Posts filed under 'explore scotland'

A Horsey Update & Request

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted (I have started my Indonesia recap I swear!) but nothing like some time sensitive material to push me on a typing frenzy. I wanted to do a horsey update…because behind the scenes it’s been a hell of a journey. If you follow me on Instagram you’d be at least somewhat aware that Hamish got injured. In fact, he got injured the day after I posted my last horse post (Finding the Perfect Horse). Reiterating there is no perfect horse, all horses are stupid, and save yourself the heartache and trouble and just light a wad of £5 notes on fire anytime you’re yearning for a beast of the equine variety.

On May 20, the night before I was leaving to my girls trip to Portugal (recapped here), I was called out of my manicure appointment as I was walking into it, that Hamish was cut and bleeding, it looked quite deep, and the vet was called out. By the time I made it there, the staff was already doing a trot-up with the vet (of course he gets hurt the one time I’m in town with 5pm rush-hour traffic). The vet was hopefully at first that since he didn’t seem too lame, that perhaps it was just a cut. But because the cut did go all the way to the bone, she wanted to follow up the next week with X-rays.

horse fractured cannon splint bone

After unsuccessful attempts at giving him stitches (regardless of the amount of drugs we pumped into him, he wouldn’t keep his leg still) we did what we could with staples, and wrapped him up. This starting the first of twice weekly vet callouts to check on Hamish’s leg, and redress it. Not to mention the 3 (or was it 4?) rounds of X-rays and the taking out and putting back in of staples for said x-rays and 6 weeks of box rest. Box rest that was supposed to go on another 2 weeks but by this point, my newly turned 6 year old was doing more damage to himself by absolutely losing his shit, trying to canter and buck in his stable, kicking doors, and scalping himself along the top of the stable door. Truth be told, I was elated he was deemed too crazy for more box rest because by this point, I had become terrified of my horse.

“Why would you be scared of little ole me?” This was within the first week of box rest when he was slightly amused with being an inside pony.

So what happened? It seems he was kicked in the field by one of his mates at such a force his two leg bones (the cannon and splint) knocked together and chunks of bone fractured off of each. There were 3 little chunks, and one big one. Over time the little chunks absorbed and bone re-grew where the biggest chunk was taken out, but the biggest chunk that came out wouldn’t absorb. Last we saw, it had floated around to the side of the cannon bone and calcified itself onto that. Visually, he has a lump and would never win an in-hand show. But somehow, after 2 months off, and then a slow 3-4 weeks of building him back up and into fitness, he’s better than ever!

“Of course I am better than ever, I am SUPER HAMISH!” Seriously though, this was his get up on competition morning to keep his corn rows in place, his legs not bloodied, and his body kept overall white-ish.

And why was I scared of him? To be fair, Hamish was a star at box-rest…especially considering he just turned 6 in his 2nd week of box rest. I did my best to keep him amused. I used a treat ball for him to kick around and get treats out of (may or may not have been the reason that large chunk of bone moved), I hid carrots in his hay nets, I put apples in his water bucket, I gave him a saltlick…. but my normally cheeky wee chap became a bit of an angry, aggressive, lunatic by the end. In the second week when we realized it would be awhile, we took his shoes off…but I still needed to pick out his feet because he’s standing in wet bedding. (He got mucked out 2-3x a day, but he’s still going to be standing in wet bedding a large amount of the time in box rest.) The last 2 weeks, that didn’t happen at all because he would try to slam me into a corner and was threatening to kick. I couldn’t even turn my back on him mucking out the last 2 weeks because he would put his head down, shake it from side to side like a wild man, and start “skipping” (to me it was less skip, more bull charge) towards me to “play” (kill me.)   It doesn’t take a genius to see that this would knock a first time horse owner’s confidence. I was convinced he’d never be the same again and all the hard work of the past few months were lost.

Pissed off, over box rest, and really over people messing with his leg despite pretty bandages.

It also didn’t help, that I rode the first 2 weeks he was injured, than took a month off riding. I was too tired from being a slave to his box rest and vet appointments…then when I started riding again (on school ponies) I was a timid, weak, pathetic, ragdoll…. a passenger my instructor would say. Poor guy- it took some deep talks to get my head out of my ass, grit my teeth, and man up.

But after all that…. Hamish and I competed in our first dressage test! We didn’t even get last!! When I got a horse, I didn’t really have competing on my mind…I just didn’t think it was something I’d ever be good enough to do. Let alone the logistics… but low and behold, we entered the lowest level (Intro Dressage) which is just walk and trot (good thing because I actually wasn’t cantering on him at that point) and we get a 62.17%. I know if you’re not horsey, that sounds awful…but Charlotte Dujardin won gold at the Olympics with 93.857% and silver was 89.071%…no one is batting 100’s.

A brief glimpse into why I didn’t score better- Hamish decided he was a giraffe with his head.

We certainly do look the part at least.

The day after my dressage competition we’ve started cracking on cantering, and are looking at the next level up tests- Prelim. Not sure when I’ll have the confidence to compete but I like having a goal and working towards it. It’s definitely filling the void marathon training has left.

Supper chuffed with my boy!

So that’s my horsey update….now for the request. I have been nominated as one of 3 female finalists to be the Brand Ambassador for Country Ways. Country Ways is a country/equestrian store in Aberdeen Scotland.   The final decision is based on votes though- so I need your help. All you have to do is a) Have a facebook account and b) Like my picture from the following link: CLICK HERE

This is the picture that you need to like on facebook!! Photo by: Christine Jackson Photography

 

You don’t even have to like the store Country Ways! Easy peasy. If you could help me out and like the picture of me & Stella…and even share the post if you can, encouraging others to vote for me- I’d really appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh in August

Another option in Edinburgh (August or otherwise) is a free walking tour with Sandeman! Highly recommend it.

Another option in Edinburgh (August or otherwise) is a free walking tour with Sandeman! Highly recommend it.

When we moved to Scotland just over 2 years ago, I had heard something about the “Royal Tattoo” and how it was this crazy big show of bagpipers and performers that only takes place in August at the Edinburgh castle and I realllly wanted to go. But there was about 2 weeks left of the show and the mark up on tickets/available dates were sure to make that impossible.

To top it off, when my mother was going through my dad’s office after he passed away, she found a file on Scotland that he had started for a trip they had been planning to take. On a sheet of yellow legal paper (typical Ray fashion) was the word TATTOO. Obviously, it had to be done. So we had planned my mother and her friend Pat were coming to visit in August and we would start the journey in Edinburgh. (It helps that in the summer there is a direct Chicago to Edinburgh flight). But when my mom came last year I never blogged about her trip. I was a bit overrun with things (also never blogged about my 2 weeks in Croatia…it’s coming I swear!): mainly visitors and vacations. And despite the fact that I’ve been a less than stellar blogger lately…I’m attempting to make up for it. So here’s a little combo post about why you should totally visit Edinburgh in August.

When my mom and friend came, the 3 of us had the place (a really fabulous and ridiculously expensive Air bnb) to ourselves for Friday and E came down on Saturday for Tattoo. This past weekend, E and I went down to Edinburgh for my birthday weekend getaway and stayed at The Carlton Hotel. Both really nice…but you should know, ridiculously expensive in August. Why?

Just a little wine spill in our Air Bnb

Just a little wine spill in our Air Bnb

We got to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display with our wine at night.

We got to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display with our wine at night.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Aka The Fringe.

The Fringe is the world’s largest art’s festival. It spans for the entire month of August. In 2015, there were over 50,000 performances of over 3,300 shows at 313 different venues. They say the city doubles in size during this month not only with tourists (to see the shows, but also to try and see summer in Scotland) but with all those performers as well.

And Edinburgh is a beautiful city...reason enough to visit.

And Edinburgh is a beautiful city…reason enough to visit.

Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the city.

Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the city.

Last year, I didn’t try to tackle any Fringe shows with my mother and her friend. I’m sure I could have, but there was a lot of the city to see, catching up, etc. It would have made it all a bit more rushed. And in hindsight, I agree with that decision since I knew nothing about Fringe. Now I’ve come back from 6 shows over the course of <48 hours and I think I have my wits about me and would be able to lead the charge for a weekend excursion back. (Which I totally am going to plan for my birthday again next year with some friends). So here are my tips for Fringe.

Fringe for Virgins

  • You can buy tickets the day of, 5 minutes before a show starts (or even possibly be given them for free), but I recommend doing some research and seeking out shows you want to see, and buying those tickets in advance- that you can do online.
  • Shows are split into categories: Cabaret and Variety, Children’s Shows, Comedy, Dance/Physical Theater/Circus, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Operas, Spoken Word, and Theater…though one show might be in several categories. They all have a suggested age and a blurb about them.
  • Sometimes you read a blurb and are really interested in it, and then you go to the show and it is nothing what you expected.
  • At the Fringe website, you can sort by date, narrow by time of day, and by category. It’s really very handy in planning a weekend.
  • Unless it’s something very highly recommended and publicized, you can buy tickets the week of. There was one (small) show I had wanted to see that was sold out 3 days in advance. And then there was one larger one that was written up in a few publications as the Best of Fringe 2016 that was sold out at least a week in advance.
  • You can’t print tickets at home, but you just pop into one of the many ticket-printing centers, swipe your credit card, and all the tickets you’ve purchased come out at once.
  • If you’re planning on seeing quite a few shows, definitely pull up the venues on a map. Edinburgh is very walkable, but if you only have 30 mins to get from one show in the Meadows to another show on the North Side of the city…you’re not going to make it without a taxi.
  • Speaking of, there is Uber in Edinburgh. Not a big deal for Americans…a very big deal coming from Aberdeen.
  • There is no assigned seating. And even though we were never early to queue, and actually dead last a couple times, there are really no bad seats.
  • There are no bad seats because the venues are TINY. You will be sitting arm pressed against hot fleshy arm at every venue.   It’s Scotland so it’s never warm out, but underneath your sweater or jacket, have something cool on because the venues are hot. And take off your outer layer as you sit down because you won’t have the room to do it mid-show.
  • Shows are generally an hour. We went to one that was 90 minutes. I really wish it ended at 60 minutes. Make sure you really are keen on it if you see it’s 90 minutes.
  • Some shows really might not let you in if you’re late…generally shows start 2-3 mins late, so a small buffer window. But if you arrive RIGHT on time, you’ll be fine. And no one looks down upon you if you’re clearly late because you stopped at the bar first.
  • There are bars at every venue (pretty much) and you can always bring drinks in. I actually didn’t think the drinks were overpriced compared to something like Taste of Chicago.
  • At one show, the comedian (that I really enjoyed), asked for money at the end. But she referred to some people buying tickets. Which led me to believe a lot of people got in for free. But then I felt weird not giving money because I loved her…but also had paid about £13 per ticket. Just know this can happen, but in 6 shows, only one asked for tips at the end.
  • For dining: unless you’re planning on going to places that are strictly no reservation (El Cartel, Ting Thai Caravan), you need to make reservations. Our plans got slightly shuffled around and were originally going to do El Cartel for dinner, but did them for lunch instead. So for dinner Saturday night we went with the only place we could walk into, which was less than good tapas. Thankfully, it wasn’t our last meal on earth.
  • If you’re going to eat at the aforementioned no-reservation places, pad in lots of time to wait. Or better yet, go at an off time. For lunch at El Cartel, they open at noon and we were there at 12:15, which is early for lunch. But we had gotten up and ran 6 miles that morning so it was a late breakfast for us and we beat the crows and were seated right away. The next day, the same thing where we showed up for a late breakfast (11:30) and managed to get seated right away and beat the lunch rush.
Only at Fringe...Smut while you wait.

Only at Fringe…Smut while you wait.

The crowds are madness in August

The crowds are madness in August

My tops 3 (of 6) performances that I saw at Fringe this year was:

2nd runner up: Amelia Ryan: Lady Liberty (Cabaret and Variety/Comedy)

1st runner up: Andrea Hubert: Week (Stand-Up/Story Telling)

1st place: Love, Lies and Taxidermy (new writing/comedy)

If I had more days I would go see the other performances in the same venues as Love, Lies & Taxidermy – most of which have the same cast. Really cool venue, really liked what they did. Had actually wanted to see Every Brilliant Thing (done by them as well) but it was sold out! Alas…

Beyond Fringe

As previously mentioned, in conjunction with Fringe Festival is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Also only taking place in August, dubbed as the “World’s Greatest Show.” And I have to say…. it’s pretty great. With the magnificent background of the Edinburgh castle, more bagpipes than you can shake a stick at, a supremely choreographed routine that has a different theme each year, representations of many different nations, as well as different kinds of musicians, dancers, and performers, topped off with a stunning fireworks display…. it’s incredible.IMG_1415 IMG_1399
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So if you’re questioning if Tattoo is worth it? The answer is definitely yes! My advice would be to buy tickets as soon as humanly possible to get good seats at a fair price. Though there aren’t any truly bad seats…if you’re not in the Royal Gallery or Premier Seats (we weren’t) you just don’t want to be tucked in a corner, or too low so that you can’t see the whole scope of the arena. Even though we bought tickets months out, a lot of the good seats were sold out the night we wanted to go. I compared scalper-like sites but I found that if I bought directly through the Tattoo, paying a little extra for the ceilidh package, I actually got a better seat for less money than buying a normal ticket from Tattoo or a ticket from a third party. Bonus, we went to the ceilidh afterward, which provided one drink and quite a lot of food included, and my mother and her friend got to watch and learn some traditional dances. It was definitely worth is.

 

 

 

For the love of the ‘Deen

I’ve said this before, but I really love Aberdeen….most specifically, Aberdeenshire, and really, all of Scotland. It’s charming and quaint, rural and majestical. In fact, last month a job opportunity opened up for E in Brussels. It’s always been the goal that eventually we would get transferred to Belgium, but when E mentioned it to me, I started to cry. I don’t want to leave Scotland! At least not yet….and to be honest, even though I know it will have to eventually happen, and I’m excited about the prospect of what the next expat assignment will bring, you’ll probably read about the fact that E has moved me kicking and screaming.

So for this Friday faves, I’m going to share 5 links that help me prove just how grand life in the ‘shire is.  Hopefully, this will inspire you to come visit (next year, fully booked this summer already) or make you a little more excited for your upcoming trip to the North.

  1. Aberdeen is Scotland’s “kindest city” and the third kindest in all of the UK. This was based on a study which “measured the average number of good deeds carried out by residents.” This is no surprise to me. There are so many stories of people helping each other out , from lost dogs to kindly neighbors. In my own time here I’ve been free to go after forgetting my wallet at eateries, given gifts by my neighbors, and had my house called up by another neighbor when there was a bad storm.   The people here are nice. See the article HERE.
  2. Aberdeen is the second cleanest city in the UK in terms of air pollution. Well done ‘Donians! See the article HERE.
  3. There are more castles per acre in Aberdeenshire than anywhere else in the UK. I personally fancy the very gothic castles (Fyvie) or the ruins (Dunnotar)…but there’s a castle here that will take your breath away, no matter what you fancy. See the article HERE.

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    Dunnottar Castle….always breathtaking just 15 mins south of Aberdeen

  4. But somehow Aberdeen still has a bad rap. At least people have fun with it. Check out this Buzzfeed list: 32 Reasons You Should Never, Ever Visit Aberdeen. It’s more than adequate in summarizing why I love it here. Check it out HERE.
  5. And where else can I force my husband to take m on Sunday drives, pulling over and stopping suddenly everytime I see a baby sheep or Highland Coo? As I did a 7 days of Sheep on Instagram recently, I’ll just treat you to some Coo pictures now. 🙂DSC_1032 DSC_1060 IMG_3820 DSC_0104 DSC_0335

Stella in the Country

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I love country living. Even when its flaw (being far from city-centre) becomes more and more abundant (as our social life gets fuller and fuller). I was a little worried initially about feeling alone and closed off- especially when it came to just having contact with people on a day that E is out of town and I have no reason to go into town. I remember one weekend when we moved to San Diego- E had been sent to New Jersey to work and I didn’t leave my apartment from Friday when I got home from work until Monday morning. Hadn’t unlocked the front door! Man, I kinda dream of a weekend like that now with sweet, sweet hibernation.

Anyway. With Stella-dog that’s never going to happen again. But I still was a little worried about actually interacting with people even though I knew I’d be outside. As it turns out- it’s rare that I take a walk with Stella through the woods or down the road and don’t run into anyone. And a lot of time, they want to talk. Everyone is friendly and engaging. Just yesterday I met a 5 year old girl (and her grandpa) who told me all about her new baby brother that’s coming next week, that she wants to be a veterinarian, that there’s a boy in her class that squeezes her hand too hard, and then she likes to feed Disney and Spirit (the horses down the lane) carrots whenever anyone will take her to them. It was pretty delightful other than my worry that maybe Disney and Spirit are getting way too many carrots as I feed them quite often as well and I know of at least one other neighbor that does as well.

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In some ways taking Stella out here is the exact same as taking Stella out in Chicago. Of course we don’t encounter our regular local homeless people or stop in to the same high end shops to get free dog treats (shout out to Lululemon, Barbour, Burton, Brioni, Ugg, Ted Baker, Sprinkles and Ugg), but we do meet and talk with our neighbors, get pets from strangers (more Stella than me), and sniff some dog butts (more Stella than me). There’s just the added bonus of not ever being on a leash, drinking water fresh from the burn, and chasing the occasional deer.

dog water fountain

How stella hydrates: Chicago vs. Scotland

The biggest difference in our typical “go outside” in Chicago vs. Aberdeenshire isn’t the scenery, it’s everything else!

CHICAGO DOG WALKS

ABERDEENSHIRE DOG WALKS

Leash Carrots (for horses)
Standard Collar Light Up Collar or Vibrating Collar (depending on the season)
Poo Bags Head Torch
Money (it always seemed like a good idea to stop at the Sprinkles cupcake ATM) Reflective Vest or Rain Coat
Tennis Ball & Racket Wellies or Hiking Boots
Trainers, snow boots, or flip flops

 

 

I still am loving country living and fear more a re-adjustment to a big city rather than something more rural (I just may eat my words some day). I’m pretty sure Stella has so qualms about her change in scenery either!

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Sheepdog in training.

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Ben Nevis

Yesterday was our 3rd wedding anniversary….here enjoy some photos from my favorite day of life:love this glatl0517 glatl0559 ohhhh but i also love this one... glatl1052 glatl1047

Last year for our anniversary we had decided on a weekend getaway to the west coast to do our first proper hike. We did the Pap of Glencoe.  Which wasn’t even a munro (a mountain over 3K feet in Scotland), but it was hard. Maybe it was because it was the first real hike, or maybe I was really out of shape, or who knows but it was hella hard. But we love the west coast (as does Stella girl) and really wanted to continue the anniversary tradition and head out there. We also know we might not be here next October (although, I am hoping we are) so we’re starting to think about our Scotland to-do and to-see list and getting things checked off. So we decided to head back on over to the west coast and take on Ben Nevis, which is the biggest mountain in the UK standing 4,409 feet.

From last year’s trip and the Cairn Gorm climb where we (either Stella or us) almost died, it would seem I’m a glutton for pain. But hiking is pretty rewarding, there is a clear start and end, and the views and scenery are amazing. And Stella loves it. Like LOOOOOOVES hiking. And it’s Scotland! This is what you do in Scotland. Had I ever really hiked in America? Nope. But I’m not in America. And if you’re signing up for expat life you have to embrace what your new home offers. And it’s hiking here! I got waterproofs and hiking boots and a head torch and rucksacks all since I moved here, and I aim to use them.

happy dog

happy dog

We did decide it wasn’t really necessary to take off any extra days. We headed to Fort William on Friday afternoon (its about a 3 ½ hour drive) and checked into the Lime Tree Hotel- a small place (about 10 rooms) with a good restaurant, breakfast included, and they are dog friendly. Bonus: it’s right in the center of Fort William and about 10 mins from the starting point of Ben Nevis.

Friday night we dealt with another 30 min drive from the hotel to the Clachaig Inn for dinner. Both trips we tried to stay here but they’re always booked! It’s alright because they were a little far from Ben Nevis, but definitely worth the trip for dinner. And of course, they’re dog friendly. Even the restaurant. E and I both had the Smoky Pork & Chorizo Chili and it was really, really good. I know a lot of people who have stayed and recommended it, and while I can’t say I have, if you’re traveling with a pup it’s a great dinner option at the very least.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at the Lime tree and made our lunches, packed our bags and headed out to the hike. As I said it was about a 10 min drive, so easy peasy. There is a big parking lot (£3 for parking all day), the actual center that we didn’t go in, and restrooms- PH33 6PF. Definitely go potty there because the problem is not only are there tons of people on the hike, but also there is nowhere to hide to loo it up. Even for the guys…just too many people.

Okay so before we left for the weekend, but after we decided to do this and book the hotel and all, I really started freaking out about if I could make the hike or not. I mean it seemed pretty intense. They said it would take between 7-9 hours and the weather could change and be awful, and the top is really cold. I read about all these lists of things you should bring (compass and head torch and lighter and extra shoelaces) and really started freaking out because we’re really amateur hikers and kinda hacks. We packed the best we could…forgot the head torch, but had a lighter and a compass (not that we knew what to do with it), loads of layers, gloves, hats, LOADS of food and water for us and Stella, waterproofs…no extra laces but ya know.

the summit is up there somewhere

the summit is up there somewhere

I had also wanted to start hiking at 8 am since daylight is decreasing and I had visions of it taking 15 hours and getting lost and who knows. But brekkie didn’t start until 8am and I am not missing free breakfast. So we ended up getting the visitor center around 9ish and set off the journey. It seems 9 am is a very popular time to start, though there were some people who must have gotten there at 7 or 8 am, and then bewilderingly we saw some people starting off at about 5. And they didn’t strike me as epic hiking kings or anything. I hope they were prepared or didn’t attempt to do the whole thing.

So we started at about 9:15am and were done right at 5. But E’s little Garmin told us we only were active walking for 5 hours, 25 minutes, and 10 seconds. We had taken a couple breaks on the way up to give Stella water and/or eat a banana, but then we spent quite awhile at the top eating a full lunch, having hot tea (definitely bring a thermos of hot water up there!), exploring, and taking it all in. But yeah, we really kind of hauled ass uphill I think (thanks to my big booty) and definitely took much longer going down. Oh my old aching knees.IMG_1719

We lucked out with great weather on the hike. Although it was freezing at the top. Freezing.  We thought it was a cold so I started with a dri-fit tee, dri-fit long sleeve, and my waterproof jacket…but within a quarter mile took off the extra long sleeve. I kept the water proof jacket on because it was misting for the first bit and I didn’t want to get wet, but it stopping misting pretty soon and I rolled up the sleeves. At the top though…woah it was cold. I immediately took off my sweat soaked tee shirt and put on two long sleeve dri-fit tops, a Patagonia fleece and my waterproof jacket, a hat and gloves. But I still couldn’t get my fingers warm! I wanted to pour the hot tea on them. I also had a scarf that I didn’t end up using but what if I needed a homemade splint or something?! 🙂

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Kept Stella away from the cliffs

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I also used walked sticks for the first time on this hike! Maybe that’s why I thought it was an easier time up? And even though I still hated the journey down and my knees hurt…maybe they did help them to hurt less and make it easier? Who knows, but I think I would take them again.IMG_1738

The path is EXTREMELY well marked. You can’t miss it (assuming it’s not covered in snow). And we were there in the off-season and there were so many people…we rarely were on a spot where we couldn’t see others. I heard in the prime “summer” months its basically one long line trudging along (because there are parts where the path is slim). You do not need a guide if there isn’t snow on the ground. If there is snow…well hell if I know because I’m not hiking with snow. I do think you should make sure to have lots of layers and water and food, and of course proper attire and shoes. But I didn’t think it was that bad of a hike actually…and I’m really not a hiker. Nor am I in very good shape at the moment. So if you’re thinking about doing it….DO IT! Because then you’ll get to say you hiked to the summit of the UK’s highest mountain! #braggingrightsIMG_1775I hope next October we’re still living in Scotland and will be taking another weekend trip to the west coast to concur a new munro. Until then, I’m really looking forward to some friends coming in the early summer and heading to the Isle of Skye with them for hopefully great weather and gorgeous hikes. Get training Tracy and Brian!

E & Stella dog, contemplating deep deep thoughts

E & Stella dog, contemplating deep deep thoughts

Dhanakosa Meditation & Yoga Retreat

Clearly, I am still not blog focused. I’m pretty much tying myself to my computer right now to type this retreat recap up. I’ve been busy with my client, American Woman’s Association stuff (like prepping and hosting 30 women at my house for breakfast and coffee on Wednesday morning….yes 30), and golf. While the Indian Summer tried to disappear Mon-Wed, it was back today and a couple of us got together and played 9 holes, it short sleeves, in October, in Scotland! How great is that? What wasn’t great…I swear I am getting worse at golf. Oye.

So….my meditation & yoga retreat….IMG_1671

At some point last spring I started googling meditation retreats. I’m not sure what exactly possessed me to do so. But I did use to meditate pretty religiously and even did a couple 6-week block sessions of guided meditation that worked on different techniques. What led me to meditation was my FGM (Fairy God Mother aka shrink) who didn’t think I should just be drugged when I was sad. So I guess maybe I was feeling a bit sad, overwhelmed, run down and thought I should get back to meditation. Or maybe I just saw some Real Housewives of Wherever and they went on a fab retreat….who knows.

I probably was in over my head before I started. I swear when I originally googled only 2 retreat places came up in Scotland that were a reasonable drive. I didn’t want a flight, and I didn’t want a greater than 5 hour journey. Now as I google, man it seems there are tons of these places. And it also seems like there are a lot better options for me. Anyway, the one place originally found was super luxurious and expensive, and the other one, the one I went to, Dhanakosa, seemed more practically priced but no massages. I was okay with that…I thought.

Now maybe I’m using better search terms or have a better understanding of what I’m looking for. But now in the greater google search I have found centers that seem to be fairly priced, more luxurious, not vegan, only 3 nights, AND options not to have roommates. Not sure on the atmosphere, but already these are seemingly better options that what I chose.

I went at it a little aggressive. Doing a full 7-day retreat that focused on yoga and meditation…even though I have no experience of yoga, and do not aspire to be a yogi or supplement a workout through yoga. I am just keen on yoga to help my meditation and help me relax and stretch. I guess I also just had unrealistic expectations. While I didn’t fully know what to expect in this, I was looking at it like sleep away camp or a Natural Helpers retreat…or even a weekend long church retreat. It wasn’t any of these things.

Sleep away camp at Camp Tecumseh was the best week of my life every year as a kid. I went knowing no one, had a super scheduled day, rode horses for half the day, made great friends, never had drama….I just always left feeling better and more confident than when I came in. In high school I went to two Natural Helpers retreats (not sure what it is- this site gives a pretty nice explanation) I first went as a student experience it, and then as a senior in high school I was a leader helping other students. Then, in college E and I went as the college leaders. We both loved the program, loved the weekend retreat, created great friendships, grew on a personal level, and came back feeling better than when we left. Even during my brief Jesus-y phase, I went on a couple weekend retreats and drank the kool-aid, made great connections, and left feeling better and more centered than when I came. I just thought this would be the same, but it wasn’t.

A lot of people who were at the retreat (about 25-30 of us) had either been at this center before or been to other meditation retreats before. There were only a couple people who were totally new to the whole process with me. At the end of the retreat, most people talked about how this was the most social retreat they had ever been on…which left me stumped. I wanted to have hugs and a massage chain and write letters to each other about how amazing we all were and we didn’t do ANY of that. What the heck, this isn’t social.   I didn’t even get past surface level stuff with more than 5 people!

The daily schedule was something along the lines of this:

7 Wake up bell

7:30 mediation

8 meditation

8:45 breakfast

10:30 yoga

1 lunch

3:45 optional extra yoga

5 meditation

6 dinner

7:30 Varying evening meditation and/or talk

To boot, I had 3 roommates to share one bathroom with and you had daily chores. Roommates are awkward. Not them as people, mine were actually quite lovely, but having roommates is awkward…especially as grown women, having periods of silence, and sharing a bathroom on an all vegan diet.

I said optional extra yoga in the schedule but everything was optional, you could do whatever you wanted. Only one day did I do both meditations in the morning, because it was just too much. For the normal 10:30 yoga session the retreat was split into two groups, you chose which leader you wanted to go with after they talked about their yoga. It was pretty much a full 2 ½ hours though, all the way until lunch. The yoga group I was in…well it wasn’t the yoga I expected. To kind of sum it up, for 2 ½ hours a day we kind of rolled around on the floor and pretended we were seaweed. Okay, we didn’t pretended to be seaweed the entire time, but that happened daily, and we really did just kind of roll around on the floor for the entire time…trying to feel our bodies and move fluidly. One day I decided to really embrace it hoping for great results…and despite my best efforts, had to ditch the next day on the whole experience because I kind of had enough.

I did do the extra yoga session one day with the other instructor and I liked that. I guess it was Ying/Restorative Yoga where you held a pose for a while and focused on your breathing. That was nice and only an hour long. Lots of lying, no seaweed.

It took me until Wednesday morning to have a really good meditation session, but all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning before leaving I was in the zone. Despite going batshit crazy on Thursday evening, leaving the retreat center, and going two miles up the road to connect to wifi and drink two large glasses of wine (sacrificing one meditation session which I think was totally worth it- because I should not there is no contact with the outside world.  Not only is it frowned upon, but I didn’t have any service within a 5 mile radius of the center…I even ran up a mountain to try and get a signal and couldn’t.  It was rough.  I missed E & Stella-girl). But even once I got my meditation on, I just felt unfulfilled. Repeat retreat offenders seemed to really get a lot out of the experience. And a lot came with some pretty big stuff to work through…to come to a big come to Buddha moment. Maybe I just didn’t go deep enough?

There were also 2 days were we were silent from about 8pm until 9:30 the next day, and then another day we were silent from 8pm through the entire next day and then the next day until 9:30am. So like 36 hours of silence. I didn’t expect this, but it actually didn’t bother me in principle. What bothered me was on the 36 hours of silence it was the 5th day there, the temp dropped, the house was cold, I was reading a depressing WW2 book (I guess at hardcore retreats no book or music (I listened to music a couple times on a run) are even allowed), the vegan gruel we were fed was getting to me, I just really felt like a prisoner.

The retreat was a £75 booking fee and then “free” made possibly by other’s donations. On the website it lists suggested donation amounts and explains you’ll have a chance to make your donation on the last full day and they take all forms of payment. But I wasn’t expecting such a hard push for donations, I mean I fully intended on paying the suggested donation amount because after all it was 6 full nights room and board beforehand. I knew they’d say something, but it was a full blown kind of rehearsed super hard push…it was intense. I guess the center is a non-profit and they said it cost £30K A MONTH to run the ‘estate’. I do not see how this is possible. And I asked two different people what do they do and what the money goes to…and the answers were vague at best. After the ask for money, it was immediately followed up by doling out chores from the staff that live there full time…while they kind of stood and watched us all work. This is in addition to the daily chores we had to do. When the time came to donate is when I snuck away to the hotel. So Friday morning I went up to donate and right away there was a, “Oh, you’re Lauren” because they kept tabs on who had donated and who hadn’t. It was just kind of weird and aggressive I thought. And a lot of money that I couldn’t see what it went to…the place is kinda shabby, we did chores, the houses are paid off. It kind of seemed that we are funding a community of people to hang out and not work. I just kind of felt like I was getting jipped. Then after I donated I came down and had MORE chores to do before we left, including stripping my own bed and changing the sheets. The guests did literally all the work. Which is fine…but then why is the donation request so how? Where is the money going?

Unfortunately, that ending put a really bad taste in my mouth. But I want to end on a good note because it wasn’t an all bad of an experience. I just kind of had to dig really deep to find the good.

Cons

  • Didn’t feel like there was a lot of free time between the schedule and chores.
  • Wasn’t a fan of the yoga.
  • Didn’t feel the leaders “lead” enough. I was looking for more direction and/or feedback.
  • Didn’t have any sort of big come to Buddha moment.
  • Kinda felt I was funding a group of people on extended vacation.
  • Vegan food pretty well sucked about 60% of the time.
  • Midge Bites
    I had over 60 bites...that I scratched so hard in my sleep I bruised. It was miserable.

    I had over 60 bites…that I scratched so hard in my sleep I bruised. It was miserable.

    Midge bites- wah!

    Midge bites- wah!

 

Pros

  • Everyone was super nice. Or at least amused the hell out of me. I couldn’t even be annoyed at anyone because I found them all so delightfully quirky.
    • Even made some new friends who I’d love to see again. Certainly I wish everyone well.
  • Beautiful location.
  • I learned a little about myself.
  • Benefitted from having such a scheduled day after my normal haphazard days.
  • Got back into running- ran 4 times in the beautiful location- even twice at 6:30 am.
  • Had a lot of reading time.
  • Got back to meditation. Not that I’ve done it since, but it can’t hurt.
  • Really got to connect with nature…it felt good.
Sunrise over the loch

Sunrise over the loch

 

My tips for you if you go to this center, or possibly any retreat

  • Get there early for first dibs on beds.
  • Get there early for first dibs on chores.
    • You do not want any dishwashing. Trust me.
    • Toilet duty isn’t bad because you get to choose when you do it.
  • Bring eye mask, earplugs, and drugs to help you sleep.
  • Don’t forget your towels.
  • Bring extra stuff if you’re driving: bathing suit for a morning loch swim, extra deodorant, extra socks, whatever.
Morning run around the Loch

Morning run around the Loch

of course i took pics of sheep

of course i took pics of sheep

If I could’ve tweeted…

I spent a long 7 days at what I call, “meditation and yoga camp” at Dhanakosa over by the Trossachs National Park in Scotland.  For 7 days I was without outside contact whether email or phone, any internet or tv, any alcohol, or food that came from an animal (okay almost 7 full days, I broke Thursday night (retreat ended Friday) and went to the hotel down the road and had 2 large glasses of wine.  And I don’t regret it).  Then I came home to a full busy, busy week.  I realize I haven’t even recapped Edinburgh/Tattoo with my mother, or my birthday Croatia trip.  But I guess that’s all on hold…and unfortunately I’ve had parties, lessons, lunches and a pile of laundry bigger than me.  Woah is expat-wife-life.  So I’m not able to clear my thoughts to a full, proper recap of my retreat (or anything else) for the time being.  Instead, I thought I’d give a drive-by of “If I could tweet, I would be tweeting this…”  For the entire week, I tried to write down what I would like to tweet at the given moment if I had had access to the preciousness of twitter.  I hope you feel as though you were with me in real time, day after day, but while you still get to enjoy the joys of cable tv, wine, and oh, talking.  Warning: it appears I was not very zen.

 

TWEET 1 TWEET 2 TWEET 3 TWEET 4 TWEET 5F MIDGIE TWEET 6 TWEET 7 TWEET 8 TWEET 9 TWEET 10TWEET 11 TWEET 12 TWEET 13 TWEET 14 TWEET 15 TWEET 16 TWEET 17 TWEET 18TWEET 19TWEET 20 TWEET 21 TWEET 22 TWEET 23 TWEET 24 TWEET 25 TWEET 26 TWEET 27 TWEET 28 TWEET 29 TWEET 30 TWEET 31 TWEET 32TWEET 33 TWEET 34 TWEET 36TWEET 35 TWEET 38 TWEET 39 TWEET 40 TWEET 41 TWEET 42 TWEET 43 TWEET 44 TWEET 45TWEET 48 TWEET 49 TWEET 50 TWEET 51 TWEET 52 TWEET 53 TWEET 56 TWEET 57 TWEET 58 TWEET 60TWEET 61

 

Buddahspeed

I really tried to finish up an Airbnb blog post this week but I just didn’t have the time. I’m sure people with jobs are like, please. But for the record I do have a job, and soon to be too. This week was seriously non-stop.

Monday: brekkie, laundy, golf, golf meeting as I’m co-leading the activity group, home for lunch and mor elaundy, grocery shop, make dinner and have a friend over for dinner and wine.

Tuesday: brekkie, round of 9 holes with a friend, lunch, volunteer work, dry cleaner, gym, late dinner.

Wednesday: brekkie, board meeting, lunch, work for my client, start new blog entry, riding lesson, client call, shower, book club

Thursday: brekkie, laundry, load & run dishwasher, clean kitchen, vacuum entire stupidly large house, make not one but 3 dinners for E while I’m away, create instructions for E, unload dishwasher and reload, client work, fold laundry, trail run, dinner, start packing for the weekend as I’m leaving Friday afternoon after my riding lesson.

So this is the post you’ll get…..I’m off! For the next 7 days on a Intro to Meditation & Yoga Retreat at Dhanakosa Buddhist Retreat Centre. I have some experience with meditation but really haven’t been actively practicing since we moved. I started meditation at the urging of my Fairy God Mother about 2 years ago…at first just taking a few minutes each day to stop and breath, then practicing with guided podcasts, and eventually I started attending some seminars in Chicago that would meet once a week for 6 to 8 weeks. But I still am very much a beginner and definitely needed a beginner level retreat.

I just wanted a way to get back into balance after the summer. Kind of figure out what’s going on it my head and center myself. I mean- it can’t hurt! As for the yoga part, well they had another retreat called Meditation and Hill Walking that I was tempted on but the date didn’t work out. But I definitely wanted to do something active, even though I’m not a big yoga person. But hey, maybe that will change?

There will a post going up this week- it’s already written and scheduled to post automatically, because for the next 7 days my life is:

  • Internet Free
  • Phone Free
  • TV Free
  • Meat Free
  • Jeans Free (yay, yoga pants)
  • Friend Free (at least when I arrive)
  • Wine Free

Shit…do they allow caffeine and coffee!? Oye. I might come back in a good mood or on a murderous rampage. Guess we’ll have to take our chances.

I’d like to think I’m excited but right now I’m just feel nervous. It’s like I’m 12 and going to sleep away camp again. Did I pack the right stuff? Will I get along with anyone? Will I be miserable and want to leave? Am I in over my head?

If anything it will be good for me to step back from social media and reality TV, put in some hard time with my book (All the Light We Cannot See), and hopefully get some beautiful runs in with the gorgeous highlands as my background.

Full recap to come of course.

{un?}happy camper

I am not a camper. I make no apologies of this and really haven’t ever felt the need to in my Chicago-life. But I am not in Chicago anymore. I am in the land of tough, rugged, outdoorsy, Scotts. And the general notion that Scotland is the best experienced outside. Which I agree with and I do often. Before we moved here we bought all kinds of hiking crap and waterproof crap and I let my outdoorsy, granola, Subaru driving, alter-ego Heidi step out a little bit. But not long enough to sleep outside.

To be perfectly honest I HAVE camped. There was a lot of what I guess would be considered “glamping” as a youth- girl scout camp and summer sleep away camp in cabins with thin mattresses and some form of latrine. But there were the odd nights at those camps where it was decided to embrace the outdoors and actually sleep in a tent. For one night. For a couple hours. Beyond that, I actually did sleep outside for like 5 days straight in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania without toilet, shower, or any means of cooking other than open fire when I was about 14. But I also rode a horse all day every day during that time and to eb perfectly honest, I’d do most things to hang out on a horse all day. And for the record- I refused to poop those 5 days and maybe peed once a day.  Which is funny since now I probably pee outside once a week….oh Scotland.

Anyway. So people camp here a lot.  Which I was indifferent to. But then…then Mumford and Sons announced they were bringing their Gentlemen of the Road tour here to Scotland in my favorite part of Scotland- the Cairngorms. And they had a camping package. And months ago when all this was announced Heidi took over and was like, “Great! Mumford and camping in the mountains! Yes!” And before I could argue the tickets and camping pass were purchased.  Heidi is way too optimistic and doesn’t think things through like the actual logistics of camping in Scotland.imgres-1

A couple weeks later a couple we’re friends with told us they were down too. Thank god because who knows what would have went down without them. Actually, maybe they were a curse because I probably would have bailed on the camping part of the weekend and just gone and enjoyed the music. In fact, I’m pretty sure that would have happened without them….A few days before the weekend, Kaitlin and I met to talk about what we were bringing and details. I asked, “What if it rains?” and she answered, “Then it rains.” “But what do we do….where do we sleep then?” She said, “Outside.” Hmmm, I don’t like not having a plan B.

As it so happens, it rained. A lot.

When we got to Aviemore and parked the cars in the drizzling rain, we loaded ourselves up and started on what we didn’t know would be a mile hike to where we would lay our tent in the by then pouring rain. We were one of the last people there as camping had started on Thursday and as we walked through field of muddy field of tents, I grew tired and crabby and decided we would set up camp at the first spot that I think would fit our two tents. I should mention we borrowed the tent from the couple we went with, and sleeping bags, lanterns, coolers, and mats from E’s coworker. And that when we went to enter the actual area, our friends had forgotten their tickets in the car- so E and I went in solo and had to set up a tent we had never seen before solo.  Major props because we only had like 5 extra stakes and two extra poles at the end of set-up and our tent didn’t ever fall down.  Quite proud of that one.

At one point during set up, a security guard came up to us and said something totally illegible and frankly, it could not be English. Not a chance it was english.  He repeated what he said once more to me, and then to E when I could not grab a single comprehendible world that I could understand. He had to be Welsh. Seriously. Are Scotts required to speak welsh? Because it definitely wasn’t english and he didn’t seem to get why I couldn’t understand him.  So it must be that Scots are supposed to speak welsh and well, I’m not Scot and it just sounded like gibberish to me.  In hindsight….I’m pretty sure he was telling us that we shouldn’t put our tents there as that area was going to flood.  Would have been beneficial to have taken welsh in high school….

When we went back to our friends to get their stuff and show them where we were, we also realized the entire cooler full of beer and cider couldn’t make it in since it was all in glass bottles. So Kaitlyn and I began the trek back to the car, dragging a top-heavy cooler with tiny wheels through fields of mud while the boys set up the other tent.  It was really pouring at this point. We hung out at the car until the guys came back and then we all loaded up again and began the ever increasingly muddy trek back to the campsite.

Original tent set up.

Original tent set up – trust me, it’s raining.

We had a lot of stuff. Bags of food, coolers, sleeping bags, mats, tents, cooking supplies. E and I both had our huge bags…they were the same size as the other couple’s but the other couple actually had their tent, mats, and bags INSIDE their backpacks. Our backpacks were as just as full but they only contained clothes. Lots of clothes. And even though my shoulders killed me….I have never been more thankful for being a packrat and bringing all those damn clothes.

At like 10pm we were finally settled, soaked, frozen and hungry. We cooked up some brats and onions on their grill (we provided food, Chris cooked) illegally under the tarp that connected our two tents.  We were exhausted and cold. But I had decided since it was so wet and miserable, we needed a tarp and the pillows I had originally forgone in the car. The other couple had laid a tarp down under the tent and we didn’t…but we did have one in the car that had a softer texture on one side, and water proof on the bottom that we could lay at the bottom of our tent.   And of course the pillows.  Because after more thought, sleeping on wadded up clothes wasn’t going to cut it for me…not in these conditions.  I needed every ounce of luxury I had.

Grilling under the tarp

Grilling under the tarp

E & I made the long haul back to car, all while E complained that I was being high-maintenance. But the walk warmed me up, we were both grateful for pillows, and even more super grateful for that tarp since by morning- the water had soaked through the tarp. I was damp and chilled through. But the sun was shinning and all the hippies were laying everything over barbwire fence to dry while we enjoyed and sunshine and breakfast of cheesy eggs, toast and PB, coffee, and bacon.  Our friends had fallen asleep before we made it back with tarp and pillows the night prior and they were elated to find us in our tent when they woke up.  Apparently the bet was I was going to stay in the car…but I didn’t!  I made it.  24 hours more to go!

Hurry hippies, dry your clothes!

Hurry hippies, dry your clothes!

Good morning on Saturday.

Good morning walking out of our tent on Saturday.

We then decided to walk into Aviemore to hang out, have some drinks and eventually eat lunch…where we got caught in a pretty terrible downpour that lasted our time in town and the entire walk back to camp. A little after we arrived at camp the rain stopped and the sun came out. Hippies took off some layers and even a rainbow appeared. And thats when we saw that one of our tent-neighbors (who was much more sensible and intelligent) had decided this was miserable and left…leaving their tent spot open. We decided it was worth it to move our tents to their plot of land.

When E and I moved our tent…this is what was underneath us.

This puddle.  This is exactly where our tent was.

This puddle. This is exactly where our tent was.

I am not kidding I was sleeping in that puddle. At this point we walked BACK to the cars to grab yet another tarp (since everything was soaked through, water now soaking through our sleeping mats and bags). The sun stayed out just long enough to dry the mats and bags, and we repositioned everything….and I will say, despite more rain and mud, we stayed dry for the night. Had we been wet, I would have went to sleep in a running car because even though I was dry, I wore the following to sleep in on the second night: long johns, sweats, 2 pairs of socks, a t-shirt, a long sleeve, a sweatshirt, a Patagonia fleece, gloves, a stocking cap and my hood was up…all while fully zipped into my sleeping bag, with my pillow, not having any parts of me exposed. It was freaking cold.

Just a little muddy...

Just a little muddy…

Of course we had s'mores

Of course we had s’mores

Trying to warm up with some chili

Trying to warm up with some chili

Oh and Mumford and Sons were great…though I’d like to see them again not at a festival venue. And unfortunately we didn’t see a lot of the other acts because we were too busy being exhausted and miserable, or changing, or cold, or moving campsite. I have never been covered in so much mud. Thank god for waterproof hiking boots, wellies, and waterproof pants and jackets.

During Mumford

During Mumford

Mumfords up there somewhere

Mumfords up there somewhere

Wellies are a must do.

Wellies are a must do.

The worst bit about camping was waking up on Sunday morning. As if the last day of any trip isn’t bad enough…on the last day of camping you have to carefully and meticulously pack everything up (even less pleasant when everything is covered in mud) and haul it a mile uphill in the mud back to your car. It pretty much took 3 trips to get everything to our campsite, but we made the decision right away we were going back in one trip. Because we just couldn’t make the journey more than once. Some things were left behind, but it was still a miserable, grueling walk back to the car. Oh, but the sun was out NOW just in time to make us sweat our asses off. It might not have been so bad if we had gotten more than 3 hours of sleep the night before, or if the boys weren’t so hungover, or if Kaitlin wasn’t 6 months preggers (holy hell, if I am half the pregnant woman she is E would think he won the lotto). As it was…it was a death march. Perhaps comparable to my last 2K of my marathon. No…worse.

everywhere was mud

everywhere was mud

For once I am overjoyed at the fact I overpacked because when I peeled off a muddy, wet disgusting layer, I just folded it into itself and had something clean and dry to put on.  And I always had more layers to add on when sleeping.  Had I not been able to do those things, I’m not sure I would have made it.  Of course, Aviemore is gorgeous when not raining and the people were all so friendly. But, I am never festival camping again. Never. I don’t even know if I’ll ever try any type of camping again. I can understand the appeal of waking up in the middle of nowhere with some gorgeous scenery…but…

  1. Scotland is never warm. You will never be able to sleep outside without at least 2 pairs of pants on here.
  2. I have awful shoulders so would never be able to hike all day, then pitch a tent in totally desolate, remote area. I’d be able to get about a mile away from the car max.
  3. Pretty sure Stella would hate it.

IMG_0682

A moment of beauty.

A moment of beauty.

Maybe my next time camping will be somewhere where I won’t freeze at night. I can see how potentially lovely it’d be to wake up on the beach watching the sunrise over lake Michigan on a warm September morning…but in the states you can’t just pop a tent wherever the hell you’d like. So what are the odds I can in fact camp somewhere that I really want to camp?  I won’t totally rule it out…but my next time camping will be sans festival, only be for one night, and will be very dependent on the forecast for the weekend.

And I have to say I feel like a total low-maintance bad ass for surviving two full nights, in miserable weather, without sleep, camping.  I didn’t even throw a single temper tantrum!  No tears were shed- not one!   I mean, I’m practically Bear Grylls.

 

 

The Most Expensive Walk

My in-laws visit has come to a conclusion. Well, it actually came to a conclusion early Sunday morning but ya know, had to return to normal life. I, of course, recap visitor’s trips, but going forward they’re going to be a little more condensed. Since we’re getting more guests (only 2 more in 2015, but 2016 slots are filling fast) we often do a repeat of some of the essential Aberdeenshire hot spots. And I can only type Dunnottar castle so many times…

But with each guest, I try and schedule some trip away from Aberdeenshire and do something unique for that visitor if time allows. My mother and I went to the west coast to see puffins, my aunt and I toured the highlands, Megan and I did Edinburgh and went off to Lisbon. For my in-laws….they are BIG into golf- so they’re Aberdeen add-on was centered around golf. And what better place to golf than Scotland where it originated in the 15th century…

So the in-laws arrived on Thursday morning to jetlag and lost golf clubs. Luckily, said clubs were delivered at about 8pm- it was iffy for awhile since w were originally set out to leave on Friday morning at about 6:30 am and they couldn’t find where the clubs were….but they made it. And for once, the rain worked in our favor because it was pouring on Friday morning (to such a degree my now 3rd house in a row had a leak) and golf was delayed, as was our departure time until about 8:30 am.

When we got down to St. Andrews it was a bit overcast and windy, but we didn’t get rained on all day. It was a pretty perfect day and we all really enjoyed it. There is a strict no camera policy but ya know, me and rules…

Rainbow over the 1st Tee and 18th Hole

Rainbow over the 1st Tee and 18th Hole

IMG_0453

Tiger and the ole’ bridge.

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Rainbow over the 1st Tee and 18th Hole

Rainbow over the 1st Tee and 18th Hole

Boys in front of the bridge

Boys in front of the bridge

One rule The Open didn’t have was no booze…so great. And I mean, they didn’t just sell alcohol on site…you could walk in carrying your own. BYOB! We left the course to have a picnic lunch we had packed on one of the closed courses. And of course we had wine and I even grabbed some cans of Pimm’s (not so good in a can) that we then brought back in with us.IMG_0412

Love me a picnic.

Love me a picnic.

At the open

At the open

When we left St. Andrews (later than anticipated) we started a long, cramped, most driving rain journey across the country to the Loch Lomond area, specifically in Helensburgh. It wasn’t an ideal location as it was a little further away from everything than we wanted to me…but it really was like a 20 min drive to E’s race on Saturday and a 10 min drive to dinner- so not bad at all. And the B&B we stayed at- Lethamhill B&B was really lovely. E and I’s room had an incredible lake view, the grounds were gorgeous, and I got salmon and eggs for brekkie. Everybody wins!IMG_0620 (1) IMG_0616

Getting some pre-dinner sherry at the B&B

Getting some pre-dinner sherry at the B&B

IMG_0478

 

As mentioned E had a race on Saturday morning…I mean who wouldn’t want to start their 30’s with an ungodly swim in choppy, freezing Loch Lomond?! It was his first Duathlon and he did great.

Happy 30 E!

Happy 30 E!

After the race we took the Bcock Srs. to a highlands games (naturally) at Loch Lomond. We got piped in by the band, which was pretty great. And they had wrestling! What?! Hadn’t seen that one before. The downfall of the games was a lack of seats and muddy, muddy ground. I cannot stand for hours watching grown men throw heavy stuff…we were in luck, because we just acquired 2 picnic blankets with waterproof undersides so we hunkered down. I have to say, the games didn’t disappoint and I think E’s parents really enjoyed them.IMG_0490 IMG_0505

We went back to the B&B for a nap, then went out to E’s birthday dinner. Which I didn’t grab a picture of but we were at Cameron house and I got sweet breads and lamb! And actually a decent martini which if you follow, know is as easy to get your hands on as a freaking unicorn in this country. And don’t think just because it’s the national animal that it’s easy to find…

Post dinner drinks

Post dinner drinks

The next day we started a rainy drive down through Glasgow and to Trump’s Turnberry Golf Club. The course was made in 1902 and has a pretty interesting history…Trump bought it out in 2014 and now it makes him oodles of money. See here.

And well…. I googled “golf quotes” and came across this:

“Golf is a good walk spoiled.” – Mark Twain

Well that was the most expensive spoiled walk I’ve ever had! I am so mad at how I played….I even had two emergency lessons right before the trip and was crushing it at the range and even the weekend before at a local golf course. Gaaaaah. I was just so nervous. Much better on the back 9 and I even parred a hole- booyah! But still…I was awful. E’s mom actually played the best I think- good memories for her all around. So many golf balls lost…. Anyway…it was at least was a BEAUTIFUL, spoiled, expensive walk.  And ya know, everyone got some time with the sun and sand…

Greg sizing up that bunker

Greg sizing up that bunker

 

E's turn in the bunker

E’s turn in the bunker

Coming up to the first tee box.

Coming up to the first tee box.

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Seriously…could it be more gorgeous? Not my form…the view.

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After 18 long holes.

After 18 long holes.

Monday we headed back to St. Andrews- originally to check out the course without The Open going on, but it was extended to Monday due to rain delays. We were going to head in but after walking about the Castle and Cathedral were pretty tired and wanted to get home. But I have to say, E and I will be heading back to St. Andrews for a weekend sometime to enjoy the quaint little town, and because, I need to spread my hack skills around ALL the super nice, famous, and expensive courses…because hey, I really love expensive, spoiled walks.

The rest of the week had us: dining outside a few nights (hurrah nice weather), checking out Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle, eating fish n chips, eating haggis, having afternoon tea, having drinks at Trump’s local course, eating cullen skink, some more golf for the men-folk, the in-laws went down to Edinburgh for a day, seeing seals, castles, and going on hikes, exploring Aberdeen, and drinking lots of wine. Ya know…the usual.  Odd there’s so much eating when I constantly complain about how awful the eating is here.

Man, I love Stonehaven

Man, I love Stonehaven

Banchory Lodge Afternoon Tea

Banchory Lodge Afternoon Tea

Our view from afternoon tea.

Our view from afternoon tea.

Cullen Skink!

Cullen Skink!

Greg tackling some haggis balls...or bon-bons.

Greg tackling some haggis balls…or bon-bons.

Fish, Chips, and wine at my fav Stonehaven pub

Fish, Chips, and wine at my fav Stonehaven pub

Dining al fresco in Scotland at ours.

Dining al fresco in Scotland at ours.

Overall the weather was great, I think my in-laws had a great trip, and we had a great time with family!