After our trip to Roslyn, we decided to cut north towards Leavenworth. I had heard about this town before although I hadn’t researched it at all. It is famous for being in the style of a Bavarian town. All of the buildings are styled like a Bavarian building and the town takes the theme everywhere. Starbucks and McDonalds have their signs in a similar style!
While we were there, on a sunny summer’s day, the streets were busy and entertainment was being provided. Some dancers had just finished up when we arrived but a band was playing on the bandstand with the sort of oompah music you might have expected. They were pretty good too.
What I had not thought through is what sort of town this would be. I grew up in tourist areas and have lived in others since. I should have realized what the town would include. Every building does look German but inside they are either an eatery or they are selling the amazing quantities of crap that you only find in tourist traps. It was shop after shop full of rubbish. We very quickly realized that there wasn’t too much to see but there were large crowds of people to get through to not see anything. Time for a swift exit. There was the museum of nutcrackers but, since I find them a creepy looking item at the best of times, that was not going to be the place for me!
You can’t have Highland Games without having the pipes and drums. A large array of bands had turned up to compete. There was a small arena in which they would perform their routine while a group of judges would walk around and score them on whatever is considered important in these competitions. The pipes would play, the drums would drum, they would change formation and the drummers would wave their sticks around. It was all good fun.
Teams had traveled from all over the place. Some had come from Canada. While they were waiting their turn, they would find a space nearby and run through their performance. It was often more fun to walk amongst the groups while they were doing this and see what they were up to. It is slightly more amusing to look at people dressed up in highland clothing – clothes that are designed for use in the Scottish climate – while they are in the California sun. I imagine they were roasting.
What we hadn’t bargained on when heading to Pleasanton was that the town’s main street was closed for a parade of high school bands. Some sort of competition was obviously underway with different stops along the street with judges checking out various aspects of the bands. If you were at one spot, you would see some of the band doing their thing while the rest of the band members were hanging back behind them. It all made sense when you realized that this was happening at various places along the street.
We hadn’t come for this but couldn’t resist watching some of them perform for a while before we got back to doing what we had come for. Nice to have a town so close that has things like this happening on a regular basis.
The Morton Arboretum schedules some pleasant evening events at this time of year. Last year we went to one of these and I blogged about it at the time. In that piece I was a little annoyed with myself because I hadn’t taken my camera with me and had to make use of my phone in a situation that really would have merited something a little better. This time I made sure to be a little better prepared (although I was out of the door before I realized the bag with the camera in it was still in the spare room!).
The evening consists of a jazz quartet, a bar (several actually) and the chance to order some tapas from the countless staff taking care of things. As the evening comes in, sitting out in the fresh air with the lake in the background, listening to jazz and enjoying a pleasant glass of sauvignon blanc while snacking on some tasty morsels is certainly not the worst way to spend some time.
As we headed out to the arboretum, it started to get quite cloudy. This was not what I was hoping for but it was higher level cloud and the temperature was not dropping much so being outside should still be okay. Indeed, that was the case and, as the evening drew in, the clouds drifted away and we were left with some really lovely conditions. We munched and slurped and listened to the jazz. I am not a huge jazz fan to be honest. However, after a glass or two, I became a lot more appreciative. Did they get better, did I get more attuned or does jazz always sound better with a gentle buzz?
As the event was getting closer to the end, we decided to take a stroll around the lake. It was amazing to see how much activity there was from the local wildlife. Normally this is the busiest part of the arboretum so I guess everything gets scared off. In the evening, it felt alive with wildlife – particularly the birds. (There were plenty of bugs in the air so the swallows were feasting!) As the sun got low, the scenery glowed with the evening light and it was a great way to finish off the visit.
As you might expect from a Scottish festival, there were pipes and drums aplenty! I am sure they are designed to intimidate the enemy and, as I’m sure you know, the enemy of every Scotsman is an Englishman. Therefore, I was walking into the lion’s den on this day even if some of the claims of Scottishness were a little tenuous!
The various bands that were competing were all taking the thing very seriously. They were well practiced in their routines and the musical ability was high – no strangled cats on this occasion. Moreover, they really showed their commitment to the cause by dressing up in the full outfits, despite the fact that they are designed for a Scottish climate, not a hot, humid, summer day in the Chicago suburbs!
There were bands all over the place warming up, tuning the pipes, getting some last minute practice in before their time slot came due. There were a series of judges around the arena scoring them on different aspects of their performance. As their time was up they streamed out of the arena and another band was already waiting to come in. No pauses for the spectators here!