Scotland's For Me

Scotland's For Me

Oh, how time flies. I feel like I just posted, but at the same time, I don't know how I will fit everything into this next post!

I've just returned from a weekend in Scotland and boy, was it fantastic. I previously spent three weeks in Norway, about two years ago, which was one of the best experiences I've had with travel. Scotland held a lot of similarities with the Norwegian countryside, causing a spark of nostalgia. The seven hour travel time (and mandatory, yet mild, motion sickness) to and from Perth was well worth it for the gorgeous weather, warm company, and culinary adventures. Despite the risk of a migraine from the quickly passing vegetation, I couldn't help but stare out the window as long as it was light. The stout mountains and lush flora complimented each other in the way that the notion of a hobbit is playful and endearing. The plots of golden wheat were what really stood out for me, though. Despite their presence causing me to suffer my first experiences with allergies, the rich yellow glowing against the surrounding green pastures and trees was a sight I've missed desperately. Growing up in (sub)urban area of Florida means little exposure to agriculture and none to hills. Though I love my home, it has not diluted my appreciation for the sights offered by the European greenbelt.

Scotland firmly held the expectations set by its scenery throughout the rest of the trip. We were welcomed by Ryne's cousin Dave at the train station in Perth, just an hour outside of Glasgow. A smaller town than the popular tourist spots such as Edinburgh, we decided to stay there since we were offered a free place to stay. Dave took us over to his sister Liz's home and it was easy to see how welcome we were. Freshly made beds, snacks in the cupboard, and a fridge stocked with cider - I was already concerned I may not be ready to go home at the end of the weekend. Since it was already after 1 a.m., we all headed to bed for a few hours. The plan was to rise bright and early to spend the day in Edinburgh.

Bright and early did not come quite as easily as we all had hoped, but it was certainly enjoyable. There's nothing like first hearing "Way-kee, way-kee!" from a thick-throated Scotsman in the morning. Even though it was 9 a.m. (I don't function without greatly concerted effort before 11 a.m.), there were smiles across the room. We were in Scotland! After fights for the shower, coffee, toast, and familial greetings from Liz, Dave, and Dave's fiance Helen - we finally managed to make it out the door. We took two cars, since European cars are smaller than what is in the US. Six passengers in one vehicle is unheard in that neck of the woods (though to me it sounded like being sixteen. Trying to squeeze as many hooligans as possible into the only car available to you is a regular practice. But hey, it was preparation. You know, for clown college.) As we took a drive around the Perth area, Dave chattered on about the town and made other bits of friendly conversation. And while an ecstatic Ryne caught up with his cousin I had the chance to practice deciphering the Scottish accent and enjoying the view from the backseat. We met up with the girls at the station and headed off to Edinburgh!

It was a breathtaking sight, first emerging out of the station. Ahead of you is a medieval styled city, a peaceful river just at the border, and the stately Edinburgh Castle watching over its kingdom. Cobble stoned streets, narrow passageways, intricate fixtures embedded in the architecture keep your head turning. But despite the architectural theme of the Dark Ages, the city is full of light. Earthy reds, soft browns, and warm creams act as the color palette. The familial warmth I found with Ryne's family carried over into the city and its inhabitants as well. Scottish lunch is a soft breaded ham or cheese sandwich, a bowl of homemade soup and a pint. Had I died and gone to Heaven? Well not quite, the ale was still 3.4 pounds and not that great. But alas, I soldiered on.

The rest of the day was spent at Edinburgh Castle. Taking in the sights and the history, I joined my comrades in a delightful day. I even participated in a bit of Sarah's mini photo-shoot (must have been the ale). Kilt and souvenir shopping took a small piece of the afternoon before hopping back on the train back to Perth. An American style restaurant for dinner, post-dinner beer/snack shopping, followed by a pajama/CSI watch party - all the makings of an excellent day.

View from Edinburgh Castle

The next day, Saturday, was no less exciting. Another, though slightly earlier, morning with Dave and company set the tone for a cheerful time ahead. Sarah, the headstrong one that she is, ventured off to Sterling on her own. The rest of us hopped into the car to go to the Royal Air Force's (RAF) Airshow. Well wouldn't you know it, we had the same plans as everyone else in Scotland. A 30 minute drive turned into 2 and 1/2 hours in the car. But traffic stopped still on the road just led to families stepping out of their cars, pulling out the fold-out chairs and catching the sights of the plans from where we were. Eventually though, we did arrive at the airshow and the next few hours (pun alert!) "flew" by. Vintage and new aircraft from air force's all over the world, greasy fair food, spectacular flying shows and military garb made up the event. What completed it was the gorgeous weather! About 18 or so degrees Celsius (that's in the mid sixties for us Farenheit folk), bright blue skies and a fresh breeze. I soaked up every minute I could in the sun.

Fact: Yanks do it better.

Of course by the time the show ended, all of us thousands of attendees were forced to exit at the same time. And our 2 and 1/2 hour entry became a 3 and 1/2 hour exit. But not without the same excursions out of the car. Again drinking in the refreshing Scottish countryside, sitting around for so long for no reason other than simple event-planning deficiencies (hey, isn't the military supposed to execute complex military strategies? Just saying...), really wasn't so bad. The night was again complete with a happy pint and proper fish and chips.

Now I did mention culinary adventures, and that's where Sunday morning comes in. Dave came over early to treat us all to a proper Scottish breakfast. I must say, I need to find a way to wiggle myself into this family, because it was terrific. Now, contrary to popular American belief, what I am about to say is the absolute truth. Ahem.

Haggis. Rocks.

For real. Earthy, crumbly sausage that you scarf down with potato scones (comparable to potato pancakes), sometimes with ketchup is amazing. Blood pudding - same story. Crumbly sausage like meat that compliments the haggis and is a bit sweeter. Eat it with bacon and if you can manage, sausage too. No wonder the Scottish are so rugged, I could feel my arteries flexing the entire time. But it was a good hurt. It prepared us for the rest of the afternoon as well, one last morning in the Scotland air.

Ryne, Helen, and Dave took off to a nearby car show called Yesteryear, but not before dropping off me and the remaining ladies at Scone Palace (pronounced something like Skoon Palace). I am not usually one to be so taken aback by the treasures of the aristocracy. I appreciate the art and history they offer, but am generally put off entirely by the notion of such vastly accumulated wealth on the thin ice of a blood line. But I briefly considered changing my mind at the sight of this home. The palace was largely decorated in a French style with the brightest colors! Sky blue, true red, and rich golds were found all throughout the Earl's home. Original portraits of King George and Dorthea Carnegie gazed at you softly as you wandered about the rooms, gazing at the hand painted china and marble topped desks. But the palace was made by the surrounding grounds. The same full, green setting spotted with healthy flowers and fantasy trees made up the gardens. Beyond the family graveyard was a hedge maze in the shape of a star, which was a symbol of the Clan's tartan. (The center of which, I would like to mention, I beat Megan to).

But sadly, this all came to an end. Another happy meal squeezed in before catching the train at Liz's. Homemade sandwiches and soup with love spread on the bread. And after three days, another 7 hours on the train, four pints and a headache later, we were back in the city.

Dave and Helen!

The funniest part about the trip, is how different Scotland was from London. I am quite convinced that I am not well-liked by Londoners. Quite often when my American heritage is made apparent, I receive a very suspicious look. Navigating the English business etiquette has been nothing short of difficult and, damn it all, I still don't know which side of the pavement to walk on! Scotland reminded me of the ease with which I settled into Norway and the contentedness of being at home with a family, very much like my own. I got on easily with the Scottish, who are cheerful and happy and can appreciate my American charms properly. But it also reminded me of why I am in London and why I like being here. Despite its hardships and lack of reason in designing the street make up, I am here because I want to be. I enjoyed Scotland most of all for what it had to show me that I didn't already know. There's so much about London I've still got to figure out, and coming back to it Sunday night was comforting in that respect. So while I imagine I will return to Scotland or somewhere like it over the next couple of months, and I will again complain about the English disposition, I know that I will be happy to return to it again

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