I’m writing this on the train from London to Paris. There’s no WiFi but I can write it in the trusty word processor and then change it over. That’s what I’m going to do. I also want to make sure that what happened last year (we took a trip and I failed to finish the blog about it) doesn’t happen this year. And thirdly, I’m due a blog post. So, all-in-all, look at me go!!
So as the title of this post may indicate, there was a major life event that happened this past week in the lovely Scottish city of Edinburgh. The BCPF and I decided to go ahead and take care of that little void we had been experiencing for a while: we got married. Married. Hitched. Wed. Murdered. Whatever the connotation or metaphor you want to use, that’s what we did. Four years of dating and three years of being betrothed, we’re weirdo and wife. Notice I made the distinction as she’s perfectly normal; well, with the exception that she married me and the fact that she is nuttier than squirrel poop. It’s a very charming kind of nutty, though.
Our journey really began in the states. The connector from GSO to PHL wasn’t so bad – small plane, quick, quiet flight – easy-peasey. Took in a brew at an Irish pub located in the area we were to pick up our next flight; the long one. The gate we were to wait at was stocked full of journeymen and women. The plane to Frankfurt was ready to go and they then, to quote Sting, packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes. We were waiting on our group of lemmings. It was quite. Only 20 minutes before our plane was to take off. I looked at the boarding pass, compared it to the gate number… they matched. But, something was amiss. So, I checked with the attendant on duty. DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER! Our gate had been moved. Moved to the other end of that concourse! They told us to hurry. So we picked up and walked briskly (this fat man doesn’t run, not when carrying the carry-on. I was winded, couldn’t breathe, hurting, etc. but I trudged on. The BCPF went on ahead, especially when we could hear them calling our names over the speaker. We were yelling “we’re coming!” but I don’t think they heard us. She got them to hold everything because The Fat Man was approaching. We had paid for early boarding to ensure we’d have baggage room and such. Luckily, we only paid $10 because we’d have lost a shload of money otherwise. So we sat with our carry-on bags at and mostly under our feet the entire six-and-a-half hour flight. Last year we flew United and it was great, USAirways isn’t all that great for long flights. At least, not this one. Seat configuration mixed with horrible viewing points for the “in-flight entertainment” made it an average journey at best. But, really, that was the worst of it.
We hadn’t had time, or the want to obtain a marriage visa which is not required to get married in Scotland. However, if you tell the customs officers in the airport that’s why you’re in the country, they’ll make you pay for one and really, according to our wedding planner, it’s just a money rouse that is unnecessary. So, when asked why we’re in the country, the response was: “a LONG, overdue holiday.” Stamp! We’re in.
Edinburgh (pronounced Edd-in-brah for anyone keeping score), is a beautiful, beautiful city. Lots of green and remarkably very much green. Can you tell it’s green? The city center itself is really quite small for a “world” city while the sprawling countryside goes for miles and miles and miles. We were located in a town called Midlothian which sounds so Shire-esque, really. Our first night in that area was at a very posh and old golf course with a small Marriott-owned castle called Dalmahoy. It was quite nice and the elevator (or lift as they’ll be called for the duration of this trip to keep continuity) was probably the quietest, stillest, and smallest personal lift I’ve ever been in. It really couldn’t fit more than about 3 people and luggage. We hit the floor we wanted and it went nowhere. Or so it seemed. There was suddenly a small (ever so small) jarring and the doors in the back of the lift opened to a completely different location. The room was large, really and the bed was comfortable. It overlooked a courtyard with a tennis court. The bar and restaurant along with the lounge areas were quite classic and what you’d probably think an old golf club or hunting club would look like. You can see the outside of it in the pictures included.
We then called taxi to take us into Edinburgh proper, at least the old town. The BCPF knew we were going to The Royal Mile so we set the car in that direction. Edinburgh was Gothic and awesome. Kilt shops at every turn and never a shortage of extremely nice and helpful people. We stopped in a few shops and even had a bite to eat and a pint in a modern pub called Albanach. The BCPF and I tried a few pints, we both tried 80 Shilling and I had Innis & Gunn’s Rum Finish. Both were superb. The Innis & Gunn was truly a gift find that will be rated a 4.5 on Untappd when I can get back to internet. I also tried a dram of Macallan Ruby Scotch. I mean, we are in Scotland after all. Also, The BCPF had Cullen Skink (a soup) and I had pate; not too liverish and more spice balanced than some pates tend to be. Quite delicious on both counts.
Then it was time for the Mercat Tours Ghost Walk. Lydia our tour guide had a remarkable scream and she demonstrated and wailed against us at the beginning. I, along with another tour taker was used as an example of an Englishman being tortured and killed in the square. Seems Edinburgh (like most old towns) has a not-so-glamourous history. We wound through vaults, or underground caverns, hearing stories of murder, misdeeds and mayhem. Delightful, indeed.
We had time the first day to grab some breakfast before they closed the breakfast service and then had it again the next morning. I remember watching So I Married an Axe Murderer, in which Mike Myers played not only the central character but his Scottish father as well (this lead to the accent used for Fat Bastard in the Austin Powers films) and them talking about something called “haggis,” a traditional Scottish dish. Haggis, basically, is chopped mutton that is then cooked in the sheep’s stomach. I’ve never had mutton that I’m aware of and the thought of eating it from a sheep’s stomach was nothing I really wanted to do. That was years ago, though and I’ve determined to broaden my horizons with food, especially in places where whatever food we’re talking about is their standard. It actually just tasted like a drier sausage and quite flavorful; earthy. Another thing they had was black pudding. Watching Anthony Bourdain in his various programs over the years, I’ve come to realize that anything “black” generally means it’s made with blood. Again, welcome to Tryingsomethingnewville. That wasn’t as good as the haggis but still not bad. We learned – through trial and, well, more trial – that both, especially haggis, are better with honey. Try it, you may like it.
Next was the moving from Dalmahoy to Dalhousie Castle, the place of our wedding. The hired driver, whose name was Meni is originally from Pakistan but has lived in the UK since he was 8. He was way past 8. He told us stories of history and lifestyle in this quaint town. Then we arrived. Dalhousie Castle.
There is not enough good things to about Dalhousie Castle. Really, there isn’t. It’s old – 15th Century, actually. It’s charming. The staff was so endearing, helpful, and accommodating. Our room wasn’t quite ready so we used Meni to get us back into town (along with my kilt; did I mention the kilt?) so I could be fitted for the kilt hire. Now the kilt was mine but the rest of the accoutrements I had to rent, or as they say, hire. Graeme was awesome and had to even give me bigger socks to fit my rather meaty calves along with ghillie brogues (special shoes) that were one size larger as well. A very pleasant experience that was not unlike trying on a tuxedo in the states.
Then, we had to obtain a taxi and the driver of the requisite black taxi company we got had the personality of a pebble stuck in the tread of the tire. At one point, he even held an extra 25 seconds at a red light because he was reading something. He made fun of the way I said Dalhousie and didn’t speak after that other than to tell us how much the fare was. He was horrible.
Back at the castle, our room was ready and we went to check it out. Again, I can’t enough about the castle. Was a wonderful place. If there was anything that I could say that was wrong was the staircases. There are no lifts (see?) and the only way to get to the room was via stairs. The stairs were the floating kind (meaning no supports visible underneath) and obviously didn’t like the fact that I was a rotund and weighty man. Every time I made a step, the stairs creaked and moaned like they were going to collapse. Truly, it took until we checked out that I even got used to that; not comfortable, mind you, used to it. The room was on the third floor and was the Dalwosie Room. It was private. It was small, but I figure that most of them were. We’re in a castle for goodness sake; the class and style should supersede the space and I’m ok with that. A bathroom that was separated by a small corridor that lead to the bed chamber with a small dressing table in a nook. You’ll see from the pictures. The bed was quite old, perhaps by 100s of years, who’s to say? It had a weird feature in that the foot of the bed was slightly elevated in contrast to the head. It may have been an illusion but that’s how I saw it. The TV was small and off to the right of the room but who had time to watch that?
Back out again (this is the third time through Edinburgh this day) to have a walk about and grab some dinner. One thing The BCPF and I pride ourselves on is fact that we’re good at “stumbling upon” good-to-great places to feed our faces. Nestled back in a close (along with wynds, basically Scottish alleys that are named) and located at the end of a decorative stick and light awning-lined corridor was a great little modern Scottish establishment known as Monteith’s. We told them that we were getting married the next day and they brought us a glass of champagne each, along with their congratulations. I had the lox and she had risotto with quail egg. We traded bites and enjoyed the flavors immensely. The egg ran all over her risotto and along with the pea tendrils, made the entire dish delish. There wasn’t really anything extraordinary about the lox, they were tender, smoky and spot on. I then had the rib eye rare, like I do, and a stack of potatoes (fries basically), while she had chicken over creamed potatoes
and caramelized onion.
The steak was perfectly prepared and of decent size; not overly spiced. Her potatoes were decadently creamy and the chicken was moist. Then for dessert she had chocolate on chocolate cake while I had a raspberry crème brulee along with an alco-bev each (chocolate for her and something orange for me). The dessert was probably the least favorite of the whole meal for me.
This has gone on really long and I’ve not even started talking about the wedding yet, which I know, dear reader, you’re just dying to hear about, or maybe you’re not, but anywhat, I’ll be getting to it soon. I have plenty more to write. Maybe even tomorrow. You never know.
So until next time (which will be the continuation of this story), same pod channel at SOME pod time…
“There are few more impressive sights in the world than a Scotsman on the make.”
-James M. Barrie