Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Deer and Drizzle (08.27.12)


Today, we awoke for our last full day in Scotland. Unfortunately, after evading the rain so long, it was not built to last. As soon as we finished breakfast, the all day rain began. Stubborn to complete our nature photo tour, we headed out to the Blair Estates.

However, despite being told it was where to go, our photo tour guide had nothing to do with Blair estates. The castle looked amazing, and we almost stayed to tour, but headed out from the drive, we noticed a huge backup created from a truck ill-parked on the roadside. It would have taken us a long time to return.

After multiple games of phone-tag, we ended up at a man's house just outside of town. His name was David, and he took us totally willing up into the country at the base of the Highlands, which looked similar to many parts we'd seen in Ireland. Driving through a field of confused sheep, we realized the rain and wind was just too much, and though he had been willing to show us a hike up the hills to see the view, we were ill prepared. Even if we had left, most animals were smart enough to seek shelter, and the view from the top would have been obscured by the heavy fog, leaving us only to soak in the rain without an umbrella, in windbreakers and wellies. We turned the car around and drove through the country a bit before returning to his house, listening to a fascinating story where David had hosted the King of Qatar for a day's deer hunt in the country. He'd been treated to lunch with the King after a muddy hunt, along with the King's son, and several bodyguards taking over a small cafe we'd passed in the town. He even decided to stay in a small B&B after brunch there, buying helicopter transportation on a whim to make sure his entourage from his previous hotel could make it into the country. Meanwhile, the staff of the B&B had been about to close down the next day for a brief hotel-wide vacation, but had stayed open for the King for a night or two, since it seemed financially beneficial for such a small place to host an exciting group of guests.

We left David with our sorrows and thanks, and a few pictures of some highland deer babies. Deciding to head back into the town Pitlochry, we walked into a few shops here and there, and were glad we at least got to explore a cute local town we wouldn't have stopped in otherwise. We discovered a fantastic Twill and Tartan store, where I hit it big with a nice sweater, some hats, and a small purse.

Leaving town in the rain, I dozed in the car on the way home. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the poolside (indoors of course, though did swim in the outdoor pool) before dinner. We ate our last dinner at the chill Italian place once more, and shared another absurdly large bowl of Tiramisu.

Just now, I am sitting here writing this and listening to live bagpipes, just having watched a large group of Tartan-clad men march down the front drive of the hotel, and stop and play in the front. Had I not already been in sleep clothes, I would have rushed down to take pictures or video. It took us until our last few hours here to hear live bagpipes at all - a fact Mum constantly was stunned by. However, listening to this is a fantastic way to cap off the trip.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Putting and Piano (08.26.12)


Today our main outing was golf. Set on being able to say we played in Scotland, we headed out to play nine holes of the Queen's course, one of the four courses at the hotel. If I had to describe it in one word, I would say "squishy." Many fairways has puddles and mud, and the ground everywhere was pretty saturated with water. Despite this, I discovered my love of the Callaway 5 Wood (a set of rental clubs, I've always played Ping or Cobra). We had our good and bad holes, but despite trying (and failing) to hit out of the sand, whiffing shots, or hitting into the rough, I ended on a good note. Hitting my 5 wood, I almost hit the pin from a long distance, sinking my ball onto the green (a rare occasion) without chipping (my least favorite thing). Here's a few shots of all of us, dad had a caddie while mum and I pushed carts.

Returning, we had lunch at the club house, and thought about what to do. I wanted to return to Stirling to walk around the town, however by the time we finished eating, the drive would have gotten me there just in time for shops closing. Mum and I instead hung around the room and relaxed, while Dad got a message.

We chose to eat dinner in the Strathern restaurant again, the fancier dining room here at the hotel. We sat under a greenhouse-like building, with the piano man once more playing his tunes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Drum and Dance (08.25.12)


Today we set out to go to Glasgow and Stirling. Expecting the rain, the sun greeted us as we headed down to the Burrell Collection outside of Glasgow. Many parts of it were under renovation, but it had many different little galleries inside, all from the collection of one man (who's collection actually reminded me somewhat of William Hearst). He had lots of old furniture and tapestries as well as stained glass windows dating anywhere from between the 1500's to the 1700's, many of the windows dating earlier. He had many Degas paintings upstairs, as well as Roudin sculptures. The collection was not laid out in his house however, but rooms of the house were represented in the more modernly-built museum/collection building. He even had small pieces of other cultures, everything from Greek Kylix's to Egyptian paintings. I left my camera in the car, thinking it wouldn't allow pictures - but of course, it did. Here are some shots I instagrammed, which I'll put here despite the quality.

Moving on into the actual city, I suggested digging into the Barras market of Glasgow, seeing as the book listed it as selling bargains and cheapies, but the driver seemed to make a face, and my parents were suddenly off the idea. Instead, after a small drive around, he dropped us at a street that began a series of pedestrian-only ways where most of the city shopping was (this was shaped in the form of a Z, I'm not sure the actual name). Much expected, they were all things I'd seen before, with the exception of a few Scottish or European stores. Other things like H&M, Aldo, and other familiar stores could be seen. However, I did manage to finally find some Tartan, though from a gift shop, I was glad to get some little skirts for myself.

We also happened to come across a flash mob of dancers accompanied by some music, which was apparently from this group named "Clanadonia." Here's some shots of them, as well as a little video I took on my iPod (apologies for the finger, but the best bits are in the end half!)

After this, we didn't have much time to stick around if we wanted to get to Stirling, so we headed out. The rain came down very hard as we left the sun behind, and we almost ditched, but we found it only a drizzle up at the Castle. Headed in, we discovered the Stirling Castle, while amazing on the outside, was rather strangely fake on the inside. Everything had been reconstructed. While the rooms were their original size, everything had been garishly painted to supposedly how it'd been before. The views from outside were quite amazing though!

Kind of disappointed and wanting to get out of the rain, we left back for the hotel. On our way, we stopped at the base of the Wallace Monument at the Abbey Craig. Similar to the journey up things like the Washington Monument or the Statue of Liberty, you can climb 240 steps up this piece. I would have gladly for the view, though my parents would have never made it.

Dinner was at the Italian casual place again, where I had the same meal as a few nights ago (pesto pasta and cheesy risotto). I topped off the night with a warm bath and a good read.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Shots and Sandwiches (08.24.12)


Today, we had another morning activity to wake up for. We decided to try some clay shooting, and it was my first time doing this as well as Mum's.

For those of you who don't know, I'll explain: There are many stations along a walk, and you go about a few of them depending on what you want. Each station has a machine out in a field that shoots out small black ceramic plates, about the size of a coaster. Each station also shoots them out from different places and at different angles, some of the challenging ones shoot more than one at a time (I was not so good with those). All of these stations are named after how they shoot / the animal movement they mimic - for example, the Rabbit station has a machine that shoots out the plates along the ground, and you have to aim at it as it rolls quickly across.

I was much better than I expected, to say the least. I don't know anything about guns, but tried out both a 28 and a 20, and enjoyed both (the smaller the number, the larger the gun). Dad shot with a 20 and a 12. Mum primarily shot the 28, though did not try all the stations we went to. I had particular luck with the Rabbit and the first station we shot at, which I can't remember the name, but was shot at the stand, and above the head.

Also, as I found when looking at these shots (mostly dad's), Allen makes some of the best faces.

After shooting, it started to rain, and we headed back for lunch. We munched on sandwiches as we watched families come in from watching the golf tournament in the rain. Deciding to avoid any gloomy outside activities, we decided to go hang by the pool. The main pool had a funky shape to it, which was fun, and it was very warm. A small pool to the side connected to a pool on the outside, which was very nice, and had seats on the side where jets shot out. The hot tub was nice but not very much warmer than the pool, and a lap pool behind the main pool was in use, though I did not bother to go in that one. After trying out each little location, I joined mum in reading on a lounge chair for some time.

Dinner was at the more fancier of the restaurants tonight, where I had my usual salad, and mushroom risotto along with Chilean red wine. I tipped off the night with a small cup of coffee as my parents ate ice cream. There was literally no one in the dining room when we arrived, but it had filled up considerably by the time we had gotten our starters. A piano player had been playing all throughout, which was rather nice.

I noticed a couple sitting a few tables away drinking either Rose wine or champagne. Apparently this has made a comeback, I've seen quite a bit of it here (supposedly this is no longer considered tacky). Guess it's not just for Rich Kids of Instagram anymore!

Rainbows and Reeds (08.23.12)


Today was our first full day here at Gleneagles. I got to sleep a little later than I have been thankfully, and felt caught up when I awoke.

We set out to meet a guide around 10, whose name was Allan (though not sure how this is spelled). He had a thick accent, which took some getting used to, but was very nice and funny (and will be teaching us clay pigeon shooting tomorrow). He took us out fly fishing in a small corner of the country not far from the hotel, where we stood aside pools about 20 feet deep most, and skimmed the water with colorful lures for a few hours. We were all thankful for the lack of rain, and the sun that kept us warm. It was an overall success, considering the first and only time I'd done this prior was near a parking lot out in Yosemite at 13 in hot conditions. Today was relaxing, and while I was learning, managed to snag three fish. One of them did die after swallowing the hook, but Allan put it out of it's misery before it could bleed, telling me the hotel would cook it for me if I wished to eat it (a Rainbow Trout, as seen below). Of course, I declined and told him he could take it home, since he said he likes fish and wouldn't want to waste one. I was glad I (and mum, she had a dead one too) could provide a meal for him! (Pics below thanks to Mum + Dad, wasn't really taking any shots that day.)

In the afternoon, we decided to go browse the golf grounds. A qualifying tournament is here at the hotel playing on one of the many courses, taking it's last rounds of skilled golfers for a future Ryder's cup. We have seen a few of them around, notably in some interesting gear (mark - purple plaid pants). We watched some on the range, and some on the 18th green, before the weather turned chilly and windy. No pictures were allowed, so sadly I don't have shots of those amazing pants, but I'm sure you guys aren't in this for the golfers anyways. 

Headed back to the hotel grounds once more, we chilled a bit before dinner. We returned to the golf house for dinner a few hours after some rest, which was casual and nice, and tipped off the evening with another glass of wine at the bar off the lobby. I had a Caesar and two plates of penne (small portions!) which was very good. 

Clouds and Cages (08.22.12)


Today we left the gorgeous Adare Manor rather early, headed for the Shannon airport to fly a brief flight to Scotland. I was sad to see Ireland go, and we'd said our goodbyes to Eric the day before. A funny old man from the hotel drove us that morning, chatting away, and humming if he wasn't speaking to us directly.

A cool view of wind turbines from the plane:

Our flight was thankfully short, and after gathering our damp luggage (which had sat in the rain before being boarded along with us), we headed off to Gleneagles. I don't have a picture of the car we drove in, but it's possibly the most amazing thing ever because the top half was mostly glass, roof, windows, and all. (I thought - from a drivers point of view, this would make negotiating blind spots a lot easier, especially by eliminating that annoying bar to the left and right of the windshield with another smaller window.) I stared up at the clouds for about half the drive before falling asleep, since I had not gotten a very good night's rest at the Adare due to some strange and loud creaking noises early that morning.

Arriving at Gleneagles, I took some time to finally unpack and get a little more caught up on pictures and my blog. The decor here is surprisingly modern, which I didn't expect after seeing the outside of the hotel. To be perfectly honest, I prefer the older decor far more than these rooms, though it is no doubt still wonderful. I have a little window seat that over looks the side of the front entrance, which is my favorite part. The view from the top floor looks like this, which is amazing:

After a bit of relaxing and eating lunch, we went to go explore the grounds. First we wandered outside, watching golfers in the distance, finding mazes to wander in, and coming across the large cages with birds from the Falconry, which Mum was not a fan of. I think one of them may have even been an eagle. We soon wandered inside, checking out our dinner location, as well as looking at the little shops within the hotel (which were all pretty absurdly expensive).

The rest of the day we just took to relax - I continued to work on pictures until dinner. Dinner was in one of the several restaurants in the hotel here, where I had a cheesy risotto plate to start, and a pesto pasta dish following. We ordered an absurd amount of Tiramisu to share for dessert, the only size being a large bowl fit for a meal itself, I wish I had grabbed a shot but the room was very dark.