Homeward Bound

Scott's viewTomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I’ll fly home, after more than a month in Scotland. I’ve had a terrific time here, knocked off some bucket list items, and had no major mishaps that would make travel far from home difficult. If I had to list the highlights, they would include…

10. Seeing terrific scenery. There’s wonderful scenery back home, too, of course, but after driving across the US at least twenty times, I was ready for some new sights. Scotland haz ’em.

Grace at dunvegan9. Revising my definition of a “big” country. Scotland is no larger than South Carolina, but what it lacks in square miles, it makes up for in millenia of history. A sense of substance can come from years as well as total area.

8. Appreciating certain aspects of home much more. Scotland’s roads are minimally adequate by US standards, which can make even a short distance a tedious journey. Handicapped accessibility in Scotland also has a long way to go, though admittedly, retrofitting a 13th century castle for wheel chair access is probably cost-prohibitive.

7. Seeing other aspects of home with new eyes. One Scottish friend pointed out to me, “You Americans assume Government can’t do anything right, and that privatizing is the Grace at Eilean Donanway to make sure something is run well. We know better. We’ve seen industries destroyed by privatization, to the point that the Government has to step in and take them over again at enormous cost. Profit motives do not necessarily equate to good services in every industry.” Erm, OK. My friend may not be entirely right, but he has a perspective on “Americans” I can’t learn at home.

6. Seeing home right here. My grandmother was a MacDonald, and like many of that name, her father came from the Old World to settle in Nova Scotia. The Clan MacDonald Center on Skye tells a story that on some level, is also my family story. I wasn’t expecting that.

5. Learning a bit of Gaelic. A week long intensive class didn’t get me much past “hello/good-bye/I don’t understand,” but I had fun, met terrific people, and was in an environment where I could use the few snippets of Gaelic I learned. Good for the brain!

Calanais four up small file4. Scarfing up tablet. This is a dessert that’s mostly butter and sugar, and with a cup of tea or coffee, it’s Scrumptious. After a meal in a Scottish restaurant, your coffee or tea comes to the table with a small square of tablet. The friendliness of this gesture, and the sheer pleasure of the little sweet, will be much missed when I’m home.

3. Enjoying the occasional glass of wine. When I was at my Gaelic classes, all the students stayed on the same very small college campus. The drinking age is 18 here, and the cafeteria offered a selection of wines. Almost everybody had a glass of wine with their meal, and meals were not hurried. The wine was no big deal, just a part of enjoying food and friendly conversation. Nobody overimbibed, and the drunk driving laws here make our “tough” laws look laughable. Hmm.

shetland2. Enjoying the people. I met the most lovely, interesting, terrific people. Yes, we have those in abundance at home too, but my books are set mostly in the UK, and catching snippets of the point of view that my characters might share was delightful.

1. Freeing up some slots on my bucket list. I drove in Scotland, safely. I saw three castles I’ve long been curious about. I traveled to the Outer Hebrides and saw the Standing Stones at Calanais, which means on my next trip, I can go see the Orkneys… and then I want to get a peek at the Shetland Islands, walk the Fife Coastal Trail, do the West Highland Way….

What’s your idea of worthwhile travel?

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22 comments on “Homeward Bound

  1. These days worthwhile travel includes having our young adult children along for any summer vacation – this year, it will be a late spring vacation since our eldest is taking summer classes and working in the lab. If we are able to visit new places, observe some wildlife, take in some awe inspiring scenery along the way, meet some nice people, and maybe learn something new — even better.

    Wishing you a safe, uneventful flight home, Grace!

    • I didn’t see much wildlife, but you’re right. Even a glimpse of a red deer, some seals, a big old Highland hare made the journey more interesting.

      Still haven’t seen a haggis, though. I’m told they’re related to the snipe.

  2. Last weekend my daughter (who is studying in England this semester) went to Ireland for three days with a friend. They had such a great time. They saw the Cliffs of Mohir, saw the sights in Galway and Ennis and shopped! She texted that the Irish people were very friendly and helpful, she loved the scenery, the food and the music. And she would love to go back…soon!

    To me…that’s worthwhile travel!

    Wishing you a safe comfortable flight home.

  3. I hope to someday spend a month traveling in England, Ireland, and Scotland and your lovely description makes me hopeful that someday, I’ll get there! I’ve never been but I love British history, Jane Austen, and historical romance so it’s a natural destination. Someday!!

  4. My idea of worthwhile travel is to someplace with a lot of history. A few years ago I went to Fredericksburg, TX with my family and was able to tour the Admiral Nimitz Museum, the National Museum of the Pacific. If you’re at all interested in the Pacific portion of WWII this is the place to visit, in my opinion. They even have the shell of what was to have been the third atomic bomb that the US was planning to drop on Japan. I wasn’t aware, until that museum visit, that there was another bomb being prepared for use and that the two that were dropped had names, Fat Man and Little Boy. I don’t remember what the third one would have been called but I do remember that it’s bright yellow in color. I hope to be able to return in the future where I can take my time in perusing the exhibits at my leisure. I’d also like to do a trip to DC where I could visit all of the war monuments and again visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the changing of the guard.

    • If you do come to DC, let me know. I live only a couple hours away, though I lived in DC for a few years in my twenties. The subway system is excellent and I’d love to get together.

  5. I loved the bit about the MacDonalds and your grandmother. My great-grandmother was a Weir (The Weirs were a Scottish family of physicians. My great-mother was a physician too and had to be chaperoned in anatomy class in the 1870s!). I’ve been curious about where they came from in Scotland….someday.

    For me, purposely going back to family origins would be a wonderful vacation, whether in the states or in Europe, to see where we came from. I have a list, including my own grandmother’s birthplace in Oklahoma and the Alsace in France!

  6. I’ve always been interested in history, so wherever I went I always wanted to immerse myself in the history of the place and visit the historical sites. This wasn’t always the priority of my traveling companions, but most of them tolerated it fairly well.

    Grace thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Almost feel like I’ve been there too. Have a safe journey home.

  7. So glad you had a good time in Scotland. I have to admit to being a terrible traveller – too much adrenaline coursing around as I try to process al the “newness”- but I love to sit back with my husband and the memories. We’ve managed the 24 hours of flying time to get from our place to Scotland on one occasion, but I have to admit that our family ancestry is strongly Argyle Campbell – the clan that did wrong by the MacDonalds at the massacre of Glencoe. Those old feelings still run strong in Scotland. When visiting Inveraray Castle (Campbell territory) our travelling companion handed over his credit card to the attendant in the parking lot who, after seeing his name (related to your Jacobite ancestor), said, “I’d be watching my back around here if I were you!”
    Hope you are refreshed and ready for lots more writing!

    • What struck me this time about any mention of Glencoe was how quick everybody was to point out that MOST of the Campbells refused to obey orders. The casualties were only about a third of what the English intended (and in this case, “English” is the appropriate term), and thge majority of MacDonalds escaped, presumably because they were warned by Campbell soldiers.

  8. My trip to Scotland for my 50th birthday was my very favorite. But thirteen years later, I am headed off this week to take up my ancestors’ journey again…where they landed in Nova Scotia. FIRST – a driving trip across the continent..but am so looking forward to Eastern Canada…Nova Scotia and P.E. Island the setting for my favorite childhood character – Anne Shirley!

    • The Clan MacDonald center on Skye chronicles the story of many who left the islands to come to Nova Scotia, for it was a preferred destination for those who immigrated from Skye and the Highlands. Hardy folks, but I hadn’t understood how long (into the 1880s), Scottish land laws discriminated against smallholders, and how hard it was for anybody to buy land in the Highlands. Their loss, Nova Scotia’s gain. It’s also the case that some aspects of Gaelic’s evolution as a language were only preserved because of the Gaelic speakers still in Nova Scotia today.

  9. Hmm… I’m still going with Rome.There is so much to explore. Learning Italian, eating great food. I could easily spend three weeks there and not scratch the surface.

    • When I saw Rome as a young woman, the size and antiquity were overwhelming, and the offensive attitude of the men toward a me as a young American woman (“You want to do it in the Gents or the Ladies?”) colored my impression. When I was there last year, my perspective was more constructive–the hotel restaurant shared a wall with a bath built 2000 years ago, for example. Yikes! I got the sense the lot of Italian women, especially outside the city, is tiresome, but change is gradually infiltrating.

    • I’ve had fun with this trip too, carrying my camera around, and thinking, “What would the readers like to see here? What’s the most interesting aspect of this place?” Kept my eyes more open, my hears more attentive.