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Entrance to Greyfriars Kirkyard


Greyfriars Bobby’s grave

An unusual sight in Edinburgh, Scotland, that we made a point of finding

This is the second animal story that I mentioned in the previous post about the Hoover Dam dog.

Say Greyfriars and most people think of Greyfriars Bobby. Greyfriars Bobby (May 4, 1855-January 14, 1872) was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19thcentury Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner (who died in 1858) until he died himself on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known in Scotland, through several books and films, notably one by Walt Disney (“Greyfriars Bobby”, 1961) and a newer one called “The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby” (2006).

The details of parts of this story are sometimes disputed, especially whether Bobby’s master, John Gray, was a shepherd, a farmer, or a nightwatchman for the Edinburgh City Police. What is true is that John Gray was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard (Church Yard), the Kirkyard surrounding Greyfriars Church in the old town of Edinburgh. The little dog spent the rest of his life, the next 14 years, sleeping on his master’s grave. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, who was also the director of the Scottish SPCA, paid for Bobby’s license and collar. And many people brought food for the dog.


Greyfriars Bobby statue

What is also true is that the city buried Bobby just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not too far from John Gray’s grave. The little dog’s grave is now quite a tourist attraction, as is a nearby sculpture of the dog. A year after Bobby died, an English philanthropist, Lady Burdett-Coutts, was so charmed by this story that she commissioned a drinking fountain topped with a bronze statue of Bobby.  The sculptor was William Brodie. It’s at the corner of Candlemaker Row and the George IV Bridge, opposite the entrance to the kirkyard and a pub called, of course what else?, Greyfriars Bobby. It’s said that this is the most photographed statue in Scotland. We were no exception!


Greyfriars Bobby pub

The actual Greyfriars Kirkyard is also interesting. It was once the garden of a Franciscan friary, and in 1562 Queen Mary of Scots made it a cemetery for the overflow of corpses from St Giles graveyard in another part of Edinburgh. Greyfriars Kirkyard is supposedly the most haunted site in Edinburgh, in Scotland even. Some evening tours of “Haunted Edinburgh” come here, but we never did that.



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Lovely fall colors


Setting for The Bean


In spite of frigid temperatures, crowds still pose at The Bean

“The Bean” is a popular destination, no matter the weather

Frigid weather at the beginning of November wasn’t enough to keep people away from Millennium Park in Chicago and especially around the enormously popular Cloud Gate Sculpture, more commonly known as “The Bean”.

The fall colors were still very pretty but the temperature was really cold when we were there. However, we decided to go look at the Bean anyway, as did hundreds, maybe thousands of others. Just bundle up and do it!




Entering the “omphalos”

The Beanwas designed by talented Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. It soon became one of the most popular photo ops in the city, due to its unique reflective properties. Supposedly Kapoor was inspired by liquid mercury, and the resultant surface reflects and distorts the city’s skyline. Youcan get great photos, not only of the Cloud Gateand all the amazing reflections of the city’s buildings on it, but also of the actual skyline framed beyond the sculpture.

Most visitors walk around the outside first, and then go underneath the 12-foot high arch of Cloud Gate. On the underside is the “omphalos” (Greek for “navel”), a concave chamber that warps and multiplies reflections.Kids (of all ages) enjoy the fun-house mirror effect that this creates—including me and my family. We hear amazed gasps and astonished comments, as people try to get pictures of their multiple selves. Some of the reflections are smaller or larger than you’d expect and at some angles it’s a little like playing “Where’s Waldo?” trying to find yourself or a friend.


Looking upwards


Even the little kids are fascinated

Here are a few fun photos. In the next post, I’ll talk about the Bean in more detail.

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Dogs On Parade


Outside the Hilton Hotel—note too that at that time the Hotel Workers were on strike


Hilton Hotel sponsored dog


Relish Chicago Hot Dogs, plaza near Art Institute

K9s For Cops

Public art installation brightens the streets of Chicago and raises money for a good cause

Over the years, in various cities at different times, we’ve had a lot of fun tracking down colorful and fanciful animals on parade—- we’ve seen Cows on Parade, Horses on Parade, Buffalo on Parade. Although it’s not always animals: in 2014, St Louis had 250 Cakes dotted around the city in celebration of the 250-year history of the city.





Outside the Blackstone. Sponsored by American Knights Motorcycle Club, for Officer Caspar Lauer, artist Jennifer Jacobucci

We were in Chicago in September and discovered Police Dogs in front of some buildings and hotels. Turns out they were part of a new public art installation. Chicago had “Cows on Parade” in 1999, a cow art phenomenon that spread to more than 50 countries around the world. Then in 2014 and 2015 the horses of honor “Horses on Parade” featured 60 or so hand-painted horses, honoring police officers killed in the line of duty. Now, there are dogs.

This “Dogs on Parade” was put on by the K9s Cops, and the Magnificent Mile Association. What a clever name, K9=canine!

Around 100 hand-painted fiber-glass German Shepherd dogs were standing guard along Michigan Ave until Sept 30, 2018, to honor the 65 canines in the Chicago Police department K9 Unit. After Sept 30 they were auctioned off online, the proceeds supporting families of first responders killed in the line of duty.


Outside the Blackstone


Sponsored by Guardian Security Service, K9 Cosmo, Artist Erika Vazzana


Security dog sign


Security Dog, outside Eataly

The 54-inch-tall fiberglass dog statues are part of the K9s for Cops campaign to pay tribute to the canine unit, honor fallen Chicago police officers, provide financial assistance to families of those wounded or killed in the line of duty, and raise money to support the Spay and Neuter program offered by PAWS Chicago.

The statues are sponsored by local companies or individuals and designed by local volunteer artists—including three Chicago police officers. For Chicago police officers these animals are very special, more like people than animals in many ways. The statues represent the canine partners who have helped police officers for generations. Each statue takes on a different persona, so it was very interesting to try and find more of them. Each dog also has a plaque, telling the name of the sponsor, the name of the K9, and the artist. Unfortunately, in our couple of days in the city we only found a few, but it gave us an idea of what it was all about.


Sponsored by Cook County Crime Stoppers and Marriot downtown, K9 Tippy, Artist Ray Villanueva

white2Last year was the first year of the “Chicago’s K9s for Cops” campaign and it was so successful that they decided to repeat it this year.

The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to honoring the lives of our fallen heroes. The Foundation provides support and assistance to the families of Chicago police officers who are killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty.


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Note the commemorative wall behind the statue


View from the Spirit


Part of the Thomas wall

Chicago has a fantastic collection of public art, of all shapes, sizes and themes. Over the years we’ve tried to track down as many as we can, and I’ve written about many of them already. We spent last weekend in the city and had the chance to wander around Grant Park more than we have before, thus discovering more public art.

This lovely sculpture, the Spirit of Music, in Chicago’s Grant Park is also known as the Theodore Thomas Memorial.





Note the face on the lyre

Theodore Thomas(1835-1905) was the founder of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1891 and The Spirit of Music is a tribute to him. Under his directorship, Chicago gained a reputation for musical excellence, which continues today. The figure, and the monument behind it, were sculpted in 1923 by Czech-American artist and sculptor Albin Polasek(1879-1965). Polasek came to Chicago to head the sculpture department at the Art Institute School. Instead of creating a sculpture of Thomas, Polasek decided on a tall bronze muse holding a lyre. The artist said that the face on the lyre was modeled on his own face.




mooseThe half-ball base on which the muse stands is decorated with different animals, such as a moose, a bison, and a bear—also quite striking.

The monument is in the strip of park along Michigan Avenue, almost opposite the Blackstone.

There is a museum to Albin Polasek in Winter Park, Florida. I wrote about it here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/albin-polasek/and here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/masterpiece-of-the-week/april/



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Inside CASC our first night

What is CASC?

As I mentioned earlier, our taxi driver had told us about this pub, so we went looking for it our first evening after dinner. It’s a great place and we’re glad we found it, as we returned a number of times on different evenings with various other conference attendees.

It’s on Stirling Street, in what’s known as the Merchant area. Behind the Aberdeen Indoor Market is a warren of small streets and alleyways, some of which run under Union Street—a fact that got us very confused at first. But we found CASC, opposite a large restaurant called Carmelite Bar and Grill.

CASC has a small entrance and you go downstairs to find the action.


CASC is an acronym for Cigars,Ale, Scotch whisky, Coffee—quite a clever idea. They call themselves CASC Nation and they pride themselves on many craft beers, many whiskys, and fresh-made artisan coffees. Their fun symbol is a kind of devil with a goat head.


A long bar dominates the space with a long line of spigots for beers on tap. There’s an impressive beer list, a humidor, and a ploughman’s lunch (or dinner) menu. Fun and different.

Beers are color-coded by style, and a huge board is lit up with that information. But sadly, none of our cameras could pick up those different colors.


List of beers


groupThere are also many whiskys, which most of our party tried to sample on different nights. (Remember, in Scotland it’s whiskyand in Ireland it’s whiskey!).

The first night, 2 beers and a glass of wine cost us £15 (about US$ 21)—not too bad for the UK.

www.cascnation.com(you must be 21 to enter the site)


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AJbeerBrew Dog Pub

Castlegate branch, 1 Union Street, Aberdeen

This summer, we were visiting Aberdeen again, for a conference, and got a taxi from Aberdeen airport to our hotel. The taxi driver told us about 2 places, which she really liked, that were new to us: Brew Dog pub, and CASC (see next post). It turned out that Brew Dog was right below our Royal Athenaeum Suites, so it was a perfect location for us—just go downstairs and next door.

Brew Dog is a spacious ground-level pub, with high and low tables of all sizes, serving craft beer, handmade coffees and some food (plus other drinks, if you want). I’m not really a big beer drinker (although I like to try a little), so it was good to see that their wine list wasn’t too bad either.



It has a lovely atmosphere and really friendly servers and seems to be very popular, as it was always buzzing. It’s a place that welcomes dogs and there were many in there, each time we visited. They provide doggie water bowls and the first time I didn’t realize where the bowls were placed, and kicked one over!



There’s also a “BottleDog”, a huge fridge with hundreds of beer takeaway offerings. This ‘BottleDog’ off-license is a nice addition as you can buy beer to take away or, for a corkage fee, drink it onsite—a great idea if you want to try something that’s not on tap at the moment.


Part of the beer menu


deciding what we want

The large basement section is called the Underdog, which also has music until late many nights—a popular local night club.




RwindowThe pub is a success story. One Brew Dog pub already existed in Aberdeen and the company, started out by two local guys, wanted to expand, so they converted the ground floor of the Athenaeum building. Hence the slogan “Made in Aberdeen”. There are also branches of BrewDog in Dundee and Stirling, Scotland. They have now also gone international, with some BrewDogs in London, one in York, one in Columbus, USA, Florence, and in Berlin (I’m sure there may be more, but these are just examples). They would also like to open in other countries, such as Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Zurich. It’s a company that pays a living wage and the couple of servers we chatted to seem very happy to work there.



With our Japanese friends, Satoshi and Max

tasting map

Beer tasting map—what fun

We popped in a couple of times, and also came with our Japanese friends who were at the conference too—they loved it. The beer is pretty good, with very interesting/fanciful names, such as Jet Black Heart; Elvis Juice; Punk IPA. It also has other drinks, of course, and has a pretty decent wine list too. But it’s not a place where I’d personally choose to eat, as they offer just typical pub grub really, like big burgers, fries, chicken wings. Although our grandson had a snack here one evening (big burger) and it did look pretty good, I must say.




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A few years ago we were flying to San Juan, on our way to the island of Grenada. A lovely sunset inspired me to get poetic!

At sunset                                                     sunset

A rainbow band across the sky horizon.

We fly into the blue-indigo-violet band

Taking us to a magical place

Another place, another time.

The colors deepen,


We continue into the night.”


I remember ROY G BIV,             sunset3

That BIV band has my favorite colors




“A treasured moment

To fly into the band,

Into my colors briefly

Before they fade and die for today

We leave a golden glow behind us

Where the sun was.”                                      sunset2


A Tanka:

We fly into the

Blue Indigo Violet band

Of sunset rainbow.

Treasured moment, becoming

One with our cosmos briefly.”


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