Friday, October 23, 2009

Back in NYC Part 3, my wrap up.

I get home back to this great, "glad to be back in the city feeling", but still missing the UK! I then started to unpack, relax, then I also knew there are two parties to attend tonight. The Nervino and the Simon Ford (end of the Summer party). Since Nervino party had a small window of time for me to possibly attend, I decided to skip that unfortunately, and attend the Simon Ford party. I know I know, I got back from a 7 hour flight, and I should relax, but I knew this was going to be a great event, but my inner clock was still awake. When I got there, it was 10PM, but I was in 5PM UK time, so I was rockin and rolling.


At the party, there was a rooftop and lower level. It was a buffet of great food and a grill to cook your own burgers and hotdogs, punch everywhere, endorsed by Absolut, and cocktails were being shaken up downstairs. Also, they had the Martinez brothers rolling cigars, and a hot tub to splish and splash around. It was a great party, I enjoyed it throughly, but the night wasn't over. Around midnight, we walked to the Randolph or as I call it, the "Debauchery Den." There we had a great time, a lot of craziness was going on in a great way. Finally, my US clock started kicking in, and I got exhausted, I had to end this beautiful day coming from the UK in a lovely way. Kind of funny how I was in three countries in one day, London 7AM, Scotland 9AM, and New York at... whatever time I got here.


I have just experienced a trip that I have long awaited for in my life. Every moment I captured, I cherished, I loved. I came back to NY thinking about how painfully nice the Brits and the Scots are, due to the fact that I blended in the crowd, assimilated into the culture, and was treated so well, the women, the men, the children, were such a delight to be around. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is so true... they are genuine, and I will never forget them, they were that impressionable.


Scotland has this vast and lush vegetation of beautiful hills, sheep's, cows, and horses in abundance. Beautiful land in rain or shine, you could still feel the warmth in a cold breezy night. In London, oh London... the gentlemen.... oh London. I could say so much here, but I'll leave it at that. I have to say that the Duke Bar, traveling through West Minster, the Great Hyde Park, and Trafagalar Square was what I expected and more. I loved London. I loved Scotland. I felt like I was at home.


Nightcap: For the first time in my life after leaving my hometown, I felt like I could actually live somewhere outside of NYC..............I gotta get back soon.

**Check out my FaceBook page for pix on this great adventure**




Slaandjivaa!!!!

Last day in London/Scotland

As I arrived to the front of the Duke hotel, there was a friendly doorman that greeted me in a very warm fashion, and escorted us to the bar/lounge area. As we waited for the other half of our party to arrive, I ordered the Vesper, Ian Flemming's original cocktail that was created at this bar. For the first time in my libation history, I was served bar style at my table. The server brought out a double crown Beefeater (which is rare and there is only a few bottles left in the world). He brought out the frozen bottle and scraped off the ice, so I could see the brand, and then executed the Vesper. We was given an elegant array of snacks that was very yummy. The cocktail was very very good, it was one of the best Vespers I ever had. I'd enjoyed the twist of this classic version with the utilization of Angostura bitters. Then our friends joined us finally, one of them being the only American I met in my two days in London, and we had a few more libations there, and we decided to leave to go to another cocktail lounge.


Note: The Duke Bar will give you the classics, their signature Duke Martini cocktails, their Dukes selection list, and a wide variety of Spirits, Vintage Ports, Cognac and Armagnac, Calvados, rare malt whiskeys, American, Irish, and Canadian whiskys, and even some interesting non-alcoholic cocktails, and a great selection of champagne, white and red wine by the glass, and bottle. The dining room offers great seasonal dishes using the best British ingredients, and a full a la carte menu, with a pre fixed menu, and the dining room is open seven days a week, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


This bar and lounge is elegantly designed, the atmosphere is very comfortable, the service is top notch, and I would recommend this hotel bar to anyone visiting London, who wants to experience a higher dimension of extremely high end cocktails.


At the end of our libations, we jumped in the vehicles, and sped through Hyde Park, blasting the awesome House music, as my friends pointed out notable places in the park, and when we arrived to the Montgomery Place lounge, there the staff knew all of my friends, except me, and the other American. they treated us like gold, we did not order off the menu, cocktails were created for each and every one of us. My friends ran into all of their other friends coming in, and it was like one big happy family laughing, drinking, and smoking outside- having a lovely time. Spectacular libations- down to the details of infusing their logo of the bar into the blocked ice cubes, and maybe the majority of their drinks, which I hadn't seen anywhere in the United States.


After we left..... we went down the road, to this lovely Italian restaurant which was closing, but they stayed open late for us. I'm assuming for the special people I was with. The food was amazing, the staff was accommodating, the night breeze and warmth was refreshing. As the night flew by, it was time for me to face reality, get to my flat, and pack to get back to Edinburgh.


I got back to the flat, and I was all smiles. I turned the skeleton key in the door, I looked back at the terrace, and looked at the beautiful London night, and said "Wait a minute I have to experience one more dram, and a cigar before I leave." So, I packed, walked to the terrace, and sat there, looking at the sky with that glowing feeling, vibrating all through my body. I even thought to myself for a moment that, "I could really live here." But, I had to snap out of it, and get to reality. So, after my car hire picked me up, I raced to the Gatwick airport, because I overslept, and prayed that I would get to the airport on time.


You should have seen me running through the airport, dashing through the crowds, and to my demise, I saw this huge line at about 5:30 in the morning, thinking to myself, "What the freak is going on? All these people in the morning!" I knew I won't be on time standing in that line, so I had to think fast,I went to head person in charge of the line, and told them my situation, and he rushed me to a special line for last minute ding dongs like myself. I was the first one in line, next thing you know,a bunch of Germans lined up behind me, trying to get to Edinburgh like myself. Well done to the Gatwick airport employees, from the conductors of the line, the attendant, it was efficient... thank you, thank you, and thank you!


I got back to Edinburgh, grabbed my things out of storage, packed everything back up, checked in, and waited for my flight which was on time. As I was sitting in the lobby, I did not want to go home. Reality was hitting me, and the line was getting shorter. And I finally got up, gave my ticket, and walked on the plane. The flight was great on Continental, they did an awesome nonstop flight from Edinburgh (EDI) to Newark airport. By saying that, Continental's american staff is very friendly, efficient, and constantly doing a great job making sure you are hydrated, two meals, a snack, whatever you want to drink, comfy seats, no need for first or business class, large selection of movies, music, and games, and the 7 hours felt like I was flying from Miami to New York.


Unfortunately, going through customs, and the luggage check points was the worst part of my trip on my return. It took me about two hours to get my luggage, get cleared through customs, baggage checks, and out through the shuttle train.


to be continued........

Slainte!!!



Info on the Montgomery Place:

http://montgomeryplace.co.uk/

The Duke Hotel info:

http://www.campbellgrayhotels.com/dukes-london.html?lang=EN#/dukes-london

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Last Day in London: Part 1

Since I was on this lovely Holiday/Business trip, I was feeling extra exuberant, happy, and this sense of satisfaction was overwhelming me when I woke up. I walked in the kitchen, made me a great breakfast, had some whiskey, and prepared for the day. My friends rang me, and told me to do some touristy things earlier in the day, because they had a surprise for me. They gave me instructions to go to West Minster and check out Big Ben, the House of Parliament, and of course, the Palace. So I got there, took pictures of Big Ben, absorbed the energy of the people, took photos, walked over to the Parliament, got the ticket information, and decided to go to the palace first, being top priority.



At the House of Parliament, I walked along the St. James Park (20 min walk) and I got the information for the palace, but to my dismay, it was a 3 hour wait to buy a ticket, and an average 2 hour tour of the palace. By the time I got there, it was already 12:00, which would leave me no time to make it home and get ready for my big surprise at 3PM. So I headed back to the House of Parliament, and got the information about the tour time, and it would take 45 minutes to an hour to buy a ticket, and an hour to an hour and a half tour time, which would leave me absolutely no time to be prepared for later on.




**Note: Mondays are the high tour times of these sites, so please buy your ticket ahead, and be ready to wait ahead in line for anything unexpected. **




At that point, I called my friends to find out where else I can go in this area, and they told me to try Trafalgar Square. There I found, beautiful fountains, with these huge stone lions spitting out water everywhere, and other statues absolutely beautiful... it was awesome!




The National Gallery of London, was also at the square and inside, you will find paintings from the 13th through the earlier 20th century art works, such as Bellini, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Vermeer, Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Sazon, and it with all of this, it's totally free, and they ask just for a simple donation. For amenities, the gallery offers the national dining room, national cafe, espresso bar, and of course, the shops. In my opinion, this was a state of the art gallery that I was honored to experience. I lost time in time in this museum, I was there longer than expected, but I discovered a new love of art. It was from Paul DeLaroche, it as called the "Execution of Lady Jane Grey." Queen Mary had her head beheaded around 1553, at the tower hill after only nine days of office that Lady Jane Gray held. This piece of work brings energy, deep sadness, initial shock, and, strange to say, beauty at the same time. You'll mourn for her death in a matter of minutes with great detailed emulation that DeLaRoche created.




Also, I witnessed 3 more historical pieces of work, that I have only seen in my Art History books in college. I was honored to see Georges Seurat's "Bathers at Asnieres" around circa 1859-1851, then I saw Paul Sezon "Bathers," circa 1888-1905. Renoir's "The Umbrellas," circa 1841-1919. After seeing the Umbrellas with my mouth wide open in surprise and excitement, I looked at my watch, and noticed it was time for me to get to my flat to get ready for my surprise.




I jumped on the Tube, to get ready and all I was told to dress was dressy business, bring my camcorder, and meet them at 3PM on the Cricket Field (known as the Oval.) At that point, my friends met up, and we walked about 10 blocks down to Kennington Road. Then as we drew closer, they said, "Girl, put your heels on, and get ready for this experience." Next thing I know, as we got to the point of destination, lo and behold was the Beefeater Distillery sign!!!




I jumped up and down like a kid in Disney World for the first time (this was the only London Distillery in London.... the rest are outside in suburbs)!! So after I finished jumping for joy, a sudden jolt of nervousness overcame my body, and I started saying, "Oh my God oh my God, is this REALLY happening? Are we REEEEALLY doing this?" So, my friends calm me down, we walked inside, checked in, got our badges. We had to slap on some sanitizer, because swine flu was coming in London at that time, and I stood there jittering around, pacing casually, waiting for the great Desmond Payne to come out.




When he walked out, in my head, angels started singing!


(Note: BeefEater is the first Gin I put my mouth on. Not to discriminate, but it is my absolute favorite since my young drinking age).



When Desmond greeted us, he was this mellow, laid back, humorous gentleman, which I always pictured in my head, but never dreamt of actually meeting him in this fashion. So after a brief conversation amongst us, he approved me filming portions of the distillery, and then we walked in. He gave me detailed education, and information about the distillation process, then we walked into the herbs section, and he explained why each citrus peel and herb was important for the infusion of the distillation process, especially the Beefeater 24. This new brand has added 3 new ingredients, the grapefruit peel, japanese sencha tea, and chinese green tea. As we finished the process, I thought I knew so much about gin and the distillation, but Desmond made everything clearer in my head. Desmond is a great educator, and he does his work to perfection.



After the tour, he took us to the top floor of the new Beefeater 24 lounge. When I walked inside, all the visions in my head of how I want my future home to be designed was in front of me, beveled glass, mirrors, black, white and lace designs, Victorian style couches, and chaise lounge chairs, and to top it off, dead smack in the center of the lounge was a large stainless steel bar, (hahaha).




I thought in my head with my arms crossed, "This is exactly how my living room would be." My ideas have came to manifestation. Then Desmond asked if I would like to have a cocktail with him, and the word "Yes" couldn't come fast enough with a huge smile on my face. So we sat an the bar, drinking the Beefeater 24 martini, talking about everything, then we had another libation, and relaxed some more. After that, we walked back downstairs to his chairman's office.




Inside was his secured glass cases on the wall, with all the original Beefeater bottles, and bitters, and pictures. I just stood and stared, and all I could do is drop my mouth open wide, and say, "Wow." All the while Desmond had his hands in his pocket smiling, happy to make me happy, and giving me this opportunity. As a parting gift, he gave me a bottle of the BeefEater 24 bitters, which at that point, no one in the states have, unless they are affiliated with Beefeater, one way or the other. We chatted a little bit more, and we left. When I walked out of the distillery, I said the same thing to myself, "Pinch me guys, did that really happen? Hahaha."




I could not imagine what the rest of my night would be like, it was 5 in the evening, I was told to get home, relax and get ready for the night and be ready at 7ish. So, I just zipped down the street, got on the tube, and went back to the flat. When I got back, I laid on the bed wondering, "What's in store for me tonight?" and recapped my beautiful day in London town. After thinking about this eventful day, I got ready for the night with the instructions to look nice for a great night out. Of course, my friends arrived early, and we jumped in a cab, we was dropped off at the corner, still no idea where I'm going, then we walked down narrow cobblestone streets, turned and I saw the Duke Hotel. I was like, "Huh? We're going in there??????"



To be continued.......................


Slaandjivaa!!!!!



Info on Beefater:

http://www.beefeatergin.com/

Info on places to visit in London:

http://www.visitlondon.com

House of Parliament info:

http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/index.cfm

Buckingham Palace visiting info:

http://www.tourist-information-uk.com/buckingham-palace.htm

National Gallery of London info:

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/



**For pix, check out my FaceBook page located above on the right column**

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 5: I'm in LONDON BABY!

From the Edinburgh Airport (EDI), I flew into the London Luton and then from there I took the shuttle bus to the Tube Station, and being that it was a Sunday, the tube's were running as crazy as the NY's MTA system! I was greeted by my friends and we walked over to one of their favorite bar and we sat down outside the picnic table, and we put back several shandies. It was such a sunny and warm day in London. I was so lucky to be enjoying such wonderful weather on my first day. After the shandies, they escorted me to my flat in East of London. My friend's had set up arrangements to accommodate me in a flat where one of their friend was away on Holiday. Upon entering the flat, was a bottle of whiskey on the table, and a couple of Romeo and Julietta Cigars welcoming me to London!



I settled in, I took a nice soothing bath, smoked my cigar, sipped on my whiskey, laid back in the tub, and said, "Oh my God, I'm really loving London." I've been treated so well in my first few hours, but I knew I couldn't stay in this tub for too long ,(in La La Land) because my friends were going to come back in two hours. So then, I got dressed comfortably, because we were going to walk around in London town to all the hottest bars. They knocked on the door, and of course they showed up early, but I was ready to get my imbibing on. ....


First,we went to the West Indian Pre Festival (the actual festival was that following week.) We ate some great curry, and jerk dishes and it was great music, dancing and pure happiness surrounding me. Afterwards, we exited, and walked down the streets where I found plenty of street bazaars. I picked up two beautiful crystal decanters and a crystal ice bucket, for an extremely great price after negotiating. Now it was time to go to the cocktail bars. The first place was Jack the Ripper's old watering hole, the Ten Bells Pub(84 Commercial st.). Ten Bells was established in 1752, where Jack visited around 1888(The Autumn of Terror). We had some quick libations as I noticed the list of all of Jack's victims listed on the wall with the old newspaper clippings of his demonic black magic infused murder stories! Also, I saw the "Spitalfields in the Olden Times", which is the tile decor of this pub that haven't changed much, but the exterior of Ten Bells was renovated about 20 years ago.

After that interesting visit, we went to Calloh Callay(65 Rivington-Shoreditch) where I had some lovely cocktails and lagers. I enjoyed every drip of it, and since my friends knew the bartenders, they gave me a tour of the lounge, inside and out, where I found very interesting decors. I would say this lounge was an eclectic mix of non-matching over-sized couches, stools, chairs, vintage vanities transformed into a mini dry bar with a touch of Victorian, Rock an Roll, and whatever you want to call it... a true schizophrenic dream. It is rated one of the top cocktail bar in London.


Next we went to the L.A.B, the London Academy of Bartending. To give some background, it was originally a bartending school which trained personnel from many of Londons premier bars. The LAB is now offering it to everyone to experience. The LAB experience would give you the understanding of the varieties and basic ingredients, you'll be shown the secrets behind mixing great cocktails, from enduring classics, to new era LAB recipes. Following a brief expert demonstration, each participant, is set to master the art of cocktail shaking.



For further information, please check out http://www.lab-townhouse.com/. At this point of my drinking career, I finally experienced the best cocktail in my life, which was the Laphroaig ten year whiskey sour, with the use of the egg white for body and texture, along with the fresh squeezed lemon juice, and simple syrup. The LAB is a true balance of rawness and sophistication. It's ultra slick, funky bar interior is a great hangout to spy and be spied on. The LAB's passion for creating an evolving cocktail culture has been expressed its unique unrivaled cocktail menu. These menus have been collectors item for bartenders worldwide and have been spotted as far away as Asia, the Middle East, and Australia. From it's opening, the LAB swiftly became synonymous for its truly amazing cocktails and vibrant atmosphere.



**I need to give credit to Mr. Douglas Ankrah, because this information mainly came from his composition of the menu. **


Some names of cocktails that I found interesting that I didn't get a chance to drink, but in the menu they have broken their massive selection into sections. The first section is called "Streets Ahead," where you can find the great Spring daiquiri, and the Gobbler. In their "Short and Sexy" section, the Mon Cheri is highly suggested, and it goes on and on to the "High and Mighty" department, the "Latin Flavas," the "Hall of Fame," the "Old School," the "Collins," the "Martini Station," the "Charlie," the "Shooters," the "Breezes," and on and on. So as you can see, the LAB is well equipped to serve you for almost every libation desire you'll ever have. This place is outstanding, and I give it two thumbs up, and ten stars!!!


After that....We ended the night by going to the Road House, which is an American Style country western large cocktail bar with an English twist. Personally, with my travelings to Southern USA, the only things western in this place was the decor, which is not a bad thing. That night when we walked in, we stumbled upon the London Bar Wars, where they were flipping, flaring, mixing cocktails at the speed of light with great entertaining skills along the way. We did not see the complete show, and who actually won, due to the fact my friends had to go early to work the next day and I had to get up early to do the tourist thing in West Minster.



I did have a chance to walk around on foot, and check out all the little sights that I could see on my way back home to the flat. I walked around from the east end to the west end, to Chelsea to SoHo, and back to the flat that day. As I unwinded back at the flat, I relaxed on the balcony, had a cigar, had some whiskey, and looked at the stars, and it was beautiful night in London. It was so quiet and peaceful for it to be kinda a large city.



As I lounged a bit longer, I thought to myself, "I am not missing NYC!" I felt so at peace and relaxed, almost like I belong here. It was an overwhelming smile on the inside of my heart, and I was excited like a little girl on her birthday. I would never give this feeling up for nothing. I appreciate everyday as it comes to me, and I do realize that days I have been having like today and the past week were extra special. And I am very thankful.


NIGHTCAP:London Day 1. It was a Sunday, it was sunny, it was warm. It was full of alcohol and fun with friends, and festivities. I couldn't picture to have experienced this day in any other way. I love London, and I couldn't wait for the next day.


SLAINTE!!!

Roadhouse info:
http://www.roadhouse.co.uk/

Callooh Callay info:
http://www.calloohcallaybar.com/

**I was unable to find the Ten Bells website

Day 4: Last party night in Edinburgh. Part 2.

At the ferry post, as everyone was waiting (which was late), I found myself sitting next to this gentleman- a tall nice looking 40-something year old, holding a dolly with a washing machine. As I was staring at him dubiously, he gave me a kind and gentle smile and said "Hello." As I was searching for my ticket while the ferry boat was in sight, I couldn't help but wonder why he is carrying a washing machine to Glasgow.


At boarding, I found myself walking in at the same time with that gentleman. Let's call him Bill. We somehow started conversing, after waiting for the kitchen to open, we ordered some good Scottish ferryboat food. I had chippy's (which is fish and chips,) and Bill had the curry dish. We had a great conversation, and I finally asked him, "What's up with that dolly you are bringing on the boat?" He explained that it's German, and it would be more expensive to fix in Jura, and that's why he's bringing it to Glasgow, for better pricing. You know how the Scots are...


So we walked outside, enjoyed the beautiful sights, along with the local beer. Me and Bill just casually talked about life, family, my reasons for being in Islay and Scotland, and we developed a quick friendship. As I was sipping on the great Islay ales, and more of the Islay mist. Bill offered me a ride to Glasgow bus station, because in a car, it would take two hours, in a bus, 3 1/2 hours. I felt comfortable with him, he was trustworthy, therefore Ms. Operetta took on the experience!


On the ride to Glasgow, me and Bill continued to talk about Scottish life and history, he enlightened me, as I was dazzled with the sights on the road to Glasgow. He showed me the Inveraray Castle, which was beautiful. The ride was so relaxing, all the fresh air I took in made me sleepy (this city girl wasn't used to all the freshness). Bill explained that since I wasn't used to receiving so much fresh oxygen into my body, it's only natural that I would nod on and off. Bill turned on one of the UK's most awesome radio station(that I can't remember), which played a majority of American music. I remember that Mariah Carey song,"Obsessed" was jamming on the dial, while I was taken away with all of the amazing site's I was experiencing. Only at that point I was thinking about back home.



At the point, when we finally reached the Glasgow bus station, Bill dropped me off, we said our goodbyes, and we continued our individual journey's, and that was the last I heard of "Mr. Bill." What a sweet gentleman, just like his fellow Scotsmen.



Next, I bought a ticket to Edinburgh, and I noticed one thing about the other Glas Girls in the city: that night got chilly, and these girls were dressed up to the nines- stilettos, short skirts, no stockings, they were ready to go out... it was cold, and those Glas Girls were something to see!




After that, I jumped on the Scott rail to Edinburgh, and where I finally had time to go to the Fringe Festival! Therefore I dropped off all of my luggage at the St. Andrews bus station where they have secured lockers, and I walked over to the Assembly to purchase my ticket, and of course, it was all sold out. So I walked a few blocks over to Udderbellys for any last chance tickets, and of course there wasn't. Therefore I walked into the only free show that was left on a Saturday night.


The comedians were funny, and I especially liked the woman from San Francisco. She talked about how the "Lothian" buses are out to kill you, because the street signs on the ground are always telling you to "LOOK RIGHT! LOOK LEFT!" She said, "being ADD, I have a hard time, and I very confused about where to look whenever there wasn't any signs on the street"! You have to visit Scotland to understand(ha-he)!




My personal note: in Scotland, the streets are very curvy and narrow, sometimes, when you think you can cross the street, here comes the Lothian bus, coming at "180" miles per hour, trying to kill you if you don't cross fast enough. The San Fran comedian said that she started to follow the old Scots when they cross, because they know ultimately when it's safe.



Another personal note: if you don't know how to cross the street like a New Yorker, you might get hit. Even once I thought I was crossing safely, and a Lothian bus came racing down the street and it stopped two feet in front of me, and I screamed and dashed back across the street for my life!!!!!


Afterwards, I walked over to the bus station to pick up my luggage, and went to this bar that was attached to a hostel, and had a few pints of lagers, where I met some really cheery Scottish boys. Very livid, and feeling very spirited. We had a great time, taking shots, smoking fags, meeting new friends, into the wee hours of the morning. Afterwards, I headed across the street to the Express 100 to the airport. It was time to get to LONDON BABY!


At the airport, I had a 3 1/2 hour wait before my flight. I got on the Internet, and laid down with one eye open at all times. Next, the boarding time... I checked my things in with easy Jet airlines. One thing that I find that I didn't like at all is that they require you to bring only one item on the place. Even if you are a woman, the check-in agent told me that you can only bring one item, and for the first time in Scotland, this was the only person that I've encountered that was a bit rude, to my surprise. You cannot carry a item with a purse, which is discriminating for women. Their maximum weight for one piece of luggage only is 20 kilos, which is lighter than the normal American weight of 50 pounds for luggage. I had to take several items out, to check into the airport lockers facility, which cost me more money, but not as expensive as the charges Easy Jet wanted to apply. After experiencing this, I can say that Easy Jet is the European Southwest Airline's, some call it the 'Sleazy Jet,' I like to refer to it as 'Dizzy Jet.'


On the flight, I must say, that the staff was extremely professional, helpful, and pleasant. One thing I did notice when I was boarding, I saw several women boarding on the plane with their purse and a friggin carry-on! That pissed me off, but the flight went very smooth, it was delayed only 10-15 minutes, and I couldn't believe I was finally in London Town.


To be cont...............

**For pix on this adventure, become a fan on my FaceBook page. Click on the above icon located on the above right column**

Fringe Festival info:
http://www.edfringe.com/


St. Andrews bus station info:
http://www.scotland.org.uk/guide/St_Andrews_Bus_Station


***I would like to thank all of the lovely people at the St. Andrews bus station and the friends I've met along my travels who made my experienced richer***

SLAANDJIVAA!!!

Day 4- Going to the Distillery! Part one

So I woke up around 7:30Am and walked into the Oysters Dining room where Lynn laid out a beautiful spread for breakfast. She had 4-5 different cereals to choose from, yogurt, fruit, bagels, toast, she had only one place setting arranged with a carafe of fresh squeezed orange juice, with assorted marmalade's. Next she walked in with a pleasant greeting, and gave me a personal size coffee peculator. And then the main menu for breakfast, Lynn had several options to tempt the taste buds. I had the smoked salmon with scrambled eggs with cheese. The food was absolutely delicious. Then Lynn suggested to me to car hire for the distillery (because car hiring is not as easy in Islay.) So I went to my room, and got dressed for the Ardbeg distillery. Lynn phoned Fiona, the same nice lovely lady who dropped us off from the ferry. I must say, this was the most beautiful and sunniest day in Scotland.



At Ardbeg, Emma and Yasmine welcomed me and told me that my private tour would begin at 10:30AM. Since I was there early at 10, I looked through their souvenir shop, while sipping on some good ol Ardbeg coffee. Then I walked outside for pictures and to see the lovely views of the island. I then sat on top of one of the highest rocks at the distillery, looked at the water, and kept thinking, "I can't believe I'm here." I felt accomplished, excited, and it was surreal to me.

TOUR TIME:
Bryony started out with the Ardbeg history while I was breathing in the aromas of peat and grains...mmmmmm. She then led me to the main portion of the distillery, and gave me complete details of the distillation process. I was enchanted with the entire procedure, and I was soaring on this high that I haven't descended down from yet.

After the tour, we took some more pictures (Bryony and myself) of the distillery, and we walked over to the chairman's office (not a lot of people have the opportunity to come into the Chairman's study.) There, I had: The Blasda whisky. This was recently distributed, limited edition. Pure Ardbeg peat whiskey. Because it's everything a great Ardbeg whisky should be and more, I gave it 5 stars, it's lightly smoked on the nose, and extremely smooth. Next, I had the Supernova. It's malted at 59% alcohol. And it's HEAVILY peated and smoky. This is 10 stars! Next I had the honor to try the 1975 SINGLE CASK. It's matured in sherry butts, extremely smooth, a little peppery and sweet at the same time. It will cost you about 400 pounds a bottle, and there are only 500 bottles available, which makes this single cask rare, and I can't believe I had the opportunity to taste this!!

Afterwards, Emma was nice enough (just like the entire staff of Ardbeg) to have Yasmine drop me off at Laphroaig. At Laphroaig, I did not feel the need to get footage for the distillery, since Bryony was very thorough in my private tour with her, therefore George Campbell gave me a tasting to film where we tasted four different Laphroaigs. The first was the ten year Chill Filtered whiskey that had, to my surprise, a shorter finish (of course Laphroaig and Ardbeg, being one of my favorite all time peat whiskies.) All these whiskies are 5 stars + at this point, no need to rate them. Next is the 10 year cask strength, unchilled filtered, that is strong, not too medicinal, with a big bite. Next is the quarter cask, which means that this whiskey was produced in a wee cask at 150 liters in a sherry butt. The next is the 18 year (this is replacing the 15 year) it's 48% alcohol, and it's non chilled filtered, with a beautiful honey on the nose, a bit sweeter than the 10 years, not as peaty, but of course, the smoke is present, which is a bit different for my taste, but I actually enjoyed this 18 year.

** SIDE NOTE: All of the Laphroaig whiskey is matured in Makers Mark barrels.

SHOPPING IN THE GIFT SHOP:


I'll have to say that Ardbeg and Laphroaig gift shops are so lovely with so much to offer, which made me spend a lot of pounds in these two places. They have various items to choose from such as 100% slate coasters with matching cheese boards, plenty of nosing glasses, rock glasses, shot glasses, clothing, deodorant, lotions, soaps, anything and everything you could possibly need with a Laphroaig name stamped on it. Then I walked over to film their museum, and inside for the visual learner like myself, the owner has set up a great presentation of their distillation process, the history of Laphroaig, their land, and their glorious people.

Lastly, I walked down the hill outside to the water, I took my shoes off, sat down, and soaked my toes in the beautiful, salty waters. I think a tear came down my face, and I sat there and smoked my fags gazing at the dazzling sun. I felt the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, cupped my hands, put it in the water, and started drinking the Laphroaig salty water.

I just sat there for a while in pure bliss.... When I had to snap back into reality, I ranged Fiona to pick me up and get back to the B&B to check out. When I walked in the Oyster Catcher, Lynn wasn't there, and one thing I have to say about the beautiful people of Islay, they're traditional, loving, kind, sweet, and very old fashioned in the best ways. When I walked into the dining room, Lynn trusted me so much, that she left a note on the table, asking me to put the pounds in the vase, because she was unable to meet me on my return to the Oyster Catcher. So, of course, I put the money in the vase,got back in the van with Fiona and drove back to the ferry port. At this time, we took the opposite route so I could get the full view of Islay.

To be continued....

SLAINTE!

To become a friend if Laphroaig, check out their great link below

http://www.laphroaig.com/index.asp?ReturnUrl=%2Fisland%2Findex%2Easp?expanded%3Dour%5Fisland

For more Ardbeg info, click on the link below:

http://www.ardbeg.com/members/public/index/checkage

For reservations on Islay:

http://www.islay-bedandbreakfast.com/

**I would like to thank the entire staff of Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Fiona's car hire service, and Lynn at the Oyster Catcher***

***For pix on this adventure, become a fan on my FaceBook page by clicking on the above icon above on the right column.***