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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2003
When last we left our intrepid hero (i.e. me), he was suffering through an airline trip from LAX to Heathrow Airport in Business Class. He had just changed his watch to match London Time. This is his story:
I read the L.A. Times over a glass of Tomato Juice.
Dinner was soon served. Sourdough rolls & butter, Prociutto & Salmon appetizer (though I didn't eat the Salmon). Prociutto & Shrimp maincourse. There was also a Salad, but the dressing was Ginger, which I'm allergic to, so I skipped that too. Skipped the Rice and Broccoli also. Ate the tomatos. Dessert was Apple Pie with a glass of milk.
Sitting next to me, was a woman flying with her husband. Her daughter and grandson were also on the flight in the first row of coach. They were all on their way to explore London, Oxford, etc. The woman and her husband were both retired professors from UCSD. (He was physics; she was bio-physics.) They were all quite nice. For awhile, Alex, the grandson switched seats with her. He was pretty cool. And I'm not just saying that because both he and his mom were fans (or at least appreciators) of Gargoyles. Though, heck that didn't hurt. Seemed like another good omen. Alex was a bigtime STAR WARS fan, who was writing his own comic book.
Watched three movies on the flight.
IDENTITY - I had seen commercials for this and had predicted the big twist from the commercials. This movie had a great cast led by one of my favorite actors, John Cusack. Rebecca DeMornay was in it too. At first I asked myself if that was her, then I decided it wasn't. Then I found out it was. Weird.
THE ITALIAN JOB - I'd heard good things about this, and I guess it was okay, but I wasn't particularly impressed. Still, the Mini-Coopers were fun. And since the plan for our trip was for my dad and I to rent a Mini-Cooper in Edinburgh and tool around Scotland in it, it seemed to be another good omen that this was on. Best laid plans, as you'll soon see...
ROUTE 60 - A quirky little film that alternated between being annoying and fun. Still, I love allegory and you don't see much of it these days. So I'll thumbs up it.
I tried to sleep a few times, but basically couldn't.
I started reading "SANCTUARY" by William Faulkner. A brutal little pot-boiler that he wrote for the money, then initially couldn't get published because it was too, well, everything. Of course, being Faulkner, even his pot-boilers are high literature. A tough read.
Drank a lot of water.
Eventually, they served breakfast: Grapes, three types of melon (honeydew, cantalope, water), kiwi, croissants w/butter, Peach yoplait, Orange Juice.
We landed at Heathrow in London and had a considerable trip (both by bus and on foot) to change terminals for our connecting flight to Edinburgh.
While waiting, I had an Apple Juice that had the unique taste of the apple juice in the U.K. It's different than in the U.S. It reminded me immediately and viscerally of my semester in Oxford.
Boarded our flight to Scotland. Business class again, bulkhead seat. Don't like the bulkhead, but at least it was Biz.
Fortunately, I was able to sleep. Slept through most of the flight, which was only an hour. So I was still pretty tired.
We arrived in Edinburgh and went to the rental car desk to pick up our Mini-Cooper, which my father had special ordered in advance. It wasn't there. In fact, they had no car for us. Major screw up. My dad was furious, and I just felt bad for him.
But the good news was they had a Grey Volkswagon Beetle available for us. And since it wasn't a special order it cost CONSIDERABLY less. It wound up being a terrific car for us (with a few minor exceptions I'll get to later). So all was for the best. And when I told my kids about it, they got very excited. "Grey punch-buggy, no punch backs," they yelled!
We started our drive. My dad behind the wheel. Me navigating.
We passed through Stirling, the only other Scottish town (besides Edinburgh) that I had ever been to before. But we didn't stop. It was already late afternoon, and we had a ways to drive before we got to our hotel.
We entered the Trossachs area (home to Rob Roy), passing numerous Lochs.
We passed through Glen Coe. My dad is from Glenco, Illinois, and we tried to imagine how Scottish trappers might have seen Lake Michigan and felt like it was home.
We crossed Loch Leven and then drove up the coast of Loch Linnhe, passing through Fort William. The scenery was just gorgeous. And that's exactly why we came. This wasn't going to be a museum trip. With very few exceptions, we weren't here to see anything man-made. My dad's plan for the trip was to see Scotland's natural beauty. Since he was footing the bill, I wasn't complaining. But in truth, I wasn't complaining, cuz it was just terrific. Driving past Linnhe, God parted the clouds and put a spotlight of late afternoon sun on the water. I watched it intensely, half-expecting to see a Selkie or something emerge. No luck. But it was still very gorgeous.
My good friend (and Gargoyles researcher) Tuppence Macintyre had provided us with some travel tips and a mix-tape of Scottish music (modern and otherwise) and even a Robin Williams comedy routine. We played the tape on the way to our hotel. It was great. Only one problem. I couldn't figure out how to get the thing to eject. It literally took me two days to manage it. The stereo was very strange. Every once in a while, for no apparent reason, it would switch off the tape and start playing the radio instead. Other times, when we had it switched off, it would just turn itself on. We'd turn it off again, and it would turn on again. I have no explanation, beyond gremlins. The air-conditioner also sucked. The worst was... well, I'll hold off on that... but those three things were the only problems with the bug. Otherwise, we liked it. In fact, my dad liked it so much, he's considering getting one.
We passed many, many animals. You don't see a lot of sheep alongside the 405 or the 101, so it was kinda novel to us. The sheep in Scotland are nearly ubiquitous. We also saw cows and other "robust cattle", which look almost like Oxen or Yaks or something. We saw rams, swans, horses, geese, etc. No shetland ponies though.
As we got closer to our hotel, my dad, who's only been to Scotland once before, began to say how it was starting to look familiar. Then when we arrived at our hotel, he realized that he had been here before to this hotel. (Don't ask me how he didn't realize it before that moment. It's not surprising if you know him, but it's still goofy.) We were staying at Inverlochy Castle. An actual castle that had been remodeled into a hotel years before. It was, to say the least, an extremely classy joint. (One of the advantages of traveling with my dad is that he tends to go first class all the way.) Dad remembered it as the place where he had a fight with his shower. Being unable to work it, he had started yelling at it. (Now you guys can see where I inherited my limited technical abilities. My dad doesn't even have e-mail.)
My room was amazing. HUGE. With a bathroom bigger than most of the hotel rooms I've ever stayed in. I changed for dinner, as this place required a coat and tie in the dining room. I also left a quick voice mail for Beth to let her know we had arrived.
For Dinner I had sparkling water, mustard seed rolls w/butter, a Lobster cocktail, terrific Potato/Leek soup and Sea Breem with Mussels, shrimp and spinach. Now, the only non-shellfish I really like is trout. But I also don't like lamb which was the other option, so I tried the Sea Breem. Nope. But the mussels, shrimp and spinach were great. Dessert was an Apple tart served with apple puree and fresh pressed apple jus.
Back in the room, I called the kids and talked to them and my Mom, who was baby-sitting. I also called Beth again and talked to her. There was a toffee on my pillow. So, what the heck, I ate that too.
Finally, I went to bed...
TUNE IN TOMORROW for more adventure. *Here's a preview: "English Bacon..." "Neptune's Staircase..." "They deserved better..." "The Zebra-Striped Hearse..." "Campbell on bagpipes..."