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…

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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!

Beautiful Land

Our last day here and we’ll miss this country tremendously.

Yesterday, we did quite a bit too! The day began at ZipTrek on the top of Bob’s Peak. We took the gondola ride up and decided that zip lining through the forest would be a good idea. I was a proud wife! JTB went zip lining! Here’s a video of his first zip. The trip lasted about 1 1/2 hours and about 4 zips in total, with multiple challenges along the way, including zip lining upside down!

After the zip lining, we decided to take an unplanned trip over to Glenorchy, which is a super small town about an hour away. It’s supposed to be a real adventurous town, with rafting in the summer and skiing in the winter. A portion of The Lord of the Rings was also filmed there. JTB found a nature trail and we came across this stunning view:

In Glenorchy, New Zealand

In Glenorchy, New Zealand

Going to leave the blog with this photo, as it sums it up nicely…

Strap Yourself To A Beautiful Stranger

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Another great slogan from Skydive Wanaka. Being in marketing makes you appreciate these tremendously! What a day. This was the fourth skydive for me and it didn’t disappoint. The town of Wanaka is about 1 1/4 hours from Queenstown and it’s where quite a few New Zealanders go on holiday. There were many skydiving places to choose from, including NZone (I guess it’s really famous), however I wanted to try something a little off the beaten path, so Skydive Wanaka was the place to be!

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We left around 1:30pm from downtown Queenstown and headed up the very hilly climb to Wanaka. The day was beautiful, only a few clouds in the sky, about 80 degrees. You really couldn’t have asked for a better day. Upon check-in, I decided at the last minute to get the Handi-Cam for a video of the adventure. Not sure when (or if) we’ll be back in New Zealand, so I decided “what the heck?”. We made the climb up to 10,000 feet and my stomach wasn’t feeling so well. I started to get real nervous, twitching in my seat, constantly adjusting things, thinking about turning back. Then I remembered a little saying that my ma used to say “You can rest when you’re dead”. A little morbid, but it really struck a cord with me. Take life to its fullest because you never know when it’ll be your last. And, I’m also experiencing something that not a lot of people get to see. Plus, I think that it’s important to push the limit because it’s how you grow. So, finally at 12,000 feet, the door swung open and a first-timer jumped out into the friendly skies with her tandem instructor. It was probably about 20 degrees cooler up there and the wind felt fantastic. I briefly looked down and saw multiple lakes, mountains (including Mt. Cook!, which had snow-topped peaks), and spectacular scenery. With hands clasped to my harness, we fell at 200kph. Look at the video and you can see a super contorted face and a few swear words being uttered. Nothing really compares to free-falling for that 45 seconds. It’s like a natural high, where you feel no pressure, no commitment, no worries, just pure heaven. Finally, the parachute opened and we glided down to the ground in about 6 minutes. Immediately upon landing, I felt like I wanted to go up again. Strange, but true! Till the next time…

While skydiving, JTB did a really strenuous hike up the Ben Lomond trail. He was gone for about 6 hours and said that he saw quite a few people and a few goats too!

We met each other around 7:30pm and headed to Winnies for some pizza and beer. A great day for both and we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Take A Hike!

A slogan from one of our favorite beers in Vermont, Long Trail. We definitely did that today by hiking Queenstown Mountain. On a side note, has anyone climbed The Long Trail in VT?  Thinking about doing this as a big trip next summer, but would love any feedback!

We got started a little late, however it was a spectacular hike, about 2 1/2 hours. If anyone knows JTB, he always has to be the fastest and first to get anywhere. Me, I like to take my time and enjoy hidden inlets and take interesting photos. Here’s a panorama video of it from the top:

and a personalized cairn that the hub built for me on the trail.

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It was REALLY windy at the top and it started to rain, so we immediately made the trek back into town, but not before we saw this sign. Maybe kinda corny, but I thought it was inspirational.

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It’s Saturday here and they have this great arts and crafts market where they sell local artisan’s works. A few purchases later and we found ourselves at a local restaurant for a light salad and tasty beer.

The internet here is really spotty, so I’m trying to use the connection when everyone is in town (it’s about 3PM here). We’ll take a little snooze-a-rooz before heading back into town for dinner.

Skydiving in Wanaka is tomorrow around 1:30. Hot damn! A little skeered, to be honest (that’s the made up Mo terminology that says you’re more scared than scared, but still super excited). JTB will probably rent a bike and tour the countryside while I’m away. Looking forward to the adventure.