Independent Scotland? Visas Part 3


As I am writing this, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister is pushing forward for a referendum on Scottish independence. There has been much talk of Scotland’s concerns in the UK exit from the EU. Since that time, a second push for separation has been Sturgeon’s thrust.

What does this mean for a traveler? Well, as part of the UK, Scotland doesn’t have an embassy in the US. It relies on the British Embassy for the role of visas and travel control. What will happen if Scotland passes a vote for independence and needs to hurriedly set up embassy and travel visas? That’s what I want to know. Guess where I am landing in July? So it looks like it’s the year of travel nightmare as the tightening of boarders in the US now ricochets around the globe. But wait. Sturgeon is pressing for a possible referendum in 2018, but Article 50 may become a reality in a matter of days. What timelines could change in the next few months. June is already a date for nations this summer to decide visa policy changes.

What is Article 50

Blow by Blow 

Sturgeon’ Speech

What is a Section 30 Order


So, who do you talk to if a nation decides they are becoming separate from the UK after years of being governed by them? Don’t panic. The push is to go to the polls within 2 years. At least that is what Sturgeon is saying now. Changing nations policies takes time. Will a vote happen soon and what would a timeline look like? Keep reading and keep abreast of current affairs.

Scottish Independence Article

The Science Gallery, Dublin Interview With Niamh O’Doherty


Science and innovation type museums are in many large cities around the globe. Dublin, Ireland has the Science Gallery as a fantastic place for science exploration based in art and expression. There are Science Galleries in many cities, London, Melbourne and Venice. The The Science Gallery is unique in that it has an emphasis on the creative, art exploration for science topics. It’s not just a museum filled with and exhibit on computers for example, it’s exploding the computer into an art form or message. Science is open for debate here. I really love hands on or in your face experiences and I am looking forward to this one. I recently contacted Niamh O’Doherty at the Science Gallery to as a few questions about what they do there.

Hours: Please note that this is a gallery type setup. If they are in between shows, there will be down time for prep. Contact the galleries’ website to see if they have a show running


Dopplel Ganger at Science Gallery


How did your museum get its start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

Back in 2008, a car park in a forgotten corner of Trinity College Dublin was transformed into a living experiment called Science Gallery Dublin. Through a cutting-edge programme that ignites creativity and discovery where science and art collide, Science Gallery Dublin is a nonprofit that encourages young people to learn through their interests. Since its opening, over 2.5 million visitors to the gallery have experienced more than 38 unique exhibitions, ranging from living art experiments to materials science and from the future of the human race to the future of play. Science Gallery Dublin develops an ever-changing programme of exhibitions and events fuelled by the expertise of scientists, researchers, students, artists, designers, inventors, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs. The focus is on providing programmes and experiences that allow visitors to participate and facilitate social connections, always providing an element of surprise.

Has there been anything surprising that happened that you just ran with in an opportunity to create an exhibit?

We’re a living lab, so occasionally experiments do misbehave. Memorably, last year during Field Test, we had to shut down one of the experiments because of a blood-sucking fungus – here’s more info about that on our blog. We also host reactive events and talks based on big topics in the news, from AI to politics.

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

We work with a selection of guest curators on each exhibition – they could come from very diverse backgrounds in academics, business and the arts. We also host videos describing the themes of our exhibitions on our YouTube channel here, and you can check out our blog here for some more background on how the exhibitions develop and progress.

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

Yes, we’ve got all the details about our 2017 programme online here. We’ve recently closed the open call for our SOUND CHECK summer exhibition, and we’ll be launching the open call for IN CASE OF EMERGENCY… very soon.

Do your exhibitions centre on the local only or do you have art and future or contemporary issues come into play occasionally?

We’re part of the Science Gallery International Network, so we do tour our exhibitions, and our open calls generally attract artists, makers, researchers and scientists from around the world – here’s a few global highlights from last year.


Stony 1.0 

Spring is in The Air: Festival Time!


It’s Spring. It may be taking a while to crawl in, but the desire is there to celebrate. And that means festivals. All around the upper hemisphere we are screaming time for a break from the winter. So what’s your flavor in a festival?

Festivals are huge in Europe. The university students explode just like in the US, running off to Spring Break. It’s much the same, full on rave for some. The festivals have gotten bigger and more media intense, and getting there and back can take days. And you thought Burning Man was intense here. Whatever size or flavor, there will be one in some Euro city you visit. Hey, the bird are chirping.


16 April ITALY, Florence, Scoppio

4 – 9 April AUSTRIA, Mayrhofen, 3- Snowbombing Festival del Carro

EverFest Guide


March 16 – 19 Dublin St Patrick’s Festival and St Patrick’s Day Parade

March 16 – 19 Mar Kilkenney Trad Fest

March 30 Limmerick Fringe Fest

May 22–30  Fleadh Nua, In Ennis

May 29 Spring Bank Holiday

May 28th April to 2nd Feil na Bealtaine (Beltain) Spring Fest


March 24 Bonobo Glasgow Music Fest

April 26 Edinburgh Trad Fest

April 27 Speyside Whisky Fest

May 1 Bank Holiday Festivals

13 Festivals you Need to Know About


May 18 The Great Escape Brighton

Late May  Bath Music festival

May 27 Love Saves the Day Bristol

June Bath Fringe Fest

And Glastonbury already sold out.

Best UK Festivals


And just wait until school gets out! Music Fests.

Culloden Battlefield Visitor Center Interview With Catriona McIntosh


Memorial Cairn

A dreich and dreary summer day in 2016. The Scottish moor seemed seeped in moisture, contrasting heather in golds, ochres, reds and brown around me. Small wild flowers, many like my Pacific Coast homeland. I found myself pondering how many seeds had come with migrants from this Scottish landscape. We have the invasive broom and other plants that came from there. The land was lonely, even with vibrant colors. I stood on a path with massive graves beneath me. I felt the presence of the bones, the loss of life. Not a big battle by today’s standards, but at the time and place, a hard fought battle with Scottish soldiers fighting for the king they wanted, following a prince with little battle experience.

Visitor Centre Opening Times:
1 Feb – 31 Mar, 10:00-16:00
1 Apr to 31 May, 09:00-17:30
1 Jun to 31 Aug, 09:00-18:00
1 Sep to 31 Oct, 09:00-17:30
1 Nov to 23 Dec, 10:00-16:00

The feeling of remorse and remembrance can be felt, even if you do not come from Scotland or the area and did not grow up with the history. I read of the Battle of Culloden when I was at university and had been reading on the history of Ireland and Scotland, determined to someday get to see where the battles actually took place. Even with all of the reading, it had not prepared me. To stand on the moor and see that these men faced great odds, they may have been native to the landscape, but the landscape provided no shelter and with the might of the Government army bearing down with heavy artillery. Despite what many thought and portrayals of the Highlanders during Victorian times, the Jacobite Army did indeed have it’s own artillery and modernized weapons. The fighting of the location made it difficult to get some of the equipment there. The army was defending its food supply in Inverness. They say the battle was little more than an hour.


On a dreich July morning I boarded a public bus in Inverness to make the trek to the Culloden Battlefield Blàr Chùil Lodair Visitor Centre. I figured it was fitting weather and since the battle site had such tragic history involved, the weather really got me in the frame of mind to ponder on one of Scotland’s tragedies and great loss of life and culture. Many have recently become familiar with the battle through the recent TV series and books, Outlander, written by Diana Gabaldon. In Dragonfly in Amber, the heroes try to thwart a terrible battle that saw the loss of over 1500 men in April of 1746. The popularity of the books and then the series has sent massive amounts of people to its visitor center. And they have not been disappointed. The center may seem small, but the exhibit is very submersive and the field itself with it’s clan markers leaves a lot to the imagination, and yours will be filled. You may want to pick up some flowers and many visitors bring flowers to mark clan sites. If your family clan is not listed as being known to have been there, you can still leave them. Some came and fought with other clans and were not identified. Many had come from France and some Spanish to fight in support of Prince Charles.

culloden exterior

7 Myths About Culloden Busted

I have to say that it was one of the best exhibits I had been to in Scotland, very real and the access to the moor with a walking tour narration helps you feel the presence of so many ghosts. The narrations are done from both the perspective of the Government and Jacobite Armies. You will see how open the space is, the fact that the Jacobites had ground to defend that could be soggy at best. The fields are currently much drier than in the past. Spend some time looking at the clan maps that show where the officers and their men stood to help give you a visual of how the battle went.

Below is my interview with Catriona McIntosh at Culloden Battlefield Blàr Chùil Lodair Visitor Centre


31052272653_ae8dd78016How did your museum get it’s start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

Culloden Battlefield has been a site of interest since the time of the battle. From the 19th century the Gaelic Society for Inverness raised money and preserved aspects of the battlefield; and the Forbes of Culloden family added the iconic memorial cairn and headstones in 1881.

The National Trust for Scotland became involved in the conservation of the site from 1937, when Mr Alexander Munro of Leanach Farm presented two plots of land, and then later in 1944 Mr Hector Forbes of Culloden gave the memorial cairn, Kings Stables and the Graves of the Clans to care the National Trust for Scotland, and over the next decades the area expanded and changed.

As it now stands the current Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre officially opened in 2008. We have a permanent exhibition which takes the visitor through the Jacobite Rising of 1745 campaign from the roots to the culmination on the moor.

What do you consider the most challenging part of running a museum of your kind?

Culloden Battlefield is an emotive site and means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. One challenge that inspires us is talking to people about the realities of the conflict– we look after a site which has around 1500 people buried in mass graves, through our exhibition and learning programming we deal with the themes of women in conflict and child soldiering.  Culloden and the Jacobite Rising can be highly romanticised both in popular culture and in history books.

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

Our exhibition is permanent with programming and events varying within the season. The sites amazing volunteer team run costumed presentations and handling kits during peak season, these kits, highlights tours and presentations are updated and tweaked and each volunteer brings their own flair.

Sadly we don’t have much in the way of ‘behind the scenes’ on site other than staff offices.

A great place to look at in advance of coming to the site is our blog looking at everything from the battle to historical figures; and also check out our events page

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

Our visitor numbers are projected to increase this year and we build annual plan of events 6-8 months in advance of the next season – currently we are planning 2018 and beyond.

For more, check out:


Visa Yes or No


If you have been keeping up with our state of political affairs in the world, the clamping down of documentation for countries is not new, and now these documents are being even more restricted. Some countries have a reciprocating, no visa policy for traveling in a vacation or visiting relatives mode. Now the EU is demanding that several countries in their union be granted this status by the US, or US citizens will have to face visa requirements. Start checking with the embassies of the countries you will be visiting. Now that restrictions have started to get tighter on our shores, other countries are acting in kind towards the US. It looks to be that we will have to start asking for more visas in advance of travel, and not just rely on a passport to cover us when we enter the countries.

Our of curiosity, I started checking into the countries I planned on visiting this summer. In the past, Ireland and the UK have had a very easy travel coop existence as long as you are just traveling for a few weeks and don’t plan to work or live in the country. Coming in with you passport and declaring wether you were there for business or pleasure was all of the questions. Most of the world is not concerned with your last name unless they are starting to profile like what is starting to happen in the US. There will always be “no fly” watch lists in countries, but for the most part if you are a vacationer from the US, these two ports just need to see a passport. And if the referendum for Scotland’s exiting the UK goes to a vote again this year, they will be joining the EU. Things are shaking up all over.

Here’s an example of what I did:

On the UK Embassy website, you can search on their website on wether you need a visa for your country of origin:

After going through the checklist I got:

You won’t need a visa to come to the UK

However, you should bring the same documents you’d need to apply for a visa, to show to officers at the UK border. 

You may want to apply for a visa if you have a criminal record or you’ve previously been refused entry into the UK.

Well, I have not been refused entry before, but this tells me maybe I need to bring a drivers license and my birth certificate? (which would probably be a good idea if I had a particular last name that sounded like it was from another country). Wait, my surname is English from Dad’s side. Lucky me. But if you are a first generation immigrant, you may want the documents. I guess I should play it safe.

Next stop, Ireland. Ireland is still part of the EU, but each country has their own rules and regulations. Currently as of this writing, the US is listed under countries that do not need specific visas for tourism, however if you are working, performing in a festival, you will need to apply for visas. But again, if the European Parliament decides in June that the US is not playing fair, then a shake up could happen. Then it is unclear if countries will create their own policies or go by what the EU decides. It could be a very turbulent flight.

Keep up on the news. Relations are changing with the US and the rest of the world. The EU-US talks on visas are scheduled for June 2017, right in the heart of the travel season. Hopefully there will be a few months before rules will be enacted.


Parliament asks EU Commission to press for full US-EU visa reciprocity

EU Parliament Seeks To Reinstate Visas For American Travelers

Anatomical Museum at the University of Edinburgh Interview With Malcolm MacCallum

Phrenology Cabinet 19th century

Phrenology Cabinet 19th c.

One of the things Edinburgh is famous for is it’s surgeons and contribution to medicine. I was very fortunate in my trip to Edinburgh last summer to make it to the Surgeons’ Hall Museum in Edinburgh. Miles of specimens or curious body parts and displays. After walking some of the kirk yards and grave sites in Edinburgh, this was a fun theme to follow up on after the Under Edinburgh Tour. Sadly, I found that there was another museum based on the human body, Anatomical Museum at the University of Edinburgh, that is open only during certain months and hours. To let you know about this wee gem of a place, I contacted the curator, Malcolm MacCallum and asked him about this specialized museum.

This museum specializes in anatomy and is a great treasure trove opening a world of mystery and fun to a visitor. This museum has some famous inhabitants you will want to see, the infamous Burke and Hare are just some. If you are lucky to be touring Edinburgh during the school months, and the last weekend of the month, give it a whorl.

The museum sadly only have the skeleton of Burke and not Hare in the museum –Hare was taken to England and subsequently disappeared from the historical record. There are about five or six theories about where he ended up and what he did next.

burke (1)



Last Saturday of the month 10 am to 4 pm, museum is closed June and July.

corrosion cast of foot



The following is an interview with Malcolm

How did your museum get it’s start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

The museum dates back to 1798 when the Professor of Anatomy at the University donated a large collection of specimens and preparations to form a museum. This formed the nucleus of the collection which was added to over the following years. Over the last five years the museum has grown from a resource for medical students only, to now having limited public openings. Over the last five years professional museum staff have been employed for the first time (a curator and collections assistant), an inventory of the 12,000 collection objects has taken place and the museum was also last year awarded Accredited Status.

Has there been anything surprising that happened that you just ran with in an opportunity to create an exhibit?

We have been working with the Forensic Art MSc students at the University of Dundee who have been analysing some of our historic skulls and casts from our phrenology collection. This has resulted in a collaborative project where we ended up telling the story of a pirate called Alexander Tardy. Unexpectedly this meant we displayed a full sized reconstruction of Tardy in the museum.

What do you consider the most challenging part of running a museum of your kind?

By law we are required to have a licensed anatomist (one of the senior professors or technical staff) in the building anytime we open to the public. This heavily restricts when we can open to the public (currently the last Saturday of the month during University semesters only).

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

Ideas for new exhibitions can come from a dedicated student internship, an academic, or within the museum curatorial team.  We have an ‘Anatomical Museum’ app which gives a fly-through of the whole medical school, including the museum and includes 360 degree photos of the displays and some of the key objects.

Is there a committee that decides to feature something or a finding that becomes available and you build around that? Or does the planning involve a specific structure?

The Anatomical Museum collections are part of the general University of Edinburgh collections, so any exhibits we create would have to be presented to an exhibition planning committee for approval. In general the University exhibition planning process works on 2-3 year cycles. Within the Anatomical Museum itself we have more flexibility to change exhibits in the shorter term and often a short notice, this is something that happens on a small scale only .

Due to a current lack of substantial funding the exhibits do not regularly change. As an accredited museum we will in future be eligible to apply for funding for exhibition development.

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

We have been awarded a small grant to look at interpretation in the museum. Traditionally the labelling in the museum is for medical students so is quite complex for anyone not with medical knowledge to understand. By the end of 2017 we hope to introduce a secondary level of interpretation for families and more general audiences. We are also working with the City of Edinburgh Council to host a small display relating to a facial reconstruction project using one of our notorious 19th century skeletons (John Howison – ‘The Cramond Murderer’.

So you only have the skeleton of Burke ?

There was only a life mask made of Hare which we have on display.

 Burke would have gone to his death without ever knowing that Hare had given evidence against him. It is thought that Hare was given a disguise and escorted to Newington in Edinburgh as ‘Mr Black’. It is believed that he then headed to Dumfries and tried to take the mail coach to Portpatrick (possibly with an aim of getting back home to Ireland at some point) but that crowds recognised him and he had to change his plans. He was last seen two miles south of Carlisle and from there he disappears from the records.Burke brain cast

You can see a virtual tour of the museum here.


Burke and Hare 

Faces in the Cupboard 

Images copyright © The University of Edinburgh 2017.

Park Life


Hidden Parks in Dublin

It’s starting to feel like spring may just sneak up on us finally here in the PNW, and I have started planning trips it the parks of Portland for my annual spring bulb hunt. Since many a confused bulb has already come up and bloomed by the end of January, there may not be much to see in this theme. However I was reminded that when traveling, one of the best and for the most part free activities you can do in any city, is enjoy it’s public parks. And you don’t just wait for spring. I find any park has it’s seasonal stages that still just make it beautiful no matter what time of year, a place to seek refuge from urban sprawl or just be.

The UK and Ireland have some amazing public parks. They are grand affairs that can go on for miles. But there are also many hidden places, small neighborhood parks that offer a great place to sit, read, think and just be. And if you are very clever and have a portable hammock, you may find a place to hide. Don’t get caught.

I have tried to always live in a port town. Over the years most places I have been were either a bay port (San Francisco) or a river port (Portland OR). I have tried living inland and quickly found it to be torture. Just too much open space without a large body of water is not the right place for me. Port towns have a great deal of vibrant community and exposure to all things brought into port. However, culture and happenings can create a very vibrant buzz that sometimes can be a bit much, and you need a refuge and one that preferably includes green. When visiting another port town like Glasgow last season, I hit the ground running after 20 hours of flying and airports, desperate for walks and parks. I also needed to get my bearing in this great city. So, I got got the map app( and the Mophie battery pack) and started walking the Clyde in the very early morning hours filled with fog and seagulls. The fog left fairly quickly, the seagulls not.


Glasgow has quite a few large, robust park sites. Most cities with rivers have riverside parks and walkways. Off the Clyde the first major large park I hit was Glasgow Green, a very large expanse with the People’s Palace featured. I spent a good amount of time hanging around the fountain, and then decided I just wasn’t done with the Clyde. Then I just started wandering the Clyde. I think with park exploration, you can make an effort to go to the main famous parks in any town, when I lived in San Francisco, I knew every inch of Golden Gate Park, or so I thought. But the best parks are sometimes the ones less trodden so to speak, or the less glamorous ones that only the locals know about. Plus I like rivers, who doesn’t.

Don’t forget to download the Glasgow Walking app in iTunes

My other favorite parks in Glasgow were:

Kelvingrove and the River Kelvin area

Victoria Park

Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace

Bellahouston Park

River Clyde Side Parks

By the end of the first day I had covered half the city in just walking Clyde side and West and North West ends connecting parks. I then went in search for a tea house as I was dead tired and the jet lag finally caught up.

west end parks Glasgow

Glasgow West Side

Tea for Travelers

After my many walks in Glasgow, I kept finding tea time to be a great break before an evening jaunt. My favorite tea places were off the path, the best being The Hidden Lane Tea Room. I must say that the clotted cream and scone was amazing, especially when you are an American and well, sadly people in America just don’t get how to make real scones and clotted cream. Ours are like a cross breed of biscotti and scone. This place has a great fun eclectic feel and the staff are great and upbeat.

You can find them at:

The Hidden Lane (Argyle Court)

1103 Argyle Street


G3 8ND


Edinburgh, not to be left behind, has parks and bayside areas for leisure. Edinburgh can be quite foreboding to a newcomer and getting used to the flow of the city can be tackled fairly well by connecting up the parks. When I visit, I usually use the castle as a guide, how can you not, and follow the wynds and narrows. You get lost pretty easily, but can always find your way out. That’s part of the charm. However if you take a parks walk day, and connect up the parks, you will get to know where you are fairly quickly. The park at Holyrood large and usually filled with people during the summer months, can feel overcrowded at peak times, so finding smaller areas to stretch out a bit can be much more intimate.

West and East Princes Street gardens are a much better way to walk down Princes street I found. Many people go to the capitol to shop and that’s all well and good, but I would much rather take in a bit of green while getting to a destination. The easy stroll here allows you to still see the city’s great architecture but have the scent of some earth and loam while strolling. Inverleith Park is a bit north of the main city with wild wetlands feel going on with it’s marsh and good trails. A great place to take a piece and eat under a tree. You are still near the city, but you have plenty of leisure space with playing fields and pitches. The Botanical Gardens are near and if you can connect up with the Water of Leith, a green corridor area you can get a few miles in for a walk.

For more, check out the best parks and green spaces in Edinburgh

Best Parks and Attractions in Edinburgh


Dublin is new to me, so I have been researching the parks there in serious anticipation. Getting off a flight from Amsterdam I will be chomping at the bit to walk some of these parks. I like parks that you can just happen upon or are a part of a community. Blessington Street Basin looks like one of those idyllic spots that make you just want to live in the neighborhood. Now I am a sucker for roses, and any town that has rosegarden is a place that must be visited. The rose gardens at St. Anne’s Park are a sight to see and smell.

Park Gems

Best Glasgow Parks

Hidden Parks in Dublin

Belfast Gems

Cardiff by the Sea, Wales

London HIdden Spaces

Galway Gems by Locals