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Apr 08

Back from Scotland

Well, I think I’ve officially gotten back into the swing of things here at school after an amazing Spring Break.  It was tough, but I pushed through the jet lag and the sudden manner in which we were tossed back into classes and homework.  I’m sure you all want to know everything about this amazing trip I keep talking about, but honestly I just don’t know where to start.  So, as always, I guess it’s best to start at the beginning.

As I mentioned before, this was my first ever plane ride (at least that I could remember); and since I’ve always loved the saying “Go big, or go home,” I figured why not kick off my plane-riding experiences with a 6-hour flight to Scotland?  It wasn’t as bad as I thought, except for the fact that it was extremely hard to fall asleep and I didn’t get any shut-eye the whole time.  But, I was probably too excited about the upcoming week to sleep anyway.

We landed in Glasgow and literally hit the ground running.  The first day we saw Rosslyn Chapel (best known for its appearance in the hit movie “The DaVinci Code”) and the Holyrood Palace, which just happens to be where the Queen (yes, THE Queen) stays when she’s in Scotland.  After possibly the longest day of my life and my first experience with Scottish cuisine – which was quite weird by the way – we finally arrived at our hotel in Edinburgh.  We had dinner and then did the only thing we could think of in a foreign country after a long day – we went shopping, of course!

St. Giles' Cathedral

The next day, we saw John Knox’s house and his grave, which is now marked in parking spot number 23 because they paved a parking lot over his body. We also toured St. Giles’ Cathedral and Edinburgh Castle.  The one thing I loved the most about Scotland was that, no matter where you went, you had a perfect view of something.  This day the view was of the entire city of Edinburgh from a mountaintop, and it was absolutely breathtaking.

Edinburgh Castle

On the third day, we moved on to Stirling Castle and the William Wallace Monument (you may recognize this name as the main character of the movie “Braveheart”).  The view of the day came from the top of this tower monument.

That night we arrived at our hotel in a little city called Oban and rested up before our ferry ride the next morning.  That’s right, we took a ferry to the island of Mull, drove across that whole island, then caught another ferry over to the Isle of Iona.  We were allowed to explore Iona, which took all of an hour and a half; and then we grabbed a quick lunch and headed back over to Oban.

After another great night’s sleep, we were on our way to the Tomatin Whiskey Distillery when we passed Loch Ness and stopped to try to catch a picture of good ol’ Nessie.  Unfortunately, Nessie didn’t want to come out and play that day, so we continued on to Tomatin.  Here we were shown how whiskey is made and even got our own little taste of a 12-year-old sample.  Worst stuff I’ve ever had in my life!  It took me a few hours to get over that taste, but we made up for it the next day when we went to probably my favorite castle of the trip.  Its name was Dunnottar Castle, and I loved it because we pretty much had to take a hike to get up to it – literally.  I love hiking and cool stuff like that, so that day was just amazingly fun.

That same day we traveled to yet another castle; however, this one was made a little bit more interesting due to the fact that this one was actually occupied.  Our tour guides doubled as the castles’ residents who, along with their four adorable children, inherited the house and made part of their living by giving tours to people like us.  We saw the stables, the gardens, and several rooms in the castle, one of which had a secret door hidden in the wall that one of the sons pointed out to us.  Now, I don’t know about all of you, but to me a castle just isn’t a real castle unless it has secret passageways.  We said our goodbyes after being served afternoon tea and made our way back to the hotel for that night.

We ended the trip on an exciting note by visiting St. Andrews and its golf course, which is famous for being the birthplace of the sport.  We also walked up the street a few blocks to St. Andrews Castle and explored its ruins before heading back to get our last night of sleep in Scotland.  We enjoyed our last foreign meal on the trip and then said our “good nights” before trying to catch some Zs before an early flight in the morning.  We all got a wake-up call the next morning at 4:30 a.m. and by 5 o’clock were all on a bus on the way to the airport to bid farewell to the wonderful country that had been our host for the past week. We arrived back in the States and each of us had a wonderful reunion with our families.

This trip was definitely one of a lifetime and sparked a traveling kick in me, and now I just want to go anywhere and everywhere.  And that’s all I have to say about that.  So, until next time – later, guys!