Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Scotland Report: Installment I 

We left Germany on the evening of Tuesday, June 22, on a Ryanair flight from Frankfurt-Hahn. Ryanair is an Irish budget-airline that has carved out quite a market share for itself by offering cheap flights into and out of obscure airports. Hahn, for example, is about as much a part of Frankfurt as Lake Helen is a part of Orlando. Still, the tickets were cheap enough--100 euro each roundtrip. (One hundred euro is currently $122; however, note the new currency converter in my list of links if you're reading this sometime in the future when the dollar sucks even worse than it currently does.)

After an uneventful 90-minute flight, we landed at Glasgow-Prestwick (with "Prestwick" being the name of the actual town and "Glasgow" being the major city an hour away that people have actually heard of). The Prestwick location was fine by us though, as we had booked a room in a dormitory at an agricultural college in nearby Ayr.

When we arrived at Wilson Hall, we weren't sure how to go about checking in. I asked some students who were hanging out in the TV lounge, and one volunteered to go get the "warden" for us. I'd never stayed in a facility with a warden before (well, except for that one time, but those records were expunged long ago), so I was curious to see how this would turn out.

Our room was definitely on the spartan side of things, but it cost only 46 pounds (roughly $84) and included breakfast. We had two twin beds and a set of bunks for the kids. The ladies' bathroom was just down the hall, but the boys had to go down to the floor below. Here are the kids settling into their beds:

The next morning we had breakfast in the refectory. Annabelle ate Rice Krispies while the rest of us dined on scrambled eggs, bacon, and baked beans, which apparently are quite common on Scottish breakfast tables.

After breakfast we left Ayr and headed north toward Fort William. Dad did a great job with the driving, but the ride was quite the thriller. Our first challenge was negotiating around the edges of Glasgow proper and getting across the Clyde River. Our second challenge was skirting the shores of Loch Lomond without getting mowed over by the lunatic drivers heading the other direction in our lane. Keep to the left, people! I can backseat drive only one car at a time, you know.

We reached Fort William, which is a charming little town, in the early afternoon. Unfortunately, the weather was most disagreeable--cold and rainy and just generally yucky. We bundled up in our jackets and raced from shop to shop, trying to stay as dry and warm as possible:

Our first stop in Fort William was at the local office for the National Tourism Board. For the price of 3 pounds, the tourism board will book you into a hotel or bed-and-breakfast. We wound up staying in a little bed-and-breakfast called Corrie Duff for 66 pounds ($120). I introduced Dad and the kids to the joys of Indian food for supper that night, and we were in our beds fast asleep by 9:00 p.m., exhausted from our shivery afternoon.

The next morning we enjoyed our bacon, eggs, and beans and then headed off in the rain for Drumnadrochit on the shores of Loch Ness. To be continued . . .


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