Scotland Adventures with Baby / Leek and Mushroom Soup

Scotland Adventures with Baby / Leek and Mushroom Soup

See below the recipe (at the end of the post) for my debrief of tips for traveling with a baby.

 

The Isle of Mull is a mystical place to drive through. It is on our itinerary because we have to pass through it to get to the Isle of Iona. We set out as early as possible with Llewyn (our then 5-month old) and all of our gear because we know it is going to be somewhat of a drive from our B&B.  Little do we know about single-track roads and passing places and the misty fog that rolls in and obscures the view of oncoming vehicles. Many times we think we're in for a head on collision as I grip the side door (once I gripped Zak’s arm on the shift, forgetting that I was sitting on the opposite side of the car!) and hope we don't slip off of the edge of the unforgiving road with no shoulders. Too bad for Zak: he isn’t able to take in the views because of his constant attention to the road.

 

 

Along our way we see a number of photographers at a parking lot. Their view opens up to us as we round the corner — the perfect place for a family photo. We get our camera out, set up the tripod, peel Llewyn out of the car seat, and get our jackets on. The wind is coming in and then it starts to pour. We quickly pack up our gear, give up on the shot, and put now crying Llewyn back into the car seat to continue on our way through the pouring rain and harrowing turns.

There are so many lovely places to stop along the way — a woolen mill, an artists/craft gallery, a cute little restaurant… But we know we have to take advantage of naptime so we can make it to our destination. Our plans seem modest — to drive to Iona, spend the day exploring, and head back to our B&B — but we know it is going to be a push to get it all in in one day.

We make it to the other end of Mull and to the ferry to the Isle of Iona. We’re just in time. We park our car, pull the stroller onto the ferry, grab Llewyn, and move inside as we cross the small strip of ocean to the Island.

 

 

It is a grey and a very Scotland-like day when we arrive. The moss looks dramatic on all of the old stone buildings. The beautiful cross window on the hill reflects the glow of the ocean with what little daylight comes through the clouds. We start walking uphill towards the Nunnery and the Abbey. The Nunnery is an old ruin. The stroller wobbles through what are the few stone rooms in the modest building. We continue our way uphill past craft shops and small in-home restaurants and cafes, assessing which ones we’d want to go into later on our way back. We make our way to our destination — we had seen it from the ferry from the distance.

 

 

 

 

When we get there we buy our tickets and decide to go for the audio guides. It is a bit of a juggle with all our gear (car seat, stroller, jackets, cameras, backpacks, tripod…), but we want to get the most out of our trip. Then we set out to take our family shot in front of the Abbey before we start the tour.  We get one shot — our faces are squinting into the wind and Llewyn isn’t looking, so we try again. It starts to pour again so we give up and make a dash over to the building where it is dry, only to realize that our stroller is just a wee bit too wide to fit through the doorway of the chapel. So I grab Llewyn and Zak carts all of our gear inside piece by piece through the heavy wooden door that wants to keep closing in on us. Fortunately, some fellow tourists hold the door open for Zak as he brings everything inside. We are chilled to the bone from the rain and wind and continue to feel the chill in the dampness in the stone Abbey. The stroller gets soaked and Llewyn’s seat is wet. Zak collapses the stroller and we breathe a sigh once we get inside. I am tense, worrying about our ability to enjoy the day.

 

 

I sit at the back of the chapel with Llewyn while Zak is exploring. In the wooden chair, in the cool damp sanctuary, I nurse Llewyn while taking in the music and the soaring ceiling above us.

The reward after all the rush is when I see the pleasure on his face as he listens to the music in the chapel. The sound of the recorder still floats through my mind — the simplicity of the tune in practice session, played over and over  — one single phrase like a child sings his favourite melody with its purity of voice.

 

Pause.

Breathe.

Be.

 

We make our way to the front of the chapel where we finally see the musical group rehearsing in the instrumental loft. We sit in one of the choir seats below and listen. Llewyn jumps with delight in my lap and smiles at the other tourists and community members as they walk by.

I realize how much life has changed and I breathe a little deeper. I am warmed.

 

 

Leek and Mushroom Soup

Serves 6

After our experience at the chapel we made our way back down the hill through the town. We visited a few artisan shops and then discovered a little cafe down a garden path. They served homemade soups and sandwiches and coffee and tea. I remember the relief I felt when sitting down to the warm soup and the smiles of the other tourists around us. I set out to create my own version of the simple mushroom soup I enjoyed alongside my grilled cheese.

 

 

 

8 Tbsp. butter

3-4 leeks, dark green tops removed, sliced

750 g mushrooms, whole

6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock

a handful of parsley and thyme sprigs tied together

salt and pepper to taste

3 oz. sherry (the good stuff makes all the difference)

splash of cream for serving

 

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the sliced leeks. Sauté until the leeks have softened. Add the whole mushrooms and sauté for another 10 minutes. Let the mushrooms sweat and make sure that the leeks don’t brown. Add the stock until it covers the mushrooms by an inch or so (depending on how thick or thin you like your soup), then add the herb bundle, reduce the heat, and simmer on low for an hour.

Remove the herb bundle and blend the soup with a stand up or hand blender. Do not blend too smooth -- a little texture is nice. Return the soup to the pot and turn on the heat to warm the soup again. Add salt and pepper to taste and add the sherry.

Serve in bowls with a splash of cream.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Tips for Traveling with a Baby

 

·      Bring a stroller to the airport gate (and detachable car seat for infants) if you’ll be navigating airports (WestJet includes 2 pieces of baby equipment checked at the gate). This will save you a lot of energy before you have to hold the baby for the whole plane ride.

·      A soft fabric baby carrier is essential for on the plane (like the Baby K’Tan). It’s nice to have a compact one that slips into your carry on without taking up too much room. We were on an overnight flight to Glasgow, so this was the only way either of us got any sleep. The nice thing about this carrier is that it’s easy to slip on and off your shoulders for taxiing/take-off/landing when Transport Canada does not allow the use of baby carriers.

·      Book rentals with a separate living room and kitchen from the bedroom (basically an apartment). You can share the bedroom with one baby when they’re under a year old, but it’s nice to have your own space while they’re sleeping when you’re not. A kitchen comes in handy so you can just relax in the evenings, watch a movie, and cook dinner. We booked AirBnb rentals for our whole Scotland trip and were so grateful for cozy accommodations.

·      Spend at least 2 nights in each stop along your trip. This way you don’t have to pack up all the baby gear too many times. We had exactly 2 nights at each stop and this is the minimum we would spend at each place.

·      Bring a soft cooler bag for all those staple groceries you will be keeping in the car when you move from place to place. This will make things easier when you get to the apartment after a busy day adventuring and just want to chill out.

·      Get a large blanket to spread out on the living room floor for playtime. Not all rentals clean the floor as spotless as we parents do at home, so especially when babies are under 6 months and less mobile, a large blanket will do the trick.

 

Newsletter

About Avery Peters

Sharing stories. Sharing food.

I express my creativity in the kitchen. My inspiration comes from being outside—in the forest, on the farm, by the ocean, or going to the farmers’ market. I love to share food with family and friends.