Saturday, April 26, 2014

Unicorns and Sea Monsters

Scotland Day #3: Waking up after a night of (relatively) good sleep is certainly helpful when embarking on a day of adventure. Our second and final day on the tour involved the two biggest highlights on the agenda. It also happened to be Easter Sunday, so as we made our way to the dining room, we stumbled upon a nice little Easter basket of Cadbury Creme Eggs for all to indulge... We caaaasually took three each.... And after a lovely traditional breakfast overlooking the sunlit loch through the bay windows of the b&b, we clambered back into the tour bus and set our course for Eilean Donan Castle.

Apparently this historic structure is the most photographed castle in Scotland. Whether that fact is true or not, it's beyond a doubt worthy of being seen. Another stunning day in the Scottish Highlands, I was literally floored by the beauty of the landscape. I couldn't stop taking pictures of the loch, the castle itself, and all the charming little nooks and crannies bespeckling the scene. To be honest, I think the pictures speak more for themselves than I could...

Of course, when we arrived back at the bus, we found neat little bottles of whisky in each of our seats! I wasn't aware that we were going to be getting booze as part of the tour, but hot damn thank you ma'am! A fellow tour-goer didn't want hers (not such a lushy whore I guess) so I scored two for the price of one! Combined with our Cadbury freebees from the morning, I was certainly a happy little lady. A wonderful mentality to hit up the most important attraction of them all: LOCH NESS...

Before leaving for this trip, I was informed that the Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland... What?! Why did I not know this before? Why have I not made this pilgrimage sooner? And how on earth have I managed to escape dating a Scottish man in past as a result? Are all fantastically good questions... That being said, as I was wandering around Paris mere days before the trip, I walked past a children's boutique in my neighborhood which was displaying various cutesy party favors, one of which was a set of Unicorn masks. Being an absolute no-brainer, I clearly walked into the store directly and purchased these masks so that we would have them for our travels. As a select few were able to identify, what better way to attract a mythical creature such as the Loch Ness Monster than by luring it from its hidey hole with the enchantments of another mythical creature, specifically the national animal? Clear and logical rationale. My cousin, who is the best sport in the world, did not even flinch at my desire to wear these masks in public. At first, we had no idea that we would also be taking a cruise around the loch and confined to a smaller area in which to parade our ridiculousness. But happily, we were informed on the outskirts of the little town we had lunch in right off Loch Ness, that we would be able to take the boat ride if we so chose. Duh and duh! Especially since the weather was perfection.

The boat was pretty small, so while the upper level was obviously the location with the best advantages to view the landscape, the lower level had a lot more room... and a bar. The best part about this was the bartender who had a lot of knowledge, explaining the sonar system displayed, the recent Nessie sighting that had taken place a mere three days before, and who had access to bottles of Nessie beer. I had been looking for an appropriate Nessie souvenir for myself but found most of them a bit too cheesy even for me. So this was the perfect solution, allowing me the chance to drink a beer and have something to display in my apartment crowning my achievements. We did of course see Nessie, as displayed by pictures and footage below, and I defy anyone to suggest it wasn't a direct result of our fanciful unicorn masks.

We made a couple of more stops on our way back to Edinburgh, including a magical little woodland walk and waterfall, a shopping area that provided delicious ice-cream for an afternoon snack, and the Forth Bridges, one for rail and one for road. We finally made it back into the city by about 7pm, where we checked into our last b&b of the weekend. According to the reviews, this one was fairly basic and nothing special but in an excellent location with a view of the Castle, and they were right. It felt the least cosy of the three but is placed right in the center of town, making it a perfect spot for the end of our travels. We had time to grab some dinner before venturing off to a ghosts of Edinburgh walking tour. The tour guide was definitely enthusiastic, in a way that made me assume she must be a struggling actor and uses this as an acting workout and to pay the bills. Her dramatic delivery bordered absurd at moments but was appreciated nonetheless. The tour started well enough, walking down various "closes", which are alleyways that used to be the main way to access your living quarters. Ultimately, however, we were taken down into underground vaults that were certainly creepy and spooky, but also appeared to be owned by the touring company itself. That, combined with the fact that the ghost stories became much more recent and modern rather than historic made me feel like we were definitely amidst a cunning tourist racket. Ah well, it was amusing nonetheless...

Though we originally had no plans for post-11pm on a Sunday night in Edinburgh, I had kept in touch with my Scotsman from Friday evening. He was planning to be out about town with a few friends that night, so my cousin and I agreed to meet them for a nightcap. At first we were told to go to one bar where there was live music, but of course the trouble with technology is that when you don't have great access to it, it begins to foil your plans. Though I had tried to connect to wifi beforehand, I didn't receive his message that they had switched locations until Cousin and I had already settled in with a pint. Apparently the bouncers at the door weren't very happy letting multiple males into the bar, something that I admit seemed obvious when Cousin and I were given the once over before being allowed in, clearly having been assessed and proven worthy of entrance. So we trekked to the other bar where we demanded that Scotsman buy us a drink for making us wander about town. He told me almost immediately to beware his friends who were certain to spend the night "taking the piss" out of him because he was meeting a girl. This of course prompted me to tell them I'd heard they were mean and evil or some such nonsense upon introductions. They were actually a satisfyingly rowdy crew, full to the brim with the renowned Scottish "banter" we kept being told about. We had a great time with these boisterous locals. And let's be real, I prooooooooobably... didn't stay at the b&b that night (she says rather quickly and under her breath as if ashamed or embarrassed though clearly just the opposite)... But what better ending to a weekend of ridiculousness?