Tag Archives: Walking

A Scotland Adventure – Part 1, the overview!


Hello, and welcome back to your annual story time of Ben and Sarah’s international adventures! Keeping with the tradition of the last few years, Sarah and I visited with her family, this year going back to Scotland.


From Saturday, 21-December, 2019 all the way through to Saturday, 04-Jan, 2020


Part 1 – The overview, and photo highlights

The general framework of the trip is detailed below; we didn’t come into the trip with any major plans or goals, we were really looking forward to the time to relax after the busyness of 2019. It’d been a pretty amazing year, full of huge amounts of growth… but with that growth had come a number of challenges that left us fairly drained.

A visit to the Highlands was exactly what the doctor ordered.


Quick summary of our trip to Scotland!

  • Leave Portland on Saturday, 21-December-2019
  • Get stuck in San Francisco due to a delayed flight, and stay overnight at the super-posh Grand Hyatt while also getting to walk around the city and visit my cousin
  • Arrive in Scotland on the 23rd… but unfortunately without our checked bags
  • Explore Aberdeen for two days (Tuesday and Wednesday), getting to see the Art Museum, attend the midnight mass at St. Maccars, and even watch dolphins jumping in the surf outside of town
  • Drive to the Isle of Skye, staying overnight at the BenLeva Inn on Loch Ness. We don’t see Nessie… but we do have a full can of Irn Bru (a type of soda) vanish, leaving only the pierced and empty can…
  • We spent three full days on Skye, and had an excellent time exploring and photographing everything we could find. Some major adventure points were:
    • We hiked up to the Storr (in the rain)
    • Explored the town of Portree, and ate some extremely good Cullen Skink
    • hiked the Quiraing route from the parking lot down to the town of Flogetty
    • Walked out to the Fairy Pools
  • Back in Aberdeen, we spent a day touring around the countryside, seeing standing stones and other amazing points of interest.
  • We spent another day back in Aberdeen exploring the city – seeing Greta’s office, visiting shops, and walking through some amazing museums


Bill and Greta visiting – Kelly Point, Mazamas, and Portland’s Rhododendron garden!


Friday, 18-October-2019


Sarah’s Mom and Dad came to visit!  If you think Sarah and I have been having a busy year… well, you’d be right.  But Her Mom and Dad haven’t had a boring year either, so when they had a chance to escape up to Portland after a business trip, all of us were really excited to get to visit, catch up, and have a nice weekend of downtime and relaxing.

We had a few adventures scheduled up, but we mostly left room for us to explore and spent time together – Video calls are great, and I am extremely thankful to be living in the future where we can video call literally anywhere in the world without even noticing a delay, but in-person visits are still the ideal.


So we walked, explored, took them to some of our favorite restaurants, and explored somewhere we’d never been before – The Rhododendron garden!

First up was Kelly Point park – it’s a lovely walk, and a great way to tire Ollie out a bit to keep the crazy down to almost-sane levels.  It was excellent as always, and we even got to see some cool mushrooms!  Not otters or eagles this time, but it was still fun scanning the surf for them.

Then, we stopped by Sarah’s old workspace at the Mazamas – The Mazamas Mountaineering Center is where she’d been teaching kids to climb this summer, and so she got a chance to show off the walls and the Mazamas library.  I… may have… possibly… gotten a little distracted exploring the library.  I admit to everything, and it was awesome.

After the MMC, we headed to the Rhododendron garden.  We hadn’t been there before, but Sarah had heard amazing things about it, and it sounded like an excellent place to explore.  It was raining, as it so often does in Portland, but honestly I think that made the garden even more beautiful.  The rain on the leaves, and the petals on the flowers… it was lovely.



Christmas in Italy – Exploring and wandering through Rome

Christmas in Italy – Exploring and wandering through Rome

In keeping with the tradition of adventure, Sarah and I went on a big trip for Christmas and New Years!

This year, we met up with Sarah’s family in Italy, traveling to Rome and Florence; not quite a perfect midpoint for everyone, but it was close enough. And, also, you know. Rome. Florence. Amazing!

Please forgive me for some of these being a bit out of order… the posts are organized somewhat chronologically… but also organized by theme and location.  Some may not be exactly in chronological order, so for reference please see the initial summary post, which has a complete day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of the adventure.


Various days, between 22-Dec and 27-Dec – Exploring Rome, and the outdoor sculptures

Rome is huge.

I mean, you already knew that. But take how huge you think it is, and then make it huger. Yes, that’s a word now.

I mean, Rome isn’t the size of LA (I think), but it’s just so… dense. There’s so much to see, and so much to do. More amazing food than you could eat in a year, or in ten years. More beautiful sculptures and sconces and buildings and, and, and…

It’s impressive, let’s just leave it at that.

I wrote up some pretty concise posts about a lot of specific places that we visited earlier, but there were a lot of spots that we simply saw in passing, or stopped in for dinner at. They didn’t really lend themselves to inclusion in other posts, so I’m going to put a few of them down here. Think of this as a compilation of short stories from Rome?

Fancy dinner out, 26-Dec

One of Greta’s coworkers was unexpectedly in town, and invited us out to dinner at a restaurant that he knew nearby. Since we’d planned on doing a fancy dinner out on the town anyways, this was a perfect way to get an insiders scoop on where to go. We dressed ourselves in our finery, and headed out for an especially excellent meal (as if every other meal wasn’t also exceptional!)

The ambiance was more casual than I think we expected, but it fit in well with the expectation of Italian eating. I could see a college student bringing their Grandma here, or the Prime Minister entertaining a foreign dignitary.

The food…

Starter: The whole table split a plate or roasted artichokes, half cooked the traditional Roman-style, and the other half cooked Judaean-Style

Pasta Course: Sarah and I split a plate of gnocchi, topped with cheese and cooked almost like a crem bruilee

Main Course: The table shared a roast spring lamb with rosemary

Dessert: Chocolate cake with pear, and a tiramisu

Wine: Sparkling wine to start, followed by a few bottles of house red with the main course

Street Votives

Something I’d never seen before, but in Rome there’s constant reminders of Christianity. I mean, yes of course there’s the uncountable churches, but there are also a ton of small devotionals, inlaid into the walls along the streets. Some of these look recent and cared for, and some look like they’ve been undisturbed since the 1700s. They’re not hugely obvious or confrontational, but if you take the time to notice they appear nearly every block.


Across the city, we saw multiple tall stone Obelisks. To me, they looked almost Egyptian, but I learned from Sarah and Bill that they were basically storybooks, similar to the triumphal arches in design. They’d tell a story, winding around the tower, of some major event such as a major military conquest or annexation.

But, as time went on, ideals changed. Where the obelisks originally had statues of emperors or generals, the Church replaced them with saints and effigies of Jesus. Now, most of them will have a haloed figure at the top, crowning the ancient stories of Rome.

Man, I don’t know. Just glorious architecture.

Seriously, the architecture in Rome was beautiful. So many amazing stone buildings, crawling with ivy and flowers. Interior courtyards, and even small sewer inlays. Instead of the street drains, they’d have carved stone features. Seriously amazing.

Shopping in Rome

Whoof. This one. On our last day in Rome, we had the morning unbooked – since we’d be getting on a train in the early afternoon, we didn’t want to rush any sightseeing. Instead, we earmarked the day for a bit of fashion…

And man, fashion is expensive. My goal was a nice Italian sportcoat, and I’m not lying when I say that I found multiple beautiful ones, that I would have loved to take home. Thankfully, common sense prevailed… or more accurately, the aneurysm that I had when they showed me the price protected me. Not that they weren’t amazing, and probably worth it… and the sales people were definitely willing to negotiate… but not down into the low triple digits, unfortunately.

Aside from fashion, Rome is also known for Art… thankfully for us, since Sarah had been whipping through the supplies that she’d brought with her from the States. This was Rome, so finding an art supply store wasn’t any sort of challenge… the challenge came from trying to find the specific type of paper she needed, out of the uncountable different options available. But again we prevailed, and escaped with exactly the type of paper she needed.