I have long enjoyed the book series by Alexander McCall Smith about Mma Ramotswe and her No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I normally like a bit more intrigue and adventure in a book but the characters that Mr. Smith developed are irresistible. They are so delightful that you could actually picture yourself knowing them or desiring to know them in real life.
My son contacted me about Mr. Smith’s upcoming talk at a Library near by. So, I signed myself and my husband up and invited us to eat dinner at my son’s house with the family. I didn’t get nervous until we actually started to get in the car. I know, there is no need to be nervous at a talk and book signing. But I was.
I adorned myself in my map of Edinburgh scarf – since I knew he was connected to the University of Edinburgh and lived in that wonderful city – and imagined talking to him. I then decided just to buy the book and have him sign it and listen to his talk. Simple.
But, having our own trip to Scotland last year and very fresh in my head, when I handed him my newly purchased book I let out a speed talk that even marveled my mind. Something like this: “I’m wearing my Edinburgh scarf we were there for Christmas and New Years and even marched on Hogmanay and our son just got his Masters from the University-Edinburgh and blah, blah, blah”. He actually managed to follow my rambling and interjected comments. I was thrilled, especially to get to tell my son over there that Alexander McCall Smith congratulated him.
I got my breath back once I sat in my seat, thinking of how goofy that was and… he was wearing a kilt!
Anyway, what a delightfully funny and kind man. My husband and I laughed out loud totally taken into his stories. He is as delightful as the characters he created. Thank you, Alexander McCall Smith, cheers to you and your writings.
Here are some poorly taken photos (with my iphone and star-struck hands)…..
Our final full day in Scotland landed on a Sunday. Perfect. We woke up and my daughter-in-law served up her daily cup of coffee and we prepared for the day.
This day was packed with sites and emotions. I hate saying goodbye to my kids. I was relieved and thankful to have been a part of their daily life in a foreign land. I knew they were safe and extremely happy. But I was holding back tears all day. I miss them. And I fell in love with Scotland, as I knew I would.
This morning we attended a traditional Anglican Church. I admit that it has been a while since I worshipped in this way. A flood of memories of my very young Catholic days came back to me. I confess that I looked around several times for nuns. I had a fear of them as a child. Go ahead and laugh at me, I’m laughing. It was totally irrational. I almost decided not to partake of communion due to my irrational fears from childhood. Silly. I went forward and followed my son and daughter as what to do. Again, I confess that the moment I should have been reflecting on Jesus and what He did for me on the cross, I was focused on the “bread” and how it wasn’t the kind that instantly melted in your mouth but rather the kind from my childhood that sticks to the roof of your mouth and the tiny bit of wine the priest offered me didn’t help to unstick it. I had thoughts of grabbing his arm and taking a larger chug. Once back in my seat I was able to be thankful and hold back the laughter of how silly I was. I did enjoy the service.
From there we sent our daughter on ahead to purchase pasties for lunch. We met up with her on The Royal Mile and sat on a bench and partook of their deliciousness.
Onward we trudged to the Edinburgh Castle. I was so excited to go there because the real Stone of Destiny was on display there.
This castle is intact and functioning. Soldiers live there and it is like a village within the walls. The view is spectacular and overlooks the city and the Firth of Forth. Enjoy these pics…
Queen Margaret, of Scotland, later St. Margaret, was a woman of prayer and benevolence. Her son built her a chapel within the castle walls…….
We finally did see The Stone of Destiny. It was in a room, guarded, enclosed within glass and no pictures could be taken. But I saw it and it was wonderful!
Time for TEA!
And on our way….
My advice to all…. visit Scotland or whatever land you dream about. It is worth the money and the emotion and it is pure joy.
As we alighted the train an excitement met me, face-to-face. I love beach towns. The more quaint, the better. As we walked down the hill, yes, another hill, lovely cottages and homes greeted us. Narrow street and sidewalks beckoned to me to keep going, the best is yet to come.
We entered the town center and I drank in the small businesses that wore the garments of charm. The sidewalk and street became even more narrow as we walked on
We turned left and could see the Firth of Forth ahead of us, calling my name. The colored homes, all stuck together as if one, put a smile in my heart.
Then at last…. the beach! The tide was out and the view was magnificent. Oh how I love to walk near water. The wind was blowing hard and the air was so delicious to breathe in and drink of.
We enjoyed a lunch in a local pub – fish and chips for me…..
I was in heaven. What a wonderful time at the beach! The big rock off in the distance is home to Puffins, aka Tommie Noddies, in the warmer months.
The song of the sea was singing to me that day. I would pack up and move to this great town if I could. This was a highlight to my trip to Scotland. I am smiling as I type these words. I hope you can feel my delight as I did. And, if you find yourself in Scotland, you must go to North Berwick. Cheers!
If it weren’t for my son’s beautiful mind and determination we may not have made this journey to Scotland. He is presently finishing up his Masters program at the University of Edinburgh.
Childbearing does pay off eventually. If it weren’t for my kids and their dreams we may very well still be, well, who knows where and perhaps not seen or experienced all we have. I love my kids and am very proud of all they have accomplished and for what their future holds.
So here are some random photos in Edinburgh and the area around the university…..
Enjoy! Next post will be on one of my FAVORITE places – North Berwick, Scotland – a Day at the Beach.
Before we even boarded a plane for Scotland, my son asked if we wanted to join them in the New Years celebration on The Royal Mile – Hogmanay We were clueless as to what that was, but as soon as he said it was walking with torches lit up we were in. He went ahead and purchased the tickets.
It is a Scottish tradition to do this walk on The Royal Mile just before New Years. It’s part of the celebration to bring in the New Year. I confess that I thought I would be in the midst of heavy drinking and rowdy crowds. It was the opposite. So peaceful and happiness on all the faces. Once again Scotland surprised me with the kindness of the people.
We took our torch in hand and marched down past the Queen’s Palace and enjoyed the festivities of the evening. From there we kept walking behind the palace and up the hill toward our flat.
It was a great experience. Please enjoy some of the pics of that evening….
And when the pipers got in the groove….. very moving….
I’m pretty sure group tours are a great way to see and learn about your trip. Our family, however, have never taken a group tour or preplanned tour (The Great Wall of China was with a group but no one spoke english so it was just a magnificent guided walk). We love to get into the flow of everyday life among the people who live there.
Our son and his wife have a lovely flat. When you stand in front of the building, and look to the end of the street, you have lovely view of Arthur’s Seat. It’s a hill that pops up out of no where. A lovely back drop to streets lined with what we, from the US, may call brownstones or apartment buildings.
I have to say that I was impressed with their flat and the simplicity of appliances and such. While the bathroom was narrow, to say the least, it was practical. You can even brush your teeth while sitting on the toilet. But the most practical was the hot water heater for the shower. Just a box that held the shower head and heated the water instantly as you needed it. I’ve heard of that type of hot water heater in the states by builder friends but for some reason they don’t seem to have taken off. I like them.
The ceilings were super high, it was an old building. The windows are old but also very high. The kitchen was small – my small kitchen at home was bigger – theirs is more practical. No dishwasher but a washing machine under the counter! Tiny, but held a lot of laundry and washed them well! The radiators in each room proved to be excellent dryers in the winter months.
The refrigerator is the what we may call a dorm fridge. Also under the counter, and that meant shopping fresh every other day or even every day. So “old world” to our spoiled, busy world. So quaint.
We had a great mattress plopped on the living room floor each night. Warm and comfy right next to the fresh Christmas Tree.
In the winter, because they are quite a bit further north than we are at home, the daylight begins at about 8:34 and ends at about 3:34! Say what? Short days and that threw us off kilter a bit. Had to get moving a bit faster than I like in order to see things in the daylight!
Our daughter made us fresh coffee each morning with toast or porridge. It was wonderful to be waited on.
Our first day…..
We are not use to city life. We live in a small country town and there is little to no public transportation. So out the door we were hustled and walked at a fast pace to the nearest bus stop. We felt old. My husband has a knee that can act up and both of us have lungs that wish hills didn’t exist. But onward we went.
We arrived shortly to Princes Street near Waverly Station ( the train station when we first arrived to Edinburgh) where the festivities began. The Christmas Market! But wait! I heard my name, “Mom”.
My son pointed and there was a young man holding a Barn Owl. I looked at my son and said, “Can I”?, like a child in a petting zoo.
Here is the result……
Okay, my trip was done, I could go home fulfilled. I held an owl and learned all kinds of info about them. Pinch me.
The Christmas Market was wonderful. Here is why:
Vendors of all kinds form everywhere
smell of food cooking…….
happy people all around
amusement rides all with the backdrop of a Castle
did I mention the people?
Let me tell you about the people. It was so crowded at the market and got even more crowded as Christmas approached. BUT, unlike America, we encountered not one rude person. Smiles everywhere. No pushing. No anger. No bad looks.
I thought it was because it was the whole Christmas outdoor market thing…. but wherever we went in Scotland the people were the same. Just plain nice. All the time.
I fell deeply in love with Scotland that day.
Here are a few random images of the beginning of our trip…….
O Christmas Tree
The Christmas Market from a distance
I have to say that from the start, the people impressed me. I confess that I had a “picture” of the Scots in my head – loud, rowdy, etc. And I have to say we never encountered a single one as I had preconceived. A wonderful happy folk.
The last big trip we took was in February of 2005. The same son who is studying now in Scotland was studying in Shanghai, China for a couple of semesters. So why not go to China?Good grief, prior to that we only went as far as our country could reach and a little into Canada and Baja California.
This was a serious journey. Prepare we did. I learned two phrases in Mandarin and spoke them wrong while there. Our son took us on a jaunt to the Great Wall of China – crazy beautiful and a challenge physically. But rewarding.
This trip to Scotland we are in the second half of our sixties. A little plump here and there and live in a town where hills are almost non-existent.
Edinburgh, Scotland has hills. Yup. The first hurdle was the actual route to get to Scotland. Our local “International” Airport tends to be rather pricey. To save money we booked an Amtrak train to Chicago. A great ride – very roomy and plenty of time to sleep.
Union Station, Kansas City, MO
Union Station, KCMO
Thankful for KC Coffee
I was anxious about arriving in Chicago. My tummy tightens even now as I type these words. We packed way too much baggage and our airline check-in bags were very heavy. Not to mention that they were “outdated”. Did you know that they make baggage with four – 4 – spinning wheels on the bottom???? (insert laughter) They can go in any direction! Where have we been? All these twenty-somethings and their new bags were leaving us in the dust.
Then there was the Uber driver. His job was to get us from Union Station to our hotel by the airport for the next day flight. Apparently it was not his job to get out of the car and help the senior citizens put their HEAVY bags in his car. It’s amazing how fast we can lift and move with car horns blaring at us in downtown Chicago.
At the hotel I had to chat with Iceland Air about our flight to Glasgow. Their mechanics, a necessary position for an aircraft, were on strike. They booked us onto KLM – Dutch Airline– to Amsterdam then to Glasgow.
Relieved, we got a good night’s sleep and got ready for the shuttle to the airport. That went great. We were almost on standby until an angel from The Netherlands walked by and said, “Oh. I booked them last night. No standby for them.” And no charge for the extra bag we checked.
Fly KLM – no extra charge for food and a very pleasant flight.
waiting to board in Chicago
come fly with me
We were so happy to be on the ground in Glasgow. All we had to do was claim our monster bags and find our son.
While waiting for the bags I received a text stating that our bags were still in Amsterdam. I think I was relieved because they were heavy! Our son popped off a bus and got us to the train station in Paisley……..
I know the dwarves enter here
As the train was entering Edinburgh I was beside myself with emotion. I wanted to capture every moment on my iPhone and just couldn’t do it justice. My emotions were running all over the place. Foreign land, yet not. So many of us Americans dream of Faerie Tales and Kings and Queens and Princes and Princesses. We are in awe of Downton Abbey life styles and high tea and accents from the United Kingdom. My husband and I watch endless BBC dramas and PBS series that tell of a different time and place. Not to mention so many of the classics came from this fair land that I was now in. I’m still in awe of the fact that we were there.
A dream come true. It was overwhelming to take it all in. As a matter of fact, I’m still taking it all in. At the end of each day I cried. I’m not even sure why. Part of it was the aches in my legs of the hills and cobblestones. Part of it was my insecurities of being in a place far from home. And part was that I was in SCOTLAND!!!
What an opportunity my son was given to be able to study in a place he loves. As we stayed in their flat I grew closer to his wife and saw she had blossomed in her many gifts of creativity. She became more alive in the magical land of Scotland.
Yes, magical. All you thought it would be it was that and much more. I can’t stress enough for you to not give up your dreams. They’ll shift and change some as time passes, but the ones that are meant to happen will, if you don’t give up. They may come suddenly for you or in time and planning and very probable will come to you in a very different way than you thought.
Thank you for patiently going through my processing of this journey. This is just the beginning. Enjoy the images (as simple as they are) and part three is to come……..
I have always had a love for Scotland. I think it began deep inside from my ancestors, I’m convinced of that, or I choose to believe that.
My mother’s grandfather came from Paisley, Scotland when he was a young boy. I never knew him but the few times she mentioned him it was always in a fond voice.
My mother also kept me enshrouded in plaid. I love plaid. I am still attracted to all things plaid.
Many years ago a friend introduced me to the Scottish author George MacDonald. The first book I read was The Lost Princess – a fairy tale. I fell in love with this man’s writing and how he lived his life. Looking for images for this post brought up books of his that I have not read or heard of. A new quest is at hand.
One day, in a small mountain town in Southern California, this wife and mother was engrossed in yet another tale of The Scottish Highlands and deep characters, when I had to set book aside and load the four kids into the car with husband and head down the mountain to do grocery shopping.
As my husband navigated down the winding highway I was lost on the moor and the heather hills. I actually said to myself, “I wonder when I will see the heather in Scotland”.
After parking the car I grabbed a cart and headed into the market. I came to an abrupt stop right inside the door. There, spread out on a long table and hard to miss, was a radiant display of Heather in full bloom. The sign on the table shouted my name: “SCOTTISH HEATHER”.
Who needs food? I grabbed a plant and proudly placed it in the cart. Was that a gift from God? I believe it was. I felt like He was giving me a glimpse of my dream trip that was sure to come.
The kids are all grown and have families of their own now. Every now and then I wondered when we would see Scotland. Then it happened. August of 2017 our middle son and his wife packed up and moved to Edinburgh, Scotland for him to pursue his passion at the University of Edinburgh.
When our son was accepted we talked and decided we would come and visit. We chose to spend Christmas and New Years there. They agreed and we booked the tickets. I was beside myself with excitement and trepidation. Being a person full of imagination and creativity, I tend to be a bit dramatic – at least to me I am. Probably to others also, but I try to keep most of it to myself.
However, I have never taken my life’s journey lightly. What I mean by that is that I tend to, and I plan to, glean all I possibly can from this life. If it’s a move across town or country or a new job then why am I here? What can I learn from the process of this journey?
And what a journey it was. I hope to convey to you, Dear Reader, a land seen through the eyes of a hopeful dreamer and therefore, you can step out and into your dreams, whatever they be. Life is too short to sit and wonder or to dream and not grab the pot of heather placed right in front of you. Go further. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there. But it does matter that you get there.