It's confirmed: I'm still obsessed. The Scotland trip was awesome. Despite plenty of logistical issues with our AWFUL tour company, EF Tours (nevernevernever use them!), the kids had a fantastic time and so did we. I revisited some of my favorite places, saw some new favorites, and even sampled the nightlife as other chaperones held down the fort. Our guide, Andrew, and I became fast friends, much to my students' delight (I felt like I had 7 younger siblings on the trip - it was kind of cute), but for the record, we are just friends. More than anything, it has rekindled a desire to move there in two years (after Brendan graduates high school) and teach for at least a year. Of course everything will depend on circumstances at that point in my life, but if things are anything like they are now, it will happen.
So here are some highlights, observations, and tidbits from the trip...
- Everyone thought I was crazy for traveling with a big group of kids, but I'll tell you what -- For every 1 complaint from the kids, we heard 7 from adults
- Latitudinally speaking, Scotland is just a little south of Alaska. Being that far north means that the sun goes down REALLY late (almost midnight) and comes up really early (before 5am) in the summer.
- I was told (by a Glaswegian, of course) that Edinburgh is for tourists and Glasgow is for real Scots.
- Sandy Bell's is still my favorite bar in the whole world.
- I have a new affinity for Belhaven and Leffe beers
- Having a tour guide with a sense of humor, humility, and the ability to get along with crazy kids and cranky moms beats a tour guide who knows 57 random facts about every small town you drive through.
- RIP, Tim Russert. We didn't know he'd died until 3 days later. The news, especially in this election year, will never be the same.
- Wisdom from our Edinburgh guide about sneezes: "Me mother used to say: 1's a wish, 2's a kiss, 3's a cold, and 4's a pint."
- In the U.S., people holding signs that say "free hugs" and hugging people on the street might seem pretty creepy. In Edinburgh, it's just part of life.
- A "half 'n half" is a 1/2 pint (or a "hay pint") of beer and 25 cl of scotch (slightly less than a full shot) and is my new favorite way to get drunk.
- The highlands of Scotland, especially on the coast, are unbelievably cold, even in June. If (when) I move there, it will have to be one of the cities a bit further south.
- Spam-a-lot is hillarious even though if you've seen Monty Python, you've heard all the jokes before
- When you miss your new puppy, every dog you see reminds you of him
And here are some picture highlights... See facebook for a still-edited, but much larger selection
The gorgeous view from Stirling Castle
I wasn't kidding about the cold - and remember, it's summertime!
Plant group braving the cold for a picture in our matching shirts
Lighthouse in MacDuff, Scotland, where we stayed for 3 nights
Touching the North Sea in St. Andrews, Scotland
Our whole tour group with Edinburgh Castle in the background
Sandy Bell's was just as wonderful as I remembered it being
Andrew being a gentleman and helping out Grey Friar's Bobby in the rain
When the monuments even offer free hugs, it's hard to say no