Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Scotland, Day Eight: St. Andrews and back to Edinburgh

Our last day in Scotland was a lazy one. Megan slept in while Colin and I made our way through the kitchen, as we’d been told to do, for breakfast. Audrey, our hostess, said, “I’ve put you in conservat’ry” and we found our places in the small, glass enclosure. These structures seem to be most common in Scotland, perhaps to catch what sun there is. While we ate, a pouring rain came down and I said if I lived in that house, I’d have to have my office in the conservatory. A few minutes later, blinding sunshine made me rethink that. We had a huge breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
After packing up, we said our goodbyes and Audrey said something in her broad Scottish brogue that really touched me. She had all along been interested in my Scottish ancestors and knew we’d been to the memorial park, and she said, “It must have been very emotional for you.” She was the only one who realized that, and I was grateful. Her brogue reminded me a bit of the way some of my Canadian relatives used to talk.
Our only goal this day was St. Andrews. Colin is the controller for five upscale golf courses, four in Houston and one in Tennessee, I think. Seeing the course and buying gifts for colleagues was important to him. We walked to the 18th hole and, of course, it dumped rain on us again. I took refuge on the porch of the caddy shack, and the kids soon joined me. After a bit, it let up enough to go to the car, and we went souvenir shopping and then to St. Andrew’s Castle.
St. Andrews is a charming old town set on the Firth of Forth and the North Sea. We passed St. Andrew’s University, where Will and Kate met. The gothic gray stone buildings reminded me of the University of Chicago, but in truth I suppose it should be the other way around: the U. of C. reminds one of St. Andrew’s. The campus was compact, all crowded together, with narrow streets, much of it walled it. The castle is right across the street from part of the school. 

St. Andrews Castle was once home to powerful cardinals, bishops and archbishops. Today it is a picturesque shell, destroyed in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. It sits on a bluff above the firth. Having gotten lazy by now, we merely looked at it from the sidewalk, didn’t go to the exhibit or prowl the ruins. We were tired.
We crossed the extraordinarily long bridge over the Firth of Forth and headed to Edinburgh, arriving in the early afternoon.. (A firth is an inlet of sea or salt water; a loch is a fresh-water lake.) Returning to the B&B where we’d spent our first night seemed like coming home. We unloaded the car—well, I was sent to the room while the kids hauled our luggage up to the garret. Then of course we were hungry.

The innkeeper at St. Michael’s had recommended a restaurant called The Dome, so we took a taxi there—taking a car into downtown Edinburgh didn’t appeal. The Dome, in what was once a fancy bank, had two restaurants—one that was the traditional leather and dark wood and another that seemed light and airy and full of sunshine. We checked both menus, and Megan announced our meal would cost 100 pounds—eating high on the hog again. I for one didn’t want to start that endless restaurant search again, and the menu looked good. We went into the Dome room, which indeed had a dome, and was almost like a solarium. The maitre d’ seated us at the bar temporarily, and we discovered the bar menu. Our lunch was a platter of assorted sandwiches—beef and horseradish, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and turkey with cranberry and cheese--and a platter of—not tapas, for they were Asian and Spanish and sort of an odd mixture. With wine and beer and then of course cappucino. We lingered and lingered some more, and I had an extra glass of wine. Upshot: I went back to the room and had a nap while the kids went out to buy nibbles for supper.   
When they came back they announced supper would be cheese, crackers, and chocolate covered almonds-–Megan had carried the latter all over Scotland with us. They also brought me white wine, and they finished a bottle of red Colin had. A satisfying supper, and we turned in, though I laughed at my children: while I sat reading an old-fashioned print book they were each glued to their iPad, watching movies.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        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