A Travellerspoint blog

Recombobulate

My Hilton room was nice: large room, good-sized bathroom, all the usual amenities. But this morning I couldn't get any hot water. The shower started out warmish and I figured it would keep warming up, but no. After maybe 20 seconds, the water turned freezing. Talk about a shock to the system! I turned the water off and washed and then turned the water back on hoping it would at least get warm again, but no. Sigh … Still, if that's the only time that happened on my trip, I think I did okay.

Checked out of the hotel just before noon and then hiked back to the airport (via a handy but long covered walkway that leads directly into Terminal 4), where I hung around for the next three hours. The time it took from dropping my bag to being through security took around 15 minutes; not bad for Heathrow. But at security I was reminded of the great little system Edinburgh Airport has: when your tray comes through after the Xray, you take the tray to a "recombobulation" point a few feet behind you. The set-up looks like stand-up library carrels, and there's enough room for your tray, and you have all the time in the world to put your jacket back on, put your liquids and your laptop back in your bag, and then be on your way without feeling like you're backing up traffic. SeaTac could really use something like that.

Got a good sandwich from Pret and then visited most of the stores, mainly buying chocolate to take to work next week. The plane was full but no one was obnoxious, and the flight was smooth. I watched TV mostly, including a weirdly hilarious English show called "Toast of London," but I watched "How to Marry a Millionaire" too.

Getting through passport control and retrieving my luggage didn't take long once back on the ground, and John was there to meet me with my water bottle. Even traffic wasn't too bad, so all in all it wasn't such a bad day (I mean, except for spending over nine hours crammed into a metal tube).

The tour and the entire trip were great. The Scots were generally friendly and approachable, and London — as ever — has great theatre. I say this every time, but for my next vacation I'd like to just lie on a warm beach in Hawaii and drink mai tais. Rick Steves' offerings keep getting better and better though, so we'll see!

Mmm ... shortbread

Mmm ... shortbread

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Yachting royally

I hate having to say goodbye at breakfast, but James started telling my table about our own primaries, and that was enough for me.

I took a city bus out to Leith to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now moored permanently there. I have a vague memory of it coming to Seattle sometime in the early '80s. It was decommissioned in 1997 and was the last of a long line of royal ships stretching back to 1660. Queen Elizabeth christened her in 1953, and "Britannia" was a very popular name with the people. The Queen said it was the only place she felt she could truly relax.

It was initially commissioned for King George VI, but he died before it was finished. The Queen and Prince Philip then took a keen interest in the design and furnishing of the yacht. Over the decades, it hosted the Royal Family on many, many occasions, as well as foreign monarchs, prime ministers, and presidents. Photos of the royals when they were on board show them looking very happy and relaxed, even when dressed to the nines for state dinners.

When on board, the royals were looked after by members of the Royal Navy, protected by the Royal Marines, and captained (if that's the right word) by an admiral or a commodore. It was the only boat on which servicemen were addressed by their first names. Daily, crewmen dived beneath the boat to check for explosive mines. They had tiny quarters - but several areas to spend free time - and they mostly communicated through hand signals because the Queen liked it quiet when at sea. Former servicemen who served on Britannia are referred to as Yotties.

Mistakes were not tolerated on board, but nobody's perfect. There's a laundry on board, and one time everything came out a pale shade of blue. The Queen's dresser was Not Happy! It turned out to have been a reaction in the copper piping, and it was soon fixed. There were also kitchens for the Yotties and the royals, a larder, a pantry, a silver pantry, a few bars, and an infirmary complete with operating room.

The engine room is a throwback (not that I've seen many engine rooms), all white and gleaming brass. General Schwarzkopf, when shown the engine room, said, "Okay, I've seen the museum piece; now where's the real engine room?"

As far as "royal" rooms, you can see the Queen's bedroom, Prince Philip's bedroom, the "honeymoon suite" (used by Prince Charles and Princess Diana and other royal newlyweds), the Queen's office, reception rooms (where Princesses Margaret and Diana both played the piano; the sheet music on the stand is "Rule Britannia"), and the state dining room. The royals also enjoyed being out on the decks, and the Queen in particular loved to sit in her sun lounge.

I spent around two hours going through the yacht and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to visit. There is a tea room on board, but I had lunch in the Britannia View Restaurant which is in the mall adjacent to the pier. I figured it would be cheaper. One panini later I was on the bus riding back into town.

Some of that end of the city reminded me a lot of Amsterdam because there were a couple of canals lined with houses. I rode on the upper deck of the bus right at the front, so I had a great view. When we got back to Princes Street, it started to snow. I took my rain hat out of my bag for when I got off the bus, but by the time I did there were only a few flakes falling. The snow stayed away while I walked back to the hotel to retrieve my suitcase, and I stayed dry walking back to the tram too. I really lucked out this trip with the weather. I only had to open my umbrella on my first day-and-a-half in London, and I wore my rain hat in Scotland for probably less than 15 minutes total. Not bad, I say.

I got to the airport a little too early, so I roamed around and looked in all the shops. The flight was more or less a non-event, and we arrived at Heathrow a little before 7:00 p.m. I'm staying the night at the Hilton Terminal 4. My room looks out at T4 and I haven't heard any planes or traffic, except the occasional faint rumble. I don't have to check out till noon tomorrow, so I think I shall sleep in!

Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia


Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia


Me with the ship's bell

Me with the ship's bell


State Dining Room

State Dining Room


The Queen's Office

The Queen's Office


State Reception Room

State Reception Room


The Royal Barge

The Royal Barge


Crew Quarters

Crew Quarters


Detail on the Royal Barge

Detail on the Royal Barge


Engine Room

Engine Room


Lego model of Britannia

Lego model of Britannia

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Bonnie, bonnie banks

I complimented the proprietor of Wellpark when we left today. My room, the lobby, the breakfast room — all were absolutely spotless. My room in particular had the feeling of being truly clean, instead of just superficially clean. He got all puffed up with the compliment and smiled proudly.

It was mostly a bus day, as we returned to Edinburgh. We had a quick "technical stop" at Luss, where we had the opportunity to step out onto the beach of Loch Lomond. It was, indeed, bonnie (as was the resident multitude of ducks), but it was again very, very windy and arctic cold.

Martin told us what the lyrics to the song "Loch Lomond" mean. The song arose from the '45 campaigns, when it was pretty easy for a Highlander to die in battle in England. In Scottish myth, the soul returns to the place of a person's birth. It does not go through the air, it travels underground via "the low road," the path for the soul. The "high road," therefore, is on the earth. So, "You take the high road and I'll take the low road, and I'll be in Scotland afore ye" means that the singer is (or will be) dead and his soul will swiftly return to his homeland, while the other person is still living and must travel back to Scotland by foot or horseback. "Where me and my true love [or, for grammarians, "Where my true love and I"] will never meet again" … because he's dead. "On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond" just means that the loch is a beautiful place. It's really a sad song, but we so often sing it as a jaunty little tune. (And we sing "Happy Birthday" like it's a dirge!)

Both Martin and James talked about Scottish politics while we descended from the Highlands back to the Lowlands. Every Scottish person has three members of Parliament: one for the Scottish Parliament, one for the Parliament at Westminster in London, and one for the European Parliament. Currently, there is talk of the "Brexit" (British exit), whereby Britain would exit the European Union. Scotland very much wants to stay in the EU because it gets all sorts of support from there to build roads and whatnot. There is also an upcoming vote in Scotland, in which it is expected that the Scottish National Party will win by a landslide. The party has already informed the Prime Minister that if the Brexit happens, the SNP will immediately call for a referendum re becoming a republic and effectively seceding from the Union. There was a vote on this two years ago, before talk of a Brexit, and Scots narrowly voted to remain with the Union. James said that was the first time he ever voted because he finally felt like his vote would count. Younger people, 18- to 55-year-olds, voted to become a republic, and 56- to 75-year-olds voted to remain with the Union. James said he saw for the first time that young people really cared about Scotland and wanted to direct their future. If another referendum comes up in the next couple of years, he's sure Scotland will leave the Union.

Around 11:30 we arrived at Stirling Castle, which structurally is a lot like Edinburgh Castle on a smaller scale. Martin gave us a quick whiz around the grounds and then set us free. In the Great Hall, some school kids were about to put on a production of … well, we were standing on the "stage" and Martin actually said "Macbeth." Shock! Horror! Sharp intakes of breath! (One does not speak the name of "the Scottish play" in a theatre. It's bad luck.)

(Quick diversion: Typing it's just now reminded me that the other day we passed a sign that said 'Tis the time for something or other, only 'tis was rendered as ti's. Shock! Horror! Sharp intake of breath!)

James told us that most Scots would prefer to visit Stirling Castle than Edinburgh Castle. I suppose they think of Stirling as being more Scottish than Edinburgh.

For lunch I walked down to The Portcullis pub just outside the castle walls. Of course, nearly half the group was there. It was so nice and warm in there, and my panini was very tasty, and I don't think any of us wanted to go back to the bus. (Have I mentioned how windy and cold it's been?)

At the request of some tour members, we stopped at The Kelpies, a huuuuge sculpture of horses rising from water. Kelpies in Scottish lore are malevolent spirits that come in the form of a horse (or cow or bull or woman) and entice people to pet and sit on them. Their backs are sticky so a person can't dismount, and then the kelpies take the human down into the sea. James said the sculptures aren't really kelpies even though they're called that (though he didn't say what they actually are) and cost £5 million. They're 30 meters high and have colored lights that shine through them at night. They are definitely impressive, and we had our group photo in front of them.

Driving into Edinburgh, Martin showed us a gift he had bought for Roddy. At the Famous Grouse distillery, you could purchase a bottle and personalize it for something like £100. So the label of this bottle says "The Famous Roddy," and on the back it says, "To the best coach driver on this trip." Roddy was very appreciative.

We arrived back at The Bonham; my room is in the basement this time and looks into the car park. It's a nice room though: I have a little entry hall, and the bathroom is through there, then the room is slightly separate and quite spacious. I started to drive myself crazy trying to repack my suitcase, so I went for a walk. It started to rain fairly hard, and that's the first time since London that I've been caught in rain. It did hail for about 30 seconds when we were at the kelpies but it was a dry hail, if that makes sense.

For our Last Supper, we took the tram to Harvey Nichols and dined on the fourth floor at the Forth Floor Restaurant. I had a courgette and basil soup with olives to start (yes, I know courgette means zucchini, but it didn't taste at all zucchini-ish), chicken with yellow curry and jasmine rice, and a truly wonderful berry tart for dessert. It was all delicious.

But now it is very late and I want to be out the door by 9:00 a.m. so I can go visit the Royal Yacht Britannia before flying back to London tomorrow afternoon. (And the large glass of wine I had at dinner isn't helping me stay awake!)

Bonnie ducks on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

Bonnie ducks on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond


Ceiling in Stirling Castle

Ceiling in Stirling Castle


Another ceiling in Stirling Castle

Another ceiling in Stirling Castle


Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle


The Great Hall at Stirling Castle

The Great Hall at Stirling Castle


View from the ramparts of Stirling Castle

View from the ramparts of Stirling Castle


Me and the kelpies

Me and the kelpies


I love this sign

I love this sign


Interesting way to serve butter

Interesting way to serve butter


Martin and James

Martin and James


My delicious dessert

My delicious dessert

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

"The Scots are steadfast -- not their clime."

(quote from Thomas Crawford)

I sat with Martin at breakfast this morning. He's been guiding for around 35 years. Before that, he was an archeologist for a while, and he owned a restaurant. He's an interesting guy, but I wish he would talk linearly (is that a word?). He'll start lecturing on a subject, then it's like he gets distracted by something shiny so he'll start going on about that, and then it's back to the original subject but the reversal was so quick you don't even realize what's going on. When we're walking around a town or whatever, he'll stop to talk about something and then abruptly, "Follow me!" And he darts off. It's like following Willy Wonka through the chocolate factory, only there are no snozzberries.

James, on the other hand, is almost taciturn. He smiles not with his mouth but with his eyes, and I don't think anything would ruffle him. He also says things like "Good morrow." Fortunately, he wears a bright blue parka when we go out; otherwise, I think we'd barely notice him. He's got a great voice, though, and was once the lead singer of a band and has also done voice-over work.

Today was our Hebridean day. We took a big Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the Isle of Mull, roughly a 45-minute trip. The scenery was to die for, but the water was really choppy. Once again, it was very windy and cold, but the sun was shining. After sailing by the ruins of Duart Castle (13th century), we landed at Craigmure on Mull. From there we took a bus driven by Richard — from Leicester but now a Mullian (Mullite?) — across the island to Fionnphort. That took close to an hour and a half.

Richard was entertaining and full of information about the island. There's loads of wildlife, including owls, golden eagles and white-tailed eagles, and otters, none of which made an appearance for us. The most exotic animals we saw were a field of black sheep and a hen harrier flying around. (While the female hen harrier sits on the nest, the male goes out to find food for her. When he returns, the female will fly up to meet him and they do a little aerial dance. At some point, she will fly toward the male and just as she's about to go underneath him, she turns upside down. The male then drops the food to her, and she catches it.) We did see a few wee hairy coos (Highland cows), two of which were just ambling down the road straight toward us.

There are only single-track roads on the island, so drivers have to be very polite and turn into regularly spaced lay-bys to let each other pass. We had a couple of close calls and had to back up once or twice, but island drivers seem to know what they're doing. As they pass each other, the drivers wave. Richard did a fair amount of waving, and nearly every time he would say something along the lines of "That's Rob. He's the island's telephone technician." He seemed to know absolutely everyone we passed.

At Fionnphort, we took a small ferry across even choppier water to the Isle of Iona. Fortunately, that was only a ten-minute ride. St. Columba formed a monastery on the island in the 6th century, so Iona is known as the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. It has a regular population of around 150, though that swells to 2,500 in summer. The big attractions are the relative peace of the island and the Abbey.

Martin walked us up to the Abbey via a ruined medieval nunnery. Meanwhile, the wind was going crazy; we could hear it whistling around our ears. I tried to run my fingers through my hair to get it out of my eyes, and all I encountered were knots. Despite the wind not being all that unusual, flowers still poke up from the stones of the ruin, and we saw daffodils all over the place. Granted, they were being blown almost horizontal, but they were still pretty.

The Abbey dates back to the 13th century; the Book of Kells (now at Trinity College in Dublin) may have been written in this spot. The Abbey is very well preserved, but there's quite a bit of 19th-century restoration. At least it's well done. The monks' old dormitories are still used today by pilgrims wanting peace and quiet to contemplate their faith.

Struggling back out into the wind, Margaret, Paloma and I went to the St. Columba Hotel to have lunch. I had the soup of the day (wild garlic and vegetable) with homemade bread. It warmed me up enough that I felt I could go back out in the wind. But I cooled right down again when the wind hit. Thank God it wasn't raining! The whole thing would have been unbearable.

Browsed one of the town's two shops (plus a grocery store), then took a quick peek in the other shop (so much beautiful stuff between the two of them, but none of it particularly affordable), and then we all got back on the ferry to return to Mull.

Richard was our driver again, and he told us how the NHS at some point decided to close down the maternity hospital on the island. Pregnant women would plan to go over to the mainland to the hospital of their choice two weeks before their due date. They'd try to pick a hospital near relatives or friends so that they would have somewhere to stay while waiting. Occasionally, though, an inconsiderate baby would come early, and because the ferries only came once every two hours the mother would have to call for a lifeboat to take her to the mainland. Richard said he knows at least seven people who were lifeboat babies, i.e., born on the lifeboat.

Recently, a woman called for a lifeboat but they were both taken up with other emergencies. So a helicopter was called. It picked her up and was flying over Loch Awe when the baby came. People back on the island knew that she had given birth, but they didn't know if she'd had a boy or a girl. So they bet on what she would name it. The bets for a girl were Skye and Ellie (short for 'elicopter), and for a boy the bets were Huey and Blade. She named the boy Ewan. On the birth certificate for place of birth, she didn't know what to put. In the end, she put "Over Loch Awe, 4000 feet up." Imagine putting all that on your passport application.

While we drove, there was brilliant sun, dark clouds, rain, and snow. By the time we got back to Craigmure, that had all stopped and it was mostly sunny — but still crazy windy — again. I nearly fell asleep on the ferry. It's hard work walking in the wind! Every time I got my camera out and had a shot lined up, the wind would about blow me over. I haven't looked at the photos yet; I'm sure they're all blurry and crooked.

Back in Oban, we all went to Wetherspoons to have dinner and to thank Roddy for his service. Tomorrow when we get back to Edinburgh, he'll pretty much have to kick us off the coach, dump our cases on the sidewalk, and take off. Rene is still my favorite driver, but Roddy's been pretty good.

I finally need to use the expansion zipper on my suitcase, and I think I'll need to do the same to my backpack. It's amazing how much room a few little purchases can take up!

Duart Castle

Duart Castle


Ferry to Iona with Iona in the background

Ferry to Iona with Iona in the background


Apparently, The Doctor lives part-time on Iona

Apparently, The Doctor lives part-time on Iona


Flowers in the nunnery

Flowers in the nunnery


Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey


Iona

Iona


Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey


Iona's harbor

Iona's harbor


Wee hairy coo

Wee hairy coo

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

The Weeping Glen

Another gloriously beautiful day, though still cold. When the wind kicks up, it's very bracing, as the English might say.

We drove first thing to Loch Ness to take a boat down the loch to Urquhart Castle (pron. ER-kert). The loch is pretty impressive, being 23 miles long and 750 feet deep at some points. It's not very wide, though; maybe a mile or so? This morning, the water was a mirror and could not have been more lovely. I mostly stayed inside the boat (just our group was on it) but did go out in front a few times to take photos. Brrr! The loch, the surrounding hills and tiny towns, the castle … it was all so impossibly pretty!

We docked at Urquhart Castle and were the first ones at the Gate House. It sits on a bit of a hill directly above the loch but is entirely a ruin. One tower still stands, though it's not got a roof, and there are plenty of partial walls, but it's not a wander through a nicely furnished castle like yesterday's visit to Brodie. The first castle was built in the early 1200s and then gradually expanded over the centuries. Its owners — whose name I have completed forgotten — were pro-English and anti-Jacobite. In 1692 when the Jacobites were threatening, the owners decided to abandon the castle. They even blew it up so the enemy couldn't use it.

I asked one of the workers (rangers?) why the castle is called Urquhart, and he said it's the name of the area. He then remarked on the swallows, which have returned all the way from South Africa. I was astonished by this (all the way from South Africa?!), but I should have remembered my Monty Python. A few seconds later, Ryan came up and pointed out a drone flying over the loch right in front of the castle. It just hovered there and made a lot of noise. Then mere seconds after that, the worker's radio crackled, and it was someone alerting someone else to the fact of the drone: "We have a drone flying over the castle, and we need to know if it's authorized." Immediately came the reply, "No, it is not authorized!" The worker I was talking to said it actually happens a lot. I'm not sure how they managed to get rid of it, but after walking back up the hill to the visitor center I noticed it wasn't there anymore.

We drove a little farther down the road and stopped in Invermoriston, ostensibly to see some Highland cows, but in reality to have a little picnic-style snack: smoked mackerel, smoked salmon, raspberries, blackberries, cheddar and oatcakes. I also tried ginger beer, which turns out to be slightly bitter but pretty tasty. In the end, the cows that live in the field never showed up, even though we tried to lure them out of hiding by mooing. Maybe our accents confused them.

While we were eating, I saw a Trafalgar Tours coach go by. It was packed. The really wonderful thing about Rick Steves tours is that we each have two seats to ourselves, and we can do things like stop for a picnic next to a field of shy cows. Trafalgar Tours doesn't get to do things like that. Nothing like a little Schadenfreude on a sunny Sunday morning!

A while later we stopped for lunch in Fort Augustus, named after the Duke of Cumberland, who was so vicious about hunting down hiding Highlanders after the '45 that he became known as the Butcher Cumberland. But the little town, which sits on two sides of locks in the Caledonian Canal, is charming. After our picnic I wasn't terribly hungry, but I knew I would regret not eating. So I got an egg sandwich and sat in the window of a cafe enjoying the sun beaming in. An English cyclist sitting at the table across from me remarked that you just don't expect a day like this in Scotland in April. The state of the weather is truly everyone's favorite subject in Britain, and since Seattleites are good at discussing the weather too, I feel right at home.

Before getting back on the bus, I went into the stop attached to the petrol station in search of Mentos. The first thing I saw was a display of Mike & Ikes, Snickers, Three Musketeers, etc., and even Twinkies. "Where am I?" I thought. And then I saw the sign: "Imported American Candy!" And they didn't even have Mentos. But when I got back to the bus, Roddie was handing out tea cakes, which were delicious.

We made a quick stop at a roadside memorial to the Royal Marines. It's a tiny park surrounded by hills, and the reason we stopped was to see Ben Nevis, the highest peak in … I can't remember if it's Scotland or all of Britain. Martin assured us that we were lucky to see the top and that we may be the only tour group this year who gets to see it. Anyway, compared to Mt. Rainier it's kind of a quaint little mountain, but I still wouldn't want to climb it.

And finally we came to Glencoe. In 1688, it was proclaimed that everyone of any standing must swear an oath of loyalty to King William (of William & Mary) no later than New Year's Day 1692. Anyone who was even a day late would be severely punished. If a landlord took the oath, then it was presumed that all of his tenants swore as well (and could, therefore, be punished if the landlord violated his oath). The clan chiefs didn't want anything to do with the oath, but there was the threat of punishment hanging over their heads. Most of them put it off till the last minute, but the MacDonald chief, Alexander MacIan MacDonald, put it off till the last possible second. He went to Fort William on foot to swear the oath, but the man in charge there said he wasn't authorized to accept the oath. He sent Alexander on to Inverary, but he gave him a letter stating that he had witnessed Alexander swear his oath before New Year's Day. So Alexander moved on to Inverary, only to find that the man authorized to accept oaths was not around, and Alexander wasn't able to swear a new oath and hand over his letter until January 6.

Meanwhile, a list had been drawn up of all the clans that had sworn the oath by the deadline. The man in charge, Dalrymple, noticed that the MacDonalds were not on the list. Orders were issued to "cut out" the MacDonalds and to take no prisoners. Particularly, the orders directed that Alexander MacIan MacDonald and his sons be killed. So a contingent of redcoats, under the command of a Campbell, was sent to Glencoe. For several days they were hosted by the MacDonalds, given shelter and food. On the morning of January 13, the redcoats were ordered to rise early and kill the still-sleeping MacDonalds. Thirty were slain. Martin pointed out that the redcoats must not have been that into the job because with the MacDonalds asleep, the soldiers could have killed a lot more of them.

However, the murder of thirty people was enough, and when a pamphleteer in London got hold of the story and published it, it became a massacre. Highland hospitality was a way of life, and it was abused in the worst possible way. People were appalled. Though Dalrymple lost his job for a while (and then was re-hired and given a promotion), no one stood trial for the crime. Today the valley is known as The Weeping Glen, and it occupies a spot in the hearts of MacDonalds.

For the first time on an RS Scotland tour, the group (most of us anyway) walked through the glen. Even Martin hadn't done it before, so we were all guinea pigs. Rick Steves was apparently very keen to have his groups take this walk. Well, Rick's a smart guy, but he's not infallible. It starts with a steepish walk down some stone steps and a pebbly slope (which would be impossible to manage if it were raining or wet), and then it's a two-mile path down the glen. The scenery is gorgeous but you can't appreciate it because you're busy keeping your eyes down on the path, which is all rocks, with a few patches of mud and small streams. If you want to see the landscape, you literally have to stop and look or else you will probably trip and fall or twist your ankle. In the end, it felt more like a march than a pleasant walk.

Martin gave us some American trivia on the bus: First he wanted to know the name of the family in "High Chaparral." The answer is Cannon. Then he wanted to know the name of Tonto's horse. I got that one: Scout. How I knew that, I have no idea. Then he asked which American states are the farthest east, west, north and south. North is Alaska, west is Hawaii, south is also Hawaii, and east is Alaska. This is because blah blah blah something about 180º longitude (latitude?) passing through Alaska, putting part of it in the eastern hemisphere. And then Martin gave us a riddle: What's the difference between a Land Rover and a hedgehog? With a hedgehog, all the pricks are on the outside. (The joke works with BMWs as well.)

We arrived in Oban a little early: one of the B&Bs doesn't like anyone to check in before 5:00 p.m. So we drove down to the other end of town so that we could see where the ferry dock is and a few other things. When at last it was 5:00, we drove back to the B&Bs. The tour info says we're in Glenburnie House for this stop, but only half of us are. I'm two doors down with the other half of the group in Wellpark. I'm on the ground floor and my room has two twin beds, a really high ceiling, tartan carpet, and a little bathroom with a sliding door. Instead of a minibar there is an honesty tray: just leave a pound for anything you take. It's very clean, and there are several mirrors to make the room seem a little bigger. I'm happy.

Walked back into town with Paloma and Margaret and had fish and chips. Best fish and chips I've ever had. The batter wasn't too thick, and there was homemade tartar sauce. Super good and only £10 with a Coke. While we were there, nine other people from the group trickled in. The service was good and very friendly, which has been the case with everywhere I've eaten. We walked up to Tesco afterward, and even there the checker chatted with me while he rang me up. Granted, I only understood about half of what he said.

Going back to the B&B along the waterfront (did I mention that Oban sits on a bay?) we were walking into the wind, which made for a bit of a slog. We stood and watched a border collie race up and down the pebbly beach while the tide came in. She had barely any beach to run on and was running through the water, but she was having a great time. We met the man who owns her, and he said she would keep doing it till he decided it was time to go. He demonstrated by walking away from the railing. The dog quickly noticed that he wasn't there anymore, so she trotted up the stairs to the sidewalk. He told her he was only kidding and that she should go run some more. She ran halfway down the stairs and turned and gave him a questioning look. "Go on!" At the bottom of the stairs, she gave him one more look, and when he told her again to take off, she went rocketing down the beach. It was really funny to watch.

We're on the west coast of Scotland now so, while we're unlikely to get any snow, we could get rain. We go over to the islands tomorrow, so I'm praying for no rain. I'll take the wind over the rain any day.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness


Ann takes a picture of Martin on Loch Ness

Ann takes a picture of Martin on Loch Ness


Urquhart Castle from the loch

Urquhart Castle from the loch


Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle


Picnic

Picnic


I spotted Nessie in Fort Augustus

I spotted Nessie in Fort Augustus


Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis


Walking in the Weeping Glen

Walking in the Weeping Glen


Oban

Oban


My B&B is on the left

My B&B is on the left

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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