Road Trip

Cows with bangs

So I’m concluding my series of Scotland pics with the amazing Highlander Cows. Because nothing is more glorious than seeing extremely hairy, hipster-looking cows.

The first time we came across them, we were excitedly following tiny, printed signs leading to narrow dirt roads in the isolated farming areas of Culloden, not realizing that perhaps these little signs may just be bait to lure clueless tourists like us to an unsuspecting serial killer/farmer. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

The farmer was a friendly fellow who apparently has a sister who lives in the same city where I am currently living (so if I ever came across a tall Scottish woman named Alison in the neighborhood, I’ll make sure to ask). He gave us the honor to named these two lovely ladies below, so we named them Ginger and Ebony. Of course, it did make us wonder why he had never named them in the first place, that is until he started talking about the deliciousness of Highlander beef.

And thus, began our journey to find this elusive Highlander beef (spoiler alert: we failed… le sigh).

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The next time we came across these hairy, little mongrels, we were spending the night at this one haunted-looking castle ran by a French staff, but owned by a mixed bag of Americans, Europeans and a Vietnamese. We had dinner next to a small wedding party of American southerners dressed in evening gowns and kilts. Then we wandered about the castle, chitchatting with the staff who did not appear to be taking our questions seriously. Really, they were legit questions, like do they serve Highlander beef? Where can we find Highlander beef? What does Highlander beef taste like? Is the castle haunted?

Unfortunately, the castle wasn’t haunted. Darn.

And lucky for us, just outside the castle were these guys. My camera and I had fun with them.

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While these guys, for the most part, prefer to stay still and stare off into space (thus making really awesome shots), they do tend to wander into my shots once in a while like a typical animal, as you can see below:

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Thankfully, they’re not like corgis. They rarely photobombed each other. And dayum, do they pose so well!

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And that is it for Scotland.

Thankoocomagen.

Culloden Battlefield

There wasn’t much to see in the Culloden Battlefield, but a marshy field (although coming from the dry parts of California, I did had an appreciation for the landscape). The site is not quite like the other sites we’ve gone to. It is, after all, a historical landmark that is more similar to Gettysburg in Pennsylvania rather than the castles and other touristy places we’ve gone to.

The final battle of the Jacobite Rising took place here in 1746. If you are unfamiliar with the Jacobite Rising like I was, it was basically an uprising in which a group of Irish, English and Scottish people known as the Jacobites rebelled against the British government in hopes of returning the throne to James VII of Scotland, a Roman Catholic king from the House of Stuart. In this case, the Jacobite Rising of 1745 was instigated by Charles Edward Stuart, the grandson of James VII and the Jacobite army consisted mostly of Highlanders. They were defeated in a final battle here in Culloden. Markers inscribed with the names of the fallen clans can be found in the fields, next to the memorial tower. The red flags, below, marked where the English army lined up.

It is more of a memorial, hence why I didn’t take too many shots.

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Urquhart Castle

Situated next to the infamous Loch Ness is the ruins of the Urquhart Castle. Once used both as fortress and as royal castle, this structure has endured numerous conflicts, particularly the Scottish war for independence, throughout its thousand years of existence, before finally being left in ruins during the Jacobite Risings.

Getting to the site was pretty tricky. The castle remains hidden from view on the road and the parking lot. You first had to go through this generic-looking building, tread down these stairs, walk through the gift shop and the cafeteria before finally emerging out to this spectacular view.

Thankfully, the weather was awesome. No Nessie sighting, though.

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Glencoe

After a few days in Ireland, we flew off to Scotland, landing at Glasgow. From there, we rented a car and drove off to some of the most pretty nerve-wracking drives ever. I wasn’t driving, but the whole left/right switcheroo had me close to becoming a hysterical backseat driver which luckily never happened since I totally would’ve been giving the wrong directions.

Anyway, we drove up north to the Highlands in the valley of Glencoe. Where do I begin? This place was awesome! I’ve been going to Europe to visit historical cities and sites, but never have I ever been to see natural wonders and boy, was this a shocker. Sure, I’ve read quite a few books about the Highlands (trashy romance novels about them unrealistically handsome, husky lairds to be exact, *wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and have seen a few movies about it, and yeah, I knew what to expect, but it’s really quite different once you’re there. Jet lag, heavy rain, cold wind and marshes really added to the effect of it. It’s like Yosemite and Zion except greener, wetter with helluva lot more mini waterfalls (like, at least ten to a mountain) combined with Lord of the Rings. I wish I could’ve taken more photographs if it wasn’t for the unpredictable roads, wind and rain.

Now for little history: A massacre took place in Glencoe some 300 plus years ago between two clans, the Campbells murdering the MacDonalds, including women and children and burning their village to the ground. Survivors fled to the mountains, only to later die of exposure. Today, Glencoe is rumored to be haunted. Screams, supposedly, can be heard on the site of the massacre. Pretty dark stuff.

You know what was also some pretty dark stuff? Haggis. Tasted like a meaty oatmeal. I will forever remember Glencoe as the place where I first tried haggis.

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Sea Dogs

Continuing on from our drive down the PCH, we stumbled upon a small viewing area by the beach where lies hordes of elephant seals. They’re pretty much like the typical California sea lions, except they looked funny (and smelled funny) with their big snout of a nose, hence their name.

They laid around most of the time in tightly packed groups like sardines in a can. They moved like them too, which is not much.

Yet despite their lack of movements (and the smell), I was pretty excited. Nothing is more exciting to me than wild animals. Really fat, ungraceful, wild animals, who, by the way, would occasionally sing the song of their people when it suited them. Or yawn… really loudly. I could’ve stayed there for hours, but alas, it was already late in the afternoon and we still had what? Five hours of driving to go?

And so our journey continues…

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Big Sur

We stopped so many times, I lost track. We see a pretty house, we stopped. We see a pretty bridge, we stopped. We see a pretty forest, we stopped. You get the the picture.

Anyway, I don’t recall which of these pictures were actually part of Big Sur and which were not. It may just be the one with the trees, but at this point, who cares. Anywhere in NorCal next to the ocean is Big Sur to me.

Enjoy.

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The other obvious reason why it took us so long to drive down PCH

State Route 1, known more for its famous moniker, Pacific Coast Highway or PCH for short, is one of the must-see places in California and one that I have taken for granted. I’ve lived in California for God knows how long and have never driven through it. Probably because it’s about 500 miles long from San Francisco to Orange County. That’s approximately 11 hours of driving.

But I’ve made time. Just a shame it wasn’t enough. We left the hotel in Marina around 8 AM, but didn’t actually started driving down PCH until 10 AM, thanks to that abandoned military facility. We stopped at every single viewpoint that I deemed photo-worthy enough (which was practically every single stop). Granted, we started driving at 10 AM, we had about 8-9 hours of non-stop driving left before home, but as it was, we were again, stopping at practically every single stop, so you can imagine what time we got home.

Yeah, very late.

Gotta plan this trip again, this time with more days off.

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