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Welcome to Scotland!
We made our entry -- or rather, "return," if you count Russell's birthday dinner -- into Alba (Scotland) on May 23rd when we drove from Ironbridge over the Scottish border into Glasgow. (We should comment here that we've had an unbelievably difficult time trying to ascertain what the Scottish Gaelic term for "Scotland" is. Unlike Gymraeg, which is now standard curriculum in Welsh schools, Scottish Gaelic is a language that is struggling to survive. "Alba" is one of many terms used to describe parts of what is now Scotland, and it seems to be the most widely used.)
It has been an absolute mess trying to book accommodations lately. Normally, our loose schedule of reserving about three days ahead has worked with no problems. Unfortunately, as we look ahead at May and June we are discovering more tourists and travelers competing with us for accommodations. Even worse, the week of June 1-5 is an absolute nightmare -- in addition to being a bank holidaay (three-day weekend) it's also the Queen's Jubilee, adding an extra day to the long weekend. Just about everybody in the United Kingdom is traveling, and just about every destination is booked.
In order to be able to spend a large amount of time on the phone -- and to break up the long drive into the northern Scottish Highlands -- we booked a single night in Glasgow, one of Alba's larger and more industrial cities (it barely rates a mention in Rick Steves' book). We never actually drove into or set foot in Glasgow; we booked a family room at the Travel Inn that had the most convenient access from the motorway (at Cambusling). Our goals were to take a break in the long drive from Ironbridge to Oban, spend the night with a roof over our heads, spend the next morning on the telephone booking accommodations, and hit the road again. Our decision not to do any sightseeing was further reinforced by the pouring rain.
All Travel Inns are completely identical, from the room layout to the signs on the walls, so it's very easy for us to make ourselves at home in a family room (as Gail remarked, it's scary when you start to feel at home in a Travel Inn). We did have a lot of fun that evening at dinner; the adjacent restaurant, Orion Bay Brewsters, had a "fun factory" that included a large indoor climbing structure for children (Cameron was very pleased that the maximum age was twelve -- he's eleven). Cameron and Joss made friends with several other children including Jamie, a local boy celebrating his eighth birthday (Jamie's three-year-old nephew Connor looks amazingly like our own nephew Scott).
Cameron, Jamie with little Connor, another friend, Joss, and a bunch of balloon swords
Gail and Russell chatted with Jamie's young grandmother Mima (short for Jamima), an extremely funny Scottish woman who is self-described as "not a Royalist." We were amused by how much her Scottish opinion of things (mostly politics) ran just about counter to the English point of view. (Russell has also begun working on his Scottish brogue, although his enthusiasm has been dampened by Gail's comment that he sounds like the Disney cartoon character, Scrooge McDuck.)
On May 24th, and for one of the first times on our entire world trip, we decided to eat breakfast out (as opposed to in our room) and returned to Orion Bay Brewsters. We did this specifically so that Cameron and Joss could spend the morning back at the "fun factory," but unfortunately, we discovered that the "fun factory" doesn't open until 11:00 AM (and no offense to the Brits, but an English breakfast is one of the worst cuisines to spend money on in a restaurant). For the rest of the morning, Gail and Russell sat in the telephone cabin. After enduring quite a bit of frustration (including figuring out the credit card payphone), we have now successfully booked the rest of our UK accommodations forward in Oban, Inverness, Edinburgh, York, and London Heathrow Airport (we were unable to find anything in London itself).
As we drove north out of Glasgow, we saw that the rain does have its rewards. On the very scenic M82 and M85 motorways into the Scottish Highlands, we drove along the length of Loch Lomond (Lake Lomond), where we saw dozens of rivers and waterfalls making their way down the mountains, swelled by the constant rain. The loch is beautiful, the mountains are lush and green, and Alba is going to be incredible to explore.
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