Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Hop, Skip and a Jump...

Good Bye Heart Home...
09-05-09 Saturday

Ah, perhaps it is time to head home. I wake up at 2:45 a.m. and whether it is because of my possible sighing/moaning/name-it, or whether it is because of my restless log roll trying to get comfortable, or even if it is because I am feeling bittersweet about leaving Scotland, I cannot get back to sleep. I turn the TV on to while away the morning hours and groggily try to find something on in this wee hour of the morning. CG wakes, asks if I am ok, and then goes back to sleep when I tell him yes. Finally, to the pleasant drone of British accents on the BBC, I fall asleep at 3:30, only to be re-awakened at 5:00 by the wakeup call placed last night through the front desk (ugh).

210049 luggage jpgWe are ready by 5:45 in anticipation of the shuttle at 6:00 and take advantage of the luggage scale in the lobby (thank goodness they are both well under the 50 lb limit – even with the spirited stones!). We are not the only ones on the shuttle this morning (it picks up more passengers the closer we get to the airport), and CG and I sit apart from each in the now crowded cab.

We extricate ourselves, grab our luggage and head inside. After walking nearly the length of the terminal, we realize that our airline’s ticket counter hasn’t opened yet, and we sit down and wait. Finally, as the line grows ahead of us, the lights go on over the KLM counter and we take our place behind the crowd.

AIRLINE 608 jpg MOD=AJPERESAfter getting our tickets we head towards the gate and, after locating it, we decide to do a little last souvenir shopping, and then grab some breakfast to pass the time before our flight leaves at 8:30. We are pleasantly surprised to find that the airport restaurant we have chosen has our favorite on the menu, and CG has one last full Scottish breakfast while I polish off a bacon/scrambled egg Panini. Then it’s back to Gate 33 where we mill around until our seats are called.

5706 jpgHowever, when the KLM employee comes out at 8:00, she has some bad news for all of us – due to technical difficulties, the flight from Amsterdam has been turned back and therefore our flight has been cancelled. We all have to be escorted by airport personnel back to reclaim our baggage and then stand in a queue for two hours before we are able to rebook our flight.

By the time we get back to our new gate, we don’t have much time to linger as the flight to Amsterdam leaves at 11:30 and, after landing in the Netherlands, we literally have to run to our next gate to catch our connecting flight to Detroit (instead of returning through Minneapolis). The flight seems doubly long this time and I take advantage of the in-flight movies to watch both Grand Torino (CG also watches that one from his seat) and Hairspray.

The flight home from Detroit seems shorter, but we are still anxious to get off of the airplane and back into the Saab waiting for us in the airport parking lot.

519491~Flying money Posters jpg
After paying a whopping $99 to leave the airport parking lot, we are home by 10:00 p.m. – some 15 hours and 7 time zones later. AM has left a somewhat frantic message for me to call back so I return her call. Seems as though she thought we were returning the day before, and she had been worried that she hadn’t heard from us. After putting her to ease, I am in bed by midnight and CG, still a bit keyed up and having missed his favorite home activity, plays World of Warcraft until 1:30 a.m.

We are home!
home sweet home jpg

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Spiritual Day and A Day to Say Good-Bye

08-05-09 Friday

Alas, it is our final full day in Scotland! We again have our Scottish breakfast in the member’s only dining room and then check out of the remarkable Royal Scots Club (it is my favorite but CG says he prefers the Marmalade). We are off to Rosslyn Chapel, the historical site where mystery surrounds the Knights Templar carvings and is featured in “The Da Vinci Code.”

Renovation at Rosslyn Chapel
Stepping inside the small chapel (compared to the others we have visited), I actually gasp at the exquisite site before me. It appears that nearly every single inch of the two-story Scottish sandstone room is carved into intricate designs. I am mesmerized as we walk around and I think CG is just as taken with the splendor of the chapel. We marvel at the elaborate craftsmanship of the “Apprentice” or “Prentice” column and I am duly intrigued by the mysterious “maize” arch over one of the stained glass windows (maize is a new world crop not known to Europe at the time the chapel was built). And, even though it is being renovated, we can still see how truly spectacular the Rosslyn Chapel was and still is.

(Inside pictures weren't allowed)

 At this point in our journey, we only have time to visit one last site before heading to Glasgow for our final evening. Should we take the two hour drive down to the English border and then back up to our hotel which would be almost another two hours to the city proper (and then across the capital city through traffic to the airport hotel) to see a portion of the Roman built Hadrian’s Wall? Or should we go off tour-note and head to Melrose Abbey, a site M and I had discovered but had not had the chance to go in to. It is only an hour away and then the drive would only be about two hours to the airport hotel. We decide to visit the abbey and head back towards the Eastern Coast and the North Sea.

The sunshine on this last day in Scotland bathes the abbey ruins in sunshine as we pull up and park the car. On my last trip here I seem to remember the gothic-style cathedral as being dark and almost foreboding in the gloom of the day but here, now, it is breathtaking. After picking up our now familiar audio-tour gear, we leisurely stroll about the lawns and crumbling foundations and try to picture the 14th century monks as they must have prayed, lived and carried out their daily duties in the expanse of buildings. My thoughts turn to my favorite medieval monk-sleuth, Brother Cadfael, and I can picture just how he might have fit into this magnificent abbey.



We find the memorial stone where the heart of Robert the Bruce is buried, and then turn back towards the gift shop where, after returning our handheld audio devices, I see CG admiring a heavy metal horse-mounted knight. CG says it is too expensive as he picks it up and puts it down (twice). But I see the desire in his eyes – it is one of the only things he has actually wanted to buy for himself on the trip – and I pick it up with a few other things I have in my hand and purchase it for him as a thank you. He is quite pleased as it reminds him greatly of his World of Warcraft paladin.

Once we hit the outskirts of Glasgow we soon realize that we have entered into the snarl of rush-hour traffic. With the stop and go of the traffic, it takes us more than twice as long as it normally would have to finally exit off of the motorway and find the Thomas Cook where we are to drop off our Volvo. CG mentions the low tire as the clerk checks the car out (the missing mirror reflector is not noted) and we tumble into a shuttle bus to the airport Ramada. As we are leaving the lot, we see a group of American tourists chortling and taking pictures of their (upgraded) rental car – a small SUV and CG and I smile at each other. They will learn!

I’ll have to say that the room at the Ramada is rather interesting. After plopping myself down on the bed, I notice that I have sunk into a slight depression and I slyly claim the other side as mine (CG actually doesn’t mind, it turns out and my cleverness is lost). Second, after trying to turn the lights on in the room and only being able to get a few to work, we visit the desk clerk again for instructions (we thought we had bad circuit). We return to the room and thankfully CG is able to place the card in the card reader on the wall to get the rest of the lights in the room to work. Lastly, and perhaps most noteworthy, instead of curtains over the window, CG is able to move the mirrored section over to cover the window to make a half-mirrored wall (talk about 70’s décor!).

After paying for a very slow internet connection (remember, CG has carted his laptop throughout the trip without being able to access the internet because of the power supply socket), we decide to head downstairs to the dining area for dinner. CG opts for the pizza and I choose the chicken (sadly, our favorite isn’t offered on this menu) and, after finishing, we offer a toast to each other - CG with a wee dram of Famous Grouse scotch (seen at all of the pubs we have tarried at) and me with a glass of delicious Malbec. We smile contentedly and agree that we have definitely had an amazing and incredible trip.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Lovely Edinburgh

07-05-09 Thursday

 After a wonderful night of sleep we are ready for our daily full Scottish breakfast. We have to enter the member’s only area of the club to eat (which is down the stairs, through the pub and then up the stairs next door) and are seated at a table with a white linen table-cloth and gold etched china. The dining room and food are certainly posh and I enjoy myself immensely (CG, on the other hand, thinks it is way too stuffy and is anxious to be on our way)!

We find the car park described in P’s tour notes (£16 per 24 hours) and leave the car to explore my favorite city on foot. The day is beautifully sunny, however, there is a reason that there isn’t a cloud in the sky – near gale force winds are whipping everything and everyone about! Since our destination is Edinburgh Castle, well away from where we are at, we hail a taxi at the Balmoral Hotel (a right sturdy tank of a car that reminds me of a 1940’s vehicle) and are soon ceremoniously dropped off in front of the castle gate (now that’s service!).

Using the last day of our three day Explorer Pass, CG and I enjoy our tour of Edinburgh Castle. We admire Mons Meg (one of the world’s oldest siege guns), are charmed by the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels) and the actual Stone of Destiny where so many kings and queens were crowned, and are by and large quite impressed with the beautiful hilltop fortress. Too bad I am nearly blown away from the wind and CG has to grab me at the top of one cobbled walkway!

Exiting the castle, the Royal Mile entices us back onto the street and into pedestrian traffic towards the end at the bottom of the hill, Holyrood Abbey, where the British Royalty often stayed (and still does). We journey into the stunning St. Giles Cathedral, and after exiting, we are drawn to a street vendor who is handing out flyers to tour (among other sites) The Real Mary King’s Close, purported to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland.

The tour of the underground 16th and 17th century “city” is quite interesting and we learn that hundreds of people died when the plague swept through Edinburgh in 1645. The name is a misnomer as the tour actually includes two other closes (Allans Close and Stewart’s Close). I am amazed at the living conditions that many inhabitants faced while living in the bleak seven-storied tenement houses (the wealthier you were, the higher up you lived due to the practice of throwing the contents of your chamber pot out the window at two precise times of the day). Alas, no ghosts are spotted (or heard) and CG and I are soon top side again.

I am delighted when we stop in at The World’s End Tavern for lunch (I had just passed by it last time and was quite curious as to what it was like inside) where brass markings outside indicate where the old wall stood and signified the end or edge of Old Edinburgh. Both CG and I order the delicious steak and mushroom pie and I declare that this is my favorite pub of the trip!


We follow our feet down the hill and are captivated by the street side museum about the history of Edinburgh and best of all, it is free of charge.

We have popped in and out of gifts shops on our way down the cobbled hill and are somewhat souvenir-laden when we finally make it down to Holyrood Abbey. After almost getting squashed by a fire truck while crossing the street (look right, not left!), we enter the abbey gift shop, but decide to forego the tour (CG’s opinion is that the palace would be much the same as Scoon) so we head back up the hill towards a very old cemetery M and I had walked through when we had been here. However, CG and I completely miss it (and, well, I am sure my memory isn’t what it used to be either) and we end back up on Princes Street near the Walter Scott Memorial and Princes Street Gardens.

Our feet are complaining a bit so we steer towards the National Galleries of Scotland so we can rest them a little before climbing the rest of the hill (and then down a wee bit on the other side) to our hotel. We are pleasantly surprised to find out that Scotland supports their arts, and the admission is free to the extraordinary collection inside. Once indoors (and out of the wind) we both find ourselves marveling at the wall size paintings of Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci, Ruben, Botticelli, Poussin, Raphael, Degas, Gainsborough, Monet, Gaugin, and Singer Sargent, as well as the Greek and Roman busts and antique statuary exhibited in the spacious rooms. Thoroughly engrossed in the magnificence of these historical artists we are surprised (and a little disappointed) when it is announced that the museum is to close for the day.

It has been a beautiful day, all in all weather-wise. The near gale force wind has finally died down so we have been able to enjoy a wee window of splendid sunshine while we toured Old Edinburgh.

Not getting the rest we had planned on, and sorely wanting to catch all we didn’t see last night, we step back onto Rose Street, and we have a quick nip in the magnificent 1930’s inspired Dome Bar (once a bank like The Standing Order but much more opulent). After finishing our drinks at the neon-lit bar, CG chooses the next pub stop for the evening – Robertson’s 37, which feels more like a neighborhood pub instead of the counter-culture one I had chosen the night before (but oh the adventure!).

Still not quite ready to call it a day and ravenous from our travels, we head back towards the other end of Rose Street where we dine upstairs at the alternative restaurant from last night – The Auld Hundred. Again, steak and mushroom pie is our choice, and we tell ourselves that we are sampling them all to decide on the best but, truly, the dish in of itself is quite tasty!

Darkness is setting in now and a nap sounds delightful before we set out again – we are planning on taking the hour and a half haunted nighttime tour of Mary King’s Close which will start a little after 8:30 in the evening. We wobble back to the car park where we had parked the Volvo many hours ago (it seems to be on the other side of the city!), then back to the Royal Scots Club, and we pick up our key from the desk clerk.

Making my legs go up the four flights of stairs is somewhat of a challenge but I am successful, and I collapse onto the bed as CG heads into the bathroom and draws a nice, hot bath. Afterwards, he remarks to me that the water had seemed to have a greenish-brown tint. I had taken my very hot bath the night before and hadn’t noticed any discoloration, and we mark it up to the ancient plumbing or the dim lighting of the building. The hot baths had been fabulous and very well received!

A few hours later, groggy from our nap and the drone of the TV, CG and I decide to forego the haunted tour and climb into bed for the night. It has been a completely amazing day!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Stirling View

The Ramada Javis (Perth)
06-05-09 Wednesday

After waking up every two hours to prop my arm up on the pillow, CG and I are both up early to await the phone call from the surgeon. The phone rings - the doctor tells me that the elbow isn’t fractured after all. He suggests I get it checked out again when I get home and tells me I could come into the clinic at noon to get some pain medication. I decline as I want to get back on the road again, relieved that I won’t be incapacitated in fiberglass for the rest of the trip, and willing to manage the ache with elevation and ibuphrophen.

We head down to where FI greets us one last time (“Good Morning, dearies!” How’s that arm?), and then are out the door to pack the car. CG notices that the rear left tire is going flat but it doesn’t damper our spirits and we agree to look for the next petrol station to air it up (we end up stopping more than a few times to air it up to full pressure but it never seems to get lower than half-way).

We can see Stirling Castle long before we arrive in the town of Stirling, and we use it as our directional point as CG expertly pilots the car through the round-abouts and stretches of busy streets.

Situated at the top of the highest hill we are able to forego the trudge up the hill by finding one of the last remaining parking spots in the castle car park. The castle looms above us as we enter the small courtyard of the gift shop where we rent audio-tour gear, and are then allowed in through the main gate of a castle for the second time today by virtue of our Historic Scotland Explorer Passes, which we had purchased a few days before.

A portion of a tapestry in the "Hunt for the Unicorn" Series

We tour the grounds and each distinct building as a fine gentle rain sets in (surprise!). CG is disappointed that the Palace is closed due to renovation but we do get to see the Great Hall (which had been closed for the same reason when I had last visited), as well as a small Highland Regiment military museum. I find it fascinating that Stirling Castle had been the site of several coronations, including that of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the fact the she spent much time there while she ruled Scotland, but I am soon ready to leave to explore some more.

After going back through the main arch to the car park, we are struck by the misty beauty of the Wallace Monument in the distance amid the pastoral countryside. That is to be our next destination and shouldn’t be too hard to find!

The Wallace Monument

Once we cross the infamous Stirling Bridge where William Wallace actually fought the famous battle at, CG points the car in the direction of the church steeple-like memorial. Sadly, however, the Scottish roads can be fairly confusing, even with a larger-than-life compass point. We do have a little trouble finding the road up to the monument but aren’t too concerned as we are hoping the rain has finally ended.

CG parks the car and we head into the gift shop to purchase our tickets and grab a quick bite to eat in the cafeteria. Hopping aboard the shuttle bus, we travel up the steep hill to the top where the slender stone spire is standing. We take the narrow spiral staircase to the first floor where, displayed in a glass case, is William Wallace’s broadsword.

We are astonished at the length of the sword - at 5’6” it towers over me and we are in awe at just how tall this infamous renegade was. After discovering that there are a total of 246 stone steps to the narrow spiral staircase, I tell CG to go ahead without me as I know I would find it difficult to traverse the climb up and then the descent in my hampered state. CG disappears up the steps with the camera and I head back down to the gift shop where I peruse the fine tourist wares.

Soon CG appears behind me, breathless from the descent, and we head back outside into the mist. He tries to show me the wonderful pictures that he took of the meandering river and green countryside from the stone veranda at the top, but the camera screen is much too small to see the gorgeous detail – I will have to wait to see what I missed!

We decide not to take the shuttle bus down to the car park and, instead, choose a path that curves towards some picnic tables overlooking Stirling. We are deep in conversation as we wander down the trail and through the bracken and meadows upon meadows of Scottish Bluebells.


At one point we come to a fork in the path. Our compass point, the stone spire, has long disappeared behind the trees so we opt to stay on the trail we have been travelling on since it, of the two, continues to head downhill. Finally, the trail levels out and it merges into a larger trail which seems to head towards the road. The rain is starting to fall (again) but we aren’t worried as we believe that we will come out just to the left of the car park.

"Singin' in the Rain..."
Emerging from the trees, we have to step over a gate to get to the road. There is no car park in sight and, more disappointingly, the monument cannot be spotted on the hill behind us. CG and I have a discussion on which way to head down the busy two-lane road to get back to the car. Since I seem to be a bit more confident (i.e. persuasive perhaps?), we start walking down the sidewalk to the right (my thinking here, of course, was the direction we had appeared to travel down the hill was that the sunlight behind the clouds had been to our right, and we needed to backtrack a ways. It is in no way indicative of my superior navigational skills…although I do pride myself on not getting lost often).

The rain has turned into a downpour by now and our pants are soaked from the splash back of the passing cars. Somewhat jovially, I tell CG how romantic and adventurous it is to be lost in the rain in Scotland but he does not seem to hold quite the same esteem for our location in the showers as I do (he isn’t upset – just wet). I talk him into stopping at a tile company across the street with the promise I will go in to ask for directions. I am told by the tile employee that, yes unfortunately the trail is poorly marked from the monument and we had actually hiked to the opposite side of the hill. It seems we could have chosen left or right from the bottom of the trail head to get back to the car as it was about an equal distance around to the front (so we were both right – lol).

That little blue dot is My Knight...

We finally trudge up the hill towards the car and, somewhat winded, wet and perhaps a wee bit whiny, I sit down on a stone wall while CG books it up the rest of the hill to the car. He soon appears and I get in – happy to be somewhere dry and on our way again!

The rain has not stopped as we finally travel across the Forth Road Bridge towards Edinburgh. The city looks alarmingly large on the map and I hope that the directions from P’s tour notes are sufficient to get us to our hotel for the evening. We do know that we should be heading somewhere near Old Edinburgh so we both watch for signs directing us off the wide motorway onto smaller ones until we reach the streets of the city. After stopping to refer to our maps again we finally find Queen Street where the stately two-storied Royal Scots Club sits. I had been looking forward to this hotel from the time I had received the tour notes as it had been noted as being “5-Star Lodging” and I was anxious to be pampered.

I am not disappointed. From the moment we walk in to the lobby and are handed the key by the desk clerk, to the time we climb the four spiral flights of marble stairs bordered by brass railings, to the time CG opens the door of the most opulent room I have ever stayed in, I am entranced. The blue carpet is plush, the king size bed is framed by heavy blue drapes at the wall, the antique furniture is polished and the bathroom is the size of a small office (complete with a bidet and deep tub). I feel like I am in a museum or one of the castle rooms we had just toured through. CG chuckles as I dance around goofily from bedroom to bathroom to alcove, poking in doors and drawers and touching the blue brocade of the drapes on the windows and the heavy coverlet on the bed.

Finally calm but still smiling widely, I watch from the window as CG heads outside to smoke a cigarette and I admire the view of the street and of the city over the tops of the trees opposite me. The room’s windows overlook the Queen’s Street Gardens open only by purchasing a key of some kind to unlock the locks at each gate. CG adds this as an afterthought when he returns - his initial message was that he had just received a parking ticket – it seems as though parking is free after 6:30 and the Edinburgh parking patrol had spotted the Volvo there a mere 7 minutes early. Ah well.

It is still somewhat early in the evening rush hour, and, after having to leave our “skeleton” key (each room only has one key – we will pick it up again upon arrival) with the desk clerk and not willing to brave the traffic via car, we head out on foot towards Georgian-era New Town Edinburgh. We stroll a ways up and down Hanover Street, dodging a myriad of buses and cars, and then duck onto a quiet pedestrian street called Rose Street. We discover that there are many shops, now closed for the day, as well as pubs that line this out of the way road and we enjoy the ambiance of it all. We decide to sample one of the pubs and head towards one that had caught my attention earlier called The Black Rose.

Picture from the Black Rose site

The first thing that tips us off that we are in a Goth bar are the dark walls peppered with what look like Halloween decorations. Undaunted, we gamely take a seat at the bar and realize we are probably the oldest clientele there. No matter – the Guinness and scotch taste the same in any pub and we don’t tarry long as we are on the lookout for a quieter place to eat anyway. Not too far away we find The Standing Order. We are trying to decide between that and another restaurant nearby when a very friendly woman comes down the steps and starts chatting with CG. As she puffs on her cigarette she tells us that The Standing Order has really great food for a great price, so our decision is made! (She also tells us we need to stop in at The Dome, at least for a cocktail, as it is well-known as the best fine dining in Edinburgh. It’s odd that a friendly chap who had been passing by while we were searching earlier for somewhere to eat had also recommended it. We must check it out!).

Formerly a branch of the Bank of Scotland and recently turned into an eating establishment, The Standing Order is full to the max with people. CG and I spot an open table by a window near the front and we take our seats. I order cottage pie (sounds a lot like Mom’s Shepard’s pie) and a Pimm’s with lemonade, and CG orders a burger and a beer. The food is good, the prices are great and we leave to go back to our expansive king-size bed, completely sated with adventure and food for the day.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Pop, a Stop and a Wee Drop...

05-05-09 Tuesday

Right on time for our full Scottish breakfast, we are again greeted by FI (Good Morning, dearies! Oh! What did you do to your arm?), and are seated at a table in the dining room. This time the food is warm and we are able to eat our meal leisurely. After grabbing our jackets from our room, we journey outside to find that the left front tire (or tyre) of the Volvo has lost at least half the air it had the day before. Finding a petrol station in the middle of Perth seems a bit too daunting so early in the morning, so we head out again across the River Tay to find a more manageable station, and then to our morning’s destination – The Scottish Crannog Centre on the Loch Tay.

The centre is a recreation of one of the ancient crannogs which were found on the loch, and we spend the morning with two groups of school children on a field trip (I wish I had been able to go on trips like this when I was in school). After getting back to the car CG and I agree, however, that the visit probably was the least favorite of our journey thus far (if we had to choose) but still rather interesting.

On our way out of town we dine at the Killen Golf Club restaurant which overlooks the loch, and then are off again. The road seems to be narrower than the ones we have already travelled on, if that is possible, but I am nonplussed this time. I happily hide behind my tour notes as CG navigates the winding road, smiling because I had had a stroke of brilliance that morning and had taken an anti-anxiety pill. However, my reverie is suddenly broken with the POP-POP-POP in front of me and I look up to see the side mirror of the car striking a slatted-wooden fence as CG swerves back onto the pavement.

Surprisingly, we are both calm (well, I know why I am…) and CG tells me that he had jerked the car over to avoid another car that had wandered across the line coming towards him, and the left tire had caught the soft mud at the edge of the road.

The mirror is hanging out of its casing and the reflector is gone and CG quickly finds a pull-off to review the damage and have a much-needed cigarette. He is able to pop the mirror back into its casing but, other than the broken reflector, the car seems to be undamaged (whew).

Rob Roy MacGregor’s grave is off the main road in the wee town of Balquhidder but certainly worth the trip. It is sprinkling (again) as we exit the car and walk up the hill to the kirkyard where the MacGregor clan is interred, After taking a few pictures (yes, I had had the foresight to charge the camera battery overnight), we are in the car again as it starts to pour rain (again) and we backtrack down the same narrow road but turn off before we pass “the” spot and proceed back to Perth for our next stop.

Since it is on our way, at P’s suggestion, we stop in at “the Monty Python and the Holy Grail castle” i.e. Doune Castle, and park the car near the entrance. Deciding not to go in, I snap a few photos of the place where the infamous wooden bunny was lobbed, and, get back in the car. The fine Scottish mist is still dampening the roads as CG drives back towards Perth.

The Scone Palace (pronounced “Scoon”) is a beautiful two story red-brick building set in acres of woods and lawn very near Perth. I take a quick picture of some highland cattle for AS and we purchase our tickets for the tour inside. We are joined by two other couples (one we can tell is French) as we are guided around the opulent rooms.

I am again pleased to notice a painting in one expansive bedroom and the story behind it regarding another Lindsay in history - Sir John Lindsay. While a captain in the Royal Navy, he met and fell in love with an enslaved woman in the West Indies. They had a daughter together (Dido), and then Sir Lindsay brought Dido back to Scotland with him. However, in order to head off the apparent scandel, the Lord and Lady Mansfield brought her up alongside their niece as a companion.

As we are leaving one of the rooms, the tour guide asks where we are from. We tell her we are from the United States, and the Frenchman rudely bursts out “we owned you!” – we chuckle awkwardly while privately thinking the guy is a complete idiot (and fairly rude, to boot)!

After the tour ends, we end up outside next to what the site is actually known for – the Stone of Destiny – where the coronations of several Scottish kings took place until 1651 (Robert the Bruce was crowned here in 1306). Since the British spirited the original stone away, a copy of the stone sits austerely in front of the kirk (the original Stone of Destiny was recently returned and is now housed alongside the Scottish Crown Jewels in Edinburgh Castle).

We are looking forward to getting out of the dampness in the air and my arm is starting to hurt again so we decide to try to track down where the hospital is. It seems to be fairly easy to get turned around and lost in the traffic, even following the signs to the Perth Royal Infirmary, and we end up driving in circles before we turn back towards the hotel (perhaps it is because we realized we were in familiar territory?) to rest before we meet with P again at the pub on our last night in Perth.

We decide to go early to the Foundry so we so we can get a bite to eat before we meet P. Just as we finish up, he arrives and we grab seats at the bar again to have a few more drams of scotch/pints of beer. He again asks how my arm is and we tell him we are planning to head to the infirmary that evening but first wanted to say thank you. We have brought our small gifts (a book on making a “haggis” a pet authored by his surname, and a magnet from our home state) and we hand them to P as we hug and say goodbye.

doctor_who_lego_k9.jpgWe decide to flag a taxi (CG had considered walking but I quickly talked him out of it) and we travel up the hill completely away from where we had been looking earlier. After depositing us on the steps of the Emergency Room, the taxi driver takes off and we go in through the doors. The room is dim and there are only a few injured/sick patients waiting. I give my information to the woman behind a glass window and CG and I take a seat to watch TV.

Shortly, I am called into a private room where a nurse can ascertain my injuries and then I am seated again back in the waiting room. I am impressed at this time with the ease of socialized medicine and think we can still catch P back at the Foundry before calling it a night.

Keeping watch on both the TV and the digital readout of the wait time on another wall occupies my time for awhile as more people come in and take a seat. I soon notice that they are being called through the double doors before me and I start to get a bit antsy that I have been forgotten since the hour wait (pursuant to the digital screen) has now stretched to two.

Finally my name is called and I head back to a bed amongst the typical ER curtains. A nice blonde Scottish nurse tends to me and hands me a gown and, since the injury is to my elbow, I only have to shed my blouse. Eventually, a young female doctor from a different country enters and starts quizzing me (I must admit it is difficult to discern what she is saying through her accent). “Where did you do this?” “Dunnottar Castle” “Oh, you should stay away from that castle” “Yes, but we already went and it was our favorite” “Do you smoke?” “No” “Do you drink?” “A little” “Were you drunk when you fell?” “Um, no!” I think for a moment I heard her wrong and a jumble of thoughts run through my head. I am perplexed as to what difference it would make anyway (an injury is an injury), as well as the fact that it had happened yesterday morning, as she heads out through the curtain.

I am handed a white slip of paper and then directed to go down the hall. I gather up my things in my arm (s) and, gown strings flapping and blouse arm dragging the floor, I find the X-Ray room and ring the bell. My alert is answered and I take a seat on a row of chairs against a wall painted with Harry Potter characters (I notice Hedwig over my left shoulder). The X-ray technician calls me in after the woman who had been wheeled in while I was waiting was finished, and I was asked to stand and bend my arm (try to bend my arm) at odd angles in front of a screen, then once again while seated next to a gurney with my arm on a pillow.

Finally done, a yellow slip is placed between my thumb and the fingers of my right hand, and I am directed to go back to the ER to await the results. I am again seated in the same partition I had started in and hear the foreign doctor trying to find my X-Rays on the other side of the curtain.

After a bit, both she and the blonde nurse come in and tell me that the elbow is broken and will need to be set. However, they are concerned about what type of cast should be used since I will be travelling back to the States on Friday and the pressure would be painful and may hamper my circulation. After deciding that a half-cast is what is necessary, the doctor asks if I want to see my X-Rays.

Curious, I follow her to the screen outside the curtain and I notice an open book on the desk below it. The doctor points to a line on the X-Ray and then to an X-Ray of an elbow on the page in the book and says, “That’s not right. You need to get that fixed. That’s not right. See?” I take a seat again and they let CG back where I tell them what is going on. We overhear the doctor talking on the phone about my case and, after hanging up, she comes in to tell me that the orthopedic surgeon will call me in the morning and I am to go back to the hotel room after I get a cuff and collar.

After she leaves (I believe her shift is over as I see her pass by in street clothes), the very kind nurse comes in and puts a “cuff and collar” on me (i.e. a foam strip cut from a large roll, tied at the wrist with twist ties and an adhesive bandage), gives me a bottle of codeine (which I ended up not using), and offers to call a taxi for us. So, nearly three hours later, with hospital gown flapping below my jacket and outfitted with a foam cuff and collar, we arrive back at the hotel. I feel awkward as I get out of the taxi because I can see a large group of men at a table through the window in the pub and I make a quick getaway to our hall. What a day!

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