Driving in the Scottish Highlands is one experience you have to try if you ever visit Scotland.
The roads seem to wind endlessly into the mist that descends like an impenetrable shield from the towering peaks above. The tyres splash across the uneven road surface and your wipers batter the constant rain from the windscreen.
The cars demister blasts warm air inside to keep the growing patches of condensation to a manageable level.
Suddenly a finger of sunshine pierces the black and grey shield of clouds and hits the valley floor. In an instant your view clears and a magical scene opens up before your very eyes. The moisture from the rain glistens on distant grasses like the light bouncing of a rough cut diamond.
While the gazillion waterfalls run from unseen natural springs into every gulley. Whether they are tiny trickling slithers that have to flow around obstructions or thundering cascades of white water that tumble over precipices they all have something in common. They all add to the wildness of the Scottish highlands. With each waterfall creating a beautiful contrast against the jagged granite rocks.
The mottle red, yellow, brown, green, black and grey colours somehow leap off the hillsides. And you struggle to keep your eyes on the road as your mouth opens in awe. Before you know it, it’s time to pull over and take some photos. Again.
This is driving in the Scottish Highlands at it’s best.
If you have ever had the opportunity to escape to Scotland to follow in William Wallace’s footsteps, or even Harry Potter’s, then hopefully you have had the chance to drive in the Scottish Highlands. Sure Edinburgh is fantastic with it’s Castle overlooking the city centre and walking Arthurs Seat is perfect for stretching the legs.
But nothing compares to hopping in the car and heading north to explore the many backcountry roads in the Scottish Highlands.
Over every hill, around every bend and through every village there are picturesque vistas to keep even the most jaded landscape lover happy. Plus you will more than likely meet a few cute Highland Cows as well!
To be honest I don’t know how such a wild and barren landscape can be beautiful. There are hardly any trees. The grasses and shrubs barely reach knee high. And the weather as described above seems to be a common factor.
Add to this the freezing cold winds blown south from the Arctic circle and you really have a recipe for a bleak and desolate landscape. But somehow they all work together to create something special.
So tips to driving in the Scottish Highlands?
There are rest areas and pullover bays everywhere so that you can take it slow which we highly recommend. Most likely you will have to anyway with the huge number of caravans and buses slowing the procession of constant tourist traffic.
The only problem with taking it slow is that a 5 hour drive can quickly turn into a 12 hour epic road trip like we recently discovered on the way to the Isle of Skye. And stopping every half hour can really take it’s toll on the driver.
Stretch your legs and get out of the car. Sure the Scottish Highlands look great from the road. But there are literally thousands of pathways for you to explore. Even if it is just a 10 minute stroll to a waterfall you will see more than the average tourist.
Watch out for some of the single track roads. Most of them are barely wide enough for one car. Luckily there are plenty of passing areas so drive slow and be courteous to the other drivers. There is nothing worse than trying to reverse along a twisty road in the dark!
In winter many of the roads will be covered in snow and ice. So again take your time, be safe and enjoy the scenery.
A final word of wisdom; Dress appropriately as the weather can change in a blink of an eye up here!
Four Jandals Visits an Amsterdam Peep Show
Have you ever wanted to visit an Amsterdam peep show? We had the chance to go and embraced it with open arms. Check out our experience here
An Amsterdam peep show is a must, just like visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Okay slightly different. But you have got to go!
And if you have ever wanted to visit Amsterdam then more than likely you are going to be interested in checking out a peep show in the red light district. It might be worthwhile checking out this Amsterdam’s Red Light District – The ultimate guide.
There is something about the red light district that draws the punters and tourists alike in. Maybe it is the bright red neon lights that illuminate the darkened alleyways that pull them in like moths to a flame. Or the bars and coffee shops that let a certain smell waft lazily across the glistening canals.
Or maybe it is just the fact that sex really does sell.
When we visited Amsterdam with a couple of friends we actually spent what I now consider an embarrassingly long time in that same area. The fact is that we seriously could not get enough.
Not like that of course!
We just couldn’t believe that everyone is so open and carefree about what is for all intents and purposes, window shopping for sex. The number of guys knocking on windows and being ushered behind the curtains of every room were staggering.
However, we were not enticed ourselves to fork over $50 euros but were intrigued enough to want to check out an Amsterdam peep show. I just want to clarify here that it was actually Adela that was the most keen. I just didn’t want to let her down so went along with it…
Visiting the Amsterdam peep show
Much to our surprise, there is only one Amsterdam peep show left in the whole city back in 2012!
The very originally named “Sex Palace” is situated on the banks of one of the main canals in the heart of the red light district on Oudezijds Achterburgwal street. Walking under the neon flashing lights into the entrance way your senses are assaulted by sights, sounds and disturbingly smell.
All around the walls are posters and screens showing ladies in various states of undress and positions. A white board lists the movies that you can rent out for your viewing pleasure in one of the many private booths. But we were only there for one thing:
The circular structure sitting slightly to the left of the entrance with a dozen small doors along it’s walls.
Each of those small doors lead into equally small rooms no larger than a traditional UK phone box. A small covered viewing window blocks your view forward.
The money box clinging to the wall to operate the viewing window only accepts coins. But don’t worry if you only have notes as they handily have a large coin machine dishing out $2 euro coins for ease of watching.
Once you close the door and chuck in your money, the viewing window pops open for 2 minutes and allows you to view the large, slowly-rotating stage on which a scantily-dressed woman displays herself. With her flexibility she could have represented any country in the upcoming Olympics!
I was cracking up laughing the entire time I was in there because you can actually just make out the rest of the “audience” in the opposite booths. I even got a little wave and smile as the girl slowly revolved past my window.
The Amsterdam peep show was a little bit creepy. But even though we were there late on a Saturday night the booths were doing a roaring trade. Obviously nearly everyone else, from the hens parties to the couples, were there for the same reason as us. To check out one or two rounds before heading back into the night giggling like school girls at a sleepover at what we had just done.
The shifty eyed single men on the other hand skulked away to their respective viewing windows again and again with pockets full of coins.
If you ever get the chance then we actually do highly recommend taking the plunge and visiting an Amsterdam peep show. Just make sure that you are always respectful of the women in the shows and the ones on the streets!
Have you ever been to an Amsterdam Peep Show or Sex show? Tell us about your experience below.
5 European Cities to Visit in the Dead of Winter
As one of the most polarizing seasons, winter could be termed as both a blessing and a curse by those who like making the most out of nature.
After all, while it brings about the opportunity to build snowmen and to ski on magnificent ice slopes, it also brings a chill to the bone and a desire to never get away from the fireplace.
Don’t forget about the hot chocolate either.
That is why, when it comes to vacationing in winter, it gets quite difficult to choose from a location – especially when the destination is as diverse in climate as Europe. Do you select a place that’s sunny and warm? Or somewhere that lets you enjoy the ice and cold in the best ways possible?
To make that decision easier for you, here are 5 European cities that you could visit in the dead of winter, with the assurance that you would come out of the vacation phase with a smile on your face.
Barcelona is a city that is synonymous with sunshine, warmth, and some of the world’s most breathtaking architecture.
The temperature rarely drops below 45 degrees even in the coldest months of the year. While the sunshine remains present amidst the rainy days. This means that you can enjoy the best effects of winter without having to endure the worst of them.
If you happen to be a fan of football, then these effects can be increased by several times. This beautiful city is home to one of the greatest football clubs of all time and with Barcelona FC in contention for a championship virtually every year, odds are you’ll be walking out with a smile on your face after watching a win. Not a bad way to take a break from the beach!
While you wouldn’t be able to go to Mount Olympus’ mythical version in this day and age, you can still experience Greece’s magnificence through the beautiful city of Athens.
Like Barcelona, Athens also sees rare drops in temperature while being consistent around 45 degrees throughout the heaviest months in winter. With the architecture that you can experience under the sun, this weather can actually be ideal for an exploratory walk.
And if you are a fan of Greek food, then checking out local restaurants for authentic dishes would only add to the overall experience of your trip.
Since Italy is full of some of the most breathtaking architecture in the world, it would be quite debatable to say that Venice is the crown jewel of the country in terms of structural beauty.
But it is.
From the way that the city has been designed to the manner that the buildings have been developed, Venice remains a breathtaking sight for anyone who visits it.
That remains true even in the months of winter, where the does drop to around 30 degrees, but still provides the tourists and inhabitants with a way to enjoy the magnificent sights under the sun.
Germany is considered to be one of the coldest countries in Europe, but it is a good thing for those who enjoy a bit of snow during their travels.
And for those who do, there are perhaps not many places that are as marvelous as Zugspitze in terms of a memorable winter experience.
With snow covered mountains and a temperature that dances around -14 degrees in winter, you can enjoy an array of winter sports such as skiing, sledding, and snowboarding to your heart’s desire. If you are one to enjoy snow and everything good there is about the season of winter, then Zugspitze is the place to go.
While Paris gets quite cold in winter without the weather enhancing any effects of life within the city, Marseille seems to be quite the opposite. The city is as lively in the winter as it is during its busiest days in summer, with plenty to do in adjacent areas.
You may visit the many architectural sites and tourist attractions in Marseilles itself, but you can add to that experience when you choose to visit the Christmas markets in Aix en Provence or Avignon.
With that, the many warm and steamy French soups and bouillon based dishes that you can enjoy in Marseilles only add to the trip. This means that by the time you are done with your visit to Marseilles, you are bound to be fed well, have some goods in your shopping bags, and some memorable pictures in your phone to boot.
Even the Most Expensive Cities Have Cheaper Alternatives: Paris
According to the results of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Worldwide Cost of Living” survey, Singapore, Paris, Zurich, Hong Kong, and Oslo are the most expensive places to live – and visit – this year. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit them, though – actually if your budget allows it, you should cross them off your bucket list as soon as you can. But this doesn’t mean you have to break all your piggy banks and sell your soul only to spend a weekend in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Unless you’re adamant that it’s “Paris or bust”, there are alternatives to this crowded and top-dollar destination you might want to consider – and start saving for your dream trip nonetheless.
Lyon has a history of almost two millennia, and it shows: the remains of the Roman settlement Lugdunum, built at the confluence of the rivers Saône and Rhône, are showing to this day. Lyon might not be a capital city – it doesn’t have the size or the population – but its role in the everyday life of France was always important, both as a trade and a cultural hub.
The city has many gorgeous sights to see, like the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, the Tour Métallique (a tall TV tower that replicates the top of the Eiffel Tower), among others, covering every age from the birth of the city to its modern times. Plus, it has museums, parks, gardens, and a street art group that has been designated the cultural ambassador for the city. Not to mention its cuisine, the unique and popular Lyonnaise cuisine that has become a worldwide sensation.
A relatively small city in the north of France, Lille is another charming alternative to a crowded and overpriced Paris. It features many distinct architectural styles, most of them with a clear Flemish influence. Among its landmarks, you find its Cathedral (Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille), its Citadel, its palaces, and gardens. Lille is also the place with the biggest flea market in Europe – Braderie de Lille takes place on the first Sunday of September, with millions of attendees and over 10,000 sellers gathering in the streets of the city. It’s a charming, agreeable, and colorful city that will offer its visitors a beautiful experience.
Last but not least, let us mention a city with a double significance – on one hand, it’s the official seat of the European Parliament, on the other, it’s a wonderful place to visit and a great alternative to an overcrowded Paris.
Strasbourg is a place where French and German architecture mingle in a unique way, with an Old Town filled with timber-framed houses surrounding typical French landmarks and churches. It also has many notable parks, some with historic significance, and almost too many museums for its small size. Plus, it’s a distinctively multicultural city where visitors will find it easy to fit in.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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