Monday, March 11, 2024

Birthday Party (Part 3)

So, if you travel for the government and your flight is longer than a certain number of hours, you are authorized a "rest stop". I took advantage of this on the way back to the US.  I flew out of Bahrain on Wednesday night and landed in Edinburgh, Scotland on Thursday morning at 0600.  I extended my "rest stop" for several days since it was my BIRTHDAY and #TreatYoSelf... especially if that flight is PAID FOR!!!

I almost chickened out.
I'll admit it.
I almost chickened out of going to Edinburgh and just opted to spend a few days in London instead because it was easier, but then I found the absolute, most adorable hobbit hole on AirBnB.  It was a over a week later when I finally purchased my plane tickets, at which point I knew I was allowed to stop in Edinburgh, and THEN I finally just embraced the Good Idea Fairy.  

Embracing the Good Idea Fairy meant accepting all those "OMG I SHOULD...." instead of letting me talk me out of doing the thing... like taking the train from Edinburgh to London and staying in London for a night to tourist instead of flying directly to BWI from Edinburgh.  But I knew the Good Idea Fairy was on to something when the Hobbit Hole AirBnB was still available when I went to book.  So I went with my heart's desire for my entire Scotland trip.


I landed in Edinburgh at 0600 on Thursday morning.  Thankfully, I had taken a nap on the plane.  After picking up my rental car, I headed to a town near-ish to where the Hobbit Hole was for breakfast and meandering until I could check in at 10.  My gracious host agreed to let me check in early since I was coming in so early.

Breakfast was a poached egg and mushrooms on toast with a gravy.
I am smitten with offering of mushrooms at breakfast.

I walked around Falkirk for a short bit to pass the time after breakfast.


You're like the bairns o Fa'kirk
you'll end ere you mend

The handle of the Lonely Broomstick

A 1000% Harry Potter store.

This is not the Formula 1 of Bahrain, lol.

When I got to the Hobbit Hole, I was greeted by the host who toured me around the tiny space. I was smitten.  She also provides cereal, coffee, homemade pancakes (made by her sister), fresh eggs, fresh milk, and fresh OJ.  And if that wasn't over the top, when she was showing me the space, I asked if there was a laundry machine that I could use since I was coming off a 2 week business trip.  She apologized there was no laundry machine in the Hobbit Hole.. but then she offered to wash a load of clothes for me.  Yall.  17 stars of 5 for this lady.  She explained that she used to travel for work and she'd been in my shoes before.  I wanted to hug her.  Instead, I created a small bag of Middle East goodies for her as an appreciation gift for letting me check in early and for providing me with clean underwear for the weekend.

OH ANDDDDDD... She "warned" me that she had big dogs and I was like, YAS PLEASE.  So when she went back to the house, she let a few of the dogs out.  I was in heaven. Great Danes and 1 Newfie.

much drool.

These cars always make me giggle to myself.

After getting settled... I had to come up with a plan. Coincidentally, someone who we ride motorcycles with in MD was also in Edinburgh at the same time as me, so we agreed to meet up at the castle, walk the Royal Mile, then have dinner.

The cemetery for soldiers' dogs. /sob

Mons Meg and Me Meg

Mons Meg is actually a big cannon.
Me Meg is just a little cannon.


Lizzie and I touristing!

Keep me flotin

We made a quick stop at the new Parliament building to check out the gift shop.
These Parly-mints did NOT disappoint.

I didn't actually hike Arthur's Seat, but we did at least lay eyes on it.

For dinner, we hit up MUMS Great Comfort Food.  We were not disappointed.  Life lesson: When in the Scotland, always order the hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate with Flake and whipped cream.

Bangers and mash (front) and shepherd's pie (back)

Sticky toffee pudding for dessert... as I do.

This never gets old.
Probably because I always need the reminder.
Also appreciate that I was taught to look BOTH ways.

Edinburgh Castle from the back.

I was definitely tired when I finally got back to the Hobbit Hole, but there was zero chance I wasn't taking advantage of the hot tub before going to bed.


I didn't really have a set agenda for each day while I was in Scotland.  I knew I wanted to spend some time in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, but wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do.  Because I'd been in Edinburgh on Thurs, I opted for Glasgow on Friday, with a stop at Stirling Castle on my way.

William Wallace Memorial from Stirling Castle

These bathroom designators made me lol.

The FRIGHT! lol

After a guided tour of the castle, I set out of Glasgow in the rain.  It wasn't great and I had a shituation when trying to find parking (props to that parking/security guard who told me about a secret parking solution that ended up working out). I ended up eating an overpriced, overly fancy lunch that I did not actually enjoy because I was hangry and didn't properly check the Googly.  I had to eat before I could go visit the dead people at the necropolis (which I wasn't overly interested in, TBH).  At I finally crested the top of the hill, as I was getting really irritated with doing this thing that I wasn't really in the mood to do... I looked up and there was a super vivid rainbow.

It was the perspective shift I needed to get through the rest of my time in Glasgow.  I stood and took in the sights for a few mins in the rain and finally walked back down to Glasgow Cathedral. 

In a hunt for castles/ruins, I accidently ended up at the Celtic Football Club where practice was going on... and then I may have done some shady trespassing.

This is not the castle ruins I was looking for.

Just some cows having dinner.

My trespassing led me to Lennox Castle... at dusk.  Yall, don't be like me.  That's the biggest takeaway here.  After a .75 mile walk to the ruins, I was greeted by a fence around the perimeter. HUGE disappointment.. so I kept walking around, hoping that someone had been more sketchy than me.  THEY HAD!  YAY!  So there was a break in the fence and I was able to get into the yard and climb the rubble into the ruins.  

The absolute most creepy tire swing...
especially since it was rainy and windy and everything was creaking and the swing was just..swinging in the breeze.

It got dark pretty quickly so I didn't stay for long since I didn't want to break my leg while being alone in castle ruins while trespassing.  I decided to cross back to the road through the woods since there was another break in the fence... Questionable life choice as it was getting darkerrrrr and it started raining and the leaves were slippy.  Additionally, I forgot that there was a big bank/drop off to the road... and what with the recent surgery and lack of ability to do laundry, I couldn't jump down OR lay on my stomach and slide down the bank.  Soooo I walked back to where the wall was scalable.. in the rain.. in the dark.

From the ground, the drop wasn't that far, but standing on the bank,
I was pretty sure if I jumped, I'd die.

After that adventure, I was starving and opted for fish and chips for dinner.  I looked for a well-rated chip shop on googly that was on my way back to the Hobbit Hole.  I definitely proved my tourist self when I went in to order and I didn't know how to order fish and chips properly.  But I persevered.

This fishy was HUGE.
I ate the fishy.  I did not eat all the chips.

Also, this ketchup packet changed my life and validated why America sucks.

Stopped in a quikmart and discovered these cookies which made me lol.

And then after scarfing down my greasy, hot, delicious dinner, I headed back to the Hobbit Hole for more pre-bedtime hot tub time.

The loaner phone I got through work didn't do the work my Pixel could have.. but the sky was perfection in Scotland.  Because it was so windy, the clouds would clear away and you'd be able to see huge swaths of sky and then they'd come back and you'd have to look at the stars in a different spot.


For my birthday, I decided to go to a glass blowing shop and watch them make glass and buy a souvenir, find some standing stones, then finish off the day with some highland cows.  Unfortunately for me, the glass blowing shop isn't operational on the weekend.. boo.  I did buy my souvenir and got some feedback on where to find highland cows.


Birthday indulgences = stopping on the side of the road for sunrise brook photos.

Birthday indulgences also = stopping on the side of the road for random road sign selfies.

I found the highland cows I was told about, but I couldn't get good photos so I opted to return to my original plan of finding them south of Edinburgh.  Instead of squirreled when I was driving through a village and noticed a monument (Melville Monument) at the top of a mountain-hill... and I decided to go to that monument.  Then instead of driving up to it (not actually an option, I later learned), I saw a pull off for a hike area and opted to do a birthday hike.  

Let me just set this scene for you.  I'm in tourist clothes.  I'm wearing jeans and a scarf and a snow coat.  I'm NOT wearing athletic clothing.  I'm not carrying any water... but it's fine.. I'm just going to go saunter around the woods because I'm older and wiser...  Again, don't be like me... Unless you like adventures and chaos.. but then always remember that I told you not to be like me.

The hike to Deil's Cauldron through the woods was perfect.  There were streams and waterfalls and a solid path to follow.

So the hiking path wandered up the hill, and ultimately led back to the road.. where, apparently, you would find the trail for the monument to climb the mountain to get there.  Yall, I did not find said trail, so I off-roaded for a stint until I could make it to the "trail"...

I'm comin' for you!

How TF do I get up there though?
Please note what I am wearing.  There is NOT a sports bra on my body.

Much confuse.

the "trail"


It was a fucking HIKE.
I climbed a fucking MOUNTAIN on my birthday... which is essentially my personal analogy for this entire year.  If I can climb a mountain 3 months after back surgery.. I can do almost anything.
The views were phenomenal. Totally worth it.

There wasn't much to do at the top beside take photos and other hikers were starting to trickle up and there was already a group at the top when I arrived, so I headed back down, victorious.  On my way down, I went slower, appreciating all the things I hadn't noticed or appreciated on my way up.

Apparently we smush coins into tree stumps?

Big booty Judy out here.

Rock piles

Literally climbed a mountain.
715ft ascended.

I was VERY glad to finally get back to the car, as it was starting to rain.

A little library in an old phone booth!  So much joy!

After climbing a mountain, I headed toward some standing stones that I'd found on the googly.  They turned out to be in the middle of a field and I had to pull off the side of a busy highway to get this photo.  Very much underwhelming.  Originally I had considered doing a day trip to visit several spots with standing stones, but I wasn't really feeling a 4 hour drive for big rocks, so these had to check the box.

Then, I headed towards lunch-dinner and the COOS!


I absolutely loved how moody Scotland was.  It would be raining one minute and sunny the next.  There were rainbows!  Yes, this is science, but I love it, kthx.

The farm I ended up at was called Swanston Farm.  I was looking for a place where I could get haggis and also find the highland coos nearby and this farm checked both boxes!

Always get the hot chocolate.

mac and cheese with haggis.

After late lunch, I headed out on, yet another, hike (ascent of 440 ft this time) to go find some shaggy coos.  Thankfully it wasn't raining, but it was still VERY windy.

Spring is on the way!

Made a horsey friend hunting for coos.

The literature explained that the cows aren't snuggly, so it was recommended you keep a safe distance from them. I have a healthy respect of things that are bigger than me, so this was no problem.

From sand to shit, these shoes saw it all on this trip.


After walking with the coos, I finally made my way back to the car since it got more windy and started to drizzle.  I stopped in Edinburgh for birthday "cake" (sticky toffee pudding) and to grab some souvenirs.  The place I wanted to go was absolutely slammed since it was a tiny pub and there was a football (soccer) game going on, so I ended up somewhere else, which was fine.  I blew out the table candle for my birthday wish.  #notsorry.

After grabbing some magnets and an adorable coo jacket, I headed back to my final night with the Hobbit Hole hot tub.


So in true Megan fashion, I very much planned this trip.  But, there was A LOT of planning going on.. and I made a mistake, which I realized when I arrived to the train station, after getting up earlier than I wanted to, to drop off my rental car and catch and uber to the train station... my ticket that I had pre-purchased so I could reserve a seat was for the day prior. UGHHHHH.  There was nothing they could do for me at the station, so they gave me the number for customer service to call about getting a refund for an unused ticket.  Then I bought another ticket for the first train to London that wasn't departing for another 85 minutes.  Sigh.  Did I mention don't be like me?

Anyways, I made it on the train and made it down to London.  Thankfully, I found a seat at a table with quiet people who respected the rules of transit.  UNfortunately, the table of youths next to us had been drinking before they stepped foot on the train at 0945.  They continued drinking for the duration of the train ride (3.5 hours for them, 4 for me).  We also had a long stop because there were two women on the train who looked like sex workers and there were grumbles that they didn't have tickets.  IDK what happened, we couldn't hear, even though we tried, but they were allowed to finish their journey on the train.

The man across the table from me suggested that after we arrived to Kings Cross, I should stop at St. Pancras Hotel and get a drink at the bar.  He even escorted me there and carried my heavy ass bag up the stairs (which I think he regretted about 4 stairs up).  The bar was very fancy and I hadn't eaten lunch, so I had a cocktail and then a delicious mocktail and headed to my budget hotel down the street.

This ...gem.. was in the parking lot at St. Pancras.

A hotel where the window opens!?! Only in Europe.

It was extremely difficult to pry myself off the bed in the hotel because after an eventful morning and a very long adventure, I was very tired.. but I had ONE night in London and I had to take advantage of it since I'd never been to London before!

When you take the Underground so you can see the city, but then quickly learn why it's called... 

Leaving the room was absolutely worth it for these dusk/night views:
the Capitol building in the skyline wrinkling my brain about what country I'm in, lol.

I was pursuing menus in Chinatown for dinner when a friend who used to live in London messaged me with recommendations for dinner and dessert.  I immediately took her recommendations.

The Barbary for dinner.

Then dessert at La Gelateria.

Then I was le tired from all the walking about town and headed back to the hotel to be horizontal for a while.

I love that the signs said "way out" rather than "exit".
English English vs American English is always so alluring to me.

Made the obligatory stop at Platform 9 3/4 since I was at Kings Cross without my luggage.
Unfortunately, the tourist trap items were already stored for the evening, so I made due with a stranger and my silly self.


My flight from Heathrow to Baltimore departed at 3:30, so I needed to be at the airport by noon, which gave me a few hours in the morning to do something.  It was also up for debate if I wanted to take the train to Heathrow or just take an Uber.  I ultimately decided to take an Uber since I didn't want to deal with my 2 suitcases on the train.. especially if I wasn't going to get to see anything.  Also, an Uber would be reimbursed by work since it was part of my actual commute home, so.. yeah.

Ultimately, I ended up grabbing breakfast at a small shop and then stopping at the British Library for some touristy things and checking out the library... because why not?

St. Pancras in the daylight!

Mushrooms instead of beans = solid life choices.

The museum had a Fantasy genre exhibit and their FREE Treasures of the British Library exhibit.  I could have spent half a day in the Treasures exhibit.  The Fantasy exhibit was fine, but I only paid for it to support a library.

As a reader, I appreciated all of the books in so many ways.  Some of my favorites were the ones I read for school.  Kinda gives you another level of appreciation when you get to see the original.  Except for Beowulf. No appreciation for that bullsheet.

After the library, I headed back to my hotel to gather my bags and summon an Uber.  Almost an hour long drive to get to the airport, which would have been slightly longer on the train, and the trip was almost to a close.

I love finding things with my name on them out in the wild.
I'm here for all the novelty.

At the airport, I FINALLY found Teh Sister's candy that I'd been searching for the entire time I'd been away from the US.  Apparently, Galaxy Ripple > Cadbury Flake, per Teh Sister.  Anyways, I did my sisterly duty and bought her candy.  

Since I had time to burn, I stopped at a restaurant for late lunch, since I wasn't sure about the food situation on the flight home.  We left at 3:30pm and arrived in Baltimore at 8pm.. 

Tea and scones...
Being as English as possible for my last stint.
TBH, those scones were more like strawberry biscuits and they were fantastic.

Goodbye not America!!

The flight wasn't full, so I asked if I could move to a different seat (mostly due to the lady in my row having bathed herself in perfume for her flight).  I ended up grabbing this baby because someone had spilled something in the seat, so I asked the attendant for a blanket to sit on.. and voila, ALL THE LEG ROOM for the tiny leg bisch.

I purposely did not sleep on the flight home so I'd be ready for bed when I got home.  Teh German was tracking my flight and was waiting for me at the airport when I emerged.  

While my adventures were absolutely phenomenal, it was definitely good to be home.
Also, I'm ready to go on another work trip as soon as they want to send me.

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