Our second stop in Scotland was at Invergordon. This was a tiny little town but was near a slightly larger city of Inverness. From my research prior to the trip, most of the sights in this area required some form of transportation. We hadn’t pre-arranged any transportation so last-minute a day or two before we arrived we ended up booking a shore excursion through the cruise. One thing that D wanted to see were castles since the Highlands are supposed to be known for them. Also just seeing the scenery and lushness of the area was also something to see. We elected to take a pretty easy trip to Loch Ness (where the famous “Nessie” or Loch Ness monster is supposed to live) along with Urquhart Castle, which lies on the shores of the lake.
Shore excursions often have fairly tight time regulations so we prepared and went to bed early and got up early so we could get to our bus in time. This earlier morning wakeup allowed me to get some nice shots as we pulled into Invergordon – Port of Cromarty Firth (luckily the ship could dock so we didn’t have to take any tenders).
I guess the ocean around these parts have a lot of oil so there are plenty of oil rigs just sitting out in the sea. Invergordon is a port where they drag the oil rigs back towards shore for maintenance and other construction so there were some that were getting retrofitted.
Our tour was mostly a bus tour where we saw a lot of things while in the bus. I tried to get shots of various areas as we made our way to Loch Ness.
We anchored in a waterway near South Queensferry. This is the closest place that a large cruise ship could get people to Edinburgh. South Queensferry is about 10 miles from the middle of Edinburgh. Since we had to anchor offshore, we needed to take tenders (small boats) to the port.
We woke up and got ready a little later (we were on vacation after all) and by the time we reached South Queensferry, it was already later morning. You had 3 main options to get into Edinburgh: bus/shuttle, taxi, and train. The train ride required a bit of a hike up a hill to get to the station. That first day we decided to take the bus into town, which took about 25 minutes. The weather was overcast with some light sprinkling.
The bus dropped us off at St. Andrew Square in the New Town. From there I figured that we would make our way into the Old Town and could start at the Palace of Holyrood house at one end of the Royal Mile and make our way to Edinburgh Castle at the other end.
Holyrood House I learned is where the Queen (Elizabeth II) stays when she visits Scotland. No pictures were allowed inside so I have some pics from outside the Palace. The inside had some neat architecture along with some cool furniture.
So, somehow my entire post did not save and I lost a fully completed post. I’ll re-write it but suspect it won’t be close to the same. In my frustration, I may also shorten it and just throw in a bunch of pictures.
My parents wanted to take D and I on a vacation this year and we eventually settled on a cruise to Iceland. My parents are world travelers and we wanted to find somewhere they haven’t been so the options of places that we wanted to see and they haven’t been were limited. My parents are also pretty big cruiser takers and they suggested a 2 week cruise. I have had some experience with cruises, having been on 6 different ones to various places (Alaska, Hawaii, Caribbean, Mexico) and various cruise lines (Carnival, Princess, NCL). All the previous cruises I’ve been on were 7 days or less so a 2 week cruise was new to me. Also we would be cruising with Holland America, which is known for an older demographic (think retirees). D had never been on a cruise so this was going to be her first experience.
Our itinerary would start in Amsterdam and take us to Scotland (2 ports), Iceland (3 ports) and Norway (2 ports) before returning to Amsterdam. We decided to stay a few extra days in Amsterdam since D hadn’t been there before either. To not be too rushed/stressed about making sure we arrived in time to board the boat, we decided to head to the Netherlands a day early. We had one connecting stop in Seattle and I managed to get a decent shot of Mt. Rainier (I think it was Mt. Rainier).
Our flight from Seattle to Amsterdam was smooth enough though I was stuck in a middle economy seat so wasn’t the most comfortable. I was glad they had individual monitors and I was able to watch a bunch of movies since I couldn’t sleep that well. On arrival, my mom surprised us by actually waiting outside of customs and accompanying us to our hotel for the night (Hyatt Place Airport – actually in a nearby town called Hoofdorp). After getting checked in and taking a quick nap, we walked over to Hoofdorp to get some dinner. We managed to find a Chinese restaurant (which is a cuisine I know my parents are comfortable with and I figured that we wouldn’t have much opportunity for Chinese food while on the cruise).
The walk through town also revealed a quaint little main street area with shops and restaurants. The houses were also quite cute.
For my birthday this year, I said f*ck it and decided to indulge a little.
To get a reservation, you need to be on your game. They only take online reservations nowadays and release tables for a 2 month period at a time. So, a few months ago I put on my calendar when they were opening reservations for May and June and hopped on the site when it opened. I was amazed how quickly times and days booked up…within minutes of opening. I managed to snag a Friday lunch time close to my actual birthday.
I’ve never actually dined at multi-starred Michelin fine dining restaurant before, so wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I specifically didn’t want to read too much about other’s experiences because I didn’t want to go into the meal with bias. I read maybe 1 review but mostly for logistics about parking, etc. Prior to this, the only experience at Michelin starred restaurant was at one-starred Solbar in the Solage resort in Calistoga.
We have many numerous trips to Napa so getting there I was on autopilot and didn’t have to worry about directions and which way to go. There was the expected traffic on a Friday morning so we had planned accordingly. We arrived early to Yountville and sat on a bench in front of the French Laundry’s garden (across the street from the restaurant). It was a beautiful day though a bit warm (still I am amazed at just how much cooler it is in Napa than it is in Sac).
Even though it was still a little bit before our reservation, we were anxious to get in and start the experience so we walked through the famous blue doors early.
Just inside the door was a small lobby that felt almost like a boutique hotel/B&B. We were led upstairs to our table immediately. The decor and feel of the place was much like you were eating in someone’s home.
Two weekends ago for the Cesar Chavez holiday, we took road trip over to the coast, north of SF. We hadn’t been to the Bodega Bay before and thought it’d be fun. We found a nice quiet Air BnB that allows dogs. Since check in wasn’t until 3 pm, we woke up on Friday and did our normal thing and packed and finally left the house after lunchtime. It was a relatively short drive that took us past Napa and Sonoma and through Petaluma up into Sebastopol, a small town about 7 miles west of Santa Rosa. Our Air BnB was actually located a few more miles west of this area up in a little hill/mountain area. I really liked that there was a grove of Redwoods right outside the getaway.
After getting settled in, we took the dog with us to one of the dog-friendly beaches, Doran Beach. This was basically a small finger-like projection from the land and was the southern border of Bodega Bay. When we arrived, it was low tide in Bodega and it looked more marsh-like than an actual bay. Later on when we drove by it another day, it looked more like a bay and ocean so it was cool to see the two different levels. Along this litter sliver of land were a bunch of people camping right by the beach and water. The last time I camped was in MI where you drive up to the camp area and set up a tent. Most people on this beach area had trailers or campers but also had some tents set up. Reminded me of a different life I had.