Friday, June 24, 2011


'S fhada bho nach fhaca mi sibh!

That's "Long time, no see!" in Scottish Gaelic.
(At least, I think it is...however, I might have just told you there's a hot cup of soup in your car...)

Given my long absence from this blog, I think this is fitting...especially since I've hopefully returned to doing regular entries for awhile, and am starting with this...


Though we've been back for almost an entire month already, I think I'm still in shock that Bob and I actually went to Scotland where I ran my first marathon -- The Cape Wrath Challenge! We flew into Edinburgh and drove (well, Bob drove...) up to Durness, which you'll see on the map is the most northwesterly populated village in Britain. I know it's horribly cliche, but it truly was the trip of a amazing, on so many levels. I'll try to share as much of that as I can here, but had to be there.

We were in Scotland for almost two weeks, so there is a lot to show and tell. I'll do it one day -- and sometimes one subject -- at a time, so hang on!

We flew out of Fresno at 6:10 am on Friday, May 13...I know. Friday the 13th. And it was Bob's first international trip, so apparently he either really loves me, or he's just incredibly brave. I'd like to think that it's both. His daughter, Michelle, was brave, too, as she brought us to the airport at about 4:30...needless to say, this is not a pic there, as we were too tired, I think. This is us at Newark, just about to board our final flight that would take us into Edinburgh. And it's a self-portrait with my iPhone...hence the very high photo quality.

Such a dork I am, but just so excited that I had to get a photo of the gate sign.

Bob was excited, too, but also already missing Michelle, so he gave her one final call from stateside. And we were off!

We touched down in Edinburgh at 7:55 am on Saturday, May 14, and just as we'd suspected, Scotland knew we were coming.

And look what they had on the way to baggage claim! I've always felt Scottish...well, this had to be proof that I really am!

We figured we better take a picture before we got in the car...just in case we didn't survive driving on the left side of the road, we wanted a memento for our families back home. Bob did all the driving, and though he did great, he was a little nervous about it at this point. Well, more accurately, he'd been getting increasingly nervous since about two days before we left Cali. We had a room booked at the Hilton International, and he was THRILLED when our plane touched down and we spotted it FROM the airport...he only had to drive a VERY short distance to get us there.

Safely checked into the hotel (seriously, Bob did great driving), we sat down to our first Scottish breakfast. This was my plate, with food selected from a buffet, and it includes haggis and blood pudding, Dad's favorite. I'd had haggis before, but hadn't had blood pudding...I was pleasantly surprised that I really like it. I'm not sure I'd like it if I watched it being prepared, however...!

Bob hadn't had haggis, and though he's gonna kill me for posting this picture, I had to document his very first bite. Could nickname him Mikey, 'cuz he likes it!

With bellies full and having flown through the night, of course, we would have liked to just go to our room and go to sleep. We knew we shouldn't, though, in order to get our body's time clocks adjusted as effectively as possible. So, we headed into Edinburgh to do some sightseeing. Once downtown, this was the first thing we spotted -- The Sir Walter Scott Monument. Of course, Sir Walter Scott is the Scottish writer, famous for his poetry and novels such as "Rob Roy" and "Ivanhoe," and though you can't see it from this angle, this statue of him includes his favorite dog, Maida, laying at his feet. The entire monument is 200 feet high and there are 287 steps up to the top...yes, we climbed every one. I know...studs.

Before we began climbing, Bob got this gorgeous shot looking up.

The climb up was fun at first and then, well, got a little scary, as the winding stairway got tighter and tighter. You'd have to share it at times with people coming the other way, and at one point, in order to share with Bob, a woman on her way down completely hug-straddled the big stone pillar around which the stairs wound. I soooo wish I could have taken a picture of Bob's face...but my iPhone didn't work too well inside the dark stairwell, dammit!

We took pictures of the views all around Edinburgh while on our way up, and up top... well as photos of some of the structural detail. There are 64 figures on the monument, all of which are either characters from Scott's books or figures from Scottish history. I don't think this horse counts, but who knows.

The streets down below were pretty crowded, as it was Saturday, and this part of the city is quite tourist-y.

Edinburgh Castle overlooks the city, and our intent was to tour it at the end of our trip when we got back from Durness. We never did make it...but we did visit another castle you'll see.

This is Jenners, and until it was bought by House of Fraser in 2005, it was the oldest independent department store in Scotland. It's on Princes Street (as is the monument), a popular shopping destination.

Though some snaps of us at the top of the monument would have been great, it was incredibly windy (come to think of it, EVERY day we were in Scotland, it was windy...) up there, so you had to concentrate just to keep all your clothes and belongings intact. Bob did manage to get this incredibly sexy pic of me, though.

It was also about this time that we, well, accidentally littered. When he took this pic, I slid our two "I climbed to the top of the Sir Walter Scott Monument" certificates -- to be signed by the guard when we returned safely to the bottom -- under his camera case on the ground without telling him...I forgot about them, he picked up his case without seeing them, and it wasn't until we were leaving that level that I realized they were gone. No sleep...cold and windy....just climbed 287 steps in a freakishly narrow winding stairway...and now NO PROOF to put in my scrapbook?!!! And they wouldn't issue us new certificates at the bottom. Dammit.

And that brings me to an interesting side note about Bob and me....and traveling together. Seriously...we knew when we planned this trip - which would be our first together - that we were taking a risk. Cripes....traveling, especially in a foreign country (even an English speaking one) can be stressful. But one of the best things about the trip was just how easy it is for us to be together. It's pretty darned amazing. We really enjoy each other's company, and even in high stress moments (the only real ones came at the end of the trip -- think "lost in Edinburgh" and "volcano has erupted in Iceland"), we did quite well. Excellent, I'd say. Definitely got a good thing goin' on here. But back to the sightseeing...

I'm not very familiar with Sir Walter Scott's one of his characters missing a nose?...

So, we made the perilous trip back down those stairs, and spent the remainder of the afternoon walking around Edinburgh, mostly looking in shops and taking pictures. Bob has a real camera and I just took shots with my iPhone, so when you see really nice pics...well, they're undoubtedly Bob's.

And when you see lovely windblown shots of me like this, well, they're Bob's, too.

If you look carefully, you can see a "Jolly Judge Pub" sign on the left side here. My friend back home -- and assistant director at the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center where I was interim director the last two years -- encouraged us to go here, as her sister lives in Edinburgh and she shared her fave spots. this particular point, Renee, I was too tired to even remember you gave me a list, so didn't even make the connection 'til we were in Durness a few days later! And, no...we never went in, darnit!

We did, however, notice this pub sign while under it...

...and we went inside... have these! Our first shots of Scotch, with beer chasers (mine was actually a shandy -- beer with lemonade...yummy!). We toasted to my dad, of course. There were many moments over the course of the trip that were pretty emotional for me, remembering and missing Dad, and thinking about his family's connections to Scotland. I really, really don't care for Scotch, but know that Dad would be happy we did a shot for him. Bob likes it...he's more a Reid than I am that way, I imagine.

This is the ceiling of the bar. Cool history to this pub -- Deacon Brodie's Tavern. Deacon William Brodie was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's book "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." He was a cabinet maker, a town council member, and a deacon, but he led a secret life of crime to support a night life filled with mistresses and gambling (gasp!). As a cabinet maker, he made keys to access places he worked, but at night, he'd break in with a cadre of partners-in-crime, and steal to support his expensive habits. He was finally caught, and was sentenced to hang. He paid the gallows guy to ignore a special metal cuff around his neck that was designed to prevent complete choking, and allow him to be revived after he was cut down, but it didn't work. He died. Ah, least we got a good story -- and a darned cool pub! -- out of it!

There is a restaurant on the second floor of the pub, so we walked up more stairs to have a great dinner. These thistles were on the stairwell...much less anxiety-provoking than the stairwell we negotiated earlier in the day.

So that was our first day in Scotland...spent tired and jet-lagged, but happily exploring the streets of Edinburgh.

This is George, a taxi driver we met on the first day. This picture with Bob was actually taken on our last day in Scotland, more than a week later, and I'll explain that later. But for now, know that though Bob did a great job driving all week, being all jet-lagged and all, he was a little nervous about driving around the busy streets of Edinburgh on this first day. So, we had the hotel call us a cab to take us into Edinburgh. Enter George. He gave us a great talking-tour of the city on the way to Prince Street, and his friendliness, generosity, and humor immediately won us over. He gave us his personal number so we could call him when we were ready to go back to the hotel -- he picked us up in front of Deacon Brodie's Tavern! -- and we also called on him again on our last day in Scotland. More on that later...there's lots to tell in the meantime!

But for now...
Beannachd leat
(I think that's goodbye in Scottish Gaelic...or perhaps I just told you your
poodle is on fire...!)