Friday, September 4, 2009

Now I have two British loves…

There are a few places I’ve visited that I fell in love with immediately and the Highlands have been added to the list. For our summer vacation, the Brit and I decided to go to Scotland and being the last minute people that we are, we ended up booking things the day before we left.

We took the ferry to Dover and during the ferry ride, the Brit reminded me of a little kid on his way to the candy store. The closer we got, the more excited he became. While Scotland was our destination, the Brit took advantage of us being in a car to further his goal of convincing me that England is a nice place. I got a glimpse into his pre-Seattleite life when he showed me where he lived until he was about 10. We also stopped by the city where he attended university and considering some of the stories he has from his uni days, I was surprised there weren’t armed police ready to haul him off as soon as he entered the city. Before heading across the now non-existent border, we overnighted in Nottingham and had drinks at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which claims to be the oldest Inn in England.

Our first stops in Scotland were Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals were on, so the city was pretty crowded.

Tip for anyone who likes cocktails and plans on heading to Edinburgh: go to dragonfly. The Brit and I agreed that we had the best cocktails we’ve ever tasted in Europe at dragonfly. But if you go, make sure that the guy bartender makes your drinks. My first drink was made by a young looking blond chick and it tasted like fruit juice.

We left the big cities and my jaw probably dropped as we headed into the Highlands. I’d seen photos and films, but there is nothing like seeing the heather-covered hills and lochs in person. Our first stop was on the Isle of Islay. We stayed at a nice B&B called Glenegedale House run by a lovely couple named Rachel and Alisdair. One of the options for breakfast was kippers smoked over whiskey barrels which were beyond amazing. Similar to our Ireland trip I let myself get dragged along to a few distilleries. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of whisky, but much to my surprise and the Brit’s delight we found some whiskies that I actually liked (smoky island whiskies). Being on the small island was definitely a change from Paris. Restaurants stop serving around 9 and I’m sure there are more sheep and cows than people on Islay. But I absolutely loved it and was ready to stay for a few months.

Our next stop was on the isle of Skye. I wasn’t as taken with Skye as I was with Islay, but we need more time to explore it. The island is larger, but the scenery is just as stunning. On the way to Skye there was a traffic accident, apparently a car flipped over and since it was a two-lane road, traffic was at a complete stand still. I was fine for a while until nature started to call. There were no rest areas, gas stations, restaurants or trees big enough to hide me within walking distance. And even though it was nighttime and dark, we were in a line of cars with people walking around and some headlights on. I have no problem peeing outdoors if I have to, but I draw the line at doing it in front of complete strangers. Things got desperate so the Brit was able to pull a U-ie and go to a pull over area that we had passed. After I’d contributed a new loch to the area, we rejoined the line of cars and were eventually able to get going again.

Our next stop was Loch Ness. We had a room with a balcony overlooking the loch, so like any normal tourist I went to take a look. When I stepped out on the balcony I was looking straight ahead and could see another part of the hotel in my peripheral vision. Right after I stepped out (I don’t think I will ever forget this) a man walked by the window in his room. Usually this wouldn’t be a big deal, except this man was severely obese, had several tattoos and was NAKED!! Naked as in not-wearing-a-single-item-of-clothing. His head turned as he walked by so I’m sure he saw me even though I turned my head away from his window at the same time to look at the loch. Later that evening, in the restaurant, we ended up at a table next to a large tattooed man and a lady. Fortunately I had my back to them. I told the Brit I thought that was the man I had seen until a bit later another very large and tattooed man and his lady came into the restaurant. I was a bit traumatized by the event but the Brit seemed amused.

Our last stay in Scotland was in Inverness, a cute little city where people fly-fish in the river. And next we were on to Hadrian’s wall and Vindolanda. Both of us thought WOW when we saw Vindolanda. It’s a Roman fort that was occupied before Hadrian’s wall was built. Parts of it have been excavated with many intact objects unearthed. It’s thought that it will take over 100 years to excavate the rest of the site. Our final stop was in Canterbury before getting back on the ferry to return to the continent.

During our trip we had a few cool animal sightings in the Highlands. A couple of red squirrels crossed our path, a young white-tailed eagle flew in front of the windshield and a juvenile red deer jogged along the side of the road before going back into the trees. Considering that the white-tailed eagle is quite rare in Scotland, we were very fortunate to see it especially so close. I can’t wait to get back to the Highlands and for anyone who hasn’t tried haggis, it’s actually quite good!

I’m sure some of you want to see photos. We took so many that it will take a while to sort through them, so photos will have to wait for a bit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i have been told scotland is the place for artists as the light is phenomenal.
i have heard of a whiskey trail covering distilleries by peat bogs to those by the sea and the nuances of those elements in the whiskey. yup, i'd like to try them out.
there is nothing like sharing personal history with someone you like/love. for the brit the trip back was probably ten times better as you were along. it also helps you see the familiar in new ways too.
glad the vacation went well!