Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Whirlwind 2.5 weeks--Argyll weekend, essays, and the 6 Nations Rugby game!!

It feels like it's been forever since I've blogged, and really, it has been. I cannot believe the road trip was already almost 3 weeks ago....where does the time go?? I do apologize for the lag in posts, but I promise this one will be very thorough and entertaining. So, to start with, I definitely experienced post-road trip depression. Well, depression might be a strong word, but coming down from the road-trip high was hard. It was an incredible trip, and looking through the pictures during the next week made me fully realize how amazing it was. Part of what made the next week so hard too was that I had to spend the majority of the time researching for papers and presentations that I had to due in the coming days. So, most of my days were spent in Starbucks (with the free-wifi) or in the library, studying up on the Highland land problem in Scotland, African migration, and Celtic Civilization....all not bad topics, but for some reason, I have far less patience for work here then I do at Bowdoin, so all of it seemed tedious. It was fun though in a way to be doing it with all of my friends here...we got to spend lots of quality time together in and out of our study places.

March 8th--Argyll Adventure Weekend!
The week really did fly by though...before we knew it, it was Friday, and we departed on our IFSA-Butler planned adventure weekend to Argyll--a west-coast island off the coast of Scotland. The trip was incredible. We started off on a big tour bus with a bunch of the kids from our program. Not everyone chose to go on this weekend (and if you ask me, they were crazy to miss it) so the bus wasn't completely full, but Emily, Carolyn, Natalie, and Nora were there, so the bus ride was a lot of fun. It was, of course, absolutely stunning scenery the entire drive. To get to the region we were going, we even took a ferry at one point! That was pretty cool, to be on a massive tour bus and have to take a boat out to our destination. Shortly after the ferry ride, we arrived at the big hostel we were staying at. It looked more like a castle; in fact, I'm fairly certain it was a castle at one point, converted to an outdoor center/hostel. It was huge, and it needed to be, because not only were the Edinburgh IFSA-Butler kids there, but so were all of the people studying in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Sterling. All and all, I think there were around 150 kids at this castle for the weekend! The first afternoon we were there was spent exploring the castle and being broken up into groups for the next days activities. After dinner, the heads of the hostel, who also happened to be our adventure/outdoor leaders for the rest of the weekend, gathered us all up (it felt slightly like summer camp) and told us that if we wanted to, we could go on a night walk. They did not tell us what the night walk entailed, but only told us we would not be walking a long distance, but to wear boots and a warm coat. SO, we all friends and I ensured that we were in the same group, and we headed off on this mysterious walk. Little did we know what we were about to get into. About 5 minutes after walking through complete darkness, our leader stopped and told us that for the next hour, we would need to listen to our senses. He also told us to not let go of the rope. Literally, these were our only instructions. So, the girls and I, set off up this mountain that we were standing at the bottom of without being able to turn on any type of light or flashlight...we were single file, and we all had a hand on the rope. What followed was basically a test of how well we could all listen to each other, and how well we could lead ourselves through a wilderness route that took us up the base of a mountain and back down the other side. We traded off who was leading, because that was definitely the hardest job--not knowing what was coming in front of you, having to bump into branches and logs before you knew where you were going, and then relaying the information back to the girls behind you--was not an easy thing to do. The majority of the walk was a success...we all couldn't believe what we had gotten ourselves into, but it was so fun! However, mid-way down the downhill section of the walk, we hit a major mud pit. I'm talking MAJOR mud pit. We all tried to navigate it the best we could, but in the end, we couldn't tell how far the logs were apart from each other that we had to jump on, so we all ended up knee deep in this thick mud. Fortunately I was wearing tall wellies, so I survived unscathed, but I cannot say the same for Nora's tennis shoes. They are, currently, still in the mud pit, and Nora had to finish the walk without shoes. All and all, definitely another bonding experience for us, and quite the adventure.

Our castle/ hostel for the weekend
The walk set the tone for the rest of the trip--we were definitely at an adventure-outdoor summer camp for the weekend. We got our group assignments for the next day when we got back from the walk, and I was assigned to gorge climbing in the morning and high ropes in the afternoon. Having no idea what gorge climbing entailed, we decided to go to bed early to get plenty of rest for the next day, but before we did, the five of us girls sat for a while and talked about everything you can imagine. The next day, we split up into our groups, and mine set off towards the gorge. It turns out, our task was pretty self-explanitory...we were going to climb through a gorge. Basically, it's a little like caving, but outside. With a river flowing through it, we were to walk up the side rocks and walls that formed the wall climbing out of the water. We got decked out in waterproof pants and jackets, and set off into the gorge. Before we knew it, we were climbing up waterfalls and rock walls, all with the help of our guide. We did, however, slip and fall many times in our attempts to climb up the rocks, so by the end of the trek, we were all drenched with freezing cold gorge water. At one point, to ensure that everyone was equally wet, our guide made us slide down a rock slide into a pool of water! It was incredible, and quite the physical and mental test of endurance. Thank god it was sunny and warm that day, because once we were out of the gorge, it was nice to warm up in the heat of the sun.

After drying off and eating lunch, my group set off to the high ropes course. This was also pretty much what it sounds...a series of high ropes and platforms that we were to climb up. The course included a platform about 50 ft in the air that four of us were supposed to climb on at a time, and then we were supposed to hold hands and lean back as far as we could before letting go, another 50 ft. high platform that we jumped off of to grab a trapeeze bar, and a series of logs that teams of 3 had to conquer within a certain amount of time. All of them were definitely mental challenges, and by the end, I was so enthused and proud that I had done them. After the long day of adventure activities, we gathered everyone into a room and watched the movie Braveheart before calling it a day. The last hurrah of the weekend was our stop at loch lomond on the way home. It was just another gorgeous scenic view of Scotland...

Jumping off the platform and reaching for the pictures of the gorge climbing because our cameras would have gotten soaked!

The girls at Loch Lomond
The weekend was incredible--all things I would have never done without having signed up for the program I did, and to say I did them in Scotland is even cooler! However, I unfortunately did not finish my essay before I went on the trip, so Sunday/ Sunday night/ and the wee hours of Monday morning turned into an all day/night writing session that did not end until 4pm Monday afternoon when I finally handed in my essay. It was worth it in the end, because I had a fabulous weekend, but an all-nighter is never fun. Unfortunately again, the rest of the next week was spent back in the library, because I still had two more essays to due before the next week. Ughhh, who knew I'd be working so much while in Scotland!! However, this time I had motivation to not have to pull another all-nighter, and to finish up the work before the coming Saturday, because that was the day of the BIG GAME!!

Saturday, March 13--The Big Game aka Scotland vs. England 6 Nations Rugby game at Murray Field Stadium.
Yes, I went to the game. Thanks to an early birthday present from my dad, I was able to get tickets to this INCREDIBLE sporting event. The Scotland/ England rivalry can only be compared to that of the Yankees and Red Sox, except this one goes back centuries, and centers around the most tradition-based sport--Rugby. Needless to say, everyone who knew I had a ticket was jealous. I've been looking forward to this game for months, and when the day finally arrived, I put on my jersey that I had gotten earlier in the week, painted my face with a blue flag on it, and met up with my friends who were coming with me to the game. The atmosphere in the city starting in the morning of the game was incredible. I walked out to get coffee on high street hours before the game started, and everyone I saw was wearing some form of a brave-heart face paint, a kilt, and a rugby jersey. The scene didn't change much when we got to the stadium. Out of the 40,000 people that had tickets to the game, I'd guess about half were in kilts and were singing Scottish songs any chance they got. Before the game started, Scottish dancers and bagpipers covered the field, and fans were going crazy for whatever song the bagpipers were playing. Not much changed once the game started...during every break, the bagpipes and singing would pick up again. It was the most unique sporting event I'd ever been to. "You take the high road, I'll take the low road" was generally the song of choice, and so we got very good at singing it by the end of the game. The game itself was incredible as well...I love love love rugby, and it was sooo cool to see some of the best rugby players in the world playing each other. It was a close one, with Scotland playing extremely well to fight off the better English team, and in the end, the score finished in a tie. In rugby, there is never overtime, so the tie was how the game concluded. Not ideal, but at least Scotland didn't get killed (like everyone thought they were going to).

Murray Field stadium for a good seats. The bagpipers and dancers covered the field at the beginning..
Not the best pictures, but that's me at the end of the game! You can almost see my scottish flag on my face
This past week has been pretty relaxing--after turning in my final essays on Monday, I have just been hanging out with friends, reading in my favorite place (the Elephant House) and getting caught up on things like laundry, cleaning, and of course, the all-stressful summer plans. Monday night we had a big dinner and a movie night with Natalie, Emily, Carolyn, Nora and I which was so good to see everyone all together again. Wednesday was St. Patrick's day, and Alice and I celebrated early by going to an Irish pub (Dropkick Murphy's) that was giving out free t-shirts. We picked up our shirts and then enjoyed the nice weather and no-stress afternoon. Not a bad St. Patty's day at all, and now I have another fabulous weekend in Edinburgh to look forward too. Spring break is next week, and my mom arrives on Wednesday, so there is a lot to get ready for and get excited about!!

New things for the past couple of weeks:
--pulling an actual all-nighter
--climbing through a gorge
--standing on a 50 ft. platform in the middle of Scotland
--going to the Scotland vs. England rugby game!!!!!

Until next time...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Conquering Scotland Road-Trip Style...We Survived!!!

Well, I made it. For all you doubters out there (ahem, you know who you are) this may come as a surprise, but it's true...I lived through my first cross-country road trip. First country tackled by car--Scotland. Not only did we live, but we conquered!! There really isn't a better word to use, because (to use another cliche) we had decided to go big or go home...and yes, you guessed it, we went big. I'm not really sure how I'm going to describe the three day journey, because I know words cannot explain the scenery, the experience, or the feeling I have now having completed the trip, but I promise I will do my best. Plus, the pictures will help me out on this one. So here goes...

Day 1: We ventured off on our EPIC road trip on Friday, very very early in the morning. We all met up at the Starbucks on High Street...this is also right above the train station where we would meet our shuttle bus to the airport car rental place. Emily, who had rented the car, unfortunately missed her alarm clock at 6:30am, so Nora, Carolyn and I were forced to sip coffee while we waited for her to make it to the meeting point, but since it was raining and windy, we didn't mind staying warm for a little bit. The weather on Friday was slightly troublesome...we had woken up to rain so we just crossed our fingers it wouldn't turn into snow and decided to continue on with our plans. Once we were all together, we headed down to the airport shuttle and then to the airport. We picked up our car, packed up all of our stuff, and then reality started to sink in. We were actually doing this!! Emily was first to try driving, so I sat in front to help her navigate. We pulled out our Scotland road map (which I quickly became veryyy attached too), buckled up, took a few deep breaths, and slowly ventured onto the road. Emily took a few trips around the parking lot to figure out which side of the road we needed to be on at all times, practiced some right-hand turns, and then pulled off on the highway. I know what you're thinking--these girls are crazy--but just breathe, and stick with me. Trust me, we did alright. Of course, immediately outside the airport, there was a series of round-a-bouts, so our first real test at driving came right at the start. Emily mastered them though, and once we were on the highway, we all started to relax...just a little though. I stayed concentrated on the map while we sat back and started to take in the amazing scenery that was all around us right outside the city. It did not take long to get away from the crowded buildings of fact, maybe 5 minutes out of the airport there was vast fields, mountains in the distance, and snow covered houses scattered around. Of course, we all started taking pictures right away, and this did not stop until the end of the trip. Once we were all comfortable in the car, we turned on the radio and found our selection of Gaelic stations and BBC Scotland news stations. Incredible choices. Gaelic is definitely a different language...somehow, this shocked us, and the novelty of that station did not go away for the entire trip. We definitely continued to tune into that station (because, of course, Gaelic stations never lost service throughout Scotland) so that we could pick up some Gaelic...this did not happen, but we tried. We also just felt more authentic as we were listening to the bagpipes and Gaelic singers, so you can't blame us!

Our drive was extremely smooth for the first part of the day. Our first stop was Loch Leven...on it is the castle in which Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned. Tourists can usually get there by ferry from the parking lot, but since we decided to take this trip at the end of February, the loch was frozen, and the ferry was definitely not operating. However, we still went to see the loch, and it was stunning. Once back in the car, we headed to Pitlochery--a little town in the Perthshire region of the Highlands. When we got there, we immediately headed up to see Atholl Castle...the first real castle we would see on our trip. Doubling as a hotel, the castle sits above Pitlochery and has stunning views of the Highlands that surrounds it. We stopped in the parking lot and found a little stairwell to climb up so that we could see the views, but realized quickly we were not supposed to be up on the deck because there was a traditional dance lesson going on for people staying at the castle. So, we headed back into the town and stopped to take a driving break and eat the sandwiches we had all packed. We walked around for a little bit, bought some postcards, and stopped at an adorable chocolate and coffee shop (what combination could be better!?) Once re-charged, we headed up A9 to Inverness in hopes of getting there in time to see Loch Ness that afternoon. However, fate had other plans for us. Five minutes outside of Pitlochery, we hit a traffic jam. We thought it was a perfect opportunity to get out (all except Nora, who was driving), and take pictures and dance to the CD's we had found in Pitlochery (we ended up with a stellar collection--Michael Jackson, The Carpenters, John Denver, 50 Country Hits, a 2 sided Rock and Roll Hits mix, and a Scottish Sing-a-long) so that's what we all did. However, after about 5 minutes, we realized we definitely weren't moving, so Carolyn and I decided to walk up to the front of the line of traffic to see what the deal was. We got up to the front and talked to the police officer, who told us that the road ahead was closed due to winds and snow and it would not re-open for a couple hours, if that. We headed back to the car to relay the information, and on the way, were stopped by every single car in line...everyone wanted to know what we had found out. So, there Carolyn and I are, running from car to car, talking to Scottish families about road conditions and travel. Along the way, we met one woman who 'holidays' in Colorado, we picked up new road information along the way, and we had great conversations with people just trying to get to Inverness. It was one of the funniest experiences of my life!! So, once we got back to our car and upon the police man's suggestion, we decided to NOT give up on the trip and instead, drive up the west coast of Scotland (which was about 5 hours out of our way) to make it to Inverness. The great thing about our group was that we didn't panic--we didn't hesitate--we just went with the flow and spontaneously changed our route so that we could still make our trip happen.

Loch Leven (covered in ice) and castle where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned

Nora and I...we were excited to be at Loch Leven!!
Our pit-stop in Pitlochery...talking to the cars in front of us about the road closure
Our west-coast decision turned out to be spectacular. The drive took us through Aberfeldy, Kenmore, Loch Tay, over Glencoe Pass, and finally to Inverness. The roads were much narrower than we had driven on before, so Carolyn took over driving and was a total champ. The further we got from Pitlochery, we started to realize why the other roads had been closed. There was MUCH more snow around once we got further and further into the heart of the Highlands. I was excited because our new route was going to take us right past Loch Tay, and for the first part of the day, I had been trying to convince the girls to go out of our way to make it there--I thought I had remembered someone telling me how beautiful the loch was, so I really wanted to go there...the funny thing was though, that the second we drove into Kenmore (which is a little town that sits on the edge of the loch) I remember having been there with my family on our first Scotland Roadtrip!! It was the place we'd celebrated my dad's 50th birthday, and I recognized the beautiful town immediately. So, apparently, I had been the one telling myself Loch Tay was beautiful, because I had already seen it! The loch did not disappoint though...and to see the town and the loch in the snow was spectacular. We stopped to take pictures on a road pull off when we saw 2 Highland Cows sitting right up against the fence, so we thought it'd be a perfect picture opportunity. These cows are ridiculous! They look pre-historic or something, and they are everywhere in the Highlands. I also never got sick of seeing the sheep. All of it was just so quintessential Scotland, that it never got old.

The town of Kenmore!! Right on the edge of Loch Tay...I've been here in May before!!
Loch Tay in the winter...looks a little different huh?
Me and the Highland Cows
After Loch Tay came Glencoe Pass. THIS WAS INCREDIBLE. Yes, we drove through it during a relatively snowy time, but still, it was spectacular. The snow added a different kind of beauty to the surroundings. I remember having driven through the pass in May with my family, and the green mountains were definitely beautiful, but being there surrounded by these massive peaks covered in untouched snow was magical. There was an eery, almost ominous pressence about the mountains, and the tops of the peaks were hidden by the white sky, so you couldn't always tell where the mountains ended and the sky began. There would be times though that the rugged rock-sides of the mountain would jut out, and you'd be reminded of where you were. The entire time we drove through, I was glued to the window, trying to remember the pass in my mind forever. I did think to myself many times that if I was in Colorado, there would be ski-tracks all over the peaks, which made me smile thinking about Independence Pass in June, but it was incredible to see how untouched and clean everything looked. Hopefully the pictures can show a glimpse of how cool the pass was, but I'm pretty sure it was one of those drives you had to be on to fully understand.

View from the front seat going over Glencoe Pass
Glencoe Pass again
The mountains in the background don't even look real!
Me at the base of Glencoe Pass
We made it through the pass, stopped at the town at the bottom to take more pictures of the scenery, and continued on to Fort Williams and finally to Inverness. Fort Williams is where I took over the driving (AHH) and I'm happy to report that I had absolutely no disasters driving. It was a little (actually VERY) weird to get used to being on the other side of the car, and the road, especially when you make right-hand turns and have to end up on the left-side of the road. I had trouble gauging where I should keep the car on the road...not too close to the median but not on the curve. Basically, I felt like a new driver, and when it came time to pass my first car, I definitely held my breath, clenched the wheel, and experienced that rush of driving. Because we had to go so far out of our way due to the road closures, it was pretty late by the time we finally made it to Inverness, so our drive into the small city was in the dark. Yes, I drove on the other side of the road at night. And I did well! Unfortunately, we couldn't tell that we were driving past Loch Ness as we approached Inverness, but having made it to the city was our main goal, and we did it. However, we quickly realized that Inverness was a much bigger place than we had thought, and we did not have directions to our hostel specifically. So I was left to navigate the city at night, with very vague driving directions. I picked a few cars to stick behind and aimlessly drove around the city until we finally found our bearings and made it to the hostel, but it was definitely an interesting experience that I'm sure some of you will not be happy reading about. (But we did make it! Just keep telling yourselves that :) )

So Inverness rapped up our first day on the road...we stayed at a hostel for the first time, and were so tired that quickly ate dinner at a close pub and then passed out. At that point of the day, the trip already felt like a dream. We couldn't believe that we had just driven up the west coast of the country, instead of the more direct route we had planned, and how well it all worked out. Being here, I have completely come around to believing that absolutely everything happens for a reason, and that in the end, things have a way of working out for the best. I know, it took me a long time to trust that, but I finally do. And this was just another example of it...we had been flexible with our plans, and our first day could not have turned out better!

Emily and me on the river in Inverness
Day 2: Saturday started off early, because due to the detour we had to take on Friday, we needed to fit in Loch Ness before we headed up north. So, that's exactly what we did, because things just seemed to have a way of working out for us. We ended up taking a ferry out on Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle, which dates all the way back to St. Columba (someone I am learning about in my Celtic Civilization class) in the 6th century. There is still an impressive structure that remains of the castle, and the ferry ride was beautiful, of course, but we did not get to see Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. We pulled up to the castle and breaked for a little bit before heading back to the car and headed off on our way up north. Again, immediately outside of Inverness, the city-like feeling disappeared and we were again surrounded by snowy mountains and wilderness. We drove towards Dornoch and were impressed at how quickly we hit the coast. It was really impressive to be in snow covered mountains one minute and then next to the ocean and sprawling green fields the next. Near Dornoch, we spotted signs for Dunnrobin Castle, so (of course) we decided to pull in. We were the only ones there!! It was like the entire castle was ours, which of course we loved, and our mass-photo shoot ensued of the gorgeous building, amazing gardens, and the view of the water. At that point, we had realized that a major plus about traveling around Scotland in February is that there are very few other people who have chosen to do that, so we were the only people at most of the touristy points we stopped at. This allowed us to imagine this entire castle was all ours, and it was so nice to just be able to do whatever we wanted without crowds of people everywhere.

Urquhart Castle from our ferry on Loch Ness
Me in front of the castle
Dunnrobin castle--completely was all ours for the day!
Nora drove away from Dunnrobin up the east coast, and we quickly realized this was a mistake. Nora drives about 2 mph, which we all realized shortly after she proceeded to slow down to about 1 mph on the first hill we hit. SO, needless to say, we replaced Nora at the driving thing almost immediately after she started. I'm not saying any of us drove too fast, but 2mph was slightly unnecessary. Our destination for the night was Castletown, which is about 10 miles from Wick and about 5 from Thurso, so that's where we headed from Dornoch. I think this was my favorite part of the entire drive. We reached the coastline, and the highway hugged the North Sea all the way up for the rest of the drive. In every direction, there was stone walls, sheep, rolling green hills, snow covered mountains in the distance, and the stunning cliffs that dropped into the water. It was breathtaking. Trying to capture with my camera just wasn't working, so I sat back and just took it all in. We all asked each other questions about what we wanted to be when we grow-up, what our siblings were like, ect. to pass the time, and it was so nice to just be in a car with amazing friends, relaxing outside the craziness of Edinburgh. Our Michael Jackson and John Denver CD's weren't bad either. I took over driving about an hour outside Wick, and we stopped once we got there to take a break and get some food. We ended up in a little pub, watching the England vs. Ireland rugby game on a small little tv. It was I was, in Wick, watching rugby. Crazy!! Once the game was over, we headed for Castletown...the whole rest of the drive just marveling at how remote the area was. I mean, there would be houses off by themselves on cliffs in all directions. It is absolutely beautiful and peaceful up there, but I cannot imagine living in that remote of an area.

Scotland's northeast coast
Out of the snow and into the green fields and ocean
Finally, we reached Castletown, and our hotel was not difficult to find this time. In fact, it was the only hotel in the area, and it boasted the only bar for miles. We checked in, talked to the nicest receptionist, who was also the owner, the bartender, the waitress, AND the chef, and relaxed for a little bit before heading down to the bar because that Saturday night was the monthly pub quiz for the town!!! Seriously, how lucky could we be?? Yes, we absolutely participated in the trivia night. The quiz master was probably the most Scottish man I have ever seen with the heaviest scottish accent I have ever heard, and the entire time he asked questions, he would look at our table and smile, just knowing we would get the answers wrong. Of course, the trivia was based around farming, Highland politics, and Scotland, so no, we did not win. But, it was the most incredible trivia night ever...I mean, the whole time we were there, we just kept reminding ourselves that we were in the wayyyy north of Scotland, in the smallest town ever, in the smallest pub ever, with some of the nicest people I've ever met. Wow, crazy huh?

Day 3: The next morning, we woke up to an impressive breakfast provided by the hotel...and yes, the receptionist from the night before and her husband had made it. They asked us what our plans were, and after telling them we were headed to John O' Groats before heading back to Edinburgh, they reminded us to stop by Dunnet Head, which is the most northern point in main land Great Britain. Obviously wanting to go there, we set off in that turns out, we were only 5 miles away from this point, so the entire night, we were pretty far north!! We got out to Dunnet Head and again, were all by ourselves out there. I can't even explain to you what we saw when we got out there. We stepped out of the car to SUN! It was a blue-sky day and 360 degrees of absolute solitude...and the edge of the point looked straight out across to the southern tip of the Orkney Islands. On our side of the cliffs were green but we faced the Orkney Cliffs that were covered in snow. I have never seen cliffs covered in snow going into blue ocean, and it was stunning. Without anyone else being out on Dunnet Head, were were able to say with confidence that we were the most northern people in mainland Great Britain. Being out there was the craziest thing in the world. I can't begin to describe the rush of emotions that ran through my head. It all started to sink in that I had done this...I had rented a car, driven off into Scotland, and survived. I felt so incredibly accomplished, so proud of myself, so alive, so grown-up, so confident in my abilities to deal with anything in the world, and, maybe most of all, so happy and lucky that I had met friends here that allowed me to have this experience. There definitely aren't enough words to completely explain that feeling I had when I was standing there, but I know I'll never forget it.

Dunnet Head lighthouse...looking across to Orkney Islands covered in snow
Me, at the most northern point in mainland Great Britain
Me and Carolyn
Contemplating how great life is...looking at Orkney Islands
Once we left Dunnet Head, we passed the Castle Mey and John O' Groats, the whole time being mesmerized by the scenery around us. I could have stayed in that car forever, just looking at the landscape...I remember driving around with my family a few years ago, thinking the exact same thing--Scotland is one of my favorite places in the world. The drive back down the coast was just as spectacular as the way up, and this time, we had a beautiful blue-sky day to drive through. All four of us were trying to process how we were feeling on the trip back, so a lot of the time, we just sat back, listened to good music, and took in the scenery. This was interrupted frequently by all of us expressing again how we couldn't believe we had pulled this trip off, and then we would go back into silence, all lost in our thoughts again. We made it back through Pitlochery, stopping for lunch there for the 2nd time, and then cruised back to Edinburgh. Carolyn and I split the driving for the day, and I finished the drive up by getting us back to the airport safely. We took a picture in front of our car (which we named Elvis by the way) before we handed over the keys, and then we bussed back into the city. We hugged on the street corner outside the Starbucks we had started off the journey in, commenting on how long ago Friday felt and how we couldn't believe it was all over, and then all went our separate ways back to our flats.

View from the drive from Dunnett Head to John O' Groats
The fabulous four...we made it! In front of Elvis, our amazing car.
That night, I just sat in my room, thinking about the trip, and couldn't believe it had actually happened. It felt like the most incredible dream. The trip as a whole was different than any other trip I've ever taken. Again, it's hard to convey what I mean...It was definitely the most adventurous (and maybe slightly dangerous) thing I've ever decided to do. It went against what most people told me they think I should have done (and they were probably very just in their advice). But it ended up being one of the most incredible weekends, and is definitely and Abroad experience that I will never forget. One of the best parts about it also is that I'll always have the people I took the trip with to remember each moment with.

However, eventually on Sunday night, I was forced to face the reality that I had to get back into life in Edinburgh (trust me, that's not too hard...I am obsessed with this city). I watched part of the USA-Canada Hockey game and talked to some friends here that were all dieing to know if we had survived the trip. Monday I headed to the library to work on big papers I have due over the next couple of weeks, and now I get to look forward to this coming abroad program has organized a trip for all of us to Argyll, one of the western islands of Scotland. Another weekend traveling around Scotland? Yes, I think I can handle that.

As for now, I think that is plenty of reading for one blog post. New things I did this past week? I don't even think I can list all of them but I'll try.

New Things:
--driving a car on the other side of the road
--road tripping around scotland
--staying in a hostel
--pub quiz in Castletown, Scotland
--being the most northern person in mainland Great Britain

Can't wait to tell you all about next weekend!