Self-Drive Scotland: A Tale of Many Castles

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

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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.

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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.

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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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Weekend Trips- Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Current Location: North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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Since moving to the Pacific Northwest, it hasn’t really been in the budget for us to take any massive trips. At first, this was a huge bummer for a pair of avid voyagers such as ourselves. But our blues quickly dissipated when we discovered the seemingly infinite number of beautiful small-scale adventures right at our fingertips. Hence, this weekend trips series is something new we’re trying out and we hope you also love it!

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Cross Country Train Trip- Glacier National Park

Current Location: East Glacier, Montana

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I know it’s been an awfully long time since we’ve posted, and after such a busy summer riding the rails, I’m certain you’ve all been waiting on pins and needles to see our favorite stops. I promise folks, this post is worth the wait because Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever set eyes on.

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The first leg of our journey had us taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland. Since we were desperate to see the Montana mountains, we were gleeful to discover that Amtrak has a station in East Glacier Park Village on the Empire Builder route. The station is right on the outskirts of both the Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

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The history nerd in me was even more thrilled to discover that the Glacier Park Lodge, built in 1913 by the Great Northern Railroad, is less than a block’s distance from the station. We didn’t stay at the Lodge (I would’ve had to sell a kidney to afford it), but it was amazing inside and from the Lodge’s vast windows we got our first view of the Rocky Mountain Front. Surreptitiously, for our last afternoon, we posed as guests so that I could conduct a job interview and K could recover from food poisoning before getting back on the road.

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Instead of hitchhiking or cycling into the park, as many of our fellow campers did this season, we rented a truck and set out with our backpacking gear. Naturally, we timed our stop at Glacier National Park to perfectly coincide with both wildflower season and (as always) tourist season. I was certain that all the campsites would be taken (they were) and all the trails would be crowded (they were). But we were not prepared for how occupied everything would be, or how gorgeous everything was.

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Nothing could dampen our spirits once we entered the Park because Glacier is simply a masterpiece. Every view is a postcard, and every lookout is a painting.

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Havana- The Pastel Polity

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Current Location: Havana, Cuba

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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.

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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.

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But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

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Neon Canyon

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Location: Las Vegas, Nevada; Grand Canyon National Park and Payson, Arizona

We never thought Las Vegas would be our cup of tea. We’re not night owls, and we don’t gamble. We hardly live that Hunter S. Thompson lifestyle (anymore). Why on earth would we want to go to this pseudo-oasis in the desert?

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It seemed ostentatious and gaudy, like everything was dripping with excessive tasteless ornamentation. But when you get that French Revolution aesthetic underneath bright lights, the place looked fake. You can see the makeup on the Elvis impersonator, the grease on the used car salesman. The neon sign flickers and fades out.

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My cousin Tony was getting married, and we didn’t know what to expect for the nuptials. We heard we were supposed to dress casually and that the King would be involved somehow, but we weren’t sure how. They were married at the historic Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel and had a cocktail reception atop the Mandalay Bay Resort overlooking the city. It was one of the most fun and unique weddings we had ever been to.

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Down South

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Location: Tallahassee, Florida and Savannah, Georgia, U.S.A.

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This post will be bite-sized compared to what you are used to. In case you thought we had dropped off the map, we are so sorry! It has been a time of transition and figuring out our next steps.

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I finish up my Master’s degree in less than 2 months (I know, I can’t believe it either!) and we will be leaving the South to start our next big adventure in June. Our time here has been very bittersweet.

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After we decided to move, we realized we had barely explored the area that we’ve been living in. Since we haven’t had time for long-distance travel, we’ve been satiating the travel bug by taking a lot of weekend excursions to new places in North Carolina and surrounding states. Most notably: I went to Tallahassee to see my beautiful friend Jen get married and had a delightful day trip to Savannah with some girlfriends.

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From the Recipe Book: Chai Sugar and Spice Buns

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I realized that I hadn’t made anything for you guys in a while, so I thought I would share one of my favorite holiday recipes. I firmly believe it’s going to be your new breakfast tradition.
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For five fateful months after we returned from living in Asia, I worked at a bread bakery.I want to start off by saying that have an enormous amount of respect for bread bakers! They literally work 24 hours a day and are some of the most dedicated individuals I have ever known. I made some amazing friends at that bakery. If you see a bread baker today, you should thank them for the deliciousness they bring into the world. No, I did not bake bread. I was in charge of mise-en-place and small pastries. Sadly, I couldn’t really hack it as a professional (too stressful). I’ll stick to home baking, thanks!
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Anyways, rolling out those huge batches of cinnamon rolls was the one task that I especially couldn’t stand. We had a standard for our cinnamon rolls. Many people believe, they are the best in town- enormous doughy messes oozing with butter and caramelized cinnamon sugar. My boss and I had extremely different icing philosophies (I heard the phrase “this isn’t Cinnabon!” shouted a lot). They were the bane of my existence. I had nightmares about those cinnamon rolls, okay? Honestly, I haven’t been able to make a cinnamon roll since I stopped working there.

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But V, you might be asking yourself, what do we do about festive mornings when we are all hungover and require a sweet treat?
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