north east coast

Chhay at the wheel

We spent four days exploring the Banff coast east of Inverness in our first proper adventure with Oswald. Claire joined us too so we got to test the upstairs bed!

The first day was spent getting Oswald over the Glenshee pass. Having stopped for a delightful lunch at the very prim and proper Dunkeld we had our first mechanical breakdown (an anti-roll bar) which a proper old school mechanic assured us was ok for the rest of the weekend. We struck more trouble when we went to pick up Claire off the train with the only road through being closed due to a collision between a police car and an ambulance!

We were wild camping over the weekend so spent a fair bit of time scouring for campsites and then looking for somewhere to shower the following day, but it was much more fun that being stuck in the fairly nasty caravan parks that characterise the Scottish countryside.

We reached the coast at Findhorn and had some great seafood in the village before checking out the hippies at the Findhorn Foundation. We then tootled east looking for a place to camp via a series of picturesque villages. We ended up in an isolated car park on the outskirts of Lossiemouth, with the benefits of the facilities at the yacht club nearby. After a sunset dinner we briefly visited the local bar before retiring in the face of a scary metal band at full volume. Our sense of isolation was broken at about 6 am by a steady trickle of golfers arriving for an early morning round so that by the time we were up we were completely surrounded!

The star of Local Hero
The star of Local Hero

East of Lossimouth the scenery became even more spectacular with tiny fishing villages clinging to precipitously to the base of steep cliffs. Partiuclar favourites were Portsoy with fantanstic old warehouses by the harbour, the incredibly tiny Crovie where the space at the base of the cliffs is only just wide enough for the smattering of houses and can only be accessed by foot, and our finishing point Pennan the star of 80’s scottish classic Local Hero.

oswald goes to the borders

Storage Sheds made from upturned boats.
Storage Sheds made from upturned boats on Holy Island.

Our first test of Oswald’s camping abilities was successful if a little disorganized. Taking off after work on a Friday without proper preparation was our first mistake, as was not practicing our packing – we spent a large proportion of the weekend rifling through the cupboards for the thing we needed for that particular Oswald transformation.

We were headed to the Borders region in Scotland’s south east. We had never been past Edinburgh before, except taking in the fantastic coastal views from the (about to be nationalised) East Coast Mainline but had heard some great recommendations for the region.

On the Friday night we made it as far as St Abbs, descending into the misty harbour to wild camp after a late dinner at the pub in Coldringham at the top of the cliffs that line this coast. As it is a diving centre there were even free showers – a deluxe setup for wild capervan camping.

Come Saturday morning with an early start to clear camp the mist was still thick as we picked out way along the coast through little harbour towns. We made it to the border at Berwick on Tweed for breakfast. Having already skipped through the coastal areas of the Borders we decided to push down into England to Holy Island.

Reachable by a causeway only at low tide the mist was still thick as we ventured across creating a spooky impression with water lapping at each side of the road and the occasional sand dune looming out of the fog. By the time we had wandered about the island, with its intriguing ‘boat’ houses and visited the amazingly situated Lindesfarne Castle (renovated by Lutyens into a beautiful summerhouse) the fog had finally lifted revealing the beauty of the island.

After a farm shop lunch and a little cruise along the Northumberland coast we made a quick dash to the incredible Cragside House (to make the most out of our newly purchased National Trust membership). Although we arrived too late to get into the house itself the grounds were impressive enough!

On the Sunday we pottered back into the Borders this time through the inland route passing through picturesque towns such as Coldstream, Kelso and Melrose. A quick stop in the sprawling Galshiels to check out the quirky (listed) modernist football stadium, before a long lunch and exploration of the delightful Peebles rounded off our trip.

morocco by train


This post has been a long time coming as we have been in and out of our flat with plastering and heating issues, and I have a little crazy at work. A quick summary of our Christmas trip below – but the flickr set is probably more interesting.

Having enjoyed our train rides to France last summer so much, and with support from the man in seat 61 Chhay & I decided to test the limits of the system and catch the train to Africa!

Unfortunately there isn’t a direct service from Glasgow Central to Marrakesh, so we pieced our route together traveling down to London, onto the Eurostar to Paris, overnight (in first class spleandour) to Madrid, where we paused for a day to take a breath, before crossing Andalucia to Algeciras in the shadow of Gibralta (by now getting quite weary), crossed the straights by ferry to Tanger for our first taste of Africa before (just to push things that little bit further) we got the sleeper to Marrakesh.
The journey was quite remarkable covering some fantastic terrain, interspersed with 3 course meals int he dining car, and lots of card games – cuarenta developing as a particular favourite much to the amusement of our fellow passengers I suspect.

Hotel Continental

No boring details but we had a day of contemporary architecture in Madrid, enjoyed an intense (though quite middle eastern feeling) introduction to Africa in Tanger before we spent five very relaxing days over christmas in the charming walled coastal town of Essaouira. It is incredible picturesque with narrow streets, a bustling fishing harbour, with fresh seafood cooked in front of you on teh harbour front as well as a pristine beach. We spent most of our time in our quirky rooftop apartment, shopped in the local markets, ate pastries from the French bakeries, or sat in front of the open fire. Occasionally we would venture out into the souks and alleys, explore local restaurants or go for a wander along the ramparts but generally we kept activity to a bare minimum. The energy levels increased once we returned to Marrakesh on our last day with it’s heaving souks and bazaars.
A mini visit to Barcelona for New Years eve on the way back looked like it may have been a step to far as we struggled to find places suitable to our eclectic (and often mutually exclusive) standards but the city worked its charms, and we also manged to catch up with some old friends and see their new baby before we jumped back on the train home via Paris and London.


view from our apartment

We spent a fantastic few days visiting Liverpool for the first time at the end of November. Mersyside has the honour of being the European City of Culture this year so there was plenty of things to take in.

We started things off in epic fashion on Thursday night with local lads Echo & the Bunnymen returning and playing Ocean Rain with the accompaniment of a full symphony orchestra. The Bunnymen played a straight up set first off, which was difficult to get into as we were up in the rafters of the totally anonymous (but appropriately named) Echo Arena. Once the orchestra came on the atmosphere was electric, closely matching the magic of their set at Connect last year for personal impact.

metropolitan cathedral

On Friday we tootled about the wonderfully intricate ropewalks areas hunting down abandoned brick warehouses and back lane bars. We also checked out a few of the art Biennial installations (including Ai Wei Wei’s spider and the immaculately detailed extension to the Bluecoat gallery) wandered pasted the modernist catholic metropolitan cathedral (Above) and down the road to its equally grandiose Anglican sibling (top). After a late lunch and a few bottles of wine too many at crazy Keith’s in suburban Lark Lane, Claire joined us off the Glasgow train and we met a friend of a friend for some illegal noodles at the intriguing Static Gallery with the friendly staff from ShedKM, which lead to a small tour of some of Liverpool’s finer drinking establishments as evidenced by the cheery faces below!


After a long sleep in on Saturday we wandered through the eerie mist that had descended on the city to view the somewhat unfocused Le Corbusier exhibition in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral. On the way we chalked up visits to a couple more interesting Art Biennial installations including Atelier Bow Wow’s Rockslide performance space.

That evening we attended to unofficial closing party for the Independent Biennial a wacky space themed poetry cum electro performance with great sets from wave if your really there and we have band who are both worth looking out for if you fancy a boogie.

Sunday morning we squeezed in a quick visit to the fantastic FACT which included a curiously disturbing noise art installation, as well as an installation of Yoko Ono’s ladders in the evocative bombed out ruins of St Luke’s church, before we hopped back on the train totally knackered but thoroughly entertained.

ceilidhing capers


We made up for a distinct lack of invites to scottish dances in our two years in the country by organising our own outing to the very entertaining regular Friday night Ceilidh in the ballroom of local institution Sloan’s.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we stepped things up a gear the following weekend and headed to Fife for a Charity Dance with the pro’s. Although a little outclassed, we had a great time staying with our friend Lynn’s family near St Andrew’s, and managed a quick visit to the home of Golf on the Sunday morning after the dance. Although we didn’t spot any royals wandering about (or manage any golf for that matter) Chhay did manage to fly her kite on the beach (cue Chariots of Fire music) and we had a good potter about the delightful town and harbour.
chhay flying the kite


out there

My new office kindly took us all to Venice for a weekend to witness the opening of the 11th Venice Architectural Biennale, in particular the opening party for the GHA designed Scottish Pavilion. I had nothing to do with it as it had all happened before I joined the practice but was kindly taken along for the ride, and Chhay joined us along with a solid contingent of WaG’s (and not forgetting the HaB’s too!)

I was excited to visit Venice for the first time despite the tourist mecca that it is renowned to be. The combination of lots of boats, windy lanes and Italian architecture is too close to my heart to ignore. Our explorations of the maze of alleyways was limited by torrential rain on the Saturday, which we spent tucked in another of my ideal urban ingredients – a tiny corner bar open to the street and plastic bag clad masses.

Sunday proved to be a little drier so we packed an architectural meg day, starting in the national pavilions in the Giardini before a hyperspeed tour of the architectural (or sculptural really) delights of the Arsenale, where the starchitects had come out to play – with swoopy, eye candy from the likes of Zaha and Frank.

Highlights were the Belgian pavilion filled only with tonnes of confetti in an exploration of emptiness, the indescribably beautiful pencil drawings on the walls of the Japanese pavilions and the mind numbing, literally disorientating saturation of ideas bursting out of the Italian pavilion.

Naturally a weekend was not even close to enough time to explore it all, and the next biennale may provide the perfect excuse to return in a few years time!

basque country

foi gras

Apologies for the serious lack of posts – I have a tender due out in a couple of weeks and we have been quite busy.

Reaching back into the depths of August we had a fantastic week in the south of France to celebrate the 30th birthday of our friend (and early introducer to all things Glaswegian) Nathalie. It appears that much like kiddies parties which are all bouncy castles and hired entertainers, the requirements for 30ths are escalating somewhat – we met someone on the weekend who is hiring a Scotish castle for his!

biarritz harbour at sunset

In any case a dozen of us had a fantastic time in Nathalie’s parents village having rented an enormous house for the week. Our days centred on wine, cheese & ham with the occasional effort to get out of a hammock and check out the surrounding countryside, wineries, mountains or the Basque coast at St Jean-de-Luz and Biaritz for seafood and sunsets (above).

Even getting there was quite fun as we tested the limits of the Europe by rail approach with an epic 14 hour trip right through from Glasgow to almost the spanish border in one day on the way there, with a more lesiurely sleeper to Paris, a days traipsing about and an afternoon train home on the way back. A highly reccomended way to travel with minimal security, delicious picnics and free wi-fi (for the UK leg in any case) making for a much more dignified mode of transport (and in this case it was even cheaper than flying!).

london in the summertime

serpentine pavillionWe snuck down to London for the first time in over year at the end of July, to see friends, catch the tail end of the London Festival of Architecture, visit a few galleries and generally see London in summer for the first time.

It was a great weekend, we popped by the just opened Serpentine Pavillion by Frank Gehry (above), although we couldn’t get in because of a fancy pants party, as well spending a fantastic half a day in the Psycho Buildings exhibition at the awesomely brutalist Hayward Gallery. I suppose it was to be expected given our profession but the artists interpreting architecture lent itself to some absolutely brilliant pieces in my opinion – including a spooky dolls house city by Rachael Whiteread a surreal frozen explosion by the Cubans Los Carpinteros and the chance to paddle about on the roof of the gallery courtesy of Gelitin’s Normally, Proceeding and unrestricted without title (below)

sailing on the sky

We caught up with old friends and farewelled some too, there aren’t many Australians left it seems. We had time to more fully explore the east end of the city wandering about the hipster paradised of Hoxton & Shoreditch, getting our fill of vietnamese (as we can’t find any in Glasgow) and trying out the eco-friendly Waterhouse – which in it’s suitable obscure location served up excellent fare although I was skeptical about prawns flown in from Thailand irrespective of the sustainability of their production.

howe in glasgow

falkirk wheel

We are in the middle of a busy 6 weeks, and currently are broadbandless at home (not such a bad thing for a household that spends 8 hours a day in front of a screen anyway) so I’ve been a bit lax with the updating.

Reaching back into the end of June our friend Howe visited for a weekend from Copenhagen (via Saigon via Adelaide via Malaysia), unfortunately he lucked out with the weather so we ducked showers all weekend but still managed to catch a fair bit of stuff.

After a late night repast at favourite haunt Pintxos on the Friday night after he arrived we did our usual customised walking tour on the Saturday – including taking in the excellent Haptic exhibition at the Lighthouse, and dinner at Malaysian Chinese gem Rumours.

Sunday we made yet another attempt at getting to Pitlochry to visit Scotland’s smallest distillery, however a late start and some poor weather saw us turn back at Loch Tay. An overly long diversion took us to the Falkirk Wheel (above)for the first time – faintly disappointing in a typical Millenium Lottery Funding sort of way.

afloat on the bay of naples

For the second part of our Italian adventure we headed to a small island off the coast of Naples to pick up a charter yacht for a weeks sailing. Our aim was to sail to the Amalfi coast and explore the islands in the bay of Naples – Ischia, Capri and our base Procida.
Procida (below) itself is small un-touristy fishing and yachting enclave full of fantastic old buildings packed on to hillsides and a crazy system of narrow windy streets. It was a small mission to get there – including a thorough telling off from the Naples ticket inspectors for boarding a tram without a ticket, but delightful once we arrived.

Procida Harbour

Once we had settled on board Zippella (below) we headed out of the picturesque Marina di Chiaiolella to headed for neighbouring Ischia for the evening. A brisk breeze soon had a heeling nicely enjoying the sunshine and breeze on our faces as we made for the port of Sant’Angelo, however a couple of hours in, as the wind picked up and we beat towards port our rather tired looking mainsail tore, reminding Dugs and I of the somewhat haphazard nature of sailing!


After several failed attempts at mooring (our anchoring technique took some time to rediscover) we puttered in to the village and had a fantastic seafood feast served by a crazy lady at a little restaurant situated on an isthmus looking back at the town.

We toddled back to the boat as the wind started to pick up, and headed to bed only to be woken around 2 o’clock in the morning by rain streaming in through the portholes, and our dinghy about to launch it self from the deck. A quick visual check through the gloom backed up by the GPS had our anchor dragging so we nosed in a little closer and tried to sleep, it was probably lucky our somnolence wasn’t too deep because our anchoring still wasn’t up to scratch and at 5 in the morning we had dragged another 500 m and were heading towards the beach! We adjusted again and had a fitful rest till morning proper.

With our broken sail we had to readjust our plans to try and get it repaired so dawdled back to our home port with a delightful stop for lunch and a swim in the harbour at Ischia Porto (below) just across from Procida.


Once we were back in our base marina we had some bad news – it turned out our mainsail would take longer than expected to be repaired. We had time to explore the town around the marina and get a decent nights sleep before Claire headed off to make it back to work(!) while the rest of us decided to press on without our main. Thankfully we had following winds for the rest of our trip and hardly missed it.

We nosed out and set sail for Capri with another beautiful day for sailing. A bit of an oily swell and Dug’s somewhat amateur butchering of a fish we caught trawling had Chhay & I a little queasy, but by the time we rounded the spectacular looking Capri and settled into a bay on the southern side away from the 140 euro per night marina we were feeling better. We headed ashore and wandered up to Capri itself to lower the tone significantly. A 6 euro gelati soon had us scurrying back aboard to cook dinner for ourselves however.

The bathtub shape of our boat didn’t make for an easy anchorage and as a storm hit again in the small hours we found ourselves dragging once more, this time next to a rather severe looking cliff face! The next morning dawned hot and clear but as we made a quick dash towards our the Amalfi coast to at least get in sight of our initial destination the weather closed in. Having decided not to make landfall we spun around and headed back to Procida, thankfully the wind had turned with us and we could reach our way back at a healthy pace as the islands faded in and out with passing squalls. As we neared the southern tip of Procida the weather cleared and we crept into a delightful bay in the lee of a fort with precarious fishermen’s houses clinging to the sheer hills (below).

Marina di Corricella

With our anchor firmly set and the calmest waters we had experienced we popped in to the town and explored the back streets before settling in to a fantastic seafood feast right on the edge of the fishing harbour, with launches full of people arriving and stepping straight off the boat and to their table.

The final morning we puttered around the island and back to our marina before starting an epic (bus, ferry, tram, train, bus, flight) trip back (40 hours for Dugs) and another night in Rome for Chhay & I.