The second leg of our 2018 journey was to begin in Glasgow, Scotland. As often happens, there were some bumps along the way. Well, not exactly bumps. Perhaps more like screeching and sudden stops. As our Glasgow-bound plane was swiftly taking off the runway in Dublin, we literally came to a sudden stop as the pilots deployed the breaks with full force. We were jostled around and then sat silently trying to figure out what had just happened. Someone with the airline came over the speaker and told us we’d be returning to the terminal as our landing gear had just blown a tire. We disembarked the plane and waited three hours before boarding a new plane. All the passengers were in the same boat and we were all patient as locating an extra airliner in the vicinity of the Republic of Ireland wasn’t the easiest thing to do as it was Sunday afternoon.
On the ground in Glasgow that evening, we found our rental car to be an adorable Fiat from Budget. And tiny. And a manual transmission. Adam has driven in numerous countries, but never in one where drivers drove on the other side of the road, let alone on the wrong side of the road with a stick shift in the opposite hand! It took some time for him to get used to shifting with his left hand as opposed to his right, and he veered onto the right side of the road a few times, high-fiving the curb, but other than that he did very well. He is a super brave dude. I, on the other hand, remained on pins and needles each time he drove.
Warning: I am trying to avoid an overdose of the word adorable! You’ve been warned! It was nice to finally check into our adorable hotel, The Alfred. The charming, winding stair case and abundant antique décor was definitely old Scotland. I was at first concerned that there was no air conditioning. Luckily, we had our little fans packed and the climate was cool enough that with the windows open it was plenty cool. Sidenote: Breakfast was complimentary.
We had our second wind by this point and ventured out into the night. Located next to our hotel was an outdoor hookah bar where the patrons were all watching World Cup soccer and the Russia v Croatia shootout was in progress. The boisterous crowd enveloped us and we were all surprised but enjoyed great revelry when Croatia won.
We proceeded along our night sightseeing stroll and came upon a snack shop named Loop and Scoop. Scottish crepes with a cup of Nutella and a cup of Dulce de Leche for dipping. It was delectable. At the recommendation of a hotel employee, we dined at Ubiquitous Chip. Although the Scots also speak English, their dialect proved confusing for us. We asked many questions to which the patient hosts repeated many answers. We both selected entrees that were to our liking. Ubiquitous Chip delivered superb food and a relaxed atmosphere.
We began our first full day in Glasgow in George Square. Named after King George III, the square was cultivated in the 1700s from a muddy area and became a place to showcase sculptures and statues honoring important Scotsmen as well as Scot war veterans. Where there are statues, there are usually pigeons. The kit of pigeons was of Biblical proportions! Adam’s attraction to animals fueled his idea to by a bag of chips to feed them. It worked. They flocked to him and ate directly from his fingers. No great poo incidents. But it was eerily reminiscent of Hitchcock’s film.
We found a coffee house to boost our energy. A menu item caught Adam’s attention. The witty waitress explained that the beverage was much like a milkshake. Without missing a beat, Adam asked, "Does it bring all the boys to the yard?” Without batting an eye, our waitress answered, "It's better than yours." And that, my friends, is how you further world peace. We just laughed and laughed, excited that she understood the reference to the song Milkshake. We still laugh about it.
Our next goal: purchase more money. Dublin is located in the Republic of Ireland and uses Euros as it’s not part of the British Kingdom. Scotland uses British pounds. As the exchange attendant was counting the pounds to exchange with us, Adam feigned blushing and asked why she was calling him "sexy.” The logical reply was that “sixty” with the Scottish accent sounded like “sexy.” Again, guffaws galore.
Loaded with pounds, we continued our stroll. We noticed a sign for “animals” and were hoping it was a petting zoo that we were approaching. Upon arrival, we encountered dancing stuffed animals with a one-man musician and his makeshift drum. We laughed at our gullibility.
We shifted moods a bit and headed to the Necropolis. According to both the internet and locals, it was a “don’t miss” landmark. It was the most gorgeous cemetery I've visited. Atop a steep hill sat tombstones so ancient that no visible markings or letters remained. Some were toppled by the forces of nature. The cemetery had modern headstones as well. It was fascinating and allowed me to teleport myself across a great span of time contemplating the lives of those who had long since been laid to eternal rest in the dirt just a few feet below the grassy knolls.
Across the bridge from the Necropolis was the Glasgow Cathedral. It was very old yet very lovely. It was built between 1200 and 1400 AD and is a magnificent medieval structure. The Glasgow Cathedral survived the Reformation of 1560 intact – something no other cathedral was able to do. It was similar to all the other cathedrals we have visited except for one thing-- it was a Protestant church. Before King Henry VIII (one of Adam's ancestors), the cathedral had been Catholic, but when the pope wouldn't allow him to divorce Catherine, he split from the church and formed his own sect of Christianity. The church changed at that time. We found a little Scottish café (they call them shops or cafes) for lunch with locals. The ambience was on point, though for music they played songs by the US country singer Leann Rimes. Sidenote: Mince and tatties, haggis, and black pudding are staple meals in Scotland and a must-try for visitors!
We like vintage and antiques and history and… Mr. Ben's Retail Shop, a fun consignment shop packed full of old styles from decades of old. We were like little kids surrounded by toys! The owner was very engaging. And we learned she belongs to the very same Scottish clan as me – the Galbrieths! Not to pass up a photo op with a long, lost cousin, we snapped a few before heading out to explore. We had already planned this little leg of our adventure but the timing was perfect – we were headed to a castle that belonged to my clan – the Galbrieths of Culcreuch.
Located in a small village named Fintry in central Scotland, the Culcreuch Castle was once a family home but now serves as a hotel. The structure is situated in a grassy, hilly area with stately pines. The fragrance of pine and grasses was toxic! We noticed two sets of guests – two couples – basking outside in the delightful weather with books in their laps. Still others could be seen trekking around the area, venturing into the forest stand or sauntering along the paths. One of the hotel staff escorted us around the building providing a mini history lesson as we went. I imagined how it must have been years ago to peer out over the treetops glimpsing a beautiful view of the Loch (lake) and the trees. I saw myself drinking tea on the lawn and reading while Adam hunted for the night's supper. It was fun to daydream. This was my ancestral home. Seriously. Their DNA was likely still on handrails and doorknobs.
As we were leaving, the Greatest Showman song, This is Me, played on the radio as if that moment was meant to be. I sang along dramatically, my heart was full of joy.
While traversing through the countryside of Scotland (and later in Spain) we were shocked by the pelotons of cyclists biking those backroads. Since the lanes were quite small and the roads continued to wind, it was toilsome. We crossed our white-knuckled fingers hoping that we wouldn't come across a biker around one of those corners! Especially on the bridges that ended with a sharp turn into a one-lane road.
When ended our day with dinner at a Russian restaurant named Cossachok. It’s not frequent that we happen on Russian food and Adam’s taste buds had fond memories of the flavors of Ukraine, once part of the USSR. I enjoyed the food and we made more friends. This time, our dining companions were a local Scottish couple who also enjoyed traveling so we reminisced and gushed over our favorite spots together. The evening air was rather chilly – in the mid-50s (F) so we headed back to our hotel. While I was organizing our room, Adam headed out to do laundry. He’s good like that! That probably has something to do with the opportunity to socialize but that’s good by me! This particular evening, his favorite new people were local women who were amused when he was having no luck hailing a cab. His accent was the hook. After a nice chat, the ladies hailed a cab for Adam and sent him home to me. In a nice twist of fate, we encountered one of the ladies the following morning.
Sidenote: Church after church lined the streets of Glasgow. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but several of them were retired from religious service and have been transformed into bars, restaurants, and apartments! It was a bit weird!
Edinburgh (pronounced ednbərə) was really chilly that morning – so chilly in fact that we had to purchase a shawl for me. Adam went searching while I ordered coffee. What was I thinking?! Adam returned with a hideous, bulky, WHITE shawl. Luckily for him, the shop owner permitted us to exchange the item. I selected a scarf featuring my Gordon-clan's plaid. So cool! Wearing the Gordon plaid in Scotland! Another electric moment that transported me back. And it was a perfect conversation starter throughout our Scottish adventure.
The majority of our time in Edinburgh was spent at Edinburgh Castle. Sidebar: Purchase your tickets online before going and get there early to avoid long lines and swarms of visitors. One old bloke was apparently lost and unable to find the line to enter the castle. Rather than the man being turned away by staff Adam lightly shouted, "You made it dad!" The man was confused for a moment but happily obliged, saving him some time. Our paths crossed with the fellow a number of times that afternoon; we chuckled and waved each time we saw him.
The castle grounds were quite extensive with plenty of antiquities. For instance, we viewed the royal family’s official royal jewels and toured the Great Hall. We visited the large war memorial and war museum. The view of the skyline was spectacular and worth the trip itself.
Sidenote: Within minutes of renting our car, Adam declared that no slug-bug gaming would occur so as to focus solely on the stick-shift transmission with the flipflopped driver set-up in the Fiat while driving on the left side of the road. But there were so many slug bugs! He declared the halt to be ended while en route to Edinburgh but I was once again rather masterful at the sport so he proclaimed reinstatement of the ban for the rest of the drive. As usual, I kicked his booty.
No trip would be replete without flights and flights of stairs. Edinburgh won this challenge with more stairs than any other location on the 2018 itinerary. We were grateful for the cooler climate. The streets of Edinburgh are clean, ornate and lush – and safe. It was easy to wander around, window shopping, and relaxing. Be sure to read a little Harry Potter before going as J.K. Rowling spent much of her time writing in this city. We passed by Nicholson’s café where Rowling wrote the first novel. The popularity of the fantasy series is evident by the abundance of Harry Potter shops in the area.
When our parking time was to expire we trekked back to our Fiat, only to find a ticket on the windshield. Adam had used the parking app to pay, and was flustered to have gotten the ticket. He googled the parking office and learned it was just a short walk away so headed that way on foot. He returned with an officer who determined Adam had scanned his original receipt upside down so it didn’t register that he had paid. Luckily with his persistence the ticket was waived.
We managed to end the day at a reasonable hour. While I rested and packed for the next leg, Adam watched sports at the hookah bar nearby. I was bummed I didn't run into Gerard Butler, but I had another fun adventure ahead of me.
We enjoyed the longer days that both Ireland and Scotland offer because of their latitude. However, it was a little harder to sleep at night when it’s still light; sunset in Edinburgh was 9:50 pm! The climate was terrific as well with temperatures in the 70s (F). The locals in both countries complained of the summer’s heatwave as it is usually in the 60s (F). We enjoyed it as it was in the 100s (F) back home!