Exploring Eilean Donan Castle!

The cap off to our first day of road tripping through Scotland was the quaint, no-stop-lights-needed town of Dornie. A jig step away from the Isle of Skye bridge, Dornie promised us two conveniences: the ridiculously beautiful Eilean Donan Castle and ease for traveling to our next big destination: Skye itself.

Our first glimpse of the castle!

Our first glimpse of the castle!

So cute!

So cute!

The only place, really, to stay in the Highlands is in a B&B (we passed all of three hostels in our lengthy afternoon wander through the hills). Fortunately for travelers, these wee little stop-offs dot the towns of the Highlands in high numbers – and it means you get to have a more personal experience when traveling (and less expensive!). Our host, Jim, was a lovely and chatty man who boasted of being “born and bred here.” Our room, as the only guests in for the night, overlooked the exquisite castle itself – a serious, jaw-dropping treat!

by day

Jim laughed at my hop-stepping glee over the castle, saying he couldn’t even see the glamour of it anymore. But he also was quick to assure us the most beautiful time to capture the castle in photographs would be in the evening, at twilight. As far north as we were, that wouldn’t be much before 9:30 PM.

So to dinner we went, at “a pub just down the path from those wee blue gates” at the end of the B&B’s driveway. (We’re pretty sure it was one of two options in the part of town we were in). Feeling particularly British, i ordered a fish pie with a local ale.

pub

After dinner, we walked back through the we blue gate to drink in the blue-ing sky enveloping the castle. Just as the sun stretched its last farewell over the mountains, i snapped this photo:

Pretty excellent suggestion for a photo, Jim!

The view of the castle from our room!

It was a pretty remarkable ending to a pretty remarkable day!

The next morning we made our way into the castle itself, marveling over its pivotal role in the Jacobite rebellion and laughing at the most excellent wax sculptures in the kitchen. The castle bears a long history of Hollywood, too, having been featured in a James Bond film and a number of other Scotland-themed movies. While the interior is tremendously cool to see, it’s easily the exterior of the castle that makes it so enchanting. Seriously, the castle on an island on a loch thing never gets old.

Our first-morning look at the castle!

Our first-morning look at the castle!

Within the walls!

Within the walls!

Best photo of the day.

Best photo of the day.

And the surrounding landscape isn’t too shabby, either. In misty rain (as it was when we first set foot on the island) or in basking sun (as it turned into, ten minutes later) the castle retains a sense of awe and glamour. What a treat to see in all shades of sun and moonlight!

Barely twenty minutes passed between these photos.

Barely twenty minutes passed between these photos.

Arms laden with postcards from the giftshop, we made our way back on the road. It was only the start of the day, but it was a wonderful way for it to begin!

current jam: ‘skyfall’ adele.

best thing: kind shopkeepers.

Top 5 Things to Do in Amsterdam.

I’ve written about all of the things below in greater detail, but if you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam in the near future, these are the condensed top 5 things i would recommend doing! (See all my writing on Amsterdam here.)

1. Albert Cuyp Market. If you want to see a local side of town, this – the oldest street market in the Netherlands – is it. The market is exploding in stalls of things to try – everything from frites stands (mmm!) to lingerie shops. We took a full morning to peruse the selection and mostly ate our way through, devouring a powder-sugar-covered waffle at Wally’s Wafels and gorging ourselves on local olives. The prices are unparalleled for such gourmet food! (The market runs Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm).

top 5 - market

2. A Bike Tour. Really, i’m sure any company will do you just fine; Mike’s Bikes was great for the youthful, edgy side of Amsterdam (if a little heavy on the information about weed and prostitution for people not looking for that sort of entertainment) but if you want to get the lay of the land hop on a bike and go. It is the local way of getting around, after all!

shop cats make for the best bikes!

shop cats make for the best bikes!

3. The Van Gogh Museum. While the actual Van Gogh museum was undergoing renovations whilst we were in Amsterdam, the Hermitage Museum displayed the bulk of the collection in a special exhibit. Regardless of their housing, Van Gogh’s paintings come alive off the walls and force you to pay attention to their kinetic, vibrant energy. Though this is on the pricier end of Amsterdam museums, it is worth every cent!

vincent

4. Dam Square. Though this is certainly the touristy center, there are so many great little shops to peak in (and wonderful people-watching!).  As a connoisseur of cheesy souvenirs, i loved shopping in Dam Square Souvenirs which is full of beautiful – if pricey – wooden shoes and other lovely Holland-themed merchandise. The best part, though, is the enormous yellow wooden shoe outside. Free mega-tourist-photo-op!

top 5 - souvenirs

5. Eat. Anything, really, but especially the bread, cheese, sausage, and frites! The Albert Cuyp Market is definitely the place to eat your way through, but don’t let your gastronomical exploits end there. Our favorite restaurant was van Kerkwijk, in Amsterdam Centruum. The menu is recited by the wait staff, who are warm and friendly folk, and it’s a selection abrim in quirky combinations (like steak slathered in strawberry sauce and goat cheese – shockingly good!). Another great place was right next to our hotel, the Café Onder de Ooievaar – the cheese and sausage plate made for a sumptuous late-night snack!

top 5 - eat

Bon voyage!

Highly Honorable Mentions:

The Anne Frank House (it was a wee bit crowded for this claustrophobic, but still very powerful – book tickets online & try to go first thing in the morning, rather than in the afternoon!)

if you like my condensed travel reviews, you’d probably like my tripadvisor profile!

current jam: ‘shake it out’ florence + the machine.

best thing: magna carterrrrr!

 

Grand Central Station.

I may only be a stranger in the city of lights and motion, but i’ve always felt that Grand Central is the pulsating center of New York City; commotion, direction, chaos, everywhere people, everywhere energy and worlds and life…

(but you might get trampled if caught unawares staring at the stars above)

As Dreams are Made Of (London, Day 5)

Today has been my last full day spent in this marvelous, wondrous city. Well, last day for this voyage across the pond, at least!

This morning, Dad and i walked to the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I may have mentioned, once or twice, that i kind of adore Shakespeare’s writings; i first fell in love with the Bard when i was twelve and cast as the Courtesan in Comedy of Errors. Granted, it wasn’t the most age-appropriate role,* but the relationship with William did not end there. I went on to play Viola in Twelfth Night when i was fifteen and, as i’ve written about before, directed my favorite show, Much Ado About Nothing, my junior year of high school. As in nearly everything enchanting i’ve yet encountered in London thus far, getting to the Globe after all this time, was magical.

the globe theatre!

While this theatre is once rebuilt in the 80s and 90s and not the original, the painstaking care taken to ensure an authentic experience in the Globe is remarkable. The theatre holds, comfortably, around 1500 – 2000 people. In Shakespeare’s time, though, it was typical for nearly 3000 people to cram into the space – making it for one smelly and horrendously uncomfortable enclosure.

But i get why so many people came – to see, or perhaps more accurately, to hear Shakespeare done in his prime, must have been truly remarkable. If i could fly in the TARDIS, going to the premiere of As You Like It or some other play would be very high on the list!

And, as our minds are already abuzz with iambic pentameter (or at least mine is- Dad, once more, is being an awfully great sport by coming along. He’s a No Fear Shakespeare guidebook guy through and through) it is perfectly apt that tonight we’re going to see a Shakespearean play here, in London: The Tempest. Although i confess i am abysmally uninformed on the plot, i am terribly thrilled to see The Bard’s work unveiled in the city in which it was written. With none other than Ralph Fiennes in the role of Prospero, it assuredly will be a splendid evening!

After the Globe, we crossed the MILLENIUM BRIDGE (untainted by Voldemort, thank goodness (he does have his hands full with eight shows a week at the Haymarket Theatre at present, anyways)) to take a turn in Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

St. Paul’s is – unshockingly – stunning. The mosaics and the paintings are really spectacular, and you can really see why it was such a symbol of resilience during the London Blitz. I braved the 600-stair-climb to the outer dome, where i managed to snap some gorgeous, if not stomach-dropping, shots from behind the façade of the cathedral:

Whew, my legs still quake a little at the thought – be it the stair count, or height at which these were taken en plein air!

After our circling round Sir Christopher Wren’s masterwork, a lunch of tea and pizza was high in order. Though an odd juxtaposition, the nutrition was most welcome before we headed back out to the London Transport Museum.

Though not exactly prime interest for either one of us, this museum had some pretty incredible history to it as well. There were trains and buses and underground trams from the original public transport system. The best part, however, was the gift shop (unabashedly, she said) where i managed to find some spectacular post cards of vintage travel posters for the London Underground.

Our purses a little lighter, we wandered around the Covent Garden market, only to be lured in by the sound of an enticing and lovely soprano opera singer belting out Andrew Lloyd Webber and tunes from – my favorite! – My Fair Lady. It was a splendid conclusion to a darling afternoon.

But for now, i must dash off to the theatre to bask in Shakespeare re-interpreted by Tom Marvolo Riddle RALPH FIENNES!

current jam: ‘i am the doctor’ murray gold (don’t judge!)

*Juliet was meant to be only 13, however.