Monday, June 28, 2010

More of Edinburgh...











The Scots have a lot of bitterness towards England. Think of Mel Gibson in Braveheart. They've always wanted their "Freedom" and still want to be set apart from Great Britain. This shirt pretty much sums up the Scottish sentiment towards England.








The last week has gone by fast and we've now been here for 5 weeks! Over the weekend we went to a parade celebrating British Armed Forces Day- it was great with bagpipes and soldiers marching- Aricin loved all the action. We also hit up a Canal Festival where we got to see people who made their own rafts race along the water. Sunday we entertained for the first time in our tiny flat. We had Julie and Tony over with their 6 month old little girl. Julie and Tony are american and he's working on a PhD also- they are a great couple that i'm sure we will spend a lot more time with. It was fun to find that we several mutual friends through Westmont, Colorado, and other random connections.

I'm starting to feel more adjusted. I can't remember if i wrote it or not but the last couple of weeks i've been struggling with a little bit of homesickness and feeling the third culture of where we are. Feeling like... ok we've seen it all, now i'm ready to go home. And feeling like we're not tourists but not locals either. I'm happy to report i've accepted it all and am now trying to embrace it. I think the great weather has helped and i'm feeling pretty content.

Aaron is LOVING the research he's doing and is excited to be reading and writing a lot. He also has been stalked by a psychotic seagull that enjoys terrorizing him on his walks to his office from our flat. We noticed a few baby seagulls on top of our building which explains why the seagull has dive bombed Aaron so many times. Aaron's trying to not take it personal and we're hoping the seagull will relax a bit.

Coming soon... We leave in 3 days for London. I'm soooo excited! I'm a closet want to be brit and have been a huge fan of british culture as i love reading British chick literature. Can't wait to ride on the underground, see Wimbledon, and all the other cheese ball tourist attractions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Surprise Anniversary Weekend

West Sands Beach- St. Andrews




Don't step on a Jelly Fish



Highlands Cow
Glamis Castle Playground
Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle

Zip Line Fun




Inverness Castle
Loch Ness Monster Submarine
Loch Ness

Dunstaffnage Castle Ruins (13th Century)

McCaigs Tower



Oban


Invervaray Castle (Home to the Duke and Dutchess of Argyle)



Loch Lomand



Falkirk Wheel
So... Wednesday night Aaron surprised me with a sweet card that had a rhyming poem with different clues about the upcoming weekend, it ended with him instructing me to pack a bag and meet him at Waverley Station the next day at noon.
Thursday after our toddler group we found Aaron at Waverley Station where we boarded a bus for the airport. Aaron brought along a bag with 3 amazing sandwiches. I know it's silly how excited i get about food- i'm quite a foody. One sandwich was Crayfish, another was prosciutto, goat cheese and Pesto, and the third was a Falafel sandwich- So Yummy!

At the airport we picked up a rental car to begin our big adventure. It was fun watching Aaron try to figure out how to drive on the left side here. People here also put the parking break on at red lights "to not blind the car behind you." After hitting a few curbs and having to be reminded only once or twice to get back on the left side of the road we were on our way to the Falkirk Wheel. The Falkirk wheel is an amazing contraption that connects a river on a hill above down to a valley and river below. It's basically an Elevator for boats bringing them down river in place of a more traditional lock system. We then got back in the car and drove through Glasgow the capital of Scotland. Glasgow is home to the Celtics Soccer Club and the Rangers- the rivalry for these two teams is pretty intense, we've heard if you leave a blue (color of the rangers team) car in some spots you might come back to it with no tires.

Next we headed to the west coast and then through the Lochs. We past Loch Lomand, Loch Long, Loch Fyne, and Loch Awe. Loch's are basically long rivers of Ocean water that head inland. We drove by the Inverary Castle where the Duke and Dutchess of Argyle live (yes like Argyle socks). Day one ended with us checking in at a Bed and Breakfast in Connel and then driving into Oban- a coastal town for dinner at Cuan Mor. Cuan Mor had some great Cask Ale's. (Beer that's brewed and then stored in Casks where they pump them out before serving) The food there was excellent, I had some salmon- oh how i love good food. Oban is a town we'd love to return to as it's where you can catch a ferry to several of the islands off the west coast of Scotland. Above the town sits McCaigs Tower- looks not so much like a tower but more like a Colliseum and has amazing views looking down unto the city, bay, and islands.

Day Two we explored the Dustaffnage 13th century Castle ruins before driving on to Fort Augustus on the Loch Ness. The Loch Ness is something like 23 miles long and over 750 feet deep. This is also the site where some have seen the Loch Ness Monster - not sure if we caught a peak of Nessie or not. We did get to see the submarine used to explore the loch at the Loch Ness Discovery Center. We ended Day Two in Inverness, an amazing town on the water with a grand Canal running through it. On a hill in the center of town was the Inverness Castle.

While walking through Inverness we met a nice man named Larry from the States who was taking pictures with an new plate-styled camera. He was on his second tour of the highlands. His wife past away several years ago and she had always wanted to go to Scotland - so it was a pilgrimage of sorts for him.

We stayed at the Kingsmills Hotel which was amazing. I'm soo bummed i didn't bring my bathing suit because the hotel had a steam room, sauna, spa, and pool. Aaron and Aricin had a blast swimming and playing in the water. It was here that we learned that the Lakers won the championship - poor Aaron didn't get to see any of the games but is very proud of his team. We watched a little world cup and got to hear the announcers who are quite harsh critics of their home team. The brits had some pretty high expectations and they have not yet materialized.

I forgot to mention at lunch near Loch Ness I rather enjoyed watching the man next to us eat his burger and fries. I'm not sure if we as americans- maybe i should just speak for us west coasters - have gotten enough etiquette training. The man next to us ate his entire meal with his knife and fork- yes even his Burger and french fries. Part of me wondered if he was a surgeon and was just used to using utensils intricately. Maybe if i had grown up on the East coast and had a debutant ball or refining school background I could use my cutlery like that man. Brits really know how to use their silverware. I laughed as i looked down, holding Tally with my left arm and cutting my food with the side of my right fork- classy. At the table to my left was a Rugby looking German man who held his fork more like gardening spade as he shoveled his food in. Ok enough of that, can you tell i was a Sociology major? I'm a dork.

Day three we drove through the countryside and past soo many Scotch Distilleries. Aaron was in heaven- we didn't end up stopping at any of them poor guy. We drove through lots of roundabouts and by lots of sheep and rolling green hills before we got to Aberdeen. This was our one cold day. We parked and found a Nero's Cafe where we got a Roasted Red Pepper and Basil soup with Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Panini's and Chocolate cheesecake - mmmmmm! This was the highlight of Aberdeen for me. It was cold so we got back in the car and moved on to Brechen. In Brechen we stayed at the Gramacy House Bed and Breakfast- an amazing 150 year old home with lots of space. We found a park close by and Aricin yet again enjoyed rides on a zip line.

This was the first spot where we had internet access- so we got back into the loop of what was going on in the world. Jason Preos (the Golf Coach at Valor) was tied for 16th at the Pebble Beach Golf Tournament after two days- he went on to make the cut and finish 82nd. I heard about my Great Uncle Chuey who was shot while washing his car in Juarez. It's hard to understand what should or even can be done about the violence with the cartel in Juarez and El Paso. We also found out about our good friends the Cartiers (you might remember from the little bird shower we threw last month): Matt flew to California for the weekend and Christa went into labor 6 weeks early. It sounds like Christa and baby Sadie are doing well but we so badly wish we could be there to offer help and hugs.

Day 4 we went to the Glamis Castle and Aaron got a few bites from Midges (small flies like Mosquitos) while he was hanging out with Highland Cows which look like Sesame Street characters by the way. The Glamis Castle belongs to the Lyon-Bowes family which is the family of Queen Elizabeth- it was neat to see young pictures of the queen as she grew up coming here- the Castle was amazing and reminded us of Hearst Castle in Cambria.

We then drove on to St. Andrews. Our first stop was the golf course and home of the British open which will be kicking off in a few weeks. Aaron hopes to golf here some day with his dad- maybe when he graduates. We then headed to West Sands Beach- where the movie Chariots of Fire was filmed. This reminded me of the shot where they are running on the beach with the theme song in the background- priceless (my college track coach, Coach Smelley would have loved it). We got fish and chips and sat on the lawn and enjoyed the 75 degree weather. Locals told us to enjoy it because "It's never like this." Aricin had a blast playing in the sand and i loved collecting sea glass and shells along the water. The whole feel of St. Andrews was that of an east coast beach. With grass running toward soft sand and a long continental shelf with a low tide, allowing you to walk out forever into the ankle deep water. We drove by the University, the ruins of the castle and the ruins of the Abbey. This was a great place to finish the trip because it revived us. It has quickly become one of my new favorite places and i look forward when we can go back to the beaches, golf course, and ruins of St. Andrews.

All and all the 4 days were great- It was a fantastic way to celebrate our 6th anniversary and fathers day. The kids did great and seemed to enjoy our little adventure. Tally slept during most of the drives and Aricin was our little echo. At one point Aaron pointed to the scenery and said "That's freaking Awesome" shortly after we heard Aricin say "that's Freaking Awesome." Later after Aaron hit a curb and i screamed Aaron said "Keep your pants on" and of course Aricin had to say "Mommy keep your pants on." I can't believe we toured much of northern Scotland from the west coast to the east coast.

Wimbledon started today and in 10 days we will be taking a train down to London to hopefully see a little of the tournament from the lawn, should be good fun.
Cheers!