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Edinburgh, Scotland, 6/7/10

Edinburgh, Scotland, 6/7/10

Back in the summer of 2010 we went to Scotland. That trip was actually the catalyst for this blog; we posted from most of our stops throughout the trip. We had a blast and learned a lot about the country. We also learned a lot about Scotch, whisky without an “e” (whiskey everywhere else has an “e”). While we were in Edinburgh, our first stop, we went into the Royal Mile Whiskies shop in order to get advice and to procure some libations to both enjoy during the balance of our trip and to bring home. The very nice gentleman in the shop suggested we go to a bar down the street where we could enjoy a flight of Scotch (4 different kinds) then return and make an informed purchase. Which is what we did. We came back and told him the one we liked the best and he burst out laughing. We have expensive taste — it was $150. We didn’t buy it. We suggested our second choice, it may have been Glenmorangie, and he refused to sell it to us. He said we could buy it in the states and that it didn’t make sense to lug back a bottle we could buy at home. He was a sensible man. He sold us a bottle of  Balblair 97 and we went away happy.

The first (but not the last) distillery we toured was Glenmorangie. It was interesting, we saw cool stuff and learned how Scotch is made, but the highlight was in the tasting room. We had taken the tour with four English gentlemen and while in the tasting room we got to talking. I taught them how American Bourbon is made and they, in return, taught us how to properly drink Scotch, specifically Single Malt Scotch. The secret is to drink it neat (which we knew) and add just a touch of water (which we didn’t). Not a lot is needed, just a few drops, but it’s amazing what a change it makes to the flavor of the dram.

Scotch Cheat Sheet, Edinburgh, Scotland, 6/7/10

Whisky Cheat Sheet, Edinburgh, Scotland, 6/7/10

Since then I have been enjoying the pleasures of Single Malt Whisky. Not all the time, and not a lot, but regularly. And I’ve started branching out. Up until recently I’ve been enjoying various types of Glenmorangie (which happens to be the best selling single malt in Scotland). If you’ll refer to the photo to the right, taken in the bar I mentioned in Edinburgh where we enjoyed that first flight, you’ll see that Glenmorangie generally falls into the lower right quadrant, Rich & Delicate. While in Scotland I recall enjoying the Talisker (another distillery we toured) and Oban, both of which fall in the opposite quadrant: Light & Smoky. And by Smoky they mean “Peaty” which needs to be experienced rather than described. With that in mind, recently I’ve been (really) enjoying the Laphroaig. Today I bought a bottle of the Ardbeg and thought I’d have a bit of a tasting (see the photo below). I’m not one to go all high-brow with the tastes (no “flavor of nuts with a hint of orange” for me)…it’s either I like it, it’s OK, or I don’t.

So, what’s the verdict? The Balblair was my least favorite, kind of bland to my taste. The Glenmorangie (a 12-year-old aged in part in Sherry casks) is good: light and not liable to overpower. The real winners in my eyes are the over-the-top smoky ones: the Laphroaig and Ardbeg. I’m not yet sure which I like best … I need to go try them again. Right now.

And I’ll be continuing my research in the years to come.

Note from the other drinker: John’s favorites are not mine. I do not like the smoky, peaty ones. At all. They taste, well, like liquid peat. If I have to drink Whisky, I prefer the Rich & Delicate flavors (or flavours, if you will). But really, just give me some rum. 

The inspiration for this post, 5/11/13

The inspiration for this post, 5/11/13

IMG_6803 - Version 2

Our English Tutors, Tain, Scotland, 6/10/10

Where the Magic Happens @ the Talisker Distillery, Skye, Scotland, 6/11/10

Where the Magic Happens @ the Talisker Distillery, Skye, Scotland, 6/11/10

A pub in the middle of nowhere, Skye, Scotland, 6/13/10

A pub in the middle of nowhere, Skye, Scotland, 6/13/10

The Oban Distillery, Oban, Scotland, 6/14/10

The Oban Distillery, Oban, Scotland, 6/14/10

Well, we are back in the land where people drive on the right and don’t talk (too) funny. We had a GREAT trip…expect many posts over the coming weeks on some of the sights that we saw. We took a few photos, some of them actually worth viewing. Below is a screen grab showing the locations of the shots we took, courtesy of Aperture & our GPS.

The pins show locations of photos shot.

(Geek notes: Each day I created a new track on our tiny GPS and it tracked where we went that day. Back at home, I loaded each day’s photos and the associated track and Aperture assigned a location to each shot based upon timestamps. It’s a very nice feature that allows us to rapidly find photos that we took. Technology can be a good thing.)

So, a good time was had by all. We met some interesting folks: the guy we met at dinner in Oban who’s walking the perimeter of Great Britain, the geologist who had spent some time on the rig in the Gulf that is now so famous and who had some interesting words concerning BP’s approach to safety, the bartender from New Orleans we met in Edinburgh who also had a few choice words for BP, the four Englishmen we met at a distillery who provided us with some excellent pointers on enjoying Whisky (and who I educated on the making of bourbon), the nice couple from Tasmania who are essentially on their way around the world, and many others.

We had, as usual, several unexpected experiences. We spent an immensely enjoyable afternoon watching a falconry demonstration. We watched bands at an open mike night in Inverness prior to the opening of a music festival there. We learned how dyes for yarn are made from natural ingredients at a shop located at what felt like the end of the world on Skye. We utilized high technology to finally understand a battle that took place almost 300 years ago. And, again, many others.

We also watched World Cup everywhere we went. We experienced the USA – England match with a bunch of Englishmen on Skye. We learned that the Scots are cheering for whomever is playing the English. We learned that the BBC must provide an option to turn off those damn horns and only listen to the commentators. And we learned just how much the World Cup is a truly international event. Our pilots provided updates and the bar in Newark was PACKED with folks watching…they were stacked well into the concourse outside the bar we were eating in, straining to see. (Reading the UK newspaper coverage was a lot of fun, too.)

Now we’re just trying to get back on our feet and re-adjust to the oppressive heat of Florida in summer. Not to mention our return to our desks tomorrow. All good things….

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland, 2010

Above: Falconry demo – yes that’s an owl, not a falcon. His name is Plop.

Below: Recipe book for yarn dyes

Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2010

(BTW: upon leaving each city, village, District, whatever, there was a sign that said “Thanks for visiting, Haste Ye Back”. Thanks, we may just do that.)

We arrived in Oban, our last major stop, Monday afternoon after a beautiful drive down from Skye. Oban is the “Seafood Capitol of Scotland” and we have been eating well (salmon, halibut, mussels, scallops, oysters). Yesterday we took a trip out to three islands (Mull, Staffa, Iona) which involved a ferry ride, a bus ride, a boat trip, another ferry, return on the bus and finally one more ferry. It was a long day but we saw some extremely beautiful sights.

On the ferries, there are announcements before you set off. They all consisted of something along the lines of: “Good afternoon, I am Captain Colin Campbell and mumble mumble mumble mumble safety mumble mumble mumble whisky mumble mumble mumble.” Not very helpful. On our last ferry of the day, while nursing a wee dram, I swear I heard him say “and ferrets to port.”

Which would, of course, imply that badgers are to go to starboard.

Oban, Scotland, 2010

Above: the lovely town of Oban

Below: Fingal’s Cave on Staffa

Fingal's Cave, Staffa, Scotland, 2010

Leakey's Bookstore, Inverness, Scotland, 2010

Yes, jackets have been required almost every day. Patches of snow have been seen on the tops of mountains.

No kilts have been purchased. Sorry to disappoint. The good ones are budget-busters and the cheap touristy ones are … cheap.

A good kilt needs 8 yards of fabric to make.

We are indeed developing a taste for the local drink. We even have a favorite. Too bad it’s so freakin’ expensive.

Whisky Tutorial, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2010

This country is absolutely gorgeous. And the people are very friendly.

John has become quite adept at driving on the left (note I did not say wrong) side of the road. There have only been a couple of close calls. Also, the roads here are much better than in Ireland. And we have to stop for sheep in the road. Lots of sheep. And a couple of cows. And one bull.

Niest Point, Scotland, 2010

This is apparently a favorite place for cyclists. They have been everywhere. I think they’re nuts. These are some serious hills.

There was no service available at the B&B in Inverness. We are now back on-line and quality posts will resume shortly. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Glenmorangie Distillery, Scotland, 2010

Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2010

While wandering the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, we have been sticking our noses down the “Closes” that branch off quite often. All the guide books say that there are some cool & interesting things down there and that we should poke around, so we did. The Close pictured above looked interesting due to the carvings over it, so we went in & found a kilt maker tucked away back there. We spent a very enjoyable half hour or so learning about the many patterns and eventually making a purchase. See below.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 2010

While in there I asked one of them how old the building was and he told me that that that depended upon how you defined it. It seems that in the 1700’s the building fell down, hence the quote above the entrance to the Close.

Huh?

A guy was trapped in the collapsed building. When he heard workers in the rubble he called out to them. His words are recorded above the entrance for posterity and are well known by many (at least many of the folks that we know):

“Heave away chaps, I’m no dead yet”

Who knew? (And that’s not a typo; it’s Scottish.)

Edinburgh, Scotland, 2010

BTW: Shortly after this, we went and tried “whisky”. We discovered that 1) we like it and 2) we have expensive taste. Neither comes as a surprise.

OK, so we arrived OK (extra $ for extra legroom = totally worth it) and the weather was beautiful. We were guided by the car rental lady to the local mall in order to get something to eat. First thing we see in the mall: Disney Store. Jeez. After minor navigational issues we arrived at our B&B to find that our room was ready! Woo-Hoo! We freshened up and set out.

Our landlady recommended a walk up to Arthur’s Seat so that’s where we went. Now, we’re from Florida. A hill in Florida is called a causeway and you drive over it. Arthur’s Seat to a Floridian who has been awake for 24 hours is a challenge. We didn’t quite make the peak, but we did well. But it was steep & hot. Then we just wandered about the Royal Mile and a party district called Grassmarket and people watched. Lots of hen & stag parties, which made for some interesting sights, a couple of adult beverages and finally dinner. At that point it began raining, hard, so we taxied back to our beds where we finally collapsed.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland, June 2010

Above: Arthur’s Seat on a beautiful day. High, hot and very pretty.

Below: The first of countless George Moments.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2010

Below:Our first dinner…and no, there was no haggis involved.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 2010

We are in the Orlando airport and we are ready to go!  Exit row for the trans-Atlantic portion is a beautiful thing.  We’ll be in touch.

In preparation for the Scotland trip we have spent lots of time hitting the travel guides & I (JP) have been contemplating the map hung on the wall. All of the guides, when discussing driving about, talk at length about the fact that many roads are narrow. Very narrow. So narrow, in fact, that many of the “single carriageway” roads have pull-overs in order to allow two cars to pass. If the cars meet where there is no pull-over, there is a protocol as to who gets to back up; things like distance to the nearest one & how many cars are behind you. Not to worry, however.

We’ve been to Ireland.

So we already know that driving on the left is no big deal. [Ahem.] The only problem with actually having the driver’s position on the right is using the stick with the left hand and getting used to pushing the gear into second when downshifting rather than pulling it. Traffic circles are no big deal either. [Oh really?] And we have our mantra to use while driving, provided by the bus driver on the way to the rental car company: “Keep the stripe on the road next to the driver’s window.”

Our second day there we saw a road that headed out to the end of a peninsula. “Hey! Let’s go there.” It was very narrow, winding and had lots of ups and downs. Sharp drop-off on the left. We were impressed. And we needed a drink when we got back to the main road. But that was only the warm up. On the Dingle Peninsula we went across the Connor Pass. We had been warned to go from East to West in order to keep the car on the uphill side. Wise advice. Again, very narrow, VERY sharp drops on the right and it curved up and up. We were actually run into the ditch on our way up. That’s when I understood fully why the hubcaps were tie-wrapped on.

So bring it on Scotland! (We’ll let you know if tempting fate is a bad thing.)

Connor Pass, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland, April 2003