Salut! Tom and I are on vacation in Scotland with family, but I thought I’d check in with a quick post. I haven’t spent any time in the UK in years, so here are a bunch of random observations about our trip — mostly based on things we saw and did in Scotland — along with some of my favorite photos from our road trip.
Random UK observations and Scotland road trip pics
How’s everyone doing? Did you have a good week?
Not sure if I’ll do a full Scotland trip recap (let me know if you’d be interested in that in the comments please), but here’s where we went in our comfy Citroen Picasso:
Isle of Mull
Isle of Skye
As I mentioned, I haven’t been to the UK in years, so some of my observations might be common sense to you or even funny if you’re from the UK. Discovering new-to-me things reminded me of being new to France and seeing everything for the first time. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 😉
So in no particular order, here are some observations about the UK:
1. The to-go coffee culture is strong and I loved being able to get coffee or tea to bring with us… it reminded me of the US a little bit. Even in small towns, it was no problem getting a specialty drink like a vanilla cappuccino to sit in or take away… that was made with actual espresso and not a powder in a machine.
2. About that coffee culture, commercial places like Starbucks and Costa are all over the place.
3. It’s to “sit in” or “take away” and not for here or to go.
4. You can play casino games at rest stops, on ferries, and even pubs. Digital slot machines surprised me a bit.
5. Everything is “wee.” It means little or quick. You’ll hear things like: Take a wee look at a menu, have a wee break, grab a wee snack. Love it. You’ll also hear cashiers and other people in places of business tell customers “see you later” instead of just goodbye or have a good afternoon. I am used to reserving see you later for people I someone know and/or people who I will literally see later.
6. Tom (French is his native language) understood Scottish English better than I did. He explained that he listens for key words and uses context (I do that in French and talked about it here). As an example, he understood that a waitress was asking something about bread (sounds more like bleed). He understood bread and with the context, he answered “white” without skipping a beat. The question was if he wanted white or brown bread. I didn’t understand what she had asked.
A quick note about the accent: It’s just a matter of being used to it or not. American English is so pervasive in the UK with our TV shows and films so they understand us no problem, but I can’t say I’ve had much experience hearing the Scottish accent. I asked people to repeat themselves a few times but it was no problem. 😉
7. Electrical outlets need to be turned on. You don’t just plug in your phone charger and have power like you would in the US or France. There’s a switch next to the outlet that you can switch on or off. Not sure if it’s safer that way or if it’s just to save on energy costs.
8. Sometimes you have to pull a cord from the ceiling to turn on the water supply for the shower (and then turn on the shower faucet inside the shower area). I’m embarrassed to admit I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the water in the shower at one of our rentals for a good 5 minutes. In my defense, I didn’t have my glasses on…. but still.
9. Instant coffee seems to be really popular and drip coffee not so much. Only 2 of our rental apartments had French presses and the rest had a tea kettle and instant coffee. I wish I brought my single-cup plastic cone to pour a fresh cup of ground drip coffee.
10. Things I did not need from my suitcase: Shorts, thin windbreaker, flip flops.
11. Things I should have packed: Warm scarf, gloves, fleece headband to protect my ears from the wind, warmer pants.
12. Scottish people don’t seem too bothered by cool weather and wind. We saw people in t-shirts when I was bundled up and freezing.
13. The Scottish countryside is absolutely breathtaking in every way possible.
14. If you’re prone to car sickness, try to sit up front or take breaks if you’re doing a lot of long driving days in places like the Isle of Mull where roads are very narrow, bumpy, and windy.
15. Driving on the left, as well as on single lane roads, becomes second nature after a day or so.
16. Highland cows are so cute and if you keep an eye out, you may see a few up close. The Scots say it more like Heilan Coo.
17. Food is quite expensive. And we probably had more so-so meals than good ones.
18. Bank notes from England look different than the ones from Scotland. Same currency, different look.
19. UK water must be really hot. There are yellow signs in public restrooms warning hand washers that they might burn themselves.
20. Edinburgh is an incredible city and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
21. Indian curry dishes are extremely popular. Even in small towns, there are curry options.
22. Shops close early even in decent-sized towns like Inverness. 5 or 6pm and most shops are closed.
23. Pitchers of tap water at restaurants aren’t customary. If you ask for water, the one person at the table who asked will get one glass.
24. Milk in the UK tastes really good. And Tesco has a lot of really convenient foods (even in small towns).
25. You can show up early to the Calmac ferries in Scotland even if they’re fully booked for the time slot you want and wait in the standby line. You have a decent chance of getting a spot.
26. The sun rises quite early this time of year — around 4:20 a.m. — and sets after 10 p.m.!
27. I need to go back!!!
Do you have anything to add? Did anything stand out to you on your Scotland road trip?