2018_08 Scotland

My first trip to Europe, thank you Scotland! We stayed in a small community about an hour north of Edinburgh called Kilconquhar. It is a coastal area and very rural. From there, we staged trips out as far south as Edinburgh, as far north as Pitlochry, as far west as Stirling and as far east as Crail and St. Andrews. It was an excellent trip to get acquainted with a large area of the country which will certainly guide my choices for a revisit! Next time it will be spending longer lengths of time at a location, to really get to know the place and people. We didn’t get to meet many people this trip.

Highlights of the trip include The Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. This is a bucket list item for so many people. I’m grateful I had a chance to go. I would really like to do a vacation to Edinburgh during the festival months to catch the Highland Games and Fringe Festival.  The city is every bit of what I would have expected – a real European city with crazy old buildings and architecture.

Aside from Edinburgh castle, which is amazing – the rest of the trip largely involved traveling to smaller towns and cities that have castles that are in various states from ruin to having been preserved so well that you can at least imagine a small bit of what life might have been like…  all of them beautiful.

I realize you can’t possibly take in everything there is to know in a single week but the bit of history I learned about Scotland gives me an incredible sense of respect for the many people who fought for their country – another amazing experience for me.

The short story is – very scenic country, lots of sheep, insane history of fighting, food is awful (which is only partly true).

So – the food.  Largely, you can get food that is very good but you’ll pay through the roof for a fine culinary experience, which we did a couple of times. If you can find places where younger (millennial generation) people are cooking, you will also be very happy.  But try and eat at long established places that serve standard fare and you’ll understand what I’m saying.  

First off, you have to try haggis and experience the repulsive feeling you get eating sheep liver, lung and whatever other organs they put in a blender and shape into an awful meatloafy thing and pass it off as anything you’d ever willfully eat.  I stuck with a strategy that most things deep fried are pretty tasty , so I opted for the haggis croquettes.  Two bites and I was done.  Actually, I was done at bite #1, but decided to reinforce the awful experience with bite #2.  Never again.

Secondly, don’t expect steak or anything that you can get cooked less than well-done to come out as anything less than well-done, regardless of how you ordered it.  That was my experience.  No seasonings, bland, well cooked meat is the way of life here, so it seems.  I hope, for the people of Scotland, that I’m absolutely wrong but that was largely my experience.  Also – know that protein is not a big part of what seems to be a Scottish diet.  Lots of fats and carbs.  Where I could enjoy a very nice soup and salad with grilled chicken, I’d say they gave me 2-3 oz. of chicken…  I’m used to making 8oz. of cooked meat with each meal!!  So that was very different.

I could carry on, but it wasn’t as big a deal as I’m making it.  I enjoyed the difference in culinary culture.

Once again, I’ll stop and let photos tell the rest of the story.  I cannot wait for a day that I return.  I have at least 3 more trips to Scotland in mind.  Festival season, getting out to the west and seeing what seems to be the most beautiful parts of the country, and the north…  experience the most northern parts of Scotland, especially the people!

2018_05 Curaçao

What was supposed to be a trip to Vegas to participate in the Badass Dash (which was very cryptically canceled for unknown reasons) has now morphed into what should be a very relaxing vacation in Curaçao.

Never been there before and very excited to see a new caribbean island, we’ve situated ourselves on the northwest part of the island, secluded and peaceful, this is how I’m going to ring in my 47th birthday – perfect!

Plans include snorkeling, relaxing, snorkeling, relaxing, snorkeling, and relaxing.  Somewhere in there will be eating.

No detailed itinerary, I’ve planned just enough of the trip to establish what I need and leave the rest open to discovery and adventure.

One week in tropical paradise, I cannot wait.

**Update 10/28/18

I’ll let a few photos speak for themselves if you’re wondering if going to Curaçao is worth your time, money, effort, etc…

 

Lots of great memories.  A great trip to have substituted for my 47th birthday and our Vegas Badass Dash that got canceled.  I can’t let this post go without giving anyone out there a head’s up about traveling around Curaçao.  I think a lot of people prefer to stay with a hotel and maybe grab a bus or some kind of tour to venture out beyond Willemstadt.  That’s never been my style and although I think there are places in this world where that kind of trip is necessary, for reasons of safety and security, Curaçao is definitely not one of them.  

Although our travels around the island never came with any issues, we were warned about being wise to stay away from certain areas.  I can tell you where ever we went, I didn’t ever let my guard down.  We did end of being the victims of some crime, but only to the car we rented.  No issues with people, otherwise.  The house we rented has to be one of the best houses on the island.  All the way out on the west side in Soto, we were in a very isolated area.  All but a few locals live nearby, which was comforting when things went wrong.  The place didn’t have a driveway area.  So we had to park on the other side of the street, in a little dirt pullout in front of what was “woods” (scrub brush, etc).  One of the days, we chose to spend the whole day at the house relaxing.  It was a super day.  Some time between the last evening and that evening around 6p, the front end of the car was stripped!  We didn’t even realize it getting into the car.  It was only pulling away, that the scraping of parts on the ground caused me to stop and investigate.  Imagine getting out of the car and seeing this…

 

I can tell you that it’s been a very long time since I’ve ever felt like a victim of anything.  Thankfully, neighbors stopped by, offered their support and explained that this is really the extent of the common crime you see throughout the “ABC islands”.  Car parts.  They don’t want to hurt people, they don’t want your belongings.  They want your rental car parts.  Ok – I can live with that.  I half laugh, because nearly all my friends and family laughed saying, “they stripped your KIA RIO?!?”

All is well.  The biggest crime for us was the time that was stolen from our trip.  In all, close to 10 hours invested in dealing with the issue.  We basically lost a day because of it.  Like I said, all is well.  

I mention this not to dissuade you from traveling to Curaçao or anywhere around the island.  I mention it because I would encourage you strongly to pay for the supplemental insurance on the car rental.  There are other ways to be insured for this kind of thing, but paying the extra cash will save you a ton of time and having to front money to pay for repairs before being reimbursed for it. 

So the trip was definitely an adventure.  We vacationed in Curaçao a little differently than anyone else I know, staying in a house in an otherwise very quiet part of the island.  We snorkeled a TON and loved it – got to do some open water swimming and exploring, away from the beach, which we haven’t done much before.  We relaxed like rock stars, visited a new place, learned a little more about traveling, and always looking forward to our next adventure.