Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 12-14: the highlands, the peat, the sheep, and the sheep

in scotland there are approximately 34598098230948267821098 sheep to people. i discovered this on my way up to inverness from edinburgh. it was to leave edinburgh so early as it is really a fantastic city with excellent food and terrific ambiance and my good friend stef, a canadian.

we drove up via pitlochry, a small quaint town which is mostly a whiskey distilling town including blair athol which is one of the makers and suppliers of bells blended whiskey. they also make an awesome single malt and is one the older distillers in scotland. we of course went on a tour and cathy even tried whiskey and i have a series of 3 pictures detailing it. i am not going to describe them as the pictures each tell a thousand words, mostly hilarious...for the viewer.

however i am getting ahead of myself. before going up to pitlochry, we stopped at stirling which has an impressive castle. a very impressive castle in fact and if you know braveheart, you will know that this castle was the one of robert the bruce, the king of scotland during the time of william wallace. also at stirling castle was the residence of mary queen of scots for a bit and that of james the 2nd. the views from the top are amazing and i can definitely see how a ghost would want to haunt this castle (which it does). there was a murder most foul there and the dead guy's ghost haunts the ground. definitely not a bad haunt.

the town of stirling is, like most olde cities, walled in with the old section of the city looking well...old. its also on a giant hill. so cathy and i climbed up to the top of the hill where the castle roosts. i told cathy there wasnt a parking lot knowing full well there was. so we walked the mile uphill...happily! it was a great view all the way up

we went on a castle tour and enjoyed it thoroughly.

after that, we went to the william wallace monument. we didnt walk up the tower because it was too expensive and we were already at the top of a mountain.

after that it was up to pitlochry and enjoyed the quaintness as well as the whiskey. mostly the whiskey.

the drive up through the highlands was amazing. i am going to try and describe it. so, there werent mountains but hills and there werent any "towns" just tiny tiny villages but none of these were actually visible through the road. it was just hours of peat covered hills with craploads of sheep all around us. little white dots on the mountainside that look like snow; they give a lot of character to the hills. there were also highland cows, long haired cows with huge horns.

it was just like this hours and it never got old.

we arrived up in inverness rather late at night and went out to a dinner at a swanky restaurant. it was a bit overpriced but fish up there is fantastic. trout and salmon were as fresh as iceland , boston, and the west coast combined.

the next day we went to culloden battlefield, clava cairns, and loch ness.

clava cairns is a series of a neolithic burial chambers from 2000 BC. around each chamber were a series of standing rocks. it was like stonehenge but not as impressive but still pretty remarkable when you together that 4000 years ago, olde timey humans were doing stuff in the very sheep covered grounds you are standing in. the air was mysterious and a bit cold and wet but it was raining.

next up, we to culloden battlefield. in was on this battlefield that the dream of an independent scotland died. this was the site of the last battle on english soil. on this battlefield was the last stand of the jacobites and their energetic leader bonnie prince charlie. it was an exceedingly bloody and tragic battle for scotland and the guides were clearly still affected. the moor that the battle was fought on war was surrounded by nothing and just an eerie flat landscape where thousands of people died. i encourage you all to look up the battle of culloden and watch the peter watkins film about culloden. also, tilda swinton lives near there! if i had more time i would have went to her town and waited and tell her how awesome she is. the last of england...hell yeah! the deep end? ORLANDO!? YEAH!

but i digress. last stop was loch ness. there is a common misconception that people go there for the monster. no. it is the largest fresh body of water in britain and is also home to uruhquart castle, some of finest castle ruins in the north of scotland. its right on the water and is picturesque. the loch is also surrounded on all sides by magnificent hills so the loch ness monster is really almost an after thought when compared to the brilliant scenery. we took a boat out that went to the castle and cruised around. lovely!

at that this point, i still hadnt got into any accidents with the car. ill cut off your curiousities now and say that i didnt get into any accidents at any point and got the full deposit back on the car. so :P to all of you. however, we paid for gas upfront and we were told to return the car empty, something that i took literally and when we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel (sorry car park) the gas gauge said we had about 24 miles left till the car runs completely out of gas. all we need to do was drive to the airport.

end of story for now.

that night we went to see franz ferdinand, the native sons of scotland, at a TINY venue in inverness. normally, these guys play to arena in the UK and large 5000 person theatres in the US and seeing them in a venue that holds 1500 is amazing and unique. unfortunately, there were about 2000 people there and the venue was COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY PACKED! we spent the entire concert halfway between the inside and outside of the venue. we were literally standing in the double doorway that opens to the dancefloor because we didnt want to getting too inside. yeah, this was definitely way too overbooked. however, we both enjoyed the show quite a bit. immensely in fact as both of us are fans of this delightful scottish dancey pop group.

that was the last night of our trip im afraid

the final day however was an eventful and busy busy day. we did the following

- got in our car which stopped registering how much gas we had left and we made it...BARELY to inverness airport whcih was actually about 15 miles out of inverness. we were so close to running out of gas

- the happiest moment of the trip for me was seeing the 250 quid deposit for the rental car credited back to my credit card

- flew to london gatwick

- dropped our bags (which weighed 60 kg, or 150 lbs total) at victoria station baggage drop and hopped on the tube to knightsbridge

- knightsbridge is the stop of harrod's the famous department store in london which has everything. literally. everything. its posh, opulent, decadent, and has a 7 story egyptian escalator.

- we went to high tea at the georgian restaurant there on the 5th floor and had traditional high tea with sandwhiches, scones, tea, and cakes AND a chocolate tea (in celebration for chocolate week at harrod's) with chocolate cake fruit sandwhiches, chocolate chip scones, and white chocolat ein whcih to dip fruits ::drools::

- gave meera offensive thing from york. she LOVED it.

- bolted out of harrod's, went back to victoria, picked up our bags, and headed towards paddington. at this point, it was 530 and our flight leave at 730.

- at paddington, we got on the heathrow express at 556 and was at terminal 5 by 615

yes, we made our flight. BARELY. we made final boarding call and got on the plane. SUCCESS

our flight home was without incident and we got home at 1130 which would have been earlier if we could actually find our car in the tech square parking garage (third floor, front)

and that was it. we were back in stupid america. we ARE back. ill have more thoughts on this but i have to lot to do. i have to deal with the pictures and start scrapbooking the trip and of course start watching the incredible amount of stuff on my DVR which is 100% full and that is not even counting the last 3 eps of curb, bored to death, always sunny, and mad men which are waiting on demand for me.