The Search for Nessie

You do not have an adventure in Scotland without first, drinking Scotch, and second – searching for Nessie in the depths of Lock Ness (in which order, it does not matter, but I recommend the latter).
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After drinking  the local spirit, we traveled to the town of Drumnadrochit (do not ask me to say it out loud). There we caught a ride on the Nessie Hunter – a vessel specially designed to track down the infamous Monster. Led by our trusty guide, George Edwards, one of leading experts on the creature,  we set sail on the murky lake to find our monster.
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Was it real?? Nice? Mean?
It is certainly understandable why this area of Scotland has so many myths associated with it. Loch Ness is the deepest fresh water lake in the UK spanning 52km and able to fit the population of the earth 3 times over within the depths of its waters. It is also extremely dark due to the Peet in its soil, a smoky mineral used in many whisky’s to give it its rich flavor. Naturally, being such a deep, dark lake – its bound to have its stories.
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Aboard the ‘Nessie Hunter’ we went on our search for the mysteries animal that swims the depths of the lake. Our tour guide dove the lake several times a year and had us convinced that there must something down there not discovered. After all, new marine life is found every year in the lake and it being as dark as it is, you can never see past a foot.
Is there a real monster swimming about? We certainly tried our best to find it, but Nessie is allusive at best. Never loose hope though as new sightings resurface when you least expect it…
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Whisky Tasting in Scotland

If there is anything I have learned through seeing the various countries of the world, it is that off-the-beaten path is so much more interesting than the major capitals. A city is a city, no matter where you are, but the country – that’s where you meet all the interesting people, hear all the interesting stories and make your life adventure.

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Up by Inverness, at the very top of Scotland, rests a small distillery called Glen Ord. A part of a large network of Scotch produced throughout the world, a tour through the distillery followed by a tasting, is where the true Scotland lays.

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With nearly 2000 whisky’s produced in Scotland alone, the drink itself is synonymous with the very heart of the country. Official distilleries actually only began in the late 18th century, with whisky being produced in individual homes and small, untaxed establishments prior to this. As a part of the many myths that go with the intricate brewing process of the whisky, angel’s share and the copper dog have to be among my favorite.

Nearly 160 bottles are lost every year due to evaporation. Endearingly thought of as the Angel’s Share, the distillery workers also have taken their share throughout the years. Naturally, working around whisky and growing up with the brew, locals developed a method for skimming a little off top. In came the invention of the copper dog. An ingenious invention that could be quickly dipped into the barrel then string along the inner pant leg, with the boss left unaware.

ImageWith its intertwined history with the country of Scotland, Scotch is an acquired taste, but an absolute must if visiting Scotland. We tried 3 at Glen Ord – Talisker, a peaty, smoky scotch not for the faint-hearted, Dalwhinnie a 15 year scotch with hints of honey and fruit (my favorite) and of course the singleton, the signature of the distillery, stored in sherry barrels which give it a fruity vanilla taste.

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If there was ever any hint of doubt on your love for Scotland and its hardy, rich people, then a tour to a distillery will surely win you over. The pride and heritage of the spirit ties directly into the pride and spirit of the people who make the famous liquor – and you can’t help but love both.

Gypsies?! aka “Traveler Community”

Today I learned something new — Gypsies exist. And we shouldn’t call them ‘Gypsies’ they are members from the ‘Traveler Community’ (kind of like Indians are ‘Native Americans’).
To be honest, they kind of have a bad reputation. In the UK, they are known for getting drunk and getting into fights. In mainland Europe, they have a bad rep for being beggers who steal all your money and attempt to scam you with sob stories. While these may all be true, the community has one constant in their culture — they are always on the move.
Have you heard of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?” Apperantly I am the only person in this modern world who has actually never watched the program – but it is your best bet for trying to understand this subculture of Europe. Weary of strangers, and an extremely closed community, the people are far from the Esmerelda cartoon character I imagined.

Hogmanay, Scottish Style

I don’t know if it was the accent, bag pipes playing in the street or the whisky (not whiskey) shops on every corner – but Scotland is just different from England. Proud of their heritage and fiercely independent minded, the Scots of Edinburgh surely have a rich heritage to be proud of.

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‘Hogmanay’ is Scottish for the last day of the year. Historically believed to have coincided with the Winter Solstice, it has grown to one of the largest New Years celebrations in the world.

Kicking off this three day event, is the torchlight procession (on Dec 29th). Largely done in part for charity, each member lights each others candle until the crowd of 20,000 people can proceed down Chambers street fully lite. The sight of walking fire culminates at Edinburgh castle where viking processions set afire wooden structures in the streets.

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New Years Eve is an entirely separate event. With a concert in the gardens, the Keilidh (traditional Scottish music) and the infamous street party, there is plenty to entertain. The street party is the most popular; the city shuts down the main thoroughfare of Princes St to allow the nearly 400,000 visitors fill its streets. With 5 live bands, screens and a 2 minute long firework finale – it is easy to see how this event is one of the worlds most popular.

Probably the best part of the night is the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” – that song we all sing during New Years, written and popularized by the famous Scottish poet, Robert “Rabbie” Burns. Does the below sound familiar?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

As a local told me– the air of Edinburgh gets into your blood. It fills your spirit with the celebration of New Years and, incredibly, cures your hangover the following day.

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Britian Beware – I have arrived

After leaving Asia, it was a relief to step off the plane into a country that spoke English! – well sort of. My first impression of the Brits was somewhat of a surprise; they are hilarious, open-minded and sooo not as classy as their accent would have you believe.

Although there are so many things to love about this culture (one being that they ‘get’ us as another western culture) – I decided I loved Britain after:

–          Ordering a glass of wine, and was asked if I would like a large or small glass – large please!

–          Discovering these absolutely awesome things called pubs – which are seriously better than any bar in America because it is all ages, people know you by your first name and the atmosphere fills you with this warm fuzzy feeling

–          Being told so many times how they thought American culture was interesting and loved our accents even more than we loved theirs! – ?!

As I embark on the next two years of a new chapter in my life – living in yet another foreign country – I can only wonder what England, the UK and Europe has in store…

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