26. Scotland holidays in a nutshell

Siegen, Germany, 02.11.2016.

After three beautiful weeks in Scotland, I am now back in Germany to prepare for my upcoming Canada- adventure. However, this blog entry will not be about my preparations but about the holidays we had. Let’s review briefly what happened and lets see some pictures of the last part of the trip.

On October 10th, I drove from Gravesend to Aberdeen to pick up Glenn and then we went on to Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. We spent a few days there before we headed up north to Achiltibuie for my half marathon and to Ullapool. Unfortunately, we then only spent two days in the spectacular area north of Ullapool (Assynth). In hindsight, we should have stayed there longer. But what can you do when you plan a trip? After Ullapool, we drove south to Portree, Isle of Skye. We stayed there for four days and drove into each direction of the Isle once to see its most important attractions. Our next stop was Duror, next to Loch Linhe, where we probably chilled the most during our trip. But that was also necessary and we enjoyed that as well. After that, we spent some time in Arrochar which is in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. There, we had our most memorable mountain climb at Ben Lui, which became known to us as the “Fog and Mud- Mountain”. Could have been more fun. 🙂 Finally, our last stop was Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. We spent another two days there before Glenn flew back home on October 30th and I drove down again to Gravesend.

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23.10.: The hot Seafood platter at the Seafood Café, including: Scallops, lobster, crab, langouste, oyster, mussels, clam and razor clam.
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24.10.: Dunstaffnage castle.
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24.10.: McCaig’s “Tower” at Oban.
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25.10.: Ben Lui (1130m, left) and Beinn a’Chleibh (916m, rechts), both in clouds.
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25.10.: Muddy way up to Ben Lui. Very uncomfortable way up to the pinnacle.
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25.10.: One of the very rare moments in which the pinnacle of Ben Lui was NOT in clouds.

 

Now, what was really nice and enjoyable about Scotland? Actually, very many things of which I will now only mention the most outstanding. We had truly amazing food at the scorrybreac restaurant in Portree and the Seafood Café at Loch Leven. Of the many mountains we climbed, the Sgurr na Banachdaich (Cuillin, Isle of Skye) was the one we enjoyed the most. The whole way up was already great but the view on top of the mountain was unbeatable.When it comes to the landscape, the Assynth area was outstanding with the Achmelvich beach being an absolutely amazing sight in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. And what castle was the best one? Probably the Eilean Donan Castle but Sterling Castle was also really nice. Finally, the city of Edinburgh was also really amazing and the Old Town as well as the many sights of the city (especially the Scottish National Museum) are absolutely worth seeing. But these were only the absolute highlights. Overall, we have seen very many beautiful things on the trip which cannot all be mentioned here.

Okay, and what was not so nice? First of all, my car trips up and down from Scotland were a nightmare. On each way, I lost between 2 and 3 hours in traffic jams, really bad. Then, our accomodations in Portree and Arrochar were far away from beeing great. Food- wise, we really tried to get a good apple-crumble but despite several attempts, we could not get one. The apple- crumbles we got were between 2 and 4 on a scale of 1 (very bad) to 10 (greatest ever). Also, we were a bit disappointed about the Isle of Skye. The Isle is always advertised as being especially beautiful, having the greatest landscape in Scotland, etc. Yes, there are very beautiful spots on the Isle, including the Sgurr na Banachdaich. But overall, we found that the Assynth- landscape was a bit rougher, diverse and more colorful. Overall, in our mind the Isle of Skye is not bad or anything but we felt that it its beauty is overrated in the public opinion. Thus, we should have spent less time on the Isle. But all in all, there were only very few negative aspects on our trips. Interestingly, the often chastised Scottish weather was not too bad during our trip. We only had 3 days of rain during our time while it was mainly at least dry if not sunny. So we were really lucky in this regard. 🙂

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25.10.: Ice buildups at the top of the Ben Lui.
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25.10.: Pinnacle of the Ben Lui in clouds. While we were there, it never cleared up.
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25.10.: While climbing Ben Lui, we could witness how new clouds formed continuously and moved towards the pinnacle.
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25.10.: Ridge between Ben Lui and Beinn a’Chleibh.
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27.10.: Wallace Monument at Sterling.
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29.10.: View from Calton Hill onto Edinburg City. Edinburg Castle is on the right.

 

And what did we miss on our trip? What else is there to see in Scotland? Well, first of all we neither saw the Orkney- nor the Shetland- Islands. Also, we were told that Harris- Island north of the Isle of Skye is really nice. Then, we had no chance to see the regions way up north and east of the Scottish mainland. There are no more bigger cities up there but for someone who loves nature, these regions may be worth seeing. When it comes to the major cities, we were not able to see Glasgow and Dundee. Glasgow is said to be less beautiful than Edinburg but as tastes are different, I would rather see the city for myself before judging here. In the Highlands, I would love to spend more time in the Cairngorms National Park and in the Assynth- area. Finally, we were also not able to see the Scottish Lowlands as we spend most of the time in the Highlands. So visiting the Lowlands could also be an option during another Scotland trip.

Our trip to Scotland was just beautiful and I am very grateful that I was able to do it. In Glenn, I had a great companion with whom I had a lot of fun during the whole time. Thanks for coming with me and being part of this magnificent trip, Glenn. Hope to see you next year in Canada as well. Wherever we will be there then, East Coast, West Coast, Yukon or somewhere else.:-)

Today’s musik advice is a piece of good old punk rock. I especially like their older albums. Here’s a classic, already caricatured by Weird al Yankovic.

Offspring – Come out and play

21. Goodbye Canada!

Vancouver Airport, Canada, 10.06.2016.

As expected, I arrived at Vancouver airport really early and now I still need to wait 3 hours until the check in for my flight to Frankfurt will begin. So I still have plenty of time to think about my time here at Canada and to maybe already make some plans for the future.

Thus far, all my blog entries have been in German but I feel now it is time to publish one in English so all the Canadian readers can also follow my thoughts. For you German folks: Take it as an opportunity to train your English language skills. 🙂

In the past 4 and a half weeks, I have had the best time of my life. No exaggeration here. I have met wonderful people, seen beautiful places and sights and enjoyed the rich and diverse Canadian nature. This was an experience that I will always be very very grateful for and it has captured a big and permanent spot in my heart. In hindsight, I think that I should have made this trip already much earlier. In 2005 I put feet on Canadian soil for the first time and this is already 11 years ago. Way too long. As of today, I promised myself not only to return to Canada but also that it will definitely not take me another 11 years to do so. There is still much to see in Canada and I am a lot more excited about doing that than I am to spend time in Africa, Asia or Europe. The good thing is: No matter which part of Canada I will visit next, there will still be a lot of things to see. Even in the places I just visited, I have not nearly seen everything. I could have easily spent another week in Banff, Jasper, Vancouver etc. and still I would possibly not have seen everything there. But then again, it would also be nice to visit those provinces the next time that I have not seen yet at all. Quebec, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Yukon or Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Or maybe return to Ontario and do a little trip over there. Or take the train from east to west through Canada and explore the country like that. Or prepare and take part in the Canadian Death Race at Grand Cache. There are so many possibilities but I have not yet made up my mind what I will do in the future. But one thing is for sure: I will return one day. Maybe alone, maybe I will bring a friend and we will do a road trip together and maybe it is even going to be for a longer period of time and not just for vacation. Maybe even immigration, who knows? I don’t know yet but I will make up my mind and figure out something in the next months. Lucky me, I can take my time with that and I don’t need to hurry and make a decision right now or in the next weeks.

While in Canada, I was frequently asked what my single nicest experience or favorite place was thus far. In the beginning, I still tried to answer that question to the best of my abilities but in the end it became impossible for me to do that. I have had many really great experiences, visited lots of beautiful places and each one was good in another way. There were human experiences, animal experiences, nature experiences, educational experiences, sight- seeing experiences and so on. Even drawing up different categories and trying to find out which were the best related experiences would not be fair or make sense in my mind. But one thing I can say for sure: Meeting you Canadians, talking to you and doing things together with you was the best overall experience of my whole trip. I am very much looking forward to meeting you again and I hope you get into contact with me if you plan to visit Europe in the future. Thank you again for all your support, advise and your company. I am very very grateful for everything that you have done for me!

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Jade Statue, First Nations Art, in Vancouver Airport.

In a proper summary, not only the good aspects but also the bad ones must be mentioned. Now, there is not much to write about here. I could start with the price level of accommodation or food being relatively high in some areas (e.g.: Tofino, Vancouver, Jasper) but this is always the case if there are many tourists around. I guess that just needs to be accepted and there is nothing you can really do about it. Then again, it has not at all prohibited me to do the things I wanted to do. Overall, on my trip, time was a great limiting constraint and money wasn’t at all. The second negative thing that needs to be mentioned is the behavior of many tourists here in Canada. I have frequently written about it in the blog and it has irritated me more than once. This again is a thing that can probably not be changed. And I guess that this is also quite normal since tourists will behave similar everywhere they go. So this is definitely not an exclusive Canadian problem. The last thing that struck my attention was the totally different atmosphere and city feeling that I got in Vancouver. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I was a bit irritated after all because Edmonton and Calgary were so different. At least that is how I experienced it. Not that Vancouver was “bad” in any case but some of its aspects, like the traffic or the business-like and detached behavior of some of the Asian people, reminded me a bit of a European city. Now I do like some European cities but I like the Canadian ones more I guess. And I probably have a very incomplete picture of Vancouver so it isn’t really fair to judge the city like this. Also, it may just be a matter of time until one adapts to the different circumstances there and then the city probably feels ”normal”, too. In any case, I do like the Vancouver airport (see title picture) and I would definitely spend some days in Vancouver again if possible. Apart from the aspects mentioned above, which are just very minor points that everyone has to accept when travelling abroad, I have nothing to complain about. Maybe next time I visit Canada, I will try to avoid the very popular tourist spots and focus even more on staying in more remote areas. But I am not sure about that yet…

Now this is it, the last blog entry for this trip. I am already sitting in the boarding area and in 10 minutes, the boarding will start. The flight is a little bit late but we will be alright. Did I mention that I don’t like flying? Oh well, there is no more going back now.

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Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 from Vancouver to Frankfurt, 10.06.2016.

Ah, I almost forgot: Today’s music advice. The song is also on Youtube so you can check it out now. I think I don’t need an in-depth explanation why I chose it:

 Skylar Grey – I will return

Thank you all for following my blog and commenting. Hope we stay in contact.

Cheers, take care and GOODBYE CANADA,

Ralf