The reason I had been traveling through Europe so fast was so I could make it back to Italy by mid-October… I got news while in Berlin that Anna (my neighbor in Costa Rica who I visited in Glasgow) and her friend, and now my new friend Morna were coming to town for the week!! Yay!! But, that meant to push the gas on the pedal for my other travels. Hence, after visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle I booked it via train through the Alps back to Florence to prepare for their visit:)
Preparing for their visit is really just code for stocking up with lots of wine, lol!! I believe during their visit, my dad got 20 liters of wine and between the two of them, they probably went through 12-13 liters… LOL! But hey, I can’t blame them, they were in Italy for crying out loud! If you aren’t going to enjoy yourself while here, why bother at all?
I met them in Pisa and we stayed the first night and the next day doing all the tourist stuff, i.e. getting a picture taken holding up the tower. Morna didn’t want to get in on that action, but we got her later when we were in the top cupola of the Duomo in Florence cupping another dome of Florence… I Should now mention that all the pictures in this post were taken by Anna and her camera. Gotta give credit where credit is due:)
Pisa TV Area
Tower & Duomo of Pisa
Front of Pisa Duomo
Anna Holding the Tower
Basilica, Duomo & Tower of Pisa
Fallen Angel: Pisa
In any event, our time after Pisa was spent hanging out at my dad’s place eating delicious home cooked Italian food; getting tipsy on wine and beer and chatting about good times both past and present; taking hikes in the National Forrest to Vallombrosa and Secchieta; going into Florence about 3 separate times trying each time to get into the Duomo but failing until our last try (which we then ended up walking to the very top for a panoramic view);
From where we came
Looking Down from the Cupula
Caught in the Act being Touristy!
Slanted way down
Going to see Michelangelo’s David, of course! (the picture below is of my favorite part of David… (no, not THAT part;)))
Making a wish at the porcellino;
And staying after dark in Florence to watch night life a bit.
Probably the most humorous time for me was the hikes… The first day we went, not more than 3 minutes after we left the house it started to pour down rain. Did we turn back? Naw, it was just a bit of rain and we were SURE it would stop soon. Thankfully I had brought an umbrella and poncho “just in case” since it was a bit cloudy, and while I caved and took out the umbrella for shelter after about 10 minutes of walking in the rain, Morna and Anna were still braving it with the light jacket/sweater they brought for the walk. About 20 minutes later they were drenched!! They took the poncho, which was large enough to share and onward we went. Along the way we spotted several deer!! And that was probably only because the deer figured “no human in their right mind would hike in this downpour!” They were wrong, lol!!
Hiking in the Rain
On the hiking path
We eventually made it to Vallombrosa all cold and quite wet. Thankfully there was a teeny bar on the side of the road:) We had cappuccino’s, a sandwich, some wine, beer, some more wine and beer… Then shots to warm up a bit more (we were still chilly) then another shot or two until it was starting to get too late and dark to walk back down, so we called my dad to pick us up, lol!!
The second day of hiking was much less wet, but still cold and windy! We did make it all the way to the top to Secchieta (where we had planned to go the first day) and once again at the end of the trail, what was there to meet us?? You guessed it, a bar! We brought our own lunch that day so we just purchased some cappuccino’s, two wines and a beer:) We behaved that day knowing we had to walk down but not entirely… You see, along with sandwiches for lunch, we also packed about a liter and a half of wine to sip along the way:) We did behave on drinking it however because we barely cracked into it until we were heading down:) Ah, good times!
Second day Hike
Yes, it was quite foggy!
Made it to the top!
Tabernacle on Hike Trail
More Florence pictures- notice the very artistic pictures on the Ponte Vecchio done by Anna:)
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo_2
Ponte Vecchio & Arno River
Artistic Ponte Vecchio
Artistic Ponte Vecchio_2
Piazza della Republica
Ponte Vecchio by Evening
The three of us posing as stereotypical Italians (Mamma Mia!)
Well, after about a month in Scotland, it was time to head to Gatwick and take off for Italy!! After giving my many thanks to Anna for her hospitality, I left Glasgow via train and headed straight down to Gatwick. I had booked a little B&B for the night (it took almost all day to get from Glasgow to Gatwick so it was a good thing I left the day before my flight!!) called Da Vinci Gatwick Guest House. For 40 pounds (yea I know it was pricey but I got my own room/bathroom, breakfast and after traveling all day I enjoyed a little pamper:)) I reserved a single room only about 10 minutes from the airport.
Though a little pricey, I really enjoyed the Da Vinci Guest House!! I found it comfortable, quaint, warming, welcoming and over all just had a great vibe! The people who owned, or at least who took care of it are Latin American (I could hear them speaking Spanish) and the woman at least was very accommodating, polite and welcoming! I didn’t get any actual chat time with the man, that’s why I only mention the woman:) Though when I made my reservation over the phone, I spoke with a man (maybe the same one??) and he was very polite and accommodating too. They even provided me with a number of a taxi service that they use that costs half what other taxis cost (according to them) and they picked you up right from the train station.
Quick note here though about taxis… CARRY CASH!!! AT ALL TIMES CARRY CASH TO PAY THE TAXIS!!!! Otherwise they will charge you a fee of 7 pounds to use a credit card!!!!!! Yup, it happened to me… I was fuming!! Though of course that was on the way to the airport, so what could I do?? The fee almost cost as much as the fare!!! Consider yourselves warned!!
In any event, the night at the B&B was spent picking off ticks from my forearms (only 4 of them and they were babies, so it didn’t take that long!) and going out for a bite to eat at the local (potentially only) pub and restaurant just walking distance down the road. The food was great (surprisingly very international!!) and the beers were splendid as always. Needless to say that night was a quiet one as I prepped to take off the next day.
Because my flight was in the afternoon (6pm) but I had to be out of the B&B by 11am, I opted to just go to the airport and wait until my time to board. Unfortunately, Vueling Airlines only allows people to check-in 2 hours before their flight, so I had to sit and wait (with my very heavy bag since I was carrying gifts) from basically 11am to 4pm before being able to get rid of my bag and go through security… I finally got checked in and through security, then the cutest thing happened…
As anyone who has ever been to the airport knows, past security there are a ton of shops and stores, and restaurants. The larger the airport, the more there are! Gatwick was quite busy and had a ton of places to shop and eat! I stopped by one place to grab a slice of pizza (easy, cheap and I hadn’t eaten all day!!) then wandered around to find a quiet spot to play a game on my tablet…
I was there all of a few minutes when all of a sudden an elderly woman came by and asked “con permiso, habla Espanol?” Translation: Excuse me, do you speak Spanish? To which I responded “Yes, a little” (in spanish of course) and that’s all it took! She was off!! Thankfully I actually did understand what she was saying despite her speaking a mile a second!! She was on her way to Orlando but her flight in Gatwick was delayed and she had no way to contact her family because for some reason she couldn’t get her phone to work and no one in the Gatwick airport spoke Spanish and she couldn’t find anyone to help her because she doesn’t speak and English…
I kinda had to chuckle, because she was just too cute!! In any event, I explained that her phone didn’t work because she did not have a SIM card for the UK (she was from Spain btw) and I offered her to call her family with my Skype account on my tablet. She was very thankful, made her phone call to let her family know about her situation, thanked me profusely and went on her way.
I simply went back to my game playing when all of a sudden, about 5 minutes later she snuck back around one again asking for help, lol!! Poor thing!!! My heart broke for her and loved her all at once!! Anyway, she handed me two slips of paper and asked if I could tell her what it was all about. The first was her boarding ticket for the plane. But there was no gate assigned to the ticket, only the flight number and seat number. So I explained that because the flight was delayed, they didn’t know what gate the plane would actually be at and that we would have to simply watch the monitors for departures to see what gate it would be once it was announced. She got a good handle on that, then I looked at the second slip. It was a voucher for 5 pounds from British Airways to redeem for food or a beverage at any of the food shops to make up for the delay in the flight. I explained this to her, then asked if she was hungry. She said yes, and I offered that if she was interested in pizza, I just happened to know of a place that sold a large slice for 5 pounds… She agreed, so I took her to the food shop, ordered her the pizza to go, paid the shop with the food voucher and gave her the slice.
At this point, as chance would have it I checked the monitor to see if my flight was announced yet, and in fact both mine AND her flight were announced, lol!! So I told her that the gate for her flight was ready, walked her to her gate (mine was on the way anyway!) then went on to mine:) She was very thankful, but honestly the whole experience just warmed my heart to be able to help her, so really I thank her!!
As my time in Glasgow was coming to an end, and since again Anna and I do enjoy a good hike, we asked Anna’s dad if we could stay a few days in his cottage in Lochgoilhead. Thankfully he said yes, and was even kind enough to let us use his truck to get there!! He and his wife also happened to be going when we were planning to go, so we got to spend one of the nights with them:)
Her dad and step-mom were already at the cottage by the time we were able to go, so we took a cab to his house, picked up the truck and headed on out. The drive there was all along normal 2-way lane roads, but just before we got to the turn-off where the road was only 1 lane (for 2 way traffic!!) with the little side pull-offs for people to pass, we stopped for a little lunch… There at the “Rest and be Thankful” landmark we had a bite to eat and I had my first taste of black pudding… Also known as blood sausage… Ick!!! Is all I have to say about that!!! I really didn’t like it at all!! Perhaps it was mainly due to me knowing what it was to begin with, I don’t know… I think it’s just one of those things you have to grow up with to actually like…!!! Anyway the “Rest and be Thankful” stop goes back from quite a long time ago! Those words are inscribed on a stone (see the pictures) placed there by soldiers who built the original military road in 1753. Apparently the original stone was destroyed and replaced by a commemorative stone instead… This point marked the turning point to get to Lochgoilhead. And after our nibble, we headed on to the village where the cottage resided.
Once we arrived and settled in for a bit, we headed off for our first hike! Again, we aren’t really the kind that prepare the way we should prepare for hikes… Honestly though we didn’t really expect the hike we ended up doing! We simply set out just behind the cottage on a trail that led to some lovely waterfalls! From there we saw some signs pointing this way and that, and thought, why not? So we headed uphill, and up and up… Eventually we came to an area that looked like it could be a good place for a ski slope in the winter! Two older people were coming down the way fully geared in proper hiking attire including ski poles, proper wind pants and hiking boots. As we passed them we stopped them and asked how long to the top? We didn’t get an exact time, but they did warn us about how wet and mucky the way up was and how windy it was at the top, and they further warned us not to go past the stile! We thanked them for their input and headed on our way, figuring that if/when it got too tough for us and our completely inept sneakers/clothing for us to continue, we would turn back!
Up and up we climbed! The slope was pretty decent, nothing really to laugh at by any means and while the land did slosh under our feet (sometimes water did sneak into the sides of my sneakers from the amount of water that pooled from some of the steps) we made it to the stile (don’t cross it!!) in good condition and basically dry.
Once at the stile there really were only two ways to go… Back down or up past the stile… Neither of us was terribly tired at this point and though the view from the stile was nice, you really couldn’t see all the way around because we were surrounded by dense forest on both sides. And since what appeared to be the top of the hill/mountain was just a little ways beyond the stile we thought, heck, why not?? So past the stile we went!
Up and up and up we climbed!! And it was during this hike that I was properly introduced to Scottish hills!!!! You see, what appears to be the top of any hill/mountain in Scotland isn’t at all the top once you actually reach it… For once you get to what you thought was the top, you realize that the top is actually just a wee bit further on… And again just a wee bit further on… And again!!! So literally we went from one “top” to another and another and another until finally what looked like would be the actual top appeared, but by that point it would probably take another hour to get to it and as it was starting to get late in the day (sun was getting lower on the horizon) we opted to give up that mountain top and do the sane and safe thing- turn back toward town! First we had to take some picts of the surroundings and later estimated that we had probably walked about 20-25 kilometers on that hike! We never could actually see on a map where the heck we went, but isn’t that part of the fun?? However, from the position that we made it to, you could see the town below, so we had at least some perspective of where we were!
We made it back to town just as the sun was setting, and after a pint in town we headed back to the cottage for a homemade meal! We watched a YES!/No Thanks debate on the tv, then headed to bed (after Anna’s step-mom cleared a rather large spider from our room!!!). The next day we rose at the rear-crack of… about 11am, lol!! Anna’s dad and Step-mom were downstairs with trail maps/paths of the area and they gave input on where we should probably go. We took their advice and around one or so (after packing something to nibble on- how sensible we became!!) headed out again for a hike. Her dad and step-mom joined us for the first half-hour or so of the hike, then headed back while we headed up the trail to the steep/climbing bits.
After the hike from the day before both Anna and I were interested and pumped to climb a hill/mountain once again!! And we thought that this particular trail would allow us to do just that… However, the trail never really led to any mountain base. It simply wound around the base of several mountains. Each time we tried to get to a base we were cut off by marshes or terrain so thick with heather/brush that who knew what was under! Finally we did come to the end of the trail that basically dead-ended on the tip of a kind of peninsula. Yet we were still quite determined to get up a hill!! The end of the trail happened to end at the base of a mountain, but the way up was quite steep! Did that stop us?? No, not really… We scaled part of some sheer rock on the side of the mountain up a little way… Then we came to our senses… That we were probably being really daft!! So we gingerly made our way back down. Seriously, the only real way to get up that particular mountain was with proper mountain climbing gear! But again, once at the base we thought surly there MUST be a way up! Anna happened to find a little sheep path, which we followed for several yards until it literally dead-ended at a drop hundreds of feet below us!! Yup, we were being daft in trying to follow the sheep path…
Again we had to give up our quest for the day and headed back. All the while that we headed back we kept looking for ways to get up a dang mountain to no avail! It was probably best though that we didn’t find one… By the time we got back (after a brief scare with some hairy coos- well I wasn’t scared but they are known to be aggressive when babies are around, and as we walked through the field one of the coos spotted us, turned and started walking toward us. I thought it odd behavior and then spotted some baby coos to the right… yea… we hustled a little bit out of that field!) it was almost dark again. We had some drinks and dinner in town then wandered back to the cottage in pitch beautiful darkness!! The kind of darkness where you can see every star!! Just wonderful!! Though Anna was scared out of her wits over walking in the dark and barely let me a few feet away from her, especially when it came time to cross the river, lol!! All in all that day, we estimated we walked about 30-35 kilometers that day! We left the next day and headed back to town (with a brief stop in the lovely town of Luss) where we had a lovely and delicious curry dinner with Anna’s mum! Good times!! 🙂
I almost forgot about the ticks!!! While at the Cottage, Anna’s step-mom left us an article about ticks… Beware the ticks when you hike!! You can get Lyme disease from them!! We laughed it off and didn’t really get bothered by the potential for ticks, though we did check ourselves for the potential of some… I never found any until a few days later when I was in Gatwick!! 4 on my arm!! Ewww… I know!! But they were babies and I plucked them out, watched for signs of Lyme disease, and luckily I can report I’m Lyme disease free!! Yay!!
Though there was lots of drinking throughout my trip to Scotland (and Glasgow was no exception) I was at least countering some of the calories I was ingesting via beer in the form of hikes! As Anna is also a big fan of hiking, we set off for Loch Lomond to take on Conic Hill!!! Markie also joined us for the day of fun!! 🙂
Now, while we are fans of hiking and walking in general, we aren’t necessarily the most organized of people… Real hard-core hikers are prepared in advance. They pack the necessities, make sure they have the right shoes, get up at the rear of dawn to make it to their destination so they can get in a good hike before lunch. Yea…. this was not us at all!! We woke around 10, made our way out of the house maybe around noon?? Left in jeans and random everyday-use sneakers. Then went to get Markie, headed to Conic Hill to climb the “mountain” (it’s really just a hill!!) got some candy bars and some water at the little store at the base of the hill, then headed on up! Actually, had it been completely up to Markie, we would have just stayed at the base where there was a little restaurant and had some whiskey and beer instead of climbing at all (he was like “you were serious about hiking??” lol!!). So after convincing him that yes, we really were going for a hike, we headed off!
Though again we kept calling our hike “a hike up a mountain” it literally was just a hill. The climb was not tough or really that steep, just cold and quite windy at the top!! The more movement we made though the warmer I felt (of course from circulating the blood) but the second we would stop, I would freeze!! It only took about 45 minutes to get to the top at a very leisurely and relaxed pace. The view from the top was splendid as you could see all across the Loch and each of the little islands in the Loch. Sadly, that particular Loch is quite popular for parties in the summer and such… I say sadly because apparently there are a lot of deaths that occur in that Loch due to people getting too drunk, then getting on their boats or trying to swim or what have you… And because of the currents/depth/clarity/size of the Loch, it’s more like people just go missing… The bodies aren’t always found:( In fact, not that long before we were there, a news report had come out that a foot had washed ashore on one of the beaches on the Loch… Joy!! It was thought to be from a case years before of a child that had apparently drown, but the body was never found…
Another interesting thing to note about Loch Lomond for those seriously into hiking and camping out during hikes… It is the start of the West Highlandway which is a 4-5 day walking camp route!! It is quite a popular route and in fact even as we were coming down off the Hill, we passed several younger people with their backpacks, yoga mats and wee tents strapped to them. Obviously they were off to tackle the West Highlandway!
For sure had it been actually warm weather I could see being interested in doing something like that… But you all already know how much of a complete wimp I am in the cold!! Good times! In any event, once we made it back down, to reward ourselves we just had to stop in for a pint and some whiskey to warm up!! Since Anna was driving though, she could only have coffee… poor thing!! Don’t worry though, she caught up to us later that evening once we ditched the car! 🙂 We hung out for a couple of hours enjoying our beverages then headed back to town for the evening festivities!
Almost forgot! On the way back we actually stopped in to visit with Anna’s dad for a few moments where we were scoffed at each time we called “Conic Hill” a “mountain” 😉 Obviously we were trying to sound tougher than we actually were and her dad knew better!! Lol!!!
While there are lots of place to wander around and sight see in Glasgow (Buchanan Street for shopping, the Royal Exchange Square where the statue of the Duke of Wellington somehow always has a street traffic cone on his head, George Square which is the principal civic square and is named after King George III, the Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club where we met Anna’s friends then went for drinks at West nearby, and the People’s Palace and Winter Garden which boasts the World’s largest terra-cotta fountain out back!) perhaps my favorite was the Necropolis…
I’ve always enjoyed a good cemetery, and this one was not disappointing! It literally went on forever!! One could seriously spend the entire day trying to see all the tombs and plots!! I’m just kicking myself for not having brought my camera though!! While not every tombstone was hugely impressive, there was one of a person who was obviously involved in theater that still sticks in my mind… His tombstone was so well decorated and huge!! It literally looked like you were in the audience of a theater ready to watch a show! The curtains were drawn, you could see the side balcony areas where the seats for the wealthy were located. There were the classic faces of comedy and tragedy adorning the top, and a lovely and lively poem written across the curtain… Like I said, it was really impressive because even though I didn’t have my camera, I still remember those details today!
I was joined at the Necropolis by two of Anna’s friends, Davie and Markie. Anna had to work that day so she gave me her phone and I ended up making plans with Markie to meet in town and go to the Necropolis. Davie just happened to be joining, but it was just as well because though he has lived in Glasgow for a long while (he may actually have been born there) and he had been to the very lovely church nearby the Necropolis, he had never actually been to the Necropolis!! Funny how we never take advantage of our surroundings where we live… It’s the same with me too though, I’m not any better for when I was living in Costa Rica, even though I was literally across the street from the beach, I actually went to the beach maybe a dozen times a month!! Terrible, I know! But you all know what I’m talking about!!
Anyway, the rest of that particular day was spent wandering around Glasgow on foot. We ended up walking past Davie’s house so he was dropped off there and Markie and I continued our tour. We came across a little park where there was an older gentlemen and three blue heelers (aka Australian cattle dogs). It was obviously a training session and it was by far one of the coolest things I’ve seen!! You could tell immediately which of the three dogs was the most experienced and which was the least… They were all in a large field, the older man standing on one end, the three dogs laying side by side down a way from the old man. Suddenly the man would shout out a command and a name and one of the dogs would shoot up on all fours, race around in a large circle, then come to a resting crouch in front of the man. The same command was called with another of the dog’s name and off he/she went! Finally the last would be called (the least experienced) and often times during his/her turn the command would have to be called several times or she would have to do it again, lol!! It was just so amazing!! With no leashes, lines, treats, gimmicks, etc, these three dogs were at absolute attention and focus! It was obvious they enjoyed their tasks and I believe that the more experienced dogs were really the ones helping to train the less experienced dog! It was just such a treat for me to watch these dogs in action! I was in complete awe!!! Needless to say those dogs and their training session were gaining quite the audience from people walking by!!
This really was quite humorous because though I’ve never been one to pick a fight or even be involved in a fight, my time in Glasgow is somewhat known for being riddled with fights! No real violence was involved though so perhaps a better term would be altercation… It just seemed like everywhere we went one sort of altercation or another broke out!!
Quick example: first day I was there, we went out to the Horseshoe bar, which is most famous for having the longest continuous bar in Europe! Another quick funny here, while Anna is a local Glaswegian, she knows nothing really of Glasgow!! She kept trying to tell me all this interesting facts about Glasgow, but would only tell them half-way! “This ceiling (Central Station ceiling) is the largest glass ceiling!!” She would say… Ummmm…. ok…. The largest glass ceiling… where?? In Glasgow? Scotland? Europe?? Turns out (after a Google search) that it is the largest glass ceiling in the World!! Impressive after all! And she tried to tell me about the “longest continuous bar” but again didn’t know the rest of the statistic (longest continuous bar in Europe) and at first she named the wrong bar!! It took another of her friends to straighten her out, lol!!
I digress… Anyway, we were in the Horseshoe bar enjoying some beers when all of a sudden the very drunk woman at the table next to us turned and said… Well, I will just write out the conversation for simplicity sake:
Drunk lady: “How are you doing in the future?”
Us: “Uh, we don’t know, we haven’t been there yet”
Drunk lady: “Ugh! Nevermind. F off!!”
Us: “Wow, F off?? That wasn’t very nice!”
Drunk lady: “I wasn’t trying to be nice!”
LOL!! Seriously!! I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or well, actually I did just laugh! Though it was really annoying as we were just there minding out business then suddenly had to deal with her lunacy! And the friend that was with her was even worse! She wasn’t near as drunk and kept laughing every time her drunk friend said something to us, then would turn to us and say “sorry girls, she’s just drunk, she doesn’t know what she’s saying” only to go back to laughing with her drunk friend! Strange!! Needless to say we left shortly after.
The store fight was again just a confrontation more than anything. We went in to buy something and when it came time to pay, the price was 2 pounds over the actual price shown for the item. I was paying with my credit card and spotted the increase in price so asked why it was 2 pounds more expensive. Now, we were a wee bit drunk at this point, so perhaps I asked in not a nice way… But the clerk said it was a credit card fee. To which I said that was bollocks and outrageous because all other stores only charge up to 60 pence for CC fees!! Then I said he should have told me about the charge instead of just charging so much extra! Anna was chiming in too, and I think he just got irritated with the two drunk girls challenging him, so he kicked us out of the store… I threatened to dispute the charges on my card, didn’t sign the slip for the charge and stormed out. I didn’t end up disputing the charge because I did take my purchase with me as we left, so disputing the charge would have felt like stealing…
So yea, there you go! There were some other altercations but for the life of me, I just can’t think of what they were exactly… LOL! Obviously they weren’t that interesting to recall…
Quick post here about the YES! campaign… For those who don’t know, this past September, 18th 2014 Scotland had a vote on whether they would declare independence from England. All while I was there during the month of August, the campaign on both sides was going on. YES! stickers, posters, banners, flags, etc, etc were everywhere! Much less “No Thanks” paraphernalia were seen, but as we now know, the “No Thanks” vote won. While my friends in Edinburgh were for the “No Thanks” vote, Anna and just about every Glaswegian I met while there were for the YES! vote. So while I was there, of course I had to help campaign:)
Literally this just meant sticking YES! stickers on a variety of places, and especially over any “No” stickers that were found, lol!! Though personally I don’t have and didn’t have an opinion on which way the vote went (since it’s not my country nor business to have an opinion) it was fun to support my friend’s opinion while there.
I will say it was interesting that the silent majority were the ones to win… There was very little “No” campaigning going on, while the YES! campaigns were literally everywhere and in every town/city I had gone to! Interesting indeed…
Goodness, there are lots of things to say here… !! First I will start with what I have been told about Glasgow long before I ever got there from several people in the States: Beware Glasgow!! Seriously I had one friend tell me that Scotland in general was quite dangerous and that I should keep my head down, don’t speak to anyone and I should be fine. Statistically there is some validity in that because apparently Scotland is the #1 producer of heroine. And where there are the super hard drugs, there is a higher volume of potential for danger and violence. But as we all know, danger and violence exist everywhere. So I wasn’t going to let anyone try to scare me out of visiting Scotland!! And honestly I never ran into any violence or danger in Scotland at all! There were a few bar fights and a fight with a convenience store clerk, but I promise I didn’t use any violence in any of those situations!!
When it comes to Glasgow specifically, yes, even the Glaswegians (Weegie’s for short) have fear of certain areas and of certain people… Beware the Bams and Neds!! There was actually a third category of people, but I can’t recall what they were called… If memory serves correctly Bams are more dangerous than Neds. Bams are easily recognizable… They are usually always spotted in two or more, they always have shaved or near shaved heads, and they have at least one if not several scars on their faces from knife fights. These people are best avoided altogether because even my friend from Glasgow says that if you get in a tangle with one of them, there is no way to escape not being stabbed. And it doesn’t take any provocation from the individual either! As I’ve been told by locals (and my friend) you could simply be standing around minding your business. If a Bam spots you though and for whatever reason doesn’t like the look of you, they come over to pick fights with you. Joy!! Again though, while I saw several Bams about, I never saw any violence or was never harassed myself. Bams are also generally younger guys. I guess you could compare them to street thugs with nothing better to do than start trouble… Neds on the other hand are “grown-up” Bams… They are just an older generation who are calmer and less likely to start violence, but are still thugs in their own way. I guess you could say Neds and Bams are like pit vipers… Pit viper babies immediately bite and inject overdoses of venom in any little thing that strikes them as being a threat whereas adult pit vipers pick and choose what is really a threat and only deals out enough venom to subdue the threat… Hmmm…
Moving along… the East End is also known to be dodgy by locals… When I was working in Key West, I had a couple of younger kids visit from Scotland (aside from my friends from Edinburgh whom I met there) who knew Glasgow very well and I asked them to write down places to go or avoid in Glasgow… the East End made that list! Along with other areas including Drumchapel, Priesthill, Nitshill and England, LOL!! Places to go in Glasgow included Byres road for pubs (did that for sure!) and Lochlomond (to be talked about later).
Now that you have a little bit of an interesting introduction to Glasgow, I’m going to back up a tiny bit to getting there… I arrived via train at the rear-crack of the morning (aka 9am) from Oban to Queen’s Station. And I was met just outside the station from my very good friend Anna! Anna is a local born and bred Glaswegian who one day will have a book and or movie made about her life, because seriously she’s traveled over 80 countries and had some of the most amazing/crazy stuff happen to her!! I met Anna while living in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. We were neighbors, became good friends, kept in touch and when I was going to Scotland, since she just happened to be there as well, of course I had to go to see her!
Now you know why I went to Glasgow:) Because honestly, if it wasn’t for her being there, I don’t know that I would have had any other reason to go on my own. Glasgow is an industry town. It’s not necessarily very pretty nor is there really a whole lot to do there from the tourist perspective. But since I was lucky enough to have a local perspective (via Anna) I had an absolute grand time there! Of course most the time we were intoxicated, but only had one day of a real hangover!! So all in all, I think we did pretty well;)
In the interest of not rambling on for decades, I’m going to break down the activities once again to links so I don’t drone on too long in a single post:) Oh, and if you are looking for Glasgow pictures… I didn’t really take any:( I’m terrible at taking pictures in places where I’m living more than visiting… And with having a friend there, it felt like the former… But, I did take pictures at Loch Lomond and Lochgoilhead:) So skip to those sections if you are looking for pictures of surrounding areas.
So, every year in August Scotland has a HUGE celebration known as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It is basically a festival that now stretches just about the entire month of August and it brings together the worlds best talents of musicians and performers from over 46 countries!! One of the performing acts of course is the Royal Edinburgh Military. They play the bagpipes and march in unison and at the very end of the show there is a lone bagpiper who stands at the top of the castle wall. His performance is followed by the shooting of a cannon and then fireworks. Guests from all over the world come to see this celebration, which has been going on since 1950 or so, and plan at least a year in advance in order to get tickets for the event at all!!
Needless to say, despite my description above of what the Royal Military Tattoo is, I never actually was able to see the performance while there, lol!! Alas, the event has been described to me by K&E, and I was able to read a little bit of the history while standing in line waiting (and hoping) that some tickets became available on “the day of” performances. In addition, during one week of the celebration the event was filmed and it is broadcast on TV worldwide so that all can enjoy it. I did catch a snippet of the show when I Was in Glasgow weeks later, but didn’t really see the whole thing.
To be honest, and to my embarrassment, I kinda had a teeny little panic meltdown about seeing the show. Instead of sticking to my usual attitude of “if it’s meant to be it will happen”, after going early and standing in line to get tickets (sometimes people would simply turn their tickets back in for resale due to unforeseen reasons that no longer permitted them to attend) and failing to get tickets yet again, I had a freak out . But thanks to the sound and calming wisdom of E, I was talked off the ledge and what began then was what I’d like to consider the theme of traveling Scotland from then on… “I must leave something to come back for”. And trust me when I say, there is a TON of stuff to go back to Scotland for (and I’m not just saying that because of the numerous yummy men with their sexy accents living there;)) !! A month was simply not enough , but rather is was barely enough to just scratch the surface!!
Just a little bit of interesting history on the word “Tattoo”… Basically, the origins of the word Tattoo go back to the 17th century when British troops were fighting in the Low Countries. At the end of the day the duty officer would go around making sure each post was manned before the sounding of the Last Post. A few drummers would accompany him for this task and if the soldiers were missing from their post, the ritual beating of the drum would ensue basically signaling to the soldiers (who were in town at the local pubs) that it was time to return to their posts or quarters. The Dutch innkeepers would then turn off the liquor taps and say “Time’s up!” or in their language: DOE TEN TAP-TOE, basically meaning no more booze for you! The drummers would continue to drum until all the soldiers made their way back to their posts for the sounding of the Last Post. Eventually Tap-Toe (last call!) evolved into the word Tattoo!
The Fringe Festival
The Fringe Festival… well honestly I’m not sure of the orgins of this festival, but what I do know is it coincides with the Tattoo for about the entire month of August as well! So really, tourists are able to experience two separate festivals in only one month if visiting in August!!
The Fringe Festival is basically a huge collection of artists, musicians, actors, performers, magicians, singers, dancers, etc, etc from all over the world who come and perform all along the Royal Mile for several of the “old town” blocks!! The street is filled from morning till night with tons of performers just every which way you look! It’s quite an amazing experience and honestly could keep one busy all day every day of the festival just checking out each of the performances! People filled the streets handing out cards announcing or rather advertising various shows and where the venue was to take place. Some of the shows were free (aka the ones I attended- but remember “free” is a term for “expected to tip performer at the end!!”) and others were anything from 5-12 pounds a piece.
I ended up attending one solo play about how making good decisions was actually bad for you… sounded interesting but sadly I found it rather dull. The other venue I attended was for the Man of Steal… This was quite a great performance!! Very informative to boot! Basically it’s put on by a professional pick-pocket who works for the police and does these shows to educate the public on how to protect themselves from thieves. I can’t say much more about it than that as we were all sworn to secrecy about the details of the show, so I will stick by that and leave the description at that:)
By far, however the BEST performance I saw on the streets of the Royal Mile during the Fringe was Joel Grainger… I was just coming out of a building after having bought a ticket for a tour of the Real Mary King’s Close and I had about a half hour to kill. I walked on the street and was lured by the sound of a voilin. I love voilin music to begin with, so I walked toward the sound and on a stage erected on the side of the street was Joel Grainger. He was the only musician present, but due to his technique of “live-looping” he was able to play every note of a song LIVE! He played “somebody that I used to know” by Gotye and Pachebel’s Canon in D in all their glory!! I’m not going to be able to describe his technique of live-looping to do him justice, so you are just going to have to check him out for yourself… I know he’s on YouTube, and though I don’t Facebook, I know he is. If any of you are fans of the violin, you MUST check him out!! Google “Joel Grainer Fringe” and you will see one of his performances there from this past festival:)
Though I really wasn’t expecting the Fringe to be going on in addition to the Tattoo, it was quite a welcome surprise! I could spend days on end just going up and down the Mile watching for new acts or collecting thousands of info cards on the various performers. Quite impressive!! Not to mention the tons of kiosks that were set up everywhere in town featuring everything from handmade jewelery to paintings to cashmere items, etc, etc! I highly recommend for all those planning to go to Edinburgh, though it will be a more expensive time of year, make your trip in August!!! And for goodness sake- learn from me and get your Tattoo tickets in advance! Or don’t and just figure it’s something to come back for:)
Sadly, my pictures for this section really lack in what they should have been… I was just too engrossed in watching my surroundings and being present for them to take pictures I guess…Sorry!!
I’m quite excited to write about Scotland!! Primarily because well, since I was a kid, the one place I really wanted to travel to of all the places was Scotland!! And though I had obviously traveled to other countries first, it was always in my mind to finally make it to Scotland, and now I was:)
I can’t really take all the credit however, because in all honesty it was an encounter I had with two people in late March/early April of this year (2014) while I was working in Key West that really inspired me to get my rear in gear and travel there! Kevin and Evelyne… From the moment they came to my bar (which by the way I was coincidentally not even supposed to be working that night) it was like meeting kindred spirits!! They were supposed to be in town for several days but as life takes turns sometimes, they were only able to stay in Key West for one night, and that one night they happened to wander into my place of work and sit at my bar.
The conversations that ensued and the inspiration I took from them after hearing of their adventures around the world and simply just meeting them, well needless to say they inspired me finally do what I’ve always wanted: go to Scotland! To this day I feel indebted to them for giving me that little kick in the rear and for being the most incredible hosts anyone could ever dream for. I miss our conversations and hanging out with them quite a bit and can’t wait for the next time we get to come together!!
Ok, enough nostalgia for now… I left London after only two nights and took the train straight to Edinburgh. It was quite a long trip, but really it wasn’t bad at all… Watching the scenery change from the busy bustling city to more rural areas to absolutely stunning countryside’s really made the time passing unnoticeable to me.
I ended up arriving in Edinburgh on one of the coldest and wettest days they had had a while! But the again, Scotland isn’t really known for it’s warm and sunny weather, so really it was a proper introduction to the Country! Funnily enough (and luckily) however, the rest of my time there really was filled with several warmish and clear sky days! Very unlike Scotland apparently, but I really wasn’t complaining one bit!!
I was met at the train station by K&E and whisked away to K’s place and shown to my room, fit for a queen! For the next 2 weeks or so, I stayed in Edinburgh with the company of K&E and honestly could have simply stayed forever (were it not for Scotland winters being so cold!!) and just gotten a job and rented out a flat!! I loved Edinburgh (my Glasgow friends will hate me for saying so, lol!!) and for sure plan to get back there not only for my friends being there, but for the city itself!
There is obviously quite a lot to say about my time there, so once again I’ve divided it all up into subjects so as not to overwhelm in one post! Happy reading!!