Tuesday, March 6, 2018

New Orleans

Day One: Charlotte, Vermont to Natural Bridge, Virginia

We embarked on our journey to New Orleans on a Friday in late February, an unusual time for us to take a road trip since we usually travel in summer but we had decided that if we were going to visit the deep south that it would need to be in winter.

Our first day was mainly a driving day as we left the northeast actively watching the thermometer climb as we headed toward the mid-atlantic. We were thrilled to see the temperature nearing sixty degrees as we pulled off the road for dinner in Staunton, Virginia at Kline's Barbecue. Oddly enough we intended to go to Arby's for dinner but found a much more impressive barbecue joint next-door that even had malts! Yum.

We headed a bit further down the interstate to find a nice campsite in Natural Bridge, Virginia and set up the car for sleeping in the dark. The air seemed mild by comparison to Vermont but we had much warmer weather in store as we headed south.

Day Two: Natural Bridge, Virginia to Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia

On our second day of travel we continued south on our inland route and decided that we needed another taste of southern barbecue. We pulled into Knoxville, Tennessee and after passing a depressing stretch of pawn shops and payday loan stores we eventually found our way to Buddy's BBQ. Upon entering, we were immediately offered the special of the day which was all-you-can eat ribs for $10.99. Judging by the clientele, we may have been the only ones not coming for the special. Our pulled-pork lunch plates left us holding our sides as we got back in the car but the meal was delicious!

We continued southwest through Chattanooga, Tennessee where we neglected to find the Chattanooga Choo Choo despite following an interstate sign leading to the destination. We filled our tank and continued on.

In the afternoon, we needed to stretch our legs which was fortuitous since we had arrived at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia. We snagged a campsite for the evening and followed the hiking trails into the narrowly carved canyon. The series of steps were exactly what we needed after spending two days in the car and the waterfalls were beautiful. The temperature was now in the seventies but the humidity was quite high as we huffed and puffed going up the stairs (it is also possible that we were just out of shape...). We had a small dinner at the campsite since we were still full from the massive lunch that we consumed.  We found this would become a trend throughout the trip.

Day Three: Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia to New Orleans, Louisiana

Despite rain overnight we decided to drive to the park's main overlook of the canyon before leaving. It was a beautiful sight even with the overcast skies looking into the depths of the canyon and into the distance. It reminded us of Letchworth State Park in New York.

We drove to Birmingham, Alabama intending to visit the Civil Rights Institute but found locked doors upon arrival. Being now in the deep south it appeared that anything other than a church was closed until afternoon...oh well. We trudged on and made a plan "B" for our memorable experience in Alabama - and yes it was about eating!

Our next stop was at Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa. The slow cooked chicken was mouthwateringly delicious and Lisa had a smokehouse quesadilla that was filled with tasty "wickle pickles" and "Alabama twang sauce." Yum again - we left totally full and swore off eating barbecue for the next few days. (We had actually made that pledge the previous day as well but clearly couldn't hold to it).

We continued south through Mississippi and finally arrived to sunny skies and eighty degree weather in New Orleans, Louisiana. We met my parents in the French Quarter and unpacked our car at the timeshare before dropping it at the valet parking garage, which felt like giving it away.

We spent the evening getting our bearings of the French Quarter and being pelted with noise from Bourbon Street. We elected not to go out to dinner since we were still so full from the Alabama barbecue.

Day Four: New Orleans, Louisiana

Our first full day in New Orleans was spent exploring the Garden District, famous for its buildings and the site of the Mardi Gras parade. Luckily we missed the rowdy parade by two weeks, but the trees certainly showed the evidence with copious amounts of beads hanging from the branches.

To get from our room to the Garden District, we hopped on one of the rickety trolley cars to head southwest where we first explored an above ground cemetery. With a high water table, the dead in New Orleans must be buried above ground making a kind of outdoor mausoleum. It makes for an eerie walk to see so many names on fairly small marble boxes.

We then walked around the neighborhoods admiring the stately houses as we strolled. We eventually found lunch at Tracey's and got the red beans and rice special which was a delicious and massive portion of the local specialty. My mom immediately had buyer's remorse when her salad came after seeing our plates.

Continuing to wander, we walked all the way to the Audubon Park on the Mississippi River. The zoo was closed, but we got some good views of the muddy Mississippi before catching the trolley back to the French Quarter.

In the evening we headed to Frenchmen Street, the current hotbed for jazz in New Orleans where we heard (but didn't eat) "Chicken and Waffles" at the Maison. My parents caught up with us in time to catch another great band at the Spotted Cat before heading to bed relatively early. We were still not adjusted to central time.

Day Five: New Orleans, Louisiana

We arose early the next day to walk the streets just after sunrise which appears to be well before this city wakes up. The quiet streets are in stark contrast to Bourbon Street after dark which is a cacophony of sound and smells.

After everyone was up, we headed to Cafe du Monde to try beignets - a type of French doughnut. They were delicious greasy treats but covered with so much powdered sugar that we were puffing it onto ourselves and each other as we tried to eat. I noticed one store front near the cafe that had a sign on the door saying "no beignets, everything else is fine." It made sense.

We meandered down to the former U.S. Mint which is now a split museum of Mint activity and Jazz Memorabilia as the home of the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. We saw Louis Armstrong's first cornet as well as Dr. John's spinet and Fats Domino's baby grand pianos. We were also tipped off to a free concert at the other location up the road and were treated to an hour of Richard Scott's stride piano styles. It was fantastic show and the price couldn't be beat!

Lunch was at Bamboula's on Frenchmen Street where we consumed po-boys while we listened to live jazz from the stage. Unfortunately the guitarist broke a string and had to take a long break to run down the road get a new one.

The afternoon was spent at Jean LaFitte National Historic Park which seemed to be a site that celebrated cajun and creole culture in Louisiana as well as some information on the pirate himself. There were many satellite locations around Louisiana as well, but those will have to wait for another trip.

We got some free snacks at the Mahogany Jazz Bar courtesy of our lodging where we munched on berries and cheese before heading to Preservation Hall for the evening. We snagged the floor seats in the very front row where we may have been in the spit valve splash zone. We didn't care though - the band was so great that we all listened to the show with smiles on our faces the whole time! It was truly a memorable performance and such an intimate setting to see it.

We were excited to see more music so we headed to Fritzel's on Bourbon Street where we were able to hear Richard Scott playing with his band. Although our view was blocked by the backside of the double bass, we enjoyed the New Orleans jazz stylings that we heard from the clarinet-led ensemble.

By the end of the day, we where whupped! We headed to bed.

Day Six: New Orleans, Louisiana

We seemed to now have a tradition of taking an early morning walk, because that is exactly how we started our sixth day of the trip. We explored the northern side of Canal Street and found some oranges and smoothies to start our day. After gathering my parents, we walked to Louis Armstrong Park and Congo Square - the site of historic slave gatherings in the early nineteenth century.

Our real destination was the boat landing to ride the Natchez on the Mississippi River. My parents decided to partake of the buffet lunch whereas we decided to save our appetites for dinner on Frenchmen Street. The boat gave us a feel for the Port of New Orleans which is heavily industrialized. It certainly made us appreciate the riverwalk in the French Quarter! It was interesting to see the engine room of the steamboat in action as it pushed the paddlewheel along.

After returning to shore, we headed back to the Old Mint to hear another New Orleans pianist named Jesse McBride. He played in a much more modern style sometimes moving between tunes in a stream-of-consiousness style. He shared some interesting insights into the current New Orleans music scene as well.

We snagged some oranges and pralines at the French market for a snack and took some time to rest at the Quarter House before heading back to Frenchman Street for supper. Lisa and I ate at the Maison while we listened to a little big band perform jazz standards. My parents caught up as we were finishing (they were still full from lunch) and we went to the Spotted Cat where we heard a group performing more traditional New Orleans jazz. We had been so busy that our eyelids began to dip at 8:00 and we headed back to the Quarter House for an early night of sleep.

Day Seven: New Orleans, Louisiana

On our last full day in New Orleans we awoke for our earliest morning walk yet, where we learned that there are trucks that drive through the French Quarter soaping off the streets in the morning. It was not surprising after what we had seen on Bourbon street throughout the trip. We grabbed some smoothies as we walked along the river and after everyone had awoken, we headed to Croissant d'Or for French pastries for breakfast. We all got snacks to go too!

We spent the remainder of the morning at the Aquarium where we watched an IMAX movie about sardine migrations off of the coast of Africa. After typing that I realize how boring it sounds, but it was quite an interesting film. The aquarium was great, we saw many kinds of fish (obviously...), sharks, penguins, stingrays and sea otters. One of the highlights was the Amazonian rainforest room which contained many tropical birds as well as piranhas!

We timed our departure so that we could hoof it to the U.S. Mint to see another free concert, but it turned out to be canceled, so we listened to some street music in the French Quarter instead, including the "Second Hand Street Band" performing at the Tequila House.

For supper, we met up at the Acme Oyster house to eat New Orleans classics like gumbo and étouffée. We spent the evening at the Maison on Frenchmen Street where we listened to the Sweet Substitute Jazz Band while wolfing down cheesecake. It was a great way to spend our last evening in New Orleans. Tomorrow would be our next travel day!

Day Eight: New Orleans Louisiana to Pensacola, Florida

It was our last morning in New Orleans and we still had the taste of the previous day's trip to the patisserie in our mouths, so we headed back to Croissant d'Or to get some croissants for the road. It may be worth another trip to New Orleans someday just to get more of the treats from this place!

We showered and packed our clothes and were pleasantly surprised to see that the car still had all four hubcaps after spending the week in the city. We bid a fond farewell to my parents and headed east. Unfortunately, we got a call about an hour later that their flight had been cancelled...

Our first stop of the day was at the Davis Bayou at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. After touring the visitor center we had a nice picnic, which included our morning croissants overlooking the brackish water of the Mississippi Sound. We had a nice hike through the woods and enjoyed watching the baby alligators and turtles lounging in a pond. We watched an adult alligator for a while but he didn't do much other than float...

The leg-stretching break was nice but our destination for the day was Pensacola, Florida to visit our friends Dan and Gaye who had just emigrated from New Hampshire. It looked like they had completely thawed as well. They gave us a great tour of the city and we had a nice dinner at the Irish Pub where we enjoyed catching up with old friends. They seem to have picked a great location for "pre-retirement" as they call it.

Day Nine: Pensacola, Florida

When we awoke, we were treated to Dan's buttermilk biscuits for breakfast; he has been working on perfecting the recipe and we were happy to be guinea pigs. After eating our fill, we went for a walk around the neighborhood and then piled in the car to visit the Farmer's Market and Pensacola Beach. It was a very nice beach with many of the touristy restaurants and shops that you might expect for Florida. At the same time, it wasn't overly crowded with high rise building like you would also expect for Florida. It seems to have achieved a nice balance of residential, commercial and protected beachfront as part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We dunked our feet in the Gulf of Mexico and started to question why we were planning on heading north the following morning.

We stopped at Joe Patti's Seafood on our way back where we were floored with the amount of delicious looking fresh fish for sale. We were overwhelmed but Gaye ordered some triggerfish like an old pro and we brought our bounty back to the homestead.

Dinner was an absolute feast! We munched on triggerfish as an appetizer while Dan made deep dish pizzas with plenty of spice. We spent the evening catching up and trying to sing barbershop tags somewhat successfully before heading to bed early since we were planning on doing a long drive the next day...although it was pretty tempting to stay in Pensacola for the rest of our lives.

Days Ten and Eleven: Pensacola, Florida to Charlotte, Vermont

Our last two days of the trip were certainly marathon driving days. Our first day was a drive from Pensacola to Natural Bridge, Virginia where we actually stayed on the same site that we occupied on the way down. It was a campground with good showers and we know from previous trips that that can be a rare thing. We were happy to arrive mostly so that we could rest our eyes from the driving.

The next morning, we made the rest of the drive to Charlotte, which was interrupted by a stop at Dunkin' Donuts to use a gift card and another stop at Cracker Barrel where Lisa fulfilled her hankerin'  for fried chicken that she had been holding onto throughout the south. We arrived home to find a mouthy cat...

It was a fantastic trip and a great way to spend our February break. I'm not sure if we will head quite as far south as Louisiana in future February road-trips but we will certainly be heading south again at that point in the year.

As a note of accomplishment: as of this trip Lisa has now been to all forty-eight of the lower-contiguous United States. Go Rodedode!

Monday, August 7, 2017


It was only a matter of time before we applied our road-trip mentality to an overseas trip. We found a good deal on plane tickets to Scotland and spent a week packing our backpacks and prepping to explore Scotland with minimal planning. We did make accommodations for the first two nights in Edinburgh since improvising in a city can be difficult and we rented a car ahead of time. Beyond that, we did not make concrete plans regarding where to go and what to do; we simply improvised most of the trip in the way we would have if we had our own car in the USA. This is what happened:

Day 1: Edinburgh

After an overnight flight from Hartford, Connecticut where we unsuccessfully tried to snooze, but instead spent the middle portion of the trip gawking at the beauty of Greenland at sunrise, we were tired but excited to explore the city of Edinburgh. We took the tram to Princes Street in the city center and armed with a map, set off to find our accommodations for the night. We had made reservations at a dormitory which offered reasonably priced beds near the city center and were delighted to find that Brae House not only existed, but was just as nice as having a hotel room. We were happy to drop our backpacks and set out in search of lunch.

We got distracted with the hiking trails at the foot of Arthur's Seat and explored the ruins of St. Anthony's Chapel from the 15th century before heading off on the Royal Mile to find lunch. We were delighted to find a delicious meal at The Larder which offered locally sourced food and traditional Scottish recipes. Lisa had a brie and chutney sandwich while Chris scarfed down a sausage roll. We were fading from lack of sleep so we headed back to our dorm for a power-nap.

After recharging, we walked the Royal Mile to North Bridge and walked Princes Street for some great views of Edinburgh Castle on the hill. The steep cliffs lead right up to the castle walls. We eventually made our way to Sandy Bell's - a pub that is well known for having folk music and we spent an hour listening to a great fiddler and blues guitarist.

Getting hungry for dinner, we went around the corner to get some spicy chicken for dinner before returning to Sandy Bell's to while away the rest of the evening. Chris sat in on the bass and we made friends with some fun locals who offered to let us stay in their flat for the rest of the trip. With the lack of planning that we had put into the trip, it was tempting...

We returned to our dorm and slept quite soundly that night.

Day 2: Edinburgh

We felt MUCH better after getting a full night's sleep and ate Lisa's leftover sandwich and some clif bars for breakfast before embarking on a hike on Arthur's Seat. Located not far from the city center and offering unobstructed views of Edinburgh, it is a popular place to hike! With the lack of trees, we enjoyed views all the way up and down admiring the castle, the queen's palace and the Firth of Forth.

We stopped back in our dorm to change shoes for the afternoon and headed out on the Royal Mile to find some lunch. We went to the farmers market and got bread pastries and apples to tide us over until dinner while meandering uphill towards the castle.

The entrance line between the statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace was almost as impressive in scope as the castle itself. It moved quickly though and we were exploring the ramparts before we knew it. It was particularly impressive to see how the castle evolved over hundreds of years and how its function changed over time. We stood in one line for a few minutes before realizing that the line was to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland....we jumped out of line and explored the rest of the castle and the Scottish War Memorial and Museum instead.

We had reached our museum limit for the day so instead of attending other museums, we went to a French Patisserie for eclairs and gateau! Yum.

We hiked to Calton Hill, an easy incline from the Royal Mile and again admired the castle from yet another angle. We also enjoyed the view from the Scottish National Monument but we got drenched while walking back to our dorm where we changed into dry socks.

In the evening we found a pub on the Royal Mile that was serving chicken chorizo Scotch Pies for supper - we both partook. Holding our sides, we made our way back to Sandy Bell's for a second night at the folk-music pub. The same fiddler was there from the night before and Chris sat in on I Got Rhythm. We met a couple from Michigan and Lisa hopped in on the piano and jammed on Tennessee Waltz and some other songs.  The fiddler was very trusting as he left his fiddle in Chris' worthy hands when he needed to run to the loo.

Still jet-lagged, we tried to sleep that night, but it was restless.

Day 3: Edinburgh to Oban

We awoke early since we had an appointment back at the airport to pick up our rental car. We were walking the Royal Mile before most of Edinburgh had woken up and it was a stark contrast to the busy streets that we had experienced in the previous two days. We rode the tram back to the airport and filled out all the paperwork before the gave us the key to a Ford Fiesta. We headed off with the steering wheel on the right side and the car safely in the left lane. The woman at the rental car company recommended Oban as a nice seaside destination so we went in that direction.

We managed to find a grocery store in Stirling to stock up on juice, water, breakfast food and other staples (including crumpets) before heading west (the proper romantic direction to go on a road trip). Our first stop was at Loch Lomond, one of two national parks in Scotland. Lisa did a great job navigating through all the "rindabites" so that we could have a picnic on the western shore of the lake. We had rain while we were there, but the loch struck us as being quite similar to Lake George with mountains rising steeply from the shore, but lacking the shoreline development. We walked some of the shoreline trail to stretch our legs and ate brie and turkey sandwiches before getting back in the car to head west again.

In the late afternoon, we arrived in Oban and we got information on camping from the tourist center. Lisa drove the single track road to our campground and we were amazed at the beautiful view of the water from our "pitch." We overlooked the isle of Kerrere.

After setting up the tent, we drove back to Oban for dinner at Cuan Mor (Gaelic for large bay...) and had amazingly delicious salmon. We walked up the hill to the colosseum monument knows as McCaig's tower and enjoyed the panoramic view of the village, the bay and the Isle of Mull in the distance. We also walked out of town to Dunollie's Castle along the shore trail. The views of the islands looked gorgeous from every possible vantage point!

We capped off the evening with ice cream at The Pokey Hat before losing our car for four minutes or so. Luckily, it was just parked two blocks from where we THOUGHT we left it....  Lisa is convinced it was stolen for four minutes and then returned to a different parking spot so WE weren't confused, the thief was just disoriented.

It rained ALL night but we stayed dry in the tent. We were on a bit of a slope so it wasn't the most restful night of sleep though. We took consolation in the fact that had there been no slope we would have been sleeping in a puddle which would have been worse.

Day 4: Oban to Glencoe

We packed up our wet tent and ate an early breakfast to make the ferry to Kerrere. We were the only takers for the early ferry and seemingly had the island to ourselves...well us and lots of sheep that is! We felt like we were trespassing on the island as were were walking through cow gates and following roads that seemed like driveways. We meandered through fields and enjoyed the coastline intending to find the monument on the northern side of the island. We were turned around by a highland cow in the middle of the trail since we were intimidated by its impressive horns. We weren't sure if they were as friendly as our Vermont cows...

We had a rainy ferry ride back to Oban and enjoyed some peanut butter sandwiches for lunch before heading north in the car.

We headed toward Glencoe with a stop at a nature preserve for a nap since we were tired. Refreshed when we arrived in Glencoe, we chose our "pitch" and walked around the town. There was beautiful highland scenery in panorama with the surrounding mountains and Loch Leven. We got a butterscotch brownie and some tea at the local cafe to warm up after the rain.

After some more walking, we got an early dinner at the Gathering Inn Restaurant for some delicious paninis. The jet-lag and long days were starting to catch up with us so we went to bed quite early with earplugs and eye pillows and slept for eleven glorious hours!

Day 5: Glencoe to Shiel Bridge

Finally well rested, we awoke and scarfed down some breakfast before getting on the road again. We figured that we would feel silly leaving Glencoe without exploring the glen that gives the village its name. We headed into the pass even though it was in the opposite direction that we were intending to travel that day but we were not disappointed. We found ourselves surrounded by mountains and waterfalls in every direction. It was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever brushed my teeth! We counted eleven waterfalls within one view.

We then drove to Fort William and out to Glen Nevis for some more stunning scenery. We explored the Lower Falls trail which followed a rambling river and then hiked the Steall Falls trail for jaw dropping scenery that reminded us of Yosemite. Even when it started raining as we admired the falls, it was stunning.

We again stocked up on grocery store staples before leaving Fort William and headed north to drive the beautiful highland road toward the Isle of Skye. We found lodging for the evening at Shiel Bridge in the "Wee Bunk House" of the Kintail Lodge where we snagged the last two bunks. We ate "game pie" at the lodge and enjoyed the view (and other lodgers conversations) from the sitting room until bedtime.

Our bunkmates for the night were three girls from Germany on holiday and one long distance hiker from France. With earplugs, we slept just fine!

Day 6: Isle of Skye

We finally made it to the Isle of Skye, a place that we had been told was one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland. The scenery did not disappoint and just the diversity of landscapes all within eyesight made for an interesting view in any direction. There were craggy mountains, beaches, rivers with waterfalls and rolling hills covered in sheep.

Not knowing exactly where to go first, but armed with Aunt Susie's book of country strolls around the Isle of Skye, we headed for the Fairy Pools, since we had heard of them as a nice hike. Unfortunately, everyone else had also heard of the Fairy Pools as well. After we found a parking spot, it didn't seem quite so crowded and we enjoyed the stair-stepping river and views of mountains. Many tourists were cooling off in the pools (is it ever REALLY necessary to cool off in Scotland?) but we elected to hike a few miles in past the hordes before following the same river out.

We drove to Carbost and got tea across the street from the Talisker Distillery - whisky drinkers on one side of the road and teetotalers on the other! We walked up the hill in search of lunch and found THE BEST smoked salmon from a small seafood shack. It was like having fish candy - we ate at the park overlooking the water.

Lisa skillfully navigated the single track roads to Dunvegan where we found a campsite at the caravan park and drove down the road to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens.* The castle was the McCleod clan's and was fully furnished with family relics and memorabilia. It was still used by the family for holidays and it was interesting to see how the castle had changed over the centuries! The gardens were extensive and well landscaped with many exotic plants and trees.

After touring the grounds, we drove to a walk on Claigan Beach which was made of broken seashells. We climbed the hill for an expansive view of the Outer Hebrides, inlets, coves, beach and mountains.

We walked and drove back to the Dunvegan Hotel for dinner in their restaurant overlooking the water. The food was delicious and we sat watching the water for quite a while after our supper. We eventually made it back to our pitch for bed.

* A note about the single track roads: We puzzled the entire trip over whether this was a ridiculous system or if it was actually safer and a genius road layout.  On one hand it was difficult to anticipate oncoming cars on hills and around corners, particularly with bridges, stone walls and cliffs everywhere.  The passing places every few hundred yards worked as long as there were only two or three cars in the area, but jams could come up quickly if too many cars were following too closely.  On the other hand, having no shoulder and only one lane meant you were constantly attentive to the road.  No room for distractions meant we did not see a single person on their cell phone while they were driving.  It necessitated cooperation from all drivers and people came across as friendlier with their quick waves at each passing place.  Only one person passed us impatiently as we were waiting at a passing place because there was a bus coming around the corner up a hill from a bridge.  Her impatience forced the bus to back up over the bridge and up the hill on the other side and into a passing place.  Other than a few tight squeezes, quick breaking, reversing and some white knuckle driving we were pretty pleased with how the single track system worked.  It did seem that we were the only people who knew how to back up a car though - it was chaos watching other people try!

Day 7: Isle of Skye to Pitlochry

We started the day by heading to the trailhead for Hugh's Castle - a 17th century ruin that is supposedly the most haunted castle in Scotland. We followed the sheep roads to the castle, but were unable to spot any ghosts...we decided to make our own path back through the field which turned out to be quite wet. I think we should stick to the roads in the future.  (Lisa claimed her mulligan for the day early on with this one!)

Before getting back to the car we decided to head up the hill for a view of the bay. Every time that we would crest a hill, there would be another hill to climb though. We eventually got the view that we were aiming for and snapped some pictures before making it back to the car for our longest driving day of the trip. It also rained on and off for the rest of the day, making it convenient that we had some distance to cover in the car on questionable weather.

We had a quick lunch at a restaurant near Eilean Donan Castle and backtracked along many of the roads that we had driven two days prior.

Taking a quick detour, we spiked north for a few miles to get a view of Loch Ness, we were unable to spot Nessie though...

The rest of the drive took us through the edge of Cairngorns National Park and we enjoyed the solitude and beautiful views of the craggy treeless mountains. By the time we arrived in Pitlochry we were quite ready to get out of the car. We got a campsite at a caravan park about three miles outside of town and elected to walk to get dinner in order to stretch our legs.

We found a pub in Pitlochry that had dinner and live music. Chris ordered the haggis and it was pretty good! Lisa bravely ate a few bites of the haggis but was pleased to have fish on her own plate. The music was a multi-instrumentalist creating loops with pedals and jamming with himself.

We got back to the campsite around sunset and snoozed.

Day 8: Pitlochry to Perth

On our last full day in Scotland, we started the day in Pitlochry where we walked around the downtown area before most of the stores were open and after getting some milk for breakfast we headed south to Dunkeld.

The village of Dunkeld was quite charming with its classic architecture and setting on the River Tay. We walked the fiddler's path and saw the Cathedral, the Mother Larch and some amazing groves of trees. We crossed the river on the A9 and followed the other shore where we found Niel Gow's oak. We hummed his famous lament while we ate peanut butter sandwiches, hoping to evoke his spirit.

When we arrived back in Dunkeld we had some afternoon tea in a small cafe before driving to Perth for the evening. We found a campsite near Scone Palace at the Racecourse Caravan Park. That campsite meant that we never had a struggle to find a tent site in Scotland... perhaps our road trip mentality would work in Europe as well!

We walked the three miles into town and explored the museum where we learned about Scotland's geologic and ecological history, saw Niel Gow's portrait and saw a huge 3,000 year old log boat. We admired St. Johns Cathedral and many other interesting buildings around the city of Perth.

We had dinner at "The Tavern." Comfort food again! Haddock with cream sauce for Chris and Steak Pie for Lisa. Yum yum!

We walked back to the campsite and packed our backpacks as well as we could for the flight and got to bed around nine.

Day 9: Perth to Edinburgh

We packed up the wet tent in the morning and had clear skies as we drove to Stirling early in the morning. Parking the car near the castle, we walked the town streets in search of the Full Scottish Breakfast. Despite the fact that most of the town was still asleep, we were able to get the immense breakfast at a pub. It is a gastronomic wonder of the world.

We walked off a tiny portion of the calories while walking beck up the hill towards Stirling Castle where we would spend the rest of the morning. We got a private tour of the Great Hall before joining a free group tour of the whole castle. Much like the other castles that we toured in Scotland, it was most interesting to see the evolution of the buildings over time.

We had a great view of the William Wallace monument from the ramparts and snapped quite a few pictures of the city from the commanding castle walls. It was obvious why Stirling castle was such an important strategic location throughout Scotland's history.

Before leaving town, we stopped at the Church of the Holy Rude to see the beautiful architecture and gigantic hand hewn logs of the roof.

We drove back to Edinburgh and tried to dry the tent as best we could before packing it away in the bag...it turned out that we would bring a little bit of the Scottish precipitation home in our backpack!

It seemed that our road trip worked! We got to see a beautiful and historic area and never had a problem finding a place to stay. Who knows where our road trip will bring us next?