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Entries in Scotland (2)

Waterfalls and Whisky!

1047435-940135-thumbnail.jpgWhat better way to spend a day then in the Highlands of Scotland exploring the stunning waterfalls of the region, as well getting an inside peak at the whisky-making process (plus tasting some). Although thunder and lightning were in the forecast, we were lucky that at almost precisely the moment we arrived to our first waterfall the clouds cleared and the sun began to peak through.

1047435-940134-thumbnail.jpgDriving through the Highlands was reminiscent of the breathtaking scenery and feelings we experienced in New Zealand. The vibrant mountainsides boasted rich foliage, and when I stepped out of the bus into the Hermitage forest I felt such a pureness in the air. There is something intoxicating about being in such a vibrant atmosphere, I literally had an instant rush. Jason took note of this and already in his mind tried to figure out how we could extend our time in this beautiful land.

Our next stop on the tour was Blair and Athol Whisky Distillery, supposedly the most widely bought whisky in Scotland. The most adorable and knowledgeable tour guide walked us through the distillation process. We finally learned the difference between whisky and scotch-whisky; a minimum of a 3 year distillation process within the country of Scotland is the only way a whisky can be considered a scotch-whisky. Although, he also informed us that the ingenius Japanese found a way to get around this, by naming the town where whisky is produced in the county,Scotland, so they can label their whisky "made in Scotland" -- pretty sneaky. Of course our favorite part of the tour was when we got to taste the delicious 12 year aged scotch.

1047435-940139-thumbnail.jpgI would have been happy for the day to end here with all the wonderful things we saw and experienced, but it was just time for lunch in the town of Pitlochry. Our tour guides suggestion of the local fish and chips joint was pretty good, and we luckily hit up right before the lunch hour rush. By the time we sat down with our food, there was a line out the door. I must say, as much as we love all kinds of food, we aren’t the biggest fans of fried fish.

1047435-940136-thumbnail.jpgThe rest of the day was spent at various scenic stops throughout the Highlands including Killercrankie, Lake Tay, Killin and the dramatic Falls of Dochart fed by the highest peaks in the Southern Highlands.  Then we passed through Trossachs National Park and past Doune and Stirling Castles before heading back to Edinburgh.  We even got to listen to some authentic Scottish music on the bus, which got us all in the mood. Most of the drive we just zoned out on the countryside, realizing it had been almost 2 hours that we uttered a single word to one another. With some whisky in our bellies and some gorgeous scenery etched in our minds, we were happy campers.

All Things Scottish

IMG_4371.JPGScotland is an amazing country that has so much charm and beauty throughout. The people here have been quite friendly, which at times isn’t necessarily to our benefit – the Scottish accent is so heavy it’s often completely undecipherable as to what people are trying to say. In fact, Jason had to flat out tell a girl one her 4th attempt of asking him a question “I see your lips moving and I hear your words, I just don’t understand a thing you’re saying.” Not the best way to make friends.

Edinburgh is a true jewel of the country. We of course did the musts, walking down Princes Street, cruising the Royal Mile, checking out the Edinburgh Castle, and wandering the streets. The amount of charm in this town is probably the most we’ve experienced in a city thus far. I felt like I was in a true European city experience, with all the history and battle stories to go along with it.

IMG_4459.JPGSpeaking of battle stories, Scotland has a lot of history that centers on wars and conflicts, of which our guide on the Whisky and Waterfalls tour couldn’t get enough of – he’s definitely the dungeons and dragons type that gets really wrapped up in the gory details. I must say it was captivating listening to him recap war scenes from the mid-century, taking much time and care to describe the casualties of combat in painstaking detail; one story included the lovely image of a soldiers “manhood” being cut off and put in his mouth as punishment (let’s just say the children on this tour are probably having nightmares from the descriptions!)

As you might have been able to surmise from Jason’s last post, Glasgow wasn’t our favorite city. However, we did manage to get out of the city for a day trip to Loch Lomond, which is the second largest lake in the country. We were lucky enough to catch the Lomond Folklore Festival that happened to be going off that weekend, since everyone knows we’re real Folklore buffs. We managed to take in a performance of traditional Scottish dancing, as well saw the most amazing drum and bagpipe band rock out. I definitely dig the Scottish performers, who all really know how to work the stage. Check out the video clips of this.

IMG_4483.JPGYou know the food in a country is definitely not the most gourmet when something as haggis takes center stage. It's also not the greatest sign when our waiter who insisted we must try it, had no idea what specifically was in it – that’s because it’s a combination of varied animal parts (depending on what you get) as lungs, intestines, liver that are ground up, mixed with oatmeal and then deep fried. I’m telling you, putting something in a boiling bath of oil and frying it, can make anything taste good. It was actually quite similar tasting to falafel!