The Scamp Scales the Monument

I’m still having visa issues, and still not settled in Scotland, so I decided that today I would be a little bit of a tourist and visit some of my favorite places in Scotland. One of the things that I always wanted to do was climb to the top of the Sir Walter Scott Monument.

According to the Scott Monument website:

Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on the 15th August 1771, in a tenement flat at the head of College Wynd in the Old Town. He was the ninth of twelve children, of whom the first six died in infancy. His father was a ‘Writer to the Signet’ (solicitor) and a sober and strict Calvinist. His mother Anne Rutherford was the daughter of a professor of Medicine at Edinburgh University. Both parents were from old Borders families, whose histories inspired Scott’s later literary work.

He developed polio as an infant, and was sent to his grandparents’ farm at Sandyknowe in the Borders to recuperate. The farm is situated beside Smailholm Tower, an inspiring medieval fortified house on a dramatic rocky knoll. Various remedies were attempted to cure his infirmity, including a year in Bath ‘taking the waters’ to no avail – he had a limp and periods of illness throughout the rest of his life.

In 1779 he went to the Royal High School of Edinburgh and became a good Latin scholar. He retained an interest in languages and taught himself Italian, Spanish and French while at University from 1783, and later translated ballad’s and play’s of Burger and Goethe from German. He studied law and was called to the Bar as an Advocate (Barrister) in 1792.

From his early days Walter Scott was popular and at ease in society. He met Robert Burns ‘the boast of Scotland’ when he was fifteen years old, and later became friends with many famous people.

He was highly regarded by fellow poets James Hogg and William Wordsworth, and artists like William Allan and Henry Raeburn painted portraits of him. Scott met the Duke of Wellington in France while researching ‘Life of Napoleon’, which Goethe praised highly, and he was also respected and equally friendly with his servants, such as Tom Purdie.

The monument was built in 1840, stands 200 feet 6 inches high, and with no lift, takes 287 steps to get to the top. It was quite crowded today, but I decided that I could use some good views of the city, so I made the trek to the top.

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Unfortunately, by the time I made it to the top, there were so many people on the platform that I was too afraid to take my camera out and take pictures. I was also too afraid to take chicken out as well. I’m really glad I climbed all the way up though because the views reminded me of why I love the city so much, and why I packed up my life in California to come here. I know all of the visa work will settle itself, but it has been a constant stress, and a jumble of incorrect information.

I’m glad the weather held, and since the next month is going to be spent writing research questions, drafting ethics proposals, and getting my calendar set for my research, I may not get to see the outside again for awhile. After the conference in Birmingham, I have a lot of notes and info to sort through, and a lot connections to make. I surprised myself b how social I was, and how many really important connections that I made. There may just be a future for me in the field of Assessment Development.

The Scamp and Beantown: Day 4

Three words: Boston Public Library

I’m in love with libraries. Outside of teaching, working in libraries is the only job I have ever had. The Boston Public library is really a thing of beauty. According to their website:

Established in 1848, by an act of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, the Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. The Boston Public Library’s first building of its own was a former schoolhouse located on Mason Street that was opened to the public on March 20, 1854. The library’s collections approximated 16,000 volumes, and it was obvious from the day the doors were first opened that the quarters were inadequate.

In December of that same year the library’s Commissioners were authorized to locate a new building upon a lot on Boylston Street. The present Copley Square location has been home to the library since 1895, when architect Charles Follen McKim completed his “palace for the people.”

In the latter half of the 19th century, the library worked vigorously to develop and expand its branch system. Viewed as a means to extend the library’s presence throughout the city, the branch system evolved from an idea in 1867 to a reality in 1870, when the first branch library in the United States was opened in East Boston. Between 1872 and 1900, 21 more branches began serving communities throughout Boston’s diverse neighborhoods.

In 1972, the library expanded its Copley Square location with the opening of an addition designed by Philip Johnson. Today, the McKim building houses the BPL’s vast research collection and the Johnson building holds the circulating collection of the general library and serves as headquarters for the Boston Public Library’s 24 branch libraries.

The entrance to the library is a grand marble staircase with two lions on guard.

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Sus and I were able to wander around and see the murals and the art that seems to be around every corner, and made it to the rare book room that houses some letters and correspondence from famous authors.

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In addition to the books, the library had some maps on display. I would love to find some prints of them and hang them on my wall.

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The library was not the only place of beauty we ventured into though. We also went into Trinity Church. Recognized as one of the most significant buildings in America, Trinity Church took shape on marshland in Boston’s Back Bay in the 1870’s. It really is beautiful building, and the pictures that I took really do not do it justice.

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Our next destination landed us at the Skywalk Observatory 55 floors above the city. We had a 360 degree view of Boston, and learned some interesting facts about the immigrants that choose to settle in the city.

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We ended the day at the Parish Cafe. They are known for sandwiches made by celebrity chefs. I had a couple of ciders and an amazing chicken sandwich while Sus and I debated education, Obamacare and Israel. We found an H&M (Sus’ Mecca) and shopped some sale items.

This was the first day that the cold and all of the walking really got to me. My joints were stiff and sore, and I was in a little bit of pain. I try not to complain about my Lupus too much, but four days of nonstop walking really got to me.

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I have never been so happy for layers in my life. I ended the day preparing for a very important interview and trying not to be nervous about the future.

The Scamp and Latvia

I made a mistake when I was in Helsinki….I didn’t have a plan. I thought I was part of a tour group, when really the tour company provided an hour long tour around the city and then dropped us off in the shopping district for 8 hours. I did not have a map or really any direction, and while I had a Lonely Planet guidebook, it was not much help.

I decided that my time in Riga would not be like that. I spent the four hour bus ride reading about some of the things that I wanted to see, and booked a hotel in the center of the action. I grabbed a good map from the front desk and used Google maps to make a list of how to get to each of the places. I got into Riga around dinner time, and was absolutely knackered from the whirlwind few days, so after a quick bite to eat, I took advantage of the really nice hotel bathtub and my copy of the Bell Jar. I was asleep pretty early and woke up the next morning excited to start the day.


There was really only one thing that was on my list of place to see in Riga: the only synagogue in the city. After Riga was occupied by the Nazis, all the synagogues in the city were burnt down on July 4, 1941. The Peitav Shul was the only synagogue in Riga to escape the common fate because it was located in the Old Town and there was a risk that the fire would spread to nearby buildings. During the war the synagogue was used as a warehouse. After the war it was learned that the eastern wall of the synagogue, where the bookcase with Torah scrolls (Aron Kodesh) was located, had been concealed. The synagogue did not disappoint. It was absolutely breathtaking. The rabbi let me in and allowed me 30 minutes alone in the majestic space.






In all honesty, I could devote an entire post to it. I felt peaceful in there, and felt a small connection with family who I will never get to meet, but may have gone there. Latvia was never on my radar as a place to visit, but when my aunt told us that that was where our family was from, it became a place of interest for me.

In addition to the synagogue, I saw all of the tourist attractions. By far my favorite was the Cat House. The legend has it that the wealthy tradesman who commissioned the building was refused membership of the Riga Tradesmen’s Guild, mostly just called the Great Guild. The central element of both versions is the anecdote that seeking retribution the tradesman had two copper statues of angry-looking cats with arched backs and raised tails placed on the turret rooftops with their tails turned towards the house of the Great Guild, situated across the street.


I could live in a house like that. The Riga Cat is also somewhat famous.


I also visited the oldest set of houses in Riga, as well as the Freedom Monument and a beautiful Russian Orthodox cathedral.


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I took a hundred pictures. I walked around for hours admiring the views, and because I had a tourist friendly map and a plan, fell in love with the city. It reminded me a lot of my first few days in Scotland. I had a map, and my ipod. I wasn’t worried about getting lost, and I was happy to be on an adventure. I put on some of my favorite playlists and allowed myself to really get a feel for the city. I ended the day with pelmeni, only the most delicious dumplings ever, and then a Skype chat with some of my favorite ladies from Scotland. All in all, it was a great little excursion and just what I needed to curb my wanderlust for a bit.

The Scamp in Helsinki

I will never make fun of my mom and her love for guided tour vacations again. I like to go on solo adventures, and I love exploring new places, but exploring a place where I don’t speak the language and the map doesn’t exactly make sense does not lend itself to a good day of sightseeing.

I went on a mini guided bus tour of the city, but then had a whole day to myself to wander around alone. The day started off with a cruise from Tallinn to Helsinki


I did not take this photo. My butt was on a boat at 7 am and the sun was not out yet. This is what the boat looks like though.

I spent the day wandering through the maze of shopping centers and looking at the beautiful architecture. I had a really hard time reading the map, so I made a few circles before I was able to find some of the museums.

The only problem was that most of them are closed on Mondays.


I was able to see some of the wonderful architecture



My favorite part of the day in Helsinki was visiting The Temppeliaukio Kirkko (Rock Church) is a thrilling work of modern architecture in Helsinki. Completed in 1969, it is built entirely underground and has a ceiling made of copper wire. According to Sacred Destinations:

The Temppeliaukio Kirkko was designed by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. Construction began in 1968 and was finished a year later in 1969. The architects chose a rocky outcrop rising about 40 feet above street level, and blasted out the walls from the inside.

The Temppeliaukio is now most commonly known by its English name, the Rock Church or Church in the Rock. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Helsinki and frequently full of visitors. 





The church was beautiful. It was peaceful and quiet, and surprisingly warm inside. Chicken and I sat among the other tourists and said a quick prayer before we moved on for the day. I would have stayed there a lot longer if I knew I wasn’t going to be able to read a map.

It is funny to me that I got lost in Scotland a lot that first month. Not once did it bother me. I had my ipod and a playlist of good music and I would laugh at myself and the things I stumbled on accidentally.  That was not quite the case here. I was a little discouraged that the map let me down, and not enough people understood English well enough to help me. After awhile, I was tired of wandering alone, and wished I had someone there to take funny pictures with, and someone who would help me pose chicken in front of all the landmarks.

I’m now in Latvia, and I am going to try and break the cycle and read a map in Latvian tomorrow. I have a Lonely Planet guide books, a map of the city, and a mission to locate a Jewish Synagogue that was only spared during WWII because of how close it was to Old Town and where the Nazis were occupying. Lonely Planet also suggests I go on an art walk, which I think sounds like a great idea. If I had enough time, I would have planned a trip to the national park outside the city to tour the castles, and bungee jump from a cable car (don’t worry mom, there is not enough time for that to happen).

I’m excited for a scamp around the place of my mother’s people, and a chance to eat some very yummy pelmeni.