Independent Explorations

Before I get into how cool this weekend was (for me), I just want to quickly set the tone:

This past weekend was supposed to be a lovely experience for Dan and I; we were to attend and volunteer at DramFest as well as see the Chinese Lantern Festival at a nearby park. We were looking forward to this weekend for some time.

However, Dan ended up getting scheduled at work and I acquired a pinched nerve in my neck two days before the festivities…

Thursday before work, my neck was suddenly on fire. My shoulders started to rise up towards my ears and I became unable to turn my head with ease. My eyes welled up with tears of pain and I swallowed some ibuprofen and caught the bus to work.

Luckily, we weren’t too busy and I made it through the shift. However, the following morning I woke up in severe pain and could not move my head at all. I called out of work and made an appointment with a massage therapist.

A few hours later, I awkwardly sat upright in a chair while this woman, Vanessa, jabbed my back muscles and said, “I don’t know how you’re not screaming in pain! I would be on the floor in tears!”

I half smiled and grunted while trying not to cry out in agony.

“You aren’t working tonight are you?”

“I called out. I have the next few days to recover,” I answered through a tightened diaphragm.

After the appointment, I spent the rest of my Friday night with a heating pad on my neck and non-stop Netflix.


Saturday morning, Dan and I had breakfast and headed over to Horncastle Arena for DramFest! (Dan was able to attend for an hour before he had to rush to work.)


After receiving our wristbands and drams, we entered the main event. A plethora of booths to approach with an array of whisky to taste. This was incredible!

Photo Courtesy:


Our first stop was over at The Dalmore. They had five options for tasting and their cheapest bottle was $144.

Instead of rushing in for the most expensive taster – which would be the ‘King Alexander III’ at $329 a bottle – we started with their 12 year.

We smiled and I eagerly glanced around the room, quickly realizing that this was the coolest festival EVER… and I’d also need to pace myself to avoid any embarrassment. Especially since I would be by myself.

After just two sips, we heard Scottish bagpipes entering the arena.



I ran around trying to get a decent photo; obviously didn’t happen.


After circling the space a couple of times, a Scottish man came up on stage, set the ground rules and lifted his dram to signal the beginning of the festivities.

Dan and I visited two more booths before we went to the café for lunch and he headed out. I re-entered the arena and soon realized that I didn’t really want to be alone.


After chatting with some random, chipper guy and tasting a few more whiskies, I found myself sitting in the lounge area, concocting a text to Dan: “This isn’t fun with y-” I was interrupted by a man taking a seat next to me.

We began chit-chatting about the event, where I’m from, work, etc. We got up and tried some whiskies together and I realized I’d be fine without Dan. I can make friends and have fun at events by myself! Sure it was a little weird, but I guess it’s important to be independent and trust yourself.

Paul, my new friend, left me for a little while and I continued to walk around chatting with random people about the event. We’d make suggestions of which booths to visit and high-five over how awesome this festival was.


Paul returned and we managed to try a few more whiskies before last-call, at 6 PM. I couldn’t believe I managed to stay for the whole event! Out of approximately 250 different whiskies, I tried approximately 20.

My new friend then invited me to dinner with a large group of people. He said he only knew one person and I was more than welcome to join. I felt weird joining a dinner party with a group of strangers, but I decided to go for it. Why not? It’ll make for an interesting story.

We left the event and started walking the few blocks to a nearby Indian restaurant, when I realized I didn’t have my wallet on me. Oh my goodness. I am such an idiot.

“I’m so sorry. I can’t come to dinner. I left my wallet at home.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“No.. I’m that person. I’ll just grab a bus home,” I told him.

“No, it’s fine. You can just pay me back,” he replied.

After going back and forth, I finally decided to electronically send him money and he pulled out cash from a nearby ATM.

I felt like such an idiot.

Dinner was great! Paul, his friend Matt, one other guy and I were the youngest there. I was surrounded by older gentlemen who were slightly intoxicated from the festival and were laughing and having a great time. We all shared stories and everyone seemed curious as to how I ended up at dinner.

Matt is half American and told me he had visited the States twice. Once, he bought “yellow cheese that ‘may contain dairy'” and was offered a special deal on an automatic weapon that included 1500 bullets for no extra cost… at Wal-Mart – and they didn’t even need his passport. (He laughed really hard when he told this story.)

After dinner, we walked across the street to grab a beer and I was then given a ride home from one of the men’s wife. It was a great adventure and makes a great story: The time I went to dinner with a group of 20 strangers after sipping whisky for 5 hours.



Sunday morning, I went back to the Horncastle Arena, but this time it was to work the event.

DramFest is a festival put on every other year by Whisky Galore. Dan and I discovered the event during Christmas when we stumbled upon this little shop and Alistair, an employee, informed us that we could attend for free if we volunteered.


Volunteering on Sunday was great. I met a few people and ran around setting up the private sessions and even got to try more whisky! Not a bad day at all.

I made a new friend and also found out that I could apply for a journalism job on my current visa! Very exciting news.

I won’t bore you with volunteering stories. There isn’t much to say about it other than that.


After the event, I came home to change and have dinner before heading over to North Hagley Park.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 2.39.00 PM

As you can see, the park is enormous.

I paid $5 and parking in the middle of nowhere and walked over the main event.

It was just starting to get dark and the lanterns were really starting to glow; the main stage had traditional Chinese acts and music; in between acts, you could here Chinese and English translations from the stage.


Thousands of people cluttered the area. It was impossible to walk around with ease.

A faux market was set up. You could get acupuncture, henna tattoos, boba tea, lanterns and more. It was a really cool sight to see.


The event was sort of small, although well done, and after snapping a few photos, I decided I didn’t want to hang around for another hour and a half to see the fireworks. So, I left and soon after picked Dan up from work.


Looking back, I was sure for a failed weekend. I’m still dealing with a sharp pain in my neck and Dan and I missed out on experiencing these events together, but it’s okay. We’re in this together and there will be future events for us to attend. This weekend, I got to be independent and experience something on my own. I was introduced to new whiskies, new friends, and a new cultural experience. Turns out that this weekend was still a great success.


Until next time,




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