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What is a bothy?

bothy (pronounced both-ee) — A small hut or cottage in the wilderness that’s usually unlocked and open for anyone to use for free.

You might have wondered what that is after recent news headlines featured a family rescued by the “Hogwarts Express” steam train of Harry Potter movies after they were stranded at a remote bothy in the Scottish Highlands.

The Scottish Bothy Bible book

Jon and Helen Cluett and their four children were staying at the Essan bothy on Loch (Lake) Eilt, about 130 miles northwest of Glasgow. After their canoe was swept away by a swollen river, the Cluetts called the police, which arranged for the train to pick them up, according to a BBC news report.

A bothy — also called a byre, or cowshed — is a rustic place to rest tired feet or sleep, sheltered from the wind and rain that pummels much of Scotland. The Mountain Bothies Association maintains about 100 of these basic shelters in remote areas across Great Britain.

For Americans, bothies are similar to the Appalachian Mountain Club huts available for rests or overnight lodging along part of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail.

Similarly in Scotland, it’s popular to sleep or rest at bothies along multi-day walks and hikes. Each bothy differs slightly, but they usually do not have water or a toilet. Most bothies have a fireplace or stove, but no fuel; some have a sleeping platform or a table.

Doune bothy, Scotland, GoogleMaps
The location of Doune bothy, or byre, where I rested tired feet. (GoogleMaps)

A new book, The Scottish Bothy Bible, reveals the location of 80 bothies across the country’s boggy, forested and mountainous terrain.

On a recent trip to Scotland, Doune bothy on the northeast shore of Loch Lomond in the Central Highlands (see photo at top) was a welcome respite after a tough stretch of a 17-mile hike on a rainy day. My traveling companion and I shared the one-room stone cottage with a fireplace, table and sleeping platform with three men from Germany.  Four other people stopped by as we were leaving.

The Bothy Code simply requests that users respect the shelter, other visitors, the surroundings, agreements with private estates and restrictions on numbers.

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Edinburgh is rich in literary lore

A city that names a soccer team after a novel (The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott) must be steeped in literary legends, right?

Right — at least for Edinburgh, Scotland.

Scott Monument in Edinburgh
The monument to author Sir Walter Scott. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Edinburgh has been known as a “City of Letters” since the early 18th century. Quotes by famous Scottish writers are scattered across the city, including on the wall of the Scottish Parliament building. A 200-foot monument to Scott — the world’s largest to a writer — looms over Princes Street across from Jenners department store. A marble statue of Scott (1771-1832) sits at the base and there are 64 other statues of characters from Scott’s historical novels.

It seems impossible that the narrow spires of the 1840s Victorian Gothic Scott Monument contain 287 steps to the top. I climbed up in a narrow, spiral stone stairway made me a bit dizzy. I was rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of Edinburgh (see photo at top) from the tippity top. If you can’t make it all the way to the top, three platforms along the way also offer incredible vistas.

“I am sorry to report the Scott Monument a failure,” author Charles Dickens said in 1858, according to an information board inside the monument. “It is like the spire of a Gothic church taken off and stuck in the ground.”

The Writers’ Museum on Lady Stair’s Close celebrates Edinburgh’s three best known writers: Scott (Ivanhoe and Rob Roy), Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). It’s free.

Stairwell  of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh
Slit windows let light inside a stairwell to the top of the Scott Monument. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

The museum displays their portraits, rare books, letters and other personal items. You’ll see Scott’s pipe and chess set. There’s also Burns’ writing desk and, on the ghoulish side, a plaster cast of his skull. Born of a humble farming family, Burns (1759-96) was called the ‘Heaven-taught ploughman.”

Visitors also will see Stevenson’s snuff boxes, fishing rod, riding boots and the ring given to him by a Samoan chief, engraved with “Tusitala,” or “teller of tales.” Stevenson (1850-94) reportedly was wearing that ring when he died.

Visitors can eat or stay at Stevenson’s former home at 17A Heriot Row. It’s now called Stevenson House. (Note: I did not stay there).

For a more modern literary turn, The Writers’ Museum is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin’s character, Detective Inspector John Rebus. The Rebus30 exhibition, which runs through Jan. 21, 2018, displays some of Rankin’s personal items, such as manuscripts, and explores the relationship between him and Rebus, and both men’s connections with Edinburgh.

“I don’t think the Rebus novels could be set anywhere else – they really are about Edinburgh,” Ian Rankin writes in the exhibition. “I still haven’t got to the bottom of what makes Edinburgh tick or what makes it a unique setting. It just seems to be a place that has influenced writers, and continues to nurture writers.”

The Writers' Museum sign in Edinburgh
Entrance to The Writers’ Museum (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

You can take a Rebus Tours walking tour with readings from Rankin’s books and real Edinburgh locations. Grab a pint at Rebus’s local pub, the Oxford Bar or Milne’s Bar, where a group of poets including Norman MacCaig, Sorley MacLean and George Mackay Brown, used to meet. The Literary Pub Tour is another option.

As you leave town, you might pass through the central train station, which is named for another Scott novel (Waverly).

Glengoyne: When in Scotland, tasting single malt whisky is a must 

I once tried to be a scotch drinker, but it didn’t work out. 

Still, on a recent trip to Scotland, I thought I should try some of the country’s single malt scotch whisky to see what all the fuss is about. When in Rome . . .

Scotland is synonymous with single malt, where the drink dates to at least 1494. Today, it has some 90 malt whisky distilleries.

Visitors get to see the distillery process up close. (Phot by Sheryl Jean)

For scotch newbies like me, single malt is made with malted barley at a single distillery and aged for at least three years. Blended scotch, on the other hand, combines several types of whiskies (barley, wheat or corn) and typically is not aged.

Glengoyne Distillery in Dumgoyne (about 15 miles north of Glasgow) has been making whisky since at least 1833. Today, it produces 1 million liters of whisky a year that’s aged at least 10 years. As soon as I walked on to the property, I smelled the sharp, sweet scent of the grain used to make the whisky.

My recent 45-minute tour of the distillery started with a we Dram of 12-year single malt. Glengoyne offers seven tours — from my basic tour for just over $12 to a $193, five-hour Masterclass.

Tour guide Helena De Raemedenaeker tells a group of visitors about how whisky is aged. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

While I and about 35 other visitors sipped our scotch, tour guide Helena De Raemedenaeker told us about the history of Glengoyne, scotch processing and how to drink scotch. She showed us how and where the barley is malted; took us through the mash house; and gave us a peak at some of Glengoyne’s oldest casks.

Glengoyne uses only three ingredients: malted barley, yeast and water. Although all single malt makers use the same ingredients, each distillery’s product has a distinctive character, such as smokiness, a hint of vanilla or a whiff of peat, due to variations in the process and equipment.

Glengoyne’s oldest whiskies are kept under lock and key. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

De Raemedenaeker noted that Glengoyne uses the same techniques as years ago for a smooth flavor. It uses warm air, not peat, to heat its barley. Distillation occurs in copper kettles in small batches. 

By Scottish law, scotch must be matured in oak casks, which can contribute to the flavor of the product. Glengoyne uses barrels made from American and European oak. Some casks were previously used for sherry, giving the scotch a darker color.

Scotland has five major single malt production regions: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside.

(Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Glengoyne’s 

Gengoyne’s Teapot Dram is matured in six sherry casks for 59.6% alcohol. That particular scotch is sold only at the distillery and is listed in the book 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die. According to De Raemedenaeker, the name harkens back to a time when workers received three drams of whisky a day. Instead of drinking it, some younger workers pooled theirs in a teapot, where it aged into a fiery spirit

Most Glengoyne whiskies, however, have between 40% and 43% alcohol content.

Single malt has seen a dramatic increase in interest since the 1980s. While I was there, Glengoyne was selling its last bottle of 35-year whisky for about $3,800.

Alas, Im still not a scotch drinker, but I tried.

Note: Whisky is the way Scots spell it.

Two U.S. travel startups win contest

Paperless tickets for tourist attractions? Hotel bookings based on price reductions?

That’s the technology behind two travel startups attracting attention.

Redeam, the business behind the paperless ticket idea, and Waylo, the hotel price prediction and tracking app, won Phocuswright’s Battleground: The Americas on Sept. 12 in Sunnyvale, Calif.

I previewed the Battleground contest in a blog post last month. Overall, 16 startups each had six minutes to show their innovations to judges and a live audience. Here’s a bit more about the two winners:

Redeam: It enables businesses to accept paper vouchers and mobile tickets from any reseller using a tablet-based validation platform. The company is based in Boulder, Colo.

Waylo: This app tracks hotels you’re interested in booking by using proprietary technology to predict lower rates and sending you alerts. The company is based in Berkeley, Calif.

Next, Redeam, Waylo and startups from other Battlegrounds worldwide will compete Nov. 7-9 at the Phocuswright Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for a $100,000 investment from venture capital firm General Catalyst.

Funding for ideas that make travel easier, faster, cheaper and better has increased. Travel startups raised $29 billion from 2016 through June 30, nearly double the total amount raised in the previous decade, according to travel and tourism research firm Phocuswright.

Finnair already plans to expand its new San Francisco service

Finnair just started seasonal service from San Francisco to Helsinki two months ago, but it’s already planning to extend it’s operating season by a month next year.

The Finnish airline said today that its inaugural Bay Area service has been so well received that it will extend the operating season for its weekly flights by a month in 2018– from May 3 to Sept. 27.

It’s part of Finnair’s expansion plans for 2018. It already carries more than 10 million passengers a year between Asia, Europe and North America. By next summer, it will increase its total capacity by 14 percent from this summer season, Chief Commercial Officer Juha Järvinen said in a statement.

In addition to San Francisco, Finnair’s Chicago service will become daily with the addition of two weekly flights starting in April 2018 through October.

Outside of the United States, Finnair plans to will add flights to more than 20 European and Asian cities next winter and summer. And today, the airline introduced a year-round route to Nanjing, China.

Study: Travel is one of the nation’s largest job creators

People’s love of travel helps make it one of the nation’s biggest job creators, according to a study released today by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA).

The study , which analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that the number of travel jobs rose 17 percent from 2010 to 2016 vs. a 13 percent increase for the rest of the  private employment sector.

USTA CEO Roger Dow said the travel industry often is an “under-appreciated” economic booster.

Last year, the economic output generated by U.S. and international visitors totaled $990.3 billion in direct spending and $1.3 trillion in indirect spending, according to USTA data. The tourism industry generated $157.8 billion in federal, state and local revenue.

Growth in travel is fueling such spending. This year, the number of global outbound trips is forecast to grow between 4 percent to 5 percent, driving by travel to Asia and the United States, according to the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2016/17.

The travel industry directly supports 8.6 million jobs plus 6.7 million jobs in other industries, according to the USTA. Dow noted that travel is a “good” jobs with career advancement opportunities.

Here are some other highlights of the new USTA study:

  • People whose first job was in a travel-related industry reach an average career salary of $81,900 — significantly higher than those whose first job was in nearly any other U.S. industry.
  • Nearly 40 percent of workers who started their career in travel reached an annual career salary of over $100,000.
  • The travel industry is a better career starter for people with less education: Workers with a high school degree or less whose first jobs was in travel reached an average career salary of $69,500, 5 percent higher than the average salary of those who started out in other industries.

What’s a Mormon scone?

Do you know what a Mormon scone is?

I didn’t, but I found out on a recent trip to Salt Lake City (SLC).

My education came from a food truck called Cook of Mormon run by Jordan Christensen.

These weren’t the Irish tea scones I know. Mormon scones (also called Utah scones) are more reminiscent of a doughnut or fry bread. Christensen makes his fried, yeasty treats the traditional Utah way — with mashed potatoes. He serves them with honey butter, peanut butter and jelly or cream cheese, banana, Nutella and maple syrup for $3 to $5 each.

Here’s a video Christensen posted on YouTube about making Utah scones:

When I stopped by the Christensen’s food truck last month in front of the Eccles Theater in downtown SLC, he said he’d had the idea for a while and when he heard the “Book of Mormon” was going to run Aug. 1-20 at Eccles, he rushed to open in time. What better place for the Cook of Mormon to be, right?

Now, Cook of Mormon’s website says it’s open Friday and Saturday nights in downtown SLC. Sometimes it roams the city. Just look for a bread truck painted with Utah and Mormon landmarks in bright colors.

Cook of Mormon punch cards
Christensen created postcard-sized punch cards for regular customers with food facts and related history. (Sheryl Jean)

Initially thought of as a fad when they emerged nearly a decade ago, food trucks have become legitimate alternatives to traditional dining. Entrepreneurs flock to them because they’re easier and less expensive to open than a restaurant, and attracted big-name chefs use them to reach new customers.

But it’s consumers, who like the fun, affordable and variety of choices, who are fueling the industry’s growth. The National Restaurant Association estimates that food trucks will generate about $2.7 billion in revenue this year, or four times the amount estimated just five years ago.

Christensen also sells other quintessential Utah dishes, such as funeral potatoes — diced potatoes with cheese, sour cream and butter topped with crushed potato chips ($4) — and bratwurst ($5).

If you’re in SLC, check it out.

Travel startups attract more capital

As travel has increased, so has funding for travel startups.

Travel startups raised $29 billion from 2016 through the second quarter of this year, nearly doubling the total amount raised in the previous decade, according to Phocuswright. Such startups raised $33 billion in capital from 2005-15 — the first decade that Connecticut-based travel and tourism research firm tracked funding.

Those statistics offer a peek at a Phocuswright report, “The State of Travel Startups 2017,” to be released next month.

Part of the reason for the funding increase is the trove of travel-focused investors, incubators, accelerators and startup programs that have launched in the past several years to link  startups with capital, resources and mentors, wrote Phocuswright analyst Michael Coletta in a company newsletter.

Another reason might be the increased demand for travel as more baby boomers retire and millennials rank travel high.

Travel grew in 2016 and is expected to continue growing at a moderate pace in the near term, according to the U.S. Travel Association. More travel will be within the United States, not internationally.

While Coletta noted that big travel companies continue to get bigger, making it difficult for startups to compete, entrepreneurs in the tourism industry are focusing on new technologies and innovations. For example, millennial business travelers (age 18-34) book more than half of their hotel stays and nearly half of their airline reservations on smartphones, according to Phocuswright research.

Phocuswright will host a startup contest — Battleground: The Americas — on Sept. 12 at Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, Calif. Sixteen startups get six minutes each to show their innovations to judges and a live audience. Two companies will progress to pitch their ideas to some 1,800 industry influencers at the Phocuswright Conference on Nov. 7-9 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Best Virgin Mobile-Apple deal ends July 31

Virgin was the latest mobile company to make waves when it recently announced a new service plan and other perks for iPhones.

Virgin Mobile USA teamed up with Apple to offer iPhone service deals under its new Inner Circle, which sounds more like a cult than a data plan.

Here’s the skinny: If you buy an iPhone from Apple or Virgin, you can sign up for 12 months of unlimited talk, text and data service* service by July 31 for $1. After July 31, new customers will pay $1 for the first six months of service. After either introductory period ends, the plan will cost $50 a month.

Check this network coverage map to see what Virgin Mobile service is like in your area.

The Inner Circle also provides other Virgin perks: a round-trip companion ticket (excluding taxes, fees and surcharges) to the United Kingdom on Virgin Atlantic Airways, one night at Virgin Hotels and discounts on Virgin Wines, flights at Virgin America and the Virgin Sport festival in San Francisco in October.

It’s the kind of disruptive move Virgin is known to do to grab market share from rivals in uber competitive markets. Virgin “has always looked to shake things up and challenge the status quo in any sector we go into,” Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said in a recent statement.

It’s also a way for Virgin to funnel business to dozens of other Virgin brands and drive revenue at some of the newer ones, such as Virgin Hotels. The first U.S. hotel opened in Chicago in 2015; several more are planned through 2020.

A 196-room Virgin Hotels site in San Francisco’sSouth of Market area is scheduled to open this summer. A 200-room Silicon Valley hotel in Milpitas, which is scheduled to open in fall 2019, will boast a live music venue. Both hotels will feature several dining and drinking options, including a roof-top bar; a cafe; and meeting space.

It’s all about branding.

* Virgin Mobile says it will deprioritize customers who use more than 23 GB of data during one billing cycle, meaning your bandwidth could be constrained at times. The Inner Circle offer is available to customers who buy an iPhone SE, 6s, 6s Plus, 7 or 7 Plus.

Meet Ranger Jim, traveler extraordinaire

He’s an outdoorsman who wears a wide-brimmed hat and is partial to khaki.

Meet Ranger Jim.

RangerJimTravels
Ranger Jim kayaked last weekend on the Russian River in Northern California. (Sheryl Jean)

He was born at Walnut Canyon National Monument in Flagstaff, Ariz., as a giant orange sun rose over the cliffs. That’s where I met him in February 2014.

Ranger Jim gets around. He’s been to Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Texas. As you might expect given his roots, he likes to visit public lands. You’ll see him hiking through canyons, climbing up to cliff dwellings, descending into caves and camping under giant Redwood trees on social media, such as Twitter, under the hashtags #RangerJim or #RangerJimTravels.

The popularity of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook has created a worldwide contest of who can post the oddest, prettiest, most spectacular photograph — sometimes with unexpected results. Mashable recently wrote about a woman who calls out other users’ fake travel photos of precarious campsites with incredible views on her Instagram account called @youdidnotsleepthere.

Roaming Gnome on a beach
Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome on a beach. (Courtesy of Travelocity)

More than three-quarters of travelers post photos on social mediaTravel photos on social media, according to data from Internet Marketing Inc. Such photos carry a lot of influence: More than half of Facebook users said friends’ photos inspired their travel plans, it said.

Probably the most popular traveling statuette is Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome. (See photo at right.)

Thanks to a  worldwide marketing campaign that began in early 2004, the gnome has become synonymous with Travelocity. (The idea was based on a prank where people steal a garden gnome for travel and photographs around the world.) Earlier this year, Travelocity launched a series of TV commercials featuring the Roaming Gnome again.

Pokey tasting local beer at Powder River Pizza in Sheridan, Wyo. (Courtesy of Kathy Whepley)

“The power of the Roaming Gnome as a personification of the Travelocity brand really comes to life when we have the opportunity to travel with him,” said company spokesman Keith Nowak. “Walking down the street with the Roaming Gnome means being stopped every few feet as passers-by ask the same question: ‘Is that the Travelocity Gnome?’ … The invariable next request is to get a picture with him, which we happily oblige.”

Many people have copied the idea on a personal level.

My Midwestern friend, Kathy Whepley, took a bendable Pokey figure that’s kind of a personal mascot on a family road trip to Glacier National Park this spring. Pokey even got his own page in a photo book she created of the trip.

For those who aren’t familiar with Pokey, he was the horse of Gumby, a clay dude who spawned two television series, a film and other media since the 1950s. (See photo at upper right.)

Another friend, Joy Finocchio, takes different Lego figures on family road trips, starting with one from central California to Ouray, Colo., in June 2013. (See photo below.)

Finocchio's Legos at Zion NP
Lego figures tag along on Finocchio family road trips. (Courtesy of Joy Finocchio)

“Our boys were complaining about the long drive and I suggested we each pick a Lego figurine to represent us,” Finocchio said. “It was a really fun way to document our trip and coming up with funny situations where we could photograph the Lego figures helped pass the time.”

When Finnochio and her youngest of three sons traveled to Disneyland last year, they brought along Star Wars figures R2D2 and C3PO. She also uses a Lego figure when she attends work-related conferences.

By the way, Ranger Jim is heading off on another adventure soon. Stay tuned!