The palace in Spain is so incredible! Unfortunately they very strictly enforce a no photo policy so I don’t have as much to share with you as I’d like, but please enjoy photos from the squares and streets of Madrid 🙂
I’m nearing the end of my trip as I arrive in Spain, but most definitely the beginning of meeting up with some friends and family! I’m not the only med school grad criss-crossing the European continent before residency begins back in the US in July… I was able to meet my aunt, uncle and cousin here in Spain. Lastly, I have a friend from college who now calls Munich her home, as well as my new friend from along the backpacking trail. Fingers crossed that I’ll see them all, however briefly, over the next few days!
I arrived late Wednesday night to Madrid following a delayed flight from Edinburgh via London Heathrow. After a quick bite at the hostel the next morning I left to meet my family who coincidentally was staying at an Airbnb just around the corner. We jumped into the cars and took off towards the northern mountains. As we went winding up into the mountains we got absorbed into the mountain mist. We caught glimpses of the snow capped peaks and crested over to staggeringly beautiful views of the northern plains, stretching out in gorgeous green as far as the eye can see. We stopped at Él Escorial to walk around the small area (sense the sarcasm), and visit the Palacio Real de la Granja de San Ildefonso.
We also share a truly special moment where the owner of the restaurant we had lunch at came out to tell us the story of her family’s restaurant and to help present their delicacy: suckling pig… This is supposed to be such tender meat and crunchy skin so that you can cut it in half using a plate as your knife. This honor was awarded to me, so I did as instructed: dedicated the pig to my friends, cut the pig with the plate, and smashed the plate on the floor. I’ve always wanted to throw a dish so that rewarding, and of course the pig was as promised and absolutely fantastic.
I hope to have a full day in Madrid tomorrow before I head to to the airport for Munich!
My last few days have been awesome. I got to go on a bus tour of the surrounding countryside, try new food (including more haggis and some whiskey) and meet new friends (including the fabulous Adele from Aussieland).
Driving through the countryside, I am enchanted. The landscape on the way out of Edinburgh is hazy with mist and dotted with many wee lambs in amongst the damp greenery. Small villages and farmhouses straddle the edges of farming estates, and we occasionally pass by paddocks with horses grazing. The hills gently roll away under the surprisingly bright blue sky, and patches of wild flowers flash their colors at us. If this is my redemption for the loss of my phone, I gratefully accept it.
Throughout the trip, our guide peppers in history lessons with songs by the proclaimers, Dougie McClain, and other Scottish songwriters. We pass by swaths of prickly gorse bushes (like natural border fences, yellow and ouch!), and learn about the union of the Scotts and the Picts.
We arrived at Blair Atholl and took in the castle and gorgeous grounds.
Next we moved on to a lovely hiking spot and a few other scenic overlooks before finishing the day at Killecrankie Gorge.
There’s an old tale I particularly like about Robert Bruce when he was fighting against the English (you know, the Scottish national pastime). He’s lost 6 battles and has gone into hiding in a cave in the highlands. It’s a stormy night out, the storm churning up the landscape outside. As he sits in sullen disappointment in his defeats, he looks to the entrance of the cave and sees a wee spider. This miniscule creature begins to lay down 1, 2, 3 strings of its webs before they get washed away by the rain. It tries again and the wind rips through the delicate strands. Again and again it tries, 6 times, to fix its web before it finally succeeds on the 7th try and settles in to wait for its prey. After watching this Bruce thinks to himself, “if this wee creature can persevere on behalf of its home and overcome a foe bigger than itself, so I must try for Scotland.” So he returns to fighting the English. If you know history, his story is not so poetic as this inspiring call to arms at all times, as he murdered one of his greatest rivals in a church (Greyfriars) where they were supposed to come to an agreement.
I have enjoyed my time here immensely and I will be sad to go. Like its people, Scotland’s history exhibits strength and grit and resolution of will. I can understand why Adele was traveling through here, and just ended up staying. With the mist burning off the basalt rock that thrusts Edinburgh castle into the sky, I find myself with a similar impulse not to leave.
So I would have loved to share the many beautiful photos test I took when I was in Glasgow, particularly those of a Socttish wedding that I took, but unfortunately my phone got stolen on Sunday morning and I have nothing backed up (port hostel wifi). That also upended my plans to go see my old family town of Annbank near the more well known town of Ayr, as well as the Highland games up in Gourock, as I spent most of the day trying to find my phone. After I finislly admitted to it being stolen I spent a significant amount of time trying to secure my accounts and getting new access to everything on my new temporary UK phone.
Anyway, the rest of my time in Scotland has been lovely and I will happily share my stories and photos from Edinbourgh and the surrounding area.
I’m at my hostel in Glasgow after my first experience traveling by overnight bus. First off, I have to say, that my initial thought upon boarding was that crazy bus in Harry Potter that you can hail with your wand and has a wacky assortment of characters. However, I must say that the trip was actually quite smooth (no flying for us) and I slept nearly the entire time.
I’m going to grab a quick bite and then start my exploration of Glasgow.