This post has been on hold for too long – we actually left DC on September 16th! Sorry for the long delay, but here you go…the epic adventure continues!
Onward and upward! After a little more than three weeks in the U.S. and Canada, it was time to venture over to Europe. For some reason, every time I called it Europe he thought it sounded funny…so fine. The UK!
I managed to use (basically all) my US Airways miles to get us from Washington, DC, via Charlotte, North Carolina, to Dublin. This was the second of three roundtrip flights we purchased for this ginormous trip – the first being out and back to Roatan and the last being between Dublin and Edinburgh. Lesson #1: Aer Lingus considers flights between Dublin and Edinburgh to be domestic and therefore charges for any checked baggage. NOT COOL. We definitely didn’t anticipate that happening so had to fork over $93.53 for our two backpacks. Again, NOT COOL.
On a better note, after being mentally prepared for cold and miserable Scottish weather, we brought the sunshine! For the next two weeks while we ambled about the country, we had bright blue skies and gorgeous days. Consider me a very happy girl!
As anyone who’s traveled over several timezones in a single flight knows, adjusting takes a little while. So we hung around and took it easy for our first few days. But for the long weekend we headed up north to Craigendarroch (don’t worry, it took me way too long to learn how to say that even remotely correctly). After a quick pit-stop in Dundee for lunch, we ventured into the highlands for a few hours of sheep-counting. Sadly, the sheep counting actually worked quite well and I slept through the majority of that beautiful drive. But when we arrived…WOW.
We stayed in a lodge at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club at Craigendarroch Suites, which was perfect for the six of us to relax and take in some incredible, pure nature. Our view was gorgeous, the birds were friendly, and I can’t even remember the last time I stayed in a hotel for a long enough time to enjoy the amenities. We took advantage of the gym, pool, and sauna…yes, you may now call me completely spoiled!
We were right in the middle of the Cairngorms National Park, which explains the stunning vistas en route. We explored the area a bit over the few days we stayed. The town of Ballater was adorable and we had a lovely walk around for a few hours.
We swung by the British Royal family’s summer home at Balmoral, because that’s what you do in the UK. You just swing by these kinds of places. Like it’s normal. We made the quick trip over to Braemar to check out the castle and walk around town. Castles are to Scotland as Dunkin Donuts are to Boston. Most of these places are older than anything standing in the U.S., so let’s just say I was impressed.
We took the long way home from Craigendarroch, meandering through the highlands and down through Stirling to see the University. The countryside is simply amazing. I know everyone says it, but really, it’s just breathtaking and you’ll never believe it until you see it for yourself. Photos cannot possibly do it justice. Sorry.
After getting back to Livingston we enjoyed some downtime at home taking full advantage of amazing home cooking and free nights to watch cable and hang out. Definitely a far cry from what we were used to back on the island!
Being just outside of Edinburgh meant we could walk to the train station and hop on for a quick ride into the city for the day. We of course walked the Royal Mile, stopping in little shops and cafes along the way. We walked around Holyrood Palace at one end of the street and up into Edinburgh Castle at the other end (although we didn’t pay to go inside and do the whole tour).
Also along the way, I was informed that I had to spit on this heart in the sidewalk. Yes, you read that correctly. Spit on a heart. I stood there dumbfounded and completely convinced that he was just messing with me for a bit until some dude walking towards me with his head down shot a quick splat dead center and I realized it was probably legit. Still, it’s weird, right?! Whatever, I followed orders and took my turn spitting on the stone heart in front of St. Giles’ Cathedral.
Best part of this walk? He bought me a new Claddagh ring. Those who know me know I’ve always had a Claddagh ring on every day for about the last decade. Except the back part finally split in two and instead of intelligently getting it repaired, I started taking it off because it pinched me. And then of course I lost it. And then of course I was really upset. So my early birthday present was a beautiful new one that hasn’t come off since 🙂
We also met up with his friend G that afternoon. They were roomies all through college (I know, I know, they call it University and it’s totally different but I’m primarily talking to Americans here so I’m speaking ‘Murican!). We had lunch in the park and chatted for a few hours before we had to catch the train back home.
As if I wasn’t spoiled enough already, for another early birthday present his mom paid for me to get a real (!!!!) haircut and a hot stone massage. First of all, I can’t remember the last time I actually had someone professionally cut my hair. I usually do it myself and occasionally ask for assistance from whoever is standing nearby to make sure it’s somewhat straight in the back. A real haircut – including that amazing part where they wash you hair and massage your head – was pretty damn amazing. And the hot stone massage?! I mean really. Just phenomenal!
Other highlights of this trip:
I had a “proper chippy” and also tried a bite of his hamburger supper. My fish and chips were great! Nothing fancy, and enough to feed a family of 6, but yummy nonetheless. Advice to anyone and everyone going to Scotland: DO NOT under any circumstances eat a hamburger supper. I swear it’s alien meat. Nothing that vile tasting could possibly have been raised on Earth. Fairly certain his insides are still recovering from that episode. However, I did try haggis and I liked it!
We biked around his neighborhood and walked around to check out the old house they first lived in when they moved from Dublin. We moseyed around Beecraigs Country Park for an afternoon, it was gorgeous! Such a beautiful day and the walk was lovely.
We took one of those super cute old-looking cabs and I asked the cabbie to take a photo of us outside of it. Yep. That was payback for him and the yellow cab in NYC!
His brother cooked us all dinner while wearing a
It was such a fun trip and we have so many great memories…
We so very much enjoyed Scotland and spending some downtime with his family. It was certainly needed after the whirlwind tour we had through North America! Next and final stop on this epic adventure: Dublin!