As anyone who has been within shouting distance of me this spring knows, I have just returned from a trip to Scotland with my oldest son and daughter, Colin and Megan. It was an adventure, with what Colin describes as an "aggressive itinerary." We visited seven castles in seven days, not counting the ruin on Skye where I declined to get out of the car because it was too wet, cold, and windy. I have been driven over a good portion of the Highlands and walked more of the land than I expected (the natives call it the Hee-lands). I have climbed countless stairs and trudged up steep hillsides, amazing my children with my stamina and worrying myself with my breathlessness as I climbed. I have ridden on a small, six-car ferry across the Inner Sound, a double-decker sightseeing bus in Ediburgh, and held my breath while Colin negotiated a tiny one-lane twisty, curvy road high (and I mean really high) above a mountain valley (Colin lived in the Caribbean and quickly recovered his skill at right-hand drive; Megan navigated, with a few wrong turns, and they both had fun planning each day's outing). I ate all the salmon I could, both fresh and smoked, along with bangers 'n mash, haggis (twice, deliberately--with roasted onion and whisky gravy), and black pudding, which is really black. A confirmed white wine drinker, I sipped Scotch at distilleries and found some of it smooth and good, some harsh and burning. I know the difference now between a firth and a loch, and I've visited the 18th hole at St. Andrew's. I have a deeper appreciation of Scottish history, though I'd studied it some before, and, yes, Fran, I grieved at Culloden. I've learned that B&Bs can be fun places to meet really hospitable people. I also learned to trust Rick Steves and appreciate single-faucet sinks.
Scotland is a cold, rainy country but it is also lush and green, with amazing flower beds (even on tiny plots in front of houses with the front door almost on the sidewalk). Its hillsides are covered in the gold of broom, and its pastures are a lovely green, its cows and sheep shaggy to protect them against the wind that can be so cold, even in May, that you think your bones might break. Scottish cities, or the parts I saw, are old, with buildings crowded one upon another, the old-fashioned kind of duplexes with houses sharing common walls. The buildings are masonry with all kinds of turrets, dormers, bay windows, quoins and sunrooms--I think the Scottish build "conservatories" to take advantage of that small bit of sun. In short, Scotland is a wonderful land, and I loved it.
Colin and Megan did this trip for me--Colin planned the route, and Megan made all the B&B reservations, as well as researching places to eat. We stopped at as many pubs in small villages as we could and found excellent food, wine and ale at all. But I know that this trip was their gift to me. They have grown up knowing their mom wanted to visit Scotland (I am a registered member of Clan MacBean) and knowing I wouldn't go alone. So this winter, when Colin said "Let's plan it," Meg chimed in with "I want to go." So I am deeply grateful to them for a gift of love and caring. I'm also grateful to their spouses--Lisa and Brandon--who stayed behind and did child duty, and to Jamie and Jordan, the children who cheered us on. Colin and Megan both said they loved the trip, and I think they really did, but it was still a gift. And sharing quiet time with them was wonderful--we lingered over meals, laughing about old times, savoring our new adventures. What more could I ask for?
The kids suggested I do a daily blog about our trip, so I kept a journal, each night recording what we'd done that day. And I will begin that series of blogs in a day or two--depending on when Colin gets pictures to me. His are better, clearer, and more extensive than mine. They both have promised to comment and tell how it really was, as opposed to Mom's version. So if you have an interest in travel and/or Scotland, please do come back for the next week. I'll share everything from pub food to castle ruins to the MacBain Memorial Park. My memories of a wonderful week.