Floating Across Scotland

Location: Isle of Skye; Small Towns Across Scotland

It’s been a long time coming, but here’s a video of our trip across the countryside. As usual, you can get the video from YouTube or on Vimeo. Pick your favorite, and check out our first foray into drone footage!

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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Two Days on Isle of Skye

Current Location: Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland


Isle of Skye is the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the inner Hebrides of Scotland. March is not the time of year that most travelers decide to visit the Isle of Skye. In the summer months, they swarm the island to see the Cuillins and get mere glimpses of natural wonders like the Faerie Pools and Neist Point. In the winter, the famous green hills and rugged landscapes are covered in a dense brown heather and the clouds rarely part. Everyone in Scotland jokes that the dictionary is exclusively composed of different words for rain. However, we found an immense peacefulness being alone with the fog (and without the tourists!).


Maybe this is informed by the music I listened to when I was growing up, but the Scotland of my mind can be seen from two separate angles. It can be twee and adorable like Belle & Sebastian, with elegant continental breakfasts and tie-dyed, spray-painted sheep. Or it can be darkly pastoral, with an almost-surreal landscape, and occultist signifiers in broken-down cairns and castles, like Mogwai or Boards of Canada. Fortunately, on this trip, we got a taste of both styles of Scottish living when we drove over almost the entire length of the territory, and especially so when we were on the Isle of Skye.


There were moments where our small car felt like a submarine. The lichen-covered rocks and sulfurous-looking hills of the countryside were coral reefs, the sweeping grasslands plains of seaweed. I had my drone with me, and the moments that I could successfully fly it (through the onslaught of wind and rain), if you had changed the axes it would not have been dissimilar from diving deep to excavate some kind of shipwreck. Except, unlike the bottom of the ocean, there’s sheep everywhere. So many sheep.


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Vatican City- The Holy See

Location: Vatican City, Italy

edit00Our day started off on a terrible foot: V’s sprained one, to be precise. We woke up insanely early for vacation (at 5:30am) anticipating that we’d spend the full day out and about. Since the poor girl was broken, we had to give her some additional prep time.

After we wrapped her ankle, we popped downstairs for a delicious breakfast. Espresso and elegant little pastries abounded. Our doorman hailed a taxi, and we were on our way to meet our tour guide outside the one of the smallest city-states in the world (0.17 square miles). We got some more coffee to fuel up for our hours of walking at Caffe Vaticano- an expensive but cute little cafe- across the street from the front gate.
A private guide is the way to go for the Vatican if you value your time. People start lining up really early to get from Rome through the doors to this other city, and if you come with an authorized guide, they usher you through quickly. And there’s the added benefit of seeing a bunch of classical, 15th century art with someone who’s an expert in classical, 15th century art. Getting the right guide is really important because many popular companies will do anything to rip you off for a high TripAdvisor rating. I highly recommend our guide, Marta . She was incredibly kind, knowledgeable and she made the whole experience feel intimate.


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Under the Tuscan Sun


Location: Montalpuciano, Montalcino, and Pienza, Tuscany, Italy

Before I can tell you this story, I have to admit to something rather embarrassing.

The day before our weekend in Tuscany, I sprained my ankle in a completely mundane and un-fascinating way. At least, I assume it was unremarkable–I am not even sure how it happened (other than wearing the wrong shoes to traipse across Rome). But I do know that it swelled up like a giant purple balloon. Real talk: this is the completely not glamorous side of adventuring.



I was so bummed about my useless ankle that I nearly cancelled our Tuscan adventure. How could I enjoy my fancy wine and Pecorino cheese and views of the countryside if I couldn’t walk? I was looking forward to climbing atop buildings and running through fields of olive trees.  I was absolutely certain my sour mood and painful limp would ruin everything.

But I am so glad I didn’t cancel.

It turns out that, rather than prescribing medications, Italian doctors will send their patients to Tuscany. They’ll take thermal baths to relax for a week or two and be as good as new. Tuscany is literally just as good as–if not better than–medicine. The landscapes are unparalleled, the pace of life relaxed. It’s one of those places where depictions in films and books are 100% spot-on.


And I got a concentrated dose.

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A Roman Holiday

Location: Rome, Lazio, Italy


I won’t attempt to characterize Rome- its history or its grandeur- or how the ancient capital intertwines with the modern in such peculiar and unexpected ways. It’s a giant, frozen in time. You’ve undoubtedly heard the legends and the stories of emperors, conquerors and kings. I won’t tell you about those.


I will, however, tell you about some contemporary Roman surprises.


I will also inform you of the proper way to select gelato.

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