Wednesday, 15 August 2012

First Week in Scotland!

Recap From Week 1 - Written on Monday, August 13 after class...sorry for the lack of timeliness! 

We're here at the apartment in Aberdeen for our second night after my first day of class. The apartment is a great size for us - 2 rooms, kitchen, washer and dryer...and they stock the fridge for us each day with breakfast food when they come clean.  It's much bigger than we expected and in a decent area by the city center.  Rachell and the kids went swimming today at the nearby pool, shopped, and took the day off from traveling around the country.  We finally got to cook a meal - fresh, wild Scottish salmon and vegetables.  Best part is the price.  Local meat and seafood is ridiculously cheap, considering how much all the restaurants cost. Rachell's got lamb, Highland beef, and some other treats to enjoy the rest of the week until Malcolm and Christine's this weekend.  Plus, scotch whisky is very cheap at the grocery store.  I finally got Rachell to have some and admit it was good.  After the tour at the distillery yesterday, she's a fan of The Glenlivet.

Here's a recap on our last week:

Tuesday - Landed in Glasgow and slept at the airport hotel.  Kids got to eat Scottish food and figured out new words.  Bryce keeps singing "Skip to the Loo" for "Skip to My Loo" because it's about the bathroom.  He finds that most hilarious.

Wednesday - Got our rental (Toyota Avensis) and headed up north to the Isle of Skye.  We made stops by some rivers, hiked around in the Highlands, ended up knee deep in muddy bog before finally arriving at my friend's parents' place on the NW corner on the Isle of Skye.  Driving out here has been a trip.  The left side of the road isn't a problem.  It's the tiny roads with curves, one lane, and blind hills.  As we were approaching Skye, Denali threw up all over the back of our rental car.  That was a fantastic surprise to the trip.  She handled it remarkably well and we cleaned things up and moved on.  On the positive side, with all the mountains and curves, oceanviews and glens, Skye is one of the more beautiful places we've ever been.  It's definitely been one of the highlights of the trip.

Thursday - All day in Skye.  The kids got along famously with my friend Rory's children (ages 6 and 9).  The four of them wandered all over the tidal flats looking for shells and treasures, ran around the hills, chased sheep, and had a ton of fun.  We went to a castle that day and did some touring around the area before having a barbque on the beach with Rory's family.  We took a seal trip earlier in the day and got to come within 6 feet of seals on the rocks.  It was a boat as big as our boat in Interlochen (14’ with 15 horse engine) and the kids loved it.

Friday - Left Skye and hit Loch Ness
(major disappointment with that touristy area...even Bryce found it depressing), the Talisker Distillery, and every sight along the way to Inverness.  In Inverness, we toured the battlefield of Culloden after hours.  It was like going to Gettysburg...accept you know nothing about either side, what was at stake, and what the consequences were.  People were emotional and really into the battlefield while Bryce and Denali were busy looking for graves of the English.  Very sensitive of them.

Saturday - We took a short ride down to Aviemore, where we took an old steam train ride to the middle of nowhere, hopped in the back of a van, and went to a Highland Games celebration in Nethy Bridge (the Abernethy Games).  Excellent day out.  The weather was incredible (as it has been everyday but today).  The games were unlike anything we expected...definitely to the better.  They had the massed pipe and drum bands (150 pipers at the same time), feats of strength (ridiculous Scottish Highland games...throwing rocks, trees and hammers as far as you can while wearing a kilt), piping competitions, and tons of Highland dance participatory games for the crowd.  You could sign up for a bunch of events, so we entered into the three legged races - Bryce and Rachell in the mom and child race and me and Denali in the Father and child race.  Rachell and Bryce did not come in last, which was the only goal.  Denali has a competitive streak that we are always shocked by...we came in third and she got a ribbon.  Awesome.  After the games and train we hung out in the mountain town, did some walks, visited a brewery, and stayed in a really nice bed and breakfast.

Sunday - Yesterday was a short drive through the Highlands that had a few hiccups.  First we did church at a Kirk of Scotland congregation in Aviemore.  The kids were marvelously well behaved, though Denali had a bit of a meltdown during the sermon. She must not have dug the exegetical work of the preacher…or she wanted crayons, one of the two.  After service, we started driving toward Aberdeen.  We approached a town to get gas and found out there was no station...nor were there for many miles.  Our dashboard display showed how many estimated miles we had left on the tank.  After a major detour to get to a station, I can proudly say you can drive 10 extra miles after the display says you have zero left.
Besides the gas fiasco, we hiked around the ruins of a castle and drove the whisky trail.  We only stopped at The Glenlivet but it was worth it.  We saw hairy cows finally this day (much to the kids' delight) and eventually had dinner with my classmates at the home of one of our Scottish colleagues before checking into our apartment last night.  Our place is wonderful, but the only way into the building was by pincode that they texted to our cellphone…in the US.  We went through a fiasco for a night trying to find a way in.  Needless to say, we made it but only after major frustration and more hours than we wanted to find a phone.

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