First Day of Heartland Travel

This weekend of Heartland Travel tour of the Highlands is one of the greatest trips I have been on. This trip not only had some of the greatest sights I have experienced, but had a tour guide, who had the greatest passion for what he does, where he lives, and who he is, Nory. This was also the trip in which I won through the ballot through the study abroad orientation I went to my second day here.

We began our great journey at 9 am when we all loaded on the bus. Right from the beginning we knew it would be great from all the other people who said help and were welcoming from the beginning and also Nory who was quick with the jokes and comebacks right from the start. Our first stop was Doune Castle, where Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Outlander, and Game of Thrones were all filmed at one point (Most Monty Python and second is Outlander). In the medieval it was home of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (c.1340–1420), the son of King Robert II of Scotland. We did not go in, but were able to take in the beauty of its outer walls and surroundings. We then headed to the neighboring town, Callander. On the way there, we learned about how the phrase, “Armed to the Teath” came from. The town of Doune was where all the pistols were created and where everyone got them. At one point, officials decided they did not want that and there was a law that no person were allowed to buy or sell guns once they got to the River of Teath and were not allowed to have their weapons on them, once they crossed the river into the town, creating the phrase, ‘armed to the Teath’. There, in the cute small town of Callander, we were able to grab sandwiches in which we would eat at Glenn Coe for our lunch and walked around the town for a bit, looking at the local stores.

On our way to the mountains of Benn Doran, Nory told us the very special and touching story of his proposal to his wife on top on Benn Hope (his last name was Hope, making all the more special). It was very special how much heart he put into his stories and the love you could feel he had for his family. We made a stop at Benn Doran and took pictures before we made our way to Glencoe. There we decided to have our picnic in the bus because of the wind outside, but everyone was a little happy to eat inside for our first meal out. When we were done, we set out to walk to the perfect spot in Glencoe where we were able to see the iconic mountains and valleys you always see in pictures and dream about going. While walking to the spot, I made friends with two other girls who were lagging behind with me because of all the photos we were taking of rivers and other mountains on the way. It is such a great place to be, you really want to take every minute of it in.

aaa aaa1 aaa2

After we soaked up the amazing scenery, we made our way back to the bus and off to more terrific spots of Scotland. While driving, we past Loch Lenny, which was beautiful and the sun shining on it made it truly great. We also past the small hill where the makers of Harry Potter located Hagrid’s hut!

aaa3

We then reached Glenfinnan, where if you look towards the loch, you will see BEAUTIFUL mountains, the water, and the monument to the Bonnie Prince Charles, where he began his campaign for the Jacobite uprising. The time we reached it was where the sun was just at the peak of where the state of the Bonnie Prince is. Now if you look the opposite way of the loch, you will see the famous railroad bridge that is famous because of Harry Potter. It is the bridge which the train crosses! We had to climb a very large hill to get the best view of the bridge. I was able to get the picture I wanted of it and wanted to see the monument before we left, so I started down the hill, but right when I was in the middle of being at the bottom and the top, I heard the whistle of the famous train. I was too far in either direction to see the train, but was happy enough to hear it and see the bridge and the amazing mountains behind it. I had a nice special moment to myself while walking to the monument, because it was what I remembered most of the last time I came to Scotland as a kid. It was also special because of the truly blessed weather we had. Everything you saw looked like it came out of a Natural Geographic Magazine.

aaa4 aaa5

We had another special moment in the bus while driving through the valleys of hundreds of mountains. I had never felt so at peace and so blessed to be somewhere than I was driving at the bottom of the mountains during sunset with that perfect group of people and a tour guide who would say how perfect everything was, the exact moment you started to think that as well. He also played the perfect music at the right time to feel complete in the moment. While we were driving though those mountains, we listened to songs such as, George Ezra – Blame It on Me, Bat for Lashes – Laura, Ben Howard – Old Pine & The Wolves, Malinky – Broomfield Hill, and Bears Den – Agape. These songs made me feel deeply that I was not home…and truly loved every moment of being there at that moment. I had my great friend sleeping next to me, scenery that makes you feel like an ant, but complete at the same moment, great music, a beautiful sunset, and the knowledge that this would be your whole weekend. It was perfect.

aaa6

We then were told of the story of the man who could talk to birds when we reached Eilean Donan Castle where we saw the sun officially start to set and were able to take some very special photos. We then made our way to the lodge we would sleep at for the weekend, the Stationmasters Lodge. It is a 150-year-old Lodge on the edge of a loch in the smallest little town. The lodge felt like a home. There was a nice fire being made, we made a home cooked dinner and all ate at a table together, and after dinner sang songs together with Fisherman Neil. It was a great cozy night filling with stories and laughter. Char and I the shared a room and fell asleep right away.

aaa7 aaa8 aaa9

Weekend Adventure to Myself and a Week of Squash

With other girls deciding to go out of town, I decided to have a nice quiet weekend to myself and go exploring in the town. The week its self was nice. Just had the usual classes I went to and relaxed in my room most of the time. On Tuesday, the 27th, the girls in my flat and I decided to go to the Union (bar on campus) where we listened to karaoke and two of my flat mates sang American Idiot (trying not to be those Americans… Ha but it was fun. A guy from my British Politics class decided to join us and wouldn’t leave our side, no matter where we walked and apparently would follow and stare at my from behind my friends said, so one of my flat mates who isn’t scared to be that person somehow got rid of him. Fun little stories.

But I was excited for this weekend by myself. I was going to be able to go where I wanted and get lost myself without another person asking to do something else or go somewhere else. It was my own little adventure. I started the day off by getting coffee in the atrium of the campus center. I then decided to walk all the way up to the Wallace Monument again. I thought I saw online that if I took a path then I would find a waterfall called Abbey Craig, but what I would soon find out after lots of walking all over the hill where the monument was, the hill itself is Abbey Craig and the waterfall I saw was two hours away and called Falls of Falloch. I just laughed and took in the beautiful forest in was in with the bright sun shining down. I decided to then walk to Cambuskenneth Abbey which took about 45 minutes to walk to. On the walk I past a sign for pedestrians walking on the path to read. On the sign, it talked about house a certain group called the Glasgow Boys would paint in that location many times. Now this was a big deal to me because the fall semester the year before I wrote a paper in my art history class on that very group! It was amazing to be in the place where they painted some of their beautiful paintings! I then walked through a wonderfully quaint little town where the abbey was located. Now the day was the first of October. There was a sign on the gate to enter the cemetery to the abbey that it was open from spring till September. Ha, I came the day it closed! I just laughed again but was still able to view the amazing ruin of the Abbey.

I then walked 45 more minutes into the town center of Stirling, which I knew very well by this time. I decided to get lunch in one of my favorite restaurants here, No. 2 Baker Street. I had a nice wrap with a Strongbow cider. I then decided to kill time before confessions at the church I will be visiting for the first time that I would soon make my home parish while here, by going to the mall. At the mall, I bought some new and cheap earrings and bought some gifts for people back home. I was able to buy two cashmere scarves for 25% of the original price on one because of a mishap with a sign for a sale that ended a week before. After walking around the town and becoming more familiar with it, I decided to go to St. Mary Catholic Church. It is a very large church at the top of a large hill. It is beautiful! For some reason though, any pictures I took of the church weren’t able to save on my phone. I stayed for about 30 minutes in the Church being the only person there, deciding maybe confessions weren’t happening that Saturday. So, I made my way back to campus and hung the Scottish flag I bought that day and enjoyed the rest of my evening.

The next day I went back to the church for Sunday mass and was nice to see the church filled with people after first seeing it while it was raining and I was the only one in it. This was a nice sunny morning and was very nice to finally be in mass after a month of not being able to make it. After mass I decided to walk to the local Tesco and buy ingredients to make tacos! I then spent the rest of the day in my flat enjoying the day and in the evening made tacos for me and some flat mates who were making their own hectic journey back from London.

That week I decided to join the Squash club on campus. It was awesome! Squash is an underrated sport that I hope to be able to play back home. It is basically the same thing as whiffle ball. After my first time trying it out, I was not able to lift my arm up without soar pain. Which made me more determined to play more! I was very nervous to learn to play in the middle of students who have played it for years’ practice, but they all were very encouraging and kept saying everyone starts somewhere. By my second practice I really started to have the hang of it and was told that I had a nice powerful strike. It was great experiencing a team again and being coached through something again. It was something I really missed and was very excited to be a part of again. Now, this college has a “give it a go” policy that allows you to join a team or club for free for one week. Even though I absolutely loved squash and wanted to keep playing with the nicest people I have ever met, it was too expensive to join a team for only one half of a semester. But I am so glad I was able to try it out, meet amazing people, and find a sport I hope to play lots when I come back home. The rest of the week I had high anticipation for the Heartland Travel tour of the highlands!

aa991 aa992 aa993 aa994 aa995 aa996

Climbing Mountains and Diving out of the Direction of Mountain Bikers

The second week of being on campus was my first week of full classes. In the week I have three classes that I meet for three times, which is by two large lectures and one small group seminar. So total, I have 9 hours of class time a week (not a lot whatsoever). The class size for lectures are the farthest you can get from St. Norbert. I have about 150+ students in lectures, and it is solely the professor talking with no student-professor interaction (misses my linguistics class where she asks us questions now and then). Although the small group seminars are just like St. Norbert classrooms. There are about 18 students and we have class discussions on certain topics for the week and everyone puts their two cents in the conversation. So there’s two ways to learn for people who learn best in different ways!

With lots of time in between classes and not any work to do for classes, I decided to take a nice walk on Tuesday, the 20th of September. I decided to go on this path that you are able to get to when you walk on the side of the road in back of all the living accommodations and find a hole in the stone wall. When you go through the wall you immediately are in a forest with a path created by many others who decided to walk in the forest as well. It was such a beautiful day with the sun shining and just the tiniest bit of cool in the air. It was noon and I didn’t have class until 4, so I decided to walk as far as I could until it was time for Linguistics.

The first was so green, with moss covering almost everything. There were old stone walls the plants growing out between each stone, fairy spots, waterfalls, buckeye trees, and quietness only interrupted by the sound of birds and the crunching of leaves as I walked. The scenery was exactly what I dreamt of when I imagined being back in Scotland. It was a special time that I did not want to end. I walk as far as I thought was good for that day, not wanting to go too far while alone.

20160920_12254820160920_12294920160920_125218 20160920_125611

When I decided to head back closer to campus, I still had two hours to spare. So, I decided to talk to the Wallace Monument. It is actually not far from campus at all. About a 20-minute walk from the main building on campus and a bus ride up to the top (that was optional, I could have walked but wanted to save time to spend longer at the monument). Once I got to the monument and paid to be able to go to the top, I started my journey up the very long spiral staircase that had tiny slits as windows that did not have glass, which I found you were able to put your hands through them as a type of railing if you wanted, which I as I began to remember I have a bit of a fear of heights. There are three floors in the monument. One about the Battle of Stirling in which William Wallace fought in, one about different lords and other popular people from there throughout the years, and one about the making of the monument in the 1800’s. After you look at those floors (and really catch your breath) you can make your way up to the finally floor, and the one that made it worth all the climbing and the price of the ticket; the top of the monument.

There on top of the monument you truly feel like you are on the top of the world. The air is so cool and clean and you can see miles and miles of landscape and cities from every angle you look. This is a spot that I want to go back to and would be willing to pay again to go back to (as I would pay to go back to the castle so I could spend as much time as I could again in the garden next to the castle). There are so many beauties here that are so amazing and new to view. It was so peaceful being on the top of that monument which is also at the top of a high hill in the middle of the city. You feel all the history of Stirling and can’t believe you are looking down and just experiencing being there. You can really meditate on life and feel completely right being there, with the cool breeze hitting you and the sun shining on you at the same time with no sounds at all. I was able to see all of my campus, I was able to see the castle, the town, old town, all the many farm lands with miles of planes, cattle feeding, and the many mountains circling the city of Stirling. As large and spacious it is, being there made it all seem connected and united. I believe that if I could feel that, then that monument really was special and had a great purpose for the town of Stirling. I left only when a couple came up, ending me being alone there for 10 minutes, so I could let them experience what I did in peace.
20160920_135031 20160920_140259 20160920_135930 20160920_134947

20160920_135939
20160920_140600

I them made my way back to campus with just enough time to have lunch before class.

 

The next day was a beautiful cloudy day. I did not have class and was planning on spending the day as a lazy one. When I came into the communial kitchen, some flat mates invited me to climb the mountain, that is outside my room window, with them. I accepted right away, never going to give up a chance for adventure and got ready. The cleaning maid told us before we left how to get up there (which we found just made us get lost) but she also told us a great saying they have, “If you can see the mountain, then it is going to rain. If you cannot, then it is already raining!” which was very funny and I believe her way of warning us it was going to rain soon. But, we set out and tried to find a way to start our journey up the giant hill. We spend maybe half hour trying to find a starting point, but soon found a way to go. We made our way up a road in between two old stone walls up a hill and soon found a small path through the wall that made its way up the hill.

And a steep hill it was! After many attempts to find a path that would bring us up to the top, we finally found a very narrow path, but since it was a path at all, we followed it. We soon found ourselves up and one of the tops of the hills and were right under the giant power lines that stretch from Stirling to Inverness. We stopped and took in the scenery for a bit. We then started to make our way back up the narrow path further up the hill. But, about a few seconds in we all had to literally jump into the bushes along the path. We found out why the path was so narrow; it was for mountain bikers! And two were coming straight at us at a super-fast and dangerous speed, but we luckily got out of their way just in time. We then started to walk, but one of the girls, very funny looking back on it now, said, “Can we take a minute, I just almost *F* died!” so we took a moment to realized what happened. It’s amazing how mountain bikers can descend a mountain and almost 90° at like 60 miles. It is really a skill to be able to do that and concentrate so hard, or may not think at all, so that you don’t fall or injure yourself in any way. But, we made our way up the path with more caution for if we would have to jump again. We walked through a cave made out of bushes that all shaped into a tunnel which was very intriguing and then next thing we know we are at the top. It was a very magical moment that I took in, and not more than a minute after I start taking in what I am seeing, I get a message from my greatest friend back home saying good morning. So I send him a video of where I was and was happy 1, I somehow had signal at the top of a mountain, and 2, that I was able to share that experience with him at least a little bit.

lk lk4 lk5 lk6 lk7

We saw the clouds of the rain were beginning to form again and very close to us, so we made our way down the hill and wandered more around the town and ventured into graveyard from the 1600’s and saw a miniature castle that had all the doors and windows cemented shut. We then made our way back to campus, in which the group got split into two with two girls walking much farther ahead, and my friend and I taking our time. Charlotte and I decided to go into town to return somethings and get some groceries. On our way to the bus stop, we had to walk through the atrium of the college center, and there we saw a booth for 35 pond tours. We decided to spontaneous and signed up to go on the weekend tour through the highlands at that moment for the upcoming weekend. It was very exciting and very spur of the moment, which what traveling is all about.

We made our way to the town and decided to have a taste of home, so of course went to McDonalds to get big macs. I also got a KitKat McFlurry and a very nice friend from a class gave me a banana shake (yeah, the McDonalds here have many different flavors for things!) she tried and decided she didn’t want.

We then ventured back and the rest of the week was class and relaxing inside away from the rain. I finally was able to do my laundry Thursday (how to be able to do laundry is a long and different story). But, I did something I thought I never would have to do in my life, and that was to ask a person by me to please get the socks from the back of the dryer that I couldn’t reach. Luckily the people here are like De Pere and very helpful and cheerful. The rest of what I could say for the second week was just holding in my excitement for the tour Charlotte and I would take for the weekend.