How to Spend a Perfect Week in Cornwall

Highlights of our time in Cornwall:

  • Taking in the sweeping panoramic vistas, and pretending to be characters from Poldark gazing wistfully and passionately at the sea (Brad was such a sport)
  • Hiking the coastal paths and countryside lanes
  • Cream teas! Freshly made warm scones served with jam and Cornish clotted cream
  • Exploring the beaches, coves and tiny thatched roof villages of the Lizard Coast
  • Strolling the enchanting St. Ives town and and visiting 13th century pubs
  • Eating fish & chips with gravy and pies while dangling our feet over the harbor
  • Delicious breakfast at our B&B, drinking tea and eating shortbread while listening to the waves crash outside our room
Porthgwarra Meadow
Dreamy Porthgwarra cove (Also known as the place where Demelza spies Poldark skinny dipping :D)
As I mentioned in a previous post, Cornwall is my heart song. As a huge fan of Masterpiece Theatre’s Poldark, the Cornish Coast has been a destination I have been dreaming about for years, the haunting landscapes and English countryside calling to me to explore. This summer we were lucky enough to visit for an entire week, as part of our  6 week travels and I cannot stop day dreaming about this glorious place. If you have not been, and are a fan of the UK, put this on yo’ bucket list. It is one of my all time favorite places in the world.
St Ives Harbour
St. Ives harbor
Wild, rugged, windswept, and heart achingly beautiful, the Cornish coast located on England’s south western tip is a magical place.
Coastal Hike To Zennor
The coastal path to the village of Zennor – glorious views about 10 minutes into the walk!

The Itinerary

As a huge Poldark fan, there were several must sees for me:

Kynance Cove: where they shot Poldark’s beloved ancestral home Nampara

The Lizard Coast and Land’s End: breathtaking panoramic views where the lands meets the sea. Boasts Polpeor a fantastic clifftop cafe

Porthgwarra: a dreamy, golden, cove used in the show

Porthcurno: a gorgeous beach with sparkling azure waters in Penzance that doubled for Nampara

Cadgwith: a tiny fishing village along the Lizard Coast

Gazing out to sea Poldark Styles
Porthgwarra Cove – gazing out to sea, Demelza styles
Nampara, Lands End Cornwall
Of course we had to brave the weather to hike to Nampara! Kynance Cove – AKA Poldark’s Nampara. Felt like we were at the end of the world.
Porthgwarra Poldark Territory
Porthgwarra Cove – Straight up Poldark country. This is the cove where Demelza spies Ross going for a swim, and also the pilchard scene where all the townspeople rush into the sea!
The hikes in Cornwall are outstanding and varied – filled with sweeping cliff top vistas, crashing waves, rolling mist, turquoise waters, flower filled meadows and winding country paths.
Cornish Country Lane at Land's Inn
Cornish country lane at Land’s End
Nampara, Cornwall
Yes, the Lizard Coast was every bit as windswept and rugged as it looks. Scrambling onto this rock at Kynance Cove was totally worth it, not least because it 100% me feel like Demelza
Porthcurno.jpg
Porthcurno Beach – Look at the color of that water!
Cadgwith: We hiked a windy little path to get to this tiny fishing village with its thatched roof cottages and cascading wildflowers. Cadgwith felt like every British novel I have ever loved come to life. We stopped at the local pub, The Cadgwith Cove Inn, and sat by the fireplace for a hearty lunch.
Porthgwidden Cornwall.jpg
Am…am I in a Dicken’s novel?!
Fishing Village Cornwall.jpg
Idyllic Cadgwith. I mean….look at this place! My Jane Austin, Elizabeth Gaskell, Agatha Christie and Dickens loving soul is in heaven.
The holiday seaside town of St. Ives, filled with pirate lore and full to bursting with English charm was the perfect home base. I would visit every year if I could. We took a train from London to St. Ives, and the view was outstanding. The trip lasted about 5 hours. We then rented a car for two days so we could explore a few must see sights in Cornwall.
Well, Hello St. Ives!
Hello St. Ives – I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you!
Brad and I had a fabulous time eating seafood take away on the harbor, playing in the kitschy arcade (I am weirdly good at guitar hero, Brad is excellent at skeeball), watching the gulls, nibbling scones and tea and sipping Prosecco at beach cafes while watching the sun emerge from behind the clouds to light the Atlantic glittering turquoise.

Where to Eat

Olives for Cream Tea: An absolute MUST when visiting Cornwall, Olive’s Cream tea is comprised of freshly baked blueberry scones served with jam and Cornish clotted cream. Also served with a steaming pot of Early Grey tea.  Note: You are encouraged to pile your jam and cream as high as possible. I feel like I really nailed this tradition. 
Cream Teas, St Ives 1.jpg
Cream tea – freshly baked blueberry scones served with jam and Cornish clotted cream at Olive’s Cafe. A must have while in Cornwall! I dream about these daily.
Sloop Inn: Built in the 1300s, this is a straight up pirate bar and I absolutely adored it. I just KNOW pirates smuggled items here.

 

Where to eat: There is  no end to fabulous places to eat in St. Ives. Our favorites were The Balancing Eel for takeaway fish and chips, gravy and pies. We visited this place at least twice and had a wonderful time dangling our feet over the harbor, eating fish & chips and listening to the gulls hoot and shuffle shiftily around us. 

 

We also really enjoyed The Rum Shack, Porthminster Beach Cafe for drinks and churros,  and Hub for excellent fried chicken sandwiches perfect for splitting.

Coastal Hike to Zennor 2
Hiking the coastal path to Zennor – Glorious views about 10 minutes into the walk!
Cornwall Coastal Hike.jpg
The coastal path to the ancient town of Zennor. *Note: we made it about 1/3 of the way there, before turning back for a cream tea break.* But, if you hike the full route you end up at The Tinner’s Arms. We just drove there.
We stayed at Tregony Guesthouse, and this B&B was a dream come true. Before visiting Cornwall I knew exactly the type of place I wanted to stay at – scrumptious breakfasts and huge picture windows with sweeping views of the ocean.  An adorable British couple ran the B&B, and made the most delicious made to order breakfasts.

 

I plan to return to Cornwall again and again. Something about this part of the world speaks to me, calls to me from across the oceans to come visit, come explore.

 

Porthgwarra Phone Booth
Yeah, we found the phone booth at Porthgwarra. Shenanigans Cornish coast styles

 

Cornwall St Ives Town.jpg
St. Ives harbor panorama

Next blog post – 1 week in Australia!

 

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How to Spend a Perfect Four Days Relaxing in Seminyak

When I think of Seminyak. Bali I think about mind-blowing sunsets, days spent lazing and sipping delicious cocktails at beach day clubs and exploring the neighboring village – dreamy Canggu by scooter, enjoying fresh fruit smoothies under swaying palm trees.

Highlights of our Time in Seminyak

  • To die for sunsets at Potato Head Beach Club
  • Lounging away the day at Beach Day Clubs
  • Exploring dreamy, hippy-town, tranquil, Canggu
  • Fresh fruit juices and smoothies (mango and pineapple smoothies looking at you!)
  • Bargain Shopping for Balinese treasures
Mr. Potato Head Sunset
Sunset – Potato Head Beach Club

Here are my favorite beach clubs:

Mano Beach Club

Located right across from the the Petitenget Temple on the beach front, Mano is laid back with a chic pool, bean bag chairs and delicious lunch food and smoothies. We went back at least twice. Lounging on the beach bag chairs, munching on toast piled high with avo, heirloom tomatoes and feta and sipping our smoothies was a perfect way to while away an afternoon.

Mango Smoothies Mano Beach House 2
Mango smoothies at Mano Beach House
Semniyak Bali Avo Toast! (1)
Avo toast at Mano Beach House!

Potato Head Beach Club

Perfect Sunset Potato Head Bali
Cheers to one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen

For sunsets, you cannot beat the swanky Potato Head Beach Club to watch the sun dip into the Indian ocean in style. We arrived just before sunset after a day spent in Canggu, grabbed strawberry daiquiris, and swam leisurely in the bright green pool while watching the sky explode into shades of fire red, orange, magenta and finally deep purple. Potato truly comes alive at night. The atmosphere as the sun set and the sky lit up was electric. The pool was filled with revelers so thrilled to be witnessing such a spectacular scene, it was one of those moments you experience while traveling that you wish you could hold close forever, and share with everyone you know.

Mr. Potato Head Sunset 2
Brad loves sunsets….also cocktails.

Sunset Bali Beach Club

Magical Sunset Bali

Semniyak Bali Sunset First Evening.jpg
First evening in Seminyak. Sunset is not as spectacular as at Potato Head, but still not too shabby!

*You pay $20 dollars to enter Potato Head, which can be used towards drink credits, which you will want because the tropical cocktails are fresh and fabulous. They have a tasty menu and day beds, but I preferred the smaller more relaxed beach clubs during the day.

Mrs. Sippy:

We had a fabulous, very relaxing time lounging the day away at Mrs. Sippy. Mrs. Sippy is a beach club with salt water lagoon pool, onsite restaurant, swim up bar, day beds and tropical vibe They charge 200K for a day bed, (about 20 bucks) which includes credits that can be put toward food and drink.

 

 

 

Dreamy Canggu:

Canggu Beach Bar 1
DONE 😀 View from Beach Bums, overlooking Batu Bolong Beach

Canggu is a half hour scooter ride from Seminyak, and the most beautiful village.  Canggu is a dreamy, tranquil beach town surrounded by rice paddies and filled with tiny Warungs, low key beach bars and surfers.We sat at beach bars sipping fresh pineapple and strawberry smoothies, listening to the sound of the waves crashing and the palm trees swaying overhead. It was the exactly the type of remote, relaxing moment you crave while on an island, when you feel like you and a handful of others are the only people in the world.

Smoothies Canggu 1.jpg
Smoothies at Beach Bum Cafe in Canggu
Canguu Beach Bar & Umbrellas 3.jpg
Iconic bright bean bag at The Sands in Canggu, overlooking Batu Bolong Beach. Brad rented his surfboard from this place.

Brad spent a few hours surfing, and I lounged on a beach chair, reading a book, sipping sparkling water and playing with the friendly neighborhood puppy who took an instant liking to me, and napped underneath my chair. We had fresh salads and sandwiches at The Canteen Cafe and returned to Seminyak relaxed and ready for a sunset party.

Local puppy in Canggu
This little guy and I had an instant connection. After playing, he lounged underneath my sun chair all afternoon.
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Temple next to the Canggu beachfront.

Shopping:

Bargain shopping in Seminyak was a treat. I came home with several pairs of wide legged beach pants decorated with elephants, as well as jewelry. Be prepared to haggle and the weather is SULTRY, but you can find some great bargains. Other excellent options: beautiful bright jewelry, handwoven straw handbags.

Ogoh Ogoh:

As luck would have it, we arrived in Seminyak a few days before Nyepi, a religious day of silence in Ubud. The day before, Balinese people parade sculptures of Ogoh Ogoh – demons who drive away evil spirits from their towns and villages. We noticed locals working on several of these massive statues as we were riding our scooter around Seminyak.

 

 

 

Thinking ahead for next time – I would definitely spend time in Ubud, because it was an absolute rain forest paradise, soul nourishing dream of a place. I will return to Ubud again and again. I would then spend a week between Canggu and Ulluwatu.  I would probably spend a day in Seminyak, for some beach day club lounging and spectacular sunsets.

Next blog post – one week in Australia! We’re headed to Sydney mate!

 

The Perfect Four Day Ubud Itinerary

A Week in Beautiful, Breathtaking, Bali

How do I begin to describe my all-encompassing love for Bali?! Ubud, particularly stole my heart. Gorgeous, lush, spiritual and enchanting, Ubud was a fabulous introduction to Southeast Asia.

Highlights of our Ubud Adventure:

  • Strolling the rice terraces and taking in the glorious, expansive views
  • Hanging out with monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest
  • Exploring the temples and learning about Balinese Hinduism
  • Luxurious massages and jungle flower baths
  • Swimming in the infinity Pools
  • Scootering around the rice terraces, town center and surrounding villages
  • Drinking fresh fruit juices, smoothies and cocktails! (I’m looking at you pineapple & coconut)

As our time in Germany came to an end, we wanted to make a last fabulous hurrah, and take the long way around to San Francisco. We decided to spend a month in Bali, Australia and New Zealand. In the midst of preparing for an international move, saying goodbye to friends and celebrating Brad’s graduation I was frantically planning this month trip to the Southern Hemisphere, and I loved every minute of it! I planned a week in Bali, a week in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand. I easily could have spent a month in each of these jaw droppingly wonderful places, and fully intend to return as soon as humanly possible.

Alright back to topic – beautiful, beautiful Bali!

Bail Rice Terraces.jpg
Tegalalang Rice Terraces

We began our Bali adventure in Ubud, a small town in the middle of the rainforest, filled with expansive rice paddies, a sacred monkey forest, temples, a deep spirituality,  villa infinity pools, fresh fruit & juices at every turn and one of the most beautiful cultures I have experienced. I was completely enthralled. I would return to Ubud in a heartbeat.

We found our gorgeous jungle villa on AirBnb for 50 bucks, I know. We were served a tropical breakfast on our deck each morning, including dragon fruit, mango, pineapple, an array of Indonesian options and strong coffee by the most welcoming staff. We arrived in the evening around twilight, and when the owner walked us down the winding steps to our rain forest property I gasped!

We rented a scooter for a very minimal expense – seriously, less then 5 bucks a day, which I highly recommend to get around Ubud. I have heard that some Eastern Asian countries can be a very intense experience navigating on a scooter, (looking at you Thailand) but Ubud by scooter was low key and the perfect way to explore the island.

Strolling The Tegalalang Rice Terraces – Views for Days

Our first full day in Ubud, we headed right for the famed rice terraces. Coming straight from Germany in February, Ubud was so ridiculously beautiful, balmy, exotic and tropical it felt like a practical joke!

Ubud Bali Tegallang Rice Paddies.jpg
This is happening!

After our stroll through the rice paddies, we headed to one of the open air restaurants surrounding the paddies for an expansive, mind boggling view and a drink.  We listened to the soft pop music playing, sipped our juices and felt the light breeze through the palm trees. This was the Ubud of my dreams.

 

Ubud Bali Rice Paddies Drink Break!
Drink break with a view! * After TWO German winters my soul needed this you guys*

*I had intended for this to be a hike through the rice paddies, but Ubud in March is sultry AF, so I would highly suggest you plan on a stroll, as this is the best way to experience the lushness).

Oh, the fruit in Ubud. I am a huge sucker for tropical fruit and Bali ranks up there with some of my favorite countries. (Why is fruit in the Southern Hemisphere so much better?!) Bali boasts dragon fruit, and massive mangos and fruit I have never heard of including the crinkly, scaly, snake skin fruit – featured below.

Ubud Bali Fruit
Tropical fruiiiit stand – Tegalalang!

Exploring the Sacred Monkey Forest – Ancient Temples and Monkey Fun!

Oh you guys – I was so excited to visit this forest. This has been a fantastic monkey sighting year for me. First we played with squirrel monkeys (my most favorite of all!) in Cape Town, then we saw baboons and vervet monkeys at Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Game Reserve and now the forest. WIN!

The Sacred Monkey Forest is filled with ancient Balinese Hindu temples and Balinese long tailed monkeys scampering about the place, enjoying their monkey lives. Picture this: mother’s cuddling their babies while flipping from tree to tree, monkeys rolling about and playing with their toesies, monkeys on top of ancient elephant sculptures. They were mischievous and delightful and hilarious. These monkeys were well cared for, well fed, safe and healthy. I could not help but notice what a connection to and respect for the natural world around them the Balinese people possess.

Ubud Bali Monkeys on Elephant Statue.jpg
Monkeys and ancient elephant sculptures – does it get any better?
Eager Monkey 2 Ubud Bali.jpg
Monkeys are so expressive! Look at this little guy. He is just so EAGER.
Ubud Bali Brie in Monkey Forest
Just looking for monkeys in the 700 year old scared forest full of temples.
Ubud Bali Monkey with Monkey Friends Sacred Friend.jpg
Do you think this little guy sits here thinking… I come here to visit every day and they never EVER talk to me!

 

Ubud Bali Beautiful Monkey Sacred Forest
The macaques are revered and cared for as part of the spiritual life of the temples.
Ubud Bali Monkey Forest Catepillar Goddess
Balinese Hindu Sculpture. I love this. She is so joyful. 

Exploring Temples and Falling Love with Balinese Hinduism

Balinese Hinduism was one of the most beautiful and soul nourishing religions I have experienced. The connection Balinese people have to the natural world around them is inspiring. I was completely enchanted by this compassionate culture.

Ubud Bali Brie on Stairs Gazing at Temple
In awe of Saraswati Temple in Ubud – Balinese Hinduism is pure magic
Ubud Bali Hindi Elephant Goddess Sculpture.jpg
Stumbled upon this beauty at an art galley – notice the jungle creeping through the windows in the background. Ganesh, the elephant God, is covered in marigolds – flower offerings to the Gods is part of everyday life in Ubud.

The daily flower offerings to their Gods was one of my most favorite parts of Ubud town. Bamboo tray offerings full of delicate frangipanis, marigolds and other flowers along with an array of sweets and incense were placed around the village – in villas, on the steps of homes or storefronts. Our AirBnb Owner told us the Balinese people often make these offerings up to three times a day. The temples were filled with worshipers, and sculptures were robed in colorful materials and flowers. In Ubud, you can feel the way the Hindu faith permeates day to day life.

Ubud Bali Temple

 Massages, Aromatic Scrubs and Jungle Flower Baths

The massage we received at Bali Botanica was one of the best of my life. We booked a 90 minute massage, followed by an aromatic scrub, and a flower bath. When Brad and I walked into the spa and glimpsed our flower bath already prepared for us, set against the jungle backdrop we both gasped. IS THAT FOR US?!

Allow me to attempt to set this scene for you. The bath was filled with delicately scented silky flower petals, that filled the room with their soft aroma. We were given fresh ginger tea hinted with lemon and cinnamon, and we could hear jungle sounds from our bath. We even spotted giant blue butterflies and a jungle lizard while lounging, as I am the Queen of animal sightings. Dolphin’s playing in the sea while we relaxed in our jacuzzi in Puerta Vallerta  – spotted them! A tiny tortoise swimming amidst a herd of water buffalo in a watering hole in South Africa – I SEE YOU!

FUbud Bali Flower Bath Jungle View Close Up.jpg

Ubud Bali Brie Flower Bath.jpg

Jungle Infinity Pool

Ubud Jungle Infinity Pool
Jungle infinity pool – Padma Hotel

This beauty is the infinity pool at The Padma Resort. Bali is known for having some truly incredibly infinity pools, and while trip planning I found that the Padma Resort offered a pretty epic day pass to their infinity pool. For less than $20  Brad and I were given day access to the pool, 2 fresh fruit cocktails, and a voucher to enjoy afternoon tea which included all manner of yummies such as Balinese appetizers, scones, coffee, decadent caramel/chocolate deserts and fruit all with a brilliant view.

Ubud Bali Infinity Pool Cocktail Time!
Fresh pineapple coconut cocktail, OF COURSE

Ubud Bali Padma Infinity Pool

There was a rather intense tropical storm while we were lounging at the pool, so we opted to sit in the Jacuzzi, and check out the afternoon tea during the storm.

Balinese food – Fresh fruit, juices, and coconuts!

On our last day in Ubud, we spent our time lounging by our jungle pool, reading books, and leisurely exploring the village on our scooter. We discovered the most gorgeous little cafe called Dicarik Warung. with a panoramic view of the verdant rice paddies. We sat sipping our fresh coconut water, and pineapple juice, while watching Balinese cranes stroll softly through the rice paddies. It was so peaceful – we felt like we had discovered our own little private paradise in Ubud.

Ubud Bali Rice Plantation Warung Coconut!
Who me? No, I don’t like fresh coconut at all.
Ubud Bali Rice Plantation Warung Pineapple Juice and Coconut!
Fresh pineapple, lime and ginger juice (my new fav), and fresh coconut at the most gorgeous Warung overlooking a rice paddie 🙂 This place was pure bliss.

Bali offers a fantastic array of vegetarian meals and fresh fruit juices and smoothies. My very favorite were the pineapple, lime, ginger fruit juices, or the pineapple and mango smoothies. We could not get enough of them! I also loved all of the coconut water and fresh coconuts everywhere you looked. I found this delicious little place Abe-Do Warung, as a recommendation from the wonderful travel blog Bruised Passports. You sit on fluffy pillows lining the floors near your table, and the cafe is devoted to health and wellness. Warung’s can be found all over Bali and they are small family owned cafes and restaurants. They are typically budget friendly and a great option while dining in Bali.

Ubud Bali Veggie Heaven
Chicken with peanut sauce and rice. Salad with avo and carrots and beats and a citrus dressing.  After 18 months in southern Germany, I was so stoked for salad!

After our super healthy lunch, we spent time relaxing by our pool and then headed into town for happy hour! We sat in the courtyard of Oops restaurant, sipping our frozen mojitos, enjoying the breeze, and lazy Balinese evening.

Ubud Bali Frozen Mojitos
Frozen mojitos two-for-one happy hour! Easiest choice I’ve ever made.
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Town center Ubud

Nightlife:

Ubud has a pretty laid back night life scene. There are some great happy hour places on the main road Jalan Raya – we loved the 2/1 deals on frozen mojitos. We also had a lot of fun hanging out at the open air bars listening to live music.

Laughing Buddah Bar: Near the Monkey Forest. Great live music, yummy Balinese apps. Go later for dinner/drinks.

L.O.L Bar & Restaurant – Next door there is a great open air café with live music is well. Caribbean and reggae music is the order of the day. Tasty, cheap chicken sate for dinner.

Ubud will live on in my dreams as the most magical and spiritual of places. I cannot wait to return! Next blog post – to die for sunsets and dreamy beach bars in Semniyak!

 

 

Our Epic Highlands Road Trip Through the Cairngorms to Edinburgh

Reindeer Cairngorms Scotland

Highlights of our Highlands Road Trip

Here are some of the most wonderful experiences in the area surrounding Inverness

  • Feeding reindeer in the Cairngorms
  • The Highland Games in Balleter  (so many bagpipers!)
  • Sweeping, take your breath away views at every turn

Day 8-9

For the next journey on our trip, we drove from Inverness to the Cairngorms, a gorgeous mountain range and national park in the Scottish Highlands for a reindeer feeding.

Feeding reindeer in the Cairngorms was one of the most magical experiences of my life.  We were brought to a vast meadow, and walked along a wooden path to reach the pasture. All of a sudden, we heard the clip clopping of hooves behind us and found that a herd of reindeer had joined our walk and were prancing directly behind us. As we fed them, they gently nudged us with their velvety, soft noses.

Reindeer Feeding in the Cairngorms Scotland

Brad Just One of the Reindeer Herd
Brad, Just One of the Reindeer Herd
Feeding Reindeer Scotland
This may be my new happy place

Feeding reindeer in the Cairngorms Scotland - Windswept but happy

 

Brie feeding Reindeer In The Cairngorms Scottish Highlands
Pure joy

 

Caringorms reindeer meadow
Windswept but so happy!

Reindeer Herd In the Cairngorms Scottish Highlands

Some background info about the herd: A Scandinavian adventurer fell in love with an American woman and moved to Scotland but missed the native animals from his own country. He imported the herd of reindeer from Sweden to the Cairngorms in 1952.  There are currently 150 free ranging members of this beautiful reindeer herd.

The Magical Highlands

On the drive from the Cairngorms to the highland Games in Balleter, we were rewarded by this spectacular view. We were so gobsmacked, we pulled over, leapt out of the car and just stood there eyes wide and sighing. This is the Scotland of your dreams.

Magical Scotland Cairngorms
Scotland – you show off!

Off to the Highland Games!

The HIghland Games in Balleter was everything I was hoping for and more. I was so thrilled we were able to see this. As luck would have it, there was one Highland games held in our area while we were visiting Scotland and it was on the last day of our trip. I wanted it to be a surprise for Brad, and I was literally bouncing around in my seat on the way to the games. Situated between two towering, pine covered mountains, the location could not be beat. These games featured highland dancers, log tosses (think giant highlanders wearing kilts and rock band t shirts), competitions for best clan costumes (and let me tell you they were decked out and magnificent), fresh donuts, and so many bagpipes. At one point, the bands entered the field and there were around 50 bagpipes marching in union, kilted up.

Highland Games Balleter!
Bag pipers and fresh donuts in the highlands – does it get any better?!

We ended our fabulous Scotland road trip in Edinburgh. We met friends for dinner at a Mediterranean place. At this point we had been travelling for five weeks and I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was tasty, wonderful to catch up with old friends and a great cap to the most wonderful trip. We headed home for three days where we recouped  (and spent most of the time lounging on the couch watching Poldark yelling during every scene – “We’ve been there!”) Then we left for a week in gorgeous Rhodes.

Next blog post – One week in Spain!

One Week in Scotland – Exploring Inverness and the Surrounding Area

The Battle of Culloden Clan Fraser

We chose Inverness as one of the stops on our Scotland road trip primarily for its proximity to historic sights, Loch Ness and surrounding natural beauty. I didn’t plan to spend much time in the city, but I was pleasantly surprised when I fell in love with this beautiful little medieval town. The Inverness Old Town is dominated by the Inverness Castle perched on a hill, cobble stoned streets, bright flowers blooming everywhere, and nightly Ceilidh’s – impromptu live Scottish music sessions! Very close to the historic sights of the Battle of Culloden, the Clava Cairns and Loch Ness, Inverness is lovely, transporting and great fun.

Highlights of our Inverness road trip

Here are some of the can’t miss experiences in and around Inverness:

  • The Battle of Culloden and the Clava Cairns
  • The medieval  Inverness Old Town and listening to a ceilidh
  • Fish & Chips at the pubs
  • Loch Ness and Urqhart Castle
  • Feeding reindeer in the Cairngorms
  • The Highland Games in Balleter  (so many bagpipers!)

Day 6-8

We headed for The Battlefield of Culloden Moor where the 1745 Jacobite Rising came to its final stand. This is a powerful and evocative place. A MUST for all Outlander or Scottish history fans.

Authentic Highlander Home Battle of Culloden
My Outlander loving soul was so thrilled by this. I have been trying to get Brad to call me Sassenach for years.

Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, gathered to fight the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops. It was the last battle on British soil and, in less than an hour, around 1,600 men were slain – 1,500 of them Jacobites. Stroll the grounds and imagine these highlanders standing tall, fighting for their people, their land, their very way of life.

Battle of Culloden Inverness.JPG
Old Leanach Cottage, traditional Highlander home believed to be the only remaining building from the battle

A few minutes away from the Battle of Culloden you will find the Clava Cairns, ancient  Bronze Age standing stones dating back about 4,000 years, and the inspiration for Diana Galbadon’s Craigh Na Dune, the stones that transport Claire to 17th century Scotland in Outlander.

Cava Cairns Inverness
Clava Cairns. My Outlander loving soul is in heaven! *I know, probs should have put my phone away for the photo. Faux pas!*
Inverness Castle
Inverness Old Town and Castle

A must see in the Inverness area is Loch Ness! We strolled the banks of the iconic Loch Ness, and explored Urquhart Castle. It is easy to see why this place has sparked the imagination of so many. Loch Ness is vast, and deep and seeped in mythology.  The Highlands themselves make you feel like magic must exist.

Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness
Just chilling at Urquhart Castle
Banks of Loch Ness
Hanging out on the banks of LOCH NESS
Inverness Old Town at Twilight
Beautiful Inverness Old Town

Where to stay:

We stayed at a cute little B&B called the Silverstrand Guesthouse, very close to the Old Town. It was less then a 10 minute walk to the center. The friendly owner welcomed us in a kilt 🙂

Where to eat:

The Castle Tavern. This cozy pub built in the 1700s overlooks the river Ness and  has a gorgeous view of the Inverness castle.  I had great fish and chips (natch), and Brad had a pie. They also have a bunch of stellar ciders on tap, and super friendly staff.

Best places to hear bagpipes:

The Highland Games of course! The 50+ person band decked out in kilts was the piece de resistance of the games. Long live the bagpipes! Our favorite place in Inverness for a good old fashioned Ceilidh was Hootananny’s.  Live folk music Sunday to Wednesday night.

* I have realized that every time I hear the bagpipes, the teen in me desperately hopes they will break out in the steerage jig’ from Titanic. Hasn’t happened yet, but I live in hope! *

Brad Found Nessie Loch Ness Inverness
Brad found Nessie
We found Nessie Loch Ness
We found Nessie
Brad found Jamie Inverness Old Town
Brad found Jamie!

Next – Feeding Reindeer in the Cairngorms and the Highland Games!

 

One Wonderful Week in Scotland

Our Epic 9 Day Road Trip Through the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands have long been one of my most favorite places on earth. Filled with wild, rugged landscapes, rolling lush hills filled with deep purple heather, majestic mountains, cascading waterfalls and of course bag pipers, Scotland has a way of working itself into your dreams.

I first visited the Scottish highlands more than ten years ago during a semester studying abroad, and I have been dying to show it to Brad since. I was thrilled to include it in our  six week vacation last summer.

Highlights of our Scotland road trip

  • The gorgeous drive into Glencoe, and exploring Hagrid’s Hut. 
  • Highland hikes, particularly the Quiraing and the glorious sweeping views in the Isle of Skye
  • Eating fish & chips and listening to bagpipes at local pubs in Portree
  • Hairy Cows!
  • The Battle of Culloden and the Clava Cairns
  • Listening to a ceilidh and exploring the Inverness old town
  • Feeding reindeer in the Cairngorms
  • The Highland Games in Balleter  (so many bagpipers!)

We rented a car for our week in Scotland which I highly recommend, as there is so much you will want to see and public transport isn’t a practical option. With a car, you can drive at your own pace and hop out for photo ops and hikes, of which you will want to do constantly because Scotland is breathtaking.

Day 1-2

We spent the first day in Glencoe, an incredible glen nestled between towering mountains. Glencoe is lush, verdant green, full of cascading waterfalls and yellow wildflowers. Shrouded in mist and surrounded by majestic mountains, the drive into Glencoe is where the magic really begins on your roadtrip.

Glencoe Wildflowers and Waterfalls
Wildflowers and waterfalls in Glencoe

Prepare to pull over every two minutes for gasp-worthy photos. Scotland is a place that truly makes you feel like magic exists.The day we arrived, a resort was hosting a Harry Potter movie night, as the third movie was shot in Glencoe and we arrived to this sign:

Glencoe Welcome Muggles!
Was this…did they..did they know I was arriving today?

Harry Potter 3, The Prisoner of Azkaban was filmed in Glencoe, so we immediately wentImage result for Buckbeak pumpkin patch off to hike the area where they  filmed Hagrid’s Hut! Located in the Clachaig Gully, the hillside is easily assessible. We parked and I ran right for it. Sadly, the hut (and Hagrid) aren’t there anymore, but the landscape is exactly how I remembered it from the movie, and I could one hundred percent picture the pumpkin patch, smoking chimney and Buckbeak raising his enormous head to gaze at me!

Exploring Hagrid's hut in Clachaig Gully!
Exploring Hagrid’s hut. Just picture Buckbeak tethered and giant pumpkins!
Black Rock Cottage Glencoe
Black Rock Cottage at the foot of Meall a’ Bhuird – yes please!
Clachaig Gully in gorgeous Glencoe
Gorgeous Glencoe

Where to eat:

The Claighann Inn.  There is one rollicking restaurant in this tiny village: conveniently located near Hagrid’s hut. I had a curry and sticky toffee pudding which is a spongy cake covered in caramel served with vanilla ice cream and I highly recommend.

Next we headed to the Isle of Skye

Exploring the Isle of Skye is all about stunning hikes,  take your breath away views, rolling hills full of deep violet heather and gamboling sheep, tiny pubs serving crispy fish & chips and stirring nights filled with bagpipes and live Scottish music.

Day 2-5

The Quiraing is my absolute favorite hike in Scotland. We took the four hour route, and for parts of our trip, it felt like we were the only people in the world. Known for it’s gorgeous green unique topography, lochs and wild flowered covered mountains walking the Quiraing felt like hiking in a fantasy land. Best time to visit is the early morning or the late afternoon, though sunsets will be very late in the high season (around 9ish to 10ish).

Hiking the Quiraing
That View – Hiking the Quiraing
Highland Wildlfowers in the Quiraing
Highland wildflowers in the Quiraing

The first two hours of our hike were fantastic –  filtered sunshine bathing the pass and a light breeze. The last two hours however were…..not. The sun disappeared and the wind picked up, turning our path back into a frigid wind tunnel. We had to hurtle down the track through the buffeting wind and hide between rock formations for a breather. At one point, I almost gave up – Nope, NOPE! It was so, so cold. Worth it though, for the incredible views. Especially when we were nice and warm, sipping coffee and eating piping hot fish and chips afterwards 🙂

Weather change while Hiking the Quiraing
Brie concerned about the increasing wind and approaching clouds during the return trip

 

Brad Not At All Concerned Hiking The Quiraing
Brad not AT ALL concerned
Brie hiking the Quiraing
Scotland you stunner
Hiking the Quiriang in The Scottish Highland
Beginning of the hike – all smiles here!
Weather change in the Quiraing Isle of Skye
We have a bit of a weather change

The hairy cows of the Scottish Highlands are wonderful creatures, and a huge highlight of the trip was stopping to say hello to every single one we saw. I have named this gentleman Hamish. I love him. He was a very gentle soul and allowed us to nuzzle his ears, while gently nudging us with his noser.

Hairy Cows in the highlands
Hello Hamish!

We made a stop at Kilt Rock on the way to the Quiraing. This waterfall is a must see, but the shrieking wind was so intense, we parked, leapt out of the car, enjoyed the bagpipes playing nearby, breathed in the clear, salty air, snapped a photo and hopped back in the car.

Kilt Rock Scottish Highlands
Kilt Rock

The iconic Old Man of Storr is  an easy hike, less than an hour. The Storr walk uses the same path up and down, starting & returning at the same point (the carpark). A very well maintained path leads right to the base of the amazing rock formation – but get there early as by the time we finished  around 11am The Old Man was completely covered by fog. Haha- WE saw the Old Man of Storr! Insert me wiggling about taunting everyone feeling very smug. (Because usually I am the one who wakes up late and misses stuff).

Hiking Old Man of Storr Isle of Skye
Hiking Old Man of Storr

 

Sheep Isle of Skye
So many sheep! Isle of Skye
Highland Waterfalls
Time to break and gaze at Highland waterfalls

On the way from Glencoe to Portree, we made a stop at the 13th century Eileen Donan Castle.

Rugged Brad and Eileen Donan Castle
Rugged Brad and Eileen Donan Castle – He was made for the Highlands!

Where to stay:

We based ourselves in Portree,  an adorable, rustic town on the sea, and the capital of  Skye. We stayed at Fisher’s Rock B&B.  I think B&Bs in Scotland and England are unbeatable. If at all possible, try to stay at one during your trip. Lovely hosts, great views, delicious breakfasts and thoughtful touches.

Where to eat:

The Harbour Fish & Chip Shop. Across from the beautiful pink, yellow and blue homes of Portree on the promenade. Crispy, perfectly salted fish and chips served with gravy. We even heard the servers speaking Gaelic!

The Pier Hotel: Intimate, rustic Inn serving tasty Scottish fare. Fun pub filled with lots of locals.

Best place to hear bagpipes:

The Isles Inn. We came here to eat as well. We love Scottish music and wanted a place to listen to bagpipes. Our B&B owner mentioned this place. While grabbing a drink, Brad chatted with the bartender about places we could hear some good live music and she said, “well my brother’s band is playing here tonight, he’s great!” It was so much fun, we went  back twice. Great, rollicking atmosphere. Fantastic, live music. Full Scottish band. Highly recommend.

Note: Scotland can get very cold, even in August, when we visited. We were lucky to have some days of sunshine in the highlands, but we had carry on luggage for our entire 6 week trip, (not an easy pack) so had to buy a few items for hikes. Wellies and windbreakers were our main purchases. We picked them up at a local supply shop in Portree. I also picked up the above green wool hat at an adorable shop in St. Ives.

Next blog post: The breathtaking, stirring to your senses, Inverness!

 

 

 

 

Outlander Recap: Long Live The Frasers

Season 4 Episode 13 Finale: Man of Worth

Oh you guys, this Outlander episode was filled with so many great moments. Sacrifices! Gauntlets! Tearful farewells! Fireside tales! An unexpected couple! Red coats! Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Operation Rescue Roger

Claire, Jamie and Ian arrive at the Mohawk camp and attempt to trade goods for Roger’s life. Ian leads the negotiations because he has the best language skills. (BTW, when did Ian become fluent in Mohawk??) While Claire is showing the goods to a ferocious group of Mohawks, they see her stone necklace and visibly recoil. The chief murmurs “she is wearing Otter Tooth’s necklace!” and promptly tells Claire that she must leave. (Who the f*** is Otter Tooth, I thought to myself, because I honestly did not remember this necklace). Cutaway to a Mohawk women staring significantly at the necklace as a confused Claire retreats with Jamie and Ian. A bit of background info: in the beginning of the season, Claire found a skull in a cave with a stone embedded inside. She puts this stone on a necklace. She then has visions of  a ghost – a bloody Mohawk man painted black.

Jaunty Murtagh Gobbles A Feast

Cue a smiling Murtagh arriving by horse and carriage to Aunt Jocasta’s plantation house, also known as River Run, strolling jauntily up the steps and proceeding to devour a delicious looking meal. Murtagh becomes upset upon hearing that Bree plans to marry Lord Grey because “Bree canna marry a redcoat!” She gives him an icy retort and leaves. In other news, I am obsessed with Bree’s purple velvet four poster bed, and think I need to incorporate “dinna fash” into my everyday vocab.

Ambush! Tussle! GET THEM  JAMIE!

Back at the camp, Jamie hears something in the distance. He tells everyone to stay very still, as a Mohawk comes hurtling out of the trees straight at Jamie. They tussle, Jamie wins, knife to his throat. Highlanders are the best. The Mohawk woman from earlier strides into the camp telling Claire she wants the necklace. Claire questions why this stone is so important. Cue: a fireside story at twilight! Yassss. I love a good fireside tale. Turns out the ghost Claire saw previously was a traveler named Otter Tooth who visited the Mohawk to warn them about their future, and the destruction of the Mohawk nation. He advises  the slaughter of all white men to protect the tribe. The Mohawk thought he was possessed and subsequently killed him and disposed of the stone when he became  violent. However, some Mohawk believed him and think whoever has the stone will learn about the future. Claire agrees to give her the stone, in exchange for help freeing Roger.

With almost zero planning, they head to the Mohawk camp to liberate Roger. Understandably, Roger is upset to see Jamie, but Claire calms him. Everything goes terribly wrong, and they are stopped at gunpoint by the Mohawk while escaping. Claire eases the situation by yelling PEACE. The chief says he will let them go, however Roger must stay as no trade has been made.

Double Sacrifice!

Jamie instantly offers himself as barter. As in, zero hesitation. I knew Jamie was going to sacrifice himself. I KNEW IT!

I did not know that seconds later Ian would take his place. Insert me yelling: NO! Roger isn’t worth Ian! Not Ian! His love for this family is so pure, he is willing to sacrifice himself so that Jamie can return home with Claire to Brianna. He also wants to take responsibility for his part in the mishap with Roger and Bree. There is absolutely nothing Jamie can do about it, as Ian has already made a promise to the Mohawk. In one of the most gut wrenching moments of this show (and that is saying a lot) Jamie  questions – “How can I part with you?”

And I shouted – I don’t know!

Ian responds, you told me once you hoped I would become a man of worth. Don’t make me break my promise. Jamie, desperately proud of his nephew and trying to be strong for him says “You dinna ken how worthy you are.” It is a beautiful scene. So many tears. Ian is crying. Jamie is crying. Claire is crying. I am bawling.  It’s almost unbearable. At least Rollo (Ian’s beloved and loyal dog) is staying.

 

the office smile GIF
Me – trying to be strong for Jamie, Ian and Claire

Silver Fox Murtagh and Aunt Jo Jo Mix it up!

Murtagh and Aunt Jocasta are discussing politics. Murtagh says that Aunt Jo has grown too complacent and wants her to fight for the regulators. Aunt Jo accuses Murtagh of only visiting when he wants something. Murtagh calls her a lunatic and the look on his face when he immediately realizes his error in judgement is priceless. Things escalate. Apparently, hardcore arguments about politics and character assaults are considered seductive in 1700s Scotland, because sparks are flying and emotions running high. She flings a glass of whiskey in his face (Murtagh doesn’t hate it) and the next scene begins with the two of them in her bedroom. Her bedroom YOU GUYS! It is the next morning, and Aunt Jo Jo says breakfast has arrived. Murtagh, hair down and flowing in all its glory replies let it wait, because…you know. Finally, a moment of happiness! It is romantic and tender and wonderful. I  fully support this couple. We must protect them at all costs!

Brianna gives birth. It is a quick scene. She seems rather apathetic. The best part is Murtagh pacing frantically outside and bonding with the little tyke afterward.

Not the Mohawk Gauntlet!

Ian proves himself a terrific bad ass, while Jamie fights for Brianna. The Mohawk camp have set up another gauntlet, this time for Ian. Ian races his way down the gauntlet, leaping over swings, throwing punches and diving under tomahawks. He’s really effing agile, and incredibly brave making the very best of this situation, proving once again he truly is a man of worth. He drags himself to the end where he is welcomed into the Mohawk tribe by the chief. Ian’s smile, combined with his tentative turned jubilant whoops intermingling with the war cry of the Mohawk is a well-earned thing of beauty.

Get it Ian!

Simultaneously, a livid Roger takes a run at Jamie pummeling him. Jamie stands passively allowing Roger to vent his anger.  (Oh, Rog. Jamie could kill you with his little finger.) Roger is confused and furious because of the abuse he has suffered, and Jamie is furious because Roger left Brianna alone to get assaulted. Jamie explains why he attacked Roger in the first place, followed by revealing Brianna’s hideous ordeal. Roger does not know if he can spend his life in the 1700s with a son to whom he may not be the father. (At least, I think that’s his position. Who knows when it comes to toe-rag Rog.) Jamie is fuming. Not only has he lost his nephew ensuring this dude’s safety,  but now he may abandon his daughter?! Claire tries to diffuse the situation and allow Roger time to think but says “Whatever you choose, you must be sure. This is our daughter!” The two stand strong and supportive side by side. The juxtaposition of the gauntlet with Jamie and Roger’s “fight” is so epic I watched it twice. Roger goes away to think – presumably about what a tool he is.

Jamie and Claire arrive at River Run….sans Roger. I GASPED. They tell Brianna that Roger is alive, and knows everything. The look on Jamie’s face as he watches Brianna’s heart break is tremendous. They tell her that they will always, always be there for her.

better GIF

Insert me yelling – Roger you better show up!

There is a great moment where all the main players are eating dinner in silence,  worried about Ian and Brianna in their own private ways. Brianna walks into the room, and smiles at them all, taking her place at the table like the survivor that she is.

Brianna is packing away her clothes preparing to return to Fraser’s Ridge when she sees a ragged figure riding a horse in the distance. She drops her things and runs out the front door to greet the horseman.

Outlander Reunion

It’s Roger. He did it! He showed some backbone! They embrace. It is sweet. They are happy. And best of all Roger says…”Let’s go see my son.”

Fine, I guess I have to accept the fact that Roger is hanging around. WITH PROTEST.  And, I really think Brianna deserves better or at the very least a sincere, well worded apology.

As the Fraser’s are preparing to leave, there is a knock on the door. The red coats have arrived! WTF? OH NO! Everyone assumes they have come for Murtagh. Jo Jo caresses Murtagh’s hand, staring tenderly into his eyes. Jamie’s side eye as  he realizes romance is brewing between his Godfather and his Aunt made me cackle. Murtagh hides while Jamie answers the door. The red coats present him a letter saying that Jamie has been ordered to hunt down the traitor….MURGTAGH FRASER.

oh no omg GIF

Final Thoughts On The Finale

LOVED it. Best finale yet. Hit all the right emotional notes. Touched on all of our favorite characters.  Created a new couple that demands to be worshiped, provided closure and set us up for a hell of a new season. Long live the Frasers.