HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 7 – Learning about the Highlands

After a great time learning about the history ofĀ OrkneyĀ and exploring its wild and rugged landscape, it was time to return to mainland Scotland forĀ Day 7 of our Compass Buster tour.

The night before we were to return, there was a bit of a storm brewing! We could hear the howling wind as we were cooking dinner and having aĀ night-inĀ with our group mates at the Orcades Hostel. Even as we left the next morning, the wind was still blowing and the rain kept falling. The wind and the rain doesn’t really bother us – being from Raincouver and all! But we were a bit nervous about the ferry ride back to the mainland.

This ferry ride was completely different fromĀ our ride to the Orkney islands. That time, we were bathed in sunshine on the upper deck. This time, the ferry tossed from side to side and splashed up and down as we crossed back to mainland Scotland. Ioana and I decided to hide out inside. I will admit – I did feel a bit queasy šŸ¤¢ There may or may not have been stories of people throwing up on the upper deck… A great piece of advice we got from our group mates… don’t stand downwind from someone who might throw up! It most probably won’t end well for you!

At last, we arrived back to mainland Scotland and back on solid ground.

Our first mini-stop was only a couple of minutes from the ferry terminal. Unfortunately this stop is “mini” because we could not actually access it!

Pretty clear we can’t go in, eh?

This is The Castle of Mey – purchased by the Queen Mother in 1952. Prior to that, it was known as Barrogill Castle and was the seat of the Earls of Caithness. This castle, the most northerly on the British mainland, was restored and renovated by the Queen Mother.Ā  The castle also includes several gardens, which the Queen Mother took much interest in selecting the plants and tending to them. You can even purchase fresh veggies grown from the gardens here!

Although we did not go inside for a visit this time, it is possible to visit the Castle, garden and grounds. More information on admission and visiting can be found here. I think it would be interesting to visit the Castle of Mey. It is said that much of the interiors is still set out as the Queen Mother had it, along with furniture, bathroom fittings, photographs and portraits that she chose herself.

Alas, we would have to resign ourselves to a faraway photograph on this trip!

After reveling in our little Royal visit, we hopped back onto the bus for a short ride to Dunnet Bay. Even though it was still windy and spitting rain, I found it beautiful and calming – even with the rolling waves. Perhaps it was because we had this beach all to ourselves.

You could wander on and on…

From Dunnet Bay, you can even get a glimpse of Dunnet Head – the most Northerly point on the British mainland.

After a bit of a reprieve from the storm, it picked up again, just as we arrived at our next destination – Dunbeath Harbour.

Check out this spectacular and wild coastal scene. The white castle perched up on those cliffs, with the storm brewing all around it and the waves crashing underneath.

What a wild and rugged picture. I’m actually glad we saw this on a stormy day – it kinda fits the picture that I have in my head of Scotland. But I imagine it would look quite different and beautiful on a clear, sunny day.

This building is Dunbeath Castle. As it is a private home, it is not open to the public. So I will have to just imagine the stunning views from the windows of this castle – stormy or not!

Heading out of Dunbeath, we continued south towards our next stop. This next stop was a sobering history lesson.

We soon arrived at Badbea Clearance Village. As it was pretty miserable outside, Andy did give us the option to stay on the bus. But most of us wanted to learn more about the Highland Clearances, so we followed Andy out into rain.

Walking through this area with the rain and wind around us set a solemn tone for us as we listened to Andy explain the history and factors behind the Highland Clearances.

The Highland Clearances occurred mostly during the 18th and 19th centuries. Entire Highland families were evicted from their homes and farms, some forcibly and some with their homes and villages burnt to the ground. Instead of being resettled to green pastures where they could continue farming, these families were given small plots of land, which were often not well suited to farming.

One such Clearance Village is the Badbea Clearance Village. Located on the rugged coast and on a steep slope, residents had to clear the land for farming and build their own homes with whatever they could find.

The village is no longer inhabited and has fallen into ruin. But even just looking at the land and the ruins, it was easy to see that this is not very good farmland. Villagers tried to make the best of the situation – some turned to fishing and its associated industries, while others took on spinning and carding wool. But ultimately, the village’s last resident left in 1911. All that is left here are the ruins of their homes, which nature has already taken over again.

The monument here, erected by a descendent of a Badbea villager, commemorates the people of Badbea.

The Highland Clearances had other far reaching and permanent effects. The culture of the Highlands was forever changed. The old, traditional Clan system, their way of living and their settlements were no more. Wearing of Highland Dress, including tartan and kilts, was banned with the Dress Act 1746. Even speaking Scottish Gaelic could be met with punishments. It also led to the emigration of Scots to all corners of the globe – for example Nova Scotia or New Scotland. Even though the Dress Act 1746 was repealed and there are now efforts to revive and promote Scottish Gaelic, all of this has had a huge impact on the cultural fabric of present day Scotland.

After a tragic and reflective history lesson, we headed off to our next stop still deep in thought.

Half an hour later, Andy pulled the bus over and our group took a stroll downĀ this pretty laneway to our next stop.

Can you spot our destination yet?

What a grand entrance intoĀ Dunrobin Castle!

We didn’t get the chance to go inside but we admired its beautiful facade, architecture and…

… its beautiful clock tower!

We also noticed these little features on the walls – can you spot the cannons?

Before heading off to our next destination, we stopped for a quick afternoon snack šŸ˜‹ We could never resist dessert! This time it was a beautiful and sparkly blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake. Although this cake was really yummy, the cheesecake we got at Beauly was still the most delicious!

First time having a SPARKLY cheesecake!

Stay tuned for our next post – it’s going to feature another one of my favourite photographs from this entire Scotland trip!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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Ā© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this siteā€™s authors is strictly prohibited. PleaseĀ get in touchĀ if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 3 – The Isles Pub

For Foodie Friday we thought we’d share with you our first experience eating Haggis! And what’s more authentic than having your first go at it in its country of origin: Scotland!

In our last post, we had just left Northton Beach and were heading for our ferry in Tarbert, which would take us to Skye!

Once on Skye, we would be staying at the Portree Independent Hostel in Portree!

The hostel was clean, welcoming and had WIFI!!! We all had different rooms on different floors and there were plenty of washroom facilities to go around! This is always a bonus when staying in a hostel.

That night we decided to have dinner at the Isles Pub at the Isles Inn! Portree is not a very large town so it was easy enough for us to decide where to eat. And it was also recommended by Greg as a place to get a good plate of Haggis and enjoy some live music! The Isles Pub and Restaurant also uses locally sourced ingredients so we’d literally be getting an all around authentic Scottish meal!

The Isles Inn was just in the square close to our hostel so it was an easy walk over and easy walk back at the end of the night!

We had already decided what to eat even before we reached the restaurant. It’s important to note that they were quite busy when we got there. We were a group of 9, so we had to wait quite a while. But all was not lost, as we grabbed some drinks at the bar and had a nice chat about today’s adventures.

Since we both decided to get Haggis, the main difference would be that mine was traditional while Nat’s would be vegetarian!

Now, if you don’t know what Haggis is… then prepare to be enlightened. I am pretty sure it’s the type of food you either like or dislike.

“Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead.” – Wikipedia

Now if you aren’t turned off by the above description, you’ll be delighted to find out that it was actually quite delicious! It’s rather filling and it really does have a nutty texture. I don’t know if it’s something I’d like to eat very often, but when in Scotland, we may as well do as the Scots do!

This is what Nat’s Vegetarian Haggis looked like. 

We’re not sure what was exactly in this vegetarian haggis, but our guess would be perhaps lentils, vegetables, oats and various spices. This dish was served with neeps and tatties – that is mashed turnips and potatoes. The whole dish is finished off with a red wine and onion gravy to pull it all together. I’m so happy to be able to try a vegetarian option of this Scottish dish. The Isles Pub also had a couple of other vegetarian meal options to cater to those who do not eat meat. It can sometimes get complicated when looking for vegetarian food options on the road. But luckily for me, I found that most restaurants and pubs in Scotland, and Ireland, had vegetarian options – which saves me from eating egg salad sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner! šŸ˜„

We decided that we would definitely be having Haggis again.

After dinner, we thought we deserved to try something sweet and the dessert menu was calling to us <3.

Our table of 5 decided to share two desserts one of which we didn’t seem to take any pictures of, so we can’t quite recall it… BUT we did manage to take a picture of the Apple Pie with Drambruie. It was an interesting take on Apple Pie. I can’t say that it would go into our books as one of our favourite desserts, but it was worth a shot to try something new!

After our dinner, we decided to have a beer and listen to some of the live music they had playing! It wasn’t long until we started getting sleepy and decided to head back.

The next day would hold many adventures including the much anticipated Faerie Pools!

Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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Ā© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this siteā€™s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Edinburgh Eats!

After learning all about Scotch Whisky, we headed off to search for a late lunch. Being the indecisive people that we are, we figured we would be best off just picking the first place we were both interested in. Or else, we would probably be wandering Edinburgh until dinner time!

As we walked down the Royal Mile, we passed by the Real Mary King’s Close – where we had taken the tour a couple days ago. By the time we had finished our early evening tour, the attached Royal Exchange Coffee HouseĀ – which had an enticing menu, was already closed. It was open for lunch now, so this was our chance to sample their menu! Decision making made simple šŸ˜…

The Royal Exchange Coffee House shares its space with the Real Mary King’s Close gift shop. The space is bright and airy, with plenty of tables to enjoy a cuppa or a meal.

Reading the menu, I was happy to see that they were supporters of the local and Scottish food movement.

Of course, at the counter there was a display case with tempting treats and cakes! But we already had plans for dessert (more on that later!), so we stuck to their food menu. There was a good selection of food choices at this little cafĆ©.Ā There was even an option to have vegetarian haggis in the “Tower of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties.” I wasn’t feeling like a heavy lunch today so I decided to save my vegetarian haggis experience for another time!

Finally, I settled on their special of the day – a cheese quiche with a side salad and coleslaw. And Ioana had the soup and bread for her lunch.

The food took a little while to come but it was well worth the wait. The quiche was lovely and the drizzle of (what I think was) balsamic reduction was a nice touch. I might have to try that the next time I make a quiche! The salad and coleslaw were fresh and it was so nice to get some fresh veggies in! It was also a pretty generous portion and perfect for refueling after a morning and afternoon of rambling around!

After our late lunch, we headed back out onto the Royal Mile and took in the sights and sounds of this iconic street. There was always something to see along this street!

And… there is usually always something to listen to as well!

After walking off our lunch, next up was dessert! šŸ¦

Even before we booked our trip to Scotland, there was a little place in Edinburgh that I wanted to try. A place called Mary’s Milk Bar had been making its rounds on social media, after being featured on BuzzfeedĀ (more than once!). Mary’s Milk Bar is famous for its indulgent hot chocolate ice cream floats and its made-fresh-dailyĀ gelato in ever-changing and unique flavours! How could we not try it while we were in Edinburgh?!

Mary’s Milk Bar is tucked away in the Grassmarket. Despite it being well-known internationally, there are no neon signs or billboards outside. This milk bar is delightfully humble, has a vintage feel and evokes a comfortable and cozy atmosphere of decades past.

We picked a good time to come, as there were only a couple of people in line ahead of us. We hear during the summer and Festival season, there are lineups down the street and they often sell out of gelato before the end of the day!

We wanted to try their famous hot chocolate ice cream floats but we also wanted the gelato and… we also wanted to walk around Edinburgh some more… So in the end, we ended up going for the gelato – purely for portability reasons… We’ll come back another time for the hot chocolate ice cream floats!

We had the pleasure of meeting Mary, as she interacted with customers and scooped out their chosen flavours!

Mary makes all of the gelato in the morning before opening up shop. We were lucky to have visited in the early afternoon – as there were still plenty of flavours to choose from. I imagine if you came nearĀ closing time, you might be quite limited on the flavours that remained!

Speaking of flavours, these aren’t your typical vanila, chocolate and strawberry flavours! Not even gourmet vanilla, chocolate and strawberry! These flavours are very unique and make use of a variety of ingredients. They also change daily and according to the seasons. Where else can you get flavours like Tea and Biscuits or Saffon and Honey or Rose and Ginger?! We follow Mary’s Milk Bar on Instagram and sometimes I feel like asking if they would ship some of their goodies over to Vancouver for us! (Would you, pretty please???!)

Here’s today’s gelato selection! šŸ˜

Ioana went for a scoop of Drunk Prunes in Amaretto and a scoop of Fresh Fig Sorbet. I went with my favourite – Peanut Butter and a scoop of something different – White Chocolate and Thyme. I had always associated thyme with savoury dishes, but it paired really nicely with the sweetness of white chocolate in this gelato. I almost think I liked the White Chocolate and Thyme better than the PB… But they were both delicious and hit the spot!

It doesn’t get any better than this – delicious gelato and Edinburgh Castle on a beautiful autumn day! šŸ˜‹

With our Edinburgh food goal achieved and our gelato in hand, we walked around the Grassmarket. Besides discovering more views of Edinburgh Castle, we also came upon a cat cafĆ©Ā – Maison de Moggy! Yup, that’s right! A cat cafĆ© – where you can have something to eat or drink in the company of cats! We didn’t go in but had a good long look through the window at all the shenanigans that the cats (and humans…) were getting up to! šŸ˜¼

After some more walking and a spot of dinner, it was time to head back to our hostel. We had lots of packing to do before leaving on our Haggis Adventures 10-day tour the next day! Castle Rock Hostel has a long term luggage storage room and since we would be returning in 10 days, they were kind enough to let us store some of our stuff there. That means we didn’t have to haul our Guinness Glasses and our Glencairn glass all over Scotland! (Although we would then have very well-traveled glassware!)

Before falling asleep, I managed to poke my head out the sky light above my bunk and was mesmerized by this night scene…

George Heriot’s School – inspiration for Hogwarts!

Good night Edinburgh and hello to our Scotland adventures! Stay tuned for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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Dinner in the Dungeon

After a lovely birthday tea celebrationĀ in the Orangery and some pampering at theĀ Aqueous Spa, it was evening time at Dalhousie Castle and time for dinner!

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Included in our package was a 3 course dinner at Dalhousie Castle’s Dungeon Restaurant.

“Awarded 2 AA Rosettes, our menu is a modern interpretation of classic Scottish dishes cooked and prepared in a classic French cooking style, whilst using locally sourced produce.”

We had been hosteling and adventuring for the past 2 weeks, so it was nice to be pampered a little bit at theĀ castle and we were excited to get dressed up for dinner!

We were instructedĀ when we checked into Dalhousie Castle to head to the Library 30 minutes prior to our dinner reservation for drinks. Walking in, we immediately noticed how cozy it was. Ioana and I both LOVE reading and although we didn’t have a chance to actually sit down and read in this library, we couldĀ definitely see ourselves enjoying a good read and a warm drink here! (On our next stay, for sure!)

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We settled into a couch in the Library and were presented with some menus. We ordered our drinks (A niceĀ rosĆ©) and perused the dinner menu. Instead of ordering at the table, they took our orders for dinnerĀ here, even before we headed down to the actual Dungeon Restaurant. This meant the kitchen had adequate time to prepare our food, whilst we lounged in the Library with our drinks.

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We were also served a selection of hor d’oeuvres whilst we lounged in the Library. We enjoyed our time drinking our wine, chatting with other diners, hearing their travel stories and enjoying the warm and cozy ambiance of the Library.

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After about 30 – 35 minutes, we were led down to the Dungeon! (I guess hundreds of years ago, I wouldn’t be saying that with enthusiasm!)

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It was a really neat setting for a restaurant. The barrel vaulted ceilings, the exposed bricks, with suits of armour, swords and shields on the walls… So now we can say we have dined in a dungeon! How many of you can say that? šŸ˜‰

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The restaurant was not packed to the raftersĀ that night – it was a MondayĀ night afterall. But there were several other parties dining already. The tables were spaced out nicely and you didn’t feel like you were intruding on others’ conversations or bumping elbows with others.

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The decor here was definitely more formal than when we had our Afternoon Tea in the Orangery earlier in the afternoon.

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Blurry picture šŸ˜¦

Before we get to the food, here’s a disclaimer. We totally did not take notes while we were eating dinner that evening. And we also forgot to take a photograph of the menu… Hence one year later, we have a vague idea of what we ate, but we could also be completely wrong! We definitely have learned our lesson!! So here goes nothing…

For my starter, I went with the Roast Plum Tomato Terrine with a basil salad. Tomatoes and basil are the perfect combination in my books, so I really enjoyed this starter. The terrine had an nice, smooth texture and mouth feel. The balsamic and chutney pulled the dish together. All the different flavours and textures on the plate worked together to create a very enjoyable starter.

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Here’s Ioana’s starter… which we think was the Glazed Perthshire Lamb Sweetbreads with balsamic and parmesan!

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We picked the same main course this evening – the Pan Fried Wild Scottish Pollock with caper butter. (Ioana was saving her first taste of Haggis for later on in the trip!) The fish was cooked well – not overdoneĀ and fellĀ apart easily. The sauce and the caper butter complimented the fish well – gave it more flavour but did notĀ overpower the dish. There could have perhaps beenĀ more vegetables on the plate (there’s the dietitian side of me coming out!), but overall it was a qualityĀ dish!

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After our dinner, we were presented with a complimentary pre-dessert treat! I won’t even guess at what was on this plate – besides the mini madeleine, that we know for sure! (Although it could have been a crazy flavour, which we have since forgotten… šŸ˜¦ )

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Then came our desserts – our favourite part of any meal! We were glad the portions of the starters and mains were not too large, or we wouldn’t have room for dessert!

Ioana had the Iced Apple Parfait with Toffee and Walnut Sponge. The apple flavour was very refreshing and balanced out the sweeter flavour of the toffee. The crunch of the walnuts also added another texture to this lovely dessert.

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I went with the Dark Chocolate Delice. The dark chocolate delice was delicious – smooth, rich and indulgent! There was also a bit of ice cream to add a different flavour and mouth feel, compared to the delice. Yum!

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After a lovely dinner in the Dungeon Restaurant, we went for a ramble around the castle. We peeked into various rooms, looked at the paintings and photographs on the walls and learned a bit more history about Dalhousie Castle and Clan Ramsay.

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Love the curtains, the ceiling, the windows the chandeliers, the carpet… basically loved everything!

We continued down a hallway and came upon this:

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Everything set up for the wedding that Andrew, the Castle Steward and Piper, was telling us about earlier this afternoon.

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As it was getting late, we headed back up to our room for some sleep. We also didn’t want to run into any… “special guests!”

It is said that Dalhousie Castle is one of the top 10 haunted castles in Europe. Among the sightings of animal ghosts, butler ghosts and some even say the ghost of Sir Alexander Ramsay, perhaps the most famous is that of the “Grey Lady.” The Grey Lady is also known as the ghost of lovelorn Lady Catherine of Dalhousie. She is said to haunt the castle, wandering through doors, hallways, guest rooms and the Dungeon. Guests and staff alike have reported seeing glimpses of her, feeling her ghostly antics and other strange, paranormal experiences.

To avoid meeting Lady Catherine, however nice she may be, we headed back up the stairs and into our room, hoping she would stick another part of the castle tonight.

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SinceĀ we only had one night’s stay at this beautiful hotel, we were definitely not leaving early in the morning! We were determined to enjoy as much of Dalhousie Castle and its beautiful grounds before we left. Stay tuned for more of our stay in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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Ā© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this siteā€™s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Birthday Afternoon Tea at Dalhousie CastleĀ 

Almost exactly a year and 2 weeks ago, we were in Edinburgh for Ioana’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than a stay at the historic, luxurious and beautifulĀ Dalhousie Castle!

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First up in the birthday celebrations was Afternoon Tea!

Tea was held in the Orangery – which had a lovely view of the greenery surrounding the castle. In addition to serving Afternoon Tea, the Orangery also serves a contemporary menu for lunch and dinner in a ‘relaxed bistro’ setting.

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The Orangery was lovely – it had large windows all around, that let in the autumn sun. We got a table right by the window so we could bask in the sunshine.

The Orangery is more relaxed than the Dungeon Restaurant, which we would be visiting later that day. I might call it casual elegance? It was decorated in a simple, yet beautiful manner. I liked that it had a bit of a rustic feel, with the exposed bricks and the simple but pretty fresh flowers on each table. Yet, there were also chandeliers hanging from the ceiling for a touch of elegance.

Love the pretty pink carnations!

Here was the menu for Afternoon Tea in Fall 2015. I’m sure the menu has changed since then. Has anyone been to Dalhousie for Afternoon Tea recently? How was it?

We took a look at the tea menu and after much pondering, finally decided on our teas. (Good thing we got a standard tea set of sandwiches, scones and sweets! If we had to choose… oh boy! šŸ˜«)

Soon, our teas arrived. Ioana had the Sapphire Earl Grey and I chose the Darjeeling. The teas came with this – something we had never seen before. A tea timer hourglass. We were instructed to look at our respective tea timer to know how long to steep our tea for.

After a couple sips of tea, the Tomato ConsommĆ© with Basil arrived. It was a chilled soup, which was very refreshing and flavourful. I love basil – so I thought that was a lovely way to start off our Afternoon Tea. It was also nice to get a chilled soup as it was getting quite warm inside the Orangery – a bit of a greenhouse effect with all the glass windows!

Next, our sandwiches, scones and sweets arrived on a very contemporary stand – definitely different from what we were expecting… But we thought the wooden stand matched well with the setting of the Orangery.

Here’s the food. It’s funny because every time we go for Afternoon Tea, we look at it and always think it’s not THAT much food. Yet… we never end up finishing the entire tea service!

I did ask for some vegetarian substitutions, so some of the food we got was different from the menu above.

Here’s what we had:

Spiced Crabsticks on Milk Brioche Roll, Smoked Chicken Tartelette, Salmon Rillette – Filo

Cucumber on Farmhouse White, Home Roast Ham and Rocket on Farmhouse Brown, Hens’ Egg and Cress on Farmhouse White

Fruit and Plain Scone, with local preserve and clotted cream

Gateau Opera,Ā Cream filled Meringue

Raspberry Cranachan

Dundee Cake, Citrus Meringue Tartelette

Nougat, Dark Chocolate and Praline Truffle, Macaron

We started with some of the sweets, because we noticed they were starting to melt in the warmth of the Orangery. I love nougat, so having this at tea time was a special treat – as I don’t think I’ve ever had Tea where nougat was served!

Next, we went with the sandwiches. This was one of my substitutions as I don’t eat meat. Taking out the meat and replacing it with cheese works for me any and all the time!

A nice refreshing cucumber sandwich…

Egg salad – one of my favourites! And also my staple during this trip, whenever we stopped at supermarkets or a cafĆ© for lunch…

Onto the scones – a plain and a fruit scone. These were paired with “Local Preserves and Clotted Cream”! I went for the Strawberry, while Ioana went with the Black Currant. I will have to say that we liked the scone we got in the Orkneys (stay tuned for that!) better than the ones here. These ones were good but a bit more doughy.

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Last but definitely not least, the sweets!

The Gateau Opera was a really decadent cake. The cream layers were rich and the top layer was delicious, chocolatey goodness!

This is the Raspberry Cranachan – something we had never heard of before. As per Wikipedia (always a super reliable source…šŸ˜)

“Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert. In modern times, it is usually made from a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey and fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little bit of whisky.”

Since we haven’t had this before, we didn’t have anything to compare it to. It was almost like a yogurt parfait but richer – with whipped cream instead. We might have to find a recipe and try making this ourselves! Anyone got one to share?

This is the Citrus Meringue Tartelette – it was a light, simple but tasty treat, with a nice crust.

The aftermath… we tried really hard to finish everything but we just couldn’t!

We had a lovely Afternoon Tea celebration for Ioana’s birthday! šŸŽ‰šŸŽ‚ā˜•

But the celebrations weren’t over just yet. WeĀ were off for our spa treatments, which were included in the package we booked. We each got a one-hour spa treatment and were free to use the rest of the spa facilities afterwards. It was a quiet day, so we had the spa all to ourselves. We took our time enjoying the foot baths (we definitely needed that to pamper our feet after all of our walking, exploring and adventures!), the Turkish style steam bath, a sweating room and lastly, spent some time lounging in the sunny Tepidarium.

After all of that relaxation and pampering, it was time to get dressed for dinner!Ā We would be dining in the dungeon that evening! Pretty cool to be able to say we have dined in a dungeon.

Stay tuned for more on this beautiful castle and some tasty food in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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Cheesecakes, Friends and Sunsets

As we blogged last week, we went down to Seattle for a short weekend getaway. We didn’t have much on our list of places to see and visit since we had all been to Seattle before… But one of our food stops for thisĀ trip was The Cheesecake Factory. Besides being known for the GINORMOUS (read: controversial for population health reasons!) portions of food that they serve, they are known for – you guessed it,Ā theirĀ cheesecakes.Ā They don’t have any restaurants in Canada or Australia. So since we were in the States, we thought we would try their ‘signature’ itemĀ and stopped by the Bellevue Cheesecake Factory for a visit.

Or, two.

Our first visit was for a late dinner the night we arrived into Seattle and Bellevue. However, after a poor attempt at finishing our HUGE dinners, there was absolutely no room for cheesecake. We decided to come back another time for dessert.

Here is round two… This time, it was brunch – hoping a lighter meal would leave a bit of room for cheesecake. Who are we kidding… the portions were still huge! (The three of us could have probably just shared two meals and it would have been an adequate amount.)

We all chose from their “Eggs and Omelettes” section of the menu, which is served all day.

This is the California Omelette with “Avocado, Mushrooms, Green Onion, Tomato, Garlic and Shallots, Sour Cream, Jack Cheddar and Swiss Cheese”, served with white toast and tomatoes.

Another California Omelette, with potatoes and whole wheat toast. The omelette was tasty. I liked the combination of ingredients – especially the avocado and cheese, with green onions, garlic and shallots for the sharp bite, flavour and crunch! Definitely something I would copy and make for myself at home.

This one here is the Chorizo and Avocado Omelette with “Chicken Chorizo, Avocado, Sauteed Peppers and Onions, Salsa, Cilantro and Cheese Topped with Sour Cream”, with an English Muffin and tomatoes.

Let’s just say… it was another “attempt” at finishing our meal. We felt bad for wasting the food šŸ˜¦ They should offer half portions for all of their meals! (Or we should have been smarter and split two meals between the three of us instead…)

At least this time, we were able to save SOME room for dessert. We spent a long time perusing the menu and trying to decide on our cheesecake choices. In the end, we decided to each pick a cheesecake and share – so we could try 3 different flavours.

Here’s what we got:

  • ADAM’S PEANUT BUTTER CUP FUDGE RIPPLE CHEESECAKE – Creamy Cheesecake Swirled with Caramel, Peanut Butter, ButterfingersĀ® and Reese’sĀ® Peanut Butter Cups.
  • FRESH STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE – The Original Topped with Glazed Fresh Strawberries. Our Most Popular Flavor for Over 35 Years!
  • MANGO KEY LIME CHEESECAKE – Topped with Mango Mousse on a Vanilla Coconut Macaroon Crust

I think we all agreed that theĀ Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake was the best out of the three. It was theĀ Classic Cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries. The cheesecake was smooth and when paired with the strawberries, was a simple, but classic and delicious combination. It wasn’t too heavy and would be a safe bet the next time we eat at the Cheesecake Factory!

I adore peanut butter – but even I don’t think I could finish the entire slice ofĀ Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake! There was a LOT of candy pieces swirled into this cheesecake. So there was a whole host of flavours and textures – from the gooey caramel to the crunchy candy bits and the smooth cheesecake. Definitely a good one to share!

TheĀ Mango Key Lime Cheesecake was a bit tart, so it cut through the sweetness of the other two cheesecakes. But even then, it eventually became a bit too sweet. Pair it with the other two cheesecakes and we were too full to honestly enjoy it!

Here’s the aftermath… It would be wonderful to have a “tasting” portion of the cheesecakes, so we can have a taste of several cheesecakes, without stuffing ourselves or wasting the cheesecakes. I guess the other option is to bring more people with us the next time we’re at the Cheesecake Factory so we can split the cheesecakes betweenĀ more people! In the end, we couldn’t finish all three! Maybe if we hadn’t eaten the omelettes, there would have been more room to finish. We know for next time ;).

Too full to finish the rest of the cheesecakes šŸ˜¦

After that filling meal, we stretched our legs and walked off our meal at the adjacent Bellevue Square. Read: we went shopping! (But with our poor exchange rate right now, shopping in the States wasn’t such a good deal anymore!) After the shopping expedition, it was time to head back to the hotel with M so she could grab her luggage and head off to the airport for her flight home! It was sad to see her go, but we are already plotting our next adventure! šŸ˜‰

Until our next adventure!

Ioana and I hung out around Bellevue for a little while longer before catching our bus home. Before leaving Seattle, we had a mission to accomplish. We were in search of the elusive – Thistly Cross Cider! Searching for something a continent and an ocean away from its home in Scotland proved to be more difficult than we thought!

Did we find it? You’ll have to visit our blog in the next little while to find out!

~~~~~

And just like that, our weekend away was over and it was time to head back home šŸ˜¦

It was a gorgeous summer evening, making for some beautiful photographs on the bus rideĀ home.

Goodbye Seattle!

I love watching the scenery flash by. The Pacific Northwest has some gorgeous viewsĀ – even if just by the highway! (Clearly we’re not biased at all…….)

Today, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset against the backdrop of theĀ beautiful Pacific temperate rainforest.

After some napping, blogging (free Wifi on the bus!) and reading, we were back on Canadian soil! But before we could get on our way home, we had to get through pass the “Border Security” test. There was a little bit of a wait, as there were several coaches in front of us. What else is there to do but take a selfie!

Eventually, we piled off the bus and went to talk to our friendly Canadian border guards. When asked what goods I was bringing back to Canada, I replied honestly with “one bottle of nail polish and alcohol.” Needless to say, we were waved through without any further questions!

With our Seattle trip over, we are itching to plan our next trip SOMEWHERE! Hmmm…. Where to next! Suggestions are always welcome šŸ˜‰

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


Ā© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this siteā€™s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Cheesy Goodness at Beecher’sĀ 

We went down to Seattle a couple of weeks ago for a weekend trip. And whilst exploring the area around Pike Place Market, we came upon Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.

The first Beecher’s Handmade Cheese shop opened here in Pike Place Market in 2003. A second location was added in New York City in 2011. Beecher’s prides itself in producing fine artisan cheese – by hand. Of course, with the help of healthy, well-fed and well treated cows!

Besides having a cafeĀ and a cheese counter, there is even cheese production right on site! This Pike Place shop has fit a custom pasteurizing and cheesemaking facility into its 1,000 square foot glass-walled kitchen. If you stay a while, you can watch the cheesemakers stirring and working hard over this huge vat of dairy goodness, destined to become tasty cheese!

If you’re interested, they have some information boards on the process of cheesemaking inside the shop. Very interesting and not something that you see everyday when grabbing some lunch! (I especially liked that there were a couple of children who were very interested and engrossed in watching what was going on. I think it’s good for kids to see that cheese, and food in general, doesn’t just magicallyĀ appear inĀ the fridge or on supermarket shelves!)

Speaking of lunch! It was just about time for lunch and we were getting hungry! The cafe menu contain a number of cheesy sandwiches, soups and…

One particular item on the menu jumped out at us – the ‘World’s Best’ Mac and Cheese! It was a little bit windy and chilly that morning, so it seemed fittingĀ to have some comfort food for lunch!

Although it was really busy in the shop and cafe, it was a quick andĀ efficient process to order your food then move down the line, pay and pick up your food.

Here it is – The “World’s Best” Mac and Cheese.

“Beecherā€™s ā€œWorldā€™s Bestā€ Mac & Cheese is made with an incomparable combination of our signature Flagship and Just Jack cheeses. A hint of spice and penne pasta, versus the standard macaroni,Ā make for a creamy mac that’s not just for kids.”

What did we think of it?

It was definitely all sorts of cheesy goodness! The cheese sauce wasn’t just poured on top or mixed in haphazardly. The cheese coated each penne pasta, so that each mouthful was a delicious mix of gooey, smooth cheese and pasta. It was, as expected, very rich and creamy. But not overly so and it didn’t make us feel overly full or gross afterwards. (Getting the small size probably helped with this!) This certainly isn’t your “typical” scoop of cafeteria Mac and Cheese or a box of microwaved KD!!

It made for a perfect walking-lunch, as we continued to explore Pike Place Market!

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Has anyone else been to Beecher’s, or tried their cheeses? What did you think?

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


Ā© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this siteā€™s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!