The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow it I can …J. R. R. Tolkien
Once we had all been vaccinated, my sister Sally, Bill, and I began gathering again on Friday nights for homemade pizza and fellowship. Occasionally, and perhaps more often than not, a bottle of wine also disappeared at the table. After one such gathering, it seems we had all agreed to bit of a wager … We had decided to purchase airfare to Scotland, hoping … believing… that COVID-19 travel restrictions might be lifted by October.
I will confess that I have never really had the lust to go to Scotland. I’d rather take every opportunity to return to Ireland where I feel so at home. But Sally and Bill, who would prove to be natural co-conspirators, certainly wanted to make this trip. And they needed someone who could drive on the left. Yes, I know my utility.
It was difficult to get excited for a trip we weren’t sure would happen. As the time drew nearer we began jumping through the many hoops required to make a journey during these challenging times. We had to arrange for 3 separate COVID-19 tests, prepare lengthy Passenger Locator forms, and then yet another form for our brief layover in Amsterdam. It seemed our hosts were taking this threat very seriously as they should, but at least and at last they agreed to let this unusual little “fellowship” into their countries.
So it was on Friday, October 8, 2021; we found ourselves lifting off from DTW with the final destination Edinburgh! We took notice of how congenial everyone on the plane seemed to be with each other as though we had been starved for communication and connections. Sally shared her seat row with a delightful Scotsman (who had actually lived and worked in Mt. Pleasant, MI) and I sat next to a young German man who soon after eating his subpar meal was sound asleep.
Perhaps it was the catching up on “The Handmaid’s Tale” that set me up for failure but sleep eluded me. We shuffled through the health screenings in Amsterdam and finally the three of us were all together in a row and on the final leg of our journey to Edinburgh (pronounced “Edinburra” not Endin-burgh). To say we were weary when we arrived is simply stating the obvious.
We found the car rental pick up site for Arnold Clark and soon I was following the navigation to our lodging in Kenmore. I take my driving responsibilities very seriously when switching to the opposite side of the road. Normally it takes my brain a while to adapt; however, this time I seem to settle right in to it. That said, I barely dared to look at the scenery and instead focused on keeping us safe. It took us around an hour and a half to arrive in Aberfeldy where we marveled at long row houses and uniquely Scottish buildings. Of course there was a drizzle of rain but as we approached our little condo at Kenmore Resort we could see patches of sunlight on the hillside across Lock Tay. The quilted pattern of yellows and greens and the sun’s rays streaming down through the clouds reassured us that in spite of all the trouble we had in getting here – it would be worth it.
Rather than take rest, we decided to push on. We headed back to Aberfeldy in search of a nightie. Sally’s luggage had not arrived in Edinburgh with her! We’d been clued to find Tofts department store; however, drove around for a while and finally settled on a place with no name that looked like it might sell clothes. Apparently, that was Tofts. While Sally shopped, Bill and I struck up conversation with a guy sitting on a bench outside. Turns out he was a motorcycle enthusiast (a.k.a.biker). He had spent time with a motorcycle club in Lansing, Michigan, and had driven Route 66 as well as participated in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. After a while his mate showed up on a Honda and joined in.
We enjoyed good conversation … until I heard the sound of a child sobbing inconsolably. I looked across the square and slightly around the bend I spotted a wee child sitting at the side of the street (feet actually into the street), visibly shaking and sobbing. I took off across the square and soon reached him.
Argh, my breaking heart! He was so distraught! He was able to tell me that his mother was in the building behind him and as I was about to begin pounding on doors a lovely woman appeared and began consoling him. She identified herself as his mother and was very irritated that the boy was not with his father. “He was right out here with him!” But he wasn’t. As his sobs subsided they took off down the street in search – I suppose – of the errant donor – er, father. After a while I saw her heading home with my wee lad as well as a smaller one in tow. I’m betting somebody got a good tongue lashing.
We were keen for a bite of food but the pubs/restaurants were packed (2 week school holiday). We bought some essentials from the food co-op and headed back to Kenmore via an alternative route. We passed a small hotel restaurant just prior to the village of Weem with outdoor seating. After very little discussion we decided we’d go back to see if they would feed us. Sally knew of a good place to turn around, Castle Menzies. We drove up to the castle and decided to roam around a bit before going for a bite to eat. The light from the sun (yes, sun!) was so lovely!
The Ailean Chraggan Hotel restaurant was by reservation only – unless you chose to sit outside. We knew we didn’t have much time before it got chilly but we were hungry and they did have outdoor heaters. We all ordered bowls of tomato red pepper soup with a chunk of hearty sourdough bread. Just enough to sooth our bellies. It was dark when we returned to our lodging. We may have made it to 8:00 p.m. before falling fast asleep.