21.04.2011 - 23.04.2011 53 °F
Well, our sunny lucky streak finally came to a temporary end… It was cold and (what we thought was) cloudy the morning we left Rothesay (on the Isle of Bute), and it took listening to the radio all the way through Glasgow to figure out that it was actually SMOG that was blocking all our views. Most lucky Brits get Good Friday as a holiday, and this Monday is a bank holiday, so it’s a nice long weekend for most folks. Despite gas being just over $9 per gallon here, there are enough people driving this holiday weekend to muck up the entire country! One more reason to love and be spoiled by the Northwest. Because of the traffic, we’re also finally seeing a small police presence on the roads now. Until now, we’ve only seen about two police cars, one of which pulled up behind me immediately after we left the rental car agency in Bath. (Was SO glad I wore my industrial strength nappies that day in anticipation.) Instead of cop cars, they have signs announcing speed trap cameras. It’s lovely! They have a sign that warns you that there’s a speed camera ahead, and then BAM! There’s a speed camera a little later. I like this method. They even let you know when the camera is not functioning, just to save you the inconvenience of slowing down if no one’s really looking.
The Isle of Bute was… Ok folks, I’m running out of positive adjectives for the ol’ blog here. I’m not going to bother my pretty little head looking back on what I’ve already used, so let’s pull one from the ol’ thesaurus. The Isle of Bute was…Stupendous and Phenomenal. There we go. And I know I haven’t used phenomenal yet, because I found myself staring at that word in a shop window and trying for the life of me to remember if we spell it the same in the States as they do here.
So. Isle of Bute. After the darling (if you overlook the price) little ferry ride to the island, the first thing we saw were hairy cows. Scottish Highland Cattle, if you want to be proper… Emo Cows if you don’t. I’ve posted a picture of a postcard, since I stupidly didn’t take photos of them when I had the chance. Criminal, I know. At least I got photos of the ridiculous amount of palm trees in the downtown area. Haven’t quite figured out how those suckers survive, because it was DAMN cold out the next morning, which I imagine isn’t an unusual occurrence. That evening was fairly cool, but we took a long stroll along the walkway on the sea. People we passed were very friendly, and the beach was made up for more shells that sand. Everyone seems to be enlivened by the warm weather—it’s similar to the Portland area right now, where they’re just seeing the first real signs of real Spring beginning.
Our HUGE room at the B&B overlooked the bay, so after mom and I found our requisite fish and chip dinner, we got a bottle of Benromach Single Malt Scotch Whisky and watched the boats go by. The view and the whisky were both delightful, so we proposed some toasts to sexy new Wellies and not ripping each others’ heads off thus far.
The next morning we visited Mount Stuart house, which I mentioned in the photos I posted previously. It’s an absolute shame that you’re not allowed to take photos inside, and the postcards they have for sale do NO justice to the phenomenal (yay for spell check) design of the place. The owner spent a lifetime designing the place, and had an incredible mix of humor, beauty, and spiritual elements in every detail. It’s a lovely mix of “churchy” religion, greek and roman mythology, and kind of a naturalist awe. The stained glass windows were inlaid with crystals in the shapes of constellations, so when the sun shone in, they cast rainbows against the opposing marble walls. (There were something like eight different types of marble used in the house in different ways.) Even though it’s “just” a house, rather than a cathedral or castle, it was one of the more fascinating and lovely of all the historic buildings we’ve visited. They also just happened to have mini-zip lines in the playground area. But I’m not at liberty to discuss that portion of our trip. Mom did chat up one local that owned a little seafood shop outside the ferry terminal, and found out what pride they take in catching their own product.
It being a nice long Easter weekend also meant for more crowds, as many people travel. Today in Edinburgh was the first day we’ve had to wait for almost anything. We stood in line for about 15 minutes to get tickets to the Edinburgh Castle this morning and were jostled about a bit going through the Scottish Crown Jewels exhibit (no kilt jokes here) because there were so many people. After we were doing exploring there, though, the line was 100x times longer, with people queuing up outside the castle and what seemed like halfway down the Royal Mile road. Must have been a 1-2 hour wait just to get tickets. Our B&B hostess said that in August it’s just total chaos, you can hardly walk along the street in that area because there are so many people.
The Royal Mile is lined with very repetitive shops selling basically the same few items, but we did find one place that has a full tartan-weaving workshop included in the building. Each clan has its own plaid pattern (“tartan”) so tons of people try and trace their lineage back to find out what tartan their family would have. Thanks to our cousin Jim Doore and his vast study of the family tree, we knew not only our tartan, but also that the Sinclair heritage that we boast includes the Rosslyn (Roslin) castle, a few miles south of Edinburgh. (Pictures coming soon.)
After thanking our lucky (rainy) stars and early brekkies, we headed off from tourist traps to the National Museum of Scotland. On the way we popped into a little bistro for a leisurely lunch… Mom’s distaste for the local wildlife shone through in her meal selection; I chose mussels in a lemongrass-infused wine sauce, and she sought her vengeance on the infernal cooing wake-up calls she’s been getting for a week straight by ordering warm pigeon salad. It was quite sweet, with only a wee bitter aftertaste. I think we’ll both sleep well tonight.
The museum was rather fascinating, covering Scottish history from cavemen in the area through the industrial age to modern day. They had examples from ancient ruins, churches, the royalty, and even a full sized whisky still. It’s about the only sight we’ve been to that’s free, and really proved to be one of the more entertaining things we’ve done. Maybe because you were actually allowed to TOUCH some stuff. Obviously we’re very into those attractions bent towards the young and easily distracted.