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Sunday, November 6, 2011


Did I really eat haggis?  Read on.

Needless to say, Amy and I have arrived in Scotland.  It was a long flight, sitting in steerage, but we managed. I managed a bit more easily than Amy because I had the aisle seat and she didn't.  I won't name names, but  she did tell me a dozen or more times that the large man next to her was taking up more than his fair share of air space.  He wore his Bose headset and then laced his fingers together across his chest, pushing his beefy elbows out to the east and the west.  I know they were beefy elbows because Amy reported many times that it was like sitting next to a pot roast that was cooking away in a 350 degree oven.

We made our connecting flight in Amsterdam with no trouble.  Customs in Edinburgh was a breeze.  Our first order of business was to hit the currency exchange and load up on pounds and pence.  I had a stash of unusable kroners that were the result of an unfortunate run in with an ATM in Denmark a couple of years ago.  Seems I had not read the instructions very carefully and debited my US account for $800 worth of kroners rather than the intended $80.  The service fee that the Scottish clerk charged me to change kroners into pounds was painless.

A short bus ride brought us to our little hotel in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh.  The Lairg consists of several town houses under the watchful eye of our Lithuanian concierge, Lurch.  Well, his given name might not be Lurch, but he looks and acts the part to perfection.  I'm pretty sure he played for the former Soviet Olympic Basketball Team in the '50s.  Upon completion of our registration, Lurch pulled out a small map of the city to explain a few simple rules.  "Dis restaurant no good.  You eat in dis vun. You want tour, I set up for you.  Herz key.  Open tree doors.  Iz good.  No?"  We swore to obey and breathed a bit easier once we were in our room. 

A plan was taking shape.  It was agreed that Amy would keep her iphone set to US time and I would switch to UK time.  It was now early afternoon and we  decided that a wee nap would be just the ticket to set us up for a bit of exploring later.  We freshened up and then hit the sheets.  Lights out for three hours.

Down just a block from the Lairg we found a lovely pub and felt that a light dinner was just the ticket before we ventured into the city center for an evening walk-about.  The pub was cozy and we were shown to a quiet upstairs dining area.  When our waiter, William, asked what he could start us with, we quizzed him on the local beers.  Amy choose a pint of the moderately dark Bellhaven Best while I went with a smooth lager, Tennents. We then selected a lovely meat and cheese platter to share.  Needless to say, that first pint went down beautifully.  Since it had been a long day, we had to have a second pint each.  Meanwhile, Waiter William proved to be a great help in our planning for the rest of the evening, finding us a "Gig Guide" that listed all the pubs in Edinburgh, the genre of live music to be found in each and a detailed walking map.  What more did a girl need?  Off we went to find a taxi.  "Top of the castle, please."  In less than ten minutes we were standing at the top of a hill, in front of Edinburgh Castle, with our mouths gaping.  What a sight.  The castle is lit magnificently and gives you a breathtaking view of the city below.  Now, all this would be spectacular in and of itself, but it was the night of the Guy Fawkes celebration!  There were fireworks exploding in every direction.


We started down the Royal Mile.  And, here is the problem with starting DOWN the mile.  We walked all the way to Holyrood Palace, at the bottom of the hill, but all the pubs had been passed and we would now have to walk UP the hill if we wanted to hear any of that music that the Gig Guide promised.  So, up we started.  Now, as you must know, this can make a girl thirsty.  We managed to climb the eight blocks back to the Whiskibar and found ourselves two lovely stools at the bar.  It was now about 8:30 and the music wasn't scheduled till 10:00.  Remember the thirsty part?  Ok, another pint for each of us please.  And, since a bird can't fly on one wing, we had to have a second.  We were staring into our empty glasses and still had 20 minutes till the music began.  I decided to act responsibly and suggested that we only have a half pint for the next round.  Rats.  The band was still setting up at 10:00, and our glasses were empty again.  What better way to finish the evening than to slowly sip a glass of whisky?  I'll have the 12 year old Glenfiddich please.  Ahhhh.  The band sucked.  All the time we put in and then the band was no stinking good?  Well, we had best be heading back to the hotel anyway.  Now, we weren't exactly sure of the address to give the driver, so the simplest thing to ask for was to be dropped back at the first pub, from which we could walk the block back to the hotel.  What?  There is music coming from the pub?  Is that our favorite waiter, William, standing in the door?  Is he waving to us?  How could we not go and say hello to William?  Come in for another fine pint?  Why not?  Ah.  It was a fine evening, indeed.  We giggled all the way back our hotel and, no surprise, went straight to bed.

This is a day to scratch something off my bucket list.  We had done our homework and found a tour that would take us to Stirling Castle and a chance to see a part of family history that I had always heard about.  Somewhere in the past was a relative who had been born a Stirling, so I was certain that all of Scotland had been waiting for my triumphant return.  As we headed in for our "Real Scottish Breakfast" we asked Lurch to book us on the tour we had selected.  "Vat?  You no listen to me?  I tell you dis tour no gute.  You vill go on THIS tour.  Go eat.  I vill book dis for you".  Holy crap and "yes sir".

Well, seems 'ole Lurch knows what he is talking about.  We were disobedient, bourgeois tourists.  The tour bus picked us up in the exact spot that Lurch suggested and we then enjoyed a lovely day.  Our route took us into Glasgow and then on to Loch Lomond.  Unfortunately, the mist was too great to see much of the Loch.  Then it was on to a small town for a lunch stop and the expected mill shop.  As Amy and I went through the friendly cafeteria-ish line for our plates of lovely chicken curry, a woman approached me. "Excuse me", she said.  "Is your sweater knit with MadelineTosh yarn and is your scarf knit in the hitchhikker pattern?"  Now, if you are reading this and you are not a knitter, you will think that this woman is speaking jibberish.  If you are a knitter, you will understand and I need give no other explanation.  We don't have a worldwide secret handshake, but the last thing she asked me was if I was on Ravelry.  Again, no further explanation.

After lunch, it was back onto the bus and we were instructed to buckle up.  Things were about to get exciting.  We were treated to a hair raising drive through the eye of a needle.  Every hairpin curve opened up a new mist covered meadow, a wee waterfall and visions of Braveheart behind every tree.  We were in the Queen's forest.  November means the stags are in rut and Amy and I  actually spied a doe with her young suiter in full chase.  He was only a four point buck, but it was thrilling to see.  He sure wasn't thinking about our tour bus at that moment.

Stirling Castle is everything I had hoped it would be.  This past summer the Queen rededicated the castle following a massive restoration.  The interior rooms were hosted by costumed guides and a master storyteller took us on a spellbinding hour long trip through the last 600 years.

The drive back into Edinburgh was lovely in the early evening light.  The air was chilled and we were looking forward to an early evening.  The driver dropped us off at our corner and we decided to have a quiet dinner before calling it a night.  We selected another promising pub and were delighted to find it warm and welcoming.  Our waiter brought us the menus and a nice glass of pinot noir.  Oh, what a wonderful menu and it was chocked full of Scottish fare.  Oh.  They offer an appetizer size serving of haggis.  MUST TRY IT!  So, we sipped our wine and waited.  Jimmy brought us a lovely plate of haggis served with taddies and nups.  Now, I knew what taddies are because I have watched all the episodes of Monarch of The Glen.  Turns out that nups are turnips.  OK.  We both picked up our forks and took a taste of the haggis.  Um.  Well.  Um.  I think I will order the full serving tomorrow for dinner.  It is wonderful.  No, they don't serve it in sheeps stomach any more.

Tomorrow holds a train to Glasgow and some exploring on our own.  In fact, we stopped at the train station to pre-purchase our tickets for tomorrow.  However, we have learned our lesson with Lurch.  We have hidden our tickets in our wallets.   When we go to breakfast in the morning and Lurch asks, "So, vat you ladies do today?" we will lie to him and say we are simply going to walk about a bit.  We can't take a chance on him raising his eyebrows and looking down his Lithuanian nose at us to tell us "Vat?  Dat train no gute".


Mary Dietz said...

Haggis? HAGGIS? Scout everything for me, this is sounding good! Bon Voyage. Mary

Katyusha said...

So crafty ladies!:)) do not drink alcohol so much. otherwise you will find yourself somewhere in Greenland :))))

Kim said...

I love you and your adventures.....wish I was with you. You make me laugh! Safe travels, did you have a hangover for your train ride?