Tag Archives: oban

Glasgow

 

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.

YES! Campaign

Bar Fights and Store Fights

Necropolis & Heelers

Loch Lomond (Conic Hill)

Lochgoilhead

Most Random Street Signs!!!

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Oban (Oh-Bin)

Oban!  Pronounced Oh-Bin… What a lovely little place to visit!  Sadly the weather was absolute crap during my stay, but at least I got a little sample:)

I took the bus from Inverness (or In-bir-nis in Gaelic) early and headed to Oban.  I skipped going to Fort William because I had heard there really wasn’t much to do there, but in Oban there is the opportunity to go to several neighboring islands via ferry or boat, etc.  So I was excited to check out the area for sure!  On the way there just outside of town there is the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary!!!  I was quite tempted to jump off the bus right then and there as one of the stops was just in front of the facility, but that would not have been very sound seeing as I had my backpack with me… Plus, I figured I could always go back since I was staying three nights in Oban.

I spotted the hostel I had pre-booked to stay in (Oban Backpackers) as we drove down the main street to the bus station.  I headed easily out to the hostel and was greeted by a very accommodating and friendly German man.  I’m honestly not sure he took a single breath during his 5 minute “welcome introduction” lol!!  But just as the Inverness Student Hostel was, Oban Backpackers was also warm, welcoming and a generally great place to stay!!  They had large areas where people could hang out and chat and offered an area to put down the backpacks while one waited to check in!  Just love that feature in a hostel since many times I had arrived too early to check into my room but didn’t want to be stuck hauling my crap around or sitting at the hostel simply waiting for check-in!!

But I’m rambling again… Since I had arrived a bit earlier than the actual check-in time, I put my crap down in the designated area and headed out with a very detailed map of Oban, which I acquired from the very friendly hostel host!  The map itself was already very detailed (you know, one of those tourist maps provided by the city) but the host marked several areas of interest on mine before I left his presence so that I would know everywhere to go and see and do right off the bat!  Obviously he was used to a gazillion of the same questions from travelers, so in an attempt to stave them all off, he simply answered them all up front, lol!!

So with my map in hand and my bag no longer on my back I headed to the Oban Tower.  Located only about 10 minutes up the hill from the hostel, it provided a great place to take some aerial shots of the town!!  From there I just wandered around the small town just exploring and getting ideas on what to do for the next coming days while there.  The town itself is a little horse shoe shaped town located directly on the water.  It has a shipping dock and lots of varieties of boats bobbing in the harbor all for their various purposes.  There are even castles just a short hike up the way from the main part of town AND even a whiskey distillery in the center of town!!  Yes, Oban does offer quite a bit of activities for those looking to kill a few days in a cute seaside town in Scotland…

Now, even though there were trails to walk, castles to see, a Sea Life Sanctuary to visit, a whiskey distillery to tour and nearby islands to take a ferry to for a few hours… I did absolutely none of those… 😦

I know!!! I know!!  I’m totally bonkers!!!  And I promise I TRIED to go see the castles and the Sea Life Sanctuary and even the distillery, but alas no… I’m totally going to blame it ALL on the weather!!!  Yes, the weather!!  I already mentioned above that the weather was absolute crap while I was there… And yes, it was just cold and windy and blustery basically the entire time I was there!!  Ok, well the first day wasn’t so bad, but since I didn’t bother or care to look up an extended forecast for the area, instead of putting my rear in gear and actually doing some of the hikes and island visits on my first day (or half day, since I used the morning bit to get there!!) I simply spent it walking around and planning my activities for the next days…  So anyway, yea… The first day was quite successful in the sense that I had a solid plan on what I was doing for the next couple days…

But the next day, once I rose and dressed and stepped outside into the blustery cold and wet and WINDY weather, I realized that all my plans were about to go to right out the window!!  I first searched for something to nibble, then headed to the boat dock to see about catching a ferry to the nearby island of Kerrera, where there is a lovely monastery to walk around and enjoy a coffee in… But the docks were closed due to the windy weather.  No boats, no ferry’s, no island… So I wandered to bus station to find out about the Sea Life Sanctuary bus to see if I could catch it and at least spend some time there.  However, the majority of the park would have been outdoors and on the water basically, so if the weather was crap here, 20 minutes up the road wouldn’t be much improved… So I decided against that action… I thought ok, what about walking to the castles??

Finally an option that may work out!  So I headed back through town on the main road, then cut through a little side street to the trail that would lead to the castles and just as I rounded the corner got slammed with the biggest wind gust yet!!  My poncho flapped around me viciously while I got pelted in the face with rain drop after rain drop… This was not good!!  And after only a block of that nonsense I turned back up the next little side street and headed back to the hostel to warm up.

After inquiring about “what to do on nasty weather days” to the hostel host (whiskey tour is what he suggested… or just a pub!) I headed to the whiskey distillery and decided against the tour (I wasn’t really that in the mood for whiskey, plus had no way to carry the glass gift they apparently gave at the end in my backpack) so I did the next best thing… Went to the pub!

Turned out to be a fine rest of the day as far as I was concerned!!  Met an interesting guy from the States who was traveling all of the UK and Ireland on his motorcycle!!  He actually had his personal motorcycle flown over and was driving it all around!!  Needless to say he was being responsible and only had food and one drink at the bar, but it was really cool to meet someone who was doing something that brave!!  Well done on him!!

So that’s how I killed my days in Oban… Ate, drank, drank, ate, curled up for a movie on my Samsung Tablet, and generally found any excuse to stay out of the weather and stay indoors!!!  Some of my roommates had tried to go to the castle as well, and they succeeded!!!  Brave couple!!  However they didn’t really get to see anything at all since the mist was all around and the castles were closed… LOL!!  Poor things!!  They really looked wrecked when they came back!!  But I’m sure they still had a great time being adventuresome!!

On to Glasgow

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Inverness

Inverness… Made most famous by Loch Ness where Nessie, the fabled (or real?!?!?) monster of the Loch lives!!  I actually really liked Inverness!  It was not too large a place, but also not too small.  As Goldilocks would say, it was just right:)

I got there on bus and of course started my day there by wandering around hostel after hostel trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night.  The hostel by the bus station was full, which was fine by me cause I got an odd feeling from the staff there when I arrived to inquire about availability.  So I wandered as always aimlessly toward what turned out to be the main shopping street and in general main street of Inverness: High Street.  Well, ok, maybe it isn’t the official main street, but it was pretty central to all things touristy (the castle, museums, tourist info center, and lots of shopping).  And perhaps another little thing to mention: High Street was closed off to traffic and was only available for foot traffic, which I quite enjoyed!!  Anyway, I found Highlander Hostel after a few other failed attempts just off High Street.  I booked a room for the night since it was the first place that I’d come across that had room… I was getting worried again that no space would be available elsewhere and I had better jump on this one!  I went to my room to settle in and was not at all impressed with the accommodations.  It just had the feeling of uncleanliness!!  Though there was a bathroom in the room itself, it was being shared by 9 others (10 including me) and just the sight of hair everywhere… Ick!!  I know that you get what you pay for and many times staying in hostels is an absolute gamble, but some places are MUCH more clean feeling and more welcoming than others…

Not really feeling that location (but being stuck there for the first night) and knowing that I wanted to stay in Inverness at least a few night (since I had to get to Loch Ness to see Nessie!!) I set out immediately to find a room for the next night at another hostel.  A little down the road from the Castle and just along the river I came across the Inverness Student Hostel.  From the second I walked in I knew this place would be great!!  And indeed it was!!  The vibe was just warm and welcoming, the place felt clean and safe, the staff were friendly and sane (at the other hostel the guy who checked me in, though there was a “no smoking inside” policy later lit one up in the check-in/common area just because no one was around… yeah… great example to set!).

The Inverness Student Hostel was all booked up for the night I arrived (I had half a mind to demand a refund from the other place and just stay there instead) but had a space available for the next two nights.  Perfect!!  That’s all I needed!!  I paid a little extra to be in a room with only 5 others, but it was worth it!!  I payed for my nights in advance to stay there the next few nights and on my way out noticed that they had affiliate hostels in Oban (pronounced by locals as “Oh-BIN” where I was planning to go next anyway).  Liking the feel of the place that much- I went ahead and booked in advance (what was wrong with me?!?! ;)) a room at the Oban hostel (called simply Oban Backpackers) for a few nights as well!!  I must admit that though the whole “find something when you get there” is fun and adventurous, also knowing that I had a place to stay for sure at the next location was quite comforting… Especially since the past few towns I had been in seemed to be short on places to stay!!

After securing my spot at the Inverness Student Hostel and the Oban Backpackers, I headed out to explore Inverness a bit more.  Since I was going to stay there for two full days, I figured a trip to the tourist info center would be wise.  There I found an all day tour (literally 12 hours long) for the Isle of Skye hosted by WOW Scotland! tours.  I won’t go into great detail here about the booking as I will save it for the Isle of Skye post I’m doing next, but needless to say I did book the tour.  The tour would not be until that Friday (2 days from my arrival date) however so I had a day in between to simply chill and explore Inverness at leisure.

At this point it was dinner time, so I wandered around for somewhere to eat.  On the opposite side of High Street there was an Italian Tapas restaurant.  And even though I was going to be in Italy soon, I really wasn’t hugely hungry so the idea of tapas really appealed to me.  Plus, I had heard that many of the immigrants to Scotland were from Italy, so I was pretty confident the food would be authentic and not disappointing!

I was right about my instincts- the food was very good!!  I had a tapas gnocchi dish with a glass of prosecco.  Now mind you, when I would go out for lunch or dinner I would only bring a certain amount of cash with me.  This was mainly so I wouldn’t go nuts on drinking too much, because lord knows if I had brought my card I could have just had my dinner and a drink, then another, then another… To my surprise, this is exactly what had ended up happening anyway!!

I was simply sitting at a table for one, enjoying my gnocchi and glass of prosecco when I noticed 3 guys sitting at the bar.  Just something about them made me think that they, or at least one of them owned the place.  Just the way they looked around and looked at things and moved around every now and again.  They had the aura of being invested.  I basically finished my meal and sat enjoying my prosecco.  One of the three guys came and stood by my table looking out to the street, then asked if I had enjoyed my meal.  I replied that I did and to satisfy my curiosity on whether I was right about whether he was an owner, I asked if he was.  And indeed, he replied yes.  One question led to another and he ended up sitting down with me (a true Italian!  Always inviting and entertaining) and asked if I wanted another prosecco.  Though I said no, I eventually said yes and was brought another glass.  I won’t drone on with every detail but basically what ended up happening was I was introduced to his cousins (the other 2 at the bar) and a nephew and after a BOTTLE of prosecco and a shot of limoncello I was invited to stay for the after party (apparently it was the owners birthday) to which I stayed for a piece of cake and WATER to sober up a bit, lol!!  I was also invited to the after, after party at someone’s house but declined vehemently and made my way back to the hostel at some point shorty after.  It was a great and unexpected time!!  Italians certainly know how to make people feel welcome!!  It was also quite entertaining because the owner was Italian but spoke English in a Scottish accent.  His cousins only spoke Italian.  I spoke English and some Spanish and even less of Italian, but could understand all 3… The bartender was from Guatemala and spoke English and Spanish, so conversations between everyone was just about the most interesting and entertaining thing!!  Between one language and another and trying to say one thing then having to interrupt someone during their conversation so they could translate something for you, it was just a mad house of languages!!  Lots of fun though!! 🙂

In any event, after stumbling home I went to sleep then left the next morning for the Inverness Student Hostel.  The next day wasn’t the best of weather so I mainly just did indoor things like a Natural History museum and caught up on emailing, etc.  I was supposed to go back that evening for dinner with one of the cousins, but felt not very social (dang hangovers!!) that day sadly.  Plus, I had an early tour the next day and wanted to be 100% for it!!  I kinda felt bad about not showing for dinner, but such is life!  You can’t please everyone.  But I am very grateful nonetheless for their hospitality and the great time that was had the night before:)

On to Isle of Skye

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