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Monday, September 20, 2010

summer recap pt. 3: sisters and travels abroad

My next summer adventure took my sister, Emily, and I to Scotland and Ireland!!! We had so much fun in these two beautiful countries that I fear that I will not be able to fully relay to you all of the fun that was had. But I’m going to try!!!

Emily, a gifted photographer, was asked by her friend, Kendall, to photograph her and her fiance’s wedding. Kendall’s family has lived in Scotland for the past several years; while there, Kendall fell in love with Scott the Scotsman! And I am so thankful that she did!!!

This is how excited we were to be on our way!!!! We sang “All our bags are packed, we’re ready to go...”

Our first stop was in Aberdeen for the wedding festivities. This was a very special part of our trip; not only were we included in one of the most important days of their lives but we were submersed into the everyday lives and culture of the community.

During our stay for the wedding Emily and I stayed nearby in Dufftown at a cute little Bed & Breakfast, Dunnvegan. We tried so hard to fight the jet lag our first day there; I think we fell asleep at 5:15 and 5:17 respectively. Ha! We loved our hosts, Helen & Stuart; they shared many stories and history with us. Our favorite breakfast to eat while there was smoked salmon and scrambled eggs atop a piece of toast. Yum!!!

The day of the wedding was GORGEOUS!!! We could not get over out absolutely beautiful everything was; I think my mouth was permanently agape the whole time we were there! The wedding was held at a venue in the countryside about an hour outside of Aberdeen. It was the perfect place; a cottage looking venue sitting in the middle of the rolling hills of Scotland. It looked like a set straight from 'The Sound of Music'! I’m not even kidding!!!

I chatted with the bagpiper; I cannot remember his name but enjoyed meeting him all the same! He played before, during and after the wedding ceremony and sat the bridal party at their tables for the reception. Scottish weddings are divided into 3 parts: ceremony, reception, and Ceilidh (pronounced "kay-lee"). A ceilidh is a Scottish dance, similar to country square or barn dancing. It was so much fun and a for sure a great workout!!!

Emily, Scott, Kendall and I went on a photo shoot the day after the wedding. Emily and I felt pretty good about ourselves, being invited on someones honeymoon lol. Our first destination was an old castle ruins. It was so beautiful and a true experience!!! To get to the castle we had to hike through a sheep field and climb up some massive stone steps. I have already decided that either my wedding or wedding pictures will take place in the countryside of Scotland!!!

Emily and I had to take a break and have a few pictures ourselves!!!

Our next stop was an abandoned factory. With no roof, empty holes where windows used to be, and graffiti covering every square inch of exposed wall the run down factory was the perfect place for a photo shoot. There was ample natural sunlight and color everywhere!

After several days with the bride, groom and their families we said good-bye to Aberdeeen and found ourselves on a train to Edinburgh. Thanks to our handy-dandy Rick Steves’s guide we had a long list of sights to visit in Edinburgh (we made it to most of them!!!) Along our trek through the city we found a beautiful cemetery (we sang Phantom of the Opera’s 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again' while taking pictures!), Edinburgh Castle, Braveheart, and a partially constructed replica of the Greek Parthenon. Of course we had to stop and Whoop on the front steps!

All of the housing and storefronts were this picturesque. Can’t you just see yourself, knocking on one of these doors, asking to come in for tea and a visit in my flat?! One day!!!

After a day in Edinburgh we made it over to Glasgow; we were particularly excited about this stop due to it’s many art and architectural influences. Charles Rennie Mackintosh is my favorite designer/artist/architect of all time; his designs and influence are woven into most all of the city’s design. I was so excited to have lunch at his Willow Tea Rooms!!! Commissioned to Mackintosh by Kate Cranson in the early 1900s these tea rooms were designed so that women of that era could have a safe and secure place to go unescorted. How times have changed!

Mackintosh designed everything from the wall coverings, furniture, and light fixtures.

From Glasgow we took a flight over to Ireland. 'P.S. I Love You' happens to be on of our most favorite films; I think we both secretly thought that we might find our very own ‘Jerry’s’ while visiting Ireland. Scratch that, it was no secret. Ha!

Our flight to Dublin was the most stressful I have EVER been on. Not only was it EARLY in the morning (for my sister and I this was a true challenge) but the airport was very small, very strange and very strict. We were scrambling at the counter trying to get our bags under the allowed weight. In the end we both ended up with carry-on book bags heavy enough to kill someone. We then saw there was a weight limit for carry-ons as well--with clever repacking (redistribution of bulges), Emily’s brilliant idea and our superb acting abilities, we made it through; we managed to hold our shoulders straight and high, bounce our bags while passing through the gate and avoid eye contact with any and all employees. But we made it safely and made some awesome Australian friends along the way (and flight). They definitely made our experience more enjoyable!

All of the fields and pastures are sectioned off by stone walls such as these. They are held together with nothing but gravity and clever placement. Trained stone layers are responsible for the construction and repair of these walls.

We traveled over to Galway for a few days; we sang ‘Galway Girl’ for the duration of our time there!!! This city is so laid back and fun! We also took a day trip from Galway to the Aran Islands where we toured Inishmore Island. What an adventure!!! The island is about 9 miles long and about 2 miles across. We decided to forgo the comforts and securities that a van tour has to offer and try our hand, or feet rather, at biking. Oh my! We got on the bikes at 11:45 a.m. and did not return them until 4:45. I wish I could tell you that this was the most joyous of experiences but I would be lying. I can tell you, in truth, that it was extremely memorable and we did have many fun moments. Would I do it again? Probably?!?!?

After a 45 minute pedal UP the island (we were told it would be an easy 30. Ha!), we made it to the cliffs! What you can see here is a cliff with no guardrails. What you cannot see is the 300 foot drop from the top of the cliff down to the crashing waves. When my mom saw the pictures from here she said “I hope that’s not as dangerous as it looks.” I quickly assured her that it was! So fun!

After our time in Galway we headed back to Dublin for a few days. Dublin was one of our favorite places as we got to spend several days in the city. We even had time to pretend we were locals! We learned of a tour, Sandeman Tours, that was free and was told that it was one of the best of the city. They were right! Here is our tour guide, Garvan; he is as tall, pale, and red-curly haired as he looks! How fitting to have our very own Leprechaun to guide us through the city! For anyone traveling I would recommend these tours; they tour in a lot of the major cities, are free, and work closely with a lot of the local hostels.

By the end of our trip our feet were very, very tired (our backs and brains, too!!!) We covered many miles, learned a lot of history, experienced so much culture and had so much fun that we are counting the days until we can return!!!

Lessons Learned:
*Emily and I function much better and much earlier in the day when the sun is down for only 3 hours of the night.

*Starbucks is our friend; there is one on every corner just like in The States.

*When overseas, the USA is referred to as ‘The States’.

Memorable moments and quotes:
*emily: airports are like cruise ships & malls, there’s always someone who looks worse than you

*ellen: can we do all of this on the ground?

*ticket collector: ummmm.....these will not work

*ellen: Do you take visa?
waitress: No, only cash.
ellen: ...are you serious? Like....really serious???
waitress: Yes.....
canadian man: are you two on the 5:00 ferry? (Yes) Well, I’ll do a drive-by then
to make sure you’re not being held hostage & washing dishes.

*waiter: Have you been to City Centre (Galway)? If you go up this street, turn
left and then go a couple of blocks, you’ll see it.
emily: We’ve been up since 4:30 a.m.....
wiater: Well in that case, go up this street, turn right and your hotel will be in
a few blocks


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