On holiday part 2
I have come back to Pennsylvania with the sad report that we did not spot Nessie while on holiday in Scotland, and trust me, we looked.
Evidently, so do the folks who operate tour boats on the Loch.
The little tour boat that took us to Urquhart Castle came equipped with some impressive radar equipment that seemed rather out of place on such a small vessel.
Oddly enough, the gentleman who put our tour together informed our group that one of the tour boats had picked up some large and inexplicable images on the radar the day after we left.
Our trip also took us to the battlefield of Culloden and the site of the Glencoe massacre.
Both are very solemn and emotional places.
If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear the cries of the fallen carried on the wind.
At Culloden, one woman became quite emotional and openly wept.
Nearby, a stone marker bearing the name of her ancestral clan marks the spot where they fought and perished during the swift and bloody battle of April 16, 1746.
I think we all shared her pain.
Other highlights of the tour included more castles, a whisky distillery and of course, shopping.
The last day of our trip was by far the most adventurous of all.
We stayed in the outskirts of Edinburgh and were completely on our own.
A tour bus had taken us to all of our previous destinations but on this day, I would have to brave a public bus to take me into a large, foreign city.
I had quite a bit of anxiety as I really had no idea where I was going or where to get off.
It was almost as scary as getting on a plane for me.
Thankfully, and after my desperate plea, the bus driver announced the stop that would let us off near Arthur's Seat: a dormant volcano that at its highest point sits 251 meters above sea level and one which I intended to climb.
While it sounded like a brilliant idea at first, (after all, not everyone can say they climbed a volcano) I grossly underestimated the amount of walking/climbing that would be required to reach our destination.
I struggled terribly and just could not seem to catch my breath regardless of the numerous breaks I took on the way up.
I told my family repeatedly to go on without me but they flatly refused to do so (since it was MY brilliant idea to do it) and encouraged me to carry on.
Drenched with sweat and gasping for breath, I finally reached the summit.
I was quite disappointed that no one clapped and cheered for me when I arrived at the top after all I had been through, however the satisfaction of making it along with the breathtaking view made me feel as if I was on top of the world!
If you ever get the chance to climb a volcano, you should definitely do it.
On the way back down, we met a couple who, after noticing my daughter's Penn State hoodie, informed us that they were from State College.
When we got back to the street, our next challenge was trying to figure out what bus to take to our next destination.
I couldn't even find our present location on the little map of the city that was in the brochure.
I was starting to become quite anxious and panicky.
We walked aimlessly for a while until we happened upon a wee, older chap named James.
He immediately noticed my confusion and concern and quite gallantly stepped in to save the day.
He gave us the lowdown on which buses went where and then offered to assist us.
As we waited for the next bus, I had the pleasure of talking with this kind man.
He asked us where we were from, what we had seen so far and how we were enjoying our trip.
He then informed us that one day was not nearly long enough to see all that needed to be seen in his beloved Edinburgh.
When the bus came, he told me to sit near him so that he could let me know when to get off.
I was so grateful to have met James and that he had taken us under his wing.
When our stop came, he pushed the button to alert the driver.
After telling us which direction to walk, I looked him in the eyes and thanked him.
He smiled and shook my hand.
As we walked away from the bus, I waved goodbye to James feeling just a little bit sad that I would never see him again.
I have been back for three days now and am still suffering from jet lag and haggis withdrawal.
Haggis, in case you are wondering, is a Scottish staple and was offered at every breakfast.
We liked to mix it in with the baked beans that were also served with each breakfast.
It is made from sheep stomach, liver, heart and lungs, suet, onion, oatmeal and seasonings.
I have been told that it took as much courage to eat the haggis as it did to climb the volcano.
I guess I am just brave like that.