QUICK QUIP:  Use Amazon Smile to make your Amazon purchases and a small percentage of your purchase will go to your favorite charity.

Deborah just made me aware of this.  If I order anything from Amazon (which I do quite a bit), Amazon will match a small portion of my purchases with a donation to the charity of my choice.

THE TRICK IS …  you have to use the Amazon Smile website, instead of the Amazon.com website.

I’ve done some research and it appears that the sites are identical, EXCEPT that when you purchase from Amazon Smile, Amazon will make that donation.  If you purchase from Amazon, they do not.

You don’t need to have two, separate accounts.  You just sign onto Amazon Smile and it accesses all of your same account information.  As far as I can tell, you also have access to all of the same choices and the same prices.   I happen to be an Amazon Prime member but that does not appear to be required in order to use Amazon Smile.

I suggest you do some research and cost comparisons the first few times you use Amazon Smile just to convince yourself that you won’t be charged more.

Here is the link to Amazon Smile …

https://smile.amazon.com/

 

The only “negatives” at all that I have found about this are …

  1. Amazon only will only donate .5 percent of your purchases to your charity. That means Amazon donates 10 cents for every $20 you purchase.
    1. The complaint: Amazon is being cheap.  Wow, what a monumental, eye-opening revelation.
    2. My response to that: The bottom line, any donation is better than nothing, and it doesn’t cost us a damn thing.
  1. You have to be logged onto the Amazon Smile website in order for the donation to be generated.  If you use the regular Amazon.com website, nothing will be donated.
    1. The complaint: Amazon shouldn’t make you log into a separate website in order for you to have Amazon donate to your charity.
    2. My response to that: Just change your Amazon favorite on your browser to link to Amazon Smile instead.  How frigging tough is that?

If anyone can think of a reason NOT to use Amazon Smile, please let me know and I will share it with my readers.  Otherwise, please change your favorite and if you want, notify your favorite charity that you have done so.

 

P.S.  If you do not have a particular charity in mind, may I suggest a worthy recipient may be WATERMELON MOUNTAIN RANCH (WMR) here in my home state of New Mexico.  Our dog Lucas and I have volunteered for WMR for going on three years.  We transport dogs and cats to and from local adoption events.  WMR is the largest, no-kill animal shelter in the state of New Mexico and we receive dogs and cats from all over the state, and some from western Texas too, I believe.

If you wish to learn more about WMR, please take a look at their website …

https://www.wmranch.org/

 

WMR - Lucas on Duty.jpg

 

Here is a short (1:50) You Tube video about WMR as well …

 

Here is a longer (4:53) You Tube video that delves more into the mission and history of WMR …

SCOTLAND 2019: Outlander Locations

Contents

  • Jamie’s Ghost
  • Outlander – A Very Brief Synopsis
  • Culloden Battlefield
  • Clava Cairns
  • Craigh na Dun
  • Finnich Glen – St Ninnian’s Spring
  • A. Malcom Print Shop
  • Midhope Castle – Lallybroch

 

A few months prior to our visit to Scotland in November 2019, we stumbled upon the fact that our Amazon Prime membership gave us access to much more than just free shipping.  We discovered that on our Smart TV, we have access to many movies and TV shows of which we were not aware.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Outlander Starz Promo Poster.jpgSome of the programming on Amazon Prime is made especially for Amazon Studios, such as the Bosch TV series that we enjoy, and which I have posted about on my blog.

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/book-review-the-closers-by-michael-connelly/

However, the Starz cable network also allows broadcast of prior seasons of most of their shows.  That included the very popular Outlander TV series, which will begin its 5th season in February 2020.

Outlander caught our attention because it dealt with both Scottish history and also time travel, which is my favorite genre.  After watching the first few episodes of Season 1, both Deborah and I were hooked.  Given our upcoming trip to Scotland, we were also anxious to learn about some Scottish locations that we might visit during our trip.  The result was that we binge watched Seasons 1 thru 4 in preparation for our trip.

If you have had the opportunity to view any of my recent posts on our Scotland trip, you know that the search for Outlander filming locations played a significant role in some of our destinations.

This will consolidate those Outlander experiences into a single post.  I will include many pictures also found in my other posts, as well as some new ones.  I will also mix in some actual pictures from the TV series that inspired our search.

Jamie’s Ghost

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Falkland Square.jpgWe found our very first location along our drive from the Edinburgh airport to St Andrews, where we spent our first evening.  We stopped in the small village of Falkland. In the very first episode of Season 1, Claire and Frank stopped here as part of their second honeymoon after being reunited at the end of World War II.  The exteriors of Falkland substituted for their supposedly being in Inverness in the story.

One of the more memorable scenes from this brief stay was when Frank was returning to the hotel on a rainy evening.  Standing next to Bruce Fountain, in the middle of the square outside the hotel, is a man looking up at the window of the hotel room in which Claire is seen brushing her hair.  As Frank approaches, the man turns around and vanishes.  This is often referred to as Jamie’s ghost.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Jamie and Roger.jpg

Fans raised questions about that scene, including was that in fact Jamie and, if so, how and when (in his time) was Jamie able to time travel to that point in his future?

Here is a You Tube link to this scene …

 

Gabalon did finally confirm that it was indeed the ghost of Jamie, and she promises to reveal the secret in the 10th and final book in the series.  Gabaldon is currently researching and writing the 9th Outlander novel.  The 8th book in the series, Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, was published in June of 2014.

Outlander – A Very Brief Synopsis

As a brief synopsis of the plot of Outlander, it involves an English woman named Claire who visits a site in the Scottish Highlands just after the end of World War II.  As mentioned earlier, she is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank.  She goes off on her own and discovers a hill with standing stones not far from Inverness where she is staying with Frank.  She also sees that there is ritual dancing and ancient rites being performed.  Claire returns to this location alone.  When Claire approaches the stones and then touches one, she is transported from 1945 back to 1743 in that same area of the Scottish Highlands near Inverness.

Here is a You Tube link to the scene in which Claire first travels back in time.

 

Claire finds herself in a time when the Scottish clans are fighting with the English to retain their way of life.  Claire soon meets and eventually falls in love with Jamie Fraser.  The story then continues to explore their relationship amongst a bloody history of which Claire is only too aware, and Claire and Jamie’s efforts to shape a different future.

 

Colloden Battlefield

While staying in Inverness, we made a point to visit the Colloden Battlefield.  It is located just east of Inverness.  The Battle of Colloden in 1746 marked the tragic end to the traditional Scottish way of life, and the end to what came to be known as the Jacobite Rebellion.  It was a pivotal moment in the book as well since Claire was well aware that almost all the Scots who fought in that battle would die.  Both she and Jamie thought that he would die as well and, try as they might, they could not change events that led to that fatal battle.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Culloden Battlefield Clan Fraser Rock.jpgThe battlefield itself is really just a large, open field.  There is a modern museum and tourist center on site.  One of the two, main areas of the battlefield also has markers for many of the clans who fought and died on that field, including the real clan Fraser.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Culloden Battlefield with Deborah.jpg

 

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Culloden Battlefield Museum Interior.jpgI found the museum particularly interesting since it really tells two, very separate stories.  As you walk through the exhibits, on one side you find the history of the Jacobites leading up to the battle, as told from the Scottish/Jacobite point of view.  Directly opposite you find that exact same history and timeline, but told from the English point of view.

We spoke with one of the docents at the museum and she told us that in general, Gabaldon got most of her history spot on, and that the books had most certainly been a boon to Scottish tourism.  However, she also said that the mistaken impression you get from the books (and one that I had as well) was that the rebellion was between the Scottish clans on one side and the English invaders on the other, and that it was all about the Scots trying to retain their way of life.

The truth was much more of a mixed bag.  People of the time fought for many different reasons, of which clan life was certainly one.  But many fought for political, religious and economic reasons as well which often had little to do with clan life.  Because of that, the docent also told us that the two sides were very much a mix, often with Scots fighting alongside the English, and sometimes even with English fighting alongside the clans.

Here is a link to an interesting article that addresses the things which Gabaldon got both right and wrong about the Jacobite Rebellion.

https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/how-historically-accurate-is-outlander/

 

Clava Cairns

I was aware that there was a stone circle fairly close to Colloden but I was not aware just how close it actually was.  As we left the battlefield, we almost immediately saw a sign for Clava Cairns and that it was just a few miles away.  That was one of the very few times we were able to find signs for things we looked for, before we essentially were right on top of them.

Clava Cairns proved to be one of the highlights of our entire trip.  The area it was in was fairly large, containing five separate stone circles of varying sizes.  We had it completely to ourselves when we first arrived and that certainly added to the special feeling.  The area itself just seemed kind of mystical, especially since it was so quiet.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Clava Cairns 01.jpg

What I learned afterwards is that the connection to Outlander are the large standing stones around the first of the stone circles as we entered from the parking lot.  It is widely believed that these stones may have been the inspiration for the magical, time travelling stones on Craigh na Dun that took Claire back into the past.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Clava Cairns 02.jpg

 

Craigh na Dun

We, or rather I, did not find this next Outlander location until quite a bit later in the trip.  The hill on which the fictional Criagh na Dun is located in the Outlander books and TV series actually does exist in Scotland.  It is in the central Highlands just east of the village of Kinloch Rannoch.  However, the mystical stones quite obviously did not exist … that is until the set designers got to work and created them.

We were staying near the village of Crianlarich when I made my attempt to find the filming location for Craigh na Dun.  That morning, Deborah and I had both visited the truly beautiful village of Killin.  I have a description and pictures of that village in Part 4 of my Scotland driving trip posts.

After I took Deborah back to the home in which we were staying, I headed back out in the afternoon on my own to try and find three locations, one of which was the site of Craigh na Dun.  As I also explained in my Part 4 post, I probably spent too much time on finding the first two locations.  When I finally started driving to the area in which I thought Craigh na Dun was located, I had about 40 miles to drive and only about an hour and half left of daylight.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Craigh na Dun.jpg

I drove as fast as was safely possible on some very narrow roads, all the while watching the time pass, and my daylight wane.  As I came close to what I thought might be the correct location, just as I drove over a rise in the road, I immediately recognized the hill where the Outlander scenes had been filmed.  I parked and got out my tripod to take some pics from many angles as it got darker and darker.  My best pic is still quite a bit dark and I could kick myself for not at least trying to insert myself into the foreground since I was using my tripod.

Just before it got completely dark, another couple arrived who also had been searching for this Outlander site.  I left soon after and safely made the dark drive back to join Deborah.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Header 2.jpg

 

 

Finnich Glen – St Ninnian’s Spring

The next site with Outlander connections at which we stopped was not until we were driving from Glasgow to our final stop in Edinburgh.   In Outlander, Season 1, Episode 6 – The Garrison Commander, Dougal MacKenzie takes Claire to St. Ninnian’s Spring which the Scot’s also call Liar’s Spring.  Dougal believes that if you drink from the water, you must tell the truth or the water will kill you.

Dougal is about to suggest that Claire marry his nephew Jamie in order to avoid arrest by the English.  But before he does that, he wants to be certain that she is not an English spy.  So he takes Claire down to this spring and, when she drinks from it, she doesn’t die.  So Dougal now is certain that she is not a spy.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Finnich Glen 01.jpgThese are scenes from the St Ninnian’s Spring Outlander episode.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Finnich Glen 02.jpg

 

The spring and surrounding gorge where they go in the TV show was actually filmed at a place named Finnich Glen.  That is located about 15 miles northwest of Glasgow near the village of Craighat and on the Carnock Burn.

We found the general location and parked the car but it looked to be a bit of a walk to get to the Glen and also likely involved some muddy trekking through some woods, so I once again headed out on my own.  The path that I initially took led me along the top of a cliff looking down on a narrow gorge probably 80 feet below.  I kept on following the path and eventually came upon some treacherous looking stone steps leading quite vertically down toward what looked to be a narrow crevice.  I started down very slowly but then decided not to venture into the crevice.

Had I continued down not too much further, I would have come to a pretty special location, and I regret now that I did not continue down.  Here is a You Tube video taken by some folks who did make their way all the way down.

I returned to the top and continued on the path which eventually took me down to the level of the stream that snaked through the gorge.  What I saw, however, was that there was no room on either side of the stream for a path.  The sides of the gorge went right up to the water.  So it would have been necessary to either have waders on or to take off my shoes and roll up my pants, which I was not willing to do.

I decided to return to the car.  On my way back, I saw a young couple exiting those rock stairs I had started to go down.  They told me that just beneath that narrow crevice, it opened onto the stream and provided a view of what sounded like what I had seen on the internet.  I once again reluctantly decided not to try, but I asked the couple to at least take a picture of me at the top of those stairs.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Finnich Glen

Here are some pictures of Finnich Glen that I seen on the internet prior to our visit.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Finnich Glen 03.jpg

 

A. Malcolm Print Shop

The last two Outlander locations we visited on our trip were both seen during the final stop on our trip in Edinburgh.  When I booked our place to stay in downtown Edinburgh, I had noticed that it was very near the filming location for the exterior of the A. Malcolm Print Shop, as seen in Outlander Season 3, Episodes 5 and 6.  These episodes included the long awaited reunion of Claire and Jamie after twenty years apart.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - A. Malcolm 01.jpg

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - A. Malcolm 02.jpg

Jamie was working under the alias of A. Malcolm in the city of Edinburgh.  Claire’s first husband Frank had died and Claire then found out that Jamie was still alive and living in Edinburgh.  She surprises him at the end of Episode 5 and their reunion is explored in Episode 6.

 

The real life “Close” (a Close is a small alleyway leading off of the Royal Mile) in which this scene was filmed is called Bakehouse Close which is right off of the Royal Mile leading up to Edinburgh Castle.  It was also only a block or so from where we were staying on Old Tolbooth Wynd Close.

After initially finding, and dismissing, another Close as the filming site, we did find Bakehouse Close not far from the incorrect one.  Obviously, the set decorators added a lot during pre-production, including the extensive woodwork on the stairs leading up to the entrance, but this was undeniably the location used for the scene exteriors.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - A. Malcolm 03.jpg

 

Midhope Castle – Lallybroch

We drove to and found the final Outlander filming location on the second last day of our trip.  We had passed by the site on our way into Edinburgh because of the fading daylight.  But on this day we got an early start which enabled us to once again do a bit of driving and backtracking before we were finally able to find the site.

The site is located about 15 miles west of Edinburgh city centre, off of the A904.  It is just west of the Hopetoun Farm Shop.  The turnoff is not marked by any sign for Midhope Castle.  Turn north at the corner with signs for the “Fireworks Store”.

We had the location to ourselves when we arrived but some other folks arrived not long afterwards.  However, I can imagine that this site can get pretty overrun during the height of tourist season.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Midhope Castle 03The castle (just a house, really) is locked but since it was not used for interior filming, that was quite alright.  The main thing was the very recognizable path leading up to the archway that fronts the house.  This visit proved to be a nice bookend to our Outlander site visits during our trip.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Midhope Castle.jpg

SCOTLAND 2019 - Outlander Locations - Midhope Castle 02

 

We did actually stop at one other nearby castle which did have an Outlander connection – Blackness Castle.  But with the exception of Jamie climbing the wall to rescue Claire from Blackjack Randall in one early scene, there was nothing much recognizable from the TV series.  Blackness Castle was actually the stand-in location for Blackjack Randall’s main post at Fort William.

 

As I finish writing this, Deborah and I are waiting for the February 2020 debut of Season 5 of Outlander.  We will be getting a temporary subscription to the Starz cable network in order to be able to watch these new episodes when they are first broadcast.

To view Part 1 of my 4 Part series on all of the Scotland locations we visited …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/28/scotland-2019-our-three-week-driving-trip-around-the-scottish-highlands-part-1/

 

To view Part 2 of my 4 Part series on all of the Scotland locations we visited …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/scotland-2019-our-three-week-driving-trip-around-the-scottish-highlands-part-2/

 

To view Part 3 of my 4 Part series on all of the Scotland locations we visited …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/04/scotland-2019-our-three-week-driving-trip-around-the-scottish-highlands-part-3/

 

To view Part 4 of my 4 Part series on all of the Scotland locations we visited …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/scotland-2019-our-three-week-driving-trip-around-the-scottish-highlands-part-4-of-4/

 

To view a PDF which includes some of our best pictures from our entire, three week Scotland trip …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/09/a-pdf-of-our-best-pictures-from-scotland/

SCOTLAND 2019: Our Three Week Driving Trip Around the Scottish Highlands – Part 4 of 4

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Table of Contents.jpg

 

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - 4 part description - Part 4.jpg

 

Drumnadrocit to Crianlarich (Trossach’s Loch Lomond Natl. Park)

Most certainly, the highlight of the drive from Loch Ness to Crianlarich was our stop in Glenfinnan and our pictures relating to the Harry Potter iconic sites.  However, before I get to that, we did pull over while driving down the western edge of Loch Ness so I could capture the following picture.  Little did I know that I would be dealing with the fallout, so to speak, from that picture for the next week or so.

As I was trying to make my way down an embankment, my lead foot went out from under me when it slipped on a root.  I proceeded to tumble head first not once but twice down the embankment.  The good news is that I landed on vegetation, rather than on hard ground.  The bad news – that vegetation was mostly full of prickers.  My clothing and jacket protected most of me.  However, my left hand instinctively tried to cushion my fall and it paid the price.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Loch Ness and Scratched Hand.jpg

 

We planned to make the 30 mile or so detour off of our route to visit Glenfinnan.  However, we ended up spending quite a bit of time there so we did not make any other significant stops on the way to Crianlarich.  But the stop in Glenfinnan proved to be very memorable.

The main thing that we wanted to see was the Glenfinnan Viaduct – the iconic train viaduct that gained fame as the route to Hogwarts in a number of the Harry Potter films.  Ideally, we might have tried to time our visit so that we could see the actual steam train that still regularly goes across that viaduct.  However, that line stops for the season at the end of October.

We arrived at the Glenfinnan Visitor’s Centre which is situated between the viaduct on one side and the Glenfinnan Monument on the banks of Loch Shiel on the other.  Even that side has Harry Potter significance as it was used for the long shot of Hogwarts with the Hogwarts castle being digitally added for the movie.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glennfinnan Fog 01When we arrived around 11AM, there was a significant fog still shrouding almost everything.  While that did allow us to take some dramatic photos, it almost prevented us from even seeing the viaduct.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glennfinnan Fog 02.jpg

 

While taking pictures from a hill above the Visitor’s Centre, it seemed to be apparent that the fog was in the process of rolling through.  So we waited it out and we were rewarded with some very favorable skies.   We needed to walk about a half mile or so to get right up to the viaduct.  Then, we also took a path underneath and up and above the viaduct to get some great additional views.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Viaduct 01

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Viaduct Collage

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Viaduct 02.jpg

We had a bit of difficulty finding our home in Crianlarich, which was located about a mile outside of the small village.  However, we gained entry without issue since we had been told where the key would be left for us.  Once inside, we found that we had probably the nicest of the places in which we stayed while in Scotland.  It was a private, 2 bedroom, 2 bath home with a small family room and a wood burning stove.  It also had a beautiful little sunroom in which Deborah was able to do some painting.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Crainlarich Lodging 02

What was unexpected about our arrival was that we had quite a bit of difficulty contacting the host with some questions we had about heating the home, and about how to use some of the kitchen appliances.  I once again struggled to get my phone to work so I ended up driving into the village of Crianlarich and calling from what I believe was the only hotel, albeit a very nice one, in the village.  The host’s husband had actually stopped by and spoken with Deborah before I returned from making the phone call.

I ordered a take-away pizza while I was out and I had a pint of Tennant’s ale while I waited and talked with some very nice locals.  I enjoyed that Tennant’s very much and would seek it out a number of times during the remainder of our trip.  We even visited the Tennant’s brewery while in Glasgow.

We had the next, full day in the area.  Deborah and I took a drive in the morning, with the plan to see a few things, then I would take Deborah back to the house where she would do some painting, and finally I would head out on my own again to try and track down a few more distant locations.

Under beautiful partly cloudy skies, together we drove east to another one of those “most beautiful villages” that I have mentioned in previous posts.  This one was the village of Killin and it most definitely proved worthy of its designation.  The downtown is very picturesque with a river flowing under an old stone bridge, all under the shadow of some snow-capped mountains.  We also walked down a path to find an interesting stone circle not far from the city centre.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Killin 01

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Killin 02

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Killin 03.jpg

Between walking around and taking quite a few photos, I didn’t get Deborah back to the house until after noon which left me less than four hours of daylight for my afternoon solo jaunt.

I began my drive with three destinations in mind.  I wanted to track down the grave of Rob Roy McGregor – a noted Scottish revolutionary made famous by Liam Neeson in the movie Rob Roy.  I had also seen pictures of an interesting looking mirrored structure built in a field by two students from Glasgow University.  Those two locations were quite near each other and about 10 miles from Killin.

The other location that I was keen to find was the actual location used to film the iconic Craigh na Dun from Outlander.  The time travel producing stones were a product of the set designers.  However, the hill used for filming was in a remote area of the highlands which I determined was about 45 miles in the opposite direction of Rob Roy’s grave.  I also did not know exactly  where it was – just the general area.

Since the first two locations were near to each other, I decided to track them down first.  In retrospect, that was a mistake for a couple of reasons which I will soon explain.  I headed for Rob Roy’s grave and, after only one minor missed turn, I found it in a small cemetery near the ruins of an old church and the newer church built right by.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Rob Roy

I continued on the very narrow, single track (duh) road until I found that second, mirrored location.  I ended up spending more time there than I should have, and it was most definitely not worth it in the end.  What looked kind of cool on the internet was most definitely underwhelming in the flesh.  Still, I tried my darndest to get some good pictures using my tripod, and braving some very cold winds.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Mirrored Box.jpg

So, given the amount of time I basically wasted at that mirrored box location, and the fact that I had more than 40 miles to drive to a location I was not exactly sure of, and I only had maybe an hour and a half of light remaining, my work was cut out to find Craigh na Dun.

I drove as fast as was safely possible on some very narrow roads, all the while watching the time pass, and my daylight wane.  As I came close to what I thought might be the correct location, just as I drove over a rise in the road, I immediately recognized the hill where Outlander had been filmed.  I parked and got out my tripod to take some pics from many angles as it got darker and darker.  My best pic is still quite a bit dark and I could kick myself for not at least trying to insert myself into the foreground since I was using my tripod and a delayed shutter.  The insert in the picture below is a picture captured from the actual TV series.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Craigh na Dun

For those of you reading this who do not really know me, you very likely may be thinking … “Now why on Earth would he go to all that effort just to track down some damn hill?”  However, for those of you who do know me, you will likely just chalk that up to Roger being Roger.

I safely made the long and dark drive back to Crianlarich and Deborah and I enjoyed a pleasant dinner at that lone hotel in the village where I enjoyed yet another Tennant’s.

Crianlarich to Glasgow

We made a few stops on our drive from Crianlarich to our next stop in Glasgow, but only brief ones.  We once again took a chance on stopping at one of those supposed “most beautiful villages of the Highlands” – this time the village of Luss, near the shores of Loch Lomond.  I’m afraid to say that this was yet another disappointment, and another village that paled miserably when compared to our recent experience in Killin.  My guess is that Luss would fare much better in warmer, sunnier weather but then again, what village wouldn’t?

Moving on, instead of heading directly south and slightly east toward Glasgow, we took a side trip west to the city of Helensburgh and then south to Dunbarton.  This was certainly an indication that we were heading out of the Highlands and back into “civilization”.

The areas began to have the feel of much larger cities, more like Aberdeen.  However, in looking at population figures, Aberdeen is listed as the 4th largest city in Scotland, with a population of over 200,000.  Helensburgh on the other hand only has a listed population of over 15,000, and Dunbarton about 20,000.  However, it began to feel more like a metropolitan sprawl where you never really got away from populated areas from this point on until we arrived in Glasgow.

At this point, we definitely knew that our somewhat idyllic trip through the Scottish Highlands had taken a very different turn.

Our stop in Dunbarton featured the “civilized” activity of filling up our rental car and also visiting Dunbarton Castle which I had identified during my pre-visit planning.  What is left of the castle is on a promontory overlooking the coast.  A portion of the castle is located down at the base of the rock.  We were told by a local that what remains at the top of the rock are the ruins of an old prison.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Dunbarton Castle

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Lomondgate StagKnowing from research that we were close, we proceeded to try and locate the second of the Andy Scott metal sculptures on our list of ones to track down – our first having been The Leopard that I found inside that shopping mall in Aberdeen.  This one is titled The Lomondgate Stag.  We found it in the middle of a roundabout, which we soon realized was a recurring location that Scott frequently uses for many of his works of art.

From there, we continued on to Glasgow.  Both the ever increasing development and the increase in vehicle traffic let us know with certainty that our visit had taken a distinct turn.

From reading, it was obvious that there are widely divergent views of Glasgow as both a city and as a destination.  While some appreciate its history and its variety of activities and sights, others simply see it as the somewhat blighted, largest populated area in Scotland (over 600,000 compared to Edinburgh’s just less than 500,000).

I think I can speak for Deborah as well in saying that our lasting impression of Glasgow was definitely more positive than negative.  In fact, after our short stay was concluded, I think in retrospect, we might have added an extra day to spend in the Glasgow area.

On our way into the city from the northwest, we stopped and walked a bit to find Ashton Lane and also the nearby University of Glasgow.  Ashton Lane is a very small, 2 block or so, curving, quaint street with a number of restaurants, bars and year-round holiday lights strung over the street.  After seeing it during the day, I later went back on my own to take a few night pictures.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Ashton Lane .jpg

After that brief stop, it was time to locate our next lodging which was just south of the Glasgow City Centre.  We found a needed Wi-Fi connection in order to make the call to our host (from a McDonald’s, of course) and met our host Roseann without much difficulty.

Roseann showed us to our lovely, 6th floor apartment with a view looking west and north toward downtown.  This unit was nicely equipped and quite comfortable.  It also had a large screen TV which I was able to connect to the internet so that we were able to get some U.S. TV for the first time in about two weeks, albeit on a delayed basis.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - Apt Living Room View

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - Apt Living Room

We had one the next full day to spend in Glasgow.  We took a city bus to the downtown city centre which is essentially George Square.  We had a quick lunch before jumping onto our first of two Hop On/Hop Off Red Bus tours – the second being after we arrived in Edinburgh.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - Red Bus Collage

After riding a full circuit and scoping out things we might like to go back and see, we got off near the Glasgow Cathedral and began a walking tour which would eventually take us back to the city centre.

We began by visiting the Cathedral and then continued on to the nearby Tennant’s Brewery.  That was the beer that for which I had developed a fondness.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - Tennants Brewery

While walking we passed by a number of full size, wall murals that I had read about before arriving in Glasgow.  The murals are mostly located all around the central city of Glasgow.  They began with a project initiated in 2008 by the Glasgow City Council to beautify the downtown and to eliminate some graffiti in the process.  They have been created mostly by local street artists but some international artists as well.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - St Mungo - Dr Carter.jpgWhile we saw only a small number of the many murals, our favorite was the one that is shown to the left – St Mungo.  He is the patron saint of Glasgow and his mural is the work of an Australian street artist – Sam Bates, aka Smug.  To me, the man pictured as St. Mungo certainly looks like actor Noah Wylie.  You may remember Wylie from his role as young Dr. John Carter on the long running NBC TV series “ER”.  If you don’t remember him, Google him and see if you too may notice the resemblance to St. Mungo.

Here is the Glasgow mural collage that I created for our master Powerpoint/PDF of pictures on our Scotland trip.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - Wall Mural Collage

From the brewery, we continued our walk and eventually made it back to the city centre.  One of my personal favorite areas was a large pedestrian mall – Buchanan Street.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - Buchanan Street.jpg

Nearby was one of many statues of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, with the traditional traffic cone perched on his head (and in this case, the horse’s head as well).  The traffic cone hat is apparently a tradition to signify the Glaswegian sense of humor.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - Duke of Wellington.jpg

Glasgow to Edinburgh

As we were leaving Glasgow the following morning, after our brief stay, we searched out the 3rd of our Andy Scott sculptures – The Rise.   Unfortunately, my pic was not able to capture its beauty.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Glasgow - Andy Scott The Rise

Our route for driving to Edinburgh had us first driving north toward another one of those locations that I had seen while doing research – Finnich Glen.  It has an Outlander connection in that it was used as the site of the truth test that Dougal MacKenzie gave to Claire.

We found the general location and parked the car but it looked to be a bit of a walk and also likely involved some muddy trekking through some woods, so I headed out on my own.  The path that I initially took led me along the top of a cliff looking down upon a narrow gorge probably 30-50 feet below.  I kept on following the path and eventually came upon some treacherous looking stone steps leading quite vertically down toward what looked to be a narrow crevice.  I started down very slowly but decided not to venture into the crevice.

I returned to the top and continued on the path which eventually took me down to the level of the stream that snaked back through the gorge.  What I saw, however, was that there was no room on either side of the stream for a path.  The sides of the gorge went right up to the water.  So it would have been necessary to either have waders on or to take off my shoes and socks and roll up my pants, which I was not willing to do.  I did see some women on the other side of the stream who had come to that same realization.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Finnich Glen

I decided to return to the car.  On my way back, I saw a young couple exiting those rock stairs I had started to go down.  They told me that just beneath that narrow crevice, it opened onto the stream and provided a view of what sounded like what I had seen on the internet.  I reluctantly decided not to try to get all the way down, but I asked the couple to at least take a picture of me at the top of those stairs.

From Finnich Glen, we continued on a route toward Stirling.  There we hoped to see the Sir Walter Scott Monument before attempting to follow the Andy Scott trail of sculptures culminating in Scott’s most memorable work – The Kelpies.

We approached the Scott Monument and I made the winding, walking trek up to the top, taking a few pictures along the way.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Sir Walter Scott Monument

 

We then proceeded around the north of Stirling and found the first of the Andy Scott sculptures, Foxboy, built on a roundabout near the village of Menstrie.  By the time we reached the Kelpies, we had found another five sculptures.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Scott Sculptures

When we arrived at the site of the Kelpies, we could not have asked for better weather and sky conditions.  There were blue skies, relatively comfortable temperatures and a beautiful late afternoon sun that showcased the magnificent Kelpie statues.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Kelpies 01

Kelpies have a significant place in Scottish history.  A Kelpie is a mythical, horse like beast that supposedly had the strength of ten horses.  That was significant to an economy that depended upon what they referred to as “heavy horses” to do the hard work of pulling wagons, barges and more to help shape the Scottish landscape.  Besides being a significant tourist attraction, the Kelpies are a wonderful tribute to those mythical beasts.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Kelpies 02

We spent quite a bit of time at the Kelpies and, as a result, daylight hours were once again waning as we left and headed for Edinburgh.  We had plans to try and make a few more stops, mostly at locations with more Outlander connections.  The most significant of those was Midhope Castle, which was the site used as the exterior for Lallybrook – the home of Jamie Fraser’s ancestors.  Since that was so close to Edinburgh, we decided to even pass that by, but to be sure to make plans to return at some time during our stay in Edinburgh.  We did that on the last day of our trip before taking our flight home.

We wound our way into Edinburgh trying to avoid, as much as possible, what we anticipated would be very congested downtown traffic. Although not entirely successful in that regard, we did find our last apartment just after dark.  After once again dealing with a few phone difficulties, we were met by the older couple who were our hosts, and shown around their VRBO.  The apartment is the couple’s sole source of supplemental income in their retirement.  While the apartment was small, and nothing extravagant to be sure, their care was obvious.  The woman also greeted us with a number of home baked sweets which was a nice touch.

The location was great, on Old Tolbooth Wynd, less than a block from the Royal Mile which leads about a mile or so up to the top of the hill where Edinburgh Castle stands over the city of Edinburgh.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 -Old Tolbooth Wynd Apartment Area.jpg

We decided to use our first evening walking down toward the Princes Street Gardens to see what we had hoped would be some significant holiday lights.  I have to say that during our entire four night stay we were generally unimpressed by the Edinburgh holiday lights.  While planning the trip, we had hoped they would be one of the highlights of our trip.  Now that did not significantly affect our overall satisfaction with Edinburgh in general, but it was surprisingly disappointing.

The lone real exception to the lack of holiday lights was George Street, not far from Princes Street.  The Dome Club had some beautiful lights both inside and out and the entire area had the best concentration of lights that we saw.
SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - George St Holiday Lights.jpg

On our first full day in Edinburgh, we again took one of the double decker Red Bus tours of the downtown.  I had taken a similar tour when I first visited Edinburgh back in 2001.  In addition to seeing some of the sites during our stay, both from the bus tour, and again while on foot, we also visited Edinburgh Castle.  We had deliberately not paid to take any interior tours of castles up to this point, because we had planned to take this castle tour.  The location is spectacular, looming up over the center of Edinburgh.  As such, some of our pictures from there were quite memorable, even given the dreariness of the skies.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Edinburgh Castle 01.jpg

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Edinburgh Castle 02.jpg

An unexpected pleasure of our Edinburgh visit turned out to be a free walking tour that we took – the Potter Trail.  There are more than a few Harry Potter tours available because of the significant connection that JK Rowling, and her famous novels, have to Edinburgh.  This particular tour was extremely well reviewed on the internet and we were in no way disappointed.

The tour was led by our enthusiastic guide, Charlie, who had started this endeavor with a number of his friends. I’m quite sure that if his friends are as competent and knowledgeable as Charlie, they are doing very well with tips.  The walking tour was concentrated in a relatively small area centered around the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard cemetery.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - The Potter Trail

JK Rowling had lived as a relativewly impoverished, single mother in Edinburgh and had gotten many of her inspirations for her early Potter novels from things she had seen while there.  In the little over an hour tour we took, we saw sights that inspired some of the most famous character names, such as the grave of a Tom Riddell (changed to “Riddle” in the books so it would be easier for kids to spell).  We also saw views and buildings that took shape in the mind of JK Rowling as Hogwarts, Gringot’s Bank, Diagon Alley and more.

I plan to make another post exclusively about the Harry Potter sights we saw on our trip, including this fine tour that we took.

During our last full day in Edinburgh, we made that drive out to Midhope Castle that I had referred to earlier.  Getting a few pictures at that iconic (at least to Outlander fans) location was a goal that I certainly wanted to achieve.  As had been the case more than once before on this trip, finding the site turned out to be a bit challenging.  We had long since dampened any expectations of finding multiple signs to lead us to our objective.  But we found it and did our Jamie and Claire thing.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Midhope Castle.jpg

As with Harry Potter related sites, I plan also to make a separate post which will be dedicated solely to the various Outlander locations we saw during this trip.

Late on our last evening in Edinburgh, I headed out to try and find yet another location, pictures of which I had seen on the internet , and which had captured my photographer’s eye.  The location was Vennel Street, which turned out to be a narrow, short, strictly pedestrian walkway not far from the location of the Potter Trail we had taken earlier.  What set this street apart was its positioning beneath and with an excellent view of Edinburgh Castle.  There had been a light rain during the evening which added an interesting sheen to the pavement, and these were some of my favorite pictures.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Edinburgh Vennel Street.jpg

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Edinburgh Vennel Street 02

Our Scotland visit concluded with our flight back to Atlanta, via Amsterdam, the next day.  After staying overnight near the Hartsfield Airport, we took a free flight on Southwest Airlines (thanks to my travelling days with API) back to Albuquerque the following afternoon.

Now almost a month later, after having relived the trip often while writing these posts, and while putting together pictures from the trip, both Deborah and I remain very pleased with how the trip turned out.  Despite spending three weeks driving around all those often very narrow roads (and in a right hand drive, manual transmission car, no less), and finding and staying in nine different locations, often in quite remote areas, the trip really went off with no major problems and only a few very minor ones.

We may or may not make another trip to Europe – one never really knows.  Our next major trip will likely be to Hawaii sometime next year.  Since Southwest airlines recently began flying to the Hawaiian Islands, we hope to use our Southwest miles to make a number of trips to the islands during our further retirement.

The Christmas holiday is fast approaching.  Deborah and I wish all of my readers a very blessed and merry Christmas and a healthy and fulfilling New Year ahead.

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Thank You.jpg

Thank you for taking the time to read these posts and to hopefully have in some small way relived this wonderful trip along with us.

 

SCOTLAND 2019 - Our Three Week Driving Trip - Part 4 - Coming Attractions.jpg

 

To view Part 1 of this 4 Part series of posts on Scotland …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/28/scotland-2019-our-three-week-driving-trip-around-the-scottish-highlands-part-1/

 

To view Part 2 of this 4 Part series of posts on Scotland …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/scotland-2019-our-three-week-driving-trip-around-the-scottish-highlands-part-2/

 

To view Part 3 of this 4 Part series of posts on Scotland …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/04/scotland-2019-our-three-week-driving-trip-around-the-scottish-highlands-part-3/

 

To view a PDF which includes some of our best pictures from our entire, three week Scotland trip …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/09/a-pdf-of-our-best-pictures-from-scotland/

087 – Prescription for the 2020 election:  A young, diverse and moderate ticket … and historic voter turnout.  (An Editorial)

And I am talking  historic  turnout.   Nothing can be left to chance.   The Democrats have to go all in on a push to encourage everyone possible to vote, and then let the chips fall.

Let Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros and any other mega donor the Dems can muster, put all those millions to good use.  Spend it to first make it possible, and then to make sure everyone knows how critical it will be for everyone to vote.

But I don’t believe historic turnout is possible without that young, diverse and moderate trifecta.

Why now moderate as well?

I’ve always leaned in the direction of a young (relatively) and diverse ticket. But I have now come to the conclusion that moderate is critically essential at this point in time.

Medicare for All and the Green New Deal are still just too divisive to guarantee the type of turnout necessary to defeat not only Trump, but also to defeat as many of those spineless, ultimately pathetic Republicans as is electorally possible.  Holding the House and regaining control of the Senate are almost as critically important as defeating Trump, and defeating him decisively.

And then this has to be repeated again in 2022 and again in 2024.  We cannot allow another Newt Gingrich to spread just enough fear and demagoguery to be able to immediately take back control because of renewed apathetic voter turnout.

It may already be too late to save this planet without going all in on a Green New Deal at this moment in time.   But it sure as hell will be too late if Donald Trump and the Republican sycophants are left with any sort of political power. There is plenty of good that can still be done environmentally once Trump is gone, including the immediate return to the Paris Climate Accord, and bringing sanity back to the EPA.

With Medicare for All, we at least have the luxury of putting that on the back burner and still being able to improve upon a healthcare system that really could further expand coverage and lower costs if given a fighting chance to do so.

Not to mention what lasting and this time permanent damage will likely be done if Trump is given carte blanche. The prospect of Trump completely unleashed should frighten any sane person.

 

So who do I think would make up that young, diverse and moderate ticket?

  • Well, moderate certainly rules out either Bernie or Warren.
  • They should certainly have pivotal positions in the new administration … just not at the top of the ticket.

 

So who would be the choice among the moderates?

  • I am just not a believer in Joe.
    • I don’t think that Biden can help generate the massive turnout that will be required. I think that massive turnout can and should be created regardless of who is the nominee.  But it would be nice to feel that the ticket also might help drive people to vote.
    • I also don’t think Biden has proven at all that he can stand up to Trump. That will require a combination of forcefulness, fearlessness and also tact that I don’t believe Uncle Joe will be able to muster.
    • If Biden is the nominee, I will certainly support him. But I am certainly not among those who think that his greatest strength is electability.
  • The billionaires can take a hike.
    • Put all that money to some good use, like I said before, and go all in on whomever else becomes the nominee.
  • I’m not sold on Buttigieg.
    • I very much like his intelligence, and I believe that he would be able to go toe-to-toe with Trump, but there are still a lot of questions.
    • I’m not exactly sure why he does not seem to yet appeal to minorities, but that certainly seems to be the case.  I have not yet seen any meaningful outreach by him to minority voters which I find curious.
    • His recent rise in the polls has been fueled primarily by his organization in Iowa. That certainly helped put Obama on the map, but this is hardly the same situation.
    • The bottom line really is why on Earth the small, homogeneous, non-diverse population of Iowa should play such an outsize role in the selection of, or at the very least in the rejection of, any national candidate.
    • While I acknowledge that now is not the time to push Medicare For All, I do not like Mayor Pete’s recent comments saying that proponents of that are willing to put anyone currently employed in the healthcare industry out of work. That is the kind of demagoguery that I would expect from Republicans – not from any thoughtful Democrat.
  • So who’s left?
    • Right now, for me that leaves Booker, Castro and Klobochar … and maybe even Michael Bennett.
    • They all sound like real long shots right now, but as is often pointed out, Clinton and Carter were the longest of shots early on as well, and we are still two months out from the Iowa caucuses.
    • A big key will be whom they choose to complete their ticket.

 

Here are a few ideas for some cabinet choices for any Democratic administration … 

  • EPA Secretary or Secretary of Energy?

    • I think that Bernie would be the person I would want to be in charge of putting us back on the correct environmental path.
  • Secretary of Commerce?

    • Elizabeth Warren. Let her lead the fight to reign in corporate abuses and to hopefully take steps to lessen big money’s influence on politics.  I’m not positive that Commerce is necessarily the best place for her to have influence, but certainly something along those same lines.
  • Attorney General?

    • How about Preet Bharera or Kamala Harris
    • OK, admittedly Bharera would be a bit of an in-your-face pick, but the man certainly has credentials, and has handled his bogus dismissal as Attorney for the Southern District of New York with a lot of class.
    • Something needs to be done to correct the barrage of injustices that have been levied upon the countless, honorable men and women of law enforcement and of the judiciary.
  • Secretary of Education?

    • Here’s an outrageous idea. How about selecting someone whose life has been dedicated to the public education system, and who has been active, and successful, in trying to improve it?
  • National Security Advisor, CIA Director and FBI Director?

    • Someone whose life has been spent in the trenches of each of those respective organizations and someone who has the full backing of their respective agencies, and of the intelligence community as a whole.
  • Chief of Staff?

    • Someone whom the President trusts and who will be able to think for him or herself and who won’t be afraid to let the President know when he or she thinks the President is full of it.
  • Secretary of State and United Nations Ambassador?

    • Here’s yet another outrageous idea.  How about selecting a respected, life long diplomat to fill those positions?

 

How about seriously trying to find a competent woman to hold any of those cabinet positions?

  • Elaine Chao and most certainly Betsy DeVos have demonstrably lowered the bar for competence.  I am sure that there are many excellent female choices.
  • I might first go looking at current and former female governors and state attorney generals, perhaps even some talented, but unsuccessful gubernatorial candidates, such as perhaps a Stacy Abrams.

Oh, and stay away from picking members of either the House or Senate to fill Cabinet positions.

  • Besides the fact that you don’t need to create vacancies in Democratically held seats, the track record of making House and Senate picks has not been good.
  • Kamala Harris might be the exception to this rule since I don’t think filling her California Senate seat with another Democrat should be much of a problem.

 

God knows really that almost anyone even picked off of the street would be a vast improvement over virtually any current or past member of Trump’s administration or Cabinet.

 

So there is my humble prescription for success in 2020.

It will be such a ridiculously crucial election that nothing, absolutely nothing, can be left to chance.

If the Democrats are put back in complete control, then the onus most definitely falls upon them to prove unmistakably that they are up to the challenge.

Whereas the adage that “both parties suck so what’s the difference” has been true to an extent for some time, the Republicans have now pushed the bar SO low that the Democrats cannot be satisfied to just be marginally better.

Democrats must absolutely not make the same mistakes that Republicans have made.  To paraphrase the words of Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democrats must prove that they really ARE better than that.

Because if the Democrats are not substantially better, then we will be almost as lost as a country as we would be if Trump is elected to a second term.

Voting starts at home … so make sure that every eligible voter in your own family, and everyone else whom you know personally, votes – either in early voting or on election day.

 

This is not some purity test.

Everyone must vote.

Then we just have to trust that basic common sense and decency will determine the outcome in November 2020.

 

Book Review: “The Closers” by Michael Connelly

Title:                             The Closers

Author:                        Michael Connelly

Published:                  2005

Main Characters:     Harry Bosch, Kiz Rider

 

Review:

I have just finished reading The Closers – the eleventh book in the Harry Bosch series written by Michael Connelly.  Even though the detective genre is by far my literary favorite, while I knew of Michael Connelly, I had never before read any of his novels, nor was I familiar with Los Angeles police detective Hieronymus (aka Harry) Bosch.  That was a significant oversight that I am now in the process of aggressively trying to correct.  Since the twenty third novel in the Bosch series was just released in the 2019, I am looking forward to much more very enjoyable reading.

I only became aware of Harry Bosch when, earlier this year (2019), my wife Deborah and I stumbled upon it when looking through the made for cable television series that unbeknownst to us had been available via our subscription to Amazon Prime Video.

Bosch had been produced by Amazon Studios and first began airing on Amazon Prime in February 2015.  That was season 1.  Season 5 was completed in early 2019 and is available in full on Amazon Prime.  Bosch has now been renewed for a 6th season.

The following You Tube  video is an interview with both Michael Connelly and lead actor Titus Welliver.  In it, Connelly talks about how he became convinced that the TV series on Amazon Prime was the way to bring Bosch to the small screen as opposed to the big screen.

 

Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - BoschEach of the first five seasons of Bosch has been based upon elements of one or more of the books in the series.  While not being slavishly devoted to the plots of each book, I believe that the series has done an excellent job of highlighting some of the most interesting plot lines from the books.  It has also certainly allowed Titus Welliver  to truly become Harry Bosch.

 I have enjoyed all of the Bosch novels I have read, but The Closers is my favorite so far, which is why I am now writing this review.  But before I specifically review this book, I wanted to first write a little more about my thoughts regarding reading a book first before seeing it on screen, versus the exact opposite.

My Accidental Visit to Middle Earth back in 1963

Typically, it is often that a theatrical movie (or TV series) is seen only after the book or books, upon which the screen version is based, has been read by the observer.  That has certainly been the case for me, most notably with the Harry Potter series and with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Reading first and then seeing on screen has I think two, particularly unique expectations and potential pitfalls.

  • Will the characters you see reflect the often vivid picture you have developed of them in your mind?
  •  Will the screen version remain true to the books you have read?

In my own case, since I was not a particularly voracious reader while growing up, it was much more frequently the case that I would see a movie not only prior to reading a book, but usually before I even knew the book existed.

It was not until about 1963, after having moved from Milwaukee to Bloomer Wisconsin, that I was quite literally wandering through the middle school library when I saw this book that had what I thought to be an intriguing title – The HobbitBook Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - The Hobbit.jpgI am sure that it took me quite a while to read the book but I also remember greatly enjoying the fantasy world that JRR Tolkien had created, and I also enjoyed the mythic quest of good versus evil genre that the book so clearly embodies.  

However, that was it for me and JRR Tolkien.  It was not until six years later, in the summer of 1969, that I somehow came to realize that Tolkien had written a three book sequel to The Hobbit, entitled The Lord of the Rings.  Once I found that out, I checked all three books from the library and spent one entire weekend devouring the 1200+ pages of the trilogy – a feat not to be underestimated for a 17 year old who was anything but a speed reader.

Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - LOTR booksWhich brings me to one side of that book versus screen expectation I was previously writing about.

 

The Lord of the Rings (book to the big screen)

When the highly anticipated movie version of the first book in the trilogy, Lord of the Rings (aka LOTR):  The Fellowship of the Ring, was released during the Christmas holidays of 2001, I was very skeptical.  Thanks to Tolkien, I had developed the most vivid mental pictures of not only the myriad number of characters in the books, but also of the mythical world of Middle Earth that Tolkien had created.  How in the world could anyone faithfully, much less successfully, bring that world to the big screen?

Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - LOTR Movies.jpgSuffice it to write that I was then, and am still today, very impressed with how director Peter Jackson brought those books to life.  The third movie in the trilogy, LOTR:  The Return of the King, alone garnered the vast majority of the Academy Awards that the movie trilogy received.  LOTR:  Return of the King was nominated for and received 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.  In total, the movie trilogy received 17 Oscars and over 800 other awards from organizations such as the SAG (Screen Actors Guild), Golden Globes, Hugo and many more.

I have always thought that in retrospect, the first movie, LOTR:  Fellowship of the Ring, really deserved the lion’s share of the credit for the success of the movies.  The expectations were so incredibly high by Tolkien’s vast readership, and the prospects for successfully bringing this entire world to the screen were so low, that the first movie remains my personal favorite in the trilogy.

 

Spenser For Hire (TV to book)

Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - Spenser for Hire.jpg

My next most memorable example of book versus screen, or vice versa, involved the Spenser for Hire TV series that I first began watching back in 1985.  It starred Robert Urich as the title character, and Avery Brooks as the iconic, menacing Hawk.  Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - Spenser and HawkI watched and enjoyed the entire three year run of the TV series but did not read my first Spenser novel, by author Robert B. Parker, until I began travelling for work after taking a job with a software company in late 2004.  Parker wrote 40 Spenser novels before his death in 2010, and the series has been very capably carried on by other authors since.  Since first reading the Godwulf Manuscript in 2005, I believe that I have now twice read almost every book in the series.

Spenser was the second, main example for me of either a book being successfully brought to the screen or of a movie or TV series successfully recreating the images I had in my mind from having read the books.

 

Harry Potter (books to the big screen)

Given the period of years (10 and half – Nov 2001 to July 2011) that it took to bring all seven of JK Rowling’s magical books (and eight feature length movies) to the big screen, it may not surprise you to know that this personal example involved a combination of the movie to book and book to movie expectations that I have been writing about.

Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - Harry Potter Movies 

I believe that I saw the first two of the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, before having read either book.  After seeing the Chamber of Secrets, I decided to begin reading the books, which was a daunting task given that each of the books after the first two, were  650+ pages in length.

Thanks in large part I think to the success that Peter Jackson had with the Lord of the Rings, I had positive expectations going into reading those books. I hopefully expected them be true to the movies which I had seen prior to reading.  What I did not expect is just exactly HOW true to the books the movies had been.  With very few exceptions, the first two movies in the Harry Potter series were exceptionally true to what I had read in Rowling’s books.

It was not, I believe, until I read and then saw book three, The Goblet of Fire, that I began to see some examples of how the movies began to vary slightly from Rowling’s books.  That corresponded not only to a change in directors, from Chris Columbus to Mike Newell for Goblet, and then to Alfonso Cuaron for The Prisoner of Azkaban, but was also due in part to the first two books simply being significantly shorter than the last five. I also think that both Chris Columbus and JK Rowling knew that the pressure was on to satisfy the huge Potter fan base with those first two movies.  Once the fans were hooked, they could then begin to take a bit more cinematic leeway.

I for one was most certainly hooked, and I was never really overly bothered by the changes and omissions that took place in the last six movies.  After all, trying to tell a 700+ page book in a 2 and ½ hour movie was bound not to cover everything all the readers wanted.

 

Harry Bosch and The Closers

All of which brings me full circle back to Harry Bosch.  After watching and greatly enjoying Season 1 of Bosch on Amazon Prime (we are now in the process of finishing watching Season 4), I began reading my first Bosch novel back in September of this year (2019).

The first season of the Amazon series is based upon elements of three Connelly novels – books 3, 8 and 12 in the series.  Since I prefer to read book series in the order that they were published, it was not until after watching Season 1 that I actually read the book, City of Bones, upon which Season 1 was in part based.

While reading the first two of the Bosch novels, and having already watched Season 1 of the TV series, I could instantly tell how well Connelly had brought his character to the small screen, and also just how very well Titus Welliver has portrayed the character of Harry Bosch whom I now know so well from reading the books.

Season 4, which we are now almost finished watching on TV, is based solely upon book 6 in the series – Angel’s Flight.  I recently took my interest in that book, and in Season 4, to the next level by searching out book locations while on a visit to Los Angeles.  I posted about this on my Facebook page …

 

Which FINALLY gets me around to the book, The Closers, which was initially my motivation for writing this post.  If you have made it this far, first, thank you, and second, here is my review.

Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - Its about damn time

 

The Closers – a review

(Warning.  Some spoilers are contained in this review.)

As mentioned previously, The Closers is the eleventh book in the Bosch series.  In it, Bosch has returned to the LAPD after a brief, less than 3 year retirement.  He has been assigned by the new police chief to the OUU (the Open-Unsolved Unit), formerly known as Cold Case, and has been reunited with his old partner, Kizmin (Kiz) Rider.  His mission there is to do what he does best – to speak for the dead and the forgotten, and to try and bring long overdue justice for them and for the people they left behind.

In the story, Harry and Kiz are assigned the case of a 16 year old girl who was kidnapped from her home and murdered seventeen years ago. A new lead is generated when a DNA match, something unavailable at the time of the murder, is found related to the gun used in the murder.  Bosch and Rider follow an uncertain trail which eventually leads them to solve the case.

As I have found with all of Connelly’s Bosch novels so far, this one is very well written and crafts an intriguing case which Bosch must use all of his experience to solve.  There is a lot of introspective as well as we learn more about the things that drive Bosch and which make him the very special investigator that he is.  Those internal thoughts and feelings of Bosch which are contained in the books make me all the more appreciative of the fine acting job that Titus Welliver has brought to the character in the TV series.

The relationship in the TV series between Harry and Deputy Chief Irving Irving (Yup, that’s his name), played exceptionally by Lance Reddick, is contentious to be sure, but there is at least a veiled element of grudging mutual respect that shows through.  There is none of that in the books and this book is no exception.  Irving is out to get, or at the very least to thwart Bosch at every opportunity, and accordingly Bosch can’t stomach Irving or tolerate what he stands for.

 

Some suggestions for additional, related material on my blog

If you are already a fan of the Bosch TV series on Amazon, here is a video that has some information about the upcoming Season 6 …

Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - Lance Fringe and Bosch.jpg

Lance Reddick (Deputy Chief Irving Irving on Bosch) also happens to have been one of the principle characters in my all-time favorite television series – Fringe.  For a review of Fringe and also some information about Amazon Prime, please go to the following …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/14/quick-quips-fringe-reprise/

 

If you may be interested in the full list of my all time TV favorites, here is a link to that post …

https://pearlsnmblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/all-time-favorite-tv-shows-list/

 

Here is a list of the Harry Bosch book series in order by the year in which they were first published.

Book Review - The Closers by Michael Connelly - Bosch books in order.jpg