A Travellerspoint blog

Carbisdale Castle

The next days bus ride took us along the full length of mysterious Loch Ness, past ruined Urquhart Castle on the shoreline, which was once a prime location for warring clans keeping an eye out for enemy boats travelling the lock. We visited what was probably the biggest souvenir shop in Scotland and had a close encounter with Nessy. We even attempted a "summoning" but the non believers among us apparently sabotaged the attempt :) Although we didn't have a sighting of the famous monster we had a magic sunny day to enjoy the scenic drive up to Inverness. We stopped for lunch at Inverness located at the mouth of the River Ness. After lunch it was off to our accommodation for the night, a "haunted" castle at Carbisdale (now a Youth Hostel). On our way we stopped at Culloden Moor- where Bonnie Prince Charlie led the Highlanders in the doomed final Jacobite uprising, and changed Scotland forever. and of course made a quick stop at Glen Ord Whisky Distillery for a dram of 'Uisage Beatha', even though some of us still suffered from the previous nights indulgence.
The castle accommodation was actually really cool, it was not haunted as far as I could tell (it was only built in the 1920s) but the people working there seemed freaked out by something. It was located on a hill top overlooking a Salmon filled river and valley. After a couple of quiet ones at the local watering hole (which included getting into a kilt) we had to walk back up the hill to the castle in the pitch black, after all of the stories of ghosts this proved to much for a couple of us to resist scaring the life out of the girls :) (and maybe ourselves, just a little bit)

Posted by jezems 21:26

Fort Augustus - Loch Ness

Our small tour group was lead by Debs, a Scottish lass with a great sense of humour, thick accent and kilt. She had spent some time working in Australia, making it as far as Kalgoorlie of all places! The first day we headed from the lowlands into the highlands with the first stop the bottom of Lock Ness (well not literally). Along the way we were struck by the greenery. We stopped for a break by a ruined cathedral next to the heather stained River Tay and then over the Drumochter Pass- the highest road in Britain and into the highlands. With only one other stop for some whisky tasting we arrived at Fort Augustus. As we drove we were filled in on the history of Scotland and so it was fitting that the first night we went to a Clansman Heritage Show. This show demonstrated the weaponry, the lifestyle and even the fashions of the highlanders. Most fascinating were the kilts. These consist of a rectangular 10ft long tartin cloth, skillfully folded to wrap the clansman, no stitching or pinning involved. We ate dinner over looking the lock, keeping a keen eye out for the famous inhabitant before heading to the local for a night of beer and whisky with the new crew.

Posted by jezems 21:15

Edinburgh- Scotland

I was really excited about getting to Scotland, as one side of my family emigrated to Australia from here and we could be assured of some hearty food! (Cheese and baguettes were not doing it for us anymore) We had booked our accommodation early as were arriving during the fringe festival. A huge festival of live shows and a mecca for up and coming well established performers alike. The atmosphere here was quite electric and you could get through a day just wondering around looking at the street performances. There would be no possible way of seeing it all and half price tickets come up all the time as people are desperate to fill their seats. One of my favorite street performers was a bagpipe and drum band, of which i recorded a little on a video I'll try to include, great stuff.

Of course this is also the time of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Now tickets had sold out by the time i realised it was on when we would get there, but it just so happens that they release a limited number of tickets first thing in the morning for that nights show. After an early start and a two hour wait in line I managed to get two tickets in a prime location! The only downer was that it started to rain that morning and it wasn't likely to stop, but as the say in Scotland (and most places it rains a lot) its just liquid sunshine! That night, fully water proofed we attended a fantastic show. It's a show run with Military precision, right down to the herding of the audience into a 'pen' prior to being sent up the road to the entry. The spectacle takes place in the mounting yards in front of the Edinburgh castle with the castle as the backdrop. Through out the show different pipe bands and other styled perforemances from all over the world show their stuff with the final spectacle all of the bands playing together a great site. The stand outs were the Swedish guards men, something that needs to be seen to believed.

We also caught a couple of the other acts going on including Jimoen's show and some not so well knowns we felt sorry for. There were actually at the ticket booth promoting the show themselves. We stayed in a hostel that was right in the middle of all of the action and so it was full to the brim and very lively. For a couple of days we had a pair of German twin sisters sharing our dorm. They were over in Scotland studying and like everyone else checking out the festival. These girls were slightly freakish. At first only one came into the room and introduced herself, she said her sister would be arriving soon and looked a lot like her. She left to use the bathroom and her sister arrived and we assumed it was the original coming back from the bathroom. These two girls were exactly the same. Their hair, clothes, face, voice and wouldn't be surprised if even their fingerprints were the same. What made them even more interesting was that the where your stereotypical German, well organised, a little dorky, hair in pigtails. They were real characters and really nice girls as well.

I did mention food above, well it was fry up central in this town and who were we to argue. We found a great baked potato place on our first night and revisited a couple of times. My favorite was the potato with baked beans and cheese! We also found a great and cheap breakfast place with five very large ladies serving behind the counter, including an Aussie girl who was on par with her Scottish workmates. These girls loved their food and so did I. I went for the standard large breakfast which included two eggs, hash brown, bacon, haggis, black sausage, tomato and baked beans. Topped off with a mug of coffee. What a way to start the day!

Some of the best fun was exploring the other sites on offer here and also hanging out in the old pubs (out of the rain). We visited the Scottish Parliament, a modern and impressive building, despite what some locals may think. And we also visited the Scottish national museum which got us started on the historical journey that the rest of the UK would offer us. We managed to fit in a lot and on the morning of our fourth day we joined a five day tour that would take us around Scotland.









Posted by jezems 21:11


As you have now read in an earlier entry we got engaged in Paris, so not wanting to repeat ourselves in this entry we'll only cover the sites and other events that took place. For our stay in Paris we had decided to book in to a hotel, we where a little over the hostels! We found the hotel easily and set about exploring the city. From our hotel we walked to Saint Michael's square to catch a free tour of Paris (same as we had in other major cities) that left there a 4pm. It was a longer walk than we had expected and we where buggered by the time we arrived :) Determined we joined the tour and spent the next 3 hours wandering the streets of central Paris, listening to the great history of this famous city. In a strange twist the tour guide was actually and Australian that had been living in Vietnam before coming to Paris and was previously a tour guide on the same tour we did of Vietnam.
We had 5 days to explore and of course the Eiffel tower climb was first on Emily's list, I unconvincingly got her to agree to make the climb later in the week to give me some time to get myself organised and we spent a few days touring the various museums, galleries and famous suburbs / monuments of Paris. Armed with a copy of Rick Steves' Europe guidebook we had plotted out the main things we wanted to see. Highlights for me included the musee de orsay and the Louvre each taking almost a full day. We spent a lot of time wandering the back streets and finding little cafes to eat in, these proved a little cheaper than the main tourist drags, and some ellusive locals could be found there. The Jardin des tuileries was also a welcome refuge to watch the people go by after hours in the galleries. It was a strange feeling of an empty city in some areas, we had arrived at the beginning of their holiday season, so everyone had skipped off to the coast!
Heeding the warnings of large crowds we managed to hit the major sites early in the morning, we saw the Notre Dame in the early morning just as it opened and were almost the only ones in there, when we had passed by in the days before the line was snaking across the square. Inside the Gothic music played combining with dim lighting to give an impression of a mysterious transportation back in time. This effect was short lived as the endless opportunities to cash in on the visiting tourists reminded you which century you were in.
Another major site we got to early was Versailles. The extravagant palace of the Sun King Louis XII. We arrived before it opened and had a short line to get in. When leaving the line stretched for at least 300 metres with the 1 and a half hour minimum wait to enter sign at least 50 meters from the end. Feeling a great sense of our own intelligence, as we walk back to the train station passing hoards more people frantically heading towards Versailles to "beat the crowds". Inside Versailles we toured the main floors, through bedrooms parlous and ballrooms hearing stories of the past kings and queens of France all trumped up on their own self importance... We all so toured the enormous gardens finishing just before the rain clouds arrived. We opted out of the tour of Marie Antoinette's garden Maison for fear of reliving the horror that was the recent film following her life story. Those that have seen it will feel my pain, it was as bad as all of the Baz Luman films combined.
The day after the night before, on the Eiffel tower, we decided to check out the Jardin du luxembourg and then on to Montmartre to check out the Moulin Rouge, Amelie film sites and the Sacre Coeur. Finishing the Day of with dinner to celebrate our engagement and our last night in continental Europe before jetting off to Edinburgh.
The flights and processes of getting to Edinburgh was probably the least fun of the trip. We flew out from Charles De Gaulle airport, by all means avoid this airport if possible it is possibly the worst in the world! We flew with British airways, with a transfer at London to our plane to Scotland. This included biometric scanning and the removal of shoes, we were refused entry to the plane for a while because Emily's biometric scan didn't work.

Posted by jezems 21:05

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