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I think this is one of those posts where I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking, because Nijo Castle is pretty remarkable.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

I think most days you can go inside the castle itself, which I guess is like a museum of sorts?  I was unlucky enough to show up on a day where the inside was closed, however the just the grounds around the castle are easily worth the 400 Yen admission fee.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

I spent over an hour just wandering around and taking it all in.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

The gardens are really impressive (and I’m sure they’d be even more impressive in the summer when all the leaves are still on the trees).

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

Tokyo seems to be pretty good about making sure that the city has a bunch of green space mixed in with the in-your-face modernity of the majority of the city.  I’ve been to a few of these areas so far, though I think the Imperial Palace East Gardens might be my favourite.

My visit started quite memorably — the place is formerly a castle, so it’s surrounded by a watery moat.  There was a heron standing in the water, staring intently at a specific spot.

Imperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

In one impressively quick motion, he suddenly had a fish in his beak, and then he just sort of hung out for a few minutes (I think he was trying to figure out how to eat the fish without dropping it in the water).

Imperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

Eventually, he made a few skillful moves, and that fish went right down his gullet.

Imperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

The rest of the visit wasn’t quite as dramatic, but it was no less memorable.

The place was quite impressive, so I think I’m just going to shut up and let the pictures do the talking.

Imperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, JapanImperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, JapanImperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, JapanImperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, JapanImperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

And speaking of birds, I saw these two guys on my way out.  I have no idea what they were doing; they were just standing there flapping their wings, like a couple of old guys doing calisthenics in the park.

I’ve been almost entirely eschewing organized tours on this trip — partially because I like wandering around on my own, and partially because that stuff isn’t cheap.  If you’re only travelling for a week or two, it makes complete sense to pay for stuff like that, because why not?  You may as well cram as much as you can into the days that you have, and then worry about the money when you get home.

But when you’re travelling for several months, your budget is drastically different.  Every cent counts, and if you’re taking pricey tours everywhere you go, that’ll add up fast.

Still, exceptions have to be made, and in Scotland — which is known just as much for its scenic countryside as anything else — I figured I’d be remiss if I stayed entirely in the city.  Since renting a car was out of the question, a tour was really the only option.

Stirling Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

It was a fun day.  We visited Stirling Castle, which is possibly the most famous one in Scotland.

There were some great views from up there.

Stirling Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

We also went to Doune Castle, which has been featured in several movies and TV shows, most notably (to me at least) Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Doune Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

We saw Loch Lomand.

Loch Lomond, Glasgow, Scotland

None of my photos were quite able to capture it, but this place was scenic AF.

Loch Lomond, Glasgow, Scotland

And finally, we visited the Glengoyne whisky distillery and got to see the whole scotch-making process, which was actually quite fascinating.

Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, Glasgow, Scotland

It’s kind of insane that a drink with so many complex flavours is made with just three ingredients: barley, water, and yeast.

Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, Glasgow, Scotland