Monday, May 26, 2014

Scotland 2014 Day 2: Loch Lomond to Kennacraig

Scotland 2014 Day 2: Loch Lomond to Kennacraig

We arrived at Edinburgh airport and in my extreme tiredness I had no idea what to answer the customs dude when he said, "Are you traveling together?" with Matt. It's always hard to know if they mean "Are you family" or just simply "Are you traveling together". Anyway, I bumbled through that in an awkward tired haze and then we picked up our baggage and headed to the car rental place. On the way there we walked past a "W.H. Smith" Bookstore (memories of Canadian childhood!) and saw some crazy Maynards candies there called "Wine PASTILLES"... like a combo of Wine Gums and Fruit Pastilles. Wow. I will have to get some of those when I actually have some pounds. On to get the car, and that was super straightforward. Our car is a "Ford CMax"... what a weird name. Nice car though!

A good reminder outside of the car rental station
And... we're now officially in the UK.
First stop was a mall close to the airport which Heev had looked up in advance, which had a place to get us SIM cards for our phones for the week. Matt drove very successfully on the other side of the road and then we graciously missed our first turnoff on the roundabout, when attempting to read the car directions manually. That SIM card and Google Maps GPS can't come soon enough!

We tried again on the roundabout and made our way to the shops... the first sign we saw when we parked: "M&S" (Marks and Spencers)!! Score!! We were super excited to go check it out. Inside the mall we wandered to a Boots (like a "Shopper's" or a "Walgreens") and I got a coconut water. The lady in there was hilarious, "Oooh, with Pineapple?! Ach, that's lovely, isn't it?" Hilarious. I also saw my old favourite from when I lived in England, Lynx Africa scent aftershave and deoderant spray. Will definitely have to grab some of that before we head home.

Not sure what this all means
The phone store (Carphone Warehouse) was SUPER convenient and straightfoward. For only £20 we got a SIM card which gave us talk, text and data... perfect!

At M&S we bought food for the road for lunch. They had some tasty looking Orkney Islands Smoked Salmon, and some soft "Irish Potato Farl" -- some kind of bread that looked good and sortof like a pita or an Indian prata. We got some berries and dried mango, and wandered the aisles for a while since M&S is so awesome. The Yoghurt was AMAZING... so creamy and so many epic flavours like Goosebery&Elderflower! I do remember that England rocked at the milk products, and Scotland certainly held up this excellent standard. There were so many interesting creams and whipping creams, double devonshire, tasty butter, epic yoghurt... not to mention Cadbury's Dairy Milk and how awesome it is here compared to the epic abomination called "Milk Chocolate" in the US. They REALLY kick ass at milk products in the UK. I am excited to eat all the yoghurt in this entire country. :)

My favourite kind of Farl!
Lunch... or breakfast... or is this dinner?
Orkney smoked salmon... it begins!
As usual, UK really rocks it at milk products. This yoghurt was life-changing.
We secured the phone/GPS to the window, loaded up Google Maps (after checking to see that Waze didn't have nearly as many users on the road as we have in the US) and headed off with the comfort, safety and general awesomeness of a GPS telling us where to go and what roundabout exit to take. Excellent. This was so much better and also completely removed the necessity to attempt to navigate and pay attention to road names and street signs. Especially given my tired and somewhat useless state, I was particularly keen to just kick back and let the GPS work it's magic. This also allowed Heev just to focus on driving and staying on the correct side of the road and not concerning himself too much about exactly what the roundabout signs all said. Great times.

Stirling Castle
We got to Stirling and checked out the castle briefly. It was a super easy drive, and the roads were great. Heev quickly got the hang of the other side of the road, and once we were out of the insanity of city driving, it was super smooth all the way. After the 45 min to Stirling, we drove right into the castle parking lot. The attendant in the lot was hilarious and had a SUPER proper/posh accent (he must have been English). "Right this way, my colleague will assist you!" Hilarious.

We parked and walked around for a bit but wanted to make good time to our destination for the evening. The flight was 2+ hours late and we were (yes, I know, we're insane) fine just to take some photos of the outside and the views without going in. A little silly perhaps, but it was nice to see it to some extent and then continue our long journey for the day.

Tasty pastry stop
We drove onwards toward Balloch and then rounded around the western edge of Loch Lomond. On the way up Loch Lomond, we passed by this excellent farm shop and grabbed some tasty homemade pastries. The girl there made us some great coffees and we bought a Christmas-cake-ish pie and a loaf which was full of cranberries and nuts. Great.

We continued along the coast of Loch Lomond and the lake was super nice. The sky was clear and the loch was calm. SWEET. We got out a few times to take photos of the quick scenery and had a quiet relaxation moment there on the shores. Gorgeous and awesome.

Loch Lomond!
Um... YEP.
Shores of Loch Lomond
Our sweet ride for the week

We continued the drive up towards Inverary... WOW. The mountains were huge and very, very green. The bright green grass and trees alongside the bright yellow Gorse plants and Canola plants (like in China!) was super awesome. We also noticed, hilariously, a lot of forest areas where the trees planted were distinctly two different colours... I wonder why that was. The trees were not specifically different heights, so perhaps they were planted at roughly the same time... they were just different shades of green! So funny, and it made for some beautiful patterns on the hillsides. I loved this part.

Rounding the top of the curve around the land to get to Kintyre
More incredibleness as we get closer to Kintyre. No filter. It was this epic.
Getting closer to Lochgilphead
We got to Tarbert about 6:45pm, at approximately the time we were aiming for. We checked in and as we did, the owner said, "Richmond St, eh?" Turns out that a lot of the people who ran the place had a Toronto connection! Some of them were born in Toronto and other folks were born in Scotland but lived in Toronto quite a lot. What a funny coincidence.

West Loch Hotel in Tarbert, our home for the night
We got settled and I had a "shower" in the tub with a hilarious showerhead that looked sortof like an old timey telephone. A hilarious fail, it reminded me of our old bathtub in Oxford and how it was always impossible to clean yourself fully. That was hilarious and a good comedic moment to wake me up from the jet lag before dinnertime. We went down to chat and started with a local beer, I got one called "Skinny Blonde" from the Oban Bay Brewery.

Dinner was Fish & Chips (of course!) given how epic the website was for the hotel and how much they had highlighted the Fish & Chips. MAN that was good!! It also came with some tasty peas, a-la the British style :) After dinner I got a Canrachan dessert, which was sortof like a fatty version of a yoghurt & cereal/bircher muesli combo! Tasty stuff. I had heard that the oats in a Canrachan were usually soaked in Whisky first, but I didn't get much of a whisky taste in the dessert - though given my jet-lagged state it's certainly possible there was :)

Epic Whisky selection
It begins
Epic Fish and Chips
Trying a Canrachan for dessert. And SO jet lagged.
After dinner we had a good walk and a chat, trying to push ourselves to stay up until 10 or 11pm so that we could adjust as quickly as possible to the time change. We took a nice walk along the water and even though it was getting late, it was still kindof light out.

Home for the night
Sweet sunken pirate ship (sortof)
We got back to the hotel and for (2nd) dessert, we had some Whisky!

I tried the Caol Ila Distillers Edition 1998, double-matured first in American oak and then in Moscatel wine casks. This was sweet and super tasty. I also tried the Jura Diurach's Own (A "Diurach" is the Gaelic word for the people of the Isle of Jura), this one was quite rich and spicy.

After a long and exciting first day in Scotland, we were a bit worried about whether we'd be able to get to sleep quickly, but the beds were set up nicely and we both hit our pillows hard and fell asleep immediately, dreaming of the many tasty drams to come.

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