HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 3 – Coo’s, Seals and Historic St. Clement’s Church

We left Stornoway on Day 3 of our Compass Buster tour and boarded our Wild and Sexy yellow bus, headed leisurely towards our destination for tonight – Portree, the largest town on the Isle of Skye! We were excited because this meant more adventures and exploring, of course.

Day 3 started with more epic skyscapes! You could literally be driving anywhere in Scotland and mother nature will treat you to a beautiful landscape.

We actually stopped by the site to take some pictures because of the particular beauty of the clouds and the rays of sun beaming through. It was a somber scene, because of the cemetery, but it was made even more epic because of the clouds above!

After getting back on the bus, Greg told us we’d see a number of different sites that day including a few beaches- which we would be surprised were located in Scotland, and a historic church, before heading to Portree and finishing our night there.

We were literally just back onto the road when Greg SLAMMED the brakes on our yellow bus and we thought perhaps we had hit something!!!

Little did we know we had finally come upon some of Scotland’s most majestic creatures (after the unicorn, of course!): the Hairy Coo! (Or also known as the Highland cow, Heilan’ coo or just… coo)

Just look at the stylish hairstyles these coos’ have! Adorable!

A little backstory on these Highland Cattle:

They seem to have originated in Scotland and are mentioned as far back as the 6th century. They are certainly in no danger of extinction!

“They are a hardy breed due to their native environment, the Highlands of Scotland. This results in long hair, giving the breed its ability to overwinter.”

As you can see below, we were more than a little excited to find some Hairy Coo!

After this, we would constantly be searching for Hairy Coo wherever we went! We fell in love with them!

Sidenote: we even went as far as searching for a hairy coo back at home! And voilà – here we are meeting a new friend at a farm about 20 minutes away from us. A little piece of Scotland in the suburbs of Vancouver!

The landscape and clouds continued to be amazing, matching our shadowy Hairy Coo on the cliffs.

Just look at that light glowing on that small loch. Mesmerizing! Somebody take me back to Scotland right now!

As we drove on, we continued our animal spotting and actually came across some geese…

And then we had to actually stop the bus because we found SEALS! Take a look at all those little heads bobbing in and out of the water greeting us. We took way too many pictures to count, even though we had seen seals on our trip already…

Leaving our new animal friends behind, we made our way to one of our main destinations for the day: St. Clement’s Church on the Isle of Harris.

St. Clement’s Church is very well preserved and built around the 1520’s, named after Pope Clement.

“The church was built using local Lewisian gneiss rock. Its ground plan is cruciform and there is a tower at the west end, accessible through a door at the west end of the nave and a set of stone staircases and wooden ladders.” – Wikipedia

The church was supposedly built for the Chiefs of the MacLeods of Harris, probably around 1520. Above is a photo illustrating the wall tomb that Alasdair Croatach MacLeod built for himself in 1528.

It is rather eerie how the shadow of the body still looks so present in the space!

The art work is exquisite and very well preserved.

The church had many uses throughout the centuries, from supposedly being a monastery to being used as a cow byre.

The 9th chief’s son William built his grave on the south wall of the church, while the 10th chief built a third grave in the south transept.

The graveyard which surrounds the church contains a number of MacLeod tombs.

It was in 1873 that the Countess of Dunmore restored the church and in 1907 the tower was rebuilt after being struck by lightning!

Here’s how it looks today – standing fast in the Scottish landscape.

The church was truly different than what we had seen before. It is currently under the care of Historic Scotland. For more information on visiting St. Clement’s Church, check out their website here.

The Isle of Harris was already proving eventful! The scenery was much, much different than on the Isle of Skye and we also came across some Harris Tweed which we will comment on in a future post!

Next up is some beach combing!

Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 2 – Stornoway and Lews Castle

After exploring Dun Carloway Broch and the Callanish Stones, we got back to Stornoway in the late afternoon so we could enjoy the city and do a little bit of exploring!

Greg told us that if we wanted, we could take a hike up to Lews Castle and explore its grounds. We decided this was the best option and once we cleaned up, we were on our way.

It was a beautiful walk up to the castle! We had to go through a forest of trees that seemed very mystical, a usual occurrence in Scotland!

Lews Castle was built in the years 1844-51 as a country house for Sir James Matheson. It is a Victorian style castle, as you can see below.

“In 1918, the Lewis estate including the castle was bought by industrialist Lord Leverhulme from the Matheson family. He gave the castle to the people of Stornoway parish in 1923.” – Wikipedia

The Lews Castle website tells us that the early history of the grounds date back to 1680 when Seaforth Lodge was built as a summer home for Lord Seaforth.

The castle has an extensive history having been passed down through the decades. It went from being held by the Stornoway Trust as a public building, to a hospital in World War II, to being a college to being completely vacated and unused by 2002.

By 2012, funding had been secured to restore the castle, with work commencing in 2013. Whilst we were in Stornoway in 2015, the building was unfortunately still closed for restoration, so we did not have the chance to take a peek inside. Lews Castle, along with the new museum and archive, reopened in July 2016 to visitors.

The castle grounds are quite extensive – at around 10 acres. We were literally exploring all the hidden pathways and trails while coming across beautiful views and fascinating statues! You would come to a clearing and see a view like this – looking out over the waters.

While exploring, we also came across a wonderful memorial built in honour of James Matheson by his wife. The poppies on the pillars allude to his success and profits from the opium industry. It is beautifully sculpted, although missing certain parts due to age.

As we walked down and towards the harbour, we noticed the beautiful views of Stornoway that we had also seen from above.

Stornoway was originally founded by the Vikings in the early 9th century!

“This town, and what eventually became its present-day version, grew up around a sheltered natural harbour well placed at a central point on the island, for the convenience of people from all over the island.” – Wikipedia

“At some point in the mid 1500s, the already ancient MacLeod castle in Stornoway ‘fell victim to the cannons of the Duke of Argyle’.”

It was as early as the 1600’s that Stornoway became a centre for trade because of its port location.

Today, the harbour still hosts a fishing fleet, although obviously not as large as in the past!

Our walk along the harbour and later around the city was lovely! We literally sat by the harbour and soaked in the September Scottish sunshine, whilst looking out at the beautiful water.

Stornoway is a wonderful little town full of winding streets and quaint stores. We were lucky that we got an afternoon to actually explore and enjoy it.

We definitely recommend staying in Stornoway if you are planning to travel around the Isle of Lewis. It is central and you are surrounded by amenities!

After we finished our walk, we headed back to our hostel for dinner. We had a pizza night with our entire group! What a lovely evening we had chatting with our group mates and getting to know each other. There also may or may not have been some ruthless card games with beverages on the line! All in all, it was a great way to cap off a wonderful Day 2!

What’s in store for Day 3? We’re excited just writing about it! Are you ready to be amazed by the faerie pools?! And get ready to meet some new and fashionably hairy friends! Brace yourselves for our next post!

Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 2 – Callanish Standing Stones

And we’ve finally reached my favourite part of Day 2 of our Compass Buster Tour: The Callanish Standing Stones <3.

After finishing with Dun Carloway Broch, Greg told us we’d finally be making our way to the standing stones! If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you’ll know that we did come across some standing stones at Blarney Castle in Ireland. Since then, I had been more than a little excited to get to Scotland and see these standing stones up close!

Again, as you may know, we have been searching for Jamie Fraser…yes, yes we tried again here. Obviously and sadly, it didn’t work but it was a lot of fun!

From the moment we stepped out of the bus, I knew this place would be magical! Just look at that view as we approached the site:

It’s not often you get to see a procession of standing stones so greatly preserved!

“The Callanish Stones (“Callanish I”) are an arrangement of standing stones placed in a cruciform pattern with a central stone circle. They were erected in the late Neolithic era.”

They are near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

It was a great feat for the people who lived near the site to be able to build it over 4,000 years ago. The stones were supposedly moved with rollers, wooden frames and brute strength. This cost them a lot of time and effort, to be sure!

It is still a mystery as to why these stones were built. This is obviously not the first and only site to have standing stones. During the Neolithic period, many communities across north-west Europe constructed these monuments!

It is most likely they were built for worship or religious reasons. Another common finding is that they may have been built according to astronomical events such as the midwinter sunrise and sunset.

It’s so exciting to still be able to see these standing stones and to speculate as to what the site was constructed for and what the stones mean!

As noted above, this particular site is built in a cruciform pattern. Inside the circle is a stone burial cairn. Supposedly, the cremated bodies were despoiled with pots and beakers which dates to between 2000 to 1700 BC.

“The Callanish Stones consist of a stone circle of thirteen stones with a monolith near the middle. Five rows of standing stones connect to this circle. Two long rows of stones running almost parallel to each other from the stone circle to the north-northeast form a kind of avenue. In addition, there are shorter rows of stones to the west-southwest, south and east-northeast. The stones are all of the same rock type, namely the local Lewisian gneiss. Within the stone circle is a chambered tomb to the east of the central stone.”

Perhaps, the site being used for ritualistic purposes is the most realistic explanation for the stones after all.

Of course between the two of us, our imaginations got away with us again and took us on a hopeful journey towards finding Jamie Fraser. We tried several stones which we thought might work to transport us back in time, but alas, it didn’t exactly work.

Searching for Jamie was getting tiring! We tried several stones that called to us but no Jamie resulted :(.

That being said, it was amazing to be able to touch these stones, which had been erected by people thousands of years ago and it was even more incredible to be able to stand on the same land they had stood on, but for obviously very different reasons!

It was such a pleasant day out and our Irish Rainbow luck still hadn’t evaporated! We took the opportunity to fool around a bit and take some epic photos for our collection :).

Today, the stones, as with Dun Carloway Broch, are managed by Historic Scotland.

Perhaps the Historic Scotland website has the best way to explain the stones:

“This is a story with no ending. Against the backdrop of their 5000 years, the stones have witnessed countless changes in the people and the landscape around them. The story tells about developing landscape, the evolving environment, a land of circles, stones, archaeology and conservation along with many other topics.”

The site was so peaceful, with so very few tourists buzzing about, I am very grateful Greg let us stay and absorb the power of the stones for so long! He basically told us to ponder our lives within these surroundings :P.

And ponder we did. I literally sat there in the quiet landscape listening to the wind and looking at the stones and the sky and the surrounding lochs, not wanting to leave!!!

It’s true when they say Scotland is magical. It’s just a feeling you get when you are out and about viewing the natural and ancient landscape!

We unfortunately had to leave our lovely Callanish I stones and move on to the Callanish II and III, which were not quite as extensive as Callanish I, but made supposedly with the same purpose in mind.

Callanish II and III are located not too far away from the main stones site and comprise of similar stone rings. Callanish II, which was dug out of the peat in 1858, is in the shape of an eclipse, while Callanish III consisted of two concentric eclipses.

It was rather difficult to get to the Callanish III site as it was extremely muddy and not as touristy as the main Callanish site. Nevertheless, we were in Scotland! Which meant we must adventure and explore as much as we could! It was still worth it to get pictures like the ones below!

All in all, this was a definite experience. I don’t want to say once in a lifetime, because I know I will go back again! If you travel to the Outer Hebrides and to the Isle of Lewis, you MUST visit the Callanish Stones. Information on visiting this amazing site can be found here.

This is not a site to be excluded from your Scotland trip! And don’t just spend 5 minutes, take a photograph and leave! Make sure to allot enough time for you to take in the standing stones, explore the area and take some time to reflect and think – as was recommended to us! We think it would be an amazing place to experience a sunrise or a sunset – the rays of light dancing between the stones. Or even to spot the Northern Lights here, with the Callanish stones as a backdrop? Amazing! We’ll definitely have to come back for another visit!

This was one of our favourite sites and is likely to be one of yours as well!!!

We end day 2 with a little evening stroll around Stornoway!

Stay tuned for more on that coming soon!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 2 – Dun Carloway Broch

After visiting the Trussel Stone and the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, the next stop on Day 2 of our Compass Buster tour would be Dun Carloway Broch. It already seemed like we had seen so much!

Dun Carloway, or in Scots Gaelic Dùn Chàrlabhaigh, was my second favourite part of the day. It is such a fascinating structure and full of so much history. From the moment we started to climb up towards it, I knew that this was not something I had seen before or would see anywhere else.

As you can see from the sign below, Brochs date back to Roman times! These towers are found only in Scotland – particularly the Northern and Western parts of Scotland and the isles.

It was a bit of a climb up to Dun Carloway Broch – but the views along the way were typically Scottish and of course breath taking. I can’t get over how the patches of sunshine make the landscape look even more glorious than it already is! It really truly is majestic.


Dun Carloway Broch is built on a rock on a steep south-slope at the height of 50 metres. It overlooks Loch Carloway and is the best preserved Broch in the Outer Hebrides. Based on the sign below, it is apparent that such structures date back 2,300 to 1,900 years ago! They most likely housed the principal families living in the region at the time.

Brochs consist of drystone towers formed of two concentric walls, with a narrow passage and small cells. – Historic Environment Scotland

The original height of the broch is not known.

“The double skinned drystone walls support each other and make possible a high building of relatively light weight form.”

It’s interesting to note that we were able to explore the broch up close – we could even climb it :O!



That’s how we managed to get the picture below!

There is much debate as to how the internal structure was laid out. Findings show that:

“Excavation in the northeastern room found at least three peat-ovens used in the period 400-700. In this room were also a lot of pottery remains, as well as a fragment of a quern-stone [to grind materials] and a collection of snail shells. The fireplaces contained no animal bones, which makes a domestic (preparing meals) use of the fires seem unlikely.” – Wikipedia

Supposedly, there were three openings in the structure with different rooms on different levels!

On the south side of the entrance-passage is a so-called “guard cell”, a small side room in the hallway. This is most likely the room pictured below:

The views from the Broch were extraordinary!

And the views of this Iron Age tower aren’t so bad either!

Evidence from excavations suggests Dun Carloway may have been used until about AD 1000. It’s also said to have been used as a stronghold by members of the Morrison Clan during the 1500’s.

The Morrisons of Ness put Dun Carloway into use in 1601:

“The story goes that they had stolen cattle from the MacAuleys of Uig. The MacAuleys wanted their cattle back and found the Morrisons in the broch. One of them, Donald Cam MacAuley, climbed the outer wall using two daggers and managed to smoke-out the inhabitants by throwing heather into the broch and then setting fire to it. The MacAuleys then destroyed the broch.” – Wikipedia


I honestly couldn’t get enough of this landscape! It was so mysterious yet obviously lived in, it’s amazing to think that people inhabited this structure long ago!

Supposedly after the broch was destroyed, the stones were taken for construction of other buildings. It was only in 1882 that it became one of the first officially protected monuments in Scotland, in order to prevent further decay.


Today, the site is owned and protected by Historic Scotland.


If you are in the Outer Hebrides, make sure you put Dun Carloway Broch on your list of places to visit. Information on the location, driving instructions and opening times can be found here. You won’t regret it. Its history and picturesque location make it a must-see!

Now, brace yourselves for the next stop and my favourite part of the day: The Callanish Standing Stones!!!

Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’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!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 2 – The Trussel Stone and Gearrannan Blackhouse Village

After a wee break for an epic Iceland holiday, we’re back and ready to take you back to our trip to Scotland. We last left off on Day 2 of our Haggis Adventures Compass Buster 10 day tour!

So, we had just visited the Butt of Lewis and Port Stoth beach and there was much, much, much more to see that day! I already felt like I had seen so much.

Our next stop would be a standing stone! For any of you Outlander fans out there, you may remember we tried to find Jamie Fraser in Ireland at Blarney Castle. Seeing as that didn’t work out, we were more than a little excited to actually be in Scotland where the book took place! The chances of finding Jamie were definitely much higher here than in Ireland, right?! 😛

That being said, Greg drove us up to a place where there were literally no tourists and no big signs indicating that this was a tourist site. This is the site of The Trussel Stone (Clach an Trushal) – said to be the tallest standing stone in all of Scotland.

When I first saw it, in the setting it was in, I felt completely transported to another time! It is interesting to see that there are so many of these structures around Scotland. I also found it really impressive – how could they have been raised and still remain standing to this day?!

The stone is located in the village of Ballantrushal on the west side of the Isle of Lewis. It is 5.8 meters tall above ground! It was just our luck that as we got out of the bus to take a closer look, a local gentleman happened to see our bus and came out of his house to talk to us! Again this was so interesting! We got to hear the story of the stone right from a local Scot who had been living on this land his whole life.

Since we were in the land of folklore and magic, I can’t say I am surprised that this fellow had such a halo around him :-P. Trick of the light or does he have a bit of magic to him? You decide, haha!

As you can see from the picture, he was ready for the elements with his wellies and was very passionate in telling us some of the stories associated with the Trussel Stone.

“Local legend says that it marks the site of a great battle, the last to be fought between the feuding clans of the Macaulays and Morrisons”

He also mentioned that there had been a circle of stones that had stood here thousands of years ago. This is the last remaining stone of that circle. It is also known that you can pinpoint many other circles in the region based on the location of this one, which was an interesting fact – meaning maybe all the stone circles were somehow connected in a way?

It has been found that this stone has no direct relation to any solar or lunar lines, nor stellar constellations. You can find more information on these speculations here. That being said and as I mentioned earlier, it is still a good start to Stone Circle searching in the area and it was amazing to ponder how these structures were lifted and engineered so long ago!

As you can see from the pictures, we did try to channel our inner Claire Randall’s and transport ourselves to Jamie Fraser but…nope it didn’t work. Worth a shot though :-P!

After the gentleman had finished telling us his stories and we had gotten enough photos of this gigantic structure, we headed back to our yellow bus and were on our way to our next stop: the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village!

The Gearrannan Blackhouses were part of a crofting township on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides! These homes were inhabited and used for crofting up to the 1970’s!

The Blackhouses are made of stone with thatched roofs, as you can see from the pictures.

“The double drystone walls, the low profile and the insulating thatch made the houses suitable for the Hebridean weather, and they were indeed eco-friendly houses in that all the building materials were natural and found locally.”

It was after the last residents moved out in the late 1970’s that the whole zone was declared a conservation area.

The inside of some of the houses have been conserved to represent what they were used for in the past. It was interesting to how people lived in these blackhouses – what they had in their homes, their peat fires and some of their traditional activities, including the weaving of the famous Harris Tweed!

Today, the village also serves as an area for holiday accommodations! Because of its location, close to the Callanish Standing Stones and Dun Carloway Broch, this is an ideal place to stay to explore the area!

It is open all year round and there are a great number of activities to partake in around the area including, fishing, hiking, cycling, etc. There is a self-catering hostel on site – though they do advise you to bring your own food since there are no shops in the area! You can find more information on accommodations here.

Another benefit of staying here would be the coastal walk! We, unfortunately, didn’t have enough time to do the walk but the view of the beaches and water below were very tempting!!! Again, I can’t express how shocked I was at the beauty of the beaches in both Ireland and Scotland. I honestly didn’t think that this would be one of the main attractions of both countries, but there you go!

 

As we were leaving, we noticed something we had already gotten to know very well in Scotland: PEAT! This house in particular was already getting ready of the winter and had its peat piles ready to go. Again, very self catering and self sufficient.

Our next stop would be spectacular Dun Carloway Broch and the Callanish Standing Stones.

Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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Reykjavik Walking Tour with CityWalk

After an early check in at our hotel – Icelandair Reykjavik Natura at around 9am, we were just too exhausted from our day of travel that we needed a wee nap. Especially since we had a walking tour of Reykjavik coming up later on at 2:30pm.

After a bit of rest, we were ready to get to know Reykjavik! We always like doing a walking tour when we get into a new city. It helps us get our bearings, find out what we want to see and also to get to know the city from a local guide.

Since our hotel was about a 30 minute walk from the city centre and since we were still a bit weary, we took the city bus in. Once we arrived at Hlemmur Square, we saw that we were still a bit early, so we wandered down by the waterfront before making our way to the walking tour meeting spot.

Reykjavik showed off for us this afternoon, in glorious but cold sunshine!

On our ramble, we spotted a well-known piece of artwork. This is the Sun Voyager, or Sólfar. It is reported to be “a dreamboat, an ode to the Sun and dream of hope, progress and freedom.” It is a very striking sculpture. I found it very stirring – one because we are travelling right now and two because of all the changes that are happening in the world.

Continuing on along Sæbraut, we came upon another Reykjavik landmark – Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre.

What a building!

We loved this building, with the many glass panels of its facade. On this particular day, the glass panels reflected the beautiful sun and clouds in the sky. One of our guides later told us that sometimes they turn the glass panels into a display of the Northern Lights!

It was also a chilly day, so we sought shelter inside to warm up before continuing on and heading to the tour’s meeting spot.

We signed up for the ‘free’ classic walking tour with CityWalk. This is a similar concept to the SANDEMANs New Europe Tours that we have done previously in Dublin and Edinburgh. The tour through CityWalk is free and at the end of the tour, you pay what you feel is fitting for the tour. Reservations are required and all of the information can be found on their website, along with the other tours that they operate.

We arrived at the House of Parliament and met up with our guide for the afternoon – Marteinn. The group had about 20 people or so and once we were all accounted for, we started learning about Iceland and Reykjavik. We got the “winter” version of the tour because of the cold weather, skipping a couple of stops and having a few stops indoors to warm up!

We won’t say too much about each location or the history because it really is much better to experience it yourself than getting it from us! 😋

But we will share some photographs and our thoughts on the tour!

I really enjoyed learning about the history and culture of Iceland and its capital Reykjavik. CityWalk states that their walks are led by a local and history graduate. And that was evident in the information and interest shown by Marteinn. We touched on the history of Iceland, the Vikings, Iceland’s independence, the varied landscapes of this country and… the fact that Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world – having no army, navy or air force. You can walk right up to the Parliament house – there are no armed soldiers guarding it. And in this day and age, that really is something to be proud of! Besides just a history lesson, Marteinn also touched on some more current and possibly controversial topics – Iceland’s stance on women’s rights and gender equality, the homogenous nature of the Icelandic population (even now in 2017) and… the most common website viewed on Sunday mornings to make sure the object of affection you met that Saturday night isn’t related to you! And since we were tourists in Iceland, we also discussed the newly booming tourism industry and how tourism is changing the face and feel of the city and country.

Overall, it was a good introduction to both Reykjavik and Iceland. We got to ses and know some city landmarks and that would later help us to navigate around this city! We would definitely recommend this tour for any first time visitors to Reykjavik ☺️.

After the walking tour, we headed back to our hotel for an early night.

Stay tuned for our next post – our first adventure outside of Reykjavik!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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2016 Best’s! 

2016 seems to have been a tough year for the both of us, a lot of people we know and the world in general 😓 But regardless, we ARE grateful for the experience, all the learnings it brought… and we did have some pretty amazing moments!

So as 2016 comes to an end, here’s a look back at our favourite moments this year!

Over this past year, we’ve gotten a bit addicted to Instagram… ok, maybe a lot! It’s a great place for travel inspirations, photography inspirations, uncanny quotes, silly sayings and memes… 😅

Having said that, here’s our “2016 Best Nine” on Instagram! (Although there are some photographs from 2015!)

The biggest highlight of this year had to be our amazing trip to Italy! We had both been to Italy before but this time, we got the chance to really explore and see it in a different light.

Quite literally!

This photograph was taken the evening we arrived into Pisa from Dublin. It was already past 10pm when we arrived, but we decided to check out the Leaning Tower anyways. And wow! Were we glad we went for this walk!

The illuminated Torre di Pisa teetering against a backdrop of pitch black sky and a glowing moon gave us goosebumps. The plus of visiting Piazza dei Miracoli at night? It was much quieter and less crowded, which made for a better experience.

In the daylight, there was a different atmosphere in the Piazza – visitors as far as we could see. But we did manage to get some fun shots – like this one! We like how we also captured a group of visitors in our photograph with just one gazing photograph!

Our signature gazing photograph 😉

Although Pisa, Florence and Rome were beautiful, our favourite had to be the blissful few days we spent exploring the Cinque Terre National Park.

We loved the apartment we got in Vernazza and that was a great home base as we explored the “Five Lands.” We had an amazing time hiking, wandering the narrow lanes, admiring the views and looking for the most special photographs.

We loved relaxing by the harbour with a bottle of wine. We also loved chasing the sunset from Riomaggiore to Manarola! We just had to catch that iconic shot of Manarola – the one that’s in all the guidebooks!

After an amazing few days, it was time to say goodbye to Vernazza – but we’ll be back there for sure!

Next, we were off to Venice. I hadn’t been to Venice before and I was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. But it was just as beautiful in person as it was in all those travel brochures, the tourism websites and all the pictures on Instagram!

Although it was scorching hot and packed with visitors, there was just a charm to Venice that I couldn’t deny.

And a trip to Italy isn’t complete without talking about Rome! One of the highlights was actually the apartment that we stayed in.

It was right by the Colosseum and made for an amazing view right outside our window, both in the daylight and at night.

It was hard adjusting back to ‘normal life’ after exploring Italy. But good thing we had a beautiful Vancouver summer to enjoy!

After chasing yet another sunset, we settled in (on a crowded beach) for a night of fireworks that lit up the skies around English Bay in Vancouver. The Celebration of Light is always a Vancouver summer highlight!

Then in August, we had a lovely visit in Seattle with our good friend – M. We spent the weekend reminiscing about our Ireland trip and exploring Seattle.

And more recently, a rare-for-Vancouver winter wonderland had us dreaming of snowflakes and snowdays!

We are excited for what 2017 has in store for us! We can’t wait for our trip to Iceland – the countdown begins! 11 days to go! And it seems like every week we are contemplating a trip somewhere… Romania, Greece, Italy, London, Portugal, Spain, Disney World, Harry Potter World… We could go on and on!

So here’s to another year of adventures!

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all a very healthy and happy 2017. Go explore (new places or your own hometown), dare to dream (and dream big!), do something different (step out of your comfort zone) or try a new hobby (ours is calligraphy!) I hope 2017 is everything you imagine it to be and more 😊

Ioana will be taking us back to our Scotland adventures in the new year, but for now – we hope you have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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