A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: micahbeans

Sunny Glasgow

Down to my last day and a half, I end up in Glasgow with part of the previous crew. On Tuesday I was graced my own private tour guide as he's currently jobless (good luck w/ that, dude!) and we set out to 'see the sites.' The first stop was the Bontanical Garden. They really did it up nice with some full on rain forest areas that felt nice and warm inside... many [naked] statues... and my favorite, the koi pond. Walked along the great Clyde River up to a HUUUUGE museum. My favorite was an incredibly large mobile of white plaster heads, all the same face, but with different emotions. VERY wierd. We took the underground to the Museum of Modern Art. My favorite was actually the statue outside: a horse with rider in metal, finished with an orange street cone on the rider's head. Quirky.
That night we were invited to "tea" (dinner) at Murdo's house up the road. He made us mince & tatties which is like a hamburger meat stirfry and mashed potatoes. THE BEST DINNER I had since I'd been in Scotland! I again had some major appreciation for having found my way into this group of friends and actually getting to meet some locals and see how they were living. We also had some communal vodka appreciation. That's pretty much how they were living, at least through the festival!
Next day was my flight... I was playing it safe by leaving for Frankfurt the day before the flight that leaves for Fairbanks because that one only happens once a week. When I got to Frankfurt, I suddenly realized I felt VERY ill-equipped without my Lonely Planet guide book that I always have on EVERY country I visit. So here I am without a Germany LP in the biggest airport I think I've ever seen in my life. Thank goodness some good instincts kick in and I find some information desk. She says no problem, take the train to the major station then take a bus to the hostel. Super. Well I take the train alright, but I find the bus stop just in time to find that the last bus, a 10:31pm, has been gone for about 9 minutes. I'm very unhappy about this, but determined NOT to sleep in the airport. I start walking straight down the road from the terminal and realize very quickly that I'm definitely in the "red district." You name it, it can be purchased. I'm pretty unhappy with the situation which might have been apparent to the guy in the Ramada nametag on his break saying "Excuse me, can I help you?" Praise God. With a detectible Italian AND German accent, this guy is speaking English which is fantastic because, well, I haven't been in Deutsch class since Sophomore year. Yes, I explain, I need a hostel. "You can just stay with me, I live right on this block!" Well, I explain, its just that I don't know you very well, so if you could just point me to a hostel that might be best. He walked me all the way to a hostel, thank goodness!
It was there that I thought I'd try their Apfelwine which is... a cider? Maybe? I met an English guy named Pete who came with me to have a beer w/ the helpful guy. We had a good time, and found some KILLER pasta in an extremely shady part of town. I'd never have braved it if it weren't for the one who was living and working right on that street! It was worth it. I passed this huge building with a bunch, and I mean a BUNCH of neon hearts all over it and thought I just don't belong here. Haha... good thing.
During the course of that evening I was THIS CLOSE to going on to Switzerland for a week with Pete. I remained undecided till the morning, but the minute I woke up, I knew I wanted to just get home. I got back on the train to the airport, and before I knew it, I was buckled into my own row and sleeping as soundly as possible on an impossibly huge jet.
And what have we learned? Highland cows are the coolest. Scottish accents are hot. Giftshops are plaid..... and modern sculptures of the great Braveheart resemble Mel Gibson.

Slangeva!

Posted by micahbeans 22:03 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

£50 Wellies

I can't make this =%&* up!

-17 °C

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Where do I begin? So I decide to at least stick around for the Friday part of the Fri-Sat music festival just in case I can catch some good music. Thursday night I find some place called Seaforth's and we've got a band playing that is called Our Lunar Activity. Classified as 'celtic rock' and they didn't look a day over 12. (Men are exceptionally skinny here so I think they all look a lot younger than they really are. Plus you can be in the bars at 18 which explains the look of a 12yr old.) They weren't too bad and jumped around the stage like they had an imbalanced sense of self esteem for their talent... it was great. I had an English couple join me at the table... they seemed really proper and then told me that they had just been to a great big concert... with Bjork! They just didn't seem the type... everybody gets to go to excellent concerts here! Its unreal.
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So I put around the next day thinking about how I should move on since nobody will sell me a ticket to the sold out festival... we're onto Friday now. I meet some Swiss guy in the hostel that has just been out backpacking with tents and gear all by himself for ten days... he was extremely and actually disturbingly zen, but I had a beer with him anyway. At some point (like 2 beers in) he begins to show signs of intoxication and I snicker to myself at his hilariously low tolerance for booze. He gets up to get another round and get this: He brings me vodka solda hold the vodka! I didn't mention it but thought is he trying to tell me something after my whopping 2 drinks? We can't all be having our inner light shine without a thought in our heads like lotus blossoms on cool, crisp ponds, can we? I want another drink. I'm not showing ANY signs of intoxication by the way... it was my 3rd drink... so I sit down and he says to me "it might be good to just have soda water." I do a quick sweep of the bar and invite the closest person looking for a table to sit with us. And order another drink. Friggin hippy. He's the drunk one.
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Luckily for me I met the coolest crew in the world! Well, at least in Scotland. So this group is a band of friends from the island Lewis there for the festival... they've moved all over Scotland by now so its a bit of a reunion! By the grace of God they include me! So we have a good time... exchange some numbers, and I still just wish I had a ticket to the festival and NOT back to Inverness the next day.
Saturday morning the front desk guy says to me that there's a girl selling her ticket for £20! So we catch her as fast as possible and I think to myself if I can get a bracelet I'll stay longer. "You still selling your ticket? I'd LOVE to go to the festival, you're my only hope..." She tells me (brace yourself) that she wants to save it for her scrapbook. I tell her I want to punch her in the teeth. Not really, but I sure wanted to. You won't sell me that plastic on your hand because you want it for a scrapbook? I will NOT be great friends with this girl.
I go back to my room and pack up my things and think to myself I'm getting on the bus. Aaargh! I march on down to the bus station and low and behold the bus left at 10am not 10:30. Minor error. So then I think to myself, call the troop! I get them on the phone and luckily for me I'm practically brilliant and find the house I'd only seen once before in the dark. There's everybody. Hung over and talking about the night before. So we have: Laird the initial invitee to the table, Doug the older of the two brothers, Andrew the younger of the two brothers, Jenny girlfriend of Andrew, Derek friend extraordinaire, Amanda girlfriend of Derek, and Murdo the good natured/hilarious. There's no explanation for any of them! A few people visit the house and among them somebody who knows of a ticket... brilliant! By 3pm I've got a bracelet on my hand and the festivities began.
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Before I could do anything though, I had a look around and realized I was EXTREMLY out of place without wearing wellies (rainboots) so we find the most ridiculously priced wellies in the world and I buy them. It was the but of the joke all weekend. I still haven't lived it down. I'm pretty much an idiot....We listened to incredibl music all day, all the way into the night, and the big deal was that Franz Ferdinand was playing at the Loopallu 2007! They sing "Take me out." You'd all know it if you heard it. By then I was even dancing and you all know what that implies. Honestly I held my own pretty well. I ended up sleeping on the floor at Andrew and Jenny's. Along with everybody else. It was great fun.
So the day before in the drunken stupor I made plans with Laird to go up to Durness with him for Sunday because, why not? He had some surfing to do and, well, its my adventure. We drive a windy road up there. The man has to pull over to throw up. I'm so pleased it isn't me. SoooOOOO pleased. The scenery is fantastic, and Durness (a John Lennon obsessed little village) has Award Winning Beach. Sadly the surf, predicted at 12 feet, was at zero. Instead we check out a cave with a waterfall in it. That was cool... next weekend they're having Rave in the Cave but I won't be around. We spent some time beach walking and find some bread, cheese, and ham in the back of the van. Happily ate the crap out of that by then.
On the way back to Ullapool ew decide to check out some more caves called Bone Caves. It was a LONG hike. I really felt like I was doing something good for myself. And in my wellies to boot (no pun intended.) Get this: we discovered a river that is coming out of nowhere... literally, we're standing on a path that curves around a pool that a RIVER is flowing out of... it takes a while to realize that the water is coming UP out of the ground... outrageous! I felt like I discovered perpetual motion! We also ran into some deer, that was cool. Slept on the floor again at Andrew and Jenny's and decided to hitch with Laird to Glasgow where he lives now.
After a miserably long drive, we've just arrived, but not without stopping in Sterling to see the ridiculous carved Braveheart crafted after, you guessed it, Mel Gibson. This is NOT historically sound. We see the monument and hit the road again. Fun in Glasgow now, I'm sure of it.

Posted by micahbeans 11:26 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Life's Great Mysteries

-17 °C

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Got on the bus to Ullapool because I heard about a music festival here... its sort of like the Reggaefest only more bagpipes and less dreadlocks. Cool. The road out here was FANTASTIC from Inverness and I finally got to see the hairy Highland Cows! They have bushy hair right over their heads like we do when its time for a little boy to get a haircut. So adorable! It really personifies them...
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So I went directly to the back of the town just to hike up and take a look. It was fairly steep and I felt warm for the first time since I've been here till I got up a bit and the wind picked up. Felt pretty nice to get my heartrate up and be a little sweaty, and as I'm walking down this oooOOOLD white haired lady is coming my way as fast as ever. I'm a little baffled for a second and looking at her white, white hair. She looks up and says, "good view of Stac Polly isn't it?" I look at what she's pointing to. Its a fairly large mountain very far away. "I climbed that about ten years ago. I'm just on a little jaunt before supper. You know, half an hour up and half an hour down!" What a gal! I would like to be just like her when I grow up.
Alright so I get to the hostel and crash for a few hours, and head out for dinner about 8pm. A little place called the Ferry Boat looked nice so I belly up and order dinner and immediately meet these guys that work on the actual ferry boat that sails to Stornoway a couple of times a day. They were just starting their "two weeks" much like our slope workers, and the drinking began. They were both pretty incredible because they'd sailed ALL over the world and had even been to Dutch Harbour and worked for Esso (Exxon? before it became Exxon?) so we all had a bunch in common. Anyway the older guy was a hoot because he had a really thick accent and was just the sort of thing I wanted to hear while I'm here. Turned out they wouldn't let me pay for anything, ANYTHING and not even the dinner I had just before I met them. It was cool. So Griam, the 55 something said check out the ship tomorrow (which would be like all day, work day style) I smartly said no thanks because I can't imagine having 5 beers and a whiskey the night before THEN going on a ship. Thank goodness. Good times.
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So I've been moping around the hostel today waiting for the music festival that starts tomorrow. I'm gazing out at the harbour and see something VERY wierd and just can't make it out. The seagulls were also interested. It looks like something bloody, and very large..... I eventually run outside to solve this what has become one of life's great mysteries. I find it has caught other people's attention so I ask them what this might be. A seal with a pizza box teasing the gulls with it by flipping it out of the water here and there. It all makes sense once you understand. I'm practically Galileo!
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Posted by micahbeans 05:19 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Nessie

-17 °C

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Monday morning was an early one. I took a 6:40am train from Edinbugh to Inverness, with a change in Perth. Unfortunately, I was awake only for the first hour! That's what you get with four hours sleep. Anyway it all went well and I arrivedin Inverness with plans to head West through the highlands!
Upon arriving, I came upon the pink castle here made of sandstone. Its very beautiful, but has been turned into office buildings so you can't go inside. I also learned there is Ness River that runs out of the Lake: Scotlands shortest river.
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For any of you who don't know, Inverness is most famous the world over for Loch Ness... ie. Nessie aka. Loch Ness Monster. I saw her. In fact I saw TONS of her! She comes in blue, purple, but mostly green... oh yes, she is alive and well in many a gift shop here. You can find her in a cage. You can find her on keyrings. You can find her being ridden by a scotsman in plaid from head to toe! I booked a boat tour on Jacobite to travel on the lake to Urquahrt Castle. On the boat I met a woman named Judy from Oregon, the grandma type. Travelling alone! We buddied up and explored the ruins of Urquahrt together. After that the bus took us to Loch Ness 2000 where we made our way through a buidling going from one stand up theatre to the next viewing clips of the history of Nessie. The gift shop was ridiculous. I bought 6 Nessies. Just kidding.
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We then collectively decided to bus it to Culloden Battle Field where we watched a live skit about the battles for the throne between the Stewart Clan and uh-oh, King James V? Or Bonnie Prince Charlie?? I've already forgotten. Anyway, Scotland lost and England kept the throne in... England. Yearning for a little homeslice, Judy and I had dinner at a Chinese Restaurant. Does that make sense?
I've now just learned about a big music festival happening in Ullapool so if I can find a place to stay, I may just attend. I guess it is a big outdoor deal on Friday and Saturday... Here's hoping! I've half been invited to camp but I just don't really want to... we'll see. Its just that its SO damn cold here and I don't think I could stand to be anywhere colder for sleep than the rooms. Which are practically absolute zero. And of course, I'm getting "how can you be cold, you're from ALASKA!" Well I'm cold there too.
Oh! You should know that HAGGIS is made from brains and innards. And I love it.

Posted by micahbeans 00:20 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Sunday, bloody Sunday

-17 °C

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Well last night I paid £13 for a bed I never slept in. First mistake: drinking scotch whiskey. Second mistake: picking up the guitar in the common area of the hostel. Third mistake: not putting it down before falling asleep on the couch. So three hours later I woke up (6:30am) and went to have breakfast!
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Here's how it all started... I couldn't be bothered with breakfast, because I was too excited to get a look at the Edinburgh Castle. I visited the museums there and even listened in on a 1 man skit about the history of the Great Hall (Royal Hall?) He was dressed in full regalia and was really funny to listen to. I went in for tea at a cafe' in the castle and luckily for me an older Australian couple invited themselves to my table for company which was really delightful. They paid for my tea and made it a nice un-lonely day.
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After all Castle activities were over, I was headed for dinner but came across a tour about Scotch-Whiskey just starting at 5pm. I jumped in, tried my first ENJOYABLE scotch, and learned about how they're made and the differences between blends and single malts... grain and something else. It was in the bar after the tour that I ran into two Belgian guys that were staying at my hostel. They invited me to help them finish their scotches (they had ordered the full array to test the different regions) which was handy because I knew I couldn't commit to 4 drinks on an empty stomach, especially straight up! After that we all went and had a BEAUTIFUL traditional dinner of haggis and meat pie which we all shared bits so we could try everything.... by the way, haggis is delicious! But stay away from black pudding which is similar and awful. I don't know how that can be. Long story short we end up finishing a bottle of scotch on the couch at the hostel and signing our heads off which seems great at the time but the next day I can't help but think "I can't sound good if I can't even hear myself! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Oh well.
One of the hostel employees, John, is a phenomenal guitarist himself and did the honor today of signing Mini-G, my travel guitar! It really is beautiful and he did a fantastic little coat of arms and Scottish flag on there... yay! For those of you who don't know, I'm collecting countries I bring Mini-G to by having somebody that grew up there AND has heard me play and sing her sign with their name, country and date. Now I have two!
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So now I'm tired and ready to hit the sack. Planning to go to Inverness tomorrow morning by train. Looking forward to that! Highlands here I come!

Posted by micahbeans 16:21 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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