Random Scotland Pictures

I recently returned from a 9-day vacation in Scotland and England. These are some pictures from Scotland that made me smile, but don’t really fit anywhere else.

Obviously no visit to Scotland would be complete without a visit to Loch Ness to try and spot Nessie. Unfortunately, I was only able to spot this giant stuffed Nessie in the gift shop adjacent to the Loch.

Yes, this is the closest I came to seeing the Loch Ness Monster.
Yes, this is the closest I came to seeing the Loch Ness Monster.

I was told I needed to try Irn Bru, which is a popular soft drink in Scotland. Very popular–I saw people drinking it everywhere.

Irn Bru
Irn Bru

It was…interesting. It had a very strong artificial orange and vanilla flavors, kind of like a carbonated, caffeinated creamsicle. Actually, I didn’t really like it, and didn’t finish the bottle.

Here’s a chain of discount stores in the UK, sort of like all the dollar stores in the US:

Poundland, located in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.
Poundland, located in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.

Of course I went in. They seemed to have slightly better merchandise than their US counterparts. I was especially happy to find boxes of Happy Hippo cookies for only 1 pound per box (you can get them in the US, but they’re hard to find and ridiculously overpriced).

I really like James McAvoy, and posters for his new movie were absolutely everywhere in Scotland:


For any Americans who might be feeling homesick, there were quite a few familiar chain stores around:




(All located in Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow).

Also, this has nothing to do with anything, but look at this cute purple car I saw while I was there:



Irish Vegetable Soup

Every pub, cafe, and restaurant I visited in Ireland seemed to have a version of this hearty vegetable soup on the menu. It was delicious every time I ate it, but never more so than the day I arrived in Dublin.

I was exhausted from the flight, and by the time I made my way from the airport to the hotel, it was almost noon and I was really hungry. However, I was determined to see the National Gallery before finding a place to get lunch. Luckily, the Gallery has a cafe on site. And since it was cold and rainy outside, soup seemed like a perfect meal.

I was expecting something similar to the American version of vegetable soup–a broth with tomatoes and other mixed vegetables–but I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted this creamy, potato-based soup.

Photo from thecooksnextdoor.com

The recipe below is an adaptation of the one found here. I’m not much of a cook, but this soup is not difficult to prepare, and is a good approximation of what I had in Ireland. Every time I eat it, I’m reminded of the great time I had in that beautiful country, and all the nice people I met there.

Irish Vegetable Soup

4 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 leeks (white parts only), washed and sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups vegetable broth
2/3 cup skim milk
1-2 cubes vegetable bouillon
salt and pepper to taste

In a stockpot or large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, garlic, and leeks, cover, and cook, stirring once or twice, for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Add the parsnips, potatoes, carrots and stock or broth, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and stir in bouillon cubes, then let cool for 10 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. (Or puree in the pot with an immersion blender.) Return the soup to the pot, whisk in the milk, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through.

To serve, ladle the soup into shallow bowls. It tastes especially good with Irish soda bread!