Self-Drive Scotland: A Tale of Many Castles


Current Location: Edinburgh, Inverness, Fort William, Stirling, and assorted locations throughout the Scottish Highlands


We had gotten halfway up the muddy, craggy hillside of King Arthur’s Seat when it hit me: there wasn’t a skyscraper to be seen on the horizon. In contrast to other global cities that we have visited , the view from the top of the small mountain lets you take in Edinburgh better than anywhere else in the city (save maybe the castle). We didn’t choose to stay up there too long because it was getting dark, but we had passed a ruined church of some kind just off the path, on a more remote face of the mountain. You could almost feel the ghosts inhabiting the ruins of the place, the history that all of the masonry had seen, and the growth of the metropolis happening at its feet. The degree of sentiment that the pile of stones put off, coupled with the beautiful view from halfway up the mountain makes King Arthur’s Seat a thing that you shouldn’t miss.



Of course, while we were there, it rained all the time, and there were pretty profound gusts of wind. Many of the mountainous areas were still covered in ice and snow. Tourist season was supposed to start in a few weeks, which means that the areas we elected to travel were less crowded and less expensive. That also means many of the amenities (restaurants, places to stay, gas stations) were not available to us as we made our way across the country. It occasionally reminded me of the landscapes of Paris, Texas–wide expanses, little human activity.


We appreciated the vastness and the quiet and the freedom to drive ourselves most of all. I definitely believe we saw more than we would have on any guided tour.

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Havana- The Pastel Polity


Current Location: Havana, Cuba


Maurice, our Airbnb host in Havana, picked us up in the airport just as the daily rainstorm was starting. We were trying to figure out how to overcome our language barrier (he spoke French, and minimal Spanish/English) and he gave us some advice that managed to carry us through our days in the city. The first Cuban Spanish phrase we learned was: “Taxi collectivo. El Capitolio. One CUC.” That bit of logistical knowledge and a tall glass of tamarindo juice were our welcome to the country.


The aesthetics of Cuba are something to marvel at. It’s an amazing melange of near-ancient Spanish architecture from the early colonial efforts, and 1950’s and 60’s modernism. Take those influences, don’t repair them for a couple of decades (because proper maintenance is expensive) and then paint it all pastel. The cars are the same; beautiful colors, and everything is stripped down on the inside. All the things that are not essential are torn out–you might have to short-circuit some wires to roll the windows down or start things up. You can see classic American, Russian, or French cars going down the road at all hours–those are the taxis.


But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

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Vieques- Island of Horses


Location: Vieques, Puerto Rico


Vieques island is one of those truly magical, untouched gems of the world. As a United States citizen, it still baffles me that you don’t need a passport to travel there. Only eight miles east of the mainland, it is accessible by ferry or small plane. It’s commonly referred to as “Puerto Rico’s little sister.” Unlike its crowded neighbor Culebra (home of Flamingo Beach- the most photographed beach in the world), Vieques is primarily visited by Puerto Ricans and only 9,000 people call the island home. As you might expect, this makes the place quite serene.


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