Archive for September, 2013

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED—Scotland I

September 11, 2013

The Eagle Has Landed!—Scotland I

Well, I’m back into my travel mode; picking up where I left off last spring when I had to cancel due to a temporary health issue that turned out to be little more than congestion. Fortunately, United Air Lines allowed me to use the $900 I had paid at that time, toward this trip. Mark down a plus for them; as usual, they’ll need as many brownie points as they can get.

My first flight leg out of Casper left about an hour late, due to weather concerns around my first destination, Denver. I had planned to breakfast there but due to the late start, walked up to the gate just as loading was beginning for my next flight, to Newark. I swallowed my pride and purchased a horrible sandwich on that plane, supposedly roast beef and cheese, for a whopping $9. Somehow I managed to restrain the gag reflex for the remainder of that portion of the trip. Gee how I miss those halcyon trips on Lufthansa.

I did have occasion to stop at the restrooms on my way between flights and once again, I ponder why restroom stall doors open inward, where the user is burdened with one or two bulky items that could not be left unattended in the gate area, due to security concerns. In all my travels, only Sky Harbor in Phoenix and Schipohl in Amsterdam have sensibly installed (not a pun) doors that open outward. The other issue is that when one flies the Casper-Denver route, the unloading gate is actually outside at the very end of one of the concourses. I deplaned at Gate 95; my next flight was to be from Gate 24. I looked to see if my wife might be sprinting by; she was to have come in from Charlotte about that time, to Gate 15, and have to go the Gate 96. Either she was running too fast for me to see her, or she was on a different flight.

Anyway, the second leg left 45 minutes late, which was enough to prevent having a meal before the next flight. All in all, the flights themselves were uneventful, which is what one wants when flying. I watched three movies, a couple of golf short videos, and stared occasionally at the flight map displaying the progress of the plane toward Scotland. I had a total of about 10 hours in the air; not too bad when you see how far I traveled. We arrived in Glasgow at 7:35 a.m. and I set about the list of initial tasks to be completed in order to begin my visit. Passport Control took a perfunctory half hour, mostly waiting in line. Next stop, the restroom so I could continue my research on stall doors. Another inward, only this time heavy wood extending to about 7 feet upward. I had to hover my duffel bag above the toilet in order to close the door; my backpack nestled on the floor behind the opened door.

Money exchange was quick, but painful. I had with me $200 worth of Euros that I had purchased from TravelEx last spring, for the trip that never was. They made a bit on that exchange. Now, I was once more changing, this time those same euros for pounds. Again, they profited, and my $200 had shrunk to about $150. I did get a “Have a nice day” comment at the end, so there was some consolation.

Finally, it was time to get to the guest house where I was to spend about five nights at different times during the visit. I shuddered at the thought of paying $30 for a taxi to go the 6 miles, so opted for a bus. The guest house host had emailed me directions on taking the bus, which was a very nice double decker having free WiFi. I much preferred paying that $7 than taking  a taxi, even though there turned out to be a 10 minute walk at the end. I did have an initial problem finding the place after leaving the bus; all those curving little streets with similar names offered a real test. Broomhill Lane, Park, Drive, and Terrace all presented themselves as I wandered the neighborhood seeking my lodgings. As it turned out, the bus driver had pointed me to the wrong starting point, so I spent the better part of an hour in my eventually successful quest.

As I had noticed while on the bus, and later while walking, most of the older buildings and some of the newer ones are either gray or brown sandstone blocks, all presenting a neat and well-cared for appearance. The guest house was no different; it is part of an extended row of shared adjoining walls and windows facing the street, with an occasional opening in the frontal hedges to provide access to a doorway. The second doorway along the walk was enhanced by a garden in the “front yard”, small spindly trees some of which still have Christmas lights, and a variety of flowers and plants. The sign announced the name, Manor Park Guest House, with the name in Gaelic also written below. All the rooms have Gaelic names above the doors.

The owners are Fiona and Scott; she does most of the guest house while he is an architect and artist, but helps out in the evenings. There are only 10 rooms; my first room is just under the roof at the top of about 45 stairs, certainly not a welcome challenge to my neuropathic legs and feet. As one might expect in a top floor room, some of the ceilings are slanted with the roof line, and present the issue of not hitting my head any more than necessary. The room is immaculate, the bathroom sparkling, and all is well-lit with skylights at either end. There will be more about the owners and of course, the promised lavish Scottish breakfast, as my stay here continues.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

It is now cloudy, overcast, damp, and chilly; just like those British movies of the 50’s such as “This Sporting Life”. The potential gloominess is leavened by the friendliness and cheerfulness of all with whom I’ve chatted, whether asking directions or merely passing the time of day.

I saw no “flashiness” in the people, not like I’d seen in other European cities and London. The younger women overwhelmingly wear what we used to call “leotards” under skirts; I’ve yet to see any shorts which I suppose is partially a tribute to the chill in the air. But bright colors are few, drab or bland seem words to better describe the fashion scene.

With all the moisture, the lushness of the landscaping is easy to understand. Trees and grass in abundance, all set off with a myriad of plantings for emphasis. I’ve yet to see any squalor, even though my walk this afternoon took me close to the River Clyde, site of the huge shipbuilding era in years long past. Giant cranes look like soldiers marching across the landscape, some for unloading of ships while others are engaged in new construction. The bus passed through a massive shopping mall area, so large that it was divided by streets rather than merely parking lots and peripheral drives. I disappointedly observed the remains of a McDonald’s meal sack lying along the street, but closed my eyes and muttered “American tourist” under my breath.

My walk took me to the Tall Ship anchored in the River Clyde, hard by the Riverside Museum of Transportation. Admission to the ship was Free, as with most of their museums. My friends know that “Free” is one of my favorite three words, along with “Sale” and “Clearance”. A quick glance into the museum, near closing time, has me selecting that as tomorrow morning’s destination (after, of course, the Lavish Scottish Breakfast—LSB). In the afternoon I will hit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, supposedly The Pride of Glasgow’s collections. They are about a 30 minute walk from my lodging, along an avenue having clusters of small shops selling everything from trinkets to chiropractic. And Friday I’ve booked an all day trip to the Highlands, including Loch Lomond and Glencoe.

I did take a two hour nap this afternoon before going on my walk; I couldn’t sleep on the plane. But so far, I’m having a fine time and I WISH YOU ALL WERE HERE! It’s time for bed; I’ll let you know how things go the next couple of days before my Bucket List excursion to St. Andrews.

Always Be Happy…Sweet Dreams       To Our Youth