Scotland New Years

I headed up to Scotland for a week over New Years 2016 – 2017 with my parents, my brother Adam and his girlfriend, Diana. We went to Aviemore for three days and then back down to Edinburgh for another three days for Hogmanay – the Scottish New Years celebration.

After a considerable amount of trouble collecting our rental car at Edinburgh airport, we finally headed off up North and after an hour stopped in Perth for lunch at a lovely Wetherspoons in an old converted bank. We got a bit lost heading out and ended up driving down country lanes for a few hours, which was actually great because the Scottish countryside is beautiful.

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We arrived in Aviemore as it was getting dark and after collecting some groceries, checked into our rental home in the Silverglades. It’s a really nice resort and all the homes come with a full kitchen and all facilities. After dinner and a few too many whiskeys, Adam, Diana and I headed out to the local pub where we met some Brits from Hertfordshire. They were almost as drunk as me and quite funny – we kept getting into arguments over whether we were cheating at pool or not!

The next day we headed up the Cairngorms Mountain to see what there is to do. We found a reindeer tour and went up a freezing cold windy mountain trail to walk with and feed the reindeer. I didn’t actually feed any because it was too cold to take my hands out my pockets, but I got a lot of photos somehow.

Then we walked through a bunch of wet ground and snow, got our feet wet, took photos of a bridge, had a snowball fight and finally made it back to the car to warm up. Warm, dry and cozy we drove up to the top of Cairngorms Mountain and went to check out the ski and snowboard conditions. To be fair it wasn’t great – despite freezing temperatures and a heavy wind, there was barely any snow and only a few slopes open, maintained by the snow canons. We settled in for a typical ski resort type lunch at the small cafe and then went for a long, freezing hike up the mountain into a horrible mist and gale force winds. It was freezing and horrible but made for some great photos! After finally descending the arctic-like mountain we drove home, stopping for a quick pint at the Highland Inn pub.

The next morning I was thinking of trying out some snowboarding on the slopes, but since the snow conditions still bad I decided against it and joined the others for a whiskey tour at Dalwhinnie Distillery. Luckily for us they were doing free tours all of December, so we got a full tour of the entire distillery, including a tasting of two whiskys. It was quite interesting to see the whole process of how whisky is made, the vats and potstills, and the thousands of old oak barrels it’s all stored in for 15 years. Then we went for a crap lunch and took a thousand photos of a really old bridge that was built to carry corpses over a river… for some reason. Looked pretty though.

On our last day in the Highlands we packed up and checked out of the house, then headed up North to check out the The Glenlivet distillery and Braemar Castle.  On the way we stopped to take some photos of the Avon Bridge and Craggenmore distillery.  Then we drove on to Glenlivet but missed the turning as it wasn’t signposted and, deciding not to double back, continued to the tiny town of Tomitoul which is famous for ice cream and The Whiskey Castle. 

We had some coffee, cake and ice cream and I tasted a small batch whiskey that was matured in an old red wine cask and was from one of only 127 bottles ever made.  It was okay.
Next was on to Braemar Castle, which like most things this time of year was closed to visitors, but we still walked around and took some great photos from the outside, and then did the finally drive back to Edinburgh and dropped off the car.


The first night in Edinburgh we went to watch the torchlight procession and fireworks on Calton Hill.  It was very packed so we couldn’t get onto the hill and didn’t have a great view of the fireworks, but they were very short anyway.  The procession was interesting though and I got some good photos. 

Then we walked through town to the old section and went to a pub called Bannerman’s, which my Mom, my brother and I had all visited together 7 years ago when we were last in Edinburgh.  It hadn’t changed much and we made a funny comparison picture with one of the old photos of Adam.  It was already getting late and didn’t want to be tired tomorrow so we headed home after one pint.

Krakow, Poland

The first weekend of December I visited Poland for the first time with my friend Anna, who’s friend had kindly allowed us to use her apartment in Krakow for the weekend.  It was freezing cold but somehow that suited this beautiful, ancient city.

15356497_10157948403440220_6188196418494837377_nIt was snowing on the first night as we trudged around looking for somewhere nice to eat.  We picked up a bottle of whiskey and sipped it on the way to keep warm, and eventually found a lovely traditional little place that did the best fried potato pancakes with mushroom sauce and meat skewers, and this super-tasty smoked cheese.  The wine was awful though, for some reason, so we had some vodka to drown out the taste.

Then we went to a  club called Prozak that was playing really good trap and hip-hop.  We danced there all night and enjoyed the considerably cheap drinks.  Even though it was Thursday night there was a great vibe and it went on until 4am, presumably because Krakow is largely a student town and let’s be realistic – who actually goes to class on a Friday?  The music and atmosphere were so good we didn’t even get tired, despite dancing almost non-stop the entire time we were there.  Unfortunatey when leaving we found our bottle of whiskey which we had left with the bouncers had been knocked over and smashed, but we’d had such a good time we didn’t mind.

The next day we spent a while trying to find somewhere for breakfast, because I was fixated on getting eggs and bacon, as usual.  However that took so long that we ended up just having lunch instead.  We found another lovely traditional restaurant and shared a half duck and soup with goose dumplings and goats cheese salad, all of which were great.  There seems to be really good food in Poland, something I didn’t know before.  Also excellent beer and vodka, of course.

15317885_10157948401900220_290906182463744715_nAfter lunch we explored the city a bit and discovered a traditional Italian restaurant called Corleon’s, with some interesting statues of mobsters outside.  We didn’t go inside but took some photos with them.  Then we took a long walk around the walls of the city, burning off our huge lunch on the way home.

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We bought another bottle of whiskey on the way home as we were planning to have a little nap and then a few drinks before going out that night. However the nap never happened and a few drinks became more drinks until the bottle was finished, and we were both very drunk and dancing around the living room.  This continued for a few hours until it got dark and we decided we’d need to venture out and find food to sober us up.

We stumbled about for awhile, exploring an Irish bar and the red light district before finding a nice looking pizza place.  I was severly drunk by this point but I remember the pizza being quite good.  Then we went to a strip club because Anna had never been and we thought it would be a laugh, but it was a tiny rubbish one so we only stayed for one drink and declined their kind offers of a ‘lesbian experience’ private dance?!?

We needed to find a club and although Prozak the night before was amazing, we were keen to try something different.   Unfortunately the elusive Jewish quarter, where apparently the best clubs are, was proving difficult to find in our inebriated state and so we ended up in some awful student cheesefest and made a hasty exit after one drink.  By this point it was too cold to wander any longer, so we went with what we knew would be good and returned to Prozak.

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This turned out to be a good decision, as the music was just as good as the night before.  We danced a bit too long and hard to some crazy drum & bass in the second room until I got a blister on my foot and hurt my neck.  15337516_10157948405445220_3399092186787872654_nWe also found another basement room playing some really good Berlin techno, but unfortunately they closed that floor early.  We didn’t stay quite as long this time as we arrived late, but it was enough to sate our clubbing needs and we stumbled home eventually at about 3am.

The following day after some coffee and croissants we explored the Christmas markets and got some exquisite polish kielbasa sausage and sauerkraut for lunch.  Then we had a coffee indoors to warm up, visited one last traditional local pub for a final drink, and headed off to the airport.  All in all an awesome little weekend getaway!