After fifty years of doing just about anything, muscle memory (there’s one type of memory that doesn’t fade much with age!) is pretty firmly entrenched. Accordingly, having to drive on the left definitely takes most of whatever brain power I have remaining in my fading cerebellum and puts it to the test.
I do have a secret to navigating UK roads though: I recite “Leftleftleftleftleft” in my head as I get in the car, as I start the car, and pretty much the entire time I’m driving.
I credit this to avoiding any close calls, other than one time where I almost entered a roundabout without first looking in the direction the cars were actually coming. That was the little fly in my leftleftleftleftleft ointment, because you have to at least look right before you enter the roundabout to go left. Fortunately, I remembered in time, which is good, because if we had crashed there might’ve been nothing leftleftleftleftleft of either of our cars.
So how did we end up in Iceland, you ask? Well, if you look at the picture of Carolyn, you’ll notice a red sign in the background. Iceland. It’s a grocery store in Scotland. Or maybe they just sell frozen water. “I only buy my ice at Iceland,” they probably say in the ad.
The country of Iceland is definitely on our (frozen) bucket list, but for now, this will have to do.
After taking the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow and riding busses around Glasgow, we rented a car to visit the surrounding areas as well as to travel to what was Carolyn’s most anticipated Scottish visit: The Isle of Skye, whose motto is, “Our sky is so big here, we had to add an ‘e’!”
Using a rental car added Scotland to an ever-growing list of European countries in which I’ve received a traffic ticket. Luxembourg, France, Spain, and now Scotland have all caught my scofflawishness on their hidden cameras. Not all were for speeding; the Scottish one had something to with being in a bus lane. I don’t remember that, but maybe the bus lane was on my left and there are actually two flies in my leftleftleftleftleft ointment.
There are a multitude of cute little towns dotting Scotland. One of them is called Oban. Oban is more or less a gateway city to the Scottish Highlands. It’s a holiday destination for many Scots, and is known as the seafood capital of Scotland. We didn’t bother testing that because frankly, there can be no better seafood town than our hometown of Sesimbra, so we try not to embarrass any towns by comparing the seafood.
One site we visited was Dunollie Castle, which is in an area that has been fortified since the Bronze Age, which existed from 3,000 to 5,000 years ago until it was replaced by the Skin Cancer Age.
Get it? No more bronzing? Oh, to hell with ya then.
This is some additional scenery we spotted at various points of our drive up to and back from the Scottish Highlands. As you can see, it is simply gorgeous countryside. As it was reminiscent of the scenery of the Pacific Northwest, it made us feel quite at home. (Except for the Leftleftleftleftleft.)
Another absolutely delightful town was Dunfermline. Northwest of Edinburgh, it has everything you would need in a Scottish town. It’s charming, historic, has at least one Turkish Bar (according to one of the photos above anyway), it isn’t tiny, with a population approaching 80,000, and also has a huge park. (Donated by Andrew Carnegie, as told to us by a kindly old lady who engaged us in a lengthy conversation and must’ve said “Carnegie” a dozen times. She also pronounced it “Car-NEG-ee,” instead of the CARnegie most Americans would use.)
I did get a kick out of the hair salon pictured above: “Rinkadink Beauty.” I don’t think rinkadink means what they think it means. Or maybe they do know and that’s the point. Or maybe the American rinkadink is different from the Scottish one. Gawd this travel stuff is mentally exhausting!
Additionally, we were shocked to discover that Dunfermline is the actual home of the Garden of Eden, as proven by the presence of Adam’s tomb also pictured above.
It’s also right near the Firth of Forth, one of my favorite named places in all the world. A firth is an estuary, but the Scots obviously grew frustrated at trying to think of a word that rhymes with “estuary.” I guess they could’ve used “questuary,” and in fact I’d pay ten euros just to hear a Scot say, “Questuary of Estuary,” or just about anything else for that matter. But Firth of Forth it is.
Dunfermline Abbey and Palace, which was a favorite residence for many Scottish monarchs.
Another charming place is Inveraray, which features Inveraray Castle, which is more of a mansion than a castle, actually, and was used as a location in Downton Abbey. Inveraray is also where we encountered the only grumpy Scot we interacted with during our entire visit. Apparently, bringing dogs into restaurants is perfectly acceptable in Scotland, which wouldn’t bother me unless you bring in a little bitch (I’m assuming female just so I can call it a bitch) with a piercing, sharp bark that just about pierces eardrums. Our table neighbors had such a beast, and after the 3rd or 4th bark (for of course no reason, because that’s what those little yappy dogs do), which literally made me jump in my seat each time, I stood up and asked them as kindly as I could if they could please shut the dog the fuck up. Okay, I didn’t actually say that, I was very nice. But after the meal, when I stood to thank them for keeping the little, ah, bitch quiet, one of the ladies decided to give me a piece of her mind, calling me rude and mean for complaining about their dog. I waited patiently for her rant to end and then I showed them standard American justice (since I didn’t have my AK47) by stabbing her in the face with a fork. Okay, I didn’t actually do that. But I did slash the tires on her car. Okay, I didn’t actually do that either, but boy did I come up with some great comebacks about ten minutes after the encounter!
Another pretty town was St. Andrews, which is also known as the “home of golf.” partly because The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, founded in 1754, is more or less in charge of the rules of the game. You don’t get to have a hole in one unless you go through Scotland first, or are wearing two pairs of pants.
It’s also the home of to the University of St Andrews, the third oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of the top universities in the UK.
Mostly the driving journey through Scotland was full of pretty scenery and a bunch of leftleftleftleftleft. At least we didn’t depart from Scotland, or this life, with the words “deeply regretted” forever above our bones. Hopefully the only reason I’d have something like that on my gravestone is if it was about one of my bad jokes.