Monthly Archives: August 2013

Driving with Miss Megan

This morning the sky was blue and the sun was out, and this phenomenon was something that we could not take for granted, so we decided to take a road trip to St Andrews for some sightseeing. Gill, Natascha and I hopped into the car along with Megan, Gill’s dog, and away we went, leaving Ross at home to his own devices.

Megan appeared to enjoy the car ride and alternated between poking her head out the back window and between the two front seats to check out the view. For lunch, we stopped at a roadside food truck. Natascha, ever the health nut, was not too pleased by the choices, but Gill and I happily dug in to all that greasy goodness.

Unfortunately, there was a road accident that forced us to detour and getting to St Andrews took longer than we thought. When we arrived, the clouds had rolled in and there was a chill in the air. We parked near the St Andrews Links and didn’t allow the change in the weather to stop us from exploring the city.

As we strolled along, I really enjoyed looking at the buildings. They seemed so majestic and almost imposing with their dark, aging stones. Many towered several stories high and had a strong sense about them. Some homes lined the road on a cliff that overlooked the North Sea, and I could just picture the amazing view of storms rolling in or watching early morning fog rise off the water from the front windows.

When we got to the main street, I found a golf shop with all things St Andrews. I knew this would be the perfect place to buy my dad a souvenir as it is the home of golf after all. I picked up a St Andrews golf cap for him, which turned out to be the first real souvenir I’ve purchased throughout this entire trip.

It’s tough to collect memorabilia when you’re limited to a 20 kg pack and traveling for so long. I guess that’s where the photos and memories come into play. This blog helps a lot as well, even though it’s difficult to keep it going when all you really want to do is travel.

I also managed to pick up a pair of peep-toe wedge slingbacks for myself. If there’s one thing I’ve missed the most about being on the road for so long is the lack of variety when it comes to footwear. I miss my shoe collection at home so very much! I’ve managed to survive with hiking boots, work shoes (first a casual walking shoe, then two different ballerina flats) and slippers (or flip-flops, jandals or thongs depending on where you’re from). As you can see, that’s not very exciting and it’s what I’ve had to live with for ages now. So these wedges were a much-appreciated treat to myself.

After a great day of exploring, we took a break at a small café with views of the sea. It was much too cold to really enjoy the view, especially when it started to rain on us, but we made the best of things. It was fun just hanging out with friends, chatting and laughing together.

When we returned home, we saw an amazing sunset. The purple, pink and orange colors that filled the sky were breathtaking. It reminded us of all the sunsets we saw together in Australia and allowed us to reflect on just how far we’ve come since then. Good times with good friends is all you can really ask for in life and we were lucky enough to have them both.

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Filed under Attraction, Scotland

One Day in Edinburgh

With only a day to explore Edinburgh, Natascha and I made the best of it by visiting Edinburgh Castle, strolling down the Royal Mile and taking refreshment at a pub or two. A day wasn’t nearly enough time to thoroughly enjoy all that the city has to offer, but it served as a great introduction and whet our appetite for a repeat visit in the future.

After a leisurely train ride in from Falkirk that passed through lush green lands and nearby towns, we arrived in the middle of Edinburgh and set off toward the castle. We didn’t pre-book any tickets so we hoped for short queues. When we finally climbed Castle Rock, the hill upon which Edinburgh Castle sits, we nearly turned back as the line wove back and forth like a ride at Disneyland. However, we’d already come this far and I really wanted to see a man in a kilt, so we queued up with the rest of the tourists. Luckily, the day was turning out to be wonderful with blue skies and the bright sun shining down on us.

Once we got through the main gates, we were met by a guide who gave us a brief history and tour of the place before leaving us to our own devices. At last, a man in a kilt! Perhaps I should’ve been more specific though as he was a bit old and a tad grey for my liking. Haha!

The castle is built like a fortress on an extinct volcano, which provides the natural protection of steep cliffs on three sides. The vantage point that this created allowed guards to see anyone who approached. Canons sat at the ready and poked their noses through large holes in the wall. I was simply amazed by the architectural feat of constructing such a large, multi-faceted structure completely of stone.

St. Margaret’s Chapel, found on the castle grounds, is the oldest building in Edinburgh and dates back to the 12th century. It is the tiniest chapel ever and seems capable of holding only a few people at a time. The stained-glass windows are very beautiful and close enough to touch.

After the chapel, we visited the dungeon and got a glimpse at what life would be like for a prisoner of war. We also saw their living and sleeping quarters where hammocks hung above cots. This was drastically contrasted with the room that held the crown jewels. The crown, scepter and sword of state are the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles.

After Edinburgh Castle, Natascha and I browsed the shops and market stalls set up along the Royal Mile, the main street through Old Town. It’s filled with interesting little nooks and crannies full of Scottish delights. As we walked along, we came across what seemed to be a gay rights parade as colorful rainbows flew high and proud.

Feeling a bit peckish, we stopped in for a pub lunch. We both got massive burgers and chips. With our bellies full, we wandered over to New Town and conducted a bit of retail therapy. Of course, I couldn’t really buy anything but the window shopping was nice. And to wind down the day, we hit another pub for drinks and more chatting before catching the train back to Falkirk.

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Filed under Attraction, Scotland

Two Scots, a Dutch and an American Walk into a Pub

After returning from my Highlands tour to Ross and Gill’s place, we welcomed Natascha, our Dutch friend who we met in Australia ages and ages ago. It was a happy, very anticipated reunion!

Everyone you meet while traveling invites you to their country and makes plans to meet up with you again. However, many people never get around to actually doing it. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, even though you spend days or weeks together on the road.

So when Gill and Natascha suggested that we get together when I got to the UK part of my trip, I was really excited. Despite time and distance from one another, we all fell back in stride with no problem and laughed till our stomachs ached. This just goes to show the strength of friendships forged while roughing it in the Outback, something that I’m sure changed all of us.

We spent one of our days together in Callander, where we had a nice lunch in the local pub. It was wonderful catching up with each other, and despite the cold, the sky was blue (something I’ve learned to appreciate when I can in Scotland).

After lunch we headed for Loch Lomond and so did the rain. At the water’s edge, we found a family of swans. The fluffy grey chicks were pretty large but still had a fair way to go before they turned into images of their parents. They hungrily gobbled up bread that another visitor was giving to them.

The ever-present rain brought our day of sightseeing to an end. But on the way home, we called in to a small cake shop and had some dessert and warm drinks. Yummy! What a way to wind down the day!

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Filed under Attraction, Scotland