Great Britain Adventure | 2016

I’ve wanted to travel to Europe forever.

I’ve dreamed of visiting England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany. Backpacking. Exploring. I’d hoped to study abroad in college, or find a summer job overseas, but that didn’t happen.

There’s always been an obstacle: lack of money or lack of vacation days. But in January, when Bret and I talked through some our hopes for 2016, we returned to our Europe dream and asked ourselves IF NOT NOW, WHEN?! So I did some research, found a reasonable tour, and booked it.


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Highland Games 2015

After a great visit with Bret’s parents, they told us that they would leave so we could get back to our normal routine. I realized, when they said this, that our weekends have had no normalcy since we’ve moved to Boone. We’ve been here for a little over a month, but every other weekend we’ve had visitors, I’ve been on work travel, or we’ve been visiting someone. I know we’ll have time to build our routines, but for this weekend, we decided to do another something out of the ordinary.

We’ve seen a lot of signs (and heard a lot of hype) about the annual Highland Games on Grandfather Mountain. From what I could gather, this was a Scottish festival of sorts with lots of competitions and events that took place on top of a huge mountain with limited parking. I kind of hate driving up the mountains, but when we found out that there was a shuttle available, we thought it may be worth the trip. So we hopped on the bus!

20150712_103658One of my fellow passengers described the shuttle as, “incredibly convenient and only a little bit scary” and I would agree with that assessment. Climbing a narrow gravel road up a mountain isn’t exactly more comfortable in a bus than a car, but I was confident in our driver’s ability, and it was worth it for the experience. Also, there were plenty of trees on the side of the road to “catch us” should we run off the road. Fortunately, this was not an issue.

When we arrived, it was a beautiful crisp cool day and even though it was crowded, there was plenty of room to walk around. There were so many events going on all day, and walking around was an experience in itself. We immediately felt energized and both said within seconds of arriving that we were glad we decided to spend the afternoon here.


I knew I had some Scottish heritage so I wondered if I could trace it back to a particular Scottish clan. I couldn’t this time, but it was so fun to see each tent and families dressed in authentic kilts and colors. It felt like a giant family reunion of sorts.

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We had fun checking out all of the different items for sale: kilts, t-shirts, authentic jewelry… I almost spent $50 on a ring, but decided against it. It’s so hard to decide in situations like this because you don’t know when you’ll have an opportunity to find something similar again, but we both agreed that we will be here next year.


After walking around for a bit, I spotted some nearly empty bleachers so we climbed up to watch some of the games.

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One of my favorite activities was watching a border collie who could herd and direct the sheep better than the children volunteers.


I also enjoyed the children’s races. They all wore kilts!


There was also a lot of great music. And parades!


Bret tried some authentic Scottish food…including…haggis. I won’t tell you what haggis is. You can Google it if you don’t know. But I think it’s disgusting and I refused to kiss Bret until he brushed his teeth hahaha. Haggis is the gooey looking stuff on the right of his plate:


We ate while we sat on some rocks waiting for our shuttle. We got to talk to a few people there and most of them had been to Scotland before – multiple times. They told us the best places to stay and where to eat and by the end of our conversations I became convinced that we need to plan a trip to Scotland next summer. Best of all, the drive down the mountain was significantly less scary since we could drive on a two-lane paved road.

Overall it was an awesome event that draws a huge crowd each year so I’m looking forward to attending again. (A win for Boone!) I heard from talking with other visitors that over 58,000 people attended on Saturday and the lines were impossible, so I’m glad we decided to go on Sunday instead.

Until next year!


Why did I want to move to Tallahassee? Two reasons.

1. Bretski
2. Manatees

I love manatees more than your average vegetarian hippie animal lover. I LOVE them. And I never miss a chance to see them in captivity, but my dreamiest dream has been to visit them in the wild. As soon as I heard that you could get a glimpse of one of these babies down here near the gulf, I have been researching boat cruises like it’s my job.

In all my searching, I found the most perfect little piece of real life jungle cruise heaven: Wakula Springs. I love everything about this place beginning with the name, including the old time ice cream soda refreshment shoppe, and ending with this little token of hope:

So we signed up for this boat tour and I tried NOT to get my I’m-going-to-see-a-Manatee-today hopes up. I was content with the little turtles and gators and serene wildlife as pictured below:

But then.

It happened.

Manatee!…and…baby manatee!

Of all places, they were snuggled up next to my side of the boat and these perfect uninjured babies living safely and happily ever after in this majestic state park brought tears to my eyes. Literally.

Dream come true. I think I’m going to like living here.

The Natural Bridge Rocks

When I was a prospective JMU student back in 2004, I remember driving by The Natural Bridge and thinking, “that sounds like an enjoyable day trip.”

In 2005, as a JMU freshmen, I expressed this desire to my family. My parents frequently drove my sister and me to Skyline Drive, so they said that The Natural Bridge would be a good trip for us to take in the near future. I knew I would be at JMU for a few years so “the near future” was a good enough answer for me.

Over the course of the next few years, whenever I passed signs for The Natural Bridge, I anticipated this trip. I didn’t know how many times I would have to pass advertisements before I actually got to visit, but I continued to look forward to my impending visit to the Natural Bridge: Continue reading