The UK top 10 (plus some Ireland)

Every time I am looking to travel somewhere, my favorite way to widdle down ‘the must sees’ is to look at recommended top 10 experiences. As I prepare for my next assignment, and after living in the commonwealth for 2 years, below are my recommended top 10:

10. Start with the obvious – Hit London, Edinburgh & Dublin (Belfast as well but I cannot comment as I never made it there.)

You will have your favourite out of the 3; it is difficult for me to pick between London or Edinburgh, but Dublin is definitely not on my list of top 10 cities of the world. Go for the Guinness Factory and then get out of the city. Ireland is so much more than Dublin.

Just a few need to knows about each city:

London: London Walks are a must
http://www.walks.com

If you have the opportunity, go during Christmas. The city resembles NYC with its lights and displays, but even better, it has a German style Christmas market along the Thames that just makes you smile.

If not the winter, then the summer – hit Shakespeare original theatre. Reconstructed (as the original burned down several times) in its original liking, the theatre still performs Shakespeare’s famous plays, but only during the summer months as there is not enough sunlight in the winter.

Edinburgh: Say this with me ‘edin-bra’ dont pronounce the ‘G’; you will embarrass me as an American.

Some recommended tourist sites: Whiskey experience (for those new to the spirit), St. Mary’s close, Edinburgh castle, Cannons Gait (pub on the royal mile) on an evening – not sure if this is a common occurrence but my sister and I happened to walk in there 1 evening and find a trio of bagpipes guitar & singing – wonderful experience
*See #9 then make sure you come back to this city during non-festival time. It is a totally different experience

Some recommended walking tours:
http://www.viator.com/tours/Edinburgh/Underground-Vaults-Walking-Tour-in-Edinburgh/d739-293404VAULTS
(similar, but different to St. Marys close)

http://pottertrail.com
(for all you Harry Potter fans – can also grab a coffee in the Elephant cafe where JK Rowling wrote some of the novels)

http://www.newedinburghtours.com/daily-tours/new-edinburgh-free-tour.html

Dublin: Look at what I said above. Grab a pint and then leave.

9. Save your visit to Edinburgh for festival time: August
The Fringe and the military tattoo – 2 of the most famous events on the island. The Fringe festival is the largest comedy festival in the world and brings millions of visitors to this normally not-so-crowded city

http://www.edintattoo.co.uk

https://www.edfringe.com

If not August, then for New Years for the Scottish celebration of Hogmanay – one of the best places in the world to go for New Years.

http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org

8. Can’t Forget about Wales!
Wales is best known for its beautiful countryside. Bordering Yorkshire national parks, Snowdonia national park is Wales most famous. Spend your time in Wales in this region and try out camping or ‘glamping’ – you will not forget the experience of staying in a tree house in the middle of the Welsh countryside!

http://www.glamping-uk.co.uk/Wales/Glampsites/

http://www.hideaway-in-the-hills.com/wales/glamping-ardudwy-wales.php

http://www.eryri-npa.gov.uk/home

There is also one of the longest zip lines in the world. Outdoors is the way to go in this country:
http://www.zipworld.co.uk

Note on Cardiff: We did Cardiff for New Years 2013. It is a surprisingly modern city…with nothing remarkable to report. Hit the country in Wales and check your life box on the longest zipline in Europe.

7. The Irish countryside.
The one thing you must do when you are in Ireland is go to a country pub. Forever my favorite memory of Ireland is sitting in the small town of Doolin (famous for the Cliffs of Moor) and hearing the local townsmen play.

See below post for more details:
http://viveutvivas.org/2014/08/15/irish-countryside/

6. The Seaside
Scarbough, Plymouth, Dover

‘Going to the beach’ has a completely different meaning in the UK than in the rest of the world. It is far too cold to ‘layout’, swim (although the locals do) or do most of the ‘normal’ beach activities. That being said, the seaside, has some of the most glorious cliffs and quant, English towns that make the lack of beach weather worth it. By far my favorite in all these locations are the famous white cliffs of dover:
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/white-cliffs-dover/

For all locations visit:
http://www.seasidebreaks.com/places/

Top 10:
http://www.essentialtravel.co.uk/magazine/top-10/uk-coastal-towns.asp

5. The Yorkshire Dales

I might have a slight bias on this having lived in the region for 2 years; regardless, the Dales hold some of the most beautiful, green rolling hills I have ever seen.

The best way to experience this region is to hike it. They have a series of well marked footpaths through country villages and farm land. It is difficult to narrow down where to go in the Dales, but I recommend the below itinerary:

Stay in Harrogate, Ripon or Knaresbourgh (Harrogate being the biggest/fanciest)
Walk to/around fountains abbey
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey/

…and Pateley Bridge

Nidderdale inc Pateley Bridge & Masham

…and then head back to harrogate to grab a pint & hit the turkish baths
http://www.turkishbathsharrogate.co.uk/Pages/home.aspx

The Lake District is another area not to miss, but definitely another overnight stay required. Get a house on Lake Windermere and experience the peacefulness of the area
http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk

With so many walks and hikes in the region, don’t limit yourself if you have time; out of all the sites with hiking info, where2walk has a detailed map of nearly all walks in the region. Take a look a peruse your next outdoor adventure

Home Page

4. Go to the races
I realise there are horse races around the world – including Preakness which is a 45 min drive from where I grew up – however, the races in England are different.

I am not sure if it is the accent, or the fact that they are frequented by more 20-somethings than any other age group, but the culture of horse racing is huge in the UK.

There are several key ones: Ascot (around end of July in Southern England), Grand National (April in Liverpool) and the Cheltenham Festival – the largest competition between Irish and British horses occurring around St. Patrick’s Day every year.

But you don’t have to take part in the huge events to get a taste of the action. Local towns (my favourite was York) have their own local races that give you just as much action for half the price.

Whatever you choose, make sure to get your hat on, a suit (kilts also OK for the Scots) and prepare for some English style betting and drinking!

http://www.royalascothospitality.co.uk

http://www.aintree.co.uk

http://www.cheltenham.co.uk/fixtures/the-festival/

3. The pub

This one is an easy one to knock out – but something that deserves being high on the list.

Pubs and the UK go together like the Queen and England – you can’t have one without the other. The integral part of the pub in ones daily life and social staple is unlike anything I have ever witnessed in other cultures. Sure there is a local watering hole, etc. but nothing so consistent across the country.

Go thing is – because it is so consistent, you can pick nearly any pub and be successful. But a few tips:

1 – Go for the oldest looking one with no gambling machines
2 – Observe the clientele; this will indicate whether you want to enter the pub….
3 – Go to one in a small town and go solo. Strike up a conversation with a local who has been frequenting the pub for years

Top pubs:
http://www.thegoodpubguide.co.uk/REGIONS/FEATURES/2014-Awards

Pub crawls:
http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2012/nov/30/england-pub-crawls-leeds-cambridge-london

2. Go to Stonehenge during the Solstice or Equainox

4 times a year Stonehenge turns from a high trafficked tourist spot to Pagan holy site – or in Vive terms, hippy site.

Why go when the hippies are out? Other than being awesome! It is one of the few times a year when you are able to walk up to the site and actually touch the rocks.

In fact, you can have full up worshipping sessions with the rocks, mirrored in some of the same traditions as when the stones where to put together. While I am not a Pagan myself, it is quite a magical (and crazy) feeling to be among the stones with people that are, and believe in there healing abilities.

More details on the Winter Solstice experience:

http://viveutvivas.org/2014/02/23/winter-solstice-at-stonehenge/

Facts on visiting:
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/

1. Northern Scotland: 2 words, Whisky Trail

The highlands – (this deserves an audible sigh) – northern Scotland, it conjures up images of men in kilts, bagpipes and snow capped mountain tops. Amongst this wondrous landscape is a land of old celtic legends (lochness), small towns, thick accents – and – whisky.

There are many distilleries in this region, however this trail narrows your selection to the Speyside region touring both large and small distilleries.

http://www.maltwhiskytrail.com

Even for those non-whiskey fans, seeing the country based on a windy, distilled road is seeing Scotland first hand. Despite all the amazing things you’ll see in London and Edinburgh – this takes the cake.

More info on northern Scotland:
http://www.visithighlands.com/inverness-loch-ness/
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Safe travels!

The Yorkshire 3 Peak Challenge

Having lived in the Yorkshire Dales for nearly 2 years, I could not leave the UK without completeing the Yorkshire 3 peak Challange.

Challenge: Climb the 3 highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales in under 12 hours. Distance: 24.5 miles, Height: Pen-y-gent (691 metres), Whernside (728 metres) & Ingleborough (723 metres)

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Being a generally fit individual, I thought a long walk would be relatively easy to complete, so I set the goal to make it in under 10 hours rather than 12. Without any training or experience, we set off on what appeared to be a nice Yorkshire 4th of July day – sunny with a bit of wind, about 70F/18C.

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However, it soon turned into a typical Yorkshire Day and started pelting down rain. At this time, I was thankful we had decided to get a guide as I had come wilfully unprepared for any kind of inclement weather.

By the Valley of Whernside, the second peak, I was still feeling optimistic about reaching the end of the trail within our 10 hour goal – until I started the decent of the last peak, Ingleborough.

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It seems that my 27 year old body had somehow hit a brick wall – my left knee simply gave out on me. With 5 miles to go I was forced to resort to hobbling my way to the finish line. What should have taken a little over an hour turned into over 2. Turns out it was good that we had set the pace relatively high as we would not have made it in 12 hours had we not kept such a good pace earlier in the day.

Lesson learned: Be prepared for the unexpected when doing something you have never done before.

Although I have hiked up Mt. Fuji, done a 4 day trek up the Lao mountainside and completed many triathlons, Half Marathons and other physical feats – Ingleborough defeated me.

But all is not lost – we made it in under 12, completed the challenge, got the patch and checked another off the bucket list. Highly recommend doing some, if not all, of the challenge. The Yorkshire Dales are truly a thing to behold and one of the must do’s if visiting England.

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If interested in doing it yourself, here are some helpful links/recommendations:

Attire: Come prepared for any weather. Store wet/cold weather gear for the tops of the hills/peaks. Temperature changes drastically from the valley to the Peaks (and it also tends to be quiet misty/wet)

Physical shape: You do not need to be in excellent physical shape to complete – but we aware of your bodies limitations. I had previous issues with the knee that gave out on me – ended up pushing it too far. If trying to do it in under 12, shoot for 10 or 11 just to make sure and don’t take too long on breaks. Those are the areas that really eat up your time.

Guide or no Guide? Honestly, even if it is your first time going, you can easily complete to trail without a guide, especially if completing during the summer months/high season. Just do your research, bring a map and pay attention. Most paths are well paved/marked and filled with others completing the same task.

What to Bring: Other than clothing in case of inclement weather, make sure to stock up on lots of power bars, gatorade (lucozade for those in the UK) and of course water. You do burn a marathons worth of calories so come prepared with the needed boosts.

When to go: Summer months are recommended for both temperate weather and long summer sunlight. However, you will often run into long lines of hikers upon summiting each peak who had the same brilliant idea you did. So if you can get a a good day in either May or Sept I would recommend trying then. Bring a flashlight just in case it takes longer than you expect.

Helpful links on mapping & hiring a guide:

http://www.thethreepeakschallenge.co.uk/yorkshire-three-peaks-challenge/

http://www.lostearthadventures.co.uk/yorkshire-3-peaks-challenge/
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Other 3 peaks challenges in the UK for those who think Yorkshire is just too easy

National 3 peaks:
http://www.thethreepeakschallenge.co.uk/national-three-peaks-challenge/

Welsh 3000s:
http://www.thethreepeakschallenge.co.uk/welsh-3000s/

3 Peaks Yacht race:
http://www.thethreepeakschallenge.co.uk/sailing-three-peaks/

Welsh 3 Peaks:
http://www.thethreepeakschallenge.co.uk/welsh-three-peaks-challenge/

Irish Countryside

If you are going to go to Ireland, land in Dublin, grab a pint of Guinness and then leave. There is so much more to Ireland than Dublin.

I spent a week exploring Ireland with my sister in 2013. Hitting the likes of the Blarney castle, ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Mohr, there is no contest for what is better in Ireland. Small, local pubs paired with an Irish fiddle and a burning fireplace are by far the best thing to find and experience.

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Kissing the Blarney Stone was a great check off the bucket list. Renting our own car, we missed the usual touristy buses and crowds of people (recommended). The castle that the stone is located in is in relative ruin, but well sign posted, which makes for a fun exploring, self-guided experience.

As legend has it, kissing the stone will give the smoocher the gift of ‘gab’ – being able to talk their way out of it. To do so does not come without some risk though, as the kisser has to hang backwards off the castle to reach the stone. Luckily, there is a willing local to assist you in this feat, for a small price (€1) – he will even clean the rock for those generally adverse to other smooching germs.

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According to the castle walls, the legend comes from Cormac Teige McCarthy, The Lord of Blarney, who talked his way out of England’s requirement to have land ownership formally granted by the Queen of England. Upon receiving requests to title his land under Queen Elizabeth I, he replied with well written, subtle, complimentary messages that she soon realised he was flattering his way out of actually completing the request. As legend has it, at one point, after receiving another of his charming messages, she flung down his letter and said, “Oh! He’s just giving me a lot more blarney!”

And so we have our name.

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Using Cork as our sleeping quarters, we left the castle the following day and rented bikes from the small town of Killarney. Cycling the famous ‘ring of Kerry’ we were able to experience the Killarney national park with all of its hills cemeteries and greenery through the top of a bicycle.

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Leaving the southern part of the country and heading west, we traveled to the small, unknown town of Doolin.

Doolin is my favorite. A town with a population of only 300 – it is best known for the closest town to the Cliffs of Mohr. A natural wonder, the cliffs and surrounding areas are truly a thing to behold.

We stayed in a little B&B just outside of the town centre (if you can call it that). Equipped with a cosy fireplace and a view of the seaside, I was sad we only planned 1 night in the place. Mendering around, we found 1 of only 2 local pubs in the town. Walking inside, I was bombarded with thousands of bumper stickers, bills from around the world and a burning fire place that was one of the most comforting sites I had witnessed.

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Collected along the walls where my friends in army airborne units, state stickers and others that indicated a lot of my fellow Americans had also frequented this particular bar. As it was the middle of winter and it was off season, the pub was mainly filled with locals and it was obvious we were not recognised by the townsmen.

Then the fiddles started.

Heads turned from the newest arrivals to the reason everyone was here, to have a pint and listen to the local music. This was what I went to Ireland for. To sit in a little town and listen to the pub music. I was in heaven.

The only thing that could eclipse the sound of the fiddle and a fire were the cliffs themselves. Covered in a cloud of mist, the cliffs were a stunning example of Mother Nature. Home to the puffin as well as other aquatic life, my sister, a PhD candidate in Ecology, was in pure heaven examining the different artifacts found. Meanwhile, I was still daydreaming of fiddles.

A gorgeous country, Ireland, it renforces my believe that the best parts of a country are on the roads less traveled.

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Le Tour de Yorkshire

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Leading up to the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France, North Yorkshire was ecstatic. Every small village and town put on its ‘Yorkshire Best’ filling the town with Yellow bikes, dotted jerseys and the occasional French flag.

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To not only be a part of the preperation, but the event itself was a once in a lifetime experience that gave me newfound respect for the sport of cycling. To be honest, I always thought of cycling, and the tour itself, as kind of lame. We all know those avid ‘cyclist’ that somehow power through hours of cycling while still maintaining a healthy beer gut. I probably would have held that opinion longer if I hadn’t decided the best way to experience the tour would be to cycle the route myself.

While the pros managed to complete the 100 miles through the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales in 5 hours, we decided it would be prudent to split it up over 3 days. Taking a total of 15 hours over those 3 days, the rolling hills of England’s Yorkshire Dales were not easily conquered.

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Starting in summerbridge and ending in the same locale, the route took us through Kettlewell, the Moors, Grinton and back through Ripon. We stayed in hostels along the way, including my favorite in Grinton which sat on the top of a hillside overlooking the valley we just climbed.

http://letour.yorkshire.com/stage-1/map

Although difficult, it was by far the best decision we had made. Not only was it stunning views and an intimate look at the British countryside, but we were able to watch the tour live in Harrogate, pinpointing exactly where the pros were on the trip.

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The best part? Aside from witnessing the Grand Depart from start to finish, there is no greater satisfaction that having accomplished something challanging, only to truly enjoy the completion of it with a cold British Brew in your hand, and your friends on the other.

 

 

Bath

People have their hobbies. Mine are varied and change constantly – but there are a few that remain. Good food, good wine, great people – and spas.

This interest, possibly obsession, began when I first started earning more than $2.50 an hr waitressing and progressed from starving college student to military professional. After my first taste at the Palms, Vegas, I hit near snob status by the time I was done with Asia. Hitting spas in the likes of Japan, Laos and Thailand, I had experienced the Asian spa scene and was convinced they had some of the best in the world.

At least until I learned about Roman and Turkish baths.

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Traveling to the southern part of England, the town of Bath has a fascinating story. Established nearly 2000 years ago, the ruins of the original bath house can still be seen in the museum. Choosing the water for its sulfer properties, it was thought that these waters could heal the most troublesome of ailments, including the likes of leprasy and other skin diseases. Travellers also offered up offerings to the goddess, manerva whom the temple was built for.

One of the most interesting offerings/prayers to the water Goddess were for wishes for a curse to be placed on disliked individuals. Tablets have been recovered with angry inscriptions filled with the wrong doings of others; these were meant to be read by the Goddess who then would punish those appropriatly.

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Perhaps even better than visiting the museum with these historical artifacts is being able to bath in these magical waters yourself in Baths main outdoor/indoor Thermae spa.

http://www.thermaebathspa.com

Open until the late hours, you cannot beat floating in a naturally heated pool amidst the starry night sky.

A wonderful getaway only an hour outside of London, the mystical healing powers of the ancient waters might just leave you feeling just as refreshed as the ancient Romans.

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Eloping in Gretna Green

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Gretna green is the the classier, Scottish version of Vegas. Made famous during the late 1700’s, it became the place for runaway couples to get married as young as 14 without parents consent. When England passed the “Lord Hardwicke’s marriage act” in 1754 it restricted young couples from marriage in England and Wales, however, it did not apply to Scotland. As the first official town on the border of Scotland, Gretna Green soon grew a reputation for scandalous weddings and romantic love affairs.

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Adding to Scotland’s appeal, couples also did not require a priest to officially be married. Falling under an ‘irregular marriage’ they only needed 2 witnesses to call the union good. And what better witness than a blacksmith? Soon the local blacksmiths shop became a lovers church and the blacksmith, the priest. Richard Rennison, the last ‘anvil priest’, officiated 5147 weddings before the process finally became illegal in 1939.

Today Gretna is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world hosting nearly 5000 weddings annually – and we proudly were 4999 in May 2014 (but with my parents consent of course )!

A Day at the Races

Big hats, champagne, horse betting…probably some of the best people watching you could ever experience… everything you could ever want in a day!

Having never been to a horse race, or really attempted to bet on anything in my life, The 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National will go down as one of my favourite days this year.

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The day was really simple, honestly. It started at 1330ish with the first race of the day, and hosted a race nearly every hour leading up to the big one at 1630. With 40 horses all vying for first place, and unreliable odds, your guess was as good as mine – so I went with the one with best name: Balthazar King. Turns out the guy somehow got 2nd place! And I honestly recommend betting this way in the future — with how little I know about betting in general, I hear horse racing is a crap shoot anyway – so pick your favorite based on whatever logic you think is best; whether it be name, jersey color or some sort of odds calculation.

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Now…the best part was not necessarily betting on the horses (OK maybe the 2nd best). It was people watching — particularly the ladies (sorry ladies!). Pictures really describe the day better than words, so I have added a Daily Mail article below (not really recommended for intellectually stimulating news, but for a pop news source, not too bad).

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2596282/Glamorous-revellers-pull-stops-vie-title-best-dressed-racegoer-10-000-Caribbean-holiday-Ladies-Day-Aintree.html

I have to confess: I love the ladies (being one myself) and respect them. You go girl! If you can wear a dress that half covers the vital parts of your body and still look hott 6 pints later, then more power to you, but not really what I was expecting for a classy day at the races? Has a £90 (starting price) ticketed event come to this? There is a difference between a night out and a day event at the races – and just for the record – just because you put a hat on your head, doesn’t make you any more classy, love.

Ah, my British sisters, I do love you, but really?! Have some respect! I would really love to put the boys in this same category, but unfortunately nearly all of them were dressed to impress and somehow all within the 20-25 age range.

A day at the races. A day to remember. And still one of my favourite days in 2014. If go to a race in England, however, just prepare yourself for some good old British style debauchery.

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Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day in America: 23581_529321264333_3435423_n St. Patrick’s Day in Seoul: stpatrick_Seoul st-pat-2012-3 http://www.st-patricks-day.com/st_patricks_day_parades_asia_korea.html St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin: DSC_0150 DSC_0191 No matter where you go in the world, there is someone ready to lift a glass in honor of the Irish St Patrick. Funny enough, not much is known about this St. other than his famed use of the 3 leaf clover to teach the holy trinity. Yet the world, especially Americans & expats, love to done green, look for leprechaun and consider themselves Irish for a day.

Talking with the Brits, Scots and Welsh, their patron St.’s are little known figures in a history of religious Saints. One wonders how such a holiday become so popular throughout the world that it even threatens to take over the genuine celebration in its home country!

I have to admit, while drinking a pint of Guinness, on St. Patrick’s Day, in Dublin was on my top 5 musts while living in the UK — my favorite St. Patrick’s Day, by far, was in Seoul, South Korea. I don’t know if it was because it was the gathering of westerners in an Asian country or that coming across an Irish lass in the bathroom was out of the ordinary or that the people I was with was just that cool — in the end it doesn’t matter.

St. Patrick’s Day, no matter where you are, is about the same experience. It just requires, good people, good food and a pint in your hand.

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

Winter Solstice, the shorest day of the year – a day with great importance for the pagan people who created Stonehenge nearly 4,000 years ago. Stll wrought with spiritual signficance today, it is 1 of 4 days out of the year the site is open to the public.

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Going to visit the site itself is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but to see it as it was originally intended, on one of the holist days in the pagan calander – now that is something truly unique. What makes it unique are the pagan people (commonly and appropriately referred to as ‘hippies’) who still visit the site during the equinox and soltices.

As we approached the holy site, I heard chanting as I walked up the hill. Interesting, I thought, people must be protesting. As we approached the entrance, however, it was not protesting that was being chanted as we entered the site, it was a pagan prayer of sorts. Gathered in old-fashioned harry-potter-like cloaks were a group of about 10 people lined on either side of the walkway yelling: “Bring back the ancestors, respect the bones” (or something to that affect).

Repeating this chant over and over again, I realized as we got closer to the center there were more people playing music, chanting and dress up in all sorts of random costumes (my favorite was a lady in a unicorn outfit). It seemed that my partner and I were the only semi-normal people in the crowd as the site was taken over by high-hippies prancing about the site, touching the stones and yelling chants in a methodical, trance like rhythm.  

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I am not going to lie – I loved it. I love hippies. They are my kindred spirits prancing around, wearing their hair in dreds and generally not caring about the materialistic tendencies of the real world. Many were crying touching the stones and praying with them.

Touching the stones themselves is meant to have healing properties and was what drew travelers to the site thousands of years ago. There are stories of watches stopping in the center of the complex and crop circles often randomly pop up around the farms around the site (although my boyfriend diappointingly pointed out there was a recent news story on the farmers who created these sites…).

Whatever your belief system, there is something magical about traveling to a site that has gathered pilgrams since the beginning of time and continues to do so well into the 21st century.

If you are interested in visiting or learning more history about the site or taking a tour yourself, UKs English Heritage site as all the info you need on it:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/

Burns Night

 
As an American, I had no idea what this meant until about a month ago.
 
Despite dating a Scottish person and living in the UK, the concept of a ‘Burns Night’ never really sank in until I had the brilliant idea to host one.
 
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Generally, I  understood that the night was a kind of Scottish themed party honoring the famous Scottish poet Robert “Rabbie” Burns (think “Old Lang Syne” – that New Years song we sing drunkly every year). Little did I know the event itself is a little more than drinking whisky and eating haggis neeps & tatties (Scottish talk for haggis = google it, neeps =turnips, & tatties = potatoes).
 
The night typically starts off with the ‘piping in of the haggis’. A kind of parading around of the chef and piper in full kilt gear, with his masterpiece and main dish, the haggis, displayed on a large silver platter. Stopping at the front of the room, the piper then gives an ‘address to the Haggis’ which was wittily written by the man of the evening, Robert Burns in old Scots.
 
Nothing can really replace experiencing this for yourself – but the youtube video below gives you an idea of how it goes:
 
 
If you understand any of it..good for you because reading the poem and speeches on paper is a bit like deciphering a puzzle. Such as the next event in the program, Grace.
 
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
 
The funny thing is, if you know a Scot, they do actually speak as the above reads.
 
After getting the intro and the Grace over with, you finally get the opportunity to enjoy your meal – haggis, neeps & tatties, all washed down with whisky, which is also there to toast with. Meanwhile it is again speech time – a speech dedicated to the Immortal memory of Robert Burns himself
 
This part is pretty interesting as it is a commemoration to the man himself and the works he gave to the rest of the world; it is the reason for the event. The first real burns night was held in the 18th century by Robert Burns close friends after his untimely death in 1796. It started small and intimate and was meant to be a memorial to the life Burns led.
 
Since this time it has grown into something more meaningful – and fun – which brings me to the last and final speech or speeches of the evening, the toast to the lassies and the laddies. This toast highlights all the things we love and adore about our opposite sex.
 
As it was my partner and I hosting the event, we had a bit of fun with the banter back and forth. If your curious/looking for ideas, I posted the toasts below.
 
A night to remember, the evening ended with a proper ceilidh. Sort of the original Scottish version of square dancing, the night overall was a blast.
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TO THE LASSIES
I was honoured this evening to be asked to assist with the event and will take great joy in you all remembering me as the host with the funny accent.  If you’re interested in a copy of the transcript, just speak to me at the bar as that’s where you’ll always find the Scotsman.
 
 
Our dear females, girls, ladies, lassies.  We love you, but we cannot understand you.  It had to be said.  To ensure a better co-existence, I think it’s time to lay down some ground-rules.  I have numbered them all 1 as they’re all as important as each another!
1. Learn to work the toilet seat.  You’re a big girl, if it’s up, put it down.  We need it up, you need it down.  We never complain about it being left down.
1. Crying is blackmail.
1. You have enough clothes
1​. You have too many shoes
1. Men know of only 16 basic colours.  Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a colour.  Pumpkin is also a fruit.  And we have no idea what mauve is.
 
 
It was to womanhood, and to the literary celebration of their many virtues, that Burns devoted so much of his energy.  The irresistible beauty, and the sensuality, of the women who inhabited the world of Burns is evidenced by the fact that he fathered no fewer than thirteen (13) children through liaisons with no fewer than five (5) women whose names are known to us.  Clearly, Burns enjoyed “the friendship of the thighs,” and found, in that, his greatest inspiration.  Burns could not have attained the status he has so long enjoyed, were it not for the fact that he was surrounded by remarkable women. And, aren’t we all? His love of the lassies, is best summarized in this excerpt from Green Grow the Rashes:
 
 
Auld Nature swears the lovely dears
Her noblest work she classes;
Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man,
And then She made the lasses!
And so we toast the daughters of the Celts, and All the members of the fairer sex who are the inheritors of the Spirit of the Celts, as celebrated in the verse of Robert Burns, in all their beauty, dignity, strength, and, yes, in their ferocity.
Gentlemen, please rise…
 
 
Together we stand, here in praise
For the women around us and in our days,
Like Robert Burns, he once knew
That we love our lassies, though he had more than a few
They feed our spirit, they feed our soul
For many of us, they fill our bowl.
They care for us, they keep us well
Though occasionally, they make it feel like … heaven.
They teach us manners, they teach us style,
For many of us, that takes quite a while.
They improve with age, while we do not
For that is clear, looking at you lot.
But,
Tonight we stand, here in praise,
So join me lads, let your voices raise.
Prepare to toast, fill up your glasses,
Join me now, to our bonnie lasses.
 
To the Lasses.
 
 
TO THE LADDIES
 
 While I admit my partner did point out a few good points, — and no we can never have too many shoes.— I have to admit I’M GLAD I’M A WOMAN.
 
In fact, I’m so glad, I wrote a poem about it!
 
I’m glad I’m a woman, yes I am, yes I am.
I don’t live off of Budweiser, Beer Nuts and Spam.
I don’t ignore my injury, broken bone or infection.
I won’t drive to Hell before I ask for directions.
I don’t get wasted at parties, and act like a clown.
And I know how to put that damned toilet seat down!
I don’t belch in public, I don’t scratch my behind.
I’m a woman you see-I’m just not that kind!
I’m glad I’m a woman, I’m so glad I could sing.
I don’t have body hair like shag carpeting.
It doesn’t grow from my ears or cover my back.
When I lean over you can’t see 3 inches of crack.
And whats on my head doesn’t leave with my comb.
I’ll never buy a toupe to cover my dome.
I’m a woman by chance and I’m thankful, it’s true.
Thank god im a women not a man like you.
 
Now while I am pretty excited to be a chick – and these things may be true— there is  a reason we still tolerate our men.
 
You see a man needs his lassie as much as a lassie needs her man. In reality our laddies are like pipers in the mist, they bring music to our hearts and many a time a tear to our eye. Lads and lassies go together just like Scotland and the thistle, whiskey and haggis,  stars and strips and the union jack.
 
I may be American by birth, but tonight I am an honorary highland lass representing all the wonderful lasses in this room.  So from this highland lass, I ask you lassies gathered here tonight to please stand, seize your drinks and raise your glass.
 
Lassies I proudly give you our strength, our heart, our laddies.
 
TO THE LADDIES!
 
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