The best holiday in the world.
That’s what I had won, or so said Rene Looper of MoraySpeyside Tourism. I recalled filling out the contest form on Rene’s recommendation after Kash of The Budget Europe Travel Guide put me in contact with him. I’d met and hung out with Kash on several occasions while in Edinburgh this past March; he turned out to be a great resource for Scottish tourism and an even better guy. As for that contest, I remember the prize mentioned castles, fast classic cars, rich meals, luxurious accommodation, and unique activities in the region.
I got excited.
I mean, that sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? The Best. Holiday. In. The. World. I quickly thought of things I don’t like such as baseball, snow in my shirt, and empty whisky bottles to get my expectations under control. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how beautifully it dovetailed with my plans though. You see, I’d already been planning to spend a week in the Speyside region after the Shetland Folk Festival and now I’d have the chance to see what MoraySpeyside had to offer alongside an experienced tourism representative. Everyone would be winning here.
But I didn’t really know what to expect. Would this turn into a pseudo-press trip? I’ve gotten used to planning my days and abiding by my own schedule over the past few trips. In fact, I already had five appointments with whisky distilleries during the week of the prize. Whisky was the main draw for me to come back to Speyside (I’ve been through the area thrice before) that, along with Islay, is kind of like Valhalla except you don’t need to be dead or a Viking warrior to get there. So I guess it’s not like Valhalla at all but I was going for something other than “heavenly.” That said, it would be nice to have something other than whisky to focus on during my time in Speyside (wait, am I actually writing this?) and Rene would be the guy to show me MoraySpeyside’s other facets.
After my short flight from Lerwick to Aberdeen, I picked up my rental car and promptly drove to Keith. Fitting. There, at a coffee shop named Boogie Woogie, I met Rene for the first time, though I felt like I already knew him from all our communication over Twitter. Rene hails from Amsterdam. He and his wife fell in love with this area and moved to Scotland more than 10 years ago. Since then they’ve become experienced hoteliers and, more recently, tourism representatives.
We discussed our backgrounds over tea and cake and I was struck by some fundamental similarities. Perhaps the most telling: we both gave up comfortable and lucrative careers to pursue dreams in Scotland. I admit to being slightly concerned about this meeting. What if we didn’t get along? What if we had completely different travel styles? These flimsy concerns faded in the course of our chat as I found Rene to be friendly, companionable, and passionate about his work.
I’m passionate about what I do, too, and blogging would be the perfect way to expose MoraySpeyside’s highlights. My goals for the Best Holiday in the World week in MoraySpeyside were simple: have fun, learn about what the region has to offer, and share these activities, sights, and destinations with all of you. I think you’ll be impressed by all there is to do.
We finished up our lunch and off we went. Rene said he had several activities planned for me today. It was already 3pm. So began a crazy week and I figured, for the best holiday in the world, I could give up the reins for a bit.