Invergordon you were a doll!

We begin our day in Invergordon Scotland. We step off the boat into a misty rain and make our way down the dock to meet our driver that will take us out for the day. Our driver is an British man, and although we are a tad disappointed at first, he’ll surprise us with his knowledge of the area, history, and all around fun! We begin our tour by going to “Cawdor Castle” a smaller castle with gorgeous gardens, interior design, and a quaint coffee shop.
Next, we head to an area called “Clava Cairnes” which has a series of rock formations similar to Stonehenge. They are large round piles of rocks formed into igloo-like formations with an entrance positioned just such as to let light in like a sundial to tell the time of day. However the rocks have fallen in now where the dome is now open.
At our next stop, our driver takes us to an area where we can see Highland Cattle. When I was a little girl, my grandfather, who is a carpenter, build me a bunk bed that looked like a castle, my grandmother, who is an Artist, painted the castle and the walls of my room to look like the Scottish Highlands. There were castles in the distance, a giant Lochness monster tail coming from behind the castle, and my favorite part was the Scottish Highland Cow “Romeo” that my grandmother painted for me. It was magnificent! So to see one in real life was a childhood dream come true!
So after snapping some pictures, we head into the city of Inverness for some lunch at a local restaurant called “The Mustard Seed” and it was phenomenal!
Next, we go to a newer castle that is now the city courthouse. This castle looks over the city and the river Ness. We also get to spectate a breast cancer awareness run around the city to the sound of bagpipes! Scotland is a very Philanthropic country from what I’ve noticed.
Finally, we head to what I’ve been looking forward to and shaking with anticipation for! Lochness! We drive to Lochness, get out of the car, and climb down some steps to the banks and call out to the famed Lochness Monster, also known as Nessie! Pretty sure I made a sighting, it could have been a rock, but you can judge for yourselves from the picture I’ve provided below!
Next Nessie gives me a ride back up to the gift shop and let’s me snap some pictures, but I had to try to keep her from eating a small child who had a hat that made him look like Highland cattle… Yikes! So we proceed to go inside the giftshop, buy lots of cheesy souvenirs like Nessie socks, a shirt, a mug, a stuffed toy, a keychain, a magnet, etc. Then we make our way down to the Castle down on the edge of Lochness where centuries ago, Nessie was spotted for the very first time by a prince who noticed a monster come out of the water and drag a man back into the river. Since then there have been numerous Nessie sightings including the recent satellite image you can find on google!
So after snapping a few more pictures we get in the car and head back to the ship. Our driver was fantastic, so let’s talk about him for a minute. So he’s British. But, he also has a wife who is an artist, and they live in a cute little white cottage in the Scottish Countryside with their Sheepdog “Poppy.” And their cottage is called, “Poppy Cottage” and his is surrounded by beautiful poppy flowers. Such a cute little family and a cute little life! After hugging our guide goodbye he handed me one of his wife’s paintings as a gift! What a kind token from a kind man. You can see more of his wife’s paintings at: www.poppy-cottage-art.com
Another wonderful day of adventures here in Scotland! Looking forward to Belfast, Ireland next! Let’s see where the journey will take us!

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Hamburgers in Hamburg! Why yes, I think I shall!

Hallo! And Welcome to Germany! We begin our morning with getting off our cruise ship at 10:30 and splitting up into two taxis, my father, brother, and grandmother in one, and my mother and I in another, to head to the city center to try to catch a free walking tour that starts at 11:00am. The tour was meeting at the city capital building or “Rathaus. “
Our cab driver who’s middle name ironically is “Fahrt” is making grunting noises every five seconds without fail. And in taking a closer look is having like epileptic seizures and his whole body and face are twitching every few seconds. Needless to say that was both frightening and uncomfortable. Driving here is similar to Memphis driving or well perhaps, the way I drive, swerving all over the roads, hitting the gas and breaks both very quickly, and speeding. Pretty sure we got separated from the other cab within the first 3 minutes and now sets in the panic as we hope we don’t die or half of us get lost somewhere in Germany. Well, we make it to where we need to go and luckily both cabs did. We walk across the street and see the tour guides waiting outside of a Starbucks. Oh Hallelujah! The coffee on our cruise ship is just plain nasty. No matter what amount of creme you add, it stays so dark. But now, now we have a Starbucks! So we go in and get some coffee then meet our guides. So let’s talk about the guides. They were exactly what I needed. First, they were Young, because everyone on my cruise ship, with the exception of my brother, my new friend Mikel, and a few very small children, I am one of the only passengers under 40 years of age. And the majority are senior citizens. Second, they spoke English! I’ve been on two European cruises in the past, but there were still always many English speakers as a majority. But this ship, it is not the case. English is quite the minority here. All of the announcements are done in 6 languages back to back. English, Dutch, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. haha its definitely a different world.
Lastly, they were fun! As soon as I saw them I noticed they were attractive, dressed stylishly and fun, and their meeting place was Starbucks. I already loved the combination. And when I started talking to them and saw how enthusiastic they all were about this tour and their country and this city! Now remember, this is a free tour! They do it merely because they love their city. Granted, they accept tips, but they didn’t push that. We started the tour at one of the canals that was filled with gorgeous white swans, which are their good luck symbol. In fact, in Medieval times there was a law that you could not kill the swans, hunt the swans, or insult the swans… I’m not sure how you insult a swan? Maybe make a comment like “You’re mother was a duck!” Or something like that…
Next, we went to the capital building. Our guide Brent was fantastic! He was animated, interested, knowledgable, passionate, and just goofy enough to make the perfect tour guide! He gave us interesting history of all the places we visited, he made it fun by quizzing us on events and asking us questions, and even asking some of us to act things out for him! Everyone had a blast.
Next he took us to three different, very old churches in the city most of which were destroyed and rebuild in the Great Fire of 1842. They were utterly breathtaking. Hamburgh has a history of devastation and recovery. In fact, the city was named after an old Castle (I know what you’re thinking though, I’m sad it doesn’t directly involve hamburgers, too!) The castle was destroyed countless times by Vikings who were angry with Christians who came in to try to convert the people. While walking, Brent took us to an old building where they used to make the gas that killed the Jews during the holocaust. It was definitely a very solemn place and it was horribly ironic to discover that the gas was actually invented by a Jewish man. On the wall they left a quote by a Yiddish poet in a Jewish concentration camp:

Do not seek to destroy the evils of the world, let the evils of the world destroy themselves

But next we we decided to take a break and went to a cute little German cafe! I was so happy when we discovered free wifi!
After checking some messages we are off again to see some more churches, some old trade buildings, and marvel at some unique old streets and city charm. After the tour we went to a beautiful little restaurant called “Hamburger Burgerhaus” on one of the oldest streets in Hamburg. We ate a late lunch, so lucky us, we had the place to ourselves! Can you guess what I ordered? A hamburger of course! And although they insisted that hamburger’s were not invented in Hamburg, I fully believe they should have been! It was absolutely delicious. After a wonderful lunch we called a taxi to take us back to the ship and conclude our day here in Germany! Can’t wait to see where the journey will take us next!

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Edinburgh you’ve stolen my heart!

We begin our day by getting off the ship into a little boat that takes us to the shore of the beautiful Edinburgh Scotland! We step off the little boat to the sound of Bagpipes and are eyes look up to see men in kilts galore! So we take a moment to snap a few pictures and take it all in, then we stroll on to our tour bus. Our driver is a true Scotsman with a thick accent and pride for his country! He really is an awesome guy! He starts out by making conversation with us, looking up the NBA rankings on his phone for us, and directing us to the nearest Starbucks closest to our destination! He is witty, enthusiastic, and a genuinely kind fellow! Granted, he is not a “tour guide” but he gave us one of the best tours I’ve ever had! He gives us the history of the different buildings as well as cultural information. He then takes us by the University that Harry Potter’s Hogwarts was modeled after! What a beautiful amazing sight to behold! In Edinburgh, every street feels so unreal! It’s like a fairytale. The beautiful, old stone buildings, the charm, the castles, and the incredibly nice people. Once dropped off at our destination we made our way to the nearest wifi… I mean Starbucks… Spent a short time there and then made our way up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle! What a fantastic sight it was. It’s convinced me that I want to be a princess. I wouldn’t mind castle life! After a tour through the castle and a look at the royal jewels, we made our way back down the royal mile stopping in some gift ships along the way buying cheesy trinkets to help us remember this lovely day. I purchased a plaid raincoat, and a coffee mug in the shape of a man in a kilt… Don’t judge me. It’s tacky and I love it!
We then made it back down the royal mile, stopped in a local pub, used some wifi, and ordered up some Haggis and Beef Stew! If you are unfamiliar with Haggis, it’s pretty much a bunch of unappealing ingredients prepared inside a sheep’s stomach… And It’s delicious! Never look up what’s inside of it flor how it is prepared. Just enjoy the taste and move on with your day!
After lunch and a quick stop by a pastry shop for some macaroons for dessert, we head back to where we are supposed to meet our bus. When we met up with our bus driver, he asked if I wanted to play a game called, “Spot the American soil” I agreed, and he took me off the bus, down the street and around the corner, up some stairs that led to a very old mysterious graveyard! I think he was expecting me to be frightened, but I bounced back with, “Yay!! I love grave yards!!” To which he responded, “Well that’s not what I was expecting at all” in his deep Scottish accent! He then took me to the back of the graveyard and pointed out to me a memorial there for the Scottish-American soldiers that died. It was a grand statue of a soldier reaching up in desperation towards Abraham Lincoln. He then told me that all of the Earth around the memorial was American soil, so like a dork, I hopped on and off of it proclaiming “Home! Scotland! Home! Scotland!” Whilst the random Dutch tourists judged me harshly. But my friendly bus diver just smiled and gave me more history. He then pointed out the old prison in the distance, some other monuments, like a monument for one of their Philosophers, David Hume. So after taking a selfie with the bus driver with good old Abe Lincoln in the background, we made our way back to the bus, I ate my macaroons, I thanked Edinburgh for the wonderful day and promised I would return to her!
I’m not exaggerating when I say that in my opinion, Edinburgh is the most beautiful place that I have ever visited! I would absolutely love to live there for a few years and I’m considering that once I master the Chinese language better, I’ll move to Edinburgh, get a job at Edinburgh Castle, translate Chinese, and live a happy little fairytale-like life! But for now, we prepare for Invergordon, Scotland tomorrow when we see where the journey will take us next!

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Netherlands sounds a whole lot like Neverland!

So after getting situated on our Amsterdam flight we scope out our surroundings and the first thing we discover is the girl next to us, who looks to be probably 23 years old, introverted, and is undoubtedly stricken with a horrible cold! As she blows her nose, coughs as though she is dying, and with a nose as red as my hair, we feel kind of bad for her because she looks miserable, but then we can’t help but think, how long are we going to be seated by this person, and how long of exposure time does one need to catch this plague? But instead we decide to just look around at our other flight buddies! So this plane is significantly larger, as most international flights tend to be. There are rows of two seats on either side of the plane, then there are rows of 4 seats in the middle of the plane. We are seated on the outside of the right side of one of the middle rows and to our right are some very nice ladies all traveling to different places. One to visit her daughter who is studying abroad in Italy, another to spend some time in Venice.
Again the snack cart comes by and we acquire another cup of coffee, this time with plenty if creme and sugar (We are learning my friends!), but as soon as the flight attendant pours the coffee, we got a patch of turbulence and we are very anxious about this potentially horrible decision we just made. But we survive without spills so far and now we search the fancy touch screen in front of us to find a suitable first movie for this 7 and a half hour flight. We stumble upon “Despicable Me” and decide it’s a good choice, but as we start to watch it we realize it has 2 choices only to watch it with, English with Chinese subtitles or Japanese with Chinese subtitles. Well, this is super exciting! Being a Chinese major and that I will be studying Japanese in the fall, it comes as a gift both of pleasure and education.
So, you know those awkward sleeping arrangements on airplanes? You don’t? Oh, well then let’s talk about it! So it’s nearly impossible to get comfortable in a plane. Even with our inflatable neck pillow, ear plugs, eye mask, pillow pet, and the blanket and small baby-sized pillow Delta provides, it is still impossible. So as we toss and turn we finally fall asleep for a short bit of time whilst listening to Chinese Pop music, then awaken to find out that us and the girl next to us (the sick and quiet one) are cuddling and she is also asleep on your pillow pet. Now let’s let the awkward sink in. Two strangers. On a plane. Cuddling. On a panda pillow pet. Awkward!! But, it’s kind of adorable in a sadistic way. But it’s okay, because we woke up first, and she’s still asleep. So maybe she doesn’t know. We’re going to pretend she doesn’t know.
She will finally awaken when an attendant comes by with a breakfast snack. We wonder if she knows. But what is this, she breaks from her almost 7 hour silence and says “wow, this banana is freezing!” We agree, it’s a very cold banana. Then we sit back and enjoy our now third cup of coffee with the satisfaction of knowing that awkward experience with the cuddling is you and I’s little secret forever! I just sure hope we don’t get sick. Until later my friends, when we see where the journey will take us next!20140520-115921-43161375.jpg

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Detroit don’t destroy our dreams!

We arrive at the Memphis International Airport at 2pm, check our bags, and breeze easily through security and head to our gate, which just happens to be the closest one to security? Yes! At 3:27 we get on a plane and cram our large carry on bag under the seat in front of us, but it can’t fit so we use my panda pillow pet/most trusted sidekick “Geoffrey” to cover up the fact that my bag isn’t all the way under! Haha our journey continues with the strong and glorious aroma of Lays potato chips from a bag in the hands of the lady next to us. From the start, we learn valuable information from this lady, like how George Clooney is getting married and signing a $220 million prenup!
So as we are preparing to take off, we have some flight troubles leaving us in a panic because it delays us about 30 minutes when we have only 45 minutes (now 15) to get on our flight to Amsterdam before it takes off without us, taking with it our adventure that has barely had a chance to start.
So let’s talk about our fellow passengers shall we? Well in the row directly in front of us are my family members, and we’re with strangers in the row behind them. And the row directly behind you and I, oh yea, there are three babies. Three adorable little babies who are crying at the top of their little lungs. But we aren’t mad. By no means! We take on this challenge to see if our “being able to sleep anywhere under any conditions” skills can handle this! If not, there is our headphones and blasting Ellie Goulding on full volume as a second option. Oh but what is this? Here comes the flight attendants with snacks and beverages! Sweet happiness! What is that? We can get coffee? How have I never known we can get coffee on a plane? Well, they only give you one thing of creamer, but we find that in crisis situations, we can drink coffee in any form.
So let’s return to our flight buddy, the lady with the chips and George Clooney knowledge! She is probably at least 55 years old, very laid back, and will continue to pull out bags and bags of different types of chips and snacks. She’s like the queen of Snackland, and I’d like to be a part of her kingdom. Maybe she has a son I could marry? Hmmm…The Prince of Snackland! I like the sound of that. It sounds… Delicious. It’s like Willy Wonka but with cliff bars and fruit roll-ups!
So the rest of the flight passes very quickly, and although we never checked how long the flight was supposed to be, it feels as though it were so quick and that instead of a plane, we rode a time machine.
So we land and we run for our lives across the busy Detroit airport and we listen and panic as we hear over the intercom “last call for non-stop flight to Amsterdam” so we run harder through the trippy colorful airport tunnel whilst dogging businessmen and twirling little ballerinas. We let go of all of our pride as people stare at us running for our lives with a panda pillow pet in our arms. Once A24 is in sight we almost tear up at the fear of being too late, but alas we make it with seconds to spare, go inside, shimmy past flight attendants, look for an an overhead bin with an empty spot, find our seat, and catch our breath and thank the great Lord Jesus for keeping the plane there just long enough for us to make it! Amsterdam here we come! We’re ready for you! :)

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Oh, I leave in 3 days? I could’ve sworn it was a week yesterday!

Ahhh! Only 3 days away from our summer adventure?! Are you nervous yet? Of course not! I’m jumping and shaking with excitement! Now it’s just time for all those last minute details: like doctor appointment, hair appointment, bank visit (foreign currency is magical!), Walgreens run for those essential and overpriced toiletries and travel sized bottles… (do I already have a travel sized sunscreen? Better go ahead and get it just in case)! Packing and unpacking because the forecast has changed in Europe from 50′s to 70′s! (Yeah baby!) then packing some more. It’s the best! And even when we want to give up and just hope we will have everything for our adventure, we remember that it will all be worth it once we get on that plane Monday morning!

In discussing our soon-to-be adventure with others, I’ve found it funny how people perceive time differently. To some people 7 weeks sounds like such a short time, but for others (myself included) it seems like forever! But oh how these last short days remaining are passing like hours! I hope you guys are ready for this! So stick around, because I can’t wait to see where the journey will take us!

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From “I’ve got to look cute for pictures” to “Screw it, I’ll just wear nike shorts!”

Well… I guess it’s time to start packing! I leave in 18 days and this is the longest trip I’ve ever packed for.

7 weeks : 1 suitcase, 1 carry-on.
2 different climates.
6 different countries.
2 continents. Europe/Asia.
Family time, visiting old friends, making new friends, new experiences, beautiful scenery, and learning a year’s worth of Chinese in five weeks.

It’s going to be a crazy summer friends! I sure hope you’ll stick around for some adventures!

Follow me as we explore new cultures, discover the fairytale-like beauty of Germany, unlock the mysteries of the Lochness monster, immerse ourselves in the rich history of China, explore castles in Ireland, chase down men in kilts in Scotland, search for love in Paris in a short 8 hour layover, (and by love, of course, I mean good food and beautiful architecture). And much more!

This trip will be a growing experience for me and I will be experiencing many things for the very first time, some exciting, some terrifying, and some that will impact my life forever! I hope you can learn some lessons along with me.

So sit back, listen to the flight attendant give her safety instructions, and let’s get ready to lift-off, because some fantastic adventures are waiting for us!

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