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The Wandering Widow

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

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Table For One

Adventure Part 3: Islands and Highlands

A Wandering Widow Post

 
Sometimes it’s best to just hand the reins over to someone else and go along for the ride. Can you believe I just said that? I feel like I should get a “recovering control freak” gold star sticker for that one. This week a tour worked out great since I didn’t have to worry about scheduling ferries or buses or lodging. Instead, I just had a whole lot of enjoying the views along the way and taking time to figure out my next stop. (Still undecided as I write this).

I guess you could say it’s a mini-version of this entire year and my Grand Tour of Europe. Where to go? What to do? Who do I want to be? When your only plan is not to have a plan, it leaves the door wide open for adventure.

I was blessed to be able to cross another item off my bucket list: to visit the fairy tale Isle of Skye. It’s the first time since Dan died that I’ve crossed one off the list that was just mine, not ours…kind of like this whole adventure. And you know what? It felt amazing!

I’ve had so many people comment that they wish they could be brave and do something like this. Here’s the deal. I don’t feel brave. I do, however, believe that choosing to Live Now takes courage. Part of me misses the easy routine of my comfort zone. The other part of me is in a near constant state of bliss to be in a completely new environment. Living now is the only option that makes sense, especially to those of us that have lost so much. We know too damned well that tomorrow is promised to no one.


Live Now doesn’t mean selling everything you own to go on adventures, although that’s what I’m enjoying. It means squeezing every last drop of life out of the minutes we have. It means to be present in everything we do. And I wish for all of us to have a life full of Live Now minutes.

XOXO,

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

 

THE DETAILS:

The Isle of Skye

Visiting the Isle of Skye has been on my list for close to two decades. It didn’t disappoint. One of the bazillion things I love about Scotland is how the clouds and the light are constantly changing. It changes the colors of the landscape from minute to minute and, if you can stay put for a bit, you get a whole new perspective without even moving your feet.

The cuillins (5 of 1)
The Black Cuillins. Site of one of the bloodiest battles in Scotland’s history, and rumored to be the inspirations for Tolkien’s Mordor and orc battles.
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The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye.
Quiraing (3 of 1)
The Quiraing.
Outer Hebrides Clouds (3 of 1)
The clouds generate an ever changing skyscape. I think I’ve taken hundreds of photos of clouds since I’ve been here. Afterall, it is the Isle of Skye.
Outer Hebrides (2 of 1)
A rare clear view of the Outer Hebrides from the Isle of Skye.

MacLeod Castle (2 of 1)

Kilt Rock (2 of 1)
The other side of Kilt Rock.
Kilt Rock (1 of 1)
Kilt Rock.
Fairy Pools (4 of 1)
On the way to the Fairy Pools.
Fairy Pools (2 of 1)
The path to the Fairy Pools. The misty rainy weather just makes it that much more Scotlandy. Yeah, I just made up that word.

Every time I rounded the corner, I’d think to myself that there couldn’t possibly be a more beautiful vista in the world. And then I’d go to the next place and think the same thing. Maybe it’s all the fairy magic, but it’s definitely beautiful.

The Orkney Isles

It’s a trek to get here, but it’s like being in a whole new country. Colder and windier, the Orkneys gave me my first beaches in Scotland. You know this island girl and beaches; when I see them, they make my heart sing. I don’t care if they are sunny and tropical or cold and windy. It was a bit too cold to put my toes in the sand and water, but I could have stayed and walked for hours if I wasn’t worried about being left behind.

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I was expecting Heilan Coos, not hairy pigs. Cutest pig I’ve ever seen.
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Found heilan coos! This was as close as I was going to get, but the baby cooperated by posing for me. FYI like all mamas, the coos are very protective of their young. Keep your distance.
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Scapa Flow, where the German fleet was scuttled in World War 1.

 

The Orkneys are also home to Neolithic stone circles and Pictish archeological sites.

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The Standing Stones of Stenness are about 5000 years old, and pre-date both the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge.
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The Ring of Brodgar. It was raining sideways when I visited, and the mud was a mess, but it cleared out the other tourists so my friends and I had it almost all to ourselves.
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At the base of the causeway leading up to the Broch of Birsay, you can see sedimentary rock formations that go out in long bands into the ocean.
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Seashells on the beach (any beach) make me happy.
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Fossil hunting on the beach! That’s fossilized seaweed preserved in the sedimentary rock.

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Rainbow over the Broch of Gurness. You can see the remains of the viking settlement that once surrounded it.
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Erosion is taking its toll. The coastline is now just a few feet away from the edge of the ruins.

The Highlands

The ghosts of my Highlander ancestors must know when I’m back because it always works out that I have perfect weather. There aren’t enough words to describe the breathtaking vistas, so photos will have to do.

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The highlands always make me feel like I’m returning home.

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The Bonus

I didn’t realize we were going to stop at the Cairns of Loch Loyne. The first cairn was put there to honor Hugh Mackay. I left a few stones in memory of Dan. It was fitting since the Bains are part of Clan Mackay. There were so many stone piles, some with names and dates. To think that all these people had traveled here to honor their dead was overwhelming. It was moving and emotional and I bawled my eyes out for the first time since I left home. Actually, it was the first time in a long time so I guess I was due.

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The Extras

Since I had trouble narrowing down which photos to include, here are a few extras.

 

 

 

 

✔️ San Diego Comic-Con

A Wandering Widow Post

It’s funny how you can live somewhere and never do the things other people travel there for. I lived in San Diego for years, but never went to Comic-Con. A few years ago, during an especially funny episode of The Big Bang Theory, Dan and I decided that going to SDCC should be on our bucket list. Since we’re both kinda geeky, it sounded fun. Plus, how can you go wrong in San Diego? So my friend, an SDCC veteran, helped me get badges to the biggest geek party in town.

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You can never go wrong in San Diego.

And it was a party. It’s a good thing I’m retiring in a few days because I’ll need a week or two of naps to recover.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

P.S. In case you’re thinking I’m a huge jerk for taking a vacation right before I retire, this bucket list trip was on the books before I made that life altering decision. Live Now.

Here are my Top 5 Comic-con Takeaways:

1. You can definitely do it as an SDCC virgin, but having someone help you learn the ropes is easier. Fortunately, there are a lot of SDCC blogs that can guide you along. Read them. Learn from them. When you are advised to bring a refillable water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, and backup batteries for your phone, do it. And be prepared to walk a lot! We averaged around 20,000 steps a day, and that was with a LOT of breaks at San Diego’s finest eateries and drinkeries. (Breakfast on the patio at Mary Jane’s gives you a lot of people watching and celeb spotting opportunities. And Whiskey Girl has my stamp of approval for any time of the day).

I’d add a small umbrella (for shade) to the list for those long outdoor lines. It was unusually humid and I didn’t reapply sunscreen frequently enough, so brought home a lovely stripey sunburn.  I can’t imagine how hot it was for those in full costume and makeup. I bow down to their dedication and commitment to their characters. And the cosplay didn’t disappoint. 

2. Don’t wait until AFTER you have your badges to book your hotel. Rookie mistake! We ended up paying a premium for a divey motel. I was told that most San Diego businesses close to the convention center make over 30% of their annual revenue during Comic Con. I don’t doubt it. Price gouging is the name of the game. It was still worth it, just be prepared and budget accordingly.

The entire Gas Lamp District gets into the Con spirit.

3. Don’t stress if you don’t get badges for every day. Enough events are happening around the convention center that you will have plenty to do. I found that some of my favorites were offsite and didn’t require badges at all.  Bladerunner 2049 was my favorite, and not just because of the Johnnie Walker whiskey bar at the end.

 One of the things I loved best was that the whole town gets involved, taking it from mere convention to super festival.  Hotels, trains, and trams were all wrapped and decorated appropriately.  And there were lots of themed marches and displays supporting shows or movies.  We participated in Nerdist’s Wonder Woman March but also got to enjoy History Channel’s Viking funeral march and Outlander’s exciting outdoor entertainment.

4. Keep your patience and a sense of humor. Everyone else is just as excited to be there as you are, lines are inevitable. Make new friends. And don’t be put off by the 2-3 hour waits…the lines move faster than whatever the end-of-the-line-keeper tells you.

If it’s your first time, be prepared for sensory overload. It was worse than Vegas for me, and I couldn’t figure out what to look at with all that color, lights and noise everywhere.

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5. Enjoy yourself. SDCC was amazing, but the best part was being able to spend time with friends.

I loved that everyone connected with the Con was respectful and still able to have a good time. I lost track of how many languages I heard spoken–this is truly an international event. It is also family friendly, and it warmed my heart to see so many parents bringing their kids. But folks, please leave your dogs at home as this is an anxiety ridden event for Fido. 

I can’t wait for next year!

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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