For Castles, Head to Scotland

History, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom
Edinburgh Castle, 2010 trip

While England is well known as a hub for centuries of castles. And while it holds some of the finest examples of castle and manor architectural wonders, it lacks the density of castles that most visitors dream of, at least in modern visibility.

Since the pesky Normans invaded (1066, look it up) castle sprouted all over Britain and some 4,000 were in England at one point. However, time, and age, and people like Oliver Cromwell destroyed many of the finest castles Britain had. Today England has around 1,500 castles that are registered landmarks. Scotland has over 2,000 castle examples.

Scotland (30,090 sq mi), by comparison in land mass and distance to travel, is significantly smaller than England (50,301 sq mi). Scotland also has the benefit of some of the best castle examples being within a remarkably short drive or train from Edinburgh, Scotland. This reason alone is one of the many reasons why I have continued to return to Scotland for a taste of magic, history, and escapism. 

Scotland is a major location to film historical and fictional movies due to its plethora of castles. Movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Harry Potter Franchise, those which don’t tell particularly Scottish stories, are prime examples of the beauty of the region providing a great backdrop. 

Thus, dear fellow travelers, Scotland is a prime spot for pulling on your wellies and tromping through some highlands to see some great Castles! Here are some of my absolute favorites. 

Edinburgh Castle – You can’t visit Scotland and not stop at one of its main historical attractions. Not only is it the heart of the city, the entirety of it is surrounding by the stunning features of the city’s old town and views of the new town. The museums at the castle complex offer an unparalleled starting point into Scotland’s history. 

Edinburgh Castle, 2015

Stirling Castle – Stirling is a fantastic neighboring city of Edinburgh, and only around an hour away by train or car. The city also boasts its own castle, built over the end of the 15th and into the 17th century, and a shining example of early modern period tastes and designs. I love the layout of this castle as it has dedicated itself to being an example of 16th century life in Scotland. 


Doune Castle, 2010

Doune Castle – Just outside of Stirling is the city of Doune, and one of the better loved castles for movie locations. Doune Castle was originally known as the “Holy Grail Castle” where one could take a photo with coconuts and run around pretending they were horse hooves. In the last five years or so it has become best known for some lusty shots from Outlander. For history geeks, this castle also boasts some great restoration and it is set among some stellar hiking trails and views. 

Playing Monty Python, 2010

Eilean Donan – As the most photographed castle in Scotland this one has to make the list. However, to many peoples’ surprise, this castle was not built long long ago in a land far away. The castle isn’t even 100 years old and was built by some scenery and history loving architects and owners who chose to celebrate the locations heritage. The spot of Eilean Donan was a hot spot for groups until the 1700s when most of the 13th century castle was restored. 

Eilean Donan, 2015

DirletonCastle – Just a short trek from Edinburgh this greatcastle offers a lot of exploration and fun on one small location. If you’re upfor a game of hide and seek, this castle is the perfect one to get lost in andrevel in some history at. 

Tantallon Castle – If you love ocean backdrops then thesea swept cliffs by Tantallonmake a visit worthwhile. Important historically, this castle is one of thefinest examples of medieval design and castle living, providing not onlyamazing views, but rich educational opportunities. 

There are so many more to explore in Scotland, and more I have had theluxury of seeing. Where are your favorites? What do you want to see?

Happy Travels!

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The Best Lessons Have Been My Mistakes

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, Colorado Events, family, Ireland, italy, love, mexico, musings, outdoors, Scotland, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

I have been traveling internationally for 8 1/2 years. Mostly by myself. Always on a budget. And with a few struggles along the way. Some have been all my fault. Others I can blame on fellow travelers. All of them are important.

Here are 10 of the best/worst lessons to learn on the road.

  1. Carry a phone-
    A part of me hates this but it has saved my butt more times than I can count. For instance, when you forget to learn out to read bus schedules, you can call a cab.

2. Buy good maps

    I don’t know how many tines having a bad or outdated or confusing map has messed up a day, turned me around, or got me lost. So, investing in a good map is an important way to preemptively save the day.
  • 3. self care!
    • I have become sick 2 out of 3 extended trips. If I had used more hand sanitizer, brought some vitamins, and got more sleep, I would have had an easier time with everything.

    4. Pack Light/Buy light

    • I have always made this mistake on longer trips. I pack too much, and immediately regret it. The other side is buying too much. When my aunt went with me to Europe in 2015 she bought so many souvenirs that we had to mail two large boxes home AND a suitcase. Because of the weight and international shipping fees, she spent almost $800 to mail home about $3,000 worth of merchandise. The moral of the story is that it’s better to buy the few things you REALLY want, leave room in your suitcase to bring it home, and consider purchasing some items when you get home. Pro tip- many companies get GREAT shipping discounts if you buy say $100 of merchandise.
  • 5. Eat Well
    • Don’t eat expensive, eat well. Eat your veggies like mamma told you. Don’t drink too much. Make sure you drink plenty of water, and enjoy delicacies in moderation.

    6. Say no

    • Say no to people that annoy you. Say no to drunk guys in bars. Say no to pushy “tour guides”. Say no to flirtatious Italians. Say no when it seems wrong, sketchy, scary, or if your gut tells you so.

    7. Ask Questions

    • So many mistakes and mishaps could have been prevented for myself and others if I had asked more questions, asked for directions, asked for a better map or bus schedule. See 1 and 2.

    8. Bring a Towel

    • It sounds silly, but if you have read Hitchhiker’s Guide (or seen the movie) you know towels are helpful. Truth is having a good towel on the road is also helpful.

    9. Bring a Sweater

    • Weather conditions can change in most places without warning. The times I have needed a sweater I have been so grateful to have one. When I have forgot one, boy did chattering teeth regret it.

    10. Make sure you are physically ready

    • Travel can be thoroughly miserable if you are not in shape. Being tired from long walks, or just carrying luggage can make the trip a miserable time. See 4 for extra help!

    What have you learned on the road?

    My Favorite City

    History, Scotland, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom

    A lot of people have favorites, and while I try not to discriminate, Edinburgh will always be my favorite.

    I fell in love with the city at first sight. Literally. I rolled myself out of Edinburgh Waverly Station and when I walked out I was facing Princes Street, totally unimpressed and then I turned around. And of my god I will never forget the chills I felt taking in the magnificent gothic spires and alleys that make up Old Town Edinburgh.

    I fell. Truly. Madly. Deeply. In love with the city.

    I loved waking up to the sound of tourist music and the earthy smell of centuries of rain, Moss, and people. What Victorian London loss in the Blitz, Edinburgh has retained.

    My first time in the city was one filled with new experiences, people, accents, food, art, culture, and hundreds of moments that propelled a small town girl (Pop. of Florissant, CO 100) into a completely new world.

    I tried clubs and hipster coffee shops (when hipster was hardly a thing). I shopped for woolen goods, and went clubbing. I met friends and another male love interest. I had my heart broken, and found new passions. I visited ancient relics, I drank scotch for the first time, I went to my first U.K. Castles, I even did tombstone rubbings at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. I got my first tattoo. I absolutely absorbed every misty breathe I could of the city.

    In the last eight years I have been to more cities and have had more experiences. I added places to my scrap book like Rome, Venice and Florence, San Francisco, Orlando, and Frankfurt. Yet still, my heart craves the cobbles and Georgian basements of Edinburgh.

    I returned in January 2015 and found new treasures such as Dean’s Village, and Mary King’s Close, and my new favorite, Sandy Bells. I found more music and a local Edinburgh than early tourist season had revealed. I loved the city even more in winter’s chill, even when it cut me to the bone. This time, five years wiser (I hope), I found the city as charming and lovely as before, just with new layers. My friends now haunt real bars and appreciate some tunes, they work professional jobs, and they don’t live with their parents. We all moved on and upwards, creating some blend of lives in the cities we have landed.

    I know I’ll make it back to Edinburgh one of these days, a few more years wiser, a more aware version of myself. Yet my curious and naive mind will wander over dark closes and Scottish identity. I’ll learn new slang, and ghost stories, I’ll hear new tunes and make new friends, and once again I’ll be in love with the ancient walls around me.

    Spring Foods from Around the World

    europe, History, italy, mexico, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

    Have you noticed how with each season come certain holidays and with said holidays comes certain food?

    Naturally, this is not purely American (though we tend to take it above and beyond). Other countries in the world celebrate holidays in their own way and with certain dishes. Here are some of my favorite spring treats.

     

    North America

    • Easter candy- this is a given, with Easter on its way and the end of lent, food looks mighty tasty that’s full of all the bad stuff you maybe gave up for 6 weeks.

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    • Fruit on everything- Though we live in world with fruit available almost year round, when berry and cherry season arrive everything has a touch of blueberries or cherries to make life more colorful.
    • Meat- pair your fruit and chocolate with some lamb….somehow this makes sense.

    South America

    Due to the flipping of seasons south of the border, most of South America is entering fall. Here are some of their preferred treats for their Easter Season

    • Easter Bread Ring “rosca de Pascuahas roots in Spain, king of like a King cake in the French tradition, it’s a sweet and tasty bread.

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    • Spanish Fasting Soup “potaje de la vigilia is popular this time of year. The main ingredients are codfish, spinach, and chickpeas.
    • Ceviche is a popular dish in Peru, and that means Easter week it becomes a necessity for home and celebration

    Europe

    Many of our “American” traditions have European roots; here are some of the better or more surprising foods.

    • German Eggs – This one surprised me on my first trip out of the country. As Germany was my first stop my friends there had received an Easter basket from their landlord. To my surprise, eggs are not refrigerated in Europe before purchase AND sometimes after. So boiled Easter eggs are often just left out for a few days, fully decorated and then consumed. The cool thing about eggs in the shell is that they don’t really rot and eggs don’t rot in general until they are very old or exposed to oxygen.

    pexels-photo-372167.jpeg

    • British- Guess where that odd 1994 Cadbury commercial came from, the Brits. Who make and developed those delicious, sickly sweet fill eggs that are popular this season.
    • Italian- The Italian menu for this holiday moves away form heavy and sweet into fresh and tasty. Though lamb is also common asparagus side dishes are popular, so is an egg and rice soup, and for a finish many enjoy Columba cake.

    Asia

    With the seasons come new foods, and Asian cuisine is all about embracing what is fresh and seasonal. Many parts of China and into Korea love to eat dumplings starting from Lunar New Year into the summer as a hearty cold weather treat and for traditions around the food. Here are some other tasty treats.

    • Japanese- As blossoms and spring plant life leads to many spring traditions in Japan, they whole-heartedly embrace it with their food. Mochi with cherry blossom leaves are common, strawberries don many treats, and mugwort comes into popularity in mochi and other treats.

    pexels-photo-76997.jpeg

    • Chinese- Asparagus stir-fries with beef, vegetable pot stickers, and lamb when available.
    • Southeast Asia- Much of this region does not have the seasons that we associate with in the west, but that doesn’t mean some food is not seasonal. Thai Basil is popular to make refreshing drinks as temperatures rise. Rice paper spring rolls, served cool make for a crisp treat with a tasty sauce and shrimp. Indonesian cuisine embraces fried crispy spring rolls full of tasty veggies and light meats.

    Australia

    While food in Australia is not too obscure for the holiday, and while they are very British culturally, Australia has their chocolate eggs, hot cross buns etc. BUT in Australia instead of a bunny bringing treats, kids get a visit from a Bilby…

    Bilby critters are nocturnal insect, snake- eating rodent things, with giant claws. It’s really not any weirder than someone making up a rabbit that leaves/lays eggs. So while the food is not too weird, I leave you with the Bilby.

    easter_bilby_by_arabidopsis-d3entpc.png

    AMENDED March 19, 2018

    So I actually asked a friend about the Bilby, he is from Australia and said they have the Easter bunny in Australia and that the Bilby is a new twist on the classic. Maybe, just maybe to confuse foreigners.

     

    Happy Travels!

     

    If You’re Mourning Carrie Fisher- Laugh

    geek, love, musings, United Kingdom

    Carrie Fisher the very big Star Wars actor that we knew and loved. The Princess that didn’t needed saving, and that could fire a gun and actually hit her enemies….. well she passed away this week.

    Huge Star Wars fan, or not, many of us have taken time to reflect on her contribution to film and women in film. She was also the daughter of another iconic performer, Debbie Reynolds, who they say died of a broken heart the day after her daughter died. Reynolds contributed a hell of a lot in her life too, and the loss of both this week is a blow to film nerds around the world.

    Yet, while I am saddened by these losses, I know there is something really cool we can all do right now. It not only honors the memory of these performers, but it also cheers the soul. I did this when Bowie and Rickman died in January, I took to their art and I devoured it. I watched movies and listened to music and loved their art. I’m doing this right now with Fisher.

    I just read her book Wishful Drinking over the last 48 hours and I laughed my ass off. It’s a hilarious book, full of comical  (intentional) stories and moments from both Fisher and Reynold’s life. I plan on reading more of Fisher’s work and just enjoying her contribution to the world. Ya know what, she would have wanted it that way.

    Weirdly Wishful Drinking is almost prophetic of her own death and passing, but in a loveable way. In a “it’s gonna happen” way. Because, that’s the end for all of us.

    Because that’s this planet, this universe, and not so far far away or long long ago. We’re all mortal, and we’re all trapped in that truth.

    So, wipe the tears (don’t deny them) and enjoy what artists made when they pass. That was the whole point, a lasting contribution on a world that’s ever changing and temporary. Laugh at their jokes and their writings, and love that we get to live NOW and enjoy these pieces of humor and life. Also cry if you must, that’s okay too. We’re laying to rest and saying goodbye to some friends from our own journey.

    From Wishful Drinking:

    George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes one look at the dress and says, “You can’t wear a bra under that dress.”

    So, I say, “Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”

    And he says, “Because. . . there’s no underwear in space.”

    What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn’t—so you get strangled by your own bra.

    Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.

    What I’ve Learned From Travelling….

    Caribbean, Cruising, History, musings, Photography, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

    …to be a better traveler.

    A friend posted on Facebook just now…which inspired this post, that she, after travelling part of Europe HATED her massive luggage that she took and never wants to travel with it again. To which I reply….well duh!

    However, 6 years ago I learned this lesson myself, and have learned it many times since. Travel with less= enjoying more. TRUTH.

    I found on my first trip to Europe, 6 YEARS AGO that taking extra crap was a waste of my time and money (you know you have to pay more for heavy bags on planes). I stupidly took books to read (which I never had time to), I took travel guides (now I rip them apart or use my phone) and I took a massive book to put ticket stubs and other crap in (this was EXTRA DUMB) this book weighed about 5lbs and now 6 years past most the ticket stubs have fallen apart or the thermal paper has erased itself….so that was also a waste of time. Anyway my first trip also meant that I bought a shit-ton of books at different places I went, which was well-meaning, but it also meant that I had a hell of a lot of extra weight that I had to ship home or pull all over Europe.

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    Oh to be 19, young and stupid…

    Since then two more trips to Europe have taught me a lot, and mostly by mistakes.

    First of all: DO NOT plan on mailing anything home unless you have like $300 extra to spend because international mailing rates have gone up, up, up. That goes for U.S. or Europe and let’s just say you can throw away a lot of money on knick-knacks and then to send them home, and the reality is YOU ARE BUYING CRAP so STOP!!!!!!!! This also goes back to a philosophy of DO NOT buy people souvenirs unless they are SMALL and light weight and squishable.

    Second: Invest in good luggage. Luggage that is lightweight, can take some knocks, can stretch and that maybe has a warranty. My first suitcase barely functions (I keep souvenirs in it) and it started to fall apart halfway through a 2.5 month trip. ALSO- buy one with WHEELS and four wheels that are fully rotating. Even if you don’t do much walking with your luggage, the few hours at the airport make it worthwhile. If you are backpacking, then different rules apply.

    Third: Plan for the length you will be gone. For 1 week-3 weeks, take a carry-on or medium suitcase, and plan to do laundry, and pack extra undies. For 1 month+ you’re allowed a larger bag, however if you are traveling a lot (in the moving place to place sense) keep in mind that a backpack may make trains and hostels a lot easier. For longer trips I take a larger bag and only pack it half-full, then there is room for gifts/souvenirs/supplies that I may need. For instance, the Hostel I was at last year in Edinburgh left me FREEZING every night, so I bought a wool blanket that not only helped with the cold, but now I use daily as a throw. Having extra space meant I could bring it home.

    12087312_10153370838534177_664978286595675797_o

    All you need for a month, minus the kitty.

    Fourth: Listen to friends/family that have traveled a lot and don’t be too proud to look stuff up. If I had listened to more Samantha Brown and less grandparents/dad’s friends I would have taken WAY less on my first trip and had a better time.

    Fifth: Take a big enough bag. It’s a fine line between too much and not enough, but when I went to Italy for my study abroad and lived in Florence 5 weeks, I accumulated a lot of stuff. Such as clothing….because fashion and street markets….. So taking the train to meet some friends to get to Germany was a nightmare. It was stuffed train+ suitcase+ two bags I bought + other random crap….It was bad, and embarrassing and HEAVY. Lesson learned.

    11665756_10153179778494177_7086664371952425991_n

    From Paris with Love….

    Sixth: Use tech to your advantage. BUY A SMARTPHONE already! Seriously, on my last trip that is all I took was my iphone, leaving back my DSLR and computer. Why? Well usually I LOVE taking lots of photos but for only a week of running around and some extra time with family, my IPhone 6S was PLENTY to take fun photos, stay in touch and pull up maps/directions. Also, buy a GOOD smartphone, and make sure you have international coverage where you go. T-Mobile offers FREE texting and slow data overseas and is about $0.20/min to call. Which is pretty good! If you are going somewhere a long time and think you want to call a lot (I use SKYPE btw) then think about getting an unlocked phone and buying sim cards abroad that you can “top-up” or buy a month-to-month plan. It really helps and in this day a phone can be a lifesaver if you get lost or can’t find a taxi at 3am. Even if you take a DSLR in addition, having the cellphone can lighten your load by leaving the computer at home, and carrying important information (scans of passport etc.) Along with access to people back home. Anyway, just join the 21st century and be savvy. Compared to traveling 6 and even 3 years ago, having a SMARTPHONE make a HUGE difference and is worth the time/headache it saves.

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    Seventh: Buy disposable entertainment. MEANING: download audio books/digital books (utilize the library), books you can leave at a hostel, movies that are digital, music that is digital etc. This keeps things lightweight and also if you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have to feel guilty about lugging around the weight.

    Eight: Pack minimal clothes and buy new things. I try to leave some room in my budget and suitcase to buy some clothes. This is my “backup” for not only weather conditions and “unknowns” on what might be fashionable or more comfortable for the travel conditions. This acts as an awesome souvenir and a great amount of fun.

    Happy Travels!

    ~Rebecca

    platform 9 3/4

    Hidden London, the city that you need to see

    Travel, United Kingdom

    London, as many great cities are, is full of your typical tourist spots, and one can spend plenty of time hitting museum after museum, and visiting royal sights.

    Yet, there is a lot more to see in London, such as unique and vibrant culture in the pubs and waterways that are away from the tourist trail.

    Such as the Dickens Inn at St. Katherine Docks. That is an old haunt of, you guessed it, Charles Dickens and in the area that so often found itself in his stories. 

    Or haunt around Kings Cross and check out Platform 9 3/4! Along with the Harry Potter shop.

    Even at the big tourist spots there are magical places that sometimes get missed. Such as the 13th century reconstructed palace at the Tower of London.

    The reality of London is that wandering gets you to some neat places. Some cool shops, some exciting places, interesting people and unique sights. If you can, make a connection with a local, because they will always know a place or two worth exploring.

    Happy Travels!

    ~Rebecca Lee Robinson

    Summer School

    Colorado Events, documentary, geek, musings, United Kingdom

    Some of you may or may not know, but I am working on my master’s in International Journalism.

    As a result I haven’t been blogging so much lately.

    So attached is my summer work, a documentary on geek culture in Fort Collins, Colorado.

    ENJOY!

    Consider Scotland for your next adventure!

    History, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom

    If you love and live in Colorado it can be hard to find somewhere as beautiful to vacation in. Not to sound snobby but when sights like this

    are in your backyard, it’s sometimes hard to be blown away other places.

    Yet I have been to Europe quite a few times and it has never disappointed. My most recent trip left me in Scotland for most of the month I was away, and it was amazing!

    Edinburgh is my favorite, for being a gorgeous gothic city with ancient and medieval bases.

    and the castle is awesome!

    Graveyards feel more romantic than macabre.

    The street performers are a hoot and a half.

    The architecture stunning

    and Scotland has so much natural beauty everywhere

    Even when you’re freezing in winter

    and there are COWS!

    The most beautiful castles…

    Keep a lookout for Nessie

    And wear some dancing shoes.

    It’s truly magical, and something dreams are made of.

    Best,

    Rebecca Lee Robinson

    Little Fish, Big Pond- from country girl to world traveler

    musings, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

    I grew up in the Pikes Peak region, very rural. Where the closest neighbor we had for many years was about half a mile away. Where the roads were dirt for three miles back to my childhood home. Where you could hear traffic from a mile away if you listened hard enough. Where big horned sheep hung out in their back yard and mountain lions were a real threat.

    When going to school as a kid we literally lived at the LAST stop on the school bus route, for either school we went to either in Cripple Creek or Woodland Park. Both of which were a 30 minute drive in either direction.

    When I was 19 (in 2010) I decided, while taking a gap year and a half, to take a trip. By myself I would go to Europe. I started in Germany and France with some dear friends that lived in Stuttgart. By the time I got to traveling alone I was in the UK and that meant a wakeup call on public transportation and how much of the world lives.

    In London, I rode on my first subway, real subway- not one at an airport.

    Out of London I rode on my first public train, not just a touristy trip through the Royal Gorge, to Diss in East Anglia.

    In Edinburgh, I rode in my first cab, EVER….I kid you not.

    Out of Stirling, Scotland I took my first public bus to Dirleton, Scotland, which quickly turned into a mess because I didn’t understand bus schedules…anyway.

    Out of Holyhead, Wales I would take my first ferry and land in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland.

    As a trip of firsts in public transportation and seeing the world it was a wonderful experience and preparation for moving to the city for college.

    In January of this year I took a third trip to the UK with my aunt, from Kansas, who had:

    • Never been in a cab
    • Never been on a commuter train
    • Never been on a subway
    • Never been on a public bus.

    It was strange to think that someone in their 60s could just be experiencing these things for the first time. Yet, when I think about how strange the mid-west and western United States could be for people, it’s kind of a weirdness that is unique to that part of the world. Growing up in rural environments means that we have some experiences with raising farm animals, or hiking hidden trails. Yet we miss out on more urban pursuits. Which, when traveling have an interesting way of sneaking in. All part of the experience.