Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: animals

Spring begins at Spectacle E’e Falls

The arrival of the Scottish spring means that it’s finally time to go out and walk that list of trails that I’ve accumulated over the months! Last year, I began my venture into the Scottish landscape by visiting Kinnoull Hill near Perth, falling in love with the lush rolling hills in the unspoiled countryside. Now, with the sun brilliantly shining for such an unusually long time (2+ week!) it was almost a crime not to catch it before it leaves again. The target this time isn’t a big mountain and not even a small hill, but a circular trail hidden in the outskirts of an unnoticed town not too far from Glasgow – Strathaven. The destination is clear – Spectacle E’e Falls, a set of waterfalls along the Avon Water. Funny name, but there’s a story behind it that I will tell you about later on.

On Saturday morning, two of my buddies headed to Strathaven with me in couldn’t-be-better weather. To get to Strathaven, we had to take the train to Hamilton, a nearby town, and take a bus to Strathaven. It almost felt like a field trip, with food in our backpacks and the excitement of adventure in our hearts. Looks at the clouds! They were so spectacular that day as we headed away from Strathaven into the surrounding countryside in search of the waterfalls.

The sky did become slightly dark for a bit during our walk but at no moment did we think it was going to rain. I led us forward using a guide from WalkHighlands, a godsend for hiking enthusiasts who don’t want to get lost in the middle of nowhere. Despite having all the instructions with me, we missed a crucial part of the walk – a stile, whose definition I had to look up – and consequently did the walk backwards. No big deal though, we still knew where we were going most of the time…just that we had to reverse the directions!

My friends had quite a heated debate on whether these are ducks or geese. I don’t actually remember the conclusion of the debate but I think…they are geese?!

Before reaching the Spectacle E’e Falls, I told my friends to withhold their expectations because I had no idea how impressive these falls were supposed to be, nevermind not knowing what they thought would be “impressive”. Along the way, as we were looking for the main waterfall, we passed by a few small cascades that we THOUGHT were the actual falls, being quite disappointed several times. But when we reached the real Spectacle E’e Falls, there was no question that this was the real thing – the viewing deck gives it away! The drop and volume were quite large and rather exceeded my expectations, especially after seeing those deceiving little cascades. And here you could literally stand right next to the falls on slippery rocks – if not careful you might even fall into the water!

As a part of my “Food & the Scotland Hikes” photo series, I had to snap this one – Spectacle E’e Falls with my snack of the day, a strawberry (out of many). This might be my favourite photo of the series so far because the contrast between the strawberry and the waterfall is so striking, and what can I say – waterfalls are beautiful and so are strawberries!

Finally a photo of me and my companions of the day! (I am the one on the right šŸ˜› ) Time to test our selfie skills as we had to stand in a small area on the slippery rocks that I had mentioned earlier, very close to the waterfall. In the midst of finding the best picture angle, we had to make sure none of us slipped, which was easier said than done! I had intended to do this walk on my own but these guys joined me when they found out that I was planning to sneak out during the weekend…oops! I didn’t mind them coming along – if I REALLY wanted to go somewhere alone, no one could convince me to tag along, ha! Such a fun day out with them šŸ˜‰

Another view of the Spectacle E’e Falls, and I suppose I should finally explain the name, which allegedly came from a local tale. It was said that a young lad fell in love with the daughter of the owner of a mill nearby, but the father did not approve of the relationship and ended it. As revenge, the lad put his eyeglasses on the mill so that when the sun rays struck them, they caught on fire and destroyed the mill. Interesting story, and as someone who appreciates waterfalls immensely, I loved that the falls had history behind it.

After snapping a million photos at the waterfall, we continued on the path going back to Strathaven. And we had to hurry because we were hungry! The narrow trails along the Avon Water were quite lovely though. What an enjoyable walk!

I was actually quite glad that this walk turned out to be more relaxing and not as strenuous as some of the hills that I’ve hiked (even though none of the ones I’ve conquered so far were really THAT strenuous). At least there wasn’t any ascent and we were able to just enjoy the day as it was, almost like an afternoon stroll.

Behind us, an old man and his dog were fishing along the river, and I took this chance to practise taking some photos with my new 70-300 mm lens for Mr.Nikon. Ah, yes, I hadn’t mentioned this. This gentleman became a generous model for my trials of the day, but I definitely still need to get the hang of this lens with more shooting opportunities.

Eventually we reached an area of vast grassland without any defined trail or path, which was expected according to the guide (that I had to read backwards). A flock of sheep were chilling in the open grass and as if alerted, immediately turned away from us and began retreating as we approached. We joked around by quoting John 10:10, saying that our friend YX was the thief that came to take the sheep away. After all, the sheep know the voice of their shepherd, no?

Another selfie was warranted to showcase how blessed we were to have the weather on our side XD We didn’t have the “selfie master” with us that day, but with the combined power of three people who usually never take selfies, we did pretty well…I think? šŸ˜‰

Toward the end of the trail, as we were leaving the flock of sheep, we met these three chatty fellows who I assumed were locals around the area. One of them insisted taking a photo of our group of three along with his two buddies, and we were only glad to oblige. Of course I had to do the same, so I took a photo of their group of three along with my two buddies. Heh, it’s always the cherry on top of the cake to meet some locals on a walk. This certainly reminded me of Mr. Andy Sharp in Callander and Chris in Perth šŸ˜‰

At the end of a long hike (and it was long because we spent about 40 minutes wandering in a wrong direction), all we wanted was LOTS OF FOOD! A restaurant was serving all-day breakfast and as soon as we saw the menu I thought…Iā€™m down! And this was no ordinary breakfast ā€“ this was the EXTRA LARGE breakfast. Two eggs, two lorne sausages, two slices of bacon, beans, grilled mushrooms, slices of toast, hashbrown, pancake, tattie scone…what an indulgent Scottish breakfast for lunch!

So spring began with a blast at Spectacle E’e Falls and Strathaven, accompanied by my lovely companions, who were almost like my little brother and sister. We’re already anticipating the next outing together – where would that be?

Advertisements

Parc Bordelais

I went to Parc Bordelais for the first time before the end of the fall season, just to see the colour of the leaves one last time before they all disappeared from the branches. It was a short afternoon visit, because the sun went down relatively early, but I certainly got some nice Bordeaux autumn photos. There won’t be many words, but hopefully a picture is worth a thousand words. Enjoy šŸ˜‰

A swan swims so leisurely in the lake.

Continue reading

Venture into the Kawartha Lakes

Five days before my friend Florence’s wedding, the two of us went on a trip to Lindsay, Ontario, a small region in the city of Kawartha Lakes. Aside from being actual lakes themselves, Kawartha Lakes is an agglomeration of quiet communities approximately an hour and a half east of Toronto by driving. Florence and I had planned this trip a few months ago, where we figured we’d go somewhere to relax and calm any last-minute wedding panics. So no, I was not kidnapping the bride, if you were wondering.

In Lindsay we stayed at a local motel for two nights, and it became our mini bachlorette party. For our hike, we headed to the nearby Ken Reid Conservation Area, where we ventured deep into the woods on a hiking trail on a nice Tuesday afternoon.

Why Kawartha Lakes? Well, after last year’s trip to Tobermory, Florence and I wanted to find somewhere similar, something close to nature where we could enjoy a nice hike near the waters. A little bit of research led us to Kawartha Lakes. Of course, none of our friends had been there before, but we figured, let’s give it a try. Nothing can be so bad with each other’s company, right?

RAWR! Get away from mah territory! This little chipmunk was the first thing we saw after we parked the car. It was making itself comfortable in the pile of wild fruits, munching some here and there and scurrying around. Chipmunks are really the cutest things ever, and look at this one! The fierce look in its eyes, the fiery grasp of its claws, and the flaming flick of its tail…the BADASSERY!

Continue reading

Two weeks in China, part 2: Chengdu, why did I even come?

After the food edition in part 1, here is the more comprehensive Chengdu entry. Be warned of the photo spam, but more could be found on Facebook, for the photo addict šŸ˜‰

China, though my home for the first 8 years of my life, is a mystery to be unravelled. The last time I visited China was during the summer in 2010. Every time I go back to China, a mix of joy, excitement, and nervousness brews inside of me. There is something that always connects you with the place where you were born, no matter how long ago you’ve left and how far away you’ve gone. It’s like tracing your steps back to your roots. You find your way through the most unfamiliar territories, but end up right back at where you started, in the very beginning. Do you still call it home? CAN you still call it home?

9 hours from Amsterdam to Chengdu. With every second, the little airplane icon on the screen moved closer to the destination, and the heart anticipated a little bit more. I dared not imagine what awaited me in the motherland. This would be an adventure, just like any other, except nothing like any other.

The 9th WBC

The 9th World Biomaterials Congress was the reason why I had the opportunity to go to Chengdu in the first place. The 5-day event, held every 4 years, is the biggest and most important conference in my field of work, and this year it happened to be in China. (A side note: the next one, to be held in 2016, will be in Montreal, Canada!) I went with my entire lab in France, a group of 6. In the name of academia, we were off!

From Bordeaux to Chengdu, we’d only have to make a transfer in Amsterdam with KLM – I was so glad we didn’t have to go through Paris! Upon landing in China, the group promptly took a taxi to the hotel in downtown Chengdu. I was surprised to see banners on the side of the highway advertising the congress (or conference, I’ll use these terms interchangeably)…I didn’t know it was such a big deal!

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: