Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rome



We also managed to get away to Rome over the January break. I think it topped both of our lists as our favorite city we've visited. Since it was the low season, we enjoyed both the sunshine (and significantly warmer temperatures than Scotland) and lack of crowds.


Tourist highlights? Colosseum (right down the street from where we stayed), Parthenon, Trevi Fountain, Vatican, Sistine Chapel, etc, etc... Check.


Delicious food (and drink)? Pizza, pasta, cheese, wine, grappa, etc, etc... Check.

Oh, and visiting the cat sanctuary so I could fall in love with adorable, three-legged hobo cats?

Probably my favorite part.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hunting for Nessie...



This was our second Scottish Christmas, and Jessie came over from Spain to join us for the holidays. Having braved driving once with Joe, we decided to rent a car again and cross "Loch Ness" off our list of places to visit.

First up, the snowy Cairngorns and a stop at the Tomatin distillery.


The snow turned into rain at Inverness, and Loch Ness was shrouded in storm clouds by the time we arrived.


But we made the best of it and used Urquhart Castle as our base for Nessie hunting...


...and taking lots of photos.

Jessie and I:


Matt takes the castle!

Winter travel in Scotland doesn't really give you a lot to work with in terms of daylight or good weather, but it means fewer crowds and cheap rates at adorable inns with attached pubs and gourmet restaurants. Plus, I think I read somewhere that Nessie comes out more in the rain.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Joe comes to visit!


This past week, Joe braved his fear of travel to deliver his usual care package of pumpkin, cornmeal, magazines, parmesan cheese, vitamins, and mail in person.

After two years here, Matt and I still hadn't been up north, so we decided to rent a car and go to Isle of Skye and the Highlands. It was breathtaking.


Oh, and I learned how to drive British-style.


Obligatory castle visit (a must for all tours of Scotland)! This is Eilean Donan, just before crossing the bridge into Skye.


Joe and Matt also did some serious whisky tasting. By the end of the week, they had sampled more than thirty different kinds, and we'd been to several distilleries.


We also did some hiking at the base of the Black Cuillens, one of Skye's mountain ranges. The midges attacked me and I look like I have chicken pox on my face and neck now, but it was worth it.


This is Kilt Rock, named for its pleated surfaces.


We did some more hiking, this time up towards the Storr. It was steep going, but rewarded us with spectacular views.


In between all this hiking and scenery, we ate some of the best meals I've ever had (and definitely the best food I've had in Scotland) both in restaurants and thanks to Joe's cooking, showed him around our little village, and hit up Dundee and Edinburgh. The week definitely rekindled my appreciation for where we live, which, if you couldn't tell by the lack of posts here, has dwindled over this long cold summer. Thanks, Joe!

Liverpool + Belfast


I never finished with our UK tour, did I? Before I get to our more recent tour of Scotland (with special guest Joe) - here's a quick recap in pictures of the last two stops after Bournemouth:

We spent most of our two days in Liverpool at a conference, but we did take a quick night time walk around the city.



Then it was off to Belfast for about 24 hours. To make the most of our time, we opted for a bike tour around the countryside.



After that, we headed into the city and toured the capital building. Matt found a prominent seat to rest in.



We also had to stop by the oldest bar in town for some traditional drinks.



And then it was back to the airport and back to Scotland!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bournemouth


After London, we headed down to the beaches of Bournemouth on the south coast of England for a conference. When we arrived, it was sunny and hot, so we headed straight down for the water (stopping to pose briefly on the cliffs):


The beach was packed with locals and tourists. Someone we met at the conference said that Bournemouth is like a "poor man's Brighton" but since I've never been to Brighton, I can't assess the validity of that statement. However, they had pretty awesome beach cabins (like tiny houses) for rent, plenty of stereotypical fish and chips shops, and a pier with a carnival atmosphere, so it definitely felt like a tourist spot.


Of course, we didn't get to spend much time on the beach, and most of the rest of our trip was claimed by the conference proceedings. It was nice to get brief exposure to some sun and heat though! St Andrews has lovely beaches, but it's rare you would want to be down on the sand without a coat.

Monday, July 11, 2011

London


It seems just wrong that we've been here for two years, and this was our first trip to London. Fortunately, the city more than lived up to our expectations, despite giving it about 48 hours to impress us.

Obligatory shot of Queen's guard?



Of course.

Buckingham Palace walk-by?



Definitely.

Celebration of Canada Day, complete with "Canadian" food?



Um, okay.

We also caught "Love Never Dies" (yes, the sequel to "Phantom of the Opera) before it closed, and were rewarded with free ticket upgrades. Then we went and ate all the food we can't get in St Andrews: pho, sushi, and Mexican. And promptly started planning a return trip.

I'll leave you with Matt making his "Big Ben face." Accurate? You decide.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

'Vacation' in Dundee


When you're a grad student, you'll take what you can get in the vacation category. This past week, we were flat/dog sitting for a friend in the nearby metropolis of Dundee. A mere 25 minutes by bus from St Andrews, Dundee feels like a vast city after our tiny, tiny village of 16,000 (less now that school is out and the students are heading out). Let's be honest, they have a McDonalds...it's pretty exciting.

Anyway, instead of boring you with the details, I'll just sketch what our getaway looked like in pictures. Sadly, we didn't bring our camera, so these are all from the iPhone.

We went to the park with Stella, and played a lot of fetch. Matt tried to teach her some discipline.


We watched a lot of movies - both at the DCA and from the collection of our host. There was a 42 inch flatscreen and surround sound. It was awesome.



There was a lot of eating (shocking, I know)...Scottish cheeses, Indian, Turkish, and this delicious tiramisu:



And, like any getaway to a new (ish) city, we did a lot of walking. Here is Matt, posing in front of the 'Matthew Building' at the University of Dundee:



Nothing particularly exciting here, I know, but after months of barely leaving St Andrews (much less our flat)...it was nice to get away. And it gave me something to post here, for those of you that stuck around during our hiatus.