Walking at dawn – Drumnadrochit

The sun rising in the east. Loch Ness is just behind those hills

A few miles south of Inverness is a lovely, little town called Drumnadrochit. I awoke in my bed at Craigmonie Cottage B&B at 7am after proper 8 hours of sleep. Usually very fond of sleeping and eager to take advantage of any chance I have to sleep in, I chose to act against the nature of my being and snuck out trying not to waken the girls. A sore throat, newfound knowledge on how to shoot in manual mode, a mist covered Scottish valley, and an intense desire of not letting a single minute go to waist while in Scotland, I stumbled out into the cold morning, camera in hand and with birds singing both in the trees around me and in my heart.

I made a 24-hours supermarket we had passed the day before the goal of my walk. Strepsils was what I was looking for and a tea that could help rid me of this cold.

A thin vail of mist lay across the fields. A failed plan to do some shopping in Aberdeen the day before resulted in the cold air biting a little harder than I had expected it to.

The road was dead, except for the occasional passing car, and the town seemed deserted. We had seen many houses for sale the day before, and as I walked around the number increased. The silence of an early Saturday morning increased the feeling of walking through a ghost town. As did scenes reminding me of old British television shows, and thus also of decades passed.  

Flowers decorated the most intriguing places, but as this was early October they did not show the same vitality they must have embedded only weeks earlier. 

One of the natives surprised to see a foreigner on his daily morning stroll

The tiny supermarket became a shocking contrast to my short walk along the road. Open 24 hours and with several customers appearing as I came close to the building the town suddenly seemed to spring to life. The moment though was short lived, as they had all vanished by the time I had payed for my few items. As I exited and turned my back to the shop all signs of life were again gone, except for, ironically, a flock of crows decorating the fence of a deserted football field.

I decided to take a different route back to the B&B. I turned off the main road and continued past the church to a residential area. The houses didn’t look to be very old, still quite a few had signs marking them for sale. I tried to get a little lost, but I did not succeed and simply walked in a large circle back towards my companions, good conversations in good company, and an increased appetite for the awaiting homemade breakfast. 

David has at his educational and compelling blog nominated me as a Versatile Blogger. I read every one of David’s posts with great interest. Though not seeing my blog as a photography focused blog, I often find inspiration in DH’s posts and often find myself wanting to post about photos and photos alone (hasn’t happened yet though, I prefer having a story to tell). However, his tips and tricks on photographing I do my best to soak up and remember when out shooting. Hopefully I have been able to use his tricks to improve my own photos.

I am now supposed to list seven things about myself that I have not previously mentioned on the blog, so here goes:

  • I am a tea drinker and I don’t like coffee, at all! Nor coffee flavoured drinks, ice-creams, candy or chocolate. However,
  • I do like the smell of ground coffee and men smelling of coffee (!), or at least until they open their mouths, coffee breath I find appalling!
  • I love listening to someone playing the guitar. The regular, old-fashion guitar. These days I could listen to the first part of Biffy Clyro’s “Many of Horror” over and over, or Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”.
  • Spending the night at a friends house, a friend of her called, slightly drunk and just wanting to socialise. He ended up playing the guitar, over the phone, until I fell asleep.
  • I hate the change of seasons, I love the various seasons, but the inbetween periods are nothing for me.
  • I can’t stand cleaning and am seriously considering hiring someone to clean my house a few times a month.
  • I just bought an iPhone. I waited until the new 4s was released and then bought the 4. I could probably have gone for the an earlier one as I only use the calendar, to check e-mail, facebook, or to text or call.
That’s it, now mission is complete. Except for nominating a bunch of other bloggers:
Now, many of the bloggers I read seem to rarely respond to awards, and although there are many I’d like to nominate, there are few I think would respond (I feel small and insignificant in the gigantic blogosphere). I’ll thus simply give a shout out to the few who I think deserve this the most, those whose posts I always read and who I hope will pas this on; Silje, Hege, Irene and Tes.

Driving on the wrong side of right

About one year ago I visited Scotland with a few friends. We flew to Aberdeen, rented a car and drove down to Glasgow. That was my first time driving on the wrong side of the road. I enjoy a good challenge, and definitely saw this as one. I had checked out the route before I left on google maps, the largest roundabouts I had been through in street view and I had studied in detail the exit from the motorway. We stayed at a central hotel without parking facilities, which meant we had to park IN the city centre. I was armed with a gps, printed driving instructions from google, and a friend who is not unfamiliar with maps, and most importantly, who never looses his calm!

I lived in Aberdeen for a few months and have left the city to go south by bus a few times, the first few hours were thus not the most challenging. However, my TomTom is apparently not a fan of fast-food so that when we stopped at a McDonalds, he refused to guide us any further. Truth be told; we only stopped at McDonalds to use the loo, but TomTom wouldn’t listen to us. In fact, he’s still not talking to me! Getting from Aberdeen to Glasgow is easy. We still bought a map to keep track on where in the world we were from time to time. We faced no problems, although we did manage to drive in circles in the city centre of Glasgow (we had directions going TO the hotel, not from) and I was dangerously close to the pavement at one point (no pedestrians there though).

The route we were supposed to take from Aberdeen to Drumnadrochit

Going to Scotland again now I had to raise the stakes a bit and increase the challenge. The route was new, I had no gps, no maps, I had not looked much at the route before going, and I had no idea how my fantastic travel companions would deal with google’s driving instructions.

Two of the three of us going came to Aberdeen a couple of hours before the third. The wonderful lady I talked about here thus had to suffer through the first minutes and miles spent in a dark Vauxhall. We were heading straight down a road. I’m on the alert, sitting on the wrong side in the car, shifting gears with the wrong hand, checking the blind spot on both sides to be on the safe side and generally trying to breath as little as possible to keep all my attention on the road and the traffic. We knew we were going left in a roundabout, but we didn’t know exactly which one. Obviously, the first we tried was not the correct one. Seeing this, my mind started to race trying to find somewhere to turn around. Then I see the flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror; an ambulance was coming up quickly behind us. We fond a smaller roundabout, so we turned around and went back up the same road we had just gone down, and were then soon back on track again. I sighed with relief from not having done anything to hinder the ambulance. Then I check the rear-view mirror again. The ambulance has of course also gone all the way around in the roundabout and is coming up behind us again! We made it up on the pavement, we didn’t bulk any cars nor did we hit any pedestrians, and the ambulance did not lose speed. What went through the head of my innocent passenger is, however, something I wish never to know. She was able to talk again only a few minutes later, and the heavy breathing stopped as soon we parked in a parking lot a few miles away.

We picked up the last member of our fearless trio a few hours later, after having had her wait outside at the airport while we took an unnecessary, but interesting, wee ride through the industrial area which just happened to be at the right turn before the right turn we were supposed to take.

An hour north of Aberdeen we decided to look for a supermarket or something where we could find a quick bite. The gorgeous blonde in the backseat spotted Asda on the right side of the road. To exit we had to go through a large roundabout (yes the Brits do love their roundabouts). We entered it and drove turning right. I saw the exit, but there were no cars going in the same direction as us, nor anyone coming from the road we were entering. The scene felt so unnatural and so wrong that I was unable to make the exit. “Rebooting, sorry about the delay!” I said as I took the girls through the roundabout one more time before heading over to Asda.

Safely parked outside the B&B in Drumnadrochit

We were going to visit a friend of mine, but an exit in Dufftown were probably just not aesthetically pleasing enough for us. Instead we drove circles around, perfectly avoiding the wee town, for at least an hour(!). We did, however, reach Drumnadrochit in due time for our dinner reservation at the Fiddler’s. My companions claimed the driving had not scarred them for life before they nearly downed a bottle of wine.

Norwegian Cuisine – Lapper

“Lapper” are small pieces of paper or cloth. Write someone a “lapp” means to write someone a note, and passing “lapper” is frowned upon at school (passing notes between students without the teacher knowing). “Lapper” is also a Norwegian pancake-like food which has become Son’s favourite these past weeks.

The recipe is actually my great-grandmother’s, it’s been in the family for at least a few generations, and it’s as good as it is simple.

First a note on the dairy product: kefir. Kefir is apparently called kefir in English as well. I’ve never come across it outside the Norwegian borders myself, but how common it is is beyond me. It can be substituted with any type of sour dairy product, but buttermilk is probably the best substitute.

  • 5 dl kefir
  • 5 dl flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • vanilla or vanilla sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons of sugar
Any pan is good for making these, though I must recommend something with a slip-let surface. If you don’t have one you should consider adding a bit of fat to the pan while cooking.
Make sure the pan is warm, on medium heat, before you pour a small ladle worth of batter in the pan. When the surface of the “lapp” bubbles and dries out, the “lapp” is ready to be turned. Looking for bubbles has become one of Son’s favourite past-times.
Anything can go into a lappe-batter. Leftover rice from dinner? throw it in! Earlier this week I made “lapps” with grated apples and cinnamon – delicious! And, if I make these as a meal, instead of as a desert/snack, I use mostly whole-grain flour, works perfectly fine, but I would recommend the finely ground type. 

Home away from home

It was a cold and windy Friday morning. I was getting my pulse up making sure everything I needed was in the suitcase. It was not at all an early flight I had to catch, but my brain has proved over and over that it works best under pressure – five minutes before I should be out the door is when the brain decides to wake up and remind me of everything that should come with me across the fjord. This never fails. This morning I also wanted to take Son to kindergarten as I would not get to enjoy his company for the next four days.

The day before I had called Charlotte at the Craigmonie B&B to make sure our reservation was ok. She had a wonderful Scottish accent. I was in my office by myself, and as I hung up the phone I closed my eyes, her voice echoed in my head and the butterflies took flight. I smiled, drew my breath and could finally feel that the trip was just around the corner.

At the airport I was greeted by one of the world’s most wonderful ladies. Our eyes met and our smiles widened, yes, we had both been smiling to ourselves. We checked in, walked through security and found ourselves on the path to a new adventure.

Due to a full plane my travel companion had been seated with a group of coffee drinking Brits, I was placed among alcohol consuming Scandinavians. Accompanied by a slightly drunk Dane, who sat closest to the window, I first saw land. The cliffs and beaches of the eastern coast of Scotland stretched out in front of me. I looked north, knowing that I couldn’t, but still hoped to, catch a glimpse of Slains Castle near Cruden Bay. Then I looked in the opposite direction, hoping we were far enough south for me to spot Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven. Both were too far away. The wee plane descended a little as we flew over land. As if the pilot knew how thrilled I was to be back, the short flight over the city became a short sightseeing tour for me. I saw Union street break up the maze of roads beneath me, the hospital was still there and I could see the railway lines running out of the city. Under us, on the right, just escaping my view, was the University, the football stadium, the view from my former lecture room and the room in which I spent no more than a few months. We crossed the Don and Dyce appeared. The plane steadily descended. I saw the roads, I knew the shops, many of the signs were still the same. And I saw the road which we would soon follow north. The plane touched the ground and shortly after came to a halt in front of the terminal.

It felt like coming home. I get the same feeling when I have been on vacation and return home after being gone for weeks. I only spent a few months in this country, I’ve spent more time in other countries, but still this feels special. There is a comfortable and safe feeling connected to this place, a country of which I’ve still only seen very little. There is no logical explanation, still I must admit, it feels like home.