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2018 in Review

Exactly how late is too late to wish someone a Happy New Year? I feel like the first two weeks of January are fair game, but today might be at or past the point in time where we all just need to move on with it. In any case, I do hope your 2019 is going well and that your resolutions are holding strong, or that you have gleefully dismissed them altogether in favor of something more fun.

I’m looking back on 2018 with a fondness of mainly travel memories and items crossed off of the ol’ bucket list. Chris and I added three new countries to our tally and revisited a couple of favorites. We found ourselves in Honduras, St. John, Scotland, Thailand, Cambodia, and Colorado (plus day trips around the DC/MD/VA area and into West Virginia as well). We cheered as our beloved Washington Capitals skated their way through the playoffs and went on to win the Stanley Cup! Our love for live music was fulfilled by attending several concerts including The Killers, Matt & Kim, The Smashing Pumpkins, 311, and CHVRCHES. We celebrated with friends as they exchanged wedding vows on a beautiful day in August, we celebrated our own 11-year wedding anniversary picnic-style in one of our favorite parks, and we celebrated the holiday season with family (and breweries).

I’ve now sat here for five minutes trying to remember any major lowlights of 2018, but oddly enough I’m not coming up with any! I asked Chris, and he can’t recall anything either. Cheers to that, and I hope you and yours have a lowlight-free 2019!

 

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Photo Friday – Lantern Festival

I can’t wait to write more about our trip to Thailand (and Cambodia!), but just haven’t carved the time out to do so yet. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite images of the trip. The Yee Peng (or Yi Peng) Festival is the reason we scheduled our travels in November, and it did not disappoint! More soon.

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Scotland 2018 Snapshot

And now it’s time for my Scotland snapshot post! I’ve rounded up some of the highlights (and one lowlight) and random moments from our trip to Glasgow and Speyside this past summer.

Trip Details

Chris and I flew Iceland air round-trip from IAD – GLA on July 3rd through the 9th. We stayed one night at the Radisson Blu Glasgow before taking a rental car up to Speyside for three nights. We stayed at The Station Hotel in Rothes, and then returned to Glasgow for one night (and stayed at the Radisson Blu again) to attend TRNSMT Fest.

Wish List

This is a new section of the snapshot posts! I usually make a little wish list before each trip of extra things I try to make sure we eat, see, or do outside of our main activities, and I thought it would be fun to share the list in this post.

  • photograph the Craigellachie bridge (drone photo)
  • eat shortbread & go to the Walkers shop
  • have afternoon tea
  • eat sticky toffee pudding
  • eat at The Mash Tun (haggis nachos!)
  • see Balvenie Castle
  • see/photograph highland cows
  • go to the top of the Lighthouse for views of Glasgow

We managed to do all of the Speyside items on my list except afternoon tea – it just didn’t end up fitting into our schedule. I also didn’t take a drone photo of the Craigellachie bridge since there were always people around and I didn’t want to disturb anyone, but we did take non-aerial photos of it. And then the one thing I wanted to do in Glasgow, go to the top of the Lighthouse, ended up being closed. Boo. But seeing highland cows again was really at the top of my list and I did get to do that, so yay!

Best Moment

Chris’s favorite moment was the Balvenie tasting. My favorite moment was a tie between playing with the highland cows and dancing to The Killers at TRNSMT Fest. But despite our wildly different highlights, we always manage to have a great time together. 🙂

Worst Moment

I’m a pretty big rule-follower and people-pleaser AND I really try hard to represent Americans well when we travel, so I felt pretty sheepish when I was chased away from Balvenie Castle for flying my drone there. I really didn’t think I was disturbing anyone since there were no visitors, but there is a private residence fairly close to the castle so I imagine they don’t want a drone overhead. I wasn’t filming the residence at all and didn’t even fly over it, but I understand. Womp womp. Hopefully my photo isn’t plastered anywhere with “Bad American” written on it. I did get a pretty photo at least (see Favorite Photos below).

Funniest Moment

There was a very enthusiastic (tipsy and/or high?) Scottish woman at TRNSMT Fest who put her arm around my waist a few times to dance with me during The Killers. She also kept grabbing our arms to joyfully pump them in the air to the music. Neither of us are used to a stranger entering our personal space like that! Chris was a little traumatized by it, but I found her fun and hilarious. And I thought I videoed a bit of us dancing, but my iPhone lens must have been switched to the wrong side. All I have is this blurry snapshot showing half of her face:

Best Meal

We loved our Mexican small plates dinner at Topolabamba in Glasgow (that was Chris’s favorite meal), but the best thing I ate was the sticky toffee pudding at The Station Hotel restaurant, Toots. We ended up eating it more than once and I don’t even feel bad about it. That little cup of toffee sauce is liquid joy.

Something We Learned

We learned all about the cooper’s job in the whisky making process. I had no idea that the bourbon and sherry casks used for the aging stage were disassembled, modified, and reassembled before using them to age the whisky. It was fascinating to watch them at work.

We’re Thankful We Packed

Light. We needed plenty of room in our suitcases on the way back to bring home several souvenir bottles of whisky, so it was good that we packed as few things as possible.

Pro tip: I always pack one of these packable totes in my suitcase in case I need the extra space for carrying souvenirs home. In this situation, I put some stuff from my suitcase into the tote as a carry-on so that we could put whisky bottles (liquids) in the suitcase as checked baggage.

We Didn’t Need To Bring

Rain gear! We had amazing weather the entire time and never needed our rain jackets.

Trip Regrets

I wish we could have squeezed in a few more days to see more of the Scottish countryside.

Reasons To Go Back

We always want to go back to Scotland! No specific reasons needed, but we do have Isle of Skye, Campbeltown, and the highlands on our short list.

Favorite Photos

 

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Moving Pictures: Scotland 2018

In addition to all of the photos from Speyside and Glasgow, I also put together a short little video of our trip. It was my second time filming video footage with the DJI Mavic Pro! (Other clips are from the GoPro and my point-and-shoot.) Hope you like it!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of my links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for reading and for your support!

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Hotel Love: The Station Hotel

Choosing which of the many whisky distilleries to visit in Speyside might be a difficult task, but selecting a hotel for our whisky trail experience ended up being fairly easy and painless. There are several towns along the trail that make a good base for distillery-hopping, so my advice is to narrow down the distilleries you plan to visit and then see what accommodations are central to your selections, or at least close to one of them. Everything is pretty much within a 10 or 15-minute drive in between stops, so you won’t end up spending too much time in the car either way.

Chris selected eight whisky distilleries in the region to visit and we decided to stay at The Station Hotel in Rothes, which is in walking distance of Glen Grant (one of the eight on our list).

Our room is pictured below on the second floor above the front entrance and the restaurant, Toots. Normally that location would be a deal-breaker for me due to the noise potential, but the Glenrothes suite was so beautiful and comfortable I didn’t want to move to another room, and it ended up being quiet enough and super comfortable.

The super spacious Glenrothes suite offers a wonderful view of the centre of Rothes town, although when we visited in mid-summer we kept the shades drawn most of the time to help with the sun and heat. The room warmed up rather quickly! The first night we did have a little trouble sleeping with the windows open due to the street noise, but the second night I cranked up my white noise machine and drowned out the sound of the lorries passing by. And let’s be honest, a day of whisky tasting probably also helped with the sleeping.

With a clawfoot tub, marble tile, natural light, and a towel warmer, I couldn’t love the spacious, spotless bathroom more. Fluffy robes and beautiful toiletries rounded out the list of reasons this might have been my most favorite hotel bathroom ever.

And of course, a proper trailside hotel offers Speyside whisky upon arrival.

If you don’t get your fill on the trail or if there’s a whisky brand you would like to try, the bar & bistro on the ground level, Toots, has an impressive selection of spirits and a cozy atmosphere in which to have a wee dram. Not pictured, The Spirit Safe on the same floor is another option for drams and cocktails.

And while Speyside is all about the whisky, we thoroughly enjoyed our dining options at the hotel as well. I tried Welsh rarebit for the first time (yum!), and Toots offers an amazing sticky toffee pudding that we may or may not have eaten more than once.

Our three nights at The Station Hotel provided just what we needed at the end of our long days touring Speyside’s distilleries, and we would absolutely stay there again! And we would order the sticky toffee pudding again (and again). In fact, if you don’t stay at the hotel, it’s worth popping by just for dessert.

Note: The hotel did not sponsor this post – we just really enjoyed our stay!

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