Monday, September 29, 2014

trying my hand in Scotland

AirTransat flight, packed into the window seat, using my coat to cover my eyes. An uneven sleep. Two meals: a beef and potatoes dinner, and a continental breakfast featuring pink goop posing as yogourt. Greeted by my friend at the airport with a welcome coffee in hand. Short drive through Glasgow, stopped to admire one of the downtown campuses. Lunch at Bar Gandolfi: pasta with capers and anchovies. A sleepy but gorgeous trip to the house, gliding between soft green hills. Steak dinner in Casa Mia in Dumfries, my tummy enjoying the extended day.
Egg, venison sausage, back bacon

Sunday was a much needed sleep-in, followed up by a healthy brunch, a bike ride around the surrounding countryside, and recording an ALS ice challenge.

Loch Lomond
Monday was driving through Moffat to drop off the housecat, then to Glasgow with a short stop at a rest station for petrol and a heavy plate of sausage, potatoes and peas. Checked into the Citizen M, a modern, streamlined hotel, seemingly inspired by Japanese sleep pods. Walk to The Admiral Bar to catch a Glasgow Skeptics' talk on electoral inequality, which I found useful. Sidled up to some fellows afterwards, resulting in a night of drinking, debating and poking fun at politicians, ended with deep-fried sausage and chips eaten drunkenly on the stumble back.

Glen Coe
Tuesday was the second half of the drive up to Loch Ness, first with a rest stop at Loch Lomond, Then through the Highlands, that remote beauty, alternating massive rocky hills with green valleys. I was particularly impressed by Glen Coe, whose magnificence is lost in a photo -- the sheer gravity of all that stone and earth piled high puts one in a minute space, bending one's perspective. Upon arriving in Dores we had a fine meal; another steak for me, followed by a quiet walk along the beach.
Urquhart Castle

Wednesday was a full breakfast of fresh rolls, pancakes, bacon and eggs. Drove up through Inverness then down the other side of the Loch, stopping in Drumnadrochit for souvenirs before continuing to Urquhart Castle. Though it is a ruin, one gets a feel for how this was a living fortress of the Middle Ages, complete with drawbridge and trebuchet.

Loch Tay, with a crannog on the right
Our return drive continued south; we missed the Crannog Center's closing time, but our luck in finding lodgings for the night held true in Killin. Tonight's dinner was a creamy seafood pasta, courtesy of the charming Smiddy restaurant. We followed up with drinks in the local pub, entertained by a young woman and her French bulldog.

Thursday was a day-trip in Edinburgh -- visiting the Castle, seeing the newly installed trams. We took in some fine views from the top of the Camera Obscura building, which otherwise houses a curious collection of visual illusions, many of which I'd seen in my internet travels and in other science centres.

The Royal Mile
Now a coffee and sandwich while watching the continuous flow of tourists through the downtown, various street performers vying for their attention -- a young woman on a ukulele, another creating long bubbles, a bagpipe player, a Stormtrooper with a kilt.

Friday served as a day of rest -- pizza and video games, catching up on Twitter and news of the referendum. A walk in the nearby forest at dusk.

Saturday was another trip to Moffat, treated to brunch. Finally got to try a "99 flake", something I'd been curious about since seeing it in Little Britain -- the ice cream is a lot more watery than I'd prefer, and the flake itself was pretty bland. Purchased some souvenirs in the form of Scotch and Moffat toffee, which is more of a hard candy that goes from sweet to slightly sour, the acid shining through.

Road to Dumfries
And so on the Sunday I returned, back to Toronto, back to the cats (for whom I got a sitter), back to my condo and work and morning scrums. My summer adventure was over, and I return anew, wanting to do more, to be more.

I had a full breath of a fair, green land, and I hope to breathe it again, one day.