Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Edinburgh is gorgeous.  There are so many gorgeous buildings, all of them seeming to be hundreds of years old.  With many having hosted famous historical people.  As I have come to expect from big cities in the UK, Edinburgh has a castle!  It is huge.  It is at the top of the tallest hill and dominates the skyline.  It looks like someone chopped the top of the mountain off and placed the castle on top.  All around the outside walls are steep cliffs, making it a very defensible castle. 
Although the castle may have been the most striking building on the skyline, it was not the only unique one.  There is a GIGANTIC monument to Sir Walter Scott (a fabulous Scottish Author perhaps best known for Ivanhoe and the Waverly novels), and hundreds of churches all bearing impressive steeples.
However beautiful Edinburgh was, nothing could have prepared me for driving through Scotland by coach.  It was stunning, awe inspiring, and truly amazing.
I had never really considered what the landscape of Scotland looked like before this weekend.  I knew it was pretty, and that in the spring the hills are covered with heather and lambs.  But that was the extent of my knowledge.
In the fall, the hills are covered with brown heather, but it is until gorgeous.  The texture of the land is incredible.  Every section of land is unique.  The trees have their fall colors on and the cloudy skies would part occasionally letting streams of sunlight highlight the rich reds, yellows, and oranges of the fall leaves.  The evergreen trees were enormous, row after row of them can be seen as you drive up to the highlands, and they are truly Christmas Trees for giants!
Once we got to the highlands, the texture changed.  Although Scotland could not be called flat by any means, the highlands are incredibly high (I know that seems obvious, but the change from the lowlands to the highlands was VERY obvious), going down the roads on the coach was like riding a roller coaster, complete with moments of the “floating stomach feeling” that makes roller coasters so much fun.
The color of the highlands was also different, because there is such much water, everything was green and vibrant.  Everything was beautiful, but the best part of the day was Loch Ness.
My only understanding of Loch Ness was Nessie.  I had no idea it was so big, deep (more than 900 feet!!!!!!), and beautiful.  We were there on a rare sunny day, with only a few bouts of sprinkling rain.  It was perfect.  The breeze coming off the loch was chilly, but the sun on my face kept me warm.
We even saw rainbows while we were there!  One was a double rainbow.  And while we were cruising Loch Ness, we saw a complete rainbow.  You could follow it from the water on one side, up all the way across the sky and to the lake again on the other side of the boat.  It was so vibrant, at one point I could even see the rippling reflection in the water. 
It was a fantastic trip, and as such, I would love to give a huge shout out to the International Friends touring company.  If anyone is traveling in the UK or Europe, I would highly recommend going on a tour with International Friends.  Our guide was amazing, everything was well organized, and the accommodations were perfect.
I have loved my time in the UK.  Every time I go somewhere I ask myself if I have found my new favorite place, but I think I have decided I don’t like one place more than another.  I love that they are all unique and as such have my favorite things in each of them.  Paris is gorgeous but in a refined way, Scotland (at least the Highlands) are untamed and breath taking, Wales is beautiful and filled with the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and London is a bustling city where everyone and anyone can belong.
              This trip has been so interesting because I am learning almost as much about myself as I am the world.  When you are in an all-new place, you have the opportunity to change who you are, as no one know what you were like before.  But I am realizing that I like being me.  The book nerd, coffee addict, talks to everyone parts of my personality are who I am.  I don’t have to apologize for my opinions or beliefs, I still have to be respectful, but a disagreement is not the end of the world, it is the start of a wonderful conversation.
              On my trip to Edinburgh, I met so many wonderful people and have made lifelong friends.  Even though I occasionally (read ALL the time) had trouble understanding the thick Scottish Accents, I know I was blessed by this trip and, just maybe, my overly friendly Oklahoma smile blessed someone else too.
              I miss you all dearly and can’t wait to see you again, but for now I am going to enjoy this adventure with every fiber of my being, because it truly is a once in a lifetime experience.  J    

Looking down on Edinburgh 

Edinburgh Castle!

The best Gelato in the WORLD!!!

One of many Bag-Pipers!

Edinburgh by night.

Waterfalls cascading off the mountains in the low lands.

Hamish cows (as the Scottish say "coos" or as I say, "fuzzy cows")

Slowly climbing to the Highlands.

I love the varying colors!!!!

Loch Ness!


It was so vibrant it was reflecting in the water!

Double Rainbow!

Back in Edinburgh

Sir Walter Scott Monument

Edinburgh National Gallery, I only had 45 mins there, but it was beautiful!

The oldest Pub in Edinburgh. est. 1516.  Also where I had a yummy lunch.  :)

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