Countdowns and Hairy Coos

“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary.” – Diana Gabaldon

I’ve read countless books detailing fairy-tale settings, immersed myself in music that evokes surreal emotions, and viewed photographs that stir a sense of longing and familiarity I can’t quite put my finger on, but nothing could have prepared me for the wonder of Scotland’s countryside. I found myself quite speechless.

Last week, my friend Dallas and I trekked up to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. Celebrations began on December 30 with a torchlight procession through the streets. I still can’t believe that with 75,000 people, of questionable sobriety, no one’s hair caught on fire.

Torchlight procession

Before the next evening’s famous street party, we wandered up the Royal Mile and stumbled upon a castle. This is one thing about Europe that may never cease to amaze me – how do you just “stumble upon” castles? Needless to say, they’re in pretty short supply in Canada.

Edinburgh castle

View near Edinburgh castle

The fantastic DJ, the dancing our faces off surrounded by 75,000 other people from around the world, the fireworks, and the general “Isn’t it awesome to be here” vibe all added up to the best NYE I’ve ever had.

But the best was yet to come. After a relatively quiet New Year’s Day (we still managed to rouse ourselves for a tour of Stirling Castle, an hour outside Edinburgh), we woke bright and early on January 2 for a day trip through the Highlands.

Stirling Castle

This is truly the stuff of fairy tales, I tell ya. Writers take note: if you need some inspiration for a setting for your fictional novel, do a retreat here!

Highlands3 Highlands2 Highlands1 Highlands Highlands5

Much to our dismay, we didn’t see a hairy coo (a Highland cow) up close and personal, but this didn’t put a damper on the day. The tour ended at Loch Ness – I unfortunately  have no sightings to speak of, but the body of water certainly did have a mysterious air about it.

Loch Ness2 Loch Ness

I never expected Scotland to be such a highlight in my travels, but it now hovers pretty darn close to the top. And I will be returning – next time for a writing retreat, perhaps. Any takers?

Namaste 🙂
Rachel

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London’s Music

If you see me on the street, I’ll probably be boppin’ along, earbuds in as I go about my day. Most of the time, music enhances my experience of a moment. There’s nothing like hard rock for an adrenaline-infused run, sultry jazz for early-morning coffee or late-night wine, and heart-wrenching classical for a writing session. I’ve even found a site that features music designed to increase focus and productivity, and it works wonders, let me tell you.

Lately though, I’ve been doing some little experiments, and I’m finding there’s a time and a place, a right way and a wrong way, to get lost in music:

“London Music”

Earbuds in I walk,
in time to the music. Meanwhile,
the pulse of the city beats . . .
in time around me, unnoticed.
So I take them out, my earbuds,
take in rain-soaked streets
saturated in vibrant London energy,
And I listen to the music.

When I listen to this music, my awareness is heightened. Scenes play out around me. Snippets of life emerge: excited conversation, a street performer’s song, a mother laughing as she watches her child playing in the leaves, a stranger’s smile when I catch her eye.

This weekend I’m heading to Amsterdam — my first excursion out of England since arriving! Very much looking forward to it, and I fully intend to wander earbud free. Some new music. Stories and pictures to follow next week.

A quiet walk along the Thames in Putney.

Not-so-quiet walk in Waterloo Station. London’s ever-present contrast of peace with chaos, of old with brand new, continues to amaze me.

Namaste 🙂

Rachel