Well, reader, it seems another week has been written, and we must turn the page. Before we do that, though, why not take a look back on all the excitement and fun that is now locked in my mind and heart as one of the best weeks of my life.
Going on holiday has to be a favorite activity of mine, no doubt. But this? This week was not only wanted but needed. I could not be more pleased to share this part of my time abroad with you. So let’s get started.
Monday, aka the day Julia studies
Well. Every story starts somewhere. Mine happens to start with a large amount of time at a desk, staring at my laptop, debating what shows to watch. I landed in RWBY, an anime created by Rooster Teeth, the company for which I want to work most. So, if you think about it long enough, it was research for job hunting.
Tuesday, aka the day Julia refuses to get up.
Hey! We are all allowed to have our day in bed where we simply let the sun rise and set without leaving our flats. You would do it too, given the opportunity.
Wednesday, aka the day Julia dumps tea in a harbour.
There is nothing quite like waking up at seven o’clock in the morning to finish packing and head to an early morning class filled with presentations. It was the last day of my first class in Sweden, Intercultural Communication. We received our grades for our final examination, and I surprisingly received a B. Honestly, I was shocked. I suppose that is just who I am.
After class, I went back to my flat and watched some more television before meeting up with Jenna, Jocelyn, and Hillary in front of the market. From there we walked to the train station and made our way to the airport. Joc and Hillary were heading out at a later time than Jenna and I, but seeing as how Jenna was their host, they left with us.
We caught our flight from Copenhagen to London Luton Airport. I can safely say that LTN is the worst airport in existence. I knew border control would take some time, so I was not too stressed by the wait. What bothered me the most was that upon arrival, we were forced to exit the airport and go back through security to get to our departure location. While it moved quickly, my one hour layover felt very rushed. Jenna and I both were unhappy. We grabbed some food and hurried to our gate.
From Luton, we flew to our final destination for the next five evenings, Inverness, Scotland. It was quite dark when we arrived but the tiny “Welcome to Inverness” sign brought me so much joy. It made the crappy trip worth every second. Luckily we caught a cab to our hostel. The driver was incredibly kind and gave us his “must-do” list while we are in the city. He even oriented us to city center and the bus station, which were nicely nestled behind our hostel.
When we checked in, I was convinced we had to visit a pub. I was determined to get the Scottish experience started. I then realized my own exhaustion, and within the hour, I was passed out in my creaky bunk bed in the cramped four person room. I didn’t care, I was sleepy.
I can happily tell you, dear reader, that night was the first night in weeks that I slept through the entire evening; no waking up and awake for an hour, no movement, just a deep and wonderful sleep.
Thursday, aka the day Julia falls in love with The Highlands
Jenna put me in charge of the itinerary for this holiday, so I tried my best to deliver.
We took our time getting ready in the morning and began the day with a casual stroll around town looking at what surrounded us. First stop, lunch. We ended up going to Scotch & Rye, a pub style restaurant with a cool cocktail bar. I had the blessing of having fried haggis… in case you are wondering, it was delicious, and I highly recommend it; pair it with the honey mustard, and you have the perfect day time snack. I also tried some cute new cocktail: The Cotton Candy Cosmo. It was sugary goodness in a glass. I ended my meal with a pint of cider. With an allergy to gluten but being in Scotland, I had to choose it. It was wonderful!
After our delicious meal, we made our way to the visitor center to get information on any tours we could take and browse the knick knacks and Jenna fell in love with the world’s softest poncho. We then walked up the hill to Inverness Castle and took in the view of the city. We then strolled down the hill to look at some of the churches in the town. While Inverness may have over twenty bars, it is almost surpassed by the number of churches. All of them containing flecks of history that I wish I could have properly captured. From there, we went to the art museum and learned the history of the Jacobites.
Rest time is the best time. After all of our walking, sitting in the hostel lounge was lovingly accepted. We took the time to plan our next day out, including how to get around. Finally, the time came. Jenna and I did our first escape room. We almost escaped. We were typing in the final code to leave the room when our time was up. It may have been over, but our obsession with escape rooms was born. We were addicted. To celebrate our new hobby, we went to The White House, an upscale but affordable restaurant with the coziest ambiance. I tasted a Strawberry and Kiwi Martini for the first time and followed it with a daquiri. My dinner was fresh caught fish on mash with a lemon caper sauce and a seafood bisque. It was overall very tasty, though the lemon sauce was very sour. I was a happy Julia. I realized how much I loved this little corner of the world.
Friday, aka the day Julia hunts for Nessie
We woke up a little earlier this time. Though it was to do some more walking and attempt to decide where we were to eat lunch for the day. I truly only planned as far as the first day and then just went with ideas for what we would do the following days, so lunch was up for the choosing. After some walking, we wound up at Ash. It felt like a hotel restaurant that was trying to be cool, but the service was spectacular, so I did not complain about the looks. I started the meal with Haggies, Neeps, and Tatties, and now request that it is to be served at my future wedding. It was exquisite. Lunch was a salmon salad the size of Texas. I have no idea how I finished it, but I did not come from a family of quitters, so down the hatch!
After lunch, we headed to the bus station to get on our tour bus to Loch Ness. The bus ride was scenic and extremely informational. We learned the history of the city and the Jacobite rising. Then… then it was boat time. We took a half hour boat trip across Loch Ness. Some of us looking for Nessie herself, others enjoying the cool, sunny fall day on one of the most beautiful areas of the world. I was doing both.
On the boat is where we discovered Highland Hot Chocolate. A nice cup of cocoa with a shot of whisky for good luck. It warmed every inch of me, all the way in to the soul. It was delicious and very VERY Scottish.
The boat landed at Urquhart Castle, and we had one hour to tour around and take in the beauty of the decimated castle grounds and the beauty of the Loch from the land. Take a look for yourself, because there are no words to truly describe it:
On the bus ride back, we learned more about the history of the area and even saw some Highland Cows… You know them. The funny looking cows that have bangs? That would be them. They are even cuter in person, though I only saw them from a moving bus. Upon returning to Inverness, we took time to plan out the next day’s adventure.
We did not plan out dinner very well, and ended up walking from restaurant to restaurant on a Friday night looking for an open table. Eventually we found one in a little Italian restaurant on the water: Riva. Seafood Risotto has to be the best thing after a long day on a loch. It was warm, with its hints of fish, and a creamy feel. It put a smile on my face.
To tie up the night, we went to a pub and discovered some fun drinks and got the chance to talk to some Scots and Englishmen. As per usual, they asked about the election. I refuse to have that conversation anymore…
Saturday, aka the day Julia sees a ghost
I do not believe in ghosts, let it be known. I do not really believe in spirits at all, but I will tell you that Culloden Battlefield had something about it. I felt the history and the death and the cause. I felt how powerful one piece of land could be.
Culloden Battlefield is where the last battle of the Jacobite cause took place. Almost all the fighters died there on the clan side, few English died. The last Jacobites were executed in a graveyard in Inverness. As we passed the commemorative stones for the clans that gave their lives for Bonnie Prince Charlie, I had to take many moments of silence.
There is nothing Scottish about me, but I left a flower on each grave stone, which marked mass graves for members and fighters of various clans. I took a breath. I took in the surroundings and the piercing silence. It was when I walked around the Culloden memorial pillar when it happened. I touched a stone and could swear someone was standing next to me, keeping my hand against the stone a little longer.
So much history is buried in that field.
We took lunch at Culloden Moor Inn as we were walking to Clava Cairn. I had some lamb and mash. It was okay, but the warmth was welcomed. We took pictures at Clava Cairn, some of the oldest standing stones in Scotland. The stones are often mass graves, sometimes they are religious. Regardless, we let Outlander take over us and attempted to travel through time with the stones.
After we got home to the hostel, I took a nice shower and took some time to rest. We then took on our second escape room. We learned from our first one and managed to escape! 62 minutes for two people is not too shabby, and I am very proud.
We ended the day with a tasty dinner and a highland hot chocolate or two at Johnny Foxes.
Sunday, aka the day Julia relives the best meals
Jenna and I woke up early specifically for this day. The bus driver for Loch Ness suggested this walk along the River Ness that had bridges that connected isles in the middle of it. Luckily for us, it was foggy and cool, making for some stunning pictures and a relaxing walk. It was haunting.
We then went to our favorite souvenier shops and made our Christmas gift purchases. Jenna did end up buying that really cute poncho, perfect for the cold and dark weather in Sweden. We had brunch at our favorite, Scotch & Rye. Bellinis and martinins accompanied our delicious meals. I had American French Toast, brioche with bacon and baked beans. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it! After taking three hours for brunch, we headed back to the hostel for some alone time. Jenna and I practically spent every minute of the day together, so alone time was welcomed. I slept for three hours. I mean it. I was out like a light.
Dinner was at The White House. I got to have my seafood chowder and had a delicious and giant mushroom and spinach risotto. I highly recommend it. Truly. Fly to Inverness just for it. It is totally worth it.
The night ended with words from our waiter that really tied up this week nicely…
“I know you won’t be back to Inverness for a wee bit, but when you do, you are welcome.”
Thank you, Scotland, for such a magical adventure. I know I will be back. The Highlands are calling for me.