawley drinks too much, and takes delight in arguing with Vivian, he cares about Lucy and Desi. And a tendency to compete with her co-star aside, Vivian is Lucy’s friend. “Help me save my marriage,” Lucy quietly pleads to them.

All three challenges come to a head at the end of the week as an audience gathers for the filming of the I Love Lucy episode, Fred and Ethel Fight.

Being the Ricardos fred and ethel
Being the Ricardos – Fred and Ethel

My Thoughts on Being the Ricardos

This beautifully created documentary style film gives an emotional peek behind the scenes of I Love Lucy…and into the lives of its two stars.

I felt like I learned new things about both Desi and Lucy. She is portrayed, accurately so, as brilliant, creative and a perfectionist in her work. There’s a huge difference between Lucy in the show…and Lucille Ball. Her style of kinesthetic comedy provides the slap stick humor that made the show so appealing to viewers. Lucille however is more quiet, intentional, introspective and demanding of herself and others than her tv counterpart. I can appreciate the woman behind one of the most successful series of all times.

And Desi truly is the one with the drive, passion and knowledge to bring the show and technology into new territory. Bardem and Kidman superbly step into their roles and deserve their Oscar nominations.

I appreciate too, the deeper glimpses into Frawley and Vance. I knew they did not exactly like each other, on set. However, their support of Lucy and Desi is endearing.

I loved too seeing the process of scenes coming together that I remember from my childhood.

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Being the Ricardos – a familiar scene


Perhaps the most poignant part of this movie, for me, is Lucy’s desire to have a home. A traumatic childhood and years of struggling as a B movie actress create a deep longing for a happy oasis where she and Desi can raise their family and insulate themselves from the world.

That desire shapes all that Lucy does…even to insisting on doing I Love Lucy with her real life husband rather than a more well known actor. I confess to teary eyes when Lucy finally realizes where home truly exists and the cost of maintaining it.

See this movie, if you grew up watching I Love Lucy. It’s currently playing on Amazon Prime, free for Prime members. Click LINK for film. I’d love to know your thoughts about it!

Being the Ricardos i love lucy

Check out my movie review of The Power of the Dog. It picked up 12 Oscar nominations.

Not an Amazon Prime member? Get a 30 day free trial HERE.


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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland

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When you think of Scotland, what comes to mind? Bagpipes? Kilts? Castles?

If you said castles, you aren’t alone. More than 1,500 magnificent castles dot the Scottish landscape. Their various styles reflect the country’s long history. Some of these castles lie in ruins. Others are still owned and lived in by families who have held the castles for generations. And others are open to the public, for tours or even stays.

These ten must see castles in Scotland offer unique glimpses into this gorgeous country’s history and culture.

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Edinburgh Castle

Possibly the most well known castle in Scotland, this mighty fortress sits atop an extinct volcano in the heart of Old Town. Perched high above Edinburgh, the castle is the most popular paid attraction in Scotland. More than 1.5 million visitors pass through the castle gates each year, during non pandemic times. Additionally, the castle hosts the annual Military Tattoo, which takes place in the esplanade every August.

The castle is open to the public daily. Explore the grounds on your own or join a guide for an in depth tour.  View historical rooms and artifacts, including the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, take a peek into the dungeons or enjoy a treat in the tea room.

Easy to find, Edinburgh Castle is located at the top of the Royal Mile, in Old Town. Visit their WEBSITE for more info. And learn facts you may not know about Edinburgh Castle HERE.

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Edinburgh Castle

Dunrobin Castle

“Dun” is Scottish for fortress or castle. This fairytale castle is located in the Northern Highlands and it’s one of the biggest, with more than 189 rooms. The earliest parts of this historic home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland date back to 1275.

Resembling a French chateau, Dunrobin Castle housed a naval hospital during WWI and operated as a boys’ boarding school from 1965 until 1972. The castle and beautiful gardens are open to the public from April until the end of October. Visit their WEBSITE for tour info.

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Dunrobin Castle *photo by Katia De Juan, Unsplash

Eilean Donan

Another jewel in the Northern Highlands, Eilean Donan Castle is a great stop before crossing the bridge to Isle of Skye. The beautiful small castle sits on a tidal island, situated at the point where three sea lochs converge. Hundreds of thousands of visitors walk across the arched stone bridge that connects the structure to the mainland.

This highly photographed castle features in movies such as Bonnie Prince Charles, Highlander, Elizabeth and Made of Honour. It’s a popular spot for weddings and special events. The castle is open daily for tours. Check out hours HERE.

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Eilean Donan Castle

Dunvegan Castle

And speaking of Isle of Skye, this island has its own castle. Dunvegan is the oldest, continuously occupied castle in the Highlands. Clan MacLeod has lived here for more than 800 years.

The castle’s architecture is unique in that it contains the work of at least ten building periods, ranging from the 1200s to the 1850s. In the 1840s and 50s, the 25th Chief completed a restoration to unify the various structures. Under the updates however remains five separate buildings, each with its own character and historical stories. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the castle along with a stroll in the gardens and woods. Check out hours HERE. And learn about what to do while visiting Isle of Skye.

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Dunvegan Castle *photo by carina.m, Unsplash

Urquhart Castle

Located on the shores of Loch Ness, near Strone Point, this castle dates back to the 13th century. Alan Durward, son-in-law of King Alexander II built it. During its history, the English invaded it on several occasions and for a time it served as a stronghold for Robert the Bruce after he became king in 1306.

Upon his death, the castle passed back and forth between the Crown and the MacDonald Clan. In 1509 the castle passed to the Grant Clan who repaired it and brought it back into use. They added the five story tower.

In 1692 English forces blew it up to thwart the Jacobites. The ruins are cared for today by Historic Scotland and open to the public. What a great spot to watch for the famous Loch Ness Monster!

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Urquhart Castle

Glamis Castle

Beautiful Glamis Castle, located beside the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland, is home to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne. It’s witnessed thousands of years of history.

Glamis served as inspiration for Shakespeare’s MacBeth and as the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Princess Margaret was born here. And Mary Queen of Scots spent time in Glamis. With its long and sometimes dark history, it is no wonder that Glamis Castle is considered one of the most haunted in Scotland.

Visitors may tour the castle or stay in Glamis House, on the property. More details HERE.

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Glamis Castle

Stirling Castle

Located in Stirling, this castle is one of the largest and most important in the country, both historically and architecturally. It also sits atop a volcanic outcropping of rocks and guarded the River Forth crossing for centuries. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here, at age nine months. William Wallace (Braveheart), Robert the Bruce and Bonnie Prince Charles played historical roles in Stirling Castle. And it was once the favored residence for the Stewart Kings and Queens, who held grand celebrations within the walls.

Today costumed characters make Stirling Castle an interesting place to explore while learning history. Stirling is especially wonderful for younger visitors with fun activities, a Unicorn Café and gift shops. Check their WEBSITE for tours and hours.

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Stirling Castle

Doune Castle

This medieval stronghold near the village of Doune, in the Stirling district, was originally built in the 13th century. Damaged during the Scottish Wars for Independence, Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, rebuilt the castle in the late 14th century.

What draws so many visitors to this dual tower castle are the movies and television shows featuring Doune. It was used in the 1952 film Ivanhoe, and the 1996 adaptation as well as for Elizabeth the Golden Age. It’s the set for Winterfell from the first season of Game of Thrones and most recently Doune depicts the fictional Castle Leoch in the Outlander series. Monty Python and the Holy Grail filmed here along with the 2018 historical drama, Outlaw King.

The castle is temporarily closed to visitors at this time, while a high level masonry inspection takes place. Check the WEBSITE for an expected reopening date.

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Doune Castle

Inverness Castle

This red sandstone Victorian style structure sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness, in the city of Inverness. Defensive castles occupied this site for centuries. Many sieges took place over the years at Inverness Castle, with one of those involving Mary Queen of Scots. Reconstructions happened sporadically. The current castle was built in 1836 on the site of the original structure. Gas, light and water systems were installed for the first time.

Until recently, only a tower and the grounds allowed visitors. A new restoration project intends to transform the castle into a first class visitor attraction with more of the building open to the public and accommodations available. Stay informed through the castle’s WEBSITE.

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Ten Must See Castles in Scotland – Inverness Castle

Thirlestane Castle

I conclude with my favorite castle in Scotland. Located in the Scottish Borders, near the village of Lauder, Thirlestane Castle is home to my Scottish kin, Clan Maitland.

Maitlands originally occupied a tower, built in the 1400s, near the present location of the castle. In 1586 John Maitland, Lord Thirlestane, bought land just outside the village of Lauder. The large house built in 1590, with its corner towers and turrets, now forms the core of the present castle.

The Duke of Lauderdale remodeled and expanded Thirlestane in the 1670s, adding on wings and creating a new front entrance. The ninth earl added more wings, to the south and north, and installed modern living accommodations.  However, by the 1840s the grand old castle showed signs of age and decay.

In 1972 the castle passed to the grandson of the 15th Earl, Capt. Gerald Maitland-Carew. He assumed the huge task of restoring the castle and preventing further deterioration. He also opened the castle to the public and created the on site café and tea room. Eventually the castle and its contents became a part of a charitable trust that brought in much needed funds to help with the upkeep of the gorgeous structure. The Maitland-Carew family occupy one wing of the castle as their personal residence.

Gerald’s son Edward Maitland-Carew and his wife Sarah now continue the care of Thirlestane Castle, which is open for tours. They host events such as weddings, car shows and outdoor plays, and created five apartments for guests to lease for short term stays. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Thirlestane Castle three times…so far. And I’ve met the current caretakers, Edward and Sarah. Someday, I’ll return for a stay at Thirlestane. I highly recommend a visit to this beautiful castle in the Borders.

Your Favorite Scottish Castle

Have you visited this magnificent country? If so, have you seen any of these castles?

Or perhaps you have another to add to the list. What is your favorite Scottish Castle?

Ten Must See Castles in Scotland thirlestane and clan maitland
Thirlestane Castle and members of Clan Maitland


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