There’s No Place Like Home

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Scotland is amazing, and as a I sit here, in the hotel bar overlooking Edinburgh Castle, I wonder what it would be like to live abroad, among the Scottish, maybe French or Italian. But, something draws me back home. I miss my family, friends, co-workers, dogs, and most of all home. A holiday is wonderful, but it’s also wonderful to have neighbors who know your history and friends who will invite you over for dinner at the last minute.

A few things I’d like to highlight from the trip:

  • Trying haggis for the first time in Edinburgh
  • Experiencing amazing Scottish castles from more than a few centuries ago
  • Seeing magpie fights in the Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Catching a Scottish rainbow in Isle of Skye
  • Learning about the Scottish history from an amazing tour guide
  • Hiking Ben Nevis in Fort Williams and the convenience of having a tavern at the base of the mountain
  • Drinking a few pints in an 18th century Scottish pub in Oban

All in all, a wonderful week. Highly suggested as a destination for those back home (and those reading this blog).

“Lang may yer lum reek”

And, Happy Easter everyone..

Ben Nevis

We left Inverness this morning a little late due to the long day the morning before. Then, off to Fort William to hike Ben Nevis, currently a snow-capped mountain. We arrived within about two hours and Jim found an off-beaten track somehow and we were off. Ben Nevis is about 4,400 feet high, the highest in the British Isles. The path was extremely well-kept and we loved watching the snow-capped mountains and the sheep from afar. We learned yesterday that the black-headed sheep are Scottish and the white ones are English…interesting. After a few hours I tired, but JTB kept hiking while I waited in our compact car in the parking lot. He eventually climbed the snow-capped mountain, but eventually turned back due to the snow falling and wind bracing.

Around 3:30, we headed towards this very unexpected hostel / backpacker / beer place at the end of the trail where we had a lovely lunch and beer. It was so unexpected and the place was packed.

Then off to Oban (pronounced “Oh Bun”). We hit a lovely Scottish tavern from the 18th century and stayed there for awhile. Right now, we’re sitting in the hotel bar at the Royal Hotel listening to a drummer, accordion player, and bagpiper playing some wonderful Scottish tunes. We’re really going to miss this place.

Unfortunately, my camera is acting up, so I only have the below picture from today…

Fall In Love

with as many things as possible. A great quote from one of my favorite movies Country Strong. Ignore the boozing and sleeping around and get down to the real theme that they were trying to get across: that love and fame can’t always exist in the same world. That’s why I choose to love everything around me and find beauty in life.

It’s not hard to fall in love with this country with the strong brogue, gorgeous kilts, beautiful land, and delectable whisky. We had a wonderful tour guide today to visit the Isle of Skye. We started from Inverness and within a half hour we were visiting the notable Loch Ness on the quest to try and find Nessie. Apparently, she was first spotted in 565 AD and then not until 1933. There is a famous photograph of her (by the way, why is a monster always a “her”?), but they think that she might just be (or was) a large eel. Then, off to Eilan Donan Castle just south of Loch Ness. Just beautiful. A scene for many movies, including Elizabeth. Then, finally on to the Isle of Skye, a spectacular part of the country. All in all, about 300 miles round trip, a 12 hour day, but so worth it and so much to find breathtaking. If you get the chance, check out Danny Macaskill’s video of him professionally riding his bike across the mountains in Isle of Skye. Or, check out Mairi Campbell’s version of Auld Lang Syne (also a Robert Burns poem). It will make your eyes glisten and heart long for something dear.

All in all, a wonderful country and makes you appreciate all that’s beautiful in this world. And, it also makes you appreciate the things or experiences you already have. I realized today how wonderful my husband was when he interrupted my rainbow photograph and decided to replace it with a faux pot o’ gold (see below pic). He just wanted to make a smile and I loved that.

Off The Beaten Path

We hit a major goldmine yesterday morning by hitting Edradour an hour and a half north of Dundee. It was a recommendation from the same shopkeeper in St. Andrews. According to their website: “Dating back to 1825, Edradour, stands alone as the last stronghold of handmade single malt whisky from a farm distillery still in production today.” They have a unique process of bringing together barley, spring water and yeast all under one roof, without the use of computers.

And then to Inverness. A romantic walk along the Ness River was in order and JTB told some terrible puns along the way (though I secretly loved it).

Off to Isle of Skye in the morning. Can’t wait…

St. Andrews & Dundee

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About an hour north of Edinburgh are the towns of St. Andrews and Dundee. We drove there with a stick shift, on the left-hand side of the road. A little stressful, but we made it. St. Andrews boasts the world of golf, holding the British Open there every year. If anyone loves golf, it’s definitely the place to be. No personal pictures taken, however here are some photos from Google. We had a wonderful conversation with a local wine shop owner, where he told us the history of the town and what to see in our next stop of Dundee.

Off to Dundee, about 15 miles north of St. Andrews. The wine shop owner mentioned to us that there’s not a ton of cultural happenings in the town, but it was wonderful to walk the University of Dundee and visit the local pubs, having a few Belhavens. We tried to visit a hip restaurant near the university, however after waiting at our table for 15 minutes, we decided to leave, because no service was to be had. About a half mile away, Jim saw a restaurant and said “Gray hair, they know good food”, so we decided to frequent. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we’re at that age where we’re more interested in finding good food and great service over finding the new and up and coming thing. A-ok in my book. We also tried an Irn-Bru, often described as “Scotland’s other national drink” (after whisky). It was pretty yummy, kinda tasted like bubble gum.

It’s about 9AM here in Dundee right now and we’re headed on a quest to find Nessie, near Inverness, this morning. Bon voyage!

Haggis, Neeps & Tatties, Oh My!

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Last night we tried it…you guessed it, the infamous Scottish haggis, except this version was called Haggis, Neeps & Tatties (see below pic). Was skeptical about the whole food situation, but I gotta say, “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it”. It was absolutely delectable and we both went back for more. We’re both not much meat eaters, but we like the fact that they use all parts of the sheep and don’t throw it out.

That was last night. This morning, we headed straight for Arthur’s Seat, a wonderful, but windy hike up the mountain just adjacent to downtown Edinburgh. We packed warm and definitely needed it. It was cloudy and probably about 45 degrees with the wind. I only went about halfway up and waited while JTB ascended the rest of the climb. Then, off to The World’s End, a super cozy place to warm our toes and tickle our fancy. A homemade vegetarian soup, side salad and pints of Punk IPA were just what the doctor ordered. Then, off to the Royal Botanical Gardens just north of downtown. Not many flowers were in bloom, but we saw some wonderful yellow and white daffodils, perfect timing for spring in Scotland. Jim looked down at his iPhone app and we logged in just over 32,000 steps today, not bad!

A cider or two in on Princes Street and we’re done for the night. Off to St. Andrews and Dundee tomorrow!

Scottifrass

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Granted, we’ve only been in tbe country for less than 24 hours, however my first blog post here is called “Scottifrass”. What’s “Scottifrass”you might ask? It’s a combination of being Scottish and having some major sassafrass. More to come on that in a bit.

We arrived around 10:30 this morning (5:30 east coast time), both of us being wiped out by the tight quarters of British Airways, screaming kids, and coughing fits of close passengers. Clearing customs, we went to the Airlink buses to grab a ride to downtown Edinburgh. The bus was packed with tourists and the driver had a look of “don’t mess with me today”, so I kept my mouth shut and stood in the corner. The bus kept on getting more and more full until finally I didn’t think we could fit even another feather on the bus. The second stop arrived and two folks from England had to get off. They had a tough time and other folks were walking up the stairs to get out of their way. The bus driver gave them a little ‘tude, then a lot of ‘tude. The gentleman getting off from England gave it right back to her and they went back and forth quite a bit. Finally he said to her “Swallow it, why don’tcha?” and without a moment’s hesitation, she fired right back “Swallow me, why don’t you sir?”and with a pull of the bus handle, she said “G’day” and placed her foot on the pedal. Jim and I both looked at each other, eyebrows braised, and gave a slight chuckle. Women here, apparently, can hold their own. Already, I feel at home.

Off to grab a beer (or two) at a local pub and then to see the iconic Edinburgh Castle, some scarf shopping, St Giles’ Church to light a few candles, and then to see some wonderful street performers. They performed some stuff that you definitely can’t away with in the states…it was wonderfully delicious!

It’s about 5PM here now, so we’ll grab some grub and head in for the night (been a long day). Another day of Edinburgh tomorrow.

We’re off to…Scotland!

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We’re headed on a new adventure in a few weeks…to Scotland! Not exactly getting away from the bitter cold of New England, but we’re really excited to explore the beautiful landscapes of Braveheart country, climb some cool mountains, such as Ben Nevis, visit Nessie (aka the Loch Ness Monster), tour St. Andrews (the home of golf), and sip some tasty Scotch in the area known as the Highlands.

Like most of our travels, we have a relaxed agenda. We generally like to visit the local pub, ask the bartender some cool things to do in town, and find things the locals like to do.

We’re pretty excited to see how the Scots live and understand the Scot culture better. But, one thing’s for sure, we certainly won’t be eating any haggis!

Cheers!

~ Jim and Mo

SoCal Foray

It was a late night last night partying with family in North San Diego, so we all slept in this morning. We all went on our own way this morning, some to the beach, some to Farenheit 451, a great bookstore in Carlsbad, CA. A little nap and Chardonnay later, we found ourselves back at the rented house in Vista, CA. Grilled hot dogs, chicken, mac and cheese, pool, pinball, ping pong, and hot tubs were in abundance as we all celebrated the pre-wedding shenanigans for uncle Joe and Julie’s wedding tomorrow in Carlsbad.

After dinner, Philip, Patrick and Maria and I all came up a haiku that sums up our day:

Searching for old books
Boys go to hit the white ball
San Diego bliss

After drinking a few sips of William Hill, we’re listening to Ray Charles and winding down for the night. We’re super excited for Joe and Julie’s wedding tomorrow in Carlsbad. Till tomorrow…

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San Diego

Excited to be heading to San Diego from 7/14 – 7/18 to attend the wedding of Uncle Joe on mom’s side. Sadly, the J part of JMo won’t be traveling and will be staying home to take care of the pups. It’ll be great to spend time with family, eat some yummy food – oh, and have a glass of vino or two in the California sunshine!

Did you know? San Diego is Spanish for “Saint Didacus”. Saint Didacus was a Spanish Franciscan lay brother who served as among the first group of missionaries to the newly conquered Canary Islands. He died at Alcalá de Henares in Spain on November 12, 1463 and is now honored by the Catholic Church as a saint.

More to come soon on travels to the west coast!