Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ryan and Mere's Trip-The 'New' Stuff

**My apologies for the lack of format and the different fonts in this post. I did all of it using the Blogger app and there aren't many options for formating**

As you can imagine, when we have visitors we have to repeat a lot of the same things. For the most part, I love this, because usually the things you take every visitor to see are worth seeing over and over again. For example, Dunnottar Castle never gets old nor does the drive to and the day spent in St. Andrews. St. Andrews instantly became my favorite little Scottish town the first time I went and other than Dunnottar, it's my favorite place to take guests. Even if you don't love golf you will love this quaint coastal town that just happens to be the home of golf. Of course both of these were a part of Mere and Ryan's trip along with some other repeats....Crathes Castle, Edinburgh,  and Balmoral Estate, Bay Fish&Chips. But instead of telling you all about them AGAIN, I want to highlight the new things we were able to do during Meredith and Ryan's visit. A definite advantage to having visitors is the chance to see new things.

Their first full day we visited Crathes Castle in the early afternoon while we waited on Ryan to sneak away from work a little early so the boys could go fishing. While the boys went fishing, Mere and I headed off to high tea at Banchory Lodge along the River Dee. I have done high tea at a few different places since living in Scotland and I can honestly say this was the best I've experienced. The view and the delicious treats will be hard to beat.

Ryan fishin'

We decided to spend a weekend in Edinburgh since there is so much to do and Mere and Ryan had several things they were interested in seeing.

No road trip is complete with out Mickey D's!

Along with Edinburgh Castle

And a stop by Holyrood Palace (it was closed for entry because they were preparing for a royal visitor)

We also did an underground tour of Mary King's Close. A close is an alley type street that is off of the Main Street, in this case, the famous Royal mile in Edinburgh. They are often named after a significant person of that time.  In the 1600s this close as well as the neighboring ones were the heart of Edinburgh's busiest part of the city.  Under the Royal Exchange, the closes were used as a foundation for the 'new' part of the city. People continued to live in their homes in the close blocked from sunlight and stricken with plague. There are lots of myths and legends associated with the closes and with the tour you get an up close picture and history. I really enjoyed this as I like learning a little history of how the people lived back in the day. Yes there are cheesy parts but that can only be expected.

Despite discussing that we were going to do 'scared' faces, the boys decided to smile.

We also headed to Ocean Terminal for a self guided tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia. The Britannia was the royals home on the sea from 1953-1997. It's traveled over one million miles to become the most famous ship in the world. It is now berthed in Edinburgh and can not only be toured but can be rented for special events.

Takes 3 hours to set this table. A ruler is used for the spaces between each piece.

Original washer and dryers
Queen Elizabeth's bedroom

The Royal Yacht Britannia is located on the harbor in the area of Leith which houses some of the best seafood restaurants. We made a reservation at Fisher's Bistro and it did not disappoint. Probably one
of the best meals I've ever had.

We shared the mussels to start.

 I had the grilled veggie, goat cheese salad,

King scallops with crab salad and

Of course we had to get Sticky Toffee Pudding to end the fabulous meal!

Before heading over to St Andrews on Sunday, we stopped by the National Museum of Scotland. It's a great museum and best of all it's free! There is a whole section on the history of Scotland, a great roof top terrace view (which alone is worth a visit to the museum, see pic above of the castle), and a huge room dedicated to animals from all eras. Ryan and I spent most of our time in there as my husband was of course in awe of all the big horns. 

We also stopped by the technology room and watched this robot spell out my name.

We made our way to St Andrews after the museum and of course it didn't disappoint. We did the usual (Cathedral and 18th hole) but also stopped by Dunvegan Hotel but instead of just a browse around at all the cool golf memorabilia we had a few drinks to the let the rain move off. The Dunvegan is a hotel, bar and restaurant owned by a fellow Texan (not to mention an Aggie) so we all felt right at home (especially Ryan J since he is an Aggie). 

Monday, Meredith and Ryan enjoyed the 3 hour estate tour of Balmoral (same one we did with Toby and Becky) while Angus and I went on a leisurely 3 hour walk around the estate. We saw beautiful views of the castle and got up close with the Heilin coo. And to rest our legs before the long drive home, we relaxed on the Queen's lawn and enjoyed the sunshine. One of my favorite things this summer has been reading outside on the grass so I was in heaven and could have stayed there all day!

We had such a fun week with Meredith and Ryan and I only wish they could have stayed longer. How blessed we are to have friends that will take a week away from their family to come all the way to Scotland to see us! Can't wait to see them again!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Becky and Toby's Trip Highlights

Hi there, long time no blog! I've been busy!!
We are so blessed to have our family and friends come and visit us all the way in Scotland. Kasey came last August and Faye and her mom, Donna, visited last October. Our first set of visitors of this year were Ryan's parents. We were so excited for them to come because we knew how much they would love the country side and how they would appreciate the break from the Texas heat.

One thing with visitors is you get a chance to appreciate everything you've mindlessly taken for granted. Becky couldn't get over how green it was and they both loved the beautiful hills, two things we see everyday. Sometimes we forget how breathtaking the country we live in truly is until we see it with someone 'new'. I love this about having visitors because even though the scenery, mild climate and outdoor lifestyle is what I love about Scotland, it's always good to be reminded and see an 'outsider' enjoy it too.

Toby and Becky landed early and didn't get much sleep on the plane so after a bite to eat for lunch and a cat nap, we hit the ground running for the next 8 days.

Here are the highlights of their trip from my point of view. I should have Becky guest post about their trip! :-) (My pictures are limited since I let Becky do most of the picture taking).

1. Dunnottar Castle- it's mystical no matter what time of year and no matter what the weather. You can stay here and admire it for hours whether it be on the castle grounds or looking at it from afar. It's one of those things that I never get tired of taking visitors too. With the ever changing Scottish weather, your pictures  are different every time.

2. Loch Ness Cruise/Urquhart Castle- Friday morning we headed out on a little road trip making stops along the way with our final destination being Aviemore. Our first significant stop was at Loch Ness for a river cruise to look for Nessie (loch ness monster) and for a great view of Urquhart castle. 

3. Cairngorm Reindeer- On Saturday we headed up the mountain in search of reindeer. It was a short but lovely little hill walk to see the herd that visits this part of the mountain. We were able to pet and feed them. Definitely fun for everyone at any time of year but how cool would it be to do this at Christmas when there is likely to be snow on the ground!

5. Cairngorm Mountain- after seeing the reindeer, we headed up the mountain on the funicular to have an amazing vantage point of the mountain range and loch. Ryan and I are already talking about getting back there and doing some hiking!

4. Sheep dogs- this is something I was really looking forward to. Dogs in general hold a special place for me and I am always mesmerized by the working breeds who actually work. It's incredible they know exactly what to do with just a whistle. It was so neat to see Shepard Neil 'talk' to his dogs and show us what they do. It's a must if when you go to Aviemore!

I wanted to take the puppies home so bad. At just 20 days they already start learning the commands and understanding them. Incredible!

6. Falconry Centre- on our way back to Aberdeen on Sunday we stopped in Huntly at the Falconry Centre. It was not the highlight of our weekend, it's kind of hard to top reindeer and working sheep dogs, but I'm glad we stopped. We didn't get to see the bigger birds (eagles) in action (they were scheduled for the next show) but was still pretty neat to see. And if you're not sure exactly what faloncry is, click here.
Angus the red stag

8. Blair Atholl/Pitlochry- Thursday we headed to the cute little town of Pitlochry. We enjoyed a short little walk to see the Solider's Leap. Remember, I was here in December and it was pouring and the visibility was almost zero. What a difference 6 months makes! After our walk we had lunch and then headed to my favorite (and first) castle, Blair Atholl. Since I had toured it before, I let my in-laws loose while I enjoyed my book on the lawn while listening to a bagpiper play Amazing Grace.

9. Balmoral Safari Tour- last but certainly not least we headed out to the Queen's estate for a safari tour. I use the work safari loosely, this is what they advertise the tour as but should really just be called an estate tour. It was great, regardless of the name, especially for anyone who as a limited time to see Royal Deeside. It's a great way to see the beautiful Scotland landscapes while learning the history of the estate(for you Aberdeen readers, Robert Gordon owned this land first) and family and to see a few animals along the way.

It was such a great week and between all of the activities, Becky and I managed to hang on to our title of best 42 and Shoot the Moon (domino games) team! The guys stood no chance. Thank you, Toby and Becky, for coming to see us!!