From the Land of What If

cooSo here I am, in Scotland!!!

I’m so happy to be here, too! For a little while, I can leave the lawyering on the other side of the ocean (Yippee!), get away from my routines and some of my responsibilities, and go sniffing after new story ideas.

Travel is tiring, but it also wakes me up. Traffic moves in different patterns here, which means even in something as simple look rightas crossing the street, I have to be alert and look the “wrong” way, lest I get flattened. Because accents are thick and varied (lots of Eastern Europeans working at the hotels in Scotland), I have to listen to everything everybody says more carefully.

What are the rules on the trains for eating and drinking? Where are the handicapped seats and is it OK to sit in them if nobody needs them? Gads, which coin do you need to get into the loo at the jack nicklaustrain station? In Heathrow airport, I walked into the mens by accident, because I wan’t paying attention and the signs are different.

Walked out at about Warp seven, though the only guy I’d surprised was laughing at me as I did.

Being away from home gives me a chance to try on some things that aren’t possible at home. Last night I popped up to Dundee from Edinburgh to train_1618801chear a concert. I could go door to door from the hotel to concert hall–more than sixty miles–without sitting butt in automobile. Took the train and walked, which might be part of the explanation for why I see so few obese people here.

And as I stood around on the platform waiting for the train to arrive, I could try on this one too: Nobody here has a waverlygun they can carry around wherever they please. Nobody. Not the cops (except a few and in extraordinary circumstances), not the robbers. I can be stabbed or clobbered with a tire iron, but not shot, much less shot with a high powered rifle or semi-automatic weapon legally obtained by the owner. Do I feel more safe, or less, and why? Is the sense of community stronger or weaker? Interesting, and nowhere in America could I investigate those same realities.

YES voteThere are problems here. Scotland voted in September by a very narrow margin not to become independent, but the last minute promises made to ensure that outcome haven’t been kept. We hear talk of succession back home, but this was a national referendum that nearly, nearly passed, and probably will pass in the future.

US voter turnoutHow are the Brits dealing with that discussion? Why is Scotland’s voter turnout nearly 90 percent while we–who have twice the percentage of population living in poverty, far more elderly and children living in poverty, ghastly infant mortality statistics, far worse savings rates, and mediocre-at-best health care (France has the best)–can’t get out half those numbers for our by-elections? What is going on?

goodiesI wouldn’t ask these questions if I had stayed home. It’s a bad reflection on me, but I probably wouldn’t even THINK these questions. I’d putter around in my little life, writing my little stories, managing my little cases, and seldom consider a larger context.

So travel is broadening my horizons, and I’ve barely been here 72 hours. If you could travel anywhere, cost no object, logistics no object, where would you go, and why?

To one traveler–commenter!–I’ll send some Scottish goodies. (Might have to do some comparison shopping first, aye!)



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

45 comments on “From the Land of What If

    • Fun for me too, because I’m going through my days with an eye out for, “What should I post? What would the readers find interesting?” Adds an extra layer of attention to the experience.

  1. Well, since we are pretending let’s include “no health restrictions” also since I want to be able to walk all over the place and see EVERYTHING.

    It would be all of the British Isles and Ireland too, since it is the land of most of my ancestors.

    Grace, it sounds like you are having a wonderful time. Good for you!

    • Walking is much more part of life here, which could be good or bad, depending on your health restrictions. I see old folks out on the Edinburgh sidewalks, turtling along, often with their little dogs. They’re on the trains and trams and buses, too, but that doesn’t tell me how many aren’t getting out, because they’re stuck in handicapped-inaccessible buildings.

  2. The question of where I would travel given now restrictions is one of the most terrible questions I can be asked. I want to see it all.

    However I think I would start by heading north, the across the Atlantic, hop the Mediterranean, drop down to Australia/New Zealand, work my way around the Ring of Fire, pull myself through South America until I’m pack home. After all that I’ll decide where I want to go back to and spend more time.

    Hope you have a wonderful time in your travels1! 🙂

  3. I would go to Ireland, Scotland and Wales to see the countryside, visit the pubs and to shop!

    So happy that you have started your vacation and are enjoying yourself! Have a fabulous week!!!! (Or two or three!)

    • Every time I see a Corgi (and I see lots, also terriers), I think of you and Celeste. She and her nose would fit right in. This is a dog culture–you can take your dog into the departments stores, the shops, let ’em loose on the public walks. The dogs are cool, the people are cool. So far, I like it a lot.

      • I discuss this with my dog everytime she complains about having to stay home and especially being stuck home all the time during the summer. lol

  4. I love the new experiences gained from traveling, and it sounds like you’re taking full advantage of the opportunities. Now the question is, are you going to try haggis?

    • I tend to avoid all meat, but I’ve tried haggis on several occasions (research, ya know), and it puts me in mind of scrapple from the land of my youth. Lots of different kinds, but as with most meat, it’s really not my cuppa tea.

  5. I would like to go to Scotland in high summer. I want to attend music festivals–folk and classical–and dance, I love Scottish dance!

    I would like to attend a true, Scots Presbyterian worship service to see how it differs from our Presbyterian USA services.

    I would love to see heather and thistle in their natural habitat. I would try a deep-fried candy bar and (maybe) try haggis but only if I can smell it first and decide if I want to taste it or not. I’d like to have some whiskey and see if I like it any better in Scotland than I do in the USA!

    I want to go to Holyrood Castle. I want to buy my family’s tartan (Weir) by the bolt and then some of the other side of the family’s (Hamilton)tartan too.

    I was going for a significant birthday but a family emergency occurred and I wasn’t able to. Maybe next year!

    • That sounds like a great trip. I wish we lived somewhere with a Scottish Country Dance group. It looks like a lot of fun and great exercise, too. Here is a link in case you are interested.

      I tried a deep fried candy bar, a Snickers, – in Nebraska. I didn’t even know that was a Scottish thing. It was good but frozen I prefer them frozen. I’m thinking the haggis would probably taste better if we didn’t know what is in it. But so far I just can’t do it.

    • With a list like that, you MUST reschedule. The most conservative communities are in the Outer Hebrides. I should finish up there next month, and we’ve been repeatedly warned: Expect NOTHING to be open on Sunday. Not the gas stations, the convenience store, nothing.

  6. Scotland is lovely–and I’ve only visited a small part of the country. As for future travel, I already have an excellent one lined up. In April we’re going on a church pilgrimage to Italy and Israel. For 2016, we’ll see! Thanks for a fun post, Grace.

    • WOW. That sounds like a great trip. My mom and grandma did a Jubilee Year trip with our monsignor that included Lourdes, Rome and a couple other highlights. I don’t think they planned it this way, but it was terrific fun (and spiritually fortifying too).

  7. I loved all the pictures. I would definitely visit Great Britain, including Scotland. Since my background is British and I love reading stories set there, I’d love to see all of the things I’ve read about for so long.

    • When I went through Wellington’s House, I wanted to just slide down the wall and sit for hours. Tons of art there, the very service he used for his reunion dinners with his officers… Yes, it’s research, but it’s also real. The world would have been a different place without Wellington, and not simply because of Waterloo. I hope you get here, and soon!

  8. It sounds as though you are having a great time, Grace! Enjoy your break! When we went to England several years ago I noticed that the weather is much more conducive to walking from the train, tube, or bus station to your destination than it is here. Especially since I live in Texas where no one wants to be around coworkers who have spent to much time walking in the heat. 😉

    If there were no other considerations, I’d love to travel the world taking plenty of time to visit every little place of interest: historical buildings, parks, pubs, other landmarks, what ever tickles my fancy at any time.

    • That is an excellent point. The climate here is generally mild. Not as hot as much of the United States, not as cold. Yes, the Highlands get sub-arctic, but in the lowland cities, the weather is largely bearable. Think Seattle. When you’re not battling the elements, it’s much easier to deal with the out of doors.

  9. I was thinking of you last week when I was sent a picture of the spectacular display of Northern Lights over Skye. I was hoping you were there for that. But I’ll have to admit to a bit of envy, too.

    If I could travel anywhere, Scotland would be my first choice, and if money and logistics were no object I would rather just move there. If I never had to endure another day over about 80 degrees I would be willing to deal with the midges….I’m pretty sure haha. I would definitely want to see the Trossaches National Park. I’m a MacGregor and my ‘sister-by-choice’ is a MacFarlane so both our clans are from that area and it looks like a place not to be missed, although I did miss it on my only trip there; those darned logistics! I’m really enjoying your MacGregor series by the way. I bought copies for my mom and my friend and played the audio versions while on a marathon road trip with my husband. We had to team drive and he wouldn’t let me play your series while he was trying to sleep because he got so interested in the stories they kept him awake. We all laughed over your description of Fiona’s disregard for authority. “…could expect as much—she was Scottish, a MacGregor, and Mary Fran’s own daughter.” So true.

    But I would like some side trips to Ireland and around the Baltic. My husband’s family were Baltic pirates and one side of my dad’s family were Baltic fisherman.

    I’d really like to see New Zealand, too. It looks absolutely beautiful and my favorite travel destinations are natural settings as undisturbed by development as possible. Since New Zealand has such geological diversity and no dangerous snakes to worry about while enjoying it I’ve always wanted to go there. In a cool season, of course.

    • I hope you get back here! One of the fellows I talked to on the train yesterday pointed out that unlike England, whose only close neighbors are France and the Low Countries, Scotland has historically traded and intermarried with France, the Low Countries, Scandinavia, the Baltic nations, and even Russia. So your Baltic connection is entirely acceptable on Scottish terms.

  10. I would go to Washington DC, and the Smithsonion (have I spelled that right ?) my dear friend Judi and I have talked about a train trip there for years. We are Seniors and feel it may be too long a ride, but we love trains, and “old stuff”.

    • Nola, they have sleeper cars now, you know, and the DC train station–Union Station–is right off the Mall downtown. Make you a deal: If you come to DC, I’ll meet you for a day and we can toddle around in the museums together. I think everybody should see the Smithsonians. Our tax dollars pay for them (and the National Zoo), so they’re FREE (also really cool).

      • Yes, we know about sleeper cars, and have laughed about who would get the upper bunk! I have to get a sitter for ole Dusty the kitty (16) we are still in the talking about it stage. Would love to see you in person, we are a hoot, know you would enjoy us. Should we ever go, you will be the first to know.

  11. So glad to hear you are having a wonderful time. Although there are many places I have yet to see and would love to visit, since you said one I am going to say Sicily. All may ancestors came from there and I grew up hearing stories of the old country. Actually, they came from a little town called Cefalo but it is right outside of Palermo which is a big tourist town (although it wasn’t back in my grandparents day). If I won the lottery – travel would be one of my pleasures in life!

  12. Around the world! Starting down in Australia & New Zealand during our winter then meandering north and west through India, Central Asia until I reached Europe & North Africa for our spring/summer. I would start furthest from home to get the longest part done first; and in countries with a flavor of English-speaking culture to ease my ears into comprehension. Sampling local foods, art and traveling on trains, maybe river barges too. Meeting local equines would be necessary, between exploring museums and libraries. There might be dance classes too.
    After that, back down to South & Central America for a winter’s exploration.
    Around. The. World.

  13. I have ancestors from every part of the British Isles so with cost no object, just give me some maps, a car I can drive, a list of tea rooms, and all the time in the world –I shall be in heaven staying at B & Bs and walking over the land they walked on.

    • Once you get away from the cities, it’s not that expensive, though gas is REALLY expensive. Like $10 a gallon.

      I haven’t yet tried to drive on the wrong side of the road, while sitting on the wrong side of the car, but out on the islands, a lot of the roads are one lane. Probably the place to start, you think?

      • Except that if you meet another car, you have to remember which side of the road to pull off so you can squeeze past!

  14. Keeping track of you and enjoying very much. I would go to Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and then Normandy. such a dreamer I am. xoxo

  15. Wish everyone could stay in another country for awhile. I lived a year in Sweden when I was in college and came home with a big appreciation of there being more than a single way to do things. It was also an eyeopener of having to shop with a dictionary. Really helped understand to a degree what an emigrant goes through. Enjoy your trip!

    • What you said, Donna. I got my master’s from Eastern Mennonite, and they had what they called an “Other cultures” requirement. You could not get your degree without doing exactly what you said–being a stranger in a strange land. Not every posting was outside the US, some were inner city, ethnic neighborhoods with no social services to speak of, and little use for English, but you had to spend a chunk of time somewhere that you were the Foreigner.

  16. Hmm… just one place? I guess I’m going to go with Rome. I’ve never been. I always wanted to learn Italian. I love Italian food. To wander the streets at a leisurely pace. Have a nice coffee or ice cream. I don’t think it could get better than that.

    • I passed through Rome last year and my impression was that it was pretty, accessible, and awe inspiring. The place we stayed shared a wall with baths that had been built 2000 years ago, and that’s just… Rome. Gracious!

      So I hope you go.

      • Grace, are you scouting for a trip next year as you mentioned a few months ago? We’ve been lucky enough to be able to take two trips to England but I’d love one more trip there. We fell in love with Yorkshire.
        We didn’t get further than Sheffield so we still have hopes of going further nort including Scotland. did you take the train from London? I’ve always wanted to take the sleeper from Paddington Station and wake up in Edenbrough. Have a great trip.

  17. I would love to tour the area of Canada that includes Banff Springs, Victoria, etc. There are so many beautiful gardens, totem poles, rivers, mountains, etc. The hotels in those cities are like castles. It would be a dream come true.

  18. I am having a grand time seeing you enjoy so much that I have had the pleasure of seeing myself. Just makes me feel like I am doing it again. Keep the posts coming. And while you were gone, I just saw the Rita Finalists : Good for you
    Historical Romance: Long

    Douglas: Lord of Heartache
    by Grace Burrowes
    Sourcebooks, Casablanca
    Deb Werksman, editor

    A Place Called Harmony
    by Jodi Thomas
    Penguin Group USA, Berkley
    Wendy McCurdy, editor

    Where the Horses Run
    by Kaki Warner
    Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation
    Wendy McCurdy, editor

    Worth: Lord of Reckoning
    by Grace Burrowes

  19. Oops! Did not answer your question last time. Well Germany and Paris have been on the bucket list for quite awhile. Due to some family members relocating into the area, this has now become doable for us. Next summer.. If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, as my momma used to say…..

  20. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying your holiday over here. I felt positively unsafe whenever I was in America knowing that anyone could have a gun, and that therefore even the police would be more ready to use their guns.

    Congratulations on your multiple RITA nominations!