Thursday, December 8, 2016

scotland conglomerate of posts

wanted to have all our trip to Scotland & Iceland posts in order for people to view much easier -


day 1, glasgow:

day 2 & 3 edinburgh:

day 4 aberdeen:

day 5 aberdeen:

day 6 & 7 inverness to thurso:

day 8 and beginning of 9 - the north coast:

day 9:

day 10 the fairy pools in skye:

day 11 northern skye:

day 12 & 13 - fort william, oban, staffa:

day 14 glance:

day 15 & 16 last full days in scotland:

day 17 & 18 iceland:

day 19 last day of adventure:

day 20 reflections back at home:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

november 9th

I wake up to a nation I do not know.

I process by writing. These are my ramblings trying to make sense of my confusion. You’re welcome to them, maybe it will help someone.

- - - - - - - - - - -

On one hand I’m surprised that the person with the most money didn’t win.

I’m genuinely surprised that my nation isn’t totally an oligarchy. 

[ well, actually that remains to be seen ]

- - - - - - - - - - -

“And to the young people in particular, I hope you will hear this. I have, as Tim said, spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I've had successes and I've had setbacks. Sometimes, really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too. This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it. It is — it is worth it. We need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.” - Hillary Clinton concession speech, November 9th, 2016

- - - - - - - - - - - 

If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?


I was always taught that this was the response to that question.

You’re always supposed to do the right thing even when no one else will.

You’re supposed to stand up for what you believe in even when it is unpopular.

You’re also supposed to stand up for those who are oppressed, those whose voice is being drowned out by unkindness and fear.

You’re supposed to stand up to bullies.

So what happened to what I was taught?

Why did this election become a bunch of people jumping off a bridge because everyone else was?

- - - - - - - - - - - 

We do not yet know what history will say about the next term of president in this nation.

But one day my children or grandchildren will ask about this election, just as I asked my grandmother what were people thinking when FDR took a third and fourth term.

I will be able, with clear conscience, be able to proudly but humbly tell them I did not vote for fear. 

- - - - - - - - - - -

It was difficult for me to even think about going to church before election day.

Now, that seems so much more daunting.

It’s so hard to try and step near places that claim to be the body of Christ when that body reeks of fear, and fear is not the aroma of Christ.

[there is one church locally I know I could still probably go to though, so that is comforting]

It’s gonna take some time. It may take a move to another nation. Who knows.

I just wish church was a place of healing as it once was. I wish it was a beacon for the weary as it is supposed to be. We are all so weary, we need the true Rest that the true Comforter can provide. 

But where is He in all this fear?

[ He’s still here, somewhere ]

- - - - - - - - - - -

The opposite of love is not hate.

The opposite of love is fear.

And unfortunately, fear overtook many in this nation.

And now, in response, many are fearful for what this means for them and their families and friends. I’m trying to not be scared, but it is an uphill battle. It’s hard to not be scared for what this means for women, minorities, muslims, the lgbtq community, disabled persons, or even anyone who doesn’t align with the same views, as the new presidency whose platform was based on alienation takes hold. 

But we don’t overcome fear with hate. We don’t overcome fear with fear.

We overcome fear with love.

My friends and family who are scared of what this new presidency means for them - know that you’re loved, you are of much worth, and you’re not alone. There are many standing on your side, including myself. And we’re not going anywhere. I truly hope you will not be bullied, but if you are, please don’t hesitate to speak up.

My friends and family who voted for this new presidency - obviously I still love you too, even when I don’t agree with your decisions. I hope we can all be kind to one another, not gloat, and come together amidst the divide. Most importantly, I hope more will be able to learn empathy on a huge scale. Listen. Please, please - learn how to actively listen, especially when it makes you uncomfortable.

I truly hope this presidency will not continue to divide us further, but will teach us how to humble ourselves, listen to each other, and love so powerfully that change can occur on a deep level in many hearts and institutions.

We’ve got work to do, people.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

day 20: not just a dream

Being home and showering in your own shower, sleeping in your own bed and waking up in it - almost makes you feel like it was all just a dream. But then you see the evidence that you did indeed have the adventure of a lifetime. And you will carry it in you forever. So here's some musings -

Things I'll Miss -

Scottish accents everywhere, or really a variety of accents everywhere.

THE BACON. we are still convinced we didn't have had real bacon until coming to Scotland. the thickness of a slice of thick cut ham and it's all incredible tasting, so full of flavor.

the cheddar. again, what has America called cheddar? what is that? not much flavor in comparison with Scottish mature cheddar.

springy earth under foot. I didn't know it was possible to have the earth feel like a small trampoline everywhere you walk, even in some gravelled areas.

smell of falling leaves with a light rain.

all the flowers still blooming beautifully in middle of chilly October (so confusing).

"elderly people" signs.

calling canned food tinned food.

calling cows coos.

heaps of sheep and loads of lambs.

cars falling into water signs.

calling road construction "works."

their system for "works" is very efficient - they set up temporary stop lights for each side to alternate traffic to pass through, same for single lane bridges.

not tipping.

not being in America, actually.

the word cheers sounding right as a thank you only because of their accents.

them being so understanding toward us when we had no idea what kind of coins we had to pay with ("it's okay, I would have the same trouble if I were in America").

the gorgeous, otherworldly landscape everywhere you go in the highlands.


Things I Won't Miss -

getting regularly scalded by hot water as they usually have hot and cold separate at all sinks.

hostel life (except for the amazing people we got to meet!).

toilets not flushing.

compact spaces (mostly bathrooms!).

the lack of Target (and other American establishments).

living out of a series of bags.

wearing flip flops while showering.

single track roads. especially the ones on a side of a cliff.

making all things prawn (which I still find to be a disgusting word for shrimp)... prawn crisps. prawn this prawn that. enough with the prawn already! there's also haggis crisps...

Things I'd Do Differently -

Fly into and out of Edinburgh and skip Glasgow all together.

Spent more time in Inverness, maybe have gotten the car in Aberdeen instead.

Bring fabreeze and travel dish soap.

Bring more than just my credit and debit card, bring Jason's as well. Had read to just bring one or two forms of payment and keep it all together in an RFID protected case on your neck or waist... should have had that for each of us.

Book the insurance for the rental cars in advance because it was apparently cheaper but didn't know that when booking (also didn't know our U.S. auto insurance wouldn't cover driving abroad, still unclear if that's true but had to go with it at the time).

Maybe have decided to not get any souvenirs for anyone haha. Kinda stressed us out a bit.

Attempted to try to understand the Krona (Icelandic currency) a bit better beforehand, and maybe just planned our Iceland trip a bit differently.

Not left my camera bag with charger, extra battery, and card reader in the hostel by accident.

Gotten to our Achiltibue airbnb before dark, but we did have so much fun adventuring.

Been able to stay at the Skywalker hostel in Skye (was booked when we were to be in Skye).

Not have either of us get sick. Can't do much about that.

Arrange getting us both abducted by someone in Scotland so we would never have to come home.

Things I learned -

Scots and Brits still very much hostile toward each other. Some Scottish businesses don't accept the British pound, and British businesses won't accept the Scottish pound. They treat each other poorly. Very sad. But it makes sense when you know the history.

Gaelic and the Highland ways were kind of wiped out until 1985. For the same reason we tend to want to ignore the bits of history where we oppressed people groups.

Some think Braveheart had a huge part to bring the Highland ways back to the forefront. To demand the government not ignore their history any longer. Gaelic is now taught in all Scottish schools and on all signage.

Brexit impacts everyone in the UK, even those who are here on visa.

You only have to have a grandparent who was a Scottish citizen to become a Scottish citizen.

At the beginning of the trip I was heavily disturbed at not having a flat sheet between the duvet comforter and myself, now I'm completely accustomed to it. Also kind of like said comforter not being tucked at the foot of the bed so I can just stick my feet out if I'm too warm. But I don't think I could do this at home. Jason rolls and runs too much in his sleep for that haha.

Freaking out, stessing, or being anxious doesn't change the situation. Now I've learned it and must put it into practice.

The beauty of Scotland has spoiled me. It's like walking in the best parts of Middle Earth and exploring each nook and crannie that could possibly contain beauty - and it always does. Everywhere you turn is something completely outlandishly and wildly beautiful.

Scotland will be home one day.

- - - - - - - - - -

As for life after travel - we've given most of our souvenirs now, and they love them. It makes your heart happy to bring pieces of your joy in travel back to those who bring you joy.

Transitioning back to real life has been a bit abrupt but still good. It's good to see your loved ones, no matter what challenges you are facing.

If you all could please lift up our family during this time, we would greatly appreciate it. Jason's dad was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor back in June. Life is tough right now, and anything you could consider giving to help offset medical bills would be so appreciated. We know everyone has their problems and can't give to everyone else, so if prayers is all you can give, we appreciate that too.

Yesterday he was re-admitted to the hospital due to dehydration and possible infection. Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support during this time. 

We are so thankful to have such wonderful family and friends to be on this journey with. These times make you hug a bit longer and cherish those sweet cuddles and laughter with your nieces and nephew all the more.

day 19: final day of adventure

checked out of our airbnb, went to Hallgrímskirkja and got to explore the inside. what a lovely, simple church design.

then attempted a small part of the golden circle.

we made it to thingvellir, passed by geysir (you get the idea from afar), and ended at gullfoss before making our way back to keflavik.

I feel that now I've seen gulfoss I don't need to see niagra falls as it will likely seem dull haha.

and then... keflavik, keflavik, keflavik. never again will I do anything but transfer.

check in - 2 passport checks. security - one passport check. try to find food on way to gate... not much selection, poor pricing. our gate is a 15 minute walk from food area.

and then...

a massive exit passport check. for probably over a thousand people.

why do an exit passport check. you checked these people's passports when they came in and you've already checked them 3 times prior to this.

massively clumped in an area, not even lined up. only 4 staff members checking for those flying to the U.S. then 2 for UK and Canada. 6 total. there could have been 10 lanes open. it was the most chaos I've ever seen. the photo below is when we were close to the front of the line.

I'll say it again. it seems like with keflavik they put all the money into the shops and bathrooms and forgot that it was an airport and all the importance of the areas that are required to run an airport.

and then after that passport check, line up again for another boarding pass and passport check before going to your actual gate.

unbelievable. I couldn't have been more glad to be on a plane going home.

oh and our plane was delayed 30min because people were stuck in that massive passport flustercluck.

how awesome is that. best.

I didn't end up watching stranger things on the flight because I noticed the in board flight television options had Fargo, a TV show I had been wanting to watch. but it was only season 2. but I watched it anyway and enjoyed 6, almost 7 episodes. looking forward to watching the first season and then getting back into the second.

at one point we flew over greenland, that was pretty cool. and getting to watch the sun disappear into the atmosphere was fun too.

landing this time was fine, no trouble, just a bit of a headache and tiny bit queasy but nothing like the last flight.

dulles was fine, nothing crazy. the customs photo booth thing was odd... and super bright as you'll see in the pic. but Jason was hangry so he thought it was all terribly excessive haha. they had dogs sniffing for something, but they weren't German Shepherds, they were cute little terrier type dogs. sooo cuuute. made me happy. then finally saw Taylor!! it's just the best being reunited with your bestie :)

chickfila as first meal back in the states. SO GOOD. all I had today day was huel, a crappy hot dog, pringles, and 2 cliff bars. chickfila never tasted so good.

and it's so nice to see the price being what will actually show up as the charge on the bank account. no more currency exchange! woohoo!!

3 weeks of mail on the counter. I've only sorted junk and important.

a happy buns in her cage, happy to see me.

took a lovely shower. and now I'm laying in my lovely bed. and my body says it's 5am when it's 1am.

and I love my house. good house. goodnight :)

most of the pics taken today were on Jason's phone so... you'll have to deal with these for now haha

Thursday, October 20, 2016

days 17 & 18: iceland

Iday 17:

nice to rest in our airbnb, first non-hostel stay in over a week. the night before, I nearly cried when we got in the room and I just plopped down on the bed. a room to ourselves. a not bunk bed. and the shower was amazing.

had a mildly leisurely morning packing up and making sure everything was squared away to leave our airbnb.

headed to the car rental place to drop off the car just after filling it's tank.

went to the place at the airport that was listed as the enterprise rental area for the airport, even asked a nearby hertz representative where it was and they directed us there as well... only to find a sign on the door directing us to another address 8 minutes away.

went there, had a hard time finding it. got on the phone (hah I tried so hard for us to not make calls abroad only to fail) with the place listed on our paperwork, they said the address we just went to isn't right and to go back to the airport. and when we finally found the place the sign directed us to, they said the same thing as well. but a nice enterprise guy gave us directions to the proper place in the airport which was an entirely different location.

apparently the first place we went to is now the car wash place for the second location we went to and neither of those have anything to do with the airport location.

so, following the nice man's directions, we made our way. and after a wrong roundabout exit (there were basically 9 exits on this roundabout) and a very hasty u-turn we finally made it to the proper enterprise location, but goodness we were now very short on time and they still had to check the car over and do paperwork.

to say I was anxious was mild. it was yet again where I let it get the better of me. and it did nothing to help. but all I could think of was missing that flight. not that being stuck in Scotland would be so terrible, but I just absolutely didn't want to have the trouble. I just wanted it to go smoothly.

but we made it to the desk in time, made it through security in time, got our lunch in time, and made it to the gate in time. mind you, it was close. but we made it, thank God.

had our final Scottish sandwiches at the airport, had mine actually on the tarmac as I didn't have enough time at the gate to eat.

I love takeoff on flights. I think it's the most exhilarating feeling. I love flying. I hope one day to go skydiving to get as close to flying as I can. trying to give you guys a picture of how much I love flying, here...

but this takeoff... I was fine. I had my sandwich before, and I was actually quite thrilled about the adventure ahead in Iceland.

but then we got up in the air. and I saw the sheeps dotting the fields. and the lochs and mountains in the distance getting smaller and smaller.

and I lost it. big time. not quite blubbering, but a hefty cry. I didn't want to see it go. I didn't want to go from it. I looked as long as I possibly could. until the clouds faded the rolling landscape away from my view for a final time.

and then I collected myself, saw the selection of on board films, chose Beetlejuice and called it a flight. I thoroughly enjoyed my in flight movie choice. made me quite happy. aside from midway through I needed to prop up my feet as they felt quite tight (which is when I realized I should have worn my compression socks. what an old lady).

and then we began the landing process.

ah. ahaaahhaa....

okay, so when I went to Texas last year, I had a bit of air sickness with the landings, bit nothing too crazy, just a heavy headache and some very mild nausea. they weren't troublesome landings so it wasn't a big deal. same with both of our flights getting here.

but this. was. not. an. easy. landing.
and once I saw and felt the weather the pilot was having to combat, I forgave him. but I had a hard time forgiving him in the moment.

we circled 3 times due to bad weather or gate change.

each time we attempted landing I nearly threw up. it was just so rough. plane bobbing up and down, my stomach going into my chin. no good.

but everyone clapped once we landed. it was quite a feat.

keflavik airport is... odd. it seems they put all the money in the shops and bathrooms and no money in the gates and baggage claim.

the bathroom was a white maze hallway of actual large white rooms you had all to yourself. fully equipped with a Dyson faucet/dryer combo that was impossible to use.

anyhow, managed - got our bags after a very very long wait and got our rental car all sorted before going outside to actually get the car.

you guys.
the wind was a constant 27mph. gusting to probably 40 or 45. I actually wasn't sure I'd make it to the car before me or one of our pieces of luggage was blown away. I've never felt such wind before.

and Jason had to drive in it. but now this manual was on the left side of the car and right side of the street as we have in America. a little Hyundai. and he said "I never thought I'd say this, but I want that stupid little British car back" - this Hyundai is handling so poorly. some funny smells and noises. we are likely going to drop by our rental company and have them check it.

but got to our airbnb in one piece after all the impronoucnable street names.

however I did totally fall down the stairs at the airbnb. these stairs are so incredibly steep and shallow. after I fell and laughed off my skinned hands, bruised butt and bruised pride, the girls in the kitchen said they did the exact same thing and now only go up and down sideways. which I also do now haha. but dang did I feel like such an old lady today!!! halp, I needs my life alert!!

got set up in our room and went across the street to Bonus, their most amazing grocery store here, highly recommended by many.

and this was our first experience being in another land where we had no grasp of the language or currency in the slightest. what an unusual feeling. really gave me some hands on perspective on how many people feel visiting America or even living there not knowing the language. you just desire a frame of reference. thankfully we can do that with our smart phones, but not everyone has those.

got some groceries and the cashiers told us they closed half an hour ago and we needed to leave haha. no announcement overhead about when they were closing or anything, just this expectation that we knew this somehow. but they were just waiting on us and these other girls to check out so they could leave and none of us had a clue! very unusual feeling when you're holding someone up unbeknownst to you.

had our dinner, some supernatural, and prepped for the next day. and shower... the most odd shower I've had thus far, which is saying something. it was odd because the window is in the shower and the top remains tilted open... all with those crazy winds still howling. so it was a mix of hot and cold. and air pressure changing. it wasn't bad at all (not like the shower trickling to nothing in that one hostel!)... just definitely different.

I think that's what I can say about Iceland thus far, it's just so terribly different. the landscape is so similar to Scotland but everything else is completely different.

now we hope to sleep with the wind howling away!

day 18:

blue lagooooon!

what an experience! I was so thankful it wasn't raining, gosh that would have been miserable.

driving up you actually see the pools right at the road, but they aren't the ones you swim in. but it certainly gets you hype. this glowing bright blue water in a sea of black rock.

car park seemed kind of empty to my surprise, but once we walked up, there were heaps of people in line. and I got concerned we wouldn't make our check in for our massage in time (you needed to check in an hour prior to your massage appointment). but it all worked out even though I got all worked up over it. this trip has made me realize how much and often I do let things get to me that I cannot change. it's a bad habit that I must learn to correct.

got all changed and entered the water from the interior of the building... thank goodness that's an option because it was so cooold and wiiiinddyyy!!!

but that water was so perfectly warm and lovely. I still think it was harder to move around in than normal water... Jason disagrees. but what makes it have that crazy color is all the silica that's in the water. so I still stand by my notion that it's more difficult to move in, and I think it's because of the silica.

said silica comes in buckets at the mask bar. you just apply it to your face, let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it hardens then wipe it off in the water. Jason did this twice throughout our stay, I did it 3 times. face definitely feels softer, I'm not sure about the claims of smaller pore appearance though, jury is out for me in that regard.

we each had in-water massages. which were amaze. combine two things I love - floating in water and massage?! I didn't want it to end. was so lovely. 11/10, would recommend on yelp.

overall it was really an amazing experience. only thing Jason and I wish was different was wanting less people there. it was pretty full. but it is one of the 25 wonders of the world, so it's gonna be the most popular girl at school.

afterward we went to get a second lunch, first lunch was around noon at the lagoon, some sandwiches and chips.

we had seen a taco bell nearby and wanted to expirience the difference in Iceland, and also cheap eats.

and this is where we realized the complete garbage value of the u.s. dollar (also, we do not in the slightest understand the Icelandic Krona. sometimes it has a decimal and sometimes it doesn't, but it has lots of numbers, it's just odd).

guess how much we paid for a taco bell meal for 2 people?


that would normally cost, I don't know, somewhere between $8-11 at home.

it sucks when you realize your home country is so much worse off than you already knew (and you knew how terrible it was already).

needless to say, it's not an affordable time for Americans to visit Iceland!

after this we dealt with our rental car issues. went to one facility where a nice young Icelander realized very quickly that we needed a different car but his facility didn't have any extras so we were sent to another down the street.

these Icelanders didn't seem to believe us. they also suggested that the burning oil smell and low oil meant that Jason had pushed the clutch too hard......... and that the crazy noise when accelerating was from loose lug nuts.... yeah, how bout you guys stick to being rental people not mechanics.

we kept silent. but all we wanted to say was "we are Americans, but we aren't Amercan idiots."

in the end we got another car... which ends up having low tire pressure. so we go to a gas station that has air for tires. it is a strange machine unlike ours in America. Jason decides to leave the tire pressure as is, we will deal.

then we decided to not lose the rest of our day to troubles and went and visited Hallgrímskirkja, the iconic cathedral of Reykjavik. pretty cool place, we hope to go inside tomorrow.

then we went to Bonus and got our dinner for later and just packed up and chilled.

Iceland has been a good transition for home (but not going back to work of course). it's made us want to be home more than when we were in Scotland. Scotland feels like home, so it makes it difficult to want to go home. but being a stranger in a strange land (where all the things are improuncable!) really makes you want familiarity.

also when you've been living out of a series of bags for 3 weeks, you really want to be done with that.

and you just want your nice clean bed and your nice clean shower with great water pressure and your toilet that actually flushes.

and you want to see familiar faces. that really hit me when we saw people waiting for their people at keflavik. I looked forward to when a familiar face would be waiting for us to bring us back to familiarity.

and you just want a freaking pizza. a good pizza. we haven't even bothered getting pizza on this trip. both Scotland and Iceland have poor choices... the local options are all thin crust. and the only chain options were Dominoes and Pizza Hut. eeeeew. bleck. definitely not paying any inflated currency for subpar pizza.

anyhow, we check out of our final stay tomorrow morning and have til late afternoon before our flight so we hope to see some more Iceland before we go.

and my goal for the flight is to rewatch all of stranger things to keep me awake in order to go to bed at a normal EST time when we get back!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

day 15 & 16: last full days of Scotland

day 15: glenfinnan

we slept in a good bit as our German roommates we departing that morning and weren't terribly quiet about it.

at this hostel in Fort William, the first night we had a Chilean couple room with us. they came in to sleep after we had gone to sleep, and when we left the next morning Jason noticed they were sharing the bottom bunk... in the buff. I had dashed out too quick to notice... thankfully.

fun times in the hostel life I tell ya. never a dull moment.

then our second and third night there we had a German couple placed with us. they were all cuddly and snuggly and lovey dovey talky in German... puke. I mean heck, we are the ones on our honeymoon and we are just chilling on the bottom bunk trying to watch Supernatural to drown out your snogging.

anyway, we hoped we wouldn't be roomed with another couple for our forth night, but we wouldn't know until we got back from Glenfinnan.

Glenfinnan was apparently where Bonnie Prince Charlie (do watch Outlander to get a fresh perspective on THAT guy) raised the standard against Britain to signal the 1745 rebellion (which takes place in Outlander, I'm telling you guys, plz watch. unless you can't handle sexy Scots, in which case do avoid).

but presently that historical site is being overlooked as the Glenfinnan Viaduct is nearby, the site that is regularly seen in the Harry Potter movies that the Hogwarts Express crosses over.

and quite frankly, that's the only reason we were there even though we knew about Prince Charles and the rebellion, we didn't know about this site being so important to the cause.

Poor Price Charlie. hah. no. silly Prince Charlie. rebellions... are for kids... not highlanders who fought and died for your cause at your poor leadership *sigh*

anyhow, we made it to the Glenfinnan monument in search of the viaduct, but it was raining pretty hard so we waited it out at the visitor center. it wasn't letting up so we saw there was a Glenfinnan train station museum just up the street so we could hang out inside there. and thank goodness we did, once the rain let up we realized this one had the best hike to see the best view of the viaduct.

it was a really lovely hike even though it was slippery and muddy with the rain.

we saw the train cross the viaduct around 3:20 or so and explored the area some more. we found some crazy awesome ruins in the woods nearby, got some gorgeous photos in there and then made the hike back.

drove into Fort William and had a lovely dinner at a nicer pub. I had haggis stuffed chicken, tatties, and veg in a Dramburie (whisky cream) sauce... sooo good. also split a lovely slice of chocolate cake and flavorful vanilla ice cream.

and went back to the hostel... where they were watching Harry Potter!! which is all we wanted to do!! but we knew we had to pack, shower and go to bed early for our early wakeup for Edinburgh.

we met our new roomate, a lovely lass from Lithuania! it was her first hostel stay and she was terrified of sharing a room with 3 guys. we bonded quickly with her, as well as our other roommate who came in later - he's a lovely Kiwi, we are all friends on Facebook now. hi guys!! we all got along so well and talked for far later than we should likely have, but it was so worth it. those kind of hostel stays are rare when you get along well with everyone in the room, so it was just wonderful to soak up that time with them and learn so much about their travels and experiences. these are the things you can never pay for and are worth so much.

day 16: edinburgh

4:45 came quickly and we tried to exit our hostel room as quietly as possible to not disturb our roommates sleep, we hope we were mildly successful in that.

I attempted sleep for the three hour drive to Edinburgh, not sure how much I got, seemed to drift in and out. but Jason was a trooper for the drive.

there was lovely mist on the lochs and in the valleys, perfect Scotland morning, though the sunrise wasn't much to speak of... no offense, Scotland.

Edinburgh didn't disappoint in its loveliness. it was just as charming as remembered. though more exhausting this time. just because we were so tired and on a mission (souvenirs, we succeeded by the skin of our teeth, but it came with another souvenir - a parking ticket... yaaay).

we had our second breakfast (after our first breakfast at 5:45am) at a lovely cafe overlooking the newer side of Edinburgh. hot rolls filled with poached egg and that delicious bacon we can't get over. and a pot of tea of course!

at one point there was a piper piping on Castle Hill drive and we just stood and listened, and paid the piper of course. but I just stood there and absorbed the moment. another moment to freeze in time. standing on that corner, a slight breeze, some delicious scent of food in the air, this lovely pipers tunes carried in the square, reverberating off the cobblestones. I got teary eyed yet again. I didn't want to leave. but we must.

but we trekked through the alleyways (a lot of them named, and are thoroughfares strictly for walking to get from one level of city to the next) that so closely resemble and clearly inspired Diagon Alley. so marvelous.

lunch was at a local burrito eatery, run by some lovely folks who I'm assuming we're from Spain. a Spanish version of hotline bling came on and I almost spit out my food laughing as it caught me by surprise.

more shopping and exploring. came upon Greyfriars this time... just stumbled upon it as one seems to do in Edinburgh, stumble upon incredible treasures just about everywhere you turn.

I hope we can come back to Edinburgh one day, I can't get over this lovely city. it will forever have a chunk of my heart.

then we made the trek to our airbnb in Glasgow during rush hour. which wasn't too bad considering we were going between two considerably sized cities.

airbnb is nice, no complaints. dinner was at an Italian place in the city center. this Italian needs to be replenished with Italian food routinely. if she runs low on it, she gets very sad. I'm glad I have a man who also enjoys Italian food, maybe not as much pasta as I do, but he does enjoy it.

we found out at dinner from our roommate at the last hostel that we left my camera bag at the hostel :( it had my charger, extra battery, and card reader in it. and it's a nice bag. so inquired to the hostel staff on what we could do, if there was any way to ship or if I should just call it a loss.

Glasgow has grown on us this time around. I think we had a bit of culture shock when we experienced it that first day. there was just so much to take in and so many crazy Uber experiences... it left a bad taste. but I'd like to try and take in this city as it should be taken in, with a good amount of time! but unfortunately that can't be done this trip.

we did some laundry tonight, or rather a wash. most folks here don't have dryers! which is why I made two clotheslines of rubber bands (gave one of them to our new kiwi friend, he has much more travels ahead of him). used the clothesline for the first time tonight! and it worked out great. should all be dry by morning.

also are mostly packed except for our drying clothes. ready for our journey to Iceland after saying a hasty goodbye to the rental car at the airport. yo, Citroen cars... naaah. we no likey. I'd be interested to try other British brands but not that one. paaaassss.

also, guys the cars here are crazy. even the Honda and Toyota models look different here. they've ruined the look of the sleek look of the Civic, but a lot of the Toyotas look pretty cool. and they have some models that don't even exist in the states but I wish they would! guess we will just have to own those cool Toyotas over here. Jason already wants the Toyota truck they have here -_- I just want the one that looks like an oversized Matrix.

I realized today that I haven't seen a single minivan here. there are those smaller transport vans, like for businesses... but nothing like a mini van here. which I think is an improvement!! most all the cars are small here. actually, everything here is small and compact. the bathroom stalls, the pathways, gates... I've honestly wondered how larger people manage here. it's kind of like constantly being in airplane appropriated spaces. I won't miss said compact spaces.

I am curious to see if Iceland is similar on the compact space. really just curious to see another country. it's going to be so fun! but not sure of the internet situation yet again (Scotland has actually had quite reliable mobile data service wherever we have gone). so I'll see ya when I see ya, guys!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

day 14: glencoe & the beginning of heartbreak

all of Scotland basically feels like you're constantly moving through a hybrid of a Bob Ross painting and the best parts of Middle Earth. but it seemed Glencoe embodied that feeling more so than anywhere else.

pretty sure we stepped into part of a hybrid of Mirkwood and Fanghorn at one point. we actually passed a forest on the way to Oban that was actually titled Lothlorien. they know how Middle Earthy it is here, obviously.

there are trees just covered in the most perfectly placed soft blankets of moss. tiny waterfalls everywhere. peaceful streams in lovely glenns. deep, cool brooks. half fallen trees. just beauty in every single nook and crannie. and you can't stop looking anywhere... it's truly everywhere you turn. something else to explore.

after some exploration we needed fuel, and recharged in the most wonderful cafe we've had the pleasure of dining in thus far - cafe glencoe.

we both got BLTC's (BLT's with chicken) and split a baked potato with cheddar.

Jason and I both agree - we've never had real bacon or real cheddar cheese until we had both here. somehow their bacon is as thick as a slice of thick cut ham. all of it. everywhere. even in their microwavable prepared meals. how do they do this? it's one of the things we will miss greatly about being here. we wish we could bring home the bacon!! haha see what I did there?!

anyhow, the BLTC's were on chiabatta rolls... and it was the best sandwich I've had in my life. I didn't want it to end. and the potato with cheddar was lovely as well. even came with a side of crisps... here's some potato to go with your potato. these people know how to do!!

the chocolate cake looked amazing so we decided to go all out with this lunch and split a piece along with tea for two. it was yet again an amazing choice.

and throughout this meal I kept tearing up. tearing up because I had many moments here where I would say to myself, "freeze this moment in your mind. memorize it. come back and revisit it later. you will never have this back."
this cafe was one of those moments.

the view outside was incredible. you could see the clouds roll onto the mountains. some neighbors of the cafe were gardening in yellow slickers in the rain. there was 90s alt playing. various travelers and locals alike resting their bones or savoring their tea.

it was just perfect. and I will encapsulate it forever and attempt to revisit it in my mind.

other moments I wanted to freeze was the first dinner we had in Scotland at the Italian-Scottish fusion place, meandering through the maze of Old Town Edinburgh as well as looking down upon new town from the castle hill (oh and an evening walking through a lovely Edinburg residential area. oh, Edinburgh), winding through the northeast coasts cliffs and beaches and abandoned churches, eatin grilled haddock with Abba in the background in Thurso, running uphill and downhill on the delightfully springy earth and avoiding sheep shite on Duncansby Head at sunset, spontaneously exploring castle ruins somewhere along the north coast, every moment at the Fairy Pools, the moment I was looking for the print I wanted at the museum and Jason had it the whole time and surprised me when I turned around, watching the water swirl around the Isle of Staffa and Fingal's Cave, absorbing the blue coastline of Iona, and the foggy drive to Fort William from Oban in the light of a full moon.

and now I added this cafe as well as the exportation of mossy forests with perfect tiny waterfalls and big deep brooks of Glencoe to my frozen moments in time.

but I was also tearing up because I still truly do not know how I will leave this place. I absolutely do not.

Jason and I are fully convinced we will live in this country one day. it's no longer a matter of if, but when. Scotland calls to us as home. we don't know how. but we know it must happen. and I know, family and friends... you may not want to hear that. but know it's not happening any time soon unless someone wants to give us heaps of cash and help us emmigrate.

until then, Iceland will have to help us transition back to monotony and misery of an election year in the U.S.

and I'm sure it will. especially Blue Lagoon!

now three more days remain for our time here in bonnie Scotland. one more adventure here on the West Coast, then off to Edinburgh for our proper farewell to the city that stole our hearts, and Glasgow for our departure to Iceland.

we are savoring each moment here like never before. and we are so thankful for our time here.

I said to Jason last night during the perfect foggy moonlit drive, "we have seen everything we wanted to see here now."

and that is true.

but this landscape is ever changing. the light makes it look different. you never get the same view twice.

and we want to see every view.

Friday, October 14, 2016

day 12 & 13: fort william, oban, staffa

day 12: the road to Fort William

leaving skye was tear jerking.

especially since today held true Scotland weather. overcast. windy. sometimes raining. sometimes not.

it is how Scotland should be viewed. you can appreciate it fully. all the hues of burnt umber, deep moss green, grey, pale green, pale golden yellow. stunning.

the road to Fort William held fall hues on the trees. heartbreaking hues. electric greens about to turn yellow, so much golden yellow, and some spurts of burnt orange. the deciduous trees of course. the perfect evergreens are ever green. we've noticed the evergreens are in perfect rows in their forests. it's almost amusing how perfect they are lined up and just perfectly variegated in height.

made it to Fort William and shopped a good bit. still haven't found all our souvenirs. went to the West Highland Museum. great museum. and I got me some gorgeous prints for our home. illustrations of the landscape in a 1940s style. they made me tear up so I knew I needed them. hey, if I can't take the mountains that make me tear up, I must take some illustrations that do the same to me.

did some more shopping. one thing the U.S. should definitely learn from the U.K. - have liquor in your grocery stores please. then you can truly call it a one stop shop.

chilled out at the hostel, met our roommates - the very first couple we've stayed with! they're from chile, studying in Edinburgh for a year. we are green with jealous rage.

day 13: oban & staffa

the road to oban was winding and tiresome, too early.

almost had a mishap with the ferry, but the lovely people of Scotland are all too kind to help you remedy your troubles.

as of today we have now taken plane, train, automobile, and boat on this trip! several boats today, but the ferry to and from mull was the largest boat we had both been on. it's a ferry that can carry cars as well, but we didn't take our car.

I'll just skip all the boring bits and tell you that we went to Fingal's Cave on Staffa.

and that beat out the stacks at John O Groats for me.

so now the ranking is officially

Fairy Pools in Skye
Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa
the stacks at Duncanby Head at John O Groats
North Coast / Smoo Cave

we also went to the Isle of Iona. lovely little place. explored a bit.

but this was the first tour we have taken in this trip. and boy am I grateful. tours are awful. you know why? because there are people. tourists. just like us... but more annoying. and cramped in a bus with you.

let's just say I've never been more annoyed by a man with an Australian accent than today. nor did I want to glare at stupid California girls with an evil eye more than today. so thankfully this was our first and last tour experience.

but everything else about the tour was nice!!

and Fingal's Cave is bomb awesome. I just can't express how floored I am by all the geological diversity here. how in the world is there an island with hexagonal basalt columns with gorgeous hues of flora and water just chilling here. how.

our drive back to Fort William from Oban was also amazing. it was our only other night drive aside from the horrors of night driving to Achiltibue. this was far superior. I believe the moon is either full or about to be. but it was so bright. we mistook moonlight on the road as headlights at one point, and the moon was casting shadows. and it was foggy!!! the moonlight in the fog and seeing the silhouettes of the trees in said foggy moonlight... we were in awe. the moon was also casting shadows of the clouds onto the mountains. and so bright you could see the shadows and highlights in the cloud forms. wish I had pictures of that, but it will have to just be recorded here for memory.

tonight I became super hostile with our hosteling. I had just begun my shower, just wet my hair when the nice hot water trickled to nothing. turn the dial, nope. so I text Jason and ask him to come to the bathroom I was in and ask him if I've done it wrong (some of these showers have been difficult to figure out how to get on). no, I've not done it wrong. I put on a towel and he helps me gather all my shower things, clothes, etc and dash to another shower.

super done. done with sharing rooms with people and having to be considerate, quiet, getting ready in the dark. super done with tiny showers and then brushing teeth in another room, usually having to wait for any of these rooms to be free.

it was fine for the first 3 hostel stays. but this 4th one... I don't know, it's just getting under my skin. same with Jason.

but our last night in Scotland, we will be at an airbnb in Glasgow... with the nicest shower to date. a fully glassed in rainforest shower, also sprays from the wall.

I'll be in there for approx 3 hours.

don't worry about it.