Sunday, July 16, 2006

Day one -- We Have Arrived!

Since Internet connectivity was so spotty in Scotland, it wasn't actually until we got to the Glasgow airport, headed for Iceland, that I found (a) a hotspot that would accept my credit card, and (b) enough time to use it, thanks to the four hour delayed flight to Reykjavik.

Though I haven't been posting through the week, I have been writing blog entries each night and storing them up. It'll take me a while to get the backlog published, but here I'll start with the first one.

After a very smooth flight, we are now in Scotland. The boys, as always, were very good on the flights. From BWI to Reykjavik, they ate a little dinner and slept a little. The dinners were quite good for airline food. I had meatballs and mashed potatoes; Becky had chicken.

Eddie noted that our 757-200 had a feature not normally found on 757's: wingtips. Normally, the only Boeing aircraft to use wingtips are the 747-400 and the newer 737's. The 757 has been out of production for a few years now, so we weren't really sure whether it was a after-market modification or what. (We'll have to look it up.)

Upon landing in Iceland, we had a quick connection to make, but the Keflavik airport is very small and the connection was a breeze. Our first exposure to Iceland was the bracing (but refreshing) cold as we stepped off the plane. At 7am local time, the morning was only about 5 degrees Celsius, but the sun was shining brightly (as it does almost all day this time of year in Iceland). The landscape was barren in most places. Rocky volcanic flows dominate the land with very intermittent spots of green and small villages. It was just a taste of Iceland--we will have to wait a few days more to come back.

On the flight to Glasgow, the boys again were very good. We all ate a very nice breakfast--eggs, potatoes, ham and skyr. Ed and I didn't know what skyr was, until we looked it up and learned it was a heavy form of cheese/yogurt made from cow's milk.

At the airport, Bill from Highland Tours was waiting to take us from Glasgow to Aviemore. With eleven bags (and four more for Kathleen and Ed), this was easily the most convenient mode of transport out of the airport.

The drive to Aviemore was long, but Bill let us stop several times and the stops were pretty special. Rather than stopping at a roadside rest-stop, we ate lunch at the Caithness Glass factory, where they make very exotic paperweights--all by hand. After lunch, we let the boys play on the playground a bit, which helped with the jet-lag. A little fresh air and sunshine is the best medicine against jet-lag.

Then, we drove a bit further and Bill asked us if we'd like to pull off the road and go on a little hike that most people miss. We said sure, and boy are we glad we did! The spot is called the Hermitage.

As Bill told it, before the Victorian era, there were many old monastic hermits in the hills, many of them abandoned. One of the local Lairds (he called Lords "Lairds") wished to go hunting and fishing with his mates, so he built a hermitage deep in the woods and let his women-folk use it to gossip and sew while he went fishing and hunting with his mates. The hermitage was a fraud from the perspective that no monk ever lived in it, but the spot is idyllic. A wooded path leads you up to a rocky waterfall and remote bridge from which you can see salmon six feet long jumping in the cascades. It was an amazing stop and we were practically the only people there.

Finally, after about an hour, it was back on the road for the final push to Aviemore. We arrived at the Dalfaber resort, and said goodbye to Bill for the day.

Our villa at Aviemore turned out to be brand new--just built. The unit has a very elegant kitchen, bedroom, and three bathrooms, a spacious family room and sundeck overlooking the golf course. Since it was already almost five o'clock, Ed, Kathleen and Becky headed into town to Tesco to get some groceries, whilest the boys and I headed down to the pub to get a pint and some chips. Soon after, we ate dinner in the restaurant and went home to bed.

It was a great first day! Tomorrow, we'll be going to the Highland Games at Forres.

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