HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 1 – Corrieshalloch Gorge and Falls of Measach

After visiting Dunkeld and finally waking up (maybe) with the help of some coffee, Greg told us that our next major stop for the day would be the Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach. After that, we would be heading to the port at Ullapool to take the Ferry to Stornoway, our stop for the night! Ā Our excitement level was starting to increase!!!

Before we reached our destination, we had another short stop that would definitely give us a taste of what we should be expecting from our tour around Scotland. Greg pulled to the side and we got views of a landscape that was exactly what I had hoped to see!!!

Through a wiki search (always accurate, right?!), google maps and a list of dams in Scotland, we figure this is probably LochĀ Glascarnoch.

The mix of hills and lochs and Scottish Heather made for a spectacular view! Ā I think it was at this point that I finally realized we were going to travel around SCOTLAND and see sights like this all over the place – if not even more impressive!

It also happened to be World Ballet Day at the time, so Natalie took the opportunity to do an arabesque with a beautiful Scottish landscape behind her!

It was at this point that we found out that Scottish Heather is specific to this landscape and that it can be used to make rope! That’s how strong it is.

At this point I was a bit reluctant to leave this calming landscape. I literally just wanted to sit there and absorb the scenery <3.

Greg burst my bubble by informing us we had to get a move on for we had more sights to see. This leads us to our next stop: Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach.

We would be walking across a suspension bridge that day to get to the Falls! The bridge was actually:

“Built by John Fowler (1817-98), joint designer of the Forth Railway Bridge.”

The gorge itself is 61 metres deep and is one of the best examples of a boxed canyon in Britain. It is located on the River Droma, south of Ullapool. It’s actually 1.5 km long and there are two walking paths to explore the area. We took the shorter, less strenuous one that would lead to the viewing platform, as we still had a lot of travelling to do.

Luckily for us,Ā the sun decided to stick around and we got great sunny weather to explore in. As we crossed the bridge, boys, of course, would be boys and they shook it. We already knew our trip mates would be a fun crowd! There was even a sign warning of the maximum number of people on the suspension bridge at one time! But we weren’t too worried… (Plus, we had an engineer in the group and he said it would be safe – so we believed him!)

The pictures we got of the Falls of Measach were gorgeous! It was another lovely example of what Scotland had to offer.

On our way back to the bus, we got another look at the River Droma and the gorge. The gorge was actually made at the end of the Ice Age so the rock formations we saw were very interesting and somehow reminded me of the geological formations in Ireland! Dare I say that the colour of the water and the foaming parts that hit the rocks reminded me of GUINNESS!? Because it really did šŸ™‚

This was another beautiful landscape to add to our list that day.

After snapping some epic pictures of water and sky (yet again), we were back on the road.

Our next stop would be something that I hadn’t expected in Ireland and again hadn’t expected in Scotland: A BEACH! More specifically at Ardmair Bay, overlooking Loch Kanaird.

The village of Ardmair is a fishing village in Wester Ross, north of Ullapool. It is small, quaint and just plain beautiful! The houses were all white surfaced and fit perfectly with the bay it is situated on. I was just as shocked at the beauty of this beach and little town as I had been in Ireland when we traveled along the coastline.

The beach is full of perfectly smooth rocks, which are PERFECT for use as skipping stones!

We, of course, had to try our hands at it but we had to be careful because it was low tide and the moss on the stones made it extra slippery to get around, but it was so worth it to get to the water and look out at the landscape <3. It was just amazing. So, if I left part ofĀ my soul in Ireland, I was already leaving another part of my soul in Scotland!

Here’s a look at Ben Nor Coigach in the distance.

The sun didn’t fail us that day and came out in another glorious display of sky and water.

After getting our fair share of photographic opportunities, we were back on the road to Ullapool – where we would be catching the Ferry to our final stop of the day: Stornoway. Ullapool is a village in Ross-shire, Scottish Highlands which is nestled on the shores of Lochbroom. We didn’t have much time to explore Ullapool but it is supposedly a ideal place to stay on a trip to Scotland because of its proximityĀ to several other Scottish villages and sites, not to mention Inverness Airport!

If you want more information about Ullapool, you can find it here.

Ullapool would be where we had to grab a quick bite to eat before our 2+ hours Ferry ride to Stornoway. We wandered the streets for a little while, before deciding to eat some fries (chips?! šŸ˜‰) while getting to know some of our group mates better.

We were treated to another amazing light and water show.Ā I honestly have never seen such beautiful sky scenery as I did in Scotland. Just look at how that ray of Sun comes out of the clouds specifically on that spot on the water -truly magical!

We would be taking the Calmac Ferry to the Isle of Lewis and we only hoped the waters would be calm! The clouds that were rolling in looked a bit threatening but I was really excited to be on the water and experience Scotland in this way. The Calmac Ferry runs both in the summer and the winterĀ out to Stornoway and you can find more specific information on the rates and the schedules here, in case you are planning your trip to the Hebrides!

As we left Ullapool, we made sure to take a seat by the window to snap some more shots of the beautiful scenery before us!

After first exploring the Ferry a little bit, we decided it was time to eat our dinner. The Ferry had a rather good selection of food from their cafeteria! I believe both Natalie and myself got the fish and chips and I finally gave in and wanted to try the Irn Bru that seemed to be a popular drink in Scotland. Greg had talked it up enough on the bus ride that a bunch of us were willing to try it. Apparently Irn Bru is good to cure anything :P. Whether this is a true or false statement, I will leave it up to you to decide once you try it. In my opinion, it is a rather acquired taste!

Before we knew it, our Ferry had docked in Stornoway and weĀ were on the road to our accommodations! Our accommodations for the next two nights, as we explored the Outer Hebrides, would be the Heb Hostel in Stornoway. It was a pleasant little hostel with enough room to house our whole horde of people. There were quite a few of us in one room and there were washroom facilities on each floor but, even so, it took quite the coordination for us all to share, especially with more than 10 girls under one roof!

Once settled into our respective rooms, we decided it was time to shower and make use of the Wi-FiĀ they have in place in order to tell our families back home what we had seen that day! One thing about the Heb Hostel was that the Wi-FiĀ worked perfectly in the common room but not so great in the rooms themselves. But it really seemed to depend on the phone you had, as some people could catch the Wi-Fi and other people not so much (I was in the not so much category).

It was already dark outside by the time we had all showered and gathered in the common room. I was so tired out but our group mates were insistent in going out and finding a pub to grab a drink from! Greg informed us of a specific pub that would be hosting a karaoke night that we might enjoy going to. The only store open so late would be Tesco so we wouldn’t get to see much of the city itself at this hour. We decided to go to Tesco first to grab some snacks for the bus ride the following day and told our group mates we would go to the Pub that was recommended after.

Unluckily for us…we didn’t manage to find the pub. We wandered around a rather quiet Stornoway (there was nobody on the street so late) but couldn’t find the pub! We did stumble into an empty pub and got stared down by a bar lady! We did meet a cat along the way which I befriended and hesitantly left behind though. Having been unsuccessful, we decided to go back to the Hostel and turn in early so we would be refreshed for tomorrow.

Overall our first day in the Highlands was amazing! We were even more excited for what was to come the next day. You’ll notice that our days were packed with different stops and adventures and this is because of the number of places there are to be amazed by in Scotland.

Stay tuned for Day 2 where we explored some cliffs, finally saw some standing stones (Outlander shots to come) and found some historic ruins!

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. 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!

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!

wp-1472493230967.jpg

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!

From Ireland to Seattle – A Reunion

The thing we love most about travelling is meeting other like-minded travelers from around the world! We are always curious about other cities and countries – gotta scout out locations for our next trip! Plus, by making friends with people from all over the world, we have couches to sleep on when we visit them – just kidding!!! šŸ˜‰ At the very least, we have a friend and a local tour guide who can show us around when we visit and give us the insider scoop on what to visit and see!

So, while we were exploring Ireland on our Shamrocker Adventures tour, we met a lovely Aussie – M.

The 3 of us at the The BrĆŗ BorĆŗ Dancers sculpture in County Tipperary during our Ireland tour!

We have kept in touch with her since then. When she found out she would be coming to the States for work trip, we all got excited for the possibility of a reunion!

We started looking at convenient places to meet up and eventually decided on Seattle. It was relatively cheap for M to fly to and it was just 2-3 hrs south of Vancouver.

Once we settled on the dates and location, we started figuring out the details of our weekend away – coordinating arrival times and finding a hotel room. We ended up staying a Courtyard by Marriot in Bellevue – a city east of Seattle and across Lake Washington. Hotels in Bellevue were more affordable than staying in downtown Seattle. There was also an express bus (The 550 Express) that goes straight from downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle, making it very convenient to get around.

We didn’t do much else in terms of planning for this trip… We had all been to Seattle before, so this was more of a catch-up/wander around leisurely (read: SHOPPING) trip! It was kinda nice to not have a packed agenda of sightseeing objectives! šŸ˜‰

Ioana and I left Vancouver Saturday afternoon and headed south to Seattle. Whenever I think of Seattle, I automatically think of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy, which is set in Seattle. It was cool to head into Seattle and see the iconic skyline that is featured on the show.

Perhaps the ferry that Dr. Shepherd used to take to get to work?!

We arrived into Bellevue in the evening and had a lovely reunion with M! After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we headed out for a spot of dinner and caught up on our lives since we last saw each other in DublinĀ almost a year ago!

The next morning, we grabbed our Starbucks (conveniently located beside the hotel lobby!) and headed out to catch our express bus into Seattle. Our first stop of the day was the iconic Pike Place Public Market!

It is really amazing how there is such a large market with a huge variety of food, fresh produce, fresh seafood, fresh flowers and handmade crafts – right in downtown Seattle! There were shops and stalls in the covered market area and also some stalls outside. We couldn’t wait to explore all of these!

But first – a selfie!

Selfie with the iconic sign!

We didn’t have any plans (except needing to get something for lunch!), so we decided to just wander through the market.

Being a Farmers Market, there were loads of fresh produce shops and stalls. The vegetables and fruits looked really fresh and many were advertised as local to the area. I love local food – supporting the local community,Ā reducing your food miles and the food is more fresh, tasty and nutritious since it gets from the farm to your table quicker!

wp-1473228556204.jpg

How can you possibly resist those big, sexy tomatoes?!?!?! The roma tomatoes just don’t cut it!

The Pacific Northwest is known for fresh and wonderful seafood, so we walked by several shops selling seafood.

The fresh seafood at City Fish Co.

Look at the size of the salmon!

There is one particularly famous place to get your fish, along with a bit of a show – Pike Place Fish Market. These are the guys who “throw the fish” – yup, literally! Youtube it or come to Seattle and see it for yourself! They sometimes even pull pranks on customers. If you’re at Pike Place, go by their shop and stay a while. There is always a crowd around this shop as their antics are quite entertaining! While we were there, no one purchased a fish, so unfortunately we didn’t catch a picture of a flying fish! ( šŸ˜‰ couldn’t resist!)

Pike Place Fish Market

Another famous part of the Pike Place Market is the flower market. There is an entire section of flower farmers – with table after table of gorgeous cut flowers and beautiful bouquets. It just brightens the entire market up! And with prices as low as $5 – $10 for a colourful, bright and fragrant bouquet, no wonder pretty much everyone was walking around with a bouquet!

Gorgeous!

Sunflowers galore!

And you can’t talk aboutĀ Seattle without mentioning Starbucks. The first Starbucks coffeehouse opened here in Pike Place in 1971 and has since taken over the world! We like our Starbucks, but not enough to wait in a line that wrapped around the block! So we just looked at it from the outside as we walked past…

We walked by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and was captivated by their “World’s Best Mac and Cheese”. So that’s what we had for lunch! Check out our visit to Beecher’s Cheese and our cheesy walking-lunch here!

A delicious bowl of “World’s Best” Mac and Cheese – super cheesy and delicious!

With our Mac and Cheese in hand, we strolled outside to the Victor Steinbrueck Park. It offered a beautiful view of the Elliott Bay and the Seattle waterfront. We lucked out again with the weather – it was rather cloudy and windy this morning, but we got some warm sunshine in the afternoon. So we were able to enjoy the weather and the waterfront views here.

Victor Steinbrueck Park – just past Pike Place!

Spotted: Mario on a Totem Pole!

The waterfront view

Spotted: Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57, Safeco and CenturyLink Fields in the background…

Reunited!

In Ireland, we started a tradition taking “gazing photographs” – because… they look super cool?! Anyways, we thought it was fitting to continue that tradition here! I totally love this photograph. Just don’t ask how many takes it took to catch all of us in this “gazing selfie!”

We started a tradition of gazing out at the gorgeous scenery of Ireland and Scotland… So it was only natural that we continued that tradition in Seattle!

That was the end of our “scheduled” portion of the day! Our plan for the rest of the day was to wander around downtown and perhaps do some shopping! šŸ˜‰ And since our shopping adventures didn’t come with any epic photographs, we’ll share some cityscape photographs that we took today.

Market Memories Mural

A bit of a different view of this iconic sign!

Post Alley

Gorgeous braids of peppers and garlic! Was really tempted to bring some home, but I wasn’t sure that would get by the border guards and I really didn’t want to end up on the show “Border Security”!

Bricks and flowers!

Bricks and a mini Space Needle!

After a couple of hours wandering the shops, we decided it was time to head back to Bellevue and grab some dinner! More to come from our trip to Seattle!

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!