I did a group tour of the Scottish highlands via a company cashed Rabbies and I’m really glad. our driver/guide is named Pete and he’s very informative and seems to stop at a ton of photo taking spots. Most importantly he seems to know quite a bit about Harry potter, namely the various filming locations we pass.
Day one is a 235 mile drive to reach Portree, the main tourist stay for those wanting to explore the isle of skye. fyi isle = island, glen = valley, loch = lake
Day two is exploring the isle of skye. Day three is the return trip to Edinburgh via a different route, and we’ll pass loch ness and the eileen dornan castle.
The group was capped at 16, and besides me and my mom, consists of two white ladies traveling alone, one pair of UMichigan med students, a family of six from Hong Kong, a Taiwanese couple that studies in the UK for their masters & phd, and… well that leaves two others I don’t remember right now.
I can’t say this phone is very good at taking pictures if it’s not exactly in the direction you want the sun to shine. Since most of the days this far north are overcast, I end up getting fairly dark photos on the Samsung, and decent pics on my point and shoot that I can’t upload yet. So here are some photos.
Lunch was at a surprisingly cheap but delicious American style bar. My mom got lasagna & salad, I got a pulled pork sandwich and fries and onion rings, and we both got cokes. Total cost.=£11.08!!!!!!!!!
I blew £2.60 on a hot chocolate. Basically I think I want to recreate the moment I ordered a hot chocolate in Iceland which was one of my favorite and most mind blowingly delicious travel food experiences I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, I’m constantly eating so I don’t think my stomach will ever be hungry though to appreciate it, plus maybe part of it had to do with how freezing cold Iceland was. I will continue to look though.
Our b&b is pretty awesome, and only £170 for two nights. We’re in portree which is a tiny tourist town, probably the way Forks, WA is (ie. The only town in miles of a popular tourist destination). My mom and I made reservations for a pizza place tomorrow, and since we had so much for lunch, decided to walk around and eat a giant loaf of bread we bought along the road today, which was actually perfect. We are also eyeing an ice cream place that we’ve scoped out today. My sugar intake seriously goes up when i travel with my mom.
Supposed to have been an early night but then I got distracted with kanye’s performance at Glastonbury, which was broadcasted on bbc. Oops. I keep falling asleep during the tour – maybe I’ll load up on caffeine tomorrow
Uh oh I don’t recall writing about yesterday and I’m already very tired! Let’s see, we did hotel breakfast yesterday and headed to the train station with all of Caroline’s group, except we were headed north to Edinburgh and they went south to York.
Train ride was very rowdy which had also been Laura’s experience. It just seems like lots of Scottish guys like to drink and do frat-like things on trains which was very annoying.
The ride was only two hours and then we went to our airbnb which turns out was very conveniently located. I liked it, even though it was on floor seven of an elevator less building. The host carried our luggage up and told us to knock on his door the next morning so he could carry it out which was both smart and probably necessary for him to get a good rating
I am, however, now a little miffed that I already booked another Airbnb for our return – now that I kind of have an idea of the area, I realize that the second Edinburgh Airbnb is in a slightly less attractive spot for my tastes, food wise, and it’s actually just across from a good looking hotel and I looked it up and it’s the same price as my Airbnb.
Honestly I need to stop doing Airbnb because honestly, I think I can typically find a similarly priced and well located place as the Airbnbs. I used to think it was cheaper and a better value even I first used it, but I get the impression that as prices have settled, they’ve ended up increasing and selections have not increased in desirability. No more airbnb for me! Though I’d still look it up, I’m going to move it below hotels in preference.
Anyway, my mom walked up and down Princes St which is a big shopping street. I was fairly overwhelmed as there were a lot more people than I expected – for some reason I thought it’d be very quiet and peaceful. It was definitely not and also feels like another tourist filled city. I know I’m a tourist too, but the ratio of tourist:local is just way too high.
We also walked up and down half of the royal mile and while we went away from Edinburgh castle, which is the main attraction, I recognized enough of the landmarks to know that we were headed to Holyrood Park which ended up being one of my favorite things this trip. I had read about it but from looking at the Google map, assumed it was too big to take on. Well, since we got to Edinburgh around 3:30 and the sun sets at 10:30, luckily we had plenty of time to squeeze in a hike.
The main thing in the park is Arthur’s Seat which looks amazing from afar and once you climb on, has amazing views. The climb up was inclined gravel then very inclined but very stable rock steps. I found another route on the way back that was flatter, and while it didn’t have the nice views you get from climbing up a mountainside, it was nice to get a change of scenery plus we walked a total of seven hours straight so you can imagine we were exhausted.
Pre-hike I find a combo Thai/Indian restaurant and thought this perfect as I was craving Indian but didn’t think my mom would be adventurous enough for it. meal was good though I do like the chicken tikka masala in the Bay Area more.
We rewarded ourselves with some really yummy ice cream and I intend to return to the place when we get back from the tour on Monday night/Tuesday. My mom and I were both supremely satisfied with our surprise hike.
And there was still light out when we returned at 11pm!
I thought today would be the relaxed day of our vacation but it was just as intense. Which is how the Jablonickys travel.
My mom and I woke up for another delicious continental breakfast. We thought the warm plates would be an extra cost so we just got cereals and toast. When the server asked what we wanted to order and we said we were fine, there was a “… strange” expression but very polite. Good thing I actually looked at the menu because I noticed there were no prices and it said, adding extra dishes beyond one per person would be an extra cost of £4.50. My mom and I confirmed that it was included (very Asian of us) and shared a really delicious smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. I was surprised my mom was fine with sharing as we did lose out on a free breakfast meal, but we were already sooo stuffed there’s no way my stomach could’ve fit more.
We left at ten in a caravan – I will estimate there was 25 people in our group: there was the men car, the old ladies car that my mom joined (she hit it off with many of the relatives but especially Caroline’s grandma) and my car with all the “younger” generation. I love Caroline’s family – everyone is incredibly welcoming and friendly and hilarious and close to one another. This was a great couple to do a destination wedding with because it’s a small group and they planned group activities so it is kind of like a five day wedding fiesta
My mom and I joined for three days: today being the fountains of abbey and a bbq at Stuart’s (the groom) family’s house, which is also a farm as they raise cattle and sheep. The fountains of abbey is ruins and gardens of an old abbey built by monks in 1100s which is … insane. The size of the place was astounding and the fact that the main parts are still standing is incredible. Unfortunately I’m not a sign reader so I can’t tell you much more about the place.
We walked the grounds for about three hours which was the perfect amount of time. There was a great gift shop and I ended up getting a £30 throw that looks like something that pottery barn would sell for $150. The problem is I’m not sure how to carry this across the next few train rides and two flights but… I’ll deal with that later.
Then we went to Stuart’s parents house which was gorgeous. Someone asked if it was what I expected and I said yes, which is true, but somehow that sounded insulting although what I meant was “I thought it’d be a huge green beautiful plot of land and that’s true!” BBQ was sausages, hamburgers and steaks – sadly I only had room for a burger. Then there was a rice dish with cranberries and many other things, cole slaw, cooked onions, potatoes, lettuce, eggs and two kinds of chicken! Everything was good but strangely the things I’ll miss the most were the cheese you add to the burgers and the onions because they were SOOO good and I know i can’t get that stuff in America because it’s purely a difference in produce/raw materials, not a recipe issue
What I loved to witness (but did not partake in) was at the very end, before we headed back, they had fifteen minutes to learn traditional polka (Caroline’s polish) and a Yorkshire dance and watching their family attempt it was beyond hilarious and endearing. It was a very Parenthood moment
Left London and took a train to Cambridge for a day trip before we head to York area which is where Caroline’s wedding is (the whole reason behind this Europe trip). A day and a half in London felt like a good amount though I could probably find more to do with an extra day. As my mom said, yesterday’s itinerary was a bit… intense.
I’m incredibly thirsty at this point because there’s no water fountains. What do people do when there aren’t water fountains?!
Cambridge was not what I expected and I am glad we opted for an earlier train out (mainly because the luggage storage place closes at six so we’d have to lug around our luggage anyway). Even more so than London, Cambridge was much more touristy than anywhere else. Maybe it’s because it’s smaller so everyone’s in the same place plus there’s not many different things to do. My plan was to get rental bikes at a place called station cycles right next to the train station. Then we’d drop our luggage there and ride around, eat somewhere along the river, relax, etc. Then ride to the Cambridge botanical garden before heading back to the train station.
Turns out much of Cambridge near the station is under renovation so that cycling store was moved to the city centre. We took a bus while carrying our luggage, and no one knew where the new station cycles outpost was (probably on account of no one being from Cambridge) so I guessed it had to be close to a bus stop (who would be dumb enough to open up an inaccessible bike shop) and wander about.
We did find the station cycles, but only after getting a little lost and asking five people for directions. In the end, it had only been two blocks away from where the bus dropped us off but at one point we walked on a street that split into a lower and upper half and we incorrectly took the upper street.
The good thing is, since we had been on the bus and passed through some of the city, I took enough of it in to know we definitely weren’t skilled enough to ride bikes here. It was hard enough to walk around, because it was super crowded and sidewalks were very narrow. In the end, we ended up for the better.
There was a small farmers market where we got a small juice and my mom decided to get two mini meat pies which she didn’t like at first. A few hours later after not eating but walking all around, she thought they were delicious.
Another incorrect assumption was that we could just walk around from college to college and along the river. Most of them were closed to public, supposedly because the students were in examination time, though I think it’s because their town has become overrun with tourists. Also, there’s a number of colleges that comprise Cambridge University, and they all sit on privately owned land so you can’t really walk from one to another unless they’re a) open and b) you pay a fee for each one that charges.
We ended up doing a punting tour, which was fun and anyway, if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have seen much. They put a maximum of twelve people to the boats and it sounded like they run one every five-ten minutes. The official company was represented by a large number of mainly young white people. I asked if one was a student and she said none of them are students as the company requires eight hour shifts and the university doesn’t allow students to work past 7.5. Anyway, I’m sure these companies are making a killing and our guide said there are many running illegally but they just get fined and make so much it’s no dent to them.
Part of why I didn’t love Cambridge was that on their main drag, on top of there being tons of tourists, there’s a ton of the punting tour operators calling out to you insistently. One Asian lady started to suck my mom in, and I told my mom I didn’t want a Cambridge tour offered by Asians.
Besides that, we briefly walked through their shopping area which felt very modernized. My favorite things today were: the Chelsea buns ice cream cone (like a cinnamon roll w raisins and no glaze) and a place called wasabi that looked like a chain, and it served ready to go bento boxes of sashimi and sushi and various other asiany goodness. Another indicator that this town has embraced the asian hordes coming here in tour buses. I ended up getting a box of nigiri/rolls – five salmon, one hamachi, one ebi, one tuna, three california and three something other rolls … for £7.50. Isn’t that insane?! It was really good quality too, as there was a huge line that snaked through and they just kept reloading the shelves. Maybe I was much hungrier than I thought, but I honestly thought that bento tasted fresher than some sushi I’ve paid $25 for in SF
Can’t wait to get to the next hotel and find some water
At the hotel now. It’s a huge Georgian mansion near York, so the England countryside, and I’m looking forward to walking the grounds tomorrow.
I opted to publish two posts instead of risking some issue where everything I worked so hard swyping got erased.
This morning we did our hotel’s continental breakfast which blew away any US continental breakfast I’ve had. I’m actually excited to eat there tomorrow. Butter here is soooo good. Right now, if I could take anything home with me it’d be a block of butter.
Then we started our day. Though we took the underground seven times today, there was a LOT of walking.
First off, Buckingham palace for the 11:30 change of guards which was a disappointment as it rained so they cancelled it. My mom: they must be afraid of slipping on the floor.
Walked past Green Park then St James Park which was nice. We walked everywhere after that, back to Westminster abbey, also the horses guards parade and back to trafalgar square. Finally set off for borough market around three. It said it closed at five but when we got there, I’d say a third of the vendors had closed. Boo! Though I’m glad we did everything beforehand.
Food was so good that even if there were more vendors we wouldn’t have had room and probably would have just wandered around getting hungrier and hungrier from lack of decision
Then we crossed the London bridge, right at rush hour as there were intense crowds of people walking at speeds I don’t think they even reach in New York. My mom was like, is it Monday? Oh they must’ve just gotten off work! I’ve been wondering where everyone’s rushing to – I thought there was some sort of fire drill!
for some reason I thought London bridge was better than tower bridge and almost talked my mom out of going but it’s the complete opposite – London bridge is the boring one and tower bridge is pretty cool! Somehow tower bridge was my mom’s favorite (I think because she considers it a close call that we almost didn’t go) whereas my favorite was sky garden, which I caught in a random mention in lonely planet.
Sky garden is a free public space though you need to reserve your time to go up. It turns out after seven pm you don’t need the reservation though, and we ended up going today so we don’t have to come back tomorrow, which was the only time I could get tickets. People there seemed to be all young business people, more well dressed than I’ve seen a group of people in a LONG time. Again skies were thankfully clear, despite drizzles thoughout the day. There’s a beautiful bar section and three restaurants and the bathroom is basically a long row of individual stalls each with their own sink and hand dryer, floor to ceiling walls and there’s no gender separation. I don’t understand how they keep people from having sex in these ultra private stalls or maybe they don’t care.
Then headed to Regents Park even though our feet hurt. We wouldn’t have time to go anywhere tomorrow as we’re headed to Cambridge, and I wanted to squeeze in as much as possible considering the days are long with sun setting around 1030. Major win, especially with the queen mary gardens which are one of those things too beautiful to capture (at least for me, maybe there’s some beautiful pics on instagram). Finally headed to Chinatown for dinner around 1000. Sometimes some nice beef noodles and Chinese comfort food is exactly what you need after a long day
Oh eff it’s 130. Wake up call at 830 to ensure we eat continental breakfast.
Exhausted but I figured I should do this before I forget. writing on my smartphone which is excruciating because the Swype works so much slower after a while.
Anyway, started the weekend with state bird provisions which I felt was momentous enough to throw into a post about my Europe trip. I had set my alarm two months ago to make sure I got reservations and that was easy enough to do. All I knew about the place was that it was considered one of the top restaurants in SF.
It was pretty good but probably would’ve been better if I had been warned in advance that it was basically a white person’s revision of dim sum, if that vision came with hipster white servers and more wood interior facades. What I tried to explain to Robyn was that the attitude of annoyed/can’t be bothered “you can take it or leave it” works for the asian servers because asian customers are just as rude or ruder to the server to begin with. But when a WHITE person does it to me, my reaction is a major “excuuussseee meeeee?!” We had one guy come around several times that was essentially an asshole server the entire night, in that he came over each time announcing his dish with slight disdain in his voice and annoyance if we took a second to debate taking it and would whisk away in a “fuck you” attitude if we said yes. Unfortunately he had zero unique features about him so I can’t even single him out for complaint as literally every single (but one) male server was white with a beard.
Several dishes were really good though. I guess that’s the most positive compliment I can construct: offensive to me but I must begrudgingly admit it had some highlights!
After that, left for the airport at six am and was annoyed to find myself two hours early for boarding. Met my mom in CDG (Paris) airport – the customs/immigration area was … Like walking through an unguarded door. Now I see why America sucks to travel to – other places just stamp your passport with barely a care while America’s like, DID YOU BRING FRUITS? SOIL? EXCESSIVE CASH? WHERE ARE YOU STAYING? WITH WHO? please step to the side so we can search you.
Then jumped into a train to Paris’ Gare du Nord station so we could catch a train to London, which had more security inspection than I expected. I was also surprised that this Paris-London train felt just as clean as a bart.
We arrived in London around two, took the underground to our hotel and finally left around four, after my mom rearranged all her belongings. I love London’s public transit – somehow there’s a train every three minutes. The only time any public transit I’ve taken in America ran that closely together is when one or both trains are an hour or more late.
So by now it was Sunday: we walked from our hotel at Pimlico station to parliament/big ben/Westminster abbey. Lots of things we didn’t know the meaning behind. My understanding is william and kate were married in Westminster Abbey and I only recognized the parliament building from v for vendetta
Then continued onto London Eye, and despite relatively clear skies, the lines weren’t long at all. This definitely seems like the kind of thing I wouldn’t spend money on if I lived in London, but as a tourist, £20 seems small compared to the $1400 plane ticket
Then walked across to trafalgar square (tons of walking today) and eventually wandered into a pub and ordered fish and chips and a meat pie. I think there’s better out there, but the atmosphere was nice and my mom had to eat fish and chips eventually!
Randomly stumbled upon London’s Chinatown which is the cleanest Chinatown I’d ever been in. All of London is surprisingly clean for a city, and I’d like to know the secrets to London’s transit efficiency and cleanliness and lack of homeless tent cities.
Then we just walked around one of the circuses – I’m not sure which is Piccadilly circus and which is Oxford circus. My dream would be to turn around and see kara delavigne milling about the streets of London but I’m not even sure if she still lives here. Who else lives in London? Emma Thompson? Emma Watson?
Today I went climbing for the first time in nine months. I quit my Planet Granite membership about two years ago because it seemed ridiculous paying $85 a month for a gym when I had access to free gyms at one of the richest universities in the world. In addition to that, my rock climbing intensity had cratered after I sprained my ankle. I’d go to the gym and do a number of easier climbs that I knew I could do just by looking at them. But if I tried one and midway realized it required a little bravery and I wasn’t absolutely sure I’d have a firm handhold on the next hold, I’d go “nah” and jump down with a pissy look on my face.
This kept happening, and what used to be a workout that left me feeling accomplished, fit and slightly sore became an increasing disappointment. I’d leave the gym feeling worse than when I started because I’d keep thinking back to when I would have just gone for it or would persistently work at a problem. There’s one particular section in the gym that I always think about when I’m getting nostalgic about climbing – it was the place where I accomplished my very first V2 and I had spent several days attempting it. The last two holds felt impossible to get but I kept at it, and then finally, I lept for it and made it. A few minutes after silently reveling in my glory (while pretending to stretch out my hamstrings) I attempted it again to make sure it wasn’t a random fluke. I made it easily like it was a V0.
After today’s session I feel … not as disappointed as I used to because I probably did quite a decent number of climbs despite having done next to zero physical activity in the past year. Yet I feel embarassed to be in the gym because I felt like such an amateur. I wanted to tell all the V4+ climbers watching me struggle with a V0, “I USED TO BE BETTER AT THIS.” I assume almost everyone who has ever attempted to rock climb feels self conscious in the beginning, and whoever brought them there will tell them “don’t worry no one’s even looking at you.” I’ve probably told people this even though it’s an outright lie. Maybe I’m the only one who does this, but if I’m not climbing, I’m just watching people. I watch the people who climb routes I’d never even hope to accomplish. I watch the beginners so I can categorize them as people who are here to fuck around and take pictures of themselves vs people who might actually become decent at it. I watch others around my level to see their strategies and techniques.
Well I bought a 10 day pass so I’m bound to go back. My general takeaway today though, is: well that was nice for that period of my life but maybe I should look into a cheaper form of exercise.
I’m at PHILZZZZZZ. It’s a Saturday and Robyn is in the East Coast for ten days which leaves me with two weekends to myself. Free at last, free at last. There are a ton of things I’ve always wanted to do but feel like I never have time to do. Among them:
– go shopping for more furniture/knick knacks for the house
– do something about my front yard which assumes I’ll just magically have a green thumb after obtaining a bag of soil and some unfortunate plant
– do some continued education which is a requirement for me to renew my cpa license
– do some self learning so I can remain marketable should I ever leave my current job
– research for my upcoming vacations
– e-mail friends, try harder to maintain my social networks
– alternatively, attempt to make new friends … I’m not quite sure how but I imagine it involves taking off my sweats and leaving the house
– kick start my new exercise regimen
Today I opted for option null, which was: climb at PG (plus), walk around Lowe’s for an hour before becoming too intimidated with all the plant selections and leaving emptyhanded (minus), eating Dish N Dash (plus) and now, sitting at Philz (neutral). Neutral because I am both cold from the wind yet my leg is hot from the sun. My iced coffee is almost empty, but zero e-mails have been written to friends and instead I’ve written a bunch of random paragraphs for my defunct blog.
The nice thing at my job is we get money if we have an annual health screening. I scheduled mine last Friday, and it consisted of a finger prick blood test which measures health things and then afterwards you talk to an advisor about your results then set a goal. In two months they’ll call me and check in. I think it’s a really awesome idea and this is my second year doing it. I don’t think anyone is interested in my health stats, but generally, I am (surprise) healthy. HOWEVER I was distressed that my HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) was a measure of 47, and the optimal range is supposedly 50+
This is essentially how my consultation went:
Advisor: So your HDL is 47 and you want this to be as high as possible. This isn’t a terrible score, but there are ways to increase it, namely exercising—
Me (in my head): OMG CLEARLY what she means to say is that I’m a lazy sack of shit that doesn’t exercise! This is the evidence that my body is deterioriating from lack of physical activity and NOW I HAVE PROOF that not exercising has severely affected my body in these past two years and now I’m an UNHEALTHY AMERICAN!!! Next stop, heart disease!!!!!!!! Final stop, PREMATURE DEATH.
Life before a relationship was very nice in that I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and my sole focus was myself. Life now that I’m in a relationship is very nice – I still do, generally, whatever I want whenever I want, only now, it seems like I derive my happiness from spending quality time together vs. improving myself. I haven’t figured out yet how to strike a balance so I can get the best of both situations: the only solution I can think of is somehow adding two hours to a 24 hour day but I don’t know how to do that.
Things I liked about my pre-relationship life:
– I exercised a lot (because I had nothing else to do). I feel like I can see some significant impacts that exercise had on my life that I took for granted. I naturally woke up early on the weekends and would go to the gym. I had a lot of energy and could stay up pretty late at night. I would occasionally just be living life and think to myself “I actually feel pretty strong and fit.” I would just randomly pick a hike for the weekend, dump some songs onto my ipod and have some solo hiking time for a day and it felt really awesome. Now I feel weak and I wake up late (9/10am) and fall asleep at night at embarassingly early hours. I get winded running a block or two. I have weirdly lost weight in the past year, as I learned at my health screening, BUT I JUST KNOW my body is decaying as we speak.
– I ate healthy. I miss making my green shakes and my chia puddings. I think my dinners are actually much healthier now than before, but my breakfasts were much healthier then than now. I wouldn’t say this was a direct consequence of being in a relationship – since I take public transportation to work I just don’t feel like I have the time to make a good breakfast in the morning. BUT I think if I were single, I wouldn’t mind waking up a little earlier to do so, whereas now, I’m like “but I want to cuddle in bed”
– I watched a LOT of TV which was cathartic and I think stimulates imagination, and made me feel connected to pop culture. I could at least pretend to be a subject expert in SOMETHING even if it was something stupid like the latest developments on the vampire diaries. Now I’m an expert in nothing. I don’t even know all of the Kardashians!
Things I like about my now life:
– I always have someone I can do things with and I am also that person’s person. I feel very fulfilled socially, because we do a lot of things together, though I do sometimes think I should make sure to keep in contact with other people. I like that I have someone to text right when I wake up and before I go to sleep and whenever I’m bored at work.
– I don’t watch very much tv anymore. While I know tv gave me a ton of happiness in the past, somehow it just feels nice to know that I have other things going on in my life that doesn’t revolve around tv.
– No more brunch. I used to love brunch with friends. Weekend mornings with friends, eating food, living the yuppie life! Now I HATE brunch and really don’t like it when friends want to do brunch. Now I get to wake up at any time, and Robyn will make me eggs, toast, waffles, breakfast meats. It takes about ten minutes, costs about $2 for us both AND we don’t even have to change clothes. I get to experience this without ever leaving the house, never having to drive and look for parking, never having to stand in some god awful line as my weekend wastes away. While I love going out to eat lunch/dinner with friends, something about brunch just always makes me think “I waited an hour and spent $20 for EGGS AND POTATOES AND TOAST?!”
– I get random gifts occasionally which is very delightful
IT IS REALLY HOT AND I would like to write an e-mail to some friends so I will end this blog now.