Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spring Break: Scotland

Funny story about Scotland...

In 2011, a psychic told us that Eric & I briefly shared a past life together in Scotland in the 14th century.  He told us that we met on a boat when we were hired as part of a rowing crew, and just happened to sit next to each other (apparently I was male during this particular lifetime).  We became instant best friends!  We made crude jokes, sang, we were loud and just plain obnoxious!  We were so obnoxious that we'd get the entire crew into an uproar and never listened to the captain, so the captain fired us!  Once we docked, Eric and I patted each other on the back and went our separate ways, never to see each other again. 

Whether any of that is true or not we'll never know, but we thought it was funny.  Eric and I have joked since then about "meeting" in Scotland and who got who fired (we're pretty sure it was me that got him fired).  Eric thinks that me being on any kind of boat is pretty far fetched, especially doing something like rowing it.  But all I took from that was that we had to go to Scotland!  You know me... I don't need a good reason to go anywhere, so hey, a past lifetime in Scotland with the love of my life sounds like the perfect reason to GO TO SCOTLAND!

We arrived in Edinburgh by train late morning and immediately knew we were going to love it!  The entire city was beautiful and unique and everyone was smiling!  We have learned in our almost two years here in Germany not to smile at anyone- unless you don't mind the dirty looks you'll get, which I do mind, I mind very much.  But in Scotland, the people were smiling!  Finally, I felt free to be my happy self!

No time was wasted in our 4 1/2 days in my most favorite country (outside of America and Belgium)!  We tried to see every square inch of Scotland, but missed a good chunk of it because we just didn't have time.  I probably could have broken this post into two, or even three, separate posts because of how much we loved it there, and because of the amount of pictures I took.  But I decided to just do one and separate it into the cities we saw instead so that I didn't bore y'all to death, or clog your Facebook walls with my silly posts, which I think I've already been doing with pictures of beer pong and my cat and math homework and whatever else my brain feels like Facebook needs to know.  


The apartment we rented for the week was a few minutes walking distance to the Holyrood Palace so it made sense to see that first.  Holyrood is the home of Queen Elizabeth when she is in Scotland.  Now we've seen three of Queen Elizabeth's residences: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Holyrood Palace!  I'm not exactly sure how to pronounce Holyrood- with the scottish accent I kept hearing "hollywood," but I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be "holy-rude."  
And can we just talk about that accent for a minute?!  I. just. LOVE it!  If an ax murderer smiled at me and gave me directions to his basement in a Scottish accent, I'd think he were the friendliest person in the world and not even care about the ax part.

The Queen's Gallery in front of the Holyrood Palace. 
Arthur's Seat- in the Queen's backyard, and our first glimpse of Scotland's gorgeous scenery! 
The Abbey

Isn't Scotland gorgeous?!

The Holyrood Palace and the Edinburgh Castle capped each end of the Royal Mile, with the palace at the bottom, the castle at the top.  Our apartment was at the bottom, so my butt got a really great workout a bunch of times every day!  And the Royal Mile isn't a mile, it's actually a mile and an eighth!  So my butt walked, at least, 2 1/2 miles (from our apartment) every butt loved it!  But don't say anything to my butt now because it hasn't seen that much walking since I got home, and home has a comfy couch and chocolate and Netflix.

We walked up and down that Royal Mile, smiling at everyone, inhaling the atmosphere, and falling in love...


Eric loves his lederhosen and he gets a lot of crap about it from people back home, but in Germany lederhosen are normal, it makes sense.  We see people on the trains and walking down the street wearing lederhosen all the time!  In Austria, it seemed that lederhosen and dirndl was the outfit of choice for evening wear.  We even saw an entire bachelor party wearing lederhosen in Salzburg!  In Scotland, it was the the kilt!  It just made sense there!  Maybe if we saw someone wearing a kilt in Germany it might look a little funny, but people wearing kilts in Edinburgh was perfectly fitting, and.... perfectly perfect.... 

Isabelle got to meet Elaine Davidson, the most tattooed and pierced woman in the world!  Elaine is in the Guinness Book of World Records and has been featured on a National Geographic documentary.  She has over 9,000 piercings- mostly in her genitalia- and I think I'll just let that sit here because I'm not really sure what else to say about that.  But!  I will tell you that Elaine was one of the warmest, kindest, most approachable people we have ever met!  She was just a blessing to talk to!  So think what you want about her appearance, but I promise that we could have talked to her all night long!  Isabelle certainly made a new friend!

We are collecting alcohol from every country we are visiting, for no particular reason.  I mean, I guess we are trying to preserve our experience here in every way that we can, and collecting wine/champagne/cognac/scotch is our way of going home with bits of Europe.  So yeah, maybe that's our reason.  We imagine that for a month or so when we are old and gray we're going to sit on our front porch drinking our collection away and remembering these years when we were young and got to see the world!  Or maybe we won't remember anything after that month, but either way we think it'll be fun!
I booked the Scotch Whisky Experience, and I have to say, I learned a lot and came out of there actually liking whisky!  Scotland is the mecca of scotch!  Eric ultimately decided to buy his whisky from The Whisky Trail, he bought a sampler pack from all the regions in Scotland, and a couple of smaller bottles that he liked (my favorite was from the Highlands).  Did you know that Scotland does not spell whisky with an 'e'?  Whiskey's from other parts of the world is spelled with an 'e.'  I'm not sure if that 'e' makes it taste any different...

I had heard about the 'Cadies & Witchery Tour' on one of the Facebook travel pages I'm on and thought that it sounded....pretty cool.  The description said something about ghosts and ghouls and coming along "at your own risk."  Eric hates anything scary, the guy is still prone to nightmares (c'mon, that's adorable!), if I subjected my husband to anything like a haunted house he'd be mad at me for a long while!  But the description said that the tour was perfect for people of all ages, so I took a risk and booked the tour!  And I'm so glad I did!  The "deceased" tour guide took us to different parts of the Royal Mile explaining Edinburgh's medieval history, and at each point a ghost from the past would show up by scaring the dickens out of us before explaining his/her job or life before they died.  Once you got over the initial shock of someone coming up behind you out of no where to scare you, it was a hilarious tour!  These two really knew their history and really knew how to entertain a crowd!  The kids in the group loved it!  We all had a blast...even Eric! 

The Edinburgh Castle 

Just like in London, we ate one large meal every day, always at traditional Scottish pub.  We all wanted authentic Scottish food and whisky, but Eric really wanted to try haggis (Google it and tell me what you think).  Surprisingly though, it's wasn't that bad!  It had the texture of meatloaf, almost.... I don't know, I don't really know how to explain it because I could only handle one bite, but both Eric and Nikki really liked it!  In our 9 years together, nothing that Eric eats surprises me anymore- he has a garbage gut.  When in Rome, I guess. 

Eric wanted haggis, I wanted scones & clotted cream.  So one morning we ate breakfast at this little tea room about a block up the Mile from the Holyrood Palace.  It was the most adorable place I've ever eaten at!  We did get scones but no picture of it, I'm sorry to say, and Isabelle ordered a hot chocolate.  Hot chocolate is to Isabelle what coffee is to me.  The tea room was tiny and cozy, everything was served on real china, the food was amazing, the price was even more amazing, and everyone was so nice!  It was the place to point pinky's in!

You can't go to Scotland and not look for the Loch Ness Monster!  I think that the best way to see Scotland would have been to rent a car and bounce from town to town and B&B to B&B, but we just didn't have the time for that.  I wish that we would have cut one day off of our London trip and had that extra day in Scotland, but those are the kinds of things you learn when traveling.  We hope to go back to Scotland one more time before we head back to the States and we'll for sure spend all of our time there, rather than trying to pack a lot into one week.  
So since we didn't have time to rent a car, we took a day trip from Edinburgh to Glencoe, the Highlands, and Loch Ness on a bus tour.  Our day was spent seeing the grandeur of Scottish nature!  We were blessed with "tropical" weather for this time of year too!  

We stopped at a bakery and got sandwiches and drinks for lunch, and then boarded a boat for a cruise on Loch Ness.  {Loch = Lake}  I tried real hard to find Nessie, I even put my big lens on my camera!  But no such luck.  Our tour guide said that she shows up twice every day- in the mornings 5 minutes before his bus arrives, and every afternoon 10 minutes after the bus leaves.  Darn it! ;o)

Do you see her anywhere?  Me neither.

Since we're fans of the Davinci Code we wanted to see Rosslyn Chapel during our time in Scotland.  We figured that another day trip was our best option for seeing it because not only would we get to see the chapel, but other cool stuff too- cool stuff that maybe we didn't know was cool until the tour guide dropped us off there.  
First stop: the Forth Rail Bridge, a huuuuge rail bridge completed in 1890!  You really couldn't tell just how huge it was until a train passed through it.  The train looked teeny tiny, you almost couldn't see the train.  The engineering is so impressive!

Dunfermline Abbey

Do you watch 'Game of Thrones'?  I don't, but I want to!  This house is on the Game of Thrones, I guess.

This is going to sound really bratty but I'll be completely honest with you.... we are totally over castles.  We've seen some of the world's most famous castles... Bran & Peles Castle, Buckingham Palace, Neuschwanstein, Windsor Castle, Downton Abbey, Holyrood Palace, Burg Eltz... and like, forty more in between.  Castles are fun!  Castles are beautiful!  Buuuut.... I'm over them.  Stirling Castle is just like the others, if you go to Scotland you won't be disappointed, but I am plain over touring castles.  I didn't even care to take a bunch of pictures.  There, I said it.

Stirling Castle

Cathedrals are different, though.  I don't know why, but to me, they're way cooler than castles!  They're peaceful, and cathedrals almost always have little hidden things in their stained glass windows or carvings in the stone that make them so interesting!  And Rosslyn Chapel apparently has the holy grail! {If you've read The Davinci Code or watched the movie, but the owner of the chapel swears there is no holy grail there.}  This is the real Rosslyn Chapel from the book and where the movie was filmed!

God put a tender heart for all creatures into my daughter.  Animals just respond to her gentle nature differently, it's like they know they're safe with her.  While at the Rosslyn Chapel Isabelle met William, the chapel's resident kitty.  It's a compulsion with Isabelle- she can not not sit next to, talk to, pet, and be near an animal when she see's one- trying to pull her out of a zoo or animal sanctuary is impossible!  So while Eric, Nikki, and I went inside the chapel, Isabelle stayed outside with William, and the two of them didn't move for almost an hour. 

We had a day that we had zero plans.  Can you believe that?!  I didn't plan a single thing for an entire day that we were in Scotland!  We decided to leave a day open so that we could do whatever we wanted.  After two days in a row of having to abide by a set itinerary I figured it'd be nice to have one day to do whatever we wanted.  So we went to Glasgow!  Could you have thought of something better?  I couldn't either...

We opted to take the hop-on/hop-off bus tour since we only had one day.  I can take or leave a hop-on/hop-off tour.  Depending on the city and the amount of time you have, it can be an awesome way to see what you want to see.  But I don't like just driving by something and saying that I saw it.  I like to see it, tour it, take pictures of it- then I'll say I saw something!  But, we only had one day in Glasgow, so everything I usually would think was out the window, and a hop-on/hop-off tour was our best option.

That is until the bus breaks down and you're stranded in the middle of Glasgow... it's a long story that made Eric really grumpy, but don't worry, we still got to see a good amount of the city!  {And made it safely back to Edinburgh}

For all of her 12 year old eyerolls and attitude, inside my girl lives a special soul.  Isabelle has the most incredible dreams of loved ones who have passed on, she sees things that no one else can, and animals are drawn to her.  She's like God's messenger, it's incredible.  

We toured the Glasgow cathedral and there was a small bottom level that we could tour.  Down there was a beautiful stained glass window that was dedicated to stillborn babies and all babies that have died before birth.  I was especially struck by this- another reminder that I am not alone.  I could hear Isabelle softly humming to herself and didn't think anything about it.  As we walked back up the stairs together Isabelle goes "Awww man!  The music stopped, I liked that song!"  Eric and I looked at her for a second, then looked at each other, then back at her, and said "there was no music playing, kiddo."  She said, "yes, there was!  It was a happy, pretty song, like a flute or something, and it just stopped!"  Then she wandered off to another part of the cathedral and Eric and I just stared at each other.

There was no music playing that I, Eric, or Nikki could hear.

The Necropolis

And that's it.  That was Scotland!  I'm sad that this means that our trip is officially over.  I'm sad I'm not still in Scotland, although, my bed and my coffee maker were calling my name, but still, we had an amazing vacation!

Scotland's people are the nicest people I have ever met.  I've gotta say.... I think they're even nicer than anyone you'll ever meet in the States!  Glasgow was okay, it was pretty much like any other city we've been too, except nicer people with the greatest accents on the entire planet!  But Edinburgh is where it's at!  The kilts, the smiles, the food.... sigh.... all of it, really!

I've talked to four different psychics in four different states and they've all said the same things.  Some of what they said has come true, and the other stuff... well, we'll just have to see, I guess.  But, Eric and I put our faith into God, so whether a psychic is right or wrong doesn't matter, we figure whatever happens will happen.  But if that one guys job was to tell us a funny story about meeting my soulmate in Scotland 600+ years ago so that we'd take a once in a lifetime trip to Scotland, well then, I'm thankful for him!  I'm thankful for all the people I meet on my path!  
But I'm especially thankful that for this lifetime, I got to experience the amazingness of a beautiful country.....and didn't have to row a boat to do that.

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