Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - Day 14

Day 14 - Fort William, the Jacobite train and Loch Lomond -- ALL of Loch Lomond

The word for this morning and afternoon is Serendipity. 

The word for the evening is Frustration.

All Aboard!
No breakfast this morning; we needed to leave by 7:30 and, on Sundays, the hotel didn’t start serving until 8:00. We shrugged it off and headed out for Fort William and The Jacobite train – the very same train and route used for the Hogwarts Express in all the Harry Potter films. I’d gotten the tickets months ago. The first class seats (like the ones Harry and friends ride in) were sold out even then, but we got comfortable seats in what, in the US, would be called a dining car – two seats facing a shared table.

Steven got us hot chocolates as we waited for the train, and a shortbread covered in toffee to munch on. Soon we were on board, facing front, excited for the adventure we were about to take.

Barbara and me (in red and purple)
Because there are only the two of us and the train is sold out by this time, we knew we’d be facing two strangers. I’m pretty shy; thank goodness Steven isn’t. A couple about our age slid in across from us and within minutes we were gabbing away like old friends. Truly! They were wonderful people (she’s a librarian; he’s an accountant and a train fanatic – an anorak they are called; volunteers to wear those bulky coats and clock the trains to make sure they’re on time). At one point she and I were discussing various authors and I gave her my card.

Well. She got all flustered for several minutes. She’s read two of my books! I was floored. We had a great laugh about it and I signed the back of the card for her. We took a picture together, too. J

So it was a nice boost to my ego and cemented our friendship. From then on, the four of us chatted and took pictures of the scenery and had a great time. We separated in Mallaig for our hour and a half stay there, then met up again in seats on the opposite side of the train for the ride back to Fort William (this way now they were facing forward – and we got to see the views on the other side returning).

I loved the apparent chaos and colors of these nets!
Mallaig is a very small town on the Irish Sea side of Scotland. Its economy is mostly from tourists and the fishing boats. For lunch I had fresh prawns – the first time ever I’d eaten prawns. I always thought it was just another name for shrimp – but they’re smaller. They were wonderful. A lot of work to get to, but tasty to eat! Steven isn’t a seafood kind of guy, but he tried the Coronation Chicken – which had a sauce on it very different from anything he’d ever had before.

By the way, I need to go back and add to yesterday’s entry: at lunch yesterday in Inverness, I ordered haggis, neeps and tatties as an appetizer. It’s just a small portion of what is usually a larger meat. I’ve been wanting to try it, but didn’t want to order a whole portion and then not like it. So this was the perfect opportunity.

Suffice it to say, I LOVE haggis. It’s just sausage with some really cool spices. Neeps are mashed rutabagas and tatties are, of course, potatoes. If I could get it in the States, I’d have it a lot!

Back to today.

So we had a great time on the train. Serendipity came into play in our meeting two wonderful people and in getting to eat a new food (prawns and Coronation chicken). Next stop – East Kilbride and our hotel.

Loch Lomond
We did really well coming along the A82. Absolutely stunning scenery, including a beautiful glen, and then another and another and another. The rain had started but it only made them more beautiful, the mountain tops slowly being veiled by the lowering clouds. We stopped to take many pictures, none of which will do the sight justice.

About a half an hour from our hotel, we hit a stop. The road ahead was closed because of a fatal accident. This is a road that dips and turns as it follows the coastline of Loch Lohman – a road with very narrow lane and no shoulder on either side.

There was no clear detour, so we chose a direction at the road closed part and found a restaurant not too far down. Serendipity again – we’d been driving for two hours and here was food and a break when we needed it. Our waiter was a Chris Hemsworth look alike and wore a kilt. Yum! We stayed for an hour, hoping the detour would be open when we finished.

It wasn’t. The road had been closed since half one (1:30) and it was now nearly six. We can only imagine what they had to do to fix the road. Our prayers are with all those involved.

One part of a beautiful glen we discovered on the
eastern side of Loch Lomond
Of course, this meant our hotel was now a lot further away because we had to go down the other side of the loch. Now mind you, we were less than a mile from the southern end of the lake at the detour and going around meant going all the way back that winding road to the north end and coming back down through Stirling. Yes, that means we traveled all the way around the circumference of Loch Lomond. 

Once more we got to within a half an hour of our hotel and got a message that there was a traffic problem ahead. We decided to listen to her (female voice GPS) and followed the new detour. It added only five minutes to our trip, so we’re good. At this point we’re tired and having to work at finding the positive, but we’re managing.

And then she tells us to get off the motorway onto a ramp that doesn’t exist.

It USED to exist, but is currently under construction and is just a pile of dirt. We spend nearly an hour driving in circles trying to find our way to some spot that will get us moving in the right direction. By now Steven’s been driving for over three hours (thank goodness the sun sets late and while its raining, it isn’t dark) and the Word of the Day has changed to Frustrated. I think if we had to go around one more roundabout we were both going to be carsick.

Nerves were frayed, tempers short and the positive had been left at the last roundabout by the time we finally found the hotel. We got checked in, took our bags up through a serpentine maze of stairs, doors and turns for no reason, getting lost not once but twice trying to find the damn room.

But find it we did. In silence we entered. Steven took his bag over to his side of the bed and left it, dropping on the bed in exhaustion. I left my bag, kicked off my shoes and plopped next to him, intending to give him a hug and apologize for being snappish. But we made the mistake of looking each other in the eye and it was all over for both of us. The chuckled turned to unrestrained, uncontrollable laughter that didn’t stop until both of us had tears in our eyes and were gasping for breath.

Yes, it had been a crappy end to a beautiful start but heck! We were in freaking Scotland!!!

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