Sunday, May 29, 2016

Inverness, Scotland - Day 1

Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28

We told our kids that they could select a destination of their choice for their high school graduation present. Jake graduated last year, and we were set to go on a Mediterranean cruise last summer, but we were unable to go because my father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away quite suddenly from it. We had trip insurance, and so this year we took Jake’s trip. He changed his mind and decided upon visiting the UK and Ireland.

Our itinerary doesn’t cover everything - and that’s what I’ve learned about traveling - you have to choose your travel plans carefully, not putting in too much to cover. This is going to be an on the go vacation, we are making many stops along the way. We’re spending 4 days in Scotland, 1 in Northern Ireland, 3 in Ireland, and then Dusty will fly home while Jake and I spend another 4 days in London. 

Friday was a loooooong travel day, but after our trip to Korea a few months ago, it felt like a piece of cake. Not really. We were pretty wiped out by the time we went to bed last night. We drove to Chicago, making sure to get there four hours ahead of schedule because of reported long wait times in TSA lines, but we breezed through security and ended up spending our time hanging out at the airport bar. 

*pic of Jake and Dusty at Ohare:

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We flew to Dublin, had a few hours to spare in the Dublin airport, and then flew on a tiny little plane (with propellers!) to Inverness. It was the kind of plane where at the gate you walk outside and then up some stairs into the plane. 
*Pic of the small plane with propellers:

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The flight was short and it was fine. I’m a dork and one of the things I love most about traveling is noticing how other places call things by different names. Restrooms are “toilets” - ok, that’s not all that strange, but it’s different enough to cause me to notice. I love it, though. This country is my kind of people. They give you cookies with everything. Except they’re called biscuits. And the milk isn’t low fat or 2% like we call it, it’s partially skimmed. 

*pic of the snack from the plane of a biscuit wrapper, coffee cup, and a cream container saying ‘partially skimmed milk’

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I also think it’s interesting how other countries have slightly different airline rules. This one wouldn’t let Jake wear his headphones on takeoff or landing. 

Anyway, as we descended into Scotland, i couldn’t stop staring out the window. It was so beautiful. Here’s a photo I took as we were almost to land. I think this lake looks like a bear:
*pic of the landscape on the way in.

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The Inverness airport is tiny. I mean really, really tiny. It makes the Des Moines airport look huge and complex. We got there, grabbed our bags, laughed at a vending machine for “chewable toothbrushes” in the restrooms, er, toilets, got our rental car and were on our way.

That driving on the left side of the road thing? Um, yeah. It sucks. It’s scary as hell. Dusty thought we were going to die as I drove us from the airport into the city of Inverness to our B&B. Getting used to being on the other side of the road wasn’t really all that difficult, it was all about the perspective. I kept hitting the curve and Dusty was not amused. But I’d rather hit a curb than an oncoming car! Also, what the hell is with all of the damn roundabouts, UK? Roundabouts are confusing, I don’t understand the rules, and the combination of heading into them going counter-clockwise instead of the right way was a wee bit terrifying. (ha - see? I’m already talking like they do here!)

But, we made it, parked on the street, and walked up to our B&B. Nobody was there, so I left an email for the proprietor and we walked around town a bit.

The River Ness runs through Inverness, and there’s a beautiful Victorian suspension bridge above it that gives you what Dusty calls “The wobbly boot” when you walk across it. You can feel it sway as you’re walking over the river. No big deal.
*pic of the victorian suspension bridge:

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We walked around a bit and found this beautiful church and cemetery. Old cemeteries are something you just don't see in Iowa - I loved them in Boston, and this one dates back even older. Such a beautiful place:
*pic of the cemetery:

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We then went to a place I had read about and wanted to visit called Leakey’s Book Shop. 
*pic of Jake outside the shop

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*pic of Jake and me inside the shop:

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This place was really cool: two stories of books on shelves, stacked in piles, up a twisty little staircase. It was dusty and smelled like old books. You know, basically heaven. I loved it and bought a few decorative used books. 

While we were in the bookshop, the B&B owner called me back to tell me he was home. He was at his grandson’s sports event. He showed us to our rooms and we all took showers - that felt like heaven - before heading to walk around inverness and have some dinner.

We wandered around the town and ended up selecting a place that was recommended to us called Johnny Foxes. 
*pic of Jake at the restaurant:

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They call themselves an Irish pub, which is weird since we’re in Scotland, but it was a good place, with a neat atmosphere. I ordered the steak and guiness pie, and it was delicious:
*pic of my dinner:

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After dinner we walked about town and took more photos. Dusty and Jake found a cat for a friend:
*pic of Dusty and Jake petting a stray cat

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And I took photos of cool buildings and colorful doors.

*photos of brightly painted doors:

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*Some pics of the River Ness:

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Highland House of Fraser:

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I had hoped I would be able to find Jamie Fraser from the Outlander books in there, but instead found a lovely gift shop with lots of plaid things.

Inverness isn’t a very large town - just under 41,000 people. It had quite a hopping Saturday night scene, though - and the restaurants and bars filled up as we were on our way back to get some much needed sleep.

It’s so beautiful, though. Lots of stone buildings, rows of houses with meticulously manicured gardens, and beautiful flowers. This stone wall is just up the corner from our B&B:
*pics of Jake in front of the stone wall:

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We came back to the B&B, FaceTimed the girls, and crashed HARD. Today we’re going to spend the day exploring the Scottish Highlands: Loch Ness, Castles, Standing Stones, Culloden Battlefield, etc. But first, I’m told there’ll be haggis, black pudding, and all sorts of other things at the Scottish Breakfast they’re preparing for us. Yum. 

1 comment:

Lisa Lavia Ryan said...

Love this, Monica. Have a wonderful time!