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Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog, I am glad you are here. For the most part, I use this to comment (and sometimes ramble...) about the many things I love or perhaps am fascinated with this week. This can include quite an assortment of topics, including my propensity for reading novels at all hours of the day, writing, art, and travel, as I do have a serious case of Wanderlust.

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." ~St. Augustine

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 3 of of frolicking through Scotland

And we're off to another great day in Scotland!

Waking up in Ballachulish to journey onward, we took our wake up call a bit early to get one or two more pictures and walk around a bit more. Breakfast again was in the lovely dining room, and more Haggis for all to enjoy! We loaded up the coach once again to start our day.

First stop, Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct. This is in honor of Bonnie Prince Charlie's return to Scotland to try (unsuccessfully, but that story's in a few days...) and reclaim the crown for the Stuarts.

One of my favorite pictures from the whole trip was taken here....

Just gorgeous with a great view of Loch Shiel. Also, the viaduct was built between 1897 and 1901, and featured in the Harry Potter films.

Off now to the Isle of Skye! We took a ferry from Mallaig, Eddie expertly driving the coach right onto the monstrous thing.
The sea was not choppy at all, and it was a very nice, albeit chilly out on the deck, trip.
Inside, I bought and wrote a postcard to a friend and had another nice talk with Edgar and Margaret. She told me about having to visit Cape Breton, Nova Scotia one day, as it is said to be at times more Scottish than Scotland! It has been put on my bucket list for sure. I recently looked up flights there and not only are they pretty cheap, but it's only about a 3 hour flight! I think that may be the next big vacation I plan, as I have already done some recon work on looking up b&b's, as there are plenty!

One on Skye, the main visit of the day was the Clan Donald Center. It totals over 20,000 acres of land so we of course did not have time to see everything, but we did have a great visit through the gardens, the Museum of the Isles, and some ruins. We stopped here for Lunch as well and I had my second Irn Bru of the trip! Delicious!

Back on the coach, this time taking a bridge that connects Skye with Kyle of Lochalsh, back to the mainland.
This, again, had an amazing array of visual treats! Come to think of it, despite being on the coach quite a bit on the longer driving days, there was always something beautiful to see, and this part of the trip was absolutely no exception. I have never seen anything more beautiful than the Highlands, and I had much to occupy my eyes and camera as we made out way to Inverness.

Eilean Donan Castle stop also happened today.
I challenge you to find a spot here that will give you a bad view of the Castle. In our lengthy visit here, I could find none. The day turned much nicer and the sun came out for us, an it was picturesque perfection. I think this had made the short list of a possible destination location for my wedding. Unbelievable!

Then after seeing a yellow sign I had been wondering about, we were educated about the Scottish National Party sinage, which has very interesting symbolism that looks like a thistle, the Flower of Scotland of course. Then, at a comfort stop, we had a "variety of options" as Ian very humorously stated.
Option 1, use the restroom facilities, get a spot of tea, and generally have about 40 minutes to relax and stretch your legs.
2, Head on across the parking lot to a fenced in field where we had a group of 'Hielan Coos' for our viewing pleasure.
3, Follow Ian on a short little walk down the road to an ancient bridge and falls for a nice photo stop, as you can see below!

The Coos were adorable! The nicest farmer came over and fed them sweet leaves (and by fed I mean coaxed them over to us with this lovely treat so we could get some nice pictures!).
The big one, who was introduced to us as Hamish, tried to eat the others' treat, but the farmer was not having that and shooed him away with some Gaelic words of shoo-ing. The trip to the falls was a bit treacherous due to the misty nature of the day, but it was very worth it and very pretty!

Hooray, another Castle!
Urquhart Castle was very pretty along the shores of Loch Ness, although quite hard to see. We did not have time to go to the actual visitor centre, but there was this parking area close by we were able to stop at and see a little bit more of the castle, get a picture, things like that. Onward!

Finally to Inverness, my favorite city of the trip. It was a lively one for sure, yet it felt small enough that it was familiar. It is hard for me to describe, but I felt a real affection for this place. It was just beautiful.

Our hotel, the Columba, was right along the River Ness, right across the bridge from the center of town. Perfect location, beautiful views, it was just lovely! We walked around a little bit before dinner, and this is about the time when disaster reared it's ugly head.

To make a long story short, so began my two and a half days of being very sick, combined with having panic attacks about how sick I was, where I was going to find a doctor and or hospital, etc. Not a lot of fun, and it was made even more sad because I fell in love with Inverness and then my time meant to be enjoying it was disrupted. While we can't be certain, I believe I was very, very dehydrated, making me dizzy and thinking I was going to pass out. This made me very nervous and panicky, this causing a series of panic attacks. I was certain I was going to faint at dinner so I excused myself and went back to the room. All sorts of terrible thoughts were swirling though my head, making it worse. I called my dad and he made me feel better, acting as my rational brain for the moment (No, I was not going to die. Breath, relax, drink some water. Repeat.) Mom came back up to check on me, and I broke down a little bit, but had fresh Highland air to help lull me into some restful slumber and try again tomorrow...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

ALSO!

Okay, tonight I am writing a final list of all the books I have read in the past month or so, so I can finally start to review them. I keep putting it off and then finding other things that need to be done.... or really just re-reading Outlander..... but it's the new 20th Anniversary edition, so that's not another 're-read', is it? Oh well... But I promise I will have at least one (hopefully more like five, but I won't push it...) review done before August!

Scotland Day 2

I realize I didn't post my day one as such, but I trust that y'all will be able to follow along :)

So, day two in amazing Scotland...

Wake up to a full Scottish breakfast in the hotel. Delish! We sat with Susan and Julie, and talked a bit more Outlander over croissants, eggs, and HAGGIS! Yes, haggis. I knew exactly what it was when I saw it and decided that I just needed to be adventurous and try some. My mom, on the other had, unaware of what it was, and loudly declaring before we left she would not be trying some, had the littlest bit on her plate. We got back to the table and it was the first thing I tried. Ahh-mazing. Very savory with a specific array of spices, and it was just delicious. Mom thought so as well, and was very surprised after I told her what it was. On the coach again to begin day two!

First stop was a boat cruise on Loch Lomond. It was beautiful, or bonnie as it's namesake song describes.
The captain was very funny and kept us quite entertained as he described all that we were seeing. It was a fairly overcast day, but the wisps of clouds on the mountain tops just added to the beauty, and what's Scotland without some mist, right? I talked with a few more people from the tour, and I was very happy to meet Edgar and Margaret. They hailed from Nova Scotia, and were quite impressed when I declared "Ahh, New Scotland, how appropriate that you would not be visiting the original one!" They were so nice!

Next, on to Inveraray Castle. Beautiful! Our tour guide's name here was Allan and he was hilarious. Very charming and had jokes for everyone! I think I liked the servants' quarters best in the lower part of the castle. Looking at the ancient walls and all the original kitchen ware and tools, I could just imagine all the goings-on that had one day, long ago taken place here. Just amazing.

Lunch stop was also in Inveraray, as was a nice place for some shopping! Found some great Scottish lavender soap, and took a picture with an adorable statue of a barkeep.
Also saw a wonderful piper in full Highland garb. Quite fetching if I may say so myself.
We then embarked even deeper into the Highlands. Take the most beautiful thing you have ever seen and multiply it by 100 and that is basically what you would have. Every where one would look there would be hills and Monros and lush greens and dark heather. I cannot do it justice with words, I am so happy to have been able to experience this.
Seeing the 3 sisters of Glen Coe was gorgeous as well. It had been a wet spring, so we were able to see a few waterfalls rushing down the mountains as well. Ian continued to regale us with more history and stories of the area, including the horrible Glen Coe massacre. It gave a whole new feeling to the place, but it was no less majestic and awe-inspiring.

Also was able to see Kilchurn Castle, the ancestral home of the Campbells of Glen Orchy on the shores of Loch Awe!

As the afternoon was drawing to a close, our next stop was to our hotel in Ballachulish.
This was absolutely one of my favorite hotels we stayed at. Overlooking Loch Levan, we were so happy to find that our room had the most spectacular view! We had a nice amount of time to walk around before dinner, and took quite a few lovely pictures of the Loch. Dinner was amazing once again. Very fancy accommodations in one of the original rooms of the beautiful building, we had some great local fare, with slate chargers to boot (as you may be able to tell, I was very much impressed with the entirety of our stay!). Susan, mom, and I went to the bar for some drinks before dinner and saw Eddie there! I wanted to talk to him a bit, but the line was getting long and I didn't know if he had already had enough of us from the long day on the coach and just wanted a nice pint and some alone time. He was looking good too in some regular blue jeans and white tee shirt, fond memories of another handsome driver by the name of Jordano came to mind....how do I luck out with this time after time?

Our after dinner walk took us to a pretty somber yet very interesting historic sight. In 1752, Colin Campbell of Glenure was assassinated in what is now known as the Appin Murder. James Stewart was wrongly accused and put on trial for this (as the assumed assassin had apparently fled to France, if even he was the actual one to do it, no one knows for certain to this day). As you can read in any history book, there was quite a bit of conflict around this time, including the fact that Jacobite sympathizers were having their lands taken from them. Stewart's land had indeed just been taken over and given to Campbell, although it was a man named Allan Breck who had actually made the threats of violence (Breck being the one who had fled to France shortly after the murder). Well, there were Campbells on Stewart's jury (11 out of 15!), so it was no surprise that he was found guilty. He was sentenced to death by hanging, and the location of his execution was on a trail up into the hills, not even five minutes from our hotel, so we made the trip.

First the sign leading us up the path, then the marker stone...

It was sad to read about this and learn about his unjustified death, and it of course enriched my understanding of the tumultuous past Scotland has had. Truly a fascinating history for Her strong and hearty people, of whom I am a big fan.

Then off to bed, another long day ahead of us. The sun didn't go down till maybe about 10:30, so more beautiful shots of the mountainous sunset from out hotel window!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sick day!



I know it's a sick day when I watch a movie twice in a row. Good thing it was Australia, starring Hugh Jackman.....





Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Also.... tiny blog reminder (to myself, mostly :D) to add more books to the 'to be reviewed list! I have really read wayyyy to much lately, if that is possible, and I just move on to the next one before I get to write about it. I have been liking them all, so that's a good sign I think, just gotta find the time to write some thoughts about them.... maybe this weekend between submitting resumes....

xxoo

Hello!

Wow, so much has happened in the month or so I have been gone! I am a little overwhelmed with all that I need to get caught up with, but I will do my best :)

MOST importantly, my trip to Scotland was just amazing. I absolutely loved it. I think I will break up my journal entries a bit on here and include a few pics with each one.

Here is a quick run-down of our first day!

Left Chicago for Newark. It was my first trip to Joi-sey, but just to the extent of the airport. I did see New York's skyline (pales in comparison to good ol' ChiCity :) Our flight was about 90 minutes delayed from Chicago, which was kinda frustrating because they listed it as a 2.5 hour flight when in reality it only takes an hour and a half to get there, so if they are just buffering the time in case of delays, I mainly don't get it.... So frustrating in fact that when we finally got there, we discovered that they bumped us to the next day's flight to Glasgow!! I started to get a little (or a lot) freaked out, but my mom was calm and got us back on the original flight, as the tour started that day, so we needed to be there, obviously!

The flight to Glasgow, about 6 hours, was not so bad. There was a nice English girl between us who reminded me a little of Pam from The Office. I wrote a series of Haikus about my first glimpse of Scotland, I think they are pretty clever!

Once we got to Glasgow Int'l Airport, we gathered out luggage and found the doors where Ian, CIE Tour Guide Extraordinaire was waiting for us! We waited for a few more people arriving at the same time to get there and then headed out to the bus where we met Eddie our driver! He was Irish and quite delightfully charming. Ian was Scottish and had a monocle which was pretty neat and very fitting.

Off to the Hotel! We got there way early before our rooms were ready, but they quickly got things together for us, which was nice. We were completely exhausted at this point, and it seemed to hit us right after getting off the plane! A hot shower and quick nap fixed me right up, a city tour of Glasgow and then off to the bar for a welcome drink with our group!

Met Kyla, John and Shauna, and a few others, most everyone was soo nice and hilarious! Kyla and I talked about careers in psych, she was maybe my favorite person I met. The bar tender was very charming and nice, commending me for being brave and trying some hard cider I hadn't had before. Group dinner, more meeting people, then an early night for our early start the next day!

Next time I will tell you about day 2, including new tour members who are great and Loch Lomond!


Very pretty buildings!
my first official, authentic, Scottish men in kilts! Heaven!!
Appreciated this quite a bit, very important for cultural identity, posterity, etc. for Scots. Glad I snapped a pic before we had to leave!
Nothing like lording over fellow art fans! Loved this gallery very much!
Downtown Glasgow reminded me almost immediately of Chicago! We have this clock's distant relative in the form of the Marshall Field's clock :)

I loved Glasgow! Can't wait to post more!