Published: January 18th 2011September 17th 2010
Wow, I'm sure word of mouth moves faster than we do. Lots to catch up on, but since we've settled it feels like week after week is same ol' same ol'. Well, here goes.
We arrived into London at St. Pancras station around noon on August 31st. After checking out a map and figuring out where the hostel we booked was we decided to huff it. Unfortunately our time in London was very 'work' oriented. Since it was the end of our planned two month vacation we spent the next couple days looking at where we'd like to spend our time in the UK and working on our CVs. We were there on a day between orientations so we decided that our first day we could find SWAPs sister company. We worked on CVs, had a flip through the job binders, and ate lunch across the street at a nice little pub. The next day we headed again to the office and kept working on CVs and looking for jobs. We decided that for Dan's fragile, little country bumpkin persona, staying in London wasn't really an option. We'd heard nice things about the Cornwall area, and since we've both got
Which side is he on?
The government or the Jacobites? He looks mighty fiercesome with that sword. And watch out for that dirk in his shield hand!!!!
some Scottish heritage, going far north on the island was also a viable option. After discussing it with the pros at the office we decided to head to Scotland since Cornwall was more a summer destination, and job prospects would probably be slimmer than average. Most of our days in London were spent working on CVs; except for our last day. We had a night bus up to Inverness planned so we went and dropped our backpacks at the bus station so that we could run around unhindered. Ashley had been to London a couple times before so she had a few ideas about what she really wanted Dan to see. We went for high tea at Fortnum and Mason, went to Hatchard's (Robin's (Ashley's mom) favorite bookstore), and walked down a major shopping street to a huge toy store (obviously for Dan's benefit). From there we headed to a Mark's and Spencer's to get some dinner and snacks for the bus ride. We sat at the Marble Arch and had our dinner, then off to the bus station to wait for the 2355hrs bus.
So a couple things about London that we learned was that an Oyster Card
Clan Cameron cairn
Cairns were erected at Culloden for some of the clans who took part and lost a lot of members.
for the tube (or metro/subway) is totally worth while, unless you don't plan on using the tube at all. Apparently the customer service isn't as important as it is back home; that's what we were warned about. We did notice this when we went to buy our mobiles. Knowing so little about the plans in the UK it would have been nice to have a bit more help but Ashley was able to get a phone and Dan got a SIM card.
The overnight bus left shortly before midnight, and there was only one stop in Glasgow around 0700hrs the next morning. By the time we reached Inverness, Dan was so uncomfortable that he didn't care about the hostel at all. We walked to the closest one (about 50m down a lane) and got a room. Ashley was dubious but Dan's discomfort spurred her to action. We booked in for 7 days initially while we searched for a flat and jobs. The guys there must have been driven crazy by us since that was the beginning of our holiday after our touristing. We didn't really do too much for that first week, it was supposed to be a time
A farmer built this cairn at Culloden in the 1800s to memorialize the battle at Culloden.
of catching up on blogging and pictures, but that obviously didn't happen very well. For the second week we started to look for work and a place to live. We went to see one flat, but learned that most places in Inverness it would be a 6 month minimum lease; we only planned to be here for four. We would also have to buy all our own kitchen supplies, furniture, etc. After giving it some thought, we decided that paying the weekly rate at the hostel would be a better option; same price but all the bills are paid, internet, and the kitchen is fully stocked, we just would have to forgo a little privacy, plus the people there were great. Jeremy, Hywel, and Lachie were the staff when we arrived. As it turned out Hywel was leaving soon to go work in a castle hostel on an island, so they were looking for somebody new and asked Dan if he'd be interested. Dan wasn't really keen since he was more interested in being more integrated in the Scottish life rather than being further integrated into the backpackers way of life. Eventually Dan's laziness got the better of him and
he took the job at the hostel instead of continuing the hunt. Ashley had a couple of interviews and ended up getting a sales position at a specialty food store called "Oil & Vinegar". It is of course right up her alley being all about food and fancy cooking. So we were settled, until January we figured, since Ashley was a Christmas season hire and maternity leave cover; and Dan's job didn't really demand a definite time commitment.
We decided that until we could stop spending our Canadian money we'd try to take it easy on travelling. We travelled out to the battlefield at Culloden, where the war of 1745 came to an end. The war was based on the Jacobites trying to return the king to the throne and the government trying to stop them. The Jacobites were fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie. The exhibit at Culloden was easily one of the best Dan has ever seen. It was so well documented on both sides of war; down one side of the corridor was the Government and down the other was the Jacobites. It took us 4 hours to go through the whole thing reading everything (but not
Freezing our butts off
One our drive with Lachie and Jess. Taking in some of the scenery.
listening to all the audio), and then another hour outside with the GPS audio guide. Culloden was where the Jacobite uprising lost it's first and last battle, since the government finally had some luck and figured out how to withstand the highland charge. Very informational and great if you've got any interest in Scottish history.
Shortly after we started working we also took our first drive around the highlands. Jessica, a hostel guest, and Lachie, were going for a drive and invited us along. It wasn't the most beautiful day out but we didn't really expect great weather in Scotland. We were driving around more or less aimlessly so Dan offered to take the wheel if Jess wanted to see some of the country instead of just driving through it. After a while she agreed and Dan had his first drive on the other side of the road and his first experience with single track roads. It didn't take much to get use to driving and shifting on the left especially on the single track roads that really only hold a car and a half side by side. They do have 'passing places' where you can fit the other
half of a car when there are two traveling opposite directions or let one pass when the one in front is going too slow. Thank goodness we didn't end up on any of those cliffs with buses whipping around corners. All-in-all, Dan did alright not getting us killed and we had a wonderful intro to the Scottish countryside. Thanks Jess and Lachie!!!
There are more photos below