Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trip to Scotland

We had a great weekend. Though the weather was supposed to be sleet, the bad weather held off until our drive home on Monday. We began the journey by driving to Durham, where we spent the night. Durham is a college town, and we really enjoyed our night there. It felt much more hip and alive than our little sleepy village.
We woke early on Saturday and continued the drive (about 5 1/2 hours total) to Edinburgh. Our first stop was to stretch our legs on a hike up Arthur's Seat, one of the many old volcanoes in the city. It offered wonderful views, an incredibly steep hike, and the strongest wind we've ever felt. After summiting the top, we checked into our hotel and walked the Royal Mile, which is a historic shopping area with many restaurants, pubs, churches, and shops. We ate lunch at Pizza Hut of all places (saving money for our authentic Scottish dinner). I was quite exhausted by the evening so we stopped at a theater to see "No Country for Old Men"--well done but hard to watch. We had trouble selecting a restaurant for dinner without a Rick Steves guide to help us, and we ended up having better luck on Sunday night. But Nate got his haggis and also tried cullen skink, a smoked haddock soup (bleh). Verdict: he loved both! What a fearless appetite. I've become a huge dessert fan with the pregnancy, so my favorite part of our meals was banoffee pie (bananas and toffee), which was sooo rich and very delicious.
On Sunday we started by seeing Edinburgh Castle, where we got a free walking tour from a volunteer Scotsman, who took us aside after the tour to talk about the great things Scottish people have to offer the world. It couldn't have been more amusing or validating of all we have heard about Scots. The Castle was well worth the price of admission, and we decided to travel to another castle next, this one about 30 miles west in a town called Stirling. After spending so much time in urban areas, we decided to go off the beaten path to a national park and lake called Loch Lomond. Along the way we nearly ran out of gas due to most petrol stations being closed on Sundays, so we had an semi-anxious drive around the countryside. We agreed that the highlands would be our next trip to Scotland. Edinburgh was fun, but it cannot compare to the natural beauty Scotland has to offer. We arrived in Loch Lomond (with a full tank, just in the nick of time) in time to see the sun set and have some tea and chips. We drove back to Edinburgh for a late dinner, and we returned home yesterday. It was a very fun "mini-break."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Life in the UK

Hello from Oundle! I have been here just over 2 weeks and am finally feeling settled in. Winter here can be dreary, but how can I complain that I am driving to Scotland this weekend?! We decided to save Ireland for February in favor of Edinburgh this time due to Nate's available amount of time off from work. My weekdays are pretty slow--I work out, clean, make meals, read, and spend lots of time figuring out how I can buy things online instead of on the English economy (pound to dollar is 2:1 in case you didn't know).
Last weekend we saw "Dan in Real Life" for about the same price as it costs us in Georgetown if you include parking. It was cute and made us want to have lots of kids. Saturday was the local "household goods" auction, which is typically garage-sale quality stuff, but occasionally you can find some real gems for cheap. That is, if you don't mind bidding against the local antique dealers (who are paying pounds not US$). We had so many things we wanted and ended up with just 2 rocking chairs, a table, and a mirror. We are still trying to figure out how high to bid on furniture. But, we are not discouraged. They hold the auctions once/month, so we have plenty of chances to get it right. Sunday was the big 10-mile walk, which ended up being more like 5 miles--we gave up because of the enormous piles of sticky English mud. Next purchase: "Welly" boots! The good news is that England is full of hundreds of miles of footpaths, so it's not a big deal if we scratch one off our list. Our plan is to try a new walk every Sunday we're in town. I added pictures to the Google Picasa website.
After 6 months here, Nate appreciates America much more than he used to. I am trying to ignore the annoying differences and enjoy the pleasant ones. My favorite thing about the people here is that they are down to Earth. They are very private, yes, but they are also very relaxed for the most part and have a great sense of humor! Our goal in living overseas was always to use our location as a jumping-off point to see other places, so we're going to do as much of that as we can both before and after the baby is born. After Ireland, we plan to see Paris for a weekend, and then hopefully we'll see as much of Spain as we can.
We still hope we will get lots of visitors this summer. I know everyone is reluctant to visit while we have a young baby, but if you give us May and June to adjust and let the grandparents have their time, we'll be ready to have visitors in July. So come on over! We'll keep an eye on the flights and let you know if we find good deals.
I hope everyone is well. Keep in touch!


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