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The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief

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10 Things I Love About Scotland

A Wandering Widow Post

It may sound silly to say a country could sweep you off your feet, but that’s exactly what happened to me. When I first visited in the spring, it was enough to make me swoon and put Scotland at the top of my list for this adventure. I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love with Scotland itself or if it were because it was the first place I’d felt joy in a long time, but I knew I’d figure it out. I’m thrilled to report that it’s all Scotland, and I love it even more than before.

Here are the top 10 reasons I love this country. Believe me; it was a struggle to narrow it down to 10.

1. The Highlands. I’m afraid photos just don’t do it justice. The majesty and power and magic of the mountains and hills, the glens, and the rivers are enough to make me wish I was a poet or painter or that I had the resources just to get out and walk every last inch of it.

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2. The skyscape. If I take any more photos of clouds, my camera may quit on me. But it’s hard to stop myself from doing it. The clouds are ever changing, which alters the light and the colors of everything you see. Time-lapse photography was made just for this.

Outer Hebrides Clouds (3 of 1)

 

3. The beaches. Okay, so the beaches here are a little different than the ones I enjoyed growing up in the tropics, but that makes them no less beautiful. The white sand beaches up in the Orkney Isles are crystal blue. And despite the cold wind, I’m already dreaming about going back.

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4. The ocean. I’ve spent more time on boats and ferries in the last five weeks than I have in the last five years. Rough or smooth, always cold and windy, I couldn’t get enough of it. One of my favorite memories of this trip will be holding on for dear life (it was a titch rough that day) on the top deck of the ferry as I headed to the Orkney Isles, laughing like a maniac and keeping an eye out for the infamous whirlpools I’m told can appear.

It was hilarious. Maybe you had to have been there.

5. The history. Scotland’s history is deeply rooted in the culture and people. It oozes out of the very earth under your feet and the abundant water that runs through it. Researching my Scottish ancestry made it that much more powerful and personal. Recognizing clan names from both our family trees was like winning the long-lost relatives jackpot, even when I was advised not to tell anyone mine and to use Dan’s instead. (this is hilarious for a number of reasons). And no, it’s not Campbell.
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6. The casual vibe. I like getting dressed up as much as the next girl, but when you’re living out of a backpack, it’s convenient to be able to go pretty much anywhere you want in jeans and hiking boots. (The LBD remains packed in the bottom of the suitcase, just in case). No one ever seems to be in a hurry. Scotland may be the most chill place I’ve ever visited. And did I mention super dog-friendly? Dogs are welcome in most bars and cafes, so Fido doesn’t have to be left at home or in the car. Izzy-booboo would be in dog heaven here.

7. The people. And not just the rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes. (Seriously ladies, you can stop messaging me pictures of rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes). Every single person I met was kind, friendly and welcoming. In Hawaii, we call that the Aloha Spirit and the Scots are pros.  Maybe that’s why I felt so immediately at home here.  The only rude people I encountered were middle-aged American women, but that’s a post for another day. 

8. The ease of transportation. For those days foot power just isn’t enough, you can get almost anywhere by bus or train. For everything else, you can hop on a tour or find a hired driver or a new friend who wants to take you there. It made it really easy to travel solo, especially since I didn’t want to rent a car and drive.

9. The single malts. You had to have known whisky would make this list. I accepted the single malt challenge while I was there. It will probably take me two years but, by the time it’s over, I will have sampled at least one offering from each of the 130 distilleries on my list.

10. The Idaho-ness. I haven’t felt homesick at all for Boise, but since Scotland reminds me so much of Idaho, it’s like I never left. Just like Idaho, Scotland is full of mountains, rivers, and people with a great love of the outdoors, family and friends. So yeah, Scotland reminds me a lot of Idaho, only with better weather.

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Scotland, do it. Don’t wait. And take me with you.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

Bonus Reason:
11. Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn, officially making it the coolest country in the world.

✔️ His Bucket List Gift

A Grief Recovery Project Post.

Do you remember when my grief counselor told me that if I stopped going to our favorite places or doing the things we loved, it would actually make Dan disappear and not help me feel better? Well, Dan and I had been planning this Harry Potter bucket list trip to Europe for years. We never got farther than planning and dreaming, but we knew that SOMEDAY we were going to go. When Dan realized he wasn’t going to be able to make the trip, he made me promise to go anyway. That promise was one of the many gifts he gave me to help me get through my grief journey.

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It was a gorgeous morning at Stonehenge. 

 

So I booked the trip and headed out solo. I figured if I were having a bad day I wouldn’t have to mess up anyone else’s itinerary. If I were by myself I wouldn’t have to explain why I was crying or laughing as I thought about him and wished he was there with me. And I underestimated the amount of crying I would do: saying goodbye to my dog; in the airport bar; in the boarding area; on the plane…you get the idea. I lost track of how many times I broke down in tears, but crying myself to sleep alone on our dream vacation became the norm. It’s a good thing I got over crying in public a long time ago, because there was plenty of that too.

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Glastonbury Abbey in England, reported to be the burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

 

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The beauty of getting lost is finding random art galleries down random alleys.

 

But I wasn’t really solo. Dan was there with me, watching out for me and pulling strings. I’m sure he intervened when I was able to get tickets for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, despite it being sold out for a year. And I give him full credit for the unseasonable picture perfect weather every single day that made Ireland look like the tropics! And he sent me little messages to remind me he was there and I was going to be okay.

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The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.  I’ll be back to hike the cliffs.

 

And I met amazing people, did amazing things, saw amazing things, drank (a lot) of amazing whisk(e)y, and the night before I was supposed to go to Scotland I had a full meltdown and started packing to come home. I’m not sure why that was the trigger, other than visiting Scotland was what we’d talked about the most. We both have Scottish ancestry, and there was just something about Scotland that called to us.

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I’d dreamt about Loch Lomond several months before making the trip.

 

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Dan came through with perfect weather the day we visited Loch Lomond.

 

So there I was in my hotel room a blubbering mess trying to figure out what to do. My little sister convinced me to stay, and I’m so glad she did. Scotland was magic. Somehow just crossing the border changed everything. I let go. I felt like I’d come home. It was everything I’d expected…windy, rugged, and beautiful. I’d actually dreamed about Loch Lomond a few months before taking the trip. Imagine my surprise when I got there and recognized it as the place I’d been dreaming of. And as I was standing outside in the highlands, cold wind whipping my hair around, I was laughing like a crazy woman. At that moment, I remembered. I remembered what it felt like to feel joy-pure joy! And happy. And at peace. And with hope for the future. It was like those highland winds ripped off all the grief and survivor guilt baggage I’d been carrying around and I was suddenly weightless. Dramatic, I know, but I can’t think of any other way to describe it.

Crazy highlands woman.
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I left my heart in the highlands.
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Clava Cairns, not far from Culloden Moor. No Outlander sightings that day, but you can go right up to the cairns and stone circle, unlike Stonehenge.

And here’s the big shocker.
I met someone!

Me. I met me without the weight of the world on my shoulders–the me that is going to not only survive but thrive in this new reality. I met the me that can cry and laugh at the same time and still enjoy life–the me that can look fear and loss in the eye and keep going. I met the me that was the wild crazy laughing woman in the highlands. And I think Dan somehow knew that would happen and that’s why he made me promise to go.

Taking this trip was terrifying, but I’m so glad I did it. And I can’t wait to go back.

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The River Spey, one of Scotland’s greatest natural assets.

 

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Edinburgh, Scotland. 

 

I’ll be back!

Table For One-The Euro Edition

In my earlier Table For One post, I discussed not waiting around for someone to invite us out.  Widowhood doesn’t mean having to hide out until you have someone to go out with. That has hangry written all over it.  I just completed our big bucket list trip in Europe and encountered a whole new table for one scenario that I couldn’t wait to share with you. Mostly because it’s so bad it’s comical. 

There are many things Europe does better than we do, but taking care of solo diners isn’t one of them. Or at least not solo female travelers who like to venture off the beaten path.  I don’t mind dining at the bar, but sometimes a W just wants to enjoy a lovely meal at an actual table. After spending three weeks across the pond, I was horrified and then amused at what would be offered. It almost became a game to see how bad it could get. My favorites include:

  • The hideous corner table where I was made to face the freaking corner like a naughty five year old.
  • The “it’s just you?” when asking for a table, followed by the big sigh.
  • The quick dragging away of the offensive “extra” chair.
  • Being ignored as soon as my food was delivered.  DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT must be part of the training manual.

Sadly, one downside of traveling solo means there was no one to capture the many WTF faces I tried very hard to control.  

As if this weren’t appetizing enough, this is where a table for one is a punishment. As a courtesy to the restaurant I won’t name them here.

There were some notable exceptions to the rule, my favorite being Hams Hame Pub and Grill just outside of St. Andrews Old Course. This lovely pub was clean and spacious and the staff was lovely.  It was all “Madam” this and “Madam” that.  Madam could sit anywhere she damn well wanted and received lots of smiles and attention by the staff.  Madam left feeling like a princess and not an outcast to be hidden away.  Madam likey. Check out Hams Hame if you are ever in St. Andrews.  Excellent food, great whisky options and a beautiful staff with amazing service.

So, my Dear W’s, keep trying until you find a place you like that makes you feel like Madam and not an embarrassment.  And remember-nobody puts baby in the corner.  Not even in Europe.

Cheers!

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