Jul 27, 2015

Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland

There are a number of Museums to visit in Edinburgh, of course. But National Museum of Scotland stood out among all. The kids wanted Natural History (the dinosaurs!) and I was keen on its World Cultures gallery. It was not too far from the Royal Mile (we were there earlier), approximately 10 - 15 minutes walk via George IV Bridge. As the museum situated at very beginning corner of Chambers Street, we were able to see the magnificent Victorian building when we were approaching the junction of Chambers Street and George IV Bridge. 

The building of the Museum of Scotland after the merger, opened in 1998, not just to tell the country's history from earliest times to the present day, it created a landmark museum in Edinburgh.

Entrance Hall at Level 0 (left picture above);
Grand Gallery at Level 1 (right pictures above).

After we entered into the Museum from Chambers Street Entrance, the crypt-like Entrance Hall with a grand reception counter welcomed us and fed us information. A fine brasserie at one end and a gift shop on the other. From a romantic gloom, we went up to Grand Gallery at Level 1 and were impressed with its very spectacular huge light-filled, atrium space. The Grand Gallery is heart of the Museum: a soaring, four-storey cast iron and timber structure surrounded by delicate and intricate galleries. It provided a vivid introduction to the National Museum of Scotland and the rich and diverse collection housed here. 

A better view of the Grand Gallery, from Level 2 (left) and Level 3 (right above)

Apparently, the National Museum of Scotland was only formed in 2006 with the merger of the new Museum of Scotland and the adjacent Royal Museum. The former was with collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history, the latter housed collections covering science and technology, natural history and world cultures.

The huge 12-foot long Feast Bowl was one of the attentions in Grand Gallery.

Through the spacious Grand Gallery, with its thin iron columns set close together and arched timber roof, we were very much walking inside a giant birdcage. A very beautiful one! Raising through four storeys, the Window on the World displayed a spectacular array of over 800 objects drawn from a wide range of cultures and disciplines. 

The gallery of Animal World.

Looking through the arch at the eastern end of the Grand Gallery, we saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex peering through at us. 

The girls loved meeting the 12-metre-long, life sized skeleton case of a T. Rex in the Animal World. We spent a long time here looking at hundreds of fascinating animals and had a chance to weigh ourselves with a range of animals from polar bear to chimpanzee to koala bear. 

There were a number of interactive stations to engage visitors. 

Moving on to the Living Lands, the Tibetan prayer wheels attracted me. It was made at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland- Europe's oldest and largest centre for Tibetan Buddhism. I let Little Bomber tried her hands on stencil-colouring- another interactive way to engage visitors, the little ones especially.

@ the Gallery of Living Lands, L1.

Without knowing, we came to Imagine, one the interactive galleries for families with young children. Interestingly, we learnt how some artifices had brought to the museum in Edinburgh in the simplest way.

Imagine, Level 1.

Slowly we walked up the museum one floor after another, we landed into the Adventure Planet at Level 5- it was an interactive nature gallery for children to dino-dig, dress-up to survive extreme environments and explore hands-on nature activities.

This was where SC and I got to take five. I think, this space was meant to rescue exhausted parents by fascinate the children. 

Adventure Planet, Level 5.

Level 5's Traditions of Sculpture was just outside the Adventure Planet. I like it a lot. Looking at the Buddhas, I found strength to carry on our journey of discovery. This was where I learnt more about Buddhism too.
Buddha is shown seated in meditation, having achieved enlightenment. The pose is known as "earth witness". The Buddha's left hand is in his lap, palm up and his right hand reaches to touch the earth, it represents the moment when his six-year search for a perfect state of understanding and tranquility ended and he asked the earth goddess as his witness. The event is fundamental to the Buddhist religion. 
Stone Relief, Bihar, India, 12th Century (Right above).

Even though some of the galleries were closed for refurbishment, we could not cover the entire Museum. We took too long to explore Natural World galleries and World Cultures galleries. We had to miss Scottish History and Archeology. It was by chance that we walked into Scotland Transformed.

How can I missed those great inventions from Industrial Revolution!?
I knew it was a steam engine that we were looking at, but I didn't know it was the mighty Newcomen Engine(top left);
An early industrial textile machine (bottom left and right).

I was marvelled at the steam engine, my first to see a real one. My first to see the first ever steam engine, invented by Thomas Newcomen. I mean reading some history about it being one of the most important technologies of the Industrial Revolution, I did not expect it to be restored in a museum. And it was 9.5m high! And I could not tell the girls how did it work. 

I could only marvel at the invention, as long as I could.

Don't miss National Museum of Scotland, if you are in Edinburgh!

Address: Chamber Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF

Admission: Free; Donation welcome.

Opening Hours: 1000 to 1700 every day (except Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year Day).

Free Wi-fi is available in most common areas in the Museum. Sc and I were split up once in the big museum, and I didn't have roaming service to call him. By connecting to the Museum's free wifi, we were re-connected and found each other.

Find out how to make the most of your visit to National Museum of Scotland through the link here. Download the museum map could be one most helpful way prior to your visit.

Jul 20, 2015

Little about Edinburgh's Architecture

I was intrigued by the Scots Baronial, gloomy grey stone wall and uneven rooflines with feature towers adorned by small turrets. The Royal Mile of Edinburgh probably the best place capturing Scottish rich architecture. It has many interesting buildings all within walking distance. With the excellent accessibility by the Closes, we spent a half-day strolling and exploring the Medieval Old Town in the Royal Mile and, another few hours in Princess Street, the renowned shopping street in planned Georgian New Town. Having booked an accommodation in the heart of the city saved us time in in-and-out. We were the residents of the gloomy Medieval, and we were tourists to admire the beauty- how exciting!... even though for the shortest time.

It was really exciting to be in Edinburgh, so much so I didn't have enough photos to impress you all. I was engrossed with what surrounded me, the architectures were glorious. I was freezing cold too, my body was not yet adjusted to Scottish's weather. And I was with the kids, One of them very curious and mummy, mummy non-stop, while the another girl needed water, needed jacket, needed toilet. 

Anyway, I should not rambling. I do have some of beautiful shots from The Royal Mile...

Jul 11, 2015

Edinburgh: A Lost and Found Story in Waverley

I left my own backpack in Edinburgh's Waverley Train Station when we first arrived. We had too many things to lug with for the trip, from London to Edinburgh- two big full luggage, two backpacks, one camera bag, two girls and their bags. Some rubbishes in hand too, or kids' papers that they scribbled during train journey and insisted to keep/bring along. I can't remember for sure. It happened too often.

Sorry, I digress. Anyway, we only realised it after 3 or 4 hours later when we were settling down in our rented apartment in Cowgatehead. My heart sunk. Immediately, we dashed to the train station. I dashed, due to the urgency of the matter and the girls couldn't be speed up in view of the steep slopes and flights of stair. SC and the girls caught up with me from behind. 

Jul 5, 2015

Edinburgh's Closes, Cowgatehead and Grassmarket

If anyone ask me my impression of Edinburgh, I probably would tell you about the Closes in Royal Mile. Closes are those narrow alley between buildings. We passed by them a lot during our carless days in Edinburgh. The medieval town was built on an undulating terrain and yet fabulously well-connected. Once we arrived the Waverley Train Station, we started to navigate towards the Old Town where our rented apartment was. From the exit of Waverley Station at Market Street, we walked across the road, into one of the nearest Closes to reach Royal Mile- Fleshmarket Cl. After that, we found Old Fishmarket Cl to reach Cowgate. Once we were in Cowgate, we turned right towards Cowgatehead for our apartment, passed by an arch tunnel where George IV Bridge was right above.

Other times, when we roamed around the Old Town, passing by Royal Mile, we used Jackson's Cl, or Anchor Cl, or the renowned Mary King's Cl. Similarly, we wandered and used Stevenlaw's Cl towards the train station and further up to Princes Street.

Jun 30, 2015

Scotland: Falkirk Wheel

Have you heard of Falkirk Wheel? It is the world's first and only rotating boat lift!

It is sited in a countryside of Scotland, approximately 23 miles (37 km) from both Glasgow or Edinburgh. To be precise, it is situated in the Falkirk Town, Central Lowlands of Scotland, historically within the county of Stirlingshire.

Falkirk Wheel was the only point of interest I earmarked for my trip in Scotland, after I stumbled upon. [My entire trip plan is free and easy and by that mean, the rest of the plan is blank of places-to-go, only the places-to-stay].

I was very impressed with such a futuristic structure, in the middle of nowhere, just for the purpose of connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. For the first time, I heard of Falkirk, for the first time I learnt about canals' history (brief) of Scottish. For this case here, the two canals had been historically joined at Falkirk by a flight of 11 locks that stepped down across a distance of 1.5m (since 1800s), but these were dismantled in 1933, breaking the link.

Falkirk Wheel was meant more than just to restoring navigability across Scotland actually.

Jun 26, 2015

Chinese Glutinous Rice Dumpling

In the pantry of my office right now, I am having Chinese glutinous rice dumplings (肉粽) as lunch. I have a sense of gratification as this is something I made from scratch. And seriously, it ain't easy! There are lots of preparation work prior to the wrapping, cleaning and washing numerous utensils after wrapping and waiting at least 2.5 hours of cooking thereafter. I always know it, that's why I didn't want to do it myself, alone. I grown up in typical Chinese family where every year praying of Dragon Boat Festival (or Dumpling Festival, 端午节) and eating dumplings are part of the family tradition. I have the vivid picture of my mum wrapping dumplings, siting on a stool with all the ingredients laying on the kitchen floor; I have fuzzy memory of my grandma doing the same. Long hour of hard work.

Then we grown up, my mum demanded helps from me and my sister. I didn't learn dumpling wrapping skill from my mum willingly. Well, I didn't resist it either. I found it challenging and wanted to overcome it and I sensed, she needed company. In retrospective, this was probably one skill that she passed to me with little confident, as she admitted that she didn't like the work and not good at the technique of wrapping the dumpling. Sometime, we would had wrapped dumplings leak/loosen up while cooking. She repeated the same confession more than once. Her little fear blocks her from improvement. Yet, it didn't stop her from doing. My dad loves dumpling apparently and we love it too. I reckon, family love gave her a push to do it. Over the years, she saw my sister's and my wrapping technique doing better, and better. I think, she was relieved.

One little dumpling revived One little family tradition of mine.

Thanks to Mrs Kam and Lynn, gladly joined me last Sunday (Fathers' Day!) to wrap dumplings from 2kg glutinous rice, 1kg of pork belly, and many other ingredients (I used Diana's recipe). If not, I would not able to complete the entire process of dumpling making! whew~!

Jun 20, 2015

How I Find Places to Stay in Scotland

SC and I started to plan our trip to UK about three months ahead of the departure. Upon our decision to spend our time in Scotland mostly, I narrowed down my search for accommodation to these cities/Loch/Isle/Shire- Edinburgh, somewhere near Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, near Fort William, in Isle of Skye, and lastly close to Loch Ness (or Inverness) before we headed back to Edinburgh to take train back to London.

We broke down 10 hours of road journey into a week, by having 5 pit stops along the way.

Pit stop as in, spending a night in a selected accommodation.
source: Google Map

That made my effort to do accommodation reservation easier. I searched accommodation not too far from those places of interest. So strategic location of a accommodation is essential to me, Google map was my best friend during this period of time. Most hosts/agents would provide address, if not, the town or the street name of the listed apartment/hotel/house/B&B, etc. When some listing are vague about the location, I wouldn't want to have second look at it.

May 8, 2015

Pearl Beans (aka Cranberry Beans) and Corn Soup

Peeling off the pod of pearl beans are great for training toddlers' fine motors skill, as well as mathematic lesson for primary schooler- counting, grouping; addition and multiplication.

My daughters love the work involving these beans, I always get help volunteering in peeling off and extracting the beans. Little Bomber first laid her hands on the beans when she was about 3. She was probably attracted to the beautiful appearance of the bean pods.

They love to consume the soup that is boiled with these beans too.

As I surfing in the internet, it is also called cranberry bean,

  • 200g of cranberry beans
  • 1 ear of fresh corn (or two, if you wish for more sweetness from the corn)
  • 250-300g of pork ribs
  • some red dates (optional) - Or carrot
  • 1500ml of water
  • salt to taste

Apr 30, 2015

Penang: Murals/Heritage Trail

After hearing so much of the Penang Murals Trail, we too, took a morning to hunt down as many murals as possible. Along the way, we discovered that there are not just Ernest Zacharevic's murals, there are many other amazing works too.

It was a fun morning, very much like a treasure hunt game- walking towards unknown based on the guided route.
Creadits: KPertiet's paper; Clementine Creative's Watercolour Circles; Misschifis' Fuzzy Felt Alpha;
Telling  the story of our lives from mscraps.com; etc.

Apr 26, 2015

Black Chicken and Black Beans Soup

I learnt about black chicken soup from my grandmother. At that time, two youngest aunts were still single and under the same roof with my grandmother. They taught me that this yummy chicken soup was great for nourish the body and the tasteless chicken meat was actually tender and delicious to eat with bit of soy sauce. I had some great time on my grandma's dining table with her and my aunts. They always tried to feed me and my siblings healthy nutrients whenever we were sent by my mother over while she headed out for some errands or her work.
In the nutrition aspect, black chicken does indeed have less calories than regular chicken, mostly due to less fat. For example, a 100 gram piece of regular chicken has around 8 grams fat, while black chicken has only 2 grams.
Recent evidence also shows a higher level of an antioxidant called carnosine. Antioxidants in general are a great thing, and black chicken has double the amount of carnosine than regular chicken. - source
To me, my grandma boiled the most hearty chicken soup in the universal.

Whilst, my mum taught me about black bean. She usually cook black bean soup with pork rib. According to her, black bean nourish blood, essence and yin. One step before making the soup is, the black beans are to be roasted or pan-fried without oil until the skin of the bean crack.

Over the years, I learnt from somewhere else that both black chicken and black bean are in greater effect by combining both together in a pot with black dates and boil. It helps to replenish blood and vitality. So, here's the simple recipe:

  • 1.5L of Water;
  • 1 whole black chicken
    [I usually would ask the poultry stall to de-skin and cut it into 4] 
  • 100g -150g of black beans
    [wash them and then pan-fried without oil until the skin of the bean crack]
  • Some black dates (optional)
  • Salt to taste

"让生命稳稳流动(也)是我的功课之一。" by Bubu Tsai