Hi again! As I am approaching a little over one month of arriving in Aix, I have had so many great adventures, and I have met some friends I will keep for life. I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel to Avignon, Pont du Gard, Monaco and Nice. All of the students went to Avignon the second day of orientation to visit the Cites des Papes and the huge aqueduct, Pont du Gard. The following weekend, my friends and I took a trip to Monaco! We went to Monte Carlo, watched the changing of the guard and explored the city and cathedrals. Last weekend, we were in Nice for the 150th anniversary of Carnaval! There was a huge parade with floats and lots of lights! We also explored the beach during sunset before the parade! These mini excursions are so fun and this coming weekend I will be in the small coastal town of Cassis for a day!
Take Me Home, Country Roads
One of the most incredible sights in Scotland is the Isle of Skye. The Isle of Skye, or ‘Cloud Island’ in Old Norse, is the second-largest of Scotland’s islands located in the highlands. It is only 50 miles long thus many famous sites can be explored in one trip. So, when my boyfriend came to visit last week, that is exactly what we did.
Many of my friends studying abroad have had members of their family come out to visit them. Being so close to my family I wanted them to come visit me so badly so that I could show them all the amazing things I have seen since being here. However, some of my family do not have passports and the others can’t afford a trip to Europe. But, by saving money and doing extensive planning my boyfriend was able to go on a week-long trip to see me. Of course I showed him around Glasgow by going to our favorite restaurants, museums, and exploring the University. We took a trip to Edinburgh to see the Christmas Markets and even though I had just been there the week before I still bought more gifts for myself and others. I also tried mulled wine for the first time and fell in love with the fruity drink.
In the middle of the week we took a bus to Inverness where we stayed for two nights. Inverness was a beautiful town in the Highlands and I fell in love with it the minute we got off the bus. The buildings were old like Glasgow but since it was a town in the country it was much less crowded, cleaner, and more small-town. Being from Montana, I love the country small-town vibes. There were Christmas decorations everywhere on the streets, the people were so kind, and the shops were incredible. We found an old bookstore that is nearly as old as the town itself. When we walked into the shop with all wooden walls and floors I instantly smelled the wood furnace heating the place. It reminded me so much of my great-grandparents’ ranch in Montana, I couldn’t help but smile and stare at the fire while my boyfriend sifted through the old books.
We stayed at the Kingsmills hotel near the edge of town which was just as beautiful. The staff was so nice and let us check into our room early since we took the morning bus into town. Our room was big and a part of it was in one of the small towers coming off the building.
The second day in Inverness we took a bus tour through Isle of Skye. We saw the Urquhart Castle, Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh, River Sligachan, Portree, Old Man of Storr, and the Kilt Rock. It was a beautiful trip and our driver stopped at a few places to allow pictures of the amazing gorge and cliffs near the sea. The driver also brought a huge bag of carrots and stopped to let us feed some highland cows near the road. I can’t decide which part of the tour was my favorite because every small excursion was amazing. It was the best thing I have seen in Scotland so far and it meant so much to me that I could share the adventure with my boyfriend.
The highlands were interesting to me because even though the basic Scottish culture is still the same I noticed differences between the people in Glasgow versus the people in Inverness and Portree. The highlanders had more of a small-town attitude. I am not sure how to describe it best, but it reminded me of my cousins, aunts, and uncles in Montana. They took so much pride in the place they lived and it seemed like when you grow up in the highlands you never leave and to them there is nothing wrong with that. It seemed like accents were a bit thicker and just different than people in Glasgow but not harder to understand. Though, I may just be getting used to how people talk in Scotland.
My boyfriend and I’s two-year anniversary was on November 21st and he came to visit just a week later. We said the trip was to celebrate our anniversary and Christmas since he would be out of town visiting his family for Christmas when I return to the States. At first, I was worried that it would bug me not getting him a Christmas or anniversary present, but that was not the case at all. This trip is the best present we could have ever given each other and it is memories we will carry forever.