Scotland 5: Day 36

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Pigeon at Waverly Station in Edinburgh.

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Waverly Station

04.05.16 | Edinburgh > Inverness | 09:40

It’s sad that most of my entries discuss the condition of the wifi. When did that become a thing? How did we survive as a species before the early ’90s when the internet wasn’t available to everyone? You know- before Al Gore invented it. Keeping with this theme: The internet on the train going north is horrible. I have to swap to a different train as soon as I reach Inverness. I hope things will improve.

If you’re following along with a map in hand, you may be wondering why I went from Inverness, all the way down to Edinburgh for a week and am now going all the way back up north. When I was booking my stays, one of my friends asked if he could join me for part of this trip. He told me when he was available and I had a thought that if he was only going to see two places, Inverness and Edinburgh would be the places to see. I’m not sure how much of a country boy he is, and these two places would give him a great feel for Scottish culture.

So I backed Inverness and Edinburgh up next to each other, booked my rooms and transportation and then my friend decided that he couldn’t join me after all. So, onward and upward- the next stop is going to be Thurso.

I’ve been to Thurso once, the last time I visited Scotland. It’s a lovely little city, right on the ocean. Someone once told me that that was a good place to surf. I would add: Yeah- if you want to freeze to death. Apparently, where the Atlantic meets the North Sea, there are some killer waves. I’ve never surfed so I cannot confirm or deny that claim.

Inverness > Thurso | 14:09

I had about two hours to kill when my train got to Inverness, so I thought I’d trudge over to The Godfather’s and enjoy a fish and chips. I use the word ‘trudge’ because my backpack is pretty dang heavy. Maybe ‘trudge’ isn’t the right word. I’m open to grammatical suggestions.

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Now I’m on my way- the couple sharing the train seats with me are also going all the way to Thurso. I haven’t gotten all their deep, dark secrets yet… they’re way too quiet for my taste. When I do, I’ll be sure to update you.

Thurso Hostel | 20:14

I love this hostel. I’m attracted to hostels that are old and just a little run down. As long as they’re clean, that is. I like their quirkiness. It’s like going to visit grandma’s house. The perfect example is the hostel I stayed in when I was in Hobart, Tasmania last year. Brilliant! This one isn’t as old as that one, but it tries. When the train arrived in Thurso, I remembered the directions from the station to the hostel. Not bad after only having been here once! I wanted to go see the ocean immediately but was very hungry. More than five hours on a train does that to a guy.

I went to the first restaurant I saw, right near the hostel. So tonight was curry again! I love it so much! I may be spending a little extra time in the loo tomorrow, though- totally worth it! A good curry burns going down, and then again coming out. That was crude! I’m sorry! You can quote me, though.

After sitting and eating, I could feel my body wanting to fall off to sleep. The ocean will have to wait until tomorrow morning. Sorry- no pictures from Thurso tonight. I’ll take some tomorrow. Think I’m going to call it an early night.


Back to the beginning of Scotland 5 | Forward to Scotland 5: Day 37

Scotland 5: Day 20

03.20.16 | Aberdeen, Scotland | 20:26

On Sundays, like today, I try to do things a bit differently. I left the hostel this morning at about 09:00 and walked to church. It wasn’t too long of a walk, maybe 3 miles or so. The congregation made me feel very welcome. Everybody was too kind! I had a conversation with one of the older men, and he asked me if I know Elizabeth Smart (remember the gal who was abducted by those psychos? Search her name if you don’t). I told him not personally, but I did know who he was speaking of. He told me that she’s married to his grandson. No way! It was great to sit with him and chat!

After church ended, I quickly said goodbye and headed back to the hostel. The reason I left so fast was that I knew they were going to have a congregational potluck. I know they would have been okay with me joining them, but when I was in Oban two weeks ago, they asked me to stay for one, and I felt terrible when there wasn’t enough food to go around. It was good to go to church today, though.

Tonight, I spent some time walking around aimlessly. I found some dinner while I was out and about. When it started to get dark, I found myself in a not-very-good area of the city. Nothing happened. It just looked at the type of place where I would have been robbed and/or raped after dark. Since I wasn’t in the mood for this, I headed back to the hostel.

Scotland 5: Day 16

03.16.16 | Stirling > Pitlochry Train | 10:43

I really enjoyed two out of three of my hostel mates last night. One was the guy I already talked about, the Ukrainian who lives in Greece, the second one is a guy who joined us just yesterday. He’s from Germany but is staying and working in York at the moment. Both of these guys are in great shape. I’m almost inspired… almost. I’m in better shape than I used to be, but I still have a lot of work to do.

The third hostel mate was a girl from Taiwan. She more or less kept to herself. I tried to strike up a conversation, and even though I could tell she spoke good English, she just wasn’t having it for some reason. I would blame America but she wouldn’t really talk to the Ukrainian or the German either. I love it when it’s not personal.

I’m now on my way to my next stop, which is Pitlochry. I love this little town! This will be my second visit here. The first time I visited was simply because I’d remember seeing it from the train, heading north to Inverness. I wondered what it was all about… when I did finally stay in Pitlochry, I discovered that like most places in Scotland, it was great!

The hostel I stayed in last time I was in Pitlochry is either full or not open for the tourist season just yet. Since I couldn’t find any accommodation when I was booking, I had to use AirBnB and had to fork out some extra money. The good news is that it’s already paid for- so they aren’t going to charge my card. So many of the places I stay only take 5% down and the rest when you arrive. I don’t appreciate this because it’s so much nicer to pay for everything in advance.

03.17.16 | Pitlochry B&B | 07:18

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Pitlochry is as lovely as I remember. It is a dinky little village but so much beauty all around! I look forward to the next two days! For dinner, I walked around town, looking for something promising. Since it was just before 17:00, so many restaurants weren’t open yet. I hadn’t had anything for lunch, so by this point, I was searching hard. I finally found a pub/restaurant that seemed to have great food, even if the service was horrible.

I ordered a steak pie. I’m looking forward to having a REAL steak pie, that is baked in a crust. So far, however, it’s only been steak pies that are in the pot, and they lay some puff pastry over top. That’s cheating. The last real steak pie I had was in 2014 in Brisbane, Australia. Still, this one was a tasty fake- steak pie!

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Back to the beginning of Scotland 5 | Forward to Scotland 5: Day 17

Three Letters To My U.S. Passports

Dear First Passport,

I wish I had a picture of you to include in this letter. You’re in a drawer or a box somewhere, but when I come across you, I will be sure to scan you and update this entry. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for having been a wonderful part of my life. You first came to me back in 2007, when one of my best friends, Marcus, and I auditioned, and were ultimately selected to spend an autumn and winter in Taiwan, singing and entertaining tourists at an American-themed amusement park.

I remember the park directors coming to Eastern Arizona College to hold the auditions and asking us if we knew how to rollerblade (for you see, roller-blading Santa Clauses were all the rage in Taiwan back then, and that was part of the gig). I answered, ‘Yes’, but at the time I had never even put on a pair of rollerblades. It’s true I lied, but it got me the job (well, that and all my other awesome talents). How hard can roller-blading be? I remember being sad when I learned that the amusement park had gone bankrupt and this particular adventure was canceled. I now had you, my first passport. At that time, however, I had no place to go.

The first time I actually got to use you was after I’d moved up to Logan, Utah and was attending classes at Utah State University. This was the trip when my roommates James (a family member and another bestie), Paul, and Matt got together with our neighbors, Christy (Paul’s sister) and Marie and drove up to go camping at Banff National Park in Canada. I was disappointed that the Canadian border patrol didn’t stamp you. This trip, however, gave me a taste for the beautiful north and left me hungry, wanting more.

James had told me how awesome his trip Germany had been and then I got to meet Stefan, a boy from Germany who had once lived with James’ family as part of a foreign exchange student program. Stefan was so kind and told us we should plan a visit to visit his home. One night I was surfing the net, and what started out as simply checking how much it would cost to fly to western Europe, suddenly turned into purchasing two non-refundable, roundtrip tickets from Los Angeles to Paris.

That was an amazing adventure (and another excuse to use you, my first passport). As you no doubt remember, our roommate Jason joined us for that incredible trip! By this point, the love of travel was fast becoming part of my D.N.A. That seed had been planted and I desperately hoped to nourish it.

I used you when another James (a.k.a Zuka), Dave, Dave’s friend Jessica and another roommate, Jeremy, went on a road trip to see Dave’s parents’ who were serving as LDS mission presidents in Monterrey, Mexico. This was yet another trip where you weren’t stamped. If border patrol agents would only stamp you, this world would be a happier place!

I used you, yet again when I went with some dear friends to the United Kingdom in 2002. This was the trip with my dear friends’ James (Zuka), Julie, Colee, Dave, Dominoe and Makaylee. We spend just over a week visiting this land of some of my [and some of their] forefathers. Finally, another stamp! A few years later, you would be well used when I’d become a flight attendant. Even though at the time, the airline was only domestic flights, you came in quite handy for all of those T.S.A. lines and security checks.

I miss you and hope you show up one of these days! I am blessed that you helped me to discover this love I now possess.

Love, Dav

Dear Second Passport,

I apologize that you got so worn out! A few of your security features had even started to fade, resulting in additional questioning- but wow! We’ve had a blast! You have taken me back to the United Kingdom on a few different vacation trips, in and out of Iceland, you’ve allowed me to spend two amazing weeks in Ireland, in and out of Mexico and Canada a few times, all over the United States and even let me spend five weeks exploring some of western and southern Australia, in part to visit my dear friends, Arron and Brendan! I already had this growing love of travel, but with you, I really learned how to travel. I’m grateful to have known you!

Love, Dav

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Dear Third Passport,

Since you just arrived in my mailbox this past week, I really haven’t gotten to know you yet, but am looking forward to the opportunity. Now, If you’ll go over and take a look at my bucket list, you’ll agree that this is going to be a blast! I look forward to using you at the end of this month on our first adventure together! I even had them add extra pages to you!

Love, Dav

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Today I ended up, once again, in SeaTac, Washington.

I know I say this often- I love the northwest so much! I could totally live up here again! Not sure what my problem is- it’s not that I’m not happy in Utah. Maybe it is some kind of grass-is-greener complex (by the way, the grass really is greener in Washington). My mom told me that I needed to wait until she dies before I move away from Utah. If I decide to go to Washington, she would forgive, support me, and she’d still love me. It just seems like even though I live in the same state as the folks’, I see them about as often as I did when I lived in Kentucky. Maybe I work too much. For now, I’ll stay where I am.

I thought I’d write about three more things on my bucket list. After that, I’m going to sit back and watch the film Enough. Remember that movie? I decided to buy it on iTunes the other day.

  1. When I was planning my trip to Australia back in 2014 xxxUPDATE LINKxxx (see post), the initial idea was to spend part of the time there and part of my time in New Zealand. I soon realized, however, that I didn’t want to spread myself too thin. There is just too much I wanted to see and do in Australia, and the same goes for New Zealand. Number 73 on the bucket list is to go to New Zealand.
  2. I love a good road trip! Number 81 on the list is to drive the historic Route 66. Maybe on a motorcycle (bucket list item number 69)? We’ll have to see about that. I guess I need to get a motorcycle first.
  3. Number 9 is to go to Brazil. Since the Olympics is approaching, I heard that they are going to change the rules so they will no longer require a visa to visit, but just a passport. That will make things easier (and a bit cheaper)!

Australia 2014: Part 16

<BNE – LAX | 00:51>

My last few days in Brisbane were wonderful! Arron and Brendan took me to a Turkish restaurant, we played a game of barefoot lawn bowling- which was a blast even though I now know of yet another sport I suck at. We went on a short bush walk, visited a fish store, had some overpriced ice cream, went to browse through a swap meet, and just had a great weekend hanging out together.

Fun fact: Did you know that some people (two I know in particular) actually go to bed by 20:00? I know what you’re thinking, but the two people I’m referring to are neither small infants nor are they old/decrepit yet. Does this mean that they’re just giving up? I think so. I gave them a hard time already.

I’m on Qantas flight 15, headed back to the states. I’m sad that this vacation is coming to an end. I guess it’s time to get back to reality. This isn’t so bad, however, because I’ve created a pretty awesome reality for myself. It’s time to get home so I can start preparations for my next adventure.

The End.

Australia 2014: Part 15

<Berriedale – Hobart | 12:44>

My favorite part of the Mona Gallery is this picture of the big-bad-wolf eating grandma. Yes, it’s graphic, and yes, there’s a boob there, but look at the wolf’s eyes. Isn’t it spectacular? Either that or I’m going to have nightmares tonight. I’m not sure which one. Ignore the boob. Look at those eyes! Brilliant piece!

I’m on the ferry that is taking me back to Hobart from Berriedale. For some reason there is a cow made of something like fiberglass and well I’m going to say it: There should be more fiberglass cows on ferries. There are also some sheep nearby but they’re hardly worth taking a picture of… stupid sheep.

<14:30>

I just woke up from a deep nap- I was exhausted! I just introduced myself to a new hostelmate who is from Essex and he had the exact same experience at Mona today. He said he was there for only a few hours and feels like he really needs a nap. There is just too much concentrating- it wears a guy out. Some of the artwork I really like and appreciate- and some of it doesn’t seem like an ounce of talent. This is just my opinion- you may disagree. I’ve said it before: If it looks like it was drawn by a 3rd grader, maybe that artist needs to reconsider his or her life choices.

Australia 2014: Part 14

<Hobart, Tasmania | 09:08>

I have just purchased tickets to the Mona Gallery. This is one of the things that the flight attendant who brought me down here from Melbourne told me I had to see. She told me to make sure I come with an open mind. That makes me wonder what she’s talking about.

My mind is open to a whole mess of things (probably more than it should be) as most minds are open in this day and age. A small part of me wants to jump online and find out exactly what she was talking about. But I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

<10:16>

I am standing on a memorial walk at the Hobart Botanical Gardens. This walkway has been planted with so many trees. Each tree has been placed for a soldier who died in the first world war- it’s very moving. Some of the trees are younger because the original tree has died, but they keep replanting new ones when that happens. I just came across a plaque/ directory of the names of these soldiers. My eyes scan these names for someone who might possibly be a very distant relative. The directory tells me that tree #160 has been dedicated to Spr. Alfred Ernest Watson.- that’s the tree I need to find.

For some reason, I’m very emotional while I’m looking for this tree on the memorial walk. I am wondering who his descendants are and if they’ve come to visit him lately. Is someone bringing him flowers? As I approach the plaque, there is a black and white bird perched atop it. I tell the bird that he needs to leave because I’ve come to speak with Alfred. The bird looks at me and understands and leaves (ok I know the bird actually was afraid of me, but I’m choosing to believe he was flying away because Alfred and I needed a moment). 

Alfred (who I’m nicknaming Alf- since I have now decided that he is family) was a carpenter by trade. He was the son of Joseph William and Very Mary Gaunt Watson and his brother was Charles Watson of Port Esperance (later Geeveston). He was a Roman Catholic and he enlisted the 5th of January, 1915, embarked on April 19th of that same year. He was with the 2nd Tunnelling Co. Aust Mining Corps and was accidentally killed on the 17th of September, 1916.

Accidentally killed? What happened to him? Maybe some sort of mining accident? Did a tunnel collapse? Further investigation tells me that he was accidentally killed on railway line near Laventie. 

I’m reading this information and for some reason, I’m close to tears. This is stupid. I don’t know this guy- maybe I feel this attachment because he’s the only Watson on the list. That must mean his is/was a good person. All of us Watsons are great- some greater than others. I need to know all about this man for some reason. I need to do some digging. I wish I would have brought flowers to leave next to his tree.

Australia 2014: Part 13

<Hobart, Tasmania | 08:08>

I had set a goal to climb Mt. Wellington today. I’ve set this goal half-heartedly because according to Google Maps, it’s about 12 miles from the hostel one way. Therefore, I have updated said goal to at least walk toward the mountain. I’ve seen pictures from the top and it’s a great view of Hobart from above.

I didn’t sleep too well last night. I now have a roommate who snores. He’s a tattoo artist from Perth. He’s down here for work and is sharing a shop with a local friend. He showed me some pictures of his work and he seems to be really, really talented. I’m not into the whole tattoo thing but if you’re going to have it done, make sure you get an artist who has talent! This guy seems to have it. 

<10:35>

Road kill here is like road kill at home- only the conversation I have with myself goes a little like this… What on earth is that smell?  Something must have been hit by a car! I think I’m going to gag! Oh man, that’s strong- I may get sick! Oh look, it’s a pademelon! How cute!

Australia 2014: Part 12

<4.20.14| New Town, Australia | 09:13

It’s Easter Sunday. I figure the least I could do on this day is attend church. I check the internet, and it looks like the nearest chapel is about 4 miles from the hostel- I’m glad that I was in the mood for a walk. I stop several times on the trek to make sure I wasn’t going in the wrong direction. When I arrive, I’m greeted by a heavy-set man who is ‘jolly’ for lack of a better word. He seemed very welcoming and excited that I’m here.

We end up in the chapel, and I sit on the back row, trying to blend in with my surroundings. The problem I have is that it’s a small congregation- if you’re not in attendance every Sunday, they notice. I guess it doesn’t help that the hair on my head has been bleached blonde and that the sides are growing back brown. Maybe I look rebellious to them and am sticking out like a sore thumb.

A little old woman sits by me and asks my name. She then asks if I’m related to “those Watsons.” I tell her I don’t think I am. After the 7th or 8th person asks if I’m part of the ‘Tasmanian Watsons’ I have decided to change my introduction to, “Hi, I’m visiting from the States on holiday, but I’m not related to ‘those Watsons.'” Everyone that I say this to seems to understand.

Now the little old woman has taken to doing the introduction on my behalf. She is such a sweet thing and reminds me so much of my departed Gramma Bess. I want to hug her, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. I’m so blessed to have this temporary Gramma Bess sitting next to me.

Finally, the meeting starts, and so I don’t have to introduce myself anymore. It’s a good Easter service, nothing special or out of the ordinary. I’m glad I went, however. I always feel at home when I make it to church.