Well, you know how much I love kids. I’ve found myself in the kids section of the ferry…the only seats left on the damn boat. I just wasn’t aware it was so popular but I am going to the Isle of Man and it is summer time, so I guess it makes sense.
Another complaint…oh, did I tell you how much I love kids?…is they want to charge for their “free” WiFi. You can use it without the internet but what the heck does that mean? So 3+ hours of being disconnected. Time for contemplation and some thoughts/comments I’ve been mulling over the last couple of weeks in Scotland…and England.
Aside: my taxi ride to the port to catch the Heysham ferry to Isle of Man was interesting to say the least. The driver was very willing to give me his thoughts on the situation in Britain concerning Brexit and government, etc. Brexit: get on with it; everyone voted for it so let’s honor democracy. He definitely doesn’t trust the news; gets his information primarily from the internet. Bully for him. Oh yes, he did ask me if Barack Obama was really Barry Somebody and born in Kenya. I assured him that was true…just kidding. We also had a short conversation about Hillary and how she lost. He didn’t realize how hated she was based on the news (or rather, blogs) that he read. Now, this taxi driver was a former cop (don’t know if that’s fake information or not) and told me that because he had been trained to observe and not jump to conclusions he wasn’t full bore conspiracy. Hmmmm…
Back on the ferry: While I’m at it, for anyone who has done any sailing, the “rule” of “red, right, returning” that every sailor has learned in the Western Hemisphere has been put to shambles here in Europe/Great Britain. It’s “green, right, returning” which has none of the alliteration and ease of recall that RRR has. My sailing experience is minimal, other than nearly dying sailing up the coast of California in a gale…but I do know this rule from my sailing classes and subsequent experience. There’s a fine and funny article in Cruising World: https://www.cruisingworld.com/red-right-returning that explains what the rules are in Area A and Area B. As he mentions in the article: port wine is red and therefore red should be on the port side, see?
OK, enough of that. Here’s some observations (nasty and otherwise) I’ve made on my travels in Scotland: definitely a positive…if you haven’t been, it is a delight. I had a travel agency (McKinley & Kidd) plan out my two weeks and they have been spot on. Every stop had a driver picking me up and delivering me to a delightful B&B (except for one) and then picking me up in time for the next train. I stayed 2 days in each place which seemed short but worked out just fine. (I left my larger suitcase in Edinburgh before I started this journey into the Highlands). I had some fabulous meals…some at the Inns I stayed at, others recommended. Now, I’m a walker so Scotland is a paradise for people on foot…or bicycle. It’s also beautiful and has some very interesting geology, architecture and history so fine to just tour around as well.
I had to use the phrase “well done” to the bus driver after I heard one of the travelers say “well done Jules” when he alighted. I did this after the bus driver stood up and announced that the had to swing around for the school kids so there would be a wait but we would be on our way after that. He continued “you’ll get to see the Caledonia Canal after, as we have to take the long route to drop the kids off”. The trip took a bit longer than going, but was definitely worth it! Well done, Jules! He did drive like a madman on these tiny roads and a couple of times had to swear (politely) when some car came around the corner…or worse yet, some damn lumber truck. Close your eyes.
Riding along in the bus: a tiny electronic lawn mower working on a huge lawn, unattended. You have to look closely but that little machine in the background is the mower.
Two men chatting beside me: what language are they speaking…Gaelic it turns out.
Waiting for the bus from Spean Bridge: a “witchy” woman pops along to wait with me, coughs several times, and sticks a cigarette in her mouth.
Even the damn Germans think I’m German. They keep coming up to me to answer a question. Nein sprechen zee Deutch!!! I think that being tattooed man recognizes me.
Sign: clean up after your dog or “pick up” a 40 pound fine.
A sign for me:
And, if all else fails:
From Skye, a boat trip to the Isle of Eigg, I decided to stay at the first village (if you can call it that) of Aisling and not go to Muck…although I really wanted to…you know,…muck around. Instead I did some hiking on the paths just so I could say I’d been to Eigg. According to Wikipedia, it’s called Eigg because it comes from Gaelic “eig” meaning “notch” or Norse “egg” meaning “a sharp edge on a mountain”. It does have an egg-like volcanic plug or some such thing from the island being volcanic eons ago. So I think it’s just a damn egg origin.
I am happiest when I’m on the move. The train provides me some time to let down. It also has WiFi and USB power…this is Scottrain by the way. Great. The tour provider always had me sitting in a “facing” seat and the most visually pleasing side…if there is such a thing in Scotland. From Portree (skip breakfast here…they can only cook eggs hard) I took the ferry back to the “Mainland” and a train to Inverness.
So peaceful traveling across country in the train. From Skye which is actually attached to the mainland by a bridge (who knew) the journey goes along a lock for sometime and then turns inland with lovely small lakes (whoops, lochs) reflecting the skies and hills. Great blue herons, shorebirds, cows, sheep…all pretty lazy. Zzzzzzzz.
Not far from my lodging in Inverness, which was about a 10 minute walk to the center, there is a lovely theatre complex which had pop-up performances of all sorts going on in the afternoon. When sitting down and having a glass of wine, I overheard the woman sitting next to me telling her mate that she was off to London for Wimbledon, then heading to Santo Domingo, then to NY. She was also attending a filming the BBC was doing there in Inverness…evidently had been invited. Puts me to shame. She was dressed pretty “trashily” in my opinion and I had made a quick judgement. Now, with the travel commentary, my opinion went up several notches. Bad girl.
After Inverness, headed to Thurso, the uppermost end of the British Isles. Going out for a walk and a bit windy and cool, there are two wee girls running around in the surf with their innertubes. Yes, I know it’s summertime but I’m yearning for long johns. BTW, an amazing restaurant (Captain’s Galley) serving seafood very near the ferry terminal and just down the road from where I stayed. Shellfish platter to die for. A new waitress was being trained and it was her first day. She was so nervous serving me the amuse bouche of seafood bisque, that she tried to put the entire tray down at my place setting. Pretty cute…she was embarrassed but recovered nicely. I was being good.
Didn’t realize I was going to Orkney until a few days before. It was definitely worth it even for a quick day trip. I had a wonderful guide (Lorna) who met me at the ferry and ferried me around the island, stopping at the stone circles and the Neolithic settlement that had been discovered not so long ago. They are continually finding other settlements and we visited one that archaeologists are currently working at uncovering.
Note: on the trip over there was a young woman with either Tourette’s or some disability that was being accompanied and she called out periodically, sounding much like a seagull. It seems her whole family was taking her on this trip…it must have been difficult. I see so many people with disabilities making a go of it. It is heartwarming and disturbing at the same time.
Be aware: on the trains occasionally the announcements were a station behind. Just have to stay awake. And twice my reserved seat was taken…so rather than insisting (as I was in a good mood), I found another seat. Although it was facing backwards usually. On one occasion there were two buddies who had been cycling around Scotland in 10 days……they were doing Airbnb reviews. Ha.
Kingussie in the Cairngorms: I stayed just for one night and evidently it was for the excellent dinner they served. A Michelin starred chef. I did manage a walk to the Ruthven Barracks which played a part in…you guessed it…the Jacobite rebellion.
At The Cross (the Inn and restaurant in Kingussie) the waiter was Russian or Eastern European. It seems that many of these more up-scale eating establishments employ foreigners. Interesting.
This is getting too long. Continued in a subsequent blog…maybe. I’m definitely cleaning up my commentary here and not putting in all the nasty comments I promised.